Happy Birthday “He-Man” Dharmendra

Happy Birthday Dharmendra ji, arguably the most Handsome hero ever in the history of Hindi movies.

The great Dilip Kumar had said “If i meet God and he allows me a request, i will ask him to make me as handsome as Dharmendra”. Jaya Bhaduri also complemented him by saying though she was by then already married to Amitabh, she wanted to play Hema Malini’s “Basanti” role in Sholay as she ( Jaya) was in love with Dharmendra as he was so handsome.

Born at Sahnewal in Punjab to homemaker Satwant Kaur and Government school teacher Kewal Kishan Singh Deol, Dharmendra was hardly interested in studies and only studied upto class 12. On encouragement of his mother, he sent a portfolio to Filmfare’s New talent Hunt and won it as well. This started his memorable journey in the world of movies.

His 1st movie was Dil Bhi Tera Hum bhi Tere in 1960 when he was just 25. However Phool aur Patthar in 1966 was his 1st solo hero movie. As this was an action movie it started a trend of him as an action hero of those days when other great heroes were mostly playing soft, dramatic and romantic hero roles.

However he was not just limited to being an action hero. Movies like Satyakam and Anupama showcased his acting skills. Hrishikesh Mukerjee’s Chupke Chupke showed us his comic side which was seen in other movies as well.

Sholay was one of the highpoints of his career. He was an established star while Amitabh relatively was a newcomer. Theirs was a memorable pair and they went on to did many movies together.

During shooting of Sholay, Dharmendra fell in love with Hema Malini. He used to tip the light and sound boys 100 rupees each time if they messed up the shots so that the romantic scenes could be shot again. He worked out a code with them, if he pulled his ear they would deliberately mess up and only after he touched his nose, the shot was okayed. Some days the spot boys were richer by a few thousand rupees.

Dharmendra is retired now, but who knows. Will he pull out a rabbit out of his hat suddenly as he did when he became an MP in 2004 or a TV judge in 2011 for “India’s got Talent”.

Happy Birthday Dharmendra Saab.

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Mumbai’s 500 Not Out Commemorative Celebration

Ajit Wadekar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Madhav Apte, Ajinkya Rahane, Ajit Agarkar and many more on one stage

Sounds amazing and unbelievable, doesnt it. Well it actually happened . How and Why ? Read on.

To celebrate the occasion of Mumbai playing its 500th Ranji Match, the Mumbai Cricket Association organised a commemorative celebration function at MCA, BKC in which yesteryear and current cricketers were felicitated. Little known incidents of their careers were shared by them which came as a revealation for all.

Lets go through the reminiscences of these cricketers.

The Veterans; Madhav Apte, Ajit Wadekar and Sudhir Naik

Madhav Apte starting the evening was apt as this sprightly 85 year veteran was a terrific opening batsman of his time. Madhav spoke about cricket in the war years and how an army hero came to the CCI and got a member clean-bowled. When asked his name, he said Hedley Verity. The member always used to say “I am privileged i got bowled by legend Hedley Verity”

Madhav also spoke about the Pentangular and said that though it was criticised for being a “communal” tournament as it had teams of Europeans, Parsis, Hindus , Muslims and Rest, it was actually played with sportive spirit and friendly but fierce competitiveness.

Ajit Wadekar who had the honour of leading Mumbai to 4 Ranji wins in a row said that the difference between Mumbai and other teams was its fielding. As the team was very good it was easy for him to captain it. Wadekar said that since Mumbai was very strong other teams would always want to defeat it by hook or by crook. He gave the example of the 1972-73 final where Tamil Nadu had prepared a rank turner. However Wadekar said that Tamil Nadu had forgotten that Mumbai Batsmen were brought up on terrible wickets in the Kanga League. Hence the ploy backfired and Paddy Shivalkar with 13 and Eknath Solkar with 6 wickets spun Mumbai to victory

Sudhir Naik had the honour of captaining Mumbai to a win over Maharashtra in the final without 5 of their Test stars who were on Test duty abroad. He said it was extra special since they had lost to Maharashtra in the League with the 5 stars playing. He spoke about the Mumbai tradition of senior retired players coming to dressing room and giving valuable advice tips. In that final , Ramakant (Tiny) Desai came and said “Bounce Saldanha”. Accordingly Sudhir Naik asked Abdul Ismail to bounce and Saldanha got caught in the deep.

The Giants; Dilip Vengsarkar and Sachin Tendulkar

Dilip Vengsarkar spoke about his famous Irani 100 and the background to it. The entire previous season as a 18 year teen he was on the bench as Mumbai had a strong team. That year for one match he got a chance as Solkar was injured and he thought his career was over as he got a duck. However the next match too Solkar was injured and Dilip seized the oppurtunity hitting a fast 110 with 11 4’s and 7 6’s with Bedi and Prasanna in the attack.

Lala Amarnath said the knock reminded him of Colonel CK Nayudu and the nickname Colonel has stuck to Dilip even today.

