The God of soccer turns 55…

For anyone born in the 70s, soccer is synonymous with one man. They call him Diego Maradona – the man who made Argentina popular as a country. He is the reason why I started supporting Argentina even before a gentleman named Messi was born. There was always a debate if Pele was better than Maradona and vice-versa. I would simply put it this way. If Pele is Bradman, then Maradona is Sachin.

Diego Maradona

Whether it was getting red-carded in the 1982 world cup or failing the drug test in the 1994 world cup, or using the hand of God in the 1986 world cup, he had been controversy’s favourite child. But, one would always remember the magic this genius created in the 1986 world cup. For me, the best moment of his career was his double in the 1986 WC quarterfinal against England. If the first goal would remain the most controversial goal ever to have scored in a WC match, then the 2nd goal would be remembered as the best ever-individual goal. The maverick picks the ball from his own half dribbles past the English defenders tirelessly and moves till the box, goes past Peter Shilton and deposits the ball in the back of the net. I would say that was the day when God decided to use his hand and then his foot to score 2 of the most talked about goals of WC history.

Today as he turns 55 (sum it up and again you get No.10), I wish him a long and healthy life. Once a genius, he will always be a genius.

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The Nawab of Najafgarh bids adieu…

The curtains are down on one of the glorious chapters of Indian cricket. What makes Viru special? He is not the textbook batsman like Rahul Dravid. Nor was he sent by God to play cricket and come back like Sachin Tendulkar. Nor was he the God of offside like Sourav Ganguly. And he didn’t have that very very special, silky touch like Laxman. So, what made Shaun Pollock say it was not Sachin Tendulkat or Brian Lara, but Sehwag was the one he found tough bowling to? -It is his unpredictable style of batting. He always keeps his opponents guessing. Don’t bowl a good length delivery (a ball which at the most could be pushed for a single by the regular openers) at him as the first ball of the innings and expect him to do the same as others. He will whack you for a six. Ask Jason Gillespie for more details..

Virender_Sehwag_ANTOpediaPic courtesy : Weekly Times of India

There was a phase in Indian cricket when Kris Srikanth used to open the innings and lived dangerously, he also had a few brilliant innings to display his hard hitting style of batting. Then came the master blaster who took it to the next level when he started opening the batting in the one-dayers. But it was a different experience for all the Indian cricket fans when this Delhi daredevil started opening the batting. His funda was simple when it came to batting. Don’t make it complicated. See the ball and hit it hard. And boy, didn’t he hit it hard. He did that tirelessly throughout his illustrious career. The cricket pundits were criticizing his footwork (or the lack of it, actually). But he was blessed with a great hand eye co-ordination. And he utilized it to the maximum. Thank God, he didn’t change his style of batting or his technique, or else we would have missed the joy of watching this maverick bat for 15 years. In the 2011 world cup, the score read 4/0 after 0.1 overs during the Indian innings during the first 5 matches. And, no prizes for guessing who started the mayhem – it was Viru.

If his ODI heroics were outstanding, then his test records were even better. If you had asked any cricket follower in the world to pick someone to beat the then highest test score by an Indian of 281 by VVS, the answer would have been anyone from Sachin to Dravid to VVS but not Sehwag. However, it was the Nawab of Najafgarh who became the first Indian to score a triple century. And just when his critics started saying that it was just a flash in the pan, Sehwag silenced them by doing it again. Two triple tons and now he was in the illustrious company of none other than the Don himself. And the way he brought up his triple hundred was even more special. Hitting the ball for a six when on 295, a typical Seh-whack style.

Virender Sehwag will be forever remembered as one of the Fabulous Five of Indian test cricket during its golden period, along with Sachin, Rahul, Sourav and VVS. And as I complete this piece, I get to know that he has scored a century for Haryana against Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy. His hunger for runs will never end, whether it is    Melbourne, Mumbai or Mysore. The show will go on and he will continue to entertain us in every way possible.

Here is wishing the “Nawab of najafgarh” all the very best post his International career.

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Match Review – India vs Pakistan – ICC World Cup 2015 – Feb 15th

So, the Indians have just done what they have been doing to Pakistan in all their world cup matches. Beating them hands down. It all started with MSD winning the toss. Under perfect conditions to bat, it was an easy decision for MSD. He opted to bat first. The man in form, Rohit Sharma & the one who has been facing severe criticism for his inconsistency, Shikhar Dhawan walked in to open the innings. After the early dismissal of Rohit, it was up to Virat & Shikhar to stitch a good partnership and they did just that.


