Commonwealth Games 2018; India’s Golden Oldies

Related imageWith 26 Gold medals, 20 silvers and 20 bronze, India had a super Commonwealth Games 2018. Many youngsters made us proud, and veterans were not far behind. Their experience ensured that we will have fond memories of the tournament at Gold Coast.

I call them the “Golden Oldies”, a term of love and respect, rather than any reference to age. Here is my list of India’s Golden Oldies of the recent tournament.

MC Mary Kom

At 35, 5 time World Champion, Olympic (bronze) medallist and Parliamentarian MC Mary Kom made a comeback to the international boxing scene by entering her 1st Commonwealth Games. In the women’s 48 kg boxing final she outclassed Kristina of Northen Ireland 5 Nil in a one sided bout.

Thank you 1998 Asiad gold medallist Dingko Singh for inspiring Mary Kom to shift from Athletics to boxing.

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Sharath Kamal

Sharath had recently claimed a record equalling 8th National singles TT title and had modestly said that Kamlesh Mehta’s record and achievement was greater as he had to face intense competition which was lacking now.

In 2006 Sharath had claimed the Commonwealth Games singles title and more than a decade later in 2018, it was his rich experience which saw India knock out defending champions Singapore in the semi-finals. Sharath defeated both his tough opponents and these 2 wins were crucial for the 3-2 win. This was the final before the final and indeed in the finals India easily won 3-0 against Nigeria.

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37 year old Sanjeev Rajput, who is a sailor in the Indian Navy has been representing India in shooting since 2004. In the CWG, he won a bronze at Melbourne in 2006, a silver at Glasgow in 2014 and improved to Gold medal in the 50m free rifle event in the recent Games at Gold coast. At the Asian Games too he has excelled for the country by winning 2 Bronzes and a Silver.

What was highly creditable about the Gold at Gold coast is that Sanjeev broke the CWG record both in the qualification round as well as in the final.

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While Sanjeev Rajput is a navy officer, Tejaswini Sawant is a navy officers daughter. She had caught public imagination when in 2006 she was selected to represent India in the Commonwealth Games ahead of Asian Games gold medallist Anjali Bhagwat.

In 2006 she had won 2 gold medals. Now 12 years later, Tejaswini once again won Gold in the 3 positions 50m rifle event and a silver in the 50m rifle prone event.

In 2010, Tejaswini had become a world champion by winning gold at the Munich world championships. We indeed are proud of this veteran.

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34 year old Sushil Kumar won the gold medal in the 74 kg men’s freestyle which was his 3rd straight Gold at the Commonwealth Games. He defeated Johannes Botha of South Africa in a one sided final. In fact, in the entire tournament Sushil did not lose a single point.

Sushil’s greatest achievements will always be the Bronze medal in 2008 Olympics and Silver medal in 2012 Olympics whereby he became our country’s 1st double Olympic medallist. At the 2010 World Championships he became world champion as well.

What was heartening about India’s wrestling contingent for Gold Coast is that all 12 wrestlers returned with medals, namely 5 Golds, 3 silvers and 4 bronze medals.

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Ashwini Ponnappa was called the star and champion of the Indian badminton contingent to Gold Coast by inspirational coach Gopichand. Ashwini played as many as 4 matches daily for 10 days which according to the coach was phenomenal. Gopichand went on to say that winning the team gold was not something he had dreamt of and the 1st win in the mixed doubles ( with Satwik) in which Ashwini played a crucial role was vital.

Ashwini ended with a team gold and a bronze as well in women’s doubles. She showed herself as a team person by giving full credit to Satwik and saying she had to give the best possible support to him as he had a really terrific smash , from all angles of court, including weird angles.

Congrats Ashwini, Dengue stopped you at Rio. However i am sure you will be a star at the 2020 Olympics. All the best.

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Saina has been instrumental in ushering in a badminton revolution in the country. It was a matter of huge pride that she and Sindhu played the finals of the ladies singles. Saina who is world no.12 upset world no.3 Sindhu in straight games. It was the 1st time 2 Indians played in the finals of a major event.

Hearteningly for Indian Badminton, Sindhu has said that she will roar back. It would be great if both these lionesses play in the finals of the 2020 Olympics

Saina also played a major part in winning the team championships. Her win over Soniah Cheah won India the team gold. Saina echoed her coach’s words by saying that the team gold gave her more satisfaction than the individual gold as it was very challenging to win against Singapore and Malaysia.

Thank you “Golden Oldies”. I repeat, it is only an address of love and affection. I am sure you all will be around in the 2020 Olympics and make us proud.

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Commonwealth Games 2018; India’s youngster young stars.

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India finished a creditable 3rd in the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG)  at Gold Coast Australia with 26 Gold, 20 Silver and 20 bronze medals. Statistically it was India’s 3rd best performance ever. However since in earlier editions of CWG (i) the number of events were more, (ii) there were more medals at stake and (iii) CWG Delhi was at home, this for me is India’s best performance ever.

What was especially heartening in this Games is that there were some amazing performances by youngsters. These young stars will be beacon of hope for us in the 2020 Olympics.

Lets have a look at them, and also discuss some little-known trivia associated with them.

Neeraj Chopra

20 year Neeraj created history with his 86.47 throw in the Men’s javelin event to become India’s 1st ever gold medal winner in this event at the Commonwealth Games. Neeraj’s throw would have been good enough to get him a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and he must surely be an early contender for a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

What gladdened the heart was that Neeraj won the gold with his season’s best throw. His is only India’s 4th individual gold in athletics at the CWG, after legend Milkha Singh in1958, Krishna Poonia for Women’s discus in 2010 and Vikas Gowda for Men’s discus in 2014.

Milkha Singh’s was India’s 1st ever gold medal and Prime Minister Nehru asked him what he wanted as reward. Milkha says he could have asked for 200 acres of land in Punjab or 2-3 bungalows in Delhi but he asked for a holiday for the entire country which was granted by Pandit Nehru.

Image result for Manu Bhaker IMAGESManu Bhaker’s statement “I don’t set targets, i work on technique” reflects the confidence of this 16 year teen from Haryana. Manu, who earlier had gold medals at both the junior and senior world cup, broke the Games record to win the gold ahead of Heena Sidhu.

Interestingly Manu had earlier thought of boxing as a career.

How did she celebrate her gold medal ? With a game of table-tennis. All the best Manu. Proud of you.

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Talk of Table tennis brings us to our 3rd young star, Manika Batra, India’s star of the tournament

Manika was India’s highest medal winner with as many as 4 medals including 2 golds, a silver and a bronze. She was the 1st ever Indian to win the ladies singles. In a one sided final she defeated 4 time defending champion Yu Mengyu of Singapore 4 Nil.

Manika’s 2nd gold was the women’s team gold which too was won by the ladies team for the 1st time ever. India defeated Singapore 3-1 in the final, with the highlights being Manika defeating world number 4 Tianwei Feng and also the highly experienced Yu Mengyu.

Ranked 58, she consistently defeated higher ranked players, with the highlight being two wins over the world No.4 in the same tournament.

Look at the tri-colour on her finger nails. Goose-bumps.

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Anish Bhanwala who is just 15 had packed his CBSE books along with his pistol when he left for the CWG. Thankfully, CBSE re-scheduled his exams. Anish won the nations’s hearts by winning the Men’s 25 m rapid fire pistol.

The teen superstar had to leave his house in karnal at 13 for Faridabad as karnal does not have a shooting range. This was his 1st Commonwealth Games and he became India’s youngest ever gold medal winner.

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Behind the success of Gaurav Solanki is the sacrifice of his family. When he was 15 and showed promise but the family had no money for his diet and training his father took the drastic decision of selling his plot of land to finance his son’s boxing career.

6 years later at just 21, Gaurav defeated Northern Ireland’s Brendan Irvine 4-1 in the men’s 52 kg final. This was his debut CWG. Gaurav surely is a star for the future.

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Kidambi Srikanth during the course of the CWG became World Number 1 by displacing Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen. Sri won a silver in the men’s singles when Lee Chong Wei came back from 1 game down to win the next 2 and the gold. LCW as he is popularly known is one of the greatest player of all time and losing to him is definitely not a shame.

In fact, in the mixed team event, Sri had defeated LCW in straight games which was a key result in India’s 1st ever mixed team Gold.

Coach Gopichand who had not allowed Sri and the team to celebrate with a cake after Sri became No.1 called the team Gold as the biggest gain of the tournament.

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17 year teen Satwiksairaj Rankireddy is a star of the present as well as the future. Satwik won a gold and a silver. His gold was in the team event when he and Ashwini Ponnappa won 21-14, 15-21, 21-15 against their Malaysian opponents to give the team a head start. He lost in the men’s doubles but this mixed doubles win was a key which helped the team immensely as Srikanth and Saina wrapped up their singles.

Satwik will definitely smash his way to major success in the future. With his incredibly powerful game he is a potential mega singles star of the future as well.

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Saikhom Mirabai Chanu broke six records in six lifts for a memorable gold in the women’s 48 kg weightlifting event. Mirabai had a silver in the last edition of the CWG and was a big hope at the Rio Olympics but could not come up to the mark. However in the 2018 Olympics she dazzled and as she is just 23 she will be one of our main hopes for the 2020 Olympics.

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Mehuli Ghosh at 17 won a silver medal in the 10 metre air rifle final and while she just missed the gold by losing to Singapore’s Martina , she accepted that she had learnt her lessons and will come out stronger. Ironically she had shot a perfect 10.9 and celebtrated prematurely thinking she had won the gold, but instead she had tied. In the shootout she lost out, as she shot a 9.9 while her Singapore rival with 10.3 clinched the gold.

We can only hope this narrow loss will steel her resolve.

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Mohammed Anas is the last young star i have chosen, even though he did not win any medal at the CWG. The 400m runner came 4th and just missed the bronze. However his performance was extremely impressive as it was a national record breaking performance with Anas improving upon his own record. It was India’s 1st final entry in 60 years after the legendary Milkha Singh’s gold winning performance in 1958.

These then are my favorite youngster young stars of CWG 2018. Apologies if i have missed out anyone and looking forward to your comments regarding these choices of mine and the ones missed out, if any.

Next i will be bringing to you my choice of Golden Oldies of CWG 2018.

The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based at Mumbai. He blogs @thesportsmanwritesaway.wordpress.com and tweets @riteshmisra. The views in the blog are personal.

 

India’s Batting might of the 1980’s

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Romanticism of the past is something all of us love doing, and why not. While present day heroes are no doubt champions, so were yesteryear stalwarts. Let us have a nostalgic look at the batting talents from India in the 1980’s with some rare and relatively unknown trivia about them.

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The great Sunil Gavaskar (Sunny) had a glorious 17 years at the top. He scored 34 test hundreds and piled up more than 10000 test runs at a 50 plus average. Currently a top commentator, Sunny had earlier written 4 highly acclaimed books.

My favorite Gavaskar trivia is that during Hindu-Muslim riots of 1992-93 he personally stood between a bloodthirsty mob and some innocent persons including women saying that the mob would have to kill him first. The mob melted away. Such courage is remarkable, no wonder, he could face dreaded bowlers without wearing a helmet.

As a schoolboy, i met Gavaskar and in my hurry, i put my autograph book on top of many others who were similarly waiting. He said “Patience, young lad, if u dont have patience how can you be an opening batsman”. In a Legends Club meet, he was late by an hour due to an upset stomach, and started his much-awaited talk by saying “Sorry friends, i was wicket-keeping the whole day”.

Wit is natural to this great person.

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Krisnamachari Srikkanth ( Cheeka), a swashbuckling opening batsman was a natural foil to Sunny’s solidity. His flamboyant style made him very popular. He represented India in 3 world cups and in the historic 1983 world cup final victory his 38 was the highest score for both sides. Cheeka, was the captain of the Indian team when Sachin Tendulkar made his debut. He was also the selection committee chairman when India won the 2011 World cup.

A funny Cheeka trivia, revealed by Offie Ravi Ashwin in standup-comic Vikram Sathaye’s show “What the Duck” is that once when he was Selection committee Chairman, Cheeka was talking to Ashwin in his hotel room, motivating him to take fivers in every single 1st class innings so that he could break into the test team. While talking Cheeka was smoking a cigar and was flicking the ashes into Ashwin’s bowl of sambar without realising that there was sambar in the bowl.

Cheeka was one of the few cricketers who in his playing days had no qualms about smoking in public. Once, as a teen, i went inside the bar of Hotel Oberoi in Bhubaneswar seeking an autograph, and he said “Out, you are not old enough to come inside a bar”. I ran out. He then came out to give me an autograph and a huge smile.

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Mohinder Amarnath (Jimmy) made his debut at 19, but then had to wait for 6 years to make a comeback. Thats the story of his career, comeback after comeback.

Imran Khan says if he would have been Indian captain, he would have ensured Jimmy played uninterrupted cricket for all the 19 years he played International cricket. Sunny and Malcolm Marshall, one of all time great batsman and bowler rated him the best batsman of the world. So did Imran.

Jimmy was Man of the match in both the semi-finals as well as finals of the 1983 World Cup. He was a rare player who played better overseas, with an average of 51.8, while his domestic test average was 30.44. 9 of his 11 Test tons were abroad. He was the 1st Indian cricketer to be out handling the ball and obstructing the field.

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Gundappa Vishwanath (Vishy) is one of India’s finest batsmen ever. His best period was in the 1970’s but his playing for India till 1983 qualifies him for this blog. Vishy who was an artistic genius had a century on test debut and scored as many as 14 test hundreds, and in none of the tests where he scored hundreds India lost.

However Vishy’s 97 not out versus West Indian attack of Andy Roberts, Vanburn Holder, Bernard Julian and Keith Boyce at Chepauk in 1974-75 is considered one of the best innings in test history. Wisden 100 ranks it the 2nd best non-century knock. Vishy played a counter-attacking knock while wickets tumbled. The total score was 190 and the next highest score was 19.

Vishy and Sunny, India’s best batsmen for a long time became related through marriage when Vishy married Sunny’s sister.

Vishy had a unique contribution to India’s cricketing future as he was Chairman of the selection committee which selected Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.

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Dilip Vengsarkar was called Colonel , a name given by Lala Amarnath who saw him destroying the famed Indian spinners Bedi and Prasanna in a manner which reminded him of Colonel CK Nayudu.

A Cricinfo article says that Vengsarkar may be Colonel everywhere but he was a Commander at Lords. He had 3 centuries at the Mecca of cricket, in 1979, 1982 and 1986. Interestingly his 1st innings at Lords saw him out for a duck when Botham got him caught by Hendrick. He says he was determined not to get a pair since if someone would ask him how many  runs he scored at Lords, he did not want to have zero as an answer.

In his 116 Tests over a 16 year period Dilip scored 17 test tons and almost 7000 runs with as many as 6 test centuries against the famed West Indian quicks. Malcolm Marshall in his book “Marshall Arts” had a chapter, “Vengsarkar Vengenance” in he spoke about his angst with Dilip due to his excessive appealing in his 1st test leading to his wrongly given out. Marshall nevertheless spoke of Colonel’s feat of 3 hundreds at Lords, which even Don Bradman had not achieved.

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Mohammed Azharuddin (Azhar) started his career with 3 centuries in his 1st 3 Test matches. Azhar also scored a century in his last test match which was his 99th and he could not play any more as he was banned for life, which was overturned much later by the judiciary.

Azhar who was very popular for his wristy and fluid batting style was a brilliant fielder as well. He took over the captaincy from Sreekanth. His getting the captaincy is memorable trivia in itself. Raj Singh Dungarpur had asked him “Miyan, kaptaan banoge”? ( will you be captain) Azhar who was Hyderabad Ranji Captain replied “Main to kaptaan hoon Sir” ( Sir, i am captain already) before realising Raj Singh was talking about the Indian captaincy.

In the movie Azhar, where Emraan Hashmi plays Azhar, a huge mistake was committed by showing Raj Singh as the BCCI President who made this offer to Azhar whereas Madhavrao Scindia was actually BCCI President and Raj Singh had given the captaincy offer in his capacity as Chairman of Selection committee.

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Sandeep Patil would probably have been one of the hottest stars in the present era of T20 with his swashbuckling style of cricket coupled with his flamboyant good looks. In those days when test matches often saw 180-200 runs scored in an entire day’s play, Sandeep hit Bob willis for 6 boundaries in an over. This was at Manchester in 1982 and the audacity can furthered be marvelled since Patil had come in to bat at 136/5 and it was a comeback test. The 5th of the 6 boundaries saw him reach a hundred and he celebrated with a sixth boundary.

Patil played just 29 tests for 1588 runs @37 but stats do not do justice to the impact he had as a batsman. His spectacular knock of 174 at Adelaide came just the next test after being hit on the throat by Rodney Hogg and over the ear by Len Pascoe. It is talked about even today.

Sadly, Patil’s last test innings was 41 where with India needing to save the test he was out caught on the boundary line and his dismissal led to a collapse and India losing the test. He and Kapil Dev were dropped from the next test as a disciplinary measure. While Kapil as an allrounder and most valuable player of the team obviously came back, Patil’s replacement Azhar scored 3 tons in 3 Tests and Patil never played for India again.

