Making sports addictive
Golfers must have a say
IN THE NEWS
Zidane should have
kept his cool
As India jumps on the Twenty20 bandwagon, Vikramdeep Johal looks at the commercial and cricketing potential of the game’s ultra-fast avatar
WHO says Twenty20 is all about cricket? It is more about big bucks than big hits. Is this much-too-short version a must to make the game more popular? Not really, since cricket is already the number one sport in almost all Test-playing nations. Even in England, where football still rules the roost, the resurgence of cricket is attributable to last year’s Ashes series, not to Twenty20. At the global level, cricket will remain a Commonwealth sport, no matter how exotic a form it acquires. It boils down to how much moolah the ICC and various national boards can rake in, even if they run the risk of milking the game’s potential dry.
"Slogfest" cricket is anti-bowler, to say the least, but it is also not very batsman-friendly. Batsmen get no time to settle down or build a partnership. There is no scope for big knocks or for stabilising an innings after early setbacks. Seven Twenty20 internationals have been played in the past year or so, but not many cricket lovers remember who scored the runs in those matches.
Much to the chagrin of purists, the hit-and-run format can seriously affect a batsman’s game and consistency. Don’t be shocked if you see a class player like M.S. Dhoni play a silly shot sometimes and gift his wicket on a platter to a mediocre bowler.
Even the much-expected incessant barrage of sixes and fours might become monotonous after a while. Missing from Twenty20 is that welcome lull before (or after) the storm which one sees in Tests and one-dayers. It is somewhat like watching an exhausting pornographic movie in which there are no breaks between the "hot" scenes.
There is no threat to Test cricket from Twenty20. The former has withstood the onslaught of one-dayers for 35 years and has even assimilated some features of the shorter version. Thanks to the influence of ODIs, five-day matches have become more result-oriented and fast-paced. It is one-dayers whose popularity might be hit by the rise of Twenty20. The ICC’s efforts to make ODIs livelier by introducing super-sub and power-play rules have come a cropper. A lot more needs to be done to help one-day cricket reinvent itself. Next year will be very crucial in this regard as both the ODI World Cup and the Twenty20 World Championship are scheduled to be held.
It is on the domestic circuit that Twenty20 can make an impact, particularly in India, where Ranji Trophy matches — both four-day and one-day — are often played in virtually empty stadiums. Inter-state or inter-zonal Twenty20 matches can pull crowds, even if there aren’t many star players to watch.
In a revenue-driven scenario, Twenty20
will get a lot of patronage from the powers that be, burnout or no
burnout. Much will depend on how well players cope with the
ever-increasing workload and for how long spectators enjoy the
"three-hour circus". If it clicks in a big way, its flaws
would be rendered inconsequential. For that to happen, it is imperative
that the quality of cricket does not deteriorate. Then it won’t really
matter much whether it’s called Twenty20, Fifteen15 or Ten10.
Making sports addictive
THE Samaj Bhalai Manch (SBM), an NGO, believes there is nothing better than sports to bring wayward youth on the right track. With the aim of keeping youngsters away from unhealthy practices like drug addiction, the manch is promoting sports activities.
The organisation has selected 54 villages to distribute sports equipment. The drive began from the 13 villages of Mahilpur tehsil in Hoshiarpur district, where the team distributed the equipment on July 16. These were Bombeli, Barian Kalan, Baghora, Chak Rataru, Manolian, Gondpur, Rasoolpur, Bham, Dandian, Ajnoha, Makhoospur, Pandori and Nagdipur.
The youngsters who want to make use of the equipment have to become volunteers after taking an anti-corruption oath. "The sports kit is a reward for those who have taken a pledge to fight corruption in society. Besides preparing good citizens, we also want to unearth rural talent in sports", said Rakesh Ahir, president of SBM.
The sports kit provided by SBM comprises 20 T-shirts, 15 footballs, five volleyballs, six badminton racquets and weights (dumbbells and barbells weighing a total of two quintals) worth Rs 15,000 each. It would be distributed in all 54 villages very soon, added Ahir.
The manch workers are keen to channel the energy of youngsters. They believe that sports teaches leadership qualities, communication skills, patience and perseverance.
"Sports equipment is not available in these far-flung villages and this gift from us would definitely encourage young people to shun drugs and turn over a new leaf", said Mr Ahir.
"The response in 13 villages was very encouraging as hundreds of youngsters and their parents evinced interest in our programme. They also came forward to take the pledge to fight and weed out corruption from society", said Seema, chief coordinator of SBM, who visited various villages to distribute the kits along with her team.
The SBM team is hopeful that the number of
volunteers would increase manifold in the near future and that the mission would
be a success. The organisation also has plans to start other progressive and
innovative projects for human resource development in this block by adopting a
FOOTBALL can justifiably be called the game the world plays. No other sport is played in more countries or followed more passionately. FIFA has more than 200 members — even more than the United Nations.
But since the World Cup started way back in 1930, only a handful of nations have laid their hands on the coveted trophy. It has virtually been the preserve of the "big four" — Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina.
Of the 18 finals played so far, Brazil have won the Cup five times (1958, ’62, ’70, ’94, 2002), Italy four (1934, ’38, ’82, 2006), Germany three (1954, ’74, ’90), Argentina two (1978, ’86) and Uruguay two (1930, ’50). England (1966) and France (1998) are the only other countries to have won the coveted trophy. So, only seven countries have done it in the 76-year-old history of the World Cup. In contrast, as many as five teams have been crowned world champions in eight editions of the cricket World Cup (first held in 1975).
As if that is not enough, football’s "big four" have also finished runners-up 10 times — Brazil (1950, ’98); Italy (1970, ’94); Germany (1966, ’82, ’86, 2002) and Argentina (1930, ’90).
It goes without saying that these four nations have been consistent performers at the highest level. The talent in these football powerhouses is unmatched in any other FIFA member country.
There are several reasons for their consistency over several decades. Football is easily the number one sport in these countries. It has become part of the culture. The game is nothing less than a religion in Brazil and Argentina. It is the obsession of the people living in shanty towns and slums — the recruiting ground for potential stars.
Football is the only way out for a boy to escape the poverty and violence prevailing in these places. Living in such conditions also makes a person tough, both mentally and physically.
In Italy and Germany, too, football is played by kids in the toughest parts of the cities which are not that well-off. Moreover, Italy has very good club teams which have won numerous European championships.
Most members of the Italian team play in their own league and hence are attuned to winning. Germany follows a more methodical approach — a Teutonic hallmark — to grooming the next generation of footballers. They have teams from under-10 onwards and their progress is closely scrutinised and only the most brilliant get through.
No wonder these nations have been getting a constant supply of talented players who have helped maintain the astonishing consistency.
Is there any threat to the hegemony of these four powerhouses? France, England, the Netherlands and Spain have shown that they have the players and the hunger to win the big one. However, only France and England have been able to go all the way. Three countries have ended up as runners-up twice: Hungary (1938, ’53); Holland (1974, ’78) and Czechoslovakia (1934, ’62). Sweden were runners-up in 1958.
The Netherlands had their best chance to win the Cup in 1974 and 1978, but despite reaching the final they were beaten by less talented teams who held their nerve better.
African and Asian teams can pull off an occasional upset but they don’t have it in them to emerge champions in the near future.
Golfers must have a say
GOLFERS, both past and present, keep the sport alive. Their viewpoint needs consideration. Some of them should be co-opted into the Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI). If a split occurs between organisers/promoters and players, it would cause untold damage to the cause of golf in the country.
Indian golf history is quite straightforward. From 1964, when the Indian Open was born, to the early 1990s, Indian golfers — even in Asia — were among the also-rans as the parent body, the Indian Golf Union (IGU), was (and is) no more than a "paper tiger".
