Month: November 2014

Afghanistan,Bangladesh And The Other Cricketing ‘Minnows’ Can Compete With Worlds Best

Shakib Al Hassan seems like a 'big fish in a small pond' as far as the Bangladesh cricket team is concerned.

Shakib Al Hassan seems like a ‘big fish in a small pond’ as far as the Bangladesh cricket team is concerned.

Cricket has one underlining quality in my eyes – the fact that it can spring up surprises. Bangladesh have surprised the cricketing ‘heavyweights’ in the past as Australia and Pakistan have succumbed to the ‘Tigers’. As much potential as Bangladesh have, their test record has been very disappointing as far as wins are concerned.

The 2-0 test series win over Zimbabwe is always good for confidence – but with all due respect the Zimbabwean’s are a far cry of the team that had the Flower brothers. In any sport the same does apply, ‘you can only beat what’s in front of you’. Bangladesh have done just that to their credit.

‘Minnows’ such as Holland, Afghanistan, Scotland and Ireland are looking to get into the test arena. Heavy defeats by the so called ‘heavy weights’ haven’t helped in the one day arena, so reluctance by the International Cricket Council or the I.C.C as they are also known as, is understandable.

Such a predicament reminds of football and that of San Marino, the part timers are constantly on the end of an absolute ‘hiding’ from opposition – but footballs governing body persists with keeping San Marino as a football nation, despite the outcries from many that feel San Marino should partake in qualifiers before the world cup qualifiers.

I am a big believer in time – and that certain things just take time. Countries such as Holland and all the other so called minnows as mentioned, need time- time to grow and develop, if that’s the right way to put it.

Countries such as England and Australia for example have got an array of facilities, something which sides like Afghanistan and Bangladesh might not be. Bangladesh and Afghanistan have shown on the worlds biggest stage that they are capable of beating the big sides, or in Afghanistan’s case at least competing with them.

Cricket needs to open it’s doors to the other nations that aren’t already in the top 10, cricket has done in the T20 and One day arena- but if cricket is going to expand the smaller nations need to be involved in that expansion and that involves all forms of cricket.

Afghanistan and Bangladesh do have some talented players, Shakib Al-Hassan joining an elite club of all-rounders to score a hundred and get 10 wickets in same match. The others players were Ian Botham and Imran Khan.

Asghar Stanikzai for Afghanistan had a good world cup, he really impressed me, Mohammed Shazhad a powerful wicket-keeper batsmen also had a good tournament. Cricket has been a bit slow to react to expansion- but now the cricket authorities are reacting, the ‘smaller cricket’ nations will need time to develop.

‘Patience is a virtue’ they say , crickets authorities need just that- patience because I am sure we will see some great talent bless the test circuit and cricket will be a lot better for it.

Can Pakistan Become The Number One Test Side In World Cricket?

Under Misbah Ul-Haq's captaincy Pakistan are now ranked third in test cricket . With the talent in the squad they could get higher.

Under Misbah Ul-Haq’s captaincy Pakistan are now ranked third in test cricket . With the talent in the squad they could get higher.

There is an old saying in the English language ‘the only way is up’. We take a look to see if such a scenario could be applied here for Pakistan’s cricket team. The Asian side under the leadership of Misbah Ul-Haq have had steady progress and after the 2-0 test series win over Australia Pakistan are now at the ‘dizzy heights’ of being third ranked in the world in test cricket.

In the case of the 1992 world champions is the only way up? Pakistan have been quite brilliant at their new ‘home ground’ Abu Dhabi. The Arab state has been their ‘adopted home’ of recent years due to the ploitical turmoil that has been happening in Pakistan, but never the less the South Asians have excelled here.

Wins against England when the English were the number one test side and most recently Australia being very impressive. Pakistan due to the political goings on haven’t been able to play as much cricket as the other nations, but on current form seem quite impressive.

A mixture of youth and experience leaves this team with a good balance. At the top of the order epitomises just that, Ahmed Shazhad and Mohammed Hafeez open the order. What’s been of slight concern is that this opening partnership has not scored heavily as of yet, which has lead oppurtunites for opposition to strike.

Unfortunately for Australia in the recent series there after it was a struggle, Younus khan, Misbah Ul-Haq and Azhar Ali all scoring heavily. To be fair to Ahmed Shazhad he did score a hundred in this series.

