Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

I couldn’t miss out on a chance to visit an arena whose prodigal sons include the likes of Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Estadio Jose Alvalade - Sporting CP, Lisbon

Estadio Jose Alvalade – Sporting CP, Lisbon

Sporting Club de Portugal (Sporting CP), known outside of Portugal as Sporting Lisbon, is one of the Tres Grandes, meaning ‘Big Three’, clubs of Portugal – the other two being neighbor SL Benfica and FC Porto. I was in Lisbon on business when I decided to sneak in for a 45 minute tour of Estadio Jose Alvalade with four other Irish guys.

The stadium can host around 50000 spectators

The stadium can host around 50000 spectators

Founded in the year 1906 as a club that broke away from Campo Grande SC, Sporting CP’s new stadium, unveiled in 2003, is one of the three in Portugal which is certified ‘5 star’ by UEFA. This implies that the stadium is eligible to host finals of UEFA events – the semifinal of UEFA 2004, between Netherlands and Portugal, was played here at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. Portugal marched on to the finals, only to be halted by a resolute Greek team which registered a shocking win under the shrewd, but ultra-defensive, tactics of Otto Rehhagal.

View from Presidential Box Seats

View from Presidential Box Seats

Strangely, the first game played at the new stadium was a friendly between Sporting CP and Manchester United, a game in which the home team won 3-1, but lost a young star in Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United. Signed for a sum of 12 million pounds with add-ons, it is believed that Ronaldo’s magnificent performance against Manchester United tempted Ferguson to lay an attractive offer on the table immediately after the game. John O’ Shea, whose role was to mark Cristiano Ronaldo in that game, in Ferguson’s own words “could get nowhere close to him.”

Cristiano Ronaldo played 25 games for Sporting CP, and wore the Number 28 Jersey

Cristiano Ronaldo played 25 games for Sporting CP, and wore the Number 28 Jersey

The stadium also hosted the UEFA Cup final in 2005, when the home team Sporting CP, as hosts, lost 1-3 to CSKA Moscow. Sporting CP currently stand second in the table behind derby rivals Benfica SL. To their credit, Sporting CP currently have a squad capable to compete with the very best in European football.

The Press Room at Estadio Jose Alvalade can seat up to 125 people

The Press Room at Estadio Jose Alvalade can seat up to 125 people

But given that they aren’t among the Europe’s most elite, the financial muscle of ‘bigger’ clubs have often prized away their talented youngsters. Apart from Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, players such as Simao, Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Nani, and even legendary Danish goal-keeper Peter Schmeichel plied their trades here before moving to other elite clubs in Europe.

The Museum houses trophies won across multiple sports - Football, Futsal, Athletics, Handball

The Museum houses trophies won by Sporting CP across multiple sports – Football, Futsal, Athletics, Handball

One of the most sought after youngsters is William Carvalho, an Angolan born Portuguese international with three caps to his name. At 21 years of age, and an imposing frame at 6 foot and 3 inches, he’s a defensive midfielder who has been likened to Ivory Coast international and Manchester City super-star Yaya Toure. Carvalho has a release clause of 35 million Euros, and is being sought out by Premiership side Manchester United.

The stadium houses a museum right next to which is the table where players sign their contracts with the management

The stadium houses a museum right next to which is the table where players sign their contracts with the management

Rumors are afloat at Lisbon that Manchester United may break their bank to land the youngster whose wages will rise by an incredible 30 times! He’s currently at an appalling salary bracket of 5000 Euros per month, a sum that Wayne Rooney earns for a few hours of football. But given their struggles in midfield, it is said that David Moyes is seeking a towering presence in midfield, owing to the below-average performances of Belgian midfielder Marouanne Fellaini this season.

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Finals#2: ING (A2) versus Terrific XI (B2)

15th December 2013 (7:30 am  – 10:30am)

Terrific XI won the toss and elected to field

Two teams with similar fortunes in the league games now crossed swords in the 2nd Finals of the tournament. Terrific XI managed to put their best players on the park, and ING were missing its best batsman (also named Batsman of the Tournament) Somu from their playing XI.

