THE GREAT ESCAPE

Posted on July 7, 2016. Filed under: TENNIS, WIMBLEDON, WIMBLEDON 2016 | Tags: , , , , , |

It is sad to see Roger Federer not making into the finals of tournaments leave alone winning titles. His absence from the French Open was a sad reminder of the fact that all things, however good they might be, have to come to an end. It has happened to other players of the past and in different sports and games. The same player who once had us thrilled ended up looking like a poor copy from a worn out photocopier. It happened to Boris Becker in tennis and the great Kapil Dev in cricket. Those two gentlemen were my original sporting idols. But it was really difficult coming to terms with the decline of Federer.

The pull out of Rafael Nadal and the unexpected loss of Novak Djokovic made me feel optimistic about the chances of Federer having the coveted Wimbledon trophy in his hands for one more time, may be the last time ever. But when Cilic won the first two sets, things began to look difficult for Federer. There were a lot of unforced errors, even on the Federer forehand that in its prime was feared by opponents. Of course, Cilic was playing well.

Federer saved three match points and came back into the match by winning the third set in a tie-break. Even then things were not pretty sailing for the Swiss and I tweeted about the need for a miracle for Federer to win. I was pretty convinced about the result. But slowly things began to fall in place with Cilic stacking up the errors and Federer won the next two sets to emerge the victor in five sets.

Federer did just enough to live for another day and have a go at the most coveted title in the tennis world. The semi-final is also going to be tough as Federer is going to face Milos Raonic. If he goes past the Canadian, the finals may in all probability, going by the seedings and the form book shall bring the rival called Andy Murray. Federer, going by his nature would not want to look beyond the encounter with Raonic. It remains to be seen whether one of the greatest of all time succeeds for a last time or would it be like having a futile tilt at the windmills. We have to wait for some time.

What a way to stay in the tournament and cause many heart beats to miss !. I wanted to title the post featuring the name ‘Houdini’. But I was beaten by more than a mile by Nirmal Sekhar and his write-up in The Hindu. I also thought of using the title ‘Live Another Day’ but unlike James Bond who is entirely fictional, Federer is a real hero. But I cannot remain free from the influence of Hollywood movies and there is the reason for the title.

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ON TECHNIQUES

Posted on April 21, 2013. Filed under: CRICKET, IPL, SEHWAG, SPORTS | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

 

Oxforddictionaries.com provides the following meanings for the term technique:

1.skill or ability in a particular field

2.a skilful or efficient way of doing or achieving something

Merrian-Webster.com also has a similar offering to make when technique is defined as a method of accomplishing a desired aim.

What is my aim of talking about technique?

It has to do something with athletes and sportspersons in general and Virendra Sehwag in particular.

Sehwag has been one of my most favourite of cricket players and when he fails to perform as is the case now, it is painful to say the least for me and many of his fans.

A student of mine, who is now a colleague, blamed the lack of technique as the reason for the repeated failures of Sehwag that has led to the omission of the batsman from the Indian team. Even in the world of IPL where Sehwag was expected to score heavily, things have been extremely disappointing.

There are instances when commentators use the phrases like ‘straight out of the copybook’ or ‘right out of the coaching manual’ while describing a shot. I wonder which or whose manual or the copybook is to be used as a reference while explaining a particular shot played by a particular player. This is because each player has his or her own technique that is as individual as the player in question. This is very much a dichotomy since every player is urged to play according to his or her natural talents (meaning individual technique), yet at the same time, we spend too much time thinking and talking about some manual or copybook.

Every player has a particular way of dealing with a specific ball or a pitch and it is very difficult to have a similar solution for all. The physical characteristics of the individual player do matter a lot when playing a shot. There can be only one Brian Lara and no matter how hard one desires to imitate his style, the lefthander will be considered unique.Ravindra Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka had a bowling action very close to that of Waqar Younis of Pakistan but the Sri Lankan could not even once replicate the success of the Pakistan paceman. A certain Vivian Richards had a style and technique of his own and no other batsman till date has shown that kind of an ability that would make bowlers shiver in their pants.

Sunil Gavaskar was extremely successful playing against some of the greatest fast bowlers that have graced the game. He did that without the use of the helmet and that too on wickets that were really fast and bouncy all over the world. At the same time, Gavaskar was equally adept against the spinners as his last innings of 96 versus Pakistan at Bangalore would testify. But there were some question marks about his record against spinners like Derek Underwood. The same is the case with Sachin Tendulkar when it comes to the handling of left-arm spinners. In his last tour down under, Rahul Dravid the technician was repeatedly out bowled. Do these o-called failings cast a question mark over the technique of these masters?

In tennis, the top players have their own style or techniques. Nadal is different from Djokovic who is completely different from Federer when it comes to technique. But all of them are successful. There was a time when the two-handed backhand shot was out of fashion in the men’s game but Djokovic has made it something of his signature shot. Those pundits or the so-called experts who earlier had some theories about why the two-handed backhand would not work are having a quiet time eating the humble pie.

Usain Bolt was deemed too tall for a sprinter and he has the physique of a marathon man from Africa but Bolt is the fastest man in the world for sometime now.

There have many singers who made the initial mark by imitating or covering the songs of the inimitable Kishore Kumar but later they tried to shed this image and started to sing in their own way. One can sing like a Kishore Kumar but one cannot become a Kishore Kumar.

