Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jeev tackles Oakmont and gets a little attention as well

Jeev Milkha Singh continues to go from strength to strength. At the U.S Open last week, he was solid as a rock, returning four steady rounds to finish joint 36th. This was his best show at the majors and he was the joint-best Asian performer alongside Japanese Shingo Katayama.His commendable performance in what was a really brutal tournament, where the likes of Phil Mickelson fell by the wayside, firmly establishes the fact the he has what it takes to perform on the bigger stages. He will only get better from here on and can be counted upon to break into the top-20 in the world.

And what is really heartening is that this time round the media had wholesome coverage of his feat. They seem to have learned from their last mistake and all the attention will surely help him in winning the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. His name has already been recommended and I don't see anybody mounting any semblance of a challenge. That is, unless the jury realizes the enormity of Virender Sehwag's outstanding feat of being India's best batsman at the World Cup.

With due respect to all our Cricket, Hockey, Badminton, Chess, Tennis, Snooker, Billiards, Racing and Shooting stars, Jeev's performance will do more than anything else in putting India on the World sports map. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but Golf would be a close second and most sportspersons also play golf as a recreation sport. The sport continues to flourish in India and recently received another boost with the announcement of a European Tour event in 2008.

Jeev might not have taken to running like his illustrious father, but he is surely running away with all the attention.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Care for some cricket chit-chat-II

Sri Lanka have appointed Trevor Bayliss as their new national team coach. Australian coaches have done a world of good for them and the board looks to continue with their successful formula. The selection was done purely on the guy's coaching credentials, which are excellent, and the two year term reflects the confidence of the board in their new coach and their long term vision. Why don’t we get these guys to run our board as well?

Post the appointment of Bayliss, the Sri Lankan board secretary said that, “When we knew how good he was, we signed him up immediately because there are a lot of countries head-hunting for coaches at present." Tell you what Mr. Secretary, the other countries (India and Pakistan) are so hopelessly pathetic, that you could have appointed Bayliss three months from now, and sent him to stay with Gavaskar and Powar in the interim period and still not lost him. I think the prospective coaches in our country will have to clear a seventh round interview with the sports minister, then an eighth one with the PM and then qualify for the final round of BBC Mastermind, before their offer letters are printed. Even the hopeless English have a new coach in place.

The High powered selection committee have selected Chandu Borde to manage the Indian Team, after driving away Graham Ford with their offer of a one year contract. It seems they were sure, that they would need a replacement after a year’s time. And where did they find Borde? In a flea market? Or was he researching new coaching techniques in the Himalayas. Also special thanks to committee member, Mr. Gavaskar, who outdid the media, by airing his personal views on the candidates, before the final decision was taken.

Shivanarain Chanderpaul continues to single-handedly defy the English attack. Is he the best batsman in the world on current form? No, the answer is Sachin Tendulkar, who was much better against Bangladesh.

Bhajji and Sehwag have finally been given the boot. Thank God for making men like Dilip Vengsarkar. Expect a few incidents of violence in Najafgarh and Punjab soon. Does anyone have Navjot Singh Sidhu's comments on this?

Dhoni is now a vice-captain
. Can the board please take a look at the record of one previous vice-captain - one Mr. Virender Sehwag; another guy who was thrust into the role before he was worthy and then went from hero to zero in a flash.

How many of you watched the Afro-Asia cup? Is this the best side Africa can come up with? Would this side even make the finals of the South African domestic competition? These were international games. What is the point of having this tournament if no one wants to play?

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

So where does Roger go from here?

This comes a little late. It’s been a week since Rafael Nadal vanquished Roger Federer on the red clay at Roland Garros. Roger had raised hopes of a gladiatorial contest after taking the second set but there was only one winner from there on. Nadal was always in control and the normally composed Federer was hopelessly error prone and crumbled under the relentless onslaught of his Spanish adversary.

The French Open remains the Gordian Knot for Federer. He has now been a runner-up twice to Nadal and their head to head record continues to blot his impressive resume. The biggest concern for his supporters would be the fact that he is back to square one as far as untying the knot is concerned.

For most part of the season though, there was hope. Federer had claimed after losing to Nadal at Monte Carlo, that even in defeat, he had gleaned valuable information about beating his nemesis. What followed in the wake of the the boast , appeared to be a watershed event in his pursuit of Nadal. Federer dumped his coach, Tony Roche, and staged a remarkable comeback win over Nadal at the Hamburg Masters. It appeared he had finally unearthed the secret of beating Rafael. The debacle at Roland Garros shattered any such notions.

So where does Roger go from here?

Does he join the list of Wimbledon greats never to have won the French? The likes of Sampras, Becker, Edberg, McEnroe and Connors. Or does he cut the knot like Alexander to cement his legacy as the greatest player of all time.

