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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Indian tennis needs a sports science centre: Leander Paes

If India has not produced many tennis stars, it is because the players have been perennially lacking in physical fitness and they desperately need a sports science centre for training, says multiple-Grand Slam winner Leander Paes.

When it comes to tennis heroes in India, the counting does not go beyond three or four and the picture is piteous on women's side.

Dwelling on the reasons for the bleak scenario, Paes said the problem lies in off-court training.

"The primary factor is the lack of understanding about the need for an intensive training regime away from the court. Our juniors have great tennis skills but fall short on the physical aspect," Paes said in an interview.

"The lack of a sports science center in the country hinders not only tennis but every other sport too. That is one of the primary needs of Indian sports.

"We need to get that sports science center which will allow our athletes to train scientifically. Then, the whole culture of fitness for professional sport has to come in.

"We need world-class trainers and physios. Tennis skills our coaches can impart ?" especially at the beginner level ?" but that emphasis on sweating off-court has to be made."

The trio of Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza has been the face of Indian tennis internationally for quite some time.

Of late India have found the mettlesome Somdev Devvarman, who with his indomitable spirit, revived the interest in the game. Then there is fast growing Yuki Bhambri, whose age and demeanour belies the sheer grit and passion with which he takes the court.

And Leander acknowledges their training regimen.

"Somdev already knows the value of quality fitness. He trains with Andy Roddick and has good support through his managers at Mamba. He does not need my advise, he's smart enough to know what professional tennis demands.

"Also, he has a good work ethic and the willingness to go through the pain of persistent gym work.

"Yuki is still growing as a player. He regularly visits the Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida and has access to their trainers," he said.

Leander said there is no dearth of tournaments in India for exposure and urged the players to understand the need for out of court training.

"There has been major improvement in exposure as now India holds a great number of Futures. It is up to aspiring players to understand that hitting balls alone will not make them into performers on the Tour. They have to hit the gym and that too under expert supervision," he said.

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Ice-cream is a no-no for this champion

The Super Series is a big event; to win it you should be focussed for all six days. Your opponents don't have any other work either, apart from trying to win. They don't give up; they fight as hard as you. When you're a professional player you have to be disciplined.

You have to be careful about what you eat, for instance. I believe you should eat whatever you want, but not junk, because you know it's not good. I know I put on weight if I eat ice-cream. I eat ice-cream when I win a tournament. I ate it after winning the Indonesian Open, after more than four months of hard training. You cannot eat anything related to chocolate because sugar can make you slow. Sweets are generally banned for me.

I used to eat a lot when I was a kid. I used to be a vegetarian, but when I shifted to the (Gopichand) academy; (coach) Gopi told me I should try non-vegetarian food. He said if I had to win at the highest level, I had to be disciplined. I understood, so I cut down on junk food. It has to come from inside you -- if you want to win, you have to sacrifice some things. And I sacrificed to be here.

I don't need a psychologist because from I've been mentally very strong from childhood. Meditation, however, is very important. Gopi gave me a CD called 'Yoga Nidra' which I do for 45 minutes before a match and the night before. That helps me stay calm during the match. I have three-four tracks in my mobile, and I listen to them. That makes me calm; I don't hurry things up during the match. I don't just hit smashes and want to finish it off; I want to continue the rally.

That makes me more focussed. There are a few more things that I follow. I take long breaths when I'm on court, so I relax. During the Indonesian Open, I couldn't sleep during the tournament. I used to listen to these tracks till 1 or 2am, and would sleep around 2am. After winning the final, I was up the whole night holding the medal.

I think of only winning. See... when I play on court, it's more of--when will I win? It's not like, am I playing that right or wrong, or something like that. I'm not bothered about my strokes, or my opponent. I'm bothered about my winning or losing. So when I come home, I keep wondering: When will I win the tournament that she (a particular opponent) won? When will I be No.1? These are the thoughts that are always with me.

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FIFA's got it right this time

Have you heard that Ruud van Nistelrooy wants to leave Real Madrid in the January transfer window? The bigger news is that the Dutchman wants to snub Arsenal who have shown an interest in the striker to join Rafael Benitez's Liverpool.

If true, it could be a great move for Ruud. He excels in the English league as we saw during his time at Manchester United. His familiarity with the conditions and style of play will help him adapt pretty easily. Besides, since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Kaka, Ruud hasn't featured in the starting line-up in Madrid and made brief appearance as a substitute.

Of course, after a knee surgery, Nistelrooy was out of the game for over six months last year and has been in and out since then.

Whether it will be a smart signing by Rafa, I am not too sure. Ruud will come in as a replacement for injured Spanish striker Fernando Torres. Ruud is 33 years old and nowhere near his best. His knee and ankle - both have been operated on - don't look strong enough to meet the demands of the physically challenging English game.

But that two top clubs -- Arsenal and Liverpool -- are interested in the player despite his trouble with injuries speaks volumes of the respect the Dutchman enjoys as a top striker. Yet, I don't think he is the answer for either clubs.

Another topic of discussion that has left me terribly amused is whether France should play a rematch of the World Cup 2010 qualifier against Ireland or not. Thierry Henry, the cheat, and Arsene Wenger, France's conscience-keeper, want the rematch.

