Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Svetlana Kuznetsova has become the first women's defending champion to go out in the first round at the US Open. Well, guess what - she was dumped out by little known fellow-ova (just couldn't resist that one), Ekaterina Bychkova. Ekaterina who? YAR - Yet Another Russian on the WTA tour. Boy, I wonder if they teach tennis alongside math and science in Russian schools these days! They just keep coming. The bad news as pointed out in that report seems to be that among Russians, only Maria Sharapova - whose Russian-ness has sometimes been questioned by her compatriots (and rivals) - has sustained the levels of tennis seen last year. In fact, Kuznetsova emulates Myskina who crashed out in the first round at the French defending her title. Myskina has reportedly had a tough time this year with her mother seriously ill and she was almost in tears at the French. Kuznetsova didn't quite have to do deal with as much stress, except for a drug cloud at the start of the year that seems to have died down. Nevertheless, these events should be a sobering reminder of how things can change, which makes it all the more important that athletes keep their feet firmly on the ground. - NK
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
This is a funny, sarcastic take on the current fantasy sports craze by Neal Pollack. I do think there is some kind of cerebral challenge to playing the fantasy GM, which might explain the attraction to sports-nerds. I can relate to this sentiment in the article: I've struggled for years to ignore the NBA's arcane salary cap rules, and I'm not about to change now. Reminds me of the amount of interest among Formula-1 fans in the BAR-Honda weight controversy - I was stunned to see people discussing technical details of the car on message boards supposedly dedicated to sports (I guess it is also partly the nature of racing in general, and Formula-1 in particular)! - NK
Monday, August 29, 2005
It just keeps getting better!
Hitherto, I believed the best series I had ever seen was the Australian conquest of the final frontier that was thwarted by an inspired innings. I am forced to consign that epic to second place now, such has been the drama this series. For sheer non-stop goose bump inducing thrill, even that series is not a patch on the current one, Edgbaston onwards. One can choose to be cynical and point to England's seeming inability to hammer home the advantage when it matters most - that would be being picky at best; being utterly unkind to the heroics of Messrs Warne and Lee at worst. There is something about chasing these smallish totals batting last, the way teams defend them to death, suddenly injected with a belief as it were, that they can do the improbable. There is certainly no lack of precedent in the annals of test cricket. In the end though, there was almost poetic justice in the form of the ungainly Ashley Giles getting the winning runs, something that would have had his numerous critics squirming, even if many of them were cheering England on. To get back to Warne and Lee though, I don't think I have seen a more inspired effort to salvage a lost cause in recent times. Warne's self-belief and ability to strike terror into English batsmen borders on the mythical. And while that was somewhat expected, Lee has been a revelation, a breath of fresh air that has kept the series alive and one of the few sparks in an otherwise ragged Aussie camp. His triumphal roar on dismissing Flintoff with an out-of-nowhere zapper and his crisp, clean strikes on the third day will remain in memory. His batting has been a show of courage if nothing else, and what's more, he keeps coming back seemingly stronger after every blow, be it a bone-cruncher from Flintoff or an early innings caning from Trescothick. Here is an eager cricketer with heart that Australia can look to for inspiration, if the prospect of losing the Ashes isn't. The infamous beamers at opposition keepers not so long ago now seem gallingly out of character. Thankfully for Ponting’s men, they still can retain the Ashes, and if they do so, it will be one of the great escapes in sporting history. Can England stay strong and dig deep one last time? In any case, weather permitting, we should witness a rousing finale.