Saturday, September 30, 2006

F1 Mania - Schumacher Rulez!!!

Once again Schumi is at the top of the Grand Prix World. He has comprehensively won the Chinese Grand Prix today at Shanghai International Circuit today. It was one of his dazzling drives we have seen from this 37-year only world champion. Determined Schumacher has come up with a brilliant performances fighting against the wet and dry conditions after starting at number six position in the grid. It was an unbelievable performance from this former world champion, who is still eyeing on the eighth driver championship before his retirement by the end of this season. It was his fifth race wins in last seven races, importantly the most exciting win of this season. It is his first win in China. He had a very poor performance here in Shanghai in that past two seasons. With this victory, he has moved up to 116 points in the title race level with defending champion Alonso, but leads the championship by having won seven races to the Spaniard’s six.It was poor performance from Ferrari team yesterday when the qualifying rounds have taken place. The racing conditions have clearly a set back for the Ferrari team, using the Bridgestone tyres. Schumacher finished only in the sixth position in the grid and his teammate Mazza couldn’t complete the qualifying round with the engine failure. Race was not much different from yesterday. It was overcastted, wet and miserable. It has clearly given an upper hand for the Alonso. He has started off well and took a good margin of lead in the beginning. But Schumacher has showed excellence when he has passed over Barichello and Button and took the fourth spot. Ferrari team has taken their pit stops very carefully and didn’t change the tyres most often. The perfect pit stop timings from the Team Ferrari helped Schumacher to pull himself up to the first position. Initially he was struggling behind the Renault drivers in the third spot. But his driving experience and risky behavior helped him to surpass Fischella to reach the top position. From that point of time, he has dominated well and managed to maintain his lead till the very lead. Everyone has expected a dramatic twist in the race once the rain came down when there were five laps to go and Alonso was just 12 second behind Schumacher. Under that pressure situation, he has kept his nerves and fought well. When Alonso was charging up in the wet condition, any sort of mistake from Schumi might damage his chances for the driver’s championship. Even though he has struggled a bit with the unexpected wet situation, his control over the vehicle was exceptional. I would say, that’s the quality of a Classic Grand Prix driver. When he came back to the pit after the checkered flag, he has celebrated his victory with his teammates by jumping over the barricades. That itself shows how much he has cherished to win over here in Shanghai.Anyway a dazzling performance from the 37-year old German. A truly amazing race, I have ever witnessed. In this rain-hit Chinese Grand Prix no one has expected a victory for Schumacher. But he has done it and done it in a style. No words can describe his today’s performance. Hats off to Schumi!!! With two more races to go, the races for driver’s championship and Constructor’s title is still on. Hope Schumi, Mazza and Ferrari will do well in the forthcoming races and will give a great farewell for this Greatest Ever Driver of F1!!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Cutting Edge – 24th September 2006

DLF Cup – An Eye Opener

It was a great move from the part of BCCI to conduct a tri-nation tournament outside India. They have selected a right location for the same. Kulalambur, the capital of Malaysia. Lots of cricketing actions are happening in the eastern part of Asia and Malaysia is a key player among the newly developing cricket nations. BCCIs move is in the right direction to promote Cricket in those part of the world. The world Champions Australia, defending Champions Trophy champs West Indies and the Men in Blue India were the three nations. All the matches where scheduled to happen in the same ground, but in two pitches.The tournament was started off under the rain threat and Duckworth Lewis rule played some key role in the first three matches. Fortunately it hardly came into the action after that. West Indies entered into the finals of the DLF Cup, even before the starting of the second round of matches. The rain god has helped India to avoid a humiliating early exit from the tournament. Indians have kept their hope alive till the last match against the world champions and unfortunately marched out of the tournament. Australia comprehensively beat West Indies in the Final and lifts the DLF cup in a real style. Through this series victory, they have proved themselves to be a strong candidate for the Champions Trophy to be held in the forthcoming October. The world Champions couldn’t even reach the finals of any of the Champions Trophies held till.A terribly disappointing tournament for the Men in Blue. They managed to secure only a single victory in their account, all though they have played 4 matches in this tournament. Lots of discussions are happening in the Indian Cricket world to find out the root-cause behind this embarrassing series defeat. Right from the beginning of the series, Indians were really lacking the confidence. We have seen some individual performances in this series. But we couldn’t see any teamwork from their part. We have seen 11 Indian players in the ground. We have hardly seen a team-effort from their side. As a spectator, I really doubt whether the Indian team is lacking the team spirit nowadays. Each and everyone are trying to come up with some individual performances, but they miserably failed to perform as a team.If we analyze India’s performance in the DLF Cup, the striking factor will be the out of form of the top-order batsmen. After coming back from the injury, Sachin has delivered his best to give an upper hand for the team. But he didn’t get that much support from the team to capitalize his performance. Even though we have scored more than 300 runs in the first match, we couldn’t win that match. Unfortunately, the match was awarded to the Windies according to the D/L method. But the poor performance from the Indian bowlers forced us to think that we never got a chance to come back to that match. The bowlers had done their job pretty well in the second match against the world champs. But 35/5 in 8 Overs was a never expected score from a team with so many world-class players and a well-reputed batting order. The rain god has showered more than enough mercy over the Indians to avoid a much humiliating defeat. A Do or Die situation in the third match, but Indians have done quite well in the third match and beat Windies to keep their hopes alive for the Final. Even though Lara was emphasizing on rotation policy and complete squad participation, it was a much ‘suspected’ match. Windies have done too much of experimentations in their team compositions as well as in the batting order for that particular crucial game as if they didn’t want to meet the world Champs in the final. The bowlers have done their duty well to restrict the Kangaroos in the ‘semi-final’ match. Once again the famous batting order collapsed like anything. One-man show from Mongia went in vain when India lost the match by 16 runs. Top order batsmen couldn’t even show any sort of resistance against the Aussies pace attack and proved their inability to handle the pressure situation. The most interesting factor is the Man in form, Tendulkar’s failure, when chasing the scores. Critics got another good opportunity to point out his inability to handle pressure, which is haunting him for so many years.