To recap, the Irish were cheated out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by Thierry Henry's handball in the build-up to France's extra-time equaliser in the qualifier that ended 1-1. After the handball, unnoticed by the referee, Henry set up William Gallas who scored the decisive goal for France ensuring their passage to South Africa.

Of course it wasn't right. Henry cheated. Ireland deserved that berth in South Africa having outplayed France throughout the game. But does that call for a rematch? I don't think so. FIFA has ruled that the draw at the Stade de France cannot be changed and I am with the game's top body on this one.

There have been hundreds of instances where a team has won unfairly while the deserving has gotten cheated out. If one were to replay every match, there would be no end to it.
Handball is cheating, as is diving and may such offences. Sometimes the players get punished, sometimes such things go unnoticed. That's the nature of the game and part of what makes the sport so watchable. Else, Argentina shouldn't have been champions in 1986 nor Italy in 2006, who cheated out Australia in Germany.

Football is full of wonders, beauty, magic, skill, grit and flaws, cheats, pain, tragedy. It's all of it. Just like life. Ok, so Henry cheated. Just like 95 per cent other footballers, who have also cheated at some point or the other. End of story. No rematch please. Let's move on.

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Viru and the power of concentration

Virender Sehwag's 293 against Sri Lanka compels one to admire his deep commitment to the sport, and more importantly, his ability to concentrate during such long knocks.

Thursday's feat comes about a year after he constructed 319 off only 278 balls against South Africa to break his own record of the highest individual score by an Indian in Tests.
This unique quality of playing flamboyantly -- and along with that -- managing to retain concentration for such prolonged periods demarks the 31-year-old from the rest of the great Indian batsmen.

Intense concentration is a quality which is required to excel in any form of human endeavour. And even though we all know what concentration is, I would like to offer a very apt definition of concentration which has been given by Swami Parthasarathy in his book, The Vedanta Treatise. The book defines concentration as, "The intellect supervising the mind to remain in the present". This is a definition which every sportsperson can relate to because typically in any sporting situation when one is poised at a crucial juncture, the mind collapses thinking about a disappointing past incident or reaches a premature state of euphoria even before scoring the winning stroke and in the process is unable to finish the task at hand.

The 'nervous nineties' in cricket is a case in point and if one goes through the record books, one will find countless batsmen across the world having succumbed when in the nineties. The state of the mind, like I mentioned earlier, either remembers a disappointing incident of the past or begins the process of sub-conscious celebration even before reaching the 100-run mark.

Ironically, it is the ability to play each ball with the mind only on 'that ball' -- and not for any record -- that make great cricketers of the world actually establish those records.

They just focus on keeping the mind in the present.

And can concentration be developed over a period of time or are great athletes born with it? Concentration can be developed. For a sportsperson, hours of practice on the field help in building concentration. The intensity of concentration is built over a period of time, increases with an athlete's involvement with his particular sport and peaks after the athlete has spent about 10,000 hours honing his skills in his or her respective sport. This is a theory put forth by Michael Gladwell in his recent book, The Outliers, wherein he has documented a very strong correlation between achieving excellence and 10,000 hours of work by a person in any particular field.

And most of the great records in sport have been created by athletes who have completed their 10,000 hours. It is for this reason they say that success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.

So whilst we salute Sehwag for yet another praiseworthy innings, let us also remember that behind his talent, concentration and ability to score runs with such effortless ease, lies a lot of hard work.

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Stingy Cavaliers defense clips Hawks wings

ATLANTA - The Cleveland Cavaliers used stingy defense and a fourth quarter burst to beat the Atlanta Hawks 95-84 on Tuesday and post their fifth straight win. Mo Williams shot a team-high 20 points and LeBron James 14 with 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Cavaliers, who scored 10 unanswered points early in the fourth quarter and then choked the Hawks offense to coast to victory.

Coyotes beat Canucks for 10th straight home win

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Coyotes maintained their hot streak on home ice after a 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday earned them a 10th successive home triumph. Lauri Korpikoski scored the only goal in the shootout to beat the Canucks and improve the Coyotes' home record to 16-5-0 on the year.

Nadal feels in better shape for 2010 season

MADRID - World number two Rafael Nadal believes he is in better shape for the start of the 2010 tennis season than he was this year despite having a relatively short time to prepare. Nadal, who was plagued by knee and stomach injuries during 2009, helped Spain to a crushing victory over Czech Republic in this month's Davis Cup final and has had only three weeks to train for the new season.

Usain Bolt reminds the world why sport means so much to so many

LONDON - Amid the soaring triumphs and tawdry scandals underscoring the first decade of the new millennium, Usain Bolt reminded the world why sport captivates and exalts so many people. A roar of disbelief greeted the tall Jamaican in Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium last year after he shattered the world 100 record and became the first person to run under 9.7 seconds.

Tiger Woods scandal cost shareholders up to $12 billion

MIAMI - The sex scandal that engulfed Tiger Woods may have cost shareholders of companies endorsed by the world's No. 1 golfer up to $12 billion in losses, according to a study by two economics professors from the University of California, Davis. The study, released on Monday by researchers Victor Stango and Christopher Knittel, gave an estimate for damage to the market value of Woods' main sponsors caused by revelations of alleged extramarital affairs that surfaced after he was involved in a minor car accident outside his Florida home on November 27.

