Favourite Team?

Finally, someone asks the right question (or so I think) – which is your favourite team – instead of asking which team you think will win. As we have seen so far, on their day, anyone can beat anyone. So while you can have a favourite team, but you can’t say which team you think will win.

Cases in point are below-par performances from Brazil, England, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and several other ‘big’ teams, and excellent performances from T&T, Ghana, Ecuador and Australia.

My favourite team is England; I’ve been a ManU supporter for four years now, and it is particularly because I’m familiar with most of their players that I am supporting England. It is easier for me to form an opinion on who should play and the formations that the team employs, so while I’m more likely to criticise them, I’m also supporting them (if that makes any sense).

England, I believe, are a middle centered team – they’ve got great players in the midfield and in defence, but lack in quality up front and in goal. This explains the difficulty they’ve had in scoring recently since Sven has surprisingly held the midfield back. Rooney isn’t a striker in my book and works best in a poaching role, ala Van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes. I’ve never rated Owen highly either, and you just have to compare his performance with that of a Drogba, Henry, Crespo, Forlan or even a Ronaldo to see that he just isn’t up to the mark.

Before the World Cup began, I’d jokingly suggested to Aishwarya that England should play a 4-6-0 formation, given how strong their midfield is. Now, I think it would help for them to put their best 11 on the field, and maybe dispense with Crouch and Owen (sacriligious as that sounds). I can crib that a Sean Wright Phillips or a Darren Bent should have made it to the squad, but that’s pointless. That said, I think Crouch has been excellent as a supporting striker, but he just doesn’t have the finishing touch. Walcott, unfortunately, has been a spectator. Joe Cole has been showboating, and Mourinho would have taken him off for all the useless display of skill, and lack of result. England, unfortunately, isn’t playing well as a team and I’d rather have a John Terry or a Gerrard as a captain because if you can’t have a manager who can fire the team up, you should at least have a captain who can.

I have a slightly unusual game plan in mind:

Formation:
4-3-2-1

My starting 11:

Paul Robinson (GK)

Gary Neville (LB)
Rio Ferdinand (CB)
John Terry (c) (CB)
Jaime Carragher (RB)

Joe Cole (LW)
Owen Hargreaves (CDM)
Frank Lampard (CAM)
Steven Gerrard (CAM)
David Beckham (RW)

Peter Crouch (A)

Subs:
Wayne Bridge
Wayne Rooney
David James (GK)
Aaron Lennon
Theo Walcott

The Explanation:

Crouch as a striker is there to win the ball, and to set up a scoring opportunity for either Gerrard, Lampard or Joe Cole who’ll play in a floating role – one of the three will fall back when the other two strive forward to support Crouch, so you switch to a 4-3-3 in attack from a 4-3-2-1 in defence. Beckham will flit between RW and CDM depending on the situation. Lampard and Gerrard are the key players while attacking and Terry and Ferdinand in defence.

In case of an attacking substitution, Lennon replaces Beckham or Rooney replaces Crouch, and Gerrard drops back.

About ‘the favourites to win’:

Here’s something you’ve probably not heard elsewhere: the team that gets through the second round with minimum yellow cards are the favourites to win.

Otherwise, on current form, Argentina look the best team on the field. But a few days ago, the Czech’s looked just as good, if not better, so form isn’t permanent and almost all teams are brimming with class. Still, keep an eye out for the Portuguese and the Spanish. Particularly the Spanish.

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Quotable Quote from the World Cup

So far, it has to be the following statement by the commentator on ESPN during the Sweden vs Trinidad and Tobago game:

“The hopes of Trinidad and Tobago have been written off more times than the Mexican national debt”

Had me LMAO. Excellent game. Every other game so far pales in comparison – including the Germany vs Costa Rica scorefest and the England vs Paraguay game where Peter Crouch was, surprisingly, outstanding.

