Rest in peace Our 1st lady superstar Sridevi

Isnt it the year 2018? It should have been at least 2048 for us to say rest in peace to our ebullient superstar Sridevi. However, sadly our effervescent, exuberant, buoyant, sunny and cheerful Sridevi, at only 54 has left us, to move on. Her passing away is one of the most shocking and untimely news of recent memory.

Sridevi’s life has been a constant journey, a travel from one “role” to another. Let us go through some of the different destinations this fascinating explorer visited and discover some little-known trivia about her.

Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu is synonymous with fireworks. It is only appropriate that Sridevi who is a fire-cracker among stars was born there. Born as Shree Amma Yanger Ayappan, she entered Tamil movies in the devotional Thunaivan when she was only 4. Sridevi’s mom was Tamilian and father was Telugu and maybe this helped her effortlessly act in movies of different languages. She acted with both superstars Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth and quickly became the no.1 in both Telugu and Tamil movie industry.

To be No.1 was her destiny in Hindi movies too. Amitabh Bachchan was the reigning superstar of Hindi movies but it was Sridevi who became the industry’s 1st female superstar. Both of them acted together in several movies such as Khuda Gawah, Aakhree Raasta and Inquilaab. Eerily, less than 2 hours before Sridevi passed away, Amitabh tweeted that he is having an unusual fear. Was it a premonition ?

During the course of the journey she made a hit pair with Jeetendra and later on Anil Kapoor. Her Himmatwala with Jeetu Ji was heavily criticised but over the years it has becamo a cult movie, and was remade recently starring Ajay Devgn and Tamannah. Sreedevi and Jeetu Ji were associated with as many as 18 movies together with Justice Chaudhury, Mawaali and Tohfa being some of them.

Sridevi and Anil Kapoor made a hit pair too. Lamhe, Mr India, Laadla, Jaanbaaz and Judaai are all memorable movies which showcase her versatility and fearless experimentation. Her famous blue sari song ( Kaate nahin kat-tii ye din ye raat- I love you) dancing alone with an “invisible” Anil Kapoor was shot in 1 take by the great director Shekhar Kapur who applauded her sense of dance and timing.  Sridevi went on to marry the producer of the movie, Anil’s brother, Boney Kapoor.

An eulogy of Sridevi will be incomplete without a mention of Chaalbaaz and English Vinglish. Chaalbaaz was a remake of Seeta aur Geeta and her incredible performance reduced her redoubtable heroes in the movie, Rajnikant and Sunny Deol to supporting actors. English Vinglish which had both critical acclaim and huge commercial success saw her make a remarkable comeback after 15 years in an unusual role of a mother trying to learn English after being moved by family. For this movie in which Amitabh Bachchan had an inspirational cameo, Sridevi was hailed as India’s Meryl Streep.

Rest in peace Sridevi. Would like to always remember you for your effortless dancing such as the dance number from Chaalbaaz, “Na Jaane Kahan se aayi hai”. 

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BCCI; Please convert a wasted tour to an opportunity

My Open Letter to BCCI.

Dear BCCI,

From 11th of November to 24th of December 2017, you organised a 3 Test, 3 ODI and 3 T20 series between India and Sri Lanka. There were murmurs that there was a surfeit of India-Sri Lanka matches but you went ahead. We won the Test series 1 Nil and our skipper Virat Kohli piled up more than 600 runs and Ravi Ashwin took 12 wickets. We were happy at yet another series win. We then saw India win the ODI series 2-1 and the T20 Series 3 Nil. We were happier.

However a thought lingered at the back of the mind. Did this affect preparations for the important forthcoming overseas series to South Africa. After all South Africa especially for Tests is acknowledged to be one of the toughest propositions. India had never won a test series there, and yet India was going to play the 1st Test of such a tough series without a single day of match practice. India quickly lost the 1st 2 Tests and therefore the series but then thankfully pulled one test back with a super win.  We were relieved since a 1-2 loss is better than a 0-3 loss. India then won the ODI series 5- 1 and we were even more happy. The Test series quickly became for some a distant memory. However the long tour was not over. A 3 match India South Africa T20 series was played and won 2-1. This would be followed by some much needed rest before the IPL would start in April followed by the all important tour to England. Or so it was thought.

However, no, instead of the rest and recuperation India, in March is going to play the 2018 Nidahas Cricket Tournament which is organised to celebrate Sri Lanka’s 70th year of Independence. It will be a 3 Nation T20 series between India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Both teams will play each other twice with the top 2 teams progressing to the final.

The query obviously arises as to whether this series is important from the point of view of Test cricket, from the players point of view and from the point of view of fans. From Test cricket point of view, India does have some players who play all the formats of the game and most of them would be playing the IPL too. Will this help for the forthcoming tough Test series to England. India has a potent bowling attack and just as they had never won a series in South Africa and had a realistic chance of doing so ( but could not), similarly they have a realistic chance of winning in England as well. Will this series help to attain that objective?

From players point of view , will it help hone their skill sets. All the matches will be played at Colombo so it will certainly help them develop a domain knowledge about the city, but how will it help them as players? What about fans.? Will a surfeit of cricket not make them disenchanted from the wonderful game ?

BCCI, please have a thought at the answers to these questions.

At the same time BCCI, Why not convert this to an opportunity.

Why dont u go in for a brand new team to give exposure to players who have not had a feel of international cricket or those who have not made a permanent place for themselves in the regular Indian team.