Colonel on being asked about the best ever Ranji Final between Mumbai and Haryana said that as they were 35/3 chasing 355 in just 190 minutes and 20 overs he met Kapil Dev in the rest-room and Kapil said, ‘let us win one time”. Dilip said “We are 35/3 ” but Kapil said “You are there”. Colonel hit a majestic unbeaten 139 and Sachin 95 in 76 balls which Colonel says was an amazing knock. 50 runs were required with 1 wicket left and Colonel exploded, hitting 26 in 5 balls of an over with 3 6’s and 2 4’s.  The last pair added 22 runs more but Kuruvilla was run out with just 2 runs left to win.

Vengsarkar said it was the saddest day of his life and he was more sad than when he lost to Vilasrao Deshmukh in MCA elections.

Colonel spoke about Vinod Kambli and how he had surprised him by hitting his 2nd ball in Ranji trophy for  a huge 6 and after hitting a quick 50 having a Thums Up and saying “Cheers Mates”. He said Vinod’s clothes were extraordinarily flamboyant.

Sachin Tendulkar spoke about his debut 100 and how the seniors in the team made him comfortable especially since the entire earlier season he had been in the team as a 14 year boy. For his debut 100 he mentioned Alan Sippy, Lalchand Rajput and Shishir Hattangadi for encouraging him. For his technique he gave credit to Mumbai veteran bowlers who would keep on bowling to him with imaginary fielders around the bat, and asking him to tighten his defence and strengthen his attack.

When asked about his best Ranji ton, Sachin said it was the 200 he got against Tamil Nadu in the 1999-2000 season when he and last man Santosh saxena got Mumbai the lead. He said that as the ball was reverse swinging he stood outside the crease and when Hemang Badani gave the bowler instructions in Tamil Sachin went back in. He also did the reverse by standing back and then moving forward. He did that alternatively throughout the innings. One ball hit Saxena’s leg and Sachin says he screamed not out before the Umpire could decide. Finally they crossed the Tamil Nadu Score and Sachin says that he then told Hemang Badani that he understood Tamil.

The Stalwarts; Sanjay Manjrekar and Amol Mazumdar

Sanjay Manjrekar also spoke about the Mumbai-Haryana final and said that due to Sachin Tendulkar’s frantic instructions/requests for the last few overs no one could move from where sitting due to superstition. Though he was the captain he could not even see the last few minutes and his only memory was of noise and not of sight. However of course after having played quite a bit of cricket he said one gets to know whether its a 4 or a 6 or a dot ball.

Sanjay too mentioned Vinod Kambli and said that like Vengsarkar spoke about his flamboyant clothes he remembered Kambli’s earrings and that it was only Mumbai cricket which accepted and welcomed him as it had never differentiated on any basis while other conservative Ranji teams might not have accepted him.

Amol Mazumdar spoke on how small things can fire up a team. He spoke about the 2006-07 season and how the entire Hyderabad team including their administrator Shivlal Yadav started celebrating with champagne near the boundary ropes even though 20 runs were left. He said that he had harsh words to say and this fired up the team and they went on to win each and every match and they went on to win the Ranji Trophy.

Amol also spoke about how Mumbai were 0-5 and Vinayak Sawant played a terrific knock and they won the match from that precarious position

Finally, the Current Mumbai Captain Aditya Tare also spoke briefly. He gave credit to former coach Praveen Amre for his contribution in the 2015 Ranji Triumph by setting the team on right path. He expressed confidence that Mumbai would win the Ranji Trophy many more times in future as well.

Veteran Cricket Administrator Sharad Pawar and current MCA President Ashish Shelar spoke on the occasion. Many other stalwarts of Mumbai Cricket such as Karsan Ghavri, Ajit Agarkar, Ajinkya Rahane, Praveen Amre, Vinod Kambli, Nilesh Kulkarni and Rohit Sharma were felicitated in the function.

A special moment was felicitation of young 16 year Jemimah Rodrigues of Bandra, Mumbai who just a few days ago had smashed an unbeated 202 in 163 balls against Saurashtra in Under-19 cricket.

Overall it was a memorable evening full of nostalgia.

Will Steve Smith end as Australia’s 2nd Best ever Batsman ?

Sir Don Bradman’s 334 against England at Headingley, Leeds in 1930 was the highest Test score ever by an Australian batsman. It remained so for 73 years when Hayden scored 380 at Perth versus Zimbabwe.

Lets go back to 1998. Mark Taylor scored 334 Not out at Peshawar versus Pakistan to equal the Don’s record. He had a chance to equal it and in fact possibly exceed Brian Lara’s highest test score of 375. The Aussie team voted for him to bat on. However skipper Taylor declared, refusing to pass Bradman’s score.

This Mark Taylor incident shows the reverence Australian Cricketers have for Bradman, who is not only Australia’s best ever but the world’s greatest ever batsman. 29 tons in 52 tests, 6996 runs with an average of 99.94 are stats which indicate only a fraction of how complete and dominating a batsman Bradman was.

The race then is who will end up as Australia’s second best batsman. In recent times, Steve Smith with his astonishing consistency has shown that he has it in him to last the distance.

Before having a look at Smith’s performances, let us have a quick look at some of the other great Australian Batsmen on acceptable parameters such as test runs, number of hundreds and average etc.

