Saturday, May 31, 2008

IPL Daily Dose – 30/05/2008 – IPL version of the Hare and the Tortoise and why I stopped making predictions

Remember the story about the Hare and the Tortoise. The one where the hare lost a race to the tortoise because he had no focus, no concentration, was over-confident and had no luck as well.

Now try imagining the same race with a different hare. A hare who was extremely motivated, totally focussed, had the race well planned out and could count on a little bit of luck if needed. What a one –sided washout it would be? Just like the Rajasthan –Delhi game last night, right. Absolutely!!!

The hare would have started out fast and continued to build on his lead. Similarly, Rajasthan batted well in the beginning, in the middle overs and at the end. They bowled well at the start, bowled well in the middle overs and then bowled well towards the end. As for their fielding, even guys like Sohail Tanvir were taking outstanding catches.

The number of things I was wrong about (and Iam sure so were many others)

1. Delhi had a better chance if they bowled first – doesn’t matter if you are outplayed in both innings of the game

2. Delhi’s experience could be the key in a knock-out game where there is more pressure – I am an idiot. Should have learned from the Rajasthan – Mumbai game. On a day when McGrath, Sehwag and Gambhir crumbled and Munaf and Asnodkar fired, experience was the last thing that mattered.

3. Delhi’s bowling could make the difference on a bouncy pitch - wrong again. All the Delhi quicks were taken to the cleaners. And Rajasthan’s bowlers gave a clinic on line and length.

4. The game would be decided by one great innings from one of the many power-hitters on display – this was a game which was the epitome of the word ‘collective’. RR were collectively great and DD were collectively bad. No need for individual feats.

Superman Returns

After meeting kryptonite against Mumbai, Shane Watson gave a display which would have made Superman proud. Could have won two separate MoM awards – one for batting and one for bowling.

A display which would have made the great Indian spin quartet proud

On a day when bats were flying at every delivery, Amit Mishra added to his growing reputation. Rather than cower down and start bowling defensively, he showed the full range of his arsenal. He continued to toss it up in a manner which would have made Bedi and Prasanna proud. The wicket of Pathan was a perfect example. We need to see more of this guy. He’ll do us proud in other forms of the game as well. I hope we don’t need another IPL to find his whereabouts. Are the Indian selectors watching?

A day when Sohail ‘Purple Cap’ Tanvir was the weak link in the bowling

The Rajasthan bowling was so damn good that Tanvir’s extremely decent opening spell of 2-0-16-0 was made to look bad. His economy was the worst and he was the only one who went wicket less. Don’t think Sohail will mind a repeat in the finals.

Dude of the Day – Extremely difficult to judge when you have so many heroes. So award goes to Shane Watson for doing what two heroes can do. How soon before we see him doing a dozen ads on Indian Television.

Dud of the DayYours truly for the 4 reasons mentioned above. And all the others who thought of at least three of the 4 reasons. I am not going to be making any predictions anytime soon.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Cricket Se Aapko Kya Mila – Humko Cricket Se Sirf Cricket Hi Chahiye

One of the most visible ads during the IPL matches is Zapak’s “Cricket Se Aapko Kya Mila”. This one is based on the premise that we meaning the fans don’t get anything out of cricket. The cricketers seem to be getting everything and fans also deserve to get something out of the game. I know money means everything to Reliance but don’t think ‘real’ cricket fans will agree with their philosophy.

First about the ad itself. I kind of recognized most of cricketers in the spoof but couldn’t identify the guy with the sanitary napkin. Will someone in Zapak or any of the Reliance companies please tell me the name of the cricketer who endorses a sanitary napkin brand? I think it’s a tasteless joke.

Now for the message in the ad. Here’s my answer to Zapak. We watch cricket for the cricket itself. It gives us great moments of pleasure, pain and joy and that is what we crave. We marvel at the amazing skill and that is what we want to see. We need to identify with something and cricket gives us that identity. Yeh Sab Kuch Humko Cricket Se Mila.

Obviously Reliance and Zapak don’t understand all this. They always look to make money in whatever they do. This is a great philosophy and has made reliance what they are today – India’s largest business empire. But we are poor cricket fans and we will manage with whatever cricket has been offering all this while. Cricket Se Hume Sirf Cricket Hi Chahiye Aur Kuch Nahin.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

IPL Daily Dose – 29/05/2008 - Srikkanth, Arun Lal and Raj Thackeray win non-cricketing IPL awards

The league stage of the IPL is over and the knock-out games start tomorrow. Like the American leagues we will also hand out awards separately for the regular season and then for the knock-out round. In today’s daily dose we will first hand out the non-cricketing awards. Part two will have all the cricketing awards.

Award for the ‘Best Fan Attire/Apparel’ goes to the Blue Chiffon Saris worn by the female fans of the Rajasthan Royals. Forget the jerseys and the Tees; this is as truly Indian as it will ever get. And full marks for original thought. Historically the Rajputs have worn saffron to battle but blue seemed to have done the trick this time round.

Award for the ‘Most Inhospitable Team’ is jointly shared by the Kings XI Punjab and the Kolkata Knight Riders. These teams don’t even have enough accommodation for their own players. On second thoughts the award only goes to the Punjab side. They are part-owned by an hotelier for god’s sake.

Award for the ‘Most Unsporting Parent’ goes to Krishnamachari Srikanth. He disappeared into thin air the day his son made a disappointing debut in the IPL. He didn’t have the gall to make his customary post match player bashing appearance. We wanted to hear his analysis of Anirudha’s performance.

Award for the ‘Most Indigestible Comment’ goes to commentator Ranjit Fernando. On being asked to comment on the poor early form displayed by the Kings XI Punjab, he commented that the foreign players from Sri Lanka were taking a while to get settled as they were suffering from jet lag!!!. Has the island nation drifted away and become part of the American mainland?

Mr Fernando kindly stay back on the stage please. We have another award for you.

Award for the ‘Most Abused Remark’ also goes to Ranjit Fernando. Till the time I could manage to keep count he had already used “and that is the best thing about the IPL format” 23, 387, 543 times. Everything that he saw had to do with format it seems. The world was not created on the day the IPL started, Mr Fernando.

In a manner similar to the way congressman fall over each other in trying to praise Sonia Gandhi, IPL commentators were trying to out-do each other in their efforts to praise Lalit Modi. The theme was to eulogize him as the great visionary who started the IPL. The winner of the ‘Praise Lalit Modi’ suck-athon is Arun Lal. He happened to know that Lalit Modi wasn’t second to Subhash Chandra in thinking about a league like this and that Modi had dreamt of the IPL long before anyone knew. So how did Arun Lal know? Was he in bed with Mr Modi, when the IPL commissioner was dreaming about the IPL?

The Award for the ‘Best Proof that India is far ahead of the World in Gender Equality’ goes to the male cheerleaders in the IPL. Many countries now have female heads of State. But no nation has thought of semi-clad male cheer leaders. Who said there was nothing for female fans in the IPL?

Award for the ‘Worst Team Owner’ goes by a landslide margin to Dr Vijay Mallya. No time to wax eloquent about his efforts. We have more awards to hand out.

Award for the ‘Best Incentive provided by a Team Owner’ goes to Preity Zinta and the kisses handed out by her. No wonder the guys in her team are rocking. Her team also saved on spending for a brand ambassador.

Award for ‘Most Uninterested Politician’ goes to Raj Thackeray. The Mumbai team was playing a ‘Bihari Bhaiya’ in the form of Saurav Tiwary. That there was no reaction from Mr Thackeray and his cohorts is proof enough that he gave the tournament a complete miss.

Award for the ‘Biggest form of Chamchagiri’ goes to all the film stars who came out to support SRK’s Knight Riders against the Mumbai Indians. This game was played in Mumbai and these Chamchas were all decked out in gold and black against a city which has meant a world to them. They also win the Award for ‘Most Disloyal Fans’. Hope their fans turn disloyal too.

And finally the Award for ‘Best Holiday Travel package’ goes to Mr Lalit Modi. By creating various quota requirements for the teams, he ensured that there was tremendous scope for free loaders – guys who were in the sides just to make up the numbers. These guys got to travel with the players, stay in the five star hotels, practise with the game’s greats, sit in the dugouts and run on the field to celebrate. Cricket –mad people in this country will pay a fortune to get such an opportunity. Is there a better holiday package available in this country?

