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Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag, brothers-in-arms in retirement

Virender Sehwag fielding at Adelaide Oval

Virender Sehwag fielding at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two giants of Indian cricket quit the game within a week of each other.

One accumulated over 300 Test wickets, only the second Indian fast bowler to do so.

The other is the only Indian to have scored a triple ton in Tests, not once but twice and it could easily have been one more.

One was a canny operator outfoxing the best of the opposition with his wily wares.

The other kept it simple. The ball was meant to be hit when it was in the hitting zone.

Both are 37 years young and can still pad up for a fresh innings in the journey of life.

One has retired from international cricket but will continue to appear in the IPL.

The other has retired from international cricket and the IPL but may make an appearance at Sachin Tendulkar’s T20 All Star League in the US. He celebrated his departure by slamming a century against Karnataka for Haryana in a Ranji trophy game.

One was instrumental in India reaching the final at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and clinching the title in 2011 at home.

The other was a member of both the 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ICC ODI World Cup winning squads.

English: Zaheer Khan gives a Somerset batsman ...

Zaheer Khan gives a Somerset batsman a wry smile while bowling during the first match of India’s 2011 tour of England, played at the County Ground, Taunton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They are both modest and soft-spoken to the point of being self-effacing.

One is still single and obviously a catch for any young woman.

The other is married to Aarti Ahlawat and has two sons Aryavir and Vedant.

One promised—in his retirement statement—to return with the headline ‘Zak is back’.

The other quoted Mark Twain claiming that stories of his retirement were greatly exaggerated.

Indian cricket will surely miss them.

Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag, farewell, adios, sayonara.

Vandana Jain complains, withdraws case against Amit Mishra and then doesn’t (Updated)

English: Amit Mishra in the field during India...

Amit Mishra in the field during India’s first match of their 2011 tour of England at the County Ground, Taunton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best leg-spinner in the country, Amit Mishra, is embroiled in a sordid scandal.

A woman friend has filed and withdrawn a police complaint against the cricketer for allegedly assaulting her in his hotel room during the preparatory camp in Bengaluru last month.

Mishra had been summoned by the local authorities.

The leggie was originally booked under sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 328 (causing hurt with intent to commit an offence) of the Indian Penal Code.

The complainant is 34-year old Bengaluru resident Vandana Jain.  She is a Bollywood producer and co-owner of Celebrity Cricket League’s Bengal Tigers team along with Boney Kapoor.

Jain accused Mishra of attacking her with a kettle and behaving immodestly with her.

Mishra and Jain were good friends over the past three years. The diminutive sportsman was  a frequent visitor at her residence on Rest House, Crescent Road.

The lady confronted Mishra for avoiding her by inveigling herself into his hotel room without his permission.

According  to the Bangalore Mirror, Jain’s written complaint at the Ashok Nagar station states:

“I learnt that he is in town for training prior to South Africa tour. On September 25 evening, I went to Ritz Carlton hotel room and began to talk to him. He began to give me evasive replies and shouted at me. He tried to outrage my modesty. Even few hotel staff have seen this and CCTV footage must confirm this. Please take action against him for assaulting me.

Once he entered the room, he started fighting and asked me how I got into the room without his permission. He started hitting me with his hands and threw a kettle at my face. He started choking me hard and I suffocated. I screamed. I was frightened as I almost stopped breathing. He twisted my right wrist and fractured my right ring finger.”

A copy of the complaint was made available to the BCCI.

A senior police office said:

“We have sent a notice to him (Amit Mishra) and are waiting for his reply. Also, we have asked him to appear before the jurisdictional police at the earliest and also to co-operate with them in the investigation process.

We are collecting the information from the staff at the hotel on Residency Road, where the incident took place. It seems like the victim is known to Mishra and has visited him a couple of times. To get an exact picture we will question Mishra and the victim and then carry on with the case.”

Another police officer added:

“She told the staff in the reception lobby that Mishra was expecting her. Once upstairs, she told the housekeeping staff that she had lost her key and needed to use the washroom urgently. She looked confident and her posh dressing and mannerisms convinced the housekeeping staff.

There’s no doubt that the two knew each other very well. The woman has told us that they were in a relationship. She was forced to take the step of sneaking into his room as he was trying to avoid her. These things are common among couples and her entering the room cannot be construed as trespassing in the strict sense.

She was a familiar presence in the hotel. So the version of the hotel staff also can’t be taken on face value.”

Mishra is an integral part of Team India’s scheme of things for the on-going series against South Africa at home.

The trundler is considered unfortunate to have played just 15 Tests for the country since his debut in 2008.

In a turn of events, Vandana Jain has decided to withdraw her case.

Speaking to PTI, she said:

“Two days after lodging the complaint, I approached the police station and told them that I have in principle decided to withdraw the case,” the complainant told PTI here. I am waiting for Mishra to appear in the police station. We both will amicably withdraw the case. We were friends. We fought, and continue to remain friends here after.”

