New Zealand All Blacks Win Rugby World Cup

For the duration of the six-week Rugby World Cup, and perhaps the four years that preceded it, the rest of the world tried to convince itself that the New Zealand All Blacks could be beaten. On Saturday afternoon, New Zealand proved the rest of the rugby world wrong. The All Blacks dismantled their neighbor Australia, 34-17, at Twickenham Stadium in London to win a third Rugby World Cup and their second in a row. No other nation had retained the trophy before. As the dominant team of its generation, the All Blacks lost just three matches between the time captain Richie McCaw lifted the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil in 2011 and here on Saturday afternoon. “We set out four years ago to try and do something special,” New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said. “We had to put a full stop very quickly on what happened in 2011 to get started in 2012.” While evening settled over 80,125 fans here, it became clear that Australia wouldn’t be the side to stop the Kiwi steamroller, despite a brief second-half rally. The All Blacks, representing a country of 4.5 million where rugby is religion, took over the match with their trademark brand of powerful, running rugby. And the team sealed it with the left boot of Dan Carter, the leading points scorer in international rugby history.

all blacksAfter the final whistle, the All Blacks’ traveling party of around 50 poured onto the field, accounting for approximately 0.001% of the country’s population. The rest, some 8,000 miles away, celebrated over Sunday breakfast back home. “Twelve months ago, the focus really came onto what we wanted to do here in the last six weeks.” McCaw said. And that was to “add to the legacy of the All Blacks.” Carter, like McCaw, will now withdraw from the international scene, after 112 appearances in the All Black jersey. McCaw, meanwhile, bows out as the most capped player in rugby history, with 148 Test matches to his name, a remarkable feat for a flanker, one of the more physically demanding positions in the sport. “We knew that we had to send the skipper out a winner,” New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams said. By a quirk of rugby World Cups, these two sides had never met in a final since the quadrennial tournament began in 1987. And yet one or the other had appeared in six of the previous seven finals.
Most of the scoreboard damage was inflicted by Carter in his last ever match for the All Blacks. As a fly-half responsible for kicking penalties in the game’s most high-powered offense, it’s no surprise that he stretches the international record with nearly every swing of his left leg. But of his 1598 career points, few will be more memorable than the 19 he racked up on Sunday. His three penalties and a tricky conversion from near the touchline helped the All Blacks to a 16-3 halftime lead. The other score was a slick passing try, carried over the line by Nehe Milner-Skudder just before the break.

“A player who has played 100 test matches like Dan doesn’t have his career defined by one game,” Hansen said before the game. “That’s already been defined in the history books. Dan has enhanced the jersey. When you start out as an All Black, that’s one of the greatest things you can do.” The All Blacks added another try in the 42nd minute with a brilliant run by the veteran Ma’a Nonu. Though Carter missed the conversion, New Zealand’s lead was 18 points. It was then, after the All Blacks were temporarily reduced to 14 men by a yellow card, that Australia rumbled to life. David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani each broke through the All Blacks’ defense for tries, which were both converted by Bernard Foley. The Wallabies, despite their No. 2 world ranking before the tournament, had already defied expectations by reaching the final. Just over a year ago, the whole program was listing after three straight defeats to Southern hemisphere powers and the sudden exit of their coach. So they brought in Michael Cheika to turn things around. For most of the tournament, his work paid off. There were impressive victories for Australia over England and Wales. The Wallabies survived Scotland in the quarterfinals—courtesy of a late refereeing error that awarded them a penalty kick—and they outmuscled Argentina in the semis.

The Wallabies’ efforts in the second half made this the first Rugby World Cup final to see both teams score at least two tries. But trivia aside, they also forced the All Blacks to find an extra gear in the closing 15 minutes. So Carter, who missed the final in 2011, took it upon himself to relieve the pressure. In the 70th minute, he kicked a superb drop goal, just as he did in the semifinal against South Africa, to stretch the lead to seven points. Five minutes later, he sealed the match with his longest kick of the night: a penalty from 50 meters. The 79th-minute try by Beauden Barrett was the icing on New Zealand’s cake for an unprecedented third World Cup triumph. “We try and do things that no other team has done before,” Carter said.

