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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Messi Misses ~ VAR debuts and overturns decision of referee for France


In Cricket, review / referral is a welcome technology that helps Team fight against decisions of the Umpire which otherwise would have gone away ~ there are such use of technology in FIFA too .. ..

It is soccer mania ~ yet, football fans were shocked to see thousands of empty seats during Egypt and Uruguay's World Cup clash today. The two nations played at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Russia's most easterly city Yekaterinburg, in front of 5,200 bright orange seats with nobody in them.  Ironically, the stadium's capacity had been  increased from 23,000 prior to the tournament but FIFA regulations stipulated that every venue must have a minimum capacity of 35,000 seats. The reason for the empty seats might be Yekaterinburg's location. It is 1113 miles from Russia's capital Moscow, where a lot of travelling fans are staying for the tournament.

In another match watched by millions - Lionel Messi stood a few yards away from the ball as it lay on the penalty spot. He waited. Behind him, in the stands at the side of the pitch, Argentina fans bowed down theatrically to the living deity. Behind the goal at the Spartak Stadium, more fans chanted his name, slowly and rhythmically. High to his left, sitting in a VIP box, Diego Maradona watched from behind a garish pair of sunglasses. Messi took his normal short run-up. Everyone expected him to score. That goes without saying. Messi had scored 64 goals in 124 games for Argentina before this match. But it was not a good penalty and the Iceland goalkeeper, Hannes Halldorsson, guessed correctly. He dived to his right and the ball was hit just high enough and just low enough for him to parry it away to safety.

In the match of France against Australia - VAR overturned a decision at the World Cup for the first time as referee Andres Cunha reversed choice not to award France a penalty.   Antoine Griezmann was brought down just inside the box by Australian defender Josh Risdon early in the second-half of the Group C encounter. Referee Andres Cunha at first did not award a spot kick but, after consulting his pitch side monitor, overturned the decision. Griezmann then stepped up and put France ahead. It was in the 53rd minute of the match that the controversy unfolded. Paul Pogba set Griezmann through on goal and as he approached the box Risdon brought him down. Play continued as normal for around 25 seconds before the ball went out of play and Cunha blew his whistle before running over to his pitch side monitor to begin the review.

The officials inside the tournament's VAR headquarters in Moscow and Cunha then began trawling through replays from two camera angles. After thoroughly watching the footage for around 37 seconds, the referee overturned his decision. Australia were left fuming with the ruling but there was nothing they could do as France went ahead and Risdon was left with a yellow card.  Just as we see in Cricket, during review – the  LED screens within the stadium highlighted to fans that VAR was reviewing the decision.

On the BBC's coverage of the game pundits were split over the decision. Former Manchester United defender and current England women's manager Phil Neville thought the officials made the wrong call. Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and ex-Arsenal defender Alex Scott were of the opposite opinion and felt referees made the correct decision.  Australia captain Mile Jedinak bemoaned the decision but remained upbeat in his post-match interview. 'Disappointed. We didn't have that luck. That first decision I don't know, the ball seemed to keep going and he didn't get a shout. That's football, we understand that and must keep going.

Moments after the first penalty incident, Cunha consulted the screen once again to double check Samuel Umtiti had handled a cross into the box. The technology confirmed his decision and Crystal Palace's Jedinak stepped up to fire Australia level in Kazan. This year's edition of the tournament in Russia is the first time video technology is available to match officials. The VAR and his assistants have a number of television cameras at their Moscow base throughout the tournament - some 37 during the knockout stages.

The Video Assistant Referee is a highly-trained match official who is watching the game away from the pitch, safely shut away in a room casting an eagle eye over every piece of play. When trialed by the Bundesliga, VARs were based externally in Cologne, as opposed to inside the match-day stadium. They communicate with the referee on the field of play via a two-way radio. The tech first reared its head on British shores when England faced Germany in a friendly at Wembley, following successful tests in Germany, Italy and the United States. The referee must consult VAR — only then does the process of analysis of an incident begin. The VAR cannot simply review anything it wants during the match. The referee draws the outline of a TV screen in the air so everybody knows what's going on and that VAR is set to be used.

