Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mesmerising Messi wins the Champions Cup for Barcelona

Over the last few days, much had been written about & expectations had reached sky high on the eve of the UEFA Champions Cup 2009 finals between holders Manchester United & Barcelona. Many had touted this to be a dream final between arguably the best two teams on the european circuit. ManU had been the English league Champions while Barca had clinched the Spanish league in style. Both the teams had been on peak form going into the finals & a lot was at stake for both.
ManU had the chance of retaining the trophy for the first time in 10 years, while Barca had the scope of avenging last year's semifinals defeat to the same team. On paper, ManU certainly looked stronger & fitter, with players like Ronaldo, Rooney & Park upfront, with able support from Giggs, Scholes, Anderson, Tevez in the midfield & the return of Ferdinand at the back boosted their defence. Goal was managed by the ever reliable Van der Sar. The team was known for brutal power play & scorching pace. Ronaldo has been superb form of late & in Sir Alex Ferguson, the coach, ManU had all the experience & guile to retain the trophy.
On the other side were the Catalans, who were boosted by the return of Henry upfront and along with Eto & Messi, had a fabulous attacking force. This looked more threatening with the midfield maestros like Xavi & Iniesta in full flow. However, the defence did look weak in the absence of Alves & Abidal & it was left to skipper Puyol along with Touro & Sylvinho & Pique to put up the fight. The goal was managed by the ageless Valdes. The side has been a revelation this year under the new coach Pep Guardiola, who at 38 yrs was probably considered to be still learning the tricks of the trade. But, the former Barca midfielder had more than compensated with his passion & loyalty for the club. He had infused a pressing possession game along with a belief that had taken the Catalans to victories in La Liga & Super Cup & now were on the verge of taking home the Champions Cup.

The match, started with ManU threatening to tear the defences of Barca, & Ronaldo had earned a crucial free kick just outside the Barca goal. Valdes in the goal just about managed to block the shot, though he could not hold on to the ball, but Puyol made a timely clearance as Park faltered & danger was everted. For the first few minutes it looked like the English powerhouse would sweep away the Spanish Armada, but they just faltered to decieve. In the 10th minute, much against the run of the play, Eto received a beautiful pass at the edge of the box, from Iniesta & got clear of Vidic, who was slow on the move with a clean instep dribble & then beat the goalkeeper Van der Sar with a beautiful low shot into the corner of the net. Barca had taken the lead. ManU known to come storming whenever conceding a goal, were quite listless & barring some odd runs by Rooney & Ronaldo, they could not pierce the Sapnish defence. The deft short passing game of the Catalans gradually took control of the game & it was a treat to watch the small passes & possessional football. Each player knew exactly where to receive or push the ball & this spread over the green turf at both ends. Half time score sheet read 1-0 in favour of Barca & the Fergi's ManU had some serious thinking on their hands.

After the lemon break too the Barca looked in total control, with Iniesta & Xavi completely ruling the midfield & creating moves after moves. Van der Sar made some spectacular saves as waves of Catalans attack hit the ManU defence. A Xavi freekick hit the woodwork & a Puyol header went straight into the goalkeeper's hands. However, finally, Messi sealed the fate by heading in from a floater by Xavi, in the 70th minute of the game & ManU were completely dusted & buried.
2-0 as a final scoreline was poetic justice for the Spanish La Liga Champions, who could do nothing wrong this night, & Pep Guardiola was absolutely ecstatic with his team's performance. Xavi was the man of the match, as pure skills & footbal artistry won over the power & pacy games that the English sides play.
The match in itself did not reach great heights, as ManU were completely outplayed in all departments of the game.

Barcelona are now the UEFA Champions Cup winners for 2009.

Monday, May 25, 2009

IPL 2 ...Grand finale.....Men in blue once again.... DCH this time!!!!

A cracker of a match, worthy of IPL final was what the world witnessed at the Wanderers, Johannesburg. Laggards of the last year's edition Deccan Chargers Hyderabad took on Royal Challengers Bangalore, in what turned out to be a nail biting finish, with the Deccans Charging ahead & crossing the line to victory.

It all started with Anil Kumble winning the toss & electing to chase, keeping in mind his team's winning momentum in chasing over the last few matches. Taking the onus of starting the bowling attack he also got the devastating Gilchrist bowled for a nought, through his legs in only the third ball of the match, sending shivers through the DCH dug out. The Deccans were already on the backfoot & after five overs the scoreline read a miserly 23 for 2. Symonds at the crease was still struggling, when almost unbelievably Rahul Dravid, the world record holder of maximum catches, dropped a sitter at slips. That would have probably been match over for the DCH, but Symmo made good of this escape & plundered runs quite at will. However, just when Symonds looked like taking the game away, Kumble came back again & bowled him round his legs. A bizarre dismissal which surely brought a sigh of relief on Rahul's eyes and the RCB were back in business. Gibbs & Rohit Sharma did some repair work for the DCH, but the onslaught at the end did not look enough & adequate, with the scoreline reading a paltry 143 after 20 overs. Gibbs managed an unbeaten but uncharacteristic fifty, which later turned out to be the highest score of the final.
A total that was dodgy but competitive. Match on.

