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Always at the heel of greatness

Let me take you to a summer afternoon in July 1996 at lord’s. There were two young men taking their baby steps into the history of Indian cricketing legends. One was smashing the ball over the covers in the offside without any hint of respect for the bowlers and the arrogance which he would personify the Indian team with during his captaincy later. Sourav Ganguly made an entry into the history books of cricket with a bang by scoring a century at lords.

At the other end was 23 year old lean young man with his school boy looks trying to fight his way into history with a gritty knock of 96. Few experts labelled it as a good knock, some as unlucky to get out on 96 and the remaining others questioned his attitude. Missing out on centuries by getting out in the 90’s became his forte until he eventually overcame it with a nice stylish 148 at Johannesburg to draw the test match avoiding India the humiliation of a 3-0 whitewash. Rahul Dravid had conquered his own leaks to become a wall that would stand firm for India for the next 15 years.

Similar to his knock at lord’s his achievements and gritty test knocks would be overcome by the free flowing stroke playing knocks of Sachin Tendulkar, wrist beauty if VVS Laxman and the style of the Maharaja after he had fought hard with the new ball in the seaming conditions of England or taken the blows in Australia to make the new ball lose it’s ferocity for the others to play their strokes.

His tenacious 145 at headingley in 2002 would be overtaken by the fun filled T20 innings of Sachin and Ganguly later. Another digging out for 180 at Kolkata would be overtaken by a gem of an innnings of 281 by Laxman. His 146 at Taunton in 1999 WC would be forgotten for the 183 by Ganguly. Another century at Adelaide would be overtaken by the double hundred from Tendulkar.

After such lasting partnerships with the likes of the other bug three of the indian partnership, it does not come as a surprise that Dravid was the non-striker batsman for both the triple hundreds of Sehwag. Such can be the influence of The Wall on the strike batsman.Few remember him wicketkeeping in the 2003 WC to balance the team an extra all rounder. Lucky for his sacrifice we reached the finals.

If lady luck has never shone on a sportsperson, Dravid must be their in the top 5 to have deprived him of truer rightful place in the hearts of the followers of crickets or the annals of cricket.

Throughout this time, it has been my privilege to enjoy his batting and fight against all odds to score runs with pleasure anywhere in the world. It has been my privilege to watch you bat Mr. Dravid in a test match for there were will be few if any who could replace him as the best no. 3 batsman I have ever watched play in the modern era of swashbuckling cricket.

Fore the remained The Wall but after tis english tour he must become A Great Wall

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Put ONLY your money on this

August 2010 – Almost an year ago to this date, David N’gog scored a brilliant goal from an acute angle to get a 10 man Liverpool in the lead against Arsenal at Anfield only for Reina to make a howler in the last minutes to give Arsenal a late goal. This performance became symbolic during the reign of Roy Hodgson at Anfield with a reversed role for Liverpool. More often than not Liverpool conceded in the first half at Anfield and then scrapped their way back to share the honors. Away from Anfield, none cared to even discuss in their discussions.

September 2010 – our beloved club is in the relegation zone of the table.

October 2010, the KOPs saw a glimmer of hope at the dark end of the tunnel created by two idiot Texans in Anfield. This hope was John W. Henry and his FSG group.

November 2010 – takeover completed after courtroom battle and a great performance to put away Aston Villa and West Ham 3-0 at Anfield. Finally!!!

December 2010 – loss to Wolves at Anfield. Christmas Wish of every Kop –SACK HODGSON, GET DALGLISH!!!

2nd January, 2011 – Cole scores a late winner against Bolton at Reebok. Kops – ‘’Oh, WTF?? This could keep Hodgson at Anfield.’’

Then three straight defeats with the last one at Blackburn making LFC look like a championship side. That’s it, nail drawn in the coffin. We are doomed to finish around mid-table.

Wait a minute, who is that guy in the LFC Gaffer’s chair at Old Trafford in the FA cup game? Oh, he is our very own Kenneth D. Dalglish. Game is lost yet the away fans are out screaming the home fans. LFC finally has good owners, great loyal club servant as coach, best striker in the world and our very own KOP support. Happy thanksgiving John W. Henry. Life begins to come full circle. We win more away games in a month than for the entire season.

A month later, some spoilt kid is not happy at Anfield, he is sold and then the money invested to buy a no. 9 and no. 10 for the club like a real no. 9 and no. 10. These gifts cost an enormous price but then ‘Dad’ Henry made a lot of money punishing the spoilt kid. But somehow, everyone is happy a week later when Liverpool demolish Chelsea and another month later make Man Utd look like a championship side.

