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The Wall

For nearly 16 years, starting from the time when his exploits across the 22 yard pitch as a teenager announced to the world that he was a cricket exponent of remarkable ability Rahul Sharad Dravid has repeatedly proved his worth.

Whenever the Indian Cricket Team found itself on a sticky wicket, he put his hand up. Whether it was opening the innings in the twilight of his career in England last year or slipping on the wicketkeeper’s gloves so that one more batsman could be accommodated for the 2003 World Cup, Dravid was “The Wall of Indian Cricket”.  

He truly was the Wall of all seasons.  He was a player who showed nerves in the decisive games for India and a player who always put the team first.  Dravid holds multiple cricketing records and the numbers reveal the magnificence of his innings.

  • Rahul Dravid is only the second player, after Sachin Tendulkar, to reach 13,000 runs in Test cricket, with 36 hundreds and an average of 52.31.
  • On 14 February 2007, he became the sixth player overall and the third Indian (after Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly), to score 10,000 runs in ODI cricket in cricketing history.
  • He is the first and only batsman to score a century in all ten Test Cricket playing nations.
  • Dravid currently holds the world record for the most number of catches in Test cricket with more than 200 catches.
  • Dravid has also been involved in more than 80 century partnerships with 18 different partners and has been involved in 19 century partnerships with Sachin Tendulkar – a world record.

But it has been one of the oddities that Dravid’s finest hours were persistently overshadowed by another event.

Rahul made his debut in 1996 in the Second Test against England at the Lord’s along with Sourav Ganguly, when Sanjay Manjrekar got injured after the first Test match. Dravid made a luminous 96 but was upstaged by Sourav’s century (Sourav’s 131 still remains the highest by any batsman on his debut at the Lord’s). And in 2001 during that staggering fight back against the Australians at Eden Gardens, his majestic 180 always stood in comparison with the epic 281 scored by VVS Laxman.

As cricket crazy India celebrated our cricketing maestros, it looked like the quiet man of Indian cricket Rahul Dravid always got less than his due. But a careful analysis of the Lords innings and the Eden Garden innings will reveal why Rahul Dravid is called ‘the Wall’ by his team mates. In both these Test matches Rahul provided the momentum for both Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman to capitalize on enroute to their epic milestone.  And the master of the measured aesthetic, never complained and keeping the interest of team in mind, silently scripted many a sporting victories for Team India.

On 14 December 2011, he became the first non-Australian cricketer to address at the Bradman Memorial lecture in Canberra.  It was here he revealed his genius through a precious well thought out blueprint: drawn from a beautiful mind in a beautiful game.

His farewell to cricket was also a stroke in his own terms. On 9 March 2012, announced his retirement from international and first class cricket. Dravid made the announcement with the BCCI president, N Srinivasan and former captain and friend Anil Kumble at a press conference in Bangalore. And it was much like the man himself, unassuming and yet taking full cognisance of the big cricket picture. In his own words, “I felt it was the right time for me to move on, for a next generation of cricketers to play and make a new history.” No soaring metaphor, no grand flourish.

Although Dravid’s retirement has been on the cards, it had been expected that he would be given a farewell match as was done in the cases of fellow greats Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly. But with no Test match scheduled until September, it must go down as yet another instance of the quiet man of Indian cricket getting less than his due.

But many regard Rahul Dravid as one of the greatest Test batsmen in the history of the game. And for cricket enthusiasts he will remain “THE WALL”

Photo Courtesy:

CWG 2010 – National Shame or Pride

If River Yamuna doesn’t over run Delhi and the rain Gods to whom our ex Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar praying to answers or not the 19th Common Wealth Games will be held in New Delhi between 3rd October 2010 to 14 October 2010. All the people who were on verbal overdrive against Mani Aiyar is wondering will the Games be a National Shame or Pride? Will good CWG absolve the Indian Government and Kalmadi of culpability in the mess?

The mess actually started from the bid for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The 2 principal contenders were New Delhi and Canada. In the ballot held in November 2003 at the Commonwealth Games Federation General Assembly in Montego Bay, Jamaica, New Delhi won the bid by a margin of 46 votes to 22, confirming India’s first successful bid for the Games. India’s bid motto was “New Frontiers and Friendships” and Canada was bidding for hosting the Games for the 5th time.

