Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Football Books you should never read

1. ‘How to take a penalty’ by Martin Palermo. This comes with an instruction video as well.

2. ‘How to save a club from relegation’ by Ian Dowie. This has separate versions for managers and players.

3. ‘How to settle down at a new club’ by Rivaldo and Denilson. This one stands out from other books on the same topic because the co-authors cover 4 continents and various countries with different cultures.

4. ‘How to make money from the football business’ by Juan Soler, Ken Bates and all the Portsmouth owners.

5. ‘How to deal with joint ownership issues at a football club’ by George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

6. ‘How to buy footballing happiness with money’ by Roman Abramovich.

7. ‘How to promote your national league’ by the chairmen of Rangers and Celtic football clubs.

8. ‘How to behave yourself on the bench’ by Sven Goran Eriksson.

9. ‘How to avoid injuries before important tournaments’ by Santi Canizares.

10. ‘Football is a team game’  by Didier Drogba.

11. ‘How to play fantasy football with “Real” money’ by Florentino Perez.

12. ‘Playing football means more than anything else’ by Winston Bogarde.

13. ‘How footballers can become role models for kids’ by Joey Barton.

14. ‘Having super-rich owners is every football fan’s dream’ by the fans of Crystal Palace.

15. ‘How to surprise your opposition ( as well as your own team) by squad rotation’ by Claudio Ranieri and Rafa Benitez.

16. ‘New rules make football an interesting game’ by Sepp Blatter. This has a forward by Brian Glanville.

17. ‘Playing for your enemy – importance of loyalty in football derbies’ by Ronaldo and Peter Beardsley.

18. ‘How defenders can avoid scoring own-goals goals’  by Stan van den Buys.

19. ‘Honesty is the best policy in football’ by Erich Mielke. New edition has a new section from Luciano Moggi.

20. ‘Dribbling is not everything’ by Denilson.

21. ‘Goalkeepers should mark their territory’ by Rene Higuita.

22. ‘Goalkeepers have the best fashion sense in football’ by Jorge Campos.

23. ‘How to make friends with the manager’ by Jaap Stam.

24. ‘There is no place for human error in football’ by Tofik Bakhramov.


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Monday, April 9, 2012

Cricket books you should never read

The writers are subject matter experts and have had first hand experience.

1. ‘The importance of solid openers in one day cricket’ by Sunil Gavaskar. The press release of this book turned ugly because some journalists wanted to ask questions about an innings Gavaskar played in the first World Cup.

2. ‘Yorkers are the safest delivery when the opposition needs a boundary ball’ by Chetan Sharma. This one comes with a demo video. The video has received the highest number of hits from Pakistan and has been banned in India for causing serious mental anguish to the cricket fans.

3. ‘Great captains – strategies, tactics and getting someone to do the dirty job’ by Greg Chappell and Douglas Jardine. Trevor Chappell and the family of Harold Larwood have filed a suit to claim part of the book’s profits.

4. ‘Batting tips for no 11’s’ by Courtney Walsh and Danny Morrison.

5. ‘The reverse sweep is the safest shot in pressure situations’ by Mike Gatting.

6. ‘Running between wickets’ by Sourav Ganguly and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

7. ‘How to deceive batsmen with your run-up’ by David Johnson.

8. ‘Catches win matches’ by Herschelle Gibbs.

9. ‘Duckworth Lewis simplified for quick calculations’ by Mark Boucher.

10. ‘Winning is everything’ by Courtney Walsh and Gundappa Vishwanath.

11. ‘The umpire’s word is final’ by Mike Gatting. Gatting has dedicated the book to Shakoor Rana.

12. ‘Cricketers should drink within their limits’ by David Boon. This book is in the shape of a Fosters can.

13. ‘A batsman is supposed to hold the bat and not the ball’ by Steve Waugh, Graham Gooch and Mohinder Amarnath.

14. ‘How to take advantage of the new ball’ by Eknath Solkar and ML Jaisimha. This book inspired Venkatesh Prasad to take up fast bowling.

15. ‘A great debut is a sign of greater things to come’ by Bob Massie, Narendra Hirwani, Mathew Sinclair and Reginald Foster.

16. ‘How to face fast bowlers with courage and courage alone’ by Graham Yallop. This book is currently being offered free with cricket helmets.