The Royal Challengers started their run chase with caution, keeping in mind the pressures of the final, & lost Kallis after just a couple of boundary hits. Next man in Van der Merwe had intentions of hitting from the word go & he did manage a couple of lusty blows out of the park, forcing Gilly to introduce spin. Ths proved a winning move as Pragyan Ojha removed the in form Manish Pandey, caught behind in his first delivery. Merwe lived & died dangerously & the Bangalore outfit was at 69 for 3 for 10 overs at the time of strategic break. Ross Taylor & Rahul needed to stitch a partnership ahead, but Rahul was having a torrid final. The dropped catch during fielding seemed to have affected his batting as well, & he got out bowled to rookie pacer Harmeet Singh, trying to scoop the ball, a la Misbah style. Pressure does get the better of your game, expecially if its a final, & the Bangalore team was clealy hit by that. Ross Taylor, was going well at this stage & just needed to hold his wicket, instead, he holed out in the deep & Virat got out to a splendid stumping by Gilly next ball & the Chargers were back in business. Boucher & Praveen Kumar gave away their wickets, succumbing to pressure & it was now left to Robin Uthappa to become a hero. He started well with a huge six, and the target was just 15 runs off the last over. But Robin could not match the guile of RP Singh who was cool with his bowling & the Royal Challengers Bangalore fell short by 6 runs.

Mathew Hayden ended up the owner of the orange cap for being the highest run getter, while RP Singh took home the purple cap for being the leading wicket taker. Rohit Sharma was the best under 23 player of the tournament, while his Skipper Adam Gilchrist deservingly took the Player of the Tournament trophy for his outstanding captaincy, brilliant wicketkeeping & scintillating batting, right through. He is also probably one of the most polite & humble Aussie cricketers, who has always let his game speak for his capabilities, rather than sledging. Hats off to a Champion in all forms of the game. A true legend in his rights.
Anil Kumble was the man of the match for the finals with figures of 4 for 16 off 4 overs. He proved what a champion cricketer he has been over the years. The fair play trophy was taken by the Kings XI Punjab.
There were some exceptional talents who emerged in this tournament. Manish Pandey is certainly a future prospect with his amazing & fearless batting. Jakati, Ojha etc have been brilliant in spin, while Tyagi, Kamram Khan, etc have been superb pace bowlers. Ravindra Jadeja, W Saha, A Nayyar, T Suman, Virat Kohli, all proved to be good national prospects.

A deserving win in the end for the Deccan Chargers Hyderabad. The men in blue have etched their name on the IPL trophy for 2009. Last year it was Rajasthan Royals in blue, & this year it has been DCH in a new blue outfit to emerge champions........ Is blue the colour for IPL?????.... Maybe Mumbai Indians or Delhi Dare Devils next time or maybe even KKR if they decide to change to some other shade of blue????...The debate & chatterboxes can continue, till the next edition comes to play.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dhoni's CSK royally Challenged out by Kumble's RCB

2nd semifinals between the tournament favourites Chennai Super Kings vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, & boy what a game in the end for all cricket lovers like unbelieveable upset.

CSK had started in blazing fashion with Parthiv Patel & Mat Hayden taking on the opposition bowling, with Parthiv being the surprising leader. However, somewhere CSK lost the plot & inspite of a brilliant start upfront, they could not capitalise & the team ended up with a rather dodgy poor total of 146. In fact the last seven overs produced only a meagre 3 boundaries, & the last over produced only 2 runs in the first five deliveries, & only a boundary in the last ball made the total look respectable. Top batting guns like Raina, Dhoni, Morkel, Oram, & even the openers could not make a serious impact & non of them could convert a start to a good match winning total. It was disappointing to see a tournament favourite team like CSK struggle for runs, in a pressure match of a semifinals.

The reply by RCB was authentic, with Manish Pandey, the centurion from the last match carrying his rich batting form into the game. he was sweetly timing the ball to the boundary, & though they lost Kallis & Merve early, Manish in partnership with Rahul, carried his team to the threshold of a memorable victory. Though, Murali pulled back things a bit, but the CSK did not have enough runs in thier kitty to battle out & Ross Taylor and Virat Kohli took them beyond the finishing line. Manish was breathless with his sublime batting & Rahul showed what experience & class is all about. Boundaries just kept puring in the RCB never looked in trouble. It was in the end a very clinical performance by this team. In fact a closer look says that RCB have been a different lot under the fascinating captaincy of Anil Kumble, & from midway through, when they were langusing in the bottom half, have won seven of their last ten matches. As Anil put it during the presentation ceremony, "It would be good to end with just one more tomorrow & get the IPL trophy home." The team certainly looks a resurgent lot & extremely fit & capable at this stage.

So the finals tomorrow id between Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Deccan Chargers Hyderabad. Incidentally they are the two bottom laggards of the last year's edition. Who would have thought & expected these two teams to feature in the finals this year????

Both the team look in cracking form & we, the cricket lovers look forward to some outstanding cricket tomorrow.

May the best team win.