We are on a roll – seem close to 4th place sometimes, then drop points to get far away, toy around with a multi-million dollar Manchester City team at Anfield and eventually miss out on Europe. Somehow, Christmas seemed to last forever from 9th January, 2011.

During this holiday period of Christmas, people talk Moneyball, statistics and other non-footballing parameters to be associated with LFC transfers over the summer. For once, they are correct and we bring in players with the ability of Adam, Henderson, Downing and Doni into the team. (as I write this, Enrique deal is almost done barring medical). With the optimism carried over from the good feel factor, everyone is excited and tipping Liverpool to finish top four. However, I remain sceptical about it as I was last year when the media was saying Joe Cole was a transfer coup for us and the best buy of that summer.

Firstly, everyone is projecting the Liverpool team to be stronger with the new signings. In my humble opinion, only Downing makes us stronger. He is the only bought player who will be automatically put on the starting XI as there is no one to contest him for his position. However, he fills up a huge gap on our left side which was never filled once Riise left. (I know he was a left back, but his runs covered the entire length and were good enough to monitor the entire touchline).

The biggest puzzle remains with the buying of Adam. Where does he play??Or does he play only for his set-pieces?? It is a tough one to answer. Many are already jumping up with the idea of a center midfiled position for him but let’s take a quick insight into this one at a time.

1. Adam plays attacking midfielder. This would mean Meireles, Aquilani (he could be gone) or Gerrard either play deep in their own half, thus containing their own natural game in a 4 – 4 – 2 or play ahead of him with a lone striker in Carroll in a 4 – 1 – 4 – 1. The latter would not be effective by pushing Suarez to the wings and Gerrard or Meireles as a defensive midfielder in the former one is not effective either.

2. Starting Adam alongside Lucas as defensive midfielder could work as they would complement each other’s style of play. Lucas is a steady wall and good at making tackles whereas Adam is excellent at spraying the ball around the park. It could be similar to Alonso Mascherano partnership. However, the system of play would have to change to a 3 – 4 – 3 system or a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1. This is a wingback system and Dalglish used it effectively last season. We have some excellent full backs for the right side of the field and for the left side now we could have Enrique, Downing and the best of them all when fit – Aurelio.

For Henderson, I cannot see him starting unless injuries hit the team. He will most likely be an understudy to Gerrard and our very own workhorse Kuyt. The guy has an ability but it depends on his learning ability to be able to do so. Dalglish would prefer a person willing to work his socks off on the pitch over anyone else.

Everyone has asked the abundance of midfielders in the team but with the injury woes of Gerrard beginning to start, Aquilani and Meireles being soft for the EPL, one can understand now why such an overbuying of midfielders was done by Kenneth Dalglish.

Another answer to this question could be how well Liverpool played last season without Steven Gerrard int eh XI. Meireles could play his natural games with those advancing runs and others played at their pace thus removing the slowed pace of Gerrard on which the game would run when he played. Though he is the epitome of modern day Liverpool, I expect him to play restricted games this season as KD Dalglish is a higher authority at Anfeild than Steven Gerrard. This could also be attributed to his injury concerns after his groin surgery.

However, the biggest difference from last year’s post January run and the new season is the expectations to achieve something. Here statistics fail, transfer coups are proved ridiculous and points are dropped in the last minutes to eliminate you from everything. Without pressure to achieve last season Liverpool team proved they are still one of the toughest teams to beat in the world. However, their ability to do so under pressure remains a question to be answered??

Their ranking and influence has plummeted in Europe in the last 2 seasons with the departure of Riise (in 2008), Alonso (2009) and Mascherano (2010). Riise was one player we never replaced adequately. Major error in my opinion. A good defence gets you one point from a game however, a potent attack with a weak defence does not assure you of this attack. Alosno’s departure in2009, everyone knows and has analysed his loss to the team. Maschearano was adequately filled and replaced by our very own Lucas.

The core of the team has remained same from 2009 – 2011 with two factors coming into play – 1. Ageing Gerrard and Carragher and 2. Loss of Torres. (however, Suarez could fill his boots).
I have never had any doubts about the team, it is their ability to perform under pressure which remains a key factor for them. Dropping points against teams like Stoke, Birmingham and Bolton does not help your cause even if you beat the top four regularly. Champions finish their opponents ruthlessly. If Dalglish can help the team overcome this mental blocking, I see no other hindrance in us finishing second (yes 2nd) in the league.

However, so far this has been an analysis only for my team. Let’s take a look at others fighting for the top 4.

