Premier League 2015-16: Arsenal’s bottling and Leicester’s history

What a fascinating premier league season this has been. Traditional powers have faltered and a team which was almost relegated is on the verge of creating history. Against all the odds stacked up against them of skepticism (myself included up till February saying they will eventually fizzle out), the riches of the Russian and the Arab, the ‘astute’ economics of a professor and the mad should have been genius of a Dutchman. For all the neutrals out there and also for all the supporters of the smaller clubs – Leicester are carving their name deeper into stone and going right up there to remain in the premier league history for generations to come. The fairy tale ending for the club is almost here and what could be more fitting then Claudio (that oh so love able manager) lift the trophy at the very club which parted ways with him at the start of their own success era – Chelsea.

It has of course been frustrating for me as an Arsenal fan. This season should have been made more of especially in the face of Chelsea being a disaster, Liverpool rebuilding itself in the vision of Klopp, United not really going anywhere under LvG and Manchester City simply fizzling out amidst the Pep taking over next season talk. Arsenal had the squad, they had the players, they should have made more of a fight of this. But the failings were the same. Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to reinforce the squad in the summer surely has to be a huge factor in this. Not being able to strengthen in January isn’t much of a concern as genuinely there won’t be much talent on offer during the winter window (exceptions in the past exist but are rare). I take nothing away from Leicester and Tottenham in how they have played all season. They deserve to be where they are. But with all that Arsenal poses in terms of a squad they should have been fighting till the end with them. Mathematically they might have recently gone out of it but honestly Arsenal were out of the fighting back in February. When they lost to United and Swansea and failed to gain ground after winning their second match against Leicester. This was compounded by an exit from the FA Cup to Watford – a cup which has been a silver lining in the last 2 seasons. And yet another round of 16 exit in the Champions League. Its not just a mental thing anymore. They bottled it. They bottled it because some parts are mental. They bottled it because some parts were just plain wasteful and not enough depth in terms of resources. Ozil inspired and arguably had a superb season. He came into his own. He has finally started looking like the Ozil of old who is familiar now with the premier league. The first half of the season he was hailed. The second half perhaps he did find a dip but what hampered Arsenal more was the dip in form of those around him who he was creating the chances for. He can’t help it if his chances created are not being converted. Giroud and Walcott both disappointed. Welbeck was injured for ¾ of the season. Sanchez was out for almost half of it. And it has affected us. We terribly missed Carzola too. The partnership between him and Coquelin had become a driving engine for Arsenal in the midfield. So yes there were injuries as well. There were mental issues and injuries – but then there should have been more. Wenger should have gotten squad depth in the summer. The only glimmer of hope from this season now is the emergence of Iwobi. He has proven himself to be quite capable of being a regular with a good footballing brain. That and the acquisition of Elneny. Two good points. The rest however has been disappointing and that is putting it mildly. Fact remains: Arsenal should have done better this season.

 If Arsenal are to go beyond being a ‘consistent 4th place’ finisher they need some serious strategy overhaul and change. And it is going to be tougher next season with more clubs getting richer with the TV rights deal money pouring into the premier league clubs wallets. So more of the same may very well mean Arsenal don’t even qualify for Champions League next season. More of the same strategy that is. Change is necessary. Change is required. And it has to start with the board. And it has to start with the manager.

Arsene Wenger has given Arsenal 20 years of unparallel service. He will always remain a core part of what Arsenal is today and it’s modern day football successes. He has been invaluable during the club’s time of building a new stadium and the financial constraints that were presented during the time. However that is all done now and there needs to be a decisive way forward where a 4th place finish is not enough. An FA Cup victory is also not enough. There has to be more fight to challenge for the premier league and there has to be better showing in Europe. For this the board’s strategy and vision also needs to change. They are quite comfortable right now because of the astute business deliverables Wenger has been providing them and as long as that remains things will stay the same.

Arsenal need to add depth to their squad. They need to get a 20 goal a season striker. Out and out class of a striker. They need to reinforce their defense as well given Per is getting older and soon Kos will be heading towards the twilight as well. And given the performance this season a clear out of those who have been given a lot of time to establish themselves has to be done. Walcott should be done. Ox should be done. Get them out and get Mahrez if that is even slightly possible. Or someone of the like.