A foggy morning meant that the teams had to wait a good half hour for the sun to come out to knife through the fog for the light to be permissible for play to begin. Nishith won the toss and inserted ING in to bat.

It would be a contrasting start for the Terrific XI opening bowlers Nishith and Shakthi. Nishith had trouble controlling his lines against the left-right opening pairing of Raha and Taha and conceded extras through wides. Shakthi on the other hand tucked the batsmen of any room and keeping things tight.

The tussle between bat and ball remained honest as batsmen didn’t have much difficulty milking the bowling for run a ball, but the bowling was tight enough for batsmen finding it difficult to really get after the bowling.

Every time the batting team looked to up the ante, they skied the ball and wickets tumbled. Raha was the first to go in the fifth over trying to get after Nishith. Vinod followed up the spell of Shakthi with good measure keeping the scoring to a minimum in his first spell. His around-the-wicket angle seemed to be difficult for the batsmen to score against.

ING

Victorious ING team with the winners’ trophy. © The CouchExpert

Shivaraj reaped the rewards at the other end as he knocked over the well set Taha in the 9th over to keep the scoring in check at roughly run a ball. Abhish bowled his leg spinners well with the odd full toss to further keep the batsmen in check.

ING further lost their way trying to get after the spinners as Ameya and Raghavendra lost their wickets. It took a settled partnership between Madhu and Paddy to get the innings back on track for ING.

Things would have take an uglier turn for ING had Madhu’s catch been taken at point pretty early in the innings. What was a struggle to go at run a ball for the best part of 17 overs turned around drastically in the 18th over with two back-to-back no balls. Madhu helped himself to a four and a six off those to launch a spectacular assault in the final 3 overs.

Paddy ran hard to put Madhu on strike as often as he could and Madhu pushed the score at a rapid pace eventually pushing it past 150 while making a vital 50. The final few overs ensured that Terrific XI will have to go over 7.5 and over to win the contest.

Terrific XI started off well with Pankaj and Shivaraj feasting on full deliveries by Paddy for boundaries. Raha followed it up with inconsistent lengths as well as Terrific XI got off to a brisk start. However, Paddy struck twice in his next two overs to send the openers back.

Terrific XI with the runners' trophy. © The CouchExpert

Terrific XI with the runners’ trophy. © The CouchExpert

Tarun though played his strokes to stay abreast with the runrate. He started with a lofted boundary over mid on to signal his intentions. His driving on the off-side was good as well to compound the problems for the ING bowlers.

Suresh gave Tarun good company as the pair went after the ING bowlers in an entertaining partnership punishing loose deliveries on offer – high full tosses, half-volleys on leg stump.

Tarun and Suresh put on 43 runs in a little over 5 overs to push the score to 75 just around the 10th over, when a loose drive outside off stump by Tarun was snapped up by the keeper. The tables turned a bit after that even though Suresh pushed the score above hundred at the turn of the 15th over.

A stunning running catch on the boundary by Sheshagiri when the ball looked set to sail over the boundary turned the game on its head as it got rid of the set batsman Suresh. ING tightened the grip on the game with straight bowling and well set fields to cut any boundaries to bring up a 20 run victory in the end.

For his match changing 50, Madhusudhan was declared the Player of the Match.

Brief scores: ING 151/4 in 20 overs (Madhu 51 n.o. (29 b, 4X4, 2X6), Paddy 25 n.o. (33 b, 1X4), Shivaraj 2/26) beat Terrific XI 131/9 in 20 overs (Suresh 29 (31 b, 5X4), Ameya 3/23) by 20 wickets.

Full scorecard with wagonwheel, pitch-map is available  here.

Performer of the Match: Madhu – MVP points 27.06

Post-match presentation:


The CouchExpert Staff

21st September, 2013

Match: CECC vs Infosys IMS

Venue: National Chemical Laboratories Ground, Pune

Toss: Infosys IMS won the toss and elected to bat.

With the monsoon rains just about abating post Ganesh Visarjan, the cricket season is all set to take off in this part of the world. School kids seemed determined as they were put through the paces by their coach at the National Chemical Laboratories Ground in the early hours of the day. The two teams that were to play the game today CECC Pune and Infosys IMS went about with their own preparation running around the outfield where grass was knee-deep across most of the ground.

It was decided ahead of the game that should the ball get wedged across the thickest portions of the out field, 2 runs would be declared! And with the 30-yards circle wiped out by rain, it was decided that there would be no field restrictions at all. The coin was flipped and it came down in the favour of Infosys IMS who decided to bad.

Mohit and Santhosh opened under overcast conditions. Goutham sent back Mohit in the first over as he tried to clear mid-on and holed out to Suhas who took a one-handed catch.  Sachin started with a few extras at the other end, but settled down after a slightly erratic first over.

Standing (L to R): Suhas, Rohit, Goutham,Sachin, Gokul (VC), Deepak, Kangan, Rahul Squatting (L to R): Pradeep, Yugank (C/WK), Gaurav

Standing (L to R): Suhas, Rohit, Goutham,Sachin, Gokul (VC), Deepak, Kangkan, Rahul
Squatting (L to R): Pradeep, Yugank (C/WK), Gaurav

CECC Pune bowlers soon started to weave a web around the IMS batsmen as they played and missed and found run making tough.  With the outfield being heavy, it meant boundary scoring was always going to be difficult and would be gold dust through the day. Goutham and Sachin produced a good spell in tandem as they soon reduced to 23 for 4 at the end of 7 overs.

Only Tango seemed comfortable as he stuck it out for Infosys IMS. His partners though seemed to be in a hurry in getting off the ground as Gaurav, replacing Sachin, struck in his first over as he had Siddharth hit down mid-off’s throat. Suhas, replacing Goutham generated good pace and lift from a dead track to have the batsmen hopping about.

Gaurav proved an able foil to Suhas as Suhas sliced through the middle order in a good  3-over burst. Gaurav generated equal pace and lift as the pair put on a good show of constant pace having the batsmen in constant distress. Only a flurry of boundaries by Viren right at the fag end for a 20-run 10th wicket partnership pushed the score to 97.

Gokul in action during a crucial 6th wicket partnership with Sachin. © The CouchExpert

Gokul in action during a crucial 6th wicket partnership with Sachin. © The CouchExpert

Chasing 98 for a win, CECC Pune lost Goutham in the 3rd over for 6. Rahul at the other end seemed to be in an aggressive mood as he managed to hit a boundary and constantly looked to go over the top. With him, Deepak and captain Yugank falling in quick succession, CECC Pune were reduced to 22 for 4 and had left a buoyed Infosys IMS more than a half chance to claw their way back in.

CECC Pune had to address the slide that was a mini collapse and needed to stitch a partnership of sorts to steady the chase. Bowling heroes Sachin and Suhas dug their heels in a hardworking partnership that involved some luck. Suhas though was out in a bizarre fashion 20 minutes into the partnership as he swung and missed at a delivery. Having missed the ball, he then instinctively replayed the drive as he swung his bat to practice his shot and dragged his back foot outside the crease and an alert ‘keeper Ujjwal stumped him.

Gokul walked in and with Sachin by now fully at ease they backed up the good work done by the previous partnership as they eased into the bowling with regular singles and the odd two. The pressure that the bowlers had managed to build up till that point now was disappearing as the strike rotated with constant regularity.

Slowly, the odd boundary also started to feature in the routine of singles and twos as runs were now being chipped away in chunks. With 20 needed for the win, drinks were called and on resumption both set batsmen, Sachin and Gokul departed as the game took another turn.

CECC Pune made a heavy weather of the last 10 runs as they lost 4 wickets. With the last pair at the crease, still 3 were needed for the win. And when Pradeep tucked behind square for a 2 to tie the score, the non-striker was pulled up for a short run at the keeper’s end to further heighten the tension.

Gaurav though, made up for his mistake by evening the scores off the very first ball of the next over with a single to fine leg. Pradeep finished the game off with a flick to the mid wicket boundary.

For a great show with the bat, ball and more so in the field with his 4 catches, Sachin was the performer of the match.