The 10000 men

Ricky Ponting has an astronomical 13378 Test runs in his 168 tests with a healthy average of 51.85. Punter had 41 Test 100’s which is the maximum by any Aussie batsman.

Border follows Punter with 11174 runs in his 156 Tests. He has 27 tons and his average is 50.56. Steve Waugh who also played 168 Tests scored 10927 test runs with 32 tons at an average of 51.06.

Number of 100’s.

Punter heads the list with 41 followed by Steve Waugh with 32 and Matthew Hayden with 30. In fact only sachin (51) and Kallis (45) are ahead of Punter.

Highest Averages

After Bradman’s 99.94 is the unlikely name of Adam Voges who showed incredible consistency especially at the beginning of his career to end up with an average of 61.87 while scoring 1485 runs in 20 Tests. Smith follows him with 59.66.

Then there are two great batsmen, Greg Chappell and Ponting. While Chappell had an average of 53.86 when he piled up his 7110 runs in 87 Tests, Punter’s average was 51.85.

Lets now come to Steve Smith. He was dismissed by many as a T20 Player who could bowl leg spin but cemented his place as a pure batsman. He has played 56 Tests and has scored 5370 runs and his average is 59.66. He has as many as 20 centuries in his 56 Tests.

While the above looks good, the good becomes extraordinary when one notes that Smith had less than 1000 runs in his 1st 16 Tests and he had only 2 100’s. Still it was impressive and indicated potential considering his 1st two series were a horror 0-4 loss to India and a 0-3 loss to England in Ashes.

Since then Smith has exploded with 4400 runs and 18 100’s in 40 Tests at an average of almost 71. This certainly is Bradmanesque.

Impact Knocks

After their 3-0 loss to England, Australia were itching for revenge and got it in style , winning 5-0 with Smith scoring 2 Tons. In a 2-1 series win vs South Africa in South Africa, Smith in the 1st innings of the 1st Test had a big 100 in a 233 run partnership with Shaun Marsh. In the deciding 3rd test he had a crucial 89 and a 36 not out.

In the 2015 Ashes which Australia lost 2-3 , Smith still scored 500 plus runs. Versus India  a year earlier, he had scored 769 runs in 4 Tests at an average of 128. He had 4 hundreds and had most runs ever by an Australian in a 4 Test series, surpassing none other than Bradman.

Success everywhere

While Smith has phenomenal success in home conditions, he has succeeded everywhere. He has had 3 centuries in a 4 Test tour of India where most English and Aussie batsmen fail. He has scored in Sri Lanka, in South Africa, in New Zealand and in England.

All this shows that Smith is well on his way to becoming the second best Australian Batsman of all time. There are hugely big names ahead of him , the biggest two of which are Ricky Ponting and Greg Chappell. However Smith is just 28, he is captain of all 3 formats. He is incredibly consistent and superbly fit . He has terrific potential.

Smith is destined for bigger things ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Elite 8 for London’s Nitto ATP Finals;

The year end Nitto ATP finals is a much awaited elite tennis event played by the top 8 ranked players of the preceding 12 months. While 250000 fans will see the prestigious event live the TV global viewership will be more than 100 million.

The 1st two players to qualify this year were Rafa Nadal (Rafa) and Roger Federer (Fed).

Armchair commentators and (tennis)doomsday prophets who had predicted their career would be over by maximum 2015 and are certainly now looking for alternate careers or new prohesies not concerning Rafa and Fed.  Both the Champions had incredible and amazing years.  They swapped the 4 Grand Slams of the Year making it look like 2007 and not 2017.  Rafa and Fed will also finish the year at Number 1 and 2.

Lets look at the 8 who made it , and how they made it.

Rafael Nadal

The First Player to qualify for this years year end tournament was Rafa, as early as in early June 2017 when he lifted his 10th Roland Garros title. Rafa 1st qualified in 2005 and has since then qualified for 13 straight seasons. Strangely this giant however has never won this elite tournament. His best results came in 2010 and 2013 where he lost in the Finals to Fed and Djokovic respectively. He will be hoping to set the record straight this year. A big proviso is his fitness, as he opted out of the Quarter-finals of the Paris Masters.

Looking forward to see a fit and strong Rafa at London.

Roger Federer

Fede was next to qualify when he won his 8th Wimbledon Title. This was his 15th entry. He had missed the 2016 edition but had played a record 14 in a row from 2002-2015. He has won here a record 6 times. He has also lost in the finals 4 times as well. Novak Djokovic defeated him thrice and he lost once to David Nalbandian. Fed will be hoping to win his 7th to end a great year on a super note.

None of the other 6 players have won here. Lets take a look at them.

Alexander “Sascha” Zverev Junior

The 3rd player to qualify was Sascha who at 20 became the youngest to qualify for the year end event since DelPotro in 2008.  The youngster had a super 1st half of the year . He won the Rome and Montreal masters defeating Djokovic and Fed.

