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The same old story once again ?

The campaign and the hopes for millions are done for another four years. The journey has been completed with an exit from the World Cup after reaching the semi finals. The best balanced team has beaten us convincingly in the final knock out match of India. The response from millions of Indian fans has been written with lots of disappointment, which is quite natural given the passion for the game. However, some of the extreme reactions targeting and questioning the basic integrity of the players have forced me to think that is this the same old story of immaturity once again back ?

Let’s for a second pause and take a step back to visualise the situation before the start of the World Cup. The signals were very ominous for the Team Blue before the start of the campaign:

  • World Cup in Australia where the pitches tend to be too bouncy for Indian liking
  • Comprehensively beaten in last two overseas tours in England and Australia, tending towards complete “white wash”
  • Weaknesses of top Indian batsmen against fast bouncy pace bowling known by the world
  • Last 7 years haven’t produced a class fast bowler who can perform at overseas grounds. There have been patches of individuals who started with lots of hope and then fading away into oblivion with mediocre performances. 
  • Indian bowling attack, specially the pace attack, have been torn apart by the opposition repeatedly. 
  • Ishant Sharma was destined to lead the pace attack and yet sidelined due to injury
  • Morale have been at the lowest ebb ever, specially before the start of the biggest spectacle in international cricket
  • World Cup schedule demanded no “easy” matches for India in the start to gain some confidence
  • Dhoni’s leadership style questioned due to many controversies, on and off the field.

With the above scenario, the hopes of an average Indian fan was very pessimistic to start with. Jokes were around if at all India can win against some of the minnows, there will be hundred reasons to open the bubbly to celebrate.

After one month, India performed above expectations, having all win records in all matches, having bowled out all oppositions in all matches, pace bowlers excelled beyond expectations in all matches, batting up to the mark in all matches, Dhoni back to his cool skilful captaincy in all matches …. except for the disaster that happened in the semifinals against a much stronger team of Australia in their home conditions. That too when the crucial toss going against India.

And then hell broke lose …. Suddenly the same set of people who thought initially that India will be lucky to even reaching the knock out stage, went all arms and daggers out against the Indian team. With such low expectations from the team, when the same team just surpassed all the wildest dreams, suddenly the guns are out blazing to shoot them down ?

The dramatic Times Now channel went on the offensive with comments that Dhoni should have showed some more sad faces after the loss, players did not want to win and hence have been cheating the millions of fans, the captaincy was absolutely ridiculous, the bowling has been pathetic, etc etc. Yes, there have been a failure in that match, but to brand the entire team with those negative comments is totally unfair.

It looked like that after the match, if Dhoni, Virat and others had shed tears on the ground like that of de Villiers, we would have been convinced that they were actually trying to win the match !!! Whether the same set of players are devastated by the loss within themselves is not important, they should have expressed themselves with sorrow, tears, wrenched faces, then we would have  said “well played” !!!! Come on, give us a break !!!

I can only wish that more maturity comes to the responsible media channels, more compassion and understanding is shown by the average Indian cricket fans. Let’s not make yesterday, once more !!

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Enlightenment after a big slap

The on going India vs Australia test series happening down under is quite gripping in all aspects. We are witness to great cricket from both sides with Smith and Virat Kohli starring from the respective sides. And then there is that ugly aspect of cricket championed by the Aussies which is in ample display on the field. The same menace that threatens the game to a potential physical brawl on the field – sledging!

Sledging is nothing new, thanks to the infamous contribution by the Aussies. But the so-called “sporting” Aussies, who always claim to appreciate ‘hard’ cricket, can’t digest if an opposition team gives back the same treatment. Then the “friendly banter” that the Aussies claim to be an integral part of the game, suddenly becomes an irritant to the game.

So when Virat Kohli led a vicious sledging attack to Johnson while batting as well as while fielding, then the supporter of sledging Ian Chappel comes up with a big concern that soon sledging might lead to physical confrontation.