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Osman Samiuddin has said in this passionate article exactly what I thought on more than a few occasions. The English did indeed kick up a big fuss in the summer of 1992, and some stunning performances were buried in controversy. One of the most acrimonious series off the field that I can remember - made even more acrimonious by Botham and Lamb on one side and Imran Khan on the other, suing and counter-suing each other for libel. To be fair, Imran's revelations about shady practices on the county circuit hardly helped, and neither did Sarfraz Nawaz's reputation and foul mouth. It must have surely been a source of anguish for Pakistan cricket fans, whose team was clearly superior. They would have no doubt taken comfort from Geoff Boycott's memorable "they could have bowled us out with oranges!" comment. My most memorable moment from that series! - NK
Cricket on ESPN (US)?! You've got to be joking. Anywho, a very enjoyable account from ESPN's Amar Shah, if you can ignore the minor howler about a picture of Sehwag being referred to as Tendulkar. Thanks to Vikram Arumilli. - NK
Sunday, August 21, 2005
MindSqueeze - 3 : Answers
1. A gold medallist in the 1996 & 2004 summer Olympic games and winner of 3 ESPN ESPY awards, People Magazine selected her as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world in 1997. She was chosen by her fellow US Olympians to carry the American flag at the Athens Olympics Closing Ceremonies in 2004. Identify her. Ans: Mia Hamm 2. Two cricketers of Greek origins have played Test Cricket so far. One of them was Xenophon Balaskas of South Africa. Who was the other? Ans: John Traicos 3. The official magazine of this sport’s governing body published twice a year in French and English is called “The Target”. The sport is the national sport of Bhutan and so far it is the only sport in which they have participated in the Olympic games. Which Sport am I talking about? Ans: Archery 4. “Heart of Lion” is the autobiography of which famous cricketer who also was nicknamed after a brand of battery because he went on and on? Ans: Courtney Walsh (nicknamed Duracell) 5. It’s known as Chado-Guddo in Malaysia, Techib in Indonesia, Guddo in Sri Lanka and Do-Do in Nepal. The Asian Governing body of this sport was formed in 1973 under the leadership of famous Indian politician Sharad Pawar. Which sport? Ans: Kabbaddi 6. He was considered for the lead role in the movie “The Terminator” but later on it was decided that the audience might not accept him as a villain. Nicknamed “The Juice”, he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in 1969 and in 1973 became the “Most Valuable Player” with a record-breaking run of 2003 yards. Newsweek and Time magazine had cover stories on him with titles “Trail of Blood” and “An American Tragedy” respectively for all wrong reasons, though. Identify. Ans: O J Simpson 7. Which country reached the UEFA European Championship (erstwhile European Nations' Cup) semifinals stage and above 4 times in a row between 1960 and 1972, winning only once in 1960? Ans: USSR 8. Which bowler demolished the Aussies by returning identical figures of 6/52 in both the innings at Melbourne (77/78)? Ans: B S Chandrasekhar 9. Her father Alexander is a cycling coach and coached 5 successive Olympic champions. Her mother Galina Tsareva is six-time world champion and holder of 20 world records in cycling and her brother Nikolai is a silver medallist cyclist at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. She has made her mark in an entirely different sport though. Identify this talented sportsperson. Ans: Svetlana Kuznetsova 10. What collective name was given to Hole numbers 11, 12 and 13 at the Augusta Masters by Sports Illustrated columnist Herbert Warren Wind in 1958? Ans: Amen Corner 11. Nicknamed “The Pirate” and the winner of the 1998 Tour De France, he was found dead last year on Valentine’s day in a hotel in Rimini due to drug overdose. Who? Ans: Marco Pantani 12. Saurav Ganguly was adjudged LBW off his delivery in his debut ODI against West Indies in 1991/92. He was also the 12th man when Brian Lara scored 375. Ironically he was playing for Durham when Lara scored 501 for Warwickshire against Durham. Who am I talking about? Ans: Anderson Cummins MindSqueeze - 4 will be published on 26th August - Compiled by Saby
