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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Bank draws flak for splurging crores on Sachin

London: The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had spent Rs 1600 crore on sponsorship deals with top sportsperson including batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar just days before being bailed out by the government, a media report said on Sunday.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, to please its clients, former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin signed five-year contracts with Tendulkar and other sporting personalities last October, just weeks before his ouster from the company.

"Royal Bank of Scotland, bailed out with billions of pounds of taxpayers money, hired top sports stars on reckless contracts to entertain clients as part of a 200-million-pound sponsorship binge," the newspaper reported.

"Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian cricket hero, signed a five-year deal just weeks before Goodwin was ousted," it added.

However, RBS, which announced a loss of 28 billion pounds last month, the biggest in British commercial history, said it was obliged to honour the deals.

Reacting to this, a member of the Treasury Select Committee, John Mann said, "They (RBS) have been reckless yet again. This doesn't seem to be a bank that could do anything in moderation. It now needs to realise the golden days are over."

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I was surprised by Sourav's decision: Sachin

Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar has expressed shock over the treatment meted out to senior cricketers in the country. In an exclusive interview to NDTV, cricket's highest run-getter said, "I think there should be some respect shown to senior players who have made major contributions."

The world's most respected batsman went on to add that in no other country were the seniors treated with such lack of respect.

"Lack of respect towards senior players doesn't happen anywhere," he said.

In the midst of India-Australia Test series, which has been marked by intense speculation on the retirement plans of India's seniormost cricketers, the batting maestro hit out at the critics saying it was up to the seniors to decide the time and place of their retirement.

"We all know when to move away from the sport. But people have their opinions. Sometimes these opinions are not correct. But one is made to believe that this is the right opinion.

"I think this should be left to an individual. Having said this, we have played enough to know exactly when to move away from the game. The individuals will take their decisions when they feel it's the right time," he asserted.

About Sourav Ganguly's decision to quit, Tendulkar said he was surprised and did not know what was going on in Ganguly's mind and what he thought of his future.

"I was surprised by Sourav's decision to quit. I am sure it must have taken him a long time to reach there. And it's a big decision. But if he feels that it is the way to go, then we all should respect his decision," Tendulkar said.

Sachin, Beyond legendary - Kumar Sangakkara

As an international cricketer of the current generation, the Tendulkar era, I will always have one striking memory of Sachin that will be forever etched in my mind: his thrilling entrance onto a cricket field. The anticipation of him emerging from the pavilion, and his walk from the boundary to the centre, is almost surreal. The sound of a passionate Indian crowd all chanting "Sachin, Sachin" as they wait in anticipation, followed by the enormous roar when he emerges onto the field, is electrifying.
That experience also tells you much about Sachin and his special place in the game's history. He is not just the finest and most complete batsman of the past two decades. In a country that is cricket-mad, where players are deified and worshipped, he stands out and stands alone. In a continent of cricketing legends of the calibre of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev, and in a tradition of cricket that has produced other great heroes, Sachin seems to have transcended all of them and achieved a revered, almost superhuman, stature.
I remember playing in a charity game in 2003 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Thousands of people turned out to watch the match and the familiar chant filled the ground as he walked out to take strike with Virender Sehwag. However, two overs later, Sachin's dismissal was followed by pin-drop silence. As he left the field, the only sound was the murmur of the dispersing crowd. For me, that kind of pressure every single day, and the lack of a truly private life, would, I believe, prove too much.
But Sachin, somehow, has taken it in his stride for an incredible 20 years almost. To my mind that ranks as a higher achievement than the long lists of statistical records he has claimed. Playing for India is no easy task. The pressure to perform in every single outing, to win every single match, is tremendous. Magnify that a thousand-fold and that is what Sachin has to deal with.
He may have millions of fans, but he has his share of critics as well. Many times over the years India has failed to convert an appearance in a final into a win, and when this happens the first barbs of criticisms are invariably aimed at one man. "Sachin," they say, "does not win India finals." The man who has been rewriting the record books has been judged by some to have failed India in some crucial games that everyone seems to remember and talk about.
This criticism is totally unfounded and unfair. Sachin is extremely strong mentally. You have to be, to last 20 years at the top. That he is still able to carve out match-winning performances now, despite all the injuries and the physical and mental overload that comes with being a top-flight international cricketer, is testament to his mental toughness. India have not lost so many finals because of Tendulkar; they have lost because of poor team performances.
Therein lies the danger of having individual brilliance in your cricket team. Many are the times I have sat in the dressing room, watching Sanath Jayasuriya single-handedly win matches. However, without realising it, we reached the stage, at one point, where our whole confidence hinged on the rise and fall of Sanath. His early dismissal would sow seeds of doubt, and his continued presence in the middle would fuel confidence. We have succeeded now in breaking free of that dependence. It is a similar battle that India have fought with Sachin.
I first watched Sachin on TV when I was 12 years old, and for me the most striking thing about his batting has been its beautiful simplicity. The picture-perfect stance; the straight, measured back-lift; the neat forward-defensive and the checked-drive have changed little over the years. Of course, he was blessed with enormous natural talent, but that talent has been fulfilled because of a rock-solid technical foundation.
That he is still able to carve out match-winning performances now, despite all the injuries and the physical and mental overload that comes with being a top-flight international cricketer, is testament to his mental toughness. India have not lost so many one-day finals because of Tendulkar; they have lost because of poor team performances.
His simple technique has helped him adapt to, and dominate, all formats of the game under all conditions. Use Cricinfo's Statsguru to assess his overall record and you can only marvel at the completeness of his career. He has scored runs in every cricketing country, on every type of pitch, against every bowling attack. Furthermore, his dominance extends from Test cricket to one-day cricket, and even to the newest format, the Twenty20 game.
Various teams have used different tactics against him over the years, probing his technique to find weaknesses. However, even if they did find any, he was always able to adapt and evolve his game to overcome the challenge. That is what great players do. To my mind, his only obvious weak spot has been against the ball that nips back in from outside off stump - a delivery that troubles several of India's batsmen, though for different reasons.
Since 2003, life does seem to have become tougher for Sachin, mainly because of injuries and the physical toll of the international treadmill. I sense that this - especially the injuries - has introduced a more cautious attitude to his batting. Which is why the appearance of Sachin today does not bring with it a cloud of doom for the fielding team, as it used to do. His increased conservatism has dulled his threat, although he remains very capable of compiling match-winning scores.
Despite his great achievements Sachin has managed to stay an unassuming, humble and very approachable human being. He is a family man whose life is steeped in good moral and religious values. His interaction with players, both in his own team and in the opposition, has given many a cricketer a humbling insight into the mind of this genius. He is always ready to accommodate his fellow cricketers in conversations that might range from cricket to his family, food, travel, and his two other passions: cars and watches.
This is all revealing because it helps explain where he gets his mental strength from. His simple private life, his clear values and strong ethics, and a very good support system in terms of his family and close friends, have given him the foundation and strength to be able to shoulder the hopes and expectations of millions. Underpinning him is a natural zest for life, a passion for cricket and also for humanity. To me, he is the embodiment of the gentleman cricketer. He does not need aggressive rhetoric or psychological battles to prove his worth. He has his bat and he lets it do the talking.

