Monday, 2 March 2015

5 FUNNIEST STUMP MIC QUIPS OF THE 2000s

The stump microphone has been a great boon to cricket – helping umpires hear a knick, providing commentators with things to talk about, documenting evidence in case of conflict. At the same time it has also been a constant source of entertainment for the more discerning cricket viewer (or listener), thanks to the endless babble of wicketkeepers. You haven’t experienced a cricket match completely if you haven’t had your ears accosted by Nayan Mongia’s ‘Aai ga’, Kamran Akmal’s incessant ‘Shabaash, shabaash bhai’ and Kumar Sangakkara’s ‘Niyamaai’. From bowling tips to funny quips, from sledging batsmen to encouraging bowlers, the stump mic has given us memorable one-liners, hilarious sledges and some of the funniest moments on the cricket field. Presenting the five funniest stump mic quips, in no particular order, captured in the 2000s.

         1.      Dhoni reminding Sreesanth about the absence of his girlfriend

Let’s start with India’s Captain Cool, who seems to handle his fielders’ lack of concentration is his typical cool manner. In a Test match against New Zealand, S. Sreesanth appeared to be sloppy in his fielding position, which was promptly noticed by the skipper and his non-existent girlfriend had to bear the brunt of it. MS Dhoni was heard saying "Oye Sree udhar girlfriend nahi hai, idhar aa ja thoda (Hey Sree, your girlfriend isn't there. Move ahead.) Looks like Dhoni sure knows how to keep up the mood of both his team and fans!



         2.       Sangakkara attempting to motivate Pollock

The Australian art of sledging seems to have inspired Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara to a great extent. In his own words, ‘Sledging, as pioneered by the Australians, is a measured comment designed to get a reaction out of a player. Not to abuse someone or use obscene language.’ Here we see him ‘encouraging’ Shaun Pollock during a 2003 World Cup match, by reminding him of the expectations of the home crowd, with his tongue firmly in cheek, eliciting a smile from the staid Pollock as well. Who would have thought that sledging can be both subtle and sophisticated!



         3.       Flintoff riling Tino Best to give up his wicket

England all rounder Andrew Flintoff is known for a number of things – his Ashes achievements, his alcohol exploits and his habit of constantly talking up to opposition players. Many will remember him as being the source of Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes at the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 Championship, as it was Freddie’s banter that drove Yuvi to pummel the hapless Stuart Broad over. But his exchange with the West Indies’s Tino Best during a Test match had the opposite effect. He kept yelling ‘Watch the windows, Tino,’ pushing the tailender to charge forward against Ashley Giles, getting stumped in the process. Freddie was so delighted by this effort that he couldn’t stop giggling for the next few minutes!



           4.       Kaif spouting statistics at Mohammad Yousuf

     An India-Pakistan match can never be complete without some hearty banter exchanged between the two teams, be it Javed Miandad-Chetan Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar-Abdul Qadir or Gautam Gambhir-Shahid Afridi. This particular incident is funny not because of the sledging, but because of the deadpan-commentator manner in which India’s Mohammad Kaif delivers it. Pakistan’s star batsman Mohammad Yousuf was having a patchy day on crease when Kaif, in the slips, starts discussing Yousof’s match stats in an emphatic fashion. ‘87 ball khel lee, ek bhi chauka nahin maara,’ (he has played 87 deliveries but hasn’t scored a single boundary) he says, gesticulating around, while Yousuf smiles benignly. 



            5.       Dhoni informing Jadeja about the role of fielders

We started with MS Dhoni, so let us end with him. The Indian captain has uttered several gems behind the stumps that can perk up even a boring match, memorable being this advice about teamwork – ‘Vijay apna hi fielder hai use catch lene ke liye hi aage rakha hai, off mein bowl fenk.’ (Vijay is in our team; he is placed in that position to take a catch, keep bowling on the off-stump) and referring to England’s Ian Bell as ‘ghanti’ with calls of ‘Ghanti bajaao iski’ (Ring this bell) and ‘Ghanti ko leke jayenge’ (Let’s take Bell’s wicket). My personal favorite however is Mahi informing Ravindra Jadeja about the role of fielders, in a Test match vs New Zealand. ‘Ye ghoomega toh Pujara ko isiliye idhar rakha hai, voh udhar taali bajaane ke liye nahi hai’ (If the ball turns, I've kept Pujara in the slips for catching only; he's not standing there just to clap). Yes, that’s how ‘cool’ the captain can get when the job isn’t done well!