Initially the masters of the game expressed their opposition stating that the technology  is 'making the game ugly.'  ~ but it only enhances the quality weeding out the wrong decisions will be learnt over period of time.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th June 2018.


Afghan Capt & Team learn how harsh Test Cricket could be !!


For the connoisseur of the game – it is the real Test ! Test cricket is many wonderful things,  it is also a harsh reality check.  It could expose teams brutally.  All arrangements could go hay-wire – time & again, we have seen teams lose their balance and squander the advantage in the first session on day 1 itself.  AT Bengaluru, Afghans realized it with the harsh shock that started with a century before lunch and ended with a defeat in day 2 itself.  Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, the Captain and his team (11 debuts) for sure have realized that there  is a long way to go for Afghanistan.  

A week ahead of his team's inaugural Test match in Bengaluru, Asghar Stanikzai raised the volume of pre-match exchanges with the claim that Afghanistan's spinners are better than India's.

Yes. Better than Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, ranked No. 4 and 5 among the world's Test bowlers. "The whole world knows that [we have very good spinners in] Rashid Khan, Mujeeb [Ur Rahman], [Mohammad] Nabi, Rahmat [Shah], Zahir [Khan]," Stanikzai, the Afghanistan captain, told ESPNcricinfo. "In Afghanistan, the brilliant thing is that a lot of the young talent that is coming through are spinners, because they all follow Rashid, they follow Nabi, so because of that our spin department is very strong from below.

Gros Islet is located near the northern tip of the island country of Saint Lucia. Originally a quiet fishing village, it has gone on to become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the country.  In 1778, as a retaliation for the declaration of war on the British by the French, the British navy captured the island of Saint Lucia from the French, and built a naval base at Gros Islet Bay – now Lankans are playing West Indies in a Test match there.

Lahiru Kumara delivered 13.3 hostile overs, and Kasun Rajitha was probing on Test debut, but a half-century from Devon Smith drove West Indies foreward on a rain-hit second day. They stand only 135 runs behind Sri Lanka, with eight wickets still in hand. Only 42.3 overs were delivered in the day, the rain arriving during lunch to wash out much of the afternoon and evening sessions, before stumps were eventually drawn due to bad light at 5:55 pm.

Back at Bangalore things happened rapidly as Afghans folded shortly.  The score card reads : India 474 (Dhawan 107, Vijay 105, Pandya 71, Ahmadzai 3-51) beat Afghanistan 109 (Nabi 24, Ashwin 4-27, Jadeja 2-18) & 103 (Shahidi 36*, Jadeja 4-17, Umesh 3-26) by an innings and 262 runs  .. .. for a brief while, on day 1 – the final session, Afghans dominated but the score itself was too good as play did not even go into day 3.

Purely on numbers it was a colossal defeat, by an innings and 262 runs, and the flattening reality of being bowled out twice in a day - only India and Zimbabwe had suffered that before - will take a while to get over. At different points in the day, Afghanistan were done in by different bowlers. Ravindra Jadeja got the last piece of the pie, finishing the second innings with 4 for 17. Their first innings of 109 lasted a session, between lunch and tea, and their second innings of 103 did not last much longer. India needed only 66.3 overs to take 20 wickets and complete their first ever two-day Test win. Afghanistan will need a lot more cricket against established Test teams' A sides if this promotion to Test is to work, their coach Phil Simmons. 

I had earlier posted on product  ‘the most sought after Cricket Bat’ nay, not the one Cricket stars of Indian Premier League use –  of a different elite league branded ‘Haath ka Bana’ … for those travelling around India would well know the artisans proudly claiming  “ साहेब यह काम मेरेहाथ का बना है .” – of its suave Prashant Singh and the Company -   India Art Investment Company whose  tag line is ‘preserving culture - creating livelihood’.  True to their mission they are working with over 750 artisan families across india - which translate into - approximately 3000 artisans.   Here is a ‘hath ka bana’ – hand painted bat from Tamil Nadu that was presented to Afghanistan team captain Mohmd Ashgar Stanikzai on their debut.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th June 2018.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Nike withdraws cleats to Iran team - FIFA 2018


On May 21, 1997 at Chennai's MA Chidambaram Stadium,  Pakistan opener Saeed Anwar scored 194*  breaking the 13-year-old landmark of 189 set by Vivian Richards in ODI.  It was a day-night match – in the afternoon,  Saeed Anwar had walked on the Wallajah Road and purchased a bat from one of the sports shops over there !