Thanks all of you for coming. We will be back shortly with all the cricketing awards

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

IPL Daily Dose – 26/05/2008 – Mumbai can handle Superman but not Rajasthan’s version of Mohammed Ali

Shane Warne is mining heroes by the truckloads in the Rajasthan desert. Keeping count of the match winners in the Rajasthan side is becoming increasingly difficult. On a day when it seemed that Shane Warne had run out of all his aces, the Royals unearthed another champ who grabbed his rare chance to perform with both hands. Welcome to the Shane Warne show of unending magic tricks. The latest act – Niraj Patel delivered what could be a killer blow to the semi-final hopes of Mumbai Indians.

Talking of blows, the partnership was reminiscent of Mohammed Ali’s ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ boxing style which was on view on ESPN. I switched over to watch Ali box when Patel and Jadeja were struggling initially. Just like the two of them Ali did little in the beginning. After watching Ali absorb punches and give his opponent a false sense of victory on ESPN for a while, I switched back to Set Max and watched Patel and Jadeja make an Ali-esque comeback and sting Mumbai like a bee.

Mumbai have every reason to feel gut wrenched. Just like the Punjab game, this one was in the bag with RR needing 43 off 18 on a wicket which had been low-scoring till then. They were numerous ‘only-ifs’ associated with the last ball and Mumbai will need all the strength of will and character to pick themselves up for the next game.

A load off Viru’s head

Delhi Daredevils are through to the semis and Virender Sehwag can get rid of the memory of the over he bowled against Punjab.

Mumbai almost joined a club every other team is a member of

Wicket-keepers have never had it as good as they have in the IPL. With the bat that is. Almost every team has had a match winning batting performance from their stumpers. Last night the Mumbai Indians and Yogesh Takawale almost joined the list which currently has KKR (Brendan McCullum) , RCB(Mark Boucher),CSK ( MS Dhoni), DD( Dinesh Karthik), KXP( Sangakkara) , DC ( Gilchrist) and RR ( Kamran Akmal). Mumbai’s entry based on Takawale’s cameo seemed such a ‘destined to be thing’ till we know what happened.

The day Superman met kryptonite

Shane Watson has all the physical attributes to play Superman on screen. His performance in the IPL has also been like a Superman who has won games with bat or ball depending on the need of the hour. Last night, Superman was reduced to a mortal being in both innings of the game. But he can afford to do that when he has the full assortment of super heroes for company

Rajasthan's embarrassment of riches

Teams have been happy to have one decent opening pair. Rajasthan have 4 quality openers who can combine to form 6 different opening pairs. The captain can randomly select two guys from the likes of Smith, Asnodkar, Pathan and Kamran Akmal and count on them to get the team off to a flier.

Dude of the Day - Sohail Tanvir is as deserving as Niraj Patel. But Tanvir's already got the Purple Cap and the MoM award for his efforts. Therefore, on a day when bowlers were on top for a change, Niraj Patel is our Dude of the Day.

Duds of the Day - All the experience in the Mumbai side which counted for nothing. In the heat of the battle a pair of greenhorns came through while the wily veterans floundered. The think tank of Sachin and Sanath erred by bowling Raje when Jayasuriya and Dwayne Smith were available. They should have remembered Dhawal Kulkarni's 15 run over which tilted the balance in Delhi’s' favour in the last game. And I haven’t mentioned Jayasuriya’s missed run-out chance off the last ball

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Monday, May 26, 2008

IPL Daily Dose – 25/05/2008 - A day for motivational owners and discovering a new quota in the IPL

Sourav Ganguly has done it again. Once more he’s come back with a bang to prove his doubters wrong. Dada can exit the tournament with his head held high. He is the highest run getter for his team and has the best economy among bowlers (save for Ajantha Mendis who played just one game). Moreover, he was almost single-handedly responsible for 3 of his teams last 4 wins. I don’t know if SRK and John Buchanan love him but his last effort has ensured that cricket lovers across the country are in love with him all over again.

Talking of SRK, this was also a day when both he and Dr Mallya managed to end up on the winning side. Both of them should take credit for their teams’ wins having motivated their teams in their own unique ways. SRK’s SMS seems to have done the trick for Kolkata. Airtel will soon be coming out with a new Value Added Service – receive motivational SMS’ from Shahrukh Khan. As for RCB, there seems to be some correlation in Dr Mallya having put a lid on his mouth and the team winning two games on the trot. This is called silent motivation.

There was a lot of talk about Hyderabad being one bowler short and it costing the side the game. But no one seems to be talking about the side missing a batsman or two. The side was in control of things till they introduced the fifth bowler. But the side were also on top till they lost their fourth wicket. How can the side end up short on both bowlers and batsmen when it is playing its full quota of 11 players and has a wicketkeeper who is good enough to play as a specialist batsman? This is because DC plays a few dummies that neither bowl nor bat and are there to just make up the numbers. A player whose father happens to be an influential cricket administrator is a case in point. After all the league has to maintain its nepotism quota.

Award for the best runner between wickets goes to

Wasim Jaffer for managing to get run-out twice in the same game. He wins the Dada-Inzy award for best runner in the IPL.

1992 World Cup revisited

RCB opened their bowling with Anil Kumble. Martin Crowe seems to have provided some input finally

Talk of a twenty-20 hangover

IPL Participants Ricky Ponting, Jacob Oram, Ross Taylor, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Brendan McCullum, Dwayne Bravo and Andrew Symonds seem to have made the transition from twenty-20 to test cricket with effortless ease. They have all been in splendid form and don’t seem to be suffering from a Twenty-20 hangover.

A story of two Australian coaches

John Buchanan has come out strongly against all the praise being showered on Shane Warne for being a great coach and a great leader. He says that one IPL doesn’t prove anything. Will Mr Buchanan care to check Shane Warne’s county record with Hampshire and also try talking to a guy called Kevin Pietersen about Shane Warne’s motivational skills? Once he’s done that he’ll be as talkative as Dr Mallya has been off late.

Dude of the Day – Umar Gul was a deserving Man of the Match but Dada is the Dude of the Day. Having faced a lot of flak from all quarters, he responded with a brilliant innings. His unbeaten effort ensured that KKR’s weak batting managed one of the best chases in the IPL.

Duds of the Day – All the beneficiaries of nepotism in this tournament. The various quotas allow for some free-loaders in each side. Forget domestic players, some lucky kids are also getting a chance to rub shoulders with the greats of the game. And for this special privilege they are the duds of the day

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

IPL Daily Dose - 24/05/2008 - A day when history was almost made and a candidate for Indian coach

The great Marathas could never capture the crown of Delhi in their proud history. On 24/05/08 they laid siege again under the leadership of the new Chattrapati – Sachin Tendulkar and it looked as if history was in the making. They were thwarted, however, by the troops recruited from the South (Karthik and Maharoof). Sachin and his men were glorious even in defeat; quite unlike the last big battle the Marathas fought for control of Delhi – the humiliating defeat in the third battle of Panipat.

Virender Sehwag and team have kept their semi-final hopes alive and have good reason to feel confident of making the next stage. For them to get knocked out now, the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings will have to win all their remaining games.

The Daredevils have other positives to take from this game. Their middle and lower-order finally fired and delivered in a situation where they generally tend to crumble and roll over. This win was also their first against somebody who is not a minnow (RCB and DC) in their last 9 games. The team will be in a very positive state of mind should they line up for the semis.

Mumbai lost a thriller for the second game running and have every reason to feel despondent. They also have the harder task of needing to beat both the Royals (quite a proposition) and the Royal Challengers in their two remaining games. Bu they have been playing good cricket overall and a little bit of luck or pluck could see them through. The veteran presence of Sachin, Sanath and Shaun will come in extremely handy

I wrote in the Daily Dose of 18/05/2008 that somehow Chennai manage to win all their tight games. They were either super lucky or simply super cool in pressure. Whatever it was, they are no longer the same. For the second home game running, they lost a match they were in control of till a very late stage. They have the easier task of just beating the last-placed Chargers but the Super Kings have lately developed a habit of making life difficult for

A mouth watering match-up in the making

Forget Warne against Sachin, I want to see Sohail Tanvir go against Jayasuriya and Tendulkar. Tanvir has been ‘awkwardly’ outstanding and extremely difficult to get away; at the beginning or at the end of the innings. Jayasuriya is back to his 1996 World Cup best. This contest will set the tone for this high stakes game.

Note to the BCCI

Please keep a close watch on Shane Warne. He continues to get the best out of his guys. Kamran Akmal and Pankaj Singh came in for this game and made their skipper proud. Employing him in some capacity with Indian Cricket should be priority number one. And make him the coach when Gary Kirsten gets sick of the Indian board. If anyone can make India true world beaters, it is Shane Warne. He’s managed to get even Munaf Patel motivated and kicked up.