Monday, 23 February 2015

WHY WAS FEDERER MADE TO APOLOGIZE TO PAKISTAN FANS?

Did you know that in the India vs Pakistan match on 15th February in Australia, India beat their arch-rivals for the 6th consecutive time in World Cup history?
Did you know that during the match tennis ace and India’s most beloved non-Indian sportsperson Roger Federer posted his photo holding an Indian jersey?
Did you know that Federer has been made to apologize for posting that absolutely harmless photograph?
Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, Federer, the most successful tennis player, a UN charity ambassador and the second most trustworthy person in the world according to one study, apologized!
And we thought that we had no freedom of expression in our country!



Here’s what happened – the above photograph seemed to have hurt the sensibilities of Federer’s Pakistani fans and a Cambridge student, writing for Express Tribune, an English newspaper in Pakistan, claimed he had deleted all his Federer photos and taken a brief opinion poll in which ten out of 12 Pakistanis apparently felt hurt or betrayed. Here’s the original article – http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/26237/dear-federer-why-would-you-choose-to-bleedblue/

Now Federer is the brand ambassador for Nike, the same kit sponsor as the Indian team, and is known to follow cricket to a certain degree, owing to his part South African parentage. Currently in UAE for the Dubai Open, where he is the Defending Champion, this is what he said in connection with the photo in question, “It was more of a Nike thing to be quite honest. It was a Nike campaign they had because I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India so they presented the shirt to me. I support South Africa, and everybody knows that. The idea wasn't to spark any fire and I'm sorry if it did that.” He further added that cricket following depended on where he was. "When I'm in America definitely not. When I'm in Europe definitely not. But then when I'm in Australia and here (in the UAE) a little bit sometimes. So it really depends where I am in the world which sport I follow."

That’s that then, a sportsperson did what his sponsor asked him to do and when faced with backlash, dutifully apologized. But that’s not it! This issue might either die down in the excitement of the World Cup or another Dubai Open trophy, or become excellent news fodder and be constantly referred to in the subsequent press conferences of both Federer and Team India. While I respect every writer's freedom of speech and fan's freedom of expression, there are a number of things that annoy me about this supposed ‘controversy'. So here’s me using my freedom of expression to say why this is an unjustified overreaction.  Firstly, the language, which is infantile and accusatory, as suggested by the few excerpts below.

  • "But sadly it’s time to say farewell. And yes, this has to do with the picture you posted holding the Indian team shirt, and the hashtag #BleedBlue, overtly signifying loyalty to India.”So? Would you stop supporting a sportsman who has been such an inspiration to you (as suggested by the article) just because he supports a rival team in another sport? Whatever your reasons, cricket is only a sport, you know, not war.
  • “I’m upset that you chose to support India over Pakistan, publicly. This made it seem like your Pakistani fans are expendable (…) This public display of support for India represents a ruthless valuation of your Pakistani fans, based on their economic and brand impact.” He NEVER insinuated that, it was your interpretation of the photograph.
  • “After you posted the picture, I did an informal poll of the dozen biggest Pakistani Roger fans I know. (…) But 10 of the 12 felt seriously hurt or betrayed. Six of those 10 said you had acted “like a sell-out” and have stopped supporting you altogether.”
    Sell-out? Imagine calling a sportsperson of his stature a sell out? That’s rich coming from cricket fans of a country that have so many cricketers actually involved in being a ‘sell-out’
  • “I deleted over a hundred Roger posts from my Facebook wall as well as the photo collection I had painstakingly put together. I also donated my RF cap and my collection of books about you.”
    That says more about you than about him, actually.

Secondly, it seems that he is more offended by the hashtag Bleed Blue than by the image. I hope he realizes that it is the tagline of a marketing campaign and does not really reflect the colour of his actual blood. Technically, Federer is allowed to bleed whatever he wants or not at all, as long as he is doing his duty as a player, ambassador and family man. Plus, it’s a free world and he can support whichever country, in war as much as in sport. It is not like he wore the flag, cheered wildly for India, and desecrated the Pakistan colours. Just because the opinion of your idol doesn't match yours, doesn't make him any less of an icon or invite such scathing criticism on his integrity. Like, I love Iker Casillas but if he wants Pakistan to beat India in match and says so publicly, I won’t be cut up over it! Because I understand that it is a sport, even when played between two countries with bloody history. 

