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Archive for February, 2007

Give me a Federer match, any day

Posted by nishitdesai on February 9, 2007

This is my first post to Desicritics, where from now on, I’ll be a regular contributor.

Few days ago Emma complained that Federer is getting too dominant for the sport to be interesting. I disagree, rather I strongly disagree.

Tennis, or for that matter any sport, is not just about feeling the drama or watching on edge of your seat. It’s about appreciating the geniuses of the game. It’s about watching something you thought to be impossible. It’s as much about dominance as much it’s about last minute thriller.

If you have played even a little bit of tennis, you would appreciate what Federer has pulled off in front of your eyes. You will literally drop your jaw if you saw a winner by Federer which was supposed to be other way around. Andy Roddick hits a powerful forehand and left corner of Federer’s court and rushes to the net, just in case a loose reply comes. And what does he get? Federer moves to his ad (=left) side and forces a backhand half-volley, Roddick turns into a silent spectator and can’t do anything but just watch the ball pass by him and lo! there is a cross-court backhand winner. Sheer frustration for Roddick and murmurs something about Roger having answer to every shot. That’s pretty much same for Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon and James Blake at the Masters cup. They don’t set a foot wrong and try to resist with the best they have and before they even understand what’s going on they are holding runners up trophy.

Roger Federer has peculiar kinesthesia about his game, probably that has got something to do with his amazing skills, as a kid, in soccer, which he gave up in teenage for tennis. Even when he is rushing to the ball, he knows where he is going to set his next foot and when and where his racquet will hit the ball. That’s the quality which gives him an extra edge to conjure those “supernatural” shots. If you have seen his cross-court forehands, backhand passing winners, baseline half-volley moonshots or boomerang net half-volley, you precisely know what I am talking about. Roger Federer has brought strategic game playing once again into focus in the age where game was lead by power gamers like Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt. He revived the extreme topspin, the art lost since time of Ivan Lendl, where in extreme topspin gives server the opportunity to serve “shallow”, dipping in after passing the net. Yet another opposing characteristics to the power servers, who being tall try to serve as much deep as they can.

Tennis, as cliché goes, is the game of inches and Roger Federer precisely knows that. When anticipating a return, his opponent is not quite sure if the ball will lend up inside the baseline. Federer, on the other hand, is quite sure of his actions. That’s even more evident and jaw-dropping with recent inclusion of challenge system. When Roger Federer challenges a call, it has to be IN. Even if it’s an ace which is served at more than 200 kmph and has been called out, if Federer challenges it, rest assured, it would have definitely kissed the ‘T’. You are dumbstruck when hawk-eye proves it IN.

As for the drama, although rare in nature, are dramatic enough to be in your memory for long time. Take the final of Rome Masters 2006. Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6. That, in my opinion, is the best game Federer has played against Nadal on clay. Yes, the best, and much better than hyped French Open 2006 final. You start nearing edge of your seat, when Federer starts getting little jittery in the middle or towards the end and that’s where the opponent’s hope lies. That’s what makes spectators believe that Federer is still a human.

If you still believe that Federer is too boring, here is good news. Let the March cometh. Let the clay season begin. Let Rome Masters, Hamburg Masters, and French Open cometh. Rafael ‘clayking’ Nadal will once again rise to the top and will look to continue his unbeaten record on clay since, what looks like, forever. He will make the mighty Federer sweat for every single point. Federer will not just get it; he will have to work hard to earn it. Federer will look forward to achieve “The Final Frontier”, the French Open and there you will get the clash of the titans. Hold your breath from March to May and you will see the best tennis you would have ever seen in your lifetime.

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Sachin Ton-dulkar

Posted by nishitdesai on February 1, 2007

Sachin Tendulkar once again rose to the occassion and proved his mettle. Sachin whenever criticised nationally/internationally has hit back. He remained silent and rather let his bat do the talking. In what can be considered as reply to the critics, when asked by Arunlal regarding gaining his form, Tendulkar replied, “I have always played the way I wanted to play according to the situation. I have been playing for a long while now,( read… I know what I am doing) so people should appreciate that.” Well, this post is not about that though.

Some people have always criticised Tendulkar for being mean. Once in somewhat controversial statement Ganguly said that “I am not interested in making centuries which doesn’t help team win.” largely hinted at Tendulkar, probably. So here is the point. In 41 centuries Sachin has made India has lost 11 times, which means little more than 75% which by no standard is bad when you have played for 18 years!! Here is a nice piece on Tendulkar’s century that went in vain. Courtesy : Comment section of one of the post on Rediff.

When many people say how many of Sachin’s hundreds have come for a winning cause, I decided to check the Cricinfo stats and here are the results.

Out of the 41 hundreds, 11 hundreds have gone in vain.

I will try to analyse each of them.

1. 137 off 137 balls Vs SriLanka at Delhi in 1996 World Cup.
India scored 271/3 in 50 overs. The only other 50 score was from Azhar. SL made 272 in 48.4 overs. Manoj Prabhakar had 4-0-47-0. He also opened in the innings with Sachin and scored 7 of 36 balls.

