The top 3 Tennis Players without a Grand Slam win

Winning a grand slam is the ultimate tennis dream. Simply playing in one is an aspiration for many, since only 128 make each tournament, in a game that has more than a billion players the world over.

Of those 128, the champion is the only one who wins seven best-of-five matches over a two-week period, which requires immense physical and mental skill.

There are however many who, though being super players, have not had a breakthrough grand slam win.

Eddie Dibbs
Born in Brooklyn, York, in 1951, Dibbs learnt his tennis skills on the slow, clay courts of Miami.

Winning 586 matches on the ATP tour makes him number 28 on the all-time list of matches won – Jimmy Connors is at the top, with 1256. But with illustrious names like Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Vitas Gerulaitis and Andres Gomez behind him, 586 wins is a lot more impressive.

Yet Dibbs only reached the semi-finals levels at grand slams – both at the French Open.

As the 10th seed in 1975, Dibbs lost to Guillermo Vilas, while in 1976 he lost to eventual champion Adriano Panetta – Panetta having defeated defending champion Bjorn Borg in the quarters.

Dibbs also reached the quarters of the US Open three times, won 22 titles, and was runner up 20 times.

While he only reached an all-time high of world No.5, for around five years from 1976 to 1980 he was consistently in the top ten.

Dibbs settled in Florida, where he owns racehorses. At 5’7″, he tried to be a jockey as well after his tennis days were over.

Brian Gottfried
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Gottfried was a junior under-18 national champion, who went on to win 25 ATP titles and reach a world ranking of three.

He also reached 26 other finals, only to be runner-up, and won 680 ATP matches to be No.15 on the list. That puts the likes of Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Bjorn Borg behind him for matches won.

However, at grand slam level, Gottfried reached only one final – the 1977 French Open. That day, Guillermo Vilas played a magical game to win 6-0, 6-3, 6-0.

Regardless, Gottfried was one of the respected opponents on the court. His work ethic was amazing, and Arthur Ashe is on record saying the only day Gottfried missed practice was the day of his marriage – so he practiced for twice as long the next day.

David Ferrer
Ferrer is 12th on the all-time winners’ list, with 714, which is one win more than Boris Becker. The only three current players ahead of Ferrer are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – with 1115, 854 and 783 respectively.

Born in Xabia, Spain, Ferrer is probably the best player not to win a Grand Slam. Ferrer reached his highest ranking, three, in 2013, however he reached the top five way back in 2007.

He has won 27 titles and has also reached the finals on 25 occasions.

Federer, who has a 17-0 career record against Ferrer, considers the Spaniard to have the best return of serve in history.

At the French Open in 2013, Ferrer reached the finals without losing a set, only to go down in straight sets to Rafa.

He reached the Australian Open semi-finals in 2011 – defeating Rafa in the quarters – only to lose to Murray. In 2013, he again reached the Australian Open semi-finals, only to lose to Djokovic.

At the US Open, Ferrer reached semis in 2007 and 2012. As for Wimbledon, Ferrer reached the quarters in 2012 and 2013, Murray and Juan Martín del Potro getting the better of him.

At 35, Ferrer is unlikely to win a grand slam, but he will be remembered for his tenacity, agility, fitness, and determination.

 

 

 

Preview of Cincinnati masters 2017

Roger Federer has won the Cincinnati Masters as many as 7 times. This year, as the second seed he will be hoping to win his 8th which will also ensure his returning to world Number 1 Ranking . In King’s way will be top seeded Rafa Nadal who will also be hoping to win this tournament for the second time and become world number 1.

Yes, whoever among Federer and Rafa does better in this edition of Cincinnati Masters will finish the tournament as the new World No.1. We will come to that later. Before that let us 1st get a few basic facts and info out of our way.

Tournament’s history

The Cincinnati Masters is one of the 9 elite Masters 1000 tennis tournaments on the ATP Worls Tour. One of the oldest tournaments ever which started in 1899, it was played on clay till 1979 and since then has been played on Hardcourts. Apart from the 4 Grand Slams, this is the only tennis tournament to have more than 2 stadium courts. In fact it has 17 courts in total including as many as 4 stadium courts.

The 1st ever champion here was Nat Emerson in 1899 who defeated Dudley Sutphin. An apple orchard owner and a top American amateur player, Nat could enter a Grand Slam semi final only once ( US open in 1908). However he was a Cincinnati Open hall of famer and still holds the record of maximum appearances in last 16, which are as many as 12, a record he holds with his brother H Truxton Emerson and Michael Chang.

There were various well known champions over the years. Lets identify and name a few. Bobby Riggs won 4 times in 5 years from 1936 to 1940. Ken Rosewall, Connors, Mcenroe, Lendl, Wilander, Edberg, Sampras, Agassi and Chang are also Champions who have won here.

What about Current Big 4.

Roger Federer won here for the 1st time in 2005, defeating Andy Roddick in the final. He then won again in 2007, 2009, 2010 , 2012 , 2014 and 2015. That makes it a staggering 7 titles here. Roddick, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Ferrer and Novak (thrice) are the worthy finalists whom Federer has defeated at Cincinnati. 5 of his 7 wins here have come in straight sets, while Mardy Fish and  Ferrer are the only two opponents who have taken a set off him. Federer has a perfect 7-0 record here in all the 7 Finals he has played here. His 7 is also the maximum titles won here by any champion

Rafa has entered only one final which was in 2013 and he defeated the giant American 7-6, 7-6. Andy Murray who has opted out this year has won twice, in 2008 and 2011 and both times Novak lost out. Andy also entered the final last year where he lost to Cilic. Djokovic, who too is not playing this year however has not won here and this is the only Masters title which has eluded him. His 5 finals have resulted in 3 losses to Federer and 2 to Andy.

In 2016 the champion was Marion Cilic while the runners up was Andy Murray. Both are not playing this year. The two favourites for this year will be Federer and Rafa, followed by probably Zverev and Thiem.

Lets see how the draw looks for the top 2 seeds after they deservedly get their 1st round bye.

