Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

THANK YOU SACHIN!

Posted: December 24, 2012 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, Opinion
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Kaustubh Pimputkar

“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.”

Finally that moment came, thanks to media, thanks to critics. Thanks for not giving us a chance to watch him bat for the last time. What Mayans predicated became true, finally something happened which came as a shocker. A person who played 463 matches, served country for 23 years, scored 18,426 runs with an average of 45, went out the way of someone who may have been just your average cricketer let alone a remarkable one as he. Is this what we wanted? I agree that he is not among the runs. But doesn’t he deserve a grand exit in front of 30,000 spectators, hooting ‘Sachin… Sachin…’ ? I think he deserved better.

A person who got standing ovation every time, wherever he traveled, announced his retirement sitting at home, without playing a match, just before selection committee meeting, on the eve of the series against arch-rivals Pakistan and he said, “I call it a day”. As is their wont the media speculated what happened behind the scenes that perhaps forced this decision on Sachin. Many raised their eyebrows, so do I.

Whoever has put efforts in making this happen, did not do right thing. Any soldier would have loved to go and fight for the last time before quitting the service. Sachin is no less than a soldier for us and he would have definitely wanted to play the one dayers against Pakistan, against whom he made his debut at Gujranwala (Pakistan) in 1989 at the age of 16. He deserved to go out like that. But it didn’t happen.

Very easily we Indians forget the past. We are used to saying things like “ salute to only rising sun”. I would like to tell something to critics that it’s not your fault, it is because you are born in India. You have achieved what you want, I hope you are happy now. Now you got all four greats of Indian cricket: Ganguly, Laxman, Dravid and finally the little big man Sachin. Now target next senior person, i.e. Sehwag, after that Yuvraj etc. If you don’t want senior players and if you don’t respect them, then why you allow them to be a senior. Fire them before they become seniors. Play your Under-19 side as the national team. That would make you happy.

Sachin was India’s aggressor, sheet anchor, six-hitter, opener and finisher: he was the start and the end for much of the 90s in ODIs. He reserved his best for Australia. He’s seen taking Australia to cleaners on his 25th birthday in Sharjah in the Coca-Cola Cup finals. © Associated Press

Like billion fans, for me too it is very hard to digest the fact that he won’t be wearing blue jersey anymore. I started playing cricket  by watching him play like every other cricketer in this modern era did. I remember after watching him bat on TV next day I would to try same shots over the bowler’s head with straight bat. I never felt like watching a match once he got out (Indians who grew up in the 90s would know that). And that’s because I love his batting more than anyone else’s. He is a complete batsman. I always liked the way he carried his celebrity status, very humble. I admire him as a person more than as a batsman.

My 4 favourite Sachin knocks

1. The one against Australia in 1998 Sharjah (143), I still remember those sixes which he hit against Australian pace bowling and treated them like local bowlers. He was like a man possessed, in a zone.It was the most brilliant and destructive knock I have ever seen from Sachin. Sheer dominance by a great batsman against world number one side. Fleming will be wondering about how this guy danced down the track and hit him over long-on and long-off repeatedly, because no fast bowler in the world like batsman hitting them straight sixes. He took India in the finals of Coca-Cola cup, single handedly.

2.For me, second best is 134 against Australia in same Coca-Cola cup finals at Sharjah where he hammered all Aussie bowlers. He unleashed some of his breathtaking strokes and power. I still remember, I was in Mumbai on that day. After depositing Aussie pace-man Michael Kasprowicz on the roof of Sharjah stadium Tony Greg said “This man is nearest to Bradman there’s ever been.” I don’t remember exact line, but he put Sachin in the the league of cricket greats when he was yet to score his 30th century. Now he is on the Everest of 100 centuries.

3. Third best for me is 98 against Pakistan in 2003 world cup while chasing a target of 274. I still remember that six which he hit off Shoaib’s bowling over third-man. That six was adjudged as “best shot of the tournament”.

