Thursday, April 28, 2011

Messy - Mourinho....Mesmerising Messi...the game Wins !!!

Pristine sublime one touch football.....almost a lost art these days, kept alive by a handful of ball players like Messi........skills that keeps an avid follower wide awake, gaping at the idiot box, even at 3.00am in the night. Watching the Champions Cup semifinals yesterday night, the El Classico between arguably the best two teams in Club football today, Barcelona vs Real Madrid, at Bernabau was a treat, though the match was marred by foul play & red cards. Barca won the contest 2-0 in the end.
Just three minutes from full time, Messi picked up a pass, about 50 yards away from the the Real goal line,...turned & dribbled past four bemused defenders, as if toying with them, the ball stuck to his feet like glue, swerved past a lunging Casillas, & rolled the ball into the far end of the post, in slow motion, while stumbling to a fall, as the Barca dugout went delirious......the home crowd stung into silence. Iker Casillas, the beaten goalkeeper could only applaud the move, as a mark of respect to the Footballer of the Year. It was truly a Messi night. It was sheer magic, touch play in symphony.....simply brought back memories of the 1986 World Cup, when legendary Argentine Captain Diego Maradona had weaved magic against England & Belgium, as spectators across the globe gaped in awed appreciation.

Under Pep Guardiola's able & inspired coaching, this Barca team has been playing fascinating football over the last three years......short passes, possession football & sudden bursts at the opponent goal, the team looks like a bunch of wizards on the field......"players from a different planet", as football fans & oppositions call them. Valdes in the goal, Pique, Puyol, Busquets, Dani Alves in defence, Xavi, Iniesta(he did not play tonight), Keita, Pedro in midfield, Messi, Villa(has joined the team this season) upfront....each a champion in his own right & a strong reserve bench. It really is a dream team. Its a delight to watch them sprayed all over the ground, running & passing endlessly, controlling the proceedings. It has been rare that they have lost....Guardiola, a player turned coach has been polite & humble, despite dizzying success, & has managed & mentored the team exceptionally. He has created & crafted wonderful football, that his team plays & enjoys. They do lose an odd match in a while, but they learn to accept & move on...playing the game in the best spirits possible....delighting millions of fans world over.
On the other hand is Jose Mourinho, the coach of Real Madrid, the prodigal child of controversy!! One of the most talked about coach in recent times. Almost everyone loves to hate him.....there is always something sinister about him....behind a wry smile, he is always scheming, always trying to get under the skin of the rivals by making pointed comments, taking a dig, always mocking, winning by hook or crook....actually mostly by crook!!! His style of football would always be criticised, as he coaches for destructive football. There is hardly anything beautiful about it. Play hard & physical, commit fouls if needed, but don't let opponents play, float long balls at the rival goal mouth & jostle for space, use set piece movement & win. Barring odd games & set pieces, nothing beautiful at all, but effective alright. To his credit, he has won major tournaments, including Champions Cup last year, when his team Inter Milan defeated Barca in the semis( it was sad to see the beautiful game of football killed). This year too, Real Madrid defeated Barca in the Kings Cup final last week, but the beautiful game killed.
Look at the teams he has coached in the past. Chelsea is now languishing, nowhere to be seen in prominence; Inter Milan(last years champions), defeated comprehensively in the quarters & are struggling in Serie A; Real Madrid, barring the Kings Cup win, are all but out in La Liga & Champions Cup. Each of these teams have very good players, rich in talent, but having been taught to play destructively, they have also destructed their own natural indeed is a sad loss. Coaches like Mourinho are like devil's family....they can never do anything creative or beautiful.

For the sake of the beautiful game that is football, let the Pep Guardiolas of the world shine, let players like Lionel Messi of the world play to mesmerise us......

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Anna Hazare.....Voice of the Common Man !!!!