The batting line up then does seem very strong with Hafeez and Shazhad opening the batting, followed by Azhar Ali, Younus Khan and then captain Misbah Ul-Haq. Very impressive batting line up indeed and I haven’t even mentioned Sarfraz Ahmed yet! The wicket keeper batsmen had a brilliant series with the bat where others failed, at 27 Ahmed is at the peak of his powers.

The bowling is ‘just as good’ Zaulfiquar Babar was excellent as was Rahat Ali and Imran Khan. There are slight concerns that I have however with this Pakistan side, as good as it is to have experience in the side, there are players who are on the’wrong side’ of 30.

Zaulfiquar Babar as excellent as he was in the recent series win over the Aussies, in the longer term will need replacing, as will Younus khan and captain Misbah Ul-Haq. What Pakistan are blessed with is talented youngsters however, let’s not forget Umar Akmal has ‘talent in abundance’- but isn’t in the side at the moment.

As for potential replacements for Zaulfiquar Babar Pakistan do have some alternatives for Babar and even for Saeed Ajmal in the longer run, if the 34 year old is cleared to play any time soon (Ajmal has been banned for an illegal bowling action).

As far as the present is concerned, Pakistan will be preparing for the test series against New Zealand – who I am sure will present a different challenge. The Kiwi’s haven’t had the best record against Pakistan over the years – but having said that, this series could still be a tricky one for the ‘hosts’ as many will expect them to win.

Series like this one against New Zealand will be the challenge, many might expect Pakistan to win so let’s see how Pakistan embrace the ‘favourites’ tag.

Pakistan do undoubtedly have the potential to be the worlds best side in test cricket, but in the longer run will need to replace key players like Younus Khan. For now though they need to concentrate on the present which is against New Zealand, the series starts on Sunday 9th November.

Life After Mahendra Singh Dhoni?

Virat Kohli I feel is a captain for thr future

Virat Kohli I feel is a captain for the future

If you were to look back in time and in history time and again you will see the ‘toppling’ of great leaders whether it be Julius Cesar or Napoleon for example. Even in todays day and age leaders are getting ‘toppled’ Saddam Hussain and being an example of that.

The sporting world is know different and in particular the cricketing world has seen some ‘great captains/leaders’ come and go. Cricketing greats such as Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and most recently Younus Khan have all been great leaders in their time and respective eras – but with everything in life everything must come to an end.

With the examples of Khan and Dev, here you have two world cup winning captains in 1992 and 1987 respectively. As is the way in life, everything comes to an end. India since 1987 have had some great captains in that era such as Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendaulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and most recently Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Dhoni has been one of the most successful Indian captains in the modern era. The 32 year old has overseen title wins in the Champions trophy, T20 world cup and the 50 over world cup. Not to forget to mention the fact that India became the number one test side in test cricket.

A demoralising test series defeat to England in England, lead to speculation that MSD could be quitting his role as captain. What fuelled the speculation was that the 32 year old wicket-keeper batsmen appeared to suggest that he could leave his role as captain.

India though despite that initial speculation are still captained by Dhoni- but the current one day series against Sri Lanka India are captained by ‘star player’ Virat Kohli. India are playing this series to try and recuperate income from the abandoned series against West Indies due to a pay dispute between the West Indian players and their board.

Is this series a sign of things to come as far as the captaincy of the Indian national cricket team is concerned, will Kohli be the long term captain of India. The 26 year old Kohli ever since he entered the International scene was always talked about as a future captain.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore player has been captain of his franchise for the last two seasons. With in those two seasons it’s clear to see that the Delhi born batsmen does have the skills for the job. The four match series with Sri Lanka is currently going on at the moment – and in Kohli’s first game as captain in this series, India emphatically beat Sri Lanka.

The T20 winners were well beaten, chasing India’s mammoth 363-5 Ajikja Rahane and Shikar Dawan both hitting hundreds. Sri Lanka on the other hand were skittled out for just 194. In the Sri Lankan run chase only Mahela Jayawerdena made any sort of contribution, the former captain making an impressive 43 – before carelessly losing his wicket.

Although it was only one game Kohli’s captaincy was brilliant, the RCB skipper really used his bowlers well. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav were really impressive. Sharma and Yadav took four and 2 wickets respectively, India will be hoping for of the same in the next match which starts tomorrow.

What Did We Learn From Liverpool’s Performance Tonight?