Cometh the hour, Cometh the man : There are good players, great players and then there are these big match players. Virat Kohli was just the big match player India was looking for in this high voltage clash. The best part of Virat’s innings was the calmness he displayed throughout his innings. First with Dhawan and then with Raina he was involved in two 100 plus stands and that’s the phase in which Pakistan lost the match. He also stayed cool when Afridi’s throw hit him. The Virat we all know would have given a stare if not an earful, but today, the young turk was composed and went about doing his business. In the process, he became the first Indian to score a world cup century against Pakistan and also notched up his 22nd hundred. And for the stats lovers, this was the slowest of all his hundreds.

Raina’s whirlwind innings: With Dhawan getting out and 20 overs more to go, it was important for someone to up the ante and take control of the situation. With Virat playing the role of a sheet anchor, it was left to Suresh Raina to lead the charge. He scored a quick-fire 74 of 56 balls and in the overall match analysis, this innings was crucial. His innings reminded me of the one Ajay Jadeja played against Pakistan in the 1996 QF clash.

Poor finish by the Indian batsmen: With Virat getting out with 273 on board and 5 overs remaining with the likes of Raina, MSD, Jadeja still there India was expected to score 325 plus. But all they could manage was just a run a ball after Virat’s dismissal. This was due to some very good, disciplined death bowling by the Pakistan bowlers, especially Sohail Khan who finished with 5-55.

The Chase by Pakistan: Chasing a score of 300 is never a challenging task in modern-day cricket. All you have to do is to rotate the strike, pick up the singles and twos, keep the wickets in hand and go for the kill in the last 15 overs. A lot was expected out of Younis Khan, the opener but he disappointed. Though Misbah played a lovely innings, he was let down by his teammates. In the end, 300 was too much for Pakistan and thanks to a better bowling effort by the Indians, the match was won by India by 76 runs.

Moments where India won & Pakistan lost :

  1. The move to send Raina up the order ahead of Rahane.
  2. Misbah holding Wahab Riaz for the power play & the death and in the process feeding Raina with spin bowling which helped Raina to build his innings.
  3. Virat’s well composed innings.
  4. Umesh Yadav’s twin strikes in three balls.
  5. Jadeja’s catch to dismiss Shehzad. (He proved why even the PM of India calls him SIR).  :P
  6. India’s running between the wickets.
  7. India’s fielding efforts.
  8. MSD’s captaincy skills.

Best Moment of the match: For me, the best moment of the match was Suresh Raina punching the air and celebrating Virat’s century even before Virat did and then patting on his back when he got dismissed. This shows that there is a great camaraderie in the dressing room and that is a great sign for the better things to come.

And as an Indian, it can’t get better than this, as the mother of all cricket matches just turned my Sunday into a Super Sunday. No more 5-0, it is 6-0 now. ;)



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Match Review – CSK vs KKR – Match 38 – IPL, 2013 – April 28th

So, CSK does it again. Whether they chase or not, they always like to get over the line in the final over. Asked to bat first by Gambhir, they had a new opening pair in Saha and Hussey. CSK finished with 200 for 3 in 20 overs and though Bisla’s love affair with the Chennai ground continued, he was not able to see them through, this time. And in the end, KKR fell short off the target by 14 runs.

Surprise package Saha : When Saha stepped out with Hussey to open the innings, one would have thought how he would cope up against the defending champions. He started positively and was involved in a 103 runs stand for the 1st wicket with Mike Hussey. He scored a quick fire 39 runs of 23 balls and the 2 sixes he hit were outstanding. When he got out in the 11th over, he had already laid a strong platform for the big hitters in the team to flourish. It would be interesting to see if Dhoni will pick him for the next match ahead of the out of form Vijay.

Mr.Cricket’s golden run continued: It is not for nothing he is called “Mr.Cricket”. The Aussie paced his innings beautifully and provided the perfect start along with Saha. He almost played every shot in the book and in an act of unselfishness, sacrificed his wicket going for the big shots and fell short of 5 runs of what could have been a very well deserved century. And he being in immaculate touch with the bat, CSK can very well become the first team to qualify for the knock out phase.

The Raina we all know, is back: The most consistent player in the IPL history is back to form and that should be like music to the ears of all the CSK fans. Scoring a 25 ball 44 and getting run out for the team’s cause, he is back. Also, in this innings, he became the first Indian player in the IPL history to hit 100 sixes.

KKR’s Chase: With 201 to win, KKR was expected to cash in on the super overs. They got support from unexpected quarters in the form of Dirk Nannes. Nannes, coming into this match after an injury, started with a wide and then bowled a no-ball. With 10 runs after just 1 ball, KKR had a dream start.

Bisla’s love affair with Chepauk: No one could forget Bisla’s knock against CSK in the last year’s final. He continued from where he left off and scored the runs at will. Though he was not comfortable initially against the Chennai pacers, once he got his eye in, he continued to score runs at ease. I was forced to think about the last year’s final when this man was at the crease and a similar result was very likely. When he got out for a very well made 92 off 61 balls, they required 23 off 9 balls and that was much gettable in this format.