Patil acted in a Hindi movie Kabhi Ajnabi Thhe with Poonam Dhillon and Debashree Roy. He was coach of the Kenyan team which reached the semi-finals of the 2003 world cup. In Kenya he developed cooking as a hobby and recently had a cookery tv show where Indian celebrity cricketers joined him in conversation over food cooked by him.

A multi-faceted personality and Talent indeed.

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Kapil Dev is the only allrounder in Test history to have more than 5000 test runs and 400 wickets, a feat unmatched even by legends like Ian Botham, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Jacques Kallis and Garry Sobers.

As a batsman, Kapil in tests would be most remembered probably for his hitting 4 sixes in 4 balls to avoid a follow on versus England. He had 8 hundreds and 27 50’s in test cricket for an average of 31, but his impact as a batsman was much much more.

In ODI , Kapil had one of the best ever innings ever played when he scored 175 not out versus Zimbabwe when India were 17/5. India could have been out of the World Cup but this knock revived India’s fortunes and India went on to lift the world cup. In his autobiography, By God’s decree, Kapil says that he bought himself a Mercedes to celebrate his knock of 175.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Ajay Devgn

Image result for ajay devgn imagesAjay Devgn who calls himself a reserved and  a media-shy person is one of the most powerful and popular actor of the Hindi film industry. Ajay has stated that while he does’nt try to be different from other actors, he tries to do different things so that he does not repeat himself. Incredibly versatile, he does all kind of roles, whether intense drama or action or comedy, this actor with a difference who does not attend award functions neither does stage shows has his own distinct identity in the industry.

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Devgn started his career with Phool aur Kaante, in which he made a most spectacular entry, standing on two moving motorcycles. He got the best debut award for this movie. This trademark stunt he repeated, with two horses in Son of Sardaar.

Ajay’s latest movie is Raid, where he plays the role of an honest Income tax officer who conducts a raid at the residence of an extremely powerful politician.

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Today, on his birthday, 2nd April, i bring to you his top ten movies (according to me) and some relatively unknown trivia associated with them.

Zakhm

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This movie, by acclaimed director Mahesh Bhatt’s won Ajay the National Film Award for best actor. Zakhm also won the Nargis Dutt award for best feature film on national integration. With this movie, Ajay demonstrated his willingness to do different type of roles.

Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam,1999

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Ajay starred with Salman and Aishwarya in this romantic hit which won 4 National film awards and 9 Filmfare awards. Interestingly, the movie was shot at Budapest but the director Sanjay Leela Bhansali thought that audience will relate better if it is portrayed as Italy. Both Ajay and Salman got nominations for best actor-male while Aishwarya and Sanjay won Best actor-female  and best director and best film award as well.

Company

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For someone who plays dark and brooding roles to perfection, Company and Ajay were made for each other.Company is supposed to be based on the D-Company and the Dawood Ibrahim- Chota Rajan split. Ajay got the Critics award for best actor and was nominated for best actor as well. Vivek Oberoi made a stunning debut and superstar Mohanlal gave a memorable performance.

The Legend of Bhagat Singh

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Ajay once again won the critics award for best actor for his role of the revolutionary in this Rajkumar Santoshi film. Interestingly Sunny Deol was the 1st choice for this movie but differences on remuneration led to Devgn getting the role.

Gangaajal

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In this National Award winning film of Prakash Jha, Devgn plays a sincere police SP. Gangajal is loosely based on the infamous Bhagalpur blindings of 1980 where police took law into their own hands.  Devgn’s role was 1st offered to Akshay Kumar who refused it due to its dark tenor

Khakee

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In this multi-starrer, Devgn plays the villain while Amitabh and Akshay are the heroes. Devgn got best villain award. Interestingly he was supposed to play Akshay’s role but preferred to play the villain’s part.

Raincoat

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This Devgn-Aishwarya starrer which won National film award for best Hindi movie is based on O’ Henry’s “The gift of the Magi” . This was  Rituparna Ghosh’s 1st hindi movie.

Once upon a time in Mumbai

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In this gangster movie, Devgn plays Sultan, a role based on Haji Mastan while Emraan Hashmi plays Shoaib, based on Dawood Ibrahim. Probably Randeep Hooda’s cop role is based on Julio Ribeiro. Devgn, in this movie wears only white clothes, inspired by Amitabh Bachchan’s role in Deevaar.

Singham

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Bajirao Singham, played by Devgn is one of Hindi film history’s most iconic characters. Prakash Raj does a super role too as a don named Jaikant Shikre.

Singham has a scene of a bare chested Devgn emerging out of the water. When this scene was shot in Panchgani it was past midnight and the temperature was sub-zero. Yet while all were in jackets, Devgn did the scene barechested without raising a single question.

Drishyam

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Ajay plays a family man who will go to any length to save his family members from being arrested from the police. Tabu’s acting as IGP Meera Deshmukh is super. Interestingly Devgn did this movie only as he had a rare free time of 3 months with delay of his home production movie Shivaay, and the makers of Drishyam promised him they would complete the movie in this time. They did, and the movie turned out to be one of Devgn’s best.

Happy birthday  Ajay Devgn.

The writer Ritesh Misra is based in Mumbai. This is a purely personal blog and is not for any commercial purposes. The views expressed are personal. Pictures have been taken from pictures available in public medium and any violation of copyright, if any, is unintentional.

 

The 7 Gentlemen Tennis players who have completed the Sunshine Double

Image result for novak djokovic imagesThe Indian Wells and the Miami Masters are two back to back ATP  World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments. These 2 tournaments are also the most prize money offering tournaments among the 9 Masters 1000 tournaments , offering an astronomical 1340860$ to the winner.

Indian Wells and Miami Masters are together called the Sunshine double and it is considered to be one of the toughest feats to achieve in tennis. Even an all time great like Rafa Nadal who has won 30 Masters 1000 tournaments has not won both in the same year. In fact Rafa has won at Indian wells thrice but has lost out at Miami in as many as 5 finals, twice each to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and once to Nikolay Davydenko.

