Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Indian Olympic Contingent Leaves For Beijing

The Olympics are ten days away and the 57 member Indian contingent is setting off. I am not sure of Kalmadi's take on this. On one hand he says don't expect a miracle, and on the other he says boxers, archers, shooters and tennis stars are possibilities for medals. Seems like he rectified a PR blunder :-)

So to get familiar with the contingent, I decided to search for the Indian Olympic Association site to read about the athletes, their profiles, personal bests, expectations etc. In an era, where without searching, I manage to come across news items like this (do I hear a collective groan?), I could not find the official web site - I found one link http://www.olympic.ind.in/ which gives an error.... Of course my mistake was that I assumed that the Indian Olympic Committee will be professional.

A well managed website ahead of the Olympics, would surely help in the future in terms of sponsors, viewership etc. since the Olympics is the only time to gather support for non-cricket sports in India? If you located a website, please post in the comments.

Anyway I digress - here is the contingent courtesy of the good old newspaper.

Archery: Dola Banerjee, Pranitha Vardhineni, Bombayala Devi, Mangal Singh Champia.
Athletics: Anju Bobby George, Krishna Poonia, Harwant Kaur, Preeja Sreedharan, Manjeet Kaur, Chitra K. Soman, Sini Jose. M.R. Poovamma, Mandeep Kaur, J.J. Shoba, Susmita Singha Roy, G.G. Pramila, Vikas Gowda, Renjith Maheswary, Surendra Singh, K. Mridula, S. Geetha.
: Anup Sridhar, Saina Nehwal.
: Jitender, Akhil Kumar, A.L. Lakra, Vijender, Dinesh Kumar.
Judo: Khumujam Tombi Devi, Divya.
: Bajrang Lal Thakar, Devender Kumar Khandwal, Manjeet Singh.
: Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Mansher Singh, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Gagan Narang, Abhinav Bindra, Samaresh Jung, Sanjeev Rajput, Anjali Bhagwat, Avneet Kaur Sidhu.
Swimming: Virdhawal Khade, Ankur Poseria, Sandeep Sejwal, Rehan Poncha.
Table tennis:
Sharath Kamal, Neha Agarwal.
Tennis: Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza, Sunitha Rao.
Wrestling: Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt, Rajeev Tomar.
Weightlifting: L. Monika Devi. Yachting: N.S. Johal.

To the athletes above, well done to make it this far (against many odds), and know that atleast one cricket loving fan will be following you.

Now if archery, shooting and boxing are our best chances of a medal, I best come out of my comfort zone and get familiar with skeet, rifle category, trap and double trap, recurve etc. I am so impressed that I know these terms, will figure out what they actually mean in competition when I watch them.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


What an "un-spirited" response by team India in the first test! Demolished by Murali and Mendis. I for one, thought the four legends would put up a better fight against Sri Lanka in the second innings. They did not even last 50 overs :-(

The reckless shots of many players can be questioned, and when it is compounded by poor bowling, fielding and clueless batting, it is hard to find any bright spots from this match. I watched the match live on TV only on Sat, and saw more than twelve wickets in a span of few hours.

I am most concerned about Dravid. I don't hold him responsible for this loss, but I hate to see "The Wall" become a straw wall - you huff and puff and it is blown away. Ever since he stepped down from captaincy he has struggled with his form and his confidence. Both seems to be pulling down each other further (without form he cannot get back his confidence and vice versa ---chicken and egg ?). He looks ill-at-ease on the crease and for someone who has held down the fort at one end consistently for so many years, it is sad to see him struggle. Even when he made runs, he did not have the old confidence.

So what can he do to get himself out of the slump? In the past, has he struggled over a long stretch? Is it "in the mind"? He needs to rectify this fast or he may be first one of the four to be sidelined from tests as well. And as a fan of Dravid, I want him to get back to days of glory (possible?), and then retire from tests in style (when he decides), and not by being dropped.

(PS: I am not calling for him to retire or be dropped - only for him to find a remedy for his form asap).

Tendulkar played with an ICL player

I guessed that we could find a connection for Tendulkar at Lashings with someone at ICL, but I was thinking of less obvious links. I wonder what the BCCI is going to do? This is recent. Can you have one set of rules for Laxman and Chawla and another for Tendulkar? Can ICL, ECB use this for some negotiation at all - or will this be ignored?

Friday, July 25, 2008

F1 Miscellany

Last weekend's F1 race saw Hamilton pull ahead of Raikkonen and Massa in the Championship race. Since I want Raikkonen to win again, I hope that Ferrari ensures that in team strategy Raikkonen gets preference over Massa. The way Hamilton overtook Massa, I think the championship will be decided between Hamilton and Raikkonen. Besides the 2 of them, I believe only Alonso is in the same calibre and unfortunately his car is not upto the mark.

Force India has decided to focus on next year. I found it hard to root for the Indian team - not sure if it is nature of F1 or my negativity with regard to Mallya's handling of RCB issues. I only briefly checked on how they were doing in each race. Their best chance was at Monaco with Sutil in 4th place when we was hit by Kimi. It did draw some sympathy/support from me. What do you think of their prospects in the coming years and will they be able to garner Indian support and loyalty?

Mallya says India on track for Indian GP in 2010. What do you think? Isn't there a lot to be done? They are only getting a sanction for the track right now. Not sure how many years earlier Singapore started its preparation, but it will be exciting if India is able to host a GP. Is there a sufficient market in India for F1?

Speaking of Singapore, how do they manage to come up with such novelites? An anti-clockwise circuit (only the 2nd one?) , the first night race in F1 and a street circuit like Monaco. I cannot wait to see the nuances of the circuit or what interesting issues drivers may face...

On another Indian front, Karun Chandhok won the GP2 in Germany last week. I have not watched him. How good is he? Do you fancy his chances in F1?

BTW, did you know that Hamilton karted in Mumbai. Let me know if someone comes to Chennai...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Glory - Misfortune - Luck

On yesterday's Tour de France, a rider experienced all these three in a matter of minutes.

Glory: The youngest rider in this year's tour named Augustyn, climbed one of the highest category mountains in first place. The commentators were extolling his skill.

Misfortune: On the descent of this very steep mountain while in the leading group, he fell off the road. Unlucky you say, commentator's jinx...?
Here's a video link.
(another link of the same one)

Luck: Why? Because while the bike fell down even further, he managed to stop after 10-15 meters? And was not seriously injured... and then finished the race.

Brave: The spectator who ventured down to help him up!

I thought Oscar Periro's crash last week was frightening, but this was more stunning. (Oscar, though had several fractures, but was lucky as well)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Am I allowed to watch cricket?

I saw Kapil Dev in Chepauk, now he is in the ICL - please, can I continue to watch Indian cricket?


On second thoughts are all the current Indian team members allowed to play? They played for counties which now has ICL players? Sachin played for Lashings recently - can we find an ICL connection...?

Isn't this ridiculous?

Yuvraj Singh

Yuvraj's mother Shabnam on the right girl for her son:
"I don't want someone who throws tantrums or is very high-flying for him... She should know the basics of cooking, especially Indian vegetarian food. Considering he travels so often, she should also be able to pack well and take care of his clothes. Whoever Yuvi ends up marrying would have to be his choice. But, of course, I would need to approve of her."

If someone is still interested, my only advice is to consider a stint in a company like Agarwal Packers and Movers (or an apprenticeship at the local dhobiwala who handles clothes beautifully) and get some expert tips from Nita Mehta or Tarla Dalal :-)

Wouldn't a cliched "a good human being and a wishing them to be happy sentiment" sufficed as an answer?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Doping in sports

I cannot figure out the psyche behind the athletes who dope. The two most recent positive testers are Riccado Ricco in Tour de France and Mohammed Asif in cricket. Ricco was unknown to me before the tour started, but since then, as I saw him win a couple of spectacular stages, I was impressed. If I am not mistaken, the Tour tests the stage winners, the jersey holders besides random tests and anyone whose performance gives rise to suspicion.

That leads to the following questions.

Do the riders believe they won't be caught despite the fact that the tour is one of the better tested events now?
Do the riders want the 2 minutes of fame though it is actually notoriety they ulimately get?
Are they trying to outsmart the system, but ocassionally get caught?
How did Ricco not get caught in prior 2 wins in Giro d'Italia?