Brief Scores: Infosys IMS 98 all out in 17.5 overs (Viren 28, Goutham 3/13, Suhas 3/16) lost to CECC Pune 101/9 in 22.3 overs (Sachin 21(25b, 1X4), Gokul 19 (23b, 1X4))

Match Result: CECC beat Infosys IMS by 1 wicket.


Finals: GE (A1) versus NSN (B1)

25th August 2013 (11:30 am  – 2 pm)

NSN won the toss and elected to bat

The two unbeaten teams took on each other in the grand finale. GE, unbeaten in two tournaments now took on a rather newly formed team NSN who played some brilliant cricket of their own through this tournament.

NSN missed their opener Prakhar as he was unavailable and opened with Jeethenda in his place. Abhishek needed two balls to send him back and NSN were set on the back-foot straight away. Deb, who has had a mixed tournament joined hands with Avinash, who has had a brilliant tournament with the bat, and they both stitched together a small partnership.

Avinash fell prey to the ever consistent Dheeraj as the experienced GE looked to capitalize on the nerves of NSN on the finals day and succeeded too. It needed a calm and steady head in the middle to settle things for NSN and Satya fit the bill. He calmed Deb down and Deb was all better for it.

Match wagonwheel. © The CouchExpert

Match wagonwheel. © The CouchExpert

Satya and Deb batted through the next 6 overs with Satya orchestrating the innings. He stuck to runs in ones and twos and Deb played the role of finding the odd boundary. The plan seemed to work as the pair managed to put a 42-run partnership. Shimjith, though provided the vital breakthrough when he had Deb hit a return catch to him. And 2 balls later, an ever alert Arvind ran out Satya to take the sting out of NSN batting.

Having to rebuild again after having rebuilt the innings and with new batsmen in the middle meant that NSN had to play cautiously and put the charge on the back-burner for longer. With Manish too falling soon after the innings seemed to be heading to a collapse.

Gangadhar played a crucial innings at the end marshaling the lower-order with some powerful strokes to push his team out of a miserable total and propelling it towards a decent one. His unbeaten 34 pushed his team north of 120 which looked unlikely at the end of 15 overs.

GE with the Champions trophy. © The CouchExpert

GE with the Champions trophy. © The CouchExpert

Abhishek continued to bat at the top after his wonderful innings in the last game with Rajnikanth. Abhishek looked to be at his fluent best as he produced wonderful drives and was the dominant partner in the opening partnership with Rajnikanth. Abhishek’s strokeplay allowed Rajni to take time to settle in (not that he ever needs it) and the openers soon were motoring along at about 10 an over.

It all seemed easy when Abhishek lofted a square drive to be taken in a juggling act at point by Jithendra who caught it on rebound close to the ground. Four balls later, Shimjith was adjudged leg-before when he seemed to have nicked it on to his pad. A set-back on the last over of the powerplay meant NSN were not allowed a foot into the door.

Arvind, unbeaten throughout the tournament, joined hands with Rajnikanth as the two of them first ensured there would be no collapse with some solid batting. Both looked content to finish the job at hand even if it meant not with flamboyant strokeplay.

NSN with the tournament runners-up trophy. © The CouchExpert

NSN with the tournament runners-up trophy. © The CouchExpert

Only with the clouds looming in and the chance of there being a shower did the batsmen show any need to finish the job ahead of time. Rajnikanth opened out and launched into a thunderous assault as did Arvind. The pair added an unbeaten match-winning 72 run partnership for the third wicket in a little over 10 overs to bring GE a comfortable victory with 4 overs to spare.

Abhishek acknowledged that his core of 7-8 players playing a key role for his team day in and day out through this tournament that he said was the backbone of his side. And for two tournaments running now, it seems to be the case with one senior player or the other stepping up match after match.

Gangadhar, on the other hand, was proud of his boys as well as it was their first serious tournament with this bunch of boys and he hoped that things would get better for them going ahead.

A jubilant GE team at the end of the game. © The CouchExpert

A jubilant GE team at the end of the game. © The CouchExpert

So, after 7 weekends of cricket, GE were crowned The CouchExpert T20 Champions. And deservedly so!