  • WSJ

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After Formula1, FormulaE series to Come to India in 2014

The promoters of the brand new FIA Formula E series, in which the cars will be powered by electric energy, are targeting India as a destination for a race in their inaugural series in 2014. India is being viewed differently by the motorsport world after it successfully hosted Formula One Grand Prix last year. Within the next six months, the World Superbike championship will make its debut in India and talks were also on to bring the GT1 series as well. FIA President Jean Todt has signed an agreement with a group of investors — Formula E Holdings Ltd (FEH)– to stage the Formula E series, which will have 10 teams and 20 drivers. Alejandro Agag, the CEO of Formula E, said they want India to be part of the series.

“We would like to have a race in India, but we are open about the city. We will see what the best options are and then decide,” Agag said in an interview. “Formula E are certainly focussing on emerging markets to develop the championship. Establishing a base in India would reflect that strategy. We might look for a local partner in India to work with us to set up the race,” Agag, who already supports teams in the GP2 and GP3 series, said. The organisers have not yet decided on the city although initially Mumbai was mentioned as one of the venues.

JPSI, the owners of Buddh International Circuit (BIC) — the venue of the F1 Indian Grand Prix, said they are open to the idea of hosting such a race. “We have that in mind but nothing has happened officially on that front. If we are approached, we can discuss the idea with them,” Askari Zaidi, Head, Corporate Communications, JPSI said. Explaining the rationale behind launching such a series, Agag said it was a future-centric championship, keeping in mind the environmental needs. “The global demand for electric vehicles is growing all the time and we are reflecting that in the sport. This is history in the making and a chance to inspire future generations to curb carbon emissions.

“The automotive industry is currently going through a process of significant transformation that will become increasingly visible. In this transformation, the electric car will play a key role as the most practical way to achieve the goal of more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles,” he said. The Electric Prix will be different from F1 races. The first feature is that it will happen in one day. Second, pole position will be the result of playoffs, with cars racing one against another, in a format similar to tennis or the Champions League. Third, in the pit-stop, the driver will not change tyres or batteries, they will change car.

Pic source: www.carwale.com

A Formula E car based on the French company Formulec’s F 01 prototype, still in development, will be made available to teams should they choose to use it. “Teams can choose to have their own cars, provided they are FIA homologated. Therefore the championship is open to any constructor wishing to build a Formula E car,” Agag said. The races will last about an hour in total and each driver will have two cars. The cars will have a charge lasting around 25 minutes, so there will be a change whilst the first car is re-charged and then another change to the original car for the last part of the race. Formula E cars will be single seaters, able to reach speeds of over 200km per hour.

Soon after the news spread about the new series, 2005 and 2006 F1 world champion Fernando Alonso came up a with a negative remark, saying that this series actually is a step backward. However, Agag said they do not want a comparison with F1. “Fernando Alonso is a great driver, and we respect his opinion. But we don’t compare ourselves to F1. We are not the electric F1, as Luca Montezzemolo said recently, we are Formula E, which is a completely different concept.

“We think F1 is great, and I myself have been part of that world, through my GP2 Team (feeder series to F1) for many years. You cannot compare Skiing and Snowboard. I can guarantee you something, we will be the fastest and most exciting Electric Car Championship in the world,” he concluded.

News source: TimesofIndia

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Sebastian Vettel Wins Indian Grand Prix

Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel led from the front from start to finish to win the Indian Grand Prix, a repeat of his phenomenal performance at the inaugural race at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida last year. It is Vettel’s fourth win on the trot this season, and the 25-year-old German driver, who has topped the driver’s championship for the past two seasons, is on the cusp of becoming the youngest triple champion in Formula One history. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, also in the race for the driver’s championship, finished second, and now trails Vettel by 13 points with just three more races to go in the season. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber finished third, and Force India notched up four points with its driver Nico Hulkenberg finishing eighth.

