Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Saturday, September 3, 2011
The college football (American Football) season kicks off in full swing this Saturday. For most of you that means nothing at all. But for those of you who went to one of the big sports schools in the US, it is the beginning of the best four months of the year.
The excitement of the season for us college football fans is as much as what we feel for the world cup or any big sporting event. I love my Texas Longhorns as much as the Indian Cricket team or Roger Federer or Tiger Woods.
Now, if you are wondering why am I writing about a sport that only three people in India really care about, it is because India can learn a lot from the American system of talent and sports development. After the recent series in England the lack of depth in our sports teams is pretty evident.
The system in American Sports is very clear. It is applicable for all American sports but to make it easier I will use football as an example.
Right from the 10th and 11th grade in high school a talented football player is spotted by coaches from all the top college football programs in the country. The player is written about, recruited by various institutes and becomes a storyline in the sport for the next 2 or 3 years.
In the mean time there are about 5-6 lists made by leading sports publications like ESPN and Rivals about the top 100, top 200 and even top 500 high school prospects across the country.
It is the job of these publications to have teams across the country ranking and grading every high school player. Recruits are then given a star rating- 5 stars being the highest.
More than the journalists each college has teams across the 50 states trying to find the best player they can for their college.
During the athletes senior year in high school the recruiting becomes intense. Coaches visit the player and his family. The player is taken on campus visits to the top programs across the nation with a full scholarship offer waiting for him.
In February of the athletes final semester in school there is an annual signing day where the prospect announces which college they will be going to. Some students don’t wait till the final day to announce and commit even earlier to a particular college.
In August the athletes join campus and begin playing college football.
A 5 star recruit might become a star in college or may be a bust and then you can have a 3 star recruit who outshines everyone in his recruiting class. That is the beauty of it. Once you are in college, almost everyone starts on a level playing field.
Nothing better describes the “American Way” than sports. Either step up and perform, or move out. You may have been a high school star, but you are in college now son.
Through a students 4-year college playing career the stars of the college game are watched, studied and scouted by the 32 teams of the National Football League. Finally a place where a player can get paid and play professionally.
At the end of their college career the students enter the NFL draft held annually in April where teams pick players who they hope will be the next stars of their franchise.
Some of the players drafted in the first round sign $50 million contracts at the tender age of 22. Not too shabby.
As an ardent college football and NFL fan, in the last 13 years I have followed players from high school to the Super Bowl.
If you are still reading this then let me plant a seed of thought. What if we had such a system in India for Cricket, Hockey, Football (Soccer) and every other sport?
What would happen to our talent search then?
There are many things that are required for such a system to work in India. Some which may be loosely in place already, but I’ll leave those details for another blog.Read more!
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The fifth day collapse of India pretty much summed up the series. Full credit to England who, without doubt, are the best Test team in the world. Now it’s time to take India back to the classroom, and be honest about how the team scored.
Vireder Sehwag 0.5/10 - A king pair in the third test followed by scores of 8 and 33. Spare me the talk of the shoulder injury. If you aren’t fit, then don’t play.
Gautam Gambhir 4/10 - I know he was hit on the arm, then fell on his head and bravely came out to bat both times. That’s why he gets 4 points. But even when he was fit, he didn’t look fluent, confident or in control. Where is the Gambhir of 2009? We want him back please.
Rahul Dravid 9.5/10 - Sue me for being too strict but I deducted half a point for a few dropped catches in the slips that he should have taken. The lone warrior in a series that saw everyone around him crumble, Dravid reminded us why he’s been the best player for India in the last 15 years. Even better than Tendulkar.
Sachin Tendulkar 3/10 - When the team falls to pieces, the great ones step up. Just look at Dravid. So where was our other hero when we needed him? Two half centuries is not even close to what was required from the man.
Suresh Raina 1/10 - He looks clueless in whites and should stick to the shorter versions of the game. The selectors need to learn that Test cricket is a different animal.
Yuvraj Singh 2/10 - Another player who will struggle in whites and fail to be consistent in the long run. Along with Raina, he should make way for some new blood in the middle order. Kohli needs to be given a few chances.
MS Dhoni 0.5/10 - He is lucky to get that half point. The World Cup and IPL-winning captain looked like a lost school boy. His only consistency was in poor batting and even worse captaincy. Playing RP Singh in the last test was probably one of the worst selections in years.
Praveen Kumar 7/10 – It wasn’t the 15 wickets he took in 3 tests (the most by an Indian in the series), but his attitude on the field that impressed. He always looked like he was trying to pick up wickets and rarely looked complacent.
