Thursday, July 28, 2005

MindSqueeze - 2

The Fortnightly Sports Quiz 1. During his teens, he was once arrested for armed robbery of a gas station. He had featured in the cover of Beatles's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", the Shangri-La album of Mark Knopfler and one of the Trans World Airlines commercials. Nicknamed "The Big Bear" he became the world champion in his sport in 1962. Identify. 2. Syed Kirmani has taken only one wicket in Test cricket. Who was the victim? 3. One of his earliest professions was that of a counter boy at one of the McDonalds outlets in Willingboro. He has acted in the films like Alien Hunter, Dirty Laundry etc. He also recorded a single called “Break It Up” with his own band. Identify this colorful individual who also has some contributions to the world of sports. 4. According to the official website of NBA, he wears size 22 basketball shoes, the largest in the NBA (along with Shaq). He financed the Zaire women's basketball team during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. In 1999, he won the seventh annual Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Award, presented to athletes who excel and help others. He full name is also one of the longest in the history of NBA. Who am I talking about? 5. His father Jeff made his Test debut against India in 1964 at the Brabourne stadium. He also played his first Test against India at the Lords when India toured England in 2002. Who? 6. One of the greatest industrialists ever, he financed the entire Indian contingent to the Paris Olympiad in 1924 when lack of fund & sponsorship threatened India’s participation. Identify this great man. 7. In 1984 she became the first ever women’s gold medallist in one of the most prestigious events of the Olympic games when it was introduced for the first time for women. She has a building named after her at the Nike premises in Portland. Identify her. 8. This club is often referred to as the 'Garibaldi Reds', named after the Italian freedom fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi who fought in red shirts and was very popular in Britain in the 2nd half of the 19th century. It is also believed that their charitable approach to the sport enabled teams like Arsenal to flourish. They donated their football kits to Arsenal, which is why the London side traditionally wears red. Identify the club. 9. He became the youngest ever world champion at the age of 24 in 1960 and held that record until 1985 when another legend broke that record. Nicknamed “The Magician from Riga”, one of his most celebrated achievements was winning the “Tournaments of Stars” in Montreal in 1979. Who am I talking about? 10. Overseas victories of India have often been associated with wicket-keeper debuts. Kiran More at Lords (86), Ajay Ratra at Port of Spain (01/02). Who made his debut at Leeds (86)? 11. This game was invented by Arthur Mosher Butts with the name “Lexico” and first appeared in 1938 in New York Times. The game became popular when Macy’s departmental store started selling them in the 50’s. How do we know the game today? 12. Winner of which event is awarded the “The Duchess of Kent Challenge Cup”? - Compiled by Saby

Monday, July 25, 2005

Once upon a time, there was a man called Lance

I know precious little about the Tour De France, even less about the sport of cycling itself. My first memories of cycling go back about twenty years or so, bruises and all. And racing my school/high school friends was the closest to I ever got to the sport. A few years later, I read an article in The Sportstar about Miguel Indurain winning the Tour and apparently keeping his promise to do so! I was suitably impressed. Indurain was a hero, even though I didn't have the slightest idea what it all meant. Then he won four more times - and I hardly noticed. I learnt that years later when an American was about to win his fourth successive Tour. I thought I had heard of Lance Armstrong, but I actually confused him with Greg Lemond, another American who had won the Tour (three times?). These days, no sports fan is confused about who Armstrong is. The past hundred or so have seen many great athletes. Some of them among the greatest. Yet there are only a few that actually transcend their chosen sport, and manage to outgrow the sport itself and in the process become emblematic for the sport. Lance Armstrong defines cycling - he has single handedly raised the profile of the sport, so much so that these days grown men watch cyclists labour through hundreds of miles on real-time TV. His presence has lent credibility to a sport that was struggling to recover from injections of cynical immorality, even as he himself was almost caught in the whirlpool. Though I would have loved to see a giant-killer emerge out of nowhere in the true tradition of sport and win the Tour, it is fitting after all that Lance quits at the top. - NK

Some self promotion

Thanks to established blogger/critic Nilanjana Roy (if I'm not mistaken), this blog got a mention in the Calcutta daily, The Telegraph. Good on you, Nilanjana! Hat tip to Big Bro for the link ;) - NK

Same Old England

This summer promised to be different for England. But there was always a chance some of the old doubts would creep in; that beneath the confident exterior was lurking a psyche that simply refused to believe defeating the Australians was a very real possibility. But the capitulation in this first Ashes test has been less about psychological issues than about real cricketing weaknesses that have been ruthlessly exposed by two of the premier bowlers in the world, McGrath and Warne. This series was always going to be about how England tackled their nemeses, and they have failed their first serious test and badly at that. It all looked so different after Harmison and company had put the Aussies through the wringer on the opening day. It took only a few overs, from a man who seems to achieve every target he sets and is unafraid to publicly proclaim, for the dream to turn sour. Old failings such as fielding lapses resurfaced, even from unlikely and normally reliable quarters. There was also a singular lack of intensity in the second innings when England took the field, which may have been influenced by the deflating experience they had undergone against McGrath and his cohorts. McGrath is going to be McGrath, especially in English conditions that suit him almost perfectly. But England’s greatest problem is how they overcome the wiles of Warne, something they have never really managed to. For, if they solve that piece, they can look to contain McGrath (how?) and attack the others. It may be a little late for test cricketers to change basic techniques, but it’s never too late to learn to make adjustments. England should look at the way Michael Clarke approached Ashley Giles’ bowling (harmless as it was). They can also go back in time and may be look at some tape from India’s encounters against Warne. Bottom line is, they cannot fall into a defensive mindset against him. - NK

Friday, July 22, 2005

MindSqueeze - 1 : Answers

1. Jason Gillespie. 2. From Russia With Love (of James Bond fame). 3. Todd Hamilton. 4. The Turkish GP. 5. First spinner to play 100 Tests. 6. Hrishikesh Kanitker. 7. David Hookes. 8. First sporting event to be broadcast on Radio. 9. Names of different holes at the Augusta Masters. 10. Nasser Hussain. 11. His partner was Amir Hadad of Israel (Pakistan does not recognize Israel or have diplomatic relations with Israel). 12. She holds the record for the highest number of losing appearances (6 times) in the final of the women’s singles at the Roland Garros. MindSqueeze – 2 will be published on 29th July.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Harmison flattens Australia

This has been stuff beyond the wildest imagination of even the dreamiest of English fans. The Ashes have started off exactly on the same note as the first official game of the summer, the Twenty20 game at the Rose Bowl, with the Aussies shell-shocked into submission. Then it was mostly hara-kiri; today it was brutal blows inflicted by Steve Harmison, who is already living up to his reputation. I have missed most of Harmison's career having lived in the US most of the last three years and I have to go back to a fiery spell by Andy Caddick against the West Indies (at Lord's, I think) to recall a similarly intimidating spell in a test match. He really softened up the Aussie batting today and cleverly mopped up the tail with a mixture of short and well pitched up deliveries. Over to McGrath, Lee and co then - but they only have 190 to defend. The sun has just broken out, and that perhaps is a sign of things to come. Of course, this series may still come down to one factor - the Warne factor. Without runs on the board though, it may be too much of a challenge for even the two best bowlers in the world. - NK

Just Giles to go

Hoggard, Harmison, Flintoff and now Simon Jones...they've all got one. Martyn a bit profligate outside off and Aussies in 'choppy waters'. There's one Mr.Gilchrist in the pavillion, or else I would have said deep trouble. - NK

Kangaroo Sighting

An animal that hops around when bowled genuinely fast stuff at head/rib height, it has been seen at Lord's this morning ;) This is good stuff, but hopefully Ponting is alright - would be a shame if he has to go off. Doesn't look like it's serious - let's see. - NK

And the games begin...

