Category Archives: sports

Ian Botham, the legend

BBC Sport documentary on Ian Botham, the legendary cricketer, all rounder who played for England between 1977 and 1992. England i guess never had a kind of swashbuckling allrounder before him, and his arrival changed the stakes for England. He took 5 wickets in his first test match against Australia and was made captain soon after, but a bad patch leading into the 1981 series saw him lose the captaincy after two tests of that series.

In 1980 he came down to Bombay to play one test against India to commemorate the 50 years of Indian cricket and that test match was his own. He took 13 wickets in all and scored 114 runs in one innings that he played in that match. But by 1981 he had lost his form completely. The 3rd test at Headingley was famous for Botham’s century and Bob Willis scintillating bowling in the 4th innings to turn the match around completely for England. I remember listening to this match on the BBC World test commentary with the likes of John Arlott, Christopher Martin Jenkins, Henry Blofied among others.

The 4th and 5th match in that series went completely Botham’s way. He dominated the 1981 series in the same way Ben Stokes completely dominated the 2019 Ashes against Australia in England. In between England had Andrew Flintoff who started off flamboyantly like Botham but somewhere down the line, injuries put paid to his efforts.

Ian Botham was truly a great allrounder on the same likes of Kapil Dev, Imran Khan & Richard Hadlee, all of whom played around the same time. Ian Botham later became a commentator, but he used to just mumble into the mic, so we did’nt know what he was talking about, but that’s what he is – original. Nice documentary to watch for those who like cricket. It is available on youtube at this link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZN6B1ulxWU

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Dogtown & Z Boys

Dogtown & Z Boys, a documentary made in 2001 about the sport of skateboarding which evolved sometime in the 70s in America. Basically the sport emerged out of ocean surfing because the boards were more or less the same and the moves also got inspired from surfing. The documentary shows one team Zephyr in Dogtown in Santa Monica which produced probably the best and most daring skate boarders with many innovative moves. What happened was that during one period of drought in California in the 70s, the swimming pools got dried out, so the empty pools were like magnets for young kids to practice skate boarding. Subsequently the sport gained in prominence with many sponsors, national competitions, TV times, magazines, interviews, international competitions and the like. There were rankings and ratings and the roll of honour and the like. Young & daring skate boarders started going one better than the others and raising the bar all the time. It was an exciting time for the kids those days with lots of money coming in, name & fame. Dogtown did pioneer in a lot of ways with their Zephyr team and people like Jeff Adams and Tony Alva were considered like Michael Jordan of skateboarding. Nice documentary with lots of live video footages from the 70s and interviews with probably the entire Zephyr team.

Where i do my morning runs there are a group of young kids who learn skating (not the skate boarding) and it is quite exciting to watch them pass by.

This documentary can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YKPEDayb_U

Picture above taken from the internet and not with an intention to violating copyright.

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1999 series India – Pakistan

Interesting documentary on the 1999 India Pakistan cricket series in India. I missed this series because i was abroad during that time, so missed the excitement of Sachin century in Chennai and Kumble 10 wickets in an innings in New Delhi. This series was held after a 10 year hiatus and then there was the hugely popular 2004 series in which India went to Pakistan, which was extremely popular and well received. Indian seam bowler Balaji was the pick of the bowlers during that 2004 series and India had unarguably one of the best line ups during that series with Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag in that team.

Between 1978-79 which was Kapil Dev’s first test and series and 1989-90 there were seven series and then followed a 10 year gap, which was filled with this series and then there were 5 more series upto 2007-08 which was the last of the test cricket played between these two countries. The terrorist attack on India’s financial capital in November 2008 put the final nail in the coffin of the test relations between these two countries. Subsequently they have only met in world championships. Pakistani players played in the first ever edition of Indian Premier League which had a huge following in Pakistan, but subsequent editions saw them being left out of selections due to government orders.

Now a world test championships in test cricket is taking place and it is to be played on a league basis with every test playing nation playing the other twice, i think, but if India and Pakistan are not playing test cricket, then the credibility of the world championships test cricket is at stake. For a long period of time, no test playing nation visited Pakistan due to security concerns but recently Sri Lanka visited that country for a short tour and followed by Bangladesh for another short tour.

In the meanwhile Pakistan have their own T-20 league but no Indian player goes there but several world players do take part in it for commercial reasons.

