Monday, February 28, 2005

More food for thought!

"There is a romantic in me who believes that many of us watch sport for reasons other than the vulgar desire to win, that we enjoy the intrinsic charm of the game itself, removed from who its participants represent, and what they mean to us."
This is taken out of Amit Varma's cricket blog, 23 yards - "Cricket and Country".

He goes on to discuss how one's opinion on various aspects of the game gets clouded by one's love for the country. He brings out the point about how no Sri Lankan would say that Murali's action is illegal and no Australian would agree that it is legal!

This is one paragraph which really sumarizes the point very well:

"For those who feel deeply about contemporary politics, certain topics have become so infected by considerations of prestige that a genuinely rational approach to them is almost impossible. Out of the hundreds of examples that one might choose, take this question: Which of the three great allies, the U.S.S.R., Britain and the USA, has contributed most to the defeat of Germany? In theory, it should be possible to give a reasoned and perhaps even a conclusive answer to this question. In practice, however, the necessary calculations cannot be made, because anyone likely to bother his head about such a question would inevitably see it in terms of competitive prestige. He would therefore start by deciding in favour of Russia, Britain or America as the case might be, and only after this would begin searching for arguments that seemed to support his case. "
- Taken from an essay by George Orwell in 1945.

I would say this holds true not only for politics, but any issue which affects us emotionally.
As for Cricket, it is definitely an emotive issue with the vast majority and it must be attributed to patriotism/nationality!

Patriotism v/s Love for the game

This is a topic which keeps popping up time and again. I admit I have had many an argument on this subject with many of my friends. Let's face it, most of us definitely want India to win whenever they play. If a player doesn't play well in a match or two, he gets the stick from everyone starting from the press to the common man on the street. It doesn't matter whether the other team was better or that it was a close match. If India loses, everyone is ready with the axe! There is the flip side to the coin of course. If a player hits a century, he is praised and can ride on that performance for quite a while. It doesn't matter what the conditions were, who the opponents were.

Well, this brings the larger question into the picture - Should the interest in the game be largely decided by one's interest in one's own country? Isn't there more to a sport than just winning all the matches? I was reading Ramachandra Guha's Article on "Changes in the game" featuring a couple of weeks back in The Magazine Section of The Hindu. Among the various issues, he makes a very valid point about the unruly behaviour of the crowds in stadiums all over India(with the notable exception of Chepauk) and the 1996 World Cup being a marker for this. We had to face the ignominy of a semi-final defeat to Sri Lanka as a result of crowd misbehaviour.
Since then there have many incidents of matches getting disrupted because of inexplicable crowd behaviour. Are we all getting to a stage where we want India to win at all costs? Is there anything wrong in appreciating an outstanding performance against India by an opposition player? Do we always need to blame our players for all the lost matches?

I am not trying to say that I am very objective when it comes to watching cricket. Ofcourse I love watching India play well and win. But to be honest I'd rather watch a close match like the one we lost against Pakistan in Chennai rather than a dull match with India winning by an innings or so.

Coming back to the point made about crowd misbehaviour, there is a case especially in India of people going to stadiums and letting the game proceed without unnecessary obstacles. This assumes even more importance with the upcoming Pakistan tour, given the rivalry between the teams and the huge stakes when we play Pakistan. I am just hoping that there is no repeat of the unfortunate incident which marred the third test at Calcutta when the match was finally played in front of empty galleries. It would be so much nicer to watch scenes similar to the one at Chennai last time around when the 'Pakis' were a given a 'lap of honour' after winning a very close encounter. Oh, I definitely hope it would be India who'd be winning such tests this time around. Yeah I know, there's the patriot in me talking again! So much for me writing about 'my love for the game'!!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Better Late Than Never !

It is almost two days since the conclusion of the 1st leg of the pre-quarterfinals matches of the UEFA champions league. The four matches played on the second day definitely deserve a mention considering the fact that both the high-profile English clubs lost!! Having seen the game at Old Trafford, I find it impossible not to talk about that tie! So onto the reviews:

Manchester United 0 - 1 AC Milan

This was one match where people were least expecting Milan to call the shots and dictate play which they managed to do for most of the time. Everyone expected Milan to sit back and soak up the pressure but in the intial stages, it was Man U sitting back and trying to do something on the counter-attack. There were some good chances for both sides in the opening half hour. Seedorf was desperately unlucky not to score for Milan from a superbly executed free kick which hit the crossbar. Scholes missed a golden oppurtunity for Man U inside the penalty area by firing a shot wide. The best chance for Man U was when Ronaldo managed to find Quinton Fortune on the break and his attempt went wide missing the post by hardly an inch or two. What surprised everyone was that Milan completely dominated possession in the mid-field. The exchange of passes from Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa and Kaka was amazing to watch. Although they did not convert that to too many scoring oppurtunities, Milan definitely looked the more composed and confident side. Half time score 0-0.