4. Fourth best is first ever double-century of ODIs. I have watched that video of his 200 not out more than 50 times, probably because that is the only full inning video I have of his batting. I liked the way he used the crease on that perticular day, especially against Steyn gun. Steyn bowled three fuller length balls outside off-stump. Sachin couldn’t put them away. Answer to those deliveries was a fine flick on the onside, similar delivery, he premeditated and moved towards off-side showing Steyn all three stumps behind him and picked a boundary on the onside. Superb shot! First word that came to my mind was “WOW”. Even Steyn’s reaction suggested that he too couldn’t believe that he could get hit on that delivery. I saw somewhere in Marathi news paper that before the match Sachin had chat with the curator, Ajay Sahasrabuddhe to understand the nature of the pitch, and he had assured Sachin it was a “Donshe chi wicket” (pitch worthy of a double century)

Sachin’s highest point as a one-day cricketer: with the 2011 world cup trophy. © Associated Press

Now coming back to present situation, I strongly agree that, his decision (could be a forced one) to quit ODIs will give chance to the future players. As Dravid said we don’t have enough talent on the benches. Though he said in context of Test cricket, same is applicable for ODIs also. So we need some more time to prepare and get ready for the 2015 mega event

But for me cricket revolves around Sachin, his batting, his cricketing talent. No one in this world can fill in his shoes. “There was only one Sachin in the past, there is only one Sachin at present, and there won’t be any Sachin in the near future.”

Salute the great man, the legend. Thanks for the entertainment which you did for for two decades. But GOD for God’s sake, please, please, don’t leave Test cricket like this.

Thank you Sachin!

Kaustubh is a Software Engineer based out of Bangalore. He captains his club side CECC on weekends.


Abhijeet Kharki

I believe that sports instills a belief in a person, it makes them confident, irrespective of whether they are playing it or watching it. People don’t play sports just because it is fun. Ask any athlete, most of them hate the physical sacrifice behind it. But they can’t imagine their life without it. It is a part of them: the love-hate relationship. It is what they live for – the practices, parties, cheers, long bus rides, invitationals, countless pairs of  shoes, water, Gatorade, and coaches they might hate but appreciate. They live for the way it feels when they beat the other team, and knowing those two extra sprints they ran in practice were worth it.

December 2012 might not be the end of the world as it was earlier predicted but it did start with the end of the hopes and dreams of the thousands of Indian athletes, who had dreamed of being a part of the greatest, the oldest and the most celebrated event in sports – Olympics – with the suspension of the Indian Olympic Association by the International Olympic Committee.

More shame was to follow with the International Boxing Association suspending the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation saying in a statement that it had learned of “possible manipulation” in a recent election held by the Indian group, following which India’s Ministry of Sports also “de-recognized” the Archery Association of India. This came as a major embarrassment for the second most populous country in the world. Until now the question that popped up in peoples’ mind was why does a nation with a population of 1.2 billion ends up with a few bronze and silver medals every four years? Now new questions have surfaced and everyone knows the root cause of this predicament.

“The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday suspended the Indian Olympic Association for chronic violations of the international Olympic Charter, creating one of the most embarrassing episodes in Indian sports history,” Gardiner Harris wrote in The New York Times.

Our only individual Gold medal winner in our entire history, Abhinav Bindra, wrote “The role of sports administrators is extremely important in the life of an athlete and it is agonising to see such people coming back. It makes my blood boil. How do you expect me to go and respect them? The athlete is absolutely the last person on their mind. They don’t exist for them. As the two IOA officials try to convince the IOC not to suspend the national Olympic committee, I would ask the world body to see things from the perspective of the athletes. They are the main stakeholders. No one else except the athletes will be affected, while the administrators will wash their hands off the issue. The IOC must try and get an understanding of Indian sport from their point of view and not just from people with vested interests.”

Bindra's recommendations to IOA

Bindra’s recommendations to IOA

We as Indians always choose to ignore and turn our backs to the one virus that has been eating away our country in slow sordid manner. Our nation has always managed to surface above all the controversies and questions just because its own citizens did not bother raising them. The shameful decision that was taken by the International Olympic Committee cannot be ignored. Not now, when we know that the only reason is the corruption and the disorganized political structure of our country that will eventually be the end of this country as a whole. And for what? For whom?

Abhay Singh Chautala, a politician from the Indian National Lok Dal Party, is the man at the center of the controversy. During elections held on Sept. 23, 2011, Abhishek Motaria, a politician from Rajasthan, replaced Mr. Chautala as president of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation. According to a statement made by the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, on the same day, Mr. Chautala was named chairman of the federation – a post that was created just before the election, through an amendment to the body’s constitution.

It is quite evident that all we are trying to do is please people. We always have been a people pleasing country. Try relating to the spirits of those thousands of sportsmen and the way they would be affected by this decision: years of training and hard work will go down the drain. The endless dreams and the ordeal they went through physically and mentally will be for nothing. All this because of the few men who put their ego ahead of their country, not to forget the responsibilities that they swore to take care of.

This event was like a silent nuclear holocaust, the effects of which we will witness in time to come. If no step is taken to put a stop to what is happening, then it can be predicted that this incident will be a start of series of similar happening which will eventually paralyze the whole nation and we would just sit and watch it getting torn apart from inside.