As for managers to be honest right now there are no clear world class options available. So don’t know what can be done in that regard. Certainly don’t want a post Ferguson type of era happening at Arsenal as it has at Manchester United.

Leicester are closer to their title triumph after drawing with Manchester United over the weekend and can very well wrap it if Tottenham fail to beat Chelsea tonight. I am all for them winning the title – they truly deserve the history they are making.

Kudos Leicester, kudos Claudio, kudos Vardy, Mahrez, Morgan, Kante and co. You deserve it.

The Year of the West Indies

‘6 6 6 6! Carlos Braithwaite! Remember that name’

Just can’t get over the emotion with which Ian Bishop was commentating when in a 4 balls West Indies turned the nail biter final of the World T20 2016 on its head. It was quite literally amazing. The young all rounder in question made the 19 required off the last over seem like a paltry sum. 4 hits and done. It was actually more or less done in the first 2 hits but he chose to hit 2 more of the same for good measure.

As a Pakistani fan and for a majority of the other Pakistani fans our World T20 triumph pretty much came when India were defeated in the semi-finals. That West Indies went on to beat England as well and clinch the title was more of a brotherly (in cricketing terms) happiness for the Caribbean team.

There is always something likeable, at least for me, when it comes to two teams – the West Indies and the Kiwis. So personally I am happy they won. And they deserved every bit of it. Starting from uncertainty and a complete lack of support from their cricket board this team literally scrapped everything together, every member of it to achieve the success they did. They triumphed against unbelievable odds off the field. On the field they banded together and played as a unit. They tried their best to cover whatever they were lacking. And they triumphed. It will make for an unbelievable story for years to come – h–w the West Indies won the 2016 World T20. And it was not just a one man show throughout the tournament. Everyone delivered in different games. There was a different hero in each game. And there were contributions here and there by everyone.

It was Gayle in the group game against England with a hammering century. It was Simmons, Charles and Russel against India in the semi-final. It was mostly Samuels against England in the final and of course the 4 ball demolition from Braithwaite.

Darren Sammy’s men also capped off with their title an overall great year for the West Indies. As it stands they are the Under 19 World ODI champions (January), the Women’s World T20 champions and the Men’s World T20 Champions. The men’s team also became the first country to lift a second World T20 title. England, SL, India and Pakistan have 1 each.

They played like a united team from a situation where the cricket board’s actions and relationship with the players would be deemed anything other than unity. They played with heart. They played with spirit. They played in a way where no one can say they didn’t deserve it. I think every neutral would have been supporting them.

The world as it is in this day and age has moved on from that euphoria on to the more current happenings of the IPL and the post world cup soul searching of certain countries’ performance at the tournament. Pakistan for one has gone into full gear of heads rolling and overhauls and calls for change. Afridi has resigned from captaincy but not opted for retirement just yet. Waqar Younis after much love hate drama with the PCB has resigned as coach. Aaqib Javed has refused to become the coach after what he deemed was the PCB going back on their word and their handling of Waqar Younis and much more. Oh and Inzi is our new head selector.

So yes all this will go on and much more. However we must not easily take away from this being the year of the Caribbean’s cricketers. Youngsters, Women and Men. The Calypso kings have truly marked 2016 as their year and in style. 6,6,6,6.

ICC World Cup 2015 – Knockout Predictions

As a nation of 180 Million Pakistanis breathed a huge sigh of relief on Sunday, the World Cup 2015 bid farewell to the group stages of the tournament.

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A couple of surprises, some strong performances and late inspirational starters have all been part and parcel so far. Runs have been a plenty, in fact I would say by the end of this tournament it would probably rank as perhaps the highest in terms of total runs scored in the history of the competition. The par scores have been beyond 300 with 3 instances of the 400 mark being reached already. Twice by the Proteas and once by the Aussies although only one of those instances was against a test playing nation (South Africa versus West Indies). It has actually been ridiculous and mundane in some instances the ease with which run  s have been pummeled so far. A little too much of the T20 nature combined with smaller grounds and new age rules to make the ODI format more fast and happening is the main reasoning for this.