It is not the technique or the lack of it that is responsible for the poor showing of Sehwag. The opposing teams and their bowlers have become smarter and Sehwag has failed to recognize this and reinvent his game. The failure is more due to the lack of confidence in part and in part due to the arrogance. Given the current state, it is very difficult to anticipate a successful comeback by Sehwag into the Indian team but that does not in any way diminish his contribution to the success of the Indian cricket in the not too distant past.

It is not mathematics where there is a unique solution for a specific problem. It is a sport where individual ability and creativity are involved and where a critical decision is to be made when not even a few seconds are available.Does anyone bother about the techniques of masters like Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo? Let us not bother about the technical failings of Sehwag. Sit back and recollect those innings where Sehwag conjured some magic with the same technique in the past.

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THEY TOO ARE CHAMPIONS

Posted on July 5, 2011. Filed under: CRICKET, TENNIS | Tags: , , , , , , |

In every sport and game, there have been some players who did not get the recognition they deserved just because their careers coincided with some of the greatest in the history of the respective fields.

Roger Federer is undoubtedly one of the greatest players ever to step on to the tennis court but then the achievements of Rafael Nadal are not to be understated. There was a time when Federer with his sublime touch and great skills dominated the game and everyone was in awe.There were debates about the titles and the records that the Swiss maestro would gather in the coming years.But then came the Spaniard called Nadal and the tennis world was not a one man show any longer.Nadal and Federer were as different as chalk from cheese.While Federer relied more on touch, Nadal was all power.

Federer won all the three majors with the exception of the one on the red clay of Paris at Roland Garros.Nadal on the other hand coming from the land of such baseline hitters as Bruguera,Ferrer and Ferroro and Moya seemed to be a natural on the slow surfaces.His game took him all the way to top in Paris where Nadal successfully overcame the challenge posed by everyone including Federer.The French Open was the one trophy missing from the impressive collection and Federer was not ashamed to express his desire in public a number of times.It was only when Robin Soderling upset Nadal, that Roger Federer could finally nail the French.

Meanwhile, Nadal confounded everyone to put it past Federer even on the grass turf at SW 19.Suddenly, Nadal was no longer a clay court expert but a genuine all-rounder.

But the stupendous achievements of Nadal could not detract some commentators calling him ‘a freak’.Even during the just completed 125th edition of the Wimbledon, there was a talk of Nadal pulling out of the tournament due to an injury.Suddenly, the commentators felt an opportunity for Federer.But unfortunately, Federer could not go past the quarter-finals thanks to the sterling display put up by Tsonga.

rafael-nadal

Why does Nadal not get the recognition that he surely deserves? Does it have something to do with his apparel on court or his style of play or his looks?

Coming to the Indian cricket team, one man has by virtue of his sheer genius managed to overshadow not only his famed opponents but also the stupendous achievements of his own teammates.

Sourav Ganguly for a great part of his career could get the respect of everyone more so in case of the one-dayers where he formed a great partnership with Sachin at the top of the batting order.The century on his first outing at Lords’ is the stuff of legends.What Sourav lost out as a player vis-a-vis Sachin was more than made up by his exploits as a captain.

Anil Kumble is recognised as one of the greatest spinners in the history of cricket sharing the podium with the likes of Shane Warne.His career coincided again with the career of Sachin.In another era, Kumble would have been as great a superstar as Sachin.

Next is the case of the player who manages to justify the tag ‘Very Very Special’ time and again when most of his teammates falter.I am talking about V V S Laxman who has not looked back since the epic innings of 281 at Kolkata versus the Australians. The recent victories of India in the test matches and the ascent of the team to the top of the test rankings is due to some telling contributions from the bat of Laxman.

DRAVID

But my heart goes out to Rahul Dravid who has not got the recognition that he richly deserves. His style of batting has earned him the nickname “The Wall” which I feel is rather derogatory.It is this style of play that has resulted in many great wins for India and at the same time brought more than 10,000 runs and 34 centuries in test cricket.Dravid is also the record holder as far as catches by a non-wicketkeeper is concerned. Let us also not forget that Dravid made a significant contribution to the one-day team in the run-up to the finals of the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup.

One headline during the ongoing test series in the West Indies made me sit up.Dravid made a hundred in the first test which contributed to a great win.The next morning one news channel screamed ‘oldest man in test cricket currently scores a century’.The headlines would surely have been different if a Sachin or a Dhoni scored a hundred.Why this discrimination against Dravid?

I am once again forced to ask-is it because Dravid plays differently or is there any other reason that I do not know about? There were some commentators in the past who even blamed the physiological characteristics of Dravid as the cause of his style of play. They pointed out that Dravid tended to lose his stamina quickly on account of his profuse sweating.

It is true that sometimes Rahul Dravid seems to fall into a rut while batting which makes viewing cricket extremely painful.It appears that Dravid has to bear the burden of the entire world on his frail shoulders much like the mythical figure of Atlas. But to his credit, Dravid has time and again come up with something that helped his team immensely.

Dravid was removed from the one-day team many times and his removal as the captain of the India team needs a lot of explaining.But these incidents have only seemed to strengthen the will and the resolve of Dravid to do more for his team as was the case in the first test at Jamaica.

Make no mistake, I am as big fan as anyone when it comes to Sachin or Federer but Nadal and Dravid are also champions in their own right.

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