Posts Tagged ‘ Great Britain ’

Perfect Pitch

By Sonal Srivastava for The Times of India

Tickets to most India matches have been sold out,” Priyanka Saxena informed her colleagues. Her co-workers were huddled at her work station, eyes fixed on the monitor, hoping to get premium tickets for the India Vs Netherlands Cricket World Cup 2011 match in Delhi. “We were disappointed, but then we decided to go for the South Africa Vs West Indies tie, instead. I’m going to cheer for the South Africans as they haven’t won the World Cup yet,” she says. Cricket is an amazing game; it originated in Great Britain, but Commonwealth countries have adopted it as their own. The game has not only transcended international borders, it has also managed to cut across fault lines, transcending race, colour, caste, community, class and faith.

The 2011 Cricket World Cup is being hosted by three South Asian cricketing nations: India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Teams from 14 countries are participating in the 10th edition of the World Cup. The event will be spread over two months and will be played in three different countries, starting off at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka, and ending in April at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

So much good cheer
“Sport brings communities together and helps release a lot of pent-up emotions,” says Ian Botham, former English cricketer. When you cheer for your country or any other favourite team of another country, you forget all your worries. If your team wins, it’s time to celebrate. Every time India or the team that’s being backed wins a crucial match, fans light crackers and distribute sweets; some dance to the beat of dhols. As a cricket-crazy country, we celebrate the success of Zaheer Khan and Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni, irrespective of their religious leanings. “People like to cheer for something; it’s a feel-good thing. If you are stressed, then watching a cricket match can bring relief; when your team wins, you feel on top of the world,” says former India cricketer Atul Wassan.

World Cup is the time for bonhomie: It’s when you can start a conversation with strangers without inhibition, exchange notes and discuss the outcome of the match. When a batsman hits sixes, you might spontaneously hug a complete stranger standing next to you — your passion for the game takes precedence over age, gender, and community. “You can play cricket even in a remote village with just a bat and a tree stump for wickets. That’s what makes cricket popular,” explains Wassan.

Ties that bind
Devoted fans of the game cheer for their favourite cricketers irrespective of the country they represent. Interestingly, even if India is knocked out, people like to see their neighbours — Pakistan and Sri Lanka — do well and bring the World Cup back to the subcontinent. The result? Fans get to see ‘some good cricket.’ During the 1996 World Cup Quarter Final, in Bangalore, Aamir Sohail hit a delivery from bowler Venkatesh Prasad for four runs. He looked at Prasad and pointed his bat towards the boundary where the ball had gone. In the very next delivery, Prasad bowled out Sohail and pointed the finger towards the pavilion. “There is traditional rivalry between India and Pakistan. The armed forces of our respective countries may have to defend borders, but cricket is something that helps people-to-people bonding. During matches, the atmosphere on the field is electric, but after the match, the cricketers hang out together like old buddies,” says former India captain, Ajit Wadekar. And so do fans!

Gentleman’s game
A one-day match is played over six hours and sometimes players do get carried away and tempers run high. But cricket is a gentleman’s game and players have to abide by the umpire’s decisions. Often there is friendly banter on the cricket field and humourous one-liners are exchanged to help lighten the mood. For instance, Inzamam-ul-Haq reportedly told Brett Lee, a fast bowler, to “stop bowling offspinners”. In another instance, when Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan came to bat, Afridi shouted twice: “O mera shehzada aaya!” — Oh! My prince has come.

Gods of cricket
Fans adore cricketers. Those for whom cricket is religion, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, are gods personified. The little master has such charisma and skills that Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden exclaimed: “I have seen God; he bats at no 4 for India in Tests,” referring to Sachin’s position in the Indian batting line up. “When people watch their favourite cricketers do well, it gives them self-belief. They think that if Kapil Dev or Dhoni can make it, they can also do well,” says former spin bowler Maninder Singh. Fans also manage websites dedicated to their favourite cricketers. A site called ‘Sachinism’ runs forum discussions based on Sachin’s knocks, and fans post their views on the master blaster’s innings.

Playing field
A game of cricket is a lot like life. Just like a batsman faces googlies from the bowler, we too have to deal with what life throws at us. The batsman stands alone on the field, faced with 11 opponents; but with training, discipline and good reflexes, he does the best he can. However, in the game of life we are rarely alone. We have family, friends and others willing to lend a hand. Moreover, we have the benefit of access to ancient and modern wisdom that helps us train and discipline ourselves to deal better with life’s challenges and help each other.