A special word of praise for the Mumbai Indians Management

Getting Dwayne Smith and Andre Nel as late additions has been quite a coup. Compare that to the reinforcement jobs done by the CSK (Kapudegara), DC (Chamara Silva) and KKR (Brad Hodge). Getting the big guns is the easier task. Making key additions late in the season is the hallmark of well-run teams. Just check the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA – 4 time winners in the last 10 years.

Dudes of the DayThe Delhi middle-order with the exception of Dilshan. Dinesh Karthik was the man of the moment but key contributions came from Tiwary and Maharoof also. In a do-or-die game when the big three failed, these guys got the job done.

Duds of the Day - the Chennai Super Kings. They are hell-bent on giving their fans sleepless nights. Home game, player of the tournament Shane Watson sits out, 35 required off 18 with Dhoni and Morkel at the wicket and they still lose. MS Dhoni’s superstar status in Chennai could take a real beating if these guys miss out on the semis.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

IPL Daily Dose - 23/05/2008 - Why do the Marshs love India and a new leaf in Punjab

Shaun Marsh passed a very important personal or rather family landmark during his innings of 60 against the Deccan Chargers. It’s a little lateral but lateral is what you look for when Mohali plays Deccan – this was as inconsequential as it can get at this stage of the tournament.

Shaun’s dad Geoff Marsh scored 428 runs in the 1987 Cricket World Cup held in India and the son’s IPL haul crossed that number during last night’s game. Here’s how father and son stand as of today.

There are striking similarities in the efforts of the father-son duo. Like Shaun in the IPL, the senior Marsh also had a break-out effort in the Reliance World Cup, which like the IPL was held in India. An opener just like Shaun, Geoff Marsh was outstanding in the World Cup ending up as the third –highest scorer behind David Boon and Graham Gooch with 2 centuries and a number of match-winning efforts. Shaun is second right now and should definitely end up in the top 3.

And how did the tournament end for Geoff Marsh and his team? Underdogs to start and deserving champions at the end. Now that is a storyline Shaun and his team would love to match. Going by the team’s current form, an encore looks quite likely.

The Deccan Chargers have been batting quite well off late. They have scored 181/7, 182/9, 153/7 and 175/4 in their last 4 games. This game was inconsequential but they could really benefit from their good batting form in the coming games. The clash against RCB will decide the wooden-spooners of the IPL and DC have the chance to play party poopers against CSK on 27th May.

Why do Mohali play Tanmay Srivastava when they don’t have any confidence in the youngster’s ability? What is the message being sent out to this specialist batsman when bowling all-rounders like Chawla bat ahead of him? This guy is a big game performer – having scored a century in the Ranji Finals and top scored in the U-19 World Cup final; apart from being the top scorer in the tournament. Other U-19 internationals have performed decently in the IPL. Guys like him should be given a chance in the league stage (especially now that KXP is already in the semis) so that they are ready if called upon in the crucial knock-out games.

Evidence that Sreesanth is turning over a new leaf

His cool and calm reaction to Romesh Power’s almost comical attempt to mis-field, which resulted in a four. New age saying – Spare the Slap and spoil the cricketer

Dude of the DayKumara Sangakkara. Once the proud owner of the orange cap, his injury had pushed him far back in the run scorers list. But he showed great hunger and put the issue beyond doubt in the early overs.

Scary thought – Mohali had been winning all their games without this guy

Dud of the Day - RP Singh. He owns 4 of the top 40 worst bowling performances in the IPL (in terms of runs conceded) and nearly added a fifth. RP Singh has been a shadow of the bowler he was in the Twenty-20 World Cup.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

IPL Daily Dose - 22/05/2008 - No cricket and rainy relief for Chennai

For once the folks in Chennai weren’t envying the rains in Delhi. Rather they were overjoyed. They have been lifted out of the grave they started digging for themselves in the game against Bangalore. We can no longer have a scenario where Delhi and Mumbai both have 16 points, making it necessary for Chennai to win both their remaining games. Chennai just have to win one game now and MS Dhoni and his boys will not have a sword hanging over their heads when they take on the Royals.

Mumbai’s Situation hasn’t changed though. Their run-rate is better than Delhi and they still need to either beat the Daredevils or win their other two games. And if it rains again in the DD-MI game, then Mumbai just need to win one of their two other games. The Indians are totally in control of their destiny.

The Rajasthan Royals are already through but their games against CSK, MI and KXP will determine the semi-final pairings. There will be no easy teams in the semis but Rajasthan know that Mumbai will have the added advantage of a raucous home crowd. It should be in their best interests to avoid them or eliminate them.

Delhi must be gutted. And to make matters worse for them the next game could be washed out as well. One point helps no one. Couldn’t we just have a bowl-out? Iam sure Dada and Viru would have preferred to take a chance and try and get 2 points rather than helplessly get knocked out of the IPL. Even a simple toss, with winner takes all would have been better. Can’t let the rain play such an important role. Surely some food for thought for Mr Lalit Modi.

Krishnamachari Srikanth was asked on Sun TV to unravel the mysteries of the Duckworth Lewis system for the benefit of the viewers

His reply – “I don’t think anyone understands the D/L system. It’s just understood by the computer which does the calculations. Even Messer’s Duckworth and Lewis who devised it don’t understand it.”

I don’t know who will be most aggrieved by this answer. Duckworth and Lewis, or the University where they devised this system as a course project, their project guide or the Sun TV fans who have to bear Srikanth. Here’s an explanation of the D/L system for Srikanth and anyone else who wants to know. And if this is not enough, I will arrange for the statistical modelling paper also.

Dudes of the Day – All the fans who turned up for the game in spite of the forecast. You truly love your cricket and your team.

Dud of the Day – Whoever is responsible for not foreseeing the possibility of rain and not planning for such an eventuality.

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Man United are Champions but Chelsea are winners too - all the sub-plots from the UEFA Champions League final

Man United are Champions of Europe once again. We’ll quickly talk about the game and then get to the sub-plots. There were so many in this game; each with the potential of becoming a fairytale ending for the parties. But first about the game.

Match verdict – Two well matched sides that played their hearts out in a game which was of the highest quality. I have never seen attacking football of this high standard in such a big game. Rather than play safe, Man United and Chelsea went for the jugular. Most games end up in penalties when the teams are overly defensive, but this game went to the shoot-out because Chelsea and United were too closely matched.

It’s a pity Chelsea had to lose and I say that as a hard core United fan. For the first time in my life I felt sorry for a side which had lost to my beloved ManU. In just 3 hours Chelsea went from enemy no one to a club I began to show some appreciation for. That I guess is the beauty of this game. A fan can get so mesmerized by its magnificence that he forgets all about enmity and hatred. More glory to football.

Now for the sub-plots.

God and the Busby Babes were with United tonight

2008 marks 50 years since the Munich air crash. This tragedy is one of the saddest incidents in all of sport. The Busby Babes could have gone on to win more than one European Cup. The loss left a huge emotional scar on the clubs psyche. God couldn’t have found a better time and a better way to heal some of United’s wounds. God provided United the slice of luck they needed to edge Chelsea. Fifty years on, the spirits of the Babes must have finally celebrated

Ronaldo the big match player – the good part

Questions have been asked of Ronaldo’s big match temperament. He answered his detractors in the best possible manner – a coolly taken header to give United the lead. Ronaldo continued to create havoc on the left flank and all seemed destined for a perfect finish for the Portuguese and for United; till Frank Lampard equalized throwing the perfect finish out of the window.

Ronaldo the big match player – the bad part

Ronaldo is United‘s regular penalty taker – supposed to be their best. But when his run-stop-run penalty was brilliantly read and saved by Cech, he was on the verge of becoming the villain of the piece. John Terry’s missed penalty ensured that Ronaldo escaped without any deep emotional scars.

Ronaldo and his move to Real Madrid

The chances that Ronaldo moved to Real if United won the title were huge. Having won the biggest club title, he would have had nothing left to prove. Delivering another UCL crown for Fergie would have also liberated Ronaldo of all the obligations he owed the manager for having nurtured him and having stood by him after the controversy of the England- Portugal WC clash.

In the end United won but chances are that Ronaldo will stay at Old Trafford. The Portuguese experienced great emotional upheaval during the game and was totally overwhelmed when United won. The experience should bind him closer to club and manager. Real can wait.