To quote Ian Chappell – “The more players talk on the field, the more likelihood there is something personal will be said. If something personal is said at the wrong time there will eventually be an altercation on the field. When that happens it will be players who are punished and as is almost always the case, the administrators will escape scot-free, despite being guilty of allowing the problem to escalate to this point. Apart from the danger of an altercation on the field – and if you don’t think that could be ugly, just remember one player has a bat in his hand – there is the simple matter of the batsman being entitled to peace and quiet while he’s out in the middle.”

Well Mr. Chappell, did you and some of the Australians needed the big slap of counter sledging from Virat Kohli and the Indian team to realise that ? Now you realise that this may turn physical, specially when you saw Haddin, Johnson fell apart due to the sledging from the Indian team? Australian cricket always appreciated “mental disintegration” – what happened to that philosophy now, once you saw your own bowler disintegrating on your own home turf? One big slap on the ears have suddenly allowed the same ears to hear a different music.

Hypocrisy has been a forte for Aussies for a long time when opposition gave back same dosage of sledging – then they feel opposition has been doing “racial” comments and don’t have the guts to face sledging… they complain to papa ICC and cry like babies….

However, as long Aussies continue sledging, you will get a stronger dosage back – with lots of spice… Hope you can digest the Indian curry going on – if not, we can provide some complimentary antacids as well.

The eternal bias

The cricketing world has again gone wild when the news surfaced that India has formally complained that Jimmy Anderson of England had physically pushed Ravindra Jadeja when the players were walking off towards the pavilion during the lunch break. As this apparently happened in the pavilion tunnel and outside the purview of the television camera’s, there is a lot of conjecture and speculation happening on the facts and figures. ICC has been called in and a panel will be sitting to investigate the matter through an official enquiry. This is where the facts end, as of today.

Now comes the reaction from the media, ex-players from both the countries impacted here. I have studied the reactions and found out that the reporting in the Indian media has been limited to reporting the incident. That’s all – no hanging of any culprit has taken place, no allegations of sure foul play has been alleged, no abusive or aggressive stand taken by any ex-cricketer of India.

What’s has been the reaction of the British media? Well, at least the main newspapers have reported the incident, but some indications of “cry baby” India has been there in some of the newspapers. But the interesting thing is the view from the English ex-players. Many of them have already drawn the conclusion that lies have been told by the Indian team and all these are absolutely rubbish, etc etc.

I really wonder what drives this behaviour. Just because India is a country where unfortunately corruption is quite rampant allows people to believe that most of the Indian players will lie, make false allegations given a chance? Or is it that as has been true for last centuries earlier, English opinion is always correct and third world countries do not have the right to even voice their opinion?

I remember when England lost a test series vs India in England years back, one Chetan Sharma played havoc and was alone responsible to bring victories for India. Reactions from the English team? Chetan Sharma must have chucked the ball as otherwise how come India can win a test! When Flintoff took off his shirt in Wankhade stadium after defeating India, that was celebration of the aggressor; when Ganguly did the same on top of Lords balcony, that was a shame to cricket!

Come on! Grow up… The days of colonial rule are over and now the once-timid countries will stand up and give the same medicine, with more dosage than before. Whether some people like it or not, the world is changing; the equations are changing and soon it may happen that people will listen to some music that they never dreamt to be heard!

Till the matches end, let Indian team give fire back to fire; let them treat opponents in the same manner as they have been treated. Obviously we should play in the spirit of the game, but if the spirit vanishes from the opponents, we should be tough, aggressive yet showing a dignity that the opponents will find hard to digest!

I, me and Sachin

Those who know me well will vouch with full conviction that I hate waking up early in the morning and I prefer to be a late-night person. So, when I had a grueling three weeks in office including some of the weekends as well, I had looked forward for a day off yesterday when at least I can sleep till late in the morning. I had just landed on Thursday night in London from a business trip and was on my way home thinking of the next day off from office. The next day was Friday and so effectively an extended weekend for me … the day was 15-Nov-2013.