17. ‘The art of sledging fast bowlers’ by Aamir Sohail.

18. ‘Scoring in boundaries’ by Bill Woodfull and Geoffrey Boycott.

19. ‘The art of restrictive bowling’ by Tilak Raj, Malcolm Nash and Stuart Broad.

20. ‘Batsmen should put a price on their wicket’ by Hemulal Yadav and AJ Harris. The publishers had organized a book signing event but unfortunately, these guys couldn’t make it to the event on time.

21. ‘How fast bowlers can avoid over-stepping the bowling crease’ by Zaid Mir.

22. ‘Making sure you get to your century’ by Michael Slater and Steve Waugh.

23. ‘Best practises for cricket from outside cricket’ by John Buchannan.

24. ‘Sri Lanka – a land of crafty bowlers’ by Darrell Hair. This book was released in Sri Lanka by Arjuna Ranatunga.

25. ‘How to play the Australian bowlers’ by Maninder Singh.

26. ‘An exciting cricketer makes for a witty commentator’ by Rameez Raja and Ravi Shastri. This one comes with a statutory warning – ‘The readers of this book are advised not to get carried away and actually try to listen to the writers’ commentary. This could lead to loss of hair and damage to the television.’

27. ‘How to win age-group tournaments’ – a collection of essays and research papers from the BCCI and the PCB. The forward has been written by the famous former teenager Shahid Afridi.

28. ‘Talent is the currency which matters in cricket’ by Maharaja of Vizianagram aka Vizzy. The author paid to get the book published and sent free copies to everyone.


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Friday, September 9, 2011

Is cricket ‘really’ growing as a global sport?

Is cricket ‘really’ growing as a global sport?

Different people will have different answers to this question.

An Indian cricket administrator or a commentator or anyone associated with the IPL will answer with a resounding yes. They will then embellish their argument with a stream of stats – indicating how cricket is growing.

Ask someone in the West Indies and he won’t be so sure. However, he will bear witness to the growth of other sports – the likes of basketball- and mourn that this growth has resulted in the decline of cricket in the Caribbean.

Speak to the handful of cricketers keeping the sport alive in a country like Kenya and they will ruefully talk of missed opportunities – how the sport failed to capitalize on the wave of popularity generated by the World Cup semi-final run.

The geographical distribution of the answers is actually the best indicator of whether the sport is growing globally or not. But we will come to that later.

We will first look at the stream of stats, which indicate why Indian administrators think that cricket, is growing.

These stats are about revenues, broadcast numbers and player earnings.

Cricket must surely be growing, if the Indian cricket team has the richest shirt sponsorship deal in sport, if the number of countries seeing the World Cup live is growing exponentially and if the per hour earning of an IPL superstar is more than what his English Premier League counterpart makes. ICC’s associate membership is also growing.

Surely the game is reaching more corners of the planet than it ever reached during the heydays of the British Empire.

Cricket is growing and there was absolutely no need to add a “really” to the topic.

But before we give a conclusive verdict, lets try and answer a few more questions.

How many native fans (we are not counting the Patels and the Sardarji’s spread all over the globe and others of their ilk from the test-playing nations) whose countries are not playing in the world cup watch the cricket regularly?

How often does cricket news make it to ESPN.com or CNN.com?

How many cricketers are global sports icons and endorse products globally?

How well is China doing in the sport?

How many new nations have made the breakthrough- of becoming good enough to play with the big boys- in the last 20 years? For cricket, that would mean gaining test-playing status.

The answer to all these questions is zero or none or something close to that.

The last question is the important and most telling of cricket’s underperformance.

The test playing pool remains the same. The last deserving entrant was Sri Lanka almost 30 years back. And the Lankans had been playing the sport for at least 50 years before that. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have also joined the club but have done little to justify the membership.

Things at the associate level also have pretty much remained the same. The likes of Holland, Hong Kong, Scotland and Bermuda have been around forever. There are no new nations making the break-through even at the associate level. And that has to be considered a more robust yardstick to measure the spread of any sport.

The China question is also important. Whatever matters in the world, is taken seriously by the Chinese, including everything considered worthwhile in sport. The dragon nation takes it up with manic fervor and becomes an important player in no time. That we haven’t heard of China and cricket, beyond the “Chinaman” is proof enough that Cricket isn’t worthy enough yet.