Cleats or studs are protrusions on the sole of a shoe, or on an external attachment to a shoe, that provide additional traction on a soft or slippery surface. They can be conical or blade-like in shape, and made of plastic, rubber or metal. In American English the term cleats is used  to refer to shoes featuring such protrusions.

Heard of sanctions !!  -  UN and many other countries especially USA impose trade embargo and  economic sanctions against different countries and activities, the most notable of them aimed against countries which the U.S. government has declared "State Sponsors of Terrorism".  Sanctions imposed by the United States government include:  no arms-related exports; controls over dual-use technology exports; restrictions on economic assistance; financial restrictions; duty-free goods exemption suspended for imports from those countries – and more !

FIFA World Cup is on ~  2018 FIFA World Cup is the 21st  FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men's national teams of the member associations of FIFA. It is currently ongoing in Russia starting from 14 June and will end with the final match on 15 July 2018.  This is the first World Cup held to be held in Eastern Europe, and the eleventh time that it has been held in Europe.  The final tournament will involve 32 national teams, which include 31 teams determined through qualifying competitions and the automatically qualified host team. Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making back-to-back appearances following the last tournament in 2014, including defending champions Germany, while Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup.

When Yuri Gazinsky headed in the first goal of the 2018 World Cup, giving host Russia early joy in what developed into a 5-0 thumping of Saudi Arabia, Russian President Vladimir Putin leaned across to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with his hand outstretched.  Football, bringing the world together. Or so Putin and FIFA would have us believe. The football mismatch of the opening game Thursday, with a Saudi team so bad it made Russia look better than it is, surely mattered less to Putin than the broader message: For the next month to the final on July 15, Russia is putting its best foot forward and showing a fair-play, gentler side of itself to the world.  “Football,” Putin told the 78,000-strong crowd in his tournament-opening remarks in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, “has brought us together tonight in a single team.”

But there are some issues ~ there is already one ! - Nike has withdrawn its supply of football boots to Iran football for the World Cup in Russia due to the new United States sanctions that have been imposed, the American sportswear giant has announced. Last month,  US President Donald Trump reimposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal between the Middle East nation and the US’ European allies after labelling the agreement “decaying and rotten” and “an embarrassment”. Due to Trump’s announcement, a number of leading companies have since suspended activities in Iran, including Nike and their kit agreement with the national team just days before they start their campaign at Russia 2018.

 “US sanctions mean that, as a US company, Nike cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian national team at this time,” a statement read. “Sanctions applicable to Nike have been in place for many years and are enforceable by law.”  Had Nike gone through with supplying the Iranian team with football boots, they could have faced substantial fines under the US Department of the Treasury’s regulations.

Current Iran had coach Carlos Queiroz, who worked with Sir Alex Ferguson as his assistant at Manchester United and also led the Portugal national team to the 2010 World Cup, has issued a plead for help to Fifa after being left in serious trouble on the eve of the tournament. “Players get used to their sports equipment, and it’s not right to change them a week before such important matches,” Queiroz said in Russia. The decision by Nike has also prompted a fan backlash after a number of Iranian supporters posted videos on social media of them throwing their own boots in bins, labelling the move “an insult to [Iranian] people and all football lovers” and another claiming it made the players “symbols of humiliation”.

