Wednesday, 30 November 2011



Roger Federer Roger Federer of Switzerland lifts the trophy following his victory during the men's final singles match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 27, 2011 in London, England.

Renaissance man, resurgent, resilient, fighter, greatest-player-of-all-times…  Over the past few days Roger Federer has become the darling of tennis media. I have heard more and more accolades being piled up on him, with all the flak aimed at him throughout this year turning onto flowery praise. Not that I am complaining, I am glad to see this turnaround both in his game and in the opinions of the followers of the game. The same people who proudly proclaimed that he was standing on a crumbling pedestal are busy placing him on higher pedestals, and he deserves every bit of it! His end-of-season surge which has resulted in three back-to-back titles including the prestigious ATP World Tour Finals for a record sixth time has won him the appreciation, and more importantly the respect, of tennis followers all over the world.

I have always been a Federer loyalist and have always refused to believe, despite his dismal season till September, that his career was over. Yes I did doubt his ability to play long matches after his particularly painful Wimbledon and US Open ouster and also once wrote (God forgive me) that he could be getting past his prime. Of course my next sentence was that I hope he proves me wrong and I am delighted that he has proven all of us wrong! Right now I am enjoying watching Federer play and taking great pleasure in the fact that he is back to his best tennis. I have also immensely enjoyed reading some wonderful articles and blogs that are have been written about him in the past week following his ATP Triumph. I decided to compile the best of the write-ups on him for the benefit of all fellow Federer fans. Following are the list of the ten most interesting articles written on Roger Federer’s resurgence. Enjoy reading!

Ø  Peter Bodo, The Bleacher Report

2.           WATCH OUT FOR FEDERER IN 2012
Ø  Greg Rusedski, Reuters

Ø  Kevin Mitchell, The Guardian Sports blog

Ø  Jonathon Overend, BBC Sports Blog

Ø  Udayan Nag, IBNlive Blog

Ø Ben Rothenberg , New York Times Tennis blog

Ø Davis Robinson, Live tennis guide

Ø  Tom Gainey,

Ø Chris Chase, Yahoo tennis blog

    Ø    Peter Bodo, tennis blog

After reading these accolades heaped up on Federer I can’t help but feel proud of the fact that he has justified the faith and love of his fans by returning to winning ways. I hope with all my heart that he carries forward this momentum to 2012 and starts the season which includes the Olympics high on confidence and on a winning note. Here is looking forward to a Roger Federer special in 2012.

Saturday, 26 November 2011



Wankhede! After Lord's this is the ground where we can say that India's dream was won. Ever since 2nd April, 2011, this ground has been considered as holy ground by all Indian cricket fanatics. I have been to Wankhede many times before, I was there when Mumbai welcomed the 2007 T20 World Cup winning team home, I was there for a number of IPL matches, but I had never been there for a Test match. Finally I got the opportunity to step into the illustrious stadium and experience firsthand the famed “Wankhede Experience” when India is playing.

I had only one day off and I hoped against hope that I will get to see India's batting. It was important because I had never seen my favorites Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman bat and also because somewhere I knew that this could very well be the last time Mumbai sees the legends of India's middle order, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman bat together in a Test. And who would not want to see a Virender Sehwag raring to go with Gautam Gambhir on this bowler's graveyard of a pitch? Also there was the golden opportunity of witnessing history as Sachin Tendulkar could, and almost did, score that much awaited 100th 100 in front of his beloved home crowd at a stadium he owns! With high expectations and higher excitement, I was at Wankhede, finally. And after spending a good seven hours there I came back enlightened.


I was delighted to see the long lines, the crowd, the buzz in and around Churchgate Station. Any one seeing that could not question the mortality of Test cricket, you could feel that Test cricket was alive and throbbing at the stadium. I read that this was this crowd was the highest turnout of the series and I was proud to be a part of those 15,000 strong supporters. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a sizeable number of women, elders and even children, who had come to the stadium. A lot of offices must have been empty as fans thronged to Wankhede especially toward the second half of the day. It was heartening to see a huge number of diverse Mumbaikars cheering as one for India.