Jain insists that she has not been pressurized in any way.

She added:

“There was no pressure from any quarters, including the BCCI. I am surprised how the media picked up the case, which I have decided to withdraw.”


Jain has since recanted saying that she will not withdraw her complaint against Mishra.

Speaking to the Hindu, she said:

“I won’t withdraw the complaint against Amit (Mishra). I am hurt physically, mentally and emotionally by the cricketer. He knew I was going to the police and kept saying he will come to Bengaluru and sort out the matter. I want Amit to come in front of the police and talk to me.”

She added:

“My hand was in a cast, which I removed recently. I was forced to go to the police following the abuse and insult Amit subjected me to.”

Jain trusts that the law will take its course.

“Court and police will decide. I trust police, I trust law, so let them decide. I thought of withdrawing the case but then I realized if he is not worried about it then why I should. Let him take his step, let me take my step. I didn’t want to ruin his life, I don’t want to ruin his career but the things went wrong without my intentions.”

Second update:

Mishra was arrested on the 27th of October in the morning and then released on bail by the Ashok Nagar police.

The ace legspinner spent three hours at the Cubbon Park police station.

Sandeep Patil, DCP Central said:

“Enquiry with regard to the assault complaint was done. Mishra was questioned for 3 hours from 11am following which he was arrested and released on bail as it is a bailable offence.”

The Twitteratti reacted swiftly to the latest debacle.

Here are some choice tweets:

Indo-Pak cricketing ties derailed by opportunistic politics and unrealistic expectations

It’s a crying shame, really.

Shahryar Khan, former Pakistan Foreign secretary.

Shahryar Khan, former Pakistan Foreign secretary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shashank Manohar may have begun ‘Operation Clean-Up’ on the right foot but the even-handed BCCI President couldn’t prevent Shiv Sena activists from barging into his headquarters in Mumbai and disrupting the scheduled bilateral series talks with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) counterpart Shahryar Khan.

Boria Majumdar puts it aptly in his column:

“In India we celebrate cultural tolerance and plurality, we are forever ready to uphold freedom of expression and speech and most importantly are always open to dialogue. What happened in Mumbai goes against the very grain of what we stand for and that’s what has left us all with a sour aftertaste. Had Shashank Manohar been able to tell Shahryar Khan that the series is off because the situation is not conducive or the government has not given bilateral cricket a go ahead, it would have been far better for both cricket Boards. But to see a meeting stymied by a few political extremists who barged into the office of the BCCI president, which was left unguarded and to see these pictures being transmitted round the world is rather disconcerting.”

Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The shame is not that a bilateral series between the two countries has once again been pushed onto the back-burner.

To be realistic, if the two boards were really intent on continuing relations, they could have easily opted to play in Abu Dhabi (as other cricketing nations have been doing) thus avoiding security concerns and untoward elements in either country.

That is not the nub of the issue.

If you were to read the newspapers and media reactions to Pakistani writers, cricketers and artistes, you would believe that anti-Pakistan sentiments are at an all-time high.

Is that really so?

Isn’t it more likely that certain opportunistic parties have raised the bogeyman once more to gain political mileage and divert attention of the general public from more pressing concerns about governance or rather the lack of it?

The more closely you look at the matter, the more apparent it becomes that having any sort of ties with the ‘enemy’ across the North-West border is a political decision. The mandarins in New Delhi have the final say.

Perhaps, realpolitik dictates otherwise.

For actual progress to occur, a nod must begin from the Prime Minister’s office and then only can the nation rest assured that change is in the air.

A bottom-up push is not the way to build bridges across a diplomatic divide.

That would be a revolution.

Shashank Manohar presides over cleaning up of BCCI’s IPL

Newly elected BCCI President Shashank Manohar hit his straps and struck the right notes at its Working Committee meeting last Sunday.

The decisions that the general public evinced most interest in were the ones pertaining to who would replace Pepsi as the title sponsor, whether the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royal franchises would be terminated or suspended and what would be the particulars of the newly framed conflict of interest rules within the cricketing body.

The Board did not disappoint.

Pepsi logo (1970-1991) In 1987, the font was m...

Pepsi logo (1970-1991) In 1987, the font was modified slightly to a more rounded version which was used until 1991. This logo is now used for Pepsi Throwback (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pepsi are expectedly out.

Surprise, surprise, it’s not Paytm replacing them but Vivo mobiles. That’s pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Fair enough, given that Vivo agreed to the deal at the same price that Pepsi signed on.

Paytm would have been hard-pressed to match that.

The BCCI, after all its fulminations and discussions with the franchises’ owners, submitted to Justice Lodha committee’s dictates suspending the CSK and RR franchises for two years. The show must go on though—with eight teams.

Tenders will be floated and bids invited for two fresh franchises—once more making it a 10 team league in 2018.

Good enough.

It is the proposed conflict of interest rules that have raised a hue and cry within the BCCI and the state associations.