Delhi Out Charged by a hurricane called Adam Gilchrist

What a fantastic display of batting by ageless Adam Gilchrist for cricket lovers all over the world. This was a resurgent Deccan Chargers, against Delhi DareDevils, who had been the top team of the tournament thus far. The DDD had been playing with astonishing consistency this year and were firm favourites to be in the finals. However, at the very first over of the match, they were rocked back by the DCH, & lost two crucial wickets of Gautam Gambhir & David Warner with no score on the board. Sehwag & Dilshan did some damage control & then were backed up by AB, but the final score of 154 did not look convincing enough for the side with such a stupendous batting line up.
What they needed, was to rattle some quick wickets of the DCH to be in the game. But Gilly was at is murderous best, & 21 runs came of the very first over of their innings bowled by Dirk Nannes, a prolific bowler till now. Gilchrist was in no mood to relent, & though he lost his opening partner Gibbs early at the other end, runs kept flowing like a raging river & before anyone could realise Gilly had scored his half century of just 17 deliveries.....the fastest 50 of the tournament till date. by the time he finally holed out to Amit Mishra, Gilly had scored a match winning 85 runs of just 35 deliveries. the Deccan Chargers Hyderabad had gone past the finishing line in style & are have booked themselves a seat in the finals. The team that had been the laggards in the last year's edition, have finally played to thier potential.
The inings from Adam Gilchrist, would be certainly be a part of the criketing folklore for a long time to come. Here is a man, who has retired from active international cricket more than a year back, & yet was timing the ball so sweetly & with such power, that would leave you wondering, as to why would he quit. Am sure, whenever there would be an all time dream team made in any form of the cricket, be it test match or 50 overs one dayers, or a T20, Adam Gilchrist would be an automatic choice. he is truly a legend of all times.
The DDD payed for their complacency & when there is such little margins for error, coupled with such extravagant hitting from someone in the opposition, you can only look around in wonder & believe that its not your day.

The Deccan Chargers look extremely good & peaking at the right time. They now await the out come of the 2nd semis.

Friday, May 22, 2009

IPL 2......the final four !!!

So IPL 2nd edition is now at the last stages, with semifinal slots decided.

Its Delhi Dare Devils vs Deccan Chargers Hyderabad on 22nd May, ie today for the 1st semis & tomorrow it is going to be between Chennai Super Kings vs Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2nd semis. Both the matches promise to be a humdinger of a contest, with each one of these four teams having the necessary arsenal & think tank to cross over to the finals & take a pot shot at the coveted trophy.

The Delhi Dare Devils have been the most consistent of all the teams till now. Their batting is now looking superlative with Sehwag & Gambhir along with David Warner running into form at the top of the order. With AB DeVilliers & Dilshan along with Karthick & Manhas managing the middle order, the batting looks unending & murderous. In the bowling, Dirk Nannes, Pradeep Sangwan, Ashish Nehra & Mahroof are hitting the deck with pace & bounce, getting wickets regularly, with able support in spin from Amit Mishra & Daniel Vettori. Imagine having to keep Glen McGrath in the extras. The team looks extremely balanced & capable of taking away the glories. The only worry has been the complacency that has crept in from time to time & they will need to guard against this especially at this time of the tournament.

Last year's finalist, Chennai Super Kings have been the best team on paper thus far & under the super cool Dhoni, the team has been quite steady in reaching the semis. At the top, there is the murderous Hayden who has been extremely consistent with his hittings & has been owning the orange cap as the top scorer since almost the beginning of this edition of IPL. He along with Parthiv Patel or George Bailey are sound at the opening slots. Middle order is brilliantly manged by Raina, Badrinath, Dhoni, Albie Morkel & Jacob Oram. If Mike Hussey also comes into the squad now, the batting looks deep & strong enough to chase any scores or putting up imposing totals upfront. The bowling looks rock solid again in the hands of Morkel, Murali, Sudeep Tyagi, Oram & Balaji, with unexpectedly brilliant support from Raina, with his wicket to wicket spins. The team looks good to be in finals once again, & as last year's winning team's Captain Warne puts in, CSK are the favourites to take away the IPL this year.

Royal Challengers Bangalore continue their dream run, & surprise everyone with 8 wins till now in the tournament. They have beaten the best of the teams, when no one gave them a chance, & under the captaincy of Anil Kumble, the team looks a menacing lot. The batting has been revolving round ageless Kallis at the top. With Taylor, Boucher, Dravid Merwe & Virat Kohli anchoring the middle order, there has been a sensation find in Manish Pandey, who scored a breathless century in the last match against DCH, the first Indian ever to do so in IPL till now. The batting has been able to chase down imposing totals & has a quiet confidence in its applications. In the bowling, Kumble has been leading from the front along with able assistance from Akhil, Praveen Kumar, Appanna, Dillon Preez, Merwe & Kallis. However, bowling looks a little low on depth & batting has sometimes struggled at the top. However, as a resurgent team, RCB are a dangerous lot, & should not be taken lightly at all. The acid test is now for them against the CSK in the semis.

Deccan Chargers, last year's laggards are the boom boom team this year. They have looked a solid team both on paper as well as in the field, & that has been very well exemplified with their march to the semis. Gilly & Gibbs at the top of the order have been in devastating form. However their good starts have been messed up at times by the middle order, out of sheer panic or overconfidence, & they have lost quite a few games ike this. The middle order has rich talent in Dwayne Smith, Rohit Sharma, T Suman & Venu Rao & are now further strengthened by Symonds, who has just joined in & has been in blasting form. The bowling is working like a well oiled machine with RP Singh at the top with the purple cap, as the leading wicket taker till now. He has good support from Pragyan Ojha, Symonds, Harris & Suman. However absence of Fidel Edwards hurts them at the top of the bowling, & may well be the reason any poor show ahead.