Ishaant Sharma 4/10 - What an opportunity wasted. Coming off a good tour of the West Indies and with Zaheer out, Ishaant had a chance to make a huge name for himself. His lazy attitude and request not to bowl after lunch in the first test set the tone for his whole series. Someone should teach him that the game is played hard.
Sreesanth 3/10 - Another wasted opportunity. He showed signs of an improved mental state at times but eventually broke down. He doesn’t deserve a place in the side until he works out his mental issues.
Harbhajan Singh 0/10 - Do I need to justify this score?
Average Team Score: 3.18
Average Team Score without Dravid: 2.6
This article was first published on http://www.gqindia.com/content/india’s-test-scoresRead more!
Somewhere in a hotel room in England, 11 Indian cricketers and a Zimbabwean coach gather around in a dark room. The mood is serious.
Player 1: “I’ve called this meeting today in urgent circumstances. So far we have blamed our horrific performance on the BCCI and their planning. While they’re usually an easy target I think we may be passed the expiration date on this particular blame game.”
Player 2: “Why? Just blame it on them. Always works and right now the media is supporting us.”
Player 1: “Look, we’ve played two tests and two side games. The public realizes that we should have gotten used to the conditions by now. It just won’t fly. Plus we had this stupid number one ranking on our heads. Thank god that’s over.”
Player 3: “Chill out, ya. Just blame it on injuries. Can’t argue with that.”
Player 4: “Player 3, you’re a Moron, only ONE player is injured. You can’t count the two boys from Punjab. One hasn’t taken a wicket since before Chayageet aired on DD and the other is not even a certainty in the side. The injury line won’t work.”
Player 1: “Anybody got any ideas? How about you, player 5?”
Player 5: “Don’t ask me partner. I just came back from a shoulder injury and I read an article by a well-known journalist that I can’t be expected to score runs right away. Can you imagine? I’m on the team and yet they can’t expect me to score runs. I feel like the Indian Government. Even my two first ball ducks were fine.”
Player 3: (Looking at player 5) “Lucky bastard.”
Player 1: “What about you coach? You were supposed to know the English team and the conditions and you haven’t done squat. At least give us a good excuse?”
Player 6: “May be we should blame it on too much cricket? Or better still, the IPL.”
Player 2: “Another stupid idea. We need something new, people. You need to push yourself and think out of the box.”
Player 7: “Screw all of you. There are no excuses. I came in here and scored two centuries. I don’t need any excuses. I get it done. Now those buggers need a bail out so they want me to play ODIs as well. Screw them too.”
Player 5: “Ohhhhh, somebody is getting touchy. Why don’t you just shut up, player 7.”
Player 1: “Stop it guys, we’re getting nowhere. I think I may have nailed it though. Firstly, we need to win this “face saving” fourth test. Secondly, Player 8 needs to score his hundredth 100. The nation eats that stuff up like Ramesh Powar eats Jalebis.”
Player 2: “I think that might work.”
Player 1: “What say, player 8? This whole thing hinges on you getting that ton. Even if we win the last test, without that ton it won’t be enough. But if you score it, the clouds will clear and you’ll steal the headlines. Are you up for it?”
Player 8: “Sure. I mean, I’d rather we won the series but I’ll do what I need to.”
Player 1: “Great, so it’s settled then. Player 8 scores his 100th ton. We win the 4th test and all will be forgotten. We’ll focus on the One-Day series when we come to it. Coach, are you ok with this?”
Player 2: “Whatever, screw him and his silence. I think this will work. Anyway, moving on to more important stuff, what’s the plan for the night?”
This article was originally published at http://www.gqindia.com/content/undercover-cricket
Ian Bell was out and MS Dhoni should not have withdrawn his appeal.
The law of the game is clear, as was established by the umpire’s decision to give him out. There is no argument there.
So now the debate goes to the spirit of the game. I see nothing against the spirit of the game in letting the umpire’s decision stand.
There are questions to be asked, though. Was Bell attempting a run? Or was he just careless in the way he handled himself?
Like most of you, I watched that replay over a dozen times. It was clear to me that Ian Bell was not jogging off the field but rather was trying to get a fourth run in. As he jogged half way down the pitch he noticed Eion Morgan well grounded in his crease. Instead of running back and grounding his bat, Bell stopped jogging and continued to walk toward the bowlers end.
There are two possible things that went through Bell’s mind.
If he thought it was a four (I don’t think he did) then he violated cricket 101 by assuming it was a boundary. If on the other hand he assumed that Morgan was fine with three runs then he should have sprinted back and grounded his bat since the over hadn’t been called by the umpire.