Shashank Manohar has taken a leaf out of his judicial textbook and drafted a stringent set of stipulations for administrators, selectors, commentators and players.

You could swear you heard a collective groan within the cosy cricketing fraternity.

To the highest bidder goes the spoils.

And you can rest assured that ex-cricketers will be scrambling to join the IPL band-wagon where the highest paymasters reside.

The guidelines will be tabled at the Annual General Meeting on Monday, 9th November 2015 at the BCCI Headquarters in Mumbai.

Manohar certainly means business when it comes to cleaning up the IPL mess.

No further comment.

Still concussed Eugenie Bouchard sues for damages: USTA, USNTC named defendants

Eugenie Bouchard is not playing nice anymore.

WTA’s Most Improved Player of 2014  is suing the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the United States National Tennis Centre (USNTC).

The Canadian beauty slipped and fell in the women’s locker room after a mixed doubles match at the US Open suffering a concussion the ill-effects of which have not worn off a month later.

The accident was caused by a cleaning agent that was left overnight on the floor and meant to be applied when the room is no longer in use.

Bouchard claims that there was no warning sign highlighting the state of the floor.

Bouchard’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, said:

“If they were going to do that, they should have closed the door and locked it off. And they didn’t do that.”

Morelli added:

“We could be talking about millions and millions, we don’t know the extent yet.”

The World No. 39 has played just one match since retiring midway last week against Andrea Petkovic at the China Open  and withdrawing from tournaments in Wuhan, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Bouchard is seeking actual, compensatory and statutory damages along with punitive damages, and wants a jury trial.

Chris Widmaier, the U.S.T.A.’s managing director of corporate communications, refused to comment saying it was against policy.

The suit states:

“Ms. Bouchard entered the physiotherapy room of the women’s locker room when she was caused to slip and fall by a slippery, foreign and dangerous substance on the floor.

The Defendants caused or created this slippery, foreign and dangerous substance to be on the floor, or knew or should have known that the slippery, foreign and dangerous substance was on the floor.

The Defendants failed to provide Ms. Bouchard with any warnings whatsoever regarding the aforementioned dangerous condition.”

Bouchard was named the world’s most marketable athlete last May by SportsPro, a UK-based magazine.

She was 2013’s WTA Newcomer of the Year.

It was in 2014 that she had her best results making the semi-finals at the Australian and French Opens. She was a finalist at Wimbledon and made the fourth round at the US Open. She attained a career-high ranking of 5.

This year, she suffered a slump in form but was regaining lost ground when she suffered her accident prior to her fourth round match against Roberta Vinci at Flushing Meadows. Vinci went on to make the final losing to compatriot Flavia Pennetta.

Concussions are a rare occurrence in tennis. It is a non-contact sport, after all.

WebMD describes it as “the most common and least serious type of traumatic brain injury. The word comes from the Latin concutere, which means ‘to shake violently.’ It is usually caused by a sudden direct blow or bump to the head.”

WebMD states:

“The brain is made of soft tissue. It’s cushioned by spinal fluid and encased in the protective shell of the skull. When you sustain a concussion, the impact can jolt your brain. Sometimes, it literally causes it to move around in your head. Traumatic brain injuries can cause bruising, damage to the blood vessels, and injury to the nerves.

The result? Your brain doesn’t function normally. If you’ve suffered a concussion, vision may be disturbed, you may lose equilibrium, or you may fall unconscious. In short, the brain is confused.”

The website adds:

“Concussions can be tricky to diagnose. Though you may have a visible cut or bruise on your head, you can’t actually see a concussion. Signs may not appear for days or weeks after the injury. Some symptoms last for just seconds; others may linger.”

Writing for Yahoo! Sports, Canada, Stephanie Myles cites the case of Sarah Borwell, a British player who was hit by American Lilia Osterloha’s ball at a WTA doubles tournament in Stanford, Connecticut in July 2010.

Myles says:

“‘Girls aren’t like boys where they go around you. She kind of went at me. I turned, and it hit the back of my skull, bottom left,’ Borwell said in an interview with Eh Game.

She kept playing, felt fine, and they won the match.

‘As soon as the adrenaline wore off I was a mess. I was feeling sick. I was dizzy, and my face swelled up on the lefthand side,’ Borwell said. ‘They monitored me for the evening, kept checking every hour and the next day, I had an MRI in San Francisco and they saw a bruise on my brain.’

Borwell was told she would probably be fine in a week. She went to San Diego for the next tournament but she still felt groggy, and had to stay in a dark room. She then flew to Montreal for the Rogers Cup, where they underwent what she termed some “basic tests” and was told she could go out and play.
She tried to practise. ‘I couldn’t walk straight, get my feet straight or anything,’ Borwell remembered.

A specialist who dealt with hockey players administered the SAC test. Orwell was asked to count backwards, month by month. She got as far as May. She couldn’t balance on one foot with her eyes closed. Her speech was slurred.

Orwell missed the US Open; she returned to action at the Quebec City tournament in mid-September, about six weeks after the original accident. Then she flew to India to compete in the Commonwealth Games, where she began having panic attacks just being around people and talking to them.

By the 2011 Australian Open (where she teamed up with Canadian Marie-Eve Pelletier), more than five months later, Borwell still was having issues, especially with verbal communication.

‘I’ve been hit before and if it hits you on the skull, you’re fine. But right at the base of my skull, it got a bit of the brain,’ she said. ‘When you have balls whizzing at your head … that was kind of the end of my career, to be honest.’

Borwell says it took her about a year to feel 100 per cent again. She continued to play, but she still didn’t feel like herself. ‘My short-term memory’s still not great. I’m finding it a lot more difficult to remember things, and my speech,’ she said.”

Wikipedia details post-concussion syndrome thus:

“In post-concussion syndrome, symptoms do not resolve for weeks, months, or years after a concussion, and may occasionally be permanent. About 10% to 20% of people have post concussion syndrome for more than a month. Symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, memory and attention problems, sleep problems, and irritability. There is no scientifically established treatment, and rest, a recommended recovery technique, has limited effectiveness. Symptoms usually go away on their own within months.The question of whether the syndrome is due to structural damage or other factors such as psychological ones, or a combination of these, has long been the subject of debate.”

Genie Bouchard has not been loquacious about the nature of her complaint on social media.

These are her latest posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram respectively.

Closer look (and yes that's a bathtub right next to a bed)

A photo posted by Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) on

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 lists the duties of an employer as follows:

SEC. 5. Duties

(a) Each employer —

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
29 USC 654

(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.”

While the USTA and the USNTC are certainly not Bouchard’s employers, they are duty-bound to ensure safety of the players on their premises during  events they conduct.

We can only hope that Bouchard returns to the court soon putting aside the acrimony and recriminations that will certainly ensue from her legal action. WTA, too, wouldn’t wish to lose another rising star given that recent Grand Slam winners have been in the latter stages of their career opting out soon after realising their Grand Slam dreams. Li Na, Marion Bartoli and now Flavia Pennetta are the most recent additions to that brigade. Kim Clijsters is another.

The WTA tour’s marketability ebbs and flows with its players’ saleability.

One of their contemporary campaigns’  featured the tagline, “Strong is beautiful.”

Strong, in this case, is concussed and very much dizzy.

Vijender makes it count against Sonny Whiting: Well-begun is not done

It’s baby steps, all right. That’s how Vijender Singh began his professional career against Sonny Whiting at Manchester Arena, UK last Saturday.

The 2008 Olympic bronze winner was a forerunner throughout the fight making his opponent look decidedly amateurish.

Is it a promise of better things to come?

We shall know soon enough.

The strapping young man has his next bout scheduled for October 30.

Many believed that Vijender had left it too late—turning professional.


The Indian never forgot his homeland, draping himself in a tricolour robe and matching shorts for his first fight.

Vijender admits he was nervous.

He said:

“I wasn’t worried about my opponent or anything. It was simply because I hadn’t boxed in a ring for a really long time. I had last boxed at the Commonwealth Games, and after that I had been doing my police training and then I had some film and TV commitments.”

Loneliness is a constant companion.

Moving to a new city, Manchester, and settling down to a regimented life is a sea change from his training days in Patiala.

He said:

”You feel a bit homesick. Its a bit difficult because when I was part of the Indian squad and trained in Patiala, after a session I always had someone to talk to especially after a hard days work. So I definitely miss my teammates from India. I am the only Indian boxer training here. In amateur boxing there were like 2-3 boxers with me in the changing room all the time but right now I am all alone with my trainers so there is a difference.I have to deal with these things by myself right now. But it doesn’t matter because these things usually make you tougher.”

Vijender misses his native tongue, Punjabi.

He added:

“Logon ki zuban alag hai yahan. (The language here is different). When I go to an Indian or Pakistani restaurant, the food is nice but it is a good feeling to speak to someone in Punjabi for a change.”

The Haryana police officer is not one to rest on his laurels.

He knows he has a long way to go.

He said:

“There’s still a long way to go. I have just had one fight and I have won that. I’d absolutely love to fight Floyd (Mayweather) or Manny, they are legendary boxers. They have been in this circuit for a long time and I will take time to reach at their level.”

The man certainly is making the right noises. And he has kept his end up so far.

He is the beacon who can guide Indian boxers to greater heights.

Shine on, Vijender.

Sponsors hit back at FIFA and BCCI: Image is everything

Português: Joseph Blatter, da Fifa, fala à sold it..

Joseph Blatter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sponsors have hit back and with a vengeance.

First, it was their demand for probity in FIFA affairs with Coca Cola, McDonalds, Visa and Budweiser seeking Joseph Blatter’s ouster.

Blatter responded with his characteristic bluster failing to acknowledge the winds of change.