However it has not been batting traffic all the way. We have seen some exceptional bowling as well especially from the pace batteries of New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan. While the attacks of the co-hosts have successfully destroyed lineups front up, the late party joiners of Pakistan have shown a separate class altogether when it comes to the batting power play and death overs bowling. Where the likes of Boult, Southee, Starc and Johnson have ripped up the batting the bowlers from Pakistan have induced a slower death – much in line with the resources they have had after losing key bowlers to injuries and suspensions. Where the hosts have been clinical, the mercurial boys in green have been surgical. In short the attacks of these three teams have kept the bowlers in this tournament.

England is not part of the quarter finals and Bangladesh successfully usurped them in Group A. The English will no doubt be gutted, distraught and left reeling from this. Their performance overall had been dismal with the bat and ball and hence this was coming their way. They lacked that edge and didn’t seem at all inspired. Pakistan started in the same fashion but thankfully rallied themselves in time to reach the quarterfinals.

The Quarterfinals:

South Africa vs Sri Lanka – Prediction: Whoever bats first will win

If South Africa Bat first I would pick them to make it to the semis ahead of the Sri Lankans. While Sangakarra has been outstanding (4 consecutive tons) along with the good form of Dilshan and Mathews I feel their bowling lacks the required cutting edge. The Proteas are suspect to a chase but if they bat first they can very well dominate the Sri Lankan attack and post a total maybe just slightly out of the reach of Sanga and company. The toss will be important and may decide the tie.Sanga DE Vil ICC

India vs Bangladesh – Prediction: India to win with perhaps a good fight from Bangladesh

India should by all counts get through this getting the easiest of the quarter final ties. However given that Bangladesh defended against England to qualify instead of them and also almost carved out a win against the Kiwis will give them a lot of confidence coming into this tie. They will play with nothing to lose and then you never know! I would still say the Indians will win thou. But wouldn’t that be something if they went out against Bangladesh. Would love to see the fireworks ads on Star Sports after that!!

Australia vs Pakistan – Prediction: Depends on which Pakistan side shows up

The clinical aggression of a somewhat efficient Australian Unit vs the quintessential art of the mercurial Pakistanis. You will hear a lot of optimism buzzing about amongst Pakistanis these days of how ‘it is quite possible for us to beat Australia’ ‘The game is in Adelaide which will help us more than the Australian bowling attack’ ‘Pakistan has the universe conspiring for it now’. While all that is great the fact of the matter is that it may very well be evenly poised or it may very well be a one sided show. It all depends really on which Pakistani side shows up. The one that choked South Africa to defend a low total or the one that capitulated against the West Indies to be 4 down on 1 run.

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New Zealand vs West Indies – Prediction: New Zealand to win

While New Zealand’s batting is not impenetrable it is at the moment hard for me to see West Indies manage a fight against their lethal attack. The likes of Boult, Southee and Vettori all being in top form should ensure a Kiwi victory and a spot in the semis. The Gayle factor is always there but of late I feel it has been less frequent. And also there is an injury concern which could keep him out of the tie altogether.

The Semis:

New Zealand vs South Africa / Sri Lanka – New Zealand to win if it’s South Africa otherwise Sri Lanka to go through to their 3rd Consecutive final. South Africa have a habit of choking on the big stage and I feel it will be against the Kiwis (has happened before) and since it will be the semis. The Kiwis would show more mental strength then the Proteas during the crunch time. However the same will not be the case if Sri Lanka are their opponents. Sri Lanka’s start was poor against the Kiwis however the same will not be the case if the two sides meet again and I would pick Sri Lanka’s batting to see off the Kiwi attack.

India vs Australia / Pakistan – Just on principle I would say in either case India will lose. My gut says this is not going to be their cup. My brain says it might. But let’s stick to the gut as we have been doing so far. Australia will be efficient and a much more difficult test for India then they have had so far in the tournament. An imploded South African performance in their match granted a somewhat easy life for the Indians during the group stages. Even with Pakistan they will face a more confident side which has gotten into its groove and would be on a high after beating South Africa in the group and then Australia in the quarters should they make it till here. Hard to call but again on principle I would say India to lose.

The final would then be an open book as per the above permutations! My gut says it will be an all Tasman Clash – Australia vs New Zealand. And unfortunately Australia will win the 5th. However that’s just my gut and it could all go quite differently from all that I am saying. It is an open tournament with no clear all out favorite. Fantastic and exciting stuff ahead!

So happy viewing to all cricket fans! Go Team Green! Pakistan all the way! 😀

The Mother of all Rivalries

Sports competitions and battles have long kept us glued to our seats or on the edge of them across the globe since forever. The adrenaline, the competition and the heroism of our warriors on field is something that never fails to attract. And all of this gets ever more exciting when it is between rivals. Whether you are the player or the fan a match or game against a rival is just as important as the entirety of the competition itself. Such rivalries tend to be larger in fact then the competition itself at times. And we have had examples of it across almost all sports since almost forever.

Formula 1 had the Niki Lauda vs James Hunt rivalry in the 76-77, Mikka Hakkinen vs Micheal Schumacher in the late 90’s and Ferrari vs the rest of the constructs since forever to name a couple of them.

Tennis had Jimmy Connors vs John McEnroe, Steffi Graff vs Monica Seles, Andre Aggasi vs Pete Sampras from the yesteryears. And at present who has not heard of Nadal vs Federer.

Football – All club football Derby Matches (Manchester United vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Tottenham, Chelsea vs Arsenal, Liverpool vs Everton, Athletico Madrid vs Real Madrid, Inter Milan vs AC Milan etc) and then of course El Classico (Barca vs Real) or the United vs Arsenal rivalry in the early 2000’s. Rangers vs Celtic in Scotland. Roy Keane vs Patrick Vierra, Messi vs Ronaldo. There are many. And all of these were/are just that big. They are bigger than the competition.

Cricket – England vs Australia, one of the oldest rivalries of all times further characterized by the Ashes series played between the two sides.

And then there is Pakistan vs India. The mother of all rivalries. A rivalry which is so famous that even people with limited interest in the sport would know about it even if they are from neither India nor Pakistan as long as they are from a cricket playing nation (minnows included). *the above being said more so because of being a Pakistani and a cricket fan

There is never any love lost between the two sides whenever or wherever they meet. Regardless of the competition, regardless of the consequence or inconsequence – your team needs to win. The feeling is mutual on either side of the border. History adds to this rivalry of course. It further fuels it. Even thou there is plenty of on field history and excitement and drama over the decades of cricket – it never really is just about the cricket. This rivalry has always been beyond even the sport itself. It’s just that mammoth.

And it has been mammoth over the decades. Miandad’s last ball six at Sharjah. Prasad’s vital 3 wickets in the 96 quarter final. The sultans of swing Waqar and Wasim. The little master Sachin. Imran Khan. Gavaskar. Saeed Anwer. Anil Kumble. All names that have had their time in this mammoth rivalry.

And on the biggest stage of ODI cricket these two teams will be starting off their respective world cup campaigns against each other come Sunday. They will be resuming their rivalry. Familiar foes meet again. What a way for the 2015 World Cup to start.

As a Pakistani of course my heart is beating and screaming for the boys in green to emerge victors. As I am sure would be my counterparts across the border. Till Sunday the barbs (oh and the Indians have come up with a  good one *reference to the firecracker ad), the conspiracies, the predictions, the experts, the seasonal fans, the specific to Pakistan vs India fans etc etc will all be buzzing, talking and dissecting everything there is to. Come Sunday of course everyone will be glued to their television sets in the anticipation of this every so mammoth clash.

I will again as a Pakistani of course be glued as well and will hope beyond hope that we defeat the Indians (if for nothing else at least so that we can give them a fitting reply to that ridiculously stinging ad). Who unfortunately we don’t have a single win against in World Cup matches. Yep. Even thou we have a superior record against them in overall ODIs – we still haven’t defeated them in World Cup encounters. The first time being in 1992 and the last one being the Semi Final in Mohali in 2011. It’s like a jinx. And they have been a better one day side over the past year or so (albeit more so at home – they have been lousy away from home as well). And they have had more time in Australia thanks to the big three keeping a triangular between themselves (all hail the powers that be at ICC – bravo on ensuring fair play for everyone). And they have a stronger batting side while our bowling is suffering from some major absentees due to injuries and suspensions (ICC please read previous line again… excellent timing on the clampdown btw).  All the logical factors point to another win for the men in blue.

