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EPL: Week 19

In Highlights@EPL on December 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Liverpool -v/s- Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manchester City -v/s- Stoke city

Arsenal -v/s- Aston Villa

Birmingham City -v/s- Chelsea

West Ham United -v/s- Portsmouth

Wigan Athletic -v/s- Blackburn Rovers

Sunderland -v/s- Everton

Hull city -v/s- Manchester United

Burnley -v/s- Bolton

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India Vs SriLanka 4th ODI

In Highlights@Cricket on December 25, 2009 at 1:56 am

Rise of an Angry Young Man

In Cricket on December 22, 2009 at 2:55 am

The transition of Gambhir, from a batsmen lacking in temperament into a composed one, is quite compelling. Rewind your mind to the middle of this decade and you would do well to recollect a pace mens mantra to dismiss Gambhir. Ruffle him up with a couple of bouncers, get him fired, slant one across and he would invariably nick the ball. This plan of action had proved to be the downfall of Gambhir on more than a few occasions. A few years later at Napier, against the Kiwis, the same batsmen would spend a staggering 643 minutes at the crease, score a century and save the test match for India. This innings turned out to be a critical one, in terms of that series, as India eventually won 1-0.

Gambhir made his first class debut at the age of 18. He made an immediate impact on the domestic circuit playing for Delhi and caught the eye of selectors. As often is the case in India, fortunately or unfortunately, cricketers get thrown into the cauldron of International circuit at a tender age. Gambhir, whose case was no different, put on the Indian colours for the first time at the age of 21. Thereafter, he struggled to make an impact in both the longer and shorter versions of the game. Few doubted his talent, but it was the lack of temperament and consistency at the International level that was his undoing. Being devoid of an extended run in national the team didn’t help matters.

The year 2007 proved paramount to Gambhirs career. He would score a century each in the semis and finals of Ranji trophy and guide Delhi to their first Ranji trophy title in 16 years. With the seniors opting out of the 1st T20 WC, Gambhir, at the international level, was given another chance to prove his mettle. And this time around there was no let up. In fact, he was second only to Hayden in the run scoring list. A pull of Shane Bond over deep mid-wicket, that went 20 rows back, has been etched in my mind. Here was a batsmen who was up for the challenge and was having none of the short stuff. The tournament was rounded off with a well compiled half-century in the final against arch-rivals Pakistan, which helped India win the inaugural T20 cup. The efforts put in by Gambhir, in the domestic circuit, helped improve his temperament for the International game and this fact should not be lost.

The progress of Gambhir should be a lesson for both the domestic batsmen and selectors alike.

The appointment of Dhoni as the captain of team India was a blessing in disguise for Gambhir. Dhoni was instrumental in the omission of Dravid and Ganguly for the ODI leg of the ’07 Australian Tour. As a result, Gambhir found himself a ticket to Australia. Dhoni assured Gambhir of his place in the team, which in turn did a world of good to his confidence. India won the tri-nation tournament with Gambhir amassing over 400 runs, including two centuries. From this point onwards there was no looking back for the Delhi opener. Wasim Jaffer’s abysmal performance both in Australia and the subsequent home series against SA opened the door to test cricket, once again, for Gambhir. This chance was grabbed with both hands. He was awarded the ICC test player of the year 2009, for his exceptional performances against the Aussies at home and NZ away.

Gambhir (Right) did not let down Dhoni (left) by scoring consistently and cementing his place in the national team.

The success of Gambhir’s parternship with Sehwag has been well documented. After years of chopping and changing, India have finally found an opening pair of international standard. The ability to not get carried away or overawed with the presence of Sehwag  is an admirable quality of Gambhir. Critics are still out citing his lack of test cricket in Australia and South Africa. But, his performances over the last two years have given hope for future endeavors in these countries. For the moment, people must sit back and enjoy the success of Gambhir.

EPL: WEEK 18

In Highlights@EPL on December 22, 2009 at 2:00 am

Fulham -v/s- Manchester United

West Ham United -v/s- Chelsea

Arsenal -v/s- Hull City

Portsmouth -v/s- Liverpool

Everton -v/s- Birmingham City

Wolverhampton Wanderers -v/s- Burnley

Aston Villa -v/s- Stoke City

Blackburn Rovers -v/s- Tottenham Hotspur

Manchester City -v/s-  Sunderland

09/10 EPL: A Season Like Never Before?

In Soccer on November 24, 2009 at 6:50 am

Just three months into another season of the English Premier league, and it has been mouth watering to say the least. A lot of hype had surrounded the start of this season. Can United cope with the loss of Tevez and Ronaldo? Will this be the year when Liverpool break their 20 year old draught? Or the money flowing from the oil wells of Dubai (Source of Man city funds) break open the walls for an entry into the top four? So far from the look of it, nothing has been answered.

While the focus has been primarily on the above mentioned clubs, Chelsea have quietly taken top spot. Ancelotti has found a way to make Drogba and Anelka play together. And this is paying him rich dividends. The Ivory coast striker is in the form of his life and will be keen to make amends for the last few seasons.  But surely they cannot take any thing for granted, ’cause a United side (with or without CR9) is a force to reckon with.

The odds definitely are favouring Chelsea, but only a fool will write off United’s chances. Both  the teams must spend in the January transfer window. United must find a playmaker in the midfield.The kind who can change a tight game, the ones that happen between the top clubs. All said and done, it is going to be Wayne Rooney (Remember the name) who is critical to the hopes of both United and England.

Liverpool are not going to win the league. End of discussion. The most they can hope for is a 4th place finish, which I highly doubt. Apart from City, you have Aston Villa and Tottenham gunning for the coveted Champions league spot. It is going to be a battle to watch out for.

That leaves us with just one of the so-called ‘ Top Four’ teams. Yeah, you have guessed it right, Arsenal. What of this team? It is called the Barcelona of England. But, five fruitless years has left their fans in tears. They have in their ranks the signing of the season, so far, Vermaelen. A tough uncompromising defender, who apparently has a knack of scoring goals too. Provided they have an injury free squad, Arsenal have it in them to finally get the trophy back to London. Wenger will be hoping that, this year, his boys become men.

United lost points to Burnley, Chelsea to Wigan, Arsenal to Sunderland and Liverpool have lost them everywhere. Its results like these that make this season a unique, unpredictable and exciting one.  The season is in its infancy and it can only get better. I hope, come May’10, I would not have to eat my words.

A friend of mine once compared the league to the epic series ‘MAHABHARATH’. Well, the battle has truly begun!