It probably needed an injured soldier, Kisan Bapat Baburao Hazare to drive this initiative against the inept Govt. The lone survivor from a border exchange of fire during the Indo- Pak 1965 war, who was inspired by Swami Vivekananda decided to quit army & become a social activist.
Anna(as he is popularly known), came to limelight, starting with a movement to eradicate alcoholism from his village, Ralegan Siddhi. Through some tough measures, which included flogging offenders in public who were found in drunken state, even after warnings, Anna managed to remove use or sale of any tobacco, cigarettes, beedies & alcohol in Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Ahmednagar District, Maharshtra. His efforts paid dividents in establishing this as a model village & he was awarded Padma Bhushan by Govt of India in 1992. He motivated villagers to do Shramdaan ( voluntary labour) & was also involved in Watershed development program to build better irrigation system, which eventually led to improved cultivation in more than 70 villages since 1975, in the drought prone Vidharbh region of Maharashtra. He was also involved in diverse activities like improved education, removal of untouchability, milk production, collective marriages, gram sabha, etc, to name a few.
In 1998, during the BJP - Shiv Sena rule, Anna was imprisoned for three months, as he raised his voice against corruption & produced documentary evidence of a minister amassing ill gotten wealth......Anna was however released following a huge public uproar.

With his crusade against the rampaging corruption, Anna has now initiated a movement for the passing of a stronger anti corruption bill in the Parliament. The existing bill seems weak & incapable & hence the demand for a stronger bill.
Over the last so many years, almost everyday, the common man has been subjected to scams after scams....the headlines screams of  government officials & politicians gloating their dirty fingers in illegal transactions of money. From Bofors to Swiss bank accounts to 2G spectrum scandal to IPL row to Commonwealth Games to land allotment allegations to vote bank buy outs....thousands of crores of rupees is changing hands in money laundering.......the vicious circle of corruption just seems to spread its ugly tentacles across the length & breadth of the country. The bureaucratic red tapism keeps throttling the common man, as the slimy govt officials fleece the common man of his hard earned money!!!!!
After the Prime Minister rejected his demands, Anna has started his fast - unto - death protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi from 5th April, which has received unprecedented support from all over the country. From students to senior citizens, from actors to activists, from politicians to page 3 celebrities, from executives to bureaucrats, from businessman to common man, from sportsmen to spiritual leaders, from facebook to twitters,.....people from all walks of life have come together in unison to provide support to this movement, as the tottering Centre looks for respite & avenues to negotiate, as usual.  There have been protests in all leading cities, with thousands of people coming together in peace march, candle lighting & raising placards against the decaying corrupt situation in the country.
As an outcome of this movement, today, 6th April, Sharad Pawar, resigned from the GoM(group of ministers) formed for reviewing the draft Lokpal bill 2010. Let us hope, there are many more such resignations in days ahead, as corrupt politicians start giving up...bowing to this nation wide movement.

As Anna says, " The dream of India as a strong nation will not be realised without self reliant, self sufficient villages, this can be achieved only through social commitment & involvement of the Common Man".

Let us all join this movement & strengthen the voice raised by Anna Hazare....let us clean our Country from the core.

Vande Mataram.....

Monday, April 4, 2011

World Cup 2011....finally its India....colour Blue reigns Supreme !!

It may be coincidental....but as I sit to write, I notice, the blog dashboard has the colour Blue with the orange tinge...quite similar to the Indian cricket favourite colour has been Blue.....Everyone around seems to be immersed in colour all our Blues are washed away giving rise to a new era of Blue.....such is the impact of winning the ICC World Cup by India.

It was the evening of 25th June'1983, as Kapil's Devils lifted the World Cup at Lords, defeating the marauding West Indies in the finals....a feat which had every cricket fan then, rub his eyes with disbelief. Barring the eleven Indians on the field that day, on one had dared to dream. Defending a paltry score of 183, Kapil Dev ran down the mid wicket to catch an inform Vivian Richards out & the Windies slide began as the dream started to was simply unbelievable. India lifted the Prudential World Cup. I was then a college student, & cricket was still not a religion in India. In Calcutta, at around 11.30 pm in the night, after watching the procedings of the match over  a black & white TV, I celebrated India's victory by uncorking a bottle of Limca, as the city was generally asleep by then !!! With that victory, we started to dream, to believe in our potential,....from minnows, we had become potential Champions overnight.

28 years since then, the dream kept getting bigger & bigger,......each edition of the World Cup soared our hopes, the competition amongst playing nations intensified & became larger.....the demand of a billion plus Indians to win back the Cup only 2003, under Saurav Ganguly, we almost made it at South Africa, where in the finals we got overawed by the situation & were swept away by the Aussies & then 2nd April 2011 got the annals of Indian cricket...for ever !!! Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Men in Blue lifted the World Cup in the backdrop of the flood light washed Wankhade Stadium, as fireworks, blowing trumpets, & frenzied celebrations took centre stage.