Brendan Rodgers would no doubt be impressed by Liverpool's determined  performance despite this defeat

Brendan Rodgers would no doubt be impressed by Liverpool’s determined performance despite this defeat

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made a real ‘statement’ in tonights match against Real Madrid. The Liverpool manager made several high profile changes, as Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrrard were all left on the bench. It might make one ask the question why did these players travel to the Spanish capital if they weren’t going to start.

Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, Kolo Toure, Lazar Markovic and Fabio Borini all started for the Reds at the Bernabeu in a match that people such as myself felt that Liverpool needed something from. A dissapointing performance in Switzerland against Basle which ended in a 2-0 defeat hasn’t helped Liverpool’s campaign.

The 18 time English champions went into this champions league game on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle. The last meeting between the two sides last month saw Liverpool suffer a ‘mauling’ to Real Madrid,the defending champions won 3-0 at Anfield.

Karim Bemzema scored twice that with ‘goal machine’ Christiano Ronaldo grabbing the other. Ronaldo came into this match one goal short of equalling former Real Madrid striker Raul’s record of 71 champions league goals – but suprsingly the Portuguese captain had a quiet night for his standards.

That was mainly down to the brilliant perforamnces of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel on the night. If I was to be harsh I would say that Kolo Toure was a little bit at fault for the only goal of the game that was scored by Karim Benzema.

Lazar Markovic another player who impressed on one occasion in the first half wasn’t quite ‘in sync’ with his colleague Javi Manquillo which ultimately allowed Real left-back to deliver a wicked ball in, Karim Benzema was left in space in the box – and all the Frenchmen needed to do was make some form of connection to the cross, which he duly did to score what proved to be the winner on the night.

That goal was harsh on Liverpool, the Reds battled hard – Fabio Borini really did work his socks off upfront. The main plus points for me were that Liverpool had a ‘nice shape’ about them defensively. Time and time again Real with their vast array of attacking talent, struggled to really threaten Liverpool’s back line. That was down to Liverpool’s well organised defence, the Reds defended in numbers, and when Real did attack they stuggled at times due to Liverpool’s defence.

Martin Skrtel who was captain for the night did make the occoasional error – but Simon Mignolet the (Liverpool goal keeper) made some magnificent saves, the one from James Rodriguez early on being the pick for me.

So many times this season Dejan Lovren has looked incompetent and error prone – but the performance of Kolo Toure alongside Martin Skrtel for me was good enough to make Brendan Rodgers say that this is his defensive partnership for Saturdays game against Chelsea at least.

Although Liverpool did lose this game, Brendan Rodgers can be very pleased with this performance. Players such as Fabio Borini and Kolo Toure in my opinon have really staked their claims to play in the Saturday lunchtime game against Chelsea.

Liverpool’s problems have been in attack and in defence, the Reds haven’t scored in their last 3 games and are conceeding too many goals. The performance tonight reminded me of the Liverpool performances of last season, their pressing was excellent and Borini was one of the main examples of that – that’s possibly why the Italian got the nod ahead of his countryman Mario Balotelli.

Livepool had no Sterling and Gerrard tonight,who were both missed tonight – but their are good signs after tonights performance, that’s coming from a Manchester United fan!

Will The Emergence Of The Indian Super League See More Indian Players Go To Europe?

Indian players will hope the emergence of the ISL will help them acheive bigger things

Indian players will hope the emergence of the ISL will help them acheive bigger things

The rise of India has been quite remarkable whether it be in the sense of global economy or the sporting world. The emergence and the rise of the Indian Premier league has been quite phenomenal. The IPL started as a rebel league and was initially banned by the cricketing authorities, or at least they tried to ban the tournament.

The tournaments growth though however meant the tournamnet was embraced by the same people who rejected the idea – a classic case of if you can’t beat them join them. The organisers of the Indian Super League will hope for a simliar outcome.

Just like with the Indian Premier League, the Indian Super League have adopted the same process as their IPL rivals. The Super League has a mixture of foreign stars or ‘marquee signings’ and homegrown talent.

Two young wingers who play FC Goa ( Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Rao Desai) have been catching the attention of some observers including the youngsters’ legendary team mate Robert Pires. Pires who is a former World Cup winner with his native France and who was a part of the legendary Arsenal team of 2004 expects big things from the pair.

Pires said ” It is not easy to play on the flanks. I know, because I’ve played on the left for a very long time, they are both young. With Romeo and Mandar , Goa and Dempo have a bright future”.