I do think that the tour is trying to do their best now, but it seems to be falling short. What else can the tour do to clean up the sport?

The second part is Asif - besides his own responsiblity and PCB's mis-handling, I find that I hold the IPL and the Daredevils team responsible as well. When prior offenders like Akthar, Asif and even Warne are picked up at a premium, the franchises and the IPL are doing it out of one of two motives.

-They believe they have reformed or were innocent in the first place.
-They are willing to turn a blind eye and take the risk of their getting caught.

If we assume they take the first case, have they done anything to verify that the first scenario is true - have they asked them to take dope tests prior to joining the team? Have they sent them a message saying it won't be acceptable? Have they said they they will conduct independent tests and their contract is dependent on that? I doubt that, and therefore I believe they are willing to look the other way.

In case of the second option, I think that the IPL and other franchises, should insist that a team with a repeat offender (whether they are caught in the IPL or not), should not be allowed to replace the player for the duration of the players contract if a player is banned. As of now they can take the risk of hiring a doper with no consequences. Perhaps if the team was banned for the participation in the next year's IPL, it would be enough of a detterent for the teams to more actively discourage doping.

This leads to the issue of the boards, ICC etc. Do they give any guidance to the young players? (who have learnt a lot from Asif, Aktar etc - as per the IPL interviews). You wonder what they may learn directly or indirectly. Have they been told what to do if exposed to drugs or to bookies? If not there is no point is blaming them down the road.

Lastly, sports should be all about "the spirit". I still remember reading about Luz Long's wonderful gesture towards Jesse Owens with Hitler watching and I doubt that if I had been in the same position I would have made the same choice . In cricket with the Wicketkeepers Walkers Club (co-founders Gilly and Sanga), the spirit still flourishes. Dopers and match-fixers be removed from the game as early as possible - or eventually sports will lose to the Ekta Kapoor bandwagon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Waiting in the wings?

Badri, Mishra and Dhawan shine for India in the emerging players tournament (not sure if Badrinath, Raina and Tiwari qualify as emerging...) Anyway, I think team India in Sri Lanka will be on alert as there are more people waiting for opportunities.

Guarding Dhoni

My tax rupees is going towards training policewomen to fend off Dhoni's overzealous admirers! Now, I have nothing against comprehensive security for Dhoni as he probably faces a variety of security issues not of his making (and hopefully more important ones than these). If not I suggest that he foot the bill. The upside for the media is that they are having a field day with headlines.

Thatcher is well

I received a free Deccan Chronicle newspaper today. Not one to pass on freebies, I read through the newspaper. On the front page was a headline on a state funeral for Thatcher. Now my father, who reads every line of the newspaper and keeps abreast of the latest news on all news channels was a little bit surprised and asked me in a quiet voice - "did Thatcher die"? I also felt ashamed on missing the news, but I cautiously said, I have read online about a state funeral, but did not catch the news of her death. So as he read through the fine print he points out to me that she is hale and hearty now and the plans are for when she dies... Seriously is this a British thing? What other funerals are they planning for? What was Lady Thatcher's reaction - does she feel honored or concerned?

More links
Already debating it...

sorry the post is not sports related but how can I bypass this...

Also in the same paper (in a section called "Chennai Chronicle") there was an report on Rooneys canceling a bash. Why oh why, should Rooney's non-soccer plans feature in an Indian newspaper?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Natalie du Toit - Inspirational

Natalie will compete in Olympics and the Paralympics in the 10Km swimming event. Wow!

Courageous, determined and inspirational.

Official site
Natalie du Toit: ability of mind

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cycling stint?

As I watch the tour de france with the average speed around 40 Kms/hr and as I traveled through Chennai stuck in traffic, averaging less than that, I briefly (very, very briefly) considered using a cycle as transport. Here are some major benefits if I did decide to cycle more often.

1. Traffic won't be an issue.
2. It will spare the environment.
3. It is friendlier to the pocket with the ever rising oil prices.

But now I can rationalize my non-cycling decision.