1. Manchester United –

They are tipped to win the league. However, they have a huge hole to fill in the center of the midfield. Without the stature of Paul Scholes in that hole, teams will have a little more freedom and chance to express themselves. They will have more linking between the forwards and the midfields which given the anxiety David de Gea must be having in filling in Van der Sars boots could spell doom for Manchester United. However, if Sneijder comes to United, it is doom for everyone else. (core of the team is same except for the midfield. 2nd in the league if LFC finish 1st or 1st and LFC second)

2. Chelsea –

A new young coach, same old spending power but new problem of ageing squad. Villas-boas seems to be like the newly wed Indian bride being given all the attention in the English media. However, unlike his mentor, he does not like the limelight and is not outspoken. This seems to be his biggest strength. Not promising but delivering results will be his attitude. It remains to be seen who does he turn to for scoring goals – the old warhorse or the 50 million Donkey. As Chelsea look to build a new squad, implications are for the latter but does he have a midfield who can put the ball over the last four of the opponents as Torres likes to use his pace (which is diminishing) to beat defenders and hardly wins a 1 v 1 with them unless it is Vidic. With Drogba, this does not seem to be a problem as his physical strength takes him past those defenders. (Governing factors – fighting mentality, leadership of Terry and how quickly Villas Boas finds the perfect system. Finish 3rd)

3. Manchester City –

They really are the noisy neighbors. They had a nice run last season, finished 3rd and will play in the champions league this season. However, there is a question – Are they a team of footballers or a team of millionaires?? Never have I watched a team criticize each other exclusively in public or for that matter, in such a short managerial stint of 1 and a half year, Mancini has annoyed more players than anyone. Mancini and Balotelli seem to be fighting to become the more annoying and hated person in the squad. With the added task and matches of UCL, their billion dollar squad will be pushed to the limit and with the strength of the squad it is not expected of them to wither like Tottenham last season. However, will the Milners and Johnsons be able to cope with the glamour of UCL remains to be seen. Another episode would be which player wants to retire from football at Christmas in the period of December. Without their talismanic captain, their team could be more individualistic than before. Aguero could be a good replacement but EPL tests even the hardest of performers. (Good individual footballers but weak as a unit. Finishing 5th)

4. Arsenal –

The problem of wailing Wenger. Is it really a problem?? Every summer, Arsenal is tipped to finish out of the top four, every subsequent May they finish in top four. Have the pundits ever been wrong more constantly on any other subject in the game? The world is thinking Arsenal without Fabregas and Nasri are crap. However, Wenger will buy some wonder kid for a petty change from somewhere in the world. Have people already forgotten the Henry, Viera and Petits he churned out year after year. It is the style of football Arsenal play which makes it easy for a natural footballer to slide into the team an d be an integral party of it. Let’s take a look at their first XI. RVP is as lethal as anyone in the world when fit. He has an apt replacement in Chamakh and Gervinho can play no. 10. Then on the right wing there is Theo Walcott. Just recently in 2008, Arshavin was wreaking havoc on the left touchline for Russia which prompted Wenger to buy the Russian. So he can play there. For the defensive midfielders, the world was crazy 2 months ago for a player called Jack Wilshere. Then in the defense Vermaleen is fit and raring to go after one complete season of injury. Sagna can patrol the right touchline. This leaves the need for another CB which could be Cahill or Dann (both are premier league proven and can be extremely good at set pieces). Left back and a creative midfielder is a problem. However, I have watched Rosicky since 2006 and he is also extremely talented to play in that role or at the left wing. Now, we all agree, this XI is not for winning the league and Wenger also knows the same but he talks bullishly in the media because he is paid to do so. However, he also knows he can easily finish in the top 4 without investing millions of dollars, so why do it?? That’s why they never make a hue and cry in the transfer market and still finish in the top 4. However, I hope his keeper is good this season. (Strength is the wailing wenger. finishing 4th)

5. Tottenham Hotspur –

I wont waste my time on them. They had their one night stand with UCL and exposed their assets for the vultures of footballing world to prey on them . They are like google+ compared to facebook, a lot of exciting players but will never overtake the big guns constantly. Might make them worry once in a while but never hurt

The comma,

I am a comma,
The most forgetful of all punctuation
A sudden pause to flowing emotions
To change the course of thought
Abruptly put at times without a thought.

In the middle without anyone’s notice
I lie amongst the words and phrases
Connecting few to produce significance
Explaining others without consequence.

At the feet of the mighty words
I humbly lie without any company
Forlorn and lost in my own world
To suddenly crown the letters.

Lovers pause at my command
Scientists think at my appearance
Writers drift apart as they use me
For I make their words meaningful.