In every sport the first thing players are taught is that you keep playing until you hear the whistle (or in this case, the umpire calling over). Teams across all sports have suffered needless defeats because their players failed to follow that rule.
A few commentators argued that very often, at the end of a session, batsmen will start jogging toward the pavilion. That is true. But do they start jogging and then stop after a few steps as abruptly as Bell did? If he was jogging off, then why did he look at the fielder twice before stopping? Players only look at the fielders the way Bell did when they are attempting a run.
Watch it again and you’ll see what I mean.
Had Bell grounded his bat, left the crease walkingtoward Morgan, removing his gloves as if he was heading to the pavilion to have some tea and scones, my view might have been different.
But he was run out while attempting a run. Anyone who says that running out a batsman attempting a run is against the spirit of the game has a different view of the spirit than I ever will.
Dhoni’s decision will be debated for a while. The boos the Indian team before tea versus the cheers and standing ovation received after tea, demonstrates the drama this wicket would have caused.
The battle lines would have been drawn and the rest of the series would have been played with a different tone. The Indians would have faced a hostile crowd and an even more hostile English media for the next few weeks.
But now MS Dhoni will be hailed a hero in England and the praise will probably be coupled with a sportsmanship award from the ICC a few months down the line.
On a side note, India has done a great job of handing the Test back to England. I fear we may be playing to save the test match again. Never a fun experience.
This article was originally published at http://www.gqindia.com/content/dhoni’s-hero-england-0
While selecting my dream eleven, I took the approach of having the best side rather than just listing the best players. Thus the focus became the balance of the side. A decision to take Steve Waugh over Brian Lara was one such call.With the 2000th Test almost upon us, there are dream Test teams being created by cricket fans and experts.
I also felt it was also important to see how players would fare in a particular position in the lineup. The elimination of Sir Viv Richards from the starting 11 was because of this reason.
There obviously is no correct combination, as it is all based on personal opinion, but here is my dream 11: in order of batting position.
Let the debating begin.
Sunil Gavaskar: Probably the greatest opening Test batsman of all time. His technique was flawless and his patience unmatched. Consistently dominating the greatest bowling attack of all time in hostile conditions differentiates him from everyone else. He was the best.
Virender Sehwag: This was a tough call. While he gets credit for being a one-day beast, it’s Test cricket where he has really shined. He holds the record for the most double hundreds by an Indian (with six) and is tied with Sir Don Bradman for the most triple hundreds (at two). There is no better person to have at the other end, to balance out Gavaskar.
Sir Donald Bradman (Captain): The greatest batsman the world has ever seen. He didn’t play cricket from 1938-’46 because of the war; otherwise his already astronomical statistics would be frightening.
Sachin Tendulkar: Not only does he possess every shot in the book, but his determination and will to win is tough to match. The argument that he is not a big match player is useless here. There can be no dream team without “The One”.
Steve Waugh: I considered Lara and Sir Vivian Richards for this spot. Steve Waugh made it purely on his grit and determination. If any of the top four fail, there is no other batsman I would want at number 5 to sail the ship home. He brings necessary balance to the side.
Sir Garfield Sobers: The greatest all-rounder of all time. He had a fantastic batting average of 57.78 and could bowl left arm orthodox spin, wrist spin as well as medium pace depending on the conditions. A definite pick for the team.
Adam Gilchrist (W/K): Superb behind the stumps and arguably the cleanest striker of the ball ever to play the game. While Sangakkara may have more runs in Test cricket, with the lineup listed above, Gilly gets the pick in a heartbeat.
Wasim Akram: The Sultan of Swing would have probably had even better numbers had he not played in the chaos and controversy-infested jungle that is Pakistan cricket. Bowling deliveries that leave you stunned in silence, he only needed a short run up to make his point. As a batsman, as Ravi Shastri would say, “He was no muck with the bat.”
Shane Warne: Credited with reviving the lost art of leg spin, what would the dream team be without a little bit of Warne controversy? The most exciting cricketer ever to play the game, he adds spice, flair and intrigue every time he steps on to the field. Oh, and he can bowl spin pretty well too.
Malcolm Marshall: He took 7 for 53 with his left arm in a plaster against England. He has the best average (20.04) and the second best strike rate (46.7) amongst the top 15 wicket-takers of all time. With the ability to bowl on any surface, he was a genius.
Glenn McGrath: Waiting for a loose delivery from Glenn McGrath is like waiting for Simi Garewal to age. Odds are that it should happen, but it never does. The highest wicket-taking fast bowler of all time is a certainty in the team.
12th Man: Vivian Richards.
