Anyway, with the Pakistan series coming up, I hope this blog really gets back into action else what is the point of having a blog? Right?
Many things come to mind right now and not all of them r cricket. That is good, coz most of us who follow cricket also follow other sports and its good to talk about it all.
Where can I start except with Sania Mirza. Last I posted, she was gonna play the Australian Open. She did and what a result ... beyond expectations, by any stretch of imagination. Of course, the media went gaga over it and its good not to lose perspective but even considering all this, she did more than what we expected. A third round entry into the Australian Open is terrific and losing to Serena Williams is nothing to be ashamed of. I watched a TV interview of hers with Shekhar Gupta, who conducts the program called "Walk the Talk" on NDTV (I think) ... she was like "I lost ... too bad ... next time I will try to beat her". Way to go, baby.
After the Aussie Open, of course, she played the WTA tournament in amchi Hyderabad ... and though I didn't get to see her matches (u had to be really well connected to get the tickets for the final rounds), I did get to see the rush outside the stadium where the matches were played. Chuck and wifey were going to Abids and happened to pass by the stadium and man oh man, cars parked all over the place and police presence throughout the area ... everyone who is anyone in Hyderabad had turned up to get their photo in the papers the next day and the stadium was packed. Sania won and moved into the top 100 in women's tennis. Terrific ... one can crib that top 100 is not really something special but when we talk about women's tennis in India, u know what ... it is something special. I found the media hype during the Australian Open somewhat more amusing .. .the Indian media went gaga over the fact that Sania Mirza was the second most popular player in the Australian open, a statistic gleaned from the count of hits on her profile at the Australian open website. Seems she was second only to Maria Sharapova ... lol ... with one billion Indians around the world and nowadays with every Chuck and his uncle having internet access, obviously she got a lot of hits. Not to say she didn't do well coz she did ... but to say she was the second most popular player after Sharapova is really silly. Amusing, but still silly.
As I write this post, Sania has won the first round match at the Dubai open, a top notch tournament with the lowest ranking of around 39 ... of course being 99, Sania really wasn't eligible to play and got into the main draw coz of a wild card. But looks like she is taking her chances with both hands ... Agarkar might learn something about taking one's chances from Sania. Anyway, in the first round, she beat a girl ranked 34th in the world and next meets the defending US open champion, Kutzensova. Man oh man, if she wins this one, India will go wild.
The next topic I want to talk on is Narain Karthikeyan. As all of India now knows, he will be the Number 1 driver for Jordan when the Formula - 1 season starts in March with the Australian Grand Prix. The first Indian to have reached the Formula-1 level, really he should have made it a year or so back when he got an offer from Jaguar. At that time, he couldn't get in coz he couldn't get the money required. U know what ... this concept is really funny ... the driver pays the team money to let him drive their car and win them fame and glory. Of course, the company is giving a very expensive piece of machinery into his hands but still, it sucks when a guy meriting entry into Formula-1 cannot make it coz he doesn't have enough money to pay the team. This time, when Jordan gave the offer, some TATA group company among others came up to put forward the money, and Karthikeyan is ready to roll. Here are some interesting things I read over the days and just mentioning them in case u guys didn't know this. The current world champion (for the past 5 years or so) Michael Schumacher, started his F-1 career as a rookie driver with Jordan. That is exactly what Karthikeyan is now doing. Apart from Schumie, other drivers who r today top names in Formula-1 started off with Jordan. Jordan, by the way has a reputation of taking in new guys, something other teams don't really do. They just poach drivers from other teams after seeing their performances in Formula-1. It takes balls to take someone who hasn't really driven at the top level before and recruit him for the entire year. Incidentally, both of Jordan's drivers r rookies ... I forget the other guy's (Jordan's second driver) name but he will also be making his debut at the Australian Grand Prix. Another nugget of information is the salary Jordan is paying them ... guess how much is it ... Schumie is paid millions by Ferrari ... and Karthikeyan gets ... gets ... gets .... NOTHING. He pays Jordan for driving for them and he doesn't get paid a salary. He gets money from Jordan if he gets them points - for those not knowing, the first 6 (or is it 8) finishers in each race get points - and nothing if he doesn't get them points. So how does he live? His sponsors , basically. Interesting, huh?
It is good for sports in India when people like Sania Mirza and Narain Karthikeyan come into the spotlight. They let people in other sports know that there is a good life for them out there, if only they r ready to earn it. Of course, cricket in India has matured to an extent that the hardest thing for a cricketer is to get into the national team. There is a system for his sport at the domestic level, however good or bad it might be. With sports like tennis and F-1, for example, if u depend on the system, then don't complain coz it is not gonna help u and that is certain. U gotta go out and earn what u deserve by ur own efforts ... maybe it is unfair but that is the way it is. A neighbour or mine, who teaches at Nasr school in Hyderabad, where Sania Mirza did her schooling, told me about how Sania's mother used to run around for her daughter ... she used to run to all the newspaper offices with details of tournaments her daughter was playing and the results ... I have previously mentioned that newspapers in AP really give a lot of info about their sportspeople and back them ... while the "backing them" part still remains, now I realize that it wasn't the media which really bothered to get the info about Sania's progress through the last 2-3 years of her career ... I was always amazed coz I would read in Deccan Chronicle about Sania reaching the semi-finals in some non-descript tournament in some non-descript city in South Africa and would say to myself - "wow, Deccan Chronicle is really doing good to sportspeople of AP since they keep track of small / insignificant news items like this one". Now I know it is really Sania Mirza's mom who made sure that Deccan Chronicle carried those small pieces of news on her daugher ... basically she provided the news and they printed it. Similarly, she used to run to her daughter's school with the same news bulletins, begging the headmistress of the school to adjust things like school attendance, re-schedule examinations and in some case cancel examinations. The school officials too obliged and so like unlike many other sportspeople, Sania Mirza is actually 12th pass (which of course, being a board examination out of control of the school, she would have had to pass on merit).
Same with a guy like Abhinav Bindra, who won a lot of accolades with his shooting efforts before the Olympics (yeah, he fizzled in the Olympics but then that is the general trend) ... from all reports, till the