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Saturday, March 25, 2017

India and Australia in mortal combat: Saturday Sport (also FIFA, NCAA)





International:  Soccer (Football) League play is suspended this weekend in almost all countries.  This allows soccer stars, no matter their team or where they play, to return home to play for their national teams. 
This weekend will see the early selection rounds for countries to be chosen to play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, to be contested next (2018) June and July in Russia.  So, no Arsenal or Paris Saint-Germain, no Bayern or Roma or Real Madrid this weekend.  As for prospects on national team play this weekend:  wave your own flag, too early for this blog to speculate.  

In the USA:  Elite Eight action begins today in the NCAA Basketball playoffs.  This collegiate tournament has brought plenty of action and excitement, whether you prefer to call it the big dance or March madness...  Kansas, Oregon, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kentucky have this Elite Eight sounding like a Miss America pageant, but Catholic schools Xavier and Gonzaga have held out too, and will play each other today for a spot in the Final Four.  Last night, in the final game leading to the Elite Eight, Wisconsin tied Florida with two seconds to go, to send the game into overtime.  No spoiler alerts here, you will have to watch the game you recorded or check the net for your results.   

In India:  If ever there was a year to follow Cricket, this might be IT. This year, Australia's tour of India has not been a ho hum affair, and all is on the line for the start of today's Fourth Test, India v Australia, in a stadium in the remote mountaintop locale of  Dharamsala.  A few weeks ago India's players probably expected the fourth Test to be a festive occasion in a picturesque locale, completing a marathon home international season with the completion of a comfortable series win over Australia.  But ...  Instead Dharamsala plays host to a match that will be anything but valedictory.
Australia has fought India all the way through the series, having started with a stunning upset in Pune, and now find themselves needing only a draw to go home with the trophy. India, by contrast, have had to dig particularly deep to avoid defeat, first getting decidedly scrappy in Bengaluru, and then fighting hard, getting injured, doing all they could to escape with a draw in the third test in Ranchi...  Virat Kohli, India's spectacular team Captain, has been injured and his season has tragically ended....  In a series that has hit plenty of heights, the mountaintop locale of Dharamsala seems as fitting a place as any for the fate of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to be decided.
Australia beating India IN India?  Can it happen, what was that they said, thrice in fifty years?  We shall see, all Australia needs this week is a draw and it will have done so.