It’s Diwali time, which in Bollywood parlance means the clash of two biggies again: Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay – a rivalry that hasn’t been free of controversy at all. This also means that Hindi films will take the lion’s share of the spotlight this weekend, after sports has dominated the headlines for the past few weeks.
A lot has happened. Here’s a slight summary:
Not unexpectedly, the New Zealand ODI team has proved to be no pushovers in the ongoing bilateral series against India. Despite Brendon McCullum’s retirement, their limited overs team has always adapted well to different conditions, evident in the fact that the two are locked 2-2 heading into the final ODI of the 5-match series. Another series loss for MS Dhoni as captain won’t bode well, given that they’ve lost a lot under him for the last two years, and that Virat Kohli has been leading the test team to new heights. The 4th ODI in Ranchi was a sign of Dhoni’s fading powers, as he labored to 11 off 31 balls in front of his home crowd before getting bowled, leaving his team with yet another uphill task to climb during a chase of 261. India fell short by 19 runs, mostly because Kohli was dismissed for 45 and couldn’t play yet another brilliant innings. Kane Williamson will be happy with his young team, and will be hoping to put another nail in the Indian captain’s coffin by doing what no Kiwi team has done in India before. India don’t have their main bowlers, but their batsmen have often stuttered (except for Kohli), especially Rohit Sharma at the top order, who has a mere 60 runs in four innings. He will need to fire if they are to win the series. Kohli is piling up the record in the meantime, becoming the quickest ever to score 7500 runs (!) in ODI cricket. Dhoni crossed the 9000 milestone too, but one senses he won’t reach 10,000. The fifth ODI is at Vizag on Saturday.
Bangladesh meanwhile blew a chance to win their first test match against a team not named Zimbabwe and West Indies. They almost defeated Alastair Cook’s England – who are the one team expected to do well in the subcontinent after their phenomenal performance in the test series in India in 2012. This time, it’ll be harder, as was evident against Bangladesh in Chittagong. But they got themselves out of it, and became the first non-Asian team to win a test in Asia in two years.
Elsewhere in UAE, Pakistan overcame a very close first test match to demolish West Indies in the second test, with old stalwart Younis Khan returning in style, and spinner Yasir Shah returning to his old wicket-taking ways. One senses that the door is shut on the West Indies for good now, and only a miracle will save them from a 3-0 spanking.
The WTA Tour has reached its final tournament of the year, with the season-ending Masters going on in Singapore, where the top 8 players of the year are competing to win the year’s most prestigious Masters’ title. Old master Svetlana Kuznetsova, in her first World Tour Finals tournament since 2009, has stormed into her first-ever semifinals by winning both her matches in the White Group in three grueling sets – comebacks of the highest order, which places her just one from the record of most three setters won in a single season (23). There is no Serena Williams this time.
The ATP Tour is now headed to Vienna and Paris before their season-ending World Tour Finals in London. This is Andy Murray’s greatest chance to wrestle away the season-ending no. 1 ranking – if he wins at Vienna as well as the Paris Masters, irrespective of what an uninspired Djokovic does. Murray then has less to defend at London, where he crashed out of the round-robin stages last year. Djokovic may not end the year at the top – a real possibility that seemed ridiculous in May, where he had won almost everything he had participated in, carrying on from his record-shattering 2015 season. The inevitable ebb has arrived, though, and Murray has grasped at his opportunity in the Asian swing of the season, once again winning at Beijing and Shanghai.
India became World Champions for the third time in three World Cups – once again defeating Iran in the final, but this time having to fight far harder. It wasn’t easy for them this time, losing to Korea in their first match, and being down in the final till the last fifteen minutes. The others are catching up, but now even a malfunctioning defense was enough for Iran to capitalize on their best game of the tournament. This will, of course, catapult the Pune Paltan’s almost-has-been raider Ajay Thakur back into the spotlight.