Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Poetic Justice ???

July 22nd, 2007 would probably remain as a historic day in a few minds. When the clock ticked to 20 minutes past 4 in the afternoon the whole of Lords stood in unison. It was a moment when one of all time sound test player was leaving the arena while the other one was just entering. For the one final attempt.
India was reeling at 55/2 chasing an improbable target of 380 at Lords and in came the little master, or should I say, arguably the world’s best batsman of our era? The stage was set for him, to make a final attempt and evolve into a genius, to score that elusive century at Lords and save India.
But, as it has been in most of the cases, the expectations got better than his capabilities. After a tantalizing stay of 35 balls in the middle, the murderer of Shane Warne could not judge a simple arm ball from an upstart left arm spinner and the dreaded finger of Steve Bucknor sent him back on the long journey.
The scoreboard showed for the statisticians –
SR Tendulkar lbw b Panesar 16 (42m 35b 3x4 0x6) SR: 45.71
Again, true to its legendary status, Lords applauded the superhero, albeit for a different reason. They acknowledged the contribution this man has made all over the world in the game, the entertainment he has provided to every spectator even though they happened to be those unlucky few who always remained thirsty.
So, in a career spanning over almost 1.6 decades (and still counting), Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has not been able to get a century at the Mecca of world cricket. Not a very big thing to loose your sleep over, ehh??

So what?? Would thunder the billion followers. There are so many players who have not scored a century at Lords. And how on earth could I still breathe without remembering those magnificent innings at MCG, WACA, Old Trafford, Barbados or Johannesburg. How should I justify my love for the game without remembering his service to this poor India (not in economy, in sports, any sport you could think of)? The burden on him is heavier than Hercules’s, age is catching up with him and my connection of Lords with Mecca of cricket – it smells about old colonial hangover man.
And I am not supposed to react. Because you couldn’t fight against a billion with rational statistics.

So what if he doesn’t have a match saving effort in second innings (isn’t it also the responsibility of 10 others in the team?), so what if he is kind enough to rookie spinners but not to Warne, so what if he doesn’t have a triple century to his name and so what if he is only doing a shadow fight in the middle?
In a sense, I find it perfectly justified that most of the present famous Indian cricketer don’t posses moments which every cricketer would love to. A world cup victory, a series win in Australia (against a full strength side) or South Africa, a brilliant match winning triple century at Perth, MCG or Barbados. There are so many of them.

In my book they simply don’t deserve them. Not because they are not talented, not because they are not sincere and also not because they don’t love to win. It is just that we prefer flair against effective, percentage cricket. And it’s not only their fault. It’s a collective failure of the countrymen, of the billion fans and of the system. We could produce a few Sachins or Azhars but not a single Steve or Gilchrist. Because they are not entertaining, they are only winners.
And in sports, like in any sphere of life, to succeed you need people who could fight. They might not produce the magic wrists or godly off drives, but their ugly fight would bring laurels. We keep appreciating the entertaining brand of cricket and then hope that rain would save the day for us.
It’s a natural justice that the famous quartet of this generation (Sachin, Rahul, Sourav and Laxman) retires without winning a series in England or Australia. It’s only but natural that they produce billion fans, but very very few moments which they could cherish long after. I am happily justified in describing those accolades showered on them only because of volumes and market economics rather than pure cricketing jurisprudence.
No century at Lords for Sachin and Rahul? Somewhere somebody really knows the definition of silent justice.

Or should I call it “The Poetic Justice”?


Monday, July 09, 2007

Fedex monopoly chugs on @ Wimbledon...