Sachin still the biggest challenge: Lee

Far from being a controversy-ridden battle, Australian pace spearhead Brett Lee reckons his team's four-Test series against India would go down as a "hallmark of friendship" because players from both the sides have forgotten about past rows.

The Indian and Australian players have been involved in several on-field and off-field spats in the recent past with Andrew Symonds-Harbhajan Singh race row being the ugliest face-off.

But Lee said the Indian Premier League offered them a good opportunity to clear the air and forge friendships.

"In the IPL the players forged good bonds and the upcoming series will be a new leaf and a new page in the history of both countries. I hope it will be a hallmark of friendship and would help world cricket," Lee told reporters on Tuesday.

"I am not worried about what had happened in the past but we look to play here in the spirit of the game," he added.

The Australians are in the city for a couple of practice matches before the official series gets underway in Bangalore from October 9.

The tearaway pacer, who enjoys sizeable fan following in India due to his music and Bollywood aspirations, said instead of acrimony it would be the competitiveness of the series that would keep the fans engrossed.

The 31-year-old speedster, who is yet to make his Test debut in India, felt the Australians, despite being considered underdogs, would not be easy to beat for the hosts.

"You may look any way you like, underdogs or not the favourites but we are a confident lot and a strong team. We have played good cricket here and will do so this time too. We are looking forward to the challenge," Lee said.

When asked about the relative inexperience of the Aussies, Lee retorted, "We have done very well here and know about the strengths and weaknesses. Yes some big names might be missing. Players like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist are not there but the youngsters are also good."
They might not have experience of playing Test cricket but they have done well in the domestic cricket in Australia . We have very good players like Brad Haddin and others.

"At certain point of time you have to make a debut. I feel India is the best place to play your first Test. It is a wonderful place and a great challenge too," he added.

Lee, however, admitted that the inexperience of the bowling attack would add to the pressure on him as he prepares for his India Test debut.

"Yes, there will be great lot of pressure on me. But I enjoy the pressure. I am looking forward to the challenge. We have our task cut out," he said.

"I might not have played a Test here but have the experience of playing in twenty20 and one-day matches," he added.

Lee said having Greg Chappell as assistant coach to Tim Nielson would be of great help for the Australians in their quest to topple the Indians on home turf.

"He is experienced and owns a great personal record. He is second to none. We are looking up to him and he is a key member of our team," said Lee.

Looking back at the 2004 Test series, during which he was part of touring side but could not make the final XI, Lee said, "I missed that series but was trying hard. Perhaps I was not in best of my form. I am looking forward to the challenge now.

Lee lamented Andrew Symonds' absence from the squad after the feisty all-rounder was sacked for indiscipline.

"He is a great player. At any given point of time every one might love to have him in the team. Unfortunately he is not here but he knows what he has to do to make a come back.

"Understandably if we look at the positives his absence is an opportunity for Shane Watson. His experience of playing in IPL here might help him grab the all-rounder's slot in the team," Lee said.

Lee said of all the Indian batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman remains the toughest to bowl to especially in their own backyard.

"There is no other player like Sachin in the world. It has always been a challenge to bowl to Indian batsmen and now too I am looking forward to it. I feel it will be a tough series," he said.