Maharashtra enter semis for second year in a row

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Maharashtra entered the Ranji trophy semi finals for the second year in succession after defeating Andhra Pradesh by 75 runs on the third day of the five day quarterfinal match played at Lahli in Haryana.

Starting from their overnight score of 172/6, Maharashtra lost the key wicket of Kedar Jadhav without any addition to the score in the first over of the day. Rahul Tripathi played an enterprising innings of 43 from 38 deliveries to propel Maharashtra’s score to 223, setting Andhra a target of 177 runs in the fourth innings.

Andhra were jolted early in their innings after the Maharashtra bowlers bowled a steady line and length with Domnic Joseph picking up the key wicket of first innings top scorer Murumulla Sriram, who has also scored a triple century this season. A G Pradeep was the top scorer with 25 as Andhra folded for a paltry total of 101 runs.

Last year’s quarterfinal hero Anupam Sanklecha was the pick of the bowlers picking up figures of 4-19, cleaning up the Andhra tail in quick time.

Maharashtra will face either Tamil Nadu or Vidarbha in the semi finals at Kolkata from the 25th of February.

 

The indefatigable road runner

Image courtesy: ndtv.com
Image courtesy: ndtv.com

Leander Paes has been synonymous with Indian tennis for the better part of the past two decades ever since he put Indian tennis on the world map with his wonderful achievement of winning the Bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Winning his third Australian Open mixed doubles title alongside the evergreen Swiss, Martina Hingis is just another feather in the cap for the forever young Paes. Paes and Hingis defeated the formidable combine of Daniel Nestor (Canada) and Kristina Mladenovic (France) 6-4, 6-3. The final was a one sided affair with the Indo-Swiss combination winning in straight sets in 62 minutes.

This is Paes’s seventh Grand Slam mixed doubles title putting him joint fifth on the all time list alongside Bob Bryan. He also has eight Grand Slam doubles titles, giving him a grand total of 15 Grand Slam wins.
The 41 year old holds the record for the most Grand Slam titles won by an Indian. His former doubles partner Mahesh Bhupathi is a close second with 12 titles (4 men’s doubles and 8 mixed doubles titles).

While Bhupathi has long ceased to be a force on the international circuit and has started devoting more and more time to his business interests, Paes continues to be one of the top doubles specialists in the game.

His seven titles have come with some of the greatest women players of all time, among them the legendary Martin Navaratilova, the veteran Lisa Raymond, the spunky Cara Black with whom he has won three of his 7 titles and the elegant Martina Hingis. These four women have won the mixed doubles Championship at the various Grand Slams a staggering 22 times with Navaratilova winning 10, Raymond and Black winning 5 each and Hingis adding 2 to the tally.

Paes has long stated the ambition to win a medal in the men’s doubles at the Olympics and intends to carry on till the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics and on current form you would not count against him winning a medal there.

Paes is also particularly famous for his performances in the Davis Cup where he has helped India in winning some of its most important matches. The most striking features of Paes’s play are his quick hands and fluid movements. Leander Paes is arguably India’s greatest tennis player and as a glittering career enters its last leg all we can do is salute the man and enjoy his unique brand of tennis.

Phil Hughes: 63 not out, forever

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He was only 25.

And his scorecard will forever read 63*; a star right above.

A short-pitched ball by Sean Abbott hit Hughes on his neck, causing vertebral artery dissection that eventually led to brain hemorrhage. Hughes fell face-flat on the pitch at Sydney Cricket Ground, never regaining consciousness.

Hughes, who had been an inconsistent addition to the Australian Team ever since his entry into the game in 2009, was on his way to make a mark with his innings at the SCG when the ball struck him at 63, probably even get a place in the national team to play against India next week. He was known for his unorthodox batting method and often even criticized for it.

The ‘freakish accident’ that resulted in the untimely and tragic death of the Aussie cricketer was the cause of the entire sports fraternity to come together and grieve in unison.

Flags were hoisted half-mast at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Adelaide, Sydney Cricket Ground and Lord’s in England – the spiritual home ground of the gentleman’s game. It is believed that there is an invisible flag of mourning above that is being honoured.

