Football, Manchester United, Sports

EPL2015-16 – Week 27 – 12 games to go

It’s the final third in the Premier League, and as only 12 matches remain to be played, each game is going to be a deciding factor so as to who will qualify for the UEFA Champions League & Europa League and who will fall out of the relegation battle.

First place Leicester City will face Norwich City. It looks that on Saturday Leicester City will forget it’s defeat to Arsenal in the last match and try to widen the gap between them and Arsenal & Tottenham who play on Sunday. Norwich who have gathered only a single point in their last 6 games must try to make a match out of it. Verdict: 3 points to Leicester City and a position on Top cemented

Tottenham play Swansea City on Sunday. Looking at the form table Tottenham will most certainly roll over Swansea, to put pressure on Arsenal & Leicester City (if they lose some points). Tottenham players have played Europa League on Thursday which might have an effect on the outcome of match. Verdict: 3 points to Tottenham

Arsenal play away at Manchester United on Super Sunday. This is a must win match for both the teams. I being a Man Utd fan, would love to see Arsenal beaten. Van Gaal prepares his teams very well when he plays big teams. So I would not be surprised to see Man Utd win the match even though there are quite a few points between these teams. A victory here for Man Utd will ease the pressure a bit on Van Gaal, whereas a loss for Arsenal will mount the pressure on Arsenal. A draw would be a fair result for a neutral, who would then see both the teams losing points. Verdict: 3 points to Man Utd

Manchester City’s match against Newcastle has been postponed as they play against Liverpool tomorrow night. So a victory of other UEFA challengers might mount up the pressure on them. For Newcastle, they will most probably remain in the bottom three irrespective of the result of Norwich.

Southampton play at home against Chelsea on Saturday. Currently, Southampton are enjoying the best form amassing 16 or available 18 points in the last 6 matches. They do have a formidable Chelsea side against them, which has shown signs of improvement in the post-Jose era. I would love to see them share a point which will ensure that there will not be much pressure on my team (Man Utd) and also see to it that Chelsea remains a Bottom half team. Verdict: A point shared

West Ham play Sunderland, which will be the first match on Saturday. If Sunderland come even close to show the heroics like in their last match against Man Utd, it will be positive and help them in their relegation battle. Sunderland have improved in their last 6 games and will likely try to trouble West Ham who are looking to book a place for Europa League next season. Still draw seems to be a fair result for a neutral. Verdict: A point shared

Liverpool’s derby against Everton will also be postponed due to the final between Manchester City and Liverpool at Wembley. So the people of Merseyside will have to wait for their derby a bit longer.

Watford play at home against Bournemouth on Saturday. Very less to choose from both the sides looking at their recent results, but looking at their position in table, Watford seem to be the favourites. Verdict: 3 points to Watford

Stoke play Aston Villa at home on Saturday in a match that Stoke are favourites to win. A win here for Stoke & Watford in the above match will mount the pressure (for the time being) on Liverpool. Verdict: 3 points to Stoke

West Brom take on Crystal Palace at home which promises to be the anything other than the best match of the weekend. Looking at the recent form, West Brom have a chance to come victorious in this fixture. Verdict: 3 points to West Brom

So the League Table should look something like this on Monday:  Leicester City;  Tottenham; Arsenal; Manchester City; Manchester United; Southampton; West Ham; Stoke City; Liverpool; Everton; West Brom; Chelsea; Crystal Palace; Bournemouth; Swansea City; Sunderland; Norwich; Newcastle; Aston Villa.

So let the game begin…


Part 2: How the journey started?

Previously, we had seen an introduction to a small gifted boy from Mumbai with aspirations to play the game they call “Cricket”:

A lovely tribute by BBC Sports:

Beneath the helmet, under that unruly curly hair, inside the cranium, there is something we don’t know, something beyond scientific measure. Something that allows him to soar, to roam a territory of sport that, forget us, even those who are gifted enough to play alongside him cannot even fathom. When he goes out to bat, people switch on their television sets and switch off their lives. 

But how did his international journey start?

