Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Does the world need Superman?

The world of sport has had its share of greats and a large collection of all time greats. They have had the world at their feet at some point or the other. Then, in every sport, came a sportsman or a team that did not seem from this world. It looked like Kal-El’s planet sent more than just one Superman to the earthly world of sport. Their performances thrilled and delighted. But they just kept getting stronger and stronger. So much so, that they almost killed the sport they were excelling in. While the world watched them in awe, a certain thought crossed the minds of the followers of sport: Why do we need to watch? We know who is winning!

Does the world need superman? This thought crosses my mind far too often. Sometimes I think, yes, sometimes, a resounding no. The truth, however, lies somewhere in between. Let me take you thru my confusion for a bit. Roger Federer is a superman. The only Grand Slam that he hasn’t won is the French Open. After beating Nadal in Hamburg, Fed has announced his intentions and stamped his form loud and clear. We know there’s no beating him at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows and Melbourne. Only the red clay at Roland Garros acted as Kryptonite for Roger Federer. It seems that superman has started becoming immune to kryptonite too.

Yes, Federer deserves to win the French open and join Laver & Budge as a winner of all four slams. But after that we might see, for quite some time, only one smiling face at the end of each slam. The story was so similar with Lance Armstrong and the Tour De France. The story was so similar with a Michael Schumacher from 2000-2004. My goodness me! Schumi almost killed the sport in 2002 and 2004. Such was his dominance that Simon Barnes wrote a column titled: Michael Schumacher, The serial winner who murdered Formula One. He wrote there, "He is one of the great serial champions of all time and he killed his sport with his brilliance, murdered it with the thousand cuts of excellence". Simon Barnes went on to further add "the most exciting thing in Formula One is the question of when Schumacher is going to stop for petrol."

That was so damn true. Fans like me loved Schumacher winning, but even his die-hard lovers like me would agree that we enjoyed the 2006 season a lot more. And no, we never wanted Schumacher to retire. But now that he has, the sport has had a breath of fresh air. For the first time in many years, there are 4 drivers that look like taking the drivers’ championship. Who cared if there was scope for 4 drivers coming 2nd in the championship? Now that Superman is gone, earthlings can compete.

Cricket has gone thru this twice. With the Windies in the 70s and 80s and the Aussies in the 2000s. We all knew who’d win the cricket world cup this year even before it began. Such a fantastic team deserves to win whatever competition they participate in. But would others want to watch supermen take on earthlings again in flying contests? But then, does this mean we wish for the champions to stop playing for the sake of the sport? Well, yes and no.

Like I said earlier, the answer lies somewhere in between. We need others to play as well as Superman. Be it a Rafa/ Roddick to counter Federer, the superman of tennis; we finally found somebody to take on the superman of F1, Schumacher, 5 years after his ruthless dominance, Alonso; we also need some teams to stop the supermen of cricket, Australia. We are lucky chaps. We have seen the best of almost every sport in our lives. But, for the good of the sport the world needs to see superman stopped.

Till that day comes, let us celebrate something unique. Let us celebrate those who have taken their sports to a different league. Let us celebrate these supermen who have given us so many moments of joy, pride, and awe. Lastly, for Federer, all the best superman. Conquer kryptonite at Roland Garros. How I wish that you win, and how I wish that you are beaten. You deserve to win, but then, if you do, at Wimbledon, we’d be cheering your opponent every time you miss your first serve and every time you hit an unforced error. And if your opponent wins a game, forget a set, we shall give him a standing ovation. Those are the only small things they’ll win. You are going to take the Championships anyway.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Heads I win, tails you lose

Is it not a no-win situation for people like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly? When they score century against the minnows, Bangladesh, one can clearly see smirks on the faces of cynics, thru the articles they write and the sound bytes they give. Their rant is ‘what good is a century against Bangladesh?’. I can bet my life that the same people would have taken their knives out had these two batsmen fallen after scoring 40 runs. They’d have said that Sachin and Sourav cannot score big against the minnows as well. Clearly, a century also doesn’t help these two fine batsmen, possibly the greatest ever opening partners in the history of ODIs.