Djokovic has performed this incredible feat of winning the Sunshine double as many as 4 times. Overall only 7 gentleman tennis players have achieved this feat of winning the Sunshine Double. They are as follows.

Jim Courier, 1991

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Courier, a former World Number 1 has won 4 Grand Slam titles, with 2 each at French Open and Australian Open. He still holds the record of being youngest ever finalist at all the 4 Grand Slam finals. Courier completed the Sunshine double in 1991 when he beat Gu Forget at Indian Wells and David Wheaton at Miami. he won 5 Masters 1000 tournaments overall. He was the 1st to complete the Sunshine double.

Pete Sampras, 1994

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14 Time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras had an awesome 1994, in which he won 2 Majors, namely the Australian Open and Wimbledon and also completed the Sunshine Double as well. At Indian Wells he defeated Stefan Edberg in the semi-finals and Petr Korda in the finals. At Miami he defeated Jim Courier and Andre Agassi to complete the Sunshine Double

Michael Chang, 1996

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Chang’s greatest feat was winning the French Open at 17. He also reached the finals of the Australian Open and US Open in the same year in 1996 where he lost to Boris Becker and Pete Sampras respectively. Chang won the sunshine double in 1992. He won Indian Wells by defeating Andrein Chesnokov. At Miami,had a tough quarterfinals and semi finals where he defeated Sampras and Courier, both in straight sets. In ten finals he defeated Alberto Mancini.

Marcelo Rios, 1998

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Rios has the dubious distinction of being the only male player ever to be world number 1 without winning a single Grand Slam Title, with only a solitary final at the Australian Open to his credit. He was the 1st player from Chile to be world number 1 and he won 5 Masters titles in his career. At Indian Wells and Miami he defeated Greg Rusedski and Andre Agassi respectively in the finals to complete the Sunshine Double.

Andre Agassi, 2001

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Agassi became the 4th American to win the Sunshine Double. In 2001 he defeated his great rival Pete Sampras at Indian Wells and another American player Jan-Michael Gambill. While he has won at Indian Wells only once, he is joint highest winner at Miami with 6 titles with Djokovic. Interestingly, Agassi’s 6 wins were against 6 different players, namely Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Gambill, Carlos Moya and Goran Ivanisevic.

Roger Federer, 2005,2006 and 2017

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In 2005, Federer won easily at Indian Wells in 3 straight sets against Lleyton Hewitt in a tournament where he did not drop a single set. At Miami, 29th seed Rafa Nadal took 2 sets off him in the finals before Federer staged a remarkable comeback to win in 5 sets. 2006 was the last year of these 2 tournaments played in best of 5 formats and Federer retained the Sunshine double by defeating James Blake and Ivan Ljubicic respectively, both in straight sets. 11 years later, Federer claimed the Sunshine double for a third time by defeating Wawrinka at Indian Wells and Rafa Nadal at Miami

Novak Djokovic 2011, 2014-2016

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Novak’s feat of 4 Sunshine doubles is likely to be never repeated. Incredible, and even more so when u consider that it came with two of the best players of all time , Federer and Nadal in his way. At Indian Wells he has two wins over Federer, one over Rafa and once he defeated Raonic. At Miami he has two wins each against Nadal and Andy Murray and one each against Kei Nishikori and Guillermo Canas. In 2011, one of his best years on the circuit he defeated both Federer and Nadal at Indian Wells.

A brief mention of the 3 ladies players who have also won the Sunshine double. Steffi Graf did it in 1994 and 1996, Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Victoria Azarenko in 2016. Notably even the great Serena and Venus could not do this, which also shows how difficult a feat it is.

The giant Argentine, Juan Martin del Potro, popularly known as DelPo has won the 2018 Indian Wells and is in super form.

Can he emulate the 7 who have done it so far and win the Sunshine Double by winning Miami 2018 as well ?

We will know in a few days.

 

Welcome back Rani Mukherji; all the best for “Hichki”

 

Image result for rani mukherjee hichkiRani Mukherji was the only actor to be invited by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the official banquet in honour of visiting President General Pervez Musharraf. Rani was invited as she was the favorite actor of Begum Sehba Musharraf and her role in Veer-Zara was very well appreciated by President Musharraf.

Rani who was not in movies for quite some time  is making a comeback today with the release of her film “Hichki” which means Hiccups. She plays the role of a person having Tourette Syndrome where an individual makes involuntary sudden sounds and movements. The movie is inspired by the real-life success story of American motivational speaker, teacher and author Brad Cohen.

As a part of promotion for the movie Rani interviewed her popular costars about Hichki’s in their lives. Shahrukh said it was his parents death, for Katrina it was dancing and for Ajay Devgn it was comments about his “ordinary looks, not-hero material”.

Hichki is expected to be one more unusual movie in Rani’s long list of films with different and unconventional roles in her outstanding professional career which has seen no hichki.

Let us have a look at some rare trivia about her.

 Her family tree; the Mukherjee-Samarth family

Rani is from the legendary Mukherjee-Samarth family. Her father is producer Ram Mukherjee, son of Ravindramohan Mukherjee who was the elder brother of Filmalaya studios founder the legendary Sasadhar Mukherjee. Sasadhar’s son was the popular Joy Mukherjee. Joy’s brother Deb is father-in-law of Ashutosh Gowarikar while another brother Shomu married Tanuja and they are parents of Kajol, Ajay Devgn’s wife and a huge star in her own right.

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Tanuja is from the famous Samarth family in which the 1st star was Shobana Samarth. Her daughters are Nutan and Tanuja. Nutan was also a huge huge star. Her son Mohnish Behl is a popular actor as well. For some time Rani was considered a second fiddle to her popular cousin Kajol, until she established herself in her own right.