Chairman of selectors Raj Singh Dungarpur, along with members Ramesh Saxena, Akash Lal, Gundappa Viswanath and Naren Tamhane were the Five Wise Men who had a decision to make. It was Raj Singh Dungarpur who proposed Sachin’s name to be included for the upcoming Pakistan series, but they all felt that he was too young to take on Imran Khan, Wasim Akram & Waqar Younis. Also, though Sachin had scored a maiden century against Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy (1988-89) and was consistently scoring 75 odd runs in the Ranji Trophy matches & averaging over 60, he hadn’t scored a first class hundred against a good bowling side.

In the end it was decided, if Sachin scores a hundred for Rest of India in the upcoming Irani Trophy match against the Ranji Trophy Champions Delhi, then his name will be considered. After getting out cheaply for 39 in the 1st innings, the hope of getting an India call (though Sachin wasn’t knowing this) dwindled upon his performance in the second innings. Sachin played with confidence & belief, and produced a superb knock. The 9th wicket for Rest of India fell for the score of 209. Sachin was unbeaten on 83 and Gursharan Singh was not going to play as his hand was fractured. Raj Singh Dungarpur asked Gursharan Singh to put on pads and play with one hand. Gursharan Singh stayed on the pitch as Sachin went after the bowlers and scored one of the most important hundred in his career.

The rest, as they say, is “History.”


Kudos to Maharashtra Ranji Trophy side

Back in June 2012, BCCI’s technical committee headed by former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly recommended a host of structural changes to the  Ranji Trophy, India’s premier first-class tournament, by doing away with the existing Elite and Plate divisions and rearranging the 27 teams into three groups of nine each.

 The key changes that were a part of a new revised format included

  1. 27 teams contesting in 3 equal groups (A, B & C)
  2. Each team will get to play at least 8 league games before the axe falls
  3. All Knock-out games including the Quarters & Semis be a 5 day affair
  4. Outright wins to get 6 instead of 5 points to motivate teams to get that extra point
  5. Major emphasis on producing good quality pitches
  6. 3 teams from Group A & B (better groups) each and 2 teams from Group C (group of low ranking teams) to advance to Quarter Finals
  7. Bottom placed team from Group A & B each to be relegated to Group C & similarly, two Top teams from Group C to be promoted to Group A & B 

This was a major revamp after 2002-03 season when the Zonal System was replaced by Elite and Plate divisions.

In the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy season, a young Maharashtra team was placed in the Plate Division, and after topping the Plate Group B, and defeating Himachal Pradesh in the Knock-out stage, reached the Quarter Finals, where it bowed out to a formidable Tamil Nadu side. The average age of the side that lost to Tamil Nadu then, was 23.5 years. As Maharashtra had topped the group & had gone on to win the Knock-out playoff, they received a berth in the Group B (a better group as explained above) for the 2012-13 season.

In the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy season, all the teams that Maharashtra defeated were Plate Division teams, so the teams in Group B were better than Maharashtra, resulting in Maharashtra becoming the bottom most team in 2012-13 season and eventually relegating to Group C for the 2013-14 season.

History repeated itself in 2013-14 season, and just like couple of years before, Maharashtra again topped the Group C to enter Quarter Finals. This time around, in the Quarters against a formidable Mumbai side captained by Zaheer Khan with experienced cricketers like Wasim Jaffer, Maharashtra overturned the first innings deficit of 122 runs, & after bundling out Mumbai for a paltry 129 went on to win the tie by scoring the required 250 odd runs at the loss of just 2 wickets with a brilliant unbeaten partnership of 215 runs by Vijay Zol (91*) and Kedar Jadhav (120*). In the Semi Finals, Maharashtra defeated Bengal thanks to brilliant bowling by Samad Fallah (7/58 in 1st innings & 10 wickets haul in the match) and equally awesome batting by Sangram Atitkar (168 in 1st innings) to reach the finals after 21 long years. In the Finals, Maharashtra was unlucky to have encountered a very good Karnataka side which included talented players like Robin Uthappa, Lokesh Rahul, Manish Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun & Vinay Kumar which made the tie a one sided affair by their brilliant performances.