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Is John Buchanan a great coach? I have no idea. What I do know is that Australia have had great results with him in front of the laptop, so some credit is due to him. What I also know is that he was coaching a team that was already the undisputed numero uno, despite the odd setback here and there. So the skeptics may deny him much or any credit at all. I'm not sure one way or the other. What I know is that Buchanan has a tendency to pontificate on various things cricket. With an obliging media, pundits and fans alike resigned to Aussie supremacy (not without reason), it is fair to say, Buchanan has got more than his fair share of spotlight. So much so that he's also been invited to impart his two-bits on leadership at a top IT company in India (Infosys, was it?). It's all fine, really, no grudging the man his spot under the sun. But when he comes up with inane psychological warfare (or, shall we say, mental disintegration?) stuff he gets on my nerves. Consider this report on Cricinfo. If at all he was paying attention to everything that was going around him, Buchanan should have realized one thing - England dominated Australia for two whole tests. The fact that England could not capitalize on the chance to go 2-1 up has more to do with lack of experience in such situations than any psychological scars. Steve Harmison's last over indicated as much. I digress - Buchanan opined further that England's weaknesses remained and that Australia created chances from the top order. Well guess what? Australia didn't take those chances thanks to their sloppy catching. All series, their catching has only been less suspect than that of Pietersen. And what about Australia's own problems? And if Buchanan and company were really tuned in, they would have omitted the completely out-of-sorts Jason Gillespie from the Old Trafford eleven, something so obvious it is quite staggering as to how Australia missed it. What about Matthew Hayden's continuing troubles? How about Gilchrist? They could do with some gyaan from Buchanan. It's all fine being cocky after getting out of jail, but this England side does have the necessary firepower to sustain their challenge. Thankfully, Ricky Ponting does have a cool head and feet firmly rooted in the ground, which is probably why he was able to buckle down and play one of his best innings. - NK
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Gideon Haigh's wickedly clever 'Old Flintoff' reference to Ian Botham provoked some debate about the relative strengths and qualities of the current and former England all-rounders. Regardless of whether one accepts that he is in the same league as the magnificent all-rounders of the '80s, an all-rounder like Flintoff brings a different dimension to a side and needless to say, is worth his weight in gold. If all-rounders in cricket are multi-skilled artists who can change a game with a broad stroke of the brush in an instant, what about those that transcend sports? I was watching a documentary about Scott Draper, the Australian tennis-golf pro, and was amazed at his levels of excellence in two vastly different sports. Not until the Australian Open in January did I know about Draper's exploits on the Australian golf scene and was surprised to see him playing in Melbourne, as I hadn't heard of him in a while. With good reason, too - Draper's story is quite moving - he lost his wife to illness about five years or so ago and went through quite a rough patch. Not surprisingly, his sporting graph slumped. He has since found new love within and outside the sporting arena - golf being the first of those. Draper turned a golf pro and has in fact been juggling tennis and golf schedules ever since, but he did manage to win the Australian Open mixed doubles title with fellow Aussie Sam Stosur - not bad for a part-timer! Speaking of tennis stars who have turned to golf, though of the now retired from tennis variety, Yevgeny Kafelnikov's debut amateur performance on the European tour at Moscow was worth a good laugh - he finished 40 over par! Kafelnikov once grumbled that tennis professionals were paid much less in comparison to other athletes, like golfers for example. On this evidence, it doesn't quite seem as though he would have made a lot of money in golf! - NK
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
The New Jokers