I am undemocratic in some cases and support monopoly in certain areas. Sports being one of them. I see absolutely no reason why should I fight for equal share of glory when I have a king who is giving me more than what I want. And yes, I am talking of Rodger Federar.
And ladies and gentleman, the 2007 Wimbledon men's singles champion is Mr. Rodger Federar. He has equaled the record for Bjon Borg's 5 consecutive championships which even the best form of Pete Samprass could not achieve.
And I am so happy for him and sorry for all those who thought Nadal could beat him this time.
For the statistical record, Federar beat his challenger Nadal in a thrilling 3hr 44 mins 5 setter - score line in favour of Federar reads - 7/6 (9/7), 4/6, 7/6 (7/4), 2/6, 6/2. But the score line says nothing about the threat that the challenger gave to the throne. In this particular match, Nadal showed how close he has come to challenge Federar on grass and in Paris he was unbeatable even by Roger at his best. So, I am a bit scared about my reigning king at Wimbledon. Will he be able to hold Nadal off for 3 more years? That's what I am praying on.
Make absolutely no mistake that I wanted to see Federar win and win it unchallenged. I don't like people taking pot shots at the crown and have absolutely no mentality of sharing it with a new champion. People might have a different view but I like defending champions. Champions, who conquer all challenges to etch their mark in history. I don't have any sympathy for those one off winners.
But I respect Nadal and I fear him a lot. I fear him because he is a successful challenger. One who for the first time has been able to push Federar to the limits. All those incredible returns, unbelievable backhand cross court shots, down the line passing and most fearful, reaching the ball every time you think you have just put it beyond his reach. He is an athlete par excellence and make no mistake about his Wimbledon title being just a few years away. And that's what I want to prolong.
3 more championships for Roger and he will be in the history book alone for 8 time Wimbledon crown. Unmatched and unheard of in the open history of tennis. I have never seen Bjon Borg playing those wonderful rallies and I was not there when Borg made history by becoming 6 time champion. But this time I want to see it with my eyes. And I won't like Rafa spoiling my party.
Come on Federar, do that much for me. I know, you could do it.

But, I must admit that 2007 Wimbledon final produced brilliant tennis throughout for the spectators. In a gripping finale, with every passing shot Federar had to dig deeper and deeper to recollect his form, he had to rely on his devastating aces more than his placements (he made 29 unforced errors compared to Nadal’s 21), he had to produce more breath taking rallies from baseline to make it that much harder for Rafa. And Rafa matched it with point for point. In the 4th set he played devastating tennis which rocked the king so much that he asked to call off the technology of hawk eye once the ball was overruled long in favour of Rafa. He lost it 2/6 with 2 breaks down. Then in the decider he was down 15-40 twice and produced the brilliance of only his class (read aces after aces) to dig him out.
That's what champions are made off. When they face more pressure they bring out more from their closet, when everybody thinks he is tired he produces wonderful winning rallies from baseline and when everybody doubts only he confides in himself.
Tennis over the years have produced players of the highest caliber and this has proven enough that we Indians are not cut out for modern day sports. We are better at deducing financial gains out of mediocre playing capabilities. Be it any sports we have only breed mediocrity in place of brilliance and blamed it conveniently on the system. Without a hunger of a tiger, no system could produce players like Graff, Navratilova or Federar. We have simply no genes to support our credentials in sports.
And ohh, I just remember some people told me a year back that even some Sania Mirza plays tennis. Being an Indian I would love to watch her, but every time before I start viewing championships I read she is out of the tourney. Someone please tell me if she was good enough to buy a GBP 66 ticket (FYI, Wimbledon tickets for ladies final is GBP 66, for men it’s GBP 72) for watching Mariom Bartoli. I heard that both Mirza and Bartoli started almost at the same time, but according to some reports only injury forced Mirza go down and down in the ranking.
I believe, injury free players are a rarity but not players with hunger, grit and determination.
Some people also say that there are enough ways to make money other than winning grand slams. Till such time when we start producing players who could be watched with pure enjoyment and entertainment, we continue to thrive on mediocrity while cherishing wonderful moments like what we got on 7th July 2007 at the Centre court of Wimbledon.
Ale Federar and all my wishes for Rafa in the post Federar era.