I feel test cricket should restart between the two nations, maybe in a neutral country if the government of both countries agree or don’t agree. Sports should not hijacked for political reasons. Sports should not be used as a tool for solving political battles.

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White Rim MTB Trail

Documentary on Payson McElveen breaking the White Rim MTB Trail record (FKT – Fastest known time) by covering 100 miles in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. He finished it in 5.45.16 hours the previous record was 5.59.34 set by Andy Dorais in 2016. Canyonlands in mountain bike territory with dusty curving mud roads which has stones, roots and all kinds of things that can knock you off. There is a 2220 ft climb at about hour 5 of the trail, so that is a tough one.

Payson has been a two time national defending mountain biking champion

India surprisingly does not have any mountain biking championships. There are some under the Cycling Federation of India but those are for junior bikers and the trail is 4 to 6 kms. There is nothing at a professional level and this is something which is screaming to take off. There are lot of mountain ranges and some of the ones are quite breathtaking to say the least. This could be a game changer for many.

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League of Denial

Interesting and absorbing documentary on the concussion denial at NFL (the football league in America – the kind of football they play in America which is much like the Rugby played in other parts of the world, but more violent in US because they play using helmets and other body protection equipments). The issue surfaced when one player died and when his brain was examined by a Nigerian Dr. Bennett Omalu he found surprising results in the sense that his brain had been completely damaged. He did more research and came up with a new disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. But NFL is a big money machine with big bucks, big advertisers, sponsors et al. Surprising that NFL has not bothered to change any rules of the game involving head to head contact. I mean why could’nt they have eliminated head to head contact and keep other aspects of the game. I don’t know the rules of the game and i don’t understand it either, but if the brain damage was being caused due to constant head to head contact, was’nt it feasible to eliminate that part of the game altogether. Purists can always say that every sport has its dangerous elements like formula 1 car racing, boxing, WWE, etc. But in the interregnum Dr. Omalu got sidelined completely and a neurosurgeon in Boston University got all the brains to examine. Probably one documentary should be made on that feature. The documentary shows that if an organisation has big money with big lawyers they can dump everything and buy anything they want. A $765 million off court settlement buys them time and silence perhaps. Nicely made documentary with lots of expert speak which is how a documentary should be made.

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Branded a Rebel

Brilliant documentary on the rebel cricket tours of early 80s when South Africa was still in apartheid. Some of the best cricketers of that time joined the rebel tours. Many south african world class players like Graeme Pollock and Clive Rice lost out due to isolation of South Africa from the world cricket. This documentary focuses on the West Indian cricketers who went there. Some of the best West Indian cricketers of that time – players like Lawrence Rowe, Collis King, David Murray, Franklyn Stephenson, Colin Croft all went to play there, they were banned for life, which led to a lot of them losing out, social isolation, depression, loss of jobs, loss of family life etc. It became a difficult situation for most of them. Collis King and Lawrence Rowe were outstanding cricketers for West Indies of that time. I remember listening to the BBC radio commentary of the 1979 world cup cricket England vs West Indies, Viv Richards and Collis King massacred the English bowling in a scintillating fashion. But there is one view of journalist Al Gilkes of that time, that this tour by black cricketers from West Indies to play cricket in South Africa and them being mobbed and admired by thousands of young white South Africans eventually led to the destruction of apartheid ten years later.

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Hyderabad Marathon – beast that refused to go away!!

 

Hyderabad Marathon is quite literally a beast of a marathon. Though it is a city marathon in Hyderabad which is almost a metropolitan city of India with its IT companies, nice roads, cosmopolitan population, etc. it is still a very tough marathon. The toughness of the Hyderabad Marathon lies in its unending inclines that dot almost the entire route for a full marathon.

The full marathon started at 5.00 a.m. near the Hussain Sagar Lake and for the first 9 kilometres the route winded around the picturesque lake. The humidity levels were very high in the early morning and with very poor visibility (the street lights were off at various places). The runners were running in dark, dank, deserted roads for the first 9 kms. The route returns to the starting point by which time the half marathoners were getting ready for their start at 6.00 a.m.

The first of the inclines started at little after 9 kms and it was a pretty decent incline. I was running quite strong at this stage having gone ahead of the 4.30 hour bus. I must say i became irritated with the pacers shouting “5 kms gone, 37 to go” and so on at every km. Why let everybody know you have to run for another 35+ kms. The kilometres markers were prominently displayed by the organizers at every kilometre and it was clearly visible to all. So there was no need to shout the passing of each kilometre. Damn!!

