Category Archives: sports

Indian Pass League: IPL

Late Wednesday afternoon a former colleague called me asking if I had read Daink Bhaskar ?  No, I replied. He asked me to check out the front page, “Boss uski toh lag gayi (Boss, he is gone),” and disconnected.

There a reporter had brought to light how the passes for Indian Premier League (IPL) were being distributed and later sold at the Khadi Gramodhyog Bhawan. For those familiar with Jaipur and local politics this comes as no surprise. Khadi board is headed by a Congress leader who doubles up as a member for IPL organising committee.

Being a Congress party leader his distributing  passes to party workers is obvious, and going by the craze for IPL tickets, if some party worker sold those tickets for quick bucks, I would say his good luck.

I am not defending the illegal selling of passes, but it’s not earth shattering revelation.

During the current IPL season, once when I went to meet the Khadi board chairman i saw scores of MLA’s, local leaders queuing up for tickets/passes. The who’s who of the city were making a beeline for the freebees, this including some of my esteemed journalist colleagues. They did not come in person but, their messages reached just in time.

Scribes pressing for passes, is a story no paper hack or a TV journo will bring forth, so here on the World Press Freedom Day let me share some of my pass experiences here.

Let me admit, this IPL season I too asked a influential local person to arrange four passes. A senior journalist wanted to take his family to see the match. He asked a couple of times and I assured him of making one call. Message passed, passes delivered, issue rests in peace without much ado.

Not a word against the passes, a thank you message drops in.

Like it or not it’s an established norm, pass isn’t merely an entry to the stadium its a ‘I have the power’ show to showcase “I matter in the city.” The senior journalist who asked me to make the pass call said, “We are journalist, how can we not ask for pass.  It’s become a habit boss. But directly asking doesn’t look good every time.”

He is not the only one. Few of my other journo pals at the beginning of the tournament too asked for arranging some passes. Motive to oblige some influential contacts and the gentleman who brought the issue to my notice yesterday had only called in the morning seeking a couple of passes for next game as only two matches are left to be played at the SMS stadium.

What bothers me is the dual standards we scribes have at times. The pass story was discussed in the circles and another friend later shared, ‘good the story came’. He liked the Dainik Bhaskar anchor for he didn’t get the desired seat for his friend’s brother in the passes that were arranged.

If this be the state of affairs, how can those of us who seek favours go and point fingers at those who are in the position to have the elusive ‘passes’.

But there aren’t many takers for this argument, for most take scribes take passes as their birth right, for they ‘report’.

Knowing Jaipur, RCA and journo’s at large, by a rough estimate in every match close to 500 tickets/passes are given for scribes or their relatives who ensure that equal number of spectators willing to pay for tickets miss their date with the stars.  But we consider public interest only after our interests are taken care off.

No gyaan in here, but will be great if we scribes stop taking ourselves bit too seriously.

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Oops he missed it again! Sachin falls six short of the magical hundred

Sachin Tendulkar dismissed on 94 at Wankhande stadium on day four of the final test against West Indies.

This is the simplest and the most non-Indian way to describe the yet another ‘alleged’ heart break of the nation. For the highest run scorer in the game yet again got out in the nervous nineties in his attempt to hit the century of centuries.

Tenth time in the test’s to be precise and 28th overall nervous nineties dismissal for the master blaster.

After Cyrus Mistry out of the blue hogged the headlines on the day reserved for Sachin Tendulkar headlines, for every time since March 12, 2011 when Sachin hit  century no 99  the little master sets his foot on the field to bat headlines anticipating the ton of tons precede.

It’s indeed an unmatchable feat, would be the biggest high in the history of the gentleman’s game and might put Sachin in his own league when he is not second to Sir Donald Bradman who had an enviable 99.94 test average – but it’s still a century away.

More than anyone of us, media and experts included who like Sachin and follow the game scoring in triple digits is more important to him. He is the one who has done it 99 times and there is no doubt that he will not do it one more time, but can we allow him.

Can we not analyse every score he takes and put that extra burden on his ageing shoulders, can we let him be himself and hold our emotions and headlines till he scores the required number of runs.

While he does what he does best, score runs, let’s not devalue or ignore the contribution of these 94 runs in the context of the game. Also lets praise the effort of Ravi Rampaul, for he did the best for his team by taking one of the most prized wicket in the game.

Take a back seat and enjoy the game, I am sure we will enjoy the little masters feat more if we let it come when it has to come.

Tough one but not tougher than scoring all the runs he has scored over the years. Certainly not.

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The fear of not having the Wall or VVS innings to save a test match

Last two days have been marred with the evils of match fixing hounding the gentleman’s game in India where cricket is more than game- it’s a religion.

But away from all the allegations, somewhere on the internet there was some thing for test match fans like me to read. Ever since Sachin Tendulkar scored his last century against South Africa in March 2011, every time he has stepped out to play, the focus has been on the century of centuries, rest seems to be irrelevant, at least for the media.