Sebastian Vettel. Pic source: The Hindu

The lone Indian driver in the race, Hispania Racing Team’s Narain Karthikeyan, managed to finish the race at 21st, despite a season marred by technical troubles that resurfaced here and forced his teammate Pedro de la Rosa to pull out in the 45th lap. “I really enjoyed the race,” Vettel said. “It was important for me to open a gap early on, and I had a good exit at turn three, and that let me open up a gap.” The on-track performance from Vettel and Alonso also reflected their larger fight for the driver’s championship—Vettel had a flawless run in what is undoubtedly the best car in F1, while Alonso pulled off some deft manoeuvring and edge-of-the-seat driving in his slower Ferrari to grab his place on the podium.

Alonso, who was fifth on the starting grid behind the two Red Bull cars and the two McLarens after Saturday’s qualifying, overtook McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on the first corner of the first lap before going past Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button in the fourth lap.“I used the slipstream and got behind them,” Alonso said. “I think the McLarens forgot I was there while they were fighting with each other, and I just moved in.” With Hamilton in close pursuit, Alonso pressed Webber hard for the third position, and when the Red Bull driver’s KERS (kinetic energy recovery system, which allows drivers to use recycled energy from braking for short bursts of extra speed) started stalling, Alonso’s chances brightened. The Ferrari driver grabbed that opportunity on the long straight in lap 48, when he burst ahead of Webber for the second place.

Pic source: Formula1 website

“I still feel I can be the world champion,” Alonso said. “We need to improve the competitiveness of the car, get some new parts for Abu Dhabi (the next F1 race, on 4 November), and then I’m optimistic.” Hamilton went all out as well after hearing of Webber’s KERS problems over the team radio, but despite posting some fantastic lap times, just could not catch up.“I started to lose my rhythm because of the KERS problem,” Webber said. “I was lucky that Louis (Hamilton) made a mistake on lap 58, which I saw in the mirror.”  Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team’s Michael Schumacher began the race in what is to be his last season in F1 with a burst rear tyre in the first lap, which scuttled any chances of a respectable finish, before retiring in lap 58.

Hispania Racing’s Pedro de la Rosa and Sauber’s Sergio Perez were the others who did not finish. Both Rosa and teammate Karthikeyan suffered brake problems, with Karthikeyan being told by his team as early as during the seventh lap that his brake temperatures were very high. “I also lost a little bit of my front wing early on and had problems with the balance of my car,” Karthikeyan said. “But the biggest problem was the overheating of the brakes. They warned me on the radio because we had to make it to the end, and we did that. I’m happy to have finished my home race.” Karthikeyan has had to retire due to mechanical problems six times in 17 races this season. At the end of the race, both Alonso and Vettel felt that it was one of their best performances of the season.

Pic source: DeccanChronicle

“It’s a track that is always challenging and I love that,” Vettel said. “On turn 15, you always think that you are making a mistake; you just can’t get it right, and that’s a big challenge.” “It’s difficult to chose my favourite performance this season, but I’m really proud of Malaysia and Valencia (he won both),” Alonso said, “and this one’s definitely up there with them.”

If Alonso manages to upstage Vettel at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where he came second last year, and Vettel had to retire in the first lap, the battle for the Driver’s Championship will go down to the wire.

News source: Livemint

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Saina Nehwal Loses Finals of French Open Super Series

Olympics Bronze medallist shuttler Saina Nehwal failed to clinch back-to-back title as she suffered a shock straight-game defeat to Japanese Minatsu Mitani in the summit clash of the French Open Super Series here today. Playing her second final in two weeks, world number three Saina could not live upto expectations against 21-year-old Minatsu and lost 19-21 11-21 in the 39-minute women’s singles final. Saina, who won the Denmark Super Series Premier title last week, was tested only for the second time in the tournament by world number 26 Minatsu, who rode on her superior court coverage and accurate strokes to clinch her first Super Series title.