By the time we hit the first flyover, the half marathoners had joined us and from a few runners, it became almost like a flood of runners on the road. The infectious spirit of runners spread like wildfire to all the runners. By this time, it became apparent that there was no crowd support, no music, no band at all being played along the route. Marathon running is a sport just like any other so the participants need cheering from the crowds just like in any other sport. Crowd support lifts their spirit tremendously and gives them a positive energy to tackle the tough portions of the race. Imagine a cricket or a football match being played to an empty gallery – after sometime the players’ energy goes down and their spirits start sagging. Mumbai Marathon has tremendous crowd support when the Mumbaikars come out in droves to support the runners even at unearthly hours that the event takes place. Vasai Virar Marathon which took place on October 14th, last year was the best event i have run so far which had the maximum crowd mobilisation. The organisers need to include some residential areas in the route so that the people staying indoors on a Sunday morning are spurred to come out and support the participants. The Hyderabad Marathon route passed mainly through commercial and business district which is closed on a Sunday morning so it was desultory and boring to run in such places.

However by 14th kilometre my spirits had sagged so much that i thought of quitting the race and finishing at half marathon. I was sure that i could easily run the half marathon. DNF (Did Not Finish) thoughts started coming to my brain. Negative thoughts started permeating the mind. But then i thought i had a 5 hour window to be on my feet, so forget about pacing, racing, strategy et al. Why not just remain on my feet and take it further from the 5 hour window. I was sure that i would have completed at least 35 kilometres by then and with only 7 odd kilometres to go, i was confident of finishing.

The half marathoners were with us until the 27th kilometre which helped a lot, because of the multitude of runners in that distance which was throwing off positive energy to all. At around this time, i ran into Gauri Jayaram a good friend who has recently written a book about her life. About 27.5 kilometres we turn left to tackle the remaining 15 kilometres and suddenly from a multitude of runners you have only a few runners on the route. Gauri Jayaram wished me well at the turn off point for half marathoners which worked wonders for my flagging spirit.

The route continued with its undulating inclines all the way through. At 31 kilometres i ran into Ashish Shah who promptly sprang out of nowhere to click a picture of mine a la titanic style.

Image

From here onwards the route leaves the city and enters a semi village but unfortunately the landscape was desultory. At around 35 kilometres, the route enters the Hyderabad University campus which had some greenery around and resembled much like our own IIT Mumbai campus.

The Hyderabad Runners had organised water and medical stations at every 2 kilometres and at each water station, Gatorade was also available besides some eats like bananas, biscuits etc. The volunteers at each of these stations were very helpful and kind and also cheerful in spirit. Also there were stray volunteers on the road and on bicycle gently enquiring after struggling runners. It was nice gesture on their part. For my part, i had decided to experiment with dates and so was having one date every 5 kilometres right from the start. I had two extra pouches of Gatorade which i used at 25th and 35th kilometres respectively.

At around 40 kilometres we leave the University campus and return to another long road which culminated in the entry to the Gadchibowli stadium, a state of the art stadium in Hyderabad, for the final 1.25 kms. By this time i was sure of finishing around 5.30 hours. I had thought i would come around 5.15 hours so the final finishing was not very much off my target. If i had not lingered at each water station to pour water on my neck, and taken so many walking breaks, probably i could have staved off another 10 minutes from my final finishing time which was 5.34.40 hours.

So from a possible DNF early on I somehow managed to finish this beast of a marathon, my 5th ever full marathon. When i was fighting the demons while running i had determined that i will never ever run a full marathon again. Now i am eyeing another full marathon soon!! That is Life, that is Running!!

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Chembur Freedom Race 5.5K

A friend had posted about a 6 kms run in Chembur, supported by his buddies from the future sports foundation. Chembur was my residence for 15 years from the late 70s to the early 90s, so could’nt say no to this opportunity to visit my past home town. Chembur is quite a popular suburb in Mumbai though it is also known as Gas Chamber due to the presence of refineries there. But the place had its own allure, its own little alleys, little hang out places, shops from which we regularly bought something or shops through which we regularly browsed without buying anything. 

This event was to take place on 15th August, which was the Independence day for India, so a public holiday for people except those working in call centres, BPOs and retail malls besides of course the emergency and conservancy staff.  But for all others it was a chance to sleep a little longer. But for runners a holiday, any holiday is an excuse to go for running, sometimes planning long runs or hill workouts or sometimes without planning races like the one which was called Freedom Race, an apt title for whatever it meant. 

The race had about 500 people crammed in a little alley near the chembur gymkhana, where i had once attended a wedding of a college friend, the last of the college friends whom i remember. Chembur had road names which were numerical like 11th road, 14th road etc. which thankfully so far no politician or his brethren has tried to change to their forefathers’ names or perhaps tried and not succeeded. Just behind these number roads was an old middle class colony called Subhash Nagar, typically three floor buildings with a small ground in the front for playing and socialising activities. A spate of redevelopment in Bombay has changed the entire facade of these middle class colonies prime example being in Tilak Nagar in Chembur West which was where i had started my running way back in those days in college, i think. 

Anyway coming back to the race itself, it started i think somewhere around 7.10 a.m. and winded down one alley after another in Chembur some of which i failed to recognise due to my absence from the area for close to two decades and also due to lot of infrastructure work being carried out there like flyovers etc. The aforesaid subhash nagar was unrecognisable. I think somewhere the route touched govandi, a neighbour suburb of bombay though i am not entirely sure of that. 

To cut to the chase, the race was just an excuse to go back to one’s roots so to speak, revisit old places, revive old memories and also to meet lot of friends from the running community. Lots of enthusiastic young kids and their equally enthusiastic parents. 5.5 kms race finished in 29.05 minutes. 

How i wish each suburb of Bombay has its own race. 

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Three wins, three styles

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0jkdBRM6K4

Mo Farah wins in 10,000 metres at the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Moscow. He remains in the background even running last in his first lap and then surging to the front at least three times once with Galen Rupp in tow. The Kenyans also do a bit of surging to the front for which they are famous. Mo Farah is like taunting the Kenyans by replicating their strategy and with a kind of dare devilry unheard of in long distance running, while the Ethiopians as always are all the time tucked in behind the front runners. Not for them is the surging tactic by the Kenyans and now the Somalian turned Briton.

Contrast this with the win of Tirunesh Dibaba in the women’s 10,000 metres at the same meet. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-mQZLLw_7I 

This video shows here she is tucked behind the Japanese runner all through the distance except in the beginning when Shane Flanagan went up front and disappeared soon behind. Beautiful tactic by Dibaba to sit comfortably behind the leader who was doing a 74 second lap, which was comfortable for the Ethiopians. Her last lap kick was reminiscent of what Miruts Yifter did to his fellow runners at the same distance i.e. 10,000 metres at Moscow Olympics 1980.  Watch Yifter the Shifter in this video with his devastating last lap. 

Edna Kiplagat on the other hand bravely played the waiting game in the women’s marathon tucking behind Valentina Straneo for most of the distance except in the start when she took her time to pick up pace. She timed her kick to perfection by delaying it to the 40th km mark a very impressive move considering the humid and hot conditions in the afternoon at Moscow. One feels sorry for Straneo for bravely leading the race throughout but she still got her silver medal whereas the Japanese runner who was leading in the 10,000 metres throughout did not get any podium finish. 

Three wins by Long Distance Heroes in three contrasting styles. 

 

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My Autobiography by Dickie Bird

Just finished reading an absorbing, engaging and enthralling autobiography of Dickie Bird, the most loved and most famous cricket umpire in the world, well, at least in my living memory. It is a first time that i am reading an autobiography of an umpire and obviously he is the most loved one. Therefore it was a completely different perspective to look at cricket from the point of view of an umpire. The narrative is brilliant and flowing and he talks of his early childhood playing cricket in Barnsley in Yorkshire and thereafter his progression to a cricket umpire. There are little anecdotes of match situations thrown in liberally throughout the book. He talks of rain hit matches, sun hit matches (yes, there was one match which was stopped momentarily because the sun’s rays were being reflected upon the eyes of the fielders through the glass box of corporate boxes) crowd booing, state of the pitches, use of technology in cricket, decisions etc. The man virtually lives and breathes cricket and therefore it was an entirely refreshing book. That he has umpired some of the most famous matches in the 24 years that he was an umpire and stood when some of the most famous bowlers of the time were bowling, such as Holding, Roberts, Garner, Marshall, Lillee, Thompson, Kapil Dev, Hadlee, Botham, Underwood, etc. is by itself a sheer tribute to the man’s greatness. Highly recommended for reading for all cricket fans. 