On the back of that glowing endorsement we take a look to see if the the homegrown players of the Indian Super league do have a future in Europe and maybe even the English premier league. If the success of the Indian premier league is anything to go by then you would think yes.

In the IPL alot of Indian players have built their reputations from the tournament, Chatheshwar Pujara for example. The right- hander played for Derbyshire, I think that was on the back of the IPL. In Pujara’s case although the 23 year old has excelled on the international scene. Hopefully the ISL can have this effect on some of India’s brightest football talents.

If you have a look at the MLS in America (Major League Soccer) for example, they’re starting to attract players to the English premier league. Players like Geoff Cameron of Stoke City for example and not to forget to mention players such as Clint Dempsey formerly of Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham and current Everton goalkeeper formerly of Manchester United.

With such an endorsement from such a player (Robert Pires) Fernandes and Desai could be the ‘real deal’ and break through into Europe. Just like with any youngsters we need to be realistic and not put to much pressure on these boys.

It’s not very well documented but there are not many English talents in Europe if any. India as well all know is a ‘sports mad nation’ . The Indian’s have produced good sporting talent in the past (Tendaulkar and Kohli for example) do I need to say anymore?

As they say in life , ‘somethings just take time’. That’s most definitely the case in regards to Indian footballers for the future.

Football Manager- One Of The Few Jobs That Doesn’t Have A Probationary Period

David Moyes is a prime example of one of the managers who wasn't given time

David Moyes is a prime example of one of the managers who wasn’t given time

For many it is seen as the dream job, a job where you can get the yearly income that your heart desires- a lot more than what your heart desires in certain circumstances. Being a Football manager for quite a few is a concept they would like, the football manager video game being very popular for example. The reality itself in recent time especially I am afraid is grim,managers seem to barely last a season these days.

So what is it about being a football manager that people (certain managers) find so difficult? football manager is such a unique position as it isn’t like other employment roles. The role of football manager is different in the sense of that if the team is failing the manager seems to be the first one in the ‘firing line’ and pays the direct consequence.

In other lines of work that isn’t necessarily the case, usually if a team in the work place performs poorly, the manager will most likely look at he/she who isn’t performing and take the appropriate action of what’s needed.

Football managers aren’t even blessed with a ‘probationary period’ well most of them just look at Leeds United for example- do I need to say any more? With most jobs due to the competitive natured society we are living in, job security is a concept which might have meant something in the past – but is a concept that doesn’t exist today.

It begs the question how did Sir Alex, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes at Everton last for so long? Well it’s hard to say but I guess these managers all had good chairman to support them. They say in life ‘good things come to those who wait’ I wish chairman would remember that quote. Talking of David Moyes, here is another example of a manager who has been a victim of impatient owners.

The Scot after a very consistent spell with Everton that lasted for some 10 years or more, was barely given a season at Manchester United. What seemed apparent with this scenario was that the players that Moyes had available had just weren’t good enough, but instead of players getting moved on, sadly for Moyes the 51 year old was a victim of United’s players under performing.

Thankfully new Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal has addressed the problem and got rid of players such as Tom Cleverly (good riddance) . The 62 year old Dutchman has brought in players like Di Maria and Falcao, don’t say this to loudly- but Van Gaal isn’t doing that much better than Moyes at the same stage of last season.

The ‘revolving door’ that is football managers jobs- needs to stop. It’s at a ridiculous stage, Mark Robins the Ex Huddersfield manager lost his job or shall I say left by ‘mutual consent’ after 1 game of the current season. If that isn’t ridiculous I don’t know what is.

Owners of football clubs do like to get impatient, but you do need to give your manager time. If you look at Alan Pardew who seemed destined for the sack, but has turned things around recently with a 4 game winning streak. Then there is Sam Allardyce ‘Big Sam’ has been ‘under pressure’ since last season despite guiding the Hammers to 13th.

I am of the opinion that ‘hiring and firing’ managers in it self could cost a lot of money, compensation for ‘unfair dismissal’ and the cost of hiring a manager that a football owner thinks will be successful.

Football won’t change any time soon in regards to the way football managers are treated. Owners of football clubs get ‘mesmerised’ when they see other sides make a change of management and see on the pitch performances improve dramatically. You can’t blame them on one hand for wanting to take such a step.

How times have changed from the days of Sir Alex being at Manchester United and Crewe manager Dario Gradi.