Monday, December 31, 2012

Flashback 2012

From 2012 these are the moments which stood out for me from what I have watched or read. Here is hoping for another wonderful year ahead filled with sporting drama.

Best signing of the year: Robin Van Persie. He just beats Michu because of the quality and importance of his goals.

Most inspiring moment of the year: Oscar Pistorius competing with able bodied men in the Olympics.

Worst coach of the year: Duncan Fletcher.

Most dramatic sporting act of the year: Manchester City winning the title with the last kick of the season via the swish of Serio Aguero's right boot.

Most painful memory of the year: The look on the face of Manchester United players after they came to know that City have scored in the injury time.

Most humiliating performance of the year: India losing 8-0 to England and Australia, during which they plummeted from No.1 to No.4 in Test rankings.

Most poignant moment of the year: Andy Murray giving a teary eyed speech after losing the Wimbledon final.

Most beautiful moment of the year: Andy Murray finally winning a Grand Slam at the US open, following an epic final.

Most enthralling sporting occasion of the year: London Olympics 2012.

Most comic moment of the year: John Terry lifting the European Cup in his full kit after sitting out of the entire match through suspension.

Coach of the year: Ivan Lendl

Best article I have read: "A sportswriter’s love letter.." by Rohit Brijnath. Here is the link for all of you.

Team of the year: Spanish football team. Battered everyone in sight.

Stupidest act of the year: Joh Terry sticking his right knee at the back of Alexis Sanches right in front of the linesman.

Goal of the year: Zlatan Ibrahamovic's overhead kick against England.

Best statistic of the year: QPR having more red cards than wins in 2012.

Most dominating performance of the the year: Rafael Nadal in French Open.

Best rumour of the year: Arsenal's talisman striker Robin Van Persie to join Manchester United. Oh wait..

Player of the year: Radamel Falcao. Even after considering what Messi has done, this kid has been nothing short of sensational.

Most heroic performance of the year: Fernando Alonso's title challenge in an evidently inferior car.

Worst sacking of the year: Steve Kean, because he should have been sacked a good 12 months ago.

Worst signing of the year: Fernando Torres. Yeah, I know the he was not signed last year, but some how he wins it hands down, just like the last 2 years!

Best celebration of the year: The Gangnam style by the entire West Indies team after their T20 WC triumph.

Worst style statement of the year: Djibrill Cisse's haircut.

Retirement of the year: Shahid Afridi. Though he may have made yet another comeback by the time you read it!

Best quote of the year: " I am quite bad at analysing technique. You have seen mine". MS Dhoni when asked to comment on Rohit Sharma's technique.

Athlete of the year: Usain Bolt. He somehow had the talent to live upto his own modest claims of being the best in the history, in the biggest of sporting stages.

Disgrace of the year: Lance Armstrong being found guilty of doping and stripped of his 7 Tour De France titles.

Achievement of the year: Sachin Tendulkar's 100th century. Sure, it did take its time to come but it is a monumental achievement, enormity of which we all will fully grasp only when we see the expression on the face of our grand children when we tell them about it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


You are the captain of your side. You side is trying to win one of the most coveted competitions which you have never won. You are playing against one of the best sides in the history at their home ground. You have a 1-0 lead from the first leg and you just need to be sensible and determined to protect it. In this situation the chances of you kneeing your opponent at his back when the linesman is looking straight at you to hold the offside line is pretty much nonexistent, isn't it? But if your name happens to be John Terry none of the above things apply to you. But sensible is not one of the words you usually associate with John, do you? Branding what he did as stupidity will be risky because that leaves us to find new definitions for Mario Baloteli's everyday life! In fact it is good to do a research to find out whether these 2 people are related in anyway and considering John Terry's free time 'activities' it is safe to bet on a successful research.

If anything beat his on-field stupidity, it was the interview he gave after the match. A man who was stripped of the national captaincy twice, being investigated by police for racial insults and slept with his teammate's wife said that he is "not that type of a person". Really John? I seriously believe that he thinks we all have the same intellectual capacity as Wayne Bridge. The only silver lining is that Roberto De Matteo doesn't seem to be as dumb as Kenny Dalglish to lead his team out with all of them wearing 'For JT' T-shirts before the Champions League final in Munich.

