Saturday, November 14, 2015

How IPL is planning to pick two teams for two years?

And, as we speak, IPL is back in the news!
View through glasses IPL current state vs IPL to be state
Transparency is what IPL will be focussing on
Enough of all the recent news bits like Bihar elections, Beef ban, award-wapasi, it's time for some CEC (Cricket, Entertainment and Controversy). You simply can't keep IPL out of mainstream news, can you? Amidst all the brouhaha, IPL was quietly cleaning up the mess that was self-created. It was quiet since cleaning up is not part of the agenda of mainstream news. Heads turned in the BCCI fold due to the new governance structure put in place. Roger Binny stepped down because his presence can jeopardize (or improve, whichever way you look at it) the career of his son Stuart Binny. Anil Kumble stepped down as he is still part of Mumbai Indians franchisee. Saurav Ganguly took his place. 

But what about the two banned teams - CSK and RR? And their players?

BCCI are adamant to have an eight team IPL for the next two years since their original IPL concept proposal was budgeted based on at least 8 teams. Lesser number of teams will mean less revenue in BCCI coffers and ever lesser amount as revenue for IPL teams. As a solution, they decided to replace 2 banned teams with two new teams, a eureka moment (sic) indeed.

So, how will the two new teams be finalized? Reverse auction process. The base price for both teams is set at Rs. 40 Crore. The entities bidding for teams will have to bid lower than 40 crore and the two least bidders will be selected. As per Rajeev Shukla, IPL chairman, "It will be a walk in bid on December 8. The base price for reverse bid from central revenue pool is Rs 40 crore and the party which bids for lowest share from central revenue pool will be the winner of new team". Surprised? No, BCCI is not in a generous mood. The bidding is not the amount the winners will pay BCCI, instead it's the amount BCCI will pay the two winning bidders from the central revenue pool. Interested parties will have to bid as low as possible - mathematically even a negative amount. A negative amount would mean the winning bidder will pay the BCCI the bidding amount for two years.

How long will these teams remain? Two years. That is as per the current scenario. Post two years, IPL will complete 10 years. If you remember, the original contract with all IPL franchisees was for 10 years post which all players will again be in the auction pool. IPL, in a way, will restart again. CSK and RR will come back in the fold after the two year ban.

Why will anyone bid for a team for only two years? It seems illogical in terms of business. To break-even, an IPL team needs a minimum of 4-5 years (RR was an exception). In IPL, you invest heavily in the beginning and reap the rewards in the long term. BCCI is aware of it and hence the concept of reverse auction has been introduced. Also, bidders will know that the platform provided by IPL is on a global stage. Winning the bid to have a team in IPL will translate into a huge marketing platform that will fast-track the brand for years to come, if handled properly. The players of the team automatically qualifies as brand promoters. Huge investment, potential loss in short term but a huge opportunity in the long term. The only constraint is the need for funds to invest for two years. Another reason could be the flexibility the IPL rules provide (sarcasm, indeed). IPL-11 may have more than 8 teams, if the return on investment is significant with minor tweaks in the format.

What about players of CSK and RR? Ten players, 5 from each side, will be drafted into these two new teams. The rest of the players will be auctioned. One concern the owners of two teams will have is that they have a lesser population to choose from. What if the new team wants Ajinkya Rahane or Chris Gayle? What if they want to buy a player from Delhi / Mumbai? IPL has an option to buy and sell players between teams outside of auction. This option, I believe, should be applicable to new teams. The only catch is the team who currently owns the player should be interested to sell.

Will Kochi and Pune be involved? No. And no reason has been provided for this decision. This is the masala the mainstream news may focus on.

Well, that's about it. December 8th is the date for the bidding process. Unless there's a twist in the tale. Don't hold thy breath!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Satire: What not to do on your first US trip?

Ok, first things first. This is a satire. Please do not take this post seriously. Or should I say, take it with a pinch of salt. No wait, that's too much BP. Take it with a scoop of yogurt instead!