For a start, you can certainly think about giving regulars like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jaspreet Bmraah a much needed break. Maybe from these, Hitman Rohit can go as captain

Chance can be given to youngsters like say Rishabh Pant or Sanju Samson to have a glimspse as to whether they are ready to fill in the shoes of MS Dhoni. Jayadev Unadkat and Shardul Thakur can get a chance to start as the new ball bowlers and Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar patel can continue to play as spinners with Hardik Pandya getting a chance to rediscover his form . Lokesh Rahul and Shreyas Iyer can get a chance to show they deserve a spot in the regular team. This series could even be an opportunity to blood some youngsters into the national team.

Yes Sri Lanka Cricket Board will cry foul, they will say you have to send your strongest team. Since they have been good and obliging neighbours, probably you would not like to ruffle their feathers but then you have to think about the interests of Indian cricket and Indian players first. You can also tell them politely that the “replacements” are not just good but will probably be the stars of the future.

Dear BCCI, please convert this needless tour into an opportunity,

Thank you,

Ritesh Misra

 

India South Africa ODI Series, SWOT Analysis

In Tennis a Bagel is a 6-0 score where a player wins a set without conceding a game. Cricket almost saw a Bagel in the 2018 South Africa-India One Day International (ODI) series where the visitors led by Captain Virat Kohli triumphed 5-1. I present to you my SWOT Analysis of Both Teams

Team India SWOT Analysis;

Strengths

The Top order is indeed India’s greatest strength in ODI’s. Virat showed that he is easily the best batsman in the world in this format with an incredible display. He hit 3 hundreds, a big 50 and became the 1st player ever to cross 500 in a bilateral ODI series. Hiss average for the series was an incredible 186. Shikhar Dhawan left his test horror behind and played freely in the 50 over format. While Rohit came good in only 1 match with a big hundred and had 5 failures he remains a “hit-man” in ODI series and his match winning ability is such that he will be an automatic opener.

The two spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav too were super and excelled throughout the series barring the truncated game which India lost. Ian Chappell gave them an ultimate complement by comparing them to Bill “Tiger” O’Reilly and Clarrie “the fox” Grimmett. The duo took as many as 33 wickets at an economy of less than 5 in a commanding display.

Virat’s captaincy was very good and it is evident that he enjoys leading from the front and the team looks a happy unit with him at helm of affairs with MS Dhoni’s calmness complementing Virat’s exuberance.

Weaknesses

Middle order was not up to the mark. Ajinkya Rahane was brought back to the Number 4 position and Shreyas Iyer was tried at 5. They were followed by Hardik Pandya and Dhoni. However the Indian middle order’s performance by and large did not impress and it more often than not failed to capitalise on the super starts given by the top order. Fielding was another area of weakness with crucial catches being dropped. The Indian think tank needs a long, close look at improving the aspect.

Opportunities

Under Kohli, the team looks fit and strong. The skipper himself is super fit and he wants to instill that discipline in the rest of his team mates. In this journey, tough decisions need to be taken such as not selecting players who fail the fitness tests and the team management has done exactly that, not hesitating to drop senior players. The results have been good and this ruthless attitude needs to continue.

Threats

The major threat is lack of a finisher, a role that Dhoni used to do so well. Added to it is that with passage of time, Dhoni’s ability with the bat has understandably gone down. His running between the wickets may still be awesome, but does that suffice?. India seriously needs to have a thought about Dhoni’s successor in both ODI as well as the T20 format.

As of now it seems that the team management as well as Dhoni himself want him to continue till 2019 and therefore the need is to carve out a role for him. Virendra Sehwag says Virat should play Dhoni consistently at Number 4. Would that help ?

South Africa; SWOT Analysis

Strengths

South Africa is a team which can explode and it is capable of scoring 200 runs in 25 overs. Its fielding is top class with the ability to turn a match their way with a brilliant catch or a run out.

Weaknesses

If South Africa can explode, they can implode as well. The batting may well be able to score 200 in 25, but they dont seem to be able to have the ability to last 50 overs, especially if the opposition has quality spinners.

Opportunities

South Africa has a couple of exciting youngsters such as Kagiso Rabada, Adile Phehlukwayo and Heinrich Klaasen who have the potential of doing well on the world stage for some time to come. Two years back their National Academy Coach Shukri Conrad had said Klaasen who was the Captain of South Africa’s Emerging squad had potential to be “South Africa’s Dhoni” and Klaasen indeed showed glimpses of Dhoni’s most well known quality, coolness in the few chances he got. Lungi Ngidi did well in the Tests and maybe South Africa can play him in ODI’s as well, keeping in view that the 2019 World Cup will be at England.

Threats

The seemingly strong decision to give captaincy to a  young captain Aiden Markram appears to be a hasty one , more due to gut feeling than strong reasoning. Comparisions were drawn with Graeme Smith but Smith himself says that South Africa could have thought of Hashim Amla or Duminy for the 1st 3 games and De villiers after he returned. In the result, Markram scored only 121 runs in his 5 outings with the bat. I consider this a threat as  possibly South Africa with this hasty decision may have dented the confidence of a highly promising batsman.

Do u agree with my SWOT analysis ?

 

 

 

Federer shows “Old is Gold”

Roger Federer by reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 ABN Amro ATP 500 Tournament at Rotterdam became the oldest Number 1 in the history of tennis at 36 years and 195 days . Andre Agassi  who in 2003 at 33 was the previous record holder was one of the 1st to congratulate Federer by saying “36 years 195 days…@RogerFederer continues to raise the bar in our sport. Congratulations on yet another remarkable achievement!!