Off-day for Kallis: The man who can walk into any team for his all round skills had a pathetic day with both the bat and the ball. Conceding 50 runs in 4 overs and scoring a painstaking 20 ball 19 runs is something he would like to forget immediately.

CSK’s misses on the field: With Raina dropping a sitter by his standards, Ashwin flooring another one and the skipper himself missing out a tough stumping chance, the game could have gone in favour of their opponents on another day. Nannes had a miserable day with the ball and he almost won it for KKR. I am sure he will sit out for all the remaining games. Bowling at death is still a worry for the Chennai team and they should try and find answers for this, before the knock out phase starts.

Outstanding final over by Morris: With 19 runs to get in 6 balls, Morris was given the responsibility of bowling the final over. With the man in form, Eoin Morgan and the big hitting Pathan at the crease, it was well within the reach. Morris started off with a beautiful yorker and ended it off with another 2 yorkers. 4 runs from the final over and looks like death bowling issue will be sorted out for the CSK if he continues to bowl these yorkers.

Brief Scores

CSK : 200 for 3 in 20 overs. Hussey 95(59), Saha 39(23), Raina 44(25). Narine 1/35 and Bhatia 1/31

KKR : 186 for 4 in 20 overs. Bisla 91 (62), Morgan 32(22). Sharma 1/23, Morris 1/29 and Bravo 1/37

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Preview to CSK vs KKR – Match 38 – IPL, 2013 – April 28th

Both the teams come into this match in contrasting styles. CSK is on a high with 6 wins out of 8 games and KKR on the other side is reeling at the bottom three with just 6 points out of 8 games. With CSK’s plan working well so far (Hussey playing the sheet anchor role and the others playing the shots around him). With aggressive batsmen like Raina, Dhoni, Jadeja, Bravo & Morris to follow, they can chase down any total set. Would be interesting to see how Badrinath would hold the innings together, if Hussey gets out early. With CSK’s fielding improving with every game, they again look like the time to beat in this edition. One major area of concern is their death bowling. Giving away 50+ runs in the last 4-5 overs has become a pain area for them and it is high time their think-tank come up with an idea to stem the run flow in the death overs.


KKR on the other hand seems to be finding it tough winning their away games. All their 3 wins this season have come at the Eden Gardens and they would definitely like to pick their first away points today. The good news for KKR is the return of form of Bisla. The man who broke the hearts of all the Chennai fans in the last year final would like to give his time a quick start. Kallis & Morgan looks solid in the middle order and they have to be at their best to tame the lions at their den. Senanayake not playing in this match would be a set back for the knight riders as he had formed a great bowling partnership with the wily Narine.

Key players to watch out for :

MS Dhoni : He would be the one to provide the finishing touches to the Chennai innings. Lot depends on how he would use his bowlers against Bisla.

Hussey : If he stays at the crease till the 15 overs mark, CSK would fancy it’s chances.

Narine : He would love to get the purple cap back from Faulkner.

Bisla : Would love to continue his good run against CSK in Chennai.

My prediction for today: CSK all the way to the top of the table.

My playing eleven for today’s match :

CSK : Vijay, Hussey, Raina, Badrinath, Dhoni, Jadeja, Bravo, Morris, Ashwin, Nannes/Hilfenhaus,Sharma

KKR : Bisla, Gambhir, Kallis, Morgan,McCullum/Haddin,Pathan, Bhatia,Balaji,Narine,Abdulla,Shami Ahmed.

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Review of DD vs CSK – Match 24 – IPL 2013 – April 18th

What else one can expect from the wounded lions? The performance was clinical and the Super Kings celebrated the occasion of becoming the first IPL team to play 100 matches with a handsome win against the hapless Delhi Daredevils.

Coming into the match with a loss against the Pune Warriors, the CSK got the Mr. Cricket on top of the batting order and he responded with a fluent knock of 65* with a good strike rate of 130. I don’t think MSD will ever think of resting him again. On the other end Vijay was looking confident till he got out to Morkel. Though it looked like the ball would have missed the leg stump, the umpire thought otherwise. Entered Suresh Raina, playing in his 100th match for the CSK. He celebrated the day by playing a solid innings of 30 and more importantly had a good partnership of 60 with Hussey in 50 balls. With 7 overs to go, the captain decided to show the Kotla fans why he is one of the best finishers of modern-day cricket. Result: 44 runs with a strike rate of close to 200. The helicopter shot was a treat to watch and one banner in the crowd summed it all up “I am from Delhi; but I support CSK for Dhoni”. Chennai finished with a very good score of 169 and it was then the time for the CSK bowlers to come to the party.