So from Group C, Maharashtra was once again placed in a higher group, Group B for 2014-15 season. It was again expected by many, that Maharashtra will once again be the bottom most team in Group B and be relegated to Group C, wherein they will again top the group of lower ranked teams in 2015-16 season and challenge for the Quarter Finals.

But this time around, Maharashtra played good cricket in their group phase & went on to qualify for the Quarters from Group B itself. They were pitched against Andhra team, and the place in Semi Finals seemed a certainty.

On the first day itself, when I started to write this blog, Maharashtra won the toss, elected to bat on a green top & and were bundled out for a paltry 91 runs. At the end of first day, Andhra managed to make 87 runs for loss of just 3 wickets, and it meant an uphill task for Maharashtra with things not looking very good. Andhra had an upper hand in the encounter & a comeback was required from Maharashtra players. And Maharashtra’s pace attack of Samad Fallah, Anupam Sanklecha & Domnic Joseph delivered & did the trick on 2nd day and polished the remaining 7 wickets for a meagre 51 runs & restricted the lead to 47 runs. In the second innings, Harshad Khadiwale (47), Kedar Jadhav (81) & Rahul Tripathi (43) ensured that they get a few runs on board (223 to be exact) & have a respectable total to defend for the bowlers. Siva Kumar from Andhra excelled as he took six wickets in both the innings restricting Maharashtra’s score in second innings as well. Requiring 177 runs to win in the second innings, Andhra’s batting didn’t click, and after loosing wickets at regular intervals, their innings folded for 101 runs. Maharashtra’s pace attack of Samad Fallah, Anupam Sanklecha, Domnic Joseph & Shrikant Mundhe ensured that Maharashtra won the match by 75 runs.

Mah Vs Andhra

Maharashtra’s team after winning the Quarter Final game against Andhra

Maharashtra will most probably meeting Tamil Nadu in the Semi Finals which will be played from 25th February to 1st March 2015.

So Kudos to Maharashtra team for securing yet another Semi Final berth.


A marvel that I loved the most, hate the most & respect the most

A marvel that I loved the most, hate the most & respect the most

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain – Christopher & Jonathan Nolan in The Dark Knight 2008

Once there was a young boy from Mumbai. Even at a tender age of sixteen, he had shown the world, the glimpses of what was about to come. The way he used to play the game (considered a birthright by every Indian), was class apart. He had everything at his disposal. The elegance, the timing, the hand-eye coordination, the footwork, the temperament, the willpower, the heart and most importantly the four things required to succeed at that early age: the brain (not just cricketing), the shoulders (to carry the weight of the entire team), the ability to keep his feet on ground (and ego at bay) and the everlasting thirst of acquiring knowledge.

Every time India played cricket, and this person was on the pitch, the country came to a standstill.

He was a perfect example to define what the word stature meant. He had a short stature (a person’s natural height), and yet was a sportsman of international stature (importance or reputation gained by ability or achievement).

He went by the name of Sachin Tendulkar or was famous by another affectionate names like Sachya, Tendlya, Little Master & Master Blaster. He was known to reside earlier in Sahitya Sahawas Cooperative Housing Society, Bandra and later in the nightmares of Shane Warne.

He was a student of Sir Ramakant Achrekar (a Padma Shri & Dronacharya Award winner), an eminent coach imparting knowledge to young cricketers at Shivaji Park in Dadar, Mumbai. Other famous cricketers who have been under his tutelage include Vinod Kambli, Pravin Amre, Ajit Agarkar, Sanjay Bangar, Balvinder Singh Sandhu & Chandrakant Pandit. My parents are from Mumbai, and I from Pune; so there was always a healthy Mumbai Vs Pune competition in the house. Once I had a good fortune of meeting Achrekar Sir, when my father had taken me to Shivaji Park Ground, to get a feel of the cricketing atmosphere of Mumbai, to get immersed in the renowned cradle of Indian cricket.

Sachin’s first series for India was the tour to Pakistan.

What happened there will be a part of the next blog. Stay tuned.