And yet it is amazing that I setup the alarm at 3.45 am on that day (remember a holiday for me !) which will allow me the 15 minute settling down before the last journey begins. Because that was the day I knew for sure Sachin Tendulkar will walk in to bat for the last time in his life. I had to be part of that walk, I had to accompany him for his last innings. And so it was a cold morning in London, me waking up, wrapping up in a blanket, sitting on the sofa, switching on the TV at 4 am (9.30 am India time) and waiting for the Master climb down the stairs from the pavilion amidst a deafening sound of “Sachiiiiiiiiin Sachin”. Yes, I could not afford to sleep for some more hours on a holiday, because within me my heart told that I should at least sacrifice some hours of sleep for a person who became a part of my life.

Why is it that Sachin Tendulkar became part of myself, became so integrated with my life, became so much embedded with my heart and emotions ? He does not have a great personality, he does not look great, he definitely does not have a Amitabh Bachhan-like voice, he rather looks like a dwarf on the field, his mannerism while batting is not great – specially his squatting while holding a part of his body is quite comical …. yet this person, whom I have not ever met, had unknowingly become a part of myself !

Probably it was the similar age between Sachin and myself … maybe it was the time when I could imagine myself being represented in the great sport of cricket through the body of Sachin … maybe it was the classic straight drive with a straight bat whether be in the front foot or backfoot … maybe it was the courage of one Indian cricketer who could counter attack the pace bowlers who tormented Indian cricket throughout the years …. maybe it was his humility … maybe his grace while batting touched me as a cricket lover …. maybe his passion for cricket and India  … maybe it was a combination of all these.

While I was young and growing up & Sachin was also growing and maturing to the best ever batsmen ever, I had two “guru”s defined in my life and I used to tell openly that to my mother – one was Kishore Kumar and the other Sachin Tendulkar (It was much later on that I learnt Sachin also loved Kishore Kumar songs so much – what a pleasant coincidence !). It was a common fact that if Tendulkar played well, my mother used to say that my mood will be very good and that I will eat that extra bit during dinner. My uncles knew about this and very often during family occasions used to plan within themselves and pretended to throw discussions with the message that Sachin was a rubbish batsman – and my reaction was predictable – I used to fight hard to prove that they were totally wrong.

Later on came Saurav Ganguly as the successful captain of India. With him came the common debate amongst most Bengali’s hovering around the point on who is better – is it Sachin or Sourav ? And the debates often rose to heated discussions with expletives being thrown left right and center. As was with every fan, I could not tolerate any ill-speaking of Sachin and sometimes to cover up his failures, I had to think of some different point of view so that I can divert the debate to some other sensitive topic so that people forgets the main reason behind the debate.

Every match of Sachin, every Indian match was something I need to watch – whether it is India vs Bangladesh or India vs Australia, it did not matter. And when Sachin used to bat, the tension was doublefold for me. If Sachin hit a four on a delivery, I used to force my friends not to shift from the seats they were seating till the over is finished. Generally the unofficial rule for me became – ‘first Sachin should score runs, then India can think of winning’ – a selfish way of thinking, no doubt.

So during the last 24 years, starting from the debut vs Pakistan till the end against West Indies, I grew up with Sachin … and the lines got merged with his playing and my growing up. His success made me feel as if I am myself successful, his failures made me scramble for excuses like ‘the ball was simply unplayable’, his centuries made me feel that I had went to bat and scored a century, his brilliant over at the Eden Gardens Hero Cup final made me shout “finally, we have got a great all-rounder” …….. without me knowing consciously, over the years Sachin became me, I became Sachin in life.

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And so, when Sachin’s last day came today on 16-Nov-2013, I am personally feeling a great void within myself … as if I have retired and will not know what to do tomorrow morning. People say that I am not that much an emotional person – but I literally could not hold my tears when Sachin walked back up the stairs on 15-Nov-2013 after making the majestic 74. It is so rare that a person whom I have never met could have impacted myself so much.