Anyways, coming back to the match Chelsea got their tactics absolutely spot on and by tactics I mean parking the bus in front of goal. When you see Didier Drogba as a left back, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what they are going to do (To be fair to Chelsea, this happened after John Terry had that brain freeze). They came with a Double Decker bus but what stood out was Barcelona's inability to break it or fall back on Plan B. Watching the second half, it seemed like an unwritten rule in Camp Nou that everything should go through Messi and a goal scored without his touch is an inferior goal. They have to understand that a ball which is fired like hell from the right wing by Danny Alves, bounces of the shoulder of Ivanovic and falls inside to inches of goal line is still a goal. There was absolutely no wing play yesterday. Didier Drogba may still be a beast of a left back but essentially he was playing out of position. There was no initiative from Barcelona to exploit it and time and again they played it through the middle trying to find an opening. As seconds ticked by Chelsea grew familiar with it so much so that their goal machine (yes you are right, I am kidding here) more-than-50-million-worth Fernando Torres found time and space to counter attack and kill the tie. But, that goal aside, if what Torres was doing on the pitch was worth 50 million, I am worth 10000 times of that to my company. At the end, their brave resistance paid of even with a brainless captain.

When AVB, took over Chelsea at the start of the season, gloating about his 3 year 'project' there was a growing feeling that it was time for the old guard at Chelsea to hang up their boots. But, if anything, what Roberto De Matteo has shown is a willingness to include them in the scheme of things, however short term it is. You don't just throw away that experience to the sidelines over a fortnight. It may still be the last season for the likes of Terry (I hope not, who else will inspire us to produce so many adult jokes on my twitter TL?), Lampard and Drogba and this remains their last short at the European glory. Bayern or Madrid, the final is going to be battle of epic proportions. Bayern will obviously want to win it in front of their home crowd and if it is Madird, Jose Mourinho needs no second initiation to remind Abrahamovic once again that it was wrong to sack him 4 years ago. When Manchester Untied crashed out of Europe in the first round itself, I never thought I would have so much fun this season. Well, John Terry definitely had a different idea!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

El - Clasico

El-Clasicos can't get bigger than this, with a possible exception of the potential Champions League Final at the Allianz Arena, come May 19. With the league title on the line, 4 points separating the bitter rivals, Messi and Ronaldo engaged in battles of their own, goals and red cards are almost certain, if past meetings are anything to go by. And eye pokes too if Jose Mourinho finds himself in one of those playful moods!

A win for Real Madrid and the League title will be almost certain to find its way back to Santiago Bernabeau after a 3 year gap. In fact, even a draw will suit them considering the 4 points cushion, but going to Camp Nou with a mindset and tactics for a draw is a cardinal sin. It is akin to going for a blind date with Jennifer Aniston in your worst outfit and slippers, hoping that you would nail her. It never happens that way. Jose Mourinho has never lost a league lead going into the last two months of a season but a loss against the Catalans and the Madrid players will start to feel the fear in the air.

I couldn't believe that Barcelona were 10 points behind Real Madrid less than 2 months ago because the quality of difference between the teams is not worth that many but as they say the league table never lies. Not that Barcelona were weaker than last season, far from it. But teams around are getting used to their style of play and they are coming with different tactics to derail their tika-taka, and Real Madrid were far more clinical while dealing with lower positioned teams. Still there are many who believe that, while going head to head, Barcelona are a better team than Madrid, proven by their outright and ultimately comfortable victory over Madrid earlier in the season. But the league is just not only beating your rivals twice in a year (Just ask Rafael Benitez, if you have any doubt) but beating those teams which come to your ground and put 11 defenders on the pitch. Another intriguing thing about this match is that both of these teams have got to deal with the small matter of overcoming a defeat in the first leg of the Champions league semifinal midweek. As things stand Barcelona needs to win this to stand any chance of winning the league and it is definitely Madrid's trophy to lose, considering the gap they have now. Bring it on squeaky bum time!

First Half:
You know that Barcelona are in trouble when they punt a long ball down the pitch in the 8th minute of the match. Madrid looked sharper and hungrier and were rewarded with a deserved goal, however scrappy that was. Mesut Ozil was the engine room at midfield who mastered Iniesta and Alves, which not many teams in Europe can claim to have done. For once Mourinho out-mastered Guardiola and showed the world that the title pressure can get to even the best in the business. I have never seen Messi chipping at the referee in any of the games I have watched but the fact he headed straight to referee instead of the tunnel at half time spoke for itself. If anything Barcelona have always shown an ability to come back against Madrid and an intriguing second half awaits.