The likely opponents for Federer are Khachanovor or shwartzman in the second round and Jack Sock in the 3rd. Thereafter other top players he is likely to meet are dimitrov, Del Potro, Berdych, Zverev and Raonic. Now Zverev in the semi-finals promises to be an interesting encounter , since he defeated Fed with ease to win the Canadian Masters. Both are locked 2-2 head to head and it will hopefully be a good match

Rafa also has a tough route to the final. His likely opponents are Richard Gasquet in the second round, Muller and Tsonga in the 3rd and QF. Certainly Rafa will certainly be looking to avenge his painful Wimbledon exit at the hands of Muller. Thereafter if Rafa is to proceed to the final he has to defeat Thiem who himself will reach semi final if he gets the better of Nishikori in the quarters.

Dangerous floaters could be Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios and Del Potro who on their day can take out anybody especially in a best of three tournament where there is less time to get back.

So its time to get rolling. There is enough motivation for both Rafa and Federer to win as they have a chance to get the world number 1 ranking back. Federer will also if he wins at 36 become the oldest winner here eclipsing the record of Ken Rosewall who was 35 years and 8 months when he won here 47 years back in 1970. The youngest champion here at 17 was Boris Becker in his breakthrough year in 1985. That record seems likely to continue for at least a year, if not more.

Will Federer win, or will it be Rafa. The record and history says it will be Federer, especially as Cincinnati’s faster courts will suit him. However never count out Rafa as he is capable of anything. Or will it be a new champion like Zverev who this year has won 5 titles including 2 masters, one each on clay and hardcourts, that too be defeating Novak and Federer with ease.

We will know soon. Let the action begin.

( This Blog has been published at Pragativadi and at “the Roar” )

Happy 100th Anniversary year, Vinoo Mankad

Vinoo Mankad passed away in 1978. He was only 61 and his 100th birthday would have 12th April, 2017.  This cricketing giant is one of only 3 batsmen to bat from all positions from 1 to 11 in Test cricket, the other 2 being Syd Gregory and Wilfred Rhodes. India’s Ravi Shastri and Farrook Engineer are not included as they did not bat at 11. Nor is Pakistan’s Nasim-ul-Ghani as technically , though he opened, not having faced the 1st ball he did not bat at 1.  did not bat at 1.

Let us remember this great cricketer on his 100th birth anniversary year on a variety of interesting aspects/topics.

Coaching

While Vinoo was a great cricketer, he was also a great coach as well. There is near unanimity that he had incredible insights on all aspects of cricket.

Recently in the Legends Club Celebration of Vinoo’s 100th Birthday on 12th April, 2017 at CCI, Mumbai, Madhav Apte who has played with him said something interesting. He said that he was a spinner but one fine day, Vinoo Makad asked him to open the batting. He was stunned and questioned Vinoo who retorTed, “Are you the coach or I am? I see an opener in you”. 4 years later, Madhav Apte was walking out to open the batting for India in test matches- with interestingly Vinoo Mankad. On the same occasion, Salim Durrani who was also coached by Vinoo spoke highly of him  as a coach as well.

Dilip Doshi, also a left arm spinner says that he once asked Vinoo Mankad to talk to him about left arm spin bowling. The answer was interesting. “If i dont see you bowling first, why will i speak to you about it. I would not like to waste my time and yours if you are not worth it.”. Later however he saw Doshi bowl, and liked him. Doshi was eagerly waiting for his comments. Vinoo told him that the way he was bowling he was likely to beat the batsman all day long, but unlikely to take wickets, and he advised him to change his line. Doshi says this keen insight worked for him tremendously.

Sunil Gavaskar revealed that Vinoo Mankad had given him the news when he was first selected for India. He said that Vinoo’s greatness as a coach was ability to decipher what would get a batsman out and ability to implement it as well. Gavaskar said that even at 50 plus, he was able to get batsmen in their prime out, and that too after revealing in advance how he would get the batsman out. Gavaskar also revealed that when Vinoo was ailing and he had gone to see him in hospital he was carrying a thriller fiction book and Vinoo appreciated it saying that a hobby is very important to ward off boredom. Therefore according to Sunil, even when he was unwell, Mankad was a life-coach.

Mankading

Vinoo was a terrific allrounder and is probably unfairly remembered more for “Mankading” than for his cricket deeds. It is actually a run out, but of the non-striker for backing up too far. Mankad was the 1st bowler who did this and he ran out non-striker Bill Brown in a Test match for backing up too much. He had got Brown out the same way in a tour game as well. Though Brown had been given a warning by Mankad, yet Vinoo was bitterly criticised for the “unsportive act”. However, no less a person than Don Bradman spoke in his favour by pointing out that the non striker was seeking an unfair advantage.

As Bradman says,

“For the life of me, I can’t understand why [the press] questioned his sportsmanship. The laws of cricket make it quite clear that the nonstriker must keep within his ground until the ball has been delivered. If not, why is the provision there which enables the bowler to run him out? By backing up too far or too early, the nonstriker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage.”

However this way of run out is still known as Makading. Recently, Sunil Gavaskar has called very strongly for the term not to be used, just like similar demands for the term “Chinaman” not to be used. He says that as it was the batsman’s fault why it should not be termed “Browned”.

Mankad’s Test

This was a Test match at the Mecca of Cricket, Lords. Vinoo was not in the Team as CK Nayudu had not given him a contract and Mankad regretfully signed a Club contract in England. After the team was humiliated in the first Test ( at one position it was 0-4) , the BCCI woke up and after skilful negotiation with the Club got Mankad to play for India. Vinoo top scored in both  innings with 72 and 184 and also took 5 wickets for 196 in a marathon bowling effort of 73 overs. Though India still lost, Mankad gave the team dignity with his sterling effort. Till date, he remains only the 3rd overseas player along with Keith Miller and Garry Sobers whose names are in both the bowling as well as the batting Honours Board at Lords in the same test.