How do the other sports perform on the same parameters?

Lets not even waste our time with the likes of football and tennis. Lets look at a sport like basketball. The field is just getting stronger. There are new powers like Turkey. Others like Argentina, Spain and Italy have also gotten better. Russia declined but these new powers took their place. Basketball also passes the China test with flying colours thanks to Yao Ming. It has global superstars like Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. India is a basketball minnow and no Indian plays in the NBA but an increasing number of fans watch the sport throughout the season.

Basketball clearly has what cricket doesn’t.

The geographic distribution of the original question starts to make sense now.

Cricket is prospering in some of the test-playing nations, giving them a rose-tinted view of how the sport is doing globally. India, Sri Lanka, England and Australia belong to this category.

Other members of this club have fallen on hard times. The West Indies have declined beyond unimaginable proportions. And no one has stepped in to take their place, making the sport weaker overall. This is tantamount to a de-globalization of the sport.

Others with promise have also withered away. Kenya looked good but their huge step forward in the 2003 World Cup was followed by a hundred small steps backwards.

The decline of these old powers and lack of suitable replacements conclusively proves that cricket isn’t growing globally. Because if cricket were a truly global sport, then it would have helped the existing powers (at least most of them) survive and nurtured new ones to powers of strength.

It’s very simple. Everything finally comes down to revenue. A global sport creates enough wealth for everyone involved to keep the sport developing across the globe. There is enough money for the global body to support the sport in fledgling nations. FIFA might be corrupt but it is financing football infrastructure and providing equipment and coaching in poor African countries (as well as in India). How many cricket pitches has the ICC built?

A global sport also has a large enough audience; spread across countries – thereby generating sufficient revenue- to support a large pool of players. It can provide decent employment to promising players from anywhere in the world. This ensures that there is enough interest in the sport and talent is not lost.

Let me illustrate this point with a few examples.

The West Indies are struggling because youngsters are taking up other sports with better money making opportunities. The lack of infrastructure is also a problem. After the arrest of Mr. Sanford, the WICB has had no money. The contracts of international players are very average. Chris Gayle can ditch the national contact and make millions in the IPL but lesser known West Indian cricketers have no such opportunities. If there were ten professional leagues like the IPL even including ones, which paid one-tenth the salaries, then many more young West Indians would have been enticed into cricket.

Look at the contrast in football.

The tiny nation of Trinidad and Tobago has no national football league but it went to the World Cup with a team made up entirely of players playing in the lower leagues in England.

Look at basketball. Everyone cannot play in the NBA. But there are enough professional leagues around the world. A promising Indian player can make a good living playing in the Russian or Spanish or even the Turkish leagues.

Thanks to FIFA, a poor child in a war torn African nation will get to play with a proper ball on a respectable pitch and get coached by a decent coach. A promising cricketer in Kenya or Namibia will not get any such chance. Sierra Leone and Liberia will produce world-class footballers. But nothing of the sort will happen in cricket.

It is not enough for fans of newer countries to be able to watch the World Cup of a particular sport. A promising player from that country should get the coaching and infrastructure to hone his skills and then find gainful employment.

In spite of the positive indicators, cricket suffers because the growth is extremely skewed. It has grown at a massive rate in India, reaching many more homes and finding talent from the remotest corners but not so much elsewhere. The IPL is a great opportunity for lesser players to make a great living but only for the ones who come from India. The cricket boards of countries like England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been financially strained. As the revenue is in India, the Indian board calls the shots on most matters and limits the ICC from “really” taking the game global.

One of the prime examples of India’s interests not being aligned with ICC’s globalization missive is how the BCCI single-handedly sabotaged cricket’s chances of being included in the Olympics. The BCCI did so by refusing to participate in the Asian Games. Other sports like Squash have the full support of all the federations and the top players in their efforts to join the Olympic movement. Cricket isn’t so lucky.

The Olympics can do wonders for the globalization of a sport. There will be a new audience, more people will take up the game and revenues will be generated. By missing the Olympic opportunity, cricket just made its task much more difficult.