Thirdly, when you are a fan of sport, you are supposed to have some spirit of sportsmanship. This writer seems to lack that even though he has attempted to write a balanced piece giving his thoughts on why he thinks Federer did it. And any fan without sporting spirit shouldn't ideally question that of others, least of all a sporting legend. It just shows that you as a fan, and maybe as sporting nation, are not objective enough. What if Pakistan had won that match? Would you still have outraged over the innocuous image? Or laughed at Nike’s presumptuousness?

I’ll conclude by apologizing to Roger Federer, because shouldn't be the one to apologize. As an Indian, I was proud to see you with our jersey, as a  sports fan, I was happy to see you involved in other sports and as a cricket fan I am sorry that other cricket ‘fans’ treated you such. You are a great player and deserve the respect of every fan, irrespective of who you choose to support in other sports. All the best for your Dubai Open campaign and you can be assured of a billion Indian wishes. As always, Allez Roger, je t’aime!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

WHEN I MET KUMAR SANGAKKARA…

WHEN I MET KUMAR SANGAKKARA…



My favorite cricketer turns another year older today, and I am writing this not just as a birthday wish but as a fan tribute – What happened when his biggest fan (In India) met Kumar Sangakkara! 
NOTE: It’s a straight from the heart fan piece, very fangirly in nature!
I have been attending every international and IPL match he has played in Mumbai for some years now (with the exception of the World Cup finals) and have been trying to get an audience with him. However that never bore fruit till 21st September, 2013. It wasn’t a chance meeting, I won a contest! There was a #MeetSangakkaratSmaaash contest conducted by Smaaash, Mumbai and one of my friends, who goes by the Twitter handle @Arey_Yaar brought it to my notice. I immediately jumped at the chance and started writing…

Following is my written entry to the contest on “Why I should get an opportunity to meet Kumar Sangakkara?”

“ICC Cricketer of the Year, ICC People's choice Player of the year, youngest MCC Spirit of cricket lecturer, one of 2012’s Wisden Cricketer of the Year, former Sri Lankan captain and currently the fourth best Test batsman – Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara.
I consider myself to be one of Kumar Sangakkara's biggest fans and over the years have watched Sri lanka & Sunrisers Hyderabad matches just to see him bat & even supported him over my home team. There is something special about watching a southpaw bat & Sanga has always been one of the most elegantly entertaining batsman, especially when plays his trademark cover drive. And I am not saying it from a prejudiced fan's perspective, his statistics speak for themselves. Sangakkara has scored over 22,000 runs with the distinction of having the highest batting average at the Number 3 position after the legendary Sir Don Bradman.
His gift of gab has always been as popular as the video of him sledging Shaun Pollock at the World Cup match in 2003 as well as his gracious talk after losing the World Cup in 2011. But what I appreciate the most is the conviction in his words that reflects his passion for his craft and the love for his motherland as seen in the MCC Spirit of Cricket Lecture 2011. His goal has always been to protect cricket, which in his civil war-affected country, occupies a place of pride as a “panacea that heals all wounds” in his own words. He has been courageous to bring to light all the overt operations which threatened to tarnish the game he holds beloved and has taken a stand against the forces of power back home. It takes great courage to go against the organization that employs you to bring out the truth.
Personally for me he is among the greatest to have played the game, not just for his on field laurels but also for his off field achievements. He is my greatest sporting role model & I look up to him for his passion, dedication & sheer personality. My love for Sanga has always been a defining part of my identity, finding a way in my Xaviers Graduation Yearbook as well, where I was described as Mrs. Kumar Sangakkara, an epithet the entire Twitterverse already knows me by. From my family & friends to my professors and colleagues, all know me as the girl who loves Sanga more than any Sri Lankan. I have written numerous blogs about him & have been to every game he has played in Mumbai. However I have never got the opportunity to meet him upfront and interact with him, an unrequited dream which I now have the hope of fulfilling thanks to this wonderful contest by Smaaash. I sincerely request you to please give me this chance to meet my cricketing idol and make my biggest dream come true! Thanks!”