Roman Abramovich and the perfect ending

The Russian oligarch finally had a chance to lay his hands on the trophy he covets most. A victory at home in Moscow would have been almost a dream sequence for him. Roman might end up winning a UCL crown with Chelsea after all, but there is no chance it will happen in Moscow.

What if Andriy Shevechenko had been playing?

Andriy Shevechenko scored Chelsea’s last goal in the premiership. He also happens to have scored a Champions league winning penalty for AC Milan. Therefore, he had the right credentials to be a penalty taker based on historical pedigree and current luck in front of goal. Sadly for Chelsea the closest thing to a home-town boy in this game wasn’t even on the bench.

A reverse déjà vu for United which almost was

The final was eerily similar to United’s victory in 1999; in the reverse however. In that game United’s opponents Bayern Munich took an early lead and threatened to finish the game with a second goal. United had the world’s best goal keeper – Peter Scheimeichel in goal and the big Dane kept his side in the game with some brilliant saves. These saves proved crucial as United nicked two goals in the end.

This time United took and early lead and threatened to finish the contest with a second goal. Chelsea was kept in the game by their keeper Peter Cech – supposedly the world’s best. As Chelsea pressed for a winner towards the end, the events of 1999 flooded back. A late winner for Chelsea would have created the perfect reverse déjà vu. Luckily for united, Chelsea’s best efforts were kept out the by the woodwork.

The impact of the two managers’ new signings on the game

Fergie brought in Owen Hergreaves, Nani, Anderson and Carlos Tevez this season. All of them scored in the penalty shoot-out to keep United’s hopes alive. Avram Grant brought in Nicolas Anelka, whose missed effort buried Chelsea’s hopes. It’s a freakish coincidence but Fergie’s new pieces seem to have fitted in perfectly to create a Champions League Jigsaw for United.

Michael Ballack and a choice of clubs

Chelsea and United had both vied for the Germans services when he was at Bayern. Ballack chose Chelsea; apparently influenced by the fact that Chelsea stood a better chance of European glory with their heavy pockets and big players. On this day Ballack dreams were shattered by the same club he snubbed for Chelsea. Any hints for future players targeted by both clubs?

A fairy tale ending for John Terry that wasn’t

Chelsea has been expensively assembled by Roman’s millions. John Terry is a notable home-grown exception. John Terry miraculously recovered from an arm injury to play the final. He was heroic as usual; making what could have been the defining block of the game in extra time off Ryan Giggs’ effort. A trophy winning penalty by Chelsea’s favourite son would have been the icing on the cake. JT even sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. Unfortunately, he slipped and fluffed the penalty. A horror ending for the brave man. The poor man couldn’t even bear to see the trophy presentation.

The Greatest UEFA Champions League final ever

I saw Roberto Baggio miss a penalty in the World Cup final of 1994. I supported him and the Italians anguish saddened me as well. John Terry was a foe when the game started. He was a bitter enemy when he denied Ryan Giggs. But I felt for him when I saw the brave man cry. Football plays with our lives and binds us with its emotions. The emotions on display in this game make it the greatest Champions League final in living memory.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Glory Glory Man United and the Reds go marching ho ho ho

We are the Champions of Europe...full stop....more later....first for some celebrations

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IPL Daily Dose - 21/05/2008 - an eventful day and an out of fashion hairstyle

21st May 2008 will probably go down as the most eventful day in this edition of the IPL

First Mumbai lost a humdinger to Mohali by 1 run. They were coasting with 34 needed off 24 with seven wickets in hand and Sachin at the wicket to guide them home. They just had a bout of complete madness. The 2 points dropped here could be the difference between a semi final spot and an early exit in the IPL for the Mumbai side.

Then there was Mohali captain Yuvraj Singh shooting himself in the foot. His side had just won a great game and he had played a key role in it. But rather than celebrate his teams brilliant performance, he chose to berate the Mumbai crowd for being too one-sided and not showing respect for the ‘Indian players’ in the Mohali side. Grow up Yuvraj. This is exactly what home support is meant to be. If you want to be cheered for whenever you play in India, please stay away from the IPL or any other league.

What Yuvi also forgot was the fact that the semis and the final of the IPL will be played in front of the same crowd. By riling the boisterous Mumbai crowd, he has ensured his side has little support when they come back to Mumbai to play the knock-out rounds. Yuvraj needs to either learn to talk sensibly or talk like Mohd Azharuddin – so that no one can understand him.

And then to round the day off, Chennai lost a game which looked so winnable at 80 odd for 3 in 13 over that I left the stadium early to avoid the monotony of Chennai going through the motions of winning the game (and the post match traffic).

Chennai’s defeat has given new hope to both Mumbai and Delhi – two teams whose net run rate is far superior to that of the Super Kings. What that means is that Chennai must have at least one more win than each of those two sides to make the semis. It is no longer assured of a semi-final spot with 8 wins. Delhi and Mumbai could easily end up with 8 wins each; ensuring that they edge CSK for a semi-final spot.

Therefore, CSK needs to win both remaining games including a difficult one against RR to be absolutely certain of a semi –final berth. Finishing the job today would have saved all the uncertainty that surrounds the Super Kings now.

Quick Question 1

Which hairstyle is going to become unpopular in India very soon?

Ans: The striped corn rows of Robin Uthappa. People will avoid it unless they want the Robin Uthappa reference which changed from the ‘guy who won the game in England’ to the ‘guy who cost the Mumbai Indians a vital game’ or the ‘guy who ran Sachin out’

Quick Question 2

I was not surprised to see four specialist wicket-keepers in the RCB Vs CSK game. Why?

Ans: Because we could see more than 4 wicket keepers play a game very soon. Bangalore will continue to select more wicketkeepers to do the batting as their glovemen (Goswami, Boucher) are more reliable run -getters than their batsmen (Misbah-ul-haq, Virat Kohli, Bharat Chipli, Cameron White and Jacques Kallis)

Dude of the Day – could have gone for Yuvraj if not for the post game remarks. Award goes to Anil Kumble for coming back from a dropped catch and a scolding from the skipper to script a remarkable win for RCB. Second good bowling effort from Jumbo. RCB suddenly looks a good bowling unit. Ominous signs for the Mumbai Indians?

Dud of the DayMS Dhoni. He promoted himself up the order and got out carelessly. He dismissal set the tone for the collapse. Very atypical of Mahi. His effort spares Uthappa for today.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

IPL Daily Dose - 20/05/2008 - A special prize for Shah Rukh and why the Rajasthan Royals have fans all over India

The Knight Riders have been trying to persuade the NZL cricket board to make Brendan McCullum available for the semi-finals and have been willing to pay them USD 1 million for this special arrangement. I don’t know how it fits in the cap structure but this was surely a way of showing to the world that they were quite confident of making the semis. A very typical SRK stunt. Should have been quite a boost for the side ahead of a must win game.

The King Khan’s absence from such a big game, however, showed that this show of confidence was merely a filmy stunt. He had either already written off his team’s chances or had more pressing matters to attend (like Blogging against Aamir Khan). Wonder why all the fuss about getting an all access pass when he wasn’t going to be using it? He has to have it just because Preity Zinta and Vijay Mallya have it. I would love to hear from SRK, once KKR is finally knocked out of the tournament. Arun ‘Aryabhatta’ Lal thinks the Knight Riders still have a mathematical chance to make the semis.

The Bengalis had been highly aggrieved at the booing Dada received in Jaipur. It was a good chance to give chief culprit – Shane Warne some real stick. I was expecting a jam-packed Eden. Instead I saw a stadium which had enough empty space to seat the entire film community of Mumbai. Not just the ones who turned up to support SRK in Mumbai. The Knight Riders still have a long way to go before they can garner the kind of support the likes of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal enjoy.

Now here’s a new theory which I have.

The Royals come from Rajasthan, home of the Marwari community. This business community has a fair presence in all the major cities of this country. Wouldn’t this ensure that the Rajasthan side will always a decent number of supporters wherever they play? It’s similar to Indians being found all over the world; thereby ensuring that the Indian cricket team is never short of support in any venue in the world.

Quick Question 1

Ans: Who is the spinner’s biggest nemesis in the Kolkata batting line-up?

It should have been Dada till two games back. But not any more. Introducing Debabrata ‘his captain doesn’t know his name properly’ Das. Just check with Murali and Warne.

Quick Question 2

Who does Ajit Agarkar remind me of; every time he gets tonked for a four or a six, which is quite often?