Since then his form has slipped quite a bit though. Sascha has also qualified for the inaugural Next Gen Finals at Milan featuring the leading 7 under 21 players of the world, plus one wild card. However he opted out of Milan and opted for London as both tournaments were back to back.

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem was the 4th to qualify. This will be the second straight year he will play and he became the 2nd Austrian Player to qualify more than once since Thomas Muster, a former French Open Champion and world Number 1.

Commendable performances by Thiem in the year were final losses to Nadal at the Mutua Madrid Open and the Barcelona Open. He also defeated Rafa at Rome and advanced to semi-finals of French Open by defeating Djokovic in the Quarter-finals.

Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov

Marin Cilic’s 1st chance to qualify was by reaching the semi-finals of Basel Open where he was the defending champion, having won in 2016. He did reach the semi finals as well where he lost to Del Potro. Similarly Grigor Dimitrov had a chance to become the 5th player if he had won the Stockholm Open but his loss to the giant Argentine Del Potro meant he would have to wait a bit more.

Sam Querrey losing in 1st round of Vienna made things easier for both Cilic and Dimitrov who qualified. For Cilic its a 3rd entry in last 4 years while its the 1st for Dimitrov who became the 1st Bulgarian ever to qualify.

Goffin and Sock

It finally came down to Paris Masters with incredibly 6 players still fighting for the last two positions. They were David Goffin, Pablo Carreno Busta, Sam Querrey, Kevin Anderson, Del Potro and Pouille. There were also 4 dark horses Bautista-Agut, Tsonga, Sock and Isner. Amazing that 9 players would be fighting out for 2 spots.

The 7th player to qualify was David Goffin who though himself did not do well at Paris got his spot when Pouille lost his match. Goffin became the 1st Belgian player to qualify and this has been the best season of his career with more than 50 wins. His best win of the year was over Novak at Monte Carlo before running into Rafa in the semi-finals.

The last and 8th player to qualify in a most thrilling manner was Jack Sock of USA. Incredibly when Paris Masters started he was ranked 24. However each and every result went his way. Those who were contenders were knocked out early. Sock on the other hand was a se down as many as thrice and rallied each and every time to not only win the Paris Masters but also book a place for the ATP Finals.

Sock became the 1st American to win a Masters 1000 since Roddick 7 years back. He became the 1st American to enter the year end event after Mardy Fish in 2011. Paris Masters have not been a happy hunting ground for Americans with the last winner being Agassi in 1999 and Sock will be very happy to see his name after the great Agassi on the list. The last tennis player to qualify the WTF by winning Paris was Tsonga in 2008 and Sock emulated him.

That then concludes our line up for the premier event. I would like to conclude this blog with a mention of regulars Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray who by virtue of injuries are out this year. So is Stan Wawrinka whose season too is over due to injury.

Who will be the Champion in 2017 ? It is difficult to look beyond Fed and Rafa with Fed having an edge because of back to back hardcourt triumps and 4 wins this year over Rafa, all on hardcourts. Yet if anyone can do the impossible it can be Rafa who will be aiming for his 1st triumph here and stopping Fed from his 7th title here.

Looking forward to a great tournament.

 

ATP Finals Champions so Far

The ATP World Tour finals will be played at the 02, London from 12th to 19th November 2019. The 2017 edition is sponsored by Nitto who have guaranteed sponsorship till 2020 and hence it will be called the Nitto ATP Finals.

Brief History; In the evolution of this tournament this is the 4th stage of change. Let us look at all four

Masters Grand Prix

From 1970 to 1989 it was known as the Masters Grand Prix. The 1st ever winner in 1970 was Stan Smith who defeated the great Rod Laver. The last winner was Stefan Edberg in 1989 who defeated Boris Becker. Multiple winners included Ivan Lendl who won as many as 5 times , Ilie Nastase who won 4 times, John Mcenroe who won thrice and Bjorn Borg who won twice.

Those who  won once are Stan Smith, Guillermo Vilas, Manuel Orantes, Jimmy Connors and Stefan Edberg. Boris Becker won once but became a multiple winner later on.

There were multiple venues at Tokyo, Paris, Barcelona, Boston, Melbourne, Stockholm, Houston and New York City

ATP Tour World Championships

From 1990 to 1999  the event was played at Frankfurt and Hanover. Sampras won it as many as 5 times. Becker won twice to make it 3 for him. Agassi, Corretza and Michael Stich won once each.

Tennis Masters Cup

From 2000 to 2008 the event was called the Tennis masters Cup and was played at Lisbon, Sydney, Houston and Shanghai.  Till 2007 it was a best of five sets event and since 2008 it has become a best of 3 sets event.

Federer won the first 4 of his overall 6 in this edition. These 4 were best of 5 set wins. Hewitt won 2 times while Gustavo Kuerten won once and Djokovic won the 1st of his 5 wins in 2008. Nalbandian won once which was over Federer in an incredible match coming back from 2 sets down to win 6-7, 6-7, 6-2,  6-1, 7-6. Interestingly Nalbandian-federer is once of the curious tennis rivalries and Federer lost 5 in a row before the rivalry was at 8-8 and then Federer won 3 in a row to finish their career head-tp-head at 11-8.