Players who just missed the cut
Ricky Ponting, Muttiah Muralitharan, Rahul Dravid, Jaques Kallis, Brian Lara
This Blog was originally published at http://www.gqindia.com/content/dream-test-teamRead more!
Thursday, July 14, 2011
What if RR Patil was a cricketer? How amazing would his life be? He would never have to worry about getting dropped and would never be accountable for performing.
He would be able to go on tours, make money and yet not have to score runs, take wickets or even field in the hot sun.
Come to think about it, he has the best job in the world. He doesn’t really do much. Sure, he was forced to resign once but that was just a nice way of saying take a sabbatical buddy, you need a break.
I run a career counseling company and am going to tell all my counselors to recommend that being RR Patil is the best career out there.
I can see the scenario in classrooms.
Teacher: “So Sameer, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Sameer: “I want to be like Ratan Tata.”
Teacher: “You’re an idiot Sameer. What about you Meghna?”
Meghna: “I want to be like Aishwariya Rai”
Teacher: “This class is full of morons. How about you Gaurav? You do nothing all day so I am guessing you have no ambition whatsoever?”
Gaurav: “I want to be like RR Patil”
Teacher: “Son, you just secured yourself an A”
The film Rounders, which is about poker starts like this, “Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”
Patil has been Home Secretary for 3 attacks on Mumbai. You want to find the sucker? Just look in a mirror.
The one area though where you have to give Mr. Patil credit is the way he stepped up yesterday. He was on TV issuing statements, giving peace to the citizens of the city, letting us know that he was there to ensure safety. He was the man in charge. The Indian Giuliani so to speak.
Oh wait a minute….sorry….he wasn’t to be seen.
I don’t want him as my Home Secretary. I read that he is in Nagpur. Hope he stays there forever.
Photo Credit http://im.in.com/connect/images/profile/b_profile4/R._R._Patil_300.jpgRead more!
Monday, July 11, 2011
The Wimbledon finals no one predicted
What a great Wimbledon. As usual the lawns of SW19 kept us riveted for two weeks. The Rafa injury scare, the Williams sisters' early exit and of course the hope that the top four men's seeds would be in the semi finals again.
The Men's Final- It was one of the most shocking things I have seen in sports in a long time. Not that Djokovic won, he has beaten Nadal enough times this year for that to be a surprise. But I never thought I would see Rafa Nadal outclassed on a tennis court. The tennis that Novak Djokovic played was simply sublime. No one has dominated Nadal as Novak did on Sunday. He did to Nadal what Nadal does to everyone else. Chasing down every ball he forced Rafa to play two extra shots a point. That is Nadal's thing, it's what makes Nadal so hard to beat. Well Rafa's patent on that skill expired and Djokovic executed like a man on a mission. Sure, in the third set we saw signs of the Rafa we know and love, but it was Djokovic's day. The new world number one is not going to give up his spot easily and not since Nadal came on to rival Roger has there been something as good as this for men's tennis.
Andy Murray- Sorry buddy but I don't think you are going to win a grand slam. The tennis world is lucky that Roger and Rafa let a third person in to their private kingdom. Djokovic grabbed the opportunity with two hands, you didn't. Don't fret, you will always be more popular than all three combined at Wimbledon.
Kvitova- Her body language in the final was that of a seasoned champion. Her game was even better. It seemed as if Sharapova, who is in good form, didn't have a shot. What was amazing about Kvitova was that through the match she showed no emotion. Even her celebration after her victory was relatively subdued for someone who just won Wimbledon. Her emotions are in full control, I definitely don't want her at my poker game. It was a pity to see Sharapova lose considering the effort she has taken to make a comeback but she wasn't in the match from very early on. Always great to see a new champion, especially such a humble one
Tomic- Talking about new players how about Bernard Tomic? For those of us who are looking for some new blood in the sport beyond the top three the kid got us excited. Of course he has 2-3 years before he makes his mark but to take a set from the number one player in the world when you are just 18 is a great sign. I just hope he doesn't disappear from the scene as many young promising stars have done in the past. For a traditional tennis champion producing country like Australia, they need him to be the next star of the game. They have been waiting for a while, Hewitt faded sometime back.
My Predictions- I picked Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Need I say more.
One last thought. For those Federer fans who are angry and upset he lost, don't be. He played great tennis, he was just outplayed. No one was beating Tsonga that day.
This post was first posted at GQ india http://www.gqindia.com/content/wimbledon-finals-no-one-predictedRead more!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Last year these two played the longest tennis match in history in the first round. The fact that they drew each other again in the first round is so improbable that the media has gone wild. Get ready to be disappointed. I have no doubt this one is going to be a snooze fest.