Second half:
Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the Spanish League title done and dusted. Though there is still a mathematical chance for Barcelona to catch Real Madrid, I am ready to bet my entire saving (That is not much, for those who are thinking about to bet) on that not happening. A 7 point lead with 4 games to go with is wider than the Panama canal in footballing terms. The lasting memory from the second half is Ronaldo’s celebration at his winning goal. It politely suggested “Shut the fuck up you whining Catalans” to the 90000 thousand odd home supporters. As much as Madrid needed this victory, as much as Mourinho wanted to win in Camp Nou, I can’t help but to think that it was more important to Ronaldo as a player. Ever since he moved to Spain from Manchester United, he lived in the shadow of Messi losing individual battles, Clasicos, League titles and European titles. One more of those and an almost insurmountable mental block would have been built. I personally think that, in terms of ability both players are almost on par, but the way Barcelona play and form their tactics enhances Messi’s role and his visibility, along with the midfield masteros who provide defense splitting passes to him almost at will. It is almost impossible to think that the best team in the World failed to win their local league, but once again, the league table never lies.

In other news:
On a night in which the Spanish title race is technically over, Borussia Dortmund emphatically claims their second successive German League win. I like the competitiveness in German league but its coverage in India is horrendously poor. Neo Sports telecast gives me a feeling that I am watching a game being played in the space! It beats me how they get the camera angle and distance wrong in every match they show. In EPL I get this uneasiness only when watching Spurs at White Hart Lane where the camera position is so high. Now, is there any more twists remaining in the EPL title race? Personally I like to watch United claiming the title at the Etihad beating city. That will help to heal some of the wounds of that 6-1 defeat at OT. Everton will be tough tonight, but these are the kind of games Champions need to win when that big prize appears so near. The match is still 7 hours away but I am already starting to feel the excitement kicking in.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


It was in 2003 and I had already failed in my first attempt to clear an exam in my graduation course. The next chance came on 16th of December that year, failing which I would get only one more chance to clear that paper. But there was something more important than the exam on that day. It was the 5th day of the 2nd Test match of India’s tour of Australia and India were standing on the brink of a historic Test match win. Rahul Dravid was at the crease unbeaten and we needed 233 runs. As much as I was unsure of clearing my exam, I was confident of Dravid’s powers to see us home. Inevitably I skipped the exam, made myself comfortable in front of TV a good 1 hour before the start of play. I would later have an almighty struggle to pass that exam but it was well worth it. On a gloriously sunny afternoon in Adelaide, to add to his first innings 233, Dravid stroked a masterful 72, finishing with a square cut boundary. Steve Waugh took the pain of retrieving the ball from the ropes and giving it to Dravid, for there was no one more deserving than him on the field to keep it. The point here is the assurance and the confidence he generated of an Indian win as long as he is at the crease, something which we are so used for 16 years but going to miss when the first wicket falls when India play the next Test match.

Test cricket is a game which not only reveals one’s character but also enhances it, and if ever you need a cricketer to prove that theory Rahul Dravid is the perfect specimen. The values he had in his life always shone through his batting. Honest and hardworking, durable and dedicated, calm and courageous. Nice guys all around the world took extra pride in his success because he showed the world that they can finish first too! They say that genius is nothing but the ability to take infinite amount of pain and Dravid is embodiment of that. The care and pain he took to prepare for each series, each match and each delivery has been exemplary. In his chat with Cricinfo, Abhinav Mukund reveals one particular moment when he found that Dravid changed his shoelaces and tucked them deep after he got out as the ball flicked his shoelaces in the previous match. Attention to detail has always been his strength and ally.

At the start of his career itself he has made his aversion to the opening slot clear, but whenever India find that they are a man down at the top, invariably Dravid steps up. He continued his wicket keeper role in one day cricket even when he was ridiculed for some of the mistakes he made behind the sticks, for he knew that it gave balance to the team. There were rumours from some quarters that he will be given a testimonial match - one last chance to shine, one last occasion to say good bye- but whoever has said that obviously doesn’t know the man. For him, it has always been team before the individual. He has built his career on pride and selflessness as much as on technique and temperament. From the moment he knew that it was time to hang up his boots, he would not want to drag himself to the field for the sake of a public adulation. It would have been so unlike Dravid.

