‘British’ & Proud

Clockwise: Andy Murray, Chirs Fromme, Kevin Pietersen, Rory McIlroy
Clockwise from the top: Andy Murray, Chirs Fromme, Kevin Pietersen, Rory McIlroy

Ever since the summer of 2005, the English Isles have been looking for a reason to go berserk over sports once again. That fabled June, the English cricket team accomplished one of the greatest feats the game of cricket had ever seen – dismantling a full-strength Australia. For the first time, children were seen adorning the ‘Flintoff’ jersey more than a ‘Beckham’ and the English chants began to roar. English, mind you.

That summer England welcomed players lost to international boundaries into their squads, television sets and victory celebrations with open arms. Cricketing prodigy Kevin Pietersen and some Andrew Strauss were South African’s they said. ‘Not from their mother’s side’, echoed London. Simon Jones was Welsh. ‘Isn’t that England too?’ claimed the optimist. Come 2013, England are having their moment on top of the sporting pinnacle. But how much of English is there?

First off, Britain was dancing to the merry chants of the British and Irish Lions squad wreaking havoc in Sydney with their splendid win over Australia in the recently concluded rugby test series. In their 37-man squad, only 10 were Englishmen. The Lions were led by a Welshman in Sam Warburton. The jubilation across the Iles belonged to London. For the people in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin this victory was a cruel reminded of how the English monarchy still refused to identify their demands for sovereignty. However, the modern-day sports blogger will boast on how the Lions brought a much needed unity in the region. (Perhaps, some members of the British Parliament should encourage the IRA to read more of those posts.)

Last week, Scot Andy Murray (patronised as Britain’s saviour), lifted the coveted trophy in South-West London, emulating Fred Perry’s conquest in 1936. So moved was the crowd at Wimbledon, that the banners proudly fluttered ‘Sir(?) Andy Murray, Thank you.’ In the midst of it all, Virginia Wade was forgotten.  Many of the headlines around the world have blared out sentiments like “Andy Murray wins Wimbledon, ends 77-year British drought” and “Inspired Murray ends 77 years of British hurt.” However, let’s not forget that 2013 may mark the first time a British ‘man’ has won in 77 years, but the last time a Brit won a singles title at their home Grand Slam tournament was actually just 36 years ago. In 1977, the popular Englishwoman Virginia Wade finally put a crucial win at the end of a frustrating “try-try-again” story even longer than Andy Murray’s. Yet, even the Queen must have forgotten that she presented the trophy to Wade, or else David Cameron wouldn’t have streamed his tears on Twitter, apparently in awe of Murray.

Britain still has a lot to celebrate for. Whether it is South-African born Chris Fromme leading the centennial Tour de France, or the long awaited return of ‘England’s best batsman’ in Natal-born and raised KP, the English chants of ‘Come on!’ will surely be heard all around. England without doubt has one of the best sporting crowds who view every game with the same zeal and passion as they do the last one.

Whether it’s Murray, Fromme, Pieterson or even Rory McIlroy, everyone in Abbey Road to Buckingham Palace will say that all of them are well and truly British, and ever so proud to be one. This Kingdom is definitely ‘United’ and it is the common sports-lover who can be held responsible for it.

After much political drama, Pune to host the Asian Athletics Championship

Balewadi sports complex

After much controversy, Balewadi Sports Complex at Pune will finally be hosting the 20th edition of the Asian Athletics Championship. This championship was originally supposed to be hosted in Chennai, but due to various political reasons was handed over to Maharashtra.

Preparations for the event are at full swings and the championship is supposed to start from the 3rd of July till the 7th of July. The event will see participation of 45 countries and a total of 578 athletes will be a part of this championship. This event will be a good platform for India to build good relations with the neighboring countries. During these five days, a total of twenty-one events would be covered.

 There are a total of 150 players thereby making it the biggest contingent in the championship. Many athletes who were a part of the 2012 London Olympics such as discus thrower Vikas Gowda, Krishna Poonia, triple-jumper Renjith Maheshwary, 3000-m steeple chase runner Sudha Singh and 800-m sprinter Tintu Luka will all be a part of this tournament.

The previous edition of this championship was held at Kobe, Japan in 2011 and India had managed to win 12 medals. this time, our country is looking forward to winning more laurels. Balewadi stadium has been in full swing to leave no stones unturned to impress the athletes.

Hockey: 1, Cricket: 0

 

6777177-lgOn Tuesday, Hockey India, the governing body of field hockey in the country, donated Rs. 10 lakhs in monetary aid for the relief of the flood victims in the state Uttarakhand. Meanwhile, just a few hours earlier, one of the richest sporting organisations in the world, the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) was handing out Rs. 1 crore to each member of the Indian cricket team, victorious at the recently concluded Champions Trophy tournament in England. Now sporting prestige is fine, particularly in a sport like cricket which is treated with nothing short of reverence by the majority of our 1.27 billion-strong population. However, when over 70,000 people are doing battle with Mother Nature, there is no doubt that the Rs. 15 crore doled out by the BCCI to it’s already (arguably) overpaid superstars could have been put to far better use.

What makes the oversight/negligence/indifference by the BCCI even more infuriating is the fact that there is absolutely no shortage of money in their coffers. In 2011, the cricketing body was estimated to have had funds of Rs. 2,600 crores available. In comparison, Hockey India had Rs. 60.26 lakhs, a mere pittance. In the same year, after India’s victory at the cricket World Cup, the BCCI awarded each player prize money of Rs. 2 crore. Meanwhile, the members of the hockey team, after winning the Asian Champions Trophy, were given Rs. 25,000 each. Only after massive outrage by fans and the media did that number rise to Rs. 1,50,000 – still pocket change compared to 2 crores pocketed by their cricketing counterparts. The numbers boggle the mind.