This is my first US trip. It's been 10 weeks in US now. I am not sure for how long will it last. But I am taking my time to experience it all in my own little way. And hey, life keeps on teaching you lessons every single day and I have learnt a lot of unwanted (and some wanted) lessons in the past few weeks. Thanks to these lessons and their repercussions, it took me time to (re)start the blogging part of my life in US. 

Image courtesy -
What should I do with these lessons? Share, of course. So here are some of the unwanted lessons. Read and let me know if you have experienced some of these or if you think a lot more can be added here -
  1. Delete the song "Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera" (movie Swades) from your playlist - No seriously, delete it. Personally, I loved the song a lot. I still do. It is one of AR Rahman's classic. The lyrics, the music and the voice - they elevate you to a totally different level. I have it as part of my playlist. Just days after reaching US, I was listening to songs on my smartphone. I had kept the song selection as random, which means any song will be selected at random. As luck would have it, this song played. The bad part is, I started listening to this song from a different perspective now. But then I realized, Javed Akhtar is a genius. He left a loophole in the song. You see, the song goes on to say - "sab toh pa liya, ab hai kya kami". That's the loophole we need to exploit. After all, when did we achieve everything? There's still more to achieve right? Still, to be on the safer side, delete this song for now. You won't regret it. Also, for some reason not known to me, I had "Kiska hai yeh tumko intezaar, main hoon na" song from the movie "Main Hoon Na". It has a sad version too, which is very sad. Delete that song too. Trust me.
  2. Do not bring too much Indian stuff. They already have it here! Especially, if you have a project in NY / NJ, you will not only meet a lot of Indians every day, you will also end up buying groceries and other stuff (Indian) from Indian stores. Some of these grocery stores also play Indian music (talk of ambiance!). I brought a lot of stuff (including pressure cooker, frying pan, plates etc) assuming I needed these the most since I will be able to buy other stuff from US. It turns out, my hotel was in a street unofficially named as the "Indian Street". Ohh don't laugh, there's more - the closest shop to my hotel was a "pan-wala" shop! I must admit, I had my doubts about reaching US especially after having a 16 hour long flight. But the hotel selection and the location was just my luck (Good / Bad - you decide). The bottom-line is - bring only those stuff that you need. Rest all are available here.
  3. While in US, left is not right - right is right. Adjusting to this rule will take a lot of your time. Even while walking. Suppose you are walking down the road and someone is walking in the opposite direction. In India, as per norm, you are supposed to 'keep left' so that you don't collide with the other person. In US, it's all right. Keep right is the norm here. While driving, right side of the road is your lane (unless it's one-way). I have had moments where, when you walk, you inadvertently keep left and the other person coming towards you keep right. If not for the last second corrections we Mumbaikars learnt from Mumbai's own education system, I would have invited trouble.
  4. You can stand on escalators. You can walk on escalators at the same time - Yes, that's true. In India, especially in the metros, we are always busy and it shows in the way we walk / brisk walk / run. When you are overtaking someone on the stairs, you unknowingly (most of the times) bump your shoulder onto your fellow traveller. This incident is irritating for both. Some of us apologize and move on. Most just move on. Many countries, including US, have a solution for this. They have a clear path for people always on the hurry (left side of the escalator) while people who want to enjoy their moment in the escalator, can stay on the right side.  Philosophically, everyone reaches their destination; some just decide to rush.
Well, these are some of the lessons I learnt while in US. I am learning more with every passing day. Will share them too in due course of time. By the way, did I miss out on anything?

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Nawab of Najafgarh steps down

Any sport has to have some basics and some instincts that go along with the basics of the game. And these are unique for a particular game. Batting in Cricket needs different set of technique than batting in Baseball. Skills needed in Tennis is different from those needed in Badminton. Hockey on an artificial green turf is different from Ice Hockey, although the skill set is fairly the same. Even within a game, different players have different style and they are all effective. But you still need the basic technique upon which you will inculcate your own style of play. 