The Indian delegation was lead by Sports Minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet, Vikram Verma, Delhi’s Lt Governor Vijai Kapoor, the late Minister of State for External Affairs Digvijay Singh, Indian Olympic Association Secretary General Randhir Singh, former India cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar,  former world billiards champion Michael Ferreira and world women’s air rifle shooting champion Anjali Bhagwat, and among others. The delegation also carried video messages from then Prime Minister Vajpayee and the then Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi to wooing the delegates.

India shifted the balance in its favour in the second round of voting with a promise that it would provide $ 7.2 million to the Games associations of the 72 Commonwealth members as a fund for development of athletes. It was this last-minute offer before the vote to give US$100,000 to each participating country, along with air tickets, boarding, lodging and transport which tilted the balance in favour of India. As the Indian delegation celebrated, Canada cried foul. Later the Indian government agreed that would underwrite the total cost of organizing the Games. 

The official total budget estimated for hosting the Games is   Rs. 114.94 billion (U$ 2.5 billion) and this amount excludes non-sports-related infrastructure development in the city like airports, roads and other structures. But new paper reports say estimates that the games cost Rs. 300 billion (U$6.6 billion). This makes the 2010 Commonwealth Games the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever, being larger than the previous games in Melbourne 2006 (approx. US$ 1.1 billion).

The organisation was beset by delays: 16 months after winning the bid in November 2003 India put the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee in place and the next year,  the year of governance transition between the NDA and UPA (in May), was year of juntas. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA)organised a study tour for senior Delhi Development Autority (DDA) officials to Sydney, Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur to learn from their Games experience.

Feb 2005: The IOA Vice-Chairman Raja Randhir Singh expressed concern that Delhi was not up to speed in forming and organising its games committee and called for a revamp of the games’ organising committees: Jarnail Singh, a former Secretary of the Government of India, was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer and IOA President Suresh Kalmadi was appointed the Organising Committee Chairman. Kalmadi became the head of the committee through political and bureaucratic manoeuvring much against bid document where he is shown as the Vice-Chairman of the OC.

Mar 2005: The Games date were fixed from October 3 to 14, 2010 at the first meeting of the Executive Board of the Organising Committee CWG 2010. Assessments, meetings and reviews continued right through the year with two more executive board meetings.

Jan 2008: The logo for the Games was launched on January 6 to coincide with the ‘1000 days to go’ celebrations.

Oct 2008: With just under two years to go for the mega event, India Post released a commemorative stamp on ‘Shera’, the mascot of the Games.

Jan 2009: An Indian Government report showing two thirds of venues were behind schedule, Commonwealth Games Federation President Mike Fennell stated that the slow progress of preparations represented a serious risk to the event.

May 2009: With just over 500 days to go for the Games, the fifth Coordination Committee Meeting was held with members of the CGF that included its CEO Mike Hooper.

Sep 2010: The Games Anthem was released while work was still going on the Games Village. Even today as i write this article the Games Village is not fully ready for occupancy and we are just a week away from the Inauguration.

In the bid document for he Commonwealth Games, IOA claimed that the OC would be a non-profit, government-owned registered society. This non profit society spend 4.7million on food for the 5 odd meetings of the executive committee. The Sports Minister KPS Gill in a written reply in the Indian Parliament says that estimated cost of staging the Games infrastructure alone has escalated from  6.5 billion (U$ 1.42 billion) to   115 billion (U$ 25.12 billion). The Central Vigilance Commission begins investigating the manipulation but we Indians sure have come to a stage to say “Come back Lalit Modi… All is forgiven. At least you organised the 20-20 Games”.

Cricket Betting : Bain of the subcontinent

When the Television across the globe broadcast the footage from Britain’s News of the World in which Mazhar Majeed, a 35-year-old British property developer and sports agent, give details of when three “no-balls” would be delivered by Amir and Asif during the Test match at Lord’s that ended yesterday, there was anger and outrage in Pakistan.  The bookie claims Pakistan Test Captain Salman Butt to be the ring leader.

This is not the first time that Pakistan cricket has been embroiled in such a controversy.

It was way back in 1979-1980 when Pakistan were accused of throwing matches on their tour of India. Pakistan players were also accused of throwing their semi-final against Australia in the 1987 World Cup. Those allegations remain unsubstantiated.

But charges naming individual players surfaced in 1994 when Australian players Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Tim May alleged that Pakistan skipper Salim Malik had approached them to bowl badly and lose the Karachi Test.

Then in 1998, Wasim Akram resigned as Pakistan skipper after bowler Ata-ur-Rahman had accused him of offering the bowler Rs. 3 lakh to bowl waywardly against New Zealand. The same year Rashid Latif accused Akram, Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Ijaz Ahmed of fixing matches.

Year 2000 became the World cricket’s year of shame, when the Delhi Police charged the late South African Captain Hansie Cronje of fixing his team’s ODI series against India. As if taking a leaf out of Delhi Police’s book, the Pakistan Cricket Board, instituted a one-man judicial commission that found Salim Malik and Ata-ur-Rahman guilty of fixing matches and recommended life bans for the two. The commission also noted that Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed should not be allowed to captain Pakistan in the future. The same year, South Africa Cricket Chief Ali Bacher said he had been told by former Pakistan Cricket Board CEO Majid Khan that two matches involving Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, against India and Bangladesh, were fixed.

Then there was a period of five years when Pakistan cricket seemed to be getting back on track, but again in 2006, Pakistan cricket was hit by a controversy during the tour of England. Angered after being accused of ball-tampering and penalised five runs by umpire Darrell Hair, Pakistan forfeited the fourth Test against England at The Oval after refusing to take the field in the evening session on day four in protest.

But early 2010, again, the clouds of match-fixing began to hover again over the Pakistan team. In January after Pakistan lost every match during their tour of Australia, the PCB and ICC Anti Corruption Unit launched investigations. The PCB enquiry saw Mohammad Yousuf, Younus Khan, Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan banned while Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Kamran Akmal, were fined and placed on probation.

In the scandal which came to light now the television footage showed Amir, who was named the Pakistani Man of the Series, bowl two of the no-balls by stepping comfortably beyond the crease, prompting pundits to comment on the unusually clear nature of the infringements. But other events predicted by Majeed, such as an over in which Butt would deliberately fail to score a run, failed to materialise. The Scotland Yard team is investigating the case took statements from Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Kamran Akmal.

The former International Cricket Council President Malcolm Speed said that the game’s governing body could seriously consider suspending Pakistan. All eyes are on the new ICC President and ‘Indian’ Sharad Pawar but the response of the Indian public is one of glee.

It was indeed funny to watch Indian TV commentators spoof at the Pakistani system, questioning them of letting off errant palyers like Akram,  Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal etc in the past, forgetting that our own Ajay Jedeja (who is a star commendator in one of the popular TV channels), Mohammed Azarudin, Vinod Kamble were also accused of the same crime in the past. None in the media spoke about Miandad making Dawood a ‘sambandi‘ then or even now. The rotten state of the gentleman’s game was for everyone to see then, but it looks like whole world, India as a cricketing country, Board of Control for Cricket in India and our star players, are in a state of denial.

The Pakistani players, some of them in their late teens and early twenties looked like amateurs in the betting arena. Indian players probably could give a lesson or two these armatures. Thanks to Lalit Modi, IPL and the likes, our players  have perfected the art and we in India play at a very different scale of match-fixing.

Video : Copyright News of the World & YouTube

Mani on Money : Common Wealth

“Every five years, it is the masses who determine who will form the government. And in between those five years the classes determine what that government will do”.  This is one of the most popular quotes of Mani Shankar Iyer. It is a paradox that this same man, who is very much part of the classes, complains like a little child (one of the helpless masses) “I am delighted in a way because rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games”. He went on to say ”Basically I will be very unhappy if the games are successful because then they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and all those”.

Coming from a former Sports Minister, it drew sharp criticism from all and sundry. The BJP says he is ‘unpatriotic’. The Chairman of the CWG Organising Committee Suresh Karmadi lost no time in dismissing Iyer’s remarks as ‘ridiculous’, ‘irresponsible’ and ‘anti-national’.

As Kalmadi and BJP would have us believe that any one speaking against the Commonwealth Games is unpatriotic, I am surprised at the sense of false prestige and misplaced sense of pride of all the people who is linking the Commonwealth Games to ‘national pride’. Unlike China which prepared itself as a nation to win all Gold Medals when they organised the Olympics and reap the benefits of being the host nation, we are not talking of winning medals. We are only talking about organising the 10 day sports extravaganza.

When asked why the stadiums are not yet ready for the Games, which are just 70 days away, even though the Games were allotted to India 7 years back, or how the initial budget of Rs. 150 Crores got revised to Rs. 35,000 Crores, Kalmadi has no answers. BJP has a smirk, as the verbal slugfest goes on, as it exposes the internal fissures in the Congress Government and is not directed at them.