But in comes the heart. This is the first world cup meet between the two sides without Tendulkar. Their perfect record against us cannot go on forever – it has to give sometime. And now seems like as good a time as any. Pakistan won its solitary world cup in Australia when the competition was held here last almost 23 years ago. Pakistan can be unpredictable on their day. And let’s not forget. We have LALA!!! AFRIDI!! (Wishful thinking I know but still you never know).

So the predictions, the logic, the wishful thinking, the heart and all of the above will go on an on till Sunday. But one thing is for sure which I will repeat again. Regardless of the bigger consequence of Sunday’s match on the remaining world cup campaign – it is a match that needs to be won. That feeling is mutual on either side of the border. Pakistan vs India is always bigger than the tournament, the rest of the competition. It’s for glory, for pride. It’s for the green and white of our flag. For Pakistan!

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2013-14: The Rollercoaster Premiership Post Fergie

So after 37 match weeks of one of the most roller coaster Premiership seasons the final day has arrived. Although it will seem pale in front of the rest of the season it will still have some if not a lot of nerves showing. Life of the Premiership post a Fergie Manchester United has been anything but predictable or consistent. It has been one of best seasons especially from a neutral’s point of view. We have seen fortunes come and go and basically come crashing down as well. And the goals have been mouth watering and a plenty! Both Liverpool and Manchester City play their final games with chances of breaking Chelsea’s record of most goals scored in a single season. It has been insane.

That most things have already been decided either in theory or by math as well is sort of a disappointment from an overall point of view. It would have made for an even more intense finale had Liverpool not drawn with Crystal Palace. Or if Norwich would not have given up the relegation battle to a mere draw with Chelsea (they didn’t fight.. they just parked the bus which was not a characteristic of a team fighting for survival. 4th place is no longer a contest and Arsenal will remain consistently in the top 4 and claim their place in the champions league for a 17th consecutive season (albeit disappointing to finish 4th after much better promise at the start of the season – they were top till Christmas – and very much in the hunt for the title till the end of February). 2 teams are already relegated. One Europa spot is already decided. In theory just the top 3 positions remain to be seen off (I cant stress enough the in theory bit), Norwich’s official relegation and the 2nd Europa position between Manchester United and Tottenham.

So as we are about to head into the kick off of the final game week, the Liverpool fans will be hoping their terrific trio (Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard) hit the the back of the net more times then the Magpies and that somehow the footballing Gods take pity on them and Gerrard the most and somehow bring out the worst performance from a Manchester City side who are ahead on points and need only draw their game to ensure they still win the title on goal difference against a West Ham side they have already comprehensively beaten 3 times this season. So in all probability the 24 year wait for a league title for the Reds will translate into year 25 years. However I would rather have preferred Liverpool to win it for Gerrard (it is my personal and humble opinion that the guy deserved to get there for all his loyalty to his boyhood club).

Liverpool have had a massive season despite that. Suarez has had a fantastic season, one which has been much beyond than just merely re-establishing his image from all the damage inflicted from the eager bites at the end of last season. 30 goals in 32 games is phenomenal. He has surely etched himself into the hearts of the Liverpool faithful and will be one of the players to watch in the upcoming world cup in Brazil. Brendan Rogers must be given absolute credit for driving the Reds to their fantastic season and managing Suarez as well. Yes that they have not had Champions League football on the side has helped and definitely something for which they will have to work accordingly for next season if they are to continue the gains from this season.

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City have not really had any dip in form throughout this season apart from when Yaya Toure was injured (who has been fantastic this season) and the initial parts of Aguero’s absence (very little). The depth in their squad thou has more than compensated for such injury absences. Their front line has been a power house of scoring especially at the Etihad and also in some away games. Their premier league focus grew stronger after their exit from the Champions league thus further (further proving the point mentioned above for Liverpool). They should easily bag their second title on the final day and this time probably on points. Pellegrini and the Sheikh will be happy men.