Stupidity is only surpassed by some more stupidity. I'm not privy to any first hand knowledge regarding the nature of the relationship between Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, and neither, I believe, is most of the cricket media in India. It is quite difficult then, to fathom the reports of rifts, cold shoulders and what have you between the two senior pros. One wonders, if it is just tripe and gossip trying to masquerade off as reporting. Given that kind of media fenzy and depressing results from the (very imaginatively named?) Indian Oil Cup, the BCCI selection committee came up with the kind of gems that threaten to push the rift story to the bins! A few weeks ago these worthies decided VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble were good enough to be given another go. Not a fair go, really, as it turned out. But in their infinite wisdom, the realisation seems to have dawned upon the wise men that Laxman and Kumble were 'aging non-performers'. I'm not sure if that was the language the committee used, it certainly came out that way in the media (oh that trustworthy institution!). Laxman and Kumble played two games each, with Kumble being instrumental in the crucial win over the Windies in the last league encounter. It is true neither did anything of note in the final, but to jettison players of such calibre or for that matter anybody, after just two games, smacks of lack of clear thinking. Laxman has been time and time again dealt such a bad hand by the selectors, it is almost as if they harbour a grudge against the man (not suggesting they do). Laxman is not exactly a Bevan-like run machine, but he had a break-out season in 2003-04, scoring three hundreds in Australia and another in Pakistan, mostly match winning efforts. After every disastrous campaign in the last three years or so, he has been the fall guy; the mind still boggles at the choice of Dinesh Mongia ahead of him in the squad for the last World Cup. Laxman need not despair - in fact he may just be beyond that stage these days - if Ajit Agarkar's return to the side is any indication. Another step that I just fail to understand. The rediff report on the team selection mentioned that Agarkar's exclusion was even taken up in the Maharashtra assembly!!! Now, I never really have had much regard for our politicians, but even by their standards, it seems as if the state of Maharashtra has a particularly daft group representing them - my sympathies lie entirely with the people of the state. - NK
Cricket is cool!
I hardly noticed it - in fact, if it wasn't for channel surfing, I wouldn't even have known that the new Premier League season has kicked off. Cricket is very much the centre of attention here Down Under, especially given the intensity of challenge the Aussies have encountered. I'm not sure if that is the case in England, but cricket has suddenly found itself amongst the headlines for the right reasons (not just in connection with protests against some allegedly despotic regimes) and that can only be good. All of the games this summer barring ones featuring Bangladesh have been sold out and that in itself may have been precedent-setting. Cricket is still the poor cousin in England, and no one harbours any illusions in that regard, but in the context it was heartening quite a few Man United stars, including the biggest of 'em all, Sir Alex Ferguson himself, enjoying their spare time across the road. - NK PS: Crespo really saved the Blues some serious blues at Wigan.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Stuff of Legend
In cricket and elsewhere, rarely does reality match the hype these days, and that is usually down to the phenomenon of modern marketing, which is ever more sophisticated in its designs even if the execution is ever so slightly crass. Whatever be the outcome of this Ashes series, no one can deny it has lived up to the hype. It is still only midway through the series, but this series has already produced more memorable cricket, more drama than the previous half a dozen series put together. As I write this, Australia are in a mighty struggle to stave off defeat here and boost their chances of retaining the urn. If Australia survive this, the series could turn on its head for they would have got out of jail. If they don't, this could well be a momentous series for it would shake the current cricket world order, where the Aussies have been ensconed so safely at the top, everybody else has been fighting to be second best. Again, regardless of the outcome, England have gained enough self-belief in the last two weeks, if the last two years weren't sufficient, to keep coming at the champions the rest of the series. It is a belief that comes not from sessions on a couch in a shrink's office, but from real ability and hard work. In times like these, it is easy to forget the very people who get stick from all quarters when things go wrong - the selectors - England's incumbent bunch have done a stellar job, putting behind them the nightmarish days of Dexter, Illingworth and company. They deserve a little hat tip regardless of the outcome of the series. - NK