2. 100 of 111 Balls Vs Pak in Singapore- Apr 96.
India 226 all out in 47.1 overs, When Sachin was out score was 186/4. Pak had a reduced target of 187 from 33 overs.

3. 110 of 138 Balls vs Sri Lanka In Colombo – Aug 96.
Again India 226 for 5 in 50 overs, Only other 50 score from Azhar (58 of 99 balls).Sachin has also bowled 6-0-29-1, the second most economical bowler and the only wicket taker (SL were 230/1 in 44.2) of the match next to Srinath. 7 bowlers were used by Azhar.

4. 143 of 131 Balls Vs Aus at Sharjah, Apr 1998.
This was chasing under lights. The qualifying match before the final. The whole world knows about this match. Still one interesting point, when Sachin was out India were 242 at 5 at 43 overs. Target was 276 in 46. Still India finished at 250/5 scoring just 8 of the next 3 overs. Great performance by Laxman and Kanithkar indeed.

5. 101 of 140 Balls against SL at Sharjah in Oct 2000.
Indian score was 224/8 in 50 overs. (No other 50 score). SL got 225/5 in 43.5, Sachin also bowled 5-0-22-0, better economy rate than everyone except Srinath.

6. 146 of 153 Balls against Zimbabwe at Jodhpur – December 2000
India made 283 / 8 in 50 overs. Sachin was the last man to be dismissed, score was 235/8 at 46.3 overs when he was out. Agarkar and Zaheer Khan propelled India to 283 in the last 3.3 overs. When Sachin has scored 146 of 235 in 46.3 overs, you can guess what the other 8 great batsmen were doing against the World class Zimbabwe attack. Second Highest scorer was Zaheer Khan with 32.
Zim got 284/9 in 49.5 overs. Agarkar bowled the last over. Sachin also got 6-0-35-1

7. 101 of 129 Balls Vs SA at Johannesburg – Oct 2001
India got 279/5 in 50, Ganguly made 127 of 126 balls. When Ganguly got out, the score was 193-1 in 35.2 overs. Sachin was the last man to get out at 263. SA got 280 in 48.4 overs. Sachin bowled 9-0-51-0, second best in economy rate next only to Agarkar (10-0-45-1)

8. 141 of 135 balls Vs Pak at Rawalpindi, March 2004.
India were chasing 329 and were 317 all out in 48.4 overs, 8 balls to spare. No other batsman made even a 50 (when chasing 300 ) and when Sachin was out, India were 245-4 in 38.4 overs. They needed 85 from 68 balls with 6 wickets in hand.

9. 123 of 130 Balls vs Pak at Ahmedabad, April 2005.
India made 315/6 in 48 overs (48 over match), again no other 50 score. Second highest was Dhoni 47 of 64 balls, (third highest was extras – 39). Pak made 319 in 48 overs. The three quicks (Balaji, Nehra and Khan went for 188 runs from 26 overs between them taking only 2 wickets). Sachin bowled 6-0-36-1. No Harbhajan and no Kumble.

10. 100 of 113 Balls Vs Pak at Peshawar, Feb-2006.
India were 328 all out in 49.4 overs. Pathan and Dhoni got 60 each. When Sachin was out when India were 305-5 in 45 overs. Managed only 23 in the last 5 overs.

Pak scored 311/7 in 47 overs and won by D/L method. Could have been anybody’s game. Sachin did not bowl.

11. 141* of 148 balls vs WI at Malaysia.
India made 309 /5 in 50 overs. Sachin was not out. Pathan was the only other 50 scorer. WI made 141/2 in 20 overs and won by D/L method. Again could have been anybody’s game.

In the other 31 instances India has won 30 times and once there was no result.

Now, please think again when you say sachin’s 100s were in the losing cause and that he is not a team player. It is a fact that for the entire 90’s India played International cricket with 1 player and 10 jokers.

PS:- Please pardon the pun in the title.

Posted in Sachin Tendulkar | 3 Comments »

One Federer in lifetime is enough

Posted by nishitdesai on February 1, 2007

Today’s morning was made cheerful with this excellent piece on Roger Federer in The Hindu.

It is a pleasant coincidence, for spectators, that the three greatest players of the modern era, Borg, Sampras, Federer have followed each other, each a finer model than the next. But so evolved is the Swiss that perhaps a longer wait is now due. Like a few generations.

Then, perhaps when we have gone to the Gods, a player will come, at a time when tennis is bereft (as it was in many ways when Federer came), with a serve a few pounds heavier, a volley a fraction more sure, a backhand a trifle more versatile. And our children, maybe grandchildren, will shake their heads in disbelief.

We will not envy them. One Federer in a lifetime is enough.

Blog is getting too sporty. Well, let the Australian Open feeling sink and it might not rise until World cup or French Open.

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