Advertisements

Will India Win Coveted UN Seat?

By Sunil Sharan for The Huffington Post

Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao says Pakistan is hypnotically obsessed with India but she and her bosses too are fixated on a coveted prize, a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. The mandarins of New Delhi must be pleased as punch to have had over to visit leaders of all five permanent member countries in quick succession. Inexorable appears the march but will India find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? And, if it does, what are the implications for itself as well as for Pakistan?

First in was David Cameron of Britain, who arrived during the summer and offered unstinting support, whetting local appetite for the main American course. And, did he fail to disappoint? No sir, Barack Obama set the cat amongst the pigeons by endorsing India for the seat, the first time ever by the US. India rejoiced while Pakistan recoiled.

But a careful examination shows him adhering closely to what he told Bob Woodward in the book, Obama’s Wars. In lieu of the seat, he expects India to resolve Kashmir. At a press conference with Manmohan Singh, Obama characterized Kashmir as a long-standing dispute making the latter stutter that the K-word was not scary. Only then did Obama hand over the endorsement in India’s Parliament but couched in such diplomatese that countless local hair were split over when “the years ahead” would dawn.

Next waltzed in Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The French, like the British, have consistently seen merit in India’s case. Sarkozy though, true to type, proved an enigma. He first tagged on the applications of Africa, the Arabs and pretty much the rest of the world onto India’s, befuddling his hosts, who are willing to concede as equal aspirants only “self-appointed frontrunners” Germany, Japan and Brazil. Just as they were about to give up on him, Sarkozy warmed the cockles of India’s heart by throwing in 2011 as early as when it could make it.

But soon came the caveat. Sarkozy, just like Obama before him, cautioned that with great power status came great responsibilities. Whereas Obama wanted India to be more mindful of human rights violations of countries such as Iran and Myanmar, Sarkozy wanted India to send military forces to keep world peace. With India already being one of the foremost contributors to UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world, the mandarins of New Delhi must have been left wondering what more was being asked of them.

No matter, three down, two to go. By now the state jets were landing at Delhi airport almost on top of one another. Wen Jiabao, the leader India was least looking forward to, came with the master key to entry. Shortly before his visit, WikiLeaks revealed China’s opposition to any council expansion. Indian hopes were up nevertheless but Wen remained inscrutable, willing only to acknowledge an understanding of India’s aspirations. No one in India knew quite what to make of him and since Wen was off to Pakistan next, all the country could do was wait with clenched teeth to hear what he would say there.

Rounding off the passage to India was Dmitry Medvedev. Relations between Russia and India have frayed considerably since the heady days of the cold war, so much so that Russia has waffled on India’s bid. Medvedev signaled that the waffle still needed baking, voicing support for India while reiterating that reforming the council was tough and required consensus.

All the while Pakistan protested vociferously against what it deemed an indulgence of Indian hegemonism. But what will India gain with a permanent UN seat? Could it block Pakistani claims on Kashmir? True a permanent member wielding veto power can stonewall but the veto seems unattainable for seekers since they themselves have forsaken it. And, while India sees red when the K-word is uttered in the UN by Pakistan, no ascension to permanency can make it strangle the latter. Nor can it efface any past security council resolutions.

So then, what is it? Nothing comes to mind but the obvious, the acceptance that any arriviste craves. Even that appears a false hankering because ever since its early years, Gandhi’s legacy and Nehru’s charisma burnished the country with global influence disproportionate to its economic and military capabilities. A bee once in one’s bonnet is hard to get rid of though. And, as every journey must have a fitting end, India has found a destination to its liking.

Flush with cash, New Delhi wants to beef up its military. All of the recent visitors bar China are major suppliers of defence equipment to India. As bees flock to honey, they arrived armed with catalogues of the most terrifying stuff. Inherent was a delicate diplomatic quid-pro-quo. The more arms you buy from us, the more we will push your candidacy. As Islamabad keeps raising the bar for India’s seat, so too will India have to up its arms binge.

Lost in Pakistan’s current rhetoric was its vote in October to put India in the security council for two years beginning January 1, 2011. Once on, we will never get off is the new mantra of India’s brave. India seemingly returned the favor by taking in stride the sale of Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Is there more afoot than meets the eye?

Every country is entitled to its obsession. Pakistan’s is obvious. By continually thumbing its nose at a NATO mired in Afghanistan, it has put the K-word in spotlight, albeit on the backstage. A deal has been blessed by the powers that be. Both the seat and Srinagar are not far away.