Brief scores: NSN 121/7 in 20 overs (Debakant 36 (36 b, 2X4, 1X6), Gangadhar 34 not out (28 b, 3X4), Shimjith 2/15) lost to GE 124/2 in 16 overs (Rajnikanth 52 not out (50 b, 5X4), Arvind 33 not out (24b, 4X4), Manish 2/33) by 8 wickets.

Full scorecard with wagonwheel, pitch-map is available  here.

Full scorecard with individual performance chart can be downloaded from here.

Performer of the Match: Rajnikanth – MVP points 20.91

Post-match presentation:



Finals#2: IDM Cricketers (A2) versus ACT (B2)

25th August 2013 (7:30 am  – 10:30am)

ACT won the toss and elected to bat

Rains overnight and constant drizzle at the start of the day meant there was a delayed start and as a result the game was reduced to a 17-over affair. And both teams were light going into the finals with Bharath and Shithu, batsman and bowler of the tournament respectively, for ACT and captain Kapil among others for IDM Crickters.

Vinay pulled a six to get the innings off to a rousing start and the intention seemed to be to make the most of the powerplay overs. The rains meant the outfield was a little heavy and boundaries later would  be difficult.

In the process wickets also were sacrificed as both Sharath and VInay were both preys of their own hunting methods. Rishab, batting in at one-drop and a very aggressive Deepak got stuck in and continued to look positive and score the runs at the pace their captain asked of them.

Match wagonwheel. © The CouchExpert

Match wagonwheel. © The CouchExpert

Deepak, in particular looked imperious as he batted with more freedom than usual even clobbering a six as he payed the role of setting the pace for the rest of the folks to capitalize on later. With Srikanth finishing his overs up top and the others looking less threatening than he, Deepak branched out to score runs on both sides of the wicket with equal fluency. Rishab played a great foil feeding him with strike as often as possible thou there was a phase where both kept hitting their boots with the bat hampering their running for a brief while!

The pair added 74 for the third wicket in just under 10 overs to setup the last 4 overs of the innings to the power hitters in ACT to push the score closer to 150. Benjamin used his brute strength to good effect and Deepak hung around to push the score closer to 150. They ended with 141, which seemed a high total on still a heavy outfield.

ACT with the winners trophy. © The CouchExpert

ACT with the winners trophy. © The CouchExpert

IDM Cricketers’ chase was rather bizarre as the wind ran out of the sails very quickly. A shortage of personnel meant they had to push their best batsman this tournament, Swayam, down the order and their lynchpin through this tournament – their opening stand – was changed for this game.

Prasen though was up to the task of the opener as he went about his task of going after the ACT quickies with the ball new with good intent, Heavy outfield, big outfield and a lot of spinners in the ACT ranks meant IDM Cricketers had to make the running at the top.

Prasen’s innings came to an end in the 4th over spin was already on show and Thomas scalping him. Swayam walked in and looked threatening. Unfortunately for him and his team, Melvin was struggling for timing and rhythm at the other end as he struggled to not just find boundaries, but increasingly difficult to even rotate strike as the spinners kept him pinned down.

The pattern would be commonplace through the innings as Melvin neither found runs nor got out thereby increasing the pressure on his partner at the other end. Swayam fell prey to the pressure and ended up run out to the pressure. The runs were more and more difficult to get and no one walking in found runmaking easy as ACT stifled all IDM Cricketers batsmen.

In the end, it was but a formality when ACT won the game rather easily by 5 runs. Barring a poor game right at the start, they have been the team of the tournament and a trifle unlucky not to be in the main finals.

Brief scores: ACT 141/4 in 17 overs (Deepak 58 (46 b, 8X4, 1X6), Rishab 27 (29 b, 3X4), Srikanth 2/32) beat IDM Cricketers 90/7 in 17 overs (Melvin 28 (48 b, 1X4), Thomass 2/23) by 51 wickets.

Full scorecard with wagonwheel, pitch-map is available  here.

Full scorecard with individual performance chart can be downloaded from here.

Performer of the Match: Deepak – MVP points 14.91

Post-match presentation: