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Exciting Season Beckons…

In Formula1 on March 10, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Looking at the preseason testing results, I cant help but say one of the drivers of the top 4 teams is going to finish low in points at the end of the race which according to me is all the ingredients in the making of an exciting season for the F1 enthusiasts though very annoying for the championship potential drivers. For the first time after 1993, refueling is not allowed in the race and this makes things even more interesting. The points system is also in for a revamp with the points extending to the 10th place rewarding two more cars. I feel this would encourage the smaller teams whose goal mainly was to survive all the races will change to finishing inside the top 10. The points in decreasing order are 25,18,15,12,10,8,6,4,2,1. Lets take a quick look at the potential championship winning teams/drivers and the teams which are crucial in breaking away the points from them.

The teams which are in contention for the constructors championship this year are McLarenF1, Scuderia Ferrari, Red bull Racing and Mercedes Grand Prix. Yes, there are 4 contenders. The preseason testing separates each other by 0.4 a sec on an average and the rest of the pack by 2.5 considering all the 4 days at Barcelona.

McLarenF1 :  The fastest car among the other teams, Lewis stands strong this season with everybody’s money on him. With the inclusion of the current champion Button, Mclaren looks power packed with a strong car and an all British team. But we had seen this before with Kimi-Montoya montage and all hyped up British media. Will the duo break the British jinx of self hyped second place results? will Button-Lewis marriage live up to the preseason hype? only results but not time will reveal.

Scuderia Ferrari : After the forgettable drive at Mclaren and two seasons with an average car, Alonso looked solid at the testing with the Ferrari. Coming back from the injury, Massa was at his regular ever improving best. After poor showing in the initial races last season, ferrari solely worked on the 2010 car ignoring upgrades to their last year car. They started from scratch to build the new F10. Ferrari will also be resuming the traffic light system for the pit stops after a debacle at the Singapore GP in 2008, which costed Massa the race and the outcome would have been different for the constructors championship. The F10 looks promising and with the lineup of Mass-Alonso, nothing can separate it from McLaren in their chances.

Redbull Racing: With Victory in the Last three races of the 2009 season, Redbull looks to carry their momentum into the 2010 season with some strong showing in the preseason testing by Webber and “baby schumi” Vettel. The RBR team had a strong car but not a competitive engine in the beginning of the season last year. But the prodigious Vettel took the driver championship fight till the last race which just speaks for the team’s development program. The qualifying  specialist Mark Webber looks to relieve himself of this tag as he showed good promise in the preseason testing but again he is a specialist in getting those times, so we cant bet anything on Webber’s driver championship chances. With Renault set to make up for their under performing engine from 2009, RBR team is a strong contender for the Constructors and the Driver’s title, though I can strongly say that only Vettel might give it all for the later.

Mercedes Grand Prix : The rain master chose to make his comeback with long time pal Ross Brawn’s formerly Brawn GP. The Mercedes car didn’t look ground breaking in the preseason testing and further disappointed many after the president in charge of the team said “I would not see our team in the role of favorites”.  The team aims at stronger races in the later part of the season but you never know with the Mercedes development program, they could spring few surprises with Michael Schumacher at the wheel. What disspointed me personally was that Nico Rosberg was given the drive ahead of Nick Heifeld who has ten f1 season under him with more podium finishes than Rosberg though both are yet to win a race. All in all this all-German team, looks more of a national outfit and the F1 2010 season like an Anglo-German showdown with the all British Mclaren F1 team. It would be interesting to see how these two teams fare by the end of the season as Mercedes still has a minor stake in McLaren F1 team.

The teams which might affect the title chances of the above 4 are BMW Sauber, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso. These  cars had pretty strong lap times in the preseason testing but have been very inconsistent.  I would say the three teams could have few strong finishes inside the top10 but I am not sure how the new Torro Rosso drivers would perform which could make all the difference in the title campaign of the top 4 teams. Watch out for Vitantonio Liuzzi and Pedro de la Rosa who return to the driver seats at Force India and BMW Sauber this year after being reserve drivers for the Force India and Mclaren respectively. Pedro now 38 years old set a record for driving highest number of miles for the Mclaren team, being a reserve driver from 2003-2009.

Come this 13th the incredible journey which crosses four continents begins where the rivlaries resume, the young ones turn great while the great one returns. This season will be like never before where a  prediction might become a mere speculation. I will leave you with a preview of the 1st race of the season with Mark Webber – the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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Shopping time…

In Cricket on January 19, 2010 at 1:00 am

With just over 50 days remaining for the third edition of cricket’s commercial extravaganza, each of the eight teams want their share of the imports up for auction in the next couple of hours. We will have a breif look at the key players in their priced categories.

$20,ooo: Of the four players listed in this category, Ashley Noffke(considering the promise all through his injury rigged career) and Ryan ten Doeschate, the dutch star player would be good buys considering the lowest base price on them. Teams would rather wait for Weeraratne to perform on the bigger scene despite his name for big hitting abiities and being a decent bowling option.

$50,000: I would be interested in Welegedara, Luke Pomersbach, Clint McKay, Yusuf Abdulla, Tyron Henderson in the initial rounds over the rest of the pack considering their recent form and given their T20 reputation. I would wait on Darren Bravo to live upto his reputation rather make a premature investment on him.