Saina Nehwal. Pic source: www.todaynewz.com

Minatsu, who jumped a couple of places in world rankings on Thursday, matched Saina with her brilliant net play and smashes and engaged the Indian in long rallies. She was also good in her defense as she retrieved everything thrown at her. Saina started off well and initially opened up a narrow 6-3 lead but Minatsu slowly built her game and moved from 7-7 to 16-16 to keep breathing down the Indian’s neck. The 22-year-old from Hyderabad picked up a couple of points to move to 18-16 but the Japanese reeled off four straight points from 17-19 to to win the first game. In the second game, Saina tried to exploit Minatsu’s weakness at the fore court and played some angled shots to move to 5-2.

Minatsu Mitani. Pic source: http://binaryapi.ap.org

But Minatsu engaged Saina in long rallies and used her drops and cross court smashes to catch up with the Indian, before moving into the break at 11-10 with yet another brilliant smash. She grabbed four more quick points to move to 15-10. Minatsu made Saina move around the court by mixing her shots, while the Indian faltered with her accuracy and lost a few points hitting wide or due to misjudgement. In no time, Minatsu zoomed to match point at 20-11 and with Saina finding the net, it was all over for the Indian.

Road to Final

World No 3 Saina Nehwal defeated Germany’s Juliane Schenk 21-19, 21-8 to reach the final of the French Open Super Series badminton championship here yesterday. The ace Hyderabadi shuttler, who is looking to win her third Super Series title of the year, will face Minatsu Mitani of Japan in the final today. (The match will be telecast live on Neo Sports channel in the evening.) Minatsu beat her compatriot Eriko Hirose 21-19, 21-10 in the other semi-final. In a repeat of the Denmark Open final that was played at Odense on Oct 21, Saina trailed 0-3 at the start before she cut down on her errors to make it 6-all. Though the fourth seed subsequently took a 15-10 lead, the London Olympics bronze medallist won six of the next seven points to level the scores. At this juncture, the chair umpire accepted Juliane’s repeated requests to test the speed of the shuttle. Saina’s concentration was apparently affected by the interruption and she allowed the German to move to 19-16. However, the top seed reeled off five points in a row to clinch the first game.

Juliane Schenk Pic source: http://www.badzine.net

The 22-year-old continued the momentum by bagging the first eight points in the second game. Juliane tried her best to stay within touch but Saina was just too good. At match point, Juliane could not control her shot and thus lost to the Indian for the second time in six days. Saina Nehwal reaches French Open Super Series semi-final Top seed Saina Nehwal drew from her reservoir of experience to enter the French Open semifinal after a straight-game win over Thai teen Ratchanok Intanon in the semifinal here.

The world number-3 Indian won 22-20 22-20 in a 42-minute clash during which she was given some anxious moments by the 17-year-old Thai, who is ranked 10th in the international list and seeded seventh in the event. Saina, fresh from her Denmark Open triumph last week, will now be up against fourth-seeded German Juliane Schenk, who powered past upcoming Chinese player Chen Xiao Jia 21-10 21-14.

It will be a replay of the Denmark Open final in which London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina had merged triumphant to clinch her second Super series Premier title. In yesterday’s match, Saina started well, taking an 11-7 lead in the first game but Intanon came back strongly to make it 20-20 before the Indian managed to clinch it with her eighth trademark smash of the game. The second game followed a similar script as Intanon tested Saina with her fine strokeplay. But the 22-year-old Hyderabadi drew from experience to come out triumphant and inch closaer to her third Super Series title this year.

News source: Indian Express

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Sydney Sixers Win Champions League Twenty20

The Sydney Sixers made light work of the Highveld Lions as the Australian side cantered to a 10-wicket win in the Champions League Twenty20 final at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday. Chasing the Lions’ 121 all out, Sydney raced to 124 without loss with Michael Lumb smashing his way to a thrilling 82 not out off just 42 balls with eight fours and five sixes.

Pic source: www.news.com.au

Sydney, who went through the tournament unbeaten, received $2.5 million for winning the world club event while the Lions claimed $1.3 million as runners-up. Earlier, the Johannesburg-based Lions were sent in to bat in front of a sell-out crowd and lost their last wicket off the last ball of their allotted 20 overs, with Jean Symes’ 51 off 46 balls top scoring. New Zealand off-spinner Nathan McCullum, who opened the bowling for the Sixers, claimed 3-24 while paceman Josh Hazlewood nabbed 3-22.

Englishman Lumb, who was born in South Africa, and fellow opener Brad Haddin (38 not out) made light work of chasing down the Lions’ total as they scored the winning runs with 45 balls remaining. The pair were let off during their respective knocks with both dropped.

The Lions’ fate was cast in the first innings after they crashed to 9 for four with left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe effective with the new ball claiming one for 11 off four overs. Only a career-best knock from Symes saved the Lions from complete humiliation and he received some support from Thami Tsolekile (20) and Dwaine Pretorius (21).

News source: Indian Express

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Red Bull Tops in First Two Practice Races – 2012 Formula1 Airtel Indian Grand Prix

  • Driver’s standings at the end of Practice – 1

Sebastian Vettel finishes with the best timings at the end of the 1st practice round.  Closely followed by Jenson Button of McLaren Mercedes and Alonso in Ferrari.

  • Driver’s standings at the end of Practice – 2

At the end of the 2nd practice race, its Red Bull that hogs both the top positions with the gap between the leaders only 0.118 secs.  Fernando Alonso of Ferrari rounds up the top 3 position.

  • Practice 3 is at 1100 hrs (IST) today (Saturday 27th October 2012)
  •  Qualifying is at 1400 hrs (IST) today (Saturday 27th October 2012)
  • Final Race is at 1500 hrs (IST) tomorrow (Sunday 28th October 2012)

Above pictures courtesy: Formula1 website

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F1 Returns to India This Weekend – 2012

Formula One fever has not yet caught on in the Capital, though the Indian Grand Prix is just a week away. Promotional activities are on in full swing and ticket rates have been slashed. Yet, if you are thinking about a possible full house at the Buddh International Circuitin Greater Noida on October 28, the public response till now has been a bit subdued. The fan interest last time was indeed very high as it was for the first time that F1 was coming to India. However, from a pure sporting point of view, it should be thrilling to watch Sebastian Vettel leading the charge once again after the way he has bounced back into the lead in the standings.

It is this adrenaline rush from the German which F1 was waiting for, as the two-time defending champion has switched gears so suddenly and won the last three races. However, if one were to reflect at this point of time on motorsport in India and racing specifically, I am convinced we have not moved one inch forward. It’s a year since the last Indian Grand Prix and all those who were telling us Indian motorsport would zoom seem to have pulled a fast one on us. I can tell you with conviction, as a nation which fantasizes about Formula One and wants to see Indians at the wheel of the speed demons, the racing structure at home is as archaic as it was a decade ago.

While there is no dearth of following for F1 in India, we do not have a proper structure for talent to be tapped on a big scale and the platform for drivers to emerge is inadequate. And if you though it was only the drivers who raced hard and ran into each other on the sharp corners of a Formula One track, in India we have officials, sponsors and the entire fraternity ready to pull each other down at every possible opportunity. For the sake of existence, we have a sporting body – the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India – which is supposed to run the sport in the country.

Having seen it function from close quarters, I can only tell you that if this country has a few drivers who have made it to the highest level, it is because of their own drive and initiative and how their parents and sponsors backed them. This time last year, we were talking of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok possibly racing at the Buddh circuit. Now that Narain is the only Indian driver around with a weak team and in a slow car, you have to be happy with whatever you have. But my bigger fear is that the day Narain, too, falls out of the F1 circus, we will have no Indian representation in a sport which brings us immense thrill.

There are two big factors which determine a driver’s existence at the middle and lower levels in F1. The first is the driver’s own skills and speed and the second is what sort of financial backing he has. In the case of Narain, he does have solid sponsorship from the Tatas, but if you look at his case, it has been a tough rise from scratch. However, given the global racing dynamics today and lack of F1 seat availability, even a Michael Schumacher is shown the door by Mercedes without any mercy.

If we are going to fantasize about one more Indian driver making it to F1 after Narain, Karun and maybe Armaan Ebrahim, it will be a mere dream. The racing structure at home is pedestrian. Yet, even this platform would not exist without the involvement of dedicated sponsors like JK Tyre, MRF and Volkswagen. It is well known that in racing, the first step is karting. Agreed, from fourstroke karts, we have graduated to two-stroke karts and there are proper karting tracks in eight cities. With only JK running a proper championship spread over five rounds, it’s a good entry point for 50 drivers in three categories. But, after spending three to four years in karting, it isn’t easy to move upwards.

The ‘Formula’ car used in the JK racing national championship is good for a start, but if someone tells you he is going to move up faster and graduate, it cannot happen at home. The only way out is if the driver has bags full of dollars so he can race in Europe and hope to move up. Then again, given the lack of direction from the people who run motorsport in the country, minus the corporate sector’s initiative, racing would be as good as dead.

Motorsports’ case is different to the other sports in India – barring cricket – where the competition structure exists but there’s no corporate coming forward to help. While it is interesting to watch the Volkswagens race for the Polo Cup, these are not ‘Formula’ cars by definition. Next year, it is expected that the Toyota Cup’s entry will spice things up but the way things are run today, you can forget it if someone says champion drivers will come out of this.

If you include karting and racing at home, the exposure now available is very limited. People are also waiting for MRF to unleash their Formula 3 car during the support race for the Indian GP. Having tracked the rivalry between JK and MRF, I am waiting to see the two companies put their cars out together on December 2 at the Buddh circuit.

News source: India Today

All pictures courtesy: Formula1

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Saina Nehwal Clinches Denmark Open

As expected, Saina Nehwal defeated German Juliane Schenk in straight games to emerge triumphant in the Denmark Open Super Series in Odense on Sunday. The World No 4, seeded third at the event, packed off the World No 7 in just 35 minutes, winning 21-17 21-8. She leads their head-to-head series 6-3. The title was the Hyderabadi’s fourth of the year. And the best part is that Nehwal hasn’t lost a final in 2012 — she won the Swiss Open in March, and followed that up with back-to-back titles in Thailand and Indonesia in June. Sunday’s triumph made her richer by $30,000. Nehwal had beaten World No 1 Yihan Wang in Saturday’s semifinal tie. It was her first victory over the Chinese ace in seven attempts.

The 22-year-old was playing for the first time since her bronze medal-winning performance at the London Olympics. More importantly, her win was a telling riposte to those who thought she was ‘wasting’ time attending felicitations and promotional events all over the country. “I thank Denmark and the Indian fans here for supporting me. I never expected to win this tournament,” Nehwal said. “There were a lot of things which I did after the Olympics which made me fresh, but every tournament is tough. My right knee was not really in perfect shape but I thank god for giving me the energy to win the title.” That knee’s been bothering her since the London Games, but Nehwal was always focused on the task at hand. P Gopichand, her coach and mentor, attributed Sunday’s win to her training regime. “She was able to train well,” Gopichand said. “(In the final), Saina started off well and once she got the lead, she did not give her opponent any chance. She was smashing very well and her whole game looked very good. She looked sharp at the net too.”

The start of the match was delayed by a few minutes after a fire alarm went off at the venue. It turned out to be a false one! Both players waited at their respective ends of the court with Schenk looking seemingly restless. Nehwal, though, stood next to the umpire, smiling confidently. Nehwal wasted little time, clinching the first game in only 19 minutes. She won four consecutive points before allowing the German to get on to the board. Nehwal was seldom troubled but on one occasion, she did allow Schenk to claw back from a 5-9 deficit. But the German, who was up 10-9, could not consolidate and Nehwal simply ran away with it. The second game took even less time with Nehwal picking up as many as seven consecutive points before closing the game and, with it, the match.