The ATP World Tour Finals

Since 2009, this premier event is called the ATP World Tour Finals and is played at London. Federer won his 5th and 6th while Novak won 4 in a row to make it 5 overall. Davydenko was a surprise winner in 2009 when he defeated Del Potro while last year was a memorable Final when the winner would end the year as World Number 1 and Andy Murray triumphed over Novak Djokovic in straight sets.

If one has a look at the multiple winners we see Federer with 6, Novak, Sampras and Lendl with 5 each, Nastase with 4 and Mcenroe and Becker being 3 time champions.

Nadal has not won which is surprising given his fierce competiveness. He has entered the finals twice but has lost once each to Federer and Djokovic. Will it be third time lucky for him. Or will Federer win his 7th. If Federer does not win we will see a 1st time winner. If not Rafa, who will it be ?

The Draw is out. In the Pete Sampras Group are Rafa, Thiem, Dimitrov and Goffin. In the Boris Becker group are Federer, Cilic, Sascha and Sock. 1500 points are stake with every round robin win getting 200 points, a semi final win getting 400 points and a win in the final getting 500 points. Rafa will open his campaign against Goffin while Federer will start against Sock.

Looking forward for a great year ending event and may the best player win.

 

 

 

 

Inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals- A preview

Recognizing the need to prepare champions for the future, the ATP has started a Top 21-and-under event of 8 youth players. The inaugural event will be played at Milan, Italy from 7-11 November and will be called the Next Gen ATP Finals. In fact, Milan will be the host venue for the 1st 5 years.

The 8 players who will feature in it are the top 7 21-and-Under players in the ATP rankings and a 8th player who will be a wildcard. The 8th player will be the winner of a 21-and-under Italian event of Italian players for a tournament which will be over on 5th November.

The event will not get these young stars any ATP points but will be a prize money tournament. Lets have a look at the 7 players who qualified for the tournament and how they reached there.

These are the Seven Future Stars

Alexander Zverev not only qualified for the Next Gen Finals but also the main ATP Tour finals. He therefore had a right to withdraw from this tournament as both tournaments will be played back to back. In fact he did so on 25th October itself and with his withdrawal the automatic seven was finalized. They are as follows;

Andrey Rublev was next to qualify. The young Russian, a former French Open Junior champion is currently the youngest player in the ATP Top 50. As a lucky loser he won the Croatia Open defeating enroute Fabio Fognini. He also had an exhilarating run in the US Open defeating Dimitrov and Goffin before running into Rafa in the Quarter finals. He certainly is a star of the future.

Karen Khachanov, also a Russian youngster had won his 1st APT tournament in 2016 with a win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas. In French Open 2017 he reached the 4th round by defeating Berdych and Isner. World Number 1 Murray stopped him in the 4th. At Wimbledon he lost to Nadal in the 3rd round. He has tremendous promise as well.

2016 Junior Wimbledon Champion Denis Shapovalov is the 3rd. The Israeli born Canadian shot to fame by defeating DelPo and Nadal enroute reaching the semifinals of the 2017 Canadian Open. As a qualifier he reached the 4th round of the US Open and created waves.

American Jared Donaldson and Croatian Borna Coric qualified when Francis Tiafoe lost to Federer in the 1st round at Basel. Tiafoe is probably the most unlucky of the Gen Next – for running into Roger Federer, not once or twice but three times in 2017.  He lost all three but impressed at the US Open by stretching Federer to 5 sets in the 1st round. Tiafoe missing out on the Milan tournament can be squarely attributed to luck of the draw and meeting Federer thrice. He certainly has a great future, though his game seems to be such that he has to take special care to remain injury free.

As for Donaldson, the young American has had two big wins this year over experienced campaigners Pouille and Bautista-Agut at the Canadian Open and the Cincinnati Masters respectively. He is the highest ranked American player among the youngsters and has reached 3rd round at both Wimbledon and US Open.

Coric , a former Junior world Number 1 who had won the US Open Junior event as well was the youngest top 100 player in 2014. Coric has a 2-2 head to head versus Rafa Nadal and this in itself is enough of an emphatic statement of his potential. He has also defeated Murray. Indians will always have a soft corner for him as his 1st ATP Final was the 2016 Chennai Open where he lost to Wawrinka

Hyeon Chung of South Korea was the ATP most improved player in 2015 as he moved from rank 171 to rank 51. Since then he has maintained his rank between 40 and 60. His notable wins are over Monfils, Querrey and Goffin

The 7th player is Danil Medvedev, also from Russia. He too has reached the final of Chennai Open where he lost to Bautista Agut. His top win of career is defeating World Number 3 Wawrinka in the 1st round of the 2017 Wimbledon championships. He appears to be a potentially colourfull personality and already has had temper tantrums/several clashes with umpires etc.

These then are the players, 3 Russians, an American, a Croat, a Canadian, a South korean and an Italian. Who will triumph?

