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Bollywood Strangling Sports

The Olympics are around the corner and to build up the excitement the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) named Salman Khan aka Bhai the ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ for this edition of the games. Now Bhai is a beloved character and has  endless fan following but is this a joke? Is the decision of someone who has nothing to do with sports being made the ambassador of International level games justified? Is he fit to play the role?

Ambassadors are made to inspire the sports persons, who will compete for the nation. What inspiration can Salman provide? The Olympics are a test of grit and determination to succeed in extremely competitive environment in the international arena, the inspiration that the players require should be someone who has felt the pressure, has been through this, one who has achieved for the country, the players need someone from the sports community to lead them. There is no dearth of such sporting personalities be it Milkha Singh, Leander Paes, Dhanraj Pillay or Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal or Mary Kom who have popularized and encouraged scores of girls into joining sports. If none of the above Sachin Tendulkar could have been a better suited Ambassador. Yes, cricket is not an Olympic sport but the Bharat Ratna winner has inspired many and is a legit sports personality.

This decision by the IOA has got a lot of flak from the sporting community. Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt took to Twitter with fervour demanding the need for a “Goodwill Ambassador.” Legendary athlete Milkha Singh also joined in condemning the IOA’s decision calling it ‘unfair’ and asked the government to intervene.

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With the games around the corner the IOA should be focussing all their energies in catering to the needs of the athletes instead of making controversial decisions that tick them off.

The appointment of Salman Khan reflects how our country is obsessed with Bollywood. This is not the first time such an incident has happened, in fact it’s a regular feat be it the opening and closing ceremony of the IPL, the world cups or even the recently started International Premier Tennis League where giants like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Pete Samparas were considered not enough and Bollywood celebs like Deepika Padukone and Amir Khan were called in. A Tennis fan would have felt utterly humiliated after watching Amir Khan’s cringe inducing antiques with the tennis racquet in front of tennis giants that day.

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As a keen follower of sports I find this obsession with Bollywood absolutely insulting to sports. It is sad to see sports being overshadowed by Bollywood in India. Yes, we love our film industry but that doesn’t mean we have to drag it everywhere. 

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#Kohli’fied

Virat Kohli has become synonymous with Indian cricket in the past month. The one man army, it was he who kept  the Indian batting alive in the World Cup.  He seems to be possessing the Midas touch of late, be it any format of the game, he stamps his authority with ease. He is the most technically sound and an utterly fearless player today. But the best quality about him is he relies on sacred cricketing shots. He is neither a six hitter like Dhoni or Gayle nor does he rely on unconventional, unimaginable shots that AB de Villiers plays in T20/ODI cricket. Many considered these shots to be a necessity to succeed in T20, but Kohli proves them wrong. He has established himself as the best in T20 purely on technique. His cover drives, silken flicks and pull shots are a sight to behold.

Kohli’s unique techniques leaves the opposition frustrated. With the a combination of bat speed and strong flexible wrists Kohli creates extraordinary angles that defeat field placements. What’s inspiring is that Kohli was not born with these abilities, he worked hard for them. He was aware of his shortcomings as a player, he consciously made an effort to recognise them and remove them successfully. It is hard to believe that someone who plays the most exquisite cover drives was once a predominantly onside player. Evolving oneself by removing shortcomings is sign of a player who is destined for greatness and Kohli seems to be in cusp of greatness.

T20 World cup

Even though India didn’t win this world cup, it will remain in the heart of every cricket loving Indian as a happy memory. It was  during this world cup that one man wooed even his staunch haters. What he did was beyond magical, pulling of wins for India single-handedly. He gave it all for the team, requested the audience to cheer for the team instead of him, took responsibility for losing his wicket against New Zealand. Long gone are his days of filthily cussing. He has started owning up to his responsibilities as a team member and as a captain.

There are occasions when it sinks slowly into our consciousness that we are watching something special, something that happens rarely, extraordinary and beyond normal human effort and that we are simply lucky to be watching it. Kohli’s knock against Australia in the ‘virtual’ quarter final was precisely that. It was unbelievable. Like a surgeon who dissects his patient meticulously, Kohli dissected the Australian bowlers. He was patient yet aggressive showed perseverance and scads of passion. When India won he fell to his knees, emotionally and physically exhausted, he gave it all he had.

The New Sachin?

Kohli always says Sachin is his hero and he wants to be like him and many have started comparing the two  but labelling him as Sachin is wrong, for both of them are  unique. We always want to be our heroes, we believe in them, follow them but one day we become a hero ourselves and that is the best tribute we can give to our heroes. Virat Kohli has already become a hero, a hero different from Tendulkar. He now leads a generation that believes in him just like he did in Sachin and that is where the similarity ends. Sachin is God but India is home to many Gods..maybe we are witnessing the rise of a new one.

Electric England beat Star-crossed South Africa

The stage was set, Wankhede stood in all its glory for one of the two teams to make an impact.  On the one hand was England, who  were trying to recover from the humiliating loss to West Indies, they had to win this match to stay alive in the tournament. On the other hand were perennial favourites- South Africa. A team that spent 72 days touring India last year, a team that enjoys almost home like support in India. Everyone thought it would be South Africa, but fate had a different script in mind.

Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock provided a thunderous start to the innings. JP Duminy and the remaining players followed suit and the Proteas set a mammoth target of 230 runs. As soon as the last ball was bowled most of us had already written off England. But we were proved wrong. England had not come to be written off, they were here to cross the sea of runs and Joe Root turned out to be their Moses.  Jason Roy started the English innings smashing 3 sixes and 5 fours, but a Kyle Abbott delivery marked the end of his innings. In walked Joe Root, he  was a man on a mission, at one point it seemed every ball he touched reached the boundary. Root’s  game was a perfect blend of orthodox and innovative shots. The South Africans bled runs everywhere. It also didn’t help that they gave 26 extras.

South Africa had essentially lost the match around the 15th over. The body language and demeanour of the players said it all.  They started miss fielding! South African’s  miss fielding! Dale Steyn leaked runs, Chris Morris cursed himself after getting hit for boundaries, Abbott threw wides , all these  visible signs of frustrations. Protea Fire fizzled out, it fizzled out bad. It was classic South Africa, they had lost the match before losing it.  But something unusual happened, as the last over approached. There was a change, suddenly there was an urgency in the South Africans to give it all they had, to win, they tightened the fielding, their bowling improved. They managed to get two wickets in two balls, but alas it was too late, England just needed one run to win and they got it. Had South Africa shown more of the character they showed in the last over throughout the innings , it would have been an easy win for them.   Joe Root’s anchoring innings will go down in T20 history as one of the finest. As for South Africa, this match  will join the list of those ‘unlucky ones’.

Lodha panel set to revolutionize, but will BCCI comply?

In a country where cricket is a religion it is sad to see that corruption has seeped to its core  making it impure and satanic. The 2013 IPL spot fixing being the biggest crisis to hit the cricket governing body in India-  Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). The racquet involved players, officials, and team owners.  This is not the first time BCCI was involved in a scandal, with corruption penetrating so deep that many now rightfully refer to it as the Board of Cricket Corruption in India.

Efforts  made to ameliorate this body in the past have failed. In fresh attempts  to clean the muck spread by BCCI the Supreme Court of India set up a three-member panel, headed by Justice (Retd) R M Lodha in 2015 to improve cricket administration. The committee has foremost demanded transparency in the functioning of the BCCI.  A plea to bring BCCI under the  Right to Information (RTI) Act has been made. New criteria to be elected as an officer-bearer with the BCCI has also been proposed. Ministers and government official have been barred from holding a position in the body, an age limit of 70 years has been set along with a fixed tenure. Other recommendations include legalising betting and having two different bodies governing the IPL and BCCI along with appointment of three special officers – Ethics and Electoral officers and an ombudsman.

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The recommendations have hit the BCCI and State Cricket Associations like a sledgehammer. The panel has made it clear that in order to make the institution work individual interests will have to be given up. The recommendations look revolutionary on paper, set to eradicate all corrupt elements from the administration of this sacred sport. But it is important to note that these are  just suggestions that are not legally binding the BCCI to implement them.

The attempt to bring the BCCI under RTI is not new one, in 2011 sports minister Ajay Maken’s attempt to bring the BCCI under RTI with National Sports Development Bill went futile as several Cabinet minister in the then government had deep roots in the BCCI themselves .With an obscure amount of money flowing in this private body the  BCCI is like that hen laying golden eggs for anyone who gets involved with this institution. So we are back to square one as it is up to BCCI’s conscience to clean up their act. 

Zaheer retires ‘hurt’

Inswing, out swing, reverse swing, yorkers and bouncers Zaheer Khan could bowl them all. When Zaheer Khan limped off the field at Lords on the first day of the first Test in 2011, Sanjay Manjrekar called it as ‘India’s worst nightmare come true.’ Although India had a strong batting line up the series resulted in a 4-0 whitewash. The series was one of the best examples of how valuable Zaheer  was to the Indian cricket team.

Khan made his debut in 2000 at the ICC Knock Out Trophy in Kenya and immediately made his mark. It was on the back of some of his excellent bowling spells like the 4 wicket haul against New Zealand which led India to the finals of the 2003 ICC World Cup. The highest point in Khan’s career, was the 2011 World Cup where he was the joint-highest wicket-taker and was instrumental in India’s victory. He burnt away all his demons of the 2003 World cup.

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For a nation which saw a line of brilliant batsmen, Zaheer Khan was one bowler who thoroughly dominated the sport. A master of bowling fast inch perfect yorkers along with impeccable control over line length, made Khan a class apart. With his 610 international wickets,282 in ODI and 311 in Test he brought a much needed confidence into the Indian bowling attack. His control over the game in crucial situations often snatched victories for India.

Khan’s final figures in test of 311 wickets at 32.94 and a strike rate of 60.4,do not do justice to his form from 2007-2011. During this brilliant four and a half year period he captured 144 wickets at 27.90, along with 7 five wicket hauls. Although his average is slightly inferior to Kapil Dev and Jawagal Sreenath. Yet, during his zenith. He was among the top bracket of Test bowlers, closer to the pinnacle than either Kapil or Sreenath had managed during their respective peaks.

Specs of injuries throughout his career have been a major obstacle but Zaheer Khan has always faced them with dignity and determination always coming back with a bang. We all wish we could see him bowl one more time in that Indian jersey but unfortunately Khan has already played his last ODI match in 2012 in Sri Lanka and his last Test was in early 2014 in New Zealand. But we will see him bowl one last time in the ninth season of the Indian Premier League. Zaheer Khan was unquestionably the best Indian pacer India saw in the last two decades and it will indeed be difficult to fill the void he left.

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