Ans: Ranadeb Bose. Poor guy. Didn’t even get a chance to field in the IPL. Was he a worse option than Agarkar?

I have one last wish before KKR wind up their league engagements.

To see Laxmi Ratan Shukla bat higher up the order. I am tired of seeing him doing a salvage job all the time.

Dude of the DayYousuf Pathan. Gets the wicket of Kolkata’s best batsman and plays a blinder just when Kolkata were sniffing a chance. Also for speaking in fluent Hindi rather than trying to talk in broken English. No pretensions here.

Dud of the DayShah Rukh Khan. You can now frame the all access pass and hang it in your office. That’s your only prize from the IPL.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

IPL Daily Dose - 19/05/2008 - A new fan club and getting cheerleaders with a winning record

RCB finally have some reason to cheer. They were competitive till the 17th over of the game. All thanks to the Daredevils middle-order which remains as solid as the dugouts in the Eden Gardens (the ones which collapsed). They also managed to win all the post match awards (most sixes, MoM), except for the one that really mattered.

There was an interesting debate on the cricinfo match commentary about the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders not being a lucky mascot for their teams historically. Someone suggested getting the girls from the Dallas Cowboys instead. Tell you what – none of those teams have won a title for ten years. If you really want winners get the girls from the New England Patriots – winners of 3 Super Bowls in the last 7 years and a team which went 16-0 in the regular season this year.

A Cricinfo staff writer thought that this was not a must-win game for the Daredevils. I cannot understand how. Can someone explain to me how Delhi can even dream of making the semis with 7 wins? Rajasthan have already won 8 and Chennai and Mohali are on 7 with 3 and 4 games left respectively. So, is the writer counting on Mumbai to lose all their remaining four games? Does the writer know something that we don’t? ( The claim was made in the preview and was also there in the first -inning bulletin. Has been removed in the post game bulletin. Iam sure there are enough readers who read the preview and will vouch for me)

Pradeep Sangwan bowled 3 overs and each over went for 14 or more. Is that the worst bowling performance in the IPL? Wonder why Tillekratne Dilshan was given only one over (1/0/3/1)

Now for a quick quiz
Question: Guess who are the founders of the Shoaib Malik Fan Club?

Ans: Pakistani commentators – Aamir Sohail and Rameez Raja.

Sample this

After DD lost to KXP in the last game

Aamir Sohail: “How could Viru bowl himself ahead of Shoaib Malik?”

Delhi had Maharoof and McGrath available and Sohail could only think of Malik. Does he remember the over Shoaib bowled against CSK?

In the RCB Vs DD pre-game show today

Rameez Raja: “Anytime you pick a one-day side, Shoaib Malik is the first name on the team”.

Really!!! Wonder why none of the franchisees were going all out to secure Malik’s services.

Dude of the DayFarvez Maharoof. Outstanding with the ball (4/0/13/2) and took the side home with the bat. I was shocked to see Goswami getting the MoM award.

Dud of the Day – Will spare Sangwan. He’s just 17. This award is still open. I have challenged the Cricinfo staff writer’s claim that this game wasn’t a must win for the Daredevils. I will be the Dud of the day if her claim is right. Else we will have the first female Dud of the Day in the IPL.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

isport Soccer Podcast - Episode 3

Amidst all the cricket action, we keep the voice of soccer alive. Managers are getting sacked all over Europe and League Champions are getting crowned. Enough issues to discuss. Listen to all the arguments here.

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IPL Daily Dose – 18/05/2008 - A new super-hero and a cool team in the IPL


Sachin Tendulkar is the biggest star in Indian cricket. Every venue in this country greets him with a raucous cheer and wildly applauds every single run he scores. Usually, silence descends when his wicket falls. Today the Hyderabad crowd cheered loudly when Tendulkar was dismissed. Indian crowds have truly passed the local loyalty test. No more blind support for Indian players. This is a great sign for the future of the franchisees and the league in general.

Robin Uthappa is a very straight player. He always looks to play in the ‘V’ – behind the wicket that is. His propensity for the sweep and the late cut will cut his international career real short.

Venugopal Rao reminds me of a regular guy who became a super-hero one fine day. He’s either met ‘Jadoo’ like Krrish or been bitten by spider like Spiderman or probably hit in the head by a cricket ball to become a ‘BatsMan’. A stroke less misfit to start the tournament, he is now one of the most explosive and most consistent players in the tournament.

Quick question – Which team would you rather want to end up last in the IPL - the Chargers or the Royal Challengers?

Without a doubt it is the Royal Challengers. The Chargers keep fighting till late in the game. RCB only makes an effort to win the toss. And if that is not enough, the Royal Challengers are owned by Dr Vijay ‘cry-baby’ Mallya


A crucial game for both sides more so for the home side, tantalizingly poised and finally decided in the most anti-climactic manner. KKR have every reason to feel hard done by.

As per the Duckworth- Lewis rule for T-20 games, only a minimum of 5 overs are required for a result. So there is scope for greater absurdity in this tournament.

Ntini grabbed the third hat-trick of the tournament. Suddenly taking a hat-trick doesn’t seem such a difficult thing to do.

Chennai have won 7 out of 11 games and Delhi and Kolkata have won 5 out of 11. Still the southern side has an inferior net run-rate as compared to those two sides. The Super Kings have won every close game they have played and their losses have come in games where they have hardly been competitive. Is this the sign of a lucky side or a side which manages to keep its cool better in the tight games?

Dude of the DayDwayne Bravo. He injected new life into the Mumbai’s innings just when things seemed bleak at 96/4 in 13 overs. He then returned to stifle the likes of Gilly and Rohit Sharma contributing to their early fall. And he had three key wickets of his own. What a send-off. Andre Nel has big boots to fill.

Duds of the DayMesser’s Duckworth and Lewis. They wouldn’t have known that their system would make a mockery of Twenty-20 games. Heck, the format didn’t exist when the system was born. But someone needs to bear the brunt for today’s disappointing end to the game.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

IPL Daily Dose – 17/05/2008 - IPL improves TV ratings in Dhaka and why bookies were missing in Jaipur


Rahul Dravid arrived at the crease at 31/4 and stayed on till 132/9, scoring 75 runs. Therefore, he scored more than 75% of the runs scored off the bat while he was at the crease. That is a tremendous achievement by the Bangalore captain and also a sorry reminder of RCB’s batting woes in the tournament.

Abdur Razzaq’s debut was the other notable point in the game. Was this move intended to increase TV ratings for the IPL in Bangladesh? I cannot see the cricketing reason for his inclusion. Vinay Kumar had figures of 3/0/15/0 and 2/0/11/1 in the last two games and was dropped for no justifiable reason.

Misbah-ul-Haq continues to make Dr Mallya look like an idiot. The owner had apparently fired Charu Sharma for not communicating his desire to play the Pakistani to the team management. Another failure (golden duck) later the decision to keep Misbah on the bench looks like a stroke of genius.

And by the way the Royals won again as expected. Were the bookies even offering any odds for this game?


A game of two overs - both of which brought Mohali right back into the game, just when Delhi looked like gaining the upper hand. The cardinal rule for all rain truncated games is to bowl your best bowlers first. You never know when the overs could be reduced further and the quota for each bowler gets whittled down. Sehwags logic was flawed in multiple ways.

Bringing on a part time spinner (himself) just because a regular spinner (Amit Mishra) bowled well completely ignored the fact that Mishra was the most successful spinner in the IPL and Sehwag was close to the worst of the lot. Bowling himself well before Maharoof was even introduced into the attack and before McGrath’s quota was finished was foolish bravado and nothing else.

The Daredevils now need to win all their games to keep their hopes alive. And even that might not be enough. If Mumbai win 3 of their 5 remaining games (quite possible even if they lose to DD) and Chennai beat RCB and DC (shouldn’t be too much trouble) then we could have the possibility of an 8 win team missing out on a semi-final berth. Rajasthan and Mohali should win more then 8 and qualify for sure. Net run-rates are going to be extremely important.

The game also showed that the Kings of Punjab have the most explosive and the deepest batting line-up in the tournament. All their batsmen are attacking players and collectively they offer no respite to opposition attacks. Every batsman has also played at least one important innings in this tournament so far. They didn’t flinch when they lost Shaun Marsh and Yuvraj early. Mahela’s performance was like a cold blooded assassin’s which showed that he had been suffering from lack of opportunity and not lack of ability.