Prediction: Isner will close out the match in three sets.
The Williams Sisters
Even if they’re playing on crutches, you’d still pick one of the William sisters to win at SW19. They have clinched 9 out of the past 11, with Venus winning 5 and Serena taking the other 4. Their hold on the tournament seems as unshakeable as ever, and there’s nothing like sibling rivalry to spur them both to greater heights.
Prediction: Serena takes it this year to tie her sister with 5 titles.
The Indian Contingent
In the first round, Somdev, ranked 68th in the world, will face the 110th ranked player and Sania, ranked 60th, will play the 98th ranked player. Excellent news: both should reach the second round. After that, though, Somdev will probably face 18th seed Mikhail Youzhny and Sania will do what she does best in the second round – crash out. Look out for her in doubles, she won’t win it, but will go far. Meanwhile Paes-Bhupati have had some decent runs but not looked in good enough form to win this year. This is a big tournament for them as they try to salvage an average 2011.
Prediction: Somdev and Sania lose in the second round. Paes-Bhupati and Sania-Elena both reach the semi finals.
No Englishman since Fred Perry…
Just how many times are we going to hear this statement in the next two weeks? The English are so desperate to have a Wimbledon winner that they made a legend out of player who never even reached a final and was average at best, Tim Henman.
Now they have adopted Scotsman Andy Murray to keep the hope alive, and although Murray is no ordinary player, I’m not convinced that he has the game to win a big one. He shouldn’t feel bad though, I am sure the English will name a hill after him – plenty are already have switched the name of Henman Hill (a favourite spectator spot in the tennis club grounds) to Murray Mound.
Prediction: Murray loses in the semis to Rafa.
Here we go again. Let me start by saying I’m not giving Djokovic a chance to win. I think Roger will beat him in the semis and we’ll be left with another classic final. Nadal played only one good match at the French Open and it turned out to be the most important one. Looking great through the tournament Roger played only one not so good match at the tournament and it turned out to be the most important one. Grass is different. Federer has been sounding confident and is playing some great tennis. For the first time in a while he sounds like he has a point to prove. After 16 Grand Slams it’s amazing he still feels this way, but that’s what makes it exciting.
Nadal sees Roger at the other end of the court and plays tennis that leaves you gasping at every point. It takes a brave soul or a foolish man to bet against Nadal, and I’m probably both. It’s going to be a humdinger.
Prediction: Roger Federer
I hate Roger Federer. He raises my blood pressure, causes stress, the occasional sleepless night and makes Sunday evenings horrible. I’m just recovering from the French Open and here comes Wimbledon.
Just before the final at Roland Garros started I said, “I can’t hack a 5 set match. I hope it doesn’t go there.” I got berated by a friend, “What do you mean you can’t hack it? If you don’t want to watch it, don’t.”
Then there were others who said, “I hope it’s a close one. Will be fun.”
Will be fun? Getting an ulcer is fun? Heart skipping beats is fun?
There were those who before the tournament even started said another Roger-Rafa final “would be amazing.” I felt like knocking them on the head with a club.
Sorry, I can’t take it anymore.
The surgeon general needs to show a warning to Roger fans that watching his matches will cut a couple of months off your life expectancy.
Roger is a tease and an emotional roller coaster that few can handle. He goes up 5-2 and then loses the set. He wins the third set, has three
break points in the opening game of the fourth and then loses the game.
He sets you up and you don’t even know it. At first he looks brilliant: you start high fiving your friends, rag on the Rafa fans and shout like your own kid is about to shake hands with the Duke.
Then he takes you down. A miss-hit that sees the ball flying in to the crowd, an easy volley netted and suddenly you start shouting “Why does he do this?”
Mirka Federer puts her face between her hands and you do the same. That's why I hate Roger Federer.
Sure, he is the greatest ever to play the game. The way he glides on any surface makes you wonder if he’s putting in any effort at all. Sometimes the angles he hits the ball are unseen on a tennis court. But is this worth risking your health for?
Sure, I own 3 different RF caps, but what does it matter? He’s still a thorn in my Sunday.
When the Federer-Djokovic semi final at the French was done I was running around my house screaming with excitement. I felt the sun was shining for the first time in a while – until I realized that I would be sick to my stomach two days later thanks to the final.
Wimbledon starts next week. Am I going to cheer for him? Hope he goes all the way? Cry if he loses, shout if he wins? Cringe when he miss hits, high-five after a winner?
You’re damn right I am. But I still hate Roger Federer.
This piece was first published at www.gqindia.comRead more!