In spite of all its riches – in terms of money, talent and a huge audience- India also needs the sport to go global. Even they will suffer if the strength of the game deteriorates. And that is bound to happen if existing test playing nations like the West Indies and New Zealand continue to decline and new countries aren’t able to rise up to that level.

There is no money in domestic cricket and – as the recent India – WI series showed- Indians don’t have time for sub standard international opposition. The BCCI needs to take the lead in growing the sport worldwide.

It could well learn from the USA and baseball. For the longest times, the sport has been limited to the US and a handful of central and South American countries like Venezuela and Puerto Rico. Major League Baseball has done a lot to nurture the game in these small and poor nations by providing scouting, training, infrastructure and a chance to play professionally.

The sport has always been popular in Japan but thanks to the MLB the sport also has a rabid following in Korea. The rise of Korea has strengthened the game globally and found a new paying audience for the sport. Korea has lots of players in the MLB and won the World Baseball Classic.

After being dropped once, the sport has made a strong comeback in the Olympics. Thanks to the Olympics the sport is finding fans all over the place. The newest nation to make a splash was the Netherlands.

The MLB is doing all of this in spite of having a large enough domestic market to support the game. And they are not done yet. They continue to take the sport further, even going to countries where hardly anyone understands the laws of the game.

A few years back, the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball came and scouted for pitchers in India. The number of MLB fans in India would be less than a few thousand. Undeterred, the Pirates selected two promising players and took them to the US. The two have been offered professional contracts and are currently progressing through the Pirates’ farm system. If one of them manages to play at the highest level, it could spur a new wave of interest in the sport in India.

The MLB will build on this interest by getting more teams to visit India, by building infrastructure and providing coaching to promising youngsters and increasing the number of live games shown in India.

This is how cricket needs to operate. They have found an interesting format in the form of Twenty-20 and are no longer hampered by having to teach an educated audience the merits of playing a game for five days and still ending up without a result.

In the recent NBA finals in basketball, the star performers included a German and a Puerto Rican in addition to all the resident Americans. Cricket can claim to be a truly global game when the IPL finals feature a Chinese, a Kenyan and an American.


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Monday, September 29, 2008

The Sports Blog : for the common fan has now moved to www.acommonfan.com


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Friday, September 26, 2008

And now the biggest fall in the financial capital of the world

Troubled times continue in the financial capital of the world. The latest casualty is one of America’s most storied organizations - a part of their history and folklore. It was this organization which first made the pin stripes a dress code – something which has now become a dress code across Wall Street.

Their fall comes after 13 glorious years including 4 as the best performers in the whole world. In a performance driven world this organization had the highest salaries and bonuses this year – 207 million dollars in all. And the worst part – they now have to vacate their famous office – a land mark site in the city, nicknamed after one of their most legendry employees.

So is the Federal govt doing something about it?

No, in fact some industry watchers are making fun of the government’s inability to do anything in this case.

God knows what America is coming to


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

FIFA finally gets the World Cup mascot a pair of shorts

The mascot for the 2010 football world cup in South Africa was unveiled on Sept 23. After the shockers that were the last two World Cup mascots, I was expecting something similar or worse than a set of comic alienoids or a half clothed lion football man.

The 2006 mascot - Is it half-clothed or half-naked?

But thanks to I don't know who, we have been spared - FIFA's latest mascot, Zakumi, is a return to sanity and propriety

Such fears never arose in the good old days. Check out all the World Cup mascots till date and the rationale behind each.

Is it a mere coincidence that the mascot horrors have come in the reign of Mr Sepp ' mad bundle of ideas' Blatter. I am wondering what could be an appropriate punishment for him - making him dress like the 2006 mascot probably!!!


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dempo schools ‘Home’ away from home

Which channel is showing this tournament in India?

After the high of India’s triumph in the AFC Challenge Cup, comes India’s greatest moment in Asian Club football. Dempo Sports Club have become the first Indian club to make the last four of the AFC Cup – Asia’s equivalent of the UEFA Cup. The club achieved this by scripting an amazing away win over Home United of Singapore.Here’s a full recount of how they got to this stage.

I am sure many Indian football fans like me gave this momentous game the slip. Well, time to make up for it and cheer Dempo to more glory. The semis begin on 7th Oct when Dempo take on Lebanese club Safa Sporting in the first away leg. The return leg is at home on the 21st of Oct.