Needless to say that mine was the first name on the list of winners!!

On the day, I was waiting with my sister when I first saw him up close, and cheesy as it sounds, I did stop breathing for a moment so he literally took my breath away! And then it was my turn to go interact with him. The first thing I said was ‘Aywobuwan’ (hello in Sinhalese, thanks to my favorite Sri lankan girl @Yoshitha_k ) which got an appreciative ‘Nice!’ from him. He then asked if I was from Mumbai and what did I do? Small talk and an autograph later, I asked him something I’ve always wanted to know - does he really read Oscar Wilde & quote his Irish wit to people (a sly reference to his exchange with Kallis) To which he replied, “Yes of course, I do enjoy reading Oscar Wilde” Unfortunately by then it was time for the next person to meet him so I had to say goodbye. But not before he said it was a pleasure to meet me!

Although it was just a few minutes of interaction, it was a huge deal! All my adult life as a cricket fan I have spoken of little else other than meeting Kumar Sangakkara - my most favorite cricketer, my idol & my unabashed cricketing crush! Everyone has admired, idolized & been obsessed with a celebrity at some point, but when you are among the chosen few who get to not only meet but also interact with your idol & crush, it reminds you of how blessed & lucky you are! Thanks to everyone who believed that I deserved to & would meet Sanga. When I look back, I realize I have been extremely fortunate to meet both my cricketing loves (Binga & Sanga). 21st September, 2013 – indeed a day to remember…. Till I meet Sangakkara again!

Monday, 22 July 2013

THE YEAR THAT WAS: Where do we go from here, Federer?

THE YEAR THAT WAS: Where do we go from here, Federer?



The journey from July 2012 to July 2013, more specifically from Wimbledon 2012 to Wimbledon 2013, has been an especially unusual, unimaginable and an insane one to say the least, for Roger Federer. In one sentence, it has been a journey from Ecstasy to Agony. A year back, he was on top of the world with a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon Trophy, the record-breaking ATP World No. 1 Ranking and a shot at the record-shattering 300 weeks as No. 1. A year later, it would only be fair to say that the situation is down in the dumps, with an unprecedented second-round defeat, slipping down to World No. 5 for the first time in eons and an unceremonious end to a 10-year Grand Slam streak. Topsy-turvy is an understatement for the year that was.

The questions begs itself; how on God’s good, green, grassed earth did we get here? How did All England Tennis Championship’s greatest protégé, Centre Court’s precious ward, SW 19 grass court’s invincible warrior clad in pristine white reach a situation like this? Wimbledon is his first Grand Slam title, a Trophy he has lifted seven times, five of those back-to-back, and a tournament where he has failed to make the finals only twice before. Since his first taste of success in 2003, Federer’s relationship with the grass courts at SW 19 has been nothing short of a love affair with exactly Three plot twists – 2008, 2010 (Both Nadal) and 2011 (Djokovic). 2012 was a fairytale, where Federer recaptured all his lost and former glory vanquishing all his foes with a performance worthy of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’ crown prince. Then what happened in 2013? How did the Defending Champion lose and (adding insult to injury) in the second round to a relatively unknown player? And how did he not recover from it but fell further backward losing to a qualifier, Federico Delbonis in the semis of his next outing, Hamburg?

In hindsight, the beginning of the end probably began on the same day he won his seventh Wimbledon crown. Ever since that fateful day, Federer has never been the same again. He won merely two trophies after that, only one of which has come in six months of 2013.