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Chelsea have had a good season given Mourinho was working with half a squad which was ageing, which has seen a flurry of Managers come and go over the last 7 seasons and that they were involved in the champions league up till the semi finals. It will be disappointing thou to finish the season without any silverware. The special one has again proved this season that when it comes to tactics and strategy, there are few who can match him in the game (as of now). He will have to enforce the squad for next season to bring silverware next season and again mount a sustained run for the league title and champions league both (which would be a bare minimum requirement for the boss).

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Arsenal – they have in the end had the exact same kind of season as they did last year, and the one before and the one before and the one before etc etc (need I continue). It however started very differently this time (apart from that first game). Arsenal led the league for a good part of the season. In fact between Arsenal and Liverpool they have led the league for perhaps 90% of the season. However the gunners faced uphill tasks once the injuries started flowing in. Ramsey who could potentially have had a brilliant ‘complete’ season went to injury. Walcott was out in January. There were absences in between for Ozil (our record breaking signing), Koscielny, up front etc. The season has ended more or less the same with just one hope that they might win the FA Cup against Hull and end 9 trophy-less years. And perhaps Wenger feel a little vindicated in his unwavering belief of keeping an ‘economical but quality squad’. However if they suffer any sort of collapse in the FA Cup final it will be yet another season without any sort of real positives or indication towards a move forward. And despite having consistently been in the top 4 and champions league qualification for 17 years – it is not enough. Not for the fans and most definitely not enough for sustainability as an ambition. The competition is getting tougher in the Premier League (it is by far one of the most competitive leagues). Everton almost beat them to the 4th place. Wenger needs to either reinforce heavily or he needs to say sayonara even if they win the FA Cup (which I doubt will happen). I feel it is perhaps time for a new thought process at the Emirates. And I say this as a fan who has been very supportive of the Professor’s way of management and results with the resources we have had. But now time has come to move forward and aim higher.

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And continuing on the same vein as being a Gooner – Manchester United have had by far the worst possible season. It has been their worst in many years. They have let teams come and win at Old Trafford who haven’t won in 20, 30 or 40 years. Or even those who have NEVER won at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Moyes will not be remembered well by the United faithful. He has had to endure a squad which has not nearly hit anywhere near the type of quality they are capable of. They have been utterly disappointing at home and have recorded their lowest points table in their Premier League history. I for one have thoroughly enjoyed their season, their fans journey from ‘Moyes is the chosen one’ to ‘Go home Moyes’. Sir Alex didn’t do him any favors either by leaving him a squad which was not really well equipped for this season and especially without the great Scot at the helm of affairs. It will be very interesting to see how they respond next season without Champions League and probably under the leadership of Louis Van Gaal. In all fairness a club like Manchester United need a big manager who is capable of managing big players and big squads along with big expectations of the fans and board alike. Moyes for all his endurance and achievements (albeit of mediocrity as shown by Martinez’s Everton) in the preceding years with Everton was never going to be successful in filling Fergie’s shoes. But the expectation might have been a far 3rd or 4th. To miss out on Europe altogether has been a culture shock for everyone at Manchester United that goes well beyond the term ‘in transition’.

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So as I finally wrap this blog we are at half time of the final gameweek and as things stand:

United are missing europe completely losing to Southampton and with Spurs winning at Villa

Chelsea and Liverpool are both trailing while City are leading.

So as it would seem – there are no twists left for the season. But then again you never know. Kudos 2013-14 – a fantastic season you have been, from a neutral’s point of view of course.

United’s 20

Well one can say whatever they want to. They can say it was a one man show this season for them. They can say that it wasn’t a case of a gulf in the quality of the squads just more occasions of not dropping points. That they were luckier. That they had fewer competitions to focus on for the final third of the season. Blah Blah Blah. Regardless, Manchester United have clinched a 20th league title (now the club with the highest league title wins, 1 ahead of Liverpool). And they have done so sitting quite comfortably.

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For United it was a great achievement especially doing with 5 games to spare and redeeming themselves from last season. I mean all the more sweeter when you are reclaiming it from your ‘noisy neighbors’. And let’s be honest. Even the noisy neighbors were more or less out of the race by early March. I mean it didn’t seem like it would be a repeat of last season where United would start dropping points. Rio’s dig at City was all too obvious when he said ‘We did it the right way. On points and not on goal difference’. Last season did hurt the Red Devils and vengeance has been all too sweet.

They have been the more consistent team in the Premier League by far this season. They may not have been a dominant outfit with an outright gulf in class. BUT they have managed to win the title with an extremely comfortable point gap. 13 points between them City (who sit second). They have deserved this and rightly so.

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The biggest impact (as also stated by Sir Alex Ferguson himself) has been that of Robin Van Persie. 23-24 goals for United and a hat trick against Villa in the last game to win Premier League. I am an Arsenal fan – and of course as a gunner I am not all that happy about the fact that we didn’t even figure into title fight for a good part of the season. Or the fact that we sold our captain and highest goal scorer to united in the summers. But I am happy for RvP. He needed this. Had been giving a lot at Arsenal and he performed till the very last game. He kept giving 100% but the fact is that he isn’t getting any younger and it is only natural for him to yearn for winners medals to add to his career. That wasn’t seemingly coming through with Arsenal so he made the difficult decision to move on. So again I am happy for him. Kudos Robin, kudos United. Ferguson also commented that Wenger while selling RvP to United quite hesitantly said to him ‘He is far better than you think’. I think the first 6 months of the season more or less proved that. Money well spent.

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Another player who should be hailed for this wonderful achievement is Ryan Giggs. I have always admired Giggs. He has been a phenomenal player for United and continues to be one actually. He is 40 and he has managed to play a pivotal role this season to add to his and United’s achievements. I think he has been one of the fantastic greats to have blessed this game and a rare breed of footballers that are few and far in between.

And finally coming to Sir Alex himself. Again a legend for football. For English football. For Manchester United. His feats would be very very difficult for any manager to achieve let alone whoever does take up his role once Fergie decides to call it quits. Amazing, glistening managerial career.

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Congratulations United, congratulations Robin van Persie, congratulations Ryan Giggs, congratulations Sir Alex Ferguson.

See you next season

The Caribbean Kings! WorldT20, 2012 Champs

They had two incomplete games in the group stages. After a 5 run win over the English, a one sided loss to Sri Lanka and a super over victory over the Kiwis their fate was in the result of the Lanka-England match with a poor net run rate. But come the semis the Caribbean kings rose.

A complete annihilation of the Aussies in the semi finals was a treat to watch. 205 runs with the bat and a ‘Gayle’-storm of sixes!

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Of course Gayle wasn’t the only one hitting them, but given his name and his contribution being 75 it seems fitting. And then with the ball, my lord, it seemed like the Australians were out of sorts with that daunting total in sight. Kudos to Bailey for going down like a fighting captain.

Then came the final. The first 10 overs seemed very predictable of a modern and recent West Indies team. 32 in 10 overs. They were after all playing Sri Lanka at their home ground. The pitch was made to favor the Lankan’s strengths. I had literally written off the final by that time saying there was no chance in hell that they will win it. Samuels had other ideas. A splendid match winning knock of 77 meant that he gave his side a slightly decent total, if not the best. It was impressive but I still wasn’t convinced. It was only when Dilshan went on the first ball, an absolute beauty from Ravi Rampaul that I started thinking there could be the other possibility. That was an unplayable delivery especially if it is the first ball of the innings. The best batsmen would find themselves getting bowled or hand a nice edge towards slip on that delivery. From there on the party had already started. The West Indians had sensed victory and it spurred them on. They threw themselves in the field. They bowled tight. They had energy. They had the vibe with them. And as Bravo took Malinga’s catch the Caribbean King’s had returned to be crowned World Champions after 33 years.

Prior to the 1999 world cup I had always enjoyed watching the Windies because of three players: Lara, Ambrose and Walsh. Since then, I have always longed for West Indian success because of some unexplainable sympathy for them. They are a fun side to watch especially if they are winning. I think it is because of the genuine happiness that one sees on the field. Or maybe it is because they were the first dominant side of the game. Clive Lloyd’s side that won the inaugural and second world cup. Or maybe this time because of their celebrations! I don’t know. But After Pakistan I have always found myself siding the Windies in world tournaments. And it was truly fun to see them win and then celebrate.

Congratulations West Indies, you are the 2012 World T20 champions. You deserve it!

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