Dude of the Day
– Close call between Mahela and Dravid. The award goes to Dravid. This guy has been under immense pressure and answered his critics in the best possible manner. At least the ones who questioned his batting and fighting abilities.

Dud of the Day - Cannot include the entire RCB side. The villain of the day is Virender Sehwag. Forget his fifty; his decision to bowl himself will haunt him when he is watching the IPL semis on television.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

IPL Daily Dose - 16/05/2008 - The 'gaddars' of Mumbai and why India leads the world in gender equality

Sachin Tendulkar scored a duck in this game. But his post-match smile was a lot wider than the ones he’s sported after most of his tons. He couldn’t have helped it. His team had just achieved the most one-sided win in the IPL.

The Mumbai Indians now have the best net run-rate and the greatest momentum in the IPL. Chennai’s position is no longer safe and Kolkata have just gone from being biggest winners to the biggest losers in the tournament. No points for guessing what it has done for their net run-rate. The race for the semi-final spots gets more intense with every passing day.

With only 20 odd overs of cricket to talk about, we’ll utilize the space to handout two special IPL awards.

The Award for the ‘Best object/prop/accessory to show support for your team’ goes to the blue flags of the Mumbai Indians. While it’s not in the league of the giant flags and the scarves in European Football, it’s easily the best in the IPL. Actually the only thing around. Wonder why the others including SRK didn’t think of anything?

The Award for the ‘Best proof that India is far ahead of the world in gender equality’ goes to the male cheerleaders in the IPL. Many countries now have female heads of State. But no nation has thought of semi-clad male cheer leaders. Who said there was no future for male strip-tease artists?

Most disappointing moments of the night – hearing ‘Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo Re’ blaring in the stadium every time the Knight Riders had a good moment in the game. And not hearing ‘Duniya Hila Denge’ even once. Was this match really in Mumbai?

Dudes of the Day – Shaun and Sanath. One was unplayable as a bowler and the other was un-bowlable to as a batsman. If you just looked at their performances, you’d be left wondering whether the pitch was batsmen friendly or bowler friendly.

Duds of the Day – All the film stars who turned up in KKR jerseys to support the Kolkata side. And that too at home in Mumbai. Most of them were born and brought up in Mumbai and all of them are what they are because of the film city that is Mumbai. These ‘gaddars’ took ‘chamchagiri’ (for SRK) to a whole new level.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

IPL Daily Dose – 15/05/2008 - Kamikaze batsmen and a bowler who needs brain surgery

The Daredevils have finally won a game and I am extremely relieved. A return to their home stadium seems to have brought a sea change in fortune as well. Home conditions are increasingly becoming relevant as the chase for the semi-final spots heats up. Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have all won their last home games. The crowd factor is becoming a bigger factor as the locals are getting more involved in their team’s fortunes and showing passionate vocal support. This augurs well for the Delhi side as they have the most favourable schedule amongst the sides jockeying for the 4th place.

Amit Mishra has been outstanding for the Delhi side. They have an array of international bowlers but a desi spinner seems to be doing the trick. As of now, Mishra is the best spinner in the IPL, statistically speaking – both in terms of strike rate and economy. In a format where spinners are meant to be cannon fodder, the success of guys like him is refreshing. Most people wouldn’t have heard about him. Where has he come out of? Real cricket aficionados will tell you that he was once a top India prospect who was dropped after a couple of chances – the story of Indian cricket and its selectors. They expect some players to get the Man of the match award on debut to justify a second game.

The Hyderabad batsmen reminded me of Japanese Kamikaze pilots in the First World War. They came out with all guns blazing and threatened to run away with the game. But like the suicide bombers who couldn’t win the war for Japan, the batsmen were on a futile death mission. Delhi’s gunners led by Mishra just kept knocking them down.

Mohd Asif’s pairing with Glenn McGrath had fans licking their chops in anticipation. It was supposed to be like a Federer versus Sampras. A chance to do a real comparison between two greats. Ten games into the IPL, Asif seems to be competing with Palani Amarnath and Dinesh Salunkhe. This is like Sampras playing Rohan Bopanna. The Pakistani will need a few brain surgeries to get over his IPL trauma.

Dude of the Day – Amit Mishra. Every time the Chargers seemed to have a chance he delivered a sucker punch. And his economy of 4.25 when in a game where McGrath went for 10.5 is absurdly good.

Dud of the Day – Virender Sehwag was the front runner but his astute captaincy under pressure was commendable. The award goes to the moron who threw a stone at Sehwag. The idiot should be banned for life from all cricket venues across the country. And I know the BCCI has the power to do so.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

We need more rules and rule abiders like Rajiv Shukla and Mani Shankar Aiyar

When the Indian Hockey team failed to qualify for Beijing, there was a clamour for the IHF chief - KPS Gill’s head. The Sports Minister, the honourable Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar felt the pain but refused to go against the Olympic Charter which calls for the non-interference of national governments in the running of sports bodies. So if all the sports bodies are going to run on their own, what is the need of a sports ministry?

For all his impotence, the minister could at least claim to be the only righteous and rule abiding man in the parliament. Well, at least till some time back. Now there is a parliamentarian who not only goes by the rule book but is also a man of action. We are talking of the one and only Rajiv Shukla.

Mr Shukla is a BCCI vice-president and he was recently asked about providing financial assistance to the poverty stricken family of former India U-15 captain Subhash Dixit. For the benefit of the uninformed, Dixit’s inability to provide two square meals for his family drove him to commit suicide recently.

Shukla responded by saying that the BCCI had no rule to provide financial assistance in such cases and as such his hands were tied. He added, however, that they do provide pension to former Ranji trophy players and help in treatment of terminal diseases. Well done, Mr Shukla. Unflinching under the media gaze and refusing to break rules the way a regular ‘human’ being would have done in this case.

And that’s not all. Mr Shukla is also ensuring that this country has more and more rules to obey. He has convinced the BCCI president, Mr Sharad Pawar to donate 1.5 crore rupees to build a gym for the rule makers of this country – Mr Shukla’s fellow parliamentarians. Most sportsmen in this country do not have a world class gym to work out but so what. The parliamentarians have a greater need for it as they have more flab to burn. The Gym will also ensure that the rule makers are always in fine fettle and can start making rules with renewed vigour and energy. Rules which will ensure that the likes of Aiyar and Shukla always have something to fall back on for their ineptitude.

Some of the possible new rules

1.No minister (read MS Gill) can sack long serving sports administrators like KPS Gill and Jyothikumaran. This will ensure that the likes of MS Gill cannot do what Mr Aiyar cannot.

2.The pension provided to Ranji players be cancelled and instead be given to old parliamentarians. Thus the media cannot complain about preferential treatment for some cricketers (Ranji players) and neglect of some( Subhash Dixit)

The BCCI will fund a lot of noble ventures with the money generated from the IPL. The 1.5 crores spent on the gym, however, would be the money best spent.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

IPL Daily Dose – 13/05/2008 - Dada the great fielder and why the Daredevils are similar to Roger Federer

On this day Sourav Ganguly made history. He picked the ball one handed and hit the stumps directly. But jokes aside, the Knight Riders have now defended scores of 133 and 129. In a tournament where the batsmen have done all the talking, this is an outstanding achievement.

Questions were asked of Kolkata’s ability to beat the big boys. Seems we overlooked the fact that 3 of their 4 defeats happened away from the Eden Gardens. The stadium looked every bit the cauldron that forces visiting sides to self -destruct. Kolkata have 3 more games in the cauldron and look good for 3 wins.

Delhi’s quest for their fifth win in the tournament is beginning to look like Roger Federer’s attempt to win the French Open. No matter what they try, they still end up losing. The changes - like bringing in Maharoof and Mishra have worked but victory still remains elusive.

The only thing that Delhi can do now is to juggle their batting a little. They desperately need some experience in the middle. Right now they open with their two most seasoned campaigners. One of them needs to come in at 4 and hold things together. AB de Villiers or Shikhar Dhawan can move up to open. Moving to his customary opening slot might also bring out the best of de Villiers, who has shown little of the form that made him the player of the tournament in South Africa’s domestic twenty-20 competition.

Dude of the DayShoaib Akhtar. Quite easily the most destructive spell in the IPL so far. Even better then the six-wicket haul of Sohail Tanvir.

Dud of the Day – The top six batsmen of the Daredevils. Made a complete hash of a paltry target. The chase was made respectable by the lower order

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

IPL : The Delhi Daredevils have a schedule advantage against Kolkata and Mumbai in the home stretch

Rajasthan, Mohali and Chennai are favourites to make the semis of the IPL. The fourth spot is poised to become a shoot-out between Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Mathematically, Hyderabad and Bangalore are still alive but going by their latest displays, the two southern sides have already thrown in the towel.