Last year's winners Rajasthan Royals did not look the team they were last time, though they came quite close to reaching the semis, losing out to KKR in a crunch match, as the batting let them down sorely. Warne had been inspirational as a leader, but lacked depth to pull the team through. Much in the same light, last year's semifinalist, Kings XI Punjab, made a mess of things when it mattered the most & paid the price by losing out of the race. Mumbai Indians flattered to decieve & KKR had enough of inhouse problems to perform on the field.

Let us look forward to some good cricket from the top four teams ahead & may the best team win.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pahli Barish.......the first rains

Barkha Raani, zaraa jamke barso, mera dilbar jaa na paaye, jhoom kar barso........the age old favourite hummed by Mukesh, many years ago, came flashing by yesterday evening, as the first rains, or shall I say, first drizzle of the season came down on the sweltering landscape of Mumbai, bringing some solace. I was with someone, who was remembering his Dilbar!!!!.....Love is always around........

The clouds have been making faint but suggestive combos in the skyline over the last few days, but vanishing into oblivion, as every Mumbaikar looked up with pleading eyes. The last few days have been extremely hot & humid & the rise in the mercury was not doing good to the moods swings of the people in the city. The Election heat, the IPL unrest, the market & sensex cauldron was just adding to the already stretched emotions.

However, the drizzle did not finally give way to a good shower, & we all had to satisfy ourselves with just a few drops around us. The breeze did pick up, & though at patches, there were reports of some decent showers, the city in general, was left waiting for more......

I was with a friend of mine at the Alfredo's in Juhu, yesterday evening, & after a rather long chat, when we came out the skies greeted us with a light drizzle, igniting the desire to get wet in the first rains.....but that was not to be, as the drizzle reduced to fading drops.......

But, I would believe that this can only get better, & wetter.......& I look forward to a decent shower soon & hopefully get wet.......& if that is followed by garam samosas or Wada Pao or Kanda Bahjji or Pakoras.......frankly anything hot & spicy alongwith steaming chai or Kya baat hai...... A usual yeh Dil Maange more...& more.....we always love in hope.....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Winners & Losers ....its all a game !!!

While reviewing the results of the just concluded General Elections, some very interesting facts emerge , some amusing, some disturbing, while some quite encouraging.

For Congress some interesting winners were :
First timer Shashi Tharoor, an Indian diplomat, associated with a few large NGOs, scripted a victory from Thiruvanantapuram, pretty much the same way he scripts his novels. This despite the fact that he raked up a huge controversy with the reciting of the National Anthem during one of the campaigns.
S Jaipal Reddy winning from Chevella would come up as a surprise, as he has done precious little for the people in that constituency.
You also have someone like Lalu Prasad Yadav of RJD winning from Saran but losing from Patliputra, (continuing to play safe politics of representing from two different constituencies. Keeping his usual political game open, Lalu was quick to accept his mistake at having gone against the Congress just before the Elections. Having apologised publicly after the verdict is out, he hopes to retain his Railways portfolio. Funny how, alliances are made to suit the comforts, depending upon the situation.
Much in the same manner, Badruddin Ajmal(AUDF) wins from Dhubri but loses from Shilchar.
Then we have Shibu Soren(JMM) winning from Dumka. Shibu Soren, ex Cm from Jharkhand, had been served with life term for murdering his secretary Shashinath Jha, & later acquitted for lack of evidence!!! Known for huge atrocities & illlegal transactions as Coal Minister, he has mostly been on news for the wrong reasons, but manages to win through mysterious circumstances.
On can understand Jaya Prada(SP) winning from from Rampur, despite her tussle with Azam Khan, but Mh Azharuddin winning from Moradabad on a Congress ticket is simply a slap on the face of the common man. Someone who has been banned for life from sports for match fixing, has never done any work worth mentioning for the common man, stands on a Congress ticket from a decaying place like Moradabad & wins!!!!! This is what you call as the Midas touch of Congress.
Midas touch of Congress continued for our Home Minister, P Chidambaram, who contesting from Sivaganga, had lost initially, but emerged victorious after recounting was done(why & on whose behest recounting was done?????). Well, with landslide victories at all other places, how can we let our Home Minister lose.........understandable under the circumstances, I guess.
We also have Amar Singh(SP) quickly putting up his faith & support with the winning Congress Party, always keeping the options open for a plum post. Such people like Amar Singh & Lalu Prasad Yadav can be dangerous to any alliances. Hopefully Congress would have seen through all this & would be cautious in such involvements ahead.

Congress had some notable losers in this election too.
Renuka Chowdhury's loss from Khammam, can be attributed to the rather messy handling of the recent Mangalore pub attack & her 'Pub Bharo' campaign with the city youth, which did not go well with her.
While very few raised eyebrows when S Bangarappa lost from Shimoga & Margaret Alva from Uttara Kannada, but former CM of Maharashtra, AR Antulay losing from Raigad, was quite a poetic justice for his rather loose comments after the 26/11 terror attacks, on the death of ATS Hemant Karkare. Antulay has earlier also been known to make money on the sly from various builders, & Bombay High Court had held him guilty.
Mani Shankar Aiyyar from Mayiladuthurai, & RAj Babbar from FAtehpur Sikri were the other notable losers for the Congress.
Manoj Tiwari(SP) from Gorakhpur, Nafisa Ali(SP) from Lucknow, & Ram Vilas Paswan(LJP) from Hajipur were other biggies losing out.