The Australian captain, Michael Clarke, was seen tearing up at the emotional press conference where he delivered a statement on behalf of the Hughes family – Greg, Virginia and Sister Megan Hughes. “We are devastated by the loss of our much loved son and brother Phillip.Cricket was Phillip’s life and we as a family share that love of the game with him. We would like to thank all the medical and nursing staff at St Vincent’s Hospital and Cricket NSW medical staff for their great efforts with Phillip. We love you and always will.”

 

Cricket fans all across the globe joined in by posting photographs of their cricket bats outside their homes, on Twitter with hashtags #putoutyourbats. Paul Taylor, from Sydney, came up with the idea and it quickly picked up pace. Twitter was flooded with photographs and tweets from several cricketers who joined the movement.

David Warner, who was a close friend of Hughes, posted on his Instagram, “#putoutyourbats missing my little mate so much!! I wish I can wake up from this bad dream. Once again not out on the cricket field and forever #63notout love you BRAZ!!”

Warner also posted a photograph of him and Hughes, the caption of which read, “RIP my little man. You will always be with me when I walk out onto the field. Not just a mate but a loved one to us all big man. Forever in my heart brother for life. Miss you buddy.”

Manchester United was seen following the trend of #putyourbats out as an ode of Hughes

http://t.co/rdwG3AlIJS

A fan, Ben Hughes, grieving the demise of Hughes

http://t.co/mR4iE0By4X

https://twitter.com/HughesFT/status/538117338844119040

The Indian legend, Sachin Tendulkar, also conveyed his condolences

He also tweeted a photograph of his bat when he was 25 years of age as a tribute to the young Aussie player.

http://t.co/tFWYdfNxoc

Australia’s dressing room will take a long time to recover from Hughes’ death, says former England spinner Graeme Swann. “Phillip’s death will hit the Australia team very hard; those close to him will be devastated. So will other players who came into contact with him. I know England bowler Steven Finn was a good friend from when they played at Middlesex. For his family, it is going to be world shattering. I can’t believe it has happened. And the fact that he was only 25 – it’s cruel.”

Fellow Australian cricketer, Peter Siddle reacting to the accident

 

The accidental death of Phil Hughes is a dark moment for all in the world of sports. Where fans put these players on pedestals so high and consider them superheroes, capable of fighting back and emerging victorious in tough situations, Hughes’s death is a reminder that they are also mortals. A definite star in the making, gone too soon.

And also, a very happy 26th birthday, Phil Hughes.

Sachin wins Cricketer of the Generation; urges ICC to organize more Tests

Speaking at the ESPN cricinfo awards night after being voted ‘Cricketer of the Generation’ on Friday, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar has urged the ICC to organize more tests if the shine and glory of the format was to be retained. Sachin, who retired last year in November, was chosen ahead of spin-wiz Shane Warne and Protean legend Jacques Kallis.

Ahead of the T20 World Cup that is due to start on the 16th of this month, the little master said that the shortest version of the game was responsible for the Test matches to have become much more result-oriented with fewer matches ending in a stalemate. “If you see all across the world, most of the Test matches, they have results, very few Test matches are drawn games nowadays and that is due to introduction of T20 as well. It is complementing each other,” he said.

Picture Courtesy – www.mid-day.com

Though banking, that the shortest version of the game, did promote the game and can be used to turn many more heads towards the grounds, but the five-day format is the ideal challenge that the cricketers are to deal with. “If you want more guys to follow cricket, T20 is an ideal format to introduce people to cricket. And then gradually go on to one-day cricket and Test cricket.”

“Test cricket is the ultimate challenge when it comes to picking up wickets or scoring runs. It is one format where bowlers are constantly trying to get you out. In Tests, you require planning, vision and execution. It doesn’t happen that much in T20 cricket. You can face three balls and get back to the pavilion as a hero. It doesn’t happen in any other format,” he said.

Barclay’s Premier League- What’s the Mata?

Juan Mata: Manchester United switch caused chaos in footballing circles.

Juan Mata’s transfer saga is by far the juiciest, most talked about issue in football in recent weeks. Mata was trending at top spot on Twitter (India) a day back, which is why we believe it’s important you know what the fuss is all about.

First of all, who is Juan Mata? The little Spaniard is arguably one of the world’s finest playmakers (someone who creates chances for a team’s forwards.) Chelsea, an English team, brought him for 23 million pounds in 2010, and Mata set the pitch on fire from the word go, scoring in his first match. Mata took apart teams with his delightful passing and ingenious game reading. He made vital breakthroughs, for example Chelsea were losing 1-0 in the Champions League final two years ago. In the 88th minute Mata’s perfectly taken corner found a leaping Didier Drogba’s iron like head, to make it 1-1. Chelsea went on to win on penalties, for the first time in their history. Mata went on to win Chelsea’s player of the year award two times in a row, underlining his critical contribution.

And like what happens to most happy stories, fate stepped in. Here, it is important to understand that football is like a balanced meal, and football managers are like cautious mothers who cook them. Every delicious, fattening item on your plate comes with something horrible tasting (yet healthy) -succulent kebabs with bland salads, insipid curries with decadent desserts and so on. In essence both are important, and for the meal to be complete both need to be there on the plate. Similarly, a complete football team needs to have players who can attack and defend. Chelsea’s new manager Jose Mourinho, who arrived in the summer, saw Mata as a kid who only liked eating the kebabs, not the salad, someone who loved attacking and not defending. Mata suddenly found himself out of sorts, being asked to defend more than usual. Eventually other players seized the initiative, and Mata found himself out of the Chelsea side.

Enter Chelsea’s fierce and sworn rivals, Manchester United. With a new manager of their own, United’s campaign was turning out to be one of their worst in recent memory. Seeing Mata’s condition at Chelsea and their own desperate fate hanging in the balance, United tabled a record 37 million pounds bid for Mata, which Chelsea accepted. Hell broke loose, Chelsea fans calling Mata a traitor for betraying them to join a rival club. A day back, Mata passed his medical (Chelsea fans argued he should have failed, considering he didn’t have a heart.) He will now trade the blue shirt for the red, and will play with a new manager and with players like Rooney, Giggs, Nani (Mata and Nani in the same team, how happy will Alok Nath be?) Rest assured, this transfer only deepens the rivalry between the two clubs. The next encounter between the two sides will have an added bite, which will make it one spicy, feisty meal.

Woman’s Junior Team Creates History

Monchengladbach: In a nail biting finish, the Indian Woman’s Hockey Team bagged the bronze medal in the Junior Women’s World Cup in Germany on Sunday. Creating history, the junior team is the first in its category to win a medal in the World Cup for India. India entered the “loser’s final” after losing to Netherlands, but clinched the bronze medal after defeating England, 3-2, on penalties. Neil Hawgood, India’s coach, took the risk of playing goal keeper, Bigan Soy, for the first time in the tournament to defend the penalties. This paid off in the end as she made some spectacular saves to lead India to victory. Netherlands beat Holland, 4-2 on penalties, earning the World Cup trophy.
For more, click here.
(With inputs from Leela Murali)
Bigan Soy in action | Image source: NDTV
Bigan Soy in action | Image source: NDTV

Manchester United’s mid-field muss

MUFC manager David Moyes | Image Source: dailymail.co.uk

David Moyes has highlighted the need for additional options in central midfield at Manchester United, which was bizarrely ignored by Sir Alex Ferguson for over 5 years. Not a single player was bought by United’ former boss to play in that position. Not only is there is a need for good players to play in the midfield at Old Trafford, but also a stagnation in that position.

Despite Manchester United’s Premier League title victory last season, many pundits suggested that the Red Devils’ midfield was below par. Although Michael Carrick had a good season, he did have off days and is arguably heading into the twilight of his career. With Paul Scholes also retiring and Darren Fletcher still having health problems [Anderson being inconsistent and injury prone], David Moyes knows that he needs to strengthen his midfield to get his first season at Manchester United off to a good start.

Currently, the midfield has huge pressure to match the quality of Xavi, Pirlo, Sweinsteiger, Alonso or  Iniesta which is just isn’t going to happen in the short future. The quality of that sorts and talent isn’t there at present. What Manchester United really needs is a powerhouse in the area. A tough-tackling midfielder snapping at the oppositions heels, forcing them into mistakes. Someone who can win the ball and urge the team forward. A leader. Someone like a Roy Keane.

Whether it is any of the aforementioned or perhaps someone who is under the radar (the usual way United do business), it is evident that there is a pressing concern regarding the depth of the squad in midfield, and it is of major significance to Moyes. Will he go with what he knows and trusts? Or will he venture outside of distant shores out of England? These are questions of an uncertain nature in an uncertain time at Old Trafford, but as Gary Neville said last week “I am excited because there is a lot more uncertainty about what’s going to happen next season.”