For a change yesterday was great to read about two stalwarts of Indian cricket who what I think haven’t got their due; Rahul Dravid ‘the wall’ and the ‘Very Very Special’ VVS Laxman.

These days every time they play or even when the reports featuring their antics on the field appear, they come as a brutal reminder, a fear that may be this could be the last few of their heroics of these legendary batsmen comes along.

Was it the last time we were watching these two greats pile runs at Eden Gardens? How many more such innings together?

Miles apart from any such apprehensions I am sure these two players take each innings on its merit and more often than not deliver the same result.

But the mere thought of having an Indian test squad without Dravid and Laxman at No.3 and No.5 sends shivers down my spine. Over all these years they have amassed 21,542 runs and 53 centuries, most of which have ended on winning notes or have saved team India from disgrace of defeat.

Imagining a test series without them is nothing less than a nightmare.

For as long as they are around anything is possible in a test match, whatever be the situation.

For when the Wall takes on to the field there assurance comes along. Even when he is stretches forward and leaves the first ball out side off stump you lean back comfortably in your seat knowing that the stride will be later followed by text-book cover drives when fielders are mere spectators and it’s the ball boys who come into the picture.

New ball or old, bouncy wicket or cracking track when the ever composed Dravid connects the red cherry right in the middle of the bat on front foot with steady head, fans can hold their heads high. That is why 32 of 36 times when he has scored in three digits India has been in safe heavens.

On the contrary though the wristy Hyderabadi is not the most confident starter in the game, few bouncing deliveries played rising up on the toes and a couple of flicks towards mid wicket and you know that he means business. He quickly changes gears and in a matter of a session or two takes the team in a comfort zone.

What makes him truly special is that he has taken India out of trouble the most number of times in the fourth innings the most testing time in the game.

The most recent example of his heroics being the Mohali test against Australia- Laxman’s favourite opponents when he played an inning most can’t and won the test match playing with tailenders.

What makes them truly special is the fact that they perform in the most testing times against the fiercest opponents.

Like true disciples after all these years they compete with self and try beat their own feat of snatching victory from jaws of defeat. Over the years the duo has never hogged limelight or had a great fan following, but in heart of hearts when it comes to test they are the only incredibles in the team whom the fans can put their faith in.

But with each passing inning I wonder what next for without them there are few in the team who can punch lusty blows, but not anyone who can play they gutsy innings these two can.

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India-Pakistan:Against and with each other, tale of two games

Calling India taking on Pakistan in the semi finals of the Cricket World cup on Wednesday an important knock out match will be termed as understatement.

Though it is the right statement, it will be understatement.

For India and Pakistan when pitted against each other are always a mouth-watering prospect.

Frenzy has been built up around this clash between arch rivals that adds on to the hysteria that surrounds the game.

The three P’s: Public, Press, Politicians want to cash on the most anticipated game in the subcontinent. While the craze among first two is understandable the addition of third one adds (in my view) an uncalled for fourth’ P Pressure to the game.

This hurried move by the Prime Minister’s office to add diplomacy to the game of cricket is a debatable issue. We the people at NDTV raked up the issue: Can cricket diplomacy be effective for India and Pakistan relations. Does symbolism have real value?

It’s not as if this is for the first time cricket has been mixed with diplomacy both the countries have in the past used the move to certain degree of success, but is this the apt time.

It’s the semi finals of the world cup and one of the premiers will walk out unhappy.

Wonder if this will add to easing the atmosphere.

However, at the moment who wants the atmosphere to ease, certainly none of the three P’s.

From Mohali cut to Miami, miles away the same to countries are in action; this time together.

India’s Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi playing as a doubles team have reached the pre quarter finals of the Miami Masters.

Their win might have made it to couple of columns of the last page in sports section or a couple of paragraphs on news websites.

Termed as Indo-Pak express this duo silently has been trying to show the gesture of unity for some time now. After the initial media euphoria and coining of the term the fizz has settled.

One for the obvious reason that rivalry grabs headlines, peace doesn’t. Also they haven’t been hugely successful so far.

Anyways coming back to gestures was wondering could the premiers have not made a gesture by watching a game of Indo-Pak express in action.

There the tension would have been eliminated as both play together and not against each other.

A tweet on the same generated mixed response, while many retweeted the thought others said they are like ‘Federer-Nadal’ and some said not a bad idea.

But on a practical level that doesn’t ever look likely.

As Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN tweeted, “After watching most of our news channels, feel we want to make it out to be World War 3. Jingoism ‘sells’. Sad.

Perhaps that is the harsh reality, which will take long to change.

 

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Australian era of invincibility ends

Australia won’t be playing in the finals of cricket World Cup 2011.

The second consecutive defeat in the World cup after 34 straight wins brings the invincible Aussie era in the world cup to an end.

A five wicket defeat at the hands of India packs the four-time World champions home, but they went down fighting in a typical Aussie style.