Take Batting in Cricket for instance. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid are legends of the game. They have both been successful in their game. Yet they have different styles. Sachin Tendulkar is relatively more charismatic while batting and is a treat to watch when in full flow. Rahul Dravid relies relatively more on technique and is a live example of how to bat in a manner desired of a batsman. You may have a different perspective, but I believe both these legends are at the same level in terms of success. One is not greater than the other. However, I am sure you will agree with me when I say both these players had their roots in technique and developed a niche for themselves. 

Every once in a while comes a player who deviates from the routine and relies completely on a different set of skills and still succeeds. A player who has his own basics to follow, his own techniques yet highly effective. Indian Cricket had one such player. And his batting was like eye-candy especially for those who are more goal-oriented than the journey one takes to achieve the goal.

I am talking about none other than Virender Sehwag. 

Virender Sehwag retires from Cricket #ThankYouViru

He completely defied the most basic tenet of batting - footwork! Instead, he trusted his eye, his hand and his confidence on the pitch. And he succeeded. He made a name for himself even when Indian Cricket had other batting stalwarts who were breaking records with ease. It's easy to be a top player when you are surrounded by average ones, but Sehwag made it count when he was playing with Sachin, Saurav, Rahul and VVS. Sachin had charisma, Saurav flamboyant, Rahul with his rock-solid technique and VVS with style. Among them came Sehwag who simply went after the bowling with little to no respect for the bowlers (on the pitch, that is).

I have seen the best of Indian cricket play together - Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath etc. The current crop is exciting, no doubt but they have time to attain legendary status in Indian Cricket. With Sehwag retiring, that 2000's era is now well and truly over.

If you want to bat the "Virender Sehwag" way, mug up the following steps - 
  • Completely trust you hand-eye co-ordination
  • Do NOT look at the scorecard. Scoreboards contain some numbers pertaining to the game. There are other team members who will do the math
  • Let your instincts talk on the pitch
  • That's it! No kidding, that's seriously how simple it is to learn about Sehwag. The only challenge is to effectively utilize them on the pitch.
Virender Sehwag started by being a Sachin Tendulkar look-alike, then a batsman who has similar batting  effectiveness of Sachin Tendulkar but ended being the original Sehwag! Thank you for the wonderful memories Viru-paaji. Your triple centuries was amazing to watch, so were your double century and innumerable centuries in ODIs. The way you went after bowling especially during pressure situations made you unique in this group of Indian Cricketing legends. 

The Nawab of Najafgarh has stepped down. All hail the Nawab!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Brendan Rodgers checked out!

Oh the interlull before the storm, they say! Only this time, there was a storm just before the interlull.

It was quite an eventful day in English Premier League last week. Manchester City destroyed Newcastle United with 6 goals, 5 of which came from a certain Sergio Aguero. Chelsea lost timidly (again). Arsenal defeated Manchester United 3-0 in what is now being described as one of the most eye-catching games in recent times (United fans won't agree, but that's the way it goes right). And then the most shocking of them all - Brendan Rodgers fired as Liverpool manager. The official statement says he left Liverpool as if to mean it was his decision, but truth be told - he was fired. The Liverpool piece got me thinking. Not in the right way though. It got me thinking about this brutal phase in Football where result means everything. 

Brendan Rodgers fired by Liverpool

Liverpool has been anything but exceptional in recent years. And in the one year where they were very close to the title, someone 'slipped' and they lost their way and finished second. That was also Luis Suarez's last year with Liverpool who was pivotal in Liverpool finishing second. Post-Suarez era has been average for Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers, in my opinion, did his best to make his team play an attacking mode of football but failed. He bought in many players on a premium who failed to deliver on the ground. Daniel Sturridge's injury didn't help his cause either. And add to that the saga involving Raheem Sterling, they already had a mess on their hands. To that effect, I am not shocked by Rodgers' firing.

What I found astounding was that it happened in the middle of a season and that too after buying players for millions! I don't understand the mentality of the owners and I don't have the information that they are privy to, to make such a decision. But as a football fan, it was nothing but rash. Maybe it wasn't anything to do with Rodgers but the availability of Klopp that triggered this decision. Even in that case, it was unprofessional on their part. Now Klopp has the responsibility to correct this mess and that too, quickly. I am a big fan of Klopp but I doubt Liverpool will even finish in the top 4 this season. In that regard, the owners have messed up the season for Liverpool.