2nd April dawned & the streets across the country wore a deserted look from about 1pm, as the whole nation in unison was glued to the screens, of every conceivable size & shape, in huddles of couples to a group to a crowd, cheering, jeering & praying fervently.....everything had come to a virtual standstill.
The Lankans won a controversial toss & elected to bat, as Zaheer opened the attack for India. His opening spell was simply mesmerising with three consecutive maiden overs & the scalp of Upul Tharanga, caught by Sehwag in the slips as the Lankans struggled at 31 for 1 in the first 10 overs. Dilshan, the nemesis of Indian bowling in recent times also perished soon, bowled by Bhajji, just when he was turning dangerous. Sanga & Mahela then slowly built the innings, but just when things were getting under control, Yuvi claimed Sanga, caught behind. Mahela kept the good work going with his quiet & classy elegance, as he was ably assisted by Kulasekara & Perera to bolster the Lankan innings. Mahela reached a masterful century, as Lankans blasted 63 runs from the batting powerplay. While Mahela held one end up with some classic, silken display of batsmanship, Perera hit 22 of just 9 deliveries including a massive six off Zaheer in the last ball as the innings ended at 274 for 6. His stunning 103 off 88 deliveries was testimony to his finesse & capability. Four years ago Mahela had produced another superb hundred against the Kiwis in the semis to take his team to the finals, but this one was more exquisite in application. Good combative total to challenge the mighty Indian batting line up.
The Indian reply could not get any worse, as Sehwag was removed LBW for a duck by the slinging Malinga in the 2nd ball of the innings. When Tendulkar too edged Malinga behind in the 7th over, with score reading 31 for 2, there was a death silence in the stadium, as hands folded to prayers, eyes started to close & heads started to droop. The billion plus prayers across the length & breadth of the country showed signs of response as Gambhir got a much needed reprieve at long off by Kulasekara when at 30. Sanga seemed either too confident or too consumed by the atmosphere, as he missed going for the kill, & Gambhir along with Virat started to pull back the match for India. When Virat was gobbled by Dilshan off an incredible return catch, Dhoni stepped in, much to the surprise & murmur of the crowd. Despite a insipid display till now in the tournament, Dhoni looked calm & confident, & both added 109 runs to take India to the brink of victory when Gambhir got bowled for 97, giving away a glorious chance of a century in the finals. Yuvi in next, along with Dhoni took India home to pull off the highest run chase ever achieved in a World Cup final. Dhoni hit a befitting six to win the match & the tournament, remaining 91 not out of 79 deliveries. It was a good match overall, with India deservingly winning the hurdle.
Dhoni was deservingly the Man of the Match & Yuvraj, the Man of the Series, as Zaheer was the joint top wicket taker of the tournament. For the Lankans, it was Mahela Jayawardene's century in the finals & Dilshan being the top scorer of the tournament, as any consolation. Sangakkara would certainly rue for not pressing the advantage, when India were at 31 for 2, & allowed them to come back in the game.

As most of us lost our voice & senses, screaming for India, the celebrations spilled over to the streets & roads......everyone was ecstatic & delirious with joy unbound....the country was alive & awake till the wee hours of the night, drinking & dancing & soaking in the feeling of being the  World Champions. The World Cup is finally ours. Sachin Tendulkar had finally earned the  silverware that had eluded him till now. It took him six World Cup campaigns to realise his best cricketing moment, as he tearfully acknowledged the applause & accolades. Meticulous hard work for more than a year by the Indian contingent, under the able guidance & coaching of Gary Kirsten, the lethal leadership of Dhoni, the will to win for Sachin, the never say die attitude, got India the World Cup finally........a celebration that will last at least for the next four years !!!! For Gary, he becomes the first South African to win a World Cup medal, even though it comes as a coach.

Incidentally, during the innings break after Sri Lankans batting, the cameras were purposefully beaming on Rajnikant in the stands, wearing the Indian jersey.....coincidental !!!...well as they say, if body can!!! With him rooting for India, there was no way in hell that we would have lost.

PS : Am curious on what happened to Poonam Pandey, the model who had promised to go bare in the Indian dressing room, if India won the Cup. that would be interesting to know, with eligible turks like Yuvi, Gautam, Virat, Raina, Yusuf & Sreeshant around !!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

World Cup 2011 .... India vs Sri Lanka - Finals preview !!!

So India face Sri Lanka in the finals of the ICC World Cup 2011 at the Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai on Saturday, ie 2nd April, 2011.