1. I am most likely to destroy the basis of the theory "it's like riding a bike". I haven't ridden a bicycle since childhood and I tried it for a short while on a holiday and did not get far. So I don't want to deprive the next generations the usability of this phrase :-)
2. I currently don't own a cycle - but can be remedied and so not a good enough reason.
3. If I manage to get past the first two issues, I doubt I can ride at 40+Kms/hour (or half that speed) -so I am not likely to travel significant distances.
4. The classic excuse - it is either too hot or rainy to cycle by choice.
5. Eating can be hazardous on a bike (this year's tour already has had feeding station accidents). Why I should think of eating while riding a few kms I don't know - but definitely a consideration?
6. Since the tour is my motivation, I need similar scenic roads to ride in. The beach is an option - but not its approach roads.
7. The big bazaar crew may spring the "bhesh badalo" stuff on me (going by the "appearance is more important" concept behind the ads). I am just throwing that in - as I don't like those ads :-)

Whew! Now I no longer feel guilty of my choice. I can go back to wondering about how tour cyclists are able to ride at such speeds for such long spells and climb the mountains (and they are no small mountains). Yes, doping comes to mind immediately, but as I said before it somehow still fascinates me. I don't follow a team/cyclist as I learnt it is dicey to support anyone as almost all of them are implicated in scandals (and you never know when they will be banned). I rather follow the event and imagine what it would have been like in the pre-doping days.

Interestingly, in each team there is only only one yellow jersey candidate and one sprinter and rest are largely called "domestiques". There are specialized roles within that for each of them (lead out man for the sprinter, lead out in the mountains for the team leader, etc.). What is the motivation behind the "domestiques" - is it just money as they rarely get the glory? Is it the fact they may one day be a Yellow Jersey candidate?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Optimistic or Pessimistic?

The last three Games produced a medal each with tennis star Leander Paes winning a bronze at Atlanta, women’s weightlifter Karnam Malleswari a bronze in Sydney and shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore a silver at Athens.

“No one gave them a chance, but they proved everyone wrong,” said Singh, who also serves as the secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Asia.

“There is no reason to be pessimistic.”

I recently saw this article and cannot undestand how we should not be pessimistic unless one accepts that a solitary medal every Olympics is every reason to be optimistic. With the current trend, we may hope for a 2-medal Olympics in another 20 years or definitely before the population reaches two billion. That recent medalists exceeded expectations is a credit to them and not to the sporting body. So many countries, much smaller and financially weaker than India will rank higher in the medal tally, but lets be optimistic. I am generally a half-glass full kind of a person, but I don't even see the glass here for it to be full or empty :-)

It is noteworthy to mention that some people (Mittal, Geet Sethi, Prakash Padukone, etc.) have taken it on themselves to do something about this. It would be wonderful if folks like Sachin, Dhoni, Dravid participate in similar efforts to help other sports persons in India achieve their dreams and improve India's standing in the Olympics. Maybe major brands like Pepsi could sponsor stars from different sports and come up with some clever ways to share the screen with the cricketers.

So where are you vis-a-vis the optimism scale regarding India's efforts in the Olympics?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Midas - where art thou?

I nearly posted something similar couple of days ago, and decided to wait to see if the luck would return for the final. But ever since the IPL final, Kitply final and the Asia cup final, we can now say that luck has averaged out for MSD. (good news is if he wins more, it will not be attributed to luck).

Here are some thoughts on the team:

Indian bowling is lacking in the sub-continent conditions. Ishanth seems tired and I hope he is able to handle this better as he is a great prospect. He came back strongly in the last couple of matches, but I feel he needs to be nurtured more. Pathan, Praveen and R.P did not look very good.

Yusuf Pathan has not been as impressive as he was in the IPL (What words of magic did Warne whisper?).

Piyush struggled. Dhoni wants a senior spinner. So he is ready to welcome back Bhajji.

The 7-batsmen approach seems defensive and unlikely to work. By the time the seventh man comes in, the match is already won or lost.

Yuvi wants to be included in tests, but how can he get a slot when his play of spin has barely improved over the years.

I still like the attitude and make up of the team, and they are more consistent in general. However unless they finish things as well as Australia and win more often than lose, they will be just like the previous Indian teams - where the results and potential are parallel lines.

Now the Sri Lanka series promises to be interesting.

