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From Sofa to 5k: A Review

“In the morning of 3rd February, 2007, I was lying naked on a cold metal table. My entire body was being shaved, except the head. I was joking with the hospital attendant that this was a contrast to the tonsure at Tirupati, where the head was shaved and the body hair left untouched!

I was praying hard to HIM that my Coronary Artery Bypass Graft procedure (CABG aka Open Heart Bypass Surgery) should go well. So were my family members who had assembled outside.”

Thus begins the preface of P. Venkatraman’s book, “From Sofa to 5K: A Beginner’s Handbook on Running for Good Health” with a foreword by renowned cardiologist Dr. Aashish Contractor who  is also  an avid long distance cyclist and runner.

Contractor concludes his foreword as below:

“May fortitude hasten you and let temperance chasten you.”

Venkatraman outlines his  story in the prologue describing his family history of heart disease beginning with his grandfather. His father and younger brother too were similarly affected. 

Venkat details how he was always health and diet-conscious throughout his early life. 

The author began running in 2004 and by the very next year was completing half-marathons. All this physical activity, however, could not prevent a 100% blockage of his left artery.  And in Feb 2007, Venkatraman underwent heart surgery.

In January 2008, he ran the Mumbai half-marathon once more highlighting the  second coming of the inspirational founder of You Too Can Run.

You Too Can Run’s mission is ‘To Promote Running For Good Health’.

Venkatraman divested his stake in one of India’s largest BPOs where he was a Promoter Director and founded his social enterprise.

The book is an attempt to inspire others to take up running for their health and is published by You Too Can Run Sports Management Private Limited who have registered themselves as a publisher with the HRD Ministry.

Chapter 5 onwards tackles the actual subject of running for beginners.

IITian and running coach Daniel Vaz is the technical editor of the book while nutritionist Kinita Kadakia is a major contributor to sections dealing with weight loss.

Venkatraman initially  lists the psychological, social and physiological reasons for running.

There follows an entire chapter devoted to getting started—the most interesting part is how to handle aggressive stray dogs. 

Chapter 7 deals with progressive loading and has a beginner’s 5K running plan pull-out.

Most beginners are astounded that they don’t start losing pounds immediately or sometimes for quite a while despite being quite regular and disciplined with their exercise programme. Kadakia answers these questions in the chapter ‘Running and Weight Loss‘ and how losing weight is simply about burning more calories than you consume i.e. a calorie deficit has to be created and maintained.

Finally, ‘Staying Motivated‘ is simply about that—how to keep oneself going and how it all begins with setting a goal.

The book also provides a Daily Health Log sheet that  helps runners cultivate a habit of checking their progress towards their goals.

The book is of value specifically to someone who wishes to start a running regimen.

Recommended for beginners—you could do worse.