THE LEGACY of GANDHI

 

the legacy of m. k. gandhi

125 years ago, a man of brown skin was thrown away from a train in South Africa for being seated in a coach reserved for whites. The man quit his career as a lawyer and started to avenge his personal insult by involving the masses of a hard working peasant country into a freedom struggle. On his way to achieve the so called non violent struggle, Mr. Gandhi insulted a leading politician of India at that time – Mohammad Ali Jinnah – for his aristocratic approach to freedom struggle.

On his stay at a guest house in Kolkata, insisted on a particular menu of which was not practical and feasible for the host but insisted and achieved it. In 1927 Mr. Jinnah is asking for a united independent INDIA and hates the then radical and fundamental Muslim League of India, but somehow Mr. Gandhi seems to incite the most secular man of India into revulsion and join the Muslim League of India. He brings to halt a revolution at Champaran, endorsed the death sentence of Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru, Sukhdev and does not help Subhash Chandra Bose in his formation of INA.

Mr. Bose won the democratic elections of AICC in 1935 (or 1936) fairly but was not allowed to preside the session as Mr. Gandhi’s personal favorite was beaten. Against the majority decision of AICC, he decides to help The British Empire by asking Indians to fight for them in the WW II.

The man achieved all this in a span of 40 years with the grand prize of Indian independence which came at the cost of a loss of half a million lives of people crossing the so called new borders. (I put a smaller number here, the figure is quite higher). This division of borders happened because the Mr. Gandhi did not want Mr. Jinnah to be the first Prime Minister of India but preferred a certain Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru who was sleeping with Lord Mountbatten’s wife completely unaware of the life of the common man in India. (After all he studied at Oxford while his laundry went to Paris)

Mr. Gandhi achieved the results of ‘His Expermients with Truth’ with a sole weapon — ‘satyagraha’, a plea for the truth. ( Teaser – Does someone recognize the change in attitude of the so called Mahatma  in accepting violence when he could become good and acceptance of aristocracy when it favored him)

Since then it has become the weapon of almost every Indian politician or political aspirant. (Sorry western friends, we don’t have debates in TV or even in Parliament in parliament we have fights with mikes and tables and chairs)However, in the last 2 years I have seen my country go absolutely in hyperdrive for these satygrahas. People get excited with these news and give it mass support sometimes making it look a major demand of the world.

A local minister was covering the headlines and front pages of a newspaper for quite a frequent days and reduced my time of sports news on the TV news. The government interrupted, the minister satisfied after almost 7 days of violence in the beautiful city of Hyderabad. Loss of public property by public who rode the wave for partitioning of the province into two without his objective achieved.

About a month ago, my facebook wall was jeopardized with requests for joining Anna Hazare’s fast. (Firstly, cannot be hungry for more than 8 hrs straight, so please avoid my wall. In short, I love to eat). I was left wondering for quite some time?? Who is Anna Hazare?? Wikipedia gives me the name as Kisan Baburao Hazare!!

Shocked I was, how at convenience the man picks up a title which can definitely appeal to the southern region of my country.  (Anna Hazare, what were u thinking. Sounds like the name of a hitman.) His agenda is passing a bill in the Indian parliament for constituting a new independent judiciary for the independent research and acceleration of pending cases in the lower courts. So he decides not to eat anything and go on a hunger striker.

Now, a first thought came to my mind — There will be human in this body also to adjudicate or not?? If human, then how long before this body also fails?? Whats the objective of this farce?? Cannot figure it out yet.

All of a sudden yesterday after a month of rest and neglect from Indian IP addresses, on facebook, I had a lot of updates on something happening in India. A certain Baba Ramdev is again on ‘Satyagraha’. Now, Baba Ramdev is a very common name in the hindu households of India and somehow an atheist like me is aware of him as my mother follows him on TV, my dad hates the bearded goon and I am indifferent to the hypocrite.

Objective of this ‘Satyagraha’ to bring the money back from the swiss banks of Indian politician to India and take the politicians to India. To remove corruption from India. Wow. Can we not protest in Zurich against the Swiss government allowing a poor man’s money to come from a different country into their bank accounts without filing and declaration as is the decorum in every country.

There is an agitation against the government because Baba Ramdev was treated so shabbily. However, the goon ran away from the public address when the police arrived. Did Medha Patkar flee or did Irom Sharmila discontinue her 10 years hunger strike when the police came to put her under house arrest?? Did Dr. Manmohan Singh sit outside the Mumbai Stock Exchange during the 1989 economic crisis, he went about changing the policies on his own and making India what it is today by ending the license raj. Today you are questioning the man’s integrity?? )(Btw, he went against all his party in making that bill, and he did the same to get the electronic ID card in the country)

How quickly the dynamics has shifted from the 2G scam to this Baba Ramdev fiasco. BJP was the government at the time of the allotment of the contracts. When the plot in the  2G scam became deeper like an EKTA KAPOOR soap opera, BJP opted for a TV commercial in the prime time show of Indian politics, I dare ask them how.