Amongst the three contenders for the last semi-final spot, Delhi’s current form is the worst having lost 3 games in a row. Kolkata and Mumbai are riding a winning streak of 2 and 3 games respectively. But as we have seen umpteen times in the tournament, teams have blown hot and cold. Therefore, not much can be read into the form the teams are carrying into the home stretch of the tournament.

What might be a little more relevant could be coming schedule of games. So let’s break down the coming set of games for each team.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The Kolkata side has been unstoppable against the minnows from Bangalore and Hyderabad, winning both home and away games against them. Unluckily for them, they don’t have any more game scheduled against either of those teams. Except for Delhi who they haven’t played so far, all of Kolkata’s games are against sides they have lost to so far in the tournament. What changes the equation somewhat in their favour is the fact that 3 out of these 4 games are at the Eden Gardens.

Their games against Delhi and Mumbai would be extremely crucial. They are unfavourably placed for these encounters as 2 out of 3 games are away.

Mumbai Indians

The Indians have completed an exact set of games, having played all the 7 teams exactly once. They have won 2 out 4 at home and 1 out 3 away. They are marginally better at home and hence a schedule of 3 out 7 games at home is slightly unfavourable. Luckily for them, 2 of the away games are against Bangalore and Hyderabad. Although the Chargers and the Royal Challengers won away against Mumbai, they will be low on motivation for the home fixtures and that should help Mumbai.

As for the games against their closest rivals, Mumbai play Delhi away and Kolkata at home - an even situation

Delhi Daredevils

The Daredevils started with a bang but have slumped off late. As they bid to put their semi-final challenge back on track, they couldn’t have asked for a more favourable schedule. They have 6 games to play but none against the mighty Royals or the Super Kings and have two against the whipping boys from the South. For a side with 2 wins in the 3 home games so far, having 4 out of the next 6 at home is quite an advantage.

Delhi also has a home ground advantage against Kolkata and Mumbai. They play Kolkata home and away and Mumbai at home.

Going into the final stretch of games, Delhi quite easily has the most favourable schedule even though their current form is not the best. Kolkata on the other hand has the most difficult road ahead. Now it’s up to Sehwag and his boys to make the schedule count for them

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IPL Daily Dose - 12/05/2008 - The BCCI has a genius of their own and a new excuse for Mallya

Kings XI Punjab have walloped the Royal Challengers from Bangalore. Don’t know what Dr Mallya is going to say now? "That I was sloshed after having 10 bottles of Royal Challenge, when I decided to bid for the franchise."

Rahul Dravid was gracious in defeat. He accepted his team’s shortcomings and was full of praise for Shaun Marsh and gang. That’s the Dravid we have all come to love and admire. Thank God he’s back.

There’s not much a bowling captain can do when the game is over with almost five overs to go. But I cannot understand why both Praveen Kumar and R Vinay Kumar were not given their quota of 4 overs. Their figures of (2.4/0/15/0) and (2/0/11/1) respectively were outstanding in the context of the game and the format. But no more criticism of Dravid. He’s been through enough already.

Now for some praise of Tom Moody. He continues to excel wherever he goes. And he’s got an eye for talent as well. The likes of Shaun Marsh and Luke Pomersbach might be relative unknowns in the cricketing world but Moody saw enough of them during his time at Western Australia to select them for Mohali. And he must’ve had a say in getting Sangakkara and Mahela as well. It’s a blessing to have a well-travelled coach for an international league. Guys like Moody also end up doing the de-facto job of chief scout. His experience in England will come in handy when the English players join in.

And come to think of it that when Moody came to interview for the India job, some Einstein in the BCCI questioned his credentials on the basis of his mediocre record as a player. Will the great man be kind enough to show his own resume?

Dude of the Day – Unquestionably it has to be Shaun Marsh. Not many guys would have smashed Steyn the way he did; in any form of the game.

Dud of the DayDale Steyn. The biggest bowling star in the RCB ended up with the poorest figures in the match by some distance.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

isport Soccer Podcast - Episode 2

The panel talks about the Champions League final, Valencia’s free fall , a selfish Ronaldo ,what Wenger needs to learn from the ladies and more. Listen to all the arguments here

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mohali’s defeat to the Super Kings is further proof of Yuvraj’s limitations as a captain and a speaker

The five-match winning run of the Punjab Kings XI finally came to an end at the hands of the Chennai Super Kings. The match was well poised after Chennai set a target of 182 but the Mohali side’s chase fizzled out quite early and the Super Kings romped home comfortably.

At the post match prize distribution, the losing captain – Yuvraj Singh was as articulate as a country bumpkin in a technology conference. That he rather conveniently and ungraciously forgot to credit his ex-India colleague – Laxmipathy Balaji is totally unpardonable. That he also forgot the time-honoured tradition of congratulating the winning captain – MS Dhoni, smacks of his personal frustration at losing out to the Jharkhand lad in the superstar sweepstakes. And finally, for failing to acknowledge the tactical mistakes that probably cost his team the game. The tactical blunders are also reflective of his limitations as a captain at this level.

182 was a very competitive target. Mohali needed to get off to a flier. James Hopes started off with a bang but got out in the second over itself. So who did Yuvraj send out to maintain the momentum? He sent Karan Goel - one of the two batsmen in the Punjab side whose strike rate in this form of the game is less than 100. Was he the best pinch hitter around, with Pathan and Chawla in the ranks? Or was Yuvi giving Goel a chance to run into form; the youngster having been in poor form off late. Whatever might have been the reason for his promotion, Goel ensured it was not justified by scoring 1 off seven balls and repeatedly frustrating a red-hot Shaun Marsh by staying on strike.

It was imperative that Yuvraj came in after Goel’s dismissal. As the captain and best batsman of the side the stage was set for him to take charge. This is exactly what; all captains who are batsmen do all the time.

Instead Mr Genius sent out the other batsman in the Punjab side whose strike rate in Twenty-20 is less than 100 – Ramnaresh Sarwan!!! If Yuvraj was not courageous enough to face the situation, he should have sent out Mahela Jayawardene and not Sarwan. What Yuvraj was waiting for I cannot fathom. By making an entry in the fifth over itself, he also afforded to give himself a little time to get settled in. He chose to give this chance to Sarwan who grabbed it with both hands. The West-Indian took 22 balls to get to 20, failing to hit a single boundary in the process. And then he promptly got out after getting his eye in.

Sarwan’s efforts ensured that Shaun Marsh’s blitz at the other end went completely wasted. Marsh scored 44 off 24 balls during this partnership. But Sarwan’s frugality ensured that the pressure built up considerably. So much so, that it consumed them all – Sarwan, Marsh, Yuvraj and Jayawardene. Yuvraj being forced to play the high-risk shot that led to his downfall was a result of his own doing.

Mohali has one of the most well balanced sides in the competition. Its Achilles heel is its captain. His leadership will be fatal for the side in crucial situations. Rajasthan, Chennai and Mumbai have benefitted from the wisdom of seasoned captains. And Mohali needs to do the same now. It has in its ranks both Mahela – a fine captain with Sri Lanka and Sangakkara – one of the shrewdest cricketing brains around. Make one of them the captain if you are serious about winning the IPL. And these guys happen to be far more articulate also.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Dr Mallya can become the 'King of Great Sackings'. Here's how

Finally the reason for Charu Sharma's sacking is known. He committed the major blunder of not communicating Dr Mallya's wish to include Misbah in the playing eleven to the team management. And although it was Dravid's decision to bench the Pakistani, Charu really deserved it. After all what is sport without a few scapegoats. Dr Mallya deserves a lot of kudos for not having the balls to take his 'icon' player on.

The team has responded well to the sacking by being consistent in its performance. The skipper led from the front. Dravid's efforts to 'get his eye in' during the middle overs was a crucial moment in the game. His handling of Ganguly ensured that Bangalore continued to separate itself from the rest of the pack.

The pressure is again on Dr Mallya. The skipper has run out of excuses for his 'test team's' splendid run in the IPL. The owner needs to make a few more sackings to justify his team's performance to the fans. As of now the coach is safe and the captain untouchable. Having removed the big kahuna last time, Dr Mallya can now move to the bottom of the food chain. He should sack the guy who handles the team cricket equipment. After all the team's cricket bats haven’t behaved well so far.