Friday, August 12, 2005
MindSqueeze - 3
The Fortnightly Sports Quiz Changing the timestamp, so that this post stays on top until we post the answers. 1. A gold medallist in the 1996 & 2004 summer Olympic games and winner of 3 ESPN ESPY awards, People Magazine selected her as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world in 1997. She was chosen by her fellow US Olympians to carry the American flag at the Athens Olympics Closing Ceremonies in 2004. Identify her. 2. Two cricketers of Greek origins have played Test Cricket so far. One of them was Xenophon Balaskas of South Africa. Who was the other? 3. The official magazine of this sport’s governing body published twice a year in French and English is called “The Target”. The sport is the national sport of Bhutan and so far it is the only sport in which they have participated in the Olympic games. Which Sport am I talking about? 4. “Heart of Lion” is the autobiography of which famous cricketer who also was nicknamed after a brand of battery because he went on and on? 5. It’s known as Chado-Guddo in Malaysia, Techib in Indonesia, Guddo in Sri Lanka and Do-Do in Nepal. The Asian Governing body of this sport was formed in 1973 under the leadership of famous Indian politician Sharad Pawar. Which sport? 6. He was considered for the lead role in the movie “The Terminator” but later on it was decided that the audience might not accept him as a villain. Nicknamed “The Juice”, he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in 1969 and in 1973 became the “Most Valuable Player” with a record-breaking run of 2003 yards. Newsweek and Time magazine had cover stories on him with titles “Trail of Blood” and “An American Tragedy” respectively for all wrong reasons, though. Identify. 7. Which country reached the UEFA European Championship (erstwhile European Nations' Cup) semifinals stage and above 4 times in a row between 1960 and 1972, winning only once in 1960? 8. Which bowler demolished the Aussies by returning identical figures of 6/52 in both the innings at Melbourne (77/78)? 9. Her father Alexander is a cycling coach and coached 5 successive Olympic champions. Her mother Galina Tsareva is six-time world champion and holder of 20 world records in cycling and her brother Nikolai is a silver medallist cyclist at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta. She has made her mark in an entirely different sport though. Identify this talented sportsperson. 10. What collective name was given to Hole numbers 11, 12 and 13 at the Augusta Masters by Sports Illustrated columnist Herbert Warren Wind in 1958? 11. Nicknamed “The Pirate” and the winner of the 1998 Tour De France, he was found dead last year on Valentine’s day in a hotel in Rimini due to drug overdose. Who? 12. Saurav Ganguly was adjudged LBW off his delivery in his debut ODI against West Indies in 1991/92. He was also the 12th man when Brian Lara scored 375. Ironically he was playing for Durham when Lara scored 501 for Warwickshire against Durham. Who am I talking about?
Answers on 19th August - Compiled by Saby
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Vaughan rides his luck
Don't think I can remember a similarly shoddy catching performance by the Australians in recent memory, and the man on the receiving end of most the generosity on offer, Michael Vaughan, made the most of it. Not very often does one get reprieves off consecutive deliveries, so Vaughan would have been persuaded enough to think it was his day. He certainly batted like it, and best of all, did not allow the lapses to affect his mood. The England captain has a reputation of being a sight to behold when in full flow, and for the first time this summer his batting matched the reputation, in quality and quantity. Like some of his contemporaries, Vaughan does not as much accumulate runs as he piles them on, with an array of boundary fetching shots at his disposal. There's the cover drive on the up, there's the meaty pull off anything remotely short and then there are the sweetly timed flicks anywhere between deep square leg and deep mid-wicket. And when the combination of a friendly pitch, slippery palms and non-lethal bowling presents itself, Vaughan is not the kind to miss out. Ironic then, that he holed out off a gentle full toss from the part timer, Katich. - NK
Benaud saw it coming