We also wish Harsha Bhogale would curb his enthusiasm and perhaps allow others, especially the experts, to speak. Get John Dykes back, pliss.

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Bars, Beer and Balls

Just a few hours to go now for the World Cup to begin. I don’t know about you, but I find the hype rather stifling, and a little irritating. I quite like the previews and the info on the various teams, but going and asking just about every celebrity who they think will win is something like asking them which is their favourite book – they might not really be interested, but they choose the popular ones because they cant seem ignorant. So, like everybody says The Da Vinci Code or The Alchemist, just about everyone is rooting for Brazil.

No team has the upper hand; on their day, anybody can beat anybody. This isn’t like the EPL where Chelsea can buy a truckload of hugely talented players and dominate on the basis of sheer depth of squad and talent that sustains them over the entire season. For every Didier Drogba, they have an Hernan Crespo as backup. Sean Wright Phillips, who, for all my money would have it to Germany had he not spent most of the year in the Chelsea reserves, got just a handful of first team appearances.

Each team has its strengths, but the great thing about this game and this event is that you just can’t predict who’s going to win. A lot of people (self included) were caught off guard by Korea and Senegal last time. In the formers case, they played much above their level at home, and there were a few contentious decisions that went their way in the quarter finals. So telling someone who your favourite team is isn’t the same as telling them whom you think will win. I see weaknesses in Brazil’s centre midfield if and when they need to rest Kaka and/or Cafu, but it is likely that with a floating wingers in Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos, and strikers like Ronaldo and Adriano, they’ll.

Anyway, where are you going to watch the games? I’m probably going to watch at home, or at a cousins.

Around four years ago, during the last World Cup, my cousin, a friend of his and I walked into a five star group hotel in Lutyens Delhi. A game was being projected on a large screen in the coffee shop (or was it a restaurant doubling up as a bar?). The screen was of rather poor quality, the sound was off and the game was unwatchable. What’s more, the bar was empty, and well lit (hence badly lit). So we decided to sit closer to the screen, have a beer each, and then move on. We ordered.

The waiter walked in with beer in some oddly shaped football glasses…cups, actually. Y’know the oversized coffee mugs that curve inwards at the top? Similar to thoset. They were smaller than held a little more than a pint. After joking about the mugs for a bit, we requested that they be replaced with normal, regular beer mugs, or even beer glasses – anything but those mugs that made you feel like you were sipping khaasmadhu (a cough syrup*).

The waiter looked at us, a little embarrassed. He said that he had been given strict instructions to serve beer in only those ridiculous mugs. He apologised and informed us that this was only till the World Cup lasted, and this is the managements idea to appear more football friendly because they have a large number European patrons who would like to watch football. No wonder the bar was empty.

The one place where I’d love to watch the game is Cafe Mondegar (Mondy’s) (Photos: outside/inside) in Bombay. Last I went there was four years go. Italy were playing Croatia. I was waiting for Hum Do Harami Do, with Rohan. It’s the sort of place you wish existed in Delhi, and then shudder at the thought of ‘mummy, papa, bunty and munni’ walking in and ordering maa ki daal and naan, or even makke di roti and sarson da saag (feel free to diss me on my political incorrectness): they serve beer, not inordinately expensive, they have a large, loud jukebox which has rock songs, cane cafe chairs. There were several football fans around, mostly foreigners, and they were sitting in two separate groups that were regularly taunting each other jokingly.

Update: Just remembered another case of the minnows unexpectedly winning. Greece, some of you might remember, won the Euro 2004. If I remember correctly, they were the most tenacious of all the teams, and the least flamboyant.

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Hand of God

I started watching football during the last World Cup, and since then I’ve heard several mentions of Maradona’s famous Hand of God goal. They all talk about it, but none of them show it. I’ve searched for it on p2p’s, found a kickass ManUtd vs Arsenal game, but no Hand of God clip.