I don't think I've waited for a sporting event quite the same way as this Ashes series since the India-Pakistan series in early 2004. Definitely not a cricket series, for sure. It is finally underway. Should Thorpe have been picked? Ahead of Pietersen, may be not. May be ahead of Bell - I've nothing against the guy, it's just that Thorpe is such a competitor and perhaps still the most accomplished batsman in England. Michael Vaughan's pithy comment about picking Pietersen ahead of Thorpe in the toss-interview was telling - he mentioned the 'attitude' that the former brings to the side. There have been a few references to that word in regard to Thorpe, may be not entirely unjustifiably either. A little harsh perhaps considering the travails in his personal life, but then that's how the world of pro sport is in this day.'s now time to just sit back, sip some nice Point Noir from New Zealand - and enjoy. Harmison's lettin' it rip. - NK

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Nalbandian Conquers his Demons, Australia

How things change! About six months ago on the centre court at Melbourne Park, David Nalbandian squandered numerous opportunities to take the game to and beyond Lleyton Hewitt. It wasn't the first time Nalbandian had 'choked' - couple of years ago he let the US Open semi-final slip away against Andy Roddick. Today he finally redeemed himself, in the process being instrumental in one of Argentina's greatest Davis Cup wins. I have been a fan of Nalbandian's game for a while, and he seems to have all the talent - a solid serve, excellent groundstrokes and a very good feel of the court. However, he's let himself down on a few occasions and there has been a bit of a question mark over his big match temperament. As Channel 7's John Alexander remarked, he is overly conservative at times. Nalbandian's cause was served enormously by Hewitt, who was a shadow of himself. The burden of having to do it all by himself seemed to weigh heavily on Hewitt's mind and he struggled to get into any kind of rhythm until the third set. Australia must feel bitterly disappointed at losing to the Argentineans at home on grass. Despite the absence of Philippoussis and Woodbridge, they were favourites here, but Wayne Arthurs failed to produce anywhere near his best tennis. His biggest weapon, his serve, was pretty flat and he was, surprisingly, the weakest player on court in the doubles. But then, Davis Cup has a way of springing surprises, as Indians know all too well. - NK

Sulking Coria, Uncouth Hewitt

The very character of Davis Cup tennis means it is not entirely unusual to witness some pretty tense rubbers. After all, it is THE preeminent team event; in fact the only one that matters, with a tradition that has managed to survive even in this era of ultra-professionalism. But there are occasions when passions manage to get the better of not only parochial crowds but the players themselves, almost reducing them to silly caricatures. Lleyton Hewitt against Guillermo Coria on Friday at Sydney was one such. Now, both these 'gentlemen' have some history of indulging in gamesmanship and Hewitt in particular, often treads dangerously close to gross unsportsmanlike conduct on court. I'm all for some characters in tennis - God knows it needs some - but shouting 'C'mon' when your opponent commits an unforced error is stretching it too far. It may be acceptable in certain sports, but certainly not in tennis. Even when their bad behaviour reached its zenith, I don't think McEnroe or Connors or Nastase did anything remotely similar. Hewitt should thank his stars his outburst at the US Open some years ago directed at James Blake and a black linesman did not attract severe penalty. He got off extremely lightly again yesterday when he vulgarly told off Coria. He may be forgiven by the adoring Fanatics, but he shouldn't push it. On his part, Coria launched into an attack on the surface and for once, I found myself on the same side as Hewitt when he described the Argentinean as a sore loser. Davis Cup surfaces are always tailored to suit the home crowds and sometimes they may not quite match ATP tournament standards. That should hardly be an excuse. Coria should have asked himself certain questions after watching Nalbandian and Puerta complete a fine victory against the ill-matched pair of Hewitt and Arthurs. To his credit, Coria wasn't sulking on the sidelines for once. - NK