Federer is back as Number 1 after a gap of 5 years and 106 days. This in itself is a record for the longest time between reigns at Number 1. The champion chose to crack a joke at his own expense by saying “Apparently I’m the oldest tennis player with a ranking. Somebody might have mentioned that to me already but I had a hard time hearing”. 

Federer’s achievement in reaching the top of the ATP rankings is an even more remarkable story if one sees his tennis story of the previous 5 years in general and the previous 2 years in particular. If we go back to 4 years prior to the Australian Open of 2017, we see no Grand Slam titles after the 2012 Wimbledon. He already had 17 Majors which in itself was an awesome tally but it seemed he would not add to them.

To his fans it was a bit strange to see their hero reaching say the semi-finals and then losing. To the more discerning however there were two important aspects. Federer was normally winning against almost everyone and only unable to close out matches against his illustrious rivals Nadal and Djokovic, that too in the best-of-five matches at the Grand Slams. At the best-of-three Masters and other matches he was holding his own against them as well. Hence it was theoretically possible that if their game slipped a bit or his improved he would be back.

2016 however was a particularly disappointing year which started with him losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals. It was the 45th meeting between the 2 great rivals, and it was the first time that Novak took a career head-to-head lead against Federer by winning his 23th match to Fed’s 22nd. Was it going to be symbolic of the beginning of the end ? Possibly.

The disappointments of 2016 continued with Federer missing Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells after he went through arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. His return was scheduled at Miami but he opted out due to a stomach virus. The clay season, as such, never his strongest point anyways saw him lose to Tsonga at Monte Carlo and Thiem at the Italian Open. He had to opt out of French open as well ending his record 65 appearances at the Grand Slams.

Federer however prepared to return for the grass season. He however lost to Thiem at Stuttgart and Sascha at Halle. It seemed that finally he had started to lose to others apart from Novak, Rafa and Murray. At Wimbledon, he reached the semi-finals before losing to Milos Raonic. Federer was then out for the next 6 months due to injury. He even had to give up his Olympics Gold medal dream. It seemed all was possibly over for the great champion though he insisted he was taking a break to come back stronger.

Federer made a comeback just an year ago as 17th seed at Australian Open 2017. People were doubting whether he would  ever win one more Grand Slam and regaining world number 1 position looked impossible. He had after all not won a single title in 2016, which was his 1st blank year since 2000. It was the 1st time since 14 straight years that he was out of the world Top 10. Ominously he had started losing to players other than his illustrious rivals at the top which was surprising as his middle name was Consistency.

However Federer turned in a magical 2017. He won the Australian Open with a brilliant win over Rafa in the final by coming from a break behind in the final set.  In this tournament he defeated 4 top ten players back to back, namely Berdych, Nishikori, Wawrinka and Rafa. He won Wimbledon by defeating Cilic in the final. He defeated his greatest rival Rafa three times more during the year. He had a 91.23% success rate and won 7 titles, including Indian Wells, Miami and Shanghai Masters 1000 tournaments where he had wins over Wawrinka and Nadal (twice) in the finals.

Federer had a chance to be Number 1 at Cincinnati 2017 if he would have won the tournament. In fact it was an unusually dream situation as both he and Nadal had a chance to be Number 1 by winning the tournament. However Federer’s withdrawal led to Nadal becoming Number 1 and regaining the Number 1 ranking after 3 years.  Rafa of course thoroughly deserved the Ranking as he too had a magical year including 2 Grand Slam and 2 Masters titles.

Since Cincinnati 2017, Rafa maintained his Number 1 ranking, until Rotterdam 2018 when Federer dethroned his worthiest rival to become the oldest ever Number 1 ranked player of all time.
Federer has Shown, “Old is Gold”.

An interactive evening with Mike Brearley; Book Launch of “On form”

Mike Brearley is universally accepted as one of the best cricket Captains ever. His book, “On Form” was launched recently in Mumbai by Dilip Vengsarkar in the presence of former Indian test cricketer Madhav Apte.

The “Colonel” applauded the choice of the book’s name.  He said that going off form was something which every sportsman goes through including for instance even all time greats Viv Richards and Sunny Gavaskar in certain phases of their career. Vengsarkar remembered his interactions with Brearley on the cricket field and said Brearley was always a great captain and it was admirable the way he wonderfully captained two diametrically different personalities, Ian Botham and Geoffery Boycott.

Leading sports journalist Ayaz Memon popularly called “Cricketwallah” had an interactive conversation with Brearley followed by a question-answer session with the audience.

Some of the issues/topics on which Brearley offered his views are as follows;

Captaincy is an aggregation of small things. Brearley said that small things are very important. For instance the Captain should not fiddle around with the field placings too much. The same slip fielders in the same order are advisable as they develop a sense of comfort and calm while standing to each other. Similarly, more or less one should not tinker around with the batting order except once in a while maybe as a shock strategy.

On Form linked to “moving on”. As per Brearley, often one tends to brood on what has happened rather than moving on. He gave the example of Jonathon Trott who averaged 90 versus Australia but had an ordinary “Nets day” and got beaten a couple of times. He started thinking about it so much that it was the beginning of what ultimately let to mental disintegration, a term used by Steve Waugh for the 1st time. Brearley gave the contrary example of the much criticised Dean Elgar who was beaten maybe 20-25 times in the 2nd innings of the recent Johannesburg Test but with dogged determination was unruffled, as it was in his and his teams interest that he stayed on and he did, scoring a remarkable ( even if ugly) 86 not out, which was more valuable than a bigger score in easier conditions.

