Thursday, 23 June 2011



Rahul Dravid hit a composed century in the first Test against West Indies and bailed India out, yet again. When wickets were falling around him like nine pins, The Great Wall of India stood tall and gave India a comfortable lead to defend, yet again. With a pain staking yet determined 112 batting for over 400 minutes and 274 balls with 10 fours and even a rare six, Rahul wall Dravid showed yet again why he is the premier No 3 batsmen in the world.

This is not the first time Dravid has had to battle it out in a test to save his team or help them to a respectable total; he has done it time and time again. Interesting bit of trivia – India has lost only one match in which Rahul Dravid has scored a century, against Zimbabwe at Harare way back in 1998. With as many as 32 centuries for the man, this is to say something.

Yesterday at Sabina Park the conditions were tough and the situation was desperate. Half the team was back in the pavilion for hardly any runs with two batsmen going on a duck. It was time for the most experienced player in the team to stand up and take responsibility and Dravid did just that. It did not matter that he had just landed three days ago and was still having traces for jet lag, it did not matter that he was playing competitive test cricket after months, it did not matter that he was exhausted in the heat and humidity, all that mattered was runs. Slowly and steadily he formed partnerships with the other batsmen and repeated the procedure every time a new batsman came on crease. He kept encouraging his partners, offering them tips and even admonishing them for a foolish shot. He stitched up the Indian innings thread by thread and the fact that after him the highest score for India was No 10 batsman Amit Misrha is to say something.

 Dravid stood at the crease with his characteristic stance, sweat pouring off his face as rivulets, eyes scrunched up in concentration and with only one focus – the oncoming ball. He played each stroke with great caution, leaving the ball often and attempting to play the decent deliveries. He ran his runs hard never letting his eyes move from the ball. Every time he saw a not-so-good delivery, he rose up and creamed the ball for a textbook shot which fetched him runs, he did not try to be flamboyant and hit only those balls which were there to be hit. He stood there stoic and strong and was the last man to be dismissed.

Indian cricket fans are used to this picture of intense concentration and have seen him do exactly this, a number of times in a number if tests. In his 15-year long career he has bailed India out and set up a win numerous times scoring over 12, 000 runs and 32 centuries with an average of 52, it is his this unfazed attitude and determination that has propelled him to the top and kept him there earning him the nickname “The Great wall of India’.  I believe that this line, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ was written especially for Rahul Dravid. As an Indian cricket fan I hope that he continues in this same vein and maintains his ‘The Wall’ status standing up and scoring big for India every single time.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011



The Championships, Wimbledon 2011, the oldest and the most prestigious tennis tournament is already underway in England. Traditionally there has been very little or no participation form India. But over the years, some stellar performances by Indian tennis stars have put India on the global tennis map and this has reflected in the Grand Slams as well.

Some of the most unforgettable tennis moments for India have come at the Wimbledon. As long back as 1954 Ramanathan Krishnan lifted the Boy's Singles title and gave India its first moment of Wimbledon glory. His legacy was continued by his son Ramesh Krishnan who won the Wimbledon Juniors title in 1979. Both the Krishnans played remarkably well in the Gentlemen’s Singles as well with father Ramanathan playing Champions Neal Fraser and Rod Laver and son Ramesh reaching the quarterfinals in 1986. The father-son duo brought India on the international radar but unfortunately there was no one else to carry forward their legacy for a long, long time.

Till 1999.

In 1999 the Indian pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati won the Men’s Doubles and not only brought India back on the tennis charts but also into the Indian consciousness.
It has been 12 years now and, the Indian Express as they are fondly called, are back to SW19 with one aim – to replicate their success. But unlike 1999, they are not the only Indians battling it out on the grass courts. Today we have a lot more Indian players taking up tennis and reaching up to compete at the highest level. 

This year, apart from Lee-Hesh, there are three other Indian players – Somdev Devvarman and Sania Mirza will be leading the Indian charge in both Singles and Doubles Championships along with Rohan Bopanna in the Men’s Doubles.

Somdev Devvarman has already managed to reach the second round after his German opponent Denis Gremelmayr retired hurt midway through the second set and will be meting No 18 seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia. He is playing in the Doubles draw where he has teamed up with Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Sania Mirza has unfortunately lost in the first round itself to Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano during which match she aggravated her knee injury due to which she is doubtful to play her Doubles match with Russian partner Elena Vesnina with whom she was the runner-up at this year’s French Open. She has previously reached the second round here in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 in the Single’s Draw and quarterfinals in 2008 in the Double Draw.