Finally, YouTube comes to my rescue. Just push play:

Do see this YouTube link, if only to read the highly intellectual discussion on the England-Argentina rivalry. Samples:

TurkeyPhil: nanino your a sausage we have soviergnty over the falklands because we have a decent army and once owned near enough 3 quarters of the world plus maradonna smoke more grass then he played on! eat that bitch

gorduto: TurkeyPhil, please keep crying about the two most beautiful goals in the history of soccer.And you owned three quarters, yes; but today you are just a piece of stinky shit.Kiss my ass you son of a damned Queen

Very interesting. Anyway, just for the record – I don’t support either of these views.

And, one of my favourite Football commercials:

As the commentator says at the end – This is just not Beckham’s day.

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Siddharth Saxena’s article in the TOI on the Arsenal vs Barca game

To repeat a cliche – Little knowledge is dangerous.

In today’s TOI, Siddharth Saxena comments on the Arsenal vs Barcelona game, and defends the referee, claiming that the criticism levelled against him is unwarranted because he was going by the rule book – given the challenge that Jans Lehmann committed againt Samuel Eto’o, the referrees decision was justified.

The problem is that Siddharth probably didn’t watch the game, and is probably relying entirely on articles he’s quickly skimmed through. No one, not Theirry Henry, not Aresene Wenger (“It looked a red card, it’s very difficult to contest,”…” “But my biggest regret was their first goal was offside.”), most football pundits – has criticised that decision.

What is not justifiable, and I say this as a neutral who was supporting Barca during the game, are the glaring oversights: Theirry Henry was fouled on numerous occasions, and one felt that most challenges warranted at least a free kick; quite a few warranted a card. At the other end, when Henry got the ball with a tackle that looked bad only because of the way the opposing player fell, Henry was unjustly carded. There was also an occasion where Deco pretended to having been fouled in spite of no contact, seeking a pentalty just around the box. The ref obviously saw that, and waved play on in a situation that on most occasions deserved a card. In the 2002 World Cup, it would have meant a straight red for “simulation”. Samuel Eto’o, for his sheer brilliance in front of goal, deserved that goal, but an offside is an offside.

I’m not disappointed much by the fact that Barcelona won and Arsenal lost. What disappoints me is the manner in which this match was won. Barca should have also been a man down for the fouls (the ref gave one player 3 chances before booking him), and an equal contest would have been thrilling. And of course, Mr. Saxena thinks everyone is criticising the obviously biased ref for the red card. The ref’s clarification and admittance of a mistake that wasn’t particularly glaring, but did have a far reaching impact, is just to divert attention from the fact that he was so blatantly partial. Siddharth doesn’t realise that:

But before we come to that, the referee – hardly the whistleblower, but merely a messenger of the men in suits – needs to be put in perspective. Even in the onslaught of criticism that Hauge will have to endure, and hence admit, like he has, that he erred in not playing the advantage off Lehmann’s foul on Eto’o, the point here is that the Norwegian was merely following the rule book to the T.

The Professional Foul, such a matter of debate and heartburn not so long ago, is outlawed by FIFA. And in the rule book, it is punishable with expulsion, which is what happened with the Arsenal goalkeeper. On the final one-on-one, the German halted Barcelona’s Cameroonian striker’s run when he had a clear shot at goal. As simple as that.

But why berate the referee? He was spot on in recognising the foul and acted in the manner that has been imparted to him. To expect him to play the advantage since it was a game of magnitude only mitigates the point. Would it have been okay had it been a first round tie? And had Hauge actually done that, the world would never have learnt, but he would have had to provide an answer to the stern, faceless body that surgically monitors every move, every action of the referee and comes down heavily in the event of any slip-up. But then, that precisely is the anomaly with the monitoring of a game that has its own complex plot, and doing it through FIFA’s black and white set of rules, honed to keep cheats in check. Entire World Cups are known to have fallen victim to this.

