Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Yuvraj-The Prince of Tough Times!

If you were a person who grew up watching cricket seriously from the 90s, you would associate a peculiar pattern with Indo-Pak games. As a classic example, the fans would line up for a game with high expectations at Sharjah against archrivals Pakistan, where Pak would pose a formidable 250 to start the great Indian run chase. The Indian chase and the match would effectively end within the first 5-6 overs once Tendulkar falls to Wasim Akram or Aaquib Javeed.

In another scenario, the opponents pose an imposing total of 250+, thanks to Sachin, India remains the chase till the 30th over. Panic then creeps in and the unavoidable Indian batting collapse would ensue spearheaded by the master himself.

The advent of Yuvraj Singh has challenged this stereotype and predictable loop of agonizing so near yet so far Indian run chases. India started winning matches while chasing. It wasn't the Kanitkar Boundary or Rajesh Chauhan Six or other handful of matches we could easily count nor was it the Sachin Tendulkar's overly stretched revenge saga of Henry Olonga anymore.

Earlier, the objective would have been to keep the margin of defeat within acceptable magnitude.

Yuvraj has become the chief architect of modern India's greatest ODI triumphs to the extent that doing the improbable was constantly becoming a norm.
India finally had its own finisher, which until then were patented only by the renowned Pakis, Javid Miandad or Inzy or England's Neil Fairbrother or Alan Lamb.

The legacy was carried on by MS Dhoni who went to become the finest ODI finisher and then King Kohli took it to a different level.

While a certain Wasim Akram augmented the gulf in the win ratio of Indo-Pak ODIs, the finest Southpaw ever to bat for India reduced the gap.

If not for his trendsetting exploits of chasing down some daunting totals when the odds were stacked against team India from the new millennium, the 2011 World Cup Finals against Sri Lanka would have ended the moment Sachin got out, just like the semifinals of the 1996 world cup did after Sachin’s fall.

Thank you, Yuvraj Singh, for entertaining us with a Caribbean flair and for being the man for the big ICC events for Indian cricket right from 1995 under 15 world cup to 2011 cricket world cup. Fate then had different ideas but your resilience ensured that it was only temporary and you did come back with a bang giving us more moments to relish, while the end was seemingly near and inevitable.

If not for India’s fab four in Tests, you would have had an equally great career in the longer format as well, but you did enough for ODIs and T20s that will go down in cricketing folklore for generations of fans across the world.

Thank You!

Monday, January 7, 2013

A SOS on COC - Commodization of Cricket!

From early 2ks, ESS (EspnStar or then Star Sports) has been trying to advertise the game of cricket by glorifying the rivalry of any upcoming series. 

Just that they chose to go the cinematic way of doing it than the accepted way of promoting a sporting event giving a brief history of its rivalry.

Starting from LG ‘All the best, LG ki Duva’ to the 99 India Team that went to the World cup, to early 2ks, And the hope against hope, come on India, dikhado, India ko Jitado, when all we had was Sachin and ten duds to fill the 11 in those days.

Badlaa (Australia V Pak) a revenge for Pak’s loss to Australia in WC-99 final. Barood (India v Aus) and Sarfarosh (Aus Pak India tri series), the campaign clearly did not yield the desired results. 

Predictably, Aussies won the Badla and Barood Test series 6-0.They also won the tri series with the men in then light blue managing just one win from 8 games. 

Much better was the world cup 2011, add where rope walkers from different countries try to walk on a tight rope to the world cup. That was an advertisement for the event itself and not in blind support of a team.
The most recent one to the list being, ‘Aara ha hain Pakistan’ to which MSD coolly replies, ‘Anado’. We now understand why. 

Even more infuriating was the kuch aise hi tha bachpan se ‘Kohli or Ashwin or anyone’. 

It’s understandable if these superstars are performing such heroic larger than life stunts while promoting some Brand as part of their endorsements.

If these attempts are to publicize the game itself which needs no promotion in a Country where it is regarded as the strongest and most uniting religion, they just fall flat and their effect if any is quite dampening, appalling and adverse. 

The best example of how to glorify an event can be taken from the Barclays Premiere League game promotions. Important games are promoted by adding lot of historical anecdotes that are tagged to each fixture. Like Aston Villa Vs Everton being the most played fixture in top flight. Liverpool Vs Manchester United the game of English Football and likes.