1st major success; major awards

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Rani’s 1st super hit was in only her 3rd movie, Ghulam. Though she did not have an extended role, she had a terrific impact. Her song “Ae kya bolti tu, ….. aati kya Khandala” will be remembered for all.

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The very next year she had a supporting role in Karan Johar’s directorial debut, Kuchh kuchh hota hai. This movie remains the only movie in history to win all 4 main acting awards, Best actor for Shahrukh and Kajol , and Best Supporting Actor for Rani and Salman

 

Rani is also the 1st and only female actor to win both Best actor and Best Supporting Actor in the same year. She did so at the 50th Filmfare Awards for her roles in Hum Tum and Yuva.

The next year she once again got the best actor award for Black and also the critics choice for best actor female to be the 1st and only female actor to have this feat.

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For this remarkable movie, Amitabh Bachchan too got both Best actor and best Critics choice awards  for his role in Black.

The Oscar Connection. 

Two movies in which Rani has appeared have been India’s entry to the Academy Awards. Paheli was the official entry for the 2006 Oscars. In Paheli she plays Shahrukh’s wife.  Hey Ram was an earlier entry in 2000. However the movie which starred Kamal Hassan, Shahrukh and Rani was not nominated.

Rani will next be seen on screen in Shahrukh’s Zero. One does hope she will be seen regularly in movies from now on.

Wish you the very best for Hichki. 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Shashi Kapoor

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Time indeed flies.  It seems just the other day on 4th of December 2017, that popular filmstar Shashi Kapoor had moved on.

Today 18th March is his 1st birthday in his new world, a world where he surely will be enchanting all with his handsome looks and boyish charm. In fact he was so young looking that though he was 4 years older than Amitabh Bachchan he played Big B’s younger brother in quite a few movies. The two mega stars had 15 movies together and the only movie of Shashi Ji as Director, namely Ajooba also starred Amitabh.

On his birthday let us have a look at some rare trivia about Shashi Kapoor, considered to be one of the most handsome heroes in the history of Hindi cinema.

His awards

Shashi Ji has been awarded with India’s 3rd highest civilian award the Padma Bhushan    which in precedence is behind just the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan. He has also been awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award, India’s highest award in cinema. Since he was unwell, in a departure from tradition, the Hon’ble Minister Shri Arun Jaitley travelled to Mumbai to honour the star at a ceremony at Prithvi Theatre.

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Shashi Ji has also won the National best actor award for his role as an honest journalist in New Delhi Times. In a rare gesture of encouragement in today’s cut-throat commercial world, to encourage the financially struggling producer-director about whose talent was convinced of,  he had taken only a token payment of Rs 101/- for acting in the movie.

His Merchant-Ivory film “In custody” won the President’s Gold medal for best film in 1996. Shabana Azmi and Om Puri were with him in this movie

Interestingly, Shashi Ji as revealed by his son Kunal never gave importance to awards and the only awards important to him were the President’s Gold medal and the Dadasaheb Phalke award.

Shashi-Amir Khan Connect

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The movie which established Shashi as a hero was Jab Jab Phool khile. Interestingly no one wanted to do the movie and several including Sholay creator GP Sippy rejected it. However the movie was a huge hit not just in India but also in African countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Libya. The movie had immortal songs like “Ek Tha Gul Aur Ek Thi Bulbul”, “Pardesiyon Se Na Ankhiyan Milana” “Na Na Karte Pyar Tumhin Se” and “Ye Samaa, Samaa Hai ye Pyar Ka” which are hummed even today. It is said that Hrishikesh Mukherjee was thinking of Shashi ji for Rajesh Khanna’s role in Anand but Shashi who was reinforcing himself as a romantic hero after the success of Jab Jab Phool khile was a bit wary of experimenting with the unusual role of the cheerful terminally ill patient Anand.

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Jab Jab Phool khile was remade 31 years later as Raja Hindustani, starring Amir and Shashi’s niece Karishma. The movie was a blockbuster hit.

Shashi-James Bond Connect

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Shashi has acted with Pierce Brosnan in Ivory-Merchants “The Deceivers“. Brosnan gave him a super compliment by saying that his ability to subtly underplay was his greatest asset.

The Deceivers was also on the Thugee theme like this years awaited movie, Thugs of Hindostan starring Amitabh and Amir.

Shashi Kapoor-Shabana Azmi Connect

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Shabana says she was Shashi’s crazy fan and would save her pocket money to his posters from Grant Road and would get him to autograph them on Sundays when he came to Prithvi Theatre. It was a dream come true to get a role opposite her childhood idol  in Fakira. On the first day, they were shooting the song Dil mein tujhe bitha ke and Shabana was extremely uncomfortable with the steps which were changed on Shashi’s behest.

Shabana says that once in 1986 she was on hunger strike while taking up the cause of slum dwellers. As it was the 1st instance of an actor going on a hunger strike , the film fraternity was both confused and guarded. On the 5th day her blood pressure started falling and Shashi, as a friend and colleague went straight to the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shankarrao Chavan, stating that the film industry had always supported the government in a crisis and he couldn’t let the demands of one of its members go unheard. The CM agreed. Shabana says that when she was giving a speech and wanted to thank Shashi she saw he had quietly disappeared as he did not want any credit.

Shashi Kapoor, always addressed as “Hi Handsome” by Dimple Kapadia will always remain in our memory.

Happy Birthday Shashi Ji.

Sridevi’s last journey; and her top-ten movies

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Sridevi’s last journey was a 7.5 km route from Celebrations Sports Club, Lokhandwala to the Seva Samaj Hindu crematorium ground, Vile Parle.