To conclude my preview , I take a look at certain rule changes proposed for this tournament

Now while I appreciate the idea of having a next Gen ATP Finals, I personally disapprove of certain fundamental changes made in the game. The matches will be best of 5 sets which will be welcome but in an unnatural change a set will end with a player reaching 4 games, and a tiebreaker will be at 3-3. This in my view was certainly not required as the mindset itself will be affected. Rather than a best of 5 sets with set ending at 4, it would have been better to have a best of 3 sets with games ending at 7, as is the current normal and accepted practice.

In a bid to make the game faster, there will be no lets. There will be just 25 seconds gap between points and the match will start just 5 minutes after the entry of the second player on court. A player will also be allowed only one medical time out in the entire match.

While the attempt to speed up the game is commendable, the thought comes to mind whether this will be unfair to say players like Rafa Nadal who like to take a few extra seconds between serves. One is reminded of Clive Lloyd’s response when 90 overs a day was sought to be enforced which he thought was unfair on his 4 fearsome fast bowlers. The Big Cat said “Whats the problem if we bowl 75-80 overs a day if we still finish a Test Match in 3 and half days”?. Similarly why pressurize players who like to take say 5 seconds more for their serves ?

Overall however, a big Thumbs up for the concept of Next Gen tournament and a big Thumbs down for concept of Best of 5, sets ending at 4 concept. Hoping that this will be revisited by the ATP. Also hoping that this tournament will give us champions of tomorrow.

 

 

 

The Unlikely Destroyer Trio

A statement that Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker are among the three most dominating players at Wimbledon would lead to probably no dispute or disagreement. Surprise of surprises, Sergiy Stakhovsky, George Bastl and Peter Doohan are an unlikely trio who have had shock wins over these three fearsome champions at Wimbledon.

Lets know a bit more about these by and large unknown players.

Peter Doohan

Aussie Peter Doohan had a highest ranking of world number 43 and reached the 4th round of a Grand Slam only twice, once each at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. At French Open he never progressed beyond 1st round and even at US Open he only reached the 2nd round just once.

However in the second round of the 1987 Wimbledon in 1987 Doohan defeated 2 time defending champion Boris Becker. This is regarded as one of the biggest upsets of Wimbledon ever.

Doohan’s upset of Becker came in handy for his fellow Aussie Pat Cash who won the only Slam of his career. Cash, who was world number 413 a year ago due to injuries put in a tremendous performance against reigning US Open and French Open Champion Ivan Lendl who had lost to Becker a year ago. Wimbledon remained the only Major which Lendl could not win in his illustrious career and interestingly he lost to both Becker and Cash in straight sets.

George Bastl

Federer is from Switzerland and so is George Bastle However they indeed have contrasting careers. Doohan’s career actually is a good one as compared to Bastl, whose highest ranking was 71 and who only reached the 2nd round of US Open twice and 3rd round of Wimbledon once.

At Wimbledon 2002 Bastl incredibly defeated none other than the great 7 time champion Pete Sampras in the second round before losing to eventual runners-up Nalbandian in the final. That year Hewitt became champion to lift his 2nd Major after the 2001 US Open. Ironically Hewitt lost in the 1st round the next year to an unknown Ivo Karlovic. Probably it was destiny that Pete Sampras lost his last two matches at Wimbledon to Swiss players, namely Bastl in 2002 and to Federer a year earlier.

Sergiy Stakhovsky

Ukrainian Stakhovsky , currently ranked Number 99 has had a high ranking of 31 and has won 4 ATP titles. However his biggest claim to fame will always be defeating world number 3 Federer in the 2013 Wimbledon championships. His rank was 116 at that point of time. This was Federers earliest loss after 10 years, the previous being at 2003 French Open and he had entered at least the Quarter finals of Grand Slams a record 36 times.

Doohan, Bastl and Stakhovsky have been chosen as by and large they have not done anything major in their careers , yet defeated such huge exponents of the game, that too at Wimbledon where they have had incredible performances.

In his own way, Rafa Nadal too is an extraordinary Wimbledon champion.  He not only won the title in 2008 and prevented Federer from 6 in a row but also won a  2nd Wimbledon title in 2010 and was runners up to Djokovic the next year, in what was an extraordinary year for Novak.

However interestingly and almost inexplicably, from 2012 to 2015, for 4 consecutive years Rafa lost to players ranked below 100. These were Likas Rosol in 2012, Steve Darcis in 2013, Nick Kyrgios in 2014 and Dustin Brown in 2015. Even more astonishingly Dustin Brown has a 2-0 career head-to-head against Rafa, with both wins coming on grass.

Qualifier Jelena Dokic defeating Martina Hingis in 1999 , Lori Mcneil defeating Steffi in 1993 and Roger Taylor defeating Rod Laver in 1970 are other famous upsets at Wimbledon of unknowns defeating favorites, that too in the 1st round.

Any more upsets you can think of ?? Either at Wimbledon or at any of the other Grand Slams .

Do you know everything about Amitabh Bachchan

“Star of the Millennium” Amitabh Bachchan carried the Olympic torch at London. Big B who was voted the greatest actor in the world by a BBC online poll was the 1st Indian actor to have a waxwork at the famous Madame Tussaud’s in London.

