Short and bittersweet
Narain in the big league
India, a country previously on the fringes of the Formula One map, will be in the Grand Prix limelight this season, starting in Melbourne on March 6.
Narain Karthikeyan, signed by Jordan as India’s first Formula One driver, has so far been the season’s most-talked-about newcomer.
With the debut of the ‘fastest Indian on wheels’, the country’s already strong interest in Formula One promises to take off.
The team’s statement announcing his arrival spelt out exactly what it really meant, giving Formula One "exceptional appeal in India with the potential for an enormous new audience and business market".
For the first time since 1967, France will start a season without a Grand Prix driver on the grid following the retirement of Olivier Panis.
Others to have quit the stage, involuntarily, since the start of 2004 include Brazilian Cristiano da Matta, Hungarian Zsolt Baumgartner, Italians Gianmaria Bruni and Giorgio Pantano, and Germany’s Timo Glock.
Only two teams start with the same driver lineup as last year, Ferrari and BAR. But BAR have a new boss.
Williams, with Australian Mark Webber and Germany’s Nick Heidfeld moving in from Jaguar and Jordan, respectively, have two men who have yet to win a race between them.
Webber has yet to finish higher than fifth place in three seasons in Formula One.
There will be at least four rookies, possibly five if highly-rated Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi gets the nod over Austrian Christian Klien at Red Bull.
Minardi and Jordan, the tail-end teams, both have two drivers with no Formula One race experience.
Apart from the high-profile Karthikeyan, Jordan have recruited Tiago Monteiro as Portugal’s first driver since Pedro Lamy was at Minardi in 1996.
Further up the grid, there will be plenty of interest in Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya’s move to McLaren from Williams, Italian Giancarlo Fisichella’s switch to Renault from Sauber and Canadian former champion Jacques Villeneuve’s Sauber debut. — Reuters
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello once likened Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher to a Sumo wrestler.
The seven-time world champion is certainly awesome, easily the most successful racer in Formula One history with a string of records set to stand for as long as he lives.
This season could see Schumacher return as the Sumo — steamrollering opponents on his way to a sixth title in a row — or the mask could be ripped off at last.
At 36, he is now the oldest driver on the starting grid, embarking on his 15th season to try and extend the longest unbroken reign that Formula One has known, and there are plenty of hungry pretenders eyeing his throne.
Most pundits are predicting another Schumacher title at the moment. But then again, most expected him to be beaten last year and they could not have been more wrong.
The conventional wisdom in 2004 was that Schumacher, taken to the wire by McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen the previous year, had reached the crest of his career and had nowhere to go but down.
Schumacher replied by winning 13 of the 18 races and romping to the greatest single-season points tally in Formula One history.
He also racked up a record streak of seven wins in a row in the same season and took his career haul to 83 grand prix wins.
To put that into perspective, the next most successful active driver in terms of race victories is Briton David Coulthard with a mere 13 over a decade.
This year the champion can overhaul Ayrton Senna’s landmark tally of 65 pole positions — Schumacher needs just two more to equal the late Brazilian’s feat — and also move a big step closer to an extraordinary 100 wins.
There can be no doubt that he would like that century, even if it looks to be a tall order with a Ferrari contract due to expire at the end of 2006.
There is not a rival team boss in Formula One who would not wish to have Schumacher in one of his cars just as there are few drivers really hoping he retires soon, knowing they can add lustre to their own careers by beating him. — Reuters
Short and bittersweet
It is the shortest version of cricket. With its fast and furious pace, it is proving to be very spectator friendly. However, if one-day cricket has caused immense harm to Test cricket over the years, then Twenty20 can well be the doom of cricket as we know it.
The game is so loaded in favour of the batsmen that the future generation of players may not be keen to become bowlers. No-balls are penalised by a free-hit next ball — a batsman cannot be out from a free-hit delivery unless they are run out. Slam-bang hitting dominates the match, which is over in less than three hours. The quality of cricket hardly matters. Ultimately, it is money which makes the mare go.
Over 30,000 spectators were present at the Eden Park in Auckland to see Australia beat New Zealand in the first Twenty20 international earlier this month. The carnival atmosphere, the no-holds-barred slogging by batsmen and the short, short duration of the match delighted the crowd but made most purists run for cover.
Earlier, Australia A had played the touring Pakistan team in a friendly match. And later this summer, England are scheduled to play Australia at the Rose Bowl. The popularity of these games has given further boost to this boisterous game where every player seems to be in a hurry.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) might see a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end in this form of the game. It might find it difficult to ignore the spectator appeal, but is this form of cricket good for the game?
So far, the ICC has refused to fall for its so-called charm and no plans have been made for its addition to the international calendar. "I don’t want Twenty20 to endanger current test and one-day formats," says Malcolm Speed, the Chief Executive of the ICC.
But for how long? Once countries like Australia and England, who have their own domestic Twenty20 tournaments running very successfully, start clamouring for inclusion of this form of the game in the international calendar, can the international body stay aloof?
Although the game is yet to start in India, it would not be a bad idea for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)to experiment with it to see how the Indian audiences respond. The response should not be bad since this is probably the only place in the world where over 30,000 cricket lovers turned up to see a match between Kenya and Zimbabwe in Patna in the 1996 World Cup.
To start with, the tournament could be played under lights in the summer when the cricketing schedule is light. India has about 10 floodlit cricket grounds across the country where it can be played. We should be prepared for the game in case the ICC decides to introduce it. The fiasco of the first World Cup of 1975 when India did not know how to properly play the one-day game should not be repeated.
Nearer home, the game has a great supporter in Pakistani captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who played a Twenty20 match recently in Australia. "It is becoming very popular. After one or two years it will be more popular compared to 50-over matches and Tests," the Pakistani captain has been quoted as saying.
In South Africa, attendance for domestic Twenty20 match has multiplied as compared to the 50-over game. Last year, the attendance averaged 9,000 per match, crowds South Africa had not seen in their cricket grounds since night cricket was started in that country in the 1980s.
Cricket for a cause
Among various games, cricket has earned the distinction of coming to the rescue of destitutes. First, Imran Khan initiated the idea of a cancer hospital in memory of his mother who died of cancer. The tsunami caused large-scale devastation and uprooted many lakhs of people. The first tsunami relief match in Melbourne — a tie between Asian XI vs World XI was attended by about 70,000 cricket fans, yielding about Rs 50 crore for victims.
The gentleman’s game is providing a humanitarian touch. Kudos to such kindly acts. This is real cricket, embodying kindness and fellow feeling.
India has always stood up for the victims whenever there is a national or international catastrophe. Hats off to the Indian spirit of fellow feeling and rich culture. More matches are being staged to help the affected people. Thanks to all persons who have donated liberally to this noble cause.
Prof. Y.L. Chopra, Bathinda
The Premier Hockey League should have started 10 years ago. But it is a good beginning nevertheless.
The IHF deserves to be congratulated for holding this mega event. It is a milestone in the history of Indian hockey. Four quarters each of 17.5 minutes, time-outs and glittering uniforms, are all welcome innovations.
The PHL’s Tier II is also a very good platform for emerging players to show their skills. The role of ESPN-Star Sports is admirable for the telecast and sponsorship of the PHL. Even the role of the Tribune in covering the event cannot be overlooked.
Satwinder Singh Dhanoa, KOT FATTA