Are we Indians who are majorly responsible for the virtual to be working effectively in a software driven world so gullible to fall for the political fiasco of an army veteran or a bloody low class sadhu who drives in Rolls Royce, has acres of land in a country where millions sleep under the sky and flies in private chartered planes or for the political party which is twice responsible for the Hindu-muslim riots in their time at power? (I believe in one human life being more valuable than the billions of USD or a political ideology)

I believe in a corruption free country as much as you do but I do not believe in the methods of achieving it. ‘Satyagraha’ has become the modus operandi of the leaders in the country by  playing the blame game. Gandhian principles are only holding the country to ransom like Sir Winston churchill would say for Mr. M. K. Gandhi – a naked faqir who holds the British Empire in his fist.

2500 years ago, in the city of Pataliputra lived a man named Vishnugupt who was as frustrated as you and I am today with the corruption of Magadha. He did not get angry at people doing their farce but went silently to Takshila to educate himself, empower himself to awaken the masses by argument and reason against the struggle, educating them about their rights and their right to life.

So what, if the government does not pay for the education of the poor can we not sponsor the poor kids education by donating to the private NGOs. OK, if you think they are corrupt then how about the international private NGOs which send you information almost about every month on the update.

Can we not start in a similar manner to Kautilya? By removing corruption from our own, by queueing up at Sarkari daftars and waiting our turns, by not paying the middlemen. Can we start paying our taxes in full to achieve another commonwealth like event where the youth of the country felt the independence and fervor of a country at it’s best display and this time make sure to ignore the indian critical media whose sole interest is gossip? Can a columnist not write a column about the plights of the poor so elegantly that the editor puts it on page one once a week or on Sunday?

Can we start a movement for invoking inheritance tax in India similar to Netherlands?? (Inheritance tax is a tax where u pay 60% of the money u inherit from your parents to the tax in order to promote equal opportunity) Or can a Doctor and Engineer from a government institute work at the public hospital and stay in India working for the government firms after all did the government not pay for them. Can a lawyer do a pro bono just one day a month for the slum dwellers making them aware of their rights and consequences of hygiene?

The first response everyone is thinking — mere akele karne se kya hoga, itna bada desh hain? At this point I should remind you a story of three friends names Everybody, Somebody and Nobody. Secondly, everyone is thinking about – ‘It is my life and we do what we want to do?’ Same are the deeds of the politicians on a grander scale. However, it is the same crime — C.O.R.R.U.P…T..I.O.N..

Right now we are all interested because we are riding on the crest of the tidal wave but please this will pass by once the businessmen get back to their mahogany desks and air conditioned chambers or India plays Australia in cricket. Or even for a simple popular bollywood flick.

If you want to do it this way i.e. just ride the wave — ghar jao aur 23’’ mein Baba Ramdev ka Yoga dekho, agle din office mein chai aur samose mein discuss karna, chai ka maja alag ho jayega??

If you did not like the advise then resign your job make a social group of people create a common objective and propagandize it, become famous, win the elections and talk to me ten years later to tell me your account balance in the Swiss Banks because I am two hundred percent sure power corrupts everyone.

What gives you the right to send chotu for a coke to the market or any small errand?? Do you think it is your birth right? No, it is not. It is a right you earn because of the POWER money hands you over him. For a change next time do not show sympathy when you ask a chotu to bring you chai at the local dhaaba empower the country by sending him to school. It is a similar power  that 51 arseholes get over 49 sane men in democracy.

Forget all the above mentioned hard and difficult deeds, how about just paying your taxes in full. Imagine 500,000,000 million citizens paying their evaded tax of INR 5000 also on an average, then the state benefits with INR 200,000,000,000. This may not build a world class India in a day but can be a start. After all, ROME  WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY and even Chanakya took 21 years to complete his  struggle.

Let’s all start together from the bottom, build a good foundation of a society and we can remove the necessity of a government after all we are humans and not animals who need a danda to be monitored correctly.

On the contrary if we topple the top the system could collapse or only become vacant for some other power hungry monger to satisfy us for some time and then again to the old system. It is your choice

Please do not follow the tide, think where you can make a change in your own unique manner and not by being in a group. Groups/democracies are too many ideas which dilute an ideology.