World record Opening partnership

Vinoo along with Pankaj Roy had a world record opening partnership of 413 versus New Zealand at Chennai in 1956.. This record stood for 52 years before Graeme Smith and Neil Mackenzie owned it for their marathon effort versus Bangladesh at Chittagong. In the same innings Vinoo hit 231 which was India’s highest individual score till Sunny Gavaskar took it with his 236 versus West Indies.

Role in India’s maiden Test win

This was against England at Chennai in 1952. Mankad took 8/55 in the 1st innings and 4/53 in the second to help India to an innings win in which Pankaj Roy and Polly Umrigar scored centuries. This win helped India square the series 1-1 which was a great achievment those days.

Family of cricketers

Vinoo’s son, Ashok Mankad played 22 tests for India and is considered a domestic giant with an average of 76 in Ranji Trophy and terrific captaincy acumen. His international career however did not take off. Possibly whimsical selection is partly responsible as he played his 22 Tests over an 8 year period, often playing one test in a series and shuffling up and down the batting order from 1 to 8. However in the domestic scene he is spoken of with huge respect.

Rahul Mankad too has played 1st class cricket with distinction, playing almost 50 Ranji Matches for Bombay at a time when selection for Bombay team was often more difficult than playing for India. His third son Atul Mankad too played first class cricket, featuring in 3 matches for Saurashtra

Honesty

This is very important. When his sons started playing 1st class cricket, Vinoo resigned from all committees of BCCI so that his name will not be tainted with allegations of nepotism and favoritism. Isnt this amazing ?

Vinoo you are immortal. We remember you with respect and love on your 100th birth anniversary.

 This blog has been published by the site http://www.cricketwriter.com

Book Review; Numbers Do/Dont Lie.

This book by Impact Index and Aakash Chopra raises a query at the outset. Is it’s name “Numbers Do Lie” or is it “Numbers don’t lie” ? The cover Illustration has the word “Dont” with “N’t” crossed off. Whatever; what is more important is what VVS Laxman has written on the cover “Every number in context:Its a simple, very powerful idea”.

Thus the subject matter is not just numbers but their impact. The authors are Impact Index and Aakash Chopra. While we all know Aakash Chopra as a former Test Opener and also a very successful first class player, let us see who Impact Index is/are.

Impact Index is an alternative statistical system conceived/created by Jaideep Verma in 2009 and is currently run in Mumbai by Jaideep and his partners. While conventionally statistics is measured by acceptable criteria such as batting average or bowling average , Impact Index seeks to measure the impact of a cricketer on the match. It basically compares the performance of a cricketer with the performance of the 21 other players in the match.

The performance of a player is measured in context to the importance the performance has in the teams overall result in that match. It also goes on to measure the impact a player’s performance has in the overall context of a series. As per the Impact Index system, the highest value is given to what is called a ‘Series defining performance” ( SD’s) which is a high impact performance in a match which enables the player’s team to win or draw level or change the momentum of a series.

The basic idea of Impact Index is that while numbers may be the same, the impact my be different. A 100 in an odi batting first may be easier than a 100 in a chase. Similarly a 100 in the 4th innings of a test match will have more impact than a 100 in the 1st or second innings of a test match. As the authors themselves say while cricket is about big innings and big wicket hauls, the context of the game and the struggle of the circumstances is normally never talked about and discussed.

Impact index seeks to emphasise that it is not only about statistics. On the contrary it seeks to see the bigger picture of every cricket performance. Jaideep Verma says that smug romanticism which plagues cricket is responsible for a culture that hails false heroes. Example given is of the Mumbai schoolboy who scored 1009 runs, but if context is factored in the innings was disgraceful, and the manner in which it was hailed was reprehensible.

What is Aakash Chopra’s role in the book. There are 61 impact stories, and Aakash Chopra discusses each one of them and gives his insights as a former International player and also as a writer-commentator with varied experience.

It will not be possible to give details of each of the 61 impact stories in a brief book review, but to touch upon some of the interesting ones, Anil Kumble has the second highest SD’s in test history with Nine, just behind Murali with Ten. As regards batting, the highest SD’s are shared equally by Rahul Dravid and Inzamam ul Haq with 8 each.

The book also clearly states how Sachin Tendulkar was never India’s highest impact Batsman of all time, which is Rahul Dravid, since Rahul’s influencing India’s series results more than anyone else makes him India’s most significant batsman .

Then what about Sehwag and Sachin. The book shows Sachin as the greatest support act in the history of test cricket. It has a look at 34 Test series and shows how consistent Sachin is throughout his career as an omnipresent support act. In ODI it shows Sachin at 5th with Viv Richards and Dean Jones ahead of him as regards impact among retired players and ABD and Amla ahead of him among current players.

Impact Index suggests that maybe Sehwag despite his seemingly carefree demeanour had a problem with expectation since despite a high 1st 2 innings average of 62, he had an average of 29 in 3rd innings and 31 in 4th. Even in T20 and ODI he had lower success rate, especially in crunch games.

The book comes out with some surprising assertions. Such as (i) The highest impact batsman in Test history after Bradman was Peter May who had an average of just 47 in his 66 Tests, (ii) Hansie Cronje’s big match performances made him South Africa’s most significant player, (iii) Ian Bishop had higher impact than Walsh and Ambrose, (iv) India’s second highest impact bowler in ODI after Kapil was Madan Lal ,(v) the highest impact Test player of all time was Alan Davison and (vi) No batsman in Test history has absorbed more pressure than Tiger Pataudi . There are many more such stories.

There are some obvious assertions as well as for instance (i) Dale Steyn is the man most responsible for South Africa’s dominant Test record overseas, (ii) Kane Williamson is New Zealand’s highest impact batsman in Test Cricket, (iii) The most consistent allrounder is Shaun Pollock, followed by Tony Greig, (iv) Highest impact pace bowler in Tests is Dennis Lillee.

Now what is unique about all these stories is that they are substantiated by details and analysis. Aakash Chopra has his analysis too and his insights and comes up with some incredible untold and hidden stories as well.