If interpreting the law was left to the referee’s discretion – and provided he was not trying to favour a particular side, as is emerging happened in Italy this gone season – maybe such allegations and counter-allegations will stop, and a final game will automatically become what it is, a finale, rather than it being desperately trumpeted as one.

I suppose that with the World Cup just around the corner, we’re likely to see many such hurriedly prepared, patchy articles on Football.

Update: I told you so.

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Jungle Jungle baat chali hain, pata chala hain – chaddi pahen ke World Cup hame hi jeetna hain

Each of the Hyundai sponsored WC coaches will have the teams slogan on it, voted for by fans. Surprisingly, for a sport with the largest fan base in the world, the slogans aren’t particularly inspiring.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation – it’s the 2050 world cup and India makes its first appearance in the finals, exactly a century after they should have (Trivia: they qualified in 1950 but refused to participate because they weren’t being allowed to play barefoot). What would their slogan be?

“100% of the world cup should be reserved for us”
“We made the ball, and we’ll take the cup”
“With two billion voters, this cup is our democratic right”

Okay, I’ll stop mixing sports and politics:

“This time we’re wearing shoes; this time we’ll play and we’ll win”
“#Include (WorldCup.Win); “
“Jungle Jungle baat chali hain, pata chala hain – chaddi pahen ke World Cup hame hi jeetna hain”

More later. Pliss to make use of comment box for posting your slogans.

Here are the not-so-inspired slogans slogans, some of which don’t seem very inspired (probably because the English translations don’t do them justice) :

Angola – “Angola lead the way � our team is our people”
Argentina – “Get up, Argentina are on the move”
Australia – “Australia Socceroos � Bound for glory”
Brazil – “Vehicle monitored by 180 million Brazilian hearts”
Costa Rica- “Our army is the team, our weapon is the ball. Let’s go to Germany and give it our all”
C�te d’Ivoire – “Come on the Elephants! Win the cup in style”
Croatia � “To the finals with fire in our hearts”
Czech Republic � “Belief and a lion’s strength, for victory and our fans”
Ecuador � “Ecuador my life, football my passion, the cup my goal”
England – “One Nation, One Trophy, Eleven Lions”
France � “Libert�, egalit�, Jules Rimet”
Germany – “For Germany, through Germany”
Iran – “Stars of Persia”
Italy � “Blue pride, Italy in our hearts”
Japan – “Light up your Samurai spirit!”
Korea Republic – “Never-ending legend, united Korea”
Ghana � “Go Black Stars, the stars of our world”
Mexico – “Aztec passion across the world”
Netherlands � “Oranje on the road to gold”
Paraguay � “From the heart of America… this is the Guarani spirit”
Poland � “White and red, dangerous and brave”
Portugal � “With a flag in the window and a nation on the pitch. For�a Portugal”
Saudi Arabia – “The Green Hawks cannot be stopped”
Serbia and Montenegro – “For the love of the game”
Spain � “Spain. One country, one goal”
Switzerland � “2006, it’s Swiss o’clock”
Sweden � “Fight! Show spirit! Come on! You have the support of everyone”
Togo � “A passion to win and a thirst to succeed”
Trinidad and Tobago – “Here come the Soca Warriors � the fighting spirit of the Caribbean”
Tunisia � “The Carthage Eagles… higher and stronger than ever”
Ukraine � “With our support, Ukraine cannot fail to win!”
USA – “United we play, United we win”

Oh and, I really liked the ESPN-Star Sports slogan for the WC: Dunia Goal Hain, particularly because I’d already thought of it and it was a pleasant surprise.

P.s.: Around six years ago, I had read in the India Today that a soccer school was being run in Delhi. They’d gone and recruited some of the tallest kids from villages and small towns and were training them so that they could represent India in the World Cup. I haven’t heard of them since. Anyone else read that article, and anyone know what happened to them? Oh, and don’t forget to post your slogan for India. 😛

Addendum:
Amit Ken suggests

Seedhe raste ki yeh, tedhi chaal hai, Goal Maal Hai bhai sab Goal Maal hai.