Are you Excited? I sure am…

2010 – 2011 is coming to an end. Lots of dead expectations are giving hope to many new ones. The team is looking better prepared. The players are good and the owners are great and the manager a living legend. The KOP is louder by every game and the smiles are broader after every 90 minutes.

What is bringing these emotions to us? Why are we genuinely so jubilant for the first time in a long time? Why we are taking envy in the banter of the opposition fans? Why is the media obsessed with LFC? Why is the Old Whiskey Nose already taking notice of LFC for next season? Are we living a RED dream?

Too many questions at the same time but the answer to every question is interlinked to the next success of LFC.

The game yesterday was an epitome of discipline, character and spirit. The shape of the defense was immaculate to completely restrict the passing movements of Arsenal. No holes, no desire to make a mistake or commit to foolhardiness. Patience in a big stadium like Emirates to completely numb the oppositions attack was the perfect manner to achieve something from the visit there.

After a mauling of Manchester City on Anfield last Monday with a display full of attacking intent, it could have been easy for the players to carry the party to the Emirates. However, the canny King had other ideas as he is well aware what a late hangover could do the spirits of a young team.

The difference in style of play from Monday to Sunday was so evident and will have every manager in the EPL thinking – What next to expect from LFC? Even injuries will not deter this team as there is talent sitting in the academy to be perfectly blended into the senior team.

Flannagan and Young Robinson slotted into the game so naturally depicting the experience of Carragher at flanks. A 17-year old Robinson with his play forced Wenger to take off Walcott in the second half – so nullified was the LFC fan by the LFC player. It shows the ability of the teenager.

Flannagan is a player who is as aware of his potential as KK is. Hence, he plays within ability never being carried away to make those runs down the flank when unnecessary. He sticks to his primary job of defending and breaking jaws – albeit unluckily his own captain. It was a mature display in laying Carra immediately on his side after the freak accident. It was so good to watch KK call him immediately and tell him to forget it.

Kelly, Shelvey, Spearing, Flannagan and Robinson are exactly the reason why I always purport we do not need to spend big. However, none of us have still seeing the best of these – Ayala – in the first team. Imagine a back four of Flannagan – Kelly – Ayala – Robinson. Getting carried away, am I? Yeah, but then I am genuinely jubilant in a long time and will be for a long time until I watch this back 4 line of LFC in the near/distant future.

I am personally experiencing a very strange social phenomenon in my life these days. Somehow, my friends on Facebook and twitter do not respond to my banter when we play well or their team loses. Their usual response of – You will win it next year – has been replaced by the innocuous action of deleting my messages or not responding to them. Either I could be annoying them or LFC’s performance is giving them strokes week after week resulting in their declining mental health. However, I hope they do recover in time to watch us play under King Kenny next season or they can just envy us all along.

Another unusual phenomenon is in the tabloids. They link almost every world-class player with LFC now. Up until last December, according to the newspapers no players wanted to join us as we were a team in decline and no strategy for the future. There was utter doom and we were on our path to becoming the next Leeds United. However, suddenly there is a complete shift in the thought process and players from Alexis Sanchez to Lukaku want to join LFC. The media also thinks we will hold on to Pepe Reina now whereas some time ago they were writing about his philosophy of No Eternal Love.

Today the media cries foul over Wengers demeanor yesterday but I am pretty confident the media of yesterday would have cried foul over KK using p*** off. What hypocrisy in this world! How everyone wants to be a winner and talk about champions without knowing to lose or suffering of a loss.

After the thundering black night, the club has raced back to where it rightfully belonged in the 4 months of tutelage of the Lord himself  – KK. It comes not as a surprise to me this attitude of others who have ridiculed us and cried foul at each event of misfortune that we encountered in the last 2 years. I will stand tall and call them names as I can sense these arrogant fools going through the same phase  – The Transition phase and the rebuilding phase.

Thanks to Rafael Benitez, we have the type of youth who will easily slide into out senior teams thus reducing the time for transition and rebuilding in the next future generation of LFC stars as I firmly believe the brigade of the current LFC stars is here in the form of Lucas (24), Suarez (24), Spearing (23), Caroll (22), Kelly (20), Shelvey (19), Flannagan (18), Robinson (17) and Pepa Reina (28) – 28 is a young age of a keeper. With N’gog and Pacheco in the wings and Ayala also accompanying them, I can say the future is bright and RED.

Such a sound system of youth reduces are dependence on oil money to build the future RED. We will not need to sell to buy someone big. And if need be when someone wants to sit on the bench in a so called BIG club, we can always respond in the manner of January, 2011.

