Thursday, September 10, 2009

When brothers clash…

You cannot deny that as a singles player Sania Mirza has put both Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in the shade since her coming of age in international tennis. This tennis triangle of skill, love and hate may have failed to produce feats comparable to Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan achieved in singles play. There, however, is no doubt they have managed to administer occasional jolts to our sense of expectations.
But Leander and Mahesh have succeeded in the ATP circuit, basically by accepting their limitations in the singles arena and narrowing their focus to doubles.
No doubt, doubles is the poor cousin in professional tennis. But that said what glory and drama Leander and Mahesh have served up between themselves!
Leander and Mahesh, friends-turned-foes, will clash in the finals of the US Open Men's doubles, in what could turn out to be one of the most dramatic episodes in Indian sport history. In recent years, both of them have refused to play together even for India, leave alone teaming up for Grand Slam glories.
One should admire them for having a streak of individuality and going their own separate ways, whatever the reasons that cracked the combination.
Leander, along with Lukas Dlouhy, and Mahesh, along with Mark Knowles, must have been aware of the possibility of a fratricidal clash between the Indians at the beginning of the US Open, given the draws, but never would have bet on the other progressing so far.
So if you could watch these two slug it out on Friday, please be aware that you are taking part in a most fascinating episode in terms of rivalry and clash of personalities.
And finally, whom will be you rooting for?
Both men have been scarred by break ups in relationships with women in their lives as well as with their own parting of ways.
Mostly, these two have lived in their worlds, without really establishing a connect with Indian sports fans.
May be Friday is the last chance for these two to bring out the best in them, at an unparalleled occasion such as the US Open, and remind us that their breakup, eventually, was worth the bitterness and rancour on and off the field.
Love all.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

An Advani in his prime

By John Cheeran
It's not that Bangalore did not boast of worldbeaters till
Pankaj Advani came along in the 21st century. There were men and women who came up with big breaks, be it in cricket, badminton, hockey, football, athletics and tennis.
Yet, many such stars were bogged down by the inevitable mediocrity in team games and could not aspire for the tag of world champions.
Chennai has had a Vishwanthan Anand since mid-80s.
Kolkota could gloat about Leander Paes and, sniggers apart, his bronze medal in Atlanta Olympics, should compensate for his failures in singles. Mumbai produced Wilson Jones and Michael Ferreira in billiards. Hyderabad, in recent years, has had Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and P Gopichand.
I leave out cricketers from this list for obvious reasons.
Yes, Indians have excelled as individuals in sporting arena.
Ramanathan Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Prakash Padukone
Geet Sethi and Anand have excelled on their own, beating
the system in the process.
Indians can always fancy their chances in non-contact sports where physical power is not the dominant and determining factor in success. That explains our decent record in chess, badminton, billiards and snooker. Once hockey turned a brutish power game, India’s grip loosened irrevocably.
In Advani's success, one can find individual effort and family support playing critical roles. Yes, he has been lucky to be in a city where he could have a great mentor in Arvind Savur and Karnataka State Billiards Association too has helped him. But what has worked in Advani's favour is the space the sport offered for improvement as an individual.
Considering that Prakash Padukone blazed a trail in 1980 by winning the All England championship, the Wimbledon of badminton, Bangalore should have produced more world champions.
Bangalore, the city, since then has rewritten many existing codes of success, especially in entrepreneurship. Anyone could list of the names of tech czars who have put Bangalore on world map but apart from cricketers are there any sports stars who tried to reach for the pie in the sky, the way Padukone did?
That makes the recent victory of Advani in professional billiards all the more important. Advani has given youngsters in the city a moment to pause and wonder. Can we dream bigger and better than this 24-year-old? How long one can crib about venal selectors and rotten politics, lack of facilities, indifferent sponsors and callous public?
It is indeed remarkable that very few, other than the family and close friends, turned out at the Bangalore International Airport to welcome home a world champion. Apparently, we are yet to cultivate a habit of recognizing heroes, the real ones, that is.
John Cheeran at Blogged