  • The entire sorry episode of Narsingh Yadav's failed dope test and his subsequent disqualification  this year's Rio Olympics reads like a really bad Dick Francis thriller .  Yadav claims that he is the victim of a conspiracy, that his food and supplements were spiked by mischievous elements. An investigation by India Today appears to bear out his version. There are reports of an intruder mixing an unidentified  white, powdery substance in his food portions.  Suspicion is rife given that his roommate Sandeep Tulsi Yadav  too has tested positive for steroids. Were they made patsies by unscrupulous persons?  Yadav is reportedly shattered by the turn of events and is said to have contemplated killing himself.  It all seems tragically anti-climactic given the court  drama pursuant to the non-selection of Sushil Kumar and Yadav's 'meritorious'   showing.  Accusations and counter-accusations will continue to fly over the next few days---at least,  until Indian athletes reach Rio.  Is Yadav being victimised by powerful parties within the SAI?  Or is he simply unwilling to admit any  wrongdoing?  Surely,  the Indian public deserves to know. 
  • The Court for Arbitration in Sports (CAS) has pronounced its verdict. The IAAF-imposed ban on the Russian Athletics Federation stays. No Russian track-and-field athlete will be competing in Rio---at least, not under their national flag. The International Olympic Committee will decide the fate of the Russian contingent when it meets today. The CAS judgment is non-binding on the Committee. WADA and predominantly western nations’ Olympic Committees are vocally in favour of a blanket ban on the rogue nation given clear and damning evidence of state-sponsored collusion in doping. They feel that the IOC must exhibit 'zero-tolerance'  towards systematic doping by any state. National Olympic Committees have been banned before---simply not for drug-related scandals. Collective responsibility should not come at the cost of individual justice---the IOC is seeking a balance. The Russian public believes that their country is being discriminated against by the Western world. They cannot accept that all their athletes are drugged. A sanction against all Russian competitors would be unfair to those abiding by the rule book.  While the IOC has several options before arriving at a final decision, a simple solution would be to allow the Russians to participate---both under their national banner and the Olympic one but have each one of their athletes subjected to both in-competition and out-of-competition testing. This would allow clean athletes to breathe freely and hopefully deter sportspersons who are doping. This would also send a strong message to errant national sports federations everywhere that unless they clean up their act, their athletes and their fellow countrymen will be treated like Caesar’s wife---not above suspicion. Simply leaving the decision to international sports federations burdens them further and not all of them are fully equipped to make an informed decision on the matter. Whatever the IOC’s decision, there will be no pleasing everyone. That’s a given. Related articles IAAF president Coe downplays split with IOC( Russian national team to include 380 athletes at Rio Olympics - official( Russian star Isinbayeva applies to compete in Rio( IOC Affirms Russian Track Ban(
  • "In boxing,  if you get angry toh aur zyada maar padegi ring mein. It's all about doing your bit and winning points. Why take unnecessary panga,  get angry and waste your energy?  ---Vijender Singh. 
  • Professional sports is not always about speed and power. It’s also about skill, precision and deception. Nothing illustrated this better than Vijender Singh’s performance during his WBO Asia title bout against Australian Kerry Hope and Ronaldinho’s in the Premier Futsal game for Goa against Bengaluru. Hope was the more aggressive of the two seeking to flatten Singh with his left jab and powerful right. But Vijender absorbed it all and retaliated with counterpunching of his own---Hope’s only response was to engage in ‘professional’ clinching of the worst kind. It was the Haryanvi’s first 10 rounder but he withstood the onslaught of a man who had run a half-marathon in 1:35 just two weeks earlier. Admittedly, it was not a very entertaining encounter. Perhaps, boxers and students of the sport would appreciate it better. The result, though, was an unanimous decision  in Vijender’s favour. Unlike his earlier six fights, this did not end in a knockout. The prize, however, was his. Ronaldinho retired from international football last year. Futsal is his second coming. The happiest soccer player on the planet was in his element in the game against Bengaluru on Sunday scoring five out of seven goals for his side. The Brazilian displayed his entire repertoire in a spirited performance that left the crowd astounded and his fans in delirium. Two exponents of the art of two different games but a common thread shone through them. Experience counts for something---after all.
  • How could a seasoned journalist like Rajdeep Sardesai appear so crass, insensitive and sexist on national television? That’s the question that must be uppermost in the minds of most of his fans (I am one of his many admirers---he also happens to be a Xavierite)  when the veteran journo committed a faux pas by asking India’s number one female tennis star, Sania Mirza , the following query: “Amidst all the celebrityhood, when is Sania going to settle down? Is it going to be in Dubai? Is it going to be in any other country? What about motherhood… building a family… I don’t see all that in the book, it seems like you don’t want to retire just yet to settle down. …You don’t talk about retirement, about raising a family, about motherhood, what’s life beyond tennis is going to be…” The response was swift and acerbic---typical Sania. “You sound disappointed that I’m not choosing motherhood over being number one in the world at this point of time. But I’ll answer your question anyway, that’s the question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face — the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s when we’re settled, and no matter how many Wimbledons we win or number ones in the world we become, we don’t become settled. But eventually it will happen, not right now. And when it does happen I’ll be the first one to tell everybody when I plan to do that.” Sardesai quickly backtracked realising his erroneous line of questioning. He said: “I must apologise, I framed that question very badly. I promise you, you’re right, I would never ask this question to a male athlete…” True, very true. Such a question would never be put to a male sportsperson. Neither should it be put to any sportsperson. There was very little logic  or reasoning to Sardesai’s enquiry. These are the type of questions every single career woman (or man)  learns to field  from 'friendly' , inquisitive neighbourhood 'aunties'---not from a TV presenter of Sardesai's caliber. While not detracting from the many sacrifices she has made to come so far,  it must be pointed out that Mirza is in her late 20s---not late 30s. She is a happily married, healthy young woman. She can have it all---should she choose.  The interrogation was improper. And Sardesai had his just desserts. Mirza was on television promoting her autobiography ‘Ace against odds’ coauthored with her father Imran Mirza and journalist Shivani Gupta.
  • Everybody loves a winner. Even more so, a pretty one. Like Federer, like Brazil in the 50s and 60s. Sometimes, winning is everything. So when the purists crib that Portugal were unaesthetic in the triumph at the European Cup this year, let’s put their comments in the right perspective. It is Portugal’s name that will be inscribed on the trophy and history will record them as victors. Will it matter , in a few years, how they emerged kings despite winning just one game in normal time? Will it matter that they barely made the pre-quarters, drawing all their three group Games? It will not and Cristiano Ronaldo knows and recognises this better than anyone else. Hobbling on the sidelines in the final, the man from Madeira cheered and spurred his teammates on inspiring them to the podium in his absence. In the process, he went one better than his rival and the best player on the planet, Lionel Messi. Messi may be beautiful, he may be sublime, but he has still to win a title for his native Argentina. Ronaldo has his measure there. Unlike tennis, badminton or squash, soccer is a team sport. And one man does not a team make. Winning need not be elegant, it need not be pleasing to the eye or the spectators. Sometimes, it’s simply about getting the job done, doing what’s needed when it’s required. Yes, we love to see our winners be gorgeous, heavenly and glorious. But for every Federer, there’s a Nadal. And for every Spain, there’s a Denmark, a Greece and now a Portugal.
  • "We grow up with fairy tales,  but in life there is no happily ever after. And if there were,  I would get bored of life. To me,  life is interesting when one is struggling."  ---Imran Khan,  cricketer and politician. 
  • He almost pulled off another miracle,  didn't he?  After coming back from the dead against Marin Cilic in the quarters, Roger Federer was leading 2-1 against Milos Raonic only to lose his bearings---figuratively and literally---failing in the last two sets in yet another gruelling five-setter.  The Swiss missed the French Open this year---his first Grand Slam since 1999,  ending an unbelievable streak of appearances.  With Novak Djokovic knocked out early,  die-hard Fed fans believed this was his best chance to clinch his 18th Slam. But it was always going to prove an uphill battle for a 34-year-old. Realists would not begrudge another championship for the great but their expectations are always tempered and tinged with a healthy dose of skepticism.  In the end, it proved to be too much even for the tennis machine. The cracks and the strain were visible towards the end of the fourth set with Roger dropping his serve in the final game to lose the set without taking it into another nail-biting tie-breaker.  But he had done enough to revive Wimbledon out of its stupor.  Britain's favourite son,  Andy Murray,  might clinch yet another title on the hallowed grass of the All-England Championship.  But for many,  this Wimbledon is simply to be Federer's thing of beauty---forever. 
  • "National teams depend a lot on the professionalism of their footballers to perform well in major tournaments. And, that professionalism owes a lot to club football."  ---I M Vijayan. 
  • Marcus Willis will have that beer. He’s earned it. Capturing seven games in his second round match against Roger Federer he surely deserves one. The man owes it all to a girl---a girl he met this February, a dentist named Jennifer Bates. He fell in love, turned himself around and found himself in round two of this year’s Wimbledon earning himself 50,000 pounds. Brexit might have taken its toll on the UK’s currency but that could not dim the £30-an-hour part-time Wokingham tennis coach’s joy. Beating Ricardas Berankis, ranked 54, in the first round was unexpected. But qualifying for Wimbledon proper required him to win six gruelling matches. As Goran Ivanisevic, his idol, put it: “I love this story. This is great. Pre-qualifying, then qualifiers, winning the first round against a not easy player. Berankis can play. It's just great. Perfect. He will go on Centre Court or Court One. The biggest match of his life and he has won already. For him he is a winner. He is the story of Wimbledon and it cannot get better than this. He cannot beat Roger Federer, no chance but he does not care. He has won already seven matches and he won Wimbledon for him. This is it. He will go on Centre or Court One. He is the happiest man, whether he comes to the match sober or drunk it doesn't make any difference. Everyone will love him and support him and Roger will be nice to him. Eventually maybe not but it's going to be great. I think he should quit after this. Retire. Because this is it. It does not get better than this. Great, well done, I'm really so happy for the guy.” Roger Federer had nothing but respect for Willis. He treated him as a top-50 player because “because that’s the level he was playing at”. Willis sounded both disappointed and upbeat after his loss. He said: “It sounds funny, but I’m disappointed to lose. I went out there trying to win. I’ve had a fantastic few weeks, and this has been great, but there’s life after Wimbledon, and I want more. More experiences like this. I have to knuckle down and work harder. I’m absolutely exhausted. I might wait and calm down. But I’ve earned myself a beer, I think. I haven’t thought (about marrying Jennifer) , to be honest. This whole few weeks have been a bit of a blur. But I do like her quite a bit. Amazing. It’s not my standard Wednesday.” Has he seen Wimbledon, the movie? "I haven't. People are telling me about it, but I've never seen it, really. I'm not a massive film watcher. I'm quite fidgety. I'm more of a doer than a watcher." Andy Murray, his fellow countryman, batted for Willis insisting that journeymen deserved more money. He said: “The first thing is we need to improve the prize money at Futures level. I think it’s stayed the same since the 1980s. The cost of everything has gone up massively since then so it’s impossible to stay at that level for more than a couple of years. Someone like Marcus, if he had lost in the pre-qualifying at Wimbledon, we wouldn’t have this unbelievable story and he might not be coming back to play in January. You never know. There has to be more money at the bottom of the game. It’s a difficult one.Because now players are breaking through later than they ever were before so they are obviously finding ways to hang around. A lot of the guys play club tennis to try to make some extra money, which helps. We don’t have that in this country. You can travel to Europe and do that. In Spain they have a few more money tournaments.” Willis is ranked 772 in the world. But for the match against Federer he dressed up wearing not just  Roger’s classic white Nike bandana headband but an R.F.-branded shirt as well. At the end of the match, he was not just another pretender but Marcus WillisWillis,  a 25-year-old from Slough,  able to trade blows with the best in the business. For most people, the story will be about Marcus’ two magical weeks at Wimbledon. But Willis knows better. It started earlier, much earlier, with a girl named Jennifer.
  • "Parents who wish to mould their kids into champions must recognise that the support system of the family is essential for an athlete's success. Without your support, your child's dreams will never grow wings." ---Leander Paes.
  • What do you say to Lionel Messi when he loses yet another final and announces his retirement from internationals? Are his fans to cry, “Come back, Messi, we’ll always love you, come what may”? Or to join his plaintive chorus to ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’. “Don't cry for me Argentina The truth is I never left you All through my wild days My mad existence I kept my promise Don't keep your distance.” Truth be told, my first reaction to Messi’s missed penalty was the demoralising effect it would have on his teammates. To see their skipper miss his shot by a mile could only create more flutters and nerves in their midst. And sure enough, his teammates missed another and that was the end of Argentina's Copa America Centenario dreams. That Messi would take this loss to heart and view it as a personal failure could only be foreseen in hindsight. Will Messi be back? The magician with the ball does know that soccer is a team game and that he's not expected to shoulder the blame for his team's inadequacies. And it's not as though there isn't a blueprint available on how to nullify the Messi threat personified by an Argentinean side. Germany have done it before and Chile did it to them twice. Messi is hardly the first high-profile player to miss a crucial penalty. His Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo missed one in this year's Euro. Roberto Baggio and Michel Platini are on that unfortunate list too. Time is a great healer and it’s possible that the lure of another World Cup could draw the mercurial forward back. Yes, it’s possible, and we certainly hope to see him back in national colours. Until then, we’ll continue to enjoy his exploits with Neymar and Luis Suarez for Barca.
  • "Fashion is very important for me, so (whatever I wear or design) always has to be fashionable. But clearly it also has to be functional. They go hand-in-hand. I wouldn't pick one over the other. But it's easy to design something functional without being fashionable. It's about challenging yourself to push it a little bit." ---Venus Williams.
  • Maria Sharapova is full of surprises. Just when her detractors and critics believed that she must be moping around waiting and hoping for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to reduce or revoke her suspension, Sharapova---the magician---pulled out a rabbit from her proverbial hat. The long-legged Russian beauty is going to school at Harvard. The shrewd businesswoman that she is, Maria probably realised that time spent away from the court can be best utilised learning how to run her Sugarpova business better. While it sounds like a wonderful idea, it’s also an opportunity for her to reflect on her particular situation. James Blake who spent two years at Harvard but dropped out to pursue his tennis career had some advice for the suspended player. Sharapova is the not the only woman player to opt for Business Administration when returning to studies. Venus Williams is a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Indiana University East. The tuition fees and living costs is small change for Sharapova who presides over a multi-million dollar empire. The DNA India titled their report on the news flash: Real woman of substance: Maria Sharapova to go to Harvard Business School That seems a tad overdone but there are worse things Maria Sharapova could do away from the sport. Update: Sharapova will be attending a two-week executive education program at Harvard---not the full-fledged MBA.  Her agent, Max Eisenbud, told The Associated Press that it involves just two classes on campus. Read more at:
  • Anil Kumble is the newly appointed  Team India coach. That must be the most important job in the country after the Prime Minister’s, right? Wrong, dead wrong. Sanjay Manjrekar , in his column for The Week, describes the job thus: “’Tell me, who is this guy with the Indian team, is he a player?’ ‘No, he does not step onto the field.’ ‘Is he a selector, does he pick the players?’ ‘No, he does not, the captain and selectors do that.’ ‘Okay, then, does he make the critical game-changing decisions on the field, with regard to bowling changes, field setting, batting order, etc?’ ‘Nope, that again is done by the captain.’ There you go, that is the actual reality of an Indian coach and his position within the team. Hence the media excitement, every time, around the appointment of an Indian coach, baffles me. In contrast, when a far more important and influential position outside the players is filled, it’s only duly noted by the media. That is the chief selector’s position.” This is not to deride or belittle Anil Kumble’s credentials in any way. Much has been said and written about his stellar cricketing record, his courage facing the West Indian quicks and his mental strength, Kumble recognises the above reality and claims that he’ll be more of an ‘elder brother’  to the side. He said: “I certainly believe that as a coach of a young team, you need to be hands-on and you need to really get your hands dirty as well - train with them, be a part of their training. And be with them more like an elder brother, in every aspect, not just on the field, but also off it. That's something I will be focusing on.” Manjrekar concludes his piece thus: “In Indian cricket, the captain and a couple of senior players basically chart the destiny of the Indian team. The selectors have an important role to play in this journey. If the captain is able, there is nothing wrong with this kind of culture; many great teams have been built like this. So what an Indian coach really does is facilitate the needs of the captain and the core group and try and keep them in good spirits. The coaches that actually make a difference to Indian cricket are those that coached players like Tendulkar, Dravid, and others, when they were kids. The grassroots level coaches.” Kumble made a three-year-plan presentation to the Cricket Advisory Committee but has been appointed for only a year. Ravi Shastri’s stint as Team Director and the results under his tutelage paved the way for the selection of an Indian coach. Can Kumble prove as adept as John Wright or Gary Kirsten in handling this young side? India play 13 Tests at home and his tenure includes the Champions Trophy. 'Jumbo' does not have a long rope and there is speculation that he was not an unanimous choice. Kumble has no formal coaching experience but then neither had Shastri. That appears to have made the difference since he was not in the initial shortlist. The CAC selected Kumble---possibly---because he is a much younger candidate and can keep pace with the youngsters in the side. John Wright and Gary Kirsten were not too long retired when they took over the reins of the Indian side. A younger person can be more hands-on; Kumble certainly believes he can be. Is hands-on what the job requires? Depends on how you define it. Kirsten felt that it played an important role while he was coach. He used to spend hours bouncing balls at the senior players. His ability to handle fragile super-egos cannot be underestimated. Kirsten’s right if we are go by what Manjrekar writes. And he is an expert. Players like Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli prefer to consult their old coaches on  technical aspects of their skills. Is it less likely that it’s not the same for the current batch of players? Ajinkya Rahane and Robin Uthappa have retained Pravin Amre as their go-to person for improving their willow skills. It does appear that what a coach brings to the side is intangible but the results are visible and rewarded or penalised with much more alacrity. Simply put, the coach is the fall guy should anything go wrong.          
  • Will it be third time lucky for Lionel Messi? The mesmerising Argentinean played his part in thumping hosts USA in the semis of the Copa America Centenario with one stupendous free-kick and two assists. The men in striped white and blue take on defending champions Chile in a rematch of last year's summit clash. This is Messi's third final in two years for his nation. Will this end their title drought? The line-up for the last four places were as the form book suggests. Colombia and USA made up the numbers. Brazil---minus Neymar---were a pale shadow of their former, glorious selves. And Uruguay were unfortunate that they had to leave their talismanic striker Luis Suarez on the injury bench. 100 years of the Copa America and there couldn't be a more befitting end if Lionel Messi were to finally acquire the silverware he richly deserves. Alexis Sanchez may have dissimilar thoughts.