The book, released in February 2017, is an attempt of a different kind to show the importance of impact in a match. Greg Chappell says that he likes how it brings context to the performance of players through the generations. The book ends with an afterword by the creator of Impact Index, Jaideep Verma where he speaks about his struggle in presenting a new concept and expresses his intent to continue the search for more untold stories and more cases of righting history.

So, Do Numbers Lie or they Don’t Lie. My conclusion and belief is that they dont, but behind such truths, a closer look at context and circumstances is warranted.

This blog has been published at the site http://www.cricketwriter.com

A case for spinning Allrounders.

Ben Stokes is currently the best allrounder in the world, a statement oft-quoted will be accepted by many followers of the great game without any counter query.

However is he? As keen analysts of the great game should we accept blindly or should we ask counter queries before accepting. Some queries which come to mind could be (i) Do we automatically romanticise pace bowling allrounders, (ii) do we not give due importance to spin bowling allrounders and (iii) are there any spinning allrounders today who can pose a challenge to Stokes.

Let us have a look.

Now an allrounder is one who can be selected both for batting or for bowling alone. The classic example is Gary Sobers, called by a 5 in 1 cricketer. Kallis too was one and he batted as well as Dravid and took as many wickets as Zaheer Khan.

However no one in modern cricket can stake such a claim, except maybe Moeen Ali of England. Therefore it is prudent to talk of allrounders today as batting allrounders such as Stokes and bowling allrounders such as Ashwin and Jadeja.

Let us for a moment go back to the beginning of England’s just concluded series vs South Africa.  Coach Bayliss said Moeen Ali was a batsman who can bowl a bit. According to both his coach and captain Moeen was the second spinner for his team behind Liam Dawson. However Moeen responded with a magical series, performing every match, whether it was a 87 and a  ten-for in the 1st Test, 4 crucial wickets in the second, a hattrick in the 3rd to dramatically end the Test or a five-for and a blazing 75 in the 4th and final Test. Indeed,  Moeen played a crucial role in England’s 3-1 win over South Africa which was their 1st home series win over them in almost 20 years.

Ben Stokes too performed splendidly. These 2 allrounders played a stellar role for England.  Moeen took  25 wickets @ 15.64 which is the best performance by an English spinner since 1961. He also scored 252 runs in the series and more importantly he and Stokes had crucial knocks in potentially troublesome positions. Indeed, both of them proved themselves worthy allrounders. Moeen’s double of 20 wickets and over 200 runs was only the 7th such occurrence in the last 17 years.

Who else have performed this feat?

Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock did so in the 2000-01 away series vs West Indies. Kallis scored 267 runs and took 20 wickets. Pollock too took 20 wickets and scored 302 runs in their team’s 2-1 series win with super performances too by  Heschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten, Cullinan and Donald.

Flintoff and Warne too performed this feat in the 2005 Ashes series which is universally accepted as one of the most thrilling series of all time. Shane Warne took a magical 40 wickets and scored 249 runs. Brett Lee and Mcgrath too had good performances with the ball while Ponting, Langer and Clarke did well with the bat. Yet England won 2-1 with stellar batting performances by Kevin Pietersen and Marcus Trescothick and super bowling by Simon Jones and Harmison. However the star was Flintoff who scored as much as 402 runs in the series apart from taking 24 wickets to be England’s most successful bowler. Not surprisingly, Warne and Flintoff were joint Men of the series.

Flintoff in fact is the only player who has done this difficult feat twice. He helped England to a 2-1 series win in South Africa by taking 23 wickets and scoring 227 runs. While Andrew Strauss and Hoggard shone for the Englishmen, it was Flintoff who played crucial roles for his team.

England were however at the receiving end in 2016 when India handed them a 4 Nil defeat. The 2 Indian spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravinder Jadeja performed very well for India and were a crucial difference between the two sides as the English spinners in comparision did not do as well. Left arm spinner Jadeja took 26 wickets and scored 224 runs while Ashwin scored 306 runs and took 28 wickets. Root was England’s best batsman with 491 runs while Virat Kohli scored 655 runs for India. Moeen Ali had 2 Test hundreds, however inexplicably he did not do as well with the ball as expected.

Now let us not fall into the trap of assuming that this allrounders feat having been done 7 times in 17 years is an easy feat. That it is an achievement can be understood from the fact that before 2000, it was only done way back in 1985, and there was no such performance in all test series for althe next 15-16 years

The last person to do the double of 20 and 200 in the 20th century was none other than the peerless Ian Botham in the 1985 Ashes series which was won 3-1 by England with 2 Tests drawn. Botham took 31 wickets and scored 250 runs and contributed in the entire series helping Englishmen Gower, Ellison, Robinson and Gooch win the series for England.

Now if one analyses the above performances, one sees that along with Botham, there were 3 more great pace bowling allrounders, namely Imran, Kapil and Hadlee. Then there were Kallis, Pollock and Flintoff. After that currently there is only Stokes. Is the fact that he is the only pace bowling allrounder which adds to the romance. Otherwise, apart from Warne and Kumble who have retired, all the current bowling allrounders are spinning allrounders, namely Moeen, Ashwin, Jadeja and Shakib.

Let us examine their performances in recent times.  I have taken test performances only and have put below how many runs and wickets have been scored and taken by the 4 spin bowling allrounders and the sole pace bowling allrounder.

Performance of all-rounders in Test matches in the last one year
Runs+wkts
865+48 Moeen Ali
684+97 R Ashwin
663+87 Ravindra Jadeja
656+29 Shakib AHasan
772+26 Ben Stokes

Not un-surprisingly Moeen leads the runs table followed by Stokes while Ashwin and Jadeja lead the wickets tally comfortably. While Stokes is indeed an incredible impact player in the sense that he scores runs when needed and does the same while bowling as well, it is seen that as regards bowling the spin bowling allrounders ( except Shakib) are far ahead of him. Indeed, Ashwin, Jadeja and Moeen are all ahead of Stokes very comfortably. The latest ICC Allrounders table also sees Jadeja at the top and spinners occupying the 1st 4 places.

