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Goliath meets match in Guyana April 8, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Cricket.
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Shock upsets are inevitable, especially in an event such as the Cricket World Cup. But cricket found the least unlikely contenders at the centre stage of one of the greatest upsets in the history of One-Day International Cricket at a Super 8 match at Guyana yesterday. The erstwhile minnows of international cricket, upcoming ‘David’ – Bangladesh, placed ninth in ICC rankings turned the apple cart against South Africa, ranked the world’s best team and a very strong contender for the 2007 ICC World Cup. The Bangladeshi tiger cubs rattled a comprehensive 67-run victory against the Proteas – totally outclassing them in all the departments of the game, and changing the complexion of the remaining Super 8 matches. Now, West Indies and England have been given a chance to fight for a semi-final berth, while South Africa have been chortled and brought back to terra firma – the spectre of the choker tag never seems to desert them. Giant killing Bangladesh seems to be the silver lining in this otherwise lacklustre tournament, dominated by Australia and conspicuous by the early exit of over-rated India and mercurial Pakistan. Underdogs such as Ireland and Bangladesh have shown cricketing excellence is not anyone’s fiefdom.
Coach Dav Whatmore, the Midas man behind Bangladesh’s dream run, is currently in the reckoning to be Team India’s next coach. It will be very interesting to watch out for future developments. If he does get the job, I’m sure that B’desh’s loss would very much be India’s gain.

Here’s a quick look at a few common traits seen in some of the better performing teams playing in this World Cup:
1. The ability to enjoy the game as a team
2. Outstanding fielding standards
3. Not relying on a single individual as a match winner – depending on every player to contribute on the field
4. Ability to put pressure on competition, especially if they are on top
5. Supreme fitness – explains why players like Sanath Jayasuriya are still ruling the roost

Super Eight Standings as of today
Team MP W L PCF Pts NRR
AUS 3 3 0 2 6 +2.01
SRI 4 3 1 2 6 +1.55
NZL 3 3 0 2 6 +1.44
RSA 4 2 2 0 4 -0.63
ENG 3 1 2 0 2 +0.02
WIN 4 1 3 2 2 -1.18
BAN 4 1 3 0 2 -1.78
IRE 3 0 3 0 0 -0.93

The Blue Billion Grieves; I watch 300, Desamuduru & Detective March 24, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Cricket, Movies.
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So the Men in Blue are effectively out of the World Cup, thanks to their disastrous performance against Sri Lanka yesterday. A lot on rely on the upcoming Bermuda vs. Bangladesh match – if the Bermudans manage to upset the rollicking Bangladeshi apple cart, Indian paper tigers can squeeze into the Super Eights through the back door. Highly unlikely, I say.
The team’s performance from the start has been disappointing – they started their campaign on the wrong note when they got mauled by giant-killing Bangladesh, before managing a consolation win over minnows Bermuda, before getting thumped in the bollocks by a rip roaring Lankan Lions.
I never expected or hoped India to bring home the World Cup, for that matter they were not even probable semi-finalists. Simply because, India has never looked like a professional cricketing team in recent times. At best, it’s just a motley crew of 11 individuals, stalwarts in their right, who basically follow the ‘all or none law’ in their game – either they all play well or they all play like hell. The ‘men in blue’ seemed to be senile tigers on the field, lacking in energy, discipline, temperament or enthusiasm and rather so full of inertia. The only time I have seen them perform well is in the stupid commercial endorsements they wholeheartedly give their ‘mind, body, soul and heart’ to.
I know that cricket’s just a game and that there is so much pressure on the boys to perform and the entire expectations of a billion fans rests on their puny shoulders – fine – but if you can’t perform on the big stage, if you cant handle the pressure, I think you oughta sit outside the game.
A few recommendations to better cricket in India – give voluntary retirement to all our cricketing heroes who have crossed 30 – we have had enough with their ‘experience’; put a ceiling to the amount of money these ‘players’ are earning out of their endorsements – did you know that they are the highest-paid sports team in the world, in terms of sponsorship – and no tax waivers please; and improve the domestic cricket system to allow more competitive domestic players don the national colours in the international arena.
Since Chappell took over from his predecessor John Wright, India has won 32 out of 62 ODIs and 7of the 18 Test matches. Hopefully BCCI should look for a good cricketing coach from the land of a blue billion, who is competent enough to ‘coach’ this team. May be that is the greatest tragedy to have befallen Indian cricket, after all the great Indian coach is an elusive being, and not to be found in a land in need of real heroes.
A quick word to our nation’s bike, biscuit and cola sellers – if you are banking on this bunch of losers to sell your stuff, then please be aware that me as a consumer has already started doubting the quality of your products, cuz after all they are your brand ambassadors who stand for what you sell, right?

On a better note, I watched ‘300‘ (English) with a friend at Ruwi Cinema yesterday. Never seen such a kick-ass ‘war’ movie off late. Inspired by a graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is based on the epic battle of Thermopylae, where Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fight to the last man against Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his army of more than one million soldiers, while in Sparta, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) attempts to rally support for her husband. The are pluses aplenty in 300 – free flowing blood and gore, thrilling action sequences, captivating photography, the terse narration by the Spartan soldier Dilios (David Wenham) and a stirring background score. I’m now hunting for 300’s OST by Tyler Bates. 300 is one of the best flicks out in Muscat this year.

Also watched Telugu flick ‘Desamuduru‘, written and directed by Puri Jagannadh, at Star Cinema. Allu Arjun (nephew of Tollywood megastars Pawan Kalyan and Chiranjeevi) and Hansika Motwani star in this flick with a plot that goes like – freak out TV journalist Bala Govind (Allu Arjun) gets into a skirmish with a band of Tamilian goons, retreats to Kulu Manali to escape their vendetta, falls in love with Vaishali (Hansika), a young damsel who is living the life of a hermit, hero falls in love, and then it turns that our hermit heroine is connected to the band of goons who then take her back to Hyderabad and then it is all left for the wonderboy to shut shop on villains and get the groove going with his lady love. Oops. You will like Desamuduru for Allu Arjun’s fight and dance scenes, and of course Rambha’s try at an item number – also I quite liked Puri Jagannadh’s opening credits in this movie – where the man on the street picks his favourite Tollywood hero – before launching Allu.

I also watched Suresh Gopi’s latest Malayalam flick – ‘Detective’ at Star Cinema – highly recommended for all Scotland Yard sleuths out there, the rest of you can probably go for a walk in the park – would be more productive that staying holed up in a theatre trying to come to terms with this crime/suspense/thriller pot-boiler.

Tribute to Bob Woolmer March 19, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Cricket.
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He was one of the finest personalities in international cricket and an outstanding coach. He’s going to be terribly missed by everyone with a love for the game of willow. May his soul rest in peace. Here’s a compendium of fast facts on the life of Bob Woolmer.

1. He was born as Robert Andrew Woolmer, on May 14, 1948 at Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. He is the son of Clarence Woolmer, a cricketer who played Ranji Trophy for United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh).
2. He made 1059 runs at 33.09 in Tests, with three hundreds, and also took four wickets at 74.75. In all first-class cricket, mainly with Kent but also in South African state cricket, he scored 15772 runs at 33.55 and took 420 wickets at 25.87.
3. In 1959, as an 11-year-old schoolboy, he watched Hanif Mohammed score 499 for Karachi. In 1999, he was in the dressing room when Brian Lara scored 501* to break Hanif’s record. He is one of the very few people to have seen both innings live.
4. In 1975, he was selected for England’s first World Cup squad, but broke his hand the day before the tournament started. He ended up being the 12th man.
5. He was a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1976.
6. A respected all rounder at first class level who played for Kent and South African provinces Natal and Western Province, Woolmer also played 19 Tests and six one-day internationals for England between 1975 and 1981.
7. He was among the game’s more free-thinking coaches, a reputation he earned first with Warwickshire and then confirmed during his five years at the helm of the South African national team.
8. As a coach he pioneered the use of computers and technology in the dressing room, especially to keep track of how the opposition batsmen scored their runs.
9. With him as their coach, Warwickshire won three of the four domestic trophies on offer in England in 1994.
10. He coached South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and during his tenure the team had won 83 of their 117 one-day internationals – a winning percentage of 72.80 – and 10 of the 15 Test series they contested.