Following is Federer’s Player Activity since Wimbledon 2012 –

2012          
Tournament Surface Round  Result Opponent Score
London Olympics Grass Finals Lost Andy Murray 2-6, 1-6, 4-6
Cincinnati Hard Finals Won Novak Djokovic  6-0, 7-6(7)
US Open Hard Quarterfinals Lost Tomas Berdych  6-7(1), 4-6, 6-3, 3-6
Shanghai Hard Semifinals Lost Andy Murray 4-6, 4-6
Basel Hard Finals Lost Juan Martin Del Potro  6-7(6), 5-7
ATP Finals Hard Finals Lost Novak Djokovic  6-7(6), 5-7
2013          
Tournament Surface Round  Result Opponent Score
Australian Open Hard Semifinals Lost Andy Murray 4-6, 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6
Rotterdam Hard Quarterfinals Lost Julien Benneteau 3-6, 5-7
Dubai Hard Semifinals Lost Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-7(8), 4-6
Indian Wells Hard Quarterfinals Lost Rafael Nadal 4-6, 2-6
Madrid Clay Third Round Lost Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 2-6
Rome Clay Finals Lost Rafael Nadal 1-6, 3-6
French Open Clay Quarterfinals Lost Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 5-7, 3-6, 3-6
Halle Grass Finals Won Mikhail Youzhny 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4
Wimbledon Grass Second Round Lost Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/5), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5)
Hamburg Clay Semifinals Lost Federico Delbonis 6-7(7), 6-7(4)


The same question again? How did we come here in just under a year? From the soaring heights of a Grand Slam victory to a depths of defeat in an ATP 500 event? The only possible explanation I see, and I say this with a heart as heavy as Thor’s hammer, is that that maybe, finally, we have come to a point where he simply isn’t the best tennis player on the tour at present.  Greatest of all Times? Yes, surely. Greatest in 2013? Not quite.

The biggest reason for this is the most natural of all – age. Federer is days away from 32 years of age. (August 8th is his birthday) Rafael Nadal is 27, Novak Djokovic is 26 as is Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet are both 27, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Stanislas Wawrinka are both 28 and Juan Martin Del Potro is only 24. Of the current Top 10, David Ferrer is the only player above 30 years of age. (Of these, only Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and Del Potro have won a Grand Slam)

The sport of tennis has evolved tremendously in the past few years, it is not just textbook technique & grace that can get you through, speed, power & stamina are more crucial than ever now. The recent Wimbledon finals bearing testimony to the fact, where two pairs of 26-year old legs were tired by the time the marathon 4+ hours finals were done. It is akin to the backhand shot – the classic one-handed backhand becomes a rarity as the more potent two-handed backhand gains importance. Similarly gone are the times where Federer’s adroitness was the deciding factor in matches, it is agility & athleticism that is foremost to the craft today, something that a 31-year old would difficult to adapt to at this stage of his career.

 That being said, it would be most unwise to write Federer off. This is the man who turned the tide in tennis in the 2000s by the sheer force of the number of his achievements, taking over every milestone there was, to be considered greater than McEnroe, Sampras, Laver, Emerson, Agassi. This is the man who has spend 300 weeks as the World No. 1 with 17 Grand Slams and 77 ATP Titles, an Olympic Gold & Silver, but most importantly an unmatched passion & precision for tennis.


So where do we go from here? While Roger Federer goes to play the Crédit Agricole Suisse Open, Gstaad, we Federer fans have already skipped ahead to the US Open. In the hope & faith that we will be redeemed in the finals Grand Slam of the year. Personally, I’d be gladly vindicated if Roger Federer bounces back from the terrible year that was to win another title (Note, I didn’t say, even though I wish, a Slam)  even if it is for one last time, and prove to the world, once again, that he is indeed the GOAT. I do not have enough optimism to sustain my fangirlism, but I have hope. Hope that Roger Federer will once again redefine renaissance and his resurgence will inspire the Federer family once again. We cannot know what the future holds, except the fact that Roger Federer is NOT planning to hang up his boots just as yet. As long as he plays, I will watch him & witness the poetic beauty of tennis, irrespective of victory or defeat. . It is hard being a Federer fan in 2013, but then, nothing easy is worth it!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

IPL & THE IMAGE OF WOMEN REPORTERS IN SPORT


IPL & THE IMAGE OF WOMEN REPORTERS IN SPORT


Indian Premier League 2013 is here! The sixth edition of the unprecedentedly popular Indian domestic T20 league is being watched and followed by millions. For the next 2 months, our TV screens, desktops, timelines etc. will be flooded with information about the IPL. In short, love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. And if there is IPL, there will be Extraaa Innings on Sony Max and if there is Extraaa Innings on Sony Max, there will be pretty looking females in the studio or stadium, dressed to the nines, armed with microphones, asking random, often clueless, questions to cricketers with no apparent purpose or meaning.

