Let the Games begin – an Indian sports fan’s demand to the new “Sarkaar”!

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Narendra Modi has “Maxwell”-ed the Congress and India is happy. At least that’s the reaction I fathom from the numerous Facebook updates and tweets that have been flooding my timeline since morning.

Am I happy?

I don’t know, in fact, I don’t have an idea whether the change of rule in India is for the better or for the worse. Hang on! Before you start taking my case and stamp me as an “Indian who doesn’t care”, let me explain.

Though I belong from a heavily opinionated political family, I don’t have any political alliances, nor do I enter into any debate around it. Not that I don’t understand it; I don’t have the expertise and it simply doesn’t interest me.

I am a selfish individual and all I have ever wanted from any government, is not to poke their nose into my business. (Also err…make marijuana legal….but meh!).

I am not overtly patriotic. I don’t take part in candle marches, nor does my eyes tear up at the state of the people of my country. However, my blood boils with national fervor whenever a group of men/ women step on to any sporting arena wearing the blue jersey.

“Oh! Not sports again!” – I know most of your reactions. I am a sports guy and most of India doesn’t really take me seriously. Forget India, most of my friends don’t take me seriously because in a nation that’s struggling with corruption, malnutrition, economic issues and basic social problems, I am concerned about something that’s for the privileged.

But one man took “sports” seriously and he showed what it can do in the development of a nation. For the uninitiated, am talking about Nelson Mandela. Mandela was perhaps the only leader who saw the potential sport can play in the development of a nation. When he came in charge after thirty years in prison, he was handed a nation torn apart with various socio-economic issues.

However, his first challenge was to unify the nation even before he could think about development.

What did he do? He picked the most popular sport in the country and brought the nation under one umbrella.

How? Go watch “Invictus”, if you still haven’t!

India doesn’t have the problems Mandela had. We are a progressing nation. We are a multi-skilled nation and we are going up the charts at a tremendous pace. Indians are everywhere; ranging from information technology to any scientific innovation, you will find at least one Indian in the core team.

But we are miles behind in sports and this time I want something from the government.

We are a very strong cricketing nation and I proudly say that. What we have achieved in cricket is beyond description and we are growing stronger with every passing year.

But our sporting achievements end there. There are a few fleeting once-in-a-blue-moon Mary Kom moments but as a sporting nation, we don’t stand anywhere on the global map.

Whether you like it or not, the most powerful and the progressive nations are very strong in sports – the United States dominate the Olympics, so does China. Australia and the UK are monster challengers in almost every sport and Spain, a country as small as Maharashtra, is a top ranker in prime sporting categories.

Okay, they have the financial muscle but turn your attention to Brazil – it has become the favoured destination of most sporting events. Pick up any African country, they outrank India in most sports.

Is India really that pathetic?

We are not bad at all. We just don’t take ourselves seriously and think about jobs rather than careers. We are a scared nation and we don’t risk ourselves to invest in our talented ones. We are just happy being mediocre.

So, my first request to Mr. newly elected Prime Minister is to break the mindset and remind all Indians that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Let’s convert India into a physically fit nation that can take on and compete with the biggest sporting forces in the world.

It’s not easy and by no means am expecting miracles but luckily opportunities are banging on India’s doors.

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Start with the FIFA u-17 football World Cup, 2017 – undeniably the biggest deal in Indian sport in recent years. It has landed onto India’s lap unexpectedly and this government has three solid years to work on it. Let’s not make it into another Commonwealth Games, instead surprise the world with a spectacular event.

Back the Indian Super League and produce more Bengaluru FCs – it’s high time India stopped cheering for the Messis and Ronaldos and started applauding Rahim Nabi’s crunching tackles.

Get Formula One back in India. It was a shame that India lost one of its crowning glories last year due to petty financial disputes. I hope this government realises the potential of the sport and forces it back into the country, especially, when Force India is doing remarkably well.

Get boxing back on track – last Olympics, the Indians pugilists punched way above their weight to showcase the reservoir of talent India possesses in boxing. No, we can never produce a Md. Ali or a Mike Tyson but we surely can get Vijender Singh back punching the guts out of his opponent rather than gyrating his hips to a real “Fugly” song!

Invest in badminton – Saina, Sindhu, Ashwini, Jwala, Kashyap and the list goes on. Last IBL showed India’s prowess in badminton. It has to be India’s next big happening sport. Get investors put in their money because only awarding “Arjuna Awards” isn’t going to cut it at the highest level.

Produce the next Leander Paes – Once upon a time, we used to beat the biggest bad-asses of tennis in Davis Cups and also won the bronze at the Olympics in tennis. Since then, the Indian tennis story has taken the wrong route. Sania Mirza’s marriage and Leander- Bhupathi’s break-up has hogged the limelight instead of pushing the Somdevs to the next level.

Hockey – time for the national sport to stand up and they don’t need the crutches, supply them with a strong back bone.

We are an intelligent country but where’s the next Vishy Anand? Instead, Norway produces a freaky brainy kid who beats our maestro. It’s time that a few IIT aspirants concentrated more on the chequered board rather than matrix calculations from M.L. Khanna.