  • "I may wear an earring at times, fool around with the way my hair is styled and I love to play around with fashion. But, deep down I am a traditionalist. ---Leander Paes.
  • Shiva Thapa is the sole Indian boxer to qualify for this year’s Olympics so far. There could be a few more if results are favourable at AIBA’s World Qualifying tournament in Baku. However, there are two boxers---both former Olympians, both former medallists----who are hoping for indirect entry to Rio. They are Mary Kom and Vijender Singh. While Kom failed to qualify, Vijender turned professional last year. That ought to have ended his bid for yet another medal but he was provided a glimmer of hope when AIBA opened their doors to pros earlier this month. Singh, however, has a WBO Asia Pacific title bout scheduled for July 16 in New Delhi against Kerry Hope. That effectively belied his Olympic aspirations---or so, we believed. The professional boxers qualifying tourney is scheduled a week earlier in Venezuela. But Vijender has other ideas. Speaking from Manchester, the former three-time Olympian said: "Why can't there be a wild card entry for me? Why can't the ad-hoc committee demand the same for me from the AIBA? They are making every effort to get a wild card for Mary Kom despite the fact that she has not qualified for Rio. But in my case, there is a clear bias because no one in India is serious about my Olympic participation. I should also be given a chance if the rules have been relaxed by the AIBA for pro boxers to compete at Rio. I am a three-time Olympian and have fought in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games as well as World Championships." Vijender believes he is being discriminated against because he is now a professional pugilist. He added: "It seems that I am no longer competing for India. The officials believe that since I have turned pro, I shouldn't have a chance of going to Rio. They feel they shouldn't help me because I no longer represent India in amateur boxing. I am fighting my professional bouts under the tri-colour. My name is announced as 'Vijender Singh from India'. All my victories in the pro circuit are for India. My Asian title bout will be for India." Welcome back to the merry go round of Indian sportingdom, Vijender. And it is a merry-go-round. Mary Kom is being forced to run from pillar to post just to ensure that the Indian Olympic Association files an application for a wild card entry with the International Olympic Commission. Three wild card entries under the Tripartite Commission Invitation Places are up for grabs in  three women's weight categories — 51kg, 60kg and 75 kg. These are usually used to promote sport in certain countries. The IOC can allocate these to players of repute who fail to qualify. But either the national federation or the national Olympic body has first to apply for a wild card entry. That, unfortunately in Kom's case, has not yet occurred. The DNA listed the criteria for Invitation Places as follows: “National Olympic Committee (NOC) priority: based on NOC preferences, as specified in the applications submitted International Federation (IF) priority; based on the assessment of the athletes’ technical level and sporting merit during the qualification period International Olympic Commission (IOC) priority; based on various principles in relation to the objectives of the commission, including: Universality Continental balance Gender equity NOC and athlete eligibility Technical level to compete safely and with dignity Olympic scholarships for athletes”   All this while the IOA’s first choice as Goodwill Ambassador, Salman Khan, steals the limelight with his ill-timed and ill-advised remark comparing his bodily aches post the intense workouts he endured shooting for his upcoming film ‘Sultan’ to those of a ‘raped woman’. How much better it would have been had Salman Khan spoken a few words highlighting the travails that Indian sports persons undergo merely to participate in an Olympics. That’s what ambassadors are for, that’s what they do. –––––----+++±+++++++++++++++ Mary Kom's application for a wild card entry has been rejected by AIBA. The IOC does not permit wild cards to players from nations who have eight or more representatives in a sport. India fielded eight or more boxers at the last two Games.
  • Xherdan Shaqiri offers Puma some business advice. What he said: “I hope Puma don’t make condoms.” Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri made the most cutting remark of the evening when he said the above following the shredding of four team-mates' jerseys during a group game with hosts France at this year’s European Cup. Admir Mehmedi, Breel Embolo, Blerim Dzemaili and Granit Xhaka all lost their shirts---literally---in their goalless draw in Lille. Xhaka had to change shirts twice. Former England World Cup hero Gary Lineker was equally scathing on Twitter indicting German industry. This is not the first time the Swiss encountered problems with their Puma tees. Breel Embolo lost his top in a friendly against Montenegro. He said: "We have had a few problems with the jersey. The kit manager is not fully ready yet, but we are." Puma responded: "There was one batch of material, where yarns had been damaged during the production process, leading to a weakening in the final garment. This can happen, if the combination of heat, pressure and time is not properly controlled in the manufacturing process. All federations have confirmed that they never had any such issues and are very happy with quality, functionality and design of their jerseys.” Puma supplies shirts to Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland and Slovakia. Its home rival Adidas was  also targeted when its ‘Beau Jeu’ ball designed especially for Euro 2016 burst open in the same match. Adidas said: "We are looking into what happened. Incidents of this nature are extremely rare. The reason for the tear has not yet been identified, but Beau Jeu [the tournament ball] has been widely praised by respected experts for its contribution to the exciting start to the tournament." What Shaqiri really meant: “A tear---at the wrong time---makes nine.” What he definitely didn’t: “I’ll opt for double protection the next time I play---I’ll wear two jerseys instead.”
  • "Be it the Indian Premier League, football or wrestling, people watch sports for entertainment. It is the same with pro boxing; people come to see a good fight. They don't want to see soft counter-punches. Nobody comes to watch a nice person. They want to see brutal fights and blood." ---Vijender Singh.
  • "As a human being, I have never felt pressure. Or rather, you feel pressure but you know how to handle it." ---Leander Paes.
  • " boxing is a very lonely sport. It's true. Sometimes you are depressed, sometimes not, but you pick yourself up. You have to remain positive and think about the future." ---Vijender Singh.
  • " Amateur and pro boxing should be separate. It is unfair that young amateur boxers would be destroyed by experienced fighters at the Olympics."---Francis Warren.
  • "The coaches that actually make a difference to Indian cricket are those that coached players like Tendulkar, Dravid and others, when they were kids. The grassroots level coaches."---Sanjay Manjrekar.
  • The Mint editorial on Saturday the 18th of June, 2016 read: “Recently, ESPN did some number crunching to come up with a list of the most famous athletes in the world. Virat Kohli came in at No. 8. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was 14th and Sania Mirza made a creditable showing at 41. What are the odds that an Indian hockey player—despite the team’s stellar performance at the Champions Trophy this week—will gain that sort of name recognition even briefly? It’s an old story. Cricket is the colossus dwarfing every other sport in India. Even as a few other sportspersons—Mirza, Leander Paes, Saina Nehwal, for instance—have gained prominence, hockey has remained trapped in a cycle of uneven performances, endless administrative squabbles and a lack of public attention even when it performs well. Will the Champions Trophy and the Olympics see a sustained run of good performances and the spotlight that should come with it or will it be another false dawn?” The above was the publication’s response to the Indian men’s hockey team’s performance at the recently concluded Champions trophy in London. India finished a respectable second claiming their first ever silver medal at the elite tourney. India lost just two games---one each to Belgium and Australia. The final was a goalless affair---their antipodean rivals won on penalties in the final. Yet, the Mint's  'Quick Edit' rings true. Any Indian sports lover can reel off the names of every member of the Indian cricket team---possibly even the names of  players of the IPL teams they support. But very few can recall the names of sportsmen in other team sports. (P.S. That includes me.) Is the Indian sports lover solely to blame for this state of affairs? The traditional media namely newspapers, magazInes and news channels devote very little time and space to other sports besides cricket in India. (Winners hit the headlines more often than not. Cheating winners even more so. Ask Sharapova. Nobody cares for cheating losers except the drug-testing bodies.) That truly is a sad state of affairs. Especially when this Indian side looks good to clinch a medal at this year’s Rio Olympics. In the past, Indian hockey teams have flattered to deceive in the run-up to the Games. Their strategies, tactics and players are studied and ploys to nullify their effectiveness are hatched up and unveiled at the Games by their opposing coaches. Roelant Oltmans seems up to the challenge. The team keeps improving under his stewardship and it is noteworthy that the side performed much better in their second game against the Aussies. The team lacks consistency though. They ought not to have conceded a second goal to Belgium---they are vulnerable on the break. The players lack  the speed to fall back quickly enough to thwart counterattacks. And they  have trouble getting the ball into the ‘D’ in the face of concerted defence tactics employed by their opponents. Should the team be grouped with Australia, another loss like the one to Belgium could spell the death knell for any podium aspirations. Hockey India announced an award of Rs. 2 lakhs to every individual player of this Champions trophy side. This Indian side will surely hit the jackpot should they return with a medal from Rio. In fact, they must---for this victory to be a true, new dawn.   Related articles Hockey: England stun Australia in Champions Trophy opener(