 A lot has been said, written, posted, tweeted about the two female reporters on Extraaa Innings this IPL - Karishma Kotak a contestant on the sad-excuse-for-reality-television-show Bigg Boss 6 and former Miss India International Rochelle Maria Rao, winner-of-a-beauty-pageant-known-for-its- imprudence. It is important to note here that I have nothing against these ladies. In fact I am slightly envious of the fact that they get the opportunity to roam around stadiums, talking to cricketers. My problem is with the ideology behind the recruitment of these ladies and what they stand for – that female sport reporters do not/ are not supposed to understand sport, they are merely supposed to be beautiful showpieces to decorate the screen for the watching audience.

This concept is nothing new or not restricted to the male psyche, it appears to be a universally established fact that physically attractive ladies with little or no knowledge about the game can be and make acceptable sport presenters and that is what annoys me the most. It is not a mindset, it has become an unsaid canon, and I have personally experienced such incidents in my short stint in this field.  In my final year of journalism studies I was asked by one of my professors, a senior reporter with a leading news channel, which beat I was interested in. I said sport and the immediate response was ‘Oh you’ll do well in the sports beat, you biggest advantage is that you are a woman’.  Recently I did an interview with Rohit Sharma and was delighted when he spoke pleasantly, politely and in depth. I was later told that this was due to the fact that I’m a woman and that he tends to be curt with male reporters. I have worked with Ravi Shastri for some time and he was always more courteous and compliant with me than with my male colleague.

What these incidents highlight is that yes, being a lady does have its perks in the field of sports reporting, and honestly, I am quite flattered to be treated like one in whatever interactions I have had with cricketers so far. But there is a huge, wide, deep difference in being a lady sports reporter and being a beautiful-but-brainless lady sports reporter. If Sony Max and Extraaa Innings want glamorously dressed women in their show to attract eyeballs, they can easily get intelligent and good-looking female presenters, such as former cricketers like Isa Guha, Anjum Chopra, Melanie Jones and Lisa Sthalekar. If that is too much, then established sports reporters from news channels or even normal ladies who understand cricket (go on Twitter, you will find many!) would do. But no, they insist on having ‘models’ with no knowledge to present cricket. In the words of Neeraj Vyas, business head, Max, “The focus is on fun and entertainment and not on serious cricket. The girls are not chosen for their knowledge of cricket. Give them some time, they will get better. The girls have to change every year to get in younger and fresher faces” As a female who follows cricket, as a female sports writer, heck even as a female, this comment is absolutely insulting!! If the girls are “not chosen for their knowledge of cricket” then on what basis are they chosen? On how presentable they look against the green backdrop of a stadium or on how well they can hold a mic or how tight can their dress get without splitting?

Let’s have a look at some of the inanely absurd things Miss Kotak and Miss Rao have uttered {complied on the basis of the tweets I've received, I don’t watch much of Extraa Innings I admit} on camera while talking to cricketers (Again I repeat, I have nothing against the ladies in question, it’s not their fault that they do not know the difference between spinner and seamer)

  1. Daniel Vettori was asked how important it is to vary pace being a 'quick bowler' Something similar happened last year when Dale Steyn was asked how difficult it is to spin the ball in Indian conditions. [SERIOUSLY?!?! Max should at least teach them what is to ‘spin’ and ‘seam’ before giving them the mic!]
  2. Dwayne Smith was asked if he’s done a lot of shopping [In the middle of a game?? ]
  3. Karun Chandhok was asked about the noise levels at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Here is his tweet - @karunchandhok Interviewer at #IPL match to me yesterday “Have you ever heard sound like this at a sporting event ?”….Clearly never been to a car race!
  4.  Andrew McDonald was asked who was taller, Gayle or him
  5. Alan Donald, sitting in the Pune Warriors India dug-out in their blue colors, was referred as the Sunrisers Hyderabad coach. [Poor Waqar Younis, always denied credit]
  6. I’ve lost the number of times KKR has been called KRK by them [a certain Deshdrohi will be pleased to be called upon by such pretty ladies]
These are just a few incidents in the first 10 days of the tournament. Imagine the list I’ll be able to compile by the end of May! (By when both the ladies in question would have got the desired offers from Bollywood and advertisers)