All this while the thousands of sportsmen and sports women across the country put their body and soul through punishment for years in order to find their peace, happiness and eventually their moment of glory. And for the many who have given the best years of their lives for a single skill and be told to give up in their twenties and thirties by corrupt officials and parent bodies. Yet they dream. They live and long for camaraderie with their team, they live for the countless songs they sing in their head while training all those hours. They live for the competition, they live for the friends, the practices, the memories, the pain, it is who they are.

If only the bodies understood them and their sacrifices as much as we do…

Abhijeet tweets here.


Shridhar Pandey

It is gradually becoming more difficult to put up with all the talks surrounding Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. Therefore I decided to vent out my emotions on this subject and make an honest appeal to all those running their mouths to ‘leave him alone!’ But before I begin, let me put down a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, Sachin Tendulkar is the God of Cricket to me without any second thought. Yet I would use ‘he’ instead of ‘He’ to refer to him hereafter. For I don’t want this article to be classified as a testimonial; it should be viewed from a rather neutral standpoint. Secondly, this might also draw flak from a section of people who in my view are atheists (in a world where cricket is a religion). So if you are one, this probably is the right time to stop reading this any further.

Ponting's retirement announcement has renewed the Tendulkar retirement debate. © AFP

Ponting’s retirement announcement has renewed the Tendulkar retirement debate. © AFP

It would be a grave injustice to a cricket lover if I were not to talk about the recent conclusion of one of the brightest cricketing careers of all time – that of the former Australian captain Ricky Ponting, the most successful cricketer (three world cups and more than 100 Test victories) the world has ever witnessed. In my books, if there ever was a cricketing shot that would come second to Sachin’s backfoot punch down the ground past the bowler, that certainly would be Ponting’s crackling pull shot.

Arguably the second best Aussie batsman after the Don, Ponting for some reason could never win the hearts of majority of Indian fans. Nonetheless, deep down inside all of them knew that he was a brilliant operator. His records speak volumes about his achievements. He shall not be remembered for the last couple of years but for the decade before that, when at one time, people got the feeling that he might overtake the Master himself as far as runs and centuries were concerned. His retirement would leave behind a big void not just in Australia but cricket all over the world. What it has also done is add fuel to the time-for-Sachin-to-retire guffaw.

So without any further ado, let me move over to what I had begun with. What pains me – believe me it does – is watching the same people, who used to hail Tendulkar at other occasions, now question his place in the side. I suppose I would be within my rights to question their loyalty. It has been the most illustrious cricketing career so far and yet he does not have the liberty to have a lean patch! Is he the only one who is not living up to their standards in the team? If history is to believed, he would sooner than later orchestrate a comeback that would silence those detractors one more time.

The shame is every Tom, Dick and Harry has an opinion on this subject. People who hardly follow the game are also ready with a piece of advice to the one who has spent his life serving it. That reminds me of a scene from the popular American sitcom F-R-I-E-N-D-S. It goes something like this:

Joey (to Ross): Rachel is having Braxton Hicks Contractions

Ross: Thank God! That is no big deal; most women don’t even feel them!

Rachel: Okay, no uterus, no opinion!

That one line sums it up all. Former Indian spinner Bishan Singh Bedi echoed similar opinion when he said “Only those who’ve played at least 150 Tests should be analyzing Sachin’s game.

A whole generation might lose their interest in the game the day he calls it off. That day the game would become poorer than ever. Probably never to be replenished. Indian supporters would never again be able to say the famous phrase “Sachin hai na!” in almost every dire situation. This might be the twilight of his career, but this certainly is not the end for there would be one last flourish before it all comes to an end.

And lastly to all those who believe that “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain” – he is not living to see himself being called a villain; rather he is contemplating something of a much bigger magnitude. I refuse to call it a struggle. This might well be ‘the quiet before the storm’.


Niranjan K

“Be the change that you want to see” – M.K. Gandhi.

India is a country with great hopes. It hopes to be a superpower when it cannot stop a crumbling democratic system filled with INFLUENCED people. It is also a country that basks in its past glory for far too long refusing to move on. Yet it can surprise you with its resolve and talent. Indian sports, just like the county, is a bundle of talent but not quite up there with the best with what they simply call in cricket, “big match temperament”. The story of Indian athletes in the 30th London Olympic Games is also the same.

India sent its largest contingent of players to the quadrennial event and returned with 6 medals. Is that good enough? Well, technically India equaled the no. of medals it collected in 4 previous games in one event, but we still had a feeling that we could have done better. That we hoped for more medals itself is a big step forward to a nation that always prays for one medal to prevent us from total embarrassment. Initiatives like the “Olympic Gold Quest” have been instrumental for the record tally.