Undisputedly the best bit of my experience was the stadium atmosphere. Just the sheer energy, the enthusiasm that you could feel sitting in the stands was enough to get your adrenaline high. The atmosphere was unbelievable, there were hordes of people screaming together, a tricolor flowing in almost every block. I was sitting in the topmost tier of the North Stand and it was then that I realized why everybody calls the North Stand the best place to watch a match at Wankhede. There was a group of fans, all dressed in the Indian team blues that came up with chants that got the crowd on their feet. Listening to some of their rhymes, my friend commented that these guys could easily become copy writers for ad campaigns! Sample this – “Sab ke muh main chewing gum hain, Sachin humaara Singham hain!” But the love was not only reserved for Mumbai’s favorite son, chants such as “India ka Wall Kaun – Dravid, Dravid” and “VVS” were also screamed at the top of their voices. Of course there were some chants that made absolutely made no sense, but the fervor with which they were cried out was enough for people to join in. The rhythmic beating of water bottles on the railing to the tune of lezim, the synchronized clapping, the timely Mexican waves, everything added on to the cricket frenzy. Indeed, there is nothing like watching a match from the North Stand of the Wankhede Stadium!


However even the Wankhede is not without its blemishes. One of the most depressing things to see was the blatant disregard of certain fans for the other 10 players in the team, with them being concerned only and only about Sachin Tendulkar. I’m taking away nothing from the Master, Blaster, but is he more important than the rest 10 people in the team put together? There were factions of the crowd that actually cheered the fall of Sehwag and Gambhir’s wickets! I am sure even Sachin would be disappointed to see this boorish behavior of these people who call himself his devotees.
Secondly, as a woman living in Mumbai, I had one of my ugliest experiences there. I was extremely disappointed to learn that such passionate cricket fans behave like cheap chauvinists. There is no place for sexists in sport, your gender does not give you the monopoly of watching sport from the stadium or otherwise. There were a certain section of fans who thought harassing a woman at the stadium is good time pass. Comments such as “Ladies log match dekhne kyun aate hain, aata kuch nahi hain, chila rahe hain”, “Item baithi hain” and singing of songs based on the color of clothes a woman is wearing is ridiculous. And to be on the receiving end of such catcalling is never a good thing.

Overall, my experience at Wankhede was extremely enjoyable. Just sitting there in the stands watching our team bat inspired me to work harder to achieve my goal of becoming a sports journalist. It gave me renewed hope as I imagined myself watching a match like this as a part of my job. I hope one day I can actually live that dream. Till then, I promise you Wankhede, I will be there to watch every Test match you hold!

Sunday, 20 November 2011



Testing times for Test cricket? Over the past few months this has been the underlying concern of most cricket writers and analysts. Hardly a day goes by when I haven’t read an article, quote or a tweet lamenting the decline or demise of Test cricket as the foremost form of cricket. And to add to the woes of the cricket-commenting populace, the masses seem to take no part in their crusade to save Test cricket. An empty stadium is indeed a sorry sight for anyone who loves cricket and we have had the misfortune of seeing this on more one occasion. Is Test cricket really dying? Has the temptation of limited overs cricket poached fans from following the longer version? Personally, I have no answer to this question. If asked what my favorite form of cricket is, my answer will always be Tests. Watching players battle it out in pristine whites over a span of five days is how I like my cricket. And as a Test-cricket loyalist it is disheartening to see the decreasing popularity of what is considered as the truest form of the game.

I began following cricket in the early 2000s and in this last decade itself, we have witnessed some of the best Test matches. Despite being on for five consecutive days, these matches were considered to be entertaining. But now with the advent of T20 cricket, IPL and the likes, the definition and context of “cricket entertainment” has changed to become “cricketainment”. But underneath all the glamour, hype and packaging of the shortest format of the game, lies the fact that its short duration and fluctuating tempo can never make for substantial viewing pleasure. When it comes to watching, a match that finishes in merely four hours can never compete with a match that lasts for five days. When it comes to winning, a match that can be won by a team that dominates for two hours can never compete with a match whose winner can’t be predicted till sometimes that last session of play.

Test Cricket is the Best Cricket. I do not make this sweeping statement for sentimental reasons. Nor do I say it because it most cricketers say that it is the highest level. I base this statement on the facts stated below.
Tests is the form that offers the toughest challenge for a player, it is the ultimate test of the talent, hard work, determination and skill of a cricketer. This explains why players like VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma are certainties for every Test India plays but left out of other formats and why a player of Yuvraj Singh's caliber is left out of India's Test squad. Any player can be a part of a T20 game but to be a part of Test XI one needs to have proved himself for years before he can be given a chance. That is why a prolific batsman like David Warner hasn't got the Baggy Green as yet. Playing constantly for five days is never easy. It takes a toll on your body and only the fittest can survive. Ask Brett Lee who had to give up because his body couldn’t keep up with the pace of the 5-day game, in spite of being successful with 310 wickets. Tests requires special skills apart from cricketing ones, it needs virtues like patience and diligence. Hence you see Test specialists like Justin Langer, Matt Prior and Tharanga Paranavitana. Unlike in the shorter versions of the game, Test cricket can never be an individual endeavor, it always has to be a team effort, is the format that truly reflects the ability of a cricket team. A single player, however talented, cannot win you a Test. Look at Shivnarine Chanderpaul's figures, with over 9000 runs and an average of almost 50, he has been the lone colossus of the West Indies side, but has still finished on the losing side more than any player just because the mighty Caribbeans are not what they used to be. For all these reasons, Test cricket is the best cricket.

Tests cricket maybe the oldest form of the game buy yet it will never go out of style. The sentiments that arise while watching a Test match can never come while watching a T20 game or even an ODI game. In which other format of the game will you find a team that was bundled out for 171 against the best bowling attack in the world will go on to score an imposing 657 runs? In which other format of the game will you find a team bowl out one of the best batting line ups in the world just one run shy of the target? In which other format of the game will you find one man score a record-breaking 370 runs and then come 10 years later to convert it to the first ever 400 on the same ground against the same opposition! Indeed such is the beauty of Test cricket that one can never predict any outcome or milestone, anything is possible. And for those who think the cricket is entertainment, the unpredictability of a Test match makes it all the more entertaining! From the time that I have started following the game, I myself have seen some of cliff hangers of a match that have been as entertaining, if not more, as a Virender Sehwag or a Chris Gayle blasting bowlers all over the park.

Here is a brief description of some of the best Test matches I have seen so far.
(Please Note: Matches played only after 2001, but I'm sure we have had better and more interesting Tests before that as well)

1.      India vs. Australia, March 11-15. 2001, Kolkata
This has to be by far the best Test match I have watched, and probably the best Test of the decade. India was the only country where the mighty Aussies hadn't won a Test series and Steve Waugh and boys set off to conquer the final frontier. It is very difficult to explain those five days in five lines but I will try. Australia score 445, bundle out India for 171 and enforce follow-on. India comes in to bat and for the next two days keep batting. VVS Laxman scores 281, the highest score by an Indian in Tests and aided by a Rahul Dravid 180, India declare at 657. in reply Australia are bowled out for 212 with a Harbhajan Singh 6-wicket haul. India wins the Test, by 171 runs, the series 2-1, and the rest in history.

2.      England vs. Australia, August 4-7, 2005, Edgbaston
Ashes, the greatest rivalry in cricket. Australia dominated the Ashes just as they dominated in Test cricket. But 2005 changed that, England recaptured the Ashes with a dramatic 2-1 victory which began at Edgbaston. England scored 407 and bowled out Australia for 308 and then got bowled out for 182. Australia was well on its way to victory but some gritty bowling by Man of the Series Andrew Flintoff ensured that England won the Test by the skin of their teeth and two runs.