My point here is simple – I am a lady who not only follows cricket, but aims to work in the field of sports journalism. And instances such as these IPL hosts are detrimental to my prospects. Mr. Vyas clearly mentioned that they need glam models with no knowledge of cricket for the entertainment factor. But in the process he is negatively affecting the image of women sports presenters. In this era of gender equality, where women are probably doing better than men in many sectors, IPL is, as my friend at Alternative Cricket puts it, setting feminism back to a prehistoric age. They could have used Indian female cricketers and subtly promoted them and their game. There is no dearth of cricket playing or following women in India and many of them are pretty as well. If the aim is to have beautiful, eye-pleasing women, then it can be achieved without stereotyping sports loving women and insulting the intelligence of the wider cricket-watching population.

P.S. This article is inspired by Anjali Doshi @anjaliadoshi on Wisden India, but not a replication. Thanks to Anjali for a great idea!

P.P.S I would appreciate your feedback - thoughts, comments, suggestions, even accusations, on this piece in order to get a broader, interactive idea on the topic. Do share your views in the comments section. Thanks!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

YOU MADE ME A FAN, RAFA


YOU MADE ME A FAN, RAFA




Anybody who knows me, even remotely, follows me on Twitter or reads my blog will know this – I am a FEDERER FANGIRL. Roger Federer is the ultimate sportsperson for me, to the point of irrational insanity. So obviously I tend to not like the guys who defeat him often... That is till this Sunday. Till last week, I could never be accused of being a fan of Rafael Nadal. I’m not even sure if I liked him very much. Respected, yes but never admired. But Sunday changed that once and for all. After watching him life the BNP Paribas Open Trophy at Indian Wells after all that has happened in the last seven months, there is only one thing I can say – You made me a fan, Rafa.

Let’s back up a bit and run through what exactly happened to Nadal in the last few months. He won his obligatory French Open title in June and moved on to Wimbledon where in the second round, he was faced with a shock exit after losing to 100th ranked Czech Lukas Rosol in what was probably one of the biggest upset in Grand Slam history. Post that Nadal promptly withdrew from the London Olympics with a recurring knee injury, a forced hiatus that continued till the end of the year missing the US Open and the ATP World Tour Finals. His year-end ranking plummeted to No. 4 and talks were rife that Nadal will never be able to be tennis player that he was. That should have been the beginning of the end and that’s what everybody thought, maybe even Uncle Toni, but not Rafa.

2013 came and things just got worse with him pulling out of the Australian Open with a stomach infection and dropping out of the top 4. He finally made his much awaited comeback to tennis in February at the Chile Open on his favoured surface, clay. Unfortunately for him, once again he was stunned, this time by World No. 73 Horacio Zeballos who went on to win the tournament. Undeterred, Nadal continued his South American sojourn, his first time since 2005, to claim the clay court titles in Brazil and Mexico. But the real test to reiterate his comeback would be playing on hard courts against top ranked players, a test he passed in flying colours. Back on American hard courts after a year, Nadal started at Indian Wells seeded at No. 5 and was faced with huge obstacles in the form of Roger Federer (a match I would like to never, ever talk about)  Tomas Berdych (who I’m glad was beaten bad) and Juan Martin del Potro (who took care of Djokovic and Murray)

There is only one word I can use to describe Rafael Nadal’s campaign at Indian Wells – Unbelievable. This man, who is perennially in excruciating pain thanks to a knee defect since childhood, who was out with injury for 7 months, lost major matches to virtually unknown players and has a nemesis in hard court tournaments, defied all the odds, defeated the top players who beat other top players and went on to life the BNP Paribas Open Trophy, his 600thmatch win and a record 22nd career ATP Tour Masters 1000 title. As I said, UNBELIEVABLE.

Now a lot of tennis analysts and experts believe that the BNP Paribas Open is the fifth Major, after the four Grand Slams. If there is any truth in that, then Rafael Nadal may might as have won his 12th Grand Slam title already, on a surface he is least fond of. That in itself is a big feat, for a guy who was supposed to have seen the writing on the wall back in July.  Honestly, I am really happy & proud that Rafael Nadal won the Indian Wells title. In sport, superhuman effort when down and out is what counts and makes a difference! Before his comeback & knee injury, I couldn't be accused of liking him. But after seeing him struggle & bounce back in the last on year, it is safe to say, that I have been forced to convert and become a grudging admirer a fan!