Every football club needs two things - more or less - one is success and the second is stability. Running after one of them will diminish focus from the other. Take Manchester United's case for instance - sacking of David Moyes meant they were ready to compromise stability for success. Same applies to Chelsea and Manchester City, who regularly chop and change their managers. Now take Arsenal's case - stability is of paramount importance and due to the cost involved in the construction of the Emirates Stadium, they were forced to compromise success (winning the league) for more stability (consecutive top 4 finish for 18th time). Now that everything has been paid off, Arsenal can finally focus on success and stability, until Wenger decides to step down.

Speaking of Arsene Wenger, he expressed disappointment for Rodgers and rightfully so. Rodgers wasn't a bad manager, nor was he unsuccessful. After all, its been 25 years since Liverpool last won the league. If Rodgers can be termed unsuccessful, so are the rest of the managers. 

Football has become more professional and more 'corporate' in these times. Everything is analysed in terms of money that comes in and money that goes out. The transfer fees of some players is more than the prize money of winning the league. As absurd as it sounds, it is primarily because of infuse of advertising money and TV rights in the game. Advertisers pay money for returns and not necessarily for the love of the game. But they fail to realize that the product, on which they are pumping money, is losing in the long term. It will soon become impractical to invest in Football. This bubble will burst one day. Advertisers will find another product. Only Football fans stand to suffer.

I don't think there's any reason for Brendan Rodgers to feel embarrassed about the whole incident. He is, after all, a victim of the "corporatization" of football. David Moyes was one such victim too. Rodgers will now have to dig deep and start all over again. I reckon he will get a mid-table team in Europe to manage and he will do wonders to that team, the same way he did to Swansea City.

Adios Rodgers.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Confessions of a small(ish) fish

Resting himself inside a 'cocoon', eating his way to happiness and knowing exactly how to handle stuff on any regular day, this little fish had everything what he wished for. He knew exactly how to handle things, was comfortable when any irregularity used to happen in his life and was always safe in the support of family, siblings and friends. Anything that you could possibly imagine regarding a secured life, he had it all!

But that's the thing about comfort right? You are comfortable because you develop a safety zone and would like to reside in that zone for possibly the rest of your life. You are probably best at what you do, within that zone. You seldom explore, try out new things and make mistakes. You just love to do the same things day in and day out. And as long as your requirements are being met, you hardly care. 

As a legendary movie character (Joker from The Dark Knight) once said, "Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos". Should we stir the pot, or pond in this case? How, you may ask.

Let's move this little fish out of his familiar small pond and placed into a big endless sea.

Big fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond

What do you think will be the emotion expressed by this little fish? Fear? Nervous? Anxiety? Excited? 

The answer will depend on how exactly you will feel when you are placed in a similar position. I, for one, will be anxious. Fear and Excitement are two extremes who only a small section of the population will go through. Nervous and Anxious are the middle line.

Now, our little fish will have to swim "with the proverbial sharks". This little fish will find many others swimming around who have made this big sea their home. Any intruder in one's home will be treated with anger, caution but not happiness. This little fish will now have to co-exist with the others and on occasions, will have to compete for common areas. Areas could be finding a place called home, eating stuff that's common across all similar sized neighbors and avoid being eaten by bigger neighbors. It's almost as if his world is now upside down!

Everybody goes through such a phase at least once in their lives. Some are fortunate enough to experience it early while some find this later. I am going through this phase. Early / later - I leave it to reader interpretation. The faster you adapt, the stronger you will grow and thrive. It's like a race with a small difference - winning the race is not mandatory; not losing is critical. 

The race has begun. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

How to describe Cricket to a Baseball fan?

A change of location forces you to change your perspective and more precisely, your choice of words during a discussion. For instance, I was talking to a friend of mine who has spent more than 5 years in the US about how much I love Football. And he was amazed that I was passionate about a game that's primarily played on the American soil. I told him that it's played the world over and hence is known as a global sport. He was unaware that Football was a global sport. This went on for a while till we realized I was actually talking about Soccer and my friend about American Football! For those now in the know, American Football is more like Rugby with helmets.