In conclusion, without going into who is the best allrounder in the world, this proves that spinning allrounders need to be given their due in world cricket. They are worth their weight in gold.

 

The Lightning Bolt Phenomenon

In fact the feat was actually a triple treble. He had won 3 more Olympic Golds by being a member of the 4 x 100 relay team, though unfortunately one Gold, and also the world record was taken away after his team member Nesta Carter was disqualified for doping offences. This was detected in 2017 as many as 9 years after the actual gold winning performance in the 08 Olympics. Thus Bolt finished with 8 Olympic Golds.

At the World Championships as well, Bolt , just before his final event at 2017 London Usain had as many as 11 Golds and 2 silvers and is the most successful athlete ever at this premier event.

We will come to his performance at his final event a bit later. Before that let us  hop on a time machine and go back to the future to assess a few aspects of Bolt’s life and persona.

Born in Sherwood Content, a small town in Jamaica, Bolt’s parents ran a local grocery store. Usain was interested in both football and cricket, and has often said that if he were not a sprinter, he may have been a cricketer. He has stated that he is a fan of Sachin, Chris Gayle, Hayden and as a child admired the Pakistan Cricket team and the bowling of Waqar Younis. He has clean bowled Gayle in a match and hit him for a six. Curtly Ambrose has admired his pace bowling. Bolt also has stated that he is a lover of the football team Manchester United and has expressed a desire to play for it after he retires from athletics.

Interestingly, Bolt’s height . at 6’5 is considered a disadvantage in sprints. However his being Jamaican itself has helped. Studies have shown that 75% of Jamaicans have the sprinting gene ACTN3 as compared to 70% Americans. The centre of gravity of Jamaicans is believed to be at the sole of the feet. Some even say that the aluminium rich soil of Jamaica increases the activity of the sprinting gene.

However Bolt converted his height from a disadvantage to an advantage. He takes longer strides. While most elite sprinters take between 43 to 50 strides over a 100 m race, Bold takes just 41. His tall height also means that in the last 60% of the race he pulls away from his competitors as he usually has a weaker opening start than them. My personal view is that it is possible that his disqualification in 2011 World Championships has led to a slightly slower and cautious start and moreover Bolt knows and has the confidence he can make it up in the second half of the sprint.

Bolt is a Jamaican. Is that significant ? Why does Jamaica steadily send across world champions ?

Certainly hard work goes behind Jamaica having world champions on a conveyor belt. In March every year there is the Annual Boys and Girls Schools sprints championships which is held in the 35000 capacity National stadium. It is always full as spectators come in large numbers to cheer their school champions who they know are world beaters of tomorrow. Sponsors as well as talent scouts are there and they often choose these young school boys and or young girls to encourage them and ensure they take up sprinting as  ac career.

This apart, the very culture of Jamaica seems to encourage sprinters and sprinting. Hilly terrain and grass ensures strong hamstrings, calf muscles and legs, excellent stamina  and less injuries. Sprinting is a way to escape poverty and sprinters are well respected. The average diet of Jamaican stresses on fruits and vegetables and the weather allows throughout the year outdoor training.

Coming back to Bolt,  it is an interesting reflection of his personality that other elite sprinters not only respect but also like him. Normally a superstar is aloof and tends to look down upon his “lesser mortals”. Bolt is different and his rivals know very well that while Bolt may monopolise the medals, he has brought global attention on himself which results in getting huge hikes in pay for other sprinters as well.

The Olympic dream began when Bolt, already earmarked for success in 200m expressed his desire to run the 100m as well. His coach , Mills was initially skeptical due to his poor starts and habit of looking over the shoulder. However as a concession and encouragement he told him that he could do so if he broke the Jamaican National record. Bolt duly did and the coach agreed to his request. Usain stunned the world by setting a World record in only his 5th 100m race.

In the 2008 Olympics, Bolt was already a favorite for both the 100 and 200m. He ran an electrifying race to win the 100m with a 9.69 , improving upon his own WR. Strikingly Bolt slowed down at the end of the race to celebrate and his shoelace too was untied. He also won the 200m by breaking all time great Michael Johnson’s World record and followed it up with yet another world record performance for the 4 x 100 metre gold. Little did he visualise this would be taken away nine years later.

In 2012, Bolt retained the 100m and the 200m to be the 1st ever to defend both sprint Golds. During the 200m win he placed his finger on his lips to silence his critics and just after completion he did 5 push-ups , one each for his 5 golds. Bolt then with ease helped his fellow Jamaicans to the 4 x 100m gold as well. This was celebrated by imitating the Mobot celebration of all time great Mo Farah. All these gestures too make him a Champion different from other Champions.

Both in 2015 and 2016, his rival Justin Gatlin appeared much better prepared. For instance in 2015 , Gatlin had broken the 9.8 barrier 5 times. Yet at the World Championships, it was Bolt who won by a margin of 0.01 seconds with a timing of 9.79 to Bolt’s 9.8. The same story continued in the Olympics of 2016 where for the 3rd time in 3 Games Bolt won the 100, the 200 and the 4 x 100, though in the run up Gatlin appeared better prepared.  Bolt justified what he had said before the Games that he wanted to win and he wanted to be as great as Pele and Mohd Ali. It appeared as if Bolt was mocking at his rivals and saying- Do what u want, i will still finish ahead of you.

It finally came down to his last event, the 2017 World Championships at London. Surely Bolt would go out with a win. The fates seemed in his favour as his main rival, Canadian sprinter Andre de Grasse, opted out due to hamstring issues. Others seemed nowhere close to his aura. However Bolt won his heat with a slow 10.07. While in the semi final he improved to 9.98, that was 0.01 second slower than Christian Coleman. Surely however in the final he would win.

Well, he did not. Slow Start was maybe the Achilles heel for Bolt who finished 3rd, behind Coleman and none other than Justin Gatlin, after threatening but failing to defeat Bolt in 2015 and 2016 managed to do so in Bolt’s last 100m race of his life.