On thinking too much According to Brearley this too was to be avoided as it is counter-productive. He gave his own example of one day being overnight at stumps and then thinking a lot about how he would bat the next day. As he could not sleep he then read a book “Zen and Archery” in which the author had said that the best archers were those who did not shoot, but let the arrow shoot for them. Brearley thought to himself, “Well thats great, so tomorrow i will let my bat get runs for me”. He was out 2nd ball the next day.

On Bradman and Federer. Brearley agreed with Vengsarkar that remaining On Form was something not easy and said that the only two sportspersons he knew of who were always on form were Don Bradman and Roger Federer. In fact he had asked the Don about lack of form who had replied ” I dont know what it is to be out of form and i was never out of form”.

Brearley clarified that Out of form is different from getting out early and stated with a chuckle that Don Bradman had more ducks than him in Test cricket though Bradman was the best batsman of all time while he was a very ordinary test batsman. Whats important is not to think about the duck but to move on and play the next innings with a clear mind. He said Federer too had this ability and the rare matches which he lost early in a tournament that did not bother him at all and he was already preparing for the next tournament.

On Kohli– Brearley praised Kohli for giving the team pride and aggression. He said that he admired him a lot as he was always attentive, keen eyed, shrewd and a wonderful batsman. He gave the example of the 3rd Test of the recent South African Series where it would have been easy to give up with the South Africans at 140/1 chasing 260 however the Indians led by Kohli hung on, as they knew that if they took one or two wickets anything was possible. Indeed once Amla was out the floodgates opened and India had a morale boosting win.

Advice for Kohli. Brearley opined that Kohli needs to have people who will tell him when he is going wrong and he should listen to them. He said that a captain of a cricket team is like the leader of a country who needs people to guide him and gave the example of John F Kennedy who used to have a group of people whose job was to criticise his policies which was certainly very healthy.

On Kohli Flopping in England. Mike said that in English conditions , with wickets suiting quality bowlers like Anderson and Broad, one is bound to get out sometimes. In his opinion they would always be after the best batsmen and they will sometimes make the best batsmen look modest. He said that Kohli came through later and is now scoring runs everywhere and there was no reason why he would not do well in England.

Advice for Indian Batsmen in England. Thanking Dilip Vengsarkar for launching his book, Mike asked the current Indian batsmen to have several sessions with the colonel who had 3 consecutive tons at Lords, and said that Dilip was a very good example of how to play swing. He said that the key to success in England would be focus, balance and concentration.

On 3 captains he admired. Brearley straightaway took the name of Ray Illingworth who according to him was super strategically and used bowlers according to how the state of the pitch was and also in how to set fields for his bowlers so as to make life difficult for the batsman. He said that once Ray played 4 spinners for Leicetershire and all 4 bowled differently with different actions and the skipper used them differently.  The 2nd captain he named was Ian Chappell who according to him was very aggressive and a good reader of the game. Brearley said that sometimes he did go over the top somethimes with his aggression and Dilip Vengsarkar would probably know a lot about that as well but Ian was a very good student of the game and always wanted people to do their best, be resilient and try new things. He praised Ian  Chappell as an excellent commentator as well who always comes up with good insights.

As regards the 3rd, with a chuckle, Brearley said “I like the look of Kohli”. He went on to say that he was expecting great things from the Indian Captain

Overall it was an extremely interactive and enjoyable evening with the Captain of Captains.

( Blog Published by Pragativadi)

Roger Federer; the “Definitive Goat”

Legendary allrounder Kapil Dev has a firm view that one can never be the “Greatest of all time” (GOAT), but at the most the greatest of his/her generation. As per Kapil, one cannot compare across generations for various reasons such as different playing conditions and quality of opponents. For instance, is it possible to compare Dennis Lillee with  Dale Steyn, or  Maradona with  Messi or Rod laver with Roger Federer. It certainly will make for interesting discussion of course.

However Roger Federer has won an unprecedented 20th Grand Slam championship with his 5 set win over Marin Cilic in the 2018 Australian Open Final. Incredibly he has a real chance to once again become world number 1 and at 36 become the oldest Number 1 player ever ( earlier being Agassi at 33) if he reaches the semi finals of Rotterdam 2018. Hence the time has come to examine whether Federer can be discussed as what is now being described as “The Definitive GOAT”.

Earlier there were doubts raised whether Fed is the ‘GOAT’. His great rival Rafa’s diehard fans insisted that Federer could not be the GOAT due to his 10-23 head-to-head losing trail over Rafa. Since Rafa was 5 years younger, with time on his hands and his success across all courts coupled with invincibility on clay it seemed  certain that he would cross Federer’s tally of Grand Slam Titles especially as the difference was “Just”  three.

Some keen analysts say that the “GOAT” query was settled last year at the 2017 Australian Open. Federer had 17 Grand Slam titles to Rafa’s 14. Federer had lost his previous 4 matches to top 10 opponents and interestingly he potentially would face 4 top 10 opponents ( which he did) . He had a 5 year drought as regards Grand Slam titles with the previous longest drought being just 2 years from 2010 to 2012. However more importantly the 2017 AO final was against his nemesis Rafa. A win for Rafa would have made it 17-15 at Majors, and with the French Open around the corner where Rafa seemingly has to just turn up and win, that would have made it 17-16, with Rafa just one behind.

Pertinently Federer had never defeated Rafa at any Grand Slam tournament except Wimbledon where he won 2 of the 3 back to back finals they played. While the two champions have never met at US Open, they had met 5 times at the French Open with all matches won by Rafa, 4 in Finals. Federer had also lost all the 3 matches they had played at the Australian Open, including one in the final.