Rohan Bopanna along with his partner Aisam-ul-Quereshi from Pakistan is seeded fourth in the Men’s doubles Draw and had reached the quarterfinals last year. Both have been quite a successful doubles pair this year winning their first championship at Halle.

Paes-Bhupati of course have been India’s long standing tennis icons and are seeded third at this year’s Men’s Doubles draw.

Although it is heartening to see a lot more Indians at major tennis tournaments today, the country is still waiting for one player who will rise to individual tennis glory. No Indian player has ever won a Single’s championship at any Grand Slam, and has not even come close to it. Though Paes and Bhupati and have won a number of Grand Slam Trophies in Men and Mixed Doubles with both each other and other players, India still hasn’t been able to make its mark in the Singles Championships. Here is hoping that we get to see that day soon when an Indian will be among the seeded players at a Grand Slam’s Singles championships. Till then lets cheer for Somdev, Bopanna, Paes and Bhupati!

Monday, 20 June 2011



On 20th June 1996, exactly 15 before, began the second test match between India and England at the Home of Cricket, The Lords Stadium. Two Indian players made their debut in that match, both young 23-year olds – Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, and both could not be more in contrast. While for Ganguly it was a second chance to prove himself after a disastrous Australian tour in 1993, for old Dravid it was his first ever international appearance. And it was this Test match that would change the face of Indian cricket forever.

15 years, almost 200 test matches and a whopping 20,000 runs later, most Indian fans still remember and revere these two legends of the game. Both became captains of the national team, led the team to some fantastic victories and some disheartening defeats, amassed numerous runs and records and etched their names on Indian cricket history with permanent ink. Ganguly has now retired with 7212 runs in 113 Tests with 16 centuries and a top score of 239 against Pakistan while Dravid plays only Tests now and has 12063 runs in 155 matches with 31 centuries and a top score of 270 again versus Pakistan.  A lot has changed, but not the fact that it was this match that gave India the foundation to be the best Test team in the World.
Going back to the Lords Test, England were leading the series and India had chosen to field were batting second in reply to England’s 344 aided by a century by Russel. When both openers fell cheaply, a gangly Ganguly walked in at No 3, and after another 3 wickets, was joined by Rahul Dravid at No 7. Both debutants had played junior cricket with each other before and were batting now to bail India out of trouble. By the time the innings were over, Ganguly had scored a century on Test debut, got his name on the Lords Honor Board and given India a lead, while Dravid had made a fluid 95 and was unlucky to miss out on a landmark ton. Ultimately the Test was drawn and Russel was chosen as the Man of the Match. (Though I feel that this was unfair considering Ganguly too had hit a century, on debut, as well as taken 3 wickets)

15 years later why this match is still considered so important is because two young players made their debut in the highest form of Cricket on English soil making significant contributions and went on making significant contributions consistently, cementing their place in all formats of the game. These two then, along with Sachin Tendulkar, went on to form the pillar of Indian cricket which held t in place for over a decade. They toured all the cricket-playing nations, scored big runs and bigger victories and hardly missed a game due to injury or rest. They also formed the bulwark of Indian leadership with Ganguly as captain and Dravid as his deputy forming one of the most successful combinations in cricket. Today whatever the Indian cricket team is, it is due in large parts to these two men who made their Test debut on this day 15 years back, a fact acknowledged by everyone including World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni.

So this is my tribute to Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid – the Legends of Indian cricket.

Sunday, 19 June 2011



With the Wimbledon Championships beginning tomorrow there is a lot of tennis action to look forward to in the coming two weeks. This year the annual Grand Slam at SW19 is not only the pristine white uniforms, strawberry & cream and the original grass surface, but also about the stiff competition in the Gentlemen’s Single Championships as players are trying hard to prove themselves. Interesting to note that for the last eight years, no other man has been able to lay his hands on the prestigious Wimbledon Trophy other than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal! Here is a look at the top three men contenders for the elite Wimbledon Trophy.

1.     1.  RAFAEL NADAL
Age: 25 years
Seeded: 1
Last Wimbledon: Winner
Nadal is currently Ranked World No 1, has just won a grand Slam at Rolland Garros, is the defending Champion at SW19 and is riding high on both confidence and momentum. He is looking at a third title year and a further chance to establish his dominance over grass. The No 1 seed has a lot going for him and a third potential Championship but what stands in his way is his hesitancy on grass. Nadal’s weakness has always been his inability to dominate on grass which otherwise is his strength. If he plays tough and ugly as he did in the French Open finals, there is no stopping him from taking home the silverware.