We as RED stood together for the last 2 seasons that in my short 14 years of following LFC were the worst seasons ever. We deserve this envy and media sycophancy but I advise us to remain cautious of the odd traitor who will come join us at this dawn of glory only to ridicule us if the day is not so sunny. (I expect it to be as sunny as the Sahara Sun)

All the above reasons make me Excited like a 4-year old awaiting Christmas for his favorite toy and so I ask you, are you as excited as I am?

PS – Thank you John Henry and Tom Warner for bringing stability at our beloved club.

4 Matches, 3 Weeks, 2 Teams and 1 divided Country

For the next 17 days, the FIFA world cup champions will forget their unity and divide themselves into Los Blancos and Las Blaugranas. The media will delve into the history books printing stories and narrating the classics of the El Classicos. The experts will be divided and the punters will take their risks but amidst all this excitement there will be a Catalan favorite trying to overcome The Exiled of the Nou Camp in the battle of the wars for immortality.

Los Blancos are like the individual ingredients of Paella assembled by the householder Fiorentina Perez still awaiting the chef who can make them the best in the world. On the contrary, Las Blaugranas are cured into the Red Wine that compliments the paella at dinner table with a flavor of it’s own. Little wonder that the taste of wine lingers on the football hungry fans from November, 2010.

The Catalan giants assembled at a combined cost of 85 millions euro have trained together at the La Masia (Barcelona Academy) together for the number of years. Hence, their sublime movement of the ball, crisp passing and high pressing are well cured together to mesmerize the football fans for the entire duration of the 90 mins of the 4 games.

On the contrary The Special One has at it’s disposal the ingredients from the different countries to make the most exotic and expensive Paella led by an original Madrilean. However, the uniqueness of paella lies in every individual ingredient being allowed to express it’s flavor in it’s very unique manner and the Machiavelli of Football does not permit them to do this.  But with 4 games, he should be able to mix them again and again to find the best combination and amounts.

Last year, after conquering Barcelona Mourinho stood as a satisfied man in the centre of the Nou Camp but little must he have felt at the moment, he would get to redo it again almost an year later. This time the revenge could be even better as he would be the manager of their arch rivals.

Pepe Guardiola on the other hand has already demonstrated in November, 2010 his ability to inflate a punctured tire or fix a Ferrari’s petrol tank. Little significance exists to the mauling of Real Madrid in November today as the battles to win the war start today.

The first game has no more than a formal requirement from both the teams  to play as Barcelona are sure to win the league when they enter the game with a 8 point lead. Little excitement holds for the game as Mourinho might play the ultimate tactician and rest his first 11 and same applies for Guardiola.

For the second game little more intensity could be present with the seasons first trophy for both teams at stake. However, by the final whistle at The Mestalla the two tacticians will have fixed their strategies to run the last lap of the marathon.  Surprise from Mourinho in tactics will be expected with a defense of his tactics in the post match conference no matter what the outcome of the games. However, will Guardiola persist with the same wine he has so patiently nurtured remains the question?

A mesmerizing team will take on a team whose manager creates more laughter on our faces than the smiles or joy his team can bring to us fans of football. The truth and greatness of team play against individual theatrics will be tested during the course of these battles.

Expect the negative football of Mourinho to counter the positive passing and movements of the Catalan giants. Whoever wins the last game will progress into history as immortality – Mourinho as the manager to win 3 UCL with 3 different teams and Barcelona to win the treble again.

The Stage is set for The Battle of the 2 Legends

Sachin Tendulkar on his home ground, bidding for a first title in six attempts at the World Cup, will take on Muttiah Muralitharan, aiming to win it again in his last World Cup for Sri Lanka after winning in his first World Cup.

Two sportsman sharing the same stature in records albeit in completely different aspects of the game. The batsman genius – Sachin Tendulkar – has records which will never be overcome for it will need endurance and hunger combined with the grace, humility and sublime technique to last the modern day game of Cricket for 22 years. The spin wizard – Muttiah Muralitharan – established records and fear which no other bowler will ever get even a sniff at without the guile and toughness of Muttiah’s everlasting gleaming smile. The glistening white teeth made the most serious of hearts broaden their lips many a times.

Myths were created for the two giants of the game. One gave nightmares to another great of the modern game and the other was a constant thorn in the English batting line up. Constantly over the last 2 decades, the two have adapted, modified their style and innovated with the same level of hunger in the 3 aspects of the game which are evolving at the speed of the latest Apple products.