Hope the Broadcasters stop seeing the filmy side of sport and stop dishing out a comedy footage in garb of promoting an event & instead fill the events with facts and analysis that intensify the passion and stops giving the fans a feeling of Dejavu and an inevitable doom with this unsolicited optimism & exuberance!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

You Will Never Walk Alone!!

Certain good things in life are stimulating, certain great things come instantaneously; certain other wonderful things take you to a stratospheric zone of happiness which no other thing can take you. One of the fewest such things in life for me is Liverpool Football Club.

I always liked England and I liked Liverpool as the name which has a personification of English elegance to it. But it’s only in the early 2ks when English Premier League was introduced to India, courtesy Star Sports, ESPN, I got to know about clubs like Arsenal Manchester United and Liverpool. I stuck an instant chord with the club because they were well past their glory days and were an only trying to be a shadow of their Glorious Past.

My Cousin Vamsi introduced me to the fanaticism of Liverpool Football Club. As there was representation of Arsenal, United and Chelsea already at work place, people were glad to assign me the fourth team among the Big 4 of English Football even though my awareness of English football was quite dismal.

The Champions league 2005 triumph followed by the FA Cup 2006 and the Premiere League season 2008-09 were enough for me to get glued to the club for ever. Though the happy moments ever since have been far and few in between, more so after the departing of Xabi Alonso and the unceremonious sacking of Rafa Benitez.

Am glad to be associated with a football club which has such a great history and tradition & none of its fan base belong to the glory hunting brigade.

I wish Brendan Rodgers all the best and sign off with a hope that Steven Gerrard will play another champions league season and will also lift the Premiere League trophy.

You Will Never Walk Alone!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Match of the Century...

What a Match it was, Liverpool Vs Spain, a club Versus Country.

Spain took lead and soon a found itself in a two goal cushion. Torres pulled one back from an Aurelio cross.

Van Persie of Netherlands drew it level. Score was 2-2, Spain again went one ahead and Torres again leveled it for Liverpool to make it 3-3.

On the brink of half time, Spain again went ahead 3-4.

Liverpool struck back once the second half began and this time it’s the ever working Carlos Tevez who leveled things at 4-4.

Torres who was making darting runs for Liverpool from the right put an excellent cross to Fabio Aurelio who was responsible for the first two Liverpool goals with excellent crosses from his magical left foot. He bicycle kicked Liverpool to Lead for the first time in the Match 5-4.

Once ahead, Liverpool resorted to time waste tactics and attempted to play possession football though it was only 75 minutes. A defensive error allowed Spain to Level this time to make it 5-5.However an 85th minute goal made it 5-6 in favor of Spain.

The score remained 5-6 and Spain beat Liverpool at Anfield. The contrasting part though was all of Spain’s Goals were scored by only one striker, Fernando Torres.

And if you are still confused the said Match of the Century was played on my Play Station, Pro Evolution Soccer 2010.

I have Van Persie as the second striker and Carlos Tevez and Torres as my Center Forwards and they work quite awesome & I dint want to turn off the match as I normally do because if am trailing as the Artificial Intelligence earned and deserved its victory over its human counterpart albeit a mediocre one

Vamossssssssss Argentina

My Love for Football started in 1986 when in school just after my summer holidays, all I was hearing was Maradona. Dint have a clue about that but I heard he is really good and stuff and Argentina was implanted in my infantile mind and that’s the team I rooted in Italia 90 My First ever full fledged world cup.

Thanks for the timings most of it was midnight and I avidly followed Argentina and Maradona was the only name I knew. I later got acquainted with Burruchaga as the one who scored the winning goal in 1986. The one who stole my gullible heart and capture my attention was Claudio Canigia the thin lanky striker who scored winning goals against Arch rivals Brazil who I hated at the first site thanks to their irritating yellow color and also a late equalizer against Italy, both thru Maradona thru passes. I was crest fallen when I came to know that Canigia wont be part of the finals coz of the Yellow carded offence and painfully endured the boring finals of Italia 90 in which Argentina lost to West Germany thanks to a Klinsmann dive and an ensuing Penalty converted by Brehme in the 85th minute. Football became a love ever since and Argentina the team to follow.