2.     2.  ROGER FEDERER
Age: 29 years
Seeded: 3
Last Wimbledon: Quarterfinals
Having won the Wimbledon Championships a record 6 times, Federer is looking to earn a 7th title and some respect back here. Despite being a pro on grass, he had a terrible tournament last year bowing out in the quarterfinals and not reaching the finals for the first time in seven years. Although he is seeded No3 as per his rankings, there is little doubt about him being one of the finalists. He had an admirable stint at the French Open reaching the finals and ending Novak Djokovic’s magical run. If he plays anything like he did in the semi-finals against Djokovic, he might as well dream of taking the trophy home again.

Age:  24 years
Last Wimbledon: Semifinals
At a career best No 2 ranking, one Grand Slam and an enviable win record this year, Djokovic is playing the best tennis of his career, in his own words. This and the fact that he is yearning to get his hands on the Wimbledon Trophy is enough to keep him going till the end. He still hasn’t managed to reach the finals at SW19 and surely this is the year when he is going with more than a chance. With a purple-patch so illustrious that he changed the phrase to a ‘Djokovic-Patch’ which was only just broken, he must be striving to reach the finals and prove his capabilities on grass. What remains to be seen is can he be the man who can break through two barriers, namely Federer’s supremacy on grass and Nadal’s dominance in Grand Slams, and give Wimbledon a new male champion.

Friday, 17 June 2011




When a legendary West Indian fast bowler says that a current Indian pacer is in fact a spinner who just claims to be a fast bowler, how does an Indian respond? The man at the centre of all this, Munaf Patel calmly replied, “I am not going to be affected by any such comments. The thing is that I have been taking wickets in this series. I was part of the Indian team that won the World Cup not long ago. I am bowling well and feeling good about my fitness. The West Indies are not doing well, let him say anything.” Here is the statement that sparked off the lengthy panel discussions on Prime Time News channels and occupied reels of newsprint all over India – “When he [Munaf] came to the West Indies in 2006, he was quick, but now, he is spinning the ball.
Though Mr. Roberts is justified in his observation that Munaf has lost pace, he is by no means justified is his criticism of his bowling style. The main aim of any bowler is to take wickets, you could do that by either bowling at 15 kmph a la Brett Lee or by bowling consistently and maintaining you line and length a la Zaheer Khan. Munaf has been able to do the job of taking wickets quite well with 30 wickets in 16 games this year at average of about 23. He was a part of the World Cup winning squad and played his part in securing India’s victory being the third highest Indian wicket-taker. In fact Indian bowling Coach Eric Simmons hailed him as India’s unsung hero. He was also among the leading wicket-takers in this year’s IPL and more than once was the man of the match for Mumbai Indians.
With all this going for him, I personally don’t think he should be too bothered about his drop in pace, it’s something that has happened to most Indian bowlers from Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan to Ishant Sharma. As long as he is performing consistently and doing his basic job of taking wickets, pace and bounce don’t matter as much. The only aspect of his cricket that needs to be improved upon (and really importantly) is his fielding which is quite a big drawback. As for Mr. Roberts, respected as his opinion is, I think comparing a “medium-pacer” a spinner is like comparing himself to Muttiah Muralidharan.
Final words, a seamer should be judged by his wicket-taking ability rather than his speed because it’s the former that matters more.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Top 3 Indian bowling performances in Tests post 2001

Test matches are mainly won not only by tons, double tons or triple tons, but by the ability of team to take 20 wickets within 5 days. However it is unfortunate that in most cases a bowler’s feat goes unnoticed in the wake of a exceptional batting performance. Take this for example, all of us know that in the historic Kolkata Test of 2001 Australia assault was halted thanks to VVS Laxman’s legendary knock of 281, but how many of us know that Harbhajan Singh scalped a hat trick on that very match? Sourav Ganguly’s century at Brisbane in 2003 is admired for its grit on a bouncy Gabba, but few are aware that Zaheer Khan exploited that very bounce for a five-wicket haul. (This is based on the answers I got on interviewing several cricket fans) whether it is the fact that India has not had many bowling idols or the fact that most Indian bowlers have had a short shelf-life and are considered dispensable, it remains regrettable that we forget good bowling performance too soon. Here is a list of the Top 3 bowling performances by Indian bowlers in tests post 2001.