Not for nothing the old man is often talked about reverential terms, even called a 'sage' in cricketing terms. When Shane Warne bowled a valiant Jacques Kallis about seven and a half years ago to get his 300th test scalp, Richie Benaud contemplated aloud the possibility that one day the wizard may go on to get three hundred more! To be honest, I thought Benuad was indulging in some fanciful thinking, or worse, just hyping up his countryman. Guess what! - NK
Monday, August 08, 2005
It was quite bizzarre, really, to see Aussies almost rooting for England - well, not quite, but almost. Everyone seemed to agree that England winning was a good thing, but it was surprising to see Australia take the defeat so easily in their stride. There was no tough talk at the end of the game, just the usual stuff about areas needing improvement and similar inanities. There was also not much of a shock, at least on the surface, here in Australia. It's as if, the real thing is finally here. Such is the yearning for a competitive Ashes series, which hasn't had the edge to keep audiences interested since England shocked Australia in the first test in the summer of 1997. Australia face their sternest test since then, and they will need all the Aussie spirit on display on Sunday morning, especially if McGrath's ankle needs more time to heal than they would like. Although Ricky Ponting is not going through the tribulations that Mark Taylor was going through eight years ago, he does face a test of character as leader of the side and, make no mistake, as a batsman whose one technical weakness is being ruthlessly worked upon. Some day, some Australian captain would inevitably lose the Ashes - but woe betide that man. Ponting has to avoid that line of thought altogether, but that would be easier said than done. I'm jumping the gun here, of course, there are still three matches to go, and Australia are still the team to beat. But England have proven they can do it, and that's why every ticket in this series is sold out. - Nanda Kishore
Thursday, August 04, 2005
MindSqueeze - 2 : Answers
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. Ans: Sonny Liston 2. Syed Kirmani has taken only one wicket in Test cricket. Who was the victim? Ans: Azeem Hafiz 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. Ans: Carl Lewis 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? Ans: Dikembe Mutombo (Full name: Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo ) 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? Ans: Simon Jones 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. Ans: Sir Dorab Tata. 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. Ans: Joan Benoit Samuelson (1984 Marathon Gold Medallist) 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. Ans: Nottingham Forest 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? Ans: Mikhail Tal. 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)? Ans: Chandrakant Pandit 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? Ans: Scrabble 12. Winner of which event is awarded the “The Duchess of Kent Challenge Cup”? Ans: Ladies' Doubles Trophy at the Wimbledon. MindSqueeze - 3 will be published on 12th August. - Compiled by Saby
Botham XI vs Benaud XI
To be fair, it's not quite eleven on each side, but if you throw in some production staff, scorers et al, I'm sure we could have a face off between the Channel 4 and Sky Sports cricket teams. Good Ol' Benaud is a little too long in the tooth, I suspect and if you add the SBS studio experts Dean Jones and Greg Matthews, the balance shifts decidedly, unless another former cricketer with a successful hair transplant could be found on the Sky Sports side. In any case, Advanced Hair Studios will be delighted to sponsor the whole thing, since Benaud's hairdo has had the transplanted look since iron age. - NK PS: For those not familiar with Aussie TV, SBS is the free-to-air network that is beaming Ashes down here.
Courtsey blogger.com, found a New York Jets Blog - something of interest for (American) football fans, Jets fans in particular. The Jet Confidence Index is interesting. Despite issues with Chad Pennigton's arm, John Abraham's injury, not to speak of his holding out on a new contract, the Jets were so close to eliminating Pittsburgh and advancing to the AFC Championship game last season. The only thing that kept them were Doug O'Brien's missed field goals. Boy, that must have hurt. Also interesting is the talk of Patriots cornerback Ty Law, now a free agent, signing with the Jets. -NK
It's been raining...