Seven teams, two AFC wildcard slots

MIAMI - Seven teams remain in contention for the AFC's two wild card places before Sunday's final round of regular season play in one of the most complex playoff run-ins for years. While all the NFC's playoff spots have been taken and only the positioning is at stake on Sunday, there are all manner of scenarios in the other conference.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cricket-South Africa 418 all out v England - innings

South Africa, who were sent in to bat, were all out for 418 shortly after tea on the second day of the first test against England at Centurion, South Africa on Thursday.

Scores: South Africa 418 (Jacques Kallis 120, JP Duminy 56; Graeme Swann 5-110) v England.

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College football: Local ND recruits Lombard, Rees say they're still going to South Bend; Prater contacted by Kelly but sticks with USC

The coaching change at Notre Dame has not changed the minds of Tommy Rees and Christian Lombard.

Rees, a quarterback from Lake Forest High, and Lombard, a Fremd offensive lineman, have re-affirmed their oral commitments to new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.

Both Rees and Lombard committed to Notre Dame long before Kelly replaced Charlie Weis on Dec. 11. Oral commitments are not binding and do not become official until recruits sign letters of intent Feb. 3.

"Nothing has changed," said the 6-foot-6, 295-pound Lombard, considered among the nation's top offensive linemen. "I wish the best to Coach Weis and look forward to building a great future with Coach Kelly."

Rees, who threw for 2,695 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, might benefit from the coaching change. The other quarterback to commit to Weis, Andrew Hendrix of Moeller High in Cincinnati, expressed disappointment in Weis' firing and has yet to affirm his plans to attend Notre Dame.

Lake Forest coach Chuck Spagnoli said Rees spoke with Kelly on Sunday.

"His intentions have not changed," Spagnoli said. "Coach Kelly is supposed to come in some time this week and see him."

According to the, 18 recruits remain committed to the Irish in the wake of the coaching change. Earlier this week, defensive end Chris Martin of Grandview High in Aurora, Colo., took back his commitment and announced his intention to sign with California.

Martin was Notre Dame's top-ranked recruit.

Kelly also contacted Proviso West receiver Kyle Prater over the weekend. Prater, the top-ranked receiver in the country by Rivals, announced his intention to attend USC last week for the second time.

Prater made an official visit to Notre Dame in late November while Weis was on the hot seat.

"He is going to stay strong on the commitment unless something changes," said Johnny Prater, Kyle's father.

Kelly left Cincinnati after leading the Bearcats to a 12-0 record this season and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.


Lions release FB Terrelle Smith

The Lions have released fullback Terrelle Smith and claimed guard Roy Schuening off waivers from Oakland.

mith started Sunday at Baltimore, playing for the first time in four games. His departure leaves Jerome Felton as the only fullback on the roster.

Schuening, listed at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, has played only one NFL game. That was last year as a rookie in St. Louis, where Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan began the season as head coach. The Rams drafted him in the fifth round last year out of Oregon State.

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Greenberg ready for new challenge

Chuck Greenberg has been a Minor League owner for the past eight years in Altoona and State College, Pa., and in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

As an attorney operating out of Pittsburgh, he was instrumental in putting together deals that helped NHL great Mario Lemieux buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999, and he assisted another group in their purchase of the Florida Panthers in 2001.

His Minor League teams have won awards for marketing and promotion.

His company, Greenberg Sports Group, also provides management, consulting and marketing services to the sports industry all across the country.

All of that was like a nice stroll through the foothills compared to the mountain range he approaches now.

He is on the verge of taking the reins as managing general partner and CEO of the Texas Rangers, a ballclub that has appeared in the playoffs three times in 38 years, has not yet won a postseason series and is one of three franchises in search of that elusive first Fall Classic appearance (the Mariners and Nationals, formerly the Expos, are the other two).

Greenberg, undaunted by the task at hand, refers to it as a great opportunity. "I think it could be one of the great success stories in professional baseball and all of sports," Greenberg said on Wednesday evening. "It's the perfect opportunity. The vitality and the quality of life in the DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth] area and surrounding communities are tremendous. It's a wonderful place to live and do business.

"In this area, there is a tremendous amount of pent-up enthusiasm for the Rangers waiting to explode. They may not have a history of World Series championships, but there is a great deal of hope and passion. With a little help and tender love and care, it can be pushed over the top, and hopefully our group can push it over the top."

His mission is clear. "The goal is simple: win," Greenberg said. "Win the division, get through the League Championship Series and win the World Series. Our intention is to make smart decisions to achieve that goal.

"Fortunately, the Rangers have a great foundation. If additional moves need to be made, we want to be smart about it but we will make the moves. We want to win a championship."

Greenberg heads a group of approximately 12 investors who have gained exclusive negotiating rights to purchase the team from owner Tom Hicks.

Club president Nolan Ryan also is one of those investors and will remain in his current role of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the franchise. Hicks will remain with the organization as a minority partner.

The sides will spend the next 30 days or so negotiating the final agreement and then present it to Major League Baseball for approval.

If all goes well, the new ownership will be in place by Opening Day and the new boss will be a 48-year-old attorney from the Pittsburgh area who grew up a Pirates fan who was devastated when Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972.

"I think people are going to get to know Chuck really well," Ryan said. "He'll certainly be actively involved, and with his history of sports law and owning three Minor League teams, I think he has a real understanding of baseball. That will make it much easier. He'll fit right into the community."

The formal sale will not be complete in time to have an impact on the Rangers' offseason moves. But if it is done by Opening Day, the new group promises to bring the financial flexibility necessary to make the in-season moves the Rangers were unable to pull off last season while competing near the top of the AL West.

"If we need to make a move leading up to the Trade Deadline, money will not stop us from doing so," Greenberg said.

Greenberg has succeeded in the marketing, promotional and business side of the game. He insisted Ryan will have complete control of overseeing the Rangers' baseball operations.

"That's not my role," Greenberg said. "I have the utmost confidence in Nolan."

Greenberg first expressed interest in the Rangers as far back as May when dealing with David McDavid, a Fort Worth businessman. McDavid declined to get involved but led Greenberg to Ryan, and the two quickly formed a partnership. Greenberg said he would have dropped out if Ryan had not agreed to be a part of his group.

Greenberg spent the summer looking into the possibility of buying the Rangers. He went to 16 games at the Ballpark in Arlington and anonymously talked to as many fans as possible.

He knows about the heat of Texas and does not see it as a troubling obstacle. "If it's compelling, you don't mind the heat," Greenberg said. "Our job is to make Texas Rangers baseball a compelling, emotional experience."

He loves the Ballpark but knows it needs, in his words, "a face-lift." He said the addition of the electronic ribbon scoreboards were great, but he strongly believes the Ballpark needs a large central video board.

The Ballpark has always had a video board on the roof of the right-field porch, and a small one was added on the left-field out-of-town scoreboard. "If you look at ballparks and how they've evolved over the past 15 years, it wasn't a big deal in 1994. But it is today," Greenberg said.

He has other ideas but said the new group will move slowly on some of those and will explore new ones from the get-go. Greenberg plans to spend his first season in Texas listening to the fans and getting an idea of what they want.

"In this organization, there will be no walls between us and the fans," Greenberg said. "One of our most important skills is to be good listeners, and we're going to do a lot of listening during the season. We're going to be adjusting on the fly in 2010, but we're going to be flying out of the gate in the fall of 2010 going into the offseason and the next season.

"Whatever it takes, we will do it."


Kenya outclass Tanzania in cricket tie

Tanzania lost to Kenya by 93 runs in the opening day of the Senior Women Cricket Championship held at Sir Ali Muslim Club in Nairobi on Tuesday. According to Kenyan sources, the hosts elected to bat first and went on to garner 161-8 runs in 50 overs.

In reply, Tanzania's run chase choked under tight bowling and
fielding play as they lost wickets at regular intervals to be dismissed to 68 in 29 overs. Kenya's Sarah Bhakita emerged the top scorer of the match after firing 39 runs while wicket keeper Maria Aimee managed 37 not out. Tanzania's Monica Pascal and Khadija Nasibu were the pick of bowlers with figures of 3-25 and 2-22 respectively.

Tanzania, who are the defending champions of the continental event, need to bounce back quickly in order to revive their hopes of retaining the title. The weeklong event was to
involve Zambia, Rwanda and Burundi, but the trio pulled out at the eleventh hour.

According to organisers of the tournament, the African Cricket Association (ACA), winners would go home with shiny trophies. Despite failing to get off to a glittering start, team's officials in Kenya still harboured hopes to recover and
win the coming games.

"We tried our best to win the match, but losing is also part of the game and we've to learn to accept defeats," said Hamis Abdallah, the team's head coach.

Tanzania were expected to clash with Uganda yesterday while the hosts would have a date against Uganda at the same venue today. Meanwhile, Kenya snatched a close victory over rivals Tanzania by four runs on the second day of the Africa Under-15 Girls Tournament played at Kyambogo Cricket Oval in Uganda on Monday


Monday, December 14, 2009

Accenture ends sponsorship deal with Tiger Woods

Scandal-hit golfing superstar Tiger Woods has lost his sponsorship deal with Accenture. The consulting firm ended the deal saying the golfer, accused of cheating on his wife with several women, is "no longer the right representative" after the "circumstances of the last two weeks."

Meanwhile, razor company Gillette has also said that it is "limiting" the sportsman's marketing role, reports The Telegraph. Also, AT&T is "evaluating" its contract with Woods.

Speculators believe Woods can suffer losses of an estimated 66 million pounds in income if he is dropped by sponsors, over the course of a year. Woods has decided to take an "indefinite" break from professional golf in a bid to save his marriage.

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'Tiger Woods was shy as a teenager,' says first girlfriend

Tiger Woods' first girlfriend has opened up about her relationship with the troubled golfer, saying he used to be a shy guy. Dina Gravell (now Gravell-Parr) and Woods fell for each other in high school.

"We were each other's first real boyfriend and girlfriend," the New York Post quoted Gravell, as saying. "It was fire and flames. We were in teenage love."

The duo - Gravell, then 17, and Woods, then 16 - first came to know each other in 1992 while they attended an ac counting class at Western HS in Ana heim, Calif.

Gravell recalled: "It wasn't love at first sight. It wasn't a physical thing." However, as weeks passed the two came closer. Woods took the first step when he asked her to go to a movie.

Talking about how that evening ended Gravell said: "At the end of the night I had to ask him: 'Well, was that a date?' He was all shy and embarrassed.... As we said goodbye, it was really awkward. You could tell he didn't know whether to lunge for a kiss or not. So we had a hug instead."

Soon enough the lovebirds were exchanging love notes in class. Gravell's family received woods warmly and her place became their first lovenest. Gravell said: "We would wait for my parents to go to bed and then make out on the sofa in front of the television for hours.

"We were first boyfriend and girlfriend in all sense of the word." However, things changed as Woods left in 1994 to enrol in Stanford University, while Gravell attended a community college closer home. They sent each other love letters and even talked about tying the knot but distance took its toll.

Gravell said: "I was never jealous but Tiger was a little. He'd ask me what I was up to when he was gone. I never cheated on him, though. "It was college. He was a golfer. I don't flatter myself that he was faithful to me."And then Woods ended the three-year-old relationship.

Gravell recollected: "He said my parents are very concerned that you're a big distraction for me, and I have to listen to them. We have to break up.... I felt I was punched in the stomach."But only two days later, Woods called wanting reconciliation.

She said: "He said he was sad and didn't want to live without me."Woods tried some more but it was over. Gravell said: "It was so cruel.... It was so sad. We were so close. And just like that, it was over."

Gravell has now been married to businessman Keith Parr for 12 years. They are parents to three children and live in the Santa Ana Mountains of California.

And when she heard that Woods cheated on his wife, Elin Nordegren, she said: "I always hear, 'That could have been you.' And I say, 'Thank God, it's not,'.... A family is not happy because of money, a family is happy because of love and respect. I know my husband loves me and would never hurt me, and that is more important than all the money in the world."

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India beat Argentina to finish with bronze in Champions Challenge hockey tournament

India overcame a two-goal deficit to eke out a 3-2 win over Argentina and finish with the bronze medal in the Champions Challenge hockey tournament here.

Their hopes to qualify for Champions Trophy dashed after the semifinal defeat against arch-rivals Pakistan, the Indian team was trailing 0-2 inside the first half an hour before V Raghunath (35th minute), Gurbaz Singh (54th) and Dhananjay Mahadik (69th) sounded the board to complete the win.

The bronze medal game started with both the teams taking their time and gauging each other before going on the offensive.

Argentina had lion's share of ball control and the hosts managed a series of penalty-corner but Indian custodian P Sreejesh was reassuring under the bar. On the second one, Pedro Ibarra collected the rebound but sent his shot in the clouds and finally Facundo Callioni opened the account in the 22nd minute with a shot from a difficult angle.

India tried to shift play into the Argentinean half but Callioni hit the target again soon with a spectacular diving deflection. Stung by the quick goals, the Indians pulled up their socks and started to dominate but they could not get close enough to generate a decent chance. In the final second of play, they earned a penalty-corner and Raghunath converted it, reducing their deficit going into the break and winning the momentum back.

The Indians maintained the tempo and put pressure for the first 10 minutes of second-half on their rival but Ibarra, Fernando Zylberberg and Ignacio Bergner, backed by Juan Tomas Espinosa in the goal, looked rock solid.

Argentina had an opportunity to stretch the lead but Thomas Argento's spectacular reverse missed the mark by a whisker. Meanwhile, India found the equaliser in the 54th minute through Gurbaj after some excellent work along the backline by Tushar Khandker.

Having erased the deficit, the Indians were on a role and monopolised the ball for long sequence of skillful plays. Shivendra Singh had a good chance after collecting a long pass but it was finally a penalty-corner by Dhananjay that earned them the lead.

Argentina had a last chance on a penalty-corner, but Ibarra could not cash in on and India won the bronze, much higher than their sixth entry ranking in this competition.

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Sachin Tendulkar to bat for Aamir Khan

When cricket meets Bollywood, it's bound to be a blockbuster. In this case, it is Aamir Khan and Sachin Tendulkar. When Aamir approached his dear friend and neighbour Sachin with an interesting proposal concerning his next film, the master blaster immediately agreed. Sources close to Aamir said he had a meeting with Sachin in Anjali's presence to be part of a marketing campaign for Aamir's film which will be unveiled just days before the release.

"Sachin didn't hesitate a moment to say yes to the marketing gimmick that requires Aamir to go 'missing', with a prize announced for whoever can locate him. He told Sachin Tendulkar that before he 'disappears', he is going to declare that Sachin will have the first clue about his whereabouts and the press would be encouraged to ask Sachin the question -- 'Where is Aamir?'. Sachin has agreed to be a part of this campaign," says a source.

The producer of the film, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, also confirmed that Aamir and Sachin have teamed up for this one. "Honestly, I don't know where Aamir Khan is right now. He told me that I can't keep a secret so he is not going to disclose where he is hiding. He's told his friend Sachin Tendulkar to give out a clue about his first location.Sachin is playing his confidante in this game which makes him the only actor in the world to go missing before his film's release," Chopra says.

Kareena Kapoor, who is Aamir's leading lady in the film, laughs, "Aamir hasn't told me how he's going to play the game he has invented, but he has told Sachin about it." If that was not enough, Aamir has also made an 'Aamir Goes Missing' promotional video on a handycam which also features his wife Kiran, that was shot in his own apartment.

Meanwhile, Aamir organised a private screening of the film for Sachin, Anjali and their children at Ketnav theatre in Bandra on Friday afternoon. Sachin is one of the first persons to see the final cut of the film apart from the crew.

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Confident Stuart Broad: We will make our rusty rivals pay

Stuart Broad believes South Africa's lack of Test cricket this year gives England a golden chance to take the first match of the series.

Just 48 hours before the teams meet in the opening Test at Centurion, the all-rounder urged his team to go for the throat against a side, whose last taste of the five-day game was back in March.

Although South Africa beat Australia, it was a hollow victory as the Proteas lost the series 3-1. By contrast, England enjoyed a golden summer, comfortably seeing off the West Indies before reclaiming the Ashes in a 2-1 triumph.

After practice here today, Broad said: "This is a big opportunity for us. South Africa are a bit rusty, they haven't played Test cricket for a while and we are feeling good as a team. We have to make sure we go into the first day at Centurion and hit them hard. We're pretty confident we can."

England are still deliberating over whether to go on the attack and play just four bowlers but Broad believes the squad are versatile enough to cope with anything.

"The beauty of this England side is that we have that option," he said. "Obviously if we go in with six batters it will put pressure on the bowlers, but Jimmy Anderson and I have been opening the bowling for quite a while and we are ready to step up and take responsibility.

"What's good about this England team is that there are players ready to step up in all situations. We just have to make sure we get off to a good start on Wednesday. That's so important in a four-match series."

Broad also explained why he has decided to opt out of the Indian Premier League for another season.

Struggling with a shoulder injury earlier in the tour, he said: "It's been a tough schedule. We've got four Tests over the next five weeks and then there's the Bangladesh tour.

"You have to listen to your body. I'm not ruling out the IPL in the future but for now England comes first. It was always my boyhood dream to play for my country and that is my priority. I've done a lot of thinking and a lot of talking. I have to think about my body."

Anderson will also miss the IPL, citing his desire to be fresh for next winter's Ashes defence.

He said: "Taking on Australia will be a huge challenge and one that I am fully committed to.

“I want to be an integral part of the first England cricket team to retain the Ashes since 1972 and I'll be giving myself the best possible chance of doing that by not playing in the IPL
“The England cricket team have a busy schedule in 2010 and I'd like to be playing for England as much as possible.”

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior says that England should adopt a squad‑rotation policy so players avoid burn-out.

Prior, whose own position has been called into question, accepts changing the team gives a rival player a chance to impress but says England should learn from Australia.

Prior told the January issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine: “Ultimately players are going to have to be rested. They have to be told — not asked. No one will say they want a break but there is nothing wrong in the England management saying: You are our No1 but we want you to rest to be fit for an important series.

“You don't want to give a rival half a chance to take your job but Australia think nothing of resting their players without placing the dropped player's future at risk. Ricky Ponting was in the form of his life when returning from a rest period after the Ashes.”

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A wicket with character . . . about time

FOR almost all my international career, Perth had been a fortress for Australia.

I made my Test debut there in December 1995, when we comfortably beat Sri Lanka, was dropped when the West Indies won there the following season, and went the next 10 years never experiencing defeat at the WACA Ground.

The pace and bounce of Perth was usually too much for the opposition. Six of our victories there in my time were by more than an innings, one by seven wickets, another by almost 500 runs and another by more than 200 runs.

With very rare exceptions, Perth and Brisbane were the two places we felt most confident of victory because of the extra bounce in the pitch.

Yet as batsmen we loved playing there. The pitches played with great consistency and the ball came on to the bat so you had the confidence to play your shots, making for entertaining cricket.

I am looking forward to playing on that type of Perth pitch again in the third Test against the West Indies, beginning tomorrow. .

It had become lower and slower in recent seasons, continuing the trend of pitches around the world that are losing, or have lost, their character.

This season there have been good reports coming out of Perth, with NSW beating Western Australia inside three days thanks to an excellent bowling performance from Doug Bollinger on a lively pitch. If the Test pitch is something similar that is great news for players, and great news for the fans, who will see plenty of lively cricket.

The pitch being prepared for this Test does have a good cover of grass but we'll wait until today before having a close look at it.

Certainly all the signs are encouraging because for most of my career Perth has been one of the great places to play cricket.

Cricket needs more pitches like the WACA Ground of old, a wonderful contrast to the type of slow, low wickets you find in so many places now.

This reduces one of the great joys of Test cricket, to be challenged on unique surfaces, something which Australia could once boast about. Each of its major cricket grounds had a distinctly different surface.

If you could learn to cope with a variety of difference surfaces around the country and around the world, whether you were a batsman or a bowler, you were considered the complete Test cricketer.

That challenge is now going out of Test cricket as pitches around the globe develop a sameness. Low, slow pitches can make for bland, one-sided cricket where bat dominates ball and results can be difficult to achieve.

This is my concern for Test cricket on the subcontinent in particular, where there can be some real batathons.

It was no surprise to us that the West Indies batted well in Adelaide. The slow, low pitch was always going to suit their style of play. However, if the WACA Ground pitch is anything like the Perth of my younger days, I think they'll struggle like they struggled in Brisbane during the first Test.

There has been talk that their impressive young fast bowler Kemar Roach could be a handful for us in Perth.

He can certainly be quick but we played him well on the helpful Brisbane pitch and I believe we can do the same again during this Test. Likewise, we've got some impressive young quicks of our own who will enjoy any assistance at least as much as the West Indian fast bowlers.

Statistics suggest that off-spinners struggle in Perth but I don't believe they tell the full story.

Left-arm finger spinners Daniel Vettori from New Zealand and South Africa's Paul Harris have had success against us at the WACA Ground in recent seasons.

And many touring sides chose not to play their off-spinners in Perth, with India leaving out Harbhajan Singh just two years ago.

Off-spinners have had success at state level drifting the ball away from the right-handed batsmen in the breeze. I had a chat to Nathan Hauritz after the Adelaide Test and he admitted he didn't bowl as well as he would have liked, but I believe that with the prevailing Fremantle Doctor aiding his drift and a bit of extra bounce, he could bowl well.

One thing we have talked about since we arrived in Perth is our batting.

We have played consistently well, making 8(dec)-480 in Brisbane and 439 during the first innings in Adelaide.

During that time nine players have made 50 or more, and two have made it to the 90s, but no one has scored a century.

This contrasts with the West Indies, who have made three hundreds and yet are 1-0 down in the series. Those sorts of statistics are starting to have an Ashes feel about them.

It's important that players who get starts do press on and get big scores, but by the same token you don't want to make a big deal about it.

The more you talk about it, the harder it can become.

Last summer we talked about losing wickets around the breaks and it kept happening. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

by Ricky Ponting

Courtesy :

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

India can't justify Test status without a bowling superstar

It is often said that the Indian cricket public are not terribly interested in Tests. But a glance at the blogosphere suggests that they are thoroughly enjoying their team’s rise to No. 1 in the world rankings.

When a fellow English columnist (sorry, “ranting Pom”) recently scoffed at the table, suggesting that India were poor under pressure and didn’t deserve their lofty position, he was subjected to a ritual disembowelling online.

For myself, I tend to feel that India are every bit as deserving of the laurel wreath as South Africa or Australia. The problem is that we have become accustomed to the idea of a single champion team, because that is the way the game has been since the early 1970s.

In theory, the concept of three or four half-decent sides scrapping it out at the top of the table – a hung parliament, if you will – should make for greater drama than the monotony of totalitarian rule.

But that is to under-estimate our love of neatness in all things, especially sport. We like to know who the pillars of world cricket are, so that we can look for cracks in the edifice. There is no story as resonant as the fall of a dynasty (as Tiger Woods, a dynasty in his own right, has just discovered).

The ICC’s algorithm does a decent job of turning results into placings, as far as that goes. But the definition of a true champion side is that you don’t need to look at the table to know they are the world’s best.

The other issue with India is that they are a team without great bowlers (begging Harbhajan Singh’s pardon). Their batsmen do the attacking, crushing the life out of sides with the weight and the speed of their run-scoring.

Yes, the attack may be solid and professional. But it is hardly up to the level of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, nor the all-conquering juggernaut that was the West Indies’ mean machine.

You can almost see their Test cricket as an extension of their one-day skills. Virender Sehwag’s 293 was a 50-over innings that happened to go on for a whole day.

This is the modern way. But it is also an ancient way. The Indians are turning the clock back to the 1930s and 40s, decades when the giant score was the building block of every Test series win.

That was the last era when pitches were flat enough, and bowlers subservient enough, for a batsman (Sehwag now, Bradman then) to eye up the possibility of scoring 300 runs in a day.

In the modern game, we are still seeing isolated examples of bowlers (Dale Steyn, Mitchell Johnson, Ajantha Mendis) who manage to upset the established order. At least, for a while, before the combination of an overstuffed itinerary and exhaustive video analysis brings them back to the pack.

India need someone with that wow factor. Harbhajan had it at the start of his career, when he ambushed the Aussies with the slippery variation that has become known as “the doosra”. Yet his performances since then have been impressive rather than truly iconic.

Perhaps the solution is in front of us. Perhaps the combination of Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan, which performed so well against the Sri Lankans, can develop into a genuinely world-beating pairing. But until the Indians can dominate opponents with ball as well as bat, the arguments will go on.

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Cricket: Taylor irritated by test ton misses

It's an affliction Tim McIntosh and Daniel Flynn would happily accept in the test cricket series against Pakistan, but New Zealand's leading batsman Ross Taylor admits to be irritated by a new tendency to get out when a century beckons.

Taylor has twice been denied a third test ton of the year against the Pakistanis, with his powers of concentration wavering at University Oval and the Basin Reserve.

The only New Zealand batsman to score consistently against the tourists, Taylor played a loose drive on 94 in Dunedin and was caught at slip off the bowling Saeed Ajmal, the offspinner who tempted him into a similar shot in his previous over.

Then, in Wellington, Taylor was motoring along, taking toll of the Pakistan attack until he buttoned off in the 90s and tried to glide a ball that ended up in Misbah-ul-Haq's hands at first slip.

Taylor exited for 97, taking any hope of New Zealand mounting a successful run chase with him.

Until this year Taylor has had little difficulty converting substantial starts into three figures. Until his brain fade in the first test the 25-year-old had never fallen in the nervous 90s in his 21-test career.

Against India at the start of the year he compiled 151 and 107 in back-to-back tests at Napier and Wellington to carry his tally to four test tons - a number he seemed certain to expand.

But a flaw in his powers of concentration emerged during August's tour of Sri Lanka.

"It actually started back in Sri Lanka, I got a 90 in the first innings of the first warm-up game and I haven't been able to break three figures since then," he said.

He made 81 in the second test in Colombo, but was caught at the wicket via another edge from a slow bowler -- Ragana Herath.

Taylor has discussed how to clear this mental obstacle with his batting mentor of the past 2-1/2 years, Martin Crowe.

"It is disappointing and the next time I get it that situation I'd like to put it to rest and get to three figures."

Crowe has at least successfully addressed some minor technical deficiencies in Taylor's set-up, given his protege has amassed 280 runs in the series at 70, dwarfing the input of the other specialist batsmen.

"I've been working on a few things with Hogan (Crowe) and it's been working for me," he said, explaining the key was not get trapped crease bound but to get forward and look to be aggressive.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cricket: History counting against Black Caps

Shane Bond being invalided out of a series is not the only recurring nightmare preying on the minds of New Zealand's cricketers as they approach today's second test against Pakistan at the Basin Reserve.

An injured Bond's unavailability represents a potentially serious setback to a team that has a worrying history when leading a three-match series 1-0.

On three occasions New Zealand has let an advantage slip - on the cannabis-gate tour of South Africa in 1994, in Sri Lanka four years later and most recently when hosting England in March/April last year.

Captain Daniel Vettori hardly needed reminding of the English series when ruling out complacency as a potential pitfall when Pakistan attempts to become the fourth team to regroup and prosper after dropping the first test.

New Zealand dominated the first match of the English series in Hamilton, winning by 189 runs before being soundly beaten at the Basin Reserve (126 runs) and Napier (121 runs).

Despite being justifiably pleased after securing a tense 32-run triumph in Dunedin last weekend, Vettori has warned his teammates a series victory - what would be only the third in 19 attempts against Pakistan - was far from certain.

"I think the guys are feeling good about themselves but there's a need not to get caught up in that, and a need for improvement," he said.

"It was a good test performance but there's a series that needs to be won.

"We've done it in the past against England where we've gone 1-0 up and in a lot of ways rested on our laurels. We lost the next two test matches.

"There was a real desire within the team to have celebrated in Dunedin - and also to make sure it's not the end of the summer."

New Zealand's batting unit will likely have a significant influence on whether the year ends on a high note considering a traditionally bouncy wicket should be spiced up by spending the best part of four days under cover as rain lashed the capital.

The home side's batting frailties are well documented and with Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul all in the zone at University Oval, the trio can expect to cause more angst among a fragile top and middle order.

Of the specialists, only Ross Taylor produced a notable double last week with 94 and 59.

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Lions' Delmas, Bengals' Ochocinco share in trash talk

Louis Delmas shares the same agent with Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. One day, the agent put the players on the phone together. Naturally, they started talking trash.

“It was fun then, so I know it’s going to be fun now,” Delmas said.

The Lions drafted Delmas in the second round in April and visit the Bengals on Sunday. Delmas will go head-to-head with Ochocinco, a dangerous player and the league’s most outgoing personality.

“Tell him he’s going to get an earful, so wear some earplugs,” Ochocinco said Wednesday in a conference call with Detroit reporters.

Delmas might be a rookie safety on the NFL’s worst pass defense. But he has shown he won’t shy away from anyone. He delivers big hits. He talks big smack. He is often on the edge —sometimes drawing a flag, sometimes not.

Ochocinco offers a unique challenge. Delmas spoke highly of him as a receiver and a wordsmith.

“He’s very fast, and he’s smart,” Delmas said. “He talks a lot. I think one of his professions outside of football, he could be a rapper. He rhymes so good.”
Delmas has been preparing for Ochocinco on both fronts.

“Watching film on him, I’ve been thinking in my mind so much, little things I can say to try to compare to him,” Delmas said. “He’s got so many things that come out and pop out of his head. I’m just going to try to go in there and get in his head as much as possible, even though I know it’s probably going to be impossible to do that.”

“Tell him: Sit down,” Ochocinco said. “Don’t do that … because he’s going to end up having a bad day. You’re not going to beat me at my game.”

Ochocinco game-plans for trash talk, too. He researches hometowns, high schools, family history — whatever might throw someone off. He won’t give a preview for Sunday. He won’t give any great lines of the past. But he will give a rating.

“Remember, I never disrespect an opponent — ever,” Ochocinco said. “So you know it’s PG.”

Ochocinco declined to take shots at the Lions — not even their secondary, an easy target the Bengals likely will exploit Sunday. He called the secondary “beautiful.” (Perhaps beauty is in the eye of the opponent.)

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