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…this has been the story of my life…

I am not sure why, but especially on matters sporting, i have always been a die-hard fan of the second best (or second most visible…)

When the second-best one, through dint of hard work ends up becoming numero uno as well, as Rahul Dravid has done now and Stefan Edberg has done in the past, my cup runneth over…

Otherwise, even when I have been an aficionado of the undisputed numero uno (eg Michael Jordan) my loyalty has always been with the second gun (Scottie Pippen with the Bulls, VVS Laxman throughout his illustrious career that has delivered but only 10 splendid centuries, Leander Paes,…)

The sole exception I can think of is Steffi Graf…she came out of the gates strong, something about her hard-working no-nonsense clean and crew-cut style appealed to me and she remained a favorite till she called it a day several years later…for once, Gabriela Sabatini and Monica Seles never supplanted her in my eyes….

…perhaps this is the reason why I am rooting for the Portuguese soccer (or should we say real football?) team, Michael Schumacher, Vijay Singh and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (over his more heralded fellow-south-paw skipper)…

Comments

Jaunty Quicksand said…
Except for Laxman and Edberg, the common trait with all your favourites is that they lacked the talent the alpha-dogs of their sport did, but that did not deter them from carving a niche for themselves. If Laxman had been treated better by the selectors and management, he would have more than his 10 centuries. Though to be fair, many of his splendid innings have been 50’s, proving to be the difference between victory and defeat, like Dravid’s twins in the Kingston Test.

2:40 PM

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Kaiser said…
why was Schumacher pushed to an underdog Status ? He never was and will never be so

2:04 AM

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I read a great statistic today – that in the 9 test matches that VVS Laxman has played since Greg Chappell became the coach of the Indian side, he batted in 9 innings and has 2 centuries, 2 50s, a solitary duck of a suspect lbw decision in Pakistan, and is still not considered worthy of a place in the side. That Laxman in this timespan has the second highest average in the team (only after the resplendent Dravid) only adds to the intrigue. And the average is not a doddering number either but a splendid 65 or thereabouts!

Yuvraj Singh does command a place – because he alone scored runs in Karachi, and then had a wonderful ODI series in Pakistan. Also is supposedly a better fielder – but at cover point, not in the slips where dolly after dolly of a catch was dropped while India’s best slip fielder sat out the game. In the same way as we are picking horses for courses, should we not be picking fieldsmen by position in the field. So if we are picking a 1-day team, absolutely pick Yuvraj – but then performance in the one-dayers should not be used as a predictor of performances in the longer form.

Laxman should be the 2nd slip by default in the test team.

The irony is this. I think that when Laxman is sure of a place in the side, he bats better. And when he bats well, of course his position is not challenged. When India goes overseas, nobody questions the value of the second-best “wall” in the side, thus he is assured of a spot and seemingly does so much better than in home series on the dead wickets of the subcontinent.

I know he will be a fixture on the tour to South Africa – and will come back with at least one more century and one 50 if not more in the tests there.

and the very very interesting discussion that followed thereafter:

Jaunty Quicksand said…
Can you link to that article that talks about Laxman? The writer is doing VVS a disservice by glossing over the numbers, trying to make his look better than they are, opening himself to ridicule. In comparison to the others VVS is still quite favourable and your reasoning is quite good about the validity of his place in the side, ironically for his superior slip fielding.From CricInfo, I got the following batting stats since Chappell became the coach:
140 1st Test v Zim at Bulawayo
8 2nd Test v Zim at Harare
5-DNB 1st Test v SL at Chennai
69-11 2nd Test v SL at Delhi
104-5 3rd Test v SL at Ahmedabad
0* 1st Test v Pak at Lahore
90-8* 2nd Test v Pak at Faisalabad
19-21 3rd Test v Pak at Karachi 0-0* 1st Test v Eng at Nagpur

The writer used stats to suit his story. I am not sure where he got his numbers. Laxman has scored 480 runs @ 43.63, with 2 centuries, and 2 fifties in 11 completed innings. And, yes, he is tied with Dravid in the 100+ scores for the period. (In 50+ scores he loses second place to someone you would not guess immediately).

For comparison:
Yuvraj has scored 375 runs @ 41.66 with 1 century and 2 fifties in 9 completed innings.
Tendulkar 431 runs @43.1 with 1 century in 10 completed innings (he missed the Zimbabwe tour).
Sehwag has scored 541 @45.08 with 1 century (a statistic-skewing 254) and 2 fifties in 12 completed innings.
Dravid has scored 1003 runs @ 77.15 in 13 completed innings with 5 fifties and 2 centuries (2 90+ scores in there!)
Pathan has scored 509 runs(!!) @ 39.15 in 13 completed innings with 5 fifties!

BUT statistically the second best batsman has been one with 698 runs @69.8 in 10 completed innings with 1 century and 1 fifty!! This mystery guy? MS Dhoni (who did not even have the chance to play Zimbabwe to bolster his numbers).

By the way, for the purposes of this exercise I disregarded the current Test at Bombay. But then only Dhoni and Dravid would improve, so maybe it is a good thing I did not include it!! 🙂

Maybe I should make a blog entry out of this, too, on my blog.

Comments?

5:13 PM

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Buck said…
Let me check on this. I picked up the stat in a new Mumbai based newspaper called DNA (perhaps our mutual friend Aruna can dig out this column from the March 20th edition if she can lay her hands on it) yesterday on a short trip to Mumbai.The exact stat the writer quoted was 9 matches, 9 innings for Laxman with 2 not outs and a 62.xx average.

And yes, the writer did refer to Irfan Pathan’s 50s – in fact the column was about how the tail wagging well has offset some of the failures of the top-order. Dhoni came in with a 50+ average but less than Laxman.

BTW, I am deriving a certain vicarious pleasure from India tumbling to 100 All Out in the Wankhede test!

4:20 AM

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Jaunty Quicksand said…
I found the article in the March 21st edition of DNA. (The whole paper can be read online in an easy viewing format).The link is:
http://digital.dnaindia.com/epapermain.aspx?queryed=9&eddate=3/21/2006

Mohandas Menon’s numbers are WRONG. He says he includes the Mumbai test (but only after the first innings at that point).

If you go back and see the article, one look at Jaffer’s stats (for instance) tells you that Mohandas Menon made a mistake. For Wasim Jaffer he has his stats listed as:
3 matches, 3 innings, 0 not out, 142 runs, 1 century, 1 fifty, no 0’s. How does one century and one fifty add up to 142 runs?? He made a blunder somewhere in his sorting/statistical filter and DNA took it and ran it without checking the numbers.

Jaffer’s numbers (including the completed Bombay Test are:
250 runs @41.67 in 6 innings, with 1 century and 1 fifty.

By the way, I made ONE mistake. Dravid’s correct numbers are as follows:
Dravid: 825 in 12 completed innings (3 not outs) @68.75
(I made a mistake the last time I added the numbers).

Do we call up DNA on this?

3:34 PM

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Buck said…
if you had to recast Mohandas Menon’s table with correct data, how would the numbers bear out?

1:23 AM

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Jaunty Quicksand said…
I have redone the table, carefully going over all the numbers. I made a few corrections to the totals I had earlier (also this time I included the Bombay Test so all the averages are down a little bit from earlier, except the ones that did not play). I used Statsguru on CriInfo for the numbers along with a calculator, so all errors are mine and mine alone.Virender Sehwag: 10 16 547 39.07 254 1 2
Wasim Jaffer: 3 6 250 41.67 100 1 1
Gautam Gambhir: 5 8 198 28.28 97 0 1
Rahul Dravid: 10 16 834 64.15 128* 2 6
Sachin Tendulkar: 9 13 335 27.9 109 1 0
VVS Laxman: 9 14 480 43.63 140 2 2
Yuvraj Singh: 9 12 424 38.55 122 1 2
MS Dhoni: 9 13 434 36.16 148 1 2
Irfan Pathan: 11 15 541 36.06 93 0 5
Sourav Ganguly: 6 7 272 38.85 101 1 0