Another common discussion revolves around an American sport of a different kind known as Baseball and its like-for-like counterpart, Cricket. I found out that a colleague of mine happens to be a Baseball fan. And I am an Indian; that automatically makes me a Cricket fan. Yes, despite the mess that's happening in the administration side of the game, I am still a fan. He wanted to know more about Cricket since he has seen Indians & Europeans play this game during weekends. I was, obviously, interested to know about Baseball. And so we went on exchanging whatever knowledge we had on our respective games. 
Baseball vs Cricket comparison How to explain Cricket to a Baseball fan
This is how I explained Cricket to a Baseball fan - 

  1. Baseball has 4 bases. Cricket has only 2 bases. We call it stumps. I wanted to tell him that these are also called wickets, but that would confuse him more. How can the same work (wickets) be used for an object and an event in the same game? I honestly, have no answer for this.
  2. In Baseball, one batsman (known as batter) starts the game. Cricket has two. Number of batters in Baseball can increase up to 4. In Cricket, it always remains at 2 till 10 wickets go down.
  3. Baseball calls the person who delivers the ball as a pitcher and the person who is stationed behind the batsmen as the catcher. The same are called bowler and wicket-keeper respectively in Cricket.
  4. In Baseball, if the bat hits the ball, the batter has to run towards the next immediate base. In Cricket, the option is provided to the batsmen whether to run or not. The batsman decides according to the situation.
  5. Baseball doesn't allow a batsman to run if the balls ricochets behind him. Cricket provides the batsman with that flexibility.
  6. The maximum runs that can be scored in Baseball is 4 (assuming all 4 bases are occupied). In Cricket, it's 6 (assuming the delivery is legit). 
  7. If the ball crosses the ground boundaries defined without a bounce within the boundary, it's called a "home run". And the runs will depend on the number of bases occupied by the batter. If he was alone, it will result in one run. In Cricket, the batsmen on the ground are always two and run is always six. And, for obvious reason, the event is called a "six". 
  8. All the outfield players in Baseball have gloves on their non-throwing hand. In Cricket, only the wicket-keeper and two batsmen wears gloves.
  9. In Baseball, the running of one batter occupying a base is usually independent of other batter. In Cricket, however, the running is totally dependent and is based on mutual understanding.

Not a bad comparison huh? But as they say - while in Rome, do as Romans do. Or, while in the US, start loving Baseball and American Football. I have already started this process. I am now waiting for my colleague to help me understanding Baseball the way I explained Cricket. Lets see if he's upto the challenge.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Who doesn't like a pinch (or more) of appreciation?

I love appreciation. I really do.

And especially when it's done for my blogging exploits, I love it even more. 

I always wanted to write. Write as a hobby. And that's the reason I started blogging. Sports is my passion. I used to play a lot of Cricket, Soccer and Badminton back in the day. Now, it's more of watching and following the international events that keeps me hooked. So, to kill two birds in one shot hit two sixes in one ball (you see, I believe in non-violence), I mixed my hobby (writing) and my passion (sports) into one and thereby started writing sports posts in my blog.

Last year, I was somewhat surprised and very happy to know that my blog was shortlisted as part of the top sports blog by BlogAdda. That in itself was a very significant achievement in my blogging life. I knew, deep down, that I had little chance last year to win the coveted title of the "Best Blog in Sports Category". I eventually lost out to the best of the lot.

But, you see, in sports, lightning can strike twice! And thrice. And.. you get the drift, right?

And so it happened. For this year's #Win15 event hosted by BlogAdda, my blog has been shortlisted again in Sports category. And with even more competition, I might add. The Jury (comprising of super talented people) have considered my blog to be part of the elite list. Make no mistake about it, this in itself is a significant achievement (author pats his own back moment)

But I now wonder, what's it like to actually win this coveted title?