CSK beats DD

With a target of 170, two of the most brutal openers of this generation walked into the middle. Though both Sehwag and Warner are not in the best of touches, every cricket fan knows that any total is gettable if they get going. It was important for Chennai to strike early and Sharma repaid the confidence Dhoni had kept in him by sending Warner’s timber for a walk. In the same over, he removed Juneja and the Delhi skipper Mahela walked to the crease with a huge responsibility on his shoulders. And CSK’s costliest buy of this season, Morris got into the act by dismissing the DD skipper. The score read 30-3 and in the next ball, Sharma got the wicket of Sehwag who holed out to Hussey on the boundary line. 30-4 and the match was almost over for the Delhi Daredevils. Wickets kept falling at regular intervals and with the vibrant dance moves from the Caribbean Super King, Dwayne Bravo the Chennai supporters got their money’s worth. Bravo picked up 3 catches and also picked up the final wicket to fall. Sharma impressed one and all with a lovely spell of 3-10 in 3 overs. With all the bowlers used, picking up wickets, Chennai overall had a fantastic day on the field by beating DD by a whopping 86 runs.

Michael Hussey picked up the MOM and Chennai had done a world of good to their net run rate after this match. So, the wounded lions have done what they are best at doing; beating their opponents in convincing fashion. Kudos to CSK.

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Review of CSK vs PWI – Match 19 – IPL 2013 – April 15th

First things first. Did Captain Cool become complacent a little too early in this edition? Agreed, it’s always nice to experiment with the weaker oppositions so that when the tournament progresses, you would have figured out the winning combination. But what makes one wonder is why Mr. Cricket has to be rested and Anirudha Srikkanth has to be asked to open the innings? Anirudha playing in his first match this edition was always going to find Bhuvi’s swingers tough to handle in the initial overs and this move would have cost the CSK dearly. And the man who replaced Hussey was Albie Morkel. No doubt Albie has been a great servant for CSK in the past, but what was Dhoni thinking when he was playing with 3 overseas all-rounders? If someone like Mitchell Johnson can pop a lot of questions to the PWI batsmen in the previous match, why not go ahead with another pacer in Hilfenhaus? And if Albie has to come in at No.8 and not bowl a single over, why wasn’t he asked to open the innings? Someone who had come from South Africa just after playing in the Ram Slam T-20 final would have been a safer bet than the not so experienced Anirudha. To put it very simple, if Albie was fit to play, he should have been utilized completely and definitely not just as a No.8 batsman. And if the CSK spinners gave away only 51 runs out of their 8 overs, why was Raina not asked to roll his arm over? And a sincere request to MSD on behalf of all the CSK fans: “Sir, we know that you always love to finish the games in the final over if not the final ball, however it doesn’t work always. We, the CSK fans are always proud to be a part of the yellow brigade. But, please don’t give us heart attacks every time you walk out with our team to the middle. It’s absolutely great that we have learnt the lesson the harder way so early in the tourney as it is only the 4th match and we all know that we will bounce back and bounce back stronger. Till then, #WhistlePodu will continue. We still are the team to beat. So, Chin Up Captain.”

CSK vs PWI Review

And where did the Pune Warriors get it right? Right from winning the toss, everything went right for the stand-in skipper, Ross Taylor. I always felt that it will be great for PWI if Robin and Aaron can provide them with a solid start and they stitched together a 96 run stand for the opening wicket. With hitters like Taylor & Smith to follow, the openers had set the perfect launch pad for the assault. And Smith didn’t disappoint. Scoring 39 runs with a strike rate of more than 240 was the cherry on top of the PWI innings. Bhuvanesh Kumar came up with a brilliant spell of 2-12 in 4 overs. Smith had a brilliant match with his batting & fielding and Finch gave them a superb start, but Bhuvi would be my “Man of the Match”. With an economy rate of 3 RPO against CSK, (don’t forget the venue of the match) he should have got it. Though MSD was in the wrong side after the match, he would have been definitely happy with the way Bhuvi bowled (looks like he has got his seat booked for the South Africa tour). Let’s not forget the captaincy of Taylor. Asking Bhuvi to bowl 3 overs in the start was a great move. Remember Mathews pulling out his strike bowler after just 1 over against MI? Getting his best fielders in the right positions and getting Smith to come up at No.4 were some sparks of his great captaincy skills. Overall, the Pune team fought like true warriors and tamed the lions in their own den. I have predicted that the absence of Mathews would be a blessing in disguise for the warriors and it happened exactly the same way. If PWI can maintain this combination and Yuvi coming in for Pandey in the upcoming matches, they can give the other teams a run for their money.

Before the match, I have predicted an easy victory for the CSK. But the beauty of T-20 cricket is that, on their day the minnows can beat the masters and that’s what unfolded today.

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