The good news is that Roger differs from all the aforementioned players in the sense that his failing at the French is not a capability issue. Those guys were never very good on clay, even though McEnroe and Edberg came within a set of the French Open title. He has been the second best player on clay the last two years; second only to the Great Rafael Nadal - a player who could potentially become the all time greatest player on clay. And as he showed at Hamburg, he has all the weapons to beat Nadal as well.

The disturbing part is that, while Nadal transforms into a fearless warrior when he faces the Swiss champion, Federer becomes a victim of his own talents. Accustomed to dismissing opponents with the minimum of fuss, he loses himself in a dogfight, almost looking disinterested when the going gets really tough. And until and unless he can learn to grit his teeth, get the adrenalin pumping and be prepared to die fighting on court, Nadal will continue to have the upper hand.

But how does Federer get there?

He needs someone who can work with the mental side of his game. Not someone to teach him about forehands and backhands, he knows all about it. He does not need a traveling psychologist or mind trainer or anything. He needs to be with a guy like Brad Gilbert or Jimmy Connors; guys who can teach him how to fight. Or even someone from outside of tennis. Say someone like Steve Waugh. It might sound preposterous but so was Alexander’s method of untying the knot. And unless he learns to fight, the smart money would be on Nadal ending Federer's dominance on non-clay majors, rather than the other way round.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Start cheering for Birmingham City Football Club

Those of you, who do read my posts regularly, would remember me pining for Lakshmi Mittal to buy a top tier English Premiership club. (In case you didn’t, read it now). I called this a symbolic conquest for all Indians. Well, it looks like Iam going to get my wish.

Lakshmi Mittal is planning to buy the Birmingham City Football Club in the English Premiership. The richest Indian in the world is twice as rich as the Chelsea owner , Roman Abramovich, and Birmingham City could be well on their way to becoming a major European powerhouse.

I have another reason to support the side. Their manager is ex-Man United legend, Steve Bruce - who could become the front-runner to succeed Fergie at United with a couple of successful seasons at Birmingham.

In hindsight though, had I known about God's benevolence, I would have wished for my very own premiership club. Will be more ambitious with my wishing from now on!!!

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Friday, June 8, 2007

A nice way to pay homage to your sports idols

Sunny Gavaskar and Bishen Singh Bedi could never see eye to eye, on or off the field. They had the greatest respect for each others talent but couldn’t agree on a single thing. However, they do have one thing in common; the way they paid homage to their cricketing idols by naming their sons after them

That Bedi revered ‘Gavaskar the batsman’ so much that he named his eldest son after him is truly a great paradox. The son was called Gavas Inder Singh. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do much with either bat or ball

Gavaskar’s highest respect, though, was reserved for fellow practitioners of batsmanship. He paid homage to his trio of batting deities; Rohan Kanhai, ML Jaisimha and Gundappa Vishvanath by christening his son, Rohan Jai Vishva (that is Rohan Gavaskar's full name by the way). He could have graciously returned the compliment by adding a part of Bedi's name as well. Rohan’s four word name was already too long for most application forms and ID cards. See if you guys can come up with something imaginative. Don’t blindly add a Singh to it.

So, all you sports fans, you now have the perfect template to name your kids and simultaneously pay obeisance to your favorite sports stars. Personally, I would like to call my daughter Steffi or something that sounds like it.

One more thing. See, if you can find more such cases of star children named after sporting icons.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Did you know that-II

Jan Železný is a former World and Olympic champion in the javelin. He strode like a colossus in the sport, winning three Olympic and world titles each, and setting numerous other records, most of which have been far beyond his mortal rivals. He is unanimously considered 'the greatest javelin thrower ever' and will at least make the ballot in a poll of 'the greatest athlete ever'. But this part is well known to most people who watch the Olympics or follow athletics. The unknown or little known fact is his tryst with a sport, which Jan himself had never heard about.

Železný grew up in the former Czechoslovakia, where baseball is as popular as Ice Hockey in Saudi Arabia. Add to that the fact, that Javelin throwing is just as popular in the baseball playing populace of North and Central America, and none of the baseball scouts would have ever laid their eyes on Jan as a future baseball prospect.

The two worlds met in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where the existing World and Olympic champion enhanced his reputation further by adding another Olympic crown. And then the local Major League Baseball side - The Atlanta Braves sat up and took notice of his hidden potential. The man with the 'Strongest Arm in the World' could surely hurl the baseball at amazing speeds.

And hurl he definitely could, in fact his speed was too much for his own good. The Braves arranged a try out, where Železný ended up breaking a camera positioned well behind the catcher. The team tried to coach and train him but sadly things didn’t work out. The Strongest Arm was built for range and not accuracy. It remains a Fairy Tale that nearly was.