The judges have done their part and it now rests in the hands of everyone who reads my blog. As per the rules, the winner will now be decided by the votes I get from my readers. At this juncture, I need to inform you of something I feel strongly about. Please vote for my blog only if you genuinely like what you read. Please vote for my blog only if you genuinely feel I have done enough to achieve this feat. I only want the best blog to win. 

Win15 BlogAdda blogging event Sports category Bloggers Park

What you need to do? - Simply click on this link (click here). A new web page will open (shown in image above). You need to register your vote by clicking on "like" button in that page. You can also click on "tweet" button and tweet the text that appears on a new page. Ideally, if you can do both, then great. That's it. Simple, isn't it?

Getting nominated last year was like a dream come true. Getting nominated this year again is like reliving the dream. Appreciation in this form really motivates me to continue pursuing my hobby and passion. And continue, I will. Irrespective of the result. But it would do me no harm if I am closer to the title this year compared to last year. Winning the coveted award will be icing on the cake. Lots of icing and a huge cake.

As they say, may the best player win. Likewise, may the best blogger win. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Did The Joker kill Heath Ledger?

Rhetoric question, you may ask. Did I hear someone say "absurd"? You may even take offense to it. That’s exactly the way I felt when I heard about a new documentary titled “Heath Ledger: Too Young to Die”.

I am a big fan of the Batman trilogy. I am a fan of Christopher Nolan. And a huge fan of “The Joker” character from “The Dark Knight”. Joker is the only reason why I love watching the movie again and again. Heath Ledger took the character to a level where, I felt, that Joker was the real hero rather than Batman. His presence lit up the screen and his next move was always a surprise / shock. The dialogue delivery, the make-up, the laugh and other expressions made The Dark Knight a must watch – many times! And the fact that we didn’t see the actual death of the character prompted me to believe that Nolan will bring him back in the 3rd edition “The Dark Knight Rises”. However, that was not to be; primarily, for reasons well known to all of us.

In one of the interviews in 2007, Heath Ledger said the following about his role and the preparation involved – “It's a combination of reading all the comic books I could that were relevant to the script and then just closing my eyes and meditating on it. I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices - it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath - someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts. He's just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown.

Now, we have a German documentary (yet to be released) that claims to reveal the details of the diary maintained by Heath Ledger. They claim the details in the diary are shocking and, perhaps, have a link with his eventual untimely death. Heath Ledger’s father is also part of this documentary which, some may believe, gives the documentary a certain amount of credibility.

From what I can gather, the documentary is totally based on two aspects of Heath Ledger’s life – 
  1. A diary maintained by Heath Ledger while he was preparing for his role as Joker. He was living inside a hotel room in London for almost a month trying to get into the much-acclaimed character. He practised with various voices, conceptualizing and interpreting the comic strips and developed that iconic laugh. All this has been jotted down on his diary with pictures etc. 
  2. Heath’s health Issue: If you read about his health issues on Wikipedia, you will realize that he had sleeping issues and would usually fall back on medications. The autopsy report also suggests the same as the possible cause of his death. 

Health Ledger documentary - Too Early to Die - screenshots

Add 2 and 2 together and you get a probable conspiracy theory, which is what, I think, has been highlighted in the documentary. Personally, I don’t want to believe the documentary, especially the emotional side of me. If the sacrifice for making an iconic, epic, memorable and once-in-a-lifetime character was one's own life, I would have been content with the “scarecrow” and “Bane” type of villains (no offence to these characters) for Batman trilogy with Heath Ledger alive and kicking. If the documentary starts making sense, then Heath has literally sacrificed everything, even his own life, for his role as The Joker. 

I will sign out using one of Joker's most memorable quotes -
Joker Quote We stopped checking for monsters under our bed when we realized they were inside us

Long live ‘The Joker’. Long live Heath Ledger. His legacy lives on, with / without documentary.

Friday, August 07, 2015

EPL 2015-16: The season begins!

Stat Alert: 76 – number of days since the last EPL weekend.

That’s quite a lot of days in a calendar year!