The writer edits a website on India: http://www.scooptime.com.

Trained by the Best, Amir Khan puts 140-pound Title on the Line

By Bob Velin for Usa Today

The way Amir Khan sees it, he’s spent a lot of time sparring with the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, and is trained by arguably the No. 1 trainer in the world.

So anything that Argentine power puncher Marcos Maidana throws his way Saturday night at the MGM Grand, well, Khan, who puts his 140-pound title on the line (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET), has already seen it, or will know how to deal with it. You want speed? Few fighters are quicker than Manny Pacquiao, whom Khan sparred with in the Philippines when Pacquiao was training to fight Antonio Margarito in November. Khan says Pacquiao told him, “I’m the fastest guy he’s ever sparred with.”

How about power, Maidana’s forte? We know how Pacquiao re-arranged Margarito’s face that night in Cowboys Stadium last month. Khan’s trainer, Freddie Roach, who is also Pacquiao’s cornerman, says Khan more than held his own against Pacquiao, and, in fact, laid some pretty good licks on the eight-division world champion.

“Yeah, Freddie likes us to spar when we’re both 100%, and when we don’t take it easy on each other,” Khan said by phone last week. “It’s better for me to get that experience and see how far I am from being pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, which is my ambition. So, yeah, I really did well against Manny, and it was a good, controlled spar. I controlled it when I wanted to control it.”

Maidana says he feels his power can overcome Khan’s speed. “The speed doesn’t bother me because I know I have 12 rounds,” says Maidana. “But I know one thing, when I hit him with one of the my hands, the fight is over.” Khan says Roach has brought out the best in him as a fighter.
“There were times when I used to fight with my heart too much, and I have to use my brains a little bit more,” says Khan. “I’ve got the boxing skills to do that, you know, with the background of the amateurs, and going to the Olympics and everything. Freddie’s taught me to use my brain and think about things more.”

Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) respects the punching power of Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs), but says, “(Maidana’s) a lot slower than me, he’s very predictable and I think somebody’s got to punch him at the right time.” They have one common opponent: Andriy Kotelnik, who handed Maidana his only loss in February 2009, while Khan scored a near shutout victory against Kotelnik in July 2009.

As for Maidana, Khan says he and Roach have worked on the 27-year-old Argentine’s weaknesses and they expect to exploit those weaknesses.
“I think with boxers at that level, they’re always going to (have) their habits. You’re not going to change,” says Khan. “He can try to change his tactics and stuff, but I think his habits are always going to be there. We know exactly what (Maidana) does wrong, and we’ve just got to capitalize on that. We’ve also been working on the stuff I do wrong. I’ll be watching fights with Freddie and I’ll make a lot of mistakes in fights so we’ve been correcting them as well. So (Maidana) can think I make this mistake and that mistake, but he’s going to be fighting a different Amir Khan on the 11th.”

Roach says Khan has changed his style since his shocking first-round knockout by Breidis Prescott as a lightweight in 2008, the only loss of his career, a loss that led some to believe that Khan does not have a strong chin. Roach says he’s a completely different fighter now. “The thing is, he knows how to set things up now,” says Roach. “He just doesn’t go in there and look for a one-punch knockout. He knows how to break a person down and he knows how to work behind his jab and … reach for the body. He’s just become a completely different fighter. We haven’t lost a round since we’ve been together (at the beginning of 2009). I mean, we haven’t lost one round.”

Khan says he expects to stay at 140 pounds for another 12-15 months before he moves up to welterweight. But first there are some outstanding junior welterweights out there he’d like to fight. “You’ve got Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, there’s a lot of big names in that division,” says Khan, who just turned 24 this week. “Fighting them would be good for boxing, because that’s what people want, people want young fighters to fight (each other). They want explosive fighters instead of fighters past their peak.”

Both Khan and Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which has Khan under contract, say his next fight will probably be in his native England. There had been talk that a good opponent for Khan to rebuild his popularity in England would be undefeated Brit lightweight John Murray (30-0, 18 KOs). Khan says that won’t happen because he and Murray are not on the same level. “I would get a lot of criticism for that because I’m a world-class fighter and he’s on a domestic level,” says Khan. “I want to fight world-class fighters, and I don’t think he’s in that category.”

Khan says when he moves up to welterweight, there’s no way he’d fight Pacquiao because they have become such good friends, and they share the same trainer. However, “with the strength and power and technique I have, I could fight a Floyd Mayweather,” he says.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: