Monday, April 6, 2009

….And the legacy continues

In what is widely believed as his last tour to the Antipodes, Indian batting maestro Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, once again live up to the expectation, plundering over 300 runs in the recently concluded three match test series between India and New Zealand.
Tendulkar carried on with his brilliant form which he orchestrated against the Aussies and England in 2008.
Tendulkar’s dominating 160 (his 42nd) against New Zealand in the first test match in Hamilton not only put the Indians in a strong position in the opening test but also laid the foundation for the first series win in the country in as many as 41 years.
India last won a test series in New Zealand back in 1968 under the captaincy of Nawab Pataudi.
Going more into the stats, prior to this tour, Tendulkar had traveled to New Zealand in four occasions and had never been a part of a test winning team, let alone series win.
As the master will now reach his 36th birthday in this April, he might have also felt that it is unlikely for him to come back to New Zealand after four years when he will have turned 40, yes 40!
However, the Master left no stones unturned in this tour, captivating his fans with his amazing stroke play and shrewdness.
His 160 in Hamilton was an epic knock, playing shots of the back foot, front foot, punch over cover, his late trademark shot, and an upper cut, which the slip cordon can do nothing but see the ball sail past them and kiss the boundary rope.
Tendulkar fully entertained his fans and supporters, which I am, with class, which very little cricketers have achieved.
His knocks of 49 and 64 in the second test might seem little in comparison to another epic knock of 137 that spanned some 11 hours at the crease by fellow opener Gautam Gambhir (Gauti, what is teammates call him), but the importance of the innings cannot be undermined.
His first inning partnership with Dravid, the wall, was crucial in that Indians at least reached 300 chasing a mammoth 600 odd runs.
Following on in the second innings, Tendulkar’s second inning 64 on the fourth day along with the all-important partnership with Gauti rescued India from a probable defeat.
On the last day, it was all Gauti and elegant Laxman, saving the match from the brink of defeat, more importantly preserving their 1-0 lead in the series.
And again, in the first innings of the last test match, Tendulkar played a brief little inning of 62 from 82 balls rescuing India from the early exit of Sehwag and Gautam.
That was it, Tendulkar, one last time entertained his fans with a barrage of strokes and proved that he still is a Kohinoor Diamond in India, may be across the world as well.
And the legacy continues…

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Are terrorists targeting sport?

Sport has its own niche, significance and is undeterred by any sorts of activities across the world and thus has a huge fan following around the world.
No matter what happens across the world, be it the terrorist activities or any sorts of rebellion, sport tends to be unaffected by all these and continues its own way.
However, the terrorist attack intended at the Sri Lankan Cricket team at Lahore, on Tuesday, has left some serious questions that need to be answered by the world at the earliest.
A group of 12 masked men had fired several rounds of bullet at the bus, the Sri Lankan players were on board, leaving eight people killed, six of them security personnel and two civilians, and six of the Lankan players injured.
It was a sigh of relief that none of the players sustained serious injuries, nevertheless who is accountable for the lives of those innocent security personnel and civilians.
Anyway, terrorists do not have any right to account for the lives of people, let alone attacking sportsperson.
The incident has received widespread criticisms from all the quarters and rightly so, why should terrorists target sportsperson?
If they really want to press for their demands, they should look to solve the issue through dialogue and not bloodshed.
One thing is for sure that the incident has raised serious questions against the security situation in Pakistan.
No any cricket team will even think of touring Pakistan for at least a couple of years now on.
This has really marred Pakistan and its cricket.
It was the first time in 14 months, that test cricket was being played in Pakistan and the incident has strangled the bid of Pak cricket to return to normalcy.
Seriously, Pakistan cricket has nothing to blame for it and I am sure they will be facing the music for at least a couple of years.
This is really bad for cricket, more importantly sports.
With this incident and last years Mumbai incident still fresh in the memories and the reluctance of rebel LTTE to kneel down in front of the Lankan government and mutiny in Bangladesh already claiming over 70 lives, cricket in Sub-continent looks rather bleak.
Time will only tell as how far the Lahore incident will affect cricket in Pak, it can be said that sports should never be a target of terrorists.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is "Federer era" waning?

Men's Tennis is not a one way traffic anymore.
Spanish World no.1 Rafael Nadal claimed his first Australian Open Title edging his long-time rival Swiss star Roger Federer in a five-set tantalising final at the Melbourne Park last month.
With the win, Nadal further bolstered his position as World no.1, which the Spanish had achieved at the All England Club Championships last year defeating Federer in another gripping five-setter.
Since 2008, World No.2 Roger Federer has lost three grand slam finals to the Spanish.
Federer, one considered as arguably the best player to have played tennis on earth, is now finding difficult to get past that frontier, Nadal, who, now, has six grand slam titles to his name.
Interestingly, Federer's five grand slam final defeats so far have all come against the Spanish.
Federer, who is looking for a record equaling 14 grand slam titles of another great Pete Sampras, has not had a happy outing since 2008. Since then, he has lost three grand slam finals which also includes the Wimbledon which the maestro had managed to claim it for fifth consecutive time from 2003-2007.
His lone grand slam triumph came at the Flushing Meadows last year when he defeated Briton Andy Murray.
The Swiss great might be able to eventually equal and get past Pete Sampras's record of 14 slam titles, but it looks rather difficult if the "Federer era", essentially between 2004-2007 when he captured amazing 11 grand slam titles, will figure again.
With Nadal further widening his distance as World No.1 after triumphing at the Australian Open and Serbian Novak Djokovic and Briton Andy Murray repeatedly threatening to claim the top spot, it now looks that Men's tennis world is no more a one man show.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rafa claims maiden Australian Open Title, leaves Federer sobbing

Spanish World no.1 Rafael Nadal edged fellow Swiss star Roger Federer in a tantalising five-set final in the Australian Open, 2009 at the Melbourne Park here in Sunday.

The game that lasted for almost four and a half hours culminated with sobbing Federer as his bid for record-equalling 14 slam tiltles was thwarted by fellow Spaniard.

Tennis aficionado could not have asked for a better final as the match went for fifth set, eventually claimed by the Spaniard.

Federer looked good until the fifth set but soon was overwhelmed by the muscular play of Nadal.

Even Federer, known for his composure and who barely shows his emotions, could not control his tears rolling from his eyes after the Spaniard claimed the title.

Federer could not believe himself, his game that has given him so much over the years, that Sunday Melboourne crowd and his fate that once again deprived him of that elusive 14 slam tally of another great, Pete Sampras.

For most part of the play, Federer actually beleived he could better Nadal that day.

That thing hurted him the most.

At the presentation ceremony, Federer was quoted as saying, "God it's killing me." That actually told the story.

Showing compassion to arguably the greatest player to have played tennis on earth, Nadal, the new champion, said, "Rog, sorry for today,” adding “I really know how you feel right now. Remember that you are a great champion and you are one of the best in history and you will beat Pete Sampras’ 14 titles for sure.”

I guess that didn't help Federer either.

Having remained as a World no. 1 for almost five long years, having dominated the world as never before, I guess Federer has been devastated by this defeat.

He just loves the sport so much, this defeat means so much for him.

As every champion has this attribute of hitting back hard, i do believe that the Swiss Maestro will turn the tables in Wimbledon later this month.

He has been the undisputed champion in grass, so he definitely will fancy his chance at the All-England Championship this year, and hopefully equal Sampras.