However, as far as the flood relief is concerned, cricket has made contributions in other ways. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh announced yesterday, that he would donate Rs. 10 lakhs to the aid of the stranded flood victims. Harbhajan was also stranded in Joshimath for a few days after the tragedy struck. This one instance itself paints a clear picture of the disparity in wealth. A single cricketer is able to donate 10 lakhs, as much as the entire governing body of hockey was able to come up with. A game that is our official national sport doesn’t deserve this sort of ignominy. However, the contribution by the hockey body, despite their evidently paltry treasury, is quite significant, and a most noble one.

It is very unlikely, but hopefully people will soon realise just how sad a state of affairs it is, when the richest sporting body in the country doesn’t seem intent on lifting a finger to make a contribution to a national tragedy. Cricket may be the be all and end all for a significant portion of our population, but maybe it’s time for some perspective.

Wimbledon: A preview

It has been exactly a year since the four top-ranked players in men’s tennis took part together in the same Grand Slam. A sprained knee had kept fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal out of last year’s US Open and this year’s opener in Melbourne. But the Spaniard is back with a bang, fresh from his Roland Garros victory. British Olympic Gold medalist Andy Murray is back too, after missing the French Open. The Scot is still looking to become the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the singles title at SW19.

In the women’s draw, all fingers may point to a potential final between defending champion Serena Williams and world no. 2 Maria Sharapova. The two women were already exchanging a volley of words in the media, and will look to settle it out on the grass.

With the draws oddly stacked up for the gentlemen and fairly unsurprisingly for the ladies, here’s what to ‘not’ expect at this year’s Wimbledon:

1. Do not expect a miracle from the Swiss Maestro: As much as we all love fairy tales and Roger Federer even more, this is one thing we should not expect from the third-seeded defending champion. If age and fitness wasn’t enough, the draw betrayed him too, placing him in the bottom half along side Murray, Nadal and the man who beat him in Paris, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. To win this year, Federer would have to overcome a possible quarter-final with Nadal, semis against Murray and likely final against Novak Djokovic.

2. Djokovic to be surprised? Not likely: The world number one will probably have an easy run all the way to the semis, where he might face David Ferrer. A possible 2nd Wimbledon crown looks likely.

3. Murray to rescue Britain –  not this year: If the shoulder injury had healed, the draw would have been much more hurtful. With Nadal nearing his prime (again) and the threat of Federer always there, Murray might have to overcome his own mental barriers to emerge successful in his half.

4. Someone stoping Serena: The younger Williams sister looks fresher than ever and (more importantly) dangerous than ever. The spectators in Roland Garros and all over the world were testimony to perhaps the biggest force in women’s tennis at the moment. Serena’s demolition of Sara Errani in the semis and complete overpowering of Sharapova in the finals, would make her any bookmakers favourite.

Overall, this year thousands of spectators will line up outside the gates of SW19 to catch even a glimpse of their favourite player. Every year, Wimbledon carries a very romantic sentiment with it; last summer’s men’s final was one such case. All we can do is wait and watch to who gets their names engraved on the wall in tennis’ most prestigious event.

Indian romp Lankans, enter final

CRICKET - CT2013-INDIA-SRI LANKA-WARM UP

London, 20th June: India romped through a hapless Sri Lanka, marching to a comfortable victory with 8 wickets and 15 overs to spare. In true and testing English conditions, the Indians excelled with both bat and ball to make an imposing statement to rightfully be in the finals of this year’s Champions Trophy.

In swinging and seaming conditions, assisted by an overcast Cardiff sky, Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni rightfully elected to bowl on a wet outfield. The ball was moving all over the pitch which lead Dhoni to drop his gloves and chance his arms at a few leg-cutters, almost getting Jayawardene trapped leg-before.

Indian Captain MS Dhoni chanced his arm with the seaming conditions.
Indian Captain MS Dhoni chanced his arm with the seaming conditions.

The seamers were backed well by the ever-impressive Ravichandra Ashwin and quick-learner Ravindra Jadeja. The Lanka batsmen were well contained to 181 for the loss of 8 wickets.

India started edgily, with both openers finding streaky shots past the slip cordon. Finally, Rohit Sharma was out for 33 in the 17th over; the opening stand of 77 being broken. Sharma along with Shikhar Dhawan have amassed 4 partnerships of 50+ in this competition with 2 century stands in them.

Dhawan continued his fine form his English summer to a well made 50, before failing to read Jevan Mendis googly. By then, India were well on their way to a cozy win Virat Kohli finally getting sum runs in this series. He was firing on all cylinders and even Angelo Mathews’ prime bowler Lasith Malinga found it hard to contain the Indian vice-captain. Kohli now averages a shade over 57 in all matches against the men from the Emerald Isle.

Shikhar Dhawan on his way to 68.
Shikhar Dhawan on his way to 68.

India then coasted to victory with 90 balls to spare to set up and exciting clash with the hosts, England, on Sunday. India are also guaranteed to retain their numero uno status in ODI’s, but looking at their current, undefeated run it will be hard to bet against the men in blue come June the 23rd.

[Summarized scores: Toss – India | Sri Lanka: 181/8 in 50 overs.  Mathews – 51, I.Sharma – 3/33 | India: 182/2 in 35 overs. Dhawan – 68, Kohli – 58, Mathews – 1/10 | India win by 8 wickets with 15 overs to spare | Player of the match – Ishant Sharma]