His own Ethics Committee reacted less than a week later suspending him and his lieutenant Michel Platini for 90 days.

In India, Pepsi India served notice to the BCCI over its inept handling of the spot-fixing and betting scandals threatening to pull out of the title sponsorship.

The newly elected BCCI working committee has its hands full when it meets on October 18 to discuss the issue.

Blatter’s troubles originate with the Ethics Committee’s investigation into allegations of under-the-table payments to its former marketing partner International Sports and Leisure (ISL) in 2013.

Português: Zurique (Suíça) - O presidente da F...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blatter’s mentor and godfather João Havelange resigned as honorary President. Blatter was given a clean chit.

Matters came to a head this year when the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) arrested seven FIFA officials and indicted 14 on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

Since FIFA employees are not government officials, the US government cannot charge them for bribery. Federal laws prevent them from doing so.

Blatter resigned four days after his re-election for an unprecedented fifth time.

Blatter was first elected president in 1998.

The arrests triggered separate inquiries in Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Switzerland.

Part of the Swiss investigation involved a ‘disloyal payment’ of two million Swiss francs to Michel Platini by Blatter for work performed between 1999 and 2002.

The Swiss head was also alleged to have signed off television rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups to a former FIFA official Jack Warner at below market rates.

Criminal proceedings began last week against the FIFA president.

The Ethics Committee moved swiftly suspending him and Platini  for 90 days. They further banned Ex-FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon for six years.

While Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch InBev, McDonald’s and Visa were united in their opposition to Blatter’s continuance, Adidas refused to join  them.

The German sporting giant that has manufactured the World Cup match ball since 1970 and has been licensed to do till 2030 has the most to lose.

Soccer is the only sport in which it has a lead over its competitors. It is a Catch-22 situation.

It could either back the other advertisers and lose its most important market or suffer an erosion of its market share given the bad publicity surrounding FIFA and its running.

Blatter is believed to be an Adidas stooge.

Aidan Radnedge writes:

“Adidas supremo Horst Dassler plucked Blatter from the marketing department of luxury Swiss watchmaker Longines, trained him up for several months in Landersheim offices then installed him on the first – if lofty – rung of the Fifa ladder.

‘He taught me the finer points of sports politics – an excellent education for me,’ Blatter later said of Dassler, who also provided useful instruction in how to best enjoy a good cigar.”

It was Dassler and Havelange who  plotted the ouster of Sir Stanley Rous as Fifa president in 1974.

It was they who recognised the power vested in the federations of Asia and Africa. The poorer bodies felt alienated and under-represented. Havelange exploited their fears thus paving the way to become the most powerful man in soccer. He was ably assisted by his then right-hand man—Joseph Blatter.

ISL was founded in 1982 by Adidas heir Horst Dassler. For nearly two decades, it enjoyed a virtual monopoly of the commercial interests of both the world football federation and the Olympic movement.

ISL went bankrupt in 2001.

It is believed that without the pressure from Coca Cola and the others, the Ethics Committee would have proceeded more judiciously giving the accused a first hearing before issuing penalties.

FIFA expert professor Alan Tomlinson from the University of Brighton said:

“The sponsors have certainly ratcheted things up, and this is one of the main reasons why the ethics committee has, for once, acted quite swiftly. The normal procedure is for the accused to be initially heard and then, perhaps, issued with a provisional suspension, pending a full inquiry.

The sponsors have told FIFA that they have had enough and this has had a huge impact on recent events. This whole thing has come down to money because that is the one thing that people within FIFA understand.”

Português: Zurique (Suíça) - O presidente da F...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A quarter of FIFA’s revenues over a 4-year-World-Cup cycle comes via sponsorship deals.

In India, PepsiCo, the soft drinks giant, are considering exiting the title spot citing concerns about the image of the IPL given the spot-fixing and betting imbroglios and suspension of franchises Chennai SuperKings and Rajasthan Royals.

PepsiCo India signed a deal for Rs.396 crores in 2012 for a five-year period.

If Pepsi pull out, then not just BCCI but also the franchises that have sold it ‘pouring rights’ will be adversely affected.

The ‘pouring rights’ are worth Rs.2 crores per season.

A co-owner of a franchise said:

“If the news about them pulling out of the IPL sponsorship is true, it’s a big loss. In these times when the brand value of the IPL is down so much, it will be difficult to sell the ‘pouring rights’ for more than Rs 50 lakh.

The tobacco and liquor companies were the ones to spend big money in sponsorship deals in cricket, then the cola giants became the big sponsors. In between, there were a few to associate with cricket like DLF and Hero Honda, but they pulled out too. If the cola companies pull out, it’s not good for the sport.”

The teams’ revenues too will be hit. The central revenue pool which is shared at 60:40 between the teams and the BCCI is the other main source of income besides team sponsorships. Any reduction in title sponsorship will lessen this intake.

The BCCI sought to play down the crisis.