List of titles won by Saina

  • Indonesia Super Series Premier (2009, 2010, 2012)
  • Singapore Super Series (2010)
  • Denmark Open Super Series Premier (2012)
  • Hong Kong Super Series (2010)
  • Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold (2011, 2012)
  • Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold (2012)
  • India Open Grand Prix Gold (2009, 2010)
  • Olympics: Bronze (2012)
  • Commonwealth Games: Gold (2010), Bronze (2006)

News source: DNA

Previous posts on Saina

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ICC World Cup Twenty 20 Starts Today in Sri Lanka

The ICC World Twenty 20 or the ICC World T20 starts in Sri Lanka today.  The event is held every two years.  The inagural event which was held in 2007 in South Africa was won by India.  The BCCI never whole heartedly adopted the format in 2007 and the team that was sent for the cup was a young one with a captain who had won nothing significant under him.

Under Dhoni’s captaincy, India won the T20 World cup and the popularity of shortest format of the game simply exploded through the roof.  Things have never been the same again.  The BCCI floated the Indian Premier League (IPL) which has completed 5 seasons already and is the most expensive and lucrative private cricket league in the world.

Its in this light that the 4th T20 World Cup starts in Sri Lanka today.  Its probably the most open of the tournaments in recent times.  Previous winners of the tournament are

2007 – India beat Pakistan by 5 runs
2009 – Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by 8 wickets
2010 – England beat Australia by 7 wickets

The tournament starts with the hosts, Sri Lanka taking on Zimbabwe in the first match of the Group C match at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium, Hambantota.  Following are the groups and the teams.

Group A

 

Group B

 

Group C

 

Group D

 

Australia, the traditional powerhouse of cricket is now ranked a lowly 10th. They are below even Ireland in the T20 rankings.  Though taking them light based on their ranking would be a sheer mistake.  England without Kevin Pietersen are not really the power they are.  But being the defending champions, they would have something to prove to the world.

West Indies are the proverbial dark horse of this tournament.  You ignore a team containing such exciting names as Gayle, Pollard, Bravo, Naraine, Smith etc at your own peril.  Each one is a dynamite waiting to explode and as a traditional supporter of the West Indian cricket, i would love to see them come into their own this tournament.

Pakistan are as unpredictable as always.  They are a team of individuals who on their day can make or break a match.  With the on again off again Shahid Afridi in the team who these days likes to claim that he is more of a bowler today than a batsman (cos his batting is not really firing these days), its a team full of contradictions.

Sri Lanka as the hosts would be having the crowd on their own side. That would make them perform two notches above anyone else.  Giving them company would be the perennial chokers South Africa, who really would want to give their chokers tag a rest.

As for India, they are always unpredictable.  Good one day, absolutely pathetic the next.  With a team that is full of batting power, they would be looking for a few of the batsmen to roll their hands in running through their quota of overs.

New Zealand is unpredictable.  Expect them to move into the next round, but anything beyond that is difficult for the team.  But its a team full of excellent fielders.  So their opponents need to cater at least 20-30 runs more than what they plan to score.

Among the other teams, its Ireland which is the most unpredictable.  In the 50 over world cup in 2011, they had given England a bloody nose with Kevin O Brien smashing the fastest ever one day hundred in a World cup.  And most importantly, am excited to watch what Afghanistan can do in this tournament.

Let the games begin and may the best team win.  The full schedule of the tournament can be found here

Previous posts on Twenty20

We are the Champions
India are the Champions again
Champions League Twenty20 starts today
The knives are out

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Goodbye London, Cya in Rio 2016

And, the 15 day Olympic extravaganza comes to a close.  For India, its been the best ever performance in the history of the games.  From no-hopers a decade ago, 6 medals in this 2012 London Olympics has nothing been a miracle for a country that heaps all its adulation and money on cricket and almost nothing comparatively on other sports.  For all the money spent, the Indian cricket team is hardly a world beater too.  Its routinely trounced by other sports intensive countries like England, Australia & South Africa.

Its in this light that the achievement by the sports persons at this Olympic games stands as a shining beacon.  Though there have been flops like the Archery, boxing teams and missed opportunities by the shooting team.  Nothing much was anyway expected by the athletics squad.  Though Krishna Poonia and Vikas Gowda did their best in the discuss event in both women’s and men’s categories respectively, it was an uphill task for them.

Read the full article here

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