Thursday, March 27, 2008

Soccer Snippets 2

League of the Champions or emergence of also rans?

For the 2nd time in consecutive years, at least 3 EPL teams are in UEFA champions league quarter finals. This time even better, all 4 big guns of EPL are at the QF of UCL. Arsenal face Liverpool, which means at least one english team will be in semifinal. Chelsea face Fenerbache, and without any disrespect to the turkish side, it can be said atleast 2 english teams will be in the semifinal. Is indeed EPL is the league of champions?or champions league is the place where also rans can excel? fenerbache is no big name in european football, but the way they fought and came this far this season is amazing. They have some good players in the rank, and they fought with heart in the battles, and passion has guarded their lack of skill, and brought them this far. They ousted Sevilla in the 2nd round, who looked very composed in UCL this season. But chelsea will indeed be a tough test. Schalke is another team no one thought would end up in last 8. They emerged from a pretty tough group with chelsea, valencia and rosenborg, and they beat porto in the 2nd round. They are another team who are used to be considered as also-rans by football pundits. Though barcelona will be a stern test, they can already feel proud about their achievements in Europe this season.
Manchester Utd and Roma already faced of this year in group stage and set to replay last years memorable action and goal packed quarter final. Roma is different team this season, as not a lot of team go to santiago bernebeau and knock off real madrid. Not a lot of team go to san siro and beat AC Milan.
So, indeed the teams which were considered mediocre have emerged this season, we are getting very good mix of big names and fighters. Lets have an enthralling last 3 rounds of champions league football.

Soccer Snippets 1

English race is not over
Its a three team race, and after long time, chelsea edged ahead of arsenal to second spot after last weekend's victory over gunners. Gunners are slipping behind after a fabulous start to the season. They have failed to win in last 5 matches in epl. This was somewhat predicted from a young team which regrouped themselves pretty well after last season's disaster and departure of Henry. But I consider the EPL race far from over. Mainly because , there are still big matches left, Arsenal face Liverpool, ManUtd face Chelsea, Man Utd face Arsenal, Chelsea face Liverpool in the remaining weeks, which are all 6 point games. Though Reds(Liverpool) are out of title contention, they can ruin the party for other three in the process of solidifying their champions league berth.
The mid-table juggling is also continuing as Everton, Man City, and PortsMouth battling it out for Uefa cup while everton has an eye to the champions league. Newcastle finally won under king kev and looks like they are not in relegation survival. Hope they hire some good striker and medios next season. If Viduka gets healthy, and owen can play in full force..they still have the team to compete with top four. Juande Ramos has given Spurs their 1st piece of silverware after long time, but the club is doing poorly in EPL. Next season, he may want to change that.
Season is over for Derby, and Fulham is fighting fo their life in ICU. Fasten your seatbelts folks, the EPL is all set for a fast exciting landing.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"aye aye captain...."

Most of you probably are aware of the dialogue mentioned in the heading. It is from dead poet society, where the students used to call their teacher by this, "aye aye captain...".

Captains in every form of life have roles to play, have responsibilities to fulfill, because the word captain itself is very precious and powerful, and as uncle of spider man said.."with great power, comes great responsibilities."

And the magnitude of the responsibility is even greater if you are captain of Indian cricket team. There are more than 1 billion people in the country, and counting NRIs, there are almost 1 billion cricket pundits. you got to be responsible when you are captain of a team which represents people of that huge number. Unfortunately our captain , ODI captain, current captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni isn't.

Now let me explain why I say that. We all followed what happened down under this summer, and this blog is not reporting news or scores that has already been reported in news papers. This is a place to speak your mind, so I am doing that.

India defeated Australia in the CB series final 2-0, and doing so, has achieved something no Indian team has done before, and in doing so has registered their name in history as this was the last annual triangular series played in Australia, which has been part of their cricketing culture for last 30 years.

India omitted senior players from the team, and barring sachin tendulkar, most of the other players can be tagged as "non-aged players". Everyone doubted the credibility of the young team in front of Lee, Johnson, Clark and predicted a washout.But thats the beauty of being an Indian. When people question you, hurt your emotion, then you bring out your best, and proves everyone wrong. Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar all played big role in defeating Aussies in their own backyard, and in a version of the game where they are world champions for almost a decade. Cool calm captaincy from Dhoni showed us we got a leader for the future who go by instincts, and who backs his players in difficult times.So far so good, we got a brilliant future.

Right, now lets talk about responsibilities and touch a little on the start of the story. Captains need to be responsible.As soon as Dhoni comes back to India with the team, he gave an flamboyant interview to the media, saying it was necessary to send the message across to some players. And there the whole debate started , the issue of responsibility came into play.

How many years Dhoni has played international cricket? 3. How many years Dravid has played? 12. How many years Sourav Ganguly has played? 12+4. I am not here to repeat Gangulys credentials as captain or Dravids contributions to many Indian victories in the past. We all know that. But we never heard of this kind of statement before. Dhoni has won a triangular series, not a world cup. To remind people, take out sachin tendulkar's 117* and 91 from the 2 finals, the score line might as well be reversed.

so why there is so much fuss about juniors? it should be kept in mind that the best eleven is required to win a tournament, not a youngest eleven.Throughout the tour we have observed the failure of opening stand in Indian innings. We have observed over the last year, whenever sachin and sourav gave india a good start, India went on to either win the match or at least put up a big score.So why Uthappa or Shewag is considered a better option than sourav ganguly as opening partner for tendulkar?

just because he is 36? just because he doesnt run as fast as Uthappa? well then we should consider the amount of runs he scores, which is way more than those players.

Even after India defeated Australia, I am not convinced that India has the right batting lineup in ODIs at the moment. More of all, the players need to show respect to seniors and elders who have served the country so passionately for so long. Words generally create enemies, again the words can create friends. Words can help the flow of emotions. Dhoni made the mistake of first not speaking to the seniors abut their exclusion, second made a huge mistake for making such public statement in the open.

I am a strong believer of what goes around, comes around.It will come back to haunt MS Dhoni, he will realise it one day, but it will be too late then.

From cricketing stand point, both Ganguly and Dravid has about 20 matches still left in ODI career and at least 2 years left in test career. Though energy and youth is replacing the experience in shorter version of the game, I am horrified to think abou Indian cricket's test future. Once sachin-sourav-dravid-laxman, the fab four, hang up their boots, I am shivering as I think about the state of Indian cricket will be then. So Dhoni, please remember, respecting elders is part of our culture.