What a match

Yes the Federer-Nadal one. I watched it till the wee hours of the morning, managing to last nearly 5 hours of the match plus the rain delays. The quality of tennis was exemplary, there are so many points I remember. No wonder, no other tennis player comes close to them - the quality of tennis they have to play to beat either of them consistently is unbelievable. Both of them were gracious in their defeat and victory - alas a extraordinary string of victories comes to an end for Federer and maybe a new one starts for Nadal.

BTW, I was 0-3 for the weekend, everyone I was supporting lost :-(

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Featuring the Shooting team

Before I posted this, I researched this :-) There is no way I could honestly say Major Rathore, the silver medalist in double trap shooting from 2004 Olympics and possibly Ronjan Sodhi, gold medalist in the world cup look promising for a medal. And the reason is that I had no clue what double trap meant.

Thanks to wiki and google, I now know the answer and and just fyi, apparently 2 targets are released simulantenously in different directions at different speeds from traps and the shooter has to hit them. The scores in different rounds are tallied. That lead to my next worry about the targets, whether any "live" thing was used, but it looks like they use clay pigeons. However these don't resemble pigeons, but they look like discs - so I am still wondering about the need to call them "clay pigeons".

Anyway it looks like India shooting team does well in other categories as well (no I don't understand the categories or the ammunition). As an added twist, Ronjan Sodhi is scrambling for a wild card pass despite winning the world cup gold.

Chance of a medal?

Weekend sporting action

Wow, what a weekend in store...

Wimbledon: Federer vs Nadal
After Federer's dismal performance in the French open final, I am hoping he comes back with a record breaking effort. He has looked impressive in the past two weeks. As Nadal has closed the gap on grass over the last couple of years - it promises to be a thriller. I am rooting for Roger - who are you supporting?

Asia Cup: How will Mendis fare, will India win or will they choke?

F1 British Grand-prix: A Raikkonen win?

Tour de france: kicks off on Saturday, it will be a good time to get caught up on the teams and riders.

That is the order that I will watch them... And the minute I see "desh badla, pesh badalo", and Madhavan-Vidya, you will find me switching channels instantly.

Saina Nehwal - Badminton

Another Olympic prospect to keep in mind and root for. I am dismayed at my own lack of awareness of Indian sports stars in other fields - but it is easy to miss a 2 line bulletin in the newspaper. So yours truly is highlighting another star who is now world number 18 in badminton. Saina, like Sania also trains in Hyderabad and is only 18. So here is another badminton star to support after Prakash Padukone (now better known as Deepika's father).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fielding in the Asia Cup

After watching the last couple of matches for India, it looks like it is time to call Ganguly a good fielder. This young and fit team is struggling in the field. I don't think it is due to fatigue, some of the ones they are missing are easy (like the dropped catch by Praveen Kumar or the misfield by Ojha) - and neither of them have played too much cricket to use that excuse.

Some unsolicited advice to Praveen Kumar: when you are bowling poorly and fielding poorly, don't glare and shout at others when they misfield off your bowling.

Here are some possible reasons.

Concur with Arun Lal (gasp!) - leave the frisbees and the baseball gloves during the fielding sessions - use a ball and your hands.

Maybe it is the empty stadium - the chairs are making it difficult to spot the ball :-) Otherwise how do you explain Pakistan and Sri Lanka's less than stellar fielding?

Agree with the commentators once again (sigh..) Chop Ishant's hair, or make him wear a hair band like Bracken or a pony tail. He is already too tall to be a great fielder, but I agree he must be blinded several times while bowling and fielding.

What are your theories and suggestions for the team?

Indian archery team for the Olympics

Continuing the series on Olympic hopefuls for India, it is apt that I feature the women's archery prospects. From the land of the "peerless archer" Arjuna, I think we should have strong contenders? Imagine if Draupadi had been a gifted archer, would mythology be different?


Did you know that there is a Tata Archery Academy?
Did you know that one of the prospects is a cousin of the singer Shaan? (I would have thought this could have got them more publicity?)

The men have done very well, winning a world cup gold (Frankly I am not aware of the competition or the rules, but winning a world cup gold seems impressive). But it looks like they did not qualify for the Olympics. Maybe they are following the Indian cricket team's past form - lots of potential but not enough results?