But fact remains that using the same ‘national pride’ argument, in 2003, the Indian Olympic Committee lead by Kalmadi hoodwinked Atal Bihari Vajpayee to authorize the IOC to anchor the Indian bid for the Commonwealth Games on a solemn assurance that the Organising Committee would require a loan of Rs. 150 Crores. The Organising Committee agreed that all of this public money will be reimbursed to the exchequer from the ticket sale proceeds, advertisements and sponsorships.

Only thing poor Vajpayee and his successor Manmohan Singh forgot to ask is the infrastructure cost. The cost of the brand new stadiums at the most prosperous part of the national capital (unlike Manchester when it organized the Commonwealth Games in 2002 used the opportunity to rejuvenate the most rundown Eastern section of the city), the swanky new airport in Delhi, roads and other infrastructure. The organising of the games have actually become ‘Conmen Wealth Games’.

But one thing is sure ‘Mani is talking on Money’ not because he cares for the ‘common wealth’ of the country or because he is passionate about building India into a sporting nation but because he couldn’t dip his fingers in the honey-pot called Common Wealth Games.

Video : Copyright with NDTV and YouTube

Octopus Oracle Paul picks España

There are no super heroes in this World Cup. The 2010 World Cup has seen all the big names crush out in the quarter and semi final stages. We have the underdogs, Netherlands and Spain, countries who have never picked the coveted World Cup and always failed in the crucial matches, playing in the Final.

But how could I miss the new super hero of 2010 FIFA World Cup, Psychic Octopus Paul Allen. How could I have missed this oracle, the greatest gift to football-kind.

Believers say Paul the Octopus a no common octopus. Our eight-legged mollusk was born in England and lives in a tank at a Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany. ‘The Oracle of Oberhausen Paul’ as he is now known, gained global fame as a soccer guru who can predict the results of football matches.

The procedure is simple and probably familiar to all by now: Our popular animal oracle Paul is given two boxes with food, each bearing the flag of either one of the opposing teams. Whichever box Paul yanks open will be his prediction. Paul initially started predicting the international matches played by his adopted country Germany. At this World Cup Paul has predicted all of Germany’s results correctly even including the defeats against Serbia in the group stages and Spain in the semi-finals.

The octopus had already made it’s prediction for the third and fourth place play-off opting for the mussel in the Germany box and that too has turned out to be true. It took Paul just a couple of minutes to decide its adopted nation will beat Uruguay to take third place in the tournament

Now Paul has predicted that Spain national team will get the 2010 World Cup. The live TV broadcast was seen on Friday where this prophetic chooses Spain over Netherlands. What a relief for the Spanish team!

This World Cup has not seen much excitement. But the only excitement is this great invertebrate Paul. Paul had stunned soccer fans worldwide by correctly forecasting Spain’s 1-0 victory against Germany in the semi-final. There is excitement with German fans bitter and upset at the loss to Spain, the German fans have been posting cruel cooking recipes on the Internet, believing that Paul has ‘betrayed’ his homeland. A few have even gone as far as to say that perhaps the German team acted on a self-fulfilling prophecy after witnessing the cephalopod’s pick earlier on. But the Spanish Prime Minster Jose Zapatero has promised bodyguards to this prophetic cephalopod.

Does anyone dare doubt the psychic prowess of this entertainer in 2010 FIFA World Cup, again? We should look at declaring Paul Allen for Golden Boot, Golden Ball or Golden Gloves. Or maybe FIFA should create a new catagory “Golden Tentacles“.

Video : Copyright with YouTube

Refereeing Howlers at FIFA World Cup

Controversy reigned in this FIFA World Cup in South Africa as refereeing howlers has renewed calls by football fans to introduce video technology to assist referees and review their decisions. This World Cup has seen so many refereeing bloopers, here is the list: 

Argentina 3, Mexico 1: In this second-round game, the opener goal in the 26th minute by Argentina striker Carlos Tevez was yards offside. After the replay flashed up on the big screen angry Mexico players surrounded the Italian referee Roberto Rosetti and linesman Stefano Ayroldi but the goal stood despite the protest.

Germany 4, England 1: In the 38th minute of the second-round game, with England behind 2-1, Lampard sent a shot off the crossbar. The ball came straight down at least a foot inside the goal line, but referee Jorge Larrionda waved play to continue. Television replays confirmed the ball was in the net.

United States 2, Slovenia 2: In this Group C game moments after the Americans tied the score in the first round, Landon Donovan took a free kick from the side of the penalty area in the 85th minute as players jostled in front. Maurice Edu spun away from Bojan Jokic and, one step into the 6-yard box, stuck out his left foot and put the ball in. But referee Koman Coulibaly had whistled play dead for a foul. He never explained who on the U.S. team did what.