The second half was even more open as Man U tried to step up the pressure and take the attack to Milan. However they were not able to translate that into anything noteworthy. Rooney had just one attempt from 35 yards out. The defensive abilities of Milan are pretty well known and they stuck to their task. Nesta was brilliant as ever and both Maldini and Kaladze were solid as well. The inclusion of Cafu in the right wing added a new dimension to Milan in this match and he was causing many problems on the right side for Man U. In fact a large number of Milan attacks originated from that end of the pitch. In an effort to attack more, Man U introduced Van Nistelroy in place of Ronaldo. However, this move did not pay too many dividends as they were still not able to create any real scoring oppurtunities. As the match wore on, the frustration was evident on the faces of the Man U players. Then suddenly out of nowhere, the Milan mid-field managed to conjure up a string of immaculate passes and Seedorf ripped a shot towards the Man U goal which Roy Carroll fumbled and presented Crespo with an easy tap. 1-0 to Milan. From then on, it was just a case of Milan sitting back and soaking up the pressure. There was one close miss from a corner as Saha headed wide as soon as he was introduced. However, it was a near perfect outing for Milan and they have a distinct advantage as they return home for the 2nd leg in two weeks' time. My Man of the match - Cafu.

Just a word of caution though(being a Milan fan), Man U are well known for hitting back strongly in the second leg. They have won important matches in Italy before. Most recently, they beat Juventus in the knock-out stages with a victory in Turin. Milan would be well advised to keep a close watch on the Man U strategy for that match.

Barcelona 2 - 1 Chelsea.

Chelsea were very lucky finally to get away with a narrow defeat margin. Barcelona could have easily scored atleast 2 goals more. Well, all the goals were scored by Barca players. Unfortunately for Barca, one of them landed in their own net! Petr Cech and John Terry deserve special mention for keeping Chelsea's hope alive. Drogba's sending off was unfortunate and reduced the match to a completely one-sided affair. Barcelona would be relieved at the end to have won the match but they would have to convert their chances if they are to win at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea at home would be a different side altogether. The substitution of Giuly by Maxi Lopez was a bold one and it made all the difference in this match. Can't wait for the second leg of this encounter!

Werder Bremen 0 - 3 Lyon

Lyon is the team which has scored the maximum goals in this tournament and they added three more to their tally against the Bundesliga champions. The scoreline does not depict the fact that Bremen played fairly well without really converting it into a goal. The goal scored by Diarra in the 78th minute was a real beauty. Even the free kick by Juninho was awesome. I can't see how Bremen is going to come back in this tie but stranger things have happened.

FC Porto 1 - 1 Inter Milan

Well, I called this one right! I was expecting a draw. Inter has carved out a name for itself when it comes to drawn matches. They haven't lost their last 40 matches! They have drawn most of those matches. Porto have managed to survive in this tournament so far but their return leg at the San Siro isn't going to be easy. We'll wait and watch what happens.

Shall be celebrating my room-mate's birthday over the weekend. Looking forward to that party!

Thats it for this week!
Will be back on Monday blogging in full swing again!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Another big day at the UEFA Champions League!

One half of the pre-quarterfinal matches are over and there are some huge ones left tonight.. I'd like to discuss the concluded matches first..

Real Madrid 1 - 0 Juventus
This scoreline ensures that the second leg is very interesting provided Juventus are able to come up with a more sparkling performance.. The loss of Nedved early in the first half and the absence of Trezeguet certainly affected their performance but I shouldn't take anything away from Real's performance.. They were unlucky not to win with a greater margin which would have given them a nice cushion going to Turin in two weeks' time. Zidane showed everyone his class once again with a masterly performance in the midfield..

Bayern Munich 3 -1 Arsenal
The most satisfying scoreline for me among the matches already played! Arsenal showed once again that they are capable of faltering in the Champions League.. Defensively, they seem all at sea without Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole.. The last minute goal scored by Kolo Toure atleast has given them a lifeline and some hope of turning their fortunes around at home.. As for Bayern, they have done enough to ensure another quarter-final place if they can keep their wits about them when they play at Highbury..

Liverpool 3 - 1 Bayer Leverkussen
Before the start of the game, Liverpool would have happily taken this scoreline. However, they shouldn't have allowed Leverkussen to score the late goal which still keeps them in the hunt for a pass to the nest round. Leverkussen would still give themselves a chance having scored a vital away goal in the dying moments of the game. But Liverpool's comfortable victory overshadows the fact the Leverkussen 'looked' the better side.. However, what matters is the fact that Liverpool has a really good chance of finally making a point this season by qualifying for the quarters in Europe's most prestigious club competition.

PSV Eindhoven 1 - 0 AS Monaco
Just one goal in this match, that too very early in the game. PSV's victory did come as a surpise to me as I was expecting Monaco to win this tie. However, a 1-0 margin is hardly enough to guarantee a place in the next phase. If they are able to repeat their performance in this match, they'd be well on course in achieving that feat. I suspect if Monaco score early in the second leg, then it might become tough for PSV.

Now coming to tonight's HUGE encounters. The one I am looking forward to the most is undoubtedly Manchester United v/s AC Milan.. Needless to say, I am hoping and praying that Milan is able to atleast hold Man U though that would take some doing. As for them scoring goals, it'd be tough without both Shevchenko and Inzaghi. However they have the depth in their squad to bounce back and they have got into some form lately in Serie A. But there are more few things more unnerving than playing against Man U at Old Trafford in such a huge match.. Keeping my fingers crossed in this one..

Next, Barcelona v Chelsea.. League leaders of Spain and England respectively.. Both in-form teams, tremendous talent bank and inspiring coaches. Chelsea has been affected by injuries to Duff and Robben and this might result in a slight advantage to the spanish side. Chelsea have one of the best away records this season and it should be interesting to see how they fare at Nou Camp.. The prospect of watching the Barca stars trying to pick at the Chelsea defence is very exciting! Let's see who prevails on the night..

The third match is between the defending champions FC Porto and Inter Milan.. Porto are a shadow of the side that won last year with half of their players moving out to other clubs.
Inter has not been beaten yet this season in the champions league.. They are tough opponents considering the fact that their strikers Vieri and Martins are available and fit for selection.. I have a feeling this encounter might end up in a draw though..

Last but by no means least is the match between Lyon and Werder Bremen.. Although not very well known cubs, they are the league leaders in France and Germany respectively.. I think whichever club wins this tie might go on to big things this year.. Just a gut feeling!
Lyon have already proved their mettle by finishing on top of their group ahead of Man U.. Bremen need to ensure that they win today as winning the return leg at Lyon is definitely a daunting task.

And guess what, I am going to my friend Anant Saraf's place to watch the matches today.. No chance I am going to miss the Milan-Man U encounter!! Go Milan!!
Talking of Milan, I recently bought myself a Paolo Maldini T-Shirt in full support of my favourite soccer star! As long as he's playing for Milan(which may not be very long), there's no way I can support any other team..

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

This one is for Soccer fans!

With the first phase of the pre-quarter finals in the UEFA Champions League scheduled tonight, it is but natural that I'd want to talk about the Match-ups tonight..

First, the BIG one, Real Madrid - Juventus.. It doesn't get any bigger than this in any competition.. Two of the biggest clubs in Europe.. Personally, I'd love to see Juve coming out on top but the star-studded Real is very unpredictable and on their day, I have to admit they are unbeatable.. And it seems Nedved may not play for Juve after all which would be a really huge blow.. Hope he recovers in time..

Secondly, Bayern Munich - Arsenal.. Bayern is known for its resillience and are definitely tough opponents to beat.. their performances this season haven't been extraordinary.. However, they are facing an Arsenal side which has a lot to prove.. After many disappointments in EPL, Arsenal will look to go far in this competition this year.. A lot will depend on their away match performance ofcourse.. Personally, I can't support any English club, so I am rooting for Bayern..

Another Anglo-German clash.. Liverpool-Bayern Leverkussen.. I admit I don't know much about Leverkussen but judging by their performances this season in champions league, they should be able to overcome an injury-hit Liverpool team..

Finally, Monaco-PSV Eindhoven.. Monaco are clear favourites for this one.. they have the flair and depth of talent to go far this year.. It should be interesting to see what Guus Hiddink comes up with for PSV..

I shan't be able to watch tonight's matches as we'll be celebrating my room-mate Punit's Birthday.. But hopefully tomorrow I'll get to watch the other big matches Man U/Milan and Barca/Chelsea..

Will be back with more soccer news tomorrow!!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Another week draws to a close!!

Another Friday evening.. another weekend to look forward to.. hmm, it almost seems unreal that I have been 'working' for seven months now!! Makes me feel grown up and all..