If we go in depth of the performance of Indian athletes, barring Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and Sushil Kumar, very few lived up to their expectations. From Archery to Hockey, one can clearly see the lack of temperament when delivering at the grandest stage of them all. To me, Archery was the biggest disappointment. They had all the talent and training but none could even come closer to sniff a medal. So much for being descendents of Arjuna. Expecting a medal from hockey was outrageous but the way they played was an embarrassment for the 8 time Olympic champions.

India’s Olympic medal winners with the president Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Gold in Beijing and failure to qualify for the final in London, Abhinav Bindra’s dad-influenced life style will only take him so much and his lack of committed training has cost him and the country.  But what he couldn’t, Gagan Narang did. He was always destined for Olympic success but his temperament kept failing him before. But with a steady improvement, he will make a bigger mark in Rio 2016.

Yogheshwar Dutt and Vijay Kumar are the surprise packages. May be they had it in them and maybe it’s a good thing that they were not spotted by the media glare, but they made the difference between India’s lackluster performance and a commendable one.

Mary Kom: She is a supermom and now she is India’s super lady. M.C Mary Kom, finally got her rightful place in the hearts of Indian people. It’s bitter though, what an Olympic bronze could do what 5 world championship Gold could not. For long, Saina Nehwal is destiny’s child and she will continue to be at least till Rio. Critics may point out that she was lucky, but the very fact that the Chinese selected their Olympic women’s badminton team based on who beat Saina Nehwal previously, shows that she deserved the bronze. That Saina did not take the other girl from Hyderabad; Sania’s route has been good both for her and the nation.

He may have lost to the World No 1 ranked player in the quarterfinals but P.Kashyap showed to the rest of the Indian contingent how to gain respect even while losing. So did the Indian male boxers, no dearth of effort from them. They had been unlucky too. Indian Tennis embarrassed itself in front of the world even before the games and its best not to talk about it. So finally, the man who held the flag aloft in the opening ceremony did the same on the final day. Sushil Kumar will go down as one of India’s greatest athletes and a true inspiration for generations of sportspersons. He surprised everyone with a bronze in Beijing and proved to be no flash in the pan which a better showing in London. But for a freak injury, he could have achieved the pinnacle. But the way he handled himself in these 4 years speaks volumes of the man. Expect big things from him in the future.

Most of us would have read an article in the Hindu by Nirmal Shekar. I beg to differ with the author on most parts. True we are a cricket mad country but things are changing now. We spoke more about the Games rather than the India-SL series in social networking which we would not have under normal circumstances. With cricket getting cheaper and cheaper by the year, the interest is naturally shifting and there was a wave of interest for the Olympics this time unlike any time before. In the midst of this wave of hope, Shekar comes up with an article which was intended to do one thing and one thing only, to sell. He talks about how Mary Kom would be running pillar to post for gas cylinders and Yogeshwar walking to a tea stall. With plaudits and prize moneys pouring in for the athletes, Yogheshwar can own a coffee shop and Mary, a life time supply of gas. What I hated was the fact that in times of hope, here’s someone who starts to lament again. It takes quite a bit to beat a beast like cricket but hey, David did slay Goliath, didn’t he?

In a way, Nirmal is helping Cricket in hindsight by keeping the focus on it rather than the medal winners. He could do well to read Gandhi’s famous caption that I’ve quoted. We have to embrace the winners, criticize the losers and talk about these sports nonstop just like how we do for cricket. The athletes need out support as much as we need them to win medals. The ovation that the medals winners and the glorious losers got on their arrival showed people are ready to accept the change. Move on Mr. Shekar, go whine about it in solitude.

I guess India will not dominate Olympics or World sports anytime soon or anytime later. However they can start by fine tuning the disciplines that they are doing well. India should dominate in Boxing, Wrestling, Shooting and Archery like how China does it in Badminton, Table Tennis, Water sports, Weight lifting and Gymnastics. Hockey needs to start from the absolute scratch and I don’t see miracles happening in Tennis or Track and Field. But Rio 2016 will be even more hopeful, even more exciting and even more fulfilling for India. I say this with optimism and with belief that India will sort out its problems with temperament. And none of this would be possible without us talking about it. Let’s keep the flame burning!


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

It probably isn’t unfair to say that the berth atop the ICC Test Rankings, historically, hasn’t been a paradise for teams that have scaled it. Idealists would find it easy to argue that the current and former number one teams have had questionable, if not in entirety, rises to the top – England’s failure in the sub-continent, and India’s predominantly home-series wins adding alibi to their theories.