  • 'King' Chris Henry Gayle has all the answers. Speaking to Donald McRae of the Guardian, the West Indian blaster defended his recent outrageous behaviour and comments in his inimitable blunt Caribbean cadence. The Jamaican first reminded the journalist of his proud heritage and that West Indians always felt disrespected by the English. The reference was to Mark Nicholas’ stunning dismissal of their T20 prospects, ““The West Indies are short of brains.” In a statement with shades reminiscent of the movie, Fire In Babylon,  Gayle said: “That drove us even harder. How can you disrespect the West Indies when we were so dominant in world cricket for so long? We have to face it ourselves because our own board don’t defend us. So we have to fight our own war in the middle against these allegations about West Indies having no brains. How can you jump to that conclusion? It shows no respect. They smile at you – while trying to destroy you in the media. We were very disappointed. We should have been one of the favourites but we weren’t even in the top five. As West Indians we have always been disrespected. As soon as we fight back they make it look like we are the bad one in the media. We’ve experienced these things over the years. So it’s no surprise.” But it’s his autobiography Six Machine that’s hitting all the right (and wrong) notes across the world with excerpts published in most major newspapers. From describing his triple hundreds, his mammoth 170+ in the IPL and staying at Vijay Mallya’s Goa bungalow, the memoirs cover it all. The voice is authentic and the style is no-holds-barred. Chris Gayle reveals how his fledgling career was tended to by a woman. He writes of his Kingston schoolteacher and first coach: “Miss Hamilton is a wonderful woman. She kickstarted things and gave me that self‑belief. Most of the time, as a kid, you’re nervous. She would try to get in your head and give you confidence. She was also our football coach – so she was very talented and to have a woman lead you at a young age was really good.” But Chris feels nothing about disrespecting Mel McLaughlin in January this year at the Big Bash. His latest words on the sorry episode are even more dismissive. He said: “If she was upset she would’ve said it. At no stage did she say she felt offended by me. Then they wanted an apology and she came on air and said: ‘He’s apologised – so let it go everybody.’ You could tell she had been forced to say those things. Trust me. She’s of West Indian background. She knows the culture. From what I understand her mom is black. What do they call it? Samosa (Samoan)? Yeah. So she knows. But people put things in her ears – just to slaughter Chris Gayle.” Chris Gayle is remarkably insouciant and , perhaps, realistic  when asked what if his baby daughter Blush were to face the same kind of behaviour 25 years on in a journalistic career. He adds: “If you put yourself there you have to expect that. You have to deal with it. Not all situations are going to be the best. You have to brace yourself. You have to be professional, yes, but expect the unexpected at all times.It could happen to anybody. Anybody. It could happen again.” Chris then accuses Charlotte Edwards of setting him up as a villain in her piece for the Times and threatens legal action. He says: “The first interview I did by the pool. The recorder was on the table. The interview lasted 2½ hours. Basically discussing the book, it went according to plan. But the outcome was very sad. That’s why I say people can’t be trusted – especially you guys. I know. Obviously she came with a different mentality. Even that first interview I did with her she was trying to get me to say things about Shane Warne. I said: ‘Listen, this is not about Shane Warne.’ So the interview was good even if she didn’t get what she wanted. I was having dinner by the bar when the agent texted. She’s leaving in the morning and wants to say thanks for the interview. I said: ‘OK, no problem.’ She came by and that’s how it happened. She started telling me her life story. She tried to ask me if I’d ever smoked weed. I said: ‘Listen, I’m a sportsman, how can I do those things?’ So whatever questions she asked me I asked her back. She went on to say she is a single mum. She had also been to a war [zone] and she was telling me that when all the media people come to drink they sleep together. I asked her: ‘Did you do it?’ And she said: ‘No.’ It’s not an interview – we’re talking at the bar. If she had a tape I wish people could hear it. In the interview’s first line she says Mel didn’t get the chance to have a drink with Chris Gayle – but she did. That was her agenda. She put these things out to make me look like the bad one. She got the attention but I’m going to speak to my legal team.” If Gayle’s version of the story is true, then it’s understandable why most sports stars prefer to be tight-lipped to the press rather than drop their guard and make off-the-cuff remarks. Every word could be misconstrued and twisted. And if Gayle's infamous remarks to Edwards were off-the-record, then she is in serious breach of journalistic integrity. Neither party comes out smelling like roses. “There can be no trust”, Chris Gayle says in his life story. He adds: “There’s no sadness in saying that. It’s the reality. You can’t put trust in people. There’s no loyalty out there. You have to be sceptical – regardless of what that person says.” Gayle’s account, however, of his relationship with his girlfriend cannot elicit much sympathy. He writes: “I am the Six Machine. I am the only man in the history of the world to have scored two triple centuries etc. I am the only cricketer in the history of the world to have his own pole-dancing room in his house. I have a girl. I can’t remember her name. We’ve been together for nine years. Though mostly it probably sounds as if we’ve been apart. She doesn’t like World Boss’s pole-dancing room. But luckily loads of other women do. So it hasn’t been a total waste of money.” Chris Gayle will make news wherever he goes as long he’s scoring runs---not women. They’re merely sideshows in his grand design of things---in his “World Baass. Universe Baass. Multiverse Baass.” That’s the uncomfortable truth and he expects the people in his life and the world at large to live with it. Is that sad or great? You  tell me. Related articles West Indies star Chris Gayle says sexism row just a 'little fun'( Chris Gayle loses major contract after fresh sexism row( 'I have a very, very big bat': Female journalist claims cricket star Chris Gayle made lewd comments to her and wanted to know if she'd ever had a threesome( Gayle hits back at critics in book( Chris Gayle opens up about Mel McLaughlin and hits critics for six(
  • "I don't know if I'm a good person, but I know I'm not a bad one."---Zinedine Zidane.
  • Vijender Singh had given up his dreams of another Olympic medal when he turned professional last year. The International Boxing Association did the pugilist a 'favour' by approving the participation of pro boxers at the Olympics early this month. The sport was one of the last bastions of amateurism at the Games. The ace boxer is scheduled to fight Australian Kerry Hope  for the WBO Asia title in New Delhi on July 16. Pros can qualify for the Olympics by participating in a tournament to held in Venezuela in early July. Vijender Singh blew cold and then hot when questioned whether he’s like to represent India at the Games. When AIBA’s decision was first announced, Vijender said: “It won’t make much difference to me. As of now, I am focused on my fight on July 16. I have been hearing about this proposal from the start of this year. It’s strange that you take a decision with such little time to go before the Olympics. First of all I wouldn’t even know how to go about pursuing this task. I would probably have to go through a federation and no one really knows what the status of the federation in India really is. It’s really difficult to prepare for a tournament at such short notice. It will probably be the same for other professionals as well. If you are a boxer who is starting his career, or even someone who has fights lined up for the future, then it will be almost impossible to get ready in time for this tournament. You have to understand that professional and amateur boxing are two different things. It’s not that one is better than the other, but the two are very different. Everything changes. In the amateur you only box for three rounds while in professional, you have to fight for 10 or twelve rounds. So the kind of endurance you need is much more. In the amateur game you don’t really have to pace yourself. Even your movements are different. In amateur boxing, you are preparing to fight several bouts over many days. So your recovery between bouts is important because you have to make weight every day. In professional boxing, you are only focusing on one bout at a time with several weeks to prepare. When you make weight it is only for that fight. So it will not be easy to fight several bouts one after the other. I feel this proposal will have a bigger impact on boxers for the next Olympics. For Rio, I don’t know if a lot of professionals will want to participate without fully knowing the risks. Things would be a lot more clearer for the next games. At that point if professional boxers know when the tournament they will have a better idea how to prepare themselves for it. I really don’t see myself competing in the Olympics again. In four years, I hope I will be in a position where I can compete at the world level but in the professional circuit.” The Haryanvi  changed his tune a few days later claiming that he would love to represent the country once more at the Olympics. He said: "I will try to go to Rio. The last qualification is in Venezuela (from July 3 to 8) and I would love to be a part of it. It is a matter of pride to represent your country at the Olympics and when I am getting a chance now, why not?" His promoter Francis Warren, however, would not entertain any such talk. He said: "It's not possible for him. He has got a championship fight on July 16 and, for that, he will be training in Manchester. He will be training to excel in his professional career. If he keeps on thinking about Olympics, then I'll be bad guy here. The timing (Venezuela qualifiers and Asia Pacific bout) doesn't allow him to concentrate on Rio. I won't be comfortable with the idea. It would be a backward step for Vijender if he wants to box as an amateur boxer. What will happen if he gets a cut or injures himself during the qualifiers? He won't be able to fight on July 16. Who's going to reimburse me for holding this press conference in Delhi? Who will reimburse for seven months and so much amount of money I have invested in Vijender to make him a world-class professional boxer? The effort was for Asian title, not some Rio Olympics." Vijender rebutted Warren saying: "The promoters will take the decision, that's true. But they are not the only ones to decide as they have to also consider my wish. If we keep the contract and WBO title fight aside, then I'll have every right to discuss the matter with them. Olympics is a dream and I'll definitely love to go to Rio. My promoters are saying that they have spent so much money on me. Tell me, if I am not happy, then what's the use of that money? They can't take the decision alone.” Notwithstanding the war of words, Vijender was well aware when he made the decision to turn pro that he could forego any chance of appearing for the country in the Olympics. He may have second thoughts right now but it’s unlikely that the contract he has signed with Queensberry Promotions will allow him to participate without their explicit permission. Also, it’s not as though there aren’t any other real contenders waiting in line to take his amateur place. Vikas Krishnan is vying for a spot in the 75 kg category as well and hopes to qualify via AIBA's final qualifier to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan from June 16 to 25. Krishnan has also qualified to take part in Venezuela under AIBA’s APB programme. He thus has two chances to clinch a place in the Rio-bound squad. Who will it be? Vikas or Vijender? Will Vijender be able to convince his employers that he can do both---qualify and win his WBO Asia Title bout? The story has all the makings of melodrama. But there’s a feeling that the words bandied around are mere bluster---all smoke and no fire--- and simply an exercise in nationalistic posturing. The sentiments expressed by Vijender are noble but impractical---given his commitments. AIBA’s dragging their feet on the decision to allow professional boxers at the Games has not helped matters either. Should Krishnan fail to qualify, it’ll truly be a damp squib. Shiva Thapa is the only Indian boxer to qualify so far. We’ve already had a media circus with Sushil Kumar challenging Narsingh Yadav’s selection for Rio. God knows we don’t need another.       Related articles Vijender Singh Accepts Amir Khans Challenge Ready To Fight The Former World Champion Of Pakistani-Origin( Tyson lands knockout blow against professionals at Rio(
