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My Prediction for India in SA

I am going to go out on a limb here and predict this … India would not get quite the thrashing as indicated by the result of the first one-dayer in Jo’berg. In fact, I would even venture to say we might put one or two across the Proteas. Why would I do that? I saw the Indian innings fully and I noticed there was one difference between this team and the ones from the past on overseas tours … these guys are equally clueless facing up to the short rising or moving ball, but they tried, desperately and with some success, to hang in there. Not everyone – the older ones still are terrible. Yuvraj’s capitulation to Ryan McLaren would have put my grandpa to shame. But Shikar, Rohit & Virat tried gamely. They fell to genuine good balls (Rohit was done in by a panic run from Raina). And as the SA pacers tired a little, MS and even Ashwin looked good for a while. In cricket, the winners are not always as good as they seem at the end of a big victory, and the losers not that bad. So, boldly, I p…

"WE KNOW HE IS NOT GOD"

In some sense, this blog is a little bit like a rap.  It is written in anger.

While many of us are saying goodbye to Sachin Tendulkar after enjoying his cricket for 24 years, there are a few who are saying things like “I don’t understand the obsession with one game”, “why do you glorify a man so much”, “he was just another cricketer”, etc.    What ticks me off most is when people ask me “why do you call him God”?   (We recently came out with a TShirt Celebrating "God's 200th Test Match" - http://shop.fantain.com).
I am actually angry at these people.

 When they ask that question, they immediately put themselves on a pedestal - they KNOW Sachin is not God while, poor me, I am still under the mistaken belief that he is actually God.  In their mind, they are saying “This is what is wrong with this country…. now I know why we are not prospering as a nation…..”.    Let me answer - on behalf of a million people who refer to Sachin as ‘God’.  WE KNOW HE IS ACTUALLY NOT GOD.  Th…

Do great batsmen over-complicate things???

A question has been nagging me for a while now.  Do great batsmen make ordinary balls look extra special, especially when they get out.  
      In the last test match, Sachin Tendulkar got out LBW to Shane Shilingford of the West Indies.  You probably saw how Sachin got out - he was stretching forward, took his right hand off the bat, and gave the impression that Shane was hurling a missile.  I wonder how a tailender would have played the same ball.   Chances are they would have gotten beaten, like Sachin was.  And they would have gotten out, like Sachin was.  But I doubt if they would have fallen over the ball and acted like it was a spitting cobra (thanks to Ravi Shastri, we have a great cricket vocabulary now :-)).  Even if they got out, it would appear that they played a bad shot.  But you would never get the impression that it was a great ball.
      So the question is this - why is it that the same ball look like a beauty when bowled to a top batsman and look pretty ordinary when …

TENNIS - No Mercy at Bercy

This article is written by Rajnikanth - a sports fan and a tennis fanatic.  He is on a personal mission to watch ATP events in every place possible :-)  No points in guessing who his favourite player is.  Rajni is a banker and is based in the middle east.  You can reach Rajni on his email - rajnikanth_r@yahoo.com

1st Nov 2013, Bercy, France.  Roger Federer, arguably the Greatest Tennis Player Of All Time was facing off against Juan Martin Del Potro in a crucial match – for the second time in 5 days.
Leading up to the match, Del Potro is in red hot form and for the sixth time in succession, since the French Open QF 2012, their on-court battle would go the distance! All these matches have been closely fought and filled with plenty of drama - including come from behind wins for Roger at Roland Garros (from 0-2) and at the Olympics, where Del Potro won the first set, lost the second in a tie break and was broken late in the third set (19-17) playing a three-setter over four and half hours. …

The need for smarter scoring in cricket

This India-Australia series somehow manages to stay alive for the decider, though clearly the fare up to now has been mind-numbingly one-sided in favour of the batsman, from both sides. With the smallish ground and traditionally high scoring Bangalore hosting the decider, the best way to win would be to just win the toss, put the opposition in, don’t worry about any mauling your bowlers get and chase down anything!  Even as a fanatic cricket fan, I don’t look forward to 100 overs of flogging of the bowlers. We have talked a lot about this topic in any case, so I want to dwell on something else.