I was elated in 1994 USA when Argentina made a tremendous display beating teams like Nigeria Greece in the earlier rounds but lost to Romania in the knock out stage as Diego Maradona was tested positive for a banned substance. Am sure like me the whole of India were deflated at the outcome of the Drug analysis. Rest was insignificant though I heard the tales of an Italia 90 upcoming hero Roberto Bagio and his goals and Italian comebacks from friends in college. I supported Italy in the finals just because the opponents were Brazil but something said that the arrogant Romario and co were a bit too much for Italy and it turned out that way with the divine ponytail missing a penalty in the finals of the world cup after almost single handedly getting them to the finals. I still remember Meenakshi Seshadri telling on DD that with a player like Roberto Baggio any one would root for Italy. The curse of Glory hunters I thought;

France 98 was memorable only because France beat Brazil in the finals. I loved when Argentina beat England on penalties and heard and saw a bit of Michael Owen, but I dint care then. It was again tough to see Argentina lose to Netherlands in Quarters this time after its most skillful player Ariel Ortega considered second Maradona landed himself in trouble with a RedCard offense and Dennis Bergkamp scored a Bergkamp special from a long pass to seal Argentina’s fate.

2002 Argentina were painfully eliminated from the group of Death after David Beckham redeemed himself from the error he committed four years ago against the same opponent and scored from the Spot Kick. Fact that he missed several other spot-kicks to be finally taken out of that responsibility is a different story but an English commentator always mentions the name of Beckham in the long list of famous players who missed from the spot likes of Maradona Platini, Baggio &&&& Beckham… phew…

By 2006 I was more of an English supporter but an Argentina well wisher. They I guess lost to Germany and it was a little painful to see them lose.

But now with Messi around and strikers like Aguero, Higuain, Milito, Carlos Tevez & wingers like Maxi Rodriguez & more than anyone else a defensive midfielder and a Liverpooldian at heart like Javier Mascherano at the helm, they are definitely looking threatening to go lot further in the tournament and hope they really finish deep, because if not Maradona the extremely talented bunch of names mentioned a while back deserve a world cup glory and none deserves better than Lionel Messi.

Vamosssss Argentina while my heart also supports England and feels neutral about old and regular horses like Italy Germany and the Netherlands but preferably no Brazil.

PS: Yesterdays thumping of South Korea purely coincidental not to be construed as the Glory Hunting Adrenaline rush...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tribute to the Master by an unknown Mediocre…

In the year 1989 I was very excited about a young Indian Prospect by name Sachin Tendulkar. The reason for my excitement during my no different very limited reasoning prowess was the amazement that surrounded the fact that a boy aged 16 can face pace bowling at the highest level. His debut was anxious for me and there was no coverage on DD at least for the first test. When I heard India were asked to bat and were bailed out by Kapil Dev and Kiran More, the folks around me put water on my excitement asking what happened to the young prodigy the arrival of who I was so enthralled about.

I very patiently waited till next day to read R Mohan’s write up on Hindu and I directly looked at the scoreboard which read Sachin Tendulkar b Waqar Younnis 15. My joy knew no bounds. If a boy aged 16 can put bat to ball against the most fearsome attack then in world cricket and survive for 30 minutes and make 15 and also had the power in him to score two boundaries, then this kid should really be something. He did turn out to be something in the very series when he clocked 59 in a match saving effort along with Sidhu. He had a sensational ODI debut a match that turned to be an exhibition encounter when he took apart Mustaq and Abdul Qadir to score 50+ in 20 odd balls. Started his ODI career with a duck (much in the same was as the Don ended his Test career with a blot), Sachin Tendulkar was becoming an integral part of the lives me and close to billion other Indians.

I remember England Texico Trophy again courtesy the BBC Radio when Sachin sealed the win for us with a 30+ knock which had 6 boundaries in it and the BBC commentator saying immortal “We don’t have words to describe the talent of this man”. His match saving effort at Old Trafford when he hit 119 to save India from a certain defeat. His twin centuries down under, the second of which at Perth has been described by some Aussie Journalist as the best knock after Second World War.

As Sachin grew in stature so also did the expectations and the inevitable green eyed comparisons mostly from the proverbial friendly neighbors. My Favorite cricketer from the Paki Land, Imran Khan at least brought six cricketers in the last twenty years as Pakistan’s response to Sachin Tendulkar (I appreciate the onus he took on himself to do this and my respect for the man only deepened as he struck to his task even though his own people mocked him and labeled him as a political misfit) & only Inzamam-ul-Haq came closest in terms of matching Sachin. I have great respect for Inzamam and I rooted and backed this boy wonder in the semis against Kiwis in World Cup 92 as I have seen him bat before and was quite destructive and Inzi never let me down. The others that couldn’t stand the comparison were Md Wasim, Hassan Raja, Taufeeq Omar, Imran Farhat Imran Nazir and so on.