For BJP, it was interesting to see Kabindra Purkayastha winning from Silchar, against Badruddin Ajmal(AUDF), while Navjot Singh Sidhu managed to nudge ahead from Amritsar after trailing initially. Varun Gandhi won from Pilibhit, despite going through a troubled campaign, with his inflammatory speeches & his mother Maneka Gandhi won from Aonla. Interestingly Jaswant Singh chose to compete from a remote place like Darjeeling & still managed to win.

Like the overall Election results, BJP had to digest some very significant losses.
Rajiv Pratap Rudi, despite a clean image & youth stance, lost to Lalu Prasad Yadav from Saran. Mahesh Ram Jethmalani's loss from Mumbai North Central, against Priya Dutt was quite expected, but Ram Naik's loss from Mumbai North was painful, as he had done good work for the masses over the years. The veteran politician had earlier lost to the Bollywood star Govinda. Vinod Khanna lost from from Gurdaspur, as he could not retain his charm with the electorate this time, & Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi lost out to Jaya Prada from Rampur in a close contest. Jaspal Rana was the other significant loss from Tehri Garhwal constituency.

Amongst the Independents, it was sad to see former defence minister, George Fernandes lose from Muzaffarpur. This probably emphasizes the need of a backing from a political party, even for a heavyweight like Mr Fernandes, who has probably reached the fag end of his political career. Mallika Sarabhai loss from Gandhinagar to LK Advani was a foregone conclusion, despite some interesting campaigning done by even the fiesty Shobha De.
Capt Gopinath, MD of Air Deccan lost from Bangalore South, as his Indian Army background & Air Deccan portfolio could not muster enough faith amongst the electorate. Former Home Minister, Buta Singh, denied a ticket by his favourite party, tried his luck as an independant candidate from Jalore, but eventually lost out.

Am however happy to see a bunch of young turks like Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Navin Jindal, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Manish Tewari, Sanjay Singh emerging out of the shadows & promising to take the country ahead in its march ahead. Notwithstanding a few blips like Md Azharuddin, we expect this young brigand to stay away from corruption & put forward a strong, effective governance. With the party getting clear mandate of the country, Congress has a free hand to implement a progressive growth plan. If they can manage allies like Mamata Banerjee(TC), Karunanidhi(DMK) & Amar Singh(SP), into submission, they should be able to enjoy a hassle free governance unlike the last time.

The Nation waits & watches with Hope......

Jai Ho........

IPL 2....... reviews

IPL 2009 has now reached almost the business end of the tournament. The semifinal slots are almost done, with Delhi Dare Devils & Chennai Super Kings virtually assured of the top berths. Deccan Chargers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals & Royal Challengers Bangalore are vying for the other two slots, though RR & RCB look to be fighting a losing cause as of now, & only a miracle can bring them back in the reckoning.

Mumbai Indians, on whom a lot of hopes were pinned have proved to be missing the killer punch when it has mattered the most for them. As a team, they have flattered to deceive time & again. The team looks very sound & strong on paper, but in crunch matches, they have just not been able to cross the finishing line. Sachin leadership has been questionable as ever. He seems to evaluate his team strength as per his own individual capability & that sadly is not the case. While, Sachin is almost GOD as far as cricket is concerned, others are just lesser mortals & therefore have to be handled differently. Its sad to miss MI from the semis, but then those are hard realities. On the same lines are KKR who continue to increase their tally of defeats with gay abandon. The team is just not able to fire & has been losing crunch matches one after the other. Looks like they have made losing their habit. McCullum is completely at sea when it comes to Captaincy & proves once again, that good players are not necessarily good captains.

Rajasthan Royals, under Shane Warne continue to create awe amongst cricket watchers, for his sheer brilliance & tactics as a captaion. We need to spare a thought for him, as he continues to pull his team against all odds. A team lacking in depth of quality players & form, the RR men in blue are still a big threat to any opposition. However, one Warne & one Yusuf Pathan cannot win them the tournament. KXIP & DCH are running neck to neck & seem to be losing the plot at the most inappropriate times. However, I personally believe, they should make it to the last four, provided they play to their potential. The focus & performance of key players would be very critical at this stage. The RCB under Kumble have been inspirational on one day & equally insipid on another day. The team lacks consistency in performance to move to the next level.

In any case, we all look forward to some good cricket ahead, as the tournament enters its last leg this week. Entertainment guaranteed..............

Congress lead UPA......Jai Ho.....

People of India have put up their verdict. The Congress led UPA Govt has got a clear mandate to run the Government of India for the next term. It has been a sweeping victory of sorts, & the very sweet from the perspective of Congress.
The results must have surprised even the most ardent Congress supporter, as the green brigade virtually swept the country as a populist choice. Till even the last hours before the counting began, every news channel, every political pundit was looking at a fractured verdict & there were various speculations on who & how the Govt would be formed. While, indications were of a possible UPA win, the margins were expected to be wafer thin & hence serious negotiations were underway at all fronts. There were serious debates on how the President would address the situation.