Hence a loss at the 2017 Australian Open would have meant a 4th consecutive loss at the venue over Rafa and a 7th Loss out of the 9 times they had met at Grand Slam finals. It would have also meant that Federer’s last win over Rafa at a Grand Slam final would have been 10 years back at the 2007 Wimbledon. With Federer a break behind in the 5th and final set it seemed all over, but he roared back to claim his only win over Rafa at a Grand Slam final apart from Wimbledon.

That win was also significant as it probably gave the confidence to Federer to go on and win 3 more times over Rafa in 2017. It also solved one of the biggest mysteries of tennis, where the “undisputed” number one of all time was consistently losing to his great rival. It also probably gave Federer the confidence to go on and win Wimbledon 2017 as well.

However Rafa being Rafa, he did not allow the lead of 4 as regards Grand Slam Titles to remain at 4 as he won the 2017 French Open. Federer then won his 8th Wimbledon to take the lead to 4 once again. Incredibly Rafa won the 2017 US Open to once again reduce the lead to 3.

Now with his triumph at the 2018 Australian Open Federer has once again taken a lead of 4 and it looks like he indeed is the “Definitive Goat”.

Why “Definitive”. Let us examine.

Old is Gold.

Federer at 36 has won 3 out of the last 5 Grand Slams which is an unprecedented feat. If one compares across sports, this feat is as awesome as those of boxing champion George Foreman who at 45 became world heavy-weight champion, footballer Roger Milla who at 42 scored a world cup Goal and Jack Nicklaus who at 46 won the Augusta Masters.

Longevity

The longevity records of Federer are incomparable. He has played all his 1300 plus matches after turning pro without retiring even once which shows how fit he is. He has as many as 302 weeks at world number 1 and is the only player who crossed the 300 mark. This could increase. His wins at Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017 showed that at 35 he could win 2 majors in a year, which he had last done at 27. He retained the Australian Open Championship in 2006 and 2007 and in 2017 and 2018 which is a bewildering feat as it was more than 10 years later. He has now won 3 of his last 4 Grand Slam tournaments , a feat he had last achieved in 2008-09, when he had won US Open, French Open and Wimbledon.

Consistency

Federer has taken consistency to a separate level with as many as 52 Grand Slam quarter finals with Connors a distant 2nd with 41. Among current players, Djokovic with 40, Rafa with 33 and Murray with 30 are next. If we look at Grand Slam semi-finals, Federer has 43. With his 14th semi finals entry at Australian Open he has equalled Jimmy Connors 14 US Open semi finals entries as maximum semifinal entries at a single Major. Federer has also reached 30 Grand Slam finals which is the highest ever with Rafa next at 23.

Federer has won 20 Grand Slam Titles with Rafa next at 16. The heights of consistency achieved by Federer can be seen from the unbelievable fact that from 2003 Wimbledon to 2010 US Open, Federer won 16 of 27 Grand Slams and played in the Finals of 6 more. Incredibly, in a 7 year period he DID NOT figure in just 5 Grand Slam Finals. Can this feat of consistency be ever repeated ?

All Court Record

Federer now has 8 Wimbledon Titles which is his own record, ahead of William Renshaw and Pete Sampras who have 7 each. He has 6 Australian Open titles, same as Roy Emerson and Novak Djokovic. Federer also has 5 US Opens, along with Jimmy Connors. He has “only” one French Open Title but we have to remember that he was in the era of the invincible Nadal who has won an unreal 10 French Opens. We also have to consider that he lost 5 times to Nadal at French Open including 4 Finals and the only time Rafa lost to someone else ( Soderling) Federer seized the opportunity to win the title. He showed that he had the determination not to be denied the final frontier by defeating Soderling in straight sets after getting a scare from DelPotro in the semi finals where the Argentine Giant had a 2 sets to one lead. Indeed, Federe’s overall record at Roland Garros shows how good a clay court player he is as compared to say the great Pete Sampras who had only a solitary semi-final at the French Open.

Style of Play and Overall popularity

Federer according to none other than Rafa “was born to play tennis”. His playing style is classic, unhurried and relaxed with his one handed backhand probably the most beautiful gift he has given to the world of tennis. Ironically Federer said recently he wont teach his kids the one handed backhand and promptly Christopher Clarey of the New York Times who has covered more than 80 grand Slams said “Thats like Da Vinci telling his kids not to draw”

This poetry in motion style has contributed to make Federer not just the most popular tennis star but arguably the most universally loved sportsperson in the world.  He has won the ATP Fans award voted for by Fans for 16 straight years since 2003. The Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award is voted for by players for the player who has conducted himself with highest level of professionalism and integrity, and who competed with fellow players with utmost level of fairness and who promoted the game through off court activities. Federer has won it a record 15 times from 2004 to 2017 consecutively with the only exception in these years being Nadal in 2010.

Can Rafa bridge the gap again. If anyone can it will be Rafa, and if he does so it indeed will be a monumental feat.  At 36 Federer looks fitter than ever, he is moving better than before, and incredibly his serve and backhand seems to have improved. Goran Ivanisevic says he can play at this level for 5 years more. Pat Cash says the Federer of today will beat the Federer of 7-8 years back. Added to this fitness is strategy which comes with maturity. For instance Wilander says that Fed has the uncanny ability to hold himself back in the earlier stages of a tournament to stroll through to the later stages where suddenly he ups the ante and raises his game tremendously. It is indeed possible that his tally will not end at 20.

Roger Federer, after the 2018 Australian Open title does seem to be the “Definitive GOAT”.