Work with the BBCI and utilise their potential – Stop crying about its success and start working with it. The relationship between Indian politics and the Indian cricket board is that of greed. Every politician wants to be a part of it because of the money it churns out. BCCI is a bully and it’s corrupt. But that is India’s biggest advantage. BCCI is a lot of things but it has never fooled around with Indian cricket.

Yes, it makes an obscene amount of money through questionable means but they care about cricket and have invested a lot in the game. So, strike a partnership with the strong lads and make the Indian team the strongest in the world.

Those are my demands from the new government. India is on the brink of a sporting revolution and THIS is the chance for India to unleash it’s true potential on the world map of sports.

But will anyone care? Will these requirements be ticked off?

I know, the government has its plates full and has to build bridges, dams, houses but if their can’t tap in the passion of sport in this country and build us into a sporting super power, they will be as useless to me as their predecessors.

Congratulations Mr. Modi but if you can’t act on these demands, “maaf karna Sarkaar”, I simply don’t care.

IPL 7: The Punjabis are in the house and are rocking it!

The Punjabi rock stars!

The Punjabi rock stars!

As a former cricket expert and a writer, I never found any joy in writing about IPL matches. No, I don’t belong to the “purists” who think IPL is killing cricket, I just never found enough material to analyse and pen down.

Yes, the “Yes” Bank maximums were always there but that’s not what cricket is about, is it? For me, the IPL is a good two months of fun, where I can sit back, relax, enjoy and marvel at KKR’s innovative ways of losing games.

However, when you are entertained, you do need to leave a note of appreciation. The Kings XI Punjab have amazed me this season. I had always had a soft spot for the Mohali side because of their owner and their kit. My heart skips a beat whenever I see Priety Zinta’s dimples and I certainly admired their kit’s strong resemblance with Arsenal.

That was it. But this season, they have added a few more to that list.

It started with the auction. They meant business, bought big and landed an ensemble of very useful players. What struck was their clarity in thinking. The management knew who and what they wanted. Everybody acknowledged the business they did but no one ever anticipated the devastation that they have caused till now.

Kings XI Punjab has been destructive yet beautiful. Their batting can strike fear into any opposition and their bowling, the weak link, has begun to gain structure. However, the most refreshing and attractive part (apart from PZ’s smile) has been their free-spirited display and their intent to entertain.

The Maxwell-Miller show has been phenomenal and their performances have rubbed off confidence on the rest of the squad. Right now, they look invincible. Sandeep Sharma is swinging it a mile, Akshar Patel is bang on target and even Virender Sehwag is showing flashes of his brilliance.

 But against the Royal Challengers, it was Shivam Sharma who took every cricket lover’s breath away.

Who is Shivam Sharma?

Go Google him. Even Cricinfo doesn’t have much idea – Delhi U-19s, right-hand bat, right arm off-break – that’s all you will get.

According to Cricinfo, the game against RCB was his debut at national level and what a debut it was. No, I am not talking about the wickets he took or the tight line he bowled. This 1993 born turned the clock back and took us into the era where off-spin bowling was an art-form and not a super market of 36,000 variations.

A high-arm, side-on action coupled with an impressive turn on the toes, this 21-year old bowled traditional off-spin for four overs and foxed the mighty batting line-up of the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Much like Graeme Swann, he flighted the ball, imparted loop, got it to drift and made Yuvraj Singh and Albie Morkel dance to his artistry. He pitched the ball on off-stump and turned it away from the left-handers. He got lofted by AB de Villiers a couple of times into the stands but not for a single delivery, did the young man from Delhi cut down on his flight and pushed it through.

He probably doesn’t know how to bowl a doosra and perhaps lacks the expertise of the carrom ball. He may not go on to play for India and might never become a star, but what he did with traditional off-spin against RCB, should be a lesson for the likes of Harbhajan Singh, R. Ashwin and Sunil Narine.

The M&M show!

The M&M show!

That’s what Punjab has done commendably this IPL. They have let their players be fearless. According to Glenn Maxwell, there’s no pressure to perform in this side. No one talks about finals and all everyone is worried about is enjoying the next game.

And boy, aren’t they enjoying themselves! The captain is ever smiling and although, I am not a fan of George Bailey, you can’t deny the calmness he has brought to this team. He isn’t the greatest cricketer on the park but he looks in control. He hardly comes out to bat, waltzes around the field in the most laid back manner, doesn’t wave his arms around and looks to be having fun even when the opposition is on top.

And it is this “having fun” attitude of the Kings XI that’s sending chills down the spines of the opponents. Even the Chennai Super Kings collapsed in front of them, twice.

Frankly speaking, Kings XI Punjab has been one of the underdogs for some time now. So, who deserves the credit for this turn around? Who masterminded their resurgence? Priety Zinta? Ness Wadia? George Bailey? Sanjay Bangar? Or is it just “one of those” seasons where everything falls in place?

Experts will have a dozen of opinions for what has clicked for Kings XI but as a cricket fan, do you really want to analyse something that’s so entertaining?

I certainly don’t. That’s the beauty of IPL, it guarantees entertainment. The Kings XI have nailed it so far – the perfect cast, a great script and a sensational opening sequence.

Can they deliver a killer ending?

I really don’t care. The Punjabis are in the house and are rocking it Yo Yo style!

This 2014 edition of Kings XI Punjab is already Priety Zinta’s biggest blockbuster till date!