serve a poor show
NOT since the French Grand Prix in 1954 has a team new to Formula One finished one-two on their debut. That day at Rheims it was Juan Manuel Park, while it was Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello for Brawn-Mercedes after an extraordinary Australian Grand Prix.
Jenson Button had been forced to trail these past two seasons, struggling with an uncompetitive Honda. The vehicle was being powered by an engine that delivered its meagre drive with all the finesse of a light switch.
The man who, in one great afternoonís work, scored more points than he had since 2006. "Wow", he said, as he let that depressing statistic sink in. "Thatís pretty rubbish, really, isnít it? To be honest, the last two years have been really tough. Last yearís car was a handful. Every corner, we didnít know what was really going to happen. So it was a beast, but thatís what we had to deal with."
If there was a parable within yesterdayís fairytale result, it was that every man in Formula One is only as good as the equipment he has at his disposal. Lewis Hamilton could not repeat his 2008 triumph as he struggled in a McLaren that is not yet au point. Button, the man he has so eclipsed since 2007, and whom many sceptics had long written off as yet another of those one-time stars who waned, was unbeatable in the right machine yesterday.
Such was the magnitude of the teamís success, with Barrichello backing up Button with a fighting, albeit slightly fortunate, run to second place, that Ross Brawn, the man who took ownership of the team in order to see it survive, had nothing to say in the immediate aftermath.
"You donít find Ross speechless very often but the last 15 minutes I would be surprised if he said a word," Button said. "When we saw him when we went up to the podium he had nothing to say. The big bear was just there speechless. It was good to see as it was a very emotional day for him as it is for us as well.
"I actually said on the radio to my engineer ĎCan you please pinch me next time round.í It was at the start of the race after five laps when I had a five-second lead or something. Yes, this was a special moment."
The big question now, after all the pre-season testing promise has been proven beyond question in the heat of battle as Brawn humbled the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Renault, is how long it can continue, and whether rivals really can catch up.
"We knew that there were some very talented people in the team," Button said. "We hadnít produced the car that we expected to last season, so we put all our work into this car and you can see that we can produce a good car as we have in the past. Now the important thing is to just keep improving it. Our updates throughout the season I hope are going to be enough to keep us strong."
Is the world championship, then, a realistic prospect? "I hope it is. I hope we are quick and have an advantage all season, but I donít think thatís going to be the case. I have a feeling other teams are going to be on us very quickly. Maybe in Malaysia other cars that werenít competitive here, will be. Sebastian Vettelís pace surprised me. Itís not a walkaway victory, for sure. But Rubens and I will be competitive together, with a good car, so no reason why we shouldnít be competitive."
Especially when you take into account a compliment that the veteran Barrichello, for six years Michael Schumacherís team-mate when Ferrari was helmed by Brawn, paid to Button.
"You know," he remarked to Brazilian journalists last weekend, "When he has his day, Jenson is as fast and talented as Michael, but he has not been as consistent." Now that he has the car in his hands that he has waited 10 years to drive, Button is determined to put that right, too."
serve a poor show
AFTER her first round exit in the prestigious All England Championship and the subsequent quarterfinal thrashing in the Swiss Super series, the advantage of playing in front of her home crowd and a relatively easy draw should have enthused the world number 9 Saina Nehwal to make amends by clinching the Indian Open Grand prix.
Seeded second in the tournament the 19-year-old home favourite had started her campaign in a characteristic show of ruthless power and placement to reach the quarterfinal stage without any hiccups.
However she lost the plot against fifth seed Wong Julia Pei Xian of Malaysia and was disposed of in a 55-minute clash. The Malaysian wriggled back from one game deficit to enter the last eight and won 12-21,21-13,21-18 dashing the hopes of not only Saina but many an Indian fan in the process.
If blowing up a 11-3 lead in the decider of the quarterfinal defeat at the the Beijing Olympics still hurts her this loss would also rankle the teenager a long time to come.
The second edition of $1,20,000 Yonex - Sunrise India Open championship was held at Hyderabad from March 24 to 29. In the menís section too it was a disappointing show with the Indian challenge not moving beyond the pre-quarterfinal stage.
Reigning national champion Arvind Bhat was bested in a near flawless display of skill by World number 7 Taufik Hidayat 21-14, 21-11 in the pre-quarterfinal clash.