Apparently the original guesstimate was that a crowd of 3000 fans may come to pay their last respects for Sridevi and 200 policemen were pressed into duty. However the estimation went totally wrong and more than 40000 grieving fans came from throughout Mumbai and throughout India to have a last glimpse of their beloved “Chandni”. Ironically police bandobast had to be increased to 3200 to ensure that law and order situation remained normal, which meant that policemen on duty were more than the number of mourners originally expected.

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Mumbai had never seen such frenzy since superstar Rajesh Khanna had passed away. The masses came spontaneously on their own to join her. Yes, a few may have come to have a glimpse of celebrities who would pay their respects. However overall, the surging crowds were a reflection of the popularity of India’s first female superstar. The masses had come out to display their shock and dismay at her untimely, sudden and shocking demise.

Sridevi was bubbly and effervescent. She was a powerful actress and a terrific dancer. Let us remember her by listing out her top ten movies, a tough task in itself as she had much more numerous hits. Well, my top ten is as follows;

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Sadma. Sridevi plays the role of a retrogade amnesia patient who becomes like a 6 year girl. Kamal Hassan who gets her cured but ironically she forgets him after regaining memory. The performances of both stars were awesome and Ilaiyaraaja’s music was special. Aye Zindagi Gale Lagaa Le (Suresh Wadekarand Surmayee Ankhiyon Mein            ( Yesudas) are songs hummed even today. Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted that Sadma was his favorite movie.

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Himmatwala starring Jeetendra and Sridevi was one of the biggest hits of the 1980’s. Music was by Bappi Lahiri and the nation danced to  “Nainon Mein Sapna ( Kishore-Lata) and “Taki O Taki” ( Kishore-Asha). It was remade recently with Ajay Devgn playing Jeetu Ji’s role and Tamannah playing Sridevi.

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Tohfa starred Jeetendra, Sridevi and Jaya Prada. This super hit movie had some amazing duets. “Pyar Ka Tohfa Tera” “Gori Tere Ang Ang Main” “Ek Aankh Marun Toh” were by Kishore-Asha while “Albela Mausam Kehta Hai Swagtam” was by Kishore-Lata.

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Nagina was a hit solely due to Sridevi’s prowess. It is one of the best snake fantasies ever and one of the biggest hits of any women-centric movies. Rishi played her hero and Amrish Puri showed himself to be a commanding villain. Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera” by Lata ji is one of her most iconic dances.

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Mr India is yet another cult status movie. While Anil Kapoor was Mr India and Amrish Puri put in yet another stellar performance as arch-villain Mogambo, Sridevi as Miss Hawa-Hawaii stole the show as well. “Hawa Hawaii” by Kavita Krishnamurti, Karte Hain Hum Pyaar Mr. India Se” by Kavita-Kishore and Kaate nahin kat-ti ye din ye raat by Kishore-Alisha are immortal songs.

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Chandni, directed by Yash Chopra starred Sridevi, Rishi and Vinod Khanna once again showed Sridevi in a heroine dominated movie. Each and every song of this block-buster movie was a superhit such as “Chandni O Meri Chandni” ( Jolly Mukherjee and Sridevi),    ( “Mere Haathon Mein” ( Lata) and Tu Mujhe Suna” ( Suresh Wadkar and Nitin Mukesh) where Rishi and Vinod sing to each other about their love without realising it is the same lady. Sridevi as Chandni indeed took the country by storm.

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Lamhe was a rare “flop” movie which won super reviews as well as best movie and best actress awards. Probably Indian audience was not ready to accept a daughter falling in love with the man who loved her mother. “Kabhi Main Kahoon” by Lata and Hariharan continues to remain one of the all time romantic songs.

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Chaalbaaz saw Sridevi re-enacting Hema Malini’s Seeta aur Geeta double role in an incredible performance. The No. 1 actress reduced superstar Rajnikant and leading hero Sunny Deol to “sidekicks”. Na Jaane kahan se aayi hai showv=cased her amazing dancing skills.

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Judaai saw Sridevi act with Anil and Urmila Matondkar in yet another woman-centric movie. It is one of her blockbuster hits and she went out at the top for a 15 year sabbatical from movies, yes-with a best actress award.

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English Vinglish was Sridevi’s comeback movie and what a performance she put in as an Indian lady who tries to learn English after being mocked by her family. Amitabh Bachchan had an amazing cameo in this movie.

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The superstar will be last seen on screen in Shahrukh Khan’s Zero to be released on December 21st, 2018. Sridevi is no more, but her movies will be played and replayed forever.

These are my top ten favorite Sridevi movies. Do u agree with my choice, or u differ ?.

Rest in peace, Sridevi.

Australia South Africa Test Series Preview

South Africa and Australia square up for a much awaited 4 test series in March-April 2018 with the 1st Test starting at Durban on 1st March. Australia had characteristically announced their Test Squad pretty early with Skipper Steve Smith and Vice-captain David Warner leading a strong and well balanced side. South Africa have also announced their team as well.

Here is my preview of the series where I look at the relative strengths and weaknesses from the aspects of batting, bowling, fielding and wicketkeeping.

Batting

Australian batting looks good. Steve Smith is enjoying a purple patch for the last 4 years with 22 tons in his last 83 innings. In the recent 4 Nil win versus England,  Smith scored 687 runs @137.4. More importantly he played as per the demands of the situation. In a stressful situation at Brisbane he scored his slowest Test hundred, and at the WACA he scored his fastest test ton in just 138 balls on the way to his highest test score of 239. Smith followed this up with yet another ton at Melbourne. 3 test tons in a series was awesome , and he had also done the same feat in the tough away series to India. The Australians will be hoping South Africa is a happy hunting ground as well for their skipper.

Australia would however look forward to other top order batsmen David Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb to contribute and help Smith. Bancroft had a stunning Ashes debut in which he scored an unbeaten 82 to partner Warner who scored 87 not out for a 187 run opening stand and a 10 wicket win. Thereafter he did not do well, but he has the backing of Steve Smith and Justin Langer and should feature as opener versus the South Africans.