However as a homage, the victor Gatlin knelt before the vanquished Bolt. It was a symbolic gesture that Bolt is the greatest.

There will never be a Usain Bolt again.

On choking and the South African cricket team.

Vikram Sathaye, a terrific cricket humorist and author of the book “How Sachin destroyed my life” is an excellent mimic. In one of his mimicry of Mohammed Azharuddin interviewed by Geoff Boycott, he asks “So Azhar, whats the Plan?” and he replies in Azhar’s typical style “Not much, bat well, bowl well, field well”.

It would be wishful thinking if playing international cricket and winning matches is so easy. Rather, often despite best efforts one is not able to bat, bowl and field well and ends up squandering a winning position to what is said “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” This situation is often termed as Choking.

Generally speaking, choking in sports is when a team is in a winning position in a match but then proceeds to lose it. A less common variant could be if a team is in a neutral position but then instead of extending and proving its domination to go to a winning position loses its way to be in  an inferior position to what it was expected to be.

The cricket team which is most associated with choking is South Africa (SA) The first time the term choking became popularly associated with the South African team was in the 1999 World Cup Semi Finals at Birmingham against SA. Shaun Pollock’s 5-36 was largely instrumental in restricting Australia to 213. However Shane Warne took 4 wickets and the final over saw SA needing 9 runs with one wicket in hand. Lance klusener smashed 2 boundaries in the 1st 2 balls off Damien Fleming and SA suddenly needed only 1 run with 4 balls left. White Lightning Allan Donald survived a run out but again in the very next ball was once again run out, resulting in a tie. Australia proceeded to the Final as they had finished higher in the Super 6 Stages.

Prior to this match too , many years earlier, SA had shown signs of choking. Once was as early as 1993 in the Hero Cup Semi Final against India in front of a huge Eden Gardens crowd. The target was only 195 but the South Africans messed it up. Finally in the last over, with 2 wickets left SA needed 6 for a win with the big allrounder Brian Macmillan at the crease, but at the non-strikers end. Fanie de Villiers took a single and should have stayed put to give Brian the strike but he went for a second run and ran himself out. Allan Donald could not take a single run in the next 3 balls and only managed a single in the 5th. Macmillan needed a 4 in the last ball but could only take a single , leaving India with a 3 run win.

I will give 2 more examples of SA choking when in sight of a win. In the 1st Test match of the 2013-14 series at the New Wanderers Stadium, Johannessburg, India had set a huge target of 466. Centuries by AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis took SA close to what seemed a certain win. At one stage they were 402 for 4 with 48 required in 13 overs with both ABD and Faf at the crease. Inexplicably they lost 3 more wickets and could not close it out, finishing at 450/7. Later in a bizarre press conference South African skipper Smith said that the Indian team did not show enough desire for a win and the Indian team spokesman Virat Kohli (who missed a golden chance for tons in both innings of the same Test) also said that he was shocked that the SA team did not try for a win.

The final example is of yet another World Cup, this one in home conditions where one can say South Africa choked in the dressing room. It was conveyed to Mark Boucher that as per D/L method 6 was required for a win and he hit a massive 6 and raised his arms in celebration and blocked the next ball to walk off when the rains poured down. Sadly, 7 was required and the wrong communication meant that once again SA , in consecutive World Cups had messed it up to convert a sure win to a tie.

With these examples let us analyse what exactly is choking. As said earlier, a team cannot close out a win.

Why ?

Firstly. one thinks too much. One gets anxious. Accordingly the bowling suddenly appears more penetrative and batting appears more difficult. There is pressure, there is nerves and choking may happen. The solution- Dont think much. When Australia scored 434, Kallis told his teammates, Hey this is 1 450 pitch , they are 15 short. A hungover Herschelle Gibbs smashed his way to 175 to help South Africa to an epic win.

Next is lack of communication. If one sees the video of Klusener blasting Damien Fleming for 2 boundaries in that famous 1999 match at Edgbaston, one can see that both Klusener and Donald are in their respective creases. Hence there were 2 consecutive run out chances and one fructified, to the horror of the batting side. Proper communication would have helped, and also calmed down nerves. So also when Boucher lost the plot and defended  a delivery after assuming they had won after hitting a 6, it was an example of improper communication.

Overexpectations is linked to thinking too much. One has huge expectations especially when one is a highly ranked team with lots of match-winners. Translating that into actual winning becomes difficult.

Finally, past history plays a role. Every South African team will be having the burden of previous ‘chokes’ or ‘meltdowns’ and it will be weighing their mind, whether they are batting or bowling or even fielding. Such burden is not conducive  to putting in match winning performances.

Currently, the Number 1 ODI team in the world , South Africa has crashed out of yet another ICC Tournament, the ongoing Champions Trophy. They will be looking forward to regroup, plan and make a charge at winning the 2019 world cup.

Sadly, till they dont win a major tournament, the “chokers” tag will remain with them.

 

 

 

Why Baahubali is a must watch

Baahubali; the Beginning was released on 10th July 2015 and was seen by millions across the globe. I was not one of them- till after Baahubali-Part 2 ( Baahubali-the Conclusion) was released on 28th April 2017.

Consequently it seems strange that I am now advocating that Baahubali-Part 2 is a must watch. My interest arose when some close friends, who are otherwise most stable and relaxed calm persons passionately and repeatedly praised the movie with gay abandon. The question “Why Katappa killed Bahubali?” I had heard for 20 months now and I had ignored. Ultimately i did become curious as to who is Katappa, who is Bahubali and why the former killed the latter. Well, to know that, one would have to see “Bahubali Part 2” or rather “Bahubali the Conclusion”.

Hence i decided to watch Baahubali-2 and to understand it better I saw Baahubali-1 on 30th April 2017. I loved it and immediately followed it up by seeing Baahubali-2 in the theatre the very next day. I loved it too and strongly feel it is a must watch.