However, on 16th May’09, Saturday, India woke up to the vote counting, & as the day progressed, a clear verdict emerged for the Congress led UPA returning to power with a clear & decisive win over its bitter rivals, the BJP.
States like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, UP & Andhra Pradesh had clearly brought in news of overwhelming joy for the Congress. Since Independence, this is only the second time after Nehru, that a PM has been able to retain his office for two successive terms. For Dr Manmohan Singh, this would be no means an achievement, as over the last few months he has been the target of the rivals as a weak PM & that he went through a bypass surgery recently, did not help his cause. But, with due respect to his grit, he has managed to keep above waters, & is now on the threshold of forming a Govt, which will have very little to worry about pressures of the allies.
Significantly & thankfully, the mandate has been for a stable Govt at the Centre & this time around the Congress does not have to bother about managing the number games. On the contrary, its various allies that are now seeking the patronage of Congress. So, the country does not have to witness the arm twisting tactics of the Left, who have been decimated in this election, even in their home ground bastions of West Bengal & Kerala. The gainers in this episode has been Trinamool Congress, led by the fiery & unpredictable Mamata Banerjee who upstaged the Left in WB after more than 30 years, DMK in South, led by Karunanidhi.

For BJP, it has been a battle truly lost. They had all the reasons to win it back, but probably lost the plot midway through into the warm up to the polls. Their hardline policy has not been well accepted by the Indian mass, & during election campaigns, their regular attacks on individuals like the PM & the Gandhi family proved to be their undoing. To add to their woes, was the dismal state of their allies, especially the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Major upsets in strongholds like Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab & the pre poll rift with Navin Patnaik in Orissa had the country’s electorate lose faith in their capability to rule at the Centre. Inspite of a good Election Manifesto, which had good reforms & promises, the BJP could not create enough faith in the mind of the masses. There was always the lurking fear of communal disturbances, & the allies did nothing to generate confidence. The leadership under the ageing LK Advani was questioned in merits & longevity & the next line of leadership was found wanting in these trying times. However, one should spare a thought for LK Advani, who never got any chance to lead the country, a job, many feel, he would have done well. However, such is destiny & one has to just accept it as it comes.
Contrary to this, the Congress were able to position young able turks in Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Jyotiraditya Scindia etc who are good spokespersons & were readily able to create confidence in the mind of the voters.
The BJP, now needs to go back to their drawing board & chalk out a clear five year plan as the Opposition Party. They should strategise & implement good grass root level work in the interiors of the country & work towards becoming a National party, rather than being confined to their strongholds only. This needs serious introspection & meticulous planning & then systematic implementations. Its going to be an uphill task, but then that is what singles out true leaders. Seniors like LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, Jaswant Singh, Atal Behari Vajpayee & Arun Jaitley should create new leaders & mentor them for times ahead. A hard look at their work till now & developmental activities over the next five years would give them strong reasons to compete in the next elections.

For Congress led UPA Govt, this time around there are no pressures form allies, internally or externally & the country looks forward to progressive governance from them. The electorate has given them a clear verdict for a full term & now would look closely at the performances ahead.
Lets hope, India grows from strength to strength ahead.

Jai Ho……

Saturday, May 9, 2009

European Champions League

The Champions League, Europe's most coveted club football tournament has reached its final stage for 2008-2009. On 27th May, Rome will witness the titanic clash between two of the arguably best teams in the European circuit........Manchester United & Barcelona.

In the semifinals, holders ManU simply overwhelmed Arsenal 4-1 in aggregate, a match which a lot of experts had predicted to go to the wire.
ManU had won the first leg at home 1-0, as Arsenal were completely outplayed in all departments. Both Rooney & Ronaldo, upfront were combining well, & the midfield & defense stood ground without much to worry. However, Coach Wenger said in the post match press conference that his team had plans to stop the ManU forward line in the 2nd leg, which would be at their home turf, & therefore enjoy the advantage. Recent history suggested that ManU had only won one encounter out of ten, when they would visit Arsenal at their home ground in Emirates. But, all speculations were put to rest, as Ronaldo mesmerised his opponents with his speed & footwork & power. The free kick goal from about 40 yards demolished any hopes that Arsenal had harboured & the final score line of 4-1 aggregate was a true reflection of the supremacy that ManU enjoyed. The team looks very cohesive & strong, with Ronaldo & Rooney upfront, Ferdinand in the back & Van der Sar managing the goal. The team under Alex Furguson's coaching looks extremely well knit & plays attacking football along with power & sudden bursts.