P.S.: I am currently on vacation and unable to write frequently. Will start supplying the regular quota of posts once I am back on the 13th.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Meet Cameron Diaz's long lost twin

A reader on the football website has made a startling discovery - the long lost twin brother of Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz. This person is none other than Man United's Serbian defender, Nemanja Vidic. We can safely assume that Diaz's ignorance of the non-American version of football and Vidic's childhood behind the iron curtain; disabling any access to America and Hollywood prevented the twins from making this discovery earlier. Iam pretty sure that, if she gives it a good shot, Cameron has enough football in her genes to make the American men’s team and challenge David Beckham as the biggest star in the MLS. Can someone proficient on Photoshop, clip Cameron's locks , a la Vidic and send it to me?

And this was not the end of it. A F1 fan , who heard the story, decided to check out the Man United squad on their website, purely out of curiosity's sake. And who does he find there. The twin brother of the new F1 star - Lewis Hamilton. It’s a pity that Kieran Richardson plays so little for Man United, that some of his own team-mates don’t know him; forget the followers of F1. And guess what, Lewis' boss at Mclaren - Ron Dennis feels Kieran can do a better job of finishing behind Fernando Alonso, and has already offered him a contract. Poor Hamilton will be unemployed soon. No points for guessing where he's off to? Man United off course!!!!!!

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My take on some transfer gossip from football

Football teams across Europe are busy strengthening their squads for next season and it’s no surprise that football agents and journalists alike are working double overtimes. Some big transfers have already been inked and some are in the pipeline. So here's my two pence worth on all the action off the field.

Man United signing Owen Hergreaves from Bayern Munich, Nani from Sporting Lisbon and Anderson from Porto - Man United have really upped the ante with three big moves and they are not done yet. Hergreaves fills an important hole in the mid-field and is a proven performer at club and country level. The other two have shown tremendous potential and could be the long term replacements for Giggs and Scholes respectively. The 50 million pounds (and still counting) spent by the Glazers will finally help them win over the legion of skeptical Man United fans. With Liverpool also looking to spend big bucks, a frugal Chelsea look far from retaining the crown they lost this year.

Thierry Henry to Barcelona - The Thierry Henry transfer gossip is a yearly occurrence. This year however, it looks like becoming a reality. Arsenal are under pressure after another trophy-less campaign. Arsene Wenger realizes that he needs more goals (read a typical penalty box poacher) and less craftiness (read Henry). Henry's biggest supporter David Dein is no longer at the club. Arsenal have no money to buy a world class striker. Perennial Henry-admirers, Barcelona could finally make an irresistible offer to Arsenal (read next transfer story) in the form of Samuel E'too. The Cameroonian is just what Arsenal need and they could pull the trigger on Henry if the Catalans do come up with the offer.

Samuel E'too to AC Milan - And here's the reason why Barcelona would be willing to make the offer to Arsenal. AC Milan owner, Silvio Berlusconi has made an open offer for Samuel E'too (and remember Berlusconi always gets his players, when he open his chequebook). His efforts to lure Shevchenko back to Milan have failed and he needs another world class striker to fill the void. E'too is disenchanted at Barca and would fancy a move to another big name club. Barcelona would get nothing in return if E'too goes to Milan. They could cover their losses if they send E'too to Arsenal instead. They will get Henry in return and E'too will also be happy with such a move. He will be at home with all the other African players in Arsenal and be the biggest star in the side.

Anelka to Man United - Most people just remember Anelka as a disgruntled and selfish player. They forget however, that he still remains a proven goal scorer in the premiership, an accomplishment which the likes of Shevchenko and Morientes have failed to match. Anelka would be dying to get back to a club where he can win some silverware again. His pace suits United's style of play perfectly and he could be available really cheap. His good behavior under the enormous personality of Sam Allardyce could quickly change to terrible under Sammy Lee. United would have no such trouble with Fergie in charge (remember how he managed Cantona). They could even go for a swap deal with Saha and some other bits like Kieran Richardson or Mikael Silvestre thrown in.

Carlos Tevez to ???? - He is the most 'available' big name player right now. There is no way West Ham can afford to hold on to him and he is sure to move on. His late season flurry has shown that he is the real deal and a number of clubs are vying for his services. With Real failing to land Ronaldo and Raul showing his age, Real will go all out to get him. Expect stiff competition from Chelsea, who desperately need help upfront with Drogba missing the start of next season with African Nations Cup duty and Shevchenko completely disinterested in having a better second season. Let the highest bidder win.

Out of personal interest, I’ am still hoping for a move to the premiership for our boy, Michael Chopra. With the three new clubs in the premiership next season, identified, his agent should get a call anytime soon.

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