Very apt, I think. The English translation – Crooked steps down a straight path. The goal’s the goal, brother the goal’s the goal. Of course, my translation doesn’t come close to the intended meaning, and misses an amusing auditary pun in Goal Maal.

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Spleen: Hindi Commentary

So we take a break and switch the TV on. India A is playing Pakistan A for the Eurasia Cup (cricket). The game is being shown is on Sahara Filmi, for some reason, and one really feels spoilt for choice with some of the more interesting commentators airing their views – Rameez Raja, Arun Lal, Charu Sharma. Kris Srikanth is needed to complete the Dream Team, but he’s in Chennai, quizzing voters on elections for CNN-IBN. The commentary is in Hindi, after listening to Arun Lal and (I think) Madan Lal repeat several times over ten minutes that they can’t understand why Reetinder Singh Sodhi isn’t getting on with the game and that a top order batsman should have been sent if one had to consolidate, I give up on them and switch channels.

Anyway, the point of this post is this – …I HATE Hindi commentary. During Cricket, it is sometimes (SOMETIMES) bearable because the ex-cricketers usually know what they’re talking about. Then there are other times – particularly when we’re subjected to Hindi commentary during Football.

Why during Football? ESPN and Star Sports, in order to increase their mass base, supply two audio frequecies to supplement the video – one in Hindi and the other in English. The English commentary is from Sky Sports and features some of the best commentators in the business. They’re at the match, watching the game and aware of things happening off the ball. To add to that, a few of them are former players with in depth knowledge of the game and of the players, and aware of what has been happening prior to the game. They’re also comfortable enough joking about the game and the players, and voicing an opinion

On the other hand, the Hindi commentators are sitting in studios. Half the time, they end up commenting on what they see on screen and you really don’t need radio style commentary while watching the game. They have little to offer in terms of insight, and no awareness of the news. They mispronounce names, don’t really know enough to voice an opinion apart from general comments and sound terribly stressed. I can’t believe Aishwarya finds them funny.

Anyway, all this reasoning is secondary to the fact that I enjoy English commentary more, and politically incorrect though it is, I wouldn’t like to listen to Hindi commentary even if it was knowledgeable, funny and opinionated. Still, better knowledgeable, funny and opinionated Hindi commentary than what they have now.

I suppose this is yet another reason for our pro-22% reservation friend Harish to call me arrogant and elitist.

Anyway, does anyone know which channel will be showing the World Cup? Whoever it is, I sincerely hope they don’t have Hindi commentators.

Also,
I hereby wish that itching and sneezing powder rain down upon my cable operator and his employees, and on the operators at Siti Cable who change the audio to Hindi and then claim that they don’t know how to change it back to English.

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Match Preview: The Gunners and the Red Devils

For a sense of what this match means to both clubs, read Football’s Great Feud by Tim Adams in The Guardian.

What is usually a high intensity, high drama fixture, come Sunday, will probably end up as an exhibition of high quality football. In the past, passions have brimmed as players have pushed and shoved each other, elbows have met faces, and boot-spikes have been slammed on shins and knees. Several cards, both Red and Yellow have been shown and referee’s have had a hard time separating groups of players scuffling in the middle of the pitch, both during and after the game. Tunnel fights were commonplace, but that was when the teams, Manchester United (The Red Devils) and Arsenal (The Gunners), were let by two of the most charismatic midfielders to ever take field – Roy Keane and Patrick Viera.

Keano has since left United for Celtic FC, after being deeply critical of his players for lacking the fighting spirit and the passion in his absence, and Viera has chosen a relatively quiet role in the star studded Italian club, Juventus. With the Premiership title seemingly firmly in Chelsea’s hands, the ManU vs Arsenal rivalry seemed to have lost its sting. I think that’ll change tomorrow:

For most of the season, Chelsea have been boring but professional, choosing to curb their attacking instincts for quiet and professional finish. Every time they go on to the field, Jose Mourinho seems to have plan and the players seem to be under strict instructions to execute. Joe Cole, a central midfielder, was even hauled up for ‘showboating’.