An anonymous source within the BCCI and IPL said:

“Firstly, it has nothing to do with the 2013 IPL spot fixing scandal. At the moment, they’re concerned about the future of the IPL – whether it’ll be a 6, 8, 10 or 12-team tournament. Secondly, they’re not satisfied with the publicity that they’re getting out of the event vis-a-vis the other sponsors. They’ve to pay us Rs 90-100 crores every year, which isn’t a small amount.

It’s a sham. They have sponsored two IPL editions since the scandal broke out. I think they’re facing financial difficulties of their own. When we met them in Delhi some time back, they never gave an indication about this. In fact, we had a healthy discussion with their chairman and CEO for India region, D Shivakumar, about our future plans.”

The stern action and harsh words employed by commercial interests in the sporting properties of FIFA and the BCCI are reminiscent of tactics employed by activist investors in corporate governance.

Activist shareholders secure equity stakes in corporations to put public pressure on their management.

Their goals may be financial or non-financial.

Despite having a relatively small stake–sometimes just 1% is enough—, these activist investors seek the support of financial institutions who hold larger stakes to further their goals.  Some of them even manage to secure seats on the board.

While sponsors cannot be said to own equity stakes in sporting federations, given the huge contribution they make to their revenues, their influence cannot be discounted.

The IPL, in the wake of Lalit Modi’s ouster, installed a Governing Council to overlook its operations. Would it be a far-fetched idea to have a sponsor representative on the council that could safeguard their interests?

Corporate governance for sports federations that include the interests of sponsors would be more than practical.

For once, interests of fans and sponsors are aligned. Will it always be so?

Is Dhoni finished as skipper and player?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As long as the Indian team keeps winning, Dhoni, the skipper, is inseparable from Dhoni, the player.

But once the side starts losing its moorings, Dhoni, the player, comes under the microscope.

The Indians lost the T20 series 2-0 to South Africa. A fair result would have been 1-1.

And the questions about Dhoni’s place in the squad start cropping up all over again.

This is not a new phenomenon.

The very same doubts were raised earlier this year when the Indians were outclassed in the tri-series Down Under.

A semi-final finish at the ODI World Cup and all doubts were swept under the carpet.

The victories have dried up; Mahi has lost his magic touch.

Dhoni’s batting record in ODI’s over the past year has been 485 runs at an average of 44.09 and a highest score of 85 not out.

This is against his career average of 52.24.

His T20 record is insignificant since he has batted in just two T20s this year.

While critics may be baying for his blood, his performances with the bat cannot be held against him—yet.

It is his position as skipper that is under threat especially given the new-found aggression Team India have discovered under Virat Kohli.

It is always going to be difficult for team-members to adjust from one leader’s all-out attacking instincts to another’s more laidback, restrained approach.

It is results that matter though and that’s where Dhoni will have to take charge in the upcoming ODI series against South Africa.

His leadership is being disputed.

His treatment of Ajinkya Rahane baffles cricket connoisseurs.

How can Team India’s best batsman over the past two years be left out from the ODI and T20 sides?

Does Dhoni really prefer Ambati Rayudu, a player more in the Dhoni mould?

Rayudu is no slouch with the bat in T20s as his exploits with Rajasthan Royals in the IPL prove.

Does he really need to warm the bench?

Dhoni does not feel the need to change his mind.

Talking about Rahane’s chances of selection for the first ODI at Green Park in Kanpur, he said:

“I think four is the number for Rahane. Even four is quite low for him I would say. Opening fits him really well. Take the example of Rohit Sharma for that matter. In domestic cricket he bats lower but in international matches he opens for us. Our openers more often than not are who bat in the middle order in first class cricket.
So it is tough for him as of now. If am looking for someone to bat five or six I don’t think he is the person. His strength is top of the order. If given a chance, we will try to feature him in the top three, if not then we would find it tough to place him in the playing eleven.”

Speaking about his own performance in the T20 series, the Indian skipper characteristically remarked:

“I personally feel that I used too much brain in this format.It’s very important I keep myself free and go and play my strokes. Depending on that I play a bit slow initially. In this format, I believe I should play the big shots from the word go irrespective of whatever the scenario is because that’s what this format is all about. A lot of time when I go into bat, be it the 16th or 17th over or in the fourth or fifth overs when wickets have fallen down, I have the tendency of like let’s go to 130, that will be good score.”

Former India bowler Ajit Agarkar has sounded the warning bells about Dhoni’s place in the side.

He said:

“The selectors need to have a closer look at what Dhoni is doing, not just as captain, but as a player as well.He has been a great player for India, but you don’t want him to become a liability for the team. And he needs to perform a lot better than he has (been). Just because he has done it over the years, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him to fail.”

Agarkar feels that Dhoni’s moving up the order is simply to give himself chances to keep his place in the side and not in the best interests of the squad.