A football league where there are more clubs vying to win the league is exciting in my opinion. This is why I consider the English Premier League the most exciting Football league of them all. Yes, a couple of Spanish clubs (Barcelona and Real Madrid), one German club (Bayern Munich) and one Italian club (Juventus) are top clubs in Europe. But there’s hardly any competition to them in their respective leagues. I know, many will have a difference of opinion on this, and I completely understand the reasoning. It’s just that competition excites me. And as a matter of extension, EPL excites me.

The Interlull before the storm – 

If you were tracking personnel changes (player / manager) during this ‘vacation’ period, you found a way, not a legit way but something nevertheless, to remain in touch the sport. And by now, you know that statistically 99% of the transfer articles are fake / opinions / only written for clicks. The remaining 1% is what matters. I don’t know a way to decipher the 99% from 1%. There are some trusted sources and there are a lot untrusted ones. Being an Arsenal fan, I found my club (virtually) tracking every other footballer on this planet whose names are not Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. If these fake transfer news sites are to be believed, Arsene Wenger (Arsenal’s manager) is a fan of anyone who’s young and even remotely plays football. Nevertheless, many clubs have taken advantage of the transfer window and sold fringe players and strengthen their team with newer ones. Manchester United and Liverpool have led the buying spree and have almost changed their entire team. League champions Chelsea, FA cup holders Arsenal have not been too active as on date. Manchester City, as are expected from them, did their bit of overspending on one player and thereby inviting criticism. The mid-table teams have been smart enough to pluck low hanging fruits at a bargain and hoping that one / few of them make it to count.

How the top 4 teams are preparing for the new season? (arranged in the order they finished last season)

1. Chelsea: Chelsea ran away with the league last season. They were the best team of the season, and by quite a significant margin (8 points adrift from 2nd place Manchester City). They lost less games last season (3) which is quite a mean feat considering the 2nd placed teams in terms of matches lost were Manchester City and Arsenal (7 each). Considering what Chelsea achieved last season, it’s safe to say they have the best team even for this season provided there's no high profile exit. Also, if they can have their top performers fit, they are early season favorites to repeat the feat. One possible blip is their poor form in pre-season matches. But a Jose Mourinho team is not to be under-estimated at any level.
EPL Chelsea transfer business 2015-16

2. Manchester City: Manchester City finished 2nd in last season but hardly competed for the 1st position. They have an ageing squad which needs tweaking and future planning. Manuel Pellegrini is one manager who has to perform this season, failing which the much maligned axe will make an appearance. But then, even if he performs, the axe may still appear (*cough* Pep Guardiola *cough*). They have been relatively quiet in the transfer window but made the biggest transfer this season till date – in Sterling (the player, I mean). 49M for a 21 year Englishman who scored 7 times in 35 league games for Liverpool last season. The numbers don’t add up right? Another Englishman in Fabian Delph and you know the additions are not only strengthening the team but also adding local players to fulfil the English quota. As always, a lot will depend on regulars like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany will up the ante. Don’t count out buying another world class player. Why? Because they will always have the money!
EPL Manchester City transfer business 2015-16

3. Arsenal: Every new season starts with lot of hope and then it fizzles out one way or the other, mainly due to injuries piling up rather than lack of performance. This season is different, in a sense. Arsene Wenger has finally strengthened that one area which needed a world-class player. Welcome Petr Cech. Arsenal’s approach in this transfer window proves they mean business. Apart from Cech coming in, Wenger has allowed some top (but fringe) players to leave – Podolski (sold) and Szczesny (loan). The current players are upbeat; they can sense league success and their performance in pre-season also proved that they can make it happen. One addition in defensive midfield and the team is ready for the league as well as Europe.
EPL Arsenal transfer business 2015-16

4. Manchester United: Louis van Gaal is a task-master. The way he sidelined and sold his once-favorite striker in Robin van Persie proves it. They have been the busiest team in the transfer market. Memphis Depay was signed as soon as the last season ended. Sergio Romero was bought as backup of David de Gea. Add to it one defender in Darmain and two midfield stalwarts in Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, you already have a top team on the field. And the business in not yet done. By the time the window closes, expect some significant changes in the first team lineup. The problem doesn’t lie in attracting top talent for Manchester United, the problem lies in making them play cohesively as a unit. That was the challenge in front of van Gaal last season and it remains the same this season.
EPL Manchester United transfer business 2015-16

Special mention: Liverpool is another club buying and selling frantically. The owners gave Brendan Rodgers a long rope and a flexible budget. But time is running out for him to perform. Perform or perish will be the mantra for Rodgers at Anfield.