...boundaries at Edgbaston, that is. Even Giles, Harmison and Simon Jones have joined in, with Messrs Lee and Warne taking some on the chin. I suspect Ricky Ponting is quite happy - 'relieved' may be a more appropriate description of the sentiment. The decision to put England in looked like it badly backfired, but the English batsmen have rescued him somewhat. This is the 74th over, and hold your breath - the run rate is 5.24! - NK
Now Matthew Hoggard is attempting some ludicrous sweep shots. Well, Hoggard is one of the 'rabbits' in the side, so I guess that isn't too unexpected. But what would have come as a shock for Duncan Fletcher is the way some of the batsmen have thrown away their wickets. Sure, there has been plenty of positive stroke-play, but England have thrown away the advantage they had built up. Nevertheless, it was quite some entertainment, especially with the two big men Flintoff and Pietersen at the crease. Flintoff was edgy to start with, particularly against Warne, and was decidedly lucky in getting away with unconvincing horizontal bat shots against Lee. KP was solid as ever and continues to impress with his composure and understanding of the situation he finds himself in. His manner of dismissal may not have been wholly unexpected, but the timing of his 'charge' was questionable. On a 500-type track, England may end up getting bowled out for less than 400, and that is not smart cricket. The scoring rate has been quite astonishing and Brett Lee has copped some punishment! Oh, by the way, Lee has been hit for perhaps his fifth six of the innings...followed by four more - from Harmison! It's been that kind of day. - NK
It has been good fun, this first day of the second test. Even as I write this, Mark Nicholas chimes in with typically deliberate emphasis - Compulsive Viewing. Ashley Giles has at last got his death wish fulfilled, playing predetermined sweeps off full deliveries from Warne. Giles is not a frontline batsman by any means and actually played a few attractive strokes, but his handling of Warne was hilarious. There was nothing funny about the battering the Aussies bowlers took this morning courtsey Trescothick in particular. Banger was fortunate to have been caught off a no-ball, but made the most of that reprieve. Hearteningly, England attacked Warne and reaped rewards, and were no doubt inspired/relieved by the comforting thought of not having to confront the human metronome. At times, the Aussie bowling did look quite average, and only some magic conjured up by Warne provided spark. - NK
Wretched start, and conspiracy theories abound
New season, new captain and new coach - same result, though. Nothing seems to have changed for India from the start of the last season. For the second time in less than a week, India let slip a position of advantage, partly because Sri Lanka took full toll of the fifth bowler who doesn't exist, but also because they continue to bat well below par. Sourav Ganguly's return should bolster a seemingly rudderless batting, even if he seems to have struggled mightily in his first return game, costing the innings a bit of momentum in the process. The media back home, though, are more interested in some imaginary personality disputes between Ganguly and new incumbent and former confidante Dravid. That's nothing new to Indian cricket - some people just love to see bitter disputes within the team, even when they are non-existent, for some perverse reason unknown to the public at large! Having been integral parts of the side and been in the limelight, I'm sure those two gentlemen are familiar with this phenomenon, and are likely to handle the situation with maturity. For the moment though, there is the business of winning matches, which is somehow proving elusive even when the opponent is literally hobbling. - NK
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Madrid don't deserve Owen
I must confess I took a great deal of comfort from the last European football season - the Man United-Arsenal stranglehold on the Premiership was broken, Liverpool won the Champions League (amidst considerable drama, to boot) and last but not the least, Real Madrid didn't win either the Primera Liga or the Champions League. I'm taking a cheap shot here I guess, but I'm convinced the 'galacticos' deserve it - not long ago I greatly admired the club, before they turned it into a 'gambling operation'. I'm not sure if the economics are panning out either, though the club officials would have us believe so. But that's not my concern anyway. It stretches the boundaries of credulity to learn that apparently Michael Owen is a fifth-choice striker at this club. Owen is a striker with razor-sharp instincts and can punish defences for the slightest errors. For my money, he is still one of the world's best and he did score 16 goals last season even if he only started 26 all season. I would apportion most of the blame to Owen himself, for chasing instant nirvana with Real (I say that even though I'm not aware of the details around his departure from Liverpool). In the context, one thinks Steven Gerrard was prudent enough to stick to Liverpool in the face of severe temptation in the form of the millions that Chelsea threw at him. It's obvious that European football needs the 'salary cap' system. - NK