Faf du Plessiss  is nursing a finger injury as is middle order batsman Temba Bavuma. However both are in the squad. Du Plessis is one of their best players against Australia ever since he announced his arrival at the world stage with a match saving Test hundred on debut and South Africa would want him to be fit.

South Africa will also hope AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla rise to the occasion. Their opening pair of Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram will play a crucial role if South Africa hope to do well. In the recent 3 Test series South Africa played 5 batsmen and 5 bowlers and if they continue the trend then they may hand a debut to young 20 year old batting allrounder Wiaan Mulder who has impressed Otis Gibson.

Bowling

In the recent 4 Nil win versus England Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all bowled with venom and pace and consistently exceeded 145 kmph. Smith will hope they maintain their fiery attitude. Importantly Cummins is an excellent lower order batsman too who averaged 40 versus England. He can potentially be a leading all rounder for Australia in future.

The spinning options for Australia are off-spinner Nathan Lyon and left arm spinner Jon Holland. Both are just 30 and yet are Australia’s oldest bowlers. This shows how young a side it is. While Holland is unlikely to play, Lyon is a pivot and is expected to play an important role in the series.

South Africa’s pace attack is even more potent even though Dale Steyn has been ruled out of 1st 2 Tests due to injury. However Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada will all be looking forward to the series and contributing majorly.

These 4 played against India and it was the 1st time since Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Colin Croft that any team played a 4 man pace attack with all 4 bowlers taking more than 100 test wickets each. Steyn will be replaced in the quartet by Lungi Ngidi. The 21 year quick had immediately impressed with his 6-39 against India in which he touched the 150 km mark and also got disconcerting pace and bounce. These 4 bowlers will test Australia.

Possibly South Africa may also play 3 of the 4 quicks and play the allrounder Mulder and the spinner Keshav Maharaj who is a competent batsman as well. This will rotate the fast bowlers and keep them fresh. Playing Mulder and Maharaj will strengthen the batting as a mark of respect to the Aussie attack without compromising the bowling as well. Maharaj incidentally is the only spinner in the history of Test cricket who debuted at Perth and he was instrumental in picking up 3 wickets resulting in an Aussie collapse. This will definitely encourage SA to play Maharaj at home against Smith’s boys.

Fielding

Both sides are known for their electrifying fielding. Uncharacteristically South Africa had too many fielding errors in the recent series versus India and their coach Otis Gibson accepted that this may have been an important factor for the ODI and T20 series loss. South Africa would hope to improve on this aspect.

Wicket-keeping

The Australian selectors pulled a rabbit out of the hat when they played Tim Paine versus the Englishmen and he responded well. He will play all the Tests for the Aussies. South Africa have a dilemma. Should they play the out of form Quentin De Kock who ironically has an excellent record against Australia ) Or should they play the inform Heinrich Klaasen, fresh from his matchwinning exploits against the Indians in an ODI and a T20 where he was like a breath of fresh air for the South Africans who were otherwise outplayed by the Indians in these two formats.

Looking forward to a great series and some super cricket from both the teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roger Federer’s Laureas Awards; 5 and Counting.

The First Laureas Awards ceremony started in 2000 with the incomparable Nelson Mandela announcing: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people  in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope when once there was only despair.”

These stirring words set the tone for some much awaited and much respected awards aspired for by sportspersons the world over, especially as these awards are across sports.

The awards themselves have been instituted by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which is a global organisation involved in more than 150 charity projects supporting several lakh young people. To give an illustrative example of one of the projects, it involves cleaning of the slums of the poorest part of Nairobi, where 14000 youngsters play in 90 football leagues. There are several awards such as “World sportsman of the year award”, “World team of the year”, “World comeback of the year”, “World breakthrough of the year”, “World action sportsperson of the year”, “world sportsperson of the year with a disability” and “Worlds best sporting moment of the year”. .

The most looked forward Laureas award is the Laureas sportsman of the year award which is awarded to the sportsman who best demonstrates supreme athletic performance and achievement – such as consecutive or multiple world, continental, international or national and major championship titles or the establishment of world records or best performances. The awards ceremony was hosted by Hollywood star Benedict Cumberbatch and the sportsman of the year 2018 award went to Roger Federer.

Federer in his acceptance speech said that it was an honour to receive the award especially as the foundation does amazing work. He also said that he has a Foundation as well and the Laureas Foundation inspires and motivates him and maybe in future he would be known more for his philanthropic work than his tennis. Federer also spoke about his great rival, Rafa Nadal and said that Rafa has helped him become a better player.

For 2018, Federer won the award edging out great sportspersons Rafa Nadal, four time formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, Tour de France champion Chris Froome and Real Madrid footballer Christiano Ronaldo.  Federer also won the comeback of the year award as well which was his 6th Laureas Award overall, which is maximum ever for any sportsperson.

If one has a look at who votes and selects the Sportsman of the year, one sees that the worlds leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters do so. Some extremely select legends of the game are also in the panel and there is a secret ballot as well. This goes a long way in ensuring that the awards gets legitimacy and the respect it deserves. For instance the cricketers who are the voters are all legends such as Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Rahul Dravid, Steve Waugh and Sachin Tendulkar.  Can there be better voters?

The winners so far are all legends and all time-greats. The maximum awards for sportsman of the year has been won 5 times by Roger Federer from 2005-2008 and 2018. The great Usain Bolt has won 4 times in 2008, 2010 2013 2017 while Novak Djokovic has won thrice in 2012, 2015 and 2016.  There are two two time winners in Tiger Woods who won the first two awards in 2000 and 2001while racing great Michael Schumacher won it in 2002 and 2004. Rafa Nadal in 2011 and Sebastian Vettel in 2014 have won the award once each.


Congrats Roger Federer. Its 5 and counting. Or is it 6 and counting if we include the world comeback of the year award along with the 5 world sportsman of the year awards won by him.