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.