This story is nothing unique and all Sachin fans are perhaps experiencing the same feelings … that is the greatness of the man. So, when through BCCI I get the above personalised digital photograph of Sachin, I feel like a teenager once again – elated, happy and showing off the picture to everyone.

Today while I say THANK YOU SACHIN for the immense pleasures he gave to me for my last 24 years, I sign-off here with an online magazine on him, a small tribute to “a part of my life” (called Sachin Tendulkar) from myself : https://flipboard.com/section/all-about-sachin-tendulkar–bAlhRO

Wish Sachin all the best for the years to come …. and if ever I happen to meet him face-to-face, I will probably shake his hands and say “you made me complete as a human being … thank you for that”

 

You inspired a generation ….

There are many more qualified and experienced people than me who have been pouring in tributes to the God of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar … and right fully so. And yet here I am, another one of those million die hard fan of that man, trying to write something on that same man. But this will not be about his achievements, batting technique, him as a human being, etc…. simply because I am not qualified to do so. Rather it will be about asking some basic questions, which only that man can answer.

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What made you feel Sachin, that at that young age of 16+, you could take on the world all by yourself ? I know young blood always boils  … always think that I know everything and others are damn fools…  but still, inspite of that don’t care attitude,  how can one think of actually facing the greats like Akram, Waqar, Imran, Walsh, Hadlee’s of the world…  it’s like as a boy entering the job world and thinking that I am at the same level of a CEO and take him heads on….  wow!

How is it that you continue with the same passion on your job day in and day out without feeling bored, tired?  Even in charity matches, you have been dead serious.. didn’t you feel not motivated even for a single innings or a match? I am sure the answer is no…  wow!

How is it that you do not have a single gossip or scam your entire career, when you know the entire media is clicking every moment and actually waiting for a great masala story to emerge ? Even the greats like Tiger Woods, etc had their own quota of blemishes … some minor and some major…  but you never appeared as a news headline  apart from cricketing reasons…  wow!

You went through the era of betting in Indian cricket and was probably most impacted during your captaincy … and that’s one record which does not look great. Yet, you never went public taking names, never threw muck to anyone… knowing very well that your records as captain is going down the drain… any mortal person probably would have reacted violently to save his own back… and yet, you kept the calm image forever through out your cricketing career ….. wow!

You have played against so many players, you have played under so many captains, you have played with so many players…  and yet, it is rare to find even one person criticizing you for doing something that is against the spirit of the game. Yet you have faced so much sledging and abuses on the field by so many players…  wow!

You have been a super star, a God like figure for such a long time… and I have seen that a star even for five, six months develop an ego so big that often it engulfs his own achievements… and yet, you have been the most loved team player in all teams, even when you are led by people who are so much younger in age, both in years and achievements … and never it appeared that your ego is coming to the forefront … wow!

Actually I can go on with so many such questions that I myself will feel fatigued…  yet, after each such question, the answer will be a simple wow!

You truly have inspired generations !

“El Classico” in modern times

In modern days, nothing excites more than a sporting rivalry that hinges on the edge with more than sporting skills and expertise. A ‘classico’ involves lot of passion and honour at stake on the trapeze of too much war-like rivalry that engulfs not just the players in question, but the entire nation. This years India vs Australia cricket series Down Under promises more than cricket – it symbolises the retention of supremacy of India vs the never-say-die building of a new Australian team.