However, as the season has progressed, Manchester United have picked themselves up and the team that once seemed, apart from Park Ji Sun, Alan Smith and especially Cristiano Ronaldo, reticent to go at the ball and even move forward with the ball, is now running at defenders and creating opportunities. They’re just seven points shy of Chelsea, and within touching distance of the title if Chelsea slip up. With both Louis Saha and Van Nistelrooy (who’s taken over the Super Sub mantle, for the time being, from Diego Forlan) is prime form, United seem to be charging forward with a vengance. After a lack-lustre start to the season, but biggest club on the planet has a point to prove. Of all the players, Cristiano Ronaldo has never been found wanting in the entire season, while others have exhibited a lack of will, and often I’ve found players more keen to get rid of the ball than go for goal. That seems to have now changed.

Arsenal, on the other hand, have been playing sublime, poetic football. If there was any doubt about Thierry Henry (and I say this a little grudingly, as a ManU fan) being the most skilful striker in the world, this season has put that to rest. Henry comes up with the most audacious goals, and executes them with a finesse that seems almost fictional. To use a cricket analagy, watching Henry is like watching Brian Lara in full flow, where the grace with which he plays makes even Tendulkar seem second best. Goalkeepers across the globe must be trembling at the sight of Henry approaching the six-yard box. Arsenal’s passing has been brilliant and few seem to have answer to them as they approach the goal almost without challenge. On current form, what with Flamini and Reyes and Van Persie in fiery touch and new boy Adebayor supplying some magical passes, Arsenal seem almost as unstoppable as they did 18 months ago, when Manchester United put an end to their 49 match winning streak.

But that was a different team that played a different game. Arsenal looked brittle when things got physical, and pushed and tackled at Old Trafford, they lost their rhythm and the match. It broke them, and the team that seemed invincible until then, lost the title to Chelsea.

“For us [that defeat] was painful because it interrupted a [series] which was exceptional and will remain certainly for a long, long, time,” said Wenger at Friday�s pre-match press conference. �But now it is a different team.”

This time around, with no Keane vs. Viera, and no Alan Smith in ManU, it’s probably going to be a exhibition in footballing skills. Based on skill, I’d say that Arsenal are favourites. But skill is half the battle, and there’s more fight in ManU than half the Arsenal team.

In the past, Sir Alex Ferguson has provoked Arsene Wenger who, eventually cowing down, even said – He [Ferguson] doesn’t interest me and doesn’t matter to me at all! I will never answer to any provocation from him any more! This time, though, both seem to be playing down the rivalry.

“We are in the situation where we cannot drop one point – even one point at Old Trafford will not a positive result for us.” – Arsene Wenger

“We know how to play against Arsenal, our results have been good against them in our last few meetings. We have some good threats in our team and we will be concentrating on winning the match. That�s what you need to do.” – Sir Alex Ferguson

Of the four top teams in the English Premiership, Manchester United seem to have the toughest set of matches. Sometimes this brings out the best in men, and that’s what I’m hoping for. But I can’t help but feel that the Premiership will depend more on Chelsea not dropping points than Manchester United getting them. The Arsenal game is crucial for United, because losing this one might snowball, and threaten their No.2 position against Liverpool. With seasoned defenders – Wes Brown, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole returning to their respective teams, this clash is also going to pip youth against experience. I also expect the Cristiano Ronaldo vs Ashley Cole battle to be revived.

For Arsenal, the young gunners are likely to face the toughest test of their career as some of them have never played at Old Trafford, the Theater of Dreams.

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On Kaif as a second pivot

Having defended Kaif’s selection in the Indian Team for a few years now, I find this article by Rajan Bala in today’s Asian Age heartening.

(I’d also like to point out that The Asian Age has probably the worst designed newspaper site I’ve come across: the design is patchy, navigation javascript based, works only with IE and and linking to pages is extremely difficult.)

The first criticism levelled against Kaif is that he hardly ever makes an impact, except in the field: that he isn’t a Dhoni, Sehwag or a Yuvraj. One tends to forget that Kaif is sent in with overs to spare only in a crisis situation since, like Dravid, his role is of a pivot. Given a comfortable situation, there have been occasions where even Harbhajan Singh has been sent before him to continue smashing the bowlers around. Either Kaif comes in with few overs to spare, or when he needs to prevent a collapse.

In tests, India now takes field with a single pivot – Dravid. I can’t think of any other regular (yes, even Tendulkar) who can now be depended on to stick around and prevent a collapse. Even if they make runs, time at the crease is something they’re not willing to spend. Kaif, in spite of a pivotal 91 in the Nagpur Test, was dropped for the more flambuoyant Yuvraj Singh. Take a look at Kaif’s Test stats here. He’s played just 9 Test matches in six years, in spite of the fact that he has seemed more of a Test batsman than an ODI one because of his tendancy to carefully construct an innings.

One does find a parallel in VVS Laxman, wherein both Kaif and Laxman have been always on top of the hitlist, in case someone else needs to be brought in. In contrast, Yuvraj has played 15 Tests in four years and Dhoni- 9 Tests in 2005-06.

My reason for supporting Kaif has been quite simple – I feel the need for pivots in a team, and at present Dravid is the only one. Tendulkar, it seems, seems to be in no mans land after trying to reinvent his game. Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni and Pathan are essentially dashers who cannot be relied on, game after game. In such a scenario, you’re fielding a team in the hope that at least one of your dashers clicks once in every four games (or less). Dravid seems to have reached Tendulkarian heights, in the sense that if he gets out, even with Tendulkar around, you feel that the end of the innings is nigh.

Even if Kaif isn’t the pivot (Raina showed signs of being one in his U-19 days, but seems to have been taken in by all the shotmaking around him), I think it’s high time we looked around for one. In Tendulkar’s absense, I think it’s time Kaif was sent in consistently at No.3 or 4, and given time to build an innings. Against a similar English attack (with only Mahmood being replaced by Flintoff for the Delhi ODI), Kaif crafted a matchwinning 119 in 136 balls, coming in at No.4.

Anyway, here’s what Rajan Bala has to say about Kaif:

Though he (Kaif) has not been able to establish a settled place in the Test batting order � how many people have had to sit out after making 91? � he is a regular in the limited-overs side. And the man has leadership experience having been the winning captain of the Indian under-19 side and lately marshalling the resources beautifully to give Uttar Pradesh its first Ranji Trophy title.

The truth is he has the proper credentials to be Dravid�s deputy in limited-overs cricket. And since the focus is short-term, upto the World Cup, maybe the captain and coach could think of him. Clearly at the first class level he is regarded highly as captain and everyone is aware that from very young he has been groomed for this responsibility.

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All about timing…

Anybody remember that NPower Cricket game that was a rage a few years ago? Well I rediscovered it, of all places, on my sisters laptop (she doesn’t like cricket, now that Jonty’s retired) and have been playing quite regularly – thiry to forty times a day, every time I take a break from studies, which is, as you can see – quite often. Good fun.

According to the Npower site, the highest score is 426/1 by Gaurav Rele. Not surprisingly, a majority of the high-scores are by Indians.

You can play the game online (here) or download it (and then open the file using your browser)

My highest score so far is 242/0 247/0 257/3 258/0 269/2 in the 12 overs that one is allowed. Gameplay is quite easy – use the arrow keys to hit the ball. If the ball comes down the leg side – left arrow key; off side – right arrow key; straight – up arrow key. What’s really difficult is the timing.

If you play it, do post your scores, as long as they’re below mine. O-)

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