He reached his predictable peak by the 1996 World Cup and had particular liking to annihilate the Aussie bound attacks led by Shane Warne and Glen McGrath. By the year 2002 it was quoted that Sachin Tendulkar reached his saturation and the hunger is not there anymore to continue. He silenced his critics by destroying attacks in the 2003 world cup. The critics say he misfired in the final, but the final was realistically lost even before the chase began, well what is the pursuit of 360 + against an Aussie attack in a pressure game.

Sachin’s form saw an apparent dip after the world cup and all the vultures that were waiting to crawl on their weakening prey started to site weaknesses and flaws in his technique.

Sachin had his share of short comings, the most prominent one being his Achilles heel, when we as fans need him most he is usually not there. We endured so much of a pain in those agonizing Sharjah afternoons when our old friend used to pile up a total of 250+ and the Master often gave a good start only to deceive.

We as fans also had to take inevitable comparisons with Inzamam saying Sachin is not a match winner. Well the stats do say otherwise and they do attest that when he makes a Century more than 75% of the times India wins, but for the cynics, a match winning effort only means taking a rabbit out of the hat and winning against all odds. He did so in Sharjah against the Aussies but such things don’t count and are written off as exceptions.

Then back home under the able pioneer-ship of “The Times of India” Sachin dusk was skillfully sketched by the local Media men when his failures in the 2006-2007 Pakistan tour was glorified as his lack of ability to counter express pace bowling and showed signs of aging as the main reason. Ironically one of the greats of Pakistan Hanif Mohammed, stood by the master and said that players like Rahul Dravid Ricky Ponting and Inzamam are great players, but Sachin is way beyond all of them. Then after a disastrous World Cup people were asking for Sachin to be sacked and even his beloved Mumbai crowd betrayed him and went thru the popular notions and booed him when he was out scoring very little after facing many deliveries.

Honestly that section of crowd present on that test match day let Mumbai and even India down by resorting to such an appalling act and makes me believe that the crowds in Chennai Bangalore and Hyderabad know their cricket and their players more than the crowds in some of the other cities. Am more than certain that Sachin would never have faced such humiliation in any of the aforementioned cities.

Then the inevitable resurrection of the Champion came and in all candidness I never expected a comeback of such magnitude even though I claim to be a diehard well wisher of Sachin. I did my bit of fire fighting against all the assaulters who joined the anti Sachin Bandwagon a little too early (probably to address their own insecurities from the more learned) and were mortal enough to write-off the Immortal God of cricket. It’s normally said nobody is bigger than a game, but I guess it’s fair to say that Sachin is as big as the game and Sunil Gavaskar rightly said on the arrival of Sachin that he is god’s gift to the game of cricket.

And as agreed upon vehemently by all of us, Indian’s are in awe of statistics and the BCCI being aware of this fact and the core constituents of that committee is full of uncompromising statistical minded Indians, am sure they will give Sachin a go ahead and allow him to play as long as he possibly can and make him not only break all possible batting records but preserve them in a way that nobody can even come close.

So Mr Ponting, you are playing a catch up game and never under estimate the might of the BCCI to influence the Aussie cricket board to get you even sacked if you continue to pose a threat to Sachin.

Normally I don’t watch cricket matches in India even if the opponent is Australia for the simple reason that Indian pitches are maniacally batsman friendly and it’s no fun to watch a 50 version game when the bowler gets smacked out of the park right from the 1st ball to the 300th. But I was glad that a super dear pal of mine gave a reminder about the game yesterday and once I was done with the call and had nothing much to do except to joyfully procrastinate the things I had to do. I switched on the TV and was overjoyed to see Sachin on 88 in 70 odd balls. I saw him get to his 100 and switched off the TV but given the earliness of the century I was mindful of the likely outcome if he stayed at wicket and as a fan of Sachin am for ever the optimist. When I saw him race to 139 in my next visit to the channel I knew something was on cards and on my third visit I saw him in the 170 range I knew this could be his day. So I was glued to the TV and waited till the 49th over as he crossed milestone after milestone and the most pleasing one being the Saeed Anwar Milestone more so because he did so in an unfair manner when Afridi ran for him more than 100 runs and incidentally Sachin was the captain of that Indian side and talk about generosity to allow such a gesture only to be knocked out in our own Independence cup much earlier than wanted. I was glad finally that it was Sri Lanka who won the cup and not the old foe.