The first things that strikes us is the ugly banter, strong sledging and the arrogance of a Ricky Ponting team, planning for a win at any cost, even at the cost of insulting the spirit of the game. If that’s modern era, well let that be – let the players duel it out at the cost of sledging and mental dis-integration to the extent of almost physical slug fest. But to be fair, if somebody throws a fire-ball, let there be no “rules” stopping the other team of throwing it bat with a lot of spicy Indian curry. The ICC has been racial in many instances in the past – a similar “crime” on a field has led to more severe punishments to players of Asian origin. While a McGrath, Langer or a Lee gets away with some match fees, a Ganguly or Murali gets match bans. Racism exists in a different form and cricket is no exception. A “monkey” sledge becomes racial while questioning parentage is just a test of mental strength. Let ICC respect all cultures or make it a free for all – I don’t think Asian teams are afraid of slogging it out. Only thing that should not happen is dual standards, specially by bringing in some special umpires. By the way, it is good for the cricket that some ‘greats’ like Daryl Harper have gone – we can live without them happily.

Now let’s come to some reasons strictly on cricketing terms why this series can be a classico in real terms:

– This will be the last series for the Indian Fab Three in Australia – Sachin, Dravid, Laxman. And Aussies will be going all out to stop them – whether be Sachin’s 100th 100 or Laxman’s feats, does not matter.

– This might be the last of Ponting’s greatness. Who will account for him is a question but I have a hunch that this time he might be Ashwin’s bunny

– Michael Clarke can be a chocolate boy of international cricket, but whether he will be a good tactical captain remains to be seen

– The unknown factor of a raw Aussie pace attack might cause some surprise. Even though Indians are always susceptible to the rising delivery, whether the new Aussie attack can keep up the pressure relentlessly, ball after ball still remains to be seen

– This series might be the defining or oblivion series for Rohit Sharma – a batsman who was compared to Sachin with so much potential, but whose records do not suggest greatness

– This series can make the Virat Kohli’s, Suresh Raina’s make a solid statement in test cricket. Need to see whether the pressure or banter gets better of them or not.

Finally, this will be a series between a nation who are ‘tigers on home, but a duck overseas’ vs ‘I was a champion few years ago, but now playing to prove the same point’. Hence the stakes are too high – you can expect hot Indian curry against the know-it-all attitude of the Aussies and I am sure it will be a mouth-watering series.

My prediction is that by 28th Dec, the tone of the series will be set. The tone might bring in putting the nails in the coffin and the desperate fight-back when the back is against the wall. My only hope is that this time at least, let there be a spirit of the game on the field – if it’s again lost, let’s remove the biasness of the rules – we are ready to give everything back with interest – if that means some bloodshed, let’s call this a war !

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Sachin and wealth

Let me discuss something very weird and to an extent funny – firstly, this has nothing to do with Sachin Tendulkar’s personal wealth – everybody knows that he is one of the richest sportsman in India and deservedly he has earned all that by performing over so many years. Today wanted to explore whether Sachin’s performance has any linkage to the unpredictable and ever volatile India stock market. Sounds funny ? I am sure it does and some of the statistics shown here would suggest that there might be a direct linkage between his centuries and the rise and fall of the stock market. Some people have already done some study related to this topic and I will be just publishing some of the excerpts of those articles and providing the details of those sources.

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## Source: http://m.sooperarticles.com/sports-articles/cricket-articles/impact-sachin-tendulkars-centuries-indian-stock-market-141578.html – an article written sometime in 2011

“Sachin Tendulkar has got 94 centuries in International Cricket so far. He has certainly has had an impact on all over India, and over the other cricketing nations. We performed an analysis of the day Sachin Tendulkar hits a century, and the movement in the Stock Market (SENSEX) the very next day. Although Sachin hit his first International century in the year 1990, but India got its LPG policy in the year 1991. So, in all the 93 centuries that were hit during the Stock Market era of India, gave the following statistics:

SENSEX Rises: 55 Times
SENSEX Falls: 38 Times
SENSEX Flat: 1 Time

Sachin was at its peak during the years of 1998-1999, when he had just given up his captaincy. During these years Sachin hit 23 Centuries. Coincidentally at this time the Asian economy was under the effect of Recession due to the Asian Financial Crisis. 16 of those 23 centuries, the stock market fell (Although Sachin did try his best). Similarly, in the recent Great Recession of 2007-09, Sachin hit 8 Centuries, of which the Market fell 5 times. So, if we remove all the recessionary forces from the Sachin Tendulkar – Stock Market analysis, we would get the following:

SENSEX Rises: 44 Times
SENSEX Falls: 17 Times
SENSEX Flat: 1 “

What this suggests is whenever Sachin scores a century, it is likely that the stock market  will be rising the following day, provided there is no recession during that time. Even the cricketing God cannot help survive a recession ;-)

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## Source: http://www.buzzom.com/2010/10/stock-markets-fall-when-india-loses-odis-study-reveals/     written sometime in October’ 2010

Here it has been arrived that whenever Sachin scores a century and yet India loses that match, then the loss in the stock market is 20% more than a “normal” day.

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So next time when you feel like investing in stocks,  do keep an eye on Sachin’s performance – specially when his 100th century is due :-P

The donkeys and the monkeys

In the cricketing world, a controversy has been again created by Nasser Hussain by describing some of the Indian fielders as donkeys on the field. I am not sure whether he really meant the same – most probably not. But what I liked was how the Indian cricket team reacted – basically, they did not react at all. I think that is an example of maturity, unlike what we are normally used to see from countries like Australia or England.

But let’s do a role reversal, even if it is hypothetical. If Ravi Shastri or any other Indian described the fatty Patel playing for England as a “fatso” on the field, or Broad as a “dog” when he brings out his tongue after being hit for a four or a six, then what would have been the reaction ? Maybe allegations would be thick and fast of being ‘racist’, demands for immediate apology, with proposals of banning the individual ? Most probably yes !

Why the difference in this hypothetical behaviour ? Because in England, you can very often call someone a donkey if he is messing up things and you never ‘mean’ that. However, if similar reasoning is given by India, there will be so many surprised faces with “you are lying, you meant that” all written on those faces. Why ? Because normally countries like US, UK, Australia always knows better and the rest of the countries ‘just shut up’.

This reminds be of the famous “monkey” spat between Harbhajan and Andrew Symonds in Australia. Monkey can be a racial world, while abusing somebody else’s father or mother are just the way of life. That’s exactly what the Aussies do during sledging – but when the same medicine is given back with a hint of hot Indian spice, it becomes all racial.

I think those days are over now. People should have the heart and spirit to accept a behaviour which they in turn gives to others. Because that’s exactly what you will get back. Because that’s exactly what Newton’s third law states ‘to every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’.

And as experts say, Newton’s laws are never proved wrong !

But there’s an alternate option as well – don’t say anything that can potentially hurt someone, just play the gentleman’s game like a gentleman and not like a rogue on or off the field.

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My last walk in England

It is the last walk on a sunny afternoon … though it is summer, the chill in the air was still being felt by many. Sweat, hard work, success and failures – all has been a part of my life. All these qualities are there in any human being; I do not consider myself extra-ordinary, even though some of the people do think that I am a class apart from my seniors, peers as well as the juniors across the world. But I do not feel the same – as I only believe that talent is just a beginning, it is the hard work and then giving more than 100% pays. And that is what I have been doing for last 14 years, day in and day out.

This walk is not a happy one .. as probably I will be leaving England in my current active role for the last time. Normally the last walk is always supposed to be full of praises, full of nostalgia, full of memories. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I am sure I will get a fair quota of each of the above three … but what has made the walk a sad one is because at the end of the day, I have faced another defeat … our pride had gone down the drain after so much success in last few months … here was the last chance to regain some pride – but my colleagues and friends could not make that … As always, I have tried my best – got some success but no so much just before I started my last walk.

I wonder what has gone wrong in the last few months – but do not get any answer. I must be exhausted as my mind is not working – this surely has been such a mentally challenge for the last few weeks …

People say that my success is often overshadowed by the success of my great colleague .. maybe so, but I as an individual have never bothered about my success … this is a work I love to do and while working, I give my best … rest, as they say, will be history.