Cricket scorecards had been static for quite a while, but recently got some impetus with the help of digital technology, so we get wagon wheels, pitch maps, and so on. But how much of these are really useful, actionable pieces of information that gives insight into a game, or can be used to make a player or team better? I argue that it is precious little.

Take this series, for example. 350 seem…

If you want a video tutorial on ball tampering, see what Faf did yesterday!

Yesterday, Faf Du Plessis of South Africa was clearly seen rubbing one side of the ball vigorously against a zipper on his pant.   There can only be one reason for doing this - Faf wanted to roughen up one side of the ball in order to get it to swing.  If you are running a cricket academy and wanted to teach young bowlers on what they are NOT supposed to be doing, show them this video (http://www.espncricinfo.com/pakistan-v-south-africa-2013-14/content/current/story/682501.html).   This is about as clear as evidence gets when talking about ball tampering.

There are a couple of things that have happened as a result of this - that are bizarre and funny - at the same time.
1.  A B DeVillers has come out in support of Faf and said something to the effect “We do not cheat, period….” or some nonsense like that.  Either AB has not seen the video, or is a complete idiot or believes the rest of us are fools.  I really like AB - so my vote would be for either 1 or 2 :-)
2.  Immediately, there a…

Bring back the low scoring games

We are 4 matches into the one day series between India and Australia and the scores of the batting teams read thus - 304,232,359,362,303,304,295……  What is the right word to describe this - “ridiculous" comes close.

I remember the time, not too long ago, when a score of around 220 or 225 was considered an acceptable score in a 50 over game.   Today, we find that teams get to 220 in around the 40th over of the innings.   There are many things contributing to this kind of a change, and I think better batsmanship is only a small reason.
1.  The bats are incredibly big and powerful these days.  Recently I played a serious cricket match after around 10 good years.  I was stunned to see batsmen hit big sixes (even in the local cricket level) with great ease.  Even mishits were going for sixes.  And I am not talking about the most expensive bats out there.  I can only imagine how good the top quality bats are.  Put a bat like that in the hands of someone like a Chris Gayle - and what d…

Sachin Tendulkar - wish list from a fan

Sachin has just 2 test matches to go.  This is not a blog talking about what a great player he was - that will come later.  And this certainly is not about whether he should have retired earlier - I promise. This is about what I would like Sachin to do in the last 4 innings of his illustrious career.

1.   Bat with a bigger bat lift.  Of late, Sachin has started poking and prodding at the ball - with a very short backlift.  Whether this is because of his tennis elbow problem or because he is not able to pick up the swing - I don't know.  It might also be because he sports a much more defensive mindset when he goes out to bat.  For one, I would like to see Sachin bat with a much bigger bat swing.   The bat comes down at a vicious pace with the ability to send the ball back past the bowler at the rate of knots.
2.  Don't let those balls outside the off stump go to the wicket keeper.  That is very un-Sachinlike.  Get that left root out and across and slam the ball to the cover bou…

Lee, the man

I remember the first time I saw Lee Chong Wei (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Chong_Wei) play.  I guess it was around 4 years ago and I had lost touch with Badminton for a while.  As I was surfing channels, Lee was playing a singles game and I was captivated.  For those of you who have not seen Lee play, it is absolutely brilliant.  Lee is so quick around the court, plays all the strokes there are and some more, and gives his all in the court.  He seems to have so much time and seems to read where the opponent is going to hit the next shot.  I have seen my fair share of Badminton and seen many great players.  But to me - Lee is the most exciting to watch.