In the other semis, it was Spanish club Barcelona vs English club Chelsea. While Barca are known for their brilliant possession play & electrifying passess, Chelsea prefers to guard their defence with sudden bursts of counter attacks. However, this contest did not turn out to be very inspiring, as Barca kept possession of the ball for almost 7o% time & yet could not open the goal mouth of the heavily guarded Chelsea defense. On the other hand, Chelsea with their counter attack, kept catching the Barca defense off guard many a times, but could not capitalise on the opportunities, as Drogba kept faltering time & again. The fisrt leg at Nou Camp, Barca's home turf was a disappointing goalless draw, ensuring a tough 2nd leg fight at Chelsea's home ground.
Barca had come to this match with a resounding 6-2 victory over arch rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish League last weekend, & looked confident inspite of missing Puyol & Marques in their defence & Henry upfront.
However, it was Chelsea who opened the scoring through a brilliant left footer from their midfielder Michael Essien, in the 9th minute of the game. Barca kept possession of the ball, but just could not open the goal mouth against a very tight & stubborn defence of Chelsea. in the 65th minute, Eric Abidal was red carded for a foul against Anelka (replayes showed that he was not guilty), & Barca were left with 10 men only & a goal behind. It looked all over the bar shouting for the Spanish team, but they did not give up & continued their attacks through measured passes, & finally in the injury time, Iniesta scored a brilliant heart stopping goal to finish the Chelsea dreams of an all England finals. Barca had entered the finals through the away goal system.
True, the Norvegian referee, Tom Henning had a lot of questionable decisions, most of which hurt the Chelsea team, but the men in blue had themselves to blame for not finishing the game when they could. They allowed the 10 man Barca to claw back in the game & paid the prize for not being focussed in the dying moments of the game. Drogba, Ballack. Lampard, Anelka, Maulouda.....all failed to keep the pressure on the Barca goal, & allowed the spanish team to claw back through a brilliant left footer by Iniesta in the last few seconds of the injury time.

The finals on 27th May is a mouthwatering prospect, as both ManU & Barca play attacking football & have excellent players in their ranks. While, Barca would miss the services of Abidal & Daniel Alves at the back, they would feel slightly better, with the return of Puyol as the centre back & Henry at the front. ManU would miss Fletcher at the back, but are at their marauding best with Ronaldo in striking form. It is going to be a great match of skills between Ronaldo & Rooneyfor ManU vs Messi & Eto for Barca. However, I feel, Iniesta & Xavi in the midfield have been simply superb & their distribution skills might tilt it in the favour of the La Liga frontrunners.
For us viewers, it should be a good game of football, with skill dispaly at both ends. May the best team win.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

IPL 2009...... Review / Update

Its now midway through in Indian Premier League(IPL) being played at South Africa. The competition has really heated up & with each team having played all the opponents at least once, means we are halfway into the tournament.

At this stage, all the teams, barring KKR are vying & capable for the semifinal berth, which is extremely good for the tournament & the competition. Each of these teams are neck to neck in the race & its quite difficult to choose a particular winner.

Lets quickly evaluate each team :

Delhi Dare Devils : The team looks very solid in its batting line up, inspite of the fact that the dreaded opening pair of Sehwag & Gambhir have not fired as yet. With Sehwag out due to injury, David Warner has lapped up the opportunities that has come his way & he has already made his mark in the team as a big hitter. AB De Villiers, Dilshan & Karthik have been in fine form in the middle order, finishing the game while chasing & the bowling looks quite tight with Ashish Nehra, Nannes, Amit Mishra, Vettori & Pradeep Sangwan, all firing at the appropriate time for the team. The team has won five of the seven matches played till now & heads the table. Looks a very balanced team on paper & certain to make to the semis unless there is a debacle of sorts.

Chennai Super Kings : The last year's finalist started the tounament rather poorly with a loss in the opening game, have clawed their way back. The team is probably the most balanced on paper, with the burly Hayden, wearing the orange cap as the leading scorer till now & carrying the brunt of the scoring upfront with brilliant support from Suresh Raina in the middle, who also is in superb nick. The loss of Flintoff really has not hit them, as Dhoni has now found form after a rather subdued performance till now. Along with Jacob Oram, Parthiv Patel, Albie Morkel & Badrinath, the batting looks unending & gives reason to believe that any target is gettable. The bowling has been ably handled by the spin master Murali & Balaji upfront with some decisive support from Sudeep Tyagi & Shadab Jakati, both excellent finds for CSK in this tournament. The other players have also been contributing, & CSK looks quite sure of reaching the semis.

Rajasthan Royals : Last year's champion started this edition with a huge loss & like many others, I had reasons to believe that this team would not be able to make a mark this time around. The loss of key players like Shane Watson, Sohail Tanvir, both stars of the last year, made the team look rather weak against the other heavy weights. However, the brilliant captaincy of Shane Warne & his magical charm on the young recruits seems to have been casting a web & the team has surprised almost all the critics with their performance. Yusuf Pathan has been brutal in batting, to say the least, & he has seen the team home from most unprobable situations including a Super Over win against KKR. There has been able assistance from utility players like Ravindra Jadeja, Mascarenhas, S Raut & others. With Smith now finding his touch along with Ojha at the top of the order, going beyond 200 runs looked like a cake walk, as they demolished KXIP in their last game. The bowling has been masterfully handled by Warnie, & despite being weak on paper, this team seems to continue their Royal Roller Coaster run, humbling stronger teams in their run to the semis. If they make it to the last four, at least on spirit & enthusiasm, the RR should be able to spring surprises & script winners that dreams are written of.