He bids adieu as one of India’s all time batting greats. His position in the pantheon of India’s batting greats may be behind Gavaskar and Tendulkar, but for me he remains India’s best sticky wicket batman, even better than the other two. The two half centuries he scored on a minefield of a pitch at the Sabina Park to win the Test match and the Series were nothing short of legendary. Dravid always stepped up when the conditions are tough and bowlers on top. I have seen him taking blow after blow on his body in the now famous Headingly Test match and flinch not even once. Most of our glorious Test wins under Sourav Ganguly were built on Dravid’s impregnable defense and superhuman efforts. When India started winning Test matches abroad, you would always find an invaluable Dravid knock in the scoresheet. From Rawalpindi to Headingly, from Adelaide Oval to Sabina Park he remained the best Test batsman during that era. Six months down the lane, when India play the next Test match and whoever walks out after the first wicket, we are going miss the assurance he always radiated. But the good news is that skipping exams for cricket may become less frequent!

Friday, February 17, 2012


Ajax Amsterdam vs Manchester United, Europa League, Round of 32, 16-02-2012

45 minutes to KO: The Europa league music is not as good as that of Champions league but no choice here. Still can't believe that MUFC crashed out of THAT group to land in Europa league.

35 minutes to KO: if anything is worse than having to watch Europa league, it is listening to those idiotic comments from the so called pundits on Ten Action.

30 minutes to KO: The team news is out. The trio of Jones, Nani and Cleverly return from injury and walk straight in to the starting eleven. Paul Scholes is on the bench though. Surely SAF is saving him for..err..we don't have a weekend game this time, do we? Struggling to identify anyone from the Ajax starting eleven, except, of course, Christian Eriksen who was a summer target for MUFC.

20 minutes to KO: Haha.. Ten Action is busy showing the feud between City and Tevez. I seriously hope that he comes back to the City team and derail their title charge. So much for that ' Welcome to Manchester' banner.

18 minutes to KO: Oh yeah, Ashley young comes back too. Lots of pace down the flanks with Nani and Young.

5 minutes to KO: First view of the Amsterdam Arena. It is big. It is intimidating too. Fans are very vocal and MUFC players are coming out of the tunnel in their blue and black away kit. Good to see Cleverly back. The kid has got real talent.

KO: It may be a packed stadium but nothing comes anywhere near the Old Trafford atmosphere. By the way Ajax enjoying the lion share of initial possession and to top it all, Nani sends a corner kick out of play straight.

12': It is not a 4-4-2 combination as initially thought. Rather it is more of a 4-4-1-1 with Rooney in the middle.

20': like the look of the team though it still lacks the final ball. Once Vidic comes back and we get hold of a world class forcing midfielder, this lot can very well emulate the class of 92. Both the sides with some slick passing moves but a clear chance is yet to be seen.

29': Nani's decision making still needs some improvement. He blasts one over the bar when 3 were waiting in the box. He surely gets an earful from Rooney and SAF shakes his head on the sidelines.

32': Build some muscles and make your presence felt in the box. That is what De Gea needs to do to become the World's best. Every other aspect of his goal keeping is fabulous as shown by his acrobatic save from a long ranger which was heading in to the top corner. But that save from Juan Mata free kick at Stamford Bridge still remains as the save of the season.

HT: Scoreline remains the same but my twitter timeline is going crazy as if MUFC have a 5 goal lead at half time. That is the best thing about being an MUFC fan. Zambia or Zagreb, Mumbai or Massachusetts, Atlanta or Antarctica, you will find an MUFC fan at any corner of the world and trust all of them to be awake and watching when MUFC play, whichever time zone they are in.

50': MUFC come out of the blocks with pace and purpose. One day I want to know what SAF talks during half time. Or does he really talk anything at half time? Or just distribute a case of Redbull to everyone in the team? :D

58': The crowd has gone relatively quiet as MUFC start to enjoy consistent possession.

59': That is the prized away goal. Ashley Young gives MUFC a 1 goal lead through a drilled shot from inside the box. And with that Paul Scholes replaces Tom Cleverly, a case of master slotting in for the student.

69': The 3000 odd away supporters making the Amsterdam Arena feel like Old Trafford. Not for nothing that we are called the best fans in the world.

75': Antonio 'the motor' Valencia replaces Ashley young at the right wing as the game moves at a furious pace. Ajax has no option but to attack and MUFC relying on the counter attack to inflict more damage. Real box to box stuff. De Gea has been outstanding tonight.

86': MUFC have one foot on the next round with Hernandez slotting in from a Rooney through ball. At 2-0 up and second leg at Old Trafford, the tie is as good as over. Surely?

FT: it is all over in Amsterdam. A perfect European away night for MUFC. Clean sheet, 2 goals scored and no injuries. Bye Bye Amsterdam. Old Trafford awaits. It is already Friday here and time to crash in bed. A day of red eyes and sleepy hours to look forward at work!