Amitabh celebrated his 75th Birthday on 11th October 2017. Let us reminiscence some rare trivia about the “Shahenshah”.

His Parents Shri Harivanshrai Bachchan, an English Professor at Allahabad University was a well known poet. His mother Smt Teji Bachchan who was a Psychology teacher was a social activist.

They have done a cameo in one of Amitabh’s best movies, Kabhie Kabhie where they played the role of Rakhee’s parents performing her Kanyadaan. Teji Ji also played the role of Lady Macbeth in her husband’s Hindi adaptation of Macbeth.

His real name . Amitabh was originally named Inquilaab by Harivanshrai Ji. Their family title was originally Shrivastava. However Harivanshrai ji took the name Bachchan as a pen name and stuck to it. He also changed his son’s name from Inquilaab to Amitabh. Hence he came to be known as Amitabh Bachchan.  We certainly cannot think of him as anything else. Can we  for instance visualise him as Inquilaab Shrivastava ?

Amitabh and Shashi Kapoor. During the Ivory-Merchant movie Shakespeare-wallah, starring Shashi Kapoor, there was a death scene where Amitabh played the role of an extra, standing as one of many mourners. Shashi, an established star then, walked up to him and asked him not to do these bit scenes, saying he was meant for better things. He also asked the Director to cut these scenes from the movie.

Later of course Amitabh and Shashi did as many as 16 movies together.  Some of the memorable ones are Deevaar, Kabhie Kabhie, Trishul, Kaala Patthar, Do aur do Paanch, Trishul, Shaan and Namak Halaal.

They also had one of the most memorable dialogues ever in Hindi movies when Vijay (Amitabh) in Deevaar  asks “Aaj mere paas paisa hai, bangla hai, gaadi hai, naukar hai, bank balance hai aur tunhare paas kya hai:? After a pregnant pause Ravi ( Shashi Kapoor ) says, “Mere paas Maa hai”.

Amitabh, Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai and the angry young man image. Those days romantic movies ruled the box office and Rajesh Khanna was the reigning superstar. Amitabh with Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer started a new trend of “angry young man” and soon took over as the new superstar. He had 9 super hit movies each with Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai.

A little known trivia about Prakash Mehra and Amitabh is that they had gone to meet boxing icon Muhammed Ali in LA and Prakash wanted to make a movie starring Amitabh and Muhammed Ali together

Amitabh the singer . Some of his songs have attained cult status such as “Mere paas aao mere doston” from Mr Natwarlal. “Rang barse bheege chunar waali” from Silsila which incidentally was penned by his father is one of the most popular “Holi” songs of all time. Amitabh also sang the sad version of “Jidhar dekhoon teru tasveer” in Mahaan with Kishore Kumar singing the happy version. It indeed requires guts to sing a version of a song sung by Kishore himself and interestingly it was very much appreciated.

Happy 75th Birthday to the Legend.

 

 

 

 

The Legends Club, Mumbai

Famous Cricket writer-Commentator John Arlott formed the Master’s Club at the Oval in memory of Sir Jack Hobbs, who was known as “the Master”. Similarly veteran cricket Administrator Late Raj Singh Dungarpur who was BCCI and CCI President was instrumental in forming the “Legends Club” in Mumbai to honour the Cricketing Legends from India.

In 2002 Raj Singh attended a luncheon meeting of the Master’s Club which gave him the idea of forming the Legends Club in Mumbai. The club was launched on the birthday of Vijay Merchant on October 12, 2003 and comprises a group of cricket lovers who meet and celebrate the birthdays of legends.

The prestigious Cricket Club of India has agreed to be the venue host for such meetings.If the legend is a living legend he too is invited to attend the function and depending on availability he often does.

Leading sportsmen are invited to address the audience and at the end of the address there is a question answer session as well and members of the audience are also asked to speak about the Legends.

For instance, recently Sunil Gavaskar who could not come on his own function came for the birthday celebration of Vinoo Mankad and gave a brilliant speech. He also addressed questions from the audience alomg with fellow panelists Ajit Wadekar and Madhav Apte who is the current President of the Club.

The three original Icons of the Legends club were Vijay Hazare, Vijay Merchant and Vinoo Mankad. Vijay Hazare of course was the 1st Indian to score twin centuries in a Test, that too against the team known as “The Invincibles”. Vijay Merchant with 71.64 has the 2nd highest batting average in 1st class cricket after Don Bradman with 95.14. Vinoo Mankad is of course one of the greatest all rounders of all time.

The next 3 cricketers to become Icons of the Legends Club were Sunny Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. Finally the decision was taken to induct a non-cricketer as an Icon and the honour went to Badminton Legend Nandu Natekar.

The rock behind Legends Club is the President Madhav Apte, a young 85 year good humoured and knowledgeable ex-cricketer. He had played 7 Tests and had the honour not only to be coached by Vinoo Mankad but to also open for Tests with him. He had an average of 49 and was mysteriously dropped.

Madhav Apte has given the club a formal structure with a constitution, granted membership to cricket lovers, identity cards and he presides over meetings with  his customary charm. Other regulars are Ajit Wadekar, Nari Contractor, Vasu Paranjpe, Jatin Paranjpe, Shishir Hattangadi and noted commentator Milind Wagle.