He said:

“I’m not convinced he should bat at four. Just after a World Cup, you’re now trying to develop your team for the next World Cup. Four years is a long time, but for Dhoni, towards the end of his career, to put himself up, I’m not sure about it. You can understand if there are batsmen who can’t bat 3 and 4. But there is Ajinkya Rahane, who has been one of your best players in Test cricket and I don’t think he can bat lower than four in ODIs yet, unless he changes his game over his career.

Dhoni seems to have lost that ability of going out there and smashing it from ball one. He obviously takes his time. But he batted up the order in Bangladesh, and India still lost the series. All his career when people wanted him to bat up because he is so good and has that destructive ability, he has always maintained that he wants and needs to bat at No.6, where he can handle the pressure.

It’s a hard job batting at 5, 6 and 7. I’ve seen Yuvraj and MS himself do it for so long, but that doesn’t mean that it changes at this stage in his career. You’ve got to have guys who are good at certain numbers. And at the moment MS by promoting himself, is getting a Rahane or anyone else who bats there, into trouble. I would still have Raina and Dhoni at 5 and 6, so contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don’t think Dhoni should be batting at four at this stage in his career.”

Agarkar believes that Dhoni may not be the future when it comes to ODIs and T20s, specifically when it comes to leading the side.

He added:

“Looking at the results, India have generally been good in ODIs, but you’ve lost the World Cup semi-final, then you’ve lost in Bangladesh where Dhoni was captain twice, and you’ve now lost a T20 series. Yes, the T20s can go either way very quickly so you don’t want to judge someone, but for Dhoni this is a big series.

The selectors maybe need to look at where the Indian team is heading because Virat Kohli has done well as captain in Test cricket so maybe the selectors need to make that call after this series.”

Sachin Tendulkar, meanwhile, batted for his former skipper and teammate.

Speaking to Gulf News, he said:

“Cricketers like Dhoni have played for a long time, over ten years, and he understands himself, understands his body and mind-set better than anyone else.

The best thing one can do is move aside and let him take decisions [about his career] rather than taking decisions for him. You have got to give that respect to the player who has done so much for the nation and I would leave it to him and let him be the best judge. He has served Indian cricket in the best manner and let him be the decision taker.”

Dhoni, skipper and player, has been written off before; he has always proved his detractors wrong. He believes in going by gut instinct whether it is handing the last over in the T20 World Cup final to a rookie like Joginder Sharma or quitting as Test skipper midway through a series Down Under. The timing of these moves has been impeccable. The unorthodox acts may no longer work as expected but he is still capable of surprising scribes and fans alike.

This series could either be his swan song or the beginning of another golden chapter until the next T20 World Cup.

Whatever his fate, Indian cricket will always cherish ‘Captain Cool’ and his formidable achievements in the shorter versions of the game.

It’s extraordinary when one looks back that this is Dhoni’s 11th year as an international cricketer. It seems much longer. That’s the kind of impact he’s had both as captain and player. It’s also a tribute to his supreme levels of fitness that he has rarely missed series due to injury. He will be missed.

Go well, MS.

Mirror Girls Soccer League begins in Mumbai on Saturday

Girls playing Soccer.

Girls playing Soccer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mumbai Mirror is writing a new chapter in women’s soccer—nay, girl’s soccer—in Mumbai.

The tabloid—in concert with Western India Football Association (WIFA) and Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA)—has organised a Girls Soccer League beginning this Saturday at the Cooperage.

Over 100 teams are participating. The aim is to promote the game at the grassroots.

WIFA CEO Henry Menezes said:

“WIFA has successfully conducted coach education and grassroot programmes. It is important to get such an event for the kids to display their talent, especially girls. Even at national level our girls have started to do much better than boys.
Hopefully once this becomes a success, this tournament will become a year-on affair.
We are getting non-stop enquiries. It is so promising. It will be hard to accommodate everybody. But look at the interest. It’s tremendous. We need to set up trend with this tournament.”

The rink tournament is five-a-side.

NGOs, private clubs, local sides and, of course, schools will take part in three categories:

Under-14, Under-16 and Open.

The Mirror Girls Soccer League will be one of the largest sporting events dedicated solely to the fairer sex.

The Mumbai Mirror is a part of the Times of India group of publications.

Football (Soccer ball)

Football (Soccer ball) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women’s soccer is played in 176 countries internationally.

It is a little known fact that women’s football was banned by the British Football Association in 1921 on the grounds that it was distasteful.

This led to the formation of the English Ladies Football Association. Matches were played on rugby grounds.

The FA’s ban was finally lifted in 1971.

The first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in 1991.

Women players do not make as much money as the men; their earnings on the average are a seventh of their male counterparts.

Coverage of the sport, too, is minuscule.

According to an article in the Guardian, “stories about men’s sports outnumbered those about women’s sports by 20 to one in March 2013 in six national titles – the Sun, Mirror, Times, Telegraph, Mail and Express.”

Jane Martinson wrote:

“The arguments usually put forward for the lack of coverage is that no one is interested in women’s sport, yet the interest shown on social media and among TV viewers suggests otherwise. Women’s football got its own series on BBC2 for a bit, while the women’s football World Cup final of 2011 was at the time the most-tweeted event in the history of Twitter.