I fail to understand a simple thing. If Bangladesh is so worthless a team, why were these players considered unworthy of playing against them in the ODI series that just preceded the tests? The board and the selectors had clearly thought that they weren’t good enough to play the ODIs. They needed just one innings to assert themselves again. So what if it was against Bangladesh? Gambhir will cement his place to Ireland and England to play the Proteas and the English because of his century against the same Bangladesh. But when it comes to Sachin and Sourav, critics will say that they should still be kept out as they score against the minnows only.

This statement that, SG and SRT score against minnows only, is so flawed. If we look at their ODI records, Sachin has scored 82% of his runs against the major nations and Sourav has scored 75% of them against the major nations. By the major nations I mean, Australia, England, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies. How flawed and hollow all those minnow statements look. And each and every great batsman in the world has fantastic records against the minnows, be it Jayasuriya, Ponting or Inzy. The reason why they are great batsmen, is that they have heavily scored against the other major nations also. I simply fail to understand why critics in India look at the stats of Sourav and Sachin so dogmatically.

Isn’t it a heads I win, tails you lose situation for Ganguly and Tendulkar? Despite being performers, they are ridiculed. Man of the series awards against the Windies and Lankans also counts for nothing. A century against Bangladesh counts for nothing. But when Gambhir scores a century against the same team, he is hailed as the opener for the future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Well, a friend of mine just happened to tell me that some of my blog posts show up when they search my name on Google. A few of the results are on Technorati, an engine that monitors tags and keywords on blogs. I tried searching for them and, 'voila', it was there. The only thing that put me off was a phrase that said that 'nobody has claimed this blog'.

And presto, I created an account to claim what is rightfully mine. As part of the procedure, I have been asked to paste this link Technorati Profile on my main text box, and that's what I am doing. Now, the ball is in their court. Or should I say, the spiders are in their court. I hope once they let those crawl my blog and see this link, they won't say that its unclaimed.

So, all you bloggers out there!! Own up your blogs and make it legitimate :D

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Gilchrist played fair and, boy, did he play well?!?!

A lot of prose can be read, many emanating from the island nation, about Adam Gilchrist’s use of a squash ball. Some have also foolishly likened it to the Trevor Chappell underarm delivery. The last thing that Gilchrist’s act can be called is underhand tactics. I’d still like to believe that he was within the rules and deserves only the greatest accolades for playing one of the best ever one-day innings.

For starters, the underarm delivery that Trevor bowled was akin to an F1 equivalent of team orders whereby one driver is asked to forego his lead so that his team-mate can get higher points. While both these situations were within the rules of the sport, it was not within the spirit of the sport. Gilchrist using a squash ball was a different matter altogether.

Batsmen around the world use extra padding inside the gloves, some have also used extra protection around their wrists on bouncy tracks. Gilchrist did something that was just an extension of this, so that he could grip the bat better. He did not use a broader bat, though he made it seem so because of his phenomenal stroke-play. Bowlers cut out their boots so that their big toe’s nails are protected when they put that extra effort on the delivery stride. All these things are done so that the players are comfortable and able to give their best.

Let’s add another dimension to this. How many batsmen in the world could have played like Gilchrist had they also been allowed to put a squash ball in their glove? Would Sri Lankan authorities and fans been crying foul had Gilchrist been dismissed earlier, when he offered a caught and bowled chance, albeit a sharp one? Also, its not that Gilchrist became this demolisher of attacks only when he put that squash ball in the glove. His innings came as no surprise. Had Pigeon put a squash ball, he wouldn’t have been able to play like Gilly.

Everybody knows for sure that Sachin Tendulkar’s pads are made of a material that is a lot lighter than the conventional pad. That, for sure, is not unsporting. Jayasuriya wastes an enormous amount of time (by tapping the pitch umpteen times, looking right, touching his helmet, after each delivery so that he can concentrate), nobody ever said anything about it.

I hope that some sense prevails. Or else, the next time a cricketer even wears a lucky charm, and succeeds, even that will be called unsporting. The Lankans should not make their progress to the WC final hollow by crying foul about Gilchrist. That devalues the way the Lankans played. Yes, Gilchrist’s innings turned the tables, but even otherwise Australia was a far superior team. This team can beat Sri Lanka nine times out of ten. And if all Sri Lankan batsmen are asked to keep a squash ball in their glove and walk out to bat, they shall convincingly lose ten times out of ten. Well played Gilly and the Aussies. And well played Lankans. But what some of the Lankans are cribbing about outside the field is just not cricket.