Sorry for drifting, such is the nostalgia of Sachin Tendulkar and thank you Master and Salutations for all your hunger interest perseverance and I only have one suggestion to make, never take things for granted and consolidate your records as much as you can so that they can be cemented in your name for eternity. Simple reason being never in my life time can a cricketer debut at the age of 16 and play for two decades and I hope to see a silver jubilee in career years for you.

And the immortal words said about you by a blogger I admire most. Is the best way I can sign this off…

The old Sachin radiated heat. The new Sachin gives light. But he still remains the sun.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rann...That does not run a tight ship...

Having gone with no idea what so ever as to what this movie was about, it dint take much beyond the titles for me to know what Rann had to offer and its fair to say that it did not make me Run for the money I invested in the movie at a multiplex after a long and strenuous drive on behest of a pal who insisted on absence from the busy ness of busy life to places far away.

God Father is implanted in the mind of RGV and he can never make a movie which is completely devoid of it. Godfather, Bad Son, Son-in-law with a negative shade, his aversion to anything which is immoral (drugs there yellow journalism here), closely knit family which has few apparent frictions and tensions within them etc. or I can add a birthday party of the lead man to which all friends and foes attend and now I can definitely use etc just to tell you that am not falling short of comparisons.

I had to say that I did have little confusion with respect to the magnitude of the negativeness in the role of Jay (Sudeep) and was rather glad that it was not a ridiculously negative characterization which would have branded this film as an outright cliché with tried and tested formulas implemented from the films which attempted themselves to be made under the ‘different from the rest’ genre.

But as the movie unfolds, you cant help yourself from drawing comparisons with movies of similar themes & Corporate comes closest. RGV subconsciously & inevitably drifts to his favourite plot of underworld crime & nexus with the same tenacity as your car which is in need of wheel alignment drifts to the left side.

As the movie moves on you very well know how the climax would shape up and strongly believe that Big B was taken away from the scheme of things only to extend the length of the movie. You also are quite amused by the convenience with which Big B errs in his judgment of publishing the scandal on someone who holds the office of a PM & his return back to senses once he realized that he messed it up. Both are too unconvincing for a man who is portrayed as a hardcore upholder of Journalistic ethics and morals.

The actions and reactions get as predictable as the outcome of India Pak Game at Sharjah during mid 90s after Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. RGV desperately attempts to make complete use of the emotion emitting range of Big B and even as the young protagonist (Ritesh Deshmukh) comes to take over the reigns in the climax after few words of appreciation from his mentor, you clearly feel that a self proclaimed stoicness of RGV is strongly attempting to entice allure and persuade the audience to buy the tearful emotions emoted by his star cast and feel for them & add Rann to one of his brighter feathers of his mixed hat which was quite dismal in the recent past with the exception of Sarkar Raj.

The subtleties taken care by RGV usually deserve a mention but they are as integral a part of his style of film making as a Godfather storyline & an underworld touch are. He should realize that people don’t expect his films to be different from the routine formulaic films anymore & should attempt to raise the bar by focusing a lot more on his script to ensure that the sub plots are much more convincing & are properly weaved with the main plot to architect a well synchronized effort.

Amidst all this it has some decent performances from the Big B himself for whom this role should be a piece of cake and stroll in the park, Paresh Rawal, Rajath Kapoor, Rajpal Yadav & also Ritesh Deshmukh. The performers in the female lead with the likes of Neetu Chandra, Suchitra Krishna Murthy and Gul Panag were all quite apt.

At the end of the show, he may have been successful in his desperate bid to convince the audience that he was completely out of the juvenileness that made him do the ‘RGV ka Aag’ but you would have rather put your money on a Madhur Bhandarkar to handle such a wonderful concept which has so much potential to explore instead of an RGV who invariably and inevitably drifts from scope of things the subject of yellow journalism for TRP ratings had to offer & instead gave us a tiresome stereotype output.