With the whole of India & Sri Lanka is going berserk evaluating, analysing, predicting & praying, here are some interesting trivia for my readers :
  • It is going to be a contest between the highest run getter in the history of international cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, for India versus the highest wicket taker in the history of international cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan, for Sri Lanka. 
  • For the first time in the history of World Cup finals, the two rival captains are wicketkeepers, Mahendra Singh Dhoni for India versus Kumara Sangakkara for Sri Lanka.
  • Both the teams have qualified for the finals of the World Cup 3 times till now, winning once & losing once. Both won the first time they entered the finals & lost the second time. Both incidentally lost to Australia. India won in 1983 & lost in 2003, while Sri Lanka won in 1996 & lost in 2007. This match will decide who goes ahead in statistics.
  • For the first time in the history of the World Cup, the two finalists are from the Sub Continent. This goes a long way to establish the growing strength of cricket in the subcontinent.
  • No team hosting the World Cup has ever won the Cup. The closest was Sri Lanka when they won the finals against Australia in 1996, at Lahore, Pakistan. Sri Lanka was the co host that time along with India & Pakistan.
  • Both India & Sri Lanka are the co hosts for this edition of the World Cup along with Bangladesh. This is the first time ever, that the two finalists are also the co hosts.
  • India will achieve No 1 status in ODI rankings, if they win the World Cup. They already enjoy the No 1 status in Test Team rankings.
  • In World Cup encounters between them till date, India has won twice, while Sri Lanka has won four times. The last contest in World Cup at Port of Spain, West Indies in 2007 was won by Sri Lanka, when they thrashed India by 69 runs.
  • The last encounter between India & Sri Lanka in a ODI was on 28th Aug'10 at Dambulla, where Dilshan tore the Indian bowling with a century, & Sri Lanka won by 74 runs.
  • Dilshan is the leading run scorer in this edition of the World Cup till now with 467 runs. Sachin follows him with 464.
  • Afridi is the leading wicket taker till now in the tournament with 21 wickets. Zaheer with 18 wickets has the chance to overtake Afridi in the finals.
  • According to Rajanikanth, if India plays the following players & in the following order, they will win the World Cup - virendeR sehwag, sachin tendulkAr, yuvraJ singh, gautAm gambhir, yusuf pathaN, ms dhonI, virat Kohli, harbhAjan singh, zaheer khaN, s sreesanTh, r asHwin.

Frankly, it is probably & arguably the best two teams which have reached the finals, & the match ahead promises to be a fabulous one. Both the team have enough match winners on their own rights. Both the teams are hungry for a grand finale & would put in all they have to cross the line.
Indians have better batters, as they bat very deep, while Lankans rely too much on their top four to deliver. Their middle order has looked dodgy & could be a concern if put to test. With Angelo Mathews, ruled out due to injury, the middle order would be heavily dependent on Mahela, Chamara Silva & Samaraweera. Indians on the other hand have far too fire power in batting to put up a fighting total or chase one.
In bowling the Lankans on paper have an edge, with Malinga, Murali, & Mendis, but Murali with injury might be struggling & replacement Randiv would be a gamble. They would seriously miss the services of Angela Mathews. Indians, however look better balanced now with Zaheer delivering at the top & Munaf, Nehra, Ashwin & Bhajji restricting well. Nehra may have to sit out due to injury, but then there is enough back up within the team.
In fielding, Indians have been doing rather well in the knockout stages, which is exceptional, but the Lankans are a solid fielding side.
I personally feel, the Lankans would win the toss & elect to bat, wanting to put up a total in excess of 280 & then attack the Indian batting. Dhoni too would prefer to bat first, I believe. If the team batting first scores anything above 275-280, it would well be a winning total. So the batsmen will have to come to the party & someone will have to take the responsibility & play a long innings. A Sachin or a Sehwag or a Yuvi for India as opposed to a Dilshan or a Sanga or a Mahela for the Lankans......each one of them have enough capability to win the match & become a super hero.
Thousands of years ago, as written in the mythological Ramayana, Lord Ram travelled to Lanka to fight & defeat Ravana & win back Sita. Now Sangakkara travels to India to win the World Cup ---- we hope not!!!!!
 We all wait to see which shade of Blue prevails, as both the teams are Men in Blue !!!

My prediction would be 52 : 48, slightly tilted towards Sri Lanka. However, like a billion plus Indian fan, I would love to dream that India wins the Cup.....