Previous research has shown that sports journalism has one of the lowest percentages of female journalists, with a Women in Journalism study three years ago revealing that just 3% of all sport stories in a given month were written by women.”

English: Girl playing soccer

English: Girl playing soccer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Their cause was not helped by FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s comments in 2004 when he said:

“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts.

Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

The remarks only highlighted Blatter’s ignorance.

Pauline Cope, the then England and Charlton goalkeeper, responded:

“We don’t use a lighter ball for one thing, and to say we should play football in hotpants is plain ridiculous.

It’s completely irresponsible for a man in a powerful position to make comments like this.”

Then Fulham manager Marieanne Spacey added:

“Surely it’s about skill and tactical ability first and how people look second. Ten years ago we did play in tighter shorts. Nobody paid attention then.”

Movies like ‘Bend it like Beckham’ have engendered interest in the sport amongst young girls over the past decade.

The Indian women are ranked 56 as against the men who are a lowly 167.

With some luck, hard work and better organization, India could have a women’s team representing the country at the FIFA Women’s World Cup much before the men.

That would really be something. Wouldn’t it?

Disclaimer: The writer is in no way connected or associated with Mumbai Mirror or its sister publications.

Crowd misbehaviour detracts from fine series win for SA

When will Indian fans realize that unruly behaviour is never going to prevent their beloved team losing?

It only serves to reinforce the feeling that cricket followers in India are neither sporting nor knowledgeable about the intricacies of the game.

They lack the maturity to accept defeat—unlike the very cricketers they idolise.

The pelting of the South Africans with water bottles at the Barabarti stadium in Cuttack to signal the crowd’s displeasure with their team’s abject batting display was yet another black mark in the annals of Indian fandom.

Rajarshi Majumdar, writing for International Business Times, termed their behaviour ‘barbaric’.

The journo said:

“The name Barabati can somewhat be related to the word ‘barbaric’ and why won’t someone draw such relations!”

He added:

“Will these same bunch of chaotic people throw their valuables at the players when they win a game?”

The South Africans are ranked No.1 in Tests and despite termed ‘chokers’ in ICC ODI and T20 tournaments, are no pushovers in bilateral series.

Team India have ceded the T20 series without much ado.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni bowlingat Adelaide Oval

Mahendra Singh Dhoni bowlingat Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The initiative has been surrendered.

MS Dhoni was sanguine about the entire episode.

He said:

“We should not be taking such things seriously. I still remember we play in Vizag once and we won the game very easily and that time also a lot of bottles were thrown. It starts with the first bottle and then it’s more of a fun for the spectators.

When it comes to the safety of the players, I don’t think there was any serious threat. A few of the powerful people in the crowd were throwing the bottles into the ground and the umpires felt it was safe to stay in the centre or go off the ground.

We didn’t play well and at times you get a reaction like these. It’s only the first few bottles that are hurled with serious intent, after that they just do it for fun.”

His counterpart, Faf Du Plessis, was not.

He said:

“It’s not nice to see it. I have played 5-6 years of cricket in India, and I have never seen that. So, you don’t want that to be a part of the game. You come here to compete, and the best team walks away winning.

To have that happening, I don’t think it’s a good thing. It should not happen. Even the way the game was played towards the end, it lost its intensity because obviously India thought that we have already won as we needed only 20 runs. Disappointing in that sense, and hopefully it is the first and the last time we see it on this tour.”

He was not sure whether the boorish behaviour was a sub-continental malaise.

He added:

“It is a difficult question to answer. All around the world you get people who get really passionate about their team. Sometimes you cross that boundary you shouldn’t. This is the first time I have experienced in India, so I can’t say it happens a lot. But as you said, it happens a lot in the sub-continental conditions. That’s definitely to do with the passion that fans have. But, it is surely not something we as players want to be a part of the game. Obviously, player security is very important wherever we go across the world. Let’s just hope that it’s a bad day at the office.”

Speaking to NDTV, Sunny Gavaskar blasted the miscreants:

“Cuttack should not be given an international for the next couple of years. As a deterrent, the BCCI must also stop the subsidy to the Odisha Cricket Association.Do the crowd throw valuables when the team does well? When the team does badly, the fans have no business to throw rubbish.”

Aggressive behaviour and attitudes on the field are punished by match referees when reported by on-field umpires. Players are checked by limits imposed by the ICC Code of Conduct.

Is it time sports administrators and patrons of the game demanded the same of fans? Can they be allowed to rum amok whenever they please?  Does safety in numbers and anonymity imply that they are allowed to carry their rage over to cricket grounds? Or is it time the Indian penal system implemented measures like in the UK and Germany where known hooligans are closely watched and even prevented from travelling abroad  because of the mischief they can wreak there?  Isn’t it time?

Anger need not be ‘bottled‘.


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