  • "A climb is only there for me. When I climb up a wall, there is a line, before, during and afterwards. It's like a teacher writing on a blackboard with chalk, only this line is lived by me. But afterwards, you see nothing on the wall. I see my line in my inner eye. It is a huge design, maybe the biggest paintings we do on the highest mountains. But we leave nothing. The next generation can come and they don't see a line on Everest. The biggest possibility is to create nothing. The something we create is nothing, so when the next generation comes, the world is still empty and they can fill it up. I believe we reinvent the world in each generation. We live life step by step, and at this moment, the steps in front of me are real, but soon, the wind washes away my footprints." ---Reinhold Messner, first man to summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen and also the first on all 14 8000-metre peaks.
  • "I always felt like God made Muhammad special, but I don't know why God chose me to carry this child."---Odessa Grady Clay, Muhammad Ali's mother.
  • Roger Federer couldn’t do it. Rafael Nadal couldn’t either. But Novak Djokovic has. The Serb claimed his first French Open title---his 12th Slam---on his 12th attempt to round off a superb year beginning with Wimbledon 2015, thus holding all four titles at the same time. It’s a supreme achievement from a supreme athlete. Andy Murray surpassed himself this year making his first French Open final. But nothing could stop the incorrigible Nole from getting what he richly deserves—a seat at the pantheon of greats. Federer has 17, Nadal has 14 and now the Djoker has 12. Is this the best generation of tennis greats ever? It sure seems like it.
  • Is it the beginning of the end for Serena Williams? Three shots at glory---a 22nd Slam---all gone a-begging. The US Open last year would have made it a genuine Grand Slam---all four big guns in a calendar year. It was not to be. And the next two Slam finals have only seen Serena fall by the wayside to her younger opponents---German Angelique Kerber and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza. American tennis is on the wane and Serena---their last bastion---is losing her glitter too. Yes, Serena is not getting any younger. She’s 34---and she’s treading the path that Roger Federer has over the last four years---still competitive but not a real contender. At least, Federer had the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka to reckon with. Williams has no such excuse. She’s still No.1 and she’s expected to dominate her younger opponents. Is it a mental thing? Is there some fragility , some frailty, not apparent earlier? It would appear so---every opponent now has the belief that on their day, they can bring the 21-time champion to ground level from her previous stratospheric heights. Are we being too harsh, too critical already? Most top 10 women players would give an arm and a limb to have the same kind of results Serena has achieved in the past three Slams. Yes, Serena’s vulnerable but there’s also a possibility that she can snatch a bigger slice of history once Wimbledon begins in another three weeks. Lush green grass will tell.
  • Who is Kiki Bertens? Sure, she’s that unseeded Dutchwoman who’s reeled off 12 wins in a row over the past two weeks to make the semi-finals of the French Open. She now faces  top seed Serena Williams this afternoon. We all know that---now. But where was this wonder-woman prior to this? What’s her record? Her best result in a Grand Slam was at the 2014 French Open---again---where she made the fourth round as a qualifier. It's on clay that Bertens has really shined---taking a liking to the surface and clinching two WTA singles titles. That explains a lot. What’s her head-to-head record against the other three semi-finalists? Bertens has played Samantha Stosur and Williams just once---losing to them in the Slams---the French Open and the US Open respectively. She has a much more formidable record against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza holding a 3-0 lead. But these wins were aeons ago---the last one coming in 2014. But her performances at Roland Garros so far have been stellar. Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, Daria Kasatkina , fifteenth seed Madison Keys and eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky. Can it get better than that? It surely can. Maybe Williams will have an off day. It won't be easy. Bertens is carrying a left-calf injury. And then, we could have a new French Open women's champion. Stosur, Muguruza, Bertens. Take your pick. Muguruza’s been close before losing last year’s Wimbledon final. Stosur has the US Open to her credit and has made a French Open final before falling to Francesca Schiavone. It’s all good for women’s tennis---the more competitive the better. But the news story of the year , of course, would be Bertens doing a mini-Leicester. Can she? Will she? Your guess is as good as mine.
  • "Don't hate me just because I am not what you want me to be. Don't hate me because I am not what you are. I am me and I am honest." ---Chris Gayle.
  • Should we sympathise with Virat Kohli? I mean, come on, the guy’s been performing like a maniac over the past few months---first for Team India and then surpassing himself and everyone else with his mind-blowing feats in this year’s IPL. Almost single-handedly taking his team to the knock-out rounds and yet so near and yet so far. He cut a forlorn figure at the prize-distribution ceremony post the final. The Indian  media and fans have compared Kohli to that all-time great, Sachin Tendulkar. The comparisons sometimes seem apt, sometimes odious, but it’s been about the statistics, the numbers and their stature in their respective sides. Longevity will tell---it always does. But what Virat has recently had a taste of is what Tendulkar and ,to an even greater extent, Brian Lara, experienced throughout their careers---their inability to carry and inspire their sides across that intangible finish line That kind of frustration, that kind of heartbreak where you have to stand alone among the ruins requires a special kind of resolve. Virat has it and that is what’ll make the man truly great. Not the numbers alone, not the glory alone but the losses---the losses that hurt, the losses that build. Related articles How Virat Kohli cracked the Rs 100-crore league(
  • "It pains me when a film actor or a cricketer is a youth icon. I don't have anything against them. They are great entertainers; they are useful to the society. They contribute to people's lives. But they are not heroes. We haven't redefined heroes. Heroes are different people. Heroes are people who sacrifice their own concerns and do something bigger, who change people's lives. We film stars and cricketers shouldn't be aspirational in such a big way for the healthy growth of the society. It's a sign of consumerism at its extreme. That's why I find it so cool and so hip to see that photograph of the women scientists of ISRO celebrating a launch. That's heroism. That's cool, that's hip! Lekin main agar kahin se udhaar le kar, kuch bana ke, thodi der ke liye aapka time pass kara de raha hoon, just because I am famous, you aspire to become me - that's not cool, that's pathetic." ---Irrfan Khan.
  • Chris Gayle never learns or so it seems. The macho West Indian star first made the front pages this year for his infamous ‘Don’t blush, baby’ line to Mel McLaughlin in an on-field interview at the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia. Gayle escaped with a warning and a stiff fine of AUSD 10,000. But the smarts just wouldn’t end. The Jamaican enjoyed rubbing it in naming his newly-born daughter---with partner Tasha---Blush. Why draw her in into his mess, Chris? 20 years down the line, would your daughter like to be reminded of the circumstances around which she was named so? Go figure. Trouble goes around in threes. And there was surely a ‘threesome’ in store. Chris Gayle pressed down on the accelerator---ignoring speed bumps--- when interviewed by Times journalist Charlotte Edwardes where he talked about sex, female equality and homophobia. Gayle told Edwardes that he had 'a very, very big bat, the biggest in the wooooorld'  and whether she thought she “could lift it" and that she'd need both hands. The Jamaican embarrassed her further by questioning whether she’s had any black men and been part of a threesome. The interview touched on other aspects as well. On women’s equality, Gayle said: 'Women should please their man. When he comes home, food is on the table. Serious. You ask your husband what he likes and then you make it.'” “Women should have equality and they do have equality. They have more than equality. Women can do what they want. Jamaican women are very vocal. They will let you know what time is it, for sure.' On homophobia: “The culture I grew up in, gays were negative. But people can do whatever they want. You can't tell someone how to live their life. It's a free world.” The timing of the interview could hardly have been more ‘fortuitous’. Gayle is on the verge of releasing his autobiography, '”Six Machine” excerpts of which have been published (where else?) in the Times. Reacting to Freddie Flintoff’s description of him as a “bit of  a chop” after the McLaughlin incident, Gayle said: "Freddie Flintstone, a young boy like you taking Viagra? Don't lecture me. The only chop Freddie (Flintoff) knows is when he used to bowl short to me and I would chop him past backward point for four.” Describing the McLaughlin fiasco, he added: “Now T20 is different. It's not Test cricket. It's chilled and fun and let's do things different. So when Mel asks me that question I stay in the T20 mind, and answer informal and fun. I meant it as a joke. I meant it as a little fun. I didn't mean to be disrespectful and I didn't mean it to be taken serious. Channel 10’s commentary team could be heard laughing in the background … but someone above them clearly decided to step in, and a throwaway comment in a fun format escalates and blows up and within hours it has turned into a major international incident. " The southpaw had even stronger words reserved for Ian Chappell. "Ian Chappell, calling for me to banned worldwide, a man who was once convicted of unlawful assault in the West Indies for punching a cricket official. Ian Chappell, how can you ban the Universe Boss? You’d have to ban cricket itself.” Former Australian opener Chris Rogers was one of his most vocal critics claiming that he set a bad