When I was talking about IBL to a friend of mine recently, he quipped in jest - "I didn't know you pay money to see Baddy". Well, my friend -  I will gladly pay good money to see Lee play.  Lee is playing for the Mumbai Masters in the ongoing Indian Badminton League (http://www.indianbadmintonleague.co).  Watch him pl…

Why do you run??

As the running season for the year 2013 begins, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the subject. I am not a great runner.  Heck - I started running only a few years ago… well past my 35th birthday.  So this is not an attempt to guide or teach or inspire.  I don't have any specific objective in mind as I am writing this.  I am just sharing my thoughts on how I feel when I run long distance which others could possibly relate to.

I have been running relatively long distances (5K, 10K and 21K) for a couple of years now. When I run a half marathon, I take longer than a seasoned runner.  A seasoned runner takes around 2 hours (And here I am excluding the seriously good runners who do it at a much more rapid pace) while I take 25 minutes longer.  But if you think about it… I am on my feet for that much longer.  So in that sense, taking longer to finish is better than finishing faster - right? 
What do I think about when running…  Deep philosophy?  Something that has been occupying my …

Champions Trophy - India is the team to beat

They say tough times brings teams together.  They say adversity brings out the best in us.  Looks like that is what is happening to Team India in the ongoing Champions Trophy in the UK.   AlI the talk about match fixing and spot fixing and conflict of interest seems to be bringing out the best in team India.  I am writing this blog just ahead of the semi finals where India will play Sri Lanka.  But got to say this - looks like team India is firing on all cylinders.  I have never seen the Indian team perform so commandingly well in a tournament before - especially one played outside the sub-continent.  All aspects of the Indian team seems to be clicking well and India is clearly the best team in the tournament so far.
Our bowling is superb, with the exception of Ishanth Sharma.   Bhuvaneshwar Kumar continues to impress one and all - the amazing thing is the carry he gets even when he is bowling around 130 kmph.  I don't think it is because of the wickets alone - I feel the carry he …

Tennis and work !!

Like I always do, I enjoyed watching the French Open this year.  I am a big Rafa fan and it was great to see him win the cup, yet again.   Modern tennis is such a hard and competitive sport.  In this, winning 8 out of the last 9 French Open tournaments is nothing short of miraculous.  

I have always wondered why I loved watching tennis so much.  There is a primal draw that I feel towards tennis and I have wondered why.  Is it because of the star cast that men's tennis has?  Guys like Federer and Nadal and Djoko are great champions who are also very different from each other - is that the reason why watching men's tennis is so interesting?  While that is surely a reason, I feel there is something more.  When I watch mens tennis, I see folks give it their all in the field.  You watch guys like Ferrer and Haas and Robredo hit every ball like that is the last ball they are ever going to get.  They lose their fair share - but they ensure that their loss is not because of lack of ef…

IPL match logistics

I have always wondered about the amount of work that will go on behind the scenes in conducting a cricket match.   With a tournament like IPL - given its huge popularity, international contingent and showbiz connections - it is fair to assume that this will be one hell of a project management task.  Here is a good article written by Amrit Mathur about what goes on behind the scenes....
http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/632970.html

7 things I want to see in this IPL

Another IPL is around the corner and I wanted to share 7 things that I would love to see in this year’s edition.  Medium Scoring Matches: Call me old fashioned but 20-over games where teams score 200+ is horrible.  I would like to see scores around the 150 mark for a good game of cricket.Super fast bowling: I would love to see atleast 4 bowlers in the league who can bowl at speeds over 150 kmph.   To see someone bowling at 125 kmph opening the bowling is plain boring.Specialist bowlers:  I am tired of guys like Rajat Bhatia and Virat Kohli bowling in a 20 over game.  This is supposed to be a game where every over counts. Advertisement in the middle of play and not the other way around. I understand ads are important. But I surely don't want to see the pitch exploding to introduce me to the wonders of a new chocolate !!Better facilities for fans at the stadium: While things have improved a great deal over the last couple of years, going to watch a cricket game is still a terrible ex…