A team sans its usual superstars, Punter and Co. went about the business in typical Australian fashion and made the match out of it.

While reams of print will be consumed celebrating Indian victory and lambasting the Australians, especially Ponting writing them off, former players, journos, commentators should give it a thought that this team has held the coveted trophy more than anyone else.

Ponting is the proud recipient of three world cup medals, a feat which many other greats and so-called greats can only dream of.

On Thursday, OZ were outplayed, sometime had to happen and it happened, ironic for Ponting it happened when he earned the infamous tag of being the only second captain to lose the Ashes thrice.

This tag of being the captain, under whom Australia failed to reach a semi final since 1996, is going to add another unwanted tag to Ponting who made the most runs in the match.

Though on a losing side his century after 13 months ensured he lives to the reputation of big match performer.

As they take the flight home and Cricket Australia think tank ponders over the issues, its time they give their domestic cricket serious thinking.

Former Australian cricket Dean Jones pointed out on NDTV that the standards of domestic cricket have fallen for the international players no more play in the Sheffield Trophy. “When I was playing we would play four to five games for our state, which would allow local players to have a go at us and give selectors a chance to spot talent, this is not the case anymore,” says Jones.

At the moment the once reliable Australian middle order is vulnerable, the firepower and variety in their bowling is missing, they still field well but despite all odds the it’s the Aussie attitude of never say die that holds the team.

As the world of cricket gears to welcome new champions, the early break gives the ex champions time to get back to winning ways.

With Ponting not throwing his towel, they have it all to rise from the Ashes.

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IPL auction: Time to make overnight millionaires

The IPL auction ahead of season four was a splurge show by the franchisee owners.

It was overhaul time for the franchisees and they lived up to the expectations churning out a few millionaires in matters of minutes.

Indian opener Gautam Ghambir opened the auction by being the highest paid player on day one, KKR bagged the Delhi Dare Devils last season captain for USD2.4 million, and followed this one by signing Baroda big hitter Yusuf Pathan for USD 2.1 million.

There were others too, however what was interesting was the fact that stalwarts of the gentlemen’s game were overshadowed by the minnows of the slam bam format. It was a pity to see Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman being auctioned cheaply for USD 5,00,000 and 4,00,000 respectively where as there were no takers for Sourav Ganguly who was reserved at USD 4,00,000.

This is where I feel that stalwarts of the game should have gracefully left the marketing marquee of IPL after having braved three seasons and left on a respectable note. This isn’t a place for these text-book players.

What surprises me are few things, players like Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan bagged USD 2.1 million and 1.9million respectively, both of these are not even in the probable 30 players for WC squad.

Also the international stars were in no comparison with the prices youngsters with barely few international games managed.  All of three ODI’s and 23 first class games under his belt left hander Saurabh Tiwary took home USD 1.6million, whereas England’s T20 captain Paul Collingwood could manage USD 250,000.

This is what a season of good performance can do in a game where legends spent lifetime to achieve a single feat. And two of such legends Sourav Ganguly and Brian Lara could not find any takers.

One can understand Lara, for he hasn’t played any cricket for last three years but Ganguly’s omission was surprising.

What concerns me is how fans will react to a new home team? I remember while covering IPL-3, the SMS stadium, Jaipur would erupt with roars every time Yusuf Pathan would come to bat. Now how will the Rajasthan Royals fans react when Yusuf will play against Royals on his once   home turf?

I doubt if the experiment to follow football leagues will go down well with Indian fans who have an emotional connect with their teams and players.

Also how much will IPL-4 manage to capture the audience imagination remains to be seen as the tournament begins just a week after World Cup 2011.

Organisers should have given a thought that excess of everything is bad and might apply to nation’s unofficial religion as well.

While that is long way to go, what remains to be seen is that will Gambhir manage to hold the distinction on Day-2 of auction or we see a new millionaire toppling him in mere 24 hours.

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Ponting down, but not out

Ricky Ponting will not play in the Syndey test.

Bad news for Ponting. However, what is heartening is the way his men have rallied behind him despite the Ashes loss.

Critics, pundits and Englishmen alike wrote Australia’s most successful test captain off after he earned the infamous distinction of being only the second Aussie captain to lose the Ashes thrice in his career.

This for any proud Australian is criminal.

Despite that the hour of adversity shows the real strength of Ponting – his teams support.

From his deputy Michel Clarke, to coach Tim Nielsen to the once on field rival former England Captain Micheal Vaughan everyone has a word or two of praise for punter.

Clarke, who will be the stand in captain in Sydney has refused to lead Ponting, Nielsen says in a post match conference that the bloke has a lot left in him and Vaughan told BBC that he would like to see Ponting bat for a few more years.

This shows a lot of character for OZ as a team and shows they stand united in the worst hour of their cricketing history.

With no test match after Sydney in sight till August  will give Ponting and Australia a lot of time to regroup as a match winning squad.

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