Friday, July 15, 2005

MindSqueeze - 1

The Fortnightly Sports Quiz 1. Which Australian cricketer of aboriginal heritage (Kamilaroi tribe) destroyed England with his career best performance of 7/37 at Headingley in 1997? 2. Which famous movie features a game of Chess that is identical to the USSR Championship match played between Boris Spassky and David Bronstein in Leningrad 1960? 3. Which Golfer from Galesburg, Illinois and winner of a Major, once played a tournament in Calcutta, where he started each day by taking a bowl of fruit to a beggar with her crippled child outside the hotel door? 4. Out of the 19 Formula-1 Grand Prix Circuits, only 3 have anti-clockwise laps. Two of them are San Marino and Interlagos, which one is the third? 5. When Shane Warne played his 100th Test in Cape Town in 2002, what first did he achieve? 6. His father Hemant Shamsunder made Test debut in 1974 against West Indies at Bangalore. He himself played 34 ODIs and 2 Tests for India and better remembered for his match winning runs in India's memorable 315 run chase in 1998 against Pakistan. Who? 7. Steve Waugh's Test debut was also the last Test match of which cricketer who passed away last year under unfortunate circumstances? 8. In what way was the League match between Arsenal and Sheffield United in January 1927 special? 9. Yellow Jasmine, Juniper, and Camellia – What are these as far as the Golf Majors are concerned? 10. Along with which other player did Saurav Ganguly share the Man of the Series award in 1996 Ind-Eng series? 11. It created huge controversy in Pakistan when the country's top Tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi did something in the 2002 Wimbledon Men's Doubles. The country's Tennis federation asked him to explain as to why he did that. What incident is being referred to here? 12. As far as the French open is concerned, what dubious distinction would you associate with Simone Mathieu? - Compiled by Saby

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

America's National Pastime

It's been a busy couple of weeks, shuttling between Melbourne, Atlanta and Minneapolis and the traveling took its toll on blogging. Somehow, I don't feel entirely comfortable working on a plane, so that added to it. Well anyway, it's back to blogosphere again. Being in the US, it was hard to escape baseball, particularly on ESPN especially given that this part of the year represents as off-season for the other three major pro leagues, NBA, NFL and NHL. In fact, there is so much baseball on ESPN that it can transform itself into an exclusive MLB channel at any given time. I'm exaggerating, of course. I do like baseball, even though it comes down the order following basketball and (American) football. Being mid-season, it was All-Star week for baseball. But it was actually back in Melbourne last night that I caught the All-Star game on Fox. The time zone changes meant that I was struggling to keep awake even at 9 pm, but I did manage to catch the AL and NL intros as well as Miguel Tejada's blast to the left field off John Smoltz. Both men have enjoyed great seasons, and both Orioles in the AL East and Braves in the NL East are still in contention. The Orioles are in somewhat of a slump having started the season white hot, but Tejada isn't letting up and is a firm favourite for league MVP at this point. Smoltz may not quite be an MVP candidate, but is surely enjoying his position in the starting rotation after quite a few seasons as a closer. One of the problems with Major League Baseball is the number of games played in a season - each team plays about 160 games a season! That makes it the busiest league anywhere, and double-headers abound. Except for pitchers, however, baseball doesn't put the same exacting demands on players as sports like basketball or soccer do. Starting pitchers get rotated, however, to provide their arms some much needed rest. For fans, it could be difficult to sustain the interest levels, especially in the early part of the season and usually the momentum builds only after the All-Star week. That's when the play-off places are up for grabs, anyway. In this context, I was astounded to note that Boston actually sold out all of their 81 home games last season (this was before they won the World Series)! That shows the passion for the game in Beantown, even if Fenway Park is a small park. - NK

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What say you, Monsieur Chirac?

I must confess I had a bit of a chuckle when I heard about French President Chirac's remarks about British food and there seemed to be a surprising absence of outrage in the media here in the USA and even back in Australia. To the point where it almost seemed as if there was a general agreement about it all. But Tony Blair, Seb Coe and company have had the last laugh now, at France's expense, no less. That, together with the fact that Paris was the frontrunner to host the 2012 Olympics (summer Olympics, for those who regard the winter games as being an equivalent) must make the victory all the more sweeter. So the games go back to a city which hosted the event under great duress in 1948 in the aftermath of the war. I don't know a great deal about the success of the event or how well it was organised, but pulling it off was a success in itself, to be sure. It is a testament to the will and spirit of a nation - I say that very grudgingly, make no mistake ;) Now Coe and London Mayor Ken Livingston have a heck of a job on their hands. I've never lived in London, but from what I have seen and read, it will be a huge challenge in more ways than one. - NK PS: To be fair, Mr.Chirac's comments were in utterly poor taste. And although I have not sampled Finnish cuisine, I tend to agree about English food ;) To give credit where it's due, however, the British don't make a great fuss about it all (unlike the French?) and do appreciate good food.