I can’t wait for the league to begin. It’s time for all the shocks and surprises, the ups and downs, the counter-attacks and parking the bus. Oops. Did I just cross the line? Who cares? Let the games begin!

Transfer source: Wikipedia

Monday, August 03, 2015

Thank you for everything, Dr. Kalam!

It’s been a week since the unfortunate incident. And the mourning hasn’t stopped one little bit for the majority of Indians. It’s like losing one of your own and knowing that life won’t be the same again. That’s the impact Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had on the entire nation. He loved us and we loved him. Before being the president (first citizen of the country) to being the President and even afterwards, he was always interested in meeting people and sharing his words of wisdom. Despite all the accolades that came his way, he still remained humble, true to his roots in a world filled with greed for money and hunger for power. 

I wonder how the students and faculty members of IIM Shillong might be feeling right now. They were listening to him intently and were about to be overpowered by his awe and persona when the unfortunate incident happened. I was tracking the news on Twitter but thought this might be another rumor. After all, twitter has reported death of a lot of celebrities / popular figures only for them to tweet proclaiming they are alive. Deep down, I was hoping it to be true even for Dr. Kalam. But it was not to be. News channels started their “Breaking News” stuff and in no time, the news I didn’t want to hear, started appearing in all news channels. Dr. Kalam was 83 years old.

A tribute to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam by White thoughts and Branding
Image: Kind Courtesy - White thoughts and Branding

Isn’t it poetic that he left us for heavenly abode doing what he loves doing?

Dr. Kalam was born in a poor family and was the youngest of 4 brothers and 1 sister. Due to the poor background, he started working to support his studies. By now, everyone knows he used to be a newspaper boy. He went on to graduate in Aerospace engineering. He joined DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) as a scientist then went on to become a project director who successfully launched the satellite ‘Rohini’ in the year 1980 while working for ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization). He was conferred with “Padma Bhushan” in 1981, “Padma Vibhushan” in 1990 and the biggest civilian honor “Bharat Ratna” in 1997 by the government of India. His story is a ‘rags-to-riches’ one with the only different being that his “rich” was more in terms of knowledge and compassion than money and power. He has and will continue to inspire millions to become the next ‘Kalam’.

Dr. Kalam had listed the following areas Indian need to focus on to become a "knowledge superpower" in his book “India 2020” - 
  1. Agriculture and food processing 
  2. Education and healthcare 
  3. Information and communication technology 
  4. Infrastructure, reliable and quality electric power, surface transport and infrastructure for all parts of the country and 
  5. Self-reliance in critical technologies.
..and he added one more in his recent book (Transcendence) – “Faith in God and spirituality”.

These aren’t just 5-6 pointers every other leader makes every other day in every other meeting. Dr. Kalam actually connected them and cohesively growth in these areas will make India a superpower in the real sense of the word. The essence of the above mentioned points is to become self-reliant and actually lead the world as the first mover – be it technology, infrastructure, education etc. It’s now up to the government, leaders and citizens to unite and fulfil the dream he had set for our country.

The subsequent generations will learn and know Dr. Kalam as one of the truly greats who walked the face of the Earth. His stories, the lessons to be learnt from him and his life, his witty and life-defining statements, his reign as the 11th President of India and he being known as the “People’s President” will all be part of the history books. I lived in an era when he was alive. My only regret is not being able to meet him or see him. But one day I will, for I will meet my maker one day and am sure my LORD will ask me what do I want to do first and my answer will be, “Can I meet the person who inspired millions of people on Earth, a leader who practices what he preached, a leader so rich in knowledge but was always ready to share?” 

When a well-respected and renowned person loses his life and we experience personal loss, then that’s a life worth living!

Long live, sir. Forever.

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