Friday, October 28, 2005

L.P. Sahi in the news

Rahul Dravid is quite at ease with himself and demonstrates, yet again, that an articulate and thoughtful man can still lead from the front. In an interview with L.P. Sahi he speaks quite candidly about himself.

This exchange, towards the end of the interview shows that he is not one to be carried away in the wake of 1 comprehensive victory when there are 11 more matches to come.

Q: Is a good beginning to a series half the job done?
A: (Laughs yet again) One-twelfth of the job has been done...

And in another article in The Telegraph L.P. Sahi provides his insight on the fate of the previous captain, Sourav Ganguly. Oddly he has this nugget at the end of what is mostly an opinion piece:

Logically, he (Ganguly) should take Gautam Gambhir’s place in the XV and (if the Nagpur side is retained on Friday) Yalaka Venugopal Rao’s in the XI. But, then, every selection isn’t driven by logic and other factors come into play.

The "logic" part of this equation is hard to understand. In the two ODI's played so far, Gambhir has not been in the 11 (+1), while Venugopal Rao has featured in both but not batted even once. So what have they done to be dropped? The argument, no doubt, is that they made the side because Ganguly was injured. But what really boggles me is how he can depose two guys, one to get into the pool and the second to swim with the team.

Ganguly's last few ODI's have not shown the batsman to be in form prior to his injury, so therefore a century in a 4-day game should not automatically qualify him for a return to an ODI squad, once healthy. (I shall have an issue with the selectors if he is dropped from the Test squad, however, but I shall discuss that should it happen).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The South Siders get there first

After decades of futility, the Chicago White Sox are the Major League Baseball champions of 2005. They did this without any superstars and with very little fanfare and hardly any support outside the midwest.

Here are some interesting facts about this year's Chicago White Sox that I picked up from an article on ESPN by Jayson Stark:

• They won their final eight games in a row -- tying the 2004 Red Sox for the longest winning streak any team has had in a single postseason.

• They went 11-1 in their 12 postseason games -- tying the '99 Yankees for the best postseason record of the 11-season wild-card era.

• They played six road games in this postseason -- against teams (Boston, Anaheim and Houston) that finished a combined 69 games over.500 at home this season -- and won all six.

• They became just the third team in history to sweep a World Series after a season in which they were in first place every day of the season. Those other two teams were the 1990 Reds and the fabled '27 Yankees.

• This was a team that, amazingly, won 15 games in which it scored one run or two -- the most by any team since the '69 Mets.

• And this was a team that, including the postseason, went an insane 68-35 in games decided by one run or two -- the best record in baseball.

• They outscored the Astros by only six runs over the entire World Series and still managed to sweep it -- tied with the 1950 Yankees for the smallest margin by any sweepers in history. And how fitting was it that the grand finale was one last 1-0 game?

• How fitting was it that the White Sox wound up sweeping a World Series in which they never led by more than two runs at any point in any game?

Welcome back

Sachin Tendulkar made one of the most publicized and anticipated comebacks of any sports athlete ever. And he was gone for just 6 months.

More than the fact that he did well in his comeback, it was the way in which he came back that was illuminating. Gone was the tentative, innings-building, bowler-sensitive, Sachin that we saw post-World Cup '03. In his stead was a version reminiscent of his glory days - attacking, cheeky, aggressive, and above-all, looking to dominate the bowling irrespective of reputation, as Muralitharan found out.

Of course, this was one match, one success. Some days those aggressive chips over the infield may not be timed as well and the fielding side will be back in the business. When that happens it will be interesting to see whether Sachin will revert to his recent avatar or will he continue to tap into the Sachin of old. I hope it is the latter.

In the past couple of years, perhaps because the elbow was hurting much more than he let on, Sachin had regressed into the role of an accumulator. So much so, that the man who had made his mark playing Australia, at home and abroad, was no longer feared as much as Brian Lara by the Australian bowlers. In a year or so he will have a chance to rectify that opinion of theirs.

In the meantime, the frenzy over the return of the self-proclaimed "child of the one-day age" is at its peak. Many articles have been written about the return of the king. The one I liked best, maybe not surprisingly, was Harsha Bhogle's take on the man.

Happy birthday, and happy hunting!

When India toured Australia in 2003, to play that historic cricket series, (Steve Waugh's final stand), on the team was a bowler who was expected to be a passenger, a drinks boy, a gap filler, for the tour matches. He was drafted into the Test side for the Adelaide Test and has not looked back since.

Irfan Pathan's first four Test wickets were a veritable who's who of current Aussie greats - Matthew Hayden, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting. Of late he has also shown that he can be more than just a menacing swing bowler. Today he turns 21.

I hope and pray that his career stays on this upward spiral for a long time to come. Batsmen of the world beware, Irfan has come of age!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The strength of the pack...

.... lies in its numbers.

On October 15, 2005 the West Virginia University Mountaineers (gridiron football team) hosted #19 Louisville Cardinals, which joined the Big East Conference just this year. At the start of the 4th quarter WVU was trailing 24-7 and things looked really bleak. The defence then stopped Louisville and forced a punt. WVU got the ball with 13:10 on the clock.

The Mountaineers then proceeded to score 17 points to tie the game, with NO turnovers by the other team!

We scored a TD to make it 24-14, then recovered an onside kick (which, in hindsight, should not have been WVU's ball) and went down the field and got a field goal to make it 24-17, with 4:40 on the clock. The defence stood strong and forced the Cardinals to go 3-and-out and punt it back with 3:41 on the clock. We then drove 60 yards for a TD to tie the game with a minute left.

Strangely, with 54 seconds to go and 2 timeouts left, Louisville chose to play for overtime and ran out the clock.

We finally won in the 3rd overtime, after scoring a TD in each one. It was an exciting game and, for me, the most heartening part was this - in spite of being down 24-7, by my count, WVU attempted 30 rushes and 9 passes in scoring the next 39 points for the win. A very composed performance indeed.

Here is an excerpt from the the Big East Conference PRESEASON media guide which sized up WVU's running back situation thusly: "Sophomore Pernell Williams will see time behind [junior Jason] Colson. Junior Erick Phillips, who is returning from knee surgery, will also look to make an impact, along with tailback Jason Gwaltney, Josh Bailey, Brad Palmer, Justin Dziak, Owen Schmitt and junior college transfer Louis Davis, who will compete for time at fullback and tight end."

In this game against the Cardinals, a WVU running back had 31 rushes for 188 yards and 5 TD's, and 3 catches for 20 yards and another TD. WVU is to running backs what the Steelers are to linebackers and the Broncos are to running backs - a factory. The guy who did all this is a true freshman - Steve Slaton, who is not even mentioned in the list above!!

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Slaton has started only two games but leads the Mountaineers (6-1, 3-0 Big East, ranked 17th in BCS Poll) in rushing with 459 yards and a robust 6.1 yards per carry.

The remaining teams on the schedule are South Florida, CONNECTICUT, Cincinnati, and PITTSBURGH (home games in caps). These teams are 3-3, 4-2, 3-3, and 3-4, respectively. Hopefully the Mountaineers can retain their composure and earn a BCS Bowl bid.

Stay tuned for weekly updates on the progress of the Mountaineers.

Here we go again...(??)

Addendum to a previous post: After all, it is the thought that counts, right?

True to form, on October 18th, 2005, the Asian Cricket Council announces another star-studded cricket match for charity - this time to aid the victims of the massive earthquake in Asia.

Shaharyar Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), said: "During a recent conversation with Jagmohan Dalmiya [ACC president], an ACC-sponsored relief match was considered. We agreed to examine possible dates for an international match in the next few days."

Hmmmmmm, this sounds eerily similar to something that happened a few months ago. Lets see how long it takes before the ACC, having reaped the rewards of the positive publicity this announcement will generate, reneges on its committment, citing unavailability of players due to cramped international schedules. {It is December 26th, 2005 today}. I shall try to keep a track of this and see how long it takes for them to act upon their words. If they do, I shall happily eat my words.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The curious incident

When Greg Chappell's email was leaked to the media, the BCCI President condemned the action and promised to find out the source of the leak. He announced various times over the next few days that an internal "probe" of the matter was being conducted by the BCCI. The first time he mentioned this was on September 27, 2005. It is December 26th today and, as yet, no news on what the probers found. I have no illusions that the BCCI will ever announce who leaked the email as it reminds me of this exhange between Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Gregory in Silver Blaze.

Inspector Gregory: “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Sherlock Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Inspector Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Sherlock Holmes: “That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

(If you haven't read Silver Blaze, you should! Sherlock Holmes solves a case primarily based on the above information).

Biting off more than one can chew

People who are unaware of the implications of having exotic pets can wreck havoc with ecosystems by releasing their "pets" when they become too cumbersome (or big, or dangerous) to handle.

In Florida the Burmese python has been found in alarming numbers recently. How formidable are the pythons? They are unafraid of taking on alligators. But it does not always pay off for them. Check this out. Click on the photograph to get a clearer picture.

(Warning: if gory pictures are not your cup of tea, you may not want to enlarge the picture)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Graduate

Harsha Bhogle is one of India's more erudite sportswriters. For years, he has followed and reported on cricket and usually provides a fan's perspective of the game. With Indian cricket being dragged through the muck by the shenanigans of the BCCI, Harsha cries out for Sachin Tendulkar to come back and shine once more. The more disturbing thing, for me, is the underlying sense of frustration and despair that courses through the entire article.

Will the BCCI honchos wake up and turn things around anytime soon? Why do I feel like I already know the answer? Why does it not make me smile?