example to his younger teammates. Gayle responded thus calling him a bit of a “Roger Rabbit”. He said: "Chris Rogers, how can you claim that when it was you and me at the bar most nights? I'm not a snitch, but I've heard from your own mouth what you've done. Next time you want to open your mouth, maybe chew on a carrot instead." Is Chris Gayle in trouble yet again? Has he landed in deeper, hotter waters this time around? His detractors would like to believe so. Melbourne Renegades have decided not to continue with the T20 star. This, however, does not prevent any other BBL side from signing him on. While Somerset chief executive Guy Lavender admitted that he was disappointed with Gayle’s latest blowout, he added: "But as I've said before, we found him to be fantastic the last time he was here, in terms of activities both on and off the pitch. It's a shame, because it detracts from his cricketing ability. The fact is, what he has said is inappropriate. But we haven't had an opportunity to discuss [it] with him. I'm sure we will. But I don't see it as grounds not to have him playing for us this summer." And in India, IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla is taking the matter seriously. Talking to Times of India, he said: “The players must behave themselves. We expect the players to adhere to a certain kind of behaviour when the tournament is on. The players should maintain the sanctity of the league. These kind of statements are totally uncalled for in public domain. I will take up this issue with the president and the secretary of the BCCI.” BCCI’s secretary Ajay Shirke said: “At this point, we’ll not look into it. We’re focused on completing the IPL, which has reached its final stages. What has happened in this case is between two foreign individuals. It is a personal matter between people who aren’t from India. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we’ll ignore it. If a complaint is brought to us, we’ll act on it. If it develops into something more, we’ll look into it at an appropriate stage.” Gayle , in his latest interview, believes that most of the criticism directed his way after the McLaughlin imbroglio was racially motivated. He says: “Successful black men are struggling because people do things to put them down. I would say this anywhere in the world, in any sporting arena, right now in 2016: racism is still the case for a black man. Trust me. They just want to get a little sniff of the dirt. They find out some shit and they want to sink you. It’s reality. You have to deal with that as a successful black man.” Racism has always been an issue in sport. Henry Gayle was born in a Kingston slum and used cricket as his vehicle to become one of the world’s most beloved and entertaining sportsmen. Writing for the Guardian, Andy Bull says: “In the last year the Zimbabwean Test cricketer Mark Vermeulen was banned by his board after he referred to black Zimbabweans as ‘apes’ on social media, while Vermeulen’s old team-mate Prosper Utseya accused that same board of racism in their running of the sport. And several Pakistani players have spoken out about racism in English county cricket, in the wake of the offence committed by Craig Overton. These issues are always there, bubbling under. But it’s rare for a star player to address them directly, as Gayle has just done. Gayle was talking about something more insidious, about attitudes ‘off the field’, especially, he seems to be saying, among the media. And some aspects of our coverage should make us uncomfortable. As Peter Oborne pointed out in his book Wounded Tiger, the Pakistani team is often subjected to the most ludicrous stereotyping, which has stretched as far as the suggestions, widespread at the time, that certain members of their 2007 World Cup team may have had a hand in the death of their coach Bob Woolmer. Innuendos always swirl when they play poorly, quicker to gather around them than their competitors, though cheating, and fixing, are universal problems.” Racism is not restricted to the Western hemisphere. Foreign cheerleaders in the IPL have complained several times about the treatment and slurs they are subjected to by Indian men. In 2008, British dancers Ellesha Newton and Sherinne Anderson were prevented from performing during a Kings XI Punjab game. Anderson said: "An organiser pulled us away. He said the people here don't want to see dark people. The 'n' word was used and they said they only wanted beautiful white girls. We were crying. I could understand if it were the crowd but they were very receptive. This kind of thing has never happened to us - not in Europe, not here, nowhere. “ There have not been any black cheerleaders in any edition of the IPL since. An unnamed cheerleader in a free-wheeling chat on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) had this to say: "I hate the racism. Why is my team made up of 99% white girls? Why do Indians feel it's ok to dress white girls up in skimpy outfits but they won't let their fellow Indian women do it? It's messed up. I've asked my managers [about why no Indian girls as cheerleaders] and they don't know. I'll keep asking around, though, because I'm curious too. They could probably just get good dancers and train them; there's no shortage of those."   Chris Gayle adds in his autobiography that some people consider him “lazy". He writes: “People think that [my] attitude towards the game stink. That’s how it come across: lazy.” If Gayle’s indolent, his record proves otherwise. He has played 103 Test matches in 14 years, scored two triple centuries and is arguably the best T20 batsman in the world. But playing the race card in this seemingly complicated mess only addles the issue. Racial discrimination is not the only kind that exists. Women everywhere face sexual biases on a daily basis. To claim that one is better or worse than the other sidesteps the issues raised by Gayle's nonchalance towards the ramifications of his 'jokey' sideshows. Discrimination of any kind is to be frowned upon. To clear things up, one would probably hark back to the rustic retorts Indian women (and defenders of their modesty) dish out to eve-teasers and molesters, “Tere maa, behn or beti nahin hai kya?  (Don’t you have a mother, sister or daughter?) How would you feel if someone dealt with them in the same way?” No racism about it---just a question of right behavior in a public space. That, Chris Gayle, is the crux of the matter. Not anything else, not anything more.   Related articles Chris Gayle loses major contract after fresh sexism row( West Indies star Chris Gayle says sexism row just a 'little fun'( Chris Gayle opens up about Mel McLaughlin and hits critics for six( Melbourne Renegades snub Gayle( Renegades Snub Windies Star, Gayle( 'I have a very, very big bat': Female journalist claims cricket star Chris Gayle made lewd comments to her and wanted to know if she'd ever had a threesome( Gayle hits back at critics in book(
  • Maria Yuryevna Sharapova is still hitting the headlines regularly despite not playing. Why are we surprised? Ever since she made her debut as a 17-year-old winning Wimbledon on her first attempt, the Russian diva is first among equals when embodying the glamorous side of her sport. Her Sugarpova label expanded to incorporate not just candy but also eye candy--- her own brand of apparel and cosmetics. Sugarpova chocolate went on sale this May despite Sharapova's provisional suspension from the sport following a failed meldonium test at the Australian Open this year. A hearing into the her case was scheduled last Wednesday by the ITF. The ruling probably hinges on the amount of the banned drug in her system at the time and how lenient or strict the governing body is about her continuance past the official ban date. WADA subsequently backtracked from tarring all barred athletes with the same brush when it was discovered that the drug could lie latent in the system for months after its use was discontinued. Can Sharapova play again? Will she? Speculation about her future has already begun in the media with commentators and administrators joining the media circus. Former glamour puss Chris Evert chimed in. She said: "I think at 29 time is running out for Maria.Look, she started in her teens playing full schedules. I think that motivation and hunger—her hunger even more so has always motivated her to go out and play and that's what we've admired in her so much is the intense hunger that she's had. And now that she's getting a taste of real life. I'm seeing tweets she's out and about, traveling and going to premieres, modeling and she's everywhere. And I think as she gets a little taste of the good life who knows if she's gonna comeback as hungry? I don't know maybe she'll have a little bit different attitude. But at 29 years old and the players are getting better and better. And Maria, if you look at her results the past few years, she's having more and more losses to players that are ranked below her. And I think she was starting to kind of get a little fragile anyway when this happened earlier this year. So I think it's gonna be tough (to comeback)." She added: "If she comes back hungry and as mentally strong as she always has been then again nothing she can do will surprise me. But at the same time, I just wonder just about how much tennis she's played in her career and the players getting better. I doubt whether she can get back to number two." Novak Djokovic felt otherwise: “I obviously wish her all the best. I’ve known her for a long time. I feel for her with all that’s happening and I just hope she gets out of this stronger.” But the most surprising comments have come from her own camp. Shamil Tarpishchev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation, termed Sharapova’s future “very doubtful” and said that she was in a “bad situation.” Tarpsichev later withdrew his remarks but doubts linger. What does the future hold for Sharapova? Can she return if she’s banned for a year or more? It’s possible, theoretically. Serena Williams still competes with the same vigour and determination that she displayed when she first burst on the scene as a 16-year-old. But she and her sister Venus have enjoyed breaks from the game that other tennis stars would term a luxury. Roger Federer---notwithstanding his withdrawal from this year’s French Open---continues to perform on the big stage and is ranked among the top three. Federer, though, has fine-tuned his game over the years turning to Swede Stefan Edberg to help improve his serve-and-volley game. Yes, an old dog can learn new tricks and how. Federer may not have clinched a Grand Slam under his tutelage but he’s always the danger man should Murray, Djokovic or Nadal falter. Williams is, of course, the supreme woman athlete of her generation. But Sharapova with five Slams has not been less consistent over the past few years. Surely, she can make a fist of this setback and return stronger to the court. After all, it is this generation of women players that has seen teenagers relegated to the side-lines as the likes of Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone proved  that age is just a number. Sharapova reworked her serve post a shoulder surgery. She belongs to the school of hard-hitting baseliners. Can she add more weapons to her arsenal to overcome her younger opponents? Can she add guile and deception to the mix? Mentally, she's been right there in the top echelons. Can she continue in the same vein on her comeback---if and when it happens? Can Sharapova return? Yes, she can. Will she? Why not? Why not, you say? Are you implying that of the 17℅ of Russian athletes tested positive for mildronate were all unaware of the performance-enhancing properties of the drug? Are you unaware that WADA is simply playing catch-up when it comes to listing the numerous synthetic steroids and chemicals that athletes---in this modern age---can and will consume just to get that extra yard of pace, that extra strength, that ounce of stamina, that edge over their competitors? Are fans to believe their PR machinery that they're simply victims in this 'arms race' of another kind? Are they that gullible? Really?