Football's Behaviour Issue
It was no shock at all to see Man City midfielder Joey Barton (who?) get embroiled in an unseemly incident involving a fifteen year-old Thai Everton fan. Now I'm not ready to give a free pass to any fan in such incidents as there are a lot of fans out there who are just spoiling for such nonsense. But then highly paid athletes are expected to exercise some restraint, on and off the field. Case in point - the Pistons-Pacers fracas at the Palace-at-Auburn-Hills back in November. Standards of propriety have been lowered in all sporting events, but football is carving out quite a nice for itself. Thuggishness displayed by stars like Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira et al has somehow managed to lend a sort of legitimacy to such behaviour. I read this piece by Sue Mott a while ago, and couldn't agree more. Admittedly, Mott has her prejudices when it comes to football - she seems to feel an overbearing presence of the game in England, not very dissimilar to the experience sports fans have in India when it comes to cricket (even those of us who love cricket). Now police in England want Barton's brother for questioning in connection with a grisly, racist murder. I hope it is all just a coincidence, unlike the Bowyer-Woodgate assault incident in Leeds some years ago! Incidentally, I was living in Manchester at the time - an English colleague got Manchester United tickets for me and a friend for a couple of Champions League games, even though I never actually asked. I'd like to think the Bowyers are a minority. - NK
Not Raffy's finest hour
Within a month of becoming a select group of players with 3,000 career hits, former Texas Ranger star Rafael Palmeiro is once again in the headlines (at least on the other side of the Atlantic) - but this time much less honourably, having tested positive for steroids. Having been in Australia for quite some time now, I've been following major league baseball quite sporadically, catching only the odd game on Fox. So imagine my shock when I looked at news reports to find that Palmeiro is not the first to be caught out under MLB's new testing 'policy', but the seventh such! It just goes to illustrate the rot that has set in, and the ineffectual punishment policies are not helping. Palmeiro will serve a 10-day suspension and forfeit a pittance. Americans make all sorts of noises about Chinese and East German drug cheats, but treat these guys with kid gloves. Talk about double standards! - NK
Monday, August 01, 2005
Aussies 'Not Invincible'
I say that at the risk of sounding thoroughly clichéd, but I guess it nevertheless bears some repetition, especially in the face of the capitulation at Lord's. Worthies such as Messer’s Atherton and Boycott have sad something similar (what else do you expect from the those stodgy gentlemen?). Suddenly, it seemed as if the skies had come crashing down - blame the media hype, if you will, or whatever else you can, but the fact is, England were brought down with more than just a thud. But this much should be clear - this Australian side is not what it used to be. You can say that again. I can hear the howls of derision from Aussies only too eager to pile on the miseries on the Poms - Aussies who dismissed such talk with utter contempt even before their side set foot in Europe, and found echoes in the media-inspired sound bites from McGrath, Warne, Hayden et al. Nothing new there either - what else does one expect the Aussies to say, that England were the favourites? For all we know, they scoffed at such suggestions even when faced with the might of the West Indians in their pomp. Anyhow, the point is, let's just look at the last month or so in totality. England have lost as much as they have won - and that in itself is more than what many may have expected. To now say, on the face of one defeat, that the gap between Australia and England is as wide as ever, is little more than tripe. Yes, with McGrath and Warne around, some old frailties will be exposed. But that wasn't entirely unaccounted for, was it? The manner of defeat at Lord's was worrying, but England mostly lost the plot when they lost their intensity in the field in the second innings after starting so well. They seemed utterly deflated by McGrath's assault, but that's what it's supposed to be all about - combating adversity - isn't it? Pietersen showed stomach for a fight, and that is the key. England will perhaps never master Warne, but if they take him on, he may not the same bowler. I will say this again - in their minds, the Aussies were not as confident as they now sound after the first innings, and England let the game slip away from them when they were in with a real chance (that's not to suggest Australia had nothing to do with it!). No one knows what might have happened had Pietersen held on to that simple chance. - NK PS: For the first time since perhaps the 1992 WC final, I find myself supporting England! No prizes for guessing why I did that then, but this time I guess we've just had too much Australia for a long while now! It's time the world order was shaken up somewhat. Am I clutching at straws here?