Here are some Nadal quotes which I found to reflect the kind of person he really is and endeared me even more to me, thereby converting  me –

  1. "Seriously, it's impossible to have better comeback, no?"
  2. "That's makes emotional week for me, very important victory for me, winning against the best players of the world on a surface that is good for them."
  3. “When you have one comeback like I’m having, you remember all the low things, lower moments that you had during this seven months, doubts and all these things. So beating three Top 10 players and winning a title like this is just something unbelievable for me. Very, very happy and very emotional.”




P.S. THIS piece is no way means my love for Roger Federer has diminished an iota. He is the greatest player of all times and the sportsperson I love the most, but not at the cost of Nadal. Just saying :) 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

MS DHONI: CHANGE THE GAME


MS DHONI: CHANGE THE GAME

The abominable Pepsi ad poster I was talking about


MS Dhoni is a lot of things. He is a two-time World Cup winning captain, he is India’s most successful captain-batsman, he is the captain with the most terrible overseas Test record, he is the man who changed the face of Indian cricket. But amidst it all, he is the most influential Indian cricketer of modern times. Influential, not just as the captain of the Indian team, but also as one of India’s foremost batsman. One strong performance from his bat can change the game (No reference to the abominable Pepsi campaign by the same name)

We have seen this game-changing batting ability from him in spades whenever he has played limited overs cricket, in blue or yellow or in any other color; but it has been rarely seen in the Test whites. Of the 74 Tests he has played in his 7 and ¼ years career, he has scored 4107 runs at an average of almost 40 with a strike rate of almost 60 batting from No. 3 to No. 8 with 6 centuries and 28 half-centuries, receiving the Man of the Match award only twice. (Incidentally both against Australia) While these numbers are not disgraceful for a wicketkeeper-batsman coming at No. 7 in a team that boasts (or boasted) of extraordinary batting stalwarts, they are a bit anti-climatic for a player like Dhoni. He has never been able to stamp his authority on the 5-day game as he has in the shorter formats of the game. His overseas record is flaky and has never scored a century outside the sub-continent and of his 6 centuries, none has come in losses. In most cases, an average Indian fan does not even expect much when Dhoni comes in to bat in a Test, and in recent times he had become more of a tail-ender than R Ashwin. Why am I spouting statistics and highlighting Dhoni’s Test defects you ask? Because this just goes on to show how crucial, how utterly important Dhoni’s double ton against Australia in the Chennai Test was.

MS Dhoni scored 224 runs from 265 balls with 24 fours and 6 sixes at a strike rate of 84 vs Australia in the first Test at Chennai.

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored 224 runs from 265 balls with 24 fours and 6 sixes at a strike rate of 84. Statistically, this was his best Test innings, beating his previous best of 144 vs West Indies at the Eden Gardens in 2011. But qualitatively and influentially, this was his THE BEST Test innings. There are a many reasons for this – it was against Australia, it came on the back of dreadful Test series loss against England, it gave India a sizeable lead and it was at an amazing strike rate and it was the final clincher for India’s victory. He became only the second Indian batsman (after Sehwag of course) to score 200 runs in one day, 100 of which came in a single session! (Here let’s observe a moment of silence for Nathan Lyon) I have followed MS Dhoni’s career from the start and I have never seen him bat like this is a Test match. I was half expecting him to strip of his Test whites and reveal his yellow jersey underneath! Maybe because he was the playing at his favourite ground or maybe he got inspired by his ‘Oh Yes Abhi’ ad, Dhoni’s 224 against Australia at Chennai ‘changed the game’

On a serious note, Dhoni has set the tone for the rest of the series. A one-match lead counts for not much in a Test series unless you can carry forward the momentum, as we saw against England. Dhoni and his troops have their task cut out at Hyderabad, bat big, spin them out and take an unassailable 2-0 lead. Expecting the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to be a one-sided series is too much and Australia will be raring to go and get even. But Dhoni’s knock has given India the much needed momentum early in the series. Over to Hyderabad!