Deccan Chargers Hyderabad : Last year's laggards have been a headache for most of the teams, & under Gilchrist, the team seems to have found their winning ways. Starting with an emphatic win, the DCH went from strength to strength, only to falter when things looked in their control. The dreaded opening pair of Gilly & Gibbs can tear apart any attack & whenever they have clicked, the game hase been won most comfortably. With Rohit Sharma, Dyawne Smith & V Rao managing the middle order wonderfully, the loss of form of Laxman & Styris has not been a bother till now. In the bowling department, Fidel Edwards has been a revelation along with RP Singh, Pragyan Ojha & Teja. However, the team seems to be losing momentum over the last few matches, & it would be interesting to see how they perform ahead. a couple of losses at this stage may prove costly for them, & the overdependence on the opening pair to take them through may just be the undoing of DCH.

Bangalore Royal Challengers : The BRC started the tournament in whirlwind fashion with a win in their opening game under the new captain Pieterson. But the momentum was not quite in place as the team lost crucial games & points & Peiterson left for national duty. Kumble took over the reigns of the team, & suddenly they are looking hungry for wins. The emphatic win over Mumbai Indians would do the confidence of BRC a world of good, as the batting & bowling worked just as per plan. With Kallis, Goswami & Utthappa finding form with the bat at the top of the order, Jesse Ryder, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli & Merwe, Boucher, all are managing the middle order rather well. In the bowling, Kumble has been economical & is getting good assistance from, De Preez, brilliant in the last match, Appanna, P Kumar & others. The team is capable to beating anyone on their day, & has the potential to make it to the semis. However, its going to be a tough task ahead.

Kings XI Punjab : KXIP under the mercurial leadership of Yuvraj keeps raising hopes & then dashing them again. This team has had rains playing spoilsports to them at the beginning of the tournament, but just when they looked good to gain ground they have lost crucial matches. Couple of nail biting finishes have left them gasping for breath, & the team is yet to play to its full potential. With reliable Ravi Bopara gone for National service to England, the top order looks a little brittle. Return of Simon Katich should lend some solidity now & the middle order is extremely strong with Yuvi, Sangakkara, Mahela & Pathan. Bowling is being marshalled by Pathan, Piyush Chawla & Powar mainly with some fringe support. Yuvi needs to be in top gear to take the team to the last four. As of now the KXIP has faltered to decieve.

Mumbai Indians : Mumbai Indians on paper looks to be one of the most formidable team in the tournament. However, uptill now, they have been brilliant one one day & completely out of sync the other, which is most difficult to understand. The team under Sachin, seems to be a very happy unit, hungry for success. Players seem to compliment & support each other. With Sachin & Sanath at the top of the order, & Duminy, Bravo, Nayyar & Dhawan covering the middle order, batting looks wonderfully balanced. Each of these batsman capable to decimating any bowling on their day. Bowling has been magnificient by Lasith Malinga, with able support form Zaheer, Bhajji and others. However, the team is yet to fire as a real winning combination, & is at present languising just above the KKR in the points table. They have ofcourse played one match less than others & can be right on top if they win the next match against the Deccan Chargers. This team has all the right ingredients to take home the coveted trophy, & I would be rather surprised if they dont make it to the last four at least.

Kolkata Knight Riders : KKR is classic case of "too many cooks spoil the broth". The team started the tournament amidst a whole lot of unnecessary controversies. First of these, the multiple captain theory, the coach John Buchanan, which created an immediate rift within the core of the team. To add to this, Brendon McCullam was made the captain just a day before the tournament started, & he got no chance what so ever to settle with the team. The pressures of the job has had such an effect on him that Brendon, the free scoring batsman that we all know of, has suddenly forgotten to even put up a decent score.....a complete flop for this season. On top of that, with no captaincy experience behind him, he is all at sea to take the crucial decisions on the field. Chris Gayle, could not fire the way he was expected to & has now left for the Windies tour of England. Saurav, rubbed the wrong way by the coach & the Owner, Shahrukh Khan, looks a pale shadow of his past, & is hardly contributing, but for a few flashes here & there. Mortaja, bought in this year for such a huge sum is yet to bowl in the tournament & is wasted in the wings. There seems to be no planning interms of the combination & matrix of the team & the coach is still apparantly experimenting. In fact he has made a request to the organizers to allow more than four foreign players in the playing eleven!!!! It cant get more amusing & funnier than this, I guess. The support staff seems to be larger than the players....there is a & an assistant coach for almost every aspect of the game, & yet players, in the field dont seem to know the basics of the game. There is no plan, no combination, no zeal, no pride, & players are sleep walking on the ground. What could have been one of the explosive sides, is today reduced to a bunch of non sense. Barring Brad Hodge, & to some extent Van Wyke, Gayle & Ganguly, no one else has shown any character in any of the games. Till date they have won only one game & have lost seven. The whole world is simply laughing at the performance & the coach continues to experiment. Kolkata Knight Riders are currently going through their worst Nightmare.

Individually, the orange cap is with Hayden of CSK as the leading run getter till now with Raina, Hodge, Gilchrist, Dilshan & Kallis running very close. Some more players like Sachin, De Villiers, Yuvi, Pathan might quickly get into the race as well.
In bowling, Yusuf Abdulla of KXIP keeps the purple cap as the leading wicket taker till date with RP Singh, Malinga, Balaji & P Ojha hot in the heels. Bowlers like Jakati, Tyagi, Kumble, Vettori, etc are not far behind.

Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Gilchrist, Hayden, & Dilshan are the probably the front runners for the "Most Valuable Player" of the tournament as of now.

Lets hope to see some cracking matches ahead.