  • "From what we get, we can make a living. From what we give, we make a life." ---Arthur Ashe.
  • "My temper has been an issue for me. It has been very hard for me."--- Virat Kohli.
  • Baby name elicits stares from women bystanders. What he said: “We were at airport and I said, ‘Baby, grab my bag’, two women started staring at us.” Royal Challengers Bangalore opener and wicketkeeper K L Rahul recounts an unusually hilarious anecdote about his left-handed teammate Sachin Baby. What he really meant: “Was I looking at you,  ma’am, when I said that? Was I, ma’am, was I? Owww!” What he definitely didn’t: “Baby, don’t Blush when I call you by name.”
  • "For me, perfection comes with a lot of hard work and dedication to every aspect of the game in the years, days, and hours leading up to the main event. If you have planned and practised every scenario many times over then you have a chance of performing perfectly on the big stage. As far as personal achievement fitting into a team game, my feelings are if you focus on doing the best things for the team, then your personal achievement will take care of itself. If you care more about your success then your team will suffer and so will your personal achievements. --- Mike Hussey.
  • Kane Richardson powers down the grass on ‘greens and beans’. What he said: "When we go out to field and I'm standing at point, they ask me if I'm going to start eating the grass or not. “ Kane Richardson, South Australia and Royal Challengers Bangalore pacer, has turned vegan with a vengeance. Terming the perception that a fast bowler has to “eat meat and drink alcohol” a stigma, the Aussie said: "I didn't want to eat animals. I challenged myself to stick to it, I guess it's a diet but it's not really a fad, it's something you believe in. I've done it for a year and-a-half, two years now but over this pre-season I'll probably challenge myself to go vegan (a person who does not eat or use animal products) and train hard and see if I can do it and perform in four-day cricket.” Richardson still enjoys his beer though. He added: "I've watched a lot of documentaries on it, and whether it's right or wrong, I don't know if that can be sustained the way people are gorging through food.Especially in Australia, we're pretty spoilt with what's available. It's just something I thought long and hard about and tried to change and have stuck to it since. It's just something I had to change with all the injuries that I had. I did a lot of research on it. If it's something that's going to help me play for longer than I'll definitely try it. I'll be vegetarian the rest of my life, it's whether I can go full vegan, that's the question." Peter Siddle is the other Australian bowler who embraced vegetarianism. Richardson said: "I know Sidds (Peter Siddle) is the same, he's quite big into that. He's got a platform in the media and he can try and help the way people treat animals, especially in India, it's quite tough to see." What he really meant: “My teammates can’t tell wheatgrass from any other kinds of grass---including weed!” What he definitely didn’t: “I’d chew the cud if I weren’t clever enough to carry veg snacks in my trouser pockets  such as raw carrots and fresh mini-tomatoes.”
  • "Why only one God for cricket, guys? Why not multiple Gods? Think about it, the openers can be cricketing Ganeshas, the spinners can be cricketing Krishnas (because Sudarshan Chakra), the big hitters can be cricketing Shivas (because destroyer), etc. etc? Just because cricket was invented in England is no reason why, as a religion, it must be 'vilayati' too! --- Anuja Chauhan.
  • David Warner breakfasts like King Kohli. What he said: “Well, i am eating the same breakfast as Virat Kohli. I think it is all about being consistent and about keeping my mind fresh.” David Warner is quite competitive with his text messaged war of words with Virat Kohli mirroring their battle for the Orange Cap in the Vivo IPL. He added: “It was a vice versa about the orange cap for being the highest run-getter. He texted me the other day, saying he’s coming for the orange cap – and my reply was, i am going to come back and get it off you.” Warner also elaborated on abstaining from alcohol: “Look, it’s been almost a year now since i stopped drinking alcohol. I will complete a year on May 20. My wife was pregnant at that time and i thought, why not go the whole nine months without drinking too. It was just to give myself a goal, something to achieve away from cricket. I have been fortunate enough to do that so far. Once i get to the one-year mark, i will see what to do. I might keep not drinking or i might drink, who knows. But it’s not about drinking. It is about giving myself the best opportunity to recover and to play cricket. I have two daughters and a fantastic wife and they provide me all the support i need to achieve goals with. There is a life after cricket as well. Cricket is not the be-all and end-all and it is about setting myself up for after cricket. Having stability off the field is always fantastic.” What he really meant: “A hearty breakfast for a healthy body makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise and a contender for the Orange Cap. I’m certainly not eating text messages for breakfast.” What he definitely didn’t: “Kellogg's---Breakfast of Champions.”  
  • Van Gaal makes some hair-raising comments. What he said: "When you see what Huth is doing to Fellaini, that's a penalty. Shall I grab you by your hair? What is your reaction when I grab your hair? Your hair is shorter than Fellaini but, when I do that, what are you doing then? It's a reaction. Every human being who is grabbed by the hair, only with sex masochism, then it is allowed but not in other situations. They did it. They did it several times I think." Manchester United’s manager Louis Van Gaal can be quite surreal with his statements to the English press. The Dutchman defended Marouane Fellaini’s elbowing of Leicester's Robert Huth during their 1-1 draw on Sunday with the above statements moving to pull the questioning journalist’s hair. What he really meant: “Hair-pulling is quite a provocative act. A footballer who pulls his opponent’s hair deserves to be elbowed. I'd like to see you elbow me when I pull yours. Isn't that bloody natural?” What he definitely didn’t: “That was the Hair of God and God's elbow!”
  • It is proving to be a fairy tale finish for last year's almost-relegated Leicester City in the English Premier League (EPL). Even a 1-1 draw against Manchester United last evening couldn’t dim the jubilation in their joyous fans. And it’s not just their die-hard fans who are celebrating. The mid-level club has made fans all over the world with their glorious run to the title this season in an unlikely topsy-turvy EPL season. Defending champions Chelsea are nowhere in the top four and will not qualify for next year's Champions League. They still lurk as potential spoilers for both title aspirants. Tottenham Hotspurs play them this evening and Chelsea encounter Leicester in their final game next week. Should the Spurs drop any points to Chelsea, Leicester will be home and dry with two games in hand. Should Chelsea lose, a win against Everton at home should suffice for the Foxes. Either way, it’s looking very rosy for Claudio Ranieri’s men and the Italian manager will be looking forward to a two million pound bonus in his burgeoning kitty. A couple of years ago, it was Atletico Madrid who made believers of sceptics knocking out Barcelona and Real Madrid on its way to its first La Liga title since 1996. Atletico are in the running this year as well--- a three-way race including Barcelona and Real Madrid. It is always gratifying to see the small guy win and as this writer put it in his mid-season piece, “It’s not about whether you play as well as you can, it’s about simply doing better than the rest.” That happens to be the story of this year’s EPL. None of the former champion sides could lift their standards high enough to take the fight to giant-slayers Leicester. Leicester are deserving victors unless there’s an unlikely, nasty twist in the tale. Former doubters disbelieve no more.
  • "But, what use is a well-thought-out field setting when the batsman is hitting the ball out of the ground?" ---Sanjay Manjrekar.
  • Salman Khan would rather be a walkabout at Rio. What he said: “Since I can only participate in the Olympics if walking were a sport, isiliye main woh hoon jo gaadi ko piche se dhakka de sakta hai  (I’m that vehicle that can push from behind).” Salman Khan is unperturbed about the controversy on his appointment as the Indian contingent’s Goodwill envoy to the Rio Olympics. Describing his duties as ambassador, he said: “I want to charge up the players and see how they are progressing. If we can increase our medal tally compared to last year, it would be great. When that happens, the infrastructure, diet, coaching and other facilities get better. Pehle (ambassador) nahi lekar aaye thay toh theek hai, par ab jab kisi ko lekar aaye hain toh (earlier the players never had an ambassador but now that they do have one ) the players should be encouraged. “ What he really meant: “I don’t really have a sport and walking’s really not my style either, I’ll be that ambassador who leads the charge from behind---for a change.” What he definitely didn’t: “An ambassador is a man (or woman) who lies abroad for his or her country. Look at me, I’m doing it right here---for myself and Indian sport. ”
  • MUMBAI--- Salman Khan is upset and wishes to make amends. The Bollywood star was apparently taken aback by all the criticism from various quarters---specifically Yogeshwar Dutt and Milkha Singh---at his appointment as goodwill ambassador to the Rio Olympics by the Indian Olympic Association. Salman has announced that he and Aamir Khan will join forces and make yet another wrestling movie that will depict the stories of Dutt and Sushil Kumar. The scion of Salim Khan will play Dutt and Aamir will essay the role of Kumar. "That's the least we can do for these magnificent real-life wrestling heroes. And I know how painful wrestling is--- after Sultan. In fact, we'll have Dutt and Kumar perform as body doubles for the shooting of this opus." The biopic is titled 'Pehelwano'. The Great Khali will be making a special appearance in the picture. Dutt and Kumar are not so happy about Khali's appearance grumbling that WWE is mere showmanship and wrestling cannot be about jumping up and down and yelling at your opponents. Kumar added that in the WWE anything goes and most fighting happens outside the ring. The IOA was unavailable for comment. Disclaimer: While the characters in this story are real, the tale isn't. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Those Glory Days: Cricket World Cup 2011

Those Glory Days: Cricket World Cup 2011

Those Glory Days: Cricket World Cup 2011

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