The move is the latest problem in what has been a turbulent build-up to the 2018 World Cup, with Iran having their friendlies against Greece and Kosovo cancelled. Someone else confused Nike refusal to supply cleats comparing it to Iran refusing to play against Israel, which they feel is legitimate.  Some officials are making it appear as if players on the Iranian team have been left to find shoes by other means - reaching out to non-Iran players that play club ball to loan them a few pairs, or just buying their own.  Iran will begin its World Cup run on Friday with a match against Morocco, followed by matches against Spain and Portugal to finish out the group stage of the tournament.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
15th June 2018.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Shikhar Dhawan hits century before lunch at Bengaluru


On Thursday (today) June 12, 1986 – at Oxford, the Combined Universities Captain David Throne was rather hospitable.  He put the visiting Indians in on a warm and sunny day.  Raman Lamba and my favourite Krishnamachari Srikkanth had a 180 run opening partnership off just 33 overs.  Krish Srikkanth scored a century before lunch !!  ~ I was very happy .. .. ..

Rashid Khan and other Afghans made hay during IPL.  Cricket in Afghanistan has been on the rise for years now. From budding cricketers first learning the sport in the refugee camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to a professional team making an appearance in the ICC World T20, cricket has come a long way in the war-torn nation.  Gaining Test status along with Ireland, and confirming their maiden Test fixture against India at Bengaluru today is a  defining chapter in the fairytale that the Afghan national cricket team has charted.

Afghans have been groomed by and in India.  Of the many associated with their cricket, Dean Jones who acted as coach   after the stepping down of Lalchand Rajput, a position he held till the full-time appointment of Trinidadian Phil Simmons.  For the historic   clash at the M Chinnaswamy, Dean  Jones believes that the team is better-equipped for their Test debut than teams such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and even New Zealand !   They are a better team than those teams back then, he said.

Lankans have played very many times at Chepauk (against Tamil Nadu in Gopalan trophy) ~ and thus the only Test against India in Sept 1982 was not all that new – though it was their test status and playing a National side – Arunlal and Rakesh Shukla, the Delhi leggie made their debuts.   Srilanka made 346 with Roy Dias 60 and Louis Rohan Duleep Mendis making 105.  Dilip Doshi took 5 wickets.  India gave a sound reply and declared at 566/6 aided by Sunny Gavaskar 155 and Sandeep Patil 114.  In the 2nd Dias 97 & Mendis 105 (Kapil 5/110) saw Lanka score 394 setting a target of 175.  Indians were 135/7 after 28 overs when stumps were drawn.  Curiously Dilip Vengsarkar & J Arunlal opened, Sandip Patil,  Kapil Devl, Yashpal Sharma, Gundappa Viswanath, S Madanlal,  SMH Kirmani and Sunil Gavaskar followed in that order.  Shukla and Doshi did not bat. That was to be Shukla’s only test though he did perform well in Ranji and domestic tournaments.

At Bengaluru toay, on  their first day in Test cricket, Afghanistan looked like they wanted to experience the full range of emotions: they conceded 52 fours and four sixes, made a DRS blunder early on, dropped a catch late in the day, enabled two very different types of centuries, and still, somehow, managed to dominate an entire session and stay alive. India, who were 280 for 1 at one stage, and striking at well more than five per over thanks to domineering efforts from their top three Test openers, lost 5 for 63 in the final session.


Most of the attention on Thursday was on Afghanistan who were making their debut in Test cricket, but Shikhar Dhawan demanded his own spotlight, becoming the first Indian batsman, and sixth overall, to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test match. He joined Victor Trumper, Charles Macartney, Don Bradman, Majid Khan and David Warner in achieving this unique distinction. The first three instances took place before the Second World War, which means Dhawan is only the third player to score 100 in the first session of a Test in last 80 years. He went to lunch on 104 off 91 balls with 19 fours and 3 sixes. He ran only 10 of his runs.  At stumps, Rashid Khan has figures of 26-2-120-1.

The previous record for highest score by an India batsman in the first session of a Test was 99 runs by Virender Sehwag against West Indies in Gros Islet in 2006. Sehwag occupies three of the top five spots on this list, which is made complete by Farokh Engineer, who scored 94 runs before lunch, also against West Indies, in Chennai in 1966-67.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th June 2018.