After the defeat against the World Champs, captain Rahul Dravid seems to be terribly disappointed with his team’s performance. In the press-meet he didn’t hide his disappointment. In his opinion, Indian batsmen were the real problem for the team. They have never performed up to the expectations of the team. He praised his bowlers for doing a pretty good job all through the series as well. But analyzing deep into the poor performance of the Indian team, we can find some basic reasons for the series defeat. Too much of experimentation, poor team selection, Coach’s commanding power over captain are some of them. Cricket experts are already asking coach Greg Chapel to stop the experimentations with the team. It was a great move from the part of a new coach to come up with some experiments in a team to make the team a stabilized one. Initially, he got enormous support from the cricket world for such experimentations. It might be because of the success he got from those experiments. It was a nice move from the Chapel to send Pathan and Dhoni in number 3 positions. They have delivered their best and the resulted in some great victories for the Indian team. Truly inspiring from such moves, many experimentation were happened in the other part of the cricket world too.

Chapel has come up with very strange opening combo for this tri-nation series. When two specialist openers are there in the team, coach has decided to open the innings with an opener and a class middle-order batsman. The first match justified his decision, but later on this pair collapsed. Sehwag is a kind of player who likes to open up himself and strike the ball right from the first delivery. It was a foolish decision to send him in as a No.4 batsman, which has obviously taken off the confidence of the batsmen. The net result; run-draught continues for Sehwag and managed to score only 28 runs in 4 matches. Even ‘the wall’ was also struggling to score runs in his new batting position. Even though the skipper has started off well, failed in all the other 3 matches and just scored 42 runs in the 4 matches. The most talented player in the Indian squad, Yuvraj couldn’t even open his account in the whole series. The explosive batsman Dhoni couldn’t show his magic in the series. And a big mistake from his part in the crucial match against the Kangaroos became the turning point of the series for India. If we look into the performances of various players and statistics, we could realize one thing. Not only the out-of form for the players, but the unwanted experiments in the batting order also have affected their performances. That could have been avoided.

The objectives of the experimentations are clear for the cricket world. But too much of experimentations are affecting the stability of the team and confidence as well. Players are not sure about the expectations on them. This is what happened with Pathan. He lost his concentration in bowling and started concentrating on batting to become a pinch-hitter or a batting all-rounder for the world cup. Net result is the poor performance and failed miserably in both the departments. The instability in the team has made the team members worried about their position in the team. These much adverse effects are coming in simply because of the experimentations that are happening inside the team. Its high time for the coach to re-think about the strategy he is following.