And then he can move to the others. Sack someone after every defeat. The conditioning coach for not ensuring the bodies were moving perfectly. The assistant coaches for the team's batting, bowling and fielding. The bus driver for....well, we will think of something after he gets sacked.

The team has six games to go and we could be set for an interesting finale after the team's final game. Dr Mallya should top everything he has done so far by sacking himself. That would be one sacking that no one is going to complain about.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

IPL : Do the Delhi Daredevils have the guts to drop Mohd Asif

The Delhi Daredevils have now lost two games on the trot. I am not going to make the foolish mistake of prophesying doom for them. They still remain one of my favourites to win it all. However, the team now needs to do what champion teams do to win professional leagues.

Champion teams are flexible and know how to make adjustments. If plan A is not working out, they have a plan B in store. Also champion teams don’t pick players on reputation alone. They will drop a superstar without a second thought if he’s not performing and pick a lesser name as a replacement. Putting the best team on the field is more important than massaging star egos.

Delhi can prove that they have the makings of a champion side by dropping Mohd Asif and Shoaib Malik.

Mohd Asif is a great bowler. He is the modern day twin of Glenn McGrath - probably the most accurate bowler of the last 15 years. But while McGrath has been superb, bowling at an economy of 6.1 (best for the Daredevils and fifth best overall), Asif has been poor. His economy of 8.87 has been seventh-best for the Delhi side and 52nd best overall. Farveez Maharoof’s rate of 7.09 (the next best after McGrath’s amongst the Daredevils) is far better and he’s been cooling his heels on the sidelines. Asif’s also been poor in the late overs – getting clobbered for 3 sixes by Pollock in the penultimate over (of a low-scoring game against Mumbai) and then conceding 11 against Chennai with 33 required off 18 balls.

Therefore the Daredevils need to pick Maharoof and drop Asif. Maharoof’s batting will also add steel to the suspect lower-order.

Shoaib Malik has been poor with bat (9th best in the side) and ball (8th best in the side). Also guilty of bowling a terrible last over against Chennai and failing to guide the side home against Mumbai. AB de Villiers has also struggled but having played half as many games as Shoaib, can be given another chance. Delhi has an ideal replacement for Malik in the form of Tillakratne Dilshan - an aggressive middle -order bat who can also bowl some tight overs.

Inspite of the twin setbacks, the Daredevils dont have to lose sleep over it. Like most good sides, they have the bench strength to make the necessary adjustments. Making those changes would be the first step towards bouncing right back in the fray.

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Vijay Mallya is now the Herb Kohl of the IPL

Owning sports teams is a hobby only the super-rich can indulge in. The IPL finally created such a club in India. Amongst its prominent billionaire members was one Dr Mallya. He had tasted blood through his part-ownership of Force India, but owning the Bangalore IPL franchise was the real deal – a chance to compete for bragging rights like only the super-rich can.

He spent an exorbitant amount of money to buy the franchise and the players and also on the entertainment. Most of the money has been badly spent. The team was ill-suited to the format and lies at the bottom of the pile. The novelty of the cheer-leaders has worn off and the Force India F1 car sits like an orphan in one corner.

But all that is pardonable. There are other teams performing horribly and the entertainment efforts generally stink.

What is not pardonable, however, is the disgraceful manner in which Mallya has sacked his CEO – Charu Sharma. No reason has been given for the move – typical of tyrannical sports owners –they are accountable to none.

That captain Rahul Dravid was given a free-hand to pick the side is a well-known fact. And I am sure Mallya planned all the entertainment action. So, what is Charu’s fault? I don’t like him as a commentator and as a host but he hasn’t done anything to be treated this badly.
With this move, Mallya has a strong case to be anointed as the first ‘bad owner’ of the IPL. My heartiest congratulations. We need all kinds.

What defines bad owners is their knack for irrational and dictatorial moves - Hiring and firing the wrong guys at the drop of a hat. Charu’s unexplained sacking makes Mallya’s resume look complete. Giving Charu only 7 games to make winners out of RCB and that too with his hands tied to his back has to be considered a move worthy of membership.

I am tempted to compare Mallya to George Bush (a hopeless owner with the Texas Rangers in the MLB) but I’ll stick to the NBA. After all Lalit Modi has learnt the most from that league.

So I will call Mallya the Herb Kohl of the IPL. Herb is a senator like Mallya and spends a lot of money on his home-town team - the Milwaukee Bucks. But for all the money, the team stinks. They give big contracts to mediocre player (again sounds familiar, right) and change coaches and GM’s as a man changes his clothes.

A word of caution for Coach Venkatesh Prasad. Expect to be fired when you least expect it. You have a bad owner as a boss.

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We have no need for icons in the IPL – new article on

The IPL had this unique concept called icon players. Halfway through the tournament the concept seems to be taking a massive beating. And here’s why.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

IPL : Jingoism takes a back seat and objectivity is in

Sydney, Dec 2007

Harbhajan and Symonds got embroiled in a racism controversy. India was hard done by bad umpiring calls. There was clear lack of sportsmanship from the Australians.

Entire India gets behind Bhajji and condemns the Australian cricket team. Even the Australian media and fans express disapproval of their national team.

Mohali, April 2008

Sreesanth is at his obnoxious best and gets ‘one tight slap’ from national team-mate Harbhajan. The two try to diffuse the matter but Bhajji ends up getting banned for 11 games and Sreesanth is let off with a warning

Most cricket lovers welcome the move and wonder why Sreesanth was let scot-free.
His antics against Mohd Kaif earlier in the tournament were also in bad taste. A ban on the Malayalee, similar to the one imposed on Marco Materazzi for provoking Zinedine Zidane would have tempered his mad streak to some extent.

Quick question 1 – what would have been the reaction had Bhajji slapped Symonds and gotten a ban and fine in return?

Iam sure Indian fans and the cricket board would have pooled enough money to cover the spinner’s financial losses. And he would have become a cricketing martyr at par with the likes of Bhagat Singh.

Quick question 2 – what would have happened if Sreesanth had infuriated big André Nel to the point that the burly South – African hit him with a beamer and got banned for a year?

Sreesanth would be hailed as the second coming of Javed Maindad – a master of the mind games and looked upon as future captain and high-performance trainer.

Jaipur, May 2008

Shane Warne calls out Sourav Ganguly for violating the spirit of the game. He accuses Dada of delaying tactics and for refusing to accept the fielder’s word on a clean catch. The fielder is South- African captain, Graeme Smith. Ganguly retorts with a ‘Look who’s talking’, questioning Warne’s right to make a statement like this in light of the spinners colourful and controversial past.

A case of an Australian and a South- African pitted against one of India’s biggest cricket stars.

Expected reaction from an Average Indian cricket fan pre- IPL – blind faith in Sourav and criticism of both Warne and Smith.

Reaction from Bengali fans and media – How can an Australian (Warne) accuse Sourav of lack of sportsmanship, when they (the Australian test side) themselves were found short of it in Sydney?

Iam a great admirer of the Bengali intellect but this excuse is as pathetic as they come. Aren’t they aware of the fact that Shane Warne is long retired and wasn’t a part of the Australian side at Adelaide. You cannot classify every Australian in the world as unsportsmanlike for something done by a group of eleven. Going by that logic, Saurav and every other Indian cricketer should be as ill-tempered as Harbhajan and Sreesanth. Ironically, the leader of the ugly Australians – Ricky Ponting was a member of the Kolkata side. Wonder why no one brought that up?

And what about Graeme Smith’s word? Have they clubbed all the residents of the Southern hemisphere together now?

As for Dada being late for the start of both innings, this is not even a debate. We all know this is second nature to him.

Reaction from the Jaipur crowd – Rather than being jingoistic and supporting the Indian against the foreigner, the Jaipur crowd showed loyalty for their local team by loudly booing Sourav Ganguly. There is pride in identifying with a franchise, which doesn’t have a single star from Rajasthan. Their biggest hero is Shane Warne – a man who has inspired the so-called whipping boys to four straight wins.

Thanks to the IPL, the fans are no longer obsessed with members of the Indian cricket team. We have started noticing their flaws more than ever before. Jingoism is out and performance is all that matters. The league levels the playing field and everyone has to perform to be loved. The absence of a competitive domestic structure has been made up to some extent by the IPL and the ICL. Guys like Shikhar Dhawan, Yousuf Pathan and Manpreet Gony are slowly becoming household names.

Some folks, however, are incorrigible. The recent performance of their team is a just reward for their loyalties.

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