As the PGAI and Tiger Sports Marketing (TSM) took upon themselves the responsibility of nurturing and managing the affairs of professional golfers, things changed for the better. In less than 15 years, India has become one of the top golfing nations in Asia. Also several golfers are being talked about on renowned international circuits, particularly in Europe and the USA. Top names like Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh are surprised to watch the quick growth of Indian golf.
Indian golf is making rapid strides. More and more youngsters are undergoing training in summer months at home and abroad.
Since the formation of the PGAI-TSM partnership, the biggest beneficiaries have been the caddy-turned-professional golfers. Many of them have risen from rags to riches, and they are now rubbing shoulders with "affluent" golfers at prestigious courses.
There was a time when organisers pleaded for the coverage of important tournaments, including the Indian Open. Increase in popularity came swiftly when Ali Sher won the Indian Open crown in 1991 and did it again in 1993. Then the PGAI and TSM made it a rip-roaring success by keeping the media well-informed about various competitions.
The bitter truth is that hardly anyone cares for sport, any sport, until there is a flow of money. Cricket is on top because of unprecedented flow of money. Similar is the case of golf because corporate bosses have taken to the game as "a way of life".
An in-depth study shows that grievances of players are more imaginary than real. Differences are more of a "technical" nature rather than of any bungling. The contract, for example, says that 64 players were "eligible to take part in the Aamby Valley Asian Masters but only 59 could tee off".
Another bone of contention is the
alleged distribution of prize money. Both these are minor problems which
need to be sorted out between players and organisers. It is unfortunate
if a few aggrieved players attempt to form a breakaway unit. Petty
rivalries and politicking will be counterproductive, to say the least.
IN THE NEWS
MICHAEL Schumacher has always said that he will only truly reflect on his extraordinary Formula One achievements when he retires.
Judging from his current form and obvious hunger for victory that day may be still some way off, but on Sunday (July 16) the seven-time world champion gave himself a few more milestones to consider in his old age.
The 37-year-old’s victory for Ferrari in France made him both the first driver to win the same Grand Prix eight times and the first to make 150 appearances on the Formula One podium.
He already held the record of seven wins at the same circuit — the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola, in Canada and France.
Only France’s Alain Prost and the late Ayrton Senna came close to that.
Prost won six times in France and Brazil, while Senna ruled Monaco’s street circuit with six wins in the Mediterranean principality.
Yet Prost, the four times world champion who is always the next name down in the list after Schumacher, had "only" 106 podium finishes.
Among current Formula One drivers, the next most familiar with the podium are Briton David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello with 61 apiece.
France has been special to the German, who won at Magny-Cours in 1994 with Benetton and 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2004 with Ferrari before last week’s success.
Yet he attributed his latest win less to the track or his own prowess than to the mechanics working tirelessly to fix his car after it caught fire in the final practice session before qualifying.
Schumacher has 88 wins now, from 243 starts. And, after more than a decade as a Grand Prix winner, he can see a leading question miles off.
Zidane should have kept his cool
IT was unbecoming of Zinedine Zidane to head-butt Marco Materazzi, no matter how serious was the provocation. The image of Zizou has been, and still is, that of a supremely gifted footballer, whose golden boots would weave their magic past bewildered defenders and whose bald head would send the ball into the goal.
The world looks up to sporting superheroes such as Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Schumacher and indeed Zidane.
Now if Tendulkar, when rattled and furious at an Australian player’s verbal volley of abuses, were to knock him down with his bat, the magnificent aura that he has created around himself with his brilliant batting would vanish in a split second.
Society needs heroes. Their deeds can inspire youngsters to perform great feats. Such heroes have to control their emotions and actions at all times, especially in public. They just cannot exercise the freedom of language and action that an ordinary individual does. In these days of all-pervasive media, they have to watch their every step.