Monday, 26 December 2011



The year 2011 has been a good year for sport all over. Especially if you are an Indian sports fan. This year we have seen some exceptional performances and some heart breaking ones. We have seen some stars become superstars and some fading away slowly. But most importantly, this year has shown us once again that sport is unpredictable and indomitable and that in sport victories or defeats don’t matter as much as the spirit. Here, Sportilligent picks the Top five sport moments of 2011 –


Nothing, I repeat nothing, can beat the high of your country winning the coveted World Cup. For me, India winning the World Cup has to be the moment of 2011. On the 2nd of April, 2011, in front of a packed Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a Nuwan Kulasekara delivery for a lofted six, a six that created history. India had won the World Cup! After 28 years and six failed attempts, India had finally brought back the Trophy home. In doing so, we became the third country after Australia and West Indies to win more than once and the first nation to win a World Cup on home soil. Every moment of that night is cherished Zaheer Khan’s early breakthroughs, Yuvraj Singh’s all-round show, Virat Kohli’s steady temperament and most importantly Gautam Gambhir’s tenacity and MS Dhoni’s sheer talent. Sri Lanka, the worthy opponents, put up a spirited performance setting a target of 274 runs aided by a classic Mahela Jayewardene century. In response, India lost both its openers to the wily Lasith Malinga. But then came Gambhir’s composed 97 and Dhoni’s combative 91 which saw India win by 6 wickets. The celebrations that ensued, the tears of joy, the screams, the victory lap, will forever be etched in my memory. Team India winning the World Cup will always be a special moment for India fans, first because it is our favorite sport cricket and secondly because this put to rest a hundred doubts about our ability and performance.


When it comes to tennis, 2011 was undoubtedly the year of the Djoker. Novak Djokovic played the game on a different level all together making this one of the best seasons in Men’s tennis. Coming into the year, nobody could have imagined such a tough competition for the top spot as a certain Swiss and Spaniard have always dominated it; but this Serb came up with an inspired show to end the year perched comfortably atop the ATP Ranking Table. Even though he diminished towards the fag end of the year and was unable to finish on a high, there is no taking away his spectacular form this year which actually gave way to a new term synonyms with Purple patch – “the Djokovic Patch. Here is some number crunching – In 2011 Djokovic has won three Grand Slams and ten ATP Titles, accumulating a record prize money of over 12 million; for the first seven months, he was unbeaten with another record-breaking 41-match winning streak; his final win-loss standing this year is 70-6, of which 5 matches have been lost only in the last 4 months of the year! Now that is what we call a performance


In 2010, he captured the imagination of the motorsport world becoming the youngest Formula 1 champion at only 23 years of age. In 2011 when he started his Title defense in style winning the season opening Australian GP. Since then there has been no looking back for 24-year old German Red Bull racing driver, Sebastian Vettel. Creating history is one of his many hobbies - in 2006 he became the youngest F1 driver to drive in a Grand Prix meeting, in 2008, aged 21 years, 2 months, 11 days, he became the youngest driver to win a F1 race at the Italian GP, in 2009 he became the youngest F1 Championship runner-up, in 210 he became the youngest F1 Champion and in 2011 he became the youngest F1 double Champion. His utter domination in 2011 has been a pleasure to watch winning 11 races with 15 pole positions. He may be only 24, but Seb Vettel is definitely a sporting legend in the making.


Confession: I don’t watch a lot of football. I follow it occasionally, especially during the major tournaments, but don’t avidly pursue it. The only time I will actually stay up at night and watch a football match is when Spain or Barcelona are playing the finals of the some tournament. Therefore Barca’s 3-1 victory in the UEFA Champion’s League 2011 is featured in my Top 5 sport moments. On the night of 28th May, Barcelona and Manchester United met at the Wembley Stadium in London to play what was called the repeat of the 2009 Rome finals which Barca had won 2-0. Barcelona dominated most of the match with Pedro Rodriguez starting off proceedings with a goal in the 27th minute, almost immediately Man Utd. star Wayne Rooney netted one past Valdes to level scores. When the second half of play started, however, Barcelona launched an attacking play with Lionel Messi scoring taking the lead in the 54th minute with a brilliant goal from 20 yards out, followed by some exceptional footwork by David Villa for the third goal in the 69th minute. The Red Devils were unable to recover from this onslaught and at the final whistle, Barcelona were crowed European Champions for the fourth time.
P.S. This victory catapulted Barca into the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World cup which they won as well, defeating Brazilian Club Santos 4-0.


The England cricket team started the year on a high winning the coveted Ashes on Australian soil. And as the year progressed, they kept going from strength to strength. The BBC Sports awards of the year winning team managed to become the strongest custodians of Test Cricket by playing and winning some amazing matches. Under the two Andy’s – Captain Andrew Strauss and Coach Andy Flower, England has become an impressive Test side, and the team to beat especially on home soil. For someone who is a Test cricket loyalist, it was satisfying to see a team playing the five-day format so dedicatedly, even if the team they were trashing was your favorite one. And after that one series called the Pataudi Trophy (I will not name the opponents!) they became the Number One Test team in the world, a no mean feat considering it is the pinnacle of glory in cricket occupied by only two teams before them.


On the 8th of December when Virender Sehwag smashes the West Indian bowlers all over the park at Indore, he not only broke the record for the highest Individual score in ODI cricket, he broke the boundaries between what is possible in cricket. The cricketing fraternity largely believed the Viru would be the first man to get to 200 but he was preceded by his guru, Sachin Tendulkar. As long as the record is with an India, both Tendulkar and Indian fans will be happy.

Roger Federer had one of the worst years of his career. For the first time in eight years he failed to win a single Grand Slam, his ranking plummeted to No 4 and his age reached the dreaded 30. Yet the fact that he is featured on this list is a tribute to his resilience and his sheer willpower. In the last three months of 2011 he showed exactly why he is called the Greatest Tennis player when he overcame physical and mental barriers to win three back-to-back Masters Titles including the prestigious season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. He looked fit, he looked hungry and he looked rearing to go. Surely 2012 augurs well for Federer fans.

After the disastrous organization of the Commonwealth games in 2012, the sporting world at large doubted India’s ability to hold a global sporting event. But the ambitious project of the Jaypee Group to built a world-class Formula 1 track in India and the efforts of the Indian sporting community to hoist a Grand prix bore fruit when on the 30th of October, India successfully flagged of the India GP at the Buddh International Circuit. This track, widely praised for its facilities and construction also won a prestigious FIA Awards for best new track. It was indeed a proud moment for Indian sport lovers.




Thursday, 15 December 2011



It is not a historic battle like the Ashes. It is not a neighbourly fight like the India-Pakistan or Australia- New Zealand series. It is not a clash for supremacy like India-England. But the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is no less a clash of the titans, especially when it is happening Down Under. The India-Australia rivalry occupies a special place in cricket. Ever since India halted Australia cavalry charge in 2001, India has become Australia’s biggest nemesis and India was the Final Frontier the Baggy Greens were desperate to capture. Of course they managed to finally win a Test series on Indian soil in 2004, but India is still to win a series Down Under. I believe that this upcoming series is the best chance India has to win a Test series in Australia.

Ever since the Border-Gavaskar Trophy came into existence in 1996, India and Australia have played each other nine six times, in India and thrice in Australia. Of these, India have won five series and Australia have won three.  Of course all these wins have come on Indian soil, the three times that India played in Australia, they were whitewashed, drew and lost. When India toured Australia in 1999, they were whitewashed 3-0 despite a brilliant performance by Sachin Tendulkar.

In 2003/2004 a new-look Team India went to Australia under their talismanic skipper Sourav Ganguly and Coach John Wright. Everybody believed that it was the best chance India had to defeat the Aussies at home. India came close with some fantastic cricket in the first Test at Brisbane studded with a Ganguly century and a Zaheer Khan five-for, but that Test ended in a draw. India then went on to register a historic 4-wicket win in the second Test at Adelaide with Rahul Dravid’s 233 and a six-wicket haul by Ajit Agarkar. But Australia won the next Test at Melbourne with comprehensive 9-wickets making the last Test at Sydney the decider. Unfortunately for India, Aussies fought out a draw despite a wonderful batting performance by India posting a target of over 700. Rahul Dravid was adjudged the Man of the Series for his fabulous batting performance. The series saw some of India’s best performances as a team in Test cricket and it was indeed disappointing to see it end in a draw.

In 2007-2008 India went Down Under with a new captain at the helm, the indomitable Anil Kumble for a series that is sadly remembered more for controversy than cricket. India lost that series 2-1 with Brett Lee being awarded the man of the Series for his 24 wickets. Australia won the first Test at Melbourne comfortably by 337 runs with India getting bowled out under 200 twice. The second Test at Sydney also went to Australia by 122 runs who took an unassailable lead. However this Test was marred by the ugly Monkeygate Scandal and even worse, the horrendous umpiring errors. India managed to wipe out the negativity and win the third Test at Perth by 72 runs, a truly terrific performance at the bouncy WACA.  The fourth Test at Adelaide petered down to a draw. Australia may have regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, but this series lost them some respect.

This time around, however, things are different. A lot has changed in world of cricket since that tour four years back.  Australia are no longer invincible or considered outright favorites to win any Test series, even on their home soil. There can be no other opportunity as good as this for India to accomplish the much coveted Test series win in Australia. Following are the some of the reasons I believe that India can win this Test series down Under –

1.      Australia are no longer the Number One ranked team in the world. They have lost their stronghold in Test cricket. India has snatched the title from them in 2009 and then England took over this year. The fact that they are not at the helm of the game will surely rankle Australia, especially when playing against India to whom they lost their position.

2.      The stars of the Australian team have all faded. The Australian team has never really recovered from the retirement of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and more recently Brett Lee. To add to their woes, no young players have been able to fill in the void left by the seniors. Not a single player has managed to become a consistent match-winner.

3.      The current Australian team has been plagued with injuries. Strike bowler Mitchell Johnson is already ruled out, newly discovered talent Pat Cummins is also sidelined, Ryan Harris is suffering from niggles; this is big blow for the bowling department. To add to this, Shaun Marsh may not recover in time for the first Test. But what makes it worse is the fact that their Trump card, Shane Watson is coming back from an injury which could seriously affect his lethalness. Despite rookie players joining in the ranks, the absence of the senior players wills surely be felt.

4.      The Australian dressing room is in turmoil. With Ricky Ponting battling demons with a barren run for almost 18 months, there are calls for the former captain’s head. The shoddy treatment of Simon Katich has left a bad taste in the mouth of Aussies, although it is not something said aloud. Even Michael Hussey, who has just had a few bad innings, is not being spared. Such atmosphere is not conducive for cricket, especially before a major series.

5.      Australia has a relatively untested think tank with a new Coach and captain. Michael Clarke has just captained the team for six matches, Mickey Arthur has taken over as coach only last month. The team management hasn’t had enough time to adapt and adjust. In such a case, inexperience and lack of preparation could affect the team adversely when they come out on field.

6.      India is high on momentum with a win over West Indies and the return to fitness of their key players. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not called the man with the Midas touch for nothing. In just four years he has managed to become one of the most successful Indian captains. This is his first tour of Australia s Test captain and he will surely want to make it a fruitful one.

7.      After the drubbing received in England, India would like to set the record straight. A team like India would be hurt by their dreadful performance, losing 4-0 and will be raring to go. The England debacle is sure to spur the Indians to perform out of their skins, just to prove their caliber once again.

8.      Though the same was said back in 2007, but this time it is more or less certain; this could be the last Australian tour for India’s illustrious middle order. Australia has always been the favorite stage to perform for the likes of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, and the “Creaky Terminators” are back to their beloved stadiums. Nothing brings out the best in Indian players like facing the Aussies and I am sure than Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir are waiting to come to the party.

9.      Indian bowling attack looks decent, I’m not saying lethal, but good enough. A fully fit Zaheer Khan is an asset, and he would be looking forward to playing a full Australian tour for the first time. Ishant Sharma had a dream run during the last tour and his previous experience will be valuable. In Umesh Yadav, India has that one quality fast bowler who can hit the deck hard and generate good pace and bounce. Of course injuries to Praveen Kumar and Varun Aaron are body blows, greenhorns Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun could be a problem. The spin department looks good enough with the in-song R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. Hopefully the absence of premier spinner Harbhajan Singh won’t be missed a lot.

As an Indian fan it is obvious that a bias will always creep in. These are just the reasons I feel why India can win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on Australian soil. More than believing, I want India to win this series as there is no higher achievement than in defeating Australia on their home turf, irrespective of how their team is. Here is to a successful Australian sojourn for our beloved Boys in Blue.

Friday, 9 December 2011



Virender Sehwag celebrates his record-breaking double-hundred

He does not possess the exquisite precision of Sachin Tendulkar, nor does he have Brain Lara's elegance. He does not caress the ball into the gaps like Jacques Kallis, nor does he time the ball like Adam Gilchrist. He does not, cannot, bat like any other batsman in this world. He is in a different league, a league which he created himself, a league to which only he belongs. He is Virender Sehwag.

On 8th of December, he wrote his name in the record books, again. He batted on his way to a huge innings, again.  He made the highest score for an Indian batsman, again. He did what we thought was impossible, again. Virender Sehwag scored 219 runs off 149 balls in an One-day International match against West Indies. In doing so he broke the record for the highest individual score in an ODI and created a new record. He surpassed his guru Sachin Tendulkar by scoring only the second double century in limited overs cricket.

This is not the first time he has breached the barrier of high scores. On 29th March 2004 he became the first ever Indian to score a triple century in Test cricket scoring 309 off 375 vs Pakistan at Multan. He reached the landmark in his trademark cavalier fashion, a lofted shot off Saqlian Mushtaq for 6. As Indians we were proud that we finally have an entry into the exclusive 300 club and we thought that this would be the highest score by an Indian batsman for some time to come. But Sehwag had different plans. “Ek se mera kya hoga” he must have thought and he scored a second triple ton in April 2008 against a formidable South Africa, an explosive 319 which came off only 278 deliveries. This is, and I have a strong feeling it will be for a long time, the fastest tripe century in Test cricket. He came within sniffing distance of history when he crossed 290 for a third time, in December 2009 against Sri Lanka but most unfortunately was out on 293, 7-agonizing-runs short. Before Virender Sehwag, the top three Test scores for India were VVS Laxamn’s 281, Rahul Dravid’s 270 and Sachin Tendulkar’s 244; now all the three slots belong to the Jatman from Najafgarh.

Coming back to the 8th of December, on a sweltering Thursday afternoon at the not-so-renowned Holkar Cricket Stadium, in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Sehwag walked in to bat with his favorite opening partner Gautam Gambhir after winning the toss in the fourth ODI of the series against West Indies. What followed was pure butchery. It took him 149 balls, 25 fours and 7 sixes to reach and breach the 200-run landmark. And not once in the three hours he spent on field did it look like he was breaking a sweat. He batted like his normal self , hit the good deliveries, punished the loose balls, hardly moved his feet, ran at his own pace and ease and characteristically ran out his partner. The fact that he was dropped twice, once on 20 and then on 170, helped. He got the elusive double ton in style, hitting Andre Russel for a four and raising his arms to show the world - he has done it!

This 200 was unlike any other Sehwag century. What set apart this innings was that every time his bat connected with the ball, the ball found the boundary.  He was sweet timing the ball in every single stroke. It was not just slogging, it was glorified, entertaining slogging. He bludgeoned some over the ropes, he caressed some in the gaps, he edged some towards the boundaries and some went off on seemingly their own well. Such was his stroke making on display that not one could have watched and not enjoyed! It was the original no-holds-barred Virender Sehwag show. But an extremely impressive aspect if this innings was his patience. I know that patience is not one of the virtues associated with Sehwag, but this innings was different. He did not look to hit every single ball for runs, he did not try to take the aerial route in every over, he did not look to attach every bowler and he actually paced his innings. This is what sets him apart from other explosive batsmen of this modern T20 era, from the Warners, the Dilshans and the Afridis, this is what enables him to get those high scores. This is what will make him go down in cricket history as a player who created a style of his own.

He may not be as loved as Tendulkar, as respected as Rahul Dravid, as admired as VVS Laxman or as envied as MS Dhoni. But Virender Sehwag possesses something that no other Indian batsman will ever have. He has the power to maintain method in his madness. To be explosive yet not combustible, to be punishing yet not perishing, to be powerful and patient at the same time. He has the distinction of being the one and only player with a batting style and stats like these. This is a rare quality that only Virender Sehwag can have, because he went and made it up himself.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011



Roger Federer Roger Federer of Switzerland lifts the trophy following his victory during the men's final singles match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena on November 27, 2011 in London, England.

Renaissance man, resurgent, resilient, fighter, greatest-player-of-all-times…  Over the past few days Roger Federer has become the darling of tennis media. I have heard more and more accolades being piled up on him, with all the flak aimed at him throughout this year turning onto flowery praise. Not that I am complaining, I am glad to see this turnaround both in his game and in the opinions of the followers of the game. The same people who proudly proclaimed that he was standing on a crumbling pedestal are busy placing him on higher pedestals, and he deserves every bit of it! His end-of-season surge which has resulted in three back-to-back titles including the prestigious ATP World Tour Finals for a record sixth time has won him the appreciation, and more importantly the respect, of tennis followers all over the world.

I have always been a Federer loyalist and have always refused to believe, despite his dismal season till September, that his career was over. Yes I did doubt his ability to play long matches after his particularly painful Wimbledon and US Open ouster and also once wrote (God forgive me) that he could be getting past his prime. Of course my next sentence was that I hope he proves me wrong and I am delighted that he has proven all of us wrong! Right now I am enjoying watching Federer play and taking great pleasure in the fact that he is back to his best tennis. I have also immensely enjoyed reading some wonderful articles and blogs that are have been written about him in the past week following his ATP Triumph. I decided to compile the best of the write-ups on him for the benefit of all fellow Federer fans. Following are the list of the ten most interesting articles written on Roger Federer’s resurgence. Enjoy reading!

Ø  Peter Bodo, The Bleacher Report

2.           WATCH OUT FOR FEDERER IN 2012
Ø  Greg Rusedski, Reuters

Ø  Kevin Mitchell, The Guardian Sports blog

Ø  Jonathon Overend, BBC Sports Blog

Ø  Udayan Nag, IBNlive Blog

Ø Ben Rothenberg , New York Times Tennis blog

Ø Davis Robinson, Live tennis guide

Ø  Tom Gainey,

Ø Chris Chase, Yahoo tennis blog

    Ø    Peter Bodo, tennis blog

After reading these accolades heaped up on Federer I can’t help but feel proud of the fact that he has justified the faith and love of his fans by returning to winning ways. I hope with all my heart that he carries forward this momentum to 2012 and starts the season which includes the Olympics high on confidence and on a winning note. Here is looking forward to a Roger Federer special in 2012.

Saturday, 26 November 2011



Wankhede! After Lord's this is the ground where we can say that India's dream was won. Ever since 2nd April, 2011, this ground has been considered as holy ground by all Indian cricket fanatics. I have been to Wankhede many times before, I was there when Mumbai welcomed the 2007 T20 World Cup winning team home, I was there for a number of IPL matches, but I had never been there for a Test match. Finally I got the opportunity to step into the illustrious stadium and experience firsthand the famed “Wankhede Experience” when India is playing.

I had only one day off and I hoped against hope that I will get to see India's batting. It was important because I had never seen my favorites Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman bat and also because somewhere I knew that this could very well be the last time Mumbai sees the legends of India's middle order, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman bat together in a Test. And who would not want to see a Virender Sehwag raring to go with Gautam Gambhir on this bowler's graveyard of a pitch? Also there was the golden opportunity of witnessing history as Sachin Tendulkar could, and almost did, score that much awaited 100th 100 in front of his beloved home crowd at a stadium he owns! With high expectations and higher excitement, I was at Wankhede, finally. And after spending a good seven hours there I came back enlightened.


I was delighted to see the long lines, the crowd, the buzz in and around Churchgate Station. Any one seeing that could not question the mortality of Test cricket, you could feel that Test cricket was alive and throbbing at the stadium. I read that this was this crowd was the highest turnout of the series and I was proud to be a part of those 15,000 strong supporters. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a sizeable number of women, elders and even children, who had come to the stadium. A lot of offices must have been empty as fans thronged to Wankhede especially toward the second half of the day. It was heartening to see a huge number of diverse Mumbaikars cheering as one for India.


Undisputedly the best bit of my experience was the stadium atmosphere. Just the sheer energy, the enthusiasm that you could feel sitting in the stands was enough to get your adrenaline high. The atmosphere was unbelievable, there were hordes of people screaming together, a tricolor flowing in almost every block. I was sitting in the topmost tier of the North Stand and it was then that I realized why everybody calls the North Stand the best place to watch a match at Wankhede. There was a group of fans, all dressed in the Indian team blues that came up with chants that got the crowd on their feet. Listening to some of their rhymes, my friend commented that these guys could easily become copy writers for ad campaigns! Sample this – “Sab ke muh main chewing gum hain, Sachin humaara Singham hain!” But the love was not only reserved for Mumbai’s favorite son, chants such as “India ka Wall Kaun – Dravid, Dravid” and “VVS” were also screamed at the top of their voices. Of course there were some chants that made absolutely made no sense, but the fervor with which they were cried out was enough for people to join in. The rhythmic beating of water bottles on the railing to the tune of lezim, the synchronized clapping, the timely Mexican waves, everything added on to the cricket frenzy. Indeed, there is nothing like watching a match from the North Stand of the Wankhede Stadium!


However even the Wankhede is not without its blemishes. One of the most depressing things to see was the blatant disregard of certain fans for the other 10 players in the team, with them being concerned only and only about Sachin Tendulkar. I’m taking away nothing from the Master, Blaster, but is he more important than the rest 10 people in the team put together? There were factions of the crowd that actually cheered the fall of Sehwag and Gambhir’s wickets! I am sure even Sachin would be disappointed to see this boorish behavior of these people who call himself his devotees.
Secondly, as a woman living in Mumbai, I had one of my ugliest experiences there. I was extremely disappointed to learn that such passionate cricket fans behave like cheap chauvinists. There is no place for sexists in sport, your gender does not give you the monopoly of watching sport from the stadium or otherwise. There were a certain section of fans who thought harassing a woman at the stadium is good time pass. Comments such as “Ladies log match dekhne kyun aate hain, aata kuch nahi hain, chila rahe hain”, “Item baithi hain” and singing of songs based on the color of clothes a woman is wearing is ridiculous. And to be on the receiving end of such catcalling is never a good thing.

Overall, my experience at Wankhede was extremely enjoyable. Just sitting there in the stands watching our team bat inspired me to work harder to achieve my goal of becoming a sports journalist. It gave me renewed hope as I imagined myself watching a match like this as a part of my job. I hope one day I can actually live that dream. Till then, I promise you Wankhede, I will be there to watch every Test match you hold!

Sunday, 20 November 2011



Testing times for Test cricket? Over the past few months this has been the underlying concern of most cricket writers and analysts. Hardly a day goes by when I haven’t read an article, quote or a tweet lamenting the decline or demise of Test cricket as the foremost form of cricket. And to add to the woes of the cricket-commenting populace, the masses seem to take no part in their crusade to save Test cricket. An empty stadium is indeed a sorry sight for anyone who loves cricket and we have had the misfortune of seeing this on more one occasion. Is Test cricket really dying? Has the temptation of limited overs cricket poached fans from following the longer version? Personally, I have no answer to this question. If asked what my favorite form of cricket is, my answer will always be Tests. Watching players battle it out in pristine whites over a span of five days is how I like my cricket. And as a Test-cricket loyalist it is disheartening to see the decreasing popularity of what is considered as the truest form of the game.

I began following cricket in the early 2000s and in this last decade itself, we have witnessed some of the best Test matches. Despite being on for five consecutive days, these matches were considered to be entertaining. But now with the advent of T20 cricket, IPL and the likes, the definition and context of “cricket entertainment” has changed to become “cricketainment”. But underneath all the glamour, hype and packaging of the shortest format of the game, lies the fact that its short duration and fluctuating tempo can never make for substantial viewing pleasure. When it comes to watching, a match that finishes in merely four hours can never compete with a match that lasts for five days. When it comes to winning, a match that can be won by a team that dominates for two hours can never compete with a match whose winner can’t be predicted till sometimes that last session of play.

Test Cricket is the Best Cricket. I do not make this sweeping statement for sentimental reasons. Nor do I say it because it most cricketers say that it is the highest level. I base this statement on the facts stated below.
Tests is the form that offers the toughest challenge for a player, it is the ultimate test of the talent, hard work, determination and skill of a cricketer. This explains why players like VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma are certainties for every Test India plays but left out of other formats and why a player of Yuvraj Singh's caliber is left out of India's Test squad. Any player can be a part of a T20 game but to be a part of Test XI one needs to have proved himself for years before he can be given a chance. That is why a prolific batsman like David Warner hasn't got the Baggy Green as yet. Playing constantly for five days is never easy. It takes a toll on your body and only the fittest can survive. Ask Brett Lee who had to give up because his body couldn’t keep up with the pace of the 5-day game, in spite of being successful with 310 wickets. Tests requires special skills apart from cricketing ones, it needs virtues like patience and diligence. Hence you see Test specialists like Justin Langer, Matt Prior and Tharanga Paranavitana. Unlike in the shorter versions of the game, Test cricket can never be an individual endeavor, it always has to be a team effort, is the format that truly reflects the ability of a cricket team. A single player, however talented, cannot win you a Test. Look at Shivnarine Chanderpaul's figures, with over 9000 runs and an average of almost 50, he has been the lone colossus of the West Indies side, but has still finished on the losing side more than any player just because the mighty Caribbeans are not what they used to be. For all these reasons, Test cricket is the best cricket.

Tests cricket maybe the oldest form of the game buy yet it will never go out of style. The sentiments that arise while watching a Test match can never come while watching a T20 game or even an ODI game. In which other format of the game will you find a team that was bundled out for 171 against the best bowling attack in the world will go on to score an imposing 657 runs? In which other format of the game will you find a team bowl out one of the best batting line ups in the world just one run shy of the target? In which other format of the game will you find one man score a record-breaking 370 runs and then come 10 years later to convert it to the first ever 400 on the same ground against the same opposition! Indeed such is the beauty of Test cricket that one can never predict any outcome or milestone, anything is possible. And for those who think the cricket is entertainment, the unpredictability of a Test match makes it all the more entertaining! From the time that I have started following the game, I myself have seen some of cliff hangers of a match that have been as entertaining, if not more, as a Virender Sehwag or a Chris Gayle blasting bowlers all over the park.

Here is a brief description of some of the best Test matches I have seen so far.
(Please Note: Matches played only after 2001, but I'm sure we have had better and more interesting Tests before that as well)

1.      India vs. Australia, March 11-15. 2001, Kolkata
This has to be by far the best Test match I have watched, and probably the best Test of the decade. India was the only country where the mighty Aussies hadn't won a Test series and Steve Waugh and boys set off to conquer the final frontier. It is very difficult to explain those five days in five lines but I will try. Australia score 445, bundle out India for 171 and enforce follow-on. India comes in to bat and for the next two days keep batting. VVS Laxman scores 281, the highest score by an Indian in Tests and aided by a Rahul Dravid 180, India declare at 657. in reply Australia are bowled out for 212 with a Harbhajan Singh 6-wicket haul. India wins the Test, by 171 runs, the series 2-1, and the rest in history.

2.      England vs. Australia, August 4-7, 2005, Edgbaston
Ashes, the greatest rivalry in cricket. Australia dominated the Ashes just as they dominated in Test cricket. But 2005 changed that, England recaptured the Ashes with a dramatic 2-1 victory which began at Edgbaston. England scored 407 and bowled out Australia for 308 and then got bowled out for 182. Australia was well on its way to victory but some gritty bowling by Man of the Series Andrew Flintoff ensured that England won the Test by the skin of their teeth and two runs.

3.      Australia vs. South Africa, December 17-21, 2008, Perth
Australia vs. South Africa always makes for some intensely competitive Test cricket and this was no less. South Africa pulled off an exciting run chase in the fourth innings by scoring 414 runs for the loss of four wickets. South Africa won by six wickets.

4.      Sri Lanka vs. South Africa, July 27-31, 2006, Colombo
This Test match will always be remember for the record breaking partnership of 624 runs between Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara., with the latter scoring 287 and the former creating the world record for the highest score by a right-hander with a mammoth 374. Sri Lanka won this match by an innings and 153 runs.

5.      India vs. Australia, December 12-16, 2003, Adelaide
This was India's first Test win on Australian soil and that is why it will always be a special Test. India won by 4 wickets on the back of a double century by Rahul Dravid and an Ajit Agarkar's 6-wicket haul.

6.      India vs. Australia, October 1-5, 2010, Mohali
Again a Test India vs. Australia remembered for VVS Laxman's super human effort. He batted with an extremely painful back and tail enders to finish one of India's finest wins over Australia. The fact that India won the match by just one wicket shows how closely fought it was.

7.      India vs. England, July 27-31, 2007, Trent Bridge
This Test was the foundation of India series win on English soil back in 2007. This was one Test in which every player contributed and will be cherished for the way the team performed collectively. India won by seven wickets and Zaheer Khan was named Man of the Match for his impressive haul of nine wickets.

8.      West Indies vs. Australia, 9-13 May, 2003, St. John's
This was the last match of the series and Australia had won the first three. But West Indies came up with a performance to hold their head up high in the final game. They chased down a record breaking mammoth target of 418 runs to win the Test by three wickets riding n magnificent centuries by Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The highest run chase by any team, and to top it all it came against the best team in the world.

9.      India vs. Pakistan, March April, 28-1, 2004, Multan
India resumed cricketing ties with Pakistan after a long time and both nations were ready to battle it out n the field. The first Test of the series will be remembered for the first ever tripe century by an Indian batsman. Virender Sehwag wrote his name in the history books of cricket by a scintillating 309 on the back of which India imposed a total of 675 that Pakistan couldn’t reach even after following on. India went on to win the match by an innings and 52 and also the series 2-1.

10.  Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan, July 4-7, 2009, Galle
This was Kumar Sangakkara's first match as Test captain, he did not have the services of Sri Lanka's chief match winner Muralitharan and the fluctuations in the game was enough to give even an experienced captain the jitters. In a match that both teams dominated equally, Pakistan came this close to winning the match before Rangana Herath, Murali's replacement came up with a magic spell taking out four Pakistani wickets in no time and Sri Lanka went on to win by 50 runs.

Watching these Test matches whetted my appetite to see more and more of such contests, or conquests as I prefer to call them as the team I supported won! Just last week we got a glimpse of what was one cracker of a match at Newlands. Australia vs. South Africa make for some delicious Test cricket and this series didn’t disappoint. If only we could see more such matches where the teams hang in balance, preferably for a good part of five days, I believe that Test cricket will sustain. Of course seeing empty stadiums, especially at Eden Gardens which hosts some of the most enthusiastic cricket fans, will always be a disappointment. But I would like to believe that had that India vs. West Indies Test been played on the weekend, we would see a healthier crowd. Also the fact that the opposition was West Indies must have deterred some fans. Nonetheless, cricket is very much loved in India, and I am hoping that this love will translate to stadium presence in the near future.