Why ? Read on.

Grandeur 

Bahubali -2 is grand. Its magnificent. This is a fantasy drama which showcases the magnificent kingdom of Mahismati. I do not think anything grander has been seen like this in Indian cinema so far. This indeed is India’s Lord of the Rings and the visuals are stunning and will remain in memory for a long time.

Marvellous and breathtaking fights. 

While the fights are violent, they are glorious and spectacular. There is both combat in its most primitive form of one gladiator assaulting another with full fury and geeting hit backed at with redoubled vigour by the opponent. There is also use of strategy and guile. Finally, David vs Goliath has always been a tale of fascination, and here too one sees the outnumbered taking on numerically superior and powerful opponent with planning and strategy.

Prabhas and Rana Dagubatti. 

No action movie is watchable unless one has not only a tough hero but an equally tough, if not tougher villain. Prabhas plays the role of both Amarendra Baahubali as well as Mahendra Baahubali and it is an amazing performance. Rana Dagubatti as the powerful Bhalla exudes menace and hostility. He also has an air of invincibility which makes the final fight between him and Mahendra a much anticipated one. The special effects, i assure you is enthralling and does not disappoint at all.

Film has it all

The movie has it all, Adventure, romance, love, betrayal, conspiracy, valour, weakness, deception and much more. It is a roller coaster ride of enjoyment.

Anushka Shetty. 

Anushka as the beautiful warrior princess Devasena steals the show as well. Not only does she look good, she fights magnificently too. It is a terrific performance by her.

Why did Katappa Kill Baahubali

This is the most important question for the last 20 months and the answer is revealed in Part 2. Why will a loyal and devoted follower kill the person he loves more than anything else in the world. See the movie to know, and i assure you that the Director has crafted the story well.

For all these reasons and more, go and see Baahubali 2. This is the biggest ever movie made in India and promises to be the biggest ever hit as well. It is India’s 1st movie to make 1000 crores. and still counting.

Go and see it in the theatres and be a part of history, while you are having an enjoyable three hours as well

Thanks a lot Rajamouli Ji. Looking forward to see you make the Mahabharata. I feel only you can do justice to this Epic.

Amazing and Great Cricketing Families

Dynasty politics is looked down open , since it the perception is that nepotism , rather than ability plays the prominent role. However sport is democratic and almost always ability decides whether someone can successfully go on to play Test matches.

A great player can be the son or father of an ordinary player. For instance the greatest batsman of all time Don Bradman’s father George was a club level cricketer while his son John played only schools cricket. However Cricket also has several instances of gifted families where more than one family member played at the highest level with distinction.

Lets take a look at some of them with a slightly more detailed writeup about the most famous of them all- the Mohammed Family, and a brief mention of a few more.

1 The Mohammad Family

Incredibly, 4 brothers, Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq and Sadiq played for Pakistan.  The 5th brother, Raees too was 12th man in a Test match. The previous evening their dictatorial Captain Kardar had said Raees was playing but the skipper changed his mind the next day. Interestingly the 4 brothers say that Raees was the most stylish batsman among the brothers.

Eldest brother Wazir known as Wisden for his fascination for cricket trivia played 20 Tests. He scored a crucial 42 not out in Pakistan’s 1st win over England in England. Pakistan were just 85 ahead with 8 wickets down. Wazir’s 42 helped them set a target of 168 which was enough for their talismanic fast bowler Fazal.

The original “Little Master” Hanif played 55 Tests and scored 3915 runs with 12 hundreds including a match saving 337 vs West Indies at Bridgetown which is the longest Test innings in history and the only second innings Test Triple century. He also scored a 499 in 1st class, a record later broken by Lara with 501. Hanif’s son Shoaib too played  test cricket (45) with 7 tons. His grandson Shehzar, at 25 has played 1st class cricket for 7 years now.

Mushtaq played 57 Tests for 10 tons and also took 79 wickets with his legbreak spin. Supposedly the most talented of the brothers, Mushtaq was a very successful county cricketer with more than 30000 1st class runs, 72 hundreds, and 900 plus wickets.

Sadiq was a right handed batsman who was converted to a left handed one to increase his chances of Test selection. He had 5 tons in his 41 Test matches. Being a short and compact left-hander Sadiq was compared to the great Neil Harvey

Incredibly, for 89 consecutive Tests ( and 100 out of 101 consecutive Tests) and 27 years at least one  Mohd family member was in Pakistan’s Test squad.

2 Grace Family

WG Grace and his Brothers Edward Grace and Fred Grace who are called the “Three Graces” played Test cricket for England. However Edward and Fred played only one Test each.  WG of course is one of the greatest players in the history of the game and played 1st class cricket for 44 years. Incredibly all three played in the same Test, and only the Mohd’s and Grace’s have achieved this rare distinction.

3  Chappell Family

Ian and Greg both captained Australia with distinction.  Ian played 75 Tests while Greg played 87. Greg retired at his peak, scoring 182 in his last test innings and being a rare player to score a century on debut and in farewell Test. Trevor Chappell , their younger brother also played 3 Tests for Australia but is more famous for bowling the underarm delivery to Brian Mckechnie on the orders of his brother and Skipper Greg.

Their grandfather Vic Richardson also played 19 Tests for Australia and is one of the few double internationals, having played baseball too for Australia.

4 The Headley’s. Known as Black Bradman, George Headley played just 22 Tests for West Indies but is widely regarded as one of the best batsmen of all time. His son Ron Headley was a fairly successful 1st class cricketer but played just 2 Tests for West Indies. George’s grandson Dean was an useful quick bowler who played 15 Tests for England.

5 Khans and Burkis. Along with the Headley’s the Khans are the only other 3 generation Test Players. While Jahangir Khan played Test cricket for India, his son Majid Khan and gradson Bazid Khan played Test cricket for Pakistan.

The Burkis are a family who produced as many as 40 First class cricketers for Pakistan including 3 national captains, namely Javed Burki, Majid Khan and Imran Khan. All 3 are first cousins and their mothers, Iqbal Bano, Mubarak and Shaukat are own sisters. 3 sisters becoming mother of National Captain is unique , not just for Pakistan but for any country .