$100,000: Shane Bond, Shakib Al Hassan, Wavell Hinds,  Jonathan Trott  might be the first round hot picks. It would be really interesting to see how the franchises plan on the Pakistani players considering the Indian Government’s Love-Hate ties with Pakistan. This is crucial as Rana Naved, Umar Gul,Abdur Razzaq, Mohd.Aamer are quality buys on any given day.

$200,000: The Self Proclaimed king (at least on the scalp :p) of T20, Keiron Pollard is the most talked about player in this auction. With his heroics in the Champions League, it would be a steal if the teams snatch him for $750,000 or less. Wayne Parnell, Eoin Morgon, Doug Bollinger would be on every team’s plate especially with Doug’s performance in the Chanpions league on the Indian Soil. I was not surprised with Mark Ramprakash’s inclusion in the auctoin with his healthy average in T20s ( just over 30), but would be really surprised if he is bought for more than $400,000.  Sohail Tanvir might miss out on his pay cut but lets wait and see how the teams decide on buying the imports from Pakistan.

$250,000: I was surprised to see  Graeme Swann in this bracket but not Keiron Pollard.  But considering the worst case Swann will pocket a bounty of $250,000 in the worst case considering the sum he earns in England. Lets wait and see on Afridi (another import from pakistan), but the teams looking for Haddin would be Mumbai and Rajasthan with the other teams already having a healthy bench for wicket keepers. This might not be a good news for Haddin considering his value versus the pay but most likely Mumbai might outbid Rajsathan considering Rajasthan’s cheap buys, thats what I am speculating on.

With just few more hours remaining, the results for the new editon of ” Who is the new Millionaire” will be out. Watch out for more on this space…

Countdown to 2011 WC

In Cricket on January 14, 2010 at 6:02 am

With 13 months to go for the cricket’s ultimate event (no definitely not the 20-20 WC), we will analyze how the Indian team’s composition looks like and look into the performances on cricketing front. Though there are reports of Wankhede being behind schedule and Delhi pitch under ICC’s scrutiny, I am confident BCCI will out up a great show as billions of dollars are at stake. Coming to the Indian team’s ODI performances, which doesn’t bother many as they feel if India lose this 2011 WC, BCCI can quickly arrange one more tourney and an Indian win will make sure it vanishes quickly from people’s memory.

Will this generation finally get to see an Indian win which so narrowly eluded us in 2003?

Let’s get into the main crux before it tires the readers, who are already bored of watching India play SL. The Indian team of late has looked like Champions in Bilateral series, almost winning every one, and chokers when it comes to series involving multiple nations. The last major ODI win for the Indian team, involving more than two nations, has been the CB series down under. Well the CB series can also be considered a mini version of bilateral as it involves the best of three finals. The point is the team seems to choke when it comes to a knock out match. Be it the high profile Champions trophy or the recently concluded (Forced upon) tri series in Bangladesh. I felt the players were literally dragged to the field as BCCI wanted to make sure its neighbors SL and Bangla never shifted sides. I agree Indians won a tri series in SL before Champions trophy, thanks to Sachin’s classy knock, but consistently Indians are not able to deliver the punch when its needed. This in spite the fact that the series in Bangla was a low profile series and there were hardly any pressure on the team to deliver unlike the normal. Fielding as always been our weak link but one felt with this line up of youth, it will only get better. But it’s been pathetic to say the least. Before we had safe fielders who will catch whatever comes to them, but this lot has serious problem in catching and even collecting the ball cleanly. Suddenly they field so well and the very next day they drop 5-6 catches. This inconsistency can easily affect the team when it comes to knock out matches.

Let’s now get into the likely probable 16 which India might field for the WC. I feel the team has created a pool of 16-17 players with right mix of youth and experience, which augurs well for 2011 WC. Its 13 months away and I feel the inexperienced ones like Jadeja, kohli, raina, tyagi etc will get to play 20 ODIs at least. The top 3 is settled with Sehwag, Sachin and Gambir. The middle order comprises of Yuvi, Dhoni, Raina (secured his place with a fine century at No.6 recently), Jadeja, Kohli. I feel this team has the right mix of right and left handers. The bowling department would ideally be Zaheer, Nehra, Sreesanth, Bhajji, Mishra, Tyagi, Ishant. I feel Ojha is extremely unlucky to miss out but Dhoni seems to be having trust on Jadeja and its difficult to imagine two left arm spinners in a playing 11. Now it comes to the final No.16 spot. I felt the team management made a mistake by not giving Rohit a chance to play in bangle tri series. He was coming into the team after an excellent 300 in a Ranji game and to make him sit was absurd. The toss up is between Rohit and Karthick. Maybe they might go in for an extra keeper which might give Karthick a nod ahead of Rohit, though I am not too satisfied with Karthick’s batting. Well there might be some changes to the team which I had mentioned depending on the form of some players, but I strongly feel at least 80% of the players should retain their places in the team which is a sign of a settled team. Moreover, I hope the team plays more ODI’s on subcontinent pitches before the WC.