Monday, July 12, 2021

Super Sports Sunday

6.30 am. I woke up, switched on the TV. 

Late in the night after 3. I switched off the TV, went to bed.

Three matches -- two football and one tennis -- during the course of the day. 

All together over 7 hours. 


Image courtesy: The Guardian

The blockbuster Brazil and Argentina match kicked off at 5.30 am IST at Rio's Maracana stadium. But I managed to wake up only an hour late. By that time Argentina had scored. 

The scoreline stayed. A bit surprising, because Brazil dominated the game. 

Brazil had 59% of the possession; 13 shots (Argentina 6), and 4 corners (Brazil 1).

Anyway, the win was huge for Argentina, and Lionel Messi. 

That goal ended their 28-year-long wait for a victory in a major tournament. But a big disappointment for Brazil's Neymar who is yet to win a major international.


Image courtesy:

Back in front for the TV at 6.30 pm. 

The result was expected. Novak Djokovic finally caught up with what his two seniors -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal -- achieved: 20 Grand Slam titles. 

But Italy's Matteo Berrettini ensured that it was not a cakewalk for his opponent. At one point it looked like the match could go either way. I am glad that was some drama.

It was fascinating tennis stretching 3 hours 23 minutes. When Djokovic lost the first set 4-7 in the tie-break, I thought this will stretch to a five-setter.

But he seemed to be setting the tone as he won the first 4 games of the 2nd set. Berrettini held the serve to make it 4-1. Djokovic held the next and had a chance to wrap up the set. 

But Berrettini gave a stiff resistance and caught up picking up the next three games in a row to make it 5-4. The 10th game was Djokovic's serve and he finally closed it at 6-4.

Berrettini seemed to have lost a bit of the momentum in the 3rd set and Djokovic won that without much difficulty with the same score.

Image courtesy:

The fourth set, in which Berrettini took a lead with a win in the 1st game, was a bit more challenging for Djokovic as he had to wait till the seventh game to get ahead: 4-3. From then on, the path was clearer and his job was done as Berrettini made an unforced backhand error.

Now all eyes are on the next matches that Djokovic will play. There is something called the Golden Slam, which only Steffi Graf has achieved in 1988, with a victory in all the four Grand Slams and an Olympic Gold Medal. 

But now whether the World Number One can do that is in doubt as he seemed to have been put off by the tight restrictions in the Olympic Village, and he is in two minds if he would go.

If he wins the US Open, which will start on Aug 30, he will get ahead of Federer and Nadal, and he would sort of establish himself as the GOAT or the Greatest Of All Time.


Image courtesy: Twitter/ICC

While the Wimbledon was on, the 2nd T20 cricket match between India and England women's team was being played at Hove. I kept checking the score on the BBC Sports app. 

India notched up 140 for 8 in 20 overs, and England fell short of the target by 8 runs. 

It was a thriller which I missed. 

The third match is tomorrow.


Image courtesy: BBC

After the tennis match, I took a one and a half hour nap before getting back in front of the TV at 12.30 am for the next epic encounter, at Wimbley.

It was a match truly worthy of a championship final as England and Italy battled hard. 

Within just two minutes of the start, the game got charged up as Luke Shaw scored for England. It should have remained like that at least. 

But in the 67th minute, Leonardo Bonucci equalised for Italy.

As expected the match went into half an hour of extra time and then the penalty shootout.

Though in the back of my mind I had a feeling that Italy might win, I was supporting England. And it was such a heartbreak to see Harry Kane's team fall behind by the thinnest of margins. 

It must be said that barring the initial few minutes, Italy was generally in control of the game, and they were constantly sniffing at opportunities to score.

They had 65% of the possession and had as many as 6 shot on target in comparison to just 2 for England.

In the penalty shootout, for England, Harry Kane and Harry Maguire scored; but the shots of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka failed to find the target.

It's sad that the England's three were subjected to racial abuse on social media. The flipside of our ubiquitous online world.

For Italy, Domenico Berardi, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi scored; while the shots of Andrea Belotti and Jorginho were saved. 

And thus the quest of England for a major international win continues 55 years after their last triumph in the 1966 World Cup at the same Wimbley stadium.

England didn't win. But I enjoyed a thoroughly vigorous and enthusiastic contest.

The time was well past 3 am when I hit the sack.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Barty Party

Dream come true for Ashleigh Barty
Image courtesy:

I was rooting for Ashleigh Barty, the plucky 25-year-old Australian, and I am so glad that she made it.

She adds the Venus Rosewater Dish to the Suzanne Lenglen trophy (the French Open) she won in 2019.

Initially, I was worried this would be a one-sided damp squib, as her opponent, 29-year-old former world number 1, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic seemed to have given up right from the word go.


Pliskova conceded the first 14 points to Barty who seemed to be having a free run picking up the first 4 games. A semblance of some fight followed with Pliskova picking up the next game after securing a break.

She again broke to make it 2-5 and held the serve to make it 3-5. But Barty wrapped up the set at 6-3.


The 2nd game was the best. Barty's crafty backhand slice and Pliskova's powerful serve were in full display, with a number of well-timed and well-placed strokes making the set absolutely gripping as the two players moved ahead neck and neck.

After losing the opening game which was a Pliskova serve, Barty broke the 3rd and held the fourth to move ahead 3-1. Pliskova caught up to make it 3-3 and moved ahead again 4-3. The game ended up in a tie-break, with Barty losing 4-7. 


With one set all, it was start over, and fingers crossed. Barty opened the set and raced ahead to 3-0. Pliskova picked up the 4th, 6th and 8th game by holding her serve. This set was very much like the first one. The early advantage that Barty got stood her in good stead. She was well and truly ahead and closed the set with the next game at 6-3.

Well played, Karolina Pliskova
Image courtesy: Eurosport


Barty's win comes exactly 10 years after she had won the junior Wimbledon title; 50 years after an Australian (Evonne Goolagong Cawley) won the cup in 1971, and 5 years after a world number one (Serena Williams) won the title in 2016.

It's no surprise that Barty was so overcome with emotion. After that Wimbledon Junior title victory at the age of 15, she went on to play for another three years. Then she felt the stress too much to handle. 

She quit active tennis. "It was too much too quickly for me as I've been travelling from quite a young age ... I wanted to experience life as a normal teenaged girl and have some normal experiences," she told Cricket Australia.

When Barty switched to cricket in 2014-16
Image courtesy: Cricket Australia

She switched to cricket, and with no prior experience in the game, in just one year she made a mark for the Brisbane Heat team in the Women's Big Bash League.

After two years with cricket, she returned to her first love and began chasing her dream. 

And it became a reality today.


Barty's win also means a lot for Australian sport. She traces her lineage, via her great grandmother, to an indigenous Australian group of people called Ngarigu. 

Coincidentally, Barty's friend, inspiration and mentor, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, now 66 years old, the Australian who previously won the Wimbledon Singles Trophy in 1971, too belongs to an indigenous community, the Wiradjuri people.


Tomorrow is going to be a great sporting day. 

There's the final of Copa America at 5.30 am IST, between Brazil and Argentina.

In the evening at 6.30 is the Wimbledon Men's Final, Djokovic vs Matteo Berrettini.

Late in the night at 12.30 is the European Championship, Euro 2020, final between England and Italy.

I am not sure if I will be able to wake up as early as 5.30. Maybe I will be able to catch 2nd half. Let me see.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Fully vaccinated

Image source: Pixabay

I am now fully vaccinated. I got the second dose of Covishield yesterday. 

That's the very popular Indian version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured here by Serum Institute of India, the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines.

I took the first dose on April 9.

Earlier, the gap between the two shots of Covishield was smaller, I think between 28 and 45 days. Later, in the face of a massive shortage of vaccines, the government widened the gap to 84 days.

The other popular vaccine in India is Covaxin, a completely Indian product manufactured by Bharat Biotech. The gap for this continues to be a minimum of 30 days.


I took the jab at a vaccination camp held in our apartment complex. A remarkably smooth process.

All that we had to do was carry our personal identity document and the code that was generated when we registered for vaccination on the government portal CoWin

The hospital personnel at the site upload the particulars to the portal and soon after the vaccination, we get a message from the government's Health Ministry stating that we have govt vaccinated. From the portal, we can also download a certificate.

Incidentally, the Indian government is holding a global conclave later today on leveraging technology in vaccination management.


Many resident welfare organisations and private companies are taking such initiatives in partnership with private hospitals, which is a good move, considering that it increases the number of people who are inoculated.

The cost is a little higher though. I paid ₹1,100, while for the first one at a private hospital, I paid ₹750. 

The extra cost, over and above the government-stipulated price, is presumably for the favour of coming over to our residential complex, something that everyone would appreciate since it's risky to go to a hospital in these times. 

Some private hospitals agree to send vaccinators to even residences, but again at an extra cost.

The government on June 8, issued an order capping the maximum price for Covishield at ₹780, for Covaxin at ₹1,410 and for Sputnik V at ₹1,145.

The vaccination is free of cost at government hospitals and public health centres. The local corporation is not quite enthusiastic about coming over to residential premises.


I think for a large country like India, it's perfectly okay for the private sector to be given some leeway to manage such massive operations. So that the government resources and money can be channelled to the people who can't afford the cost. After all, nothing comes for free.

A positive outcome of the active involvement of the private sector is that a large number of people, who can afford to pay the cost, do get vaccinated, and thereby slowing down the spread of the coronavirus.