Archive for December, 2011

Rahul Dravid’s speech at the Sir Donald Bradman Oration in Canberra

December 14, 2011 2 comments

This is a copy of the speech. This is just amazing.  It is a long read so make time for it and read it when you have time both to read and contemplate. It is one of the finest words that has ever come out of a WALL. This is what makes him the finest ambassador of Indian Cricket.

Thank you for inviting me to deliver the Bradman Oration; the respect and the regard that came with the invitation to speak tonight, is deeply appreciated.

I realise a very distinguished list of gentlemen have preceded me in the ten years that the Bradman Oration has been held. I know that this Oration is held every year to appreciate the life and career of Sir Don Bradman, a great Australian and a great cricketer. I understand that I am supposed to speak about cricket and issues in the game – and I will.

Yet, but first before all else, I must say that I find myself humbled by the venue we find ourselves in. Even though there is neither a pitch in sight, nor stumps or bat and balls, as a cricketer, I feel I stand on very sacred ground tonight. When I was told that I would be speaking at the National War Memorial, I thought of how often and how meaninglessly, the words ‘war’, ‘battle’, ‘fight’ are used to describe cricket matches.

Yes, we cricketers devote the better part of our adult lives to being prepared to perform for our countries, to persist and compete as intensely as we can – and more. This building, however, recognises the men and women who lived out the words – war, battle, fight – for real and then gave it all up for their country, their lives left incomplete, futures extinguished.

The people of both our countries are often told that cricket is the one thing that brings Indians and Australians together. That cricket is our single common denominator.

India’s first Test series as a free country was played against Australia in November 1947, three months after our independence. Yet the histories of our countries are linked together far more deeply than we think and further back in time than 1947.

We share something else other than cricket. Before they played the first Test match against each other, Indians and Australians fought wars together, on the same side. In Gallipoli, where, along with the thousands of Australians, over 1300 Indians also lost their lives. In World War II, there were Indian and Australian soldiers in El Alamein, North Africa, in the Syria-Lebanon campaign, in Burma, in the battle for Singapore.

Before we were competitors, Indians and Australians were comrades. So it is only appropriate that we are here this evening at the Australian War Memorial, where along with celebrating cricket and cricketers, we remember the unknown soldiers of both nations.

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Borris Becker : Last of the Mohicans

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Sports like cinema creates stars and we create impressions of these stars based on the limited time that we get to see them on the TV or the stadium For some reason I always thought the rivalry is highest in individual sports than team sports, because it is a clash of individual abilities and personalities. I assume the temperament that I see on the court or the ring is what these stars take back to their living rooms. I could not have been more wrong than assuming that Amrish Puri and Amitabh Bachchan were not friends in real life.

My entire child hood I hated Stefan Edberg because he was the arch rival of my all-time tennis favorite; Boris Becker. Head-to-head match stats: Of 35 times  Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg met on the court at  Becker led the table 25-10. Edberg on the other hand won three out of four meetings in the biggest test of Grand Slams. Both of them had won the career Grand Slam titles six times each, with both failing short to win the French Open. Also both the players have won the Australian Open two times each, showing rivalry more precisely in terms of title winnings.

As a kid I followed Becker’s every game. It was time of no Internet and Doordarshan, so the task was not as easy as it is today. I had to hunt for Sportstar or Sportsworld or the international magazines in the local library to keep up with his wins and his ranks. As a  group of friends, we used to compare weekly notes on the Tennis ranking. The hunt was always on for the centerfold of Sportstar which regularly gave away poster of an international star. If Boris was on the centerfold I get to buy the magazine. The four major Grand slams were a family affair, with every one compelled to be behind Boris Becker lest they unveil the wrath of me or my younger brother. The tournament is over for me if Boris is eliminated in early rounds. The guy who defeats him would be my arch rival. So I hated a lot of Tennis Players. Notably among them are Stefan Edberg, Michel Stich, Goran Ivanisevic, Pat cash. There were a lot more whom I care not to remember.

I used to watch every match of Wimbledon and hated the French open because clay was not the best court for my star. In fact he never won the French open. Becker was not the best on the tour. He was simply someone whom I used to adore. There was a charm that I am no longer able to put into words but he was simply someone  I idolized.

I find it humorous now that I did not play Tennis, I had never set foot on a tennis court then and I still play tennis like a 10 year old. I was a cricket buff, I loved the game played the game but there was no one I could idolize. Well Viv Richards, Joel Garner, David Boon, were someone I loved but I did not follow them with the same passion as Boris Becker. In fact I cared very little about them. I have never been able to figure out why Becker evoked that passion in me. I still like him and I still get the same kind of nostalgic happiness to watch his vintage clips on YouTube.

I guess it was the playing style that enamored me the most. Becker’s game was based on a fast and well-placed serve that earned him the nicknames “Boom Boom”, “Der Bomber” and “Baron von Slam”, and great volleying skills at the net. He could supplement his pure serve-and-volley game with brilliant athleticism at the net, which included the diving volley that was considered a trademark of the young German, and which endeared him to his fans. His heavy forehand and return of serve were also very significant factors in his game. It was the serve and volley game that drew me to follow the sport. It is for the same reason I never liked French Open that was played on the  clay courts. The rush of the fast paced serve and pin point volleys made the game interesting and Boris was the best of his times. Over the years with the death of the serve and volley format and return of the power baseline games I lost my interest in the game itself.