Another Indian hopeful Chetan Anand, seeded second in the tournament, was ousted by Zhou Wenlong of China in the second round itself.
Patchy and unsure Chetan saved two match points but lost in the decider to concede 9-21, 24-22, 8-21.
It was eventually left to the Indian doubles team to salvage some pride after all the celebrated singles players were shown the door quite early.
The mixed pair of Jwala Gutta and V Diju carried on the momentum of their successful European season all through the tournament only to be whacked in the final by the third seed Indonesian pair of Flandy Limpele and Vita Marissa 21-14,21-17.
Gautam on the go
FOR anyone doubting the sense behind the shortest version of cricket, T20, Gautam Gambhir is a befitting and perfectly usable counter. The diminutive Delhi lad has been on fire for the past one year and has scored against the most challenging of oppositions after shooting to prominence through the T20 format. The mighty Australians, the English and now the Kiwis, have all been put to the sword.
But what is the most astonishing part of this extremely fruitful patch Gambhir has had is his ability to play different versions, in contrasting styles, but with equal amounts of success. He is a dasher in T20, dynamic in ODIs and as the Napier ton showed, extremely adaptive in Tests. Itís not so much about his ability, but rather about the application he has displayed in the past season.
Gambhir has 2,081 runs from 24 matches in Tests, with an average above 52. In ODIS he has scored 2,537 runs from 74 matches, and in T20 he has 328 runs from the 12 matches played. Keeping these stats aside, there is still lot to come from Gambhir in all formats and his fitness too should not be an issue.
Another noticeable fact about Gambhirís rise is that he has been able to avoid being tagged second-fiddle to Sehwag. Instead he has been the partner the Delhi dasher always missed. It is not possible to dominate Sehwag while batting alongside him, but Gambhir has managed what Aakash Chopra never could. He has not been overshadowed either and continues to play his game, irrespective of the blitzkrieg at the other end.
Gambhir came into his own at the T20 World Cup in South Africa, and has not looked back since. He has been able to translate the confidence picked their, into runs in all other formats too. There is not much he has to learn in terms of his cricket, apart from keeping his "elbows in control".
With the IPL and the T20 World Cup
lined up as this yearís major attractions, there is every chance that his
reputation will continue to rise. While Delhi Daredevils and Team India rejoice,
the opposition will have to start thinking on their feet as Gautam gets "gambhir"
about his cricket!
IN a move which has infuriated traditionalists, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is mulling over plans to allow players to wear coloured kits in the inaugural day-night Test against Bangladesh at the Lordís, next year.
The ECB came up with the idea since the Test will have to be played with the white ball as the traditional red ball is not visible under floodlights, and trials with pink and orange balls have proved to be unsuccessful. If a white ball is to be used, the cricketersí clothing must be of some other colour.
But the move has drawn flak from purists, who feel that the longest version of the game must retain its old world charm, especially at Lords.
"I am one of the old school and I am all for the game being played in white. It is best to play at Test match in white and during the day," retired umpire Dickie Bird was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph.
Apart from the traditionalists, one problem that the organisers will have to overcome is that white balls can become discoloured very quickly.
At present, it is mandatory to introduce a new ball after 34 overs in one-day matches, while in Test matches the red balls are only changed after 80 overs.
John Stephenson, the head of cricket of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), and his team are seeking a white ball that lasts longer. The English board will also need the approval of the International Cricket Council (ICC) before implementing the changes and ICC general manager Dave Richardson said the gameís world governing body is supportive of the idea.
"As this would involve a change to the standard Test playing conditions and the clothing and equipment regulations for Test cricket, it would require our proper consent and the ECB have not approached us yet for any such approval," Richardson said last night.
"But the ICC is supporting the research by the MCC, which includes whether a white ball can be developed that can last longer and be suitable for longer versions of the game.
"This matter will definitely be on the agenda of the ICC cricket committee meeting in May. Overall the ICC remains committed to the promotion of Test cricket, and if this means playing some Tests under lights, we should certainly consider it," he added.
"We need to play Test cricket at times when it is convenient for people to watch."
The flood-lit Test, the first of the two-match series against Bangladesh, will be played in late May next year. Play is likely to start at 2.30pm and finish at 9.30pm, which would allow spectators to attend after work.