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Turbaned Tornado

This book “Turbaned Tornado” is a biography of the famous Indian marathoner who ran a marathon at 100 years, Fauja Singh. The writer Kushwant Singh is not the same famous Indian journalist and writer of the same name. It is a nice narrative of the early life of Fauja Singh, how he travelled to London after the death of his loving wife and started running marathons at the age of 89 when most of us would rather be more comfortable walking with a stick!! Fauja is an indomitable spirit and his farmers’ genes help him in becoming a rare sportsman and brand ambassador more famous than some sportspersons three or four generations younger than him. His timing of 5.20 hours at the age of 94 is the stuff made of legends. Fauja Singh is truly a great sportsman of India and reading his biography is very refreshing.

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Marathon Man

Just finished reading “Marathon Man” by Bill Rodgers otherwise known as Boston Billy who won the Boston and New York Marathons 4 times each in the late 70s. Boston Billy has personally autographed this book which was given to my dear friend Bhasker Desai who had ran at this year i.e. 2013 Boston Marathon. Bhasker finished the race and was in the medical tent when the bomb blast took place.

It is a very enchanting and enthralling book with a throbbing narrative in collaboration with Mathew Shepatin. Basically it is an account of his early life and his Boston marathon experience of 1975. The narrative is very interesting in the sense that each chapter starts with his Boston 1975 progress during the race and the later part of the chapter devotes to flashback to his early life as a college student, running with Amby Burfoot who is his original inspiration, his “conscientious objector” status during the Vietnam war, his degree at special education, struggle at getting a job etc. He was a natural born runner with a great capacity for hard work and a body which could take any amount of hard work with very little injuries. The realisation that he could be a top notch marathon runner came to him only during a race with Amby Burfoot in which he raced alongside the great Amby for about 15 miles of a 20 mile race. The seeds of inspiration which Amby sowed in him made him take up competitive racing including marathons. Boston Billy alongwith Frank Shorter, Amby Burfoot and Jeff Galloway were the pioneers of long distance running first in America which then spread to other cities in the world which has since then grown exponentially. His latter attempts at Montreal Olympics of 1976 and thereafter founding a successful running business alongwith his college buddies makes for a good story. It is an excellent book, very inspirational, very nice story of an easygoing hardworking American who loves running dearly. 

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BCCI – Operating in a regulatory vacuum

The Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) is a classic case of an organisation which operates in a regulatory vacuum with impunity. Apparently it is registered as a Society in Tamil Nadu and comes under the ambit of the Registrar of Societies which is a government department ostensibly under staffed and under motivated. The BCCI officials proudly claim that they are a private body which regulates cricket in India, the most important game in the last 75 years in India. If they are a private body then why operate as a Society, which terms itself denotes a public interest at large. They are not a company or a LLP so they don’t come under the ambit of Ministry of Corporate Affairs and neither are they listed in any bourses in India to be regulated by SEBI, the stock exchange regulator. They don’t come under Reserve Bank of India because they are neither a bank nor a non banking financial institution. They are not even a chit fund in order to be regulated by the state departments or now under SEBI nor a co-operative in order to come under the purview of the State Co-operative Department. They are very comfortably ensconced themselves as a Society which has probably the least possible regulation in India because generally Societies are formed for the purpose of doing some public good. They cannot by any stretch of imagination be called as a private body. If they  are a private body running cricket in India then there should be competition from other private bodies similarly doing so but the only competition that came from Indian Cricket League initiated by the Goyals were ruthlessly demolished by the erstwhile prince of Indian Premier League. So despite being monopoly they don’t come under the purview of the competition commission of India which looks into abuse of dominance.  If they are a private body as they claim to be then why do they select a team which represents the country India in all international tournaments bilateral series, wear India colours and their officials represent as Indians in international organisations like ICC etc. It is a beautifully structured organisation which listens to nobody which is not accountable to anybody and which can do anything it wants with total impunity. The Right to Information Act does not apply to it, because they are not a government body, they do not get any funds from the government, they are not reporting to the sports ministry. There is absolutely no concept of governance being adopted, leave alone the ethical aspects of conducting its activities. The very concept of sports governance code is absent in India. I very much doubt if there is any such organisation anywhere in the world which enjoys such impunity in a regulatory vacuum.

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