When it comes to cricket, I am the eternal optimist and as an idealist, I firmly believe that Test cricket will not only survive, but also sustain itself in the coming times. I do not offer self-thought solutions or suggestions to boost the five-day game, I merely express my view on why I feel that Test cricket is the Best cricket. And I hope that after reading this, more people begin appreciating the longer version of the game.

Sunday, 30 October 2011



Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. Two young Indian batsmen with completely different techniques, playing styles and temperament, yet two players having a lot in common. Both youngsters were identified at the U19 World Cup, both made their ODI debut against Sri Lanka, both were integral parts of the World Cup victory, both are billed to be the Future Indian captain and both of them carry the heavy burden of expectation, to be the match-winner for Indian every single time. Here is a look at these two cricketers who will lead India into the future – Kohli & Raina – the right & left of India’s future.

Most Indian cricket fans may have first heard of Virat Kohli in March 2008 when India won the U19 World Cup under his leadership. As captain, he led from the front scoring 235 runs in six matches with a healthy average of over 47. It was in the same year that a 19-year-old Kohli got the opportunity to be a part of the national ODI team when he was selected for the Idea Cup series against Sri Lanka when both Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were injured. He managed to impress with his performance but the return to fitness of the two more experienced players meant Kohli had to wait for another year to make his mark in cricket. But when he did, he did it with style helping India win over Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in late 2009 and early 2010. He again proved his worth in the Emerging Players Tournament in 2009 where he was the leading run-scorer of the series with 398 from 7 matches and then earned a recall to the ODI team. Since then he has become a regular feature of the Indian batting line up in limited over cricket.

Most Indian cricket fans may have heard of Suresh Raina in February 2004 during U19 World Cup, where he scored three half centuries, including a 90 scored off only 38 balls but India failed to reach the final, or maybe in 2005 when he was selected for the Challenger Trophy in where both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were unavailable. It was in the same year that a 19-year-old Raina got the opportunity to be a part of the national ODI team when he was selected for the Indian Oil Cup series against Sri Lanka. He had a forgettable debut getting out on a first-ball duck to Muralitharan and an overall disappoint series after which his selection in the playing XI was erratic, depending on injuries to other players. It was only in 2008, post a successful IPL run, that he finally found firm footing in the team with his maiden century in the Asia Cup and other impressive performances to gain three Man of the Match awards. Since then he has become a regular feature of the Indian batting line up in limited over cricket.
Over the last five years, especially after the 2007 World Cup debacle, Indian selectors have made it a point to infuse young blood in the team as and when the opportunity offers. With injuries to regular batsmen and some of the seniors being rested in limited over cricket, there has been scope for younger batsmen to emerge in to their own. Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Murali Vijay, Subhramaniam Badrinath, Wriddhiman Saha, Manoj Tiwary and more recently Ajinkya Rahane, all of them made it to the team on the same principal. But no other batsmen have managed to cement their place in the tem as strongly as Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. Though they are yet to find their niche in the Test team due to the presence of illustrious seniors, both of them have been given Test caps. Today, both of them can be considered as regular batsmen in the ODI team and both have done extremely well to deserve that position. Let us have a look at how their figures compare in the 50-over game –



When it comes to statistics, there is again not much difference between the two players. While Raina has played almost double the number of matches Kohli has played, the difference in runs remains 500 odd runs. While Kohli has a much better average than Raina, Raina has a superior strike-rate. Their highest score is quite similar as are the number of half-centuries. The only notable difference is the number of centuries but that is because of the batting position, while Kohli comes in up the order mostly at Number 4. Raina is a lower-order batsman coming at Number 6 or 7. Personally, I believe that there is no comparison between the two and nor is there any competition. Both play a different role in the team and there should not be any rivalry. For instance earlier this year during the World Cup, Kohli was preferred over Raina in the playing XI for the first couple of games and there were theories floating about how they will have to battle it out for their place. However as the tournament progressed, Raina was brought in lower down the order, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Looking to the future, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina are undoubtedly two of India’s brightest prospects. They are the batsmen on whom the successful transition of Team India sans its stars depends upon. I am sure both Kohli and Raina are capable of carrying the burden of a nation’s expectations and cross the finish line with it. Here is hoping that Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina have a long, successful career ahead of them!