Apr 22, 2007

I'd mentioned in an earlier post that this F1 season may see a good contest between Kimi and Alonso, so much so that Schumi's absence may not hurt so much.

However' I'd not expected such a thrilling start. In most of the recent seasons, 1 driver has sat on 30 points after the first three races, though others have mounted a challenge later in the season. This time, we've actually had 3 different winners in the first 3 races, and a fourth driver - a rookie at that! - is tied for the Championship lead. Sweet!

It's impossible for even the wisest pundit, one with many grey hairs, to call this one. It really could go any way from here. I'd be cheering for Kimi though. Here's why.

Hamilton's start seems too good to last, and I'd be surprised if he got the better of Kimi and Alonso - in equally good or better cars - in his very first season. Massa also seems to lack that 'special something' that is the hallmark of a Champion.

The reason I dislike Alonso was re-affirmed in the last race at Bahrain. He tried to bottle Kimi up, and I'm sure he allowed Heidfeld to catch up with the pair so that Kimi would come under pressure himself, and give Alonso some breathing space. The move back-fired badly, and Alonso was taken by both of them. The thing i dislike about him the most - he settled for fifth. Hardly the inspiring stuff you expect of a Champion.

Contrast this with Kimi. Now here's a true-blood racer who always goes all out, and never seems happy with anything less than a win. He was clearly disappointed with 3rd place. My best memory from the last season was Kimi being taken by Schumi in the last race. You saw two men going all out - stretching their machines to the limit - wheels scraping and the drive edging on madness - and Schumi finally got ahead coz he had the better car. But it's Kimi's spirit and burning desire to win that makes him such a pleasure to watch.

I hope Kimi can win this one with the prancing horse, and bring the smiles back to faces of fans like myself. And prove to the world - Schumi IS replaceable.

Apr 6, 2007

World Cup Cricket. Post 2

Here's something to think about...

There was a time India used to beat Sri Lanka convincingly even with a half-ass team. In 1996, they beat India twice, the second defeat ending India's campaign. And they ended India's campaign again this time.

Till very recently, India would beat Bangladesh 9 times out of 10. The two teams' meeting at this World cup wasn't expected to be a real contest. It wasn't eventually, but the winner was not the one people had presumed.

The two instances create a strong sense of deja vu. Other Asian nations - which should also suffer from the ostensibly 'Asian' handicaps of fitness and temperament - and which have a population less than one of India's many States - have produced teams more competitive than ours. Nearly all other teams have improved. Still, Australia only seem to have increased their lead at the head of the pack.

Meanwhile, the only team that India has beaten consistently in World Cup contests, is Pakistan. And the state of their cricket isn't even worth starting about. The rivalry remains, but is now one between two very ordinary teams. With so many India-Pak series in the recent past, these two teams may have got lost in the game of one-upsmanship, missing the bigger picture of self-improvement.

While all others are moving ahead, Indian cricket seems to be going in circles. 4 years back, we had the makings of a formidable force. But the establishment, led by a certain businessman of questionable scruple, was focused on promoting the frenzy and making money off the team's successful streak, rather than figuring out ways to sustain performance. And the consequences of the BCCI's negligence of basic priortities have hit Indian cricket lovers in the face.

In light of all this, Subhash Chandra's ICL may be a good idea. He's emitted the right sound bytes about talent scouting, fitness, and exposure for the youth. These are the directions in which Indian cricket needs to move. The circle needs to be broken, to avoid more heartbreaks in the future. And Chandra might be the man to do it.

On a different note, Sambit Bal in his post at Cricinfo writes:

"Money is not a concern and if the board is sincere about it, they can find the best professionals from the global pool of talent. This team can then work with a manager of stature and proven integrity, an Indian who can help them negotiate the system. Someone who can be both link and a shield. Someone tough and uncompromising. Someone who can relate to Indian players, who is above petty politics and regionalism, and wholly committed to the idea of winning.

Step forward Ravi Shastri."

It took me by surprise, but I really like the last line. Shastri may not have been a popular cricketer, and may not be as charismatic or respected a commentator as, say, Gavaskar, but I like the way he identifies issues and the strength with which he presents his views. He has the ability to hit the nail on the head, has an aggresive mindset, and is respected by current players, former players and the establishment. He may actually be the man for the job. Don't see it happening though.

Well, whatever happens, let's hope the current situation is dealt with in the right manner - with vision, patience, discipline, honesty and professionalism.