Sachin graced the game without any hiccups and winning fans in every format, every corner and every legend unanimously with very few critics (I myself was one of them till he scored his 200 against SA which I had never dreamt possible) whom he silenced gradually in his march towards becoming a legend. The past legends loved him and his contemporaries loved him even more. One part of the world which was stingy in praise till 1998 was silenced by the treatment of Shane Warne in 1998 tour and the silence was broken with the praise beginning from their own legend Don Bradman. The journey of the legend was straight forwardly balanced and perfectly timed like his own straight drive. (The most glorious image in the world of sports is this stroke by Sachin with his head perfectly placed and his posture perfectly balanced to caress the ball to the boundary).

However, Muttiah did not have an easy walk. It was a wobbly journey similar to his diagonal run up to the popping crease. The gleaming teeth showed his enthusiasm and willingness to conquer the legends whoever it be. Muttiah did not have a billion fans to avoid the wrath of ICC, Daryll Hair and a sore Indian loser called Bishan Singh Bedi.

No cricketer, and few sportsmen indeed, can have divided opinion as much as Murali but he is one of an indefatigable kind. He is adored and applauded as one of the two greatest spin bowlers  (I believe only Saqlain Mushtaq – the now forgotten Pakistan off spinner came close to matching the genius of Murali)of his generation or derided as a cheat, if an inadvertent one, for the accommodation of whom the laws of the game have been amended. There is no middle ground. The manner in which Saqlain and Murali continuously innovated to outdo the other in late 90’s and early 2000’s saw the birth of ‘doosra’ by Saqlain.

Since the advertent call of no-ball from Daryll Hair in the 90’s (a cruel call in my opinion) the scrutiny has been unrelenting. Sometimes, the manner to his name is even argued whether to put a ”d” or ”th” to which he simply replies “as you wish” with the ever present childish smile on his face.

I regard him as a genius, a freak of nature whose unique physical attributes, to be found in his shoulder and wrist, make him capable of doing things with a cricket ball that others without his abilities should not even contemplate. It is an unfortunate consequence that one aspect of his legacy has been to sow the seeds for a generation of bowlers who, seeking to emulate his doosra, really do throw it.  So, for me, it is fitting that he should be able to bow out from international cricket as a World Cup finalist and, perhaps, as a winner.

Murali is one person for whom the laws were bent a lot in the game but I ask ‘Did the changes not apply to every other person in the game’? How come they never could extract the advantage to the maximum. (However, reports show that he was note  even close to the limits of allowed bending of the arm, forget breaking those rules. But we dear readers read the headlines and discuss it without the matter of the report) Also, to applaud the genius, an article on a tour of Australia once mentioned him going to the lab in the University of Western Australia without the knowledge of his teammates and coach to do another test to prove ‘HE IS NOT A CHEATER’. Every challenge thrown to him by the ICC and Australia he responded with a better performance.

The most striking thing, though, was Murali’s motive. He did not go to the lab to prove yet again that he was clear. He went because he wanted to prove that there is no truth in what his more informed critics were saying. There was no way he wished to play a game in which he might genuinely be cheating. So he went to dispel that in his own mind and he came away content. If he had not been vindicated, the chances are that he would have abandoned cricket.

I can continue to write about the memories of a curly haired boy stepping in to the cricket ground blooded by a delivery of it’s kind by Waqar Younis, the tearing apart of the Australian bowling attack in Sharjah, the beautifully timed strokes in South Africa 2003, the 5-32 against Australia in Kochi – 2000, the innings through back pain against Pakistan when his team mates let him down,  the stunned look on his face when Adam Bacher caught him at deep mid wicket on 169 in Capetown, the burden of captaincy in his batting and so on, the hurricane in Headingley 2003 with Ganguly, the double at Perth, the stupid lbw (or shall I say shoulder before wicket) to McGrath in Sydney, the grace to walk away against West Indies in this WC, and many many more. The burden of a billion hopes made a 16 years old curly haired man into a man of responsibility very quickly and independently.

With Muttiah Muralitharan memories started to form shape with the ‘chucking’ incident. The great determination and backing up from his Captain (Arjun Ranatunga) gave him the confidence to capture and mesmerize the world with the spin. 7-30 against India reducing India to 57 in Sharjah is the most sad one, however, the ease with which he tore the English and South African line up again and again and again is one of a kind. The Australians always misread him and Sachin has difficulties at times playing him.

After, 02.04.2011, the ODIs will miss one of these amazing personalities. (assumption, Tendulkar will retire from ODIs breaking a billion hearts when India wins the WC) The game will miss the humility and childish charm after 2 decades. However, we should applaud and be grateful to their families for having shared these rarest of jewels with us for almost 2 decades.

Eventually, whoever wins, I will remember this game as a fitting farewell to the 2 geniuses who unlike many other greats did not get the world stage to bid farewell to the game.