English fans, now, find themselves being stopped short of being wildly idealistic. What seems profound here is that despite victories (and draws) against tough overseas opponents on foreign soil (barring their quest in the sub-continent), England finds itself basked amidst vicissitudes of press coverage stating ‘too much cricket’ as an excuse for their exponential dip in form in the ongoing series against the Proteas. Isn’t this true for almost the entire set of test playing nations, or at least the top six nations?

World records may not hold great importance if it doesn’t help achieve a significant team result. © BBC

True, just like how the blackout in Northern India has highlighted our dependence on diesel, there have been enough presumptions with regard to England’s dependency on seam-friendly tracks. It wasn’t too long ago in the timeline when the English selectors (rather Andy Flower) had a pleasant headache over the pace bowlers they needed to leave out of an eleven being fielded. Even KP’s antics did little to overshadow the confidence that they had built as a test unit under Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower.

But, isn’t it common these days to witness sparse differences in standards between teams (or if we extend this to organizations in general) vying for pole position? It is healthy, as a fan, to witness intense battles between teams that look not only strong on paper, but have the firepower to back it up on the field.

A nascent advantage of the billions of cash reserves in the Middle East has been the creation of stronger clubs (through foreign ownership) to compete against the cliché of names one usually comes across in the European leagues. Chelsea, for one, given how they’d been a dominant force not too long ago under the billions of Roman and reign of Mourinho, finished sixth last season – it wasn’t ‘too much football’, but stronger competitors.

Fortunately, cricket is witnessing the same. Just to drift slightly off here – as much as I’d love to call the current New Zealand team a touch below par, the resurgence of West Indies (too early to say?), owing to the return of Chris Gayle at the top of the order, has been a welcome sight to most of us.

In paper, they may hardly seem like teams being overworked. Chris Gayle, players competing in the IPL, WICB issues have, in the past, camouflaged substantial on-field press coverage (barring the Ramdin ‘paperwork’ during the series against England). The change in tutorship at New Zealand has received a little more space than an obituary in newspapers here. But they’re competing all right.

Coming back to the perennial issue highlighted earlier – packed calendars don’t help. Agreed. Much has been written in the footballing circles about how players get jaded after a long season (domestic, league, continental competitions adding to the toll) followed by international commitments. And by the time they’re done with it, the new season beckons – it isn’t uncommon to see players who’ve undergone the wrath of such schedules sit out of contention for the best part of August.

Cricket is equally, if not more, demanding in terms of fitness (probably more mental owing to the long stretches of tours away from home). Unlike football (and I’m sure football purists would disagree here), there’s very little space for error in the game of cricket – a lapse of concentration could cost a batsman his wicket, a fielder a catch and a bowler a wayward  line/length. Add to all this media hype and expectations (something which I believe dearly affects teams like England  and India, more than other teams around) – the end result is a volatile cocktail.

So, have teams at the top been victims of everything (and everyone) but themselves? It is as much about hype and expectations, as it is about packed schedules. The modern day sportsman is trained (through a combination of well-structured training programs catering to the mental aspects of sport) to cope with expectations of a nation, and the glaring eyes of the world.

But few cross the line that differentiates the best from the rest. A double hundred in a dead-rubber test on a flat wicket deserves to be dwarfed to insignificance when compared to a half century on a trying wicket that saves a test. Only when the cricketing community starts setting such standards and yardsticks, will we see the crop of players rise up and deliver.

Let me recall an interesting anecdote I heard from a source (this isn’t fiction) regarding Don Bradman’s reaction, when quizzed by an Australian journalist, after Brian Charles Lara had scored a record breaking 375 against the touring Englishmen in Antigua. The Don, apparently, had replied ‘Okay’.

Assuming that age had caught up with the Don, the journalist repeated his question (understandably more pronounced) to get the entirety of the message across. The Don, once again, without batting an eyelid, replied ‘Okay’  When quizzed further, The Don had said: ‘On a flat wicket, against a scrawny bowling attack in a Test which wasn’t heading towards a result, what more can I say?’

The journalist decided to pose his question thus: ‘Sir, how much do you reckon you’d have scored had you been in this situation?’. The Don thought for a while and said ‘Maybe 260 … or 270.’ Presuming that age had taken a toll on his thinking, the journalist asked ‘Sir, but he scored 375. You’re saying you’d have 260. And you’re not rating his knock too.’

To which The Great Man replied: ‘I’m 85, he’s just a 23 year old kid.’

Maybe, that is what greatness is about.