Anyway, thats the way life goes. Everyday is not a Sunday, not even for the maestro himself.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yah! I have won a match for India, in the fourth innings

Tendulkar century sets up famous win

After all the turmoil of recent weeks, India couldn't have picked a better moment to create history, completing a famous six-wicket victory in Chennai by chasing down the fourth-highest total in Test cricket. And there could be no better figure than Sachin Tendulkar to mastermind the uplifting success with a century of such serenity that he made the pressure-cooker environment seem like an afternoon in the park. Along with Yuvraj Singh, he added an unbroken 163, sapping the England spirit that had carried them into such a dominant position.
The closing stages were dominated by scenes of a hysteric crowd cheering dot-balls as Yuvraj ensured Tendulkar had time to reach his 41st century. The moment came with perfect symmetry as Tendulkar swept Graeme Swann to fine leg to reach the hundred and complete victory. All the previous times India have come up short in run-chases, and claims that Tendulkar doesn't contribute at crunch times, will be forgotten.
At the end of the third day Gary Kirsten, a man of few words, said he believed this Indian team was capable of anything. Now, after following their victory over Australia with this triumph, the momentum of the side is starting to feel unstoppable. The batting faltered in the first innings, but they never lost confidence in their own ability, highlighted by Virender Sehwag's bombast, Tendulkar's calm and Yuvraj's flair.
England have been through such a range of emotions that it will probably take them a while to dissect what has gone on. They performed above expectations for much of the game, but on the final day wilted against a great batting line-up. Their bowlers couldn't summon up the same consistency that was successful earlier in the match. They failed to break through in clusters, with Andrew Flintoff's third-over removal of an out-of-form Rahul Dravid and James Anderson's curtailing of Gautam Gambhir's stylish 66 proving false dawns. Each time another Indian batsman would bed in on a pitch that never quite developed into the viper it promised to be.
The stand between Tendulkar and Yuvraj was worthy of such a significant occasion - when they came together the match was still in England's favour after Graeme Swann had VVS Laxman taken at short leg shortly after lunch. Yuvraj struck two early boundaries off Swann and made it clear he was going to play his natural game, rather than prod around as in the first innings. England tried everything to unsettle him, but this time he didn't get sucked into any verbals with Flintoff, instead just turning away and giving the silent treatment. Steve Harmison ended up hurling the ball back at him from his follow-through, but Yuvraj calmly patted it away and bit his tongue.
The presence of Tendulkar was vital. He remained entrenched and massively focused after overcoming a testing start against Flintoff, who was the only pace bowler Kevin Pietersen could rely on for control, and ensured Yuvraj focused on his batting. He manoeuvred the spinners with great skill and Pietersen was always a few deliveries late with his field changes. The England captain will learn with time, but his team's tactics had been strangely negative since lunch yesterday, although Sehwag's innings clearly impacted their mindset on the final day.
The closest England came to breaking the decisive stand was when Yuvraj swept at Swann and all the close fielders went up for a gloved catch. It was only the bowler who believed in the lbw shout, and replays showed it was hitting halfway up middle stump. Swann found turn and bounce, reward for giving the ball a tweak, although he had a tendency to drift too straight rather than making the batsmen drive. However, he can hold his head high after a promising debut.
Monty Panesar, on the other hand, was again hugely disappointing and remained wicketless from 27 overs while conceding nearly four an over. For the second time in three Tests, following South Africa's successful chase at Edgbaston, the pressure of a final-innings situation that should have suited him perfectly instead caused him to seize up. He was cut and pulled far too often and even when he tried to build pressure, by bowling over the wicket to Tendulkar, runs still ticked along.
Once the target was below three figures Yuvraj began to express himself by pulling Panesar for six then attacking the new ball. That had been England's last chance, but the batsmen were so well set that it barely made a difference. The belief was surging through India and Yuvraj even brought out one of his one-day specialities, clearing his front leg to launch Anderson over mid-on. This innings could be the making of him.
He offered a half chance on 55, gloving a short ball from Harmison down the leg side, but Matt Prior couldn't take it tumbling to his right, and a more clear-cut opportunity when Prior missed a leg-side stumping late on. However, by then only 20 more were needed and any chance of an England fightback had long since disappeared. This experience will be tough to take, but extenuating circumstances should allow them a greater degree of pride in their performance. Nothing, though, will take the glory away from India, and after a performance like this nothing should

Superstar Tendulkar writes the perfect script

As Graeme Swann prepared to bowl the second ball of his 29th over, more than 20,000 people in the stands abandoned their plastic chairs. They were on their feet, creating the sort of bedlam and noise I last witnessed at this very venue seven years ago, when Harbhajan Singh's squirt past point clinched the most famous of India's series victories. Swann bowled. The batsman came forward and patted the ball back with almost exaggerated flourish. The crowd was momentarily quieted but the primal scream started again as Swann went back to his mark.
Again, there was sharp turn, but the paddle-sweep that greeted the ball was emphatic. As it streaked to fine leg, the batsman ran down the pitch and punched the air in celebration, before being held aloft by his equally delighted partner. He's 35 years old and owns practically every batting record in the game, but you couldn't escape the feeling that this was probably Sachin Tendulkar's finest hour.
To score the winning runs in a record-shattering chase was special enough, but when that last stroke also brought up your 41st century, it became ineffably so. Boyhood dreams are made of this, and it says a lot about Tendulkar that he has never lost that child-like passion for the game.
Even in a world where cricket was played in isolation, this would have been a breathtaking effort. Given all that's gone on over the past three weeks though, this was so much more than just a match-winning century. Kevin Pietersen said it best after the game. "Who can write Sachin Tendulkar's scripts any better?," he asked. "The man from Mumbai came in and scored a sensational hundred. He batted like a superstar."
Those that reckon this will heal the wounds of the past don't know Tendulkar well enough though. The scabs of Barbados 1997 and Chepauk 1999 will always be there, especially given he had done so much in both games to take India towards victory. As the years passed, theories and opinions came and went, with people pointing to the absence of a defining fourth-innings knock from the Tendulkar repertoire. Brian Lara had the peerless unbeaten 153 at the Kensington Oval. What did Tendulkar have to offer as response?
An awful lot really, but those intent on nitpicking will inevitably find a way. As the afternoon progressed though, the feeling intensified that we were witnessing something extraordinary. With Pietersen not inclined to crowd the batsmen with close-in fielders, Tendulkar was more than happy to pick off the runs with a nudge here, a deflection there and the odd paddle-sweep for variety.
The contrast with Virender Sehwag couldn't have been more acute. Sehwag's 83 contained 11 singles and two twos, whereas 61 of Tendulkar's runs came in singles (45) or twos. It was a consummate innings. He defended purposefully, especially against the always menacing Andrew Flintoff, but there was no getting bogged down either. Every time there was a lull, either he or Yuvraj Singh would pierce the field.

Those that aren't Indian struggle to fathom exactly what Tendulkar means to so many millions, and it's doubtful whether even those that live here really comprehend just how much a part of the national consciousness he has become. He is such a unifying force, a personality capable of stirring the emotions in every nook and corner of a vast land

Though dehydration became a factor as the afternoon sun beat down, he continued to scamper between the wickets with the same urgency he showed as a teenager. It's that enthusiasm that's so infectious. Sitting in the stands for an hour this afternoon, there was no doubt what the only people that really matter - the fans - think of him. His every stroke was cheered as though it was a century, and the chants of "Sachin, Sachin" reverberating around were an illustration of an adulation-obsession that sport has never seen, not even when Diego Maradona was playing at La Bombanera.
Vijay is a doctor who was in Chennai on a short trip. On Sunday night, he found himself with a pass for the final day's play. With a late-afternoon train to catch, he wasn't sure whether to go or not. There was another reason for his hesitancy too. Like millions of other sports fans who have been scarred by defeat, Vijay was afraid that he might jinx his team and his favourite player. But after watching the first session on television, he decided to take his chances.
Over the next three-and-a-half hours, he didn't leave his seat, not even for food and water at tea time. He made his train with 10 minutes to spare. "I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself if I had given it a miss," he messaged me later.
Those that aren't Indian struggle to fathom exactly what Tendulkar means to so many millions, and it's doubtful whether even those that live here really comprehend just how much a part of the national consciousness he has become. He is such a unifying force, a personality capable of stirring the emotions in every nook and corner of a vast land. And in these times of distress and anger, it was so very appropriate that it would be Tendulkar who put the smiles back on at least a few faces.