3.      Australia vs. South Africa, December 17-21, 2008, Perth
Australia vs. South Africa always makes for some intensely competitive Test cricket and this was no less. South Africa pulled off an exciting run chase in the fourth innings by scoring 414 runs for the loss of four wickets. South Africa won by six wickets.

4.      Sri Lanka vs. South Africa, July 27-31, 2006, Colombo
This Test match will always be remember for the record breaking partnership of 624 runs between Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara., with the latter scoring 287 and the former creating the world record for the highest score by a right-hander with a mammoth 374. Sri Lanka won this match by an innings and 153 runs.

5.      India vs. Australia, December 12-16, 2003, Adelaide
This was India's first Test win on Australian soil and that is why it will always be a special Test. India won by 4 wickets on the back of a double century by Rahul Dravid and an Ajit Agarkar's 6-wicket haul.

6.      India vs. Australia, October 1-5, 2010, Mohali
Again a Test India vs. Australia remembered for VVS Laxman's super human effort. He batted with an extremely painful back and tail enders to finish one of India's finest wins over Australia. The fact that India won the match by just one wicket shows how closely fought it was.

7.      India vs. England, July 27-31, 2007, Trent Bridge
This Test was the foundation of India series win on English soil back in 2007. This was one Test in which every player contributed and will be cherished for the way the team performed collectively. India won by seven wickets and Zaheer Khan was named Man of the Match for his impressive haul of nine wickets.

8.      West Indies vs. Australia, 9-13 May, 2003, St. John's
This was the last match of the series and Australia had won the first three. But West Indies came up with a performance to hold their head up high in the final game. They chased down a record breaking mammoth target of 418 runs to win the Test by three wickets riding n magnificent centuries by Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The highest run chase by any team, and to top it all it came against the best team in the world.

9.      India vs. Pakistan, March April, 28-1, 2004, Multan
India resumed cricketing ties with Pakistan after a long time and both nations were ready to battle it out n the field. The first Test of the series will be remembered for the first ever tripe century by an Indian batsman. Virender Sehwag wrote his name in the history books of cricket by a scintillating 309 on the back of which India imposed a total of 675 that Pakistan couldn’t reach even after following on. India went on to win the match by an innings and 52 and also the series 2-1.

10.  Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan, July 4-7, 2009, Galle
This was Kumar Sangakkara's first match as Test captain, he did not have the services of Sri Lanka's chief match winner Muralitharan and the fluctuations in the game was enough to give even an experienced captain the jitters. In a match that both teams dominated equally, Pakistan came this close to winning the match before Rangana Herath, Murali's replacement came up with a magic spell taking out four Pakistani wickets in no time and Sri Lanka went on to win by 50 runs.

Watching these Test matches whetted my appetite to see more and more of such contests, or conquests as I prefer to call them as the team I supported won! Just last week we got a glimpse of what was one cracker of a match at Newlands. Australia vs. South Africa make for some delicious Test cricket and this series didn’t disappoint. If only we could see more such matches where the teams hang in balance, preferably for a good part of five days, I believe that Test cricket will sustain. Of course seeing empty stadiums, especially at Eden Gardens which hosts some of the most enthusiastic cricket fans, will always be a disappointment. But I would like to believe that had that India vs. West Indies Test been played on the weekend, we would see a healthier crowd. Also the fact that the opposition was West Indies must have deterred some fans. Nonetheless, cricket is very much loved in India, and I am hoping that this love will translate to stadium presence in the near future.

When it comes to cricket, I am the eternal optimist and as an idealist, I firmly believe that Test cricket will not only survive, but also sustain itself in the coming times. I do not offer self-thought solutions or suggestions to boost the five-day game, I merely express my view on why I feel that Test cricket is the Best cricket. And I hope that after reading this, more people begin appreciating the longer version of the game.