6:58 PM

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Jaunty Quicksand said…
Cleaning up the numbers to sort by Innings-Runs-Average-centuries-fifties, and also in decreasing order of aggregate runs the numbers look like this:Rahul Dravid: 16 834 64.15 2-6
Virender Sehwag: 16 547 39.07 1-2
Irfan Pathan: 15 541 36.06 0-5
VVS Laxman: 14 480 43.63 2-2
MS Dhoni: 13 434 36.16 1-2
Yuvraj Singh: 12 424 38.55 1-2
Sachin Tendulkar: 13 335 27.9 1-0
Sourav Ganguly: 7 272 38.85 1-0
Wasim Jaffer: 6 250 41.67 1-1
Gautam Gambhir: 8 198 28.28 0-1

7:05 PM

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Buck said…
satisfying enough – so Laxman is still the second best in terms of average, has 2 centuries, and so on….Mr Chappell has some serious introspection to do.

11:58 PM

There is a frequent debate amongst my circle of friends about the relative importance of a college basketball program with respect to preparation for subsequent success in the NBA.

For example the much heralded Duke program has really produced just 2 top-notch and perhaps one or two tier-2 NBA players in the last decade or so – Grant Hill and Elton Brand qualify in the “Outstanding” category and Shane Battier and the player who was perhaps the best NCAA basketball player ever, Christian Laettner, are perhaps the two others who have gone on to have meaningful professional careers. The jury is still out on Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, Jay Williams’ career emerged still-born due to an off-field mishap and in general Duke basketballers including Mike Dunleavy Jr have failed to match their college success without the nurturing coaching of Mike K and the avid support of the system from the great Univ in Durham NC.

Their legendary rivals from across the Research Triangle Park, the UNC Tar Heels, have done a far better job of preparing players for a career as professional NBA players – apart from MJ and James Worthy, several others have had very distinguished NBA careers including Larry Brown, Rasheed Wallace, Sleepy Sam Perkins, Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Bob McAdoo, Kenny Smith and Rick Fox.

Two very productive colleges in recent times have been the Univ of Arizona (Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Damon Stoudamire, Jason Terry, Clifford Robinson, Andre Iguodala and one of my personal favorite player-philosophers Steve Kerr stand out) and the University of Connecticut (Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, etc). Georgetown has produced a profusion of outstanding big men incl Patrick Ewing, Alonzon Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo though my personal favorite from there has to be the inimitable Allen Iverson.

For sheer numbers of NBA players produced, few colleges can compare with the profusion from Kentucky, UCLA and Kansas, though their greatest products came out a long time back.

Here is a very helpful link for analyzing NBA players grouped by their alma mater… http://www.basketballreference.com/players/playerbycollege.htm


…across a broad spectrum of life, there is a group of celebrities who have, often very quietly, turned 40 over the past 12-15 months.

Stefan Edberg, the gentleman Swede who captivated a whole generation with his outstanding battles with Boris Becker, turned 40 in typical relative anonymity in Jan 2006. He espouses the best of great champions – they know how to win, they know how to win with grace, they live life by their own lofty standards, and when they feel those standards cannot be sustained they go away…very few sports personalities have shown this ability to know themselves and their limitations as well. I have fond memories of the epic come-back at Wimbledon in the summer of 88 against the mysterious and vastly under-appreciated Miroslav Mecir – that to me is a game for the ages… I still remember the impudent Michael Chang upsetting Edberg’s rhythm at Roland Garros by standing inside the baseline for his FIRST serve and costing Stefan the opportunity to win the one grand-slam tourney he never won…

…very different in upbringing and polish, very different in terms of social milieu and comfort in the limelight was Scottie Pippen. More misunderstood than appreciated, Pippen for numerous fans of the NBA from the late 80s through the early 2000s represented the quintessential team basketball player. While showing an ability to light up the scorecard, Scottie is best remembered for the times he did not do anything statistically and yet changed the outcome of games and playoff series. Who can forget the defensive job he did on Indiana’s Mark Jackson taking the point guard out of the game entirely with his swarming defense and leaving the potent offense in shambles…. the series of charges he took from Karl Malone as he proved that he could defend all 5 positions on the court (of course having Greg Ostertag at Center helped!) in the two NBA Finals series against Utah. His occasional blog on espn.com is remarkable for its candor and honesty – hopefully he will find a way to get back and involved in the game of basketball again. The NBA could use grassroots champions like him to sustain the game as it becomes increasingly elitist…

…JK Rowling turned 40 in July 2005… again a champion like Pippen who goes to show that where there is a will, there is definitely a way… how else can one explain the metamorphosis of a single-mother on welfare creating one of the most significant alternate worlds since the heyday of Tolkien…

For fans of Bollywood, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan all turned 40 over the course of 1965… amazing coincidence this.

And some appropriate comments from when this was first posted:

 

Jaunty Quicksand said…
Stefan Edberg is also the only person to have won the Grand Slam as a junior. For me his most impressive feat was winning the US Open (in ’92?) in spite of trailing by a break in the 5th set in three consecutive matches (I think it was the year he beat Pete Sampras in the finals).A true measure of the guy is that he won the ATP sportsmanship award so many times, it is now officially known as the Edberg Sportsmanship Award.

By the way, he also won the gold when tennis was a demonstration sport in 1984 and two bronzes in 1988.

3:15 PM

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Jaunty Quicksand said…
Steve and Mark Waugh – June 2 1965.

2:07 AM

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Buck said…
..the Waughs indeed..read that AR Rehman is pushing 40, not there yet!

5:54 PM

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Aruna said…
how about vishwanathan anand? should be close to 40 as well i guess….not sure…..

12:49 PM

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Buck said…
I know he is younger than 40 – Dibyendu Barua is in the turning 40 generation, and Anand is 3-4 years younger.

…it is amazing how competitive mankind is. Equally amazing is how the most docile of creatures, under provocation, comes out to be quite leonine in his or her desire to achieve mastery of the chosen domain.

Yet competition is good. Lack of competition leads to servility, ennui and a sense of hopelessness. It is amazing how long teams like the Boston Red Sox stayed competitive, fueling the hope and imagination of all of New England, while enduring the years of let-downs and supposed curses. The saga of how the New England Patriots came out of nowhere to emerge as the numero uno pr0 sports franchise in the region, surpassing the Boston Celtics of the NBA and the Red Sox of Baseball, is well documented.

But wait, did I say numero uno. No way – the Red Sox have always been the team of the region, their years of futility only fueling renewed optimism and interest, and their eventual World Series victory of 2004 serving as redemption for so many fans.

I wonder why fans are loyal to a team and crazy about players any more, especially in the mercenary world of professional sports where neither the owner nor the players have any loyalty to the region they belong to. Global professional soccer is nearly the same, though at least there has been no talk of teams relocating yet.

Perhaps the only major spectator team-sport worthy of passionate fan loyalty (got my English all tangled up there!) is cricket – where at least at the country level, players are true to their nations….

All of us, regardless of the path we choose, knows of a Barry Sanders.
Barry Sanders is of course the great NFL Running Back of the Detroit Lions, one-time Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma State, who mysteriously made a career of not achieving records. He retired mysteriously at 31, just one season short of overhauling Walter Payton’s record for career rushing yards by an NFL Running Back. He had 76 100-yard rushing games, again just short of Payton’s 77 and Emmitt Smith’s 78!

In an era when athletes have been glorified for their arrogance and attitude, Barry Sanders’ humility stands out. Each Sanders’ touchdown was characterized by a humble tossing of the football to the referee and a disciplined jog to the sideline.

He is one sportsman I will admire for a long long time, for me, my favorite Running Back of all time.