But does anyone know which channel will be showing these games live in India? I haven’t a clue. Somebody please help me out here – for my sake as well as for all the others who care.

Go Dempo

P.S. - The 'Sports Blog : for the common fan' is now moving to a new home. Starting the second week of October, the common fan's views on the world of sports will be found on http://www.acommonfan.com/. Look forward to seeing you guys in our new home.


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HR lessons from the world of sports

This post was originally published on the Workosaur blog. Workosaur is the coolest new job portal around - its a niche site focusing only on 7 figure jobs

The world of sports is extremely performance driven. It’s the hardest “industry” to continually stay at the top. No other industry is as competitive. Winning in sports is everything. There is no place for non-performers – winners thrive and losers perish. Business organizations also aspire to create a similar kind of culture – one which is completely performance driven and breeds excellence. However, few HR teams know how to go about doing so. What they need to do is take a break from what they have been doing all along and start doing what people are doing in the world of sports. So what are the key things that people in the world of sports do?
  • Great players don't always make great managers and vice versa - In most organizations, the best individual contributors are often promoted to become managers. The world of sports runs differently – those guys have long known that the skill set required to become a great manager is drastically different than the skills necessary to be a great player. A lot of great managers have been very ordinary players but in corporate organizations managers have more often than not been great workers also. HR in organizations needs to learn this - to promote based on people and management skills and not just on their ability to contribute individually.
  • To win it is important to focus on the key positions that play the most significant role in securing victory – Sports teams know that it is not possible to have top performers in every position and also that attempting to do so is a futile exercise. HR teams are not so focussed and end up spreading their resources thin. Successful teams have always concentrated on filling the key positions with top performers and HR needs to do the same – start prioritizing jobs by their potential impact on the success of the business.
  • Your performance statistics will never improve if you keep hiding them - The best sportsmen always love to compete and compare themselves against others – by keeping score. The world of sports is obsessed with tracking performance figures and that ensures that non performers have nowhere to hide. Compare that to the corporate world, where the HR keeps all the performance statistics under wraps. No information about target achievements and appraisals are ever made public. This also forces the HR to keep salary increments a secret. Non performers keep getting away. Thus to build a performance based organization you need track, measure and distribute output and performance reports.
  • Rewards and recognition programs should not have a fixation for parity - In sports the best players often get paid many times more than the mediocre performers. In business, the difference is far less. HR uses tools like normalization curves and target percentiles to justify their action of keeping salary differentials low. It is difficult to get the top talent (as required for point 2) if they are not paid significantly more and treated differently than the average performer. It also corroborates the fact that in sports, performance is rewarded and paid for accordingly. HR often has no justification for its payment practises and hence is forced to keep them secret 9 another example of point 3)
  • Firing poor performers is a good thing and not a bad one – In sports, teams are always striving to improve – even if it’s by the teeniest bit – it’s a pre-requisite for teams that want to continue the winning habit. They are always looking to weed out the bottom performers and replace them with better talent. HR managers on the other hand believe that sackings are bad for morale and keep delaying it – giving poor performers’ chance after chance. How’s that for the motivation of the star performers – seeing their efforts get negated by that of shoddy performers, who are not even made to pay for it.
  • In sports, Winning isn’t everything… it’s the only thing – Sports teams are never satisfied with second place. It is this kind of “performance culture” that brings the best out of players. Unfortunately HR departments are quite happy with an above average performance. Average goals often result in below average results. There is no motivation to exceed expectations.
  • Don’t reward complacency with training sessions – Great sportspersons have the personal will and drive to get better. They don’t have to be tutored like school children to work on improving themselves. HR teams are preoccupied with training sessions. They believe that grown up and career conscious men don’t have enough self motivation to improve on their own and have to be sent to training programs to achieve that. Well I have news for them. If you have a company full of such men, you are in big trouble.
Disclaimer – We are talking of teams and organizations that want to win, not ones who are happy being mediocre.

P.S. - The 'Sports Blog : for the common fan' is now moving to a new home. Starting the second week of October, the common fan's views on the world of sports will be found on www.acommonfan.com. Look forward to seeing you guys in our new home.


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