1.      Zaheer Khan’s 9 for 134

It was the second test of the Pataudi Trophy Played at Trent Bridge, Nottingham against England in the year 2007 and is probably best remembered for 2 things – The foundation of India’s first series win in England and Jelly Beans! But the highlight of the match was Zaheer Khan’s utterly devastating spell which claimed 4 wickets in the first innings and a fifer in the second bringing India to victory. Zaheer seamed, swung it both ways and was as potent with the old ball as with the new to trouble English batsmen no end to get them out for 198 and 335 respectively. Not to forget he had avenge the silly jelly bean prank which the facile English players had to resort to in order to get back at him ( while he was batting, because they hapless while he was bowling!) India went on to win the test by 7 wickets and Zaheer was adjudged not just the Man of the Match, but the Man of the Series as well.

2.      Harbhajan Singh’s 15 for 217

Never has a rookie bowler so absolutely dominated the mighty Australian team as a 20 years old Harbhajan Singh in 2001. Included in the side on skipper Ganguly’s insistence, he paid of his captain’s faith when he became the chief architect of destruction with 32 wickets and Man of the Series Award. Despite a match-winning hat trick at Kolkata, I believe it was his performance in the third Test at Chennai which is his best to date with 7 wickets in the first innings and 8 in the second. His superlative effort earned him not 1 but 4 place in  top 100 bowling performances of all time conducted by Wisden, the most for any bowler. It was since this series that Harbhajan became the first choice spinner along with Anil Kumble.

3.      Anil Kumble’s 12 for 279

While most people remember the 4th Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Sydney in 2004 for Sachin Tendulkar’s eloquent 241, this was also the match that Anil Kumble showed his brilliance even on bouncy Australian tracks. His guile foxed the Aussie batsmen and even though he went for runs he got the most Aussie batsmen when they threatened to post a mammoth total and run away with the match.  India did not mange to win the match which ended in a draw, but India did draw the series for the first time Down Under. 

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Top 3 Test centuries by Indian batsmen post 2001

The Indian cricket team is sitting pretty atop the ICC Test Rankings at the moment, but their supremacy is going to undergo a tough challenge in the coming months. With a grueling cricket season ahead including three very competitive Test series in West Indies, England and Australia, India’s mettle is going to severely tested. India’s resurgence and subsequent excellence in Test cricket began after that fateful match at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata in 2001 against Australia and it has been steep climb to its current position at the top of the table. This journey has been marked with some brilliant performances on the field and strategic preparations off it. Here is a look at the Top 3 Test centuries by Indian batsmen post 2001.

Laxman’s historic innings of 281 runs against the Mighty Aussies at Kolkata in March 2001 was Very Very Special for more than one reason. Australia was the Number 1 team in the world and led by Steve Waugh was out to conquer the Final Frontier by winning a test series in India, Australia had won the first test at Mumbai by 10 wickets, India had got out cheaply for 171 in the first innings and were following on, both the openers and Sachin Tendulkar had collapsed quickly while following on and India was staring at a sure defeat. But that was when Laxman played an innings that no cricket fan was ever going to forget! Captain Ganguly had promoted Laxman up the order as he was the highest scorer in the first innings and he paid back the faith of his captain in full measure. A mammoth innings lasting 631 minutes and 452 balls, studded with 44 immaculate boundaries later, VVS Laxman not only out batted Australia, he also wrote his name in cricket history in bold letters. In the words of the man himself, "Nothing can ever compare with that innings. 281 at Eden Gardens will always be ahead. That was my most memorable knock ever." In the end India won that test by 171 runs, went on to win the series and jumpstarted the rise of the Indian team we have today.

2.      RAHUL DRAVID’S 233
Rahul Dravid has often been called ‘The Wall of Indian cricket’, but I believe he is more ‘The Foundation of Indian cricket” he has orchestrated numerous victories for India on the back if his gritty knocks. Most of 31 test centuries have come when the team needed its Number 3 batsman to stand up. It was tough to choose his best innings for me but ultimately his 233 against Australia in the Adelaide test in December 2003 beat his highest score of 270 against Pakistan at Rawalpindi in 4004 and his centuries in both innings against Pakistan at Kolkata. The one thing clearly embedded in my mind about this particular innings and match is the tears of Rahul Dravid post victory. India had gone one up in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and this win was considered India’s finest away from home. Dravid batted for 594 minutes and 446 balls along with 23 fours and a six to reach his 233 which set up the win for India. India went on to draw that series 1-1 but completely deserved to be called the real victors of the tourney.