6 Amarnaths. Lala Amarnath who scored India’s 1st Test century ( on his debut) is considered one of the legends of Indian cricket. A commentator referred to him and his batting as “Pure romantic, the Byron of Indian cricket”.

Two of his sons Mohinder and Surinder played Test Cricket for India. Mohinder or Jimmy Amarnath is considered one of India’s most gutsy batsmen against fast bowling. He had back to back Man of the match performances in the semi final and final of India’s 1983 World Cup winning campaign. Surinder is considered one of the most talented batsmen with unfulfilled potential. Another son,  Rajinder also played 1st class cricket but not with much success. Surinder’s son, Digvijay at 24 is a current 1st class player.

7. Marsh’es. Geoff Marsh was a gutsy opening batsman who also played an important role in Australia winning the 1987 Cricket world Cup. His two sons Shaun and Mitchell are currently playing Test cricket for Australia.

Mention must be made also of Legendary wicketkeeper Ian Healy whose niece Alyssa is currently the Aussie Women’s team wicketkeeper and is married to Australia’s premier fast bowler Mitchell Starc. There are many other brothers who have played together like Michael and David Hussey, Brett and Shane Lee, Mark and Steve Waugh, Some famous father son pair to play Test cricket are Vijay and Sanjay manjrekar, Chris and Stuart Broad, Peter and Shaun Pollock, Mickey and Alec Stewart, Walter and Richard Hadlee , Vinoo and Ashok Mankad, Lance and Chris Cairns

Can add to the List?. Looking forward to your inputs.

Encourage domestic tourism please

Mr DK Das is a well known retired IRS officer. He was the cadre-controlling Chief Commissioner of Income Tax in Kolkata and I was privileged to work as his Dy Commissioner (DC) Headquarters. One everlasting memory i have is of more than 12 years back. A fellow DC asked for a weeks leave. Sir asked him, “What have you written as the reason for requiring leave.? The officer hesitantly said “Rest and Recreation, Sir. Why Sir, anything amiss, Should i amend the reason.”?

Mr Das said “absolutely not. I am very happy. Recreation means recreate, the rest will help you recreate ourself and while you are an excellent officer this leave for much needed rest and recreation will have you rejuvenated and recreated”

What does this mean? Simple. Man needs to take off once in a while to recharge batteries. While exotic international holidays are not possible for all, but surely there are mini-breaks available which will suit all budgets and tastes. The answer is in Domestic Tourism a solution which is there in front of us but we normally fail to see it, or we deliberately do not want to.

Domestic tourism as distinguished from foreign tourism is having holidays within the country. It is an essential aspect of tourism and has tremendous potential. This is because there is no need for passport/visa, conversion of currency, extra and temporary insurance. One simply notes the time one has, decides the budget and makes a move. It can be on short notice as well, sometimes within hours.

Domestic tourism can be divided into the following categories;

Local Tourism– Have we taken a look at the various places of tourism interest in the place we live. One will be surprised to find out that maybe one has not. It is a good idea to find out more and visit these few places one by one. Say you are in Mumbai or Bhubaneswar or San Francisco or Atlanta. Have u seen the places in your city. Make a list and start ticking off one by one.

Regional Tourism. The next stage is regional tourism. Explore your State. There will certainly be many places of interest which you have never seen. For instance i have heard that there is a book 52 Getaways for 52 weekends in Mumbai. This means there are various nearby places where one can go for a day or two. Out of 52 even if 15 is covered in a 3-4 year stay wont it be nice ? Similar story for wherever you are located, be it Orissa or California.

National Tourism. Here one takes a train or a flight and goes to another state. Of course, in USA this too is often done by road due to the marvelous infrastructure and roads. However in India one can fly to various holiday destinations and the most popular probably are Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari there are many wonderful holiday destinations which one can choose to relax and unwind.

Now how can domestic tourism be encouraged and what are the factors which can lead to growth in domestic tourism. Some of them are as follows;

Good Roads. This is of utmost importance. Roads should not only be good, they should have facilities like food mall on the way, signs everywhere so that even in GPS era, the motorist is convenienced, good rest rooms, fuel pumps and so on. There should also be signs that the distance to the next food stop and fuel pump is such and such kilometer. People should be encouraged to stop only in these designated stops and nowhere else. Highway police should ensure this is implemented strictly so that people feel secure.

Culture of promoting tourism by locals. The local population should realise that tourism will help them and they in turn should encourage domestic tourists as well.

I remember 2 incidents of more than 20 years back when i and my wife visited Goa. The 1st was when we asked a tiny old lady where we will get a cab for Mapusa. She said if we are not in a hurry we can take a bus since the bus ticket was Rs 12/- while cab fare was Rs 225/- and the bus will take only 20 minutes more and moreover she was going there and would ensure we reached safely. Now Rs 213/- was a big sum of money 20 years back and we jumped at the offer. The second was when we wanted to have a bus tour and there was only one seat/ticket left. The local Guide said hop in, I will stand and guide you. He actually did. It was wonderful. Wont such culture promote tourism. Definitely, Yes. Such a welcoming culture should be by all locals everywhere.

Culture of asking your Junior why not applying for leave rather than why applying for leave. Often we take pride in “boasting” that “I havent taken leave for 3 years or 5 years”. I too am guilty of this. However it certainly is not anything to be proud of. Rather one should take leave regularly so that one gets back energised and works better for the organisation. One should also encourage others to do so. In any case , in the concept of earned leave, someone else is in charge and hence work continues to be done.

On this topic , one can go on and on, but the above illustrations are I am sure sufficient to raise some thought process on this important area. Tourism is a must to improve the perception of a country worldwide and domestic tourism is a must too which will produce numerous social, cultural and economic benefits and contribute to nation building as a whole.

Let us all do our bit for domestic tourism.

Thanks and looking forward to your feedback.