Another prime factor is the Team Selection. It might be another side effect of the experimentations. But it’s always better to pick the best-fit squad for the one-day matches, since it’s the most versatile form of cricket. It was a surprising decision from the coach to include un-fit Yuvaraj in the squad. His presence in the team will surely strengthen the batting line-up; that’s for sure. But coach has taken a risky decision to include him in the final squad. He has replaced Kaif, who have performed well in both the games he got the opportunity to play. Statistics are standing along with Yuvi, but the present form and the confidence was supporting Kaif. But coach and the captain have decided to go for Yuvi instead of an in-form player. Indians have paid for that big mistake. Kaif was really looking confident after his Windies tour and very much keen to perform. Luckily the omission from the team didn’t take his confidence off. In the bowling department also, coach was doing some experimentations. He preferred RP Singh to Sreesanth in so many matches. But Singh’s performance was below average and Sree has done a pretty good job, even though he played a single match. Moreover, Dinesh Mongia had played well when he got a chance to perform, where the famous Indian batting line-up has collapsed like anything. The coach and captain should concentrate much more on the team selection. There are so many external factors, which are affecting the team selection, but the team selection should be done in such a manner that it won’t result an adverse effect on the team’s performance.

There were some remarkable performances from some players. Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina and Mongia have performed well in the batting. They have accepted the challenges and fought well. When the top-order batsmen failed to deliver their best, these young lads have played attacking cricket and showed some sort of resistance. These guys have performed well in the fielding too. After seeing their performances, one could ensure that India’s cricket future is very much safe in their hands. It’s important for team management to keep on supporting them all through their career. Bhaji, Munaf pattel and Sreesanth have done well in the bowling department. It was really nice to see Bhaji bowling in tandem. He has really puzzled the Aussies in both the matches. His had made some valuable contributions with the bat too. It’s a really positive sign for the Indians to see Bhaji coming back into the form. It was a quite surprising decision to include Munaf Pattel in the playing eleven. But he has justified that decision by neat, tidy bowling all through the series. He was consistent, economical and moreover wicket taking. He open the bowling and came up with some good spells to put pressure on opposition. His consistent line and length bowling helped the other bowlers to do their job much easier. Agarkar and Sreesanth have done their job pretty decently. Both were economical, consistent and did the death over bowling quite well. Sreesanth has come up with a good show under the pressure situation. These glimpses of good cricket were also there in Kulalampur in between India’s pathetic performance.

There was a notable comment from the former cricketer and commentator Ravi Shathri about Indian team’s performance. He said, Chapel is becoming a super-captain and its brining much adverse effect on team India’s performance. He asked to give more freedom to the captain, especially in the team selection and batting line-up. The points he had pointed out were very important as far as Team India is concerned. The Chapel-effect has brought many positive changes in Indian cricket. And the cricket world has started admiring that too. When these experimentations and unwanted changes in the team structure started going in the wrong way, its high time for the team management and BCCI to have a look into the issue. When team India is concerned, Dravid never seems to be captain. The coach made all the decisions and captain is just under the command of the Chapel. A captain shouldn’t be a subordinate of the coach. He should play not only with the bat and ball, but with the brain too. A captain should be a thinking warrior. With some series victories in the starting of the career as a captain, Dravid seemed to be a promising captain. But with his over-dependency on the coach made him much weaker and weaker as the days progressed. Indian cricket world expected a very good captain in Dravid, when Ganguly, ever best Indian captain stepped down from that position. But all the expectations were started reversing nowadays. He became an ordinary player in the team, who is not even able to decide his own batting position in the line-up. I don’t think that Indian cricket has ever gone through such a pathetic stage yet. It is envious to see how Ricky Ponting is performing as the captain of the world champions. I would say he is the best captain in the world. He is having the leadership skills and importantly he is effectively using those skills. He is managing his team members as well as team’s performance very brilliantly. For example we can see how effectively he has implemented the rotation policy in his team. He stepped down from the captaincy and didn’t play one match as part of the same. Indians have to learn so many things from that ‘professional’ team and their captain.

Now the team is back in the country and enjoying their small break before the local tournament, Challenger Trophy. It’s the only one chance for the team India to do some warm up before the Champions Trophy which going to commence from the 5th October. A lot of actions are expected to happen in this series. Players like Ganguly, Laxman, Kumble, Nehra, Balaji are expected to make a come back in this series. Since the Champions Trophy squad has already been declared we can’t expect any dramatic thing to be happen as the after effect of this series. But it’s a last chance for the players to practice, especially for the Indian top order. Since four matches are going to happen in four days, it’s going to be a tough task for the players to perform well. But these types of small tournaments are always helpful to find out the real talented players. The cricket board should ensure some better treatment for the players who are emerging through such small series. Hope they will learn from their faults and correct themselves to come up with good performance in Champions Trophy and the World cup 2007, which is going to come in next January.
ഈ ബ്ലോഗ്ഗില്‍ പ്രകടിപ്പിച്ചിട്ടുള്ള അഭിപ്രായങ്ങള്‍ എല്ലാം തന്നെ എന്റെ വ്യക്തിപരമായ അഭിപ്രായങ്ങള്‍ മാത്രമാണ്.
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