But what happed to serve and Volley?

In part, serve-and-volley became a victim of its own success. By the mid-1990s, big-serving attackers—again, see Sampras—were winning points and games in bang-bang fashion, producing complaints of boring, monotonous tennis. The griping had merit: bereft of long rallies, matches between net-rushers lacked both flow and consistent action, reducing a game of ebb, flow and varied geometry to a soccer penalty shootout.

In response, courts were tweaked to make balls bounce slower and higher. Wimbledon, for instance, altered the composition of its grass in 2001, producing a firmer and more durable playing surface. This shifted the balance of power in the direction of baseliners, giving them valuable extra time—think a tenth of a second, which is all they needed—to line up returns and passing shots.

The 2002 Wimbledon final between Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian marked the first time since 1978 that two baseliners met for the tournament title. In a combined 150 opportunities, neither player attempted to serve-and-volley. Not once. This is the current state of Tennis. I cannot recall anyone who can be called a true serve and volley player in the top 25 players. Tennis as I like it has lost its charm. Not to say that it does not have talented players. In fact there are some great players who are playing the game right now.There are even  greater rivalries read Federer and Nadal. But this is not the game i like. The last player I really liked and followed was Pete Samparas and tennis seems to have retired after that.

Tennis I miss you……


Home Away from Home : Another Earth

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

ONE of the more memorable slogans to come out of the climate-change talks in Durban over the past few days is: “there is no planet B”. But what if there were? Over the past couple of decades astronomers have logged thousands of so-called “exo-planets”—worlds which orbit stars other than the sun. On December 5th the scientists in charge of Kepler, a space telescope designed to look for such planets, confirmed their instrument’s discovery of its first Earth-like world. It is dubbed, rather unromantically, Kepler 22b.

The existence of this planet, which circles a star 600 light-years away, in the  constellation of Lyra, had previously been suspected. Kepler, which belongs to NASA, America’s space agency, works by observing dips in a star’s brightness as a planet passes in front of it. It flags likely looking reductions as “candidate planets”, of which Kepler 22b was one. But three passes are needed to confirm a planet’s existence, and Kepler 22b has now passed this test. Crucially, it orbits well within its star’s “Goldilocks zone”: neither too close nor too far away for liquid water (and therefore, perhaps, life) to exist on its surface.

It joins two other Earth-like planets—Gliese 581d and HD 85512 b—discovered by another instrument within the past few years. In truth, the term “Earth-like” is a stretch. Kepler 22b has a radius 2.4 times that of Earth, and if it is made from roughly the same stuff its surface gravity will also be about 2.4 times as strong. But NASA’s astronomers remain unsure whether it is predominantly gaseous, liquid or solid.

These three potentially habitable exo-planets may soon be joined by many more. In the two and a half years since its launch, Kepler has spotted 2,326 candidate planets. About 650 others have been discovered by other instruments. That plethora allows astronomers to start drawing conclusions about how common various sorts of planets are. Of Kepler’s haul, 9% seem to be of a similar size to Earth (though not all are in the Goldilocks zone of their star); a further 29% are Super Earths—planets substantially larger than Earth that are nevertheless rocky. Forty-eight of Kepler’s unconfirmed candidates look as if they orbit within their stars’ habitable zones; of those, ten seem to be Earth-sized.Nevertheless, Kepler 22b is the most promising exoplanet yet found. Unlike the others, which skirt the edges of their stars’ Goldilocks zones, Kepler 22b orbits comfortably within its own. NASA’s researchers reckon its surface temperature is about 22°C, compared with 15°C (at least for now) on Earth. Its parent star is similar to the sun, again unlike those of the other two candidates, both of which orbit cooler, dimmer stars. Indeed Gliese 581d’s parent is a red dwarf—the tiniest stellar species. That means its Goldilocks zone is so close to it that the planet may be tidally locked, as the moon is to the Earth. If that were the case, one side of Gliese 581d would be permanently lit (and heated) while the other experienced unending darkness.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to let astronomers make a plausible estimate of the total number of planets in the galaxy, of the number that could conceivably support life, and of the fraction of those that could (at least in theory) sustain human colonists. If only a few of Kepler’s possible Earth-like planets turn out to be real, that third number is likely to be in the millions.

Such knowledge will mark an historic transition, says Chris Lintott, an astronomer at Oxford University who is giving the Kepler team a hand with the data analysis, since the uncertainties around the question of whether life exists elsewhere will cease to be astronomical (how many suitable planets are there?) and become purely biological (how easy is it for life to get going, and how easy is it for it to become intelligent?). Based on the preliminary data, it looks as if there are numerous suitable planets. The science of exobiology may soon cease to be an oxymoron.

Source : The Economist

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