United States 1, Algeria 0: In the final Group C game, Clint Dempsey scored in the 21st minute off the rebound of Herculez Gomez’s shot. But the goal was called offside by the Belgian referee Frank De Bleeckere. Again, replays indicated Dempsey was in a fair position.

Mexico 2, France 0: In a first-round Group A match, Javier Hernandez ran onto Rafael Marquez’s pass as the France defense stopped, believing Hernandez was offside. He dribbled around goalkeeper Hugo Lloris before guiding the ball home to give Mexico a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute. Television replays showed that Hernandez was in an offside position.

Brazil 3, Ivory Coast 1: In this Group G match Brazil striker Luis Fabiano handled the ball twice as he juggled it past two Ivory Coast defenders before scoring for a 2-0 lead in a 3-1 group win that secured advancement for the Brazilians. The referee later came over and patted his own upper right arm.

Slovakia 3, Italy 2: In this Group F match Fabio Quagliarella thought he scored a late equalizer for Italy — the loss eliminated the defending champions in the group stage — but he was ruled offside by the smallest of margins, a ruling that was disputed by the Italians and appeared to be an error on replays.

Ghana 1, Australia 1: In this Group D match Aussie forward Harry Kewell was sent off in the 24th minute after blocking a goal-bound shot with his upper arm. The arm was pinned against his body, but Swiss referee Roberto Rosetti showed Kewell the red card in the first-round match.

In 1986 World Cup Maradona was coyly evasive and cheeky to describe the handling of the ball in the crucial match against England as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” Maradona later said, “I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came… I told them, ‘Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it.’  English felt that they had been cheated out of a possible World Cup victory and the angry British press later coined the phrase “Hand of God”.

Even in this World Cup play off against Ireland, in Paris, last month, saw France striker Thierry Henry’s handling the ball in the buildup to France’s crucial goal that saw the French secure their place in the finals in South Africa. But refereeing bloopers have come to all time high, this 2010 World Cup Final.

Wake up FIFA.

Photo: Courtesy Getty Images

Domenech’s Wagging Finger

Last Sunday I got a text message on my mobile “Latest from FIFA 2010: On Monday, Portugal meet Korea in Cape Town. On Tuesday, Spain meet Italy in Johannesburg and on Wednesday, England meet France at the Airport”.

I really felt it was cruel joke, but the last week showed how increasingly unpredictable this year’s edition of FIFA World Cup has been, with so many upsets at the tournament. With a 1-0 win against Slovenia, Fabio Capello’s England, however, scraped through to the second round. 

But this week saw for the first time both finalists of a preceding World Cup failing to enter the last 16. Italy the defending champions of 2006 edition bowed out of the competition after their 3-2 loss to first–timers, Slovakia. With only 2 points against their name and no wins in their group games, Italy lost in the first round only for the fourth time in the history of World Cup.

However exit of France, the 1998 World Cup Winner and 2006 World Cup Runner Up, was a mutinous disgrace.  After the crushing 2-1 defeat against hosts South Africa, France coach Raymond Domenech said he felt a “genuine sense of sadness” about his teams exist. But Domenech’s refusal to shake the hand of South Africa coach after the game was un-befitting of a coach and has brought the unpopular coach’s six-year reign to a suitably contentious end.

The 58-year-old Domenech, never popular with players or fans since taking over in 2004, has left his job with his reputation at the lowest. (Laurent Blanc was named Domenech’s successor before the tournament even started.) The coach who oversaw the French campaign to the final of the 2006 World Cup also oversaw a catastrophic end to this years campaign, which saw star striker Nicolas Anelka sent home in disgrace after a foul-mouthed triad against him, followed by a players’ strike over the expulsion and finally team’s sponsors abandoning them.

On Tuesday, once the final whistle blew, when South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira began the customary ritual of shaking hands with those around him, offered his hand and a smile, Domenech shook his finger at him and tried to walk away.

But post match, the colourful yet controversial coach refused to discuss the incident. He said despite the rancour in the camp over the past week he had greeted his players, at the end of the match. He praised the players for their efforts. He said no player had refused to play though he made several changes, including dropping Captain Patrick Viera to the bench in  the crucial match. 

The Manchester United defender had been at the center of drama last Sunday, when the squad refused to train at their base in Knysna to protest against the expulsion of Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka.

Video : Courtesy YouTube