Well, its been yet another normal day at office.. The highlight of the day was the time I spent at a Book Exhibition here in our Infy campus.. Decent collection of books, though I guess most of the popular books had already been sold by the time we went there.. In the end, I somehow managed to restrain myself and actually walked out empty-handed.. I have my hands full with books anyway!! The next book will have to wait a while.

Was checking out a pretty cool site for funny pics and comic strips . Pretty cool timpass.

Its good that there is an Indo-Pak Test Match scheduled here in B'lore next month, not an ODI. Somehow prefer watching the older version of the game nowadays. LOIs have become pretty monotonous atleast on our Indian pitches. The thought of going for the test match makes me realize that I need to be careful with my expenses. What with spending money on Rock Shows and Cricket Matches, I might be broke within a month!

Song for the day: Chingari Koi Bhadke !! yeah, today was Kishore Kumar day!

I'll be back on Monday previewing the Champions League Football Matches on Tue/Wed.
Its a pity I wont be able to watch these matches live on TV...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The 'Raah-scal ' is back in full swing!!

In case you are wondering who I am talking about, check out Bala's blog!! I thought he had mellowed down after his stint at UC Irvine. But I guess it happens to him whenever he manages to keep his mind engaged in other matters. Once he's relatively free of mind, the rascal in him tends to re-surface!! anyway, it should be pretty entertaining for everyone(esp. our rascal gang frm college) to read the stuff he's written in his last 2 posts(Feb 16th).

Just back from our 'Treasure Hunt'!! It all started off pretty well for us when we got our first few clues. But then inevitably we got stuck and so that was that. But it was pretty cool running around the campus looking for clues with most of the people staring at us clowns!!

Between I have been getting many calls lately from my best buddy from school, Prashant. Bugger has been having a hard time lately. Too many things to worry about. Hope he bounces back with a bang. Its about time he considered a job shift and started working on something which comes more naturally to him.

Nothing much otherwise.. Listening to some good ol' rock music.. 'Lynyrd Skynyrd - Gimme three steps' playing rite now..

Mark Knopfler in Bangalore!

Yes, its final! After some speculation about the banning of Live bands in Bangalore and a lot of hog-wash, it seems Mark Knopfler IS performing at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore on 7th March. Well, it almost seems too good to be true! I am searching for guys who'll be interested to attend the show. I am pretty sure Arjun(colleague at infy) would give me company. Should be good listening to Knopfler live! Hoping he'll play a lot of Dire Straits stuff. I haven't really heard too many of his solo numbers.

Another piece of interesting news I picked up when I was in Chennai was that PV is no longer in ACTech!! Kind of hard to imagine how it'd have been if we hadn't had him as Warden. God only knows how many poor souls were affected by this one man! I am not very sure where he is currently. I heard a rumour saying he is in Dubai!!

Anyway, good for our juniors in college. Hope they get a decent Maths teacher as his replacement! Can't forget the dreaded Numerical Methods lectures that the Hon. Dr. PV used to take in 6th sem!

So thats the news for the day as of now! Shall update it further as soon as I get more info..

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Chaos theory!

As another day at office draws to an end, just thought i'd jot down some of the intersting stuff I went thru' today!

For starters, was reading about the Chaos theory and its roots.. Was intrigued by the very origin of this theory as well as some of the ideas stated in it. An example would be the Butterfly Effect:

"The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month's time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen, does. "
(Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)

I picked up this info from Greg Rae's work which is available online:

Shall try to do some more research on this theory as well as the Fractal Theory tomorrow.

There's a treasure hunt lined up in office tomorrow!! It should be fun running around all the buildings in campus! Hope we don't get lost anywhere!

Listened to a lot of Led-Zep after a long time today! Was reminded of the times in college when I used to play their songs everyday! Have become a regular listener of Radio City nowadays. Dont think I've ever heard so much of Hindi music non-stop in my life.

Signing off for the day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

First post!

Starting a new blog once again! I guess the idea is just to scribble down anything and everything that comes to mind. Could try to maintain it as a diary as well.

Anyway, today's been another dull day in office! What's new, i know. Had a long chat today with Bala mainly on the subject of Romance. Well, it is the day after Valentine's day! So we could be excused for having a conversation on this topic. I spent yet another V day without a Valentine(sigh!). On second thoughts, I think I am happier this way, considering what all I've seen my friends go through. There is nothing like freedom!

Met my friend Nilesh last weekend at 'The Forum Mall'! Imagine running into him after all these years at such a crowded place. And guess what, he's now working for HP, right next door from Infy. Talk about coincidence!

Was nice talking to Bhasky boy after ages. He seems pretty busy nowadays! Problems associated with research I guess. Hoping to hear some good news from him on the applications front.

That's it for the day! Me packing up and heading home!