I look around as I walk past my workplace – some people are giving their customary clap, some wishing me good for my future, some cursing the decision-maker for a tough call … but still, I cannot enjoy the walk as I retreat for a lost cause .. a lost cause specially when we were on top of the world even a couple of months ago … don’t know why this disaster has happened – but I am an optimist and hence believe my juniors will rise to the occasion the next time … only difference will be that I will not be there to enjoy the English summer next time with the greens, the strawberries and of course, the red cherry coming at you at a high-speed and lateral movement ….

Well, that’s life … let me take rest, raise my legs on the table, relax back and close my eyes … the day is coming to an end ….

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This must have been what Rahul Dravid was thinking as he walked back to the pavilion after being dismissed in the last innings of the India – England test series at Oval, England, 21st Aug’ 2011

Evolution – for good or bad ?

I hereby attempt to compare the changing face of two popular sports (at least for many Indians) – Cricket and Soccer. I tend to compare the current state of matters in the respective World Cups with the versions that I watched in the late 80’s and try to conclude whether the evolution of the game has become exciting for the new generation or has taken a step back.

First comes Cricket, of course – how can go for anything else being an Indian :-)

The current rules and regulations have made the game ‘exciting’ for a generation who did not have the chance to watch the same version in the late 80’s. The field restrictions, introduction of power-plays, the restriction of one-bouncer-per-over, etc etc have forced teams to become more aggressive in batting. The bowlers may cry their voice hoarse – but net-net, the game has turned over to more exciting times. In the late 80’s, if a team used to score at a rate of 3.5 without losing any wicket, we used to say “wow”. Nowadays, anything less than 6.0 runs per over in the initial 10-12 overs is looked upon as a crime. Earlier, a score of 230-240 in 50 overs was looked upon as a fighting and even winning total. But if you think that by making the same total in today’s game, you will win a match, then I would suggest to take a walk ! Earlier, we had to count how many Indian’s could actually hit a sixer – we were left with limited names like Srikkanth, Shastri, Kapil. Now-a-days, we have to count how many cannot hit a six – and the number would be limited to only 2 – 3 players. Hence, the game has taken a step forward making it more exciting.

Now comes Soccer …….

We grew up with the mesmerisation of Samba football by Brazil, the great flow of Kempes, Ardilles and Maradona’s, the clinical striking by the Rossi’s, Linekar’s of the world. The music called soccer was very much visible when we saw the Socrates, Zico’s, Platini’s of the world gliding through the football pitch and either scoring goals or making way for others to score. The football was great – a typical end-to-end stuff with lots of attacking moves, great skills and overall a fantastic flow to watch from basically any team in the world cups. But if you see the general nature of the game in current world cups – it’s more strategy, more ‘defense-first’ approach and coaches think how you can stop the flow of the opponents instead of concentrating on generating the flow themselves. Gone are the days when you could see personal flair and grace, gone are the days when even you could see fantastic free-kicks – that itself has become almost extinct (and of course, the players, coaches blame the ball for that !!). If you see the last 2-3 world cups, the quality of soccer has changed to more defense, more stress on counter-attacks (rather than normal attacks), more crowding of the midfield, more players of the definition “defensive mid-field” or “blockers” have come to the arena. Apart from perhaps Barcelona Football Club, rarely I have seen flowing, passing football at an international arena – be it from Brazil, Argentina or from Holland, Germany, Italy. To me, I think football has evolved (rightfully or wrong-fully) in a “negative” direction wherein the game have not increased its excitement, but gained more in the tactics of “stop the opponents at any cost” instead of “lets outplay our opponents”. That is why even the current Copa America 2011 (which is currently in its group league stages) have 17 goals in 11-12 matches (if I remember correctly). This itself reflects in which direction football is moving forward …..

I know many of you will not like the above analysis, but as always, I am ready for a healthy, passionate debate :-)

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