The lectures and question-answer session are followed by dinner. There are 7 functions on the birthdays of these 7 icons.

If your interest is T20 Cricket, this is not for you. If your interest is glamour aspect of cricket then too Legends Club is not for you. But if you are interested in the longer format of the game, namely Test matches and have an interest in cricket history and would like to hear greats of the game speak about Legends then you would like to attend a meeting at the Legends Club, Mumbai.

 

Why Murray in Big 4 ? Why Stan not in Big 5?

Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are popularly known as the Big-4 of tennis. Now the number of Grand Slams ( Majors) won is a fair and acceptable point to determine the proficiency of a tennis player. The number of Majors won by these 4 are 19, 16, 12 and 3.

However another champion Stan Wawrinka too in recent times has also won 3 Majors. Accordingly why the big 4 should not be an extended big 5 by including Wawrinka as well.

Before discussing whether Stan can join them a comparison between Murray and Stan would help – to decide whether Stan can join the Big 4 and whether Murray should be in it.

Stan’s 3 Grand Slams were won by defeating the then current World Number 1 which makes the achievement even more stupendous. He defeated Rafa in the 2014 Australian Open and Novak in the 2015 French Open and the 2016 US Open.

However apart from these 3 fantastic performances Stan just has a solitary other Major final appearance which was against Rafa in the 2017 French Open Final where Rafa steamrolled him in straight sets. He has entered semifinals of Majors only 3 more times at the US Open in 2013 and 2015 and the Australian Open in 2015.

Stan has also won a solitary Masters 1000 and is the runners-up only thrice more. His total tournament wins are 16 comprising of 3 Majors, 1 masters, 3 ATP 500 and 9 ATP 250 Tournaments.  Total tournament finals are 28 and final losses are 1 in the Majors, 3 at the Masters, 5 in ATP 500 and 7 in ATP 250.

At the Olympics Stan has won the doubles gold once with Federer in 2008 and has been part of a Davis Cup winning team once as well with Federer playing an important role.

Lets look at what Murray has done in comparison.  Murray like Stan has won 3 Majors. While Stan has total 16 tournament wins, Murray has 45, the break-up being 3 Grand Slams, 1 year end Championships, as many as 14 Masters 1000, 2 Olympic Gold medals, 9 ATP 500 and 16 ATP 250.

 Murray’s with 14 Masters wins is as high as all time 9th and only greats like Novak (30) , Rafa (30), Fed (26), Lendl (22), Mcenroe (19), Connors (17), Agassi (17) and Borg (15) are ahead of him.  More important, greats like Becker, Edberg and Sampras have less than him. In Comparison Stan has just 3 Masters and even lesser known players like Andrei Medvedev and Juan Carlos Ferrero with 4 have more. In fact as many as 27 players have 4 or more Masters 1000 titles while Stan has 3.

Similarly in comparison to Stan’s overall 28 finals, Murray has as many as 67. More importantly he has also reached as many as 11 Finals ( 3 wins) in Majors and 21 Masters finals ( 14 wins). This is far superior to Stan’s performances.

It is also a pertinent stat that of his 22 Finals losses, 15 are to Fed or Rafa or Novak. Of his 8 losses in the Grand Slams , 3 losses are to Federer and 5 to Djokovic. Curiously Andy and Rafa have not met at a Grand Slam final. His 3 wins in Majors include 2 against Novak and one against Raonic.

At the Masters too, of his 7 losses in finals , 5 are against Novak and 1 against Rafa. The only member not of top 3 who has defeated him in a Masters final is Cilic. Murray has also defeated Novak 5 times in Masters finals and has also defeated Fed twice and incredibly has a clay court Masters win over Rafa at Madrid Open.

Murray’s 2 Olympic Golds were won with wins over Federer and Del Potro. He also spectacularly featured in Great Britains victorious 2015 Davis Cup campaign where he won 3 matches for his team ( both singles and doubles) in each and every round to lead his team to a Davis Cup triumph after 79 years.

One final comparison where Murray is way ahead of Stan  is wins over top ten players. Murray has as many as 101 while Stan has 50. Of Murray’s 82 losses versus top 10 players as many as 56 are against Fed (14), Novak (25) and Rafa (17) which shows that in his entire career he has a 72-26 win-loss position against other top ten players. He also has 11 wins each against Federer and Novak and 7 versus Rafa which in itself is no mean feat. In contrast Stan’s record against all three is worrying with him having a 3-20 head to head against Federer and 5-19 versus Novak and 3-16 versus Rafa.

The above analysis shows that though Stan and Murray have 3 wins each in the Majors, the achievements of Murray are way ahead and therefore there is no way that he can be included in an extended Big 5

However Murray has had extraordinary consistent performances since 2008 including winning 8 of his 1st 10 Masters finals between 2008-2011. His spectacular performance in the 2nd half of 2016 which took him to world Number 1 and ended with a win over Novak in the year ending championships has also shown he is a worthy entrant of the Big 4 club.

Do you agree.