Virender Sehwag may have against his name the 3 highest scores by an Indian batsmen in test cricket with 2 tripe and 1 almost triple century and a extraordinary 196 against at Melbourne, but according to me his most special innings would be the first 300 by an Indian batsmen. 2004, Multan, India had just rejoined cricketing ties with Pakistan and this was the first test match of the series, India was batting first and opener Sehwag trolled in with his bat. What followed next was complete madness by Sehwag’s willow but to a cricket fan, there was immense method in his madness! Sehwag reached his triple hundred in style with a 6 of spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and enthralled audiences all over with his carnage of the Pakistani bowling. (That he got out soon after, and that to a lame shot, is another typical Sehwag story) India went on the win that match and the series and Viru went on to earn his famed title ‘Sultan of Multan”

P.S. There are a number of other brilliant innings by Indian batsmen in the last decade which have brought India to this level and many of which most people consider to be the best by an Indian batsmen. Also I haven’t mentioned a single century of the man with the most centuries in test cricket Sachin Tendulkar which will be considered blasphemous of me by some sections of cricket fans. However this is an opinion piece and these are the Top 3 tons according to me, you are welcome to disagree.

Saturday, 11 June 2011


What does greatness in any sport entail?                                  
 A: Achieving all the highest accolades in that sport.
 B: Being ranked No 1 for a considerable time period.
 C: Having record number records.
 D: The ability to come back strongly after every lean patch.
All of the above.
In modern times if the sporting world has witnessed one athlete who has constantly managed to fulfill all of the above criteria for sporting greatness, it has been Roger Federer. Since winning his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2003 and continuing this streak for 5 years, to approaching his 13th stint at SW19 ranked No 3 in the world and without a single Grand Slam in his kitty this year, Federer has come a long way. His ATP rankings are plummeting and he is out of the Top2, he is approaching his 30th birthday, he hasn’t been performing up to the mark this year, he has just lost another French Open Finals to arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal and he is no longer considered as the greatest of this era by some people. Yet there are a certain section of tennis fans and players that refuse to believe that the Federer star is permanently waning and who still hail Roger as the greatest tennis player ever.
There are a number of reasons for this unprecedented popularity of Roger Federer. Since 2003 he has enthralled the tennis world with his mastery and notched up a sizeable amount of accolades. Federer has won 16 Grand Slam titles, breaking the previous all-time male record of 14 by Pete Sampras, he won five consecutive men's titles at Wimbledon and holds the open-era record for most consecutive US Open titles at 5, he has won 67 championships in his career, won the ATP World Tour Finals titles a record 5 times and is the first man to be ranked World No. 1 for at least four consecutive years, he was also adjudged Laureus Sportsperson of the Year for a record 4 consecutive times.  However it’s not these records and victories which makes him, but the fact that he has bounced back every time he was written off and has emerged victorious every single time. It was the year 2008, he exited the Australian Open in the semis, was a runner-up at Rolland Garros and most importantly he failed to defend his  dominance at Wimbledon and ended up losing his Number 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal after 4 years at the top. That he managed to win the US Open was little consolation. The doomsayers had sounded is death knell and proclaimed that 2009 will see him fall forever. But Federer had a point left to prove. He couldn’t win the Australian Open and was the runner –up, but that did not deter him, he only rose higher. He went to finally capture his elusive dream and lifted the French Open Trophy for the first time completing a career Slam, he went on to win an epic Wimbledon Final defeating Andy Roddick and he was back on top. He had managed to silence his critics with his customized Wilson Six.One Tour BLX tennis racquet and win hearts with his phoenix act. 2010 again proved mediocre year for him with the lone Grand Slam win at the Australian Open and quarterfinal exits at both Rolland Garros and Wimbledon. But he topped it off in style defeating Rafael Nadal in the finals of the ATP World Tour Masters. 2011 was also a similar story with a semifinal exit in Melbourne and a similar prediction by pundits at Rolland Garros. But Federer made his racquet do the talking once again and reached the finals of the French Open in style defeating Novak Djokovic and breaking his winning streak of a mammoth 8 months and 41 matches! He ended up the runner up but still managed to show once again why he should not be written off easily.
Now, with 2 Grand Slams to there is still a lot to be seen and proven this year. It does not matter if Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi hail him as the greatest ever, what matters is continuous performance and positive results. Hopefully Federer can stretch himself again and shut his detractors once and for all. He may not have a lot of playing years left in him, but tennis is not only a young man’s game as we have seen over and over again. I believe that he has a lot of potential left and a lot of achievements to come his way even if he is not as dominant as he used to be on the tennis court. I believe that Roger Federer may not be invincible any more, but he is till incredible!