 

“The Tall Man”, Biju Patnaik. Mumbai Book Launch

Biju Patnaik is not just mine, but an all time favourite of most people from Odisha. The Book release function of “The Tall Man, Biju Patnaik”, by Sundar Ganeshan, published by the Biju Patnaik Birth Centenary Committee was at Mumbai on 3rd February, 2018. The book was released by the Chief Minister (CM) of Odisha Shri Naveen Patnaik at a function in Yashwantrao Chawan Pratisthan ( Auditorium).

Biju Patnaik was a much loved leader of Odisha and he has been described as “the man who knew no fear”. This book is a glimpse into his life and times. Meticulously researched, the book has lots of rare pictures and seeks to capture his vivid and extraordinary life. The detailed research was complemented by the CM who specifically used the word “curated” for the book.

The compere for the show was well known TV and film personality of Odisha, Kuna Tripathy, whose ” News Fuse” is a highly popular TV show analysing socio-political issues. Kuna regaled the audience with witty anecdotes and his mimicry journey of various dialects of Odisha was very funny indeed.

On the occasion, along with the CM on the dias were prominent Odia personalities of Mumbai, Shri Arup Patnaik ( IPS Retd), top cardiac surgeon Dr Ramakanta Panda and top private sector professional Shri Santrupta Mishra. Legend Pandit HariPrasad Chaurasia was also there along with entrepreneur and Odisha Skill Development chief Subroto Bagchi and the author Sundar Ganeshan.

Dr Panda and Shri Mishra spoke how Biju Patnaik was always a hero for everyone from Odisha and how people of other places identified Odisha with Lord Jagannath and Biju Patnaik. Pandit Chaurasia spoke how he was a stenographer earlier and it was Biju Babu who encouraged him to become a musician and as a leading industrialist had sponsored his first few musical shows.

Sundar Ganeshan informed the audience about his research and how difficult it was for him to capture the life of such a tremendous personality in one single book. He said that he had divided the book into various chapters and each chapter was worthy of a Doctoral research. Dr Bagchi also spoke about the book in detail and also informed about how Biju Patnaik was rated immensely by the Western Press including the most acclaimed newspapers and magazines such as New York Times and the Economist.

Shri Arup Patnaik regaled the audience with some of his personal interactions with Biju Babu who was a very close friend of his father. He said that once he had gone to give the marriage invite for his younger brother’s wedding to Biju Babu who was then CM and Biju Babu asked his PS what was his engagement that particular evening and he was told that he had a dinner meeting with CM of Andhra Pradesh. Immediately Biju Babu said that “Tell CM Andhra to have dinner with someone else, i am attending this wedding” , and even though he was CM, he gave 4 hours of his precious time for the function. Shri Arup said that Biju Babu was a daredevil and fearless and inspired countless others including himself to do work efficiently and fearlessly.

The CM, in his speech thanked the Odia people of Mumbai for the love they showed to Biju Babu by coming in large numbers for the book release. He spoke about what Biju Babu stood for and what he believed in and how that should be emulated. He congratulated the author for the detailed research which was carefully curated from throughout the world such as Indonesia, France, Singapore, Russia, Germany and other places. He also complemented the various speakers for their speeches and the insights they provided into Biju Babu’s magnetic personality.

Overall it was a very successful and well arranged function and one could make out that the Organising Committee headed by Minister Pratap Jena and MLA Debashish Samantray had done their planning and homework well. A pleasant and sweet takeaway to guests was a gift of a Pen with “The Tall Man, Biju Patnaik” enscribed on it. A book counter with the book for sale was also there and it was announced that the proceeds of sales will go for charity.

Book review will follow.

Thanks for reading this blog on the Mumbai Launch of the book, The Tall Man. You are also invited to read my two other blogs on Biju Babu. Links are as follows

https://thesportsmanwritesaway.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/personal-insights-on-immortal-biju-patnaik/

https://thesportsmanwritesaway.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/the-maverick-biju-patnaik-an-immortal-loved-leader/

Thanks.

 

 

Is it Goodbye to Dale Steyn, Hope Not.

Fearsome Bowler Dale Steyn is known to be a keen fisherman so much so that he and fellow fast bowler Morne Morkel are known to discuss fishing in the midst of their bowling spells to keep themselves calm. Among various injuries he has had throughout his career is a freak injury while fishing in Zimbabwe.

That was not serious but the shoulder injury suffered by Steyn 13 months back at Perth versus Australia was extremely severe and potentially career threatening. It was also very rare with only one documented case of any cricketer having such an injury who was an unnamed 27 year bowler from Staffordshire.

It had been estimated that Steyn would be out of action for at least six months but in fact it became thirteen months before Steyn returned to Test action in the 1st Test of the 2018 South Africa- India. However it did not seem that there was thirteen months of inaction.  Steyn bowled with his characteristic pace and hostility while picking up wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Wriddhiman Saha. Unfortunately while he was bowling his 18th over he sustained tissue damage to his left heel, ruling him out of the 1st Test and the entire series as well.

This latest injury is a huge blow to not only Steyn and the South African team but also to millions of his fans throughout the world.

For the last several years Steyn has been the perfect example of what a dynamic fast bowler should be- aggressive, fast, hostile and assertive. While his peers have often depended on favorable conditions, Steyn made his own rules. Even in the most unhelpful conditions he has proved to be a matchwinner for his team. He has had brilliant spells in places like Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Colombo, Galle and Karachi where usually fast bowlers tear their hair out in frustration.

Steyn as a fast bowler has numerous achievements. He is the only fast bowler to have a five wicket haul against all test playing nations. Among bowlers crossing 200 Test wickets he is the only one with a strike rate of below 42 with the next being Pakistani great Waqar Younus with a strike rate of 43.4. Steyn reached his 400th Test wicket in only his 80th Test, same as the great Sir Richard Hadlee and only Sri Lankan Off spinner Muralitharan is ahead of them with 400 wickets in 72 Tests.

The latest injury is not the 1st major injury suffered by Steyn in his illustrious career. In fact, this match only was his return after a long gap of 13 months with his last test before this being versus Australia at Perth. There he had a shoulder injury. Prior to that too, in November 2015, he suffered a groin injury in the first Test of a series in India and later in December 2015 too he suffered a shoulder injury in England. Quite worryingly for South Africa he has played in only 6 of their last 27 tests and has broken down in 4 out of them.

South African bowling great, Allan Donald nicknamed White Lightning himself had formed part of a deadly pace trio with Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini and they had taken a combined tally of more than 1100 Test wickets. Yet Donald way back in 2012 had termed the South African pace trio of Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander as the best ever produced by South Africa.

This fearsome attack has incredibly been even more enhanced now with the addition of Kagiso Rabada. The trio is now a quartet and in fact its the first time since Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Colin Croft that any team has played a 4 man pace attack with all 4 bowlers taking more than 100 test wickets each.

However will this deadly quartet continue? Will Steyn make yet another comeback from injury? The team management insists that recovery time being 4 to 6 weeks he will be fit in time for the much awaited South Africa-Australia Test series in March 2018. The main logic being given is that the nature of injury was freakish because of the way his foot landed in the footholes and is not related to his bowling load or not being match ready.

South African team management will want him back. So will Test match lovers throughout the world as it will be a series between two teams having terrific pace attacks since Australia too have Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins with hopefully James Pattinson being fit too. What a treat it would be for cricket lovers.

Get fit soon Dale Steyn. The world of cricket would like you to be fit and strong for some time more.

( This post has been published on the “Pragativadi” and on “The Roar” )

 

 

 

 

Sachin Tendulkar’s early years; Those who went an extra mile to ensure he made it

Sachin Tendulkar’s achievements are well chronicled. Right from his childhood and his school days he seemed destined for greatness and it is remarkable that not only did he not allow fame and adulation to overpower him, he actually achieved his goals and met his destiny.

4 years after he retired, now too the Sachin craze is still intact and does not seem to diminish. I take a look at Sachin’s early years and those who played a role in making him the phenomenon he turned out to be. The extra mile taken by them has been sought to be explored.

Sachin’s Parents

Sachin’s father, Ramesh Tendulkar was a well known Marathi Novelist and his mother Rajni worked as an Insurance professional. They stayed in Bandra, but he shifted to his aunt’s house at Dadar so that he would have more time to practise at Shivaji Park. What a tough decision and what a sacrifice for a 11 year boy and his parents

Brother Ajit

Ten year older brother Ajit who was also a cricketer saw the spark in Sachin and took him to legendary coach Ramakant Achrekar. An 11 year Sachin was nervous and did not bat well.  Urban legend is that the coach was not impressed which could have meant the end before the beginning. However Ajit asked the coach to step a bit away and observe Sachin by hiding behind a tree. With Sachin thinking the coach had gone he batted like a champion and Coach Achrekar realised he was seeing a special and rare talent. Ajit thereafter sacrificed his career and spent his entire life with one mission only- how to make his brother a great cricketer. Even when Sachin played his 200th and last Test at Wankhede and was out for 74 in his last innings, both brothers discussed how he was out and not his retirement.

Coach Ramakant Achrekar

Coach Achrekar has mentored more than a dozen Test cricketers but Sachin will always remain his best and most well known student. Recognizing Sachin’s potential, Coach Achrekar would always take him from one Maidan to another so that Sachin gets maximum match practice. To motivate Sachin, Achrekar Sir used to keep one rupee coins on top of the stumps and tell the bowlers that if they could get him out they would get the coins and if Sachin would not lose his wicket he would get them. Sachin recently said in an interview that he won 13 such coins which are most precious to him.

Achrekar also built up Sachin’s fitness by making him run with full cricketing gear after an exhausting full day’s practise.

One last Achrekar-Sachin anecdote. Achrekar Sir used to organize practice matches for Sachin and used to ask him to bat at Number 4. One such day, Sachin missed a match to cheer his school team in the Harris Shield final. Achrekar Sir gave him a tight slap saying that “you dont have to be here to cheer for others, Play in such a way that others cheer for you”.  Sachin says that late-cut (tight slap) was the defining moment in his career and that otherwise he may have been cheering for others from the stands instead of playing for the country.

Principal Krishna Shirsat

When Sachin was brought to Shardashram school, Krishna Shirsat who later became Principal used to teach maths and chemistry there. The school gave prime importance to cricket and has produced several Test cricketers and more than 100 Ranji cricketers. Shirshat always used to make himself available to help Sachin out with his studies after his matches. When Sachin was selected to play for Bombay , the match clashed with a practical Board exam and Shirsat used all his influence to ensure that Sachin could give that exam after the match.

Raj Singh Dungarpur, Milind Rege and Hemant Kenkre

Sachin was playing a match for Shivaji Park youngsters against Cricket Club of India (CCI) and not only scored runs but impressed all with his technique and attitude. Milind Rege and Hemant Kenkre convinced Raj Singh Dungarpur and Madhav Apte (who was playing in that match) to amend the rules of CCI to permit him to enter the dressing rooms as he was only 14.

Subsequently, Raj Singh found sponsors for him when he needed to go abroad for experience. He was also Chairman of Mumbai selection committee when Sachin first played for Mumbai. The season was successful and there was speculation that Sachin would be in the team to visit West Indies. However Raj Singh told Sachin clearly that he was not going to West Indies, he should score runs and he should do well in his Class 10 exams as the day was not far enough that he would play for India.

Indeed a few months later, Sachin was in the team for the Pakistan tour.

Dilip Vengsarkar, Lalchand Rajput and other Ranji mates

Dilip Vengsarkar was the captain of Bombay Ranji Team when the great Kapil Dev wanted some bowling practice and he bowled to Sachin. Colonel was so impressed with the way Sachin played Kapil that he prevailed upon the selectors to include Sachin in the Bombay Ranji squad when he was just 14.

It was an easy decision for the selectors too as Sachin’s case was backed up by what Lalchand Rajput his 1st Captain says “Tons of runs”. The ease with which he played fast bowlers including Raju Kulkarni who was probably the country’s fastest made the selectors give him a game against Gujarat as a 15 year old. As luck would have had it Lalchand was run out for 99 that match while taking a 3rd run with Alan Sippy. However he told Sachin, “Don’t worry about your Captain not getting a hundred. You get one”.

Alan Sippy who was at the crease when Sachin went out to bat for the 1st time in Ranji Trophy says he told him “Relax, Aaaram se”( Be at ease). The response of Sachin was “Bindaas”( Cool). Sippy says that he thought the young lad would be nervous but on the contrary he hit the 1st ball so hard that Sippy did not know what to say.

Sachin gives credit to Rajput, Sippy and Shishir Hattangadi for encouraging him for his debut hundred and to the entire Mumbai team for making him comfortable and at ease.

Veteran Ranji Players Suru Nayak and Kiran Mokashi used to bowl at Sachin every day after the game or nets were over. They used to say Bat for just ten minutes and would bowl on and on to him. Sachin used to say “You said till 4.30pm and its past 5 and they used to say , just 5 minutes more”. The veterans used to bowl at him ask him to think there were imaginary fielders around the bat which hugely improved Sachin’s defence and technique.

Atul Ranade

Customs officer Atul Ranade grew up with Sachin in Sahitya Sahawas colony. He spent hours practising with Sachin at the MIG Cricket Club and honing Sachin’s batting skills. Ranade would run in to bowl with different bowling actions so that Sachin could prepare to bat while facing different actions.

Gursharan Singh

Gursharan Singh name is in this list for an interesting reason. Sachin had scored hundred in Ranji and Duleep Trophy debut. In Irani Trophy too he had a chance to do so and could do so only because Gursharan Singh bravely came out to bat with a fractured arm to enable Sachin to get to his ton.

Till date, Sachin is the only player to score debut tons in Ranji, Duleep and Irani debuts. Prithvi Shaw who has scored debut tons in Ranji and Duleep has a chance to emulate him.

These then are men who played a role in Sachin’s early days and went an extra mile as well. They saw a special cricketer in him and he indeed lived up to his promise and potential.

 

Happy Birthday Dancing Star Govinda

Today on 21st December, we celebrate the birthday of Dancing Star Govinda. Nicknamed Chi Chi, Govinda was inspired to be an actor by seeing the movie Disco Dancer, starring another super dancing star of India, Mithun Chakravarty.

Govinda’s 1st movie was Ilzaam and he soon had a series of hits. Comedy along with dance was his forte and he has acted in 42 movies with Shakti kapoor, 41 with Kader Khan and 22 with Johnny Lever.

In his career Govinda also had various memorable pairs such as with David Dhawan, Neelam, Karishma Kapoor and Raveena Tandon. Lets have a closer look.

Govinda and David Dhawan

David Dhawan’s forte being comedy and Govinda having an incredible sense of comic timing, they were a natural pair. Both did as many as 17 movies together most of whom were huge hits. Even Superstars Amitabh Bachchan ( Bade Miyan Chote Miyan) and Salman Khan ( Partner) have done movies with Govinda and David Dhawan. Their biggest hit was with Chunky Panday in Aankhen.

Govinda and Neelam

They established themsleves as the 1st dancing couple of the Hindi Film Industry. IlzaamLove 86 and Khudgarz are three of their ten films together. A trivia about Khudgarz is that it is based on Jeffery Archer’s Kane and Abel.

Govinda and Karishma Kapoor

Govinda and Karishma are one of the all time great actor pairs in history of Hindi movies. The duo acted in as many as ten successful movies together. Some of them are Raja Babu, Andaz Apna Apna, Coolie No 1, Saajan Chale Sasuraal, Khuddaar, Hero No 1 and Haseena Maan Jaayegi. During shooting of Khuddaar Govinda had a car accident and sustained head injury with profuse bleeding. Yet he did not cancel his shooting and completed the shooting well past midnight, which shows his dedication.

Their amazing dance moves and Govinda’s expressions are a high point of Hindi movies in the entire decade of the 1990’s.

Govinda and Raveena Tandon

Govinda and Raveena too are an amazing dancing pair. They have as many as 9 movies together with the more popular ones being Dulhe Raja, Aunty No.1 and Deevaana Mastana. 

Govinda became an MP from 2004 to 2009. His comeback movie Aa Gaya Hero did not do well but he has various film projects in the offing and he remains a popular and well-liked star. Latest news is that Sohail Khan wants to make Partner Part 2 and has already registered two titles “Carry on Partner” and “Partner Part 2“. Partner which was based on the Will Smith movie Hitch was one of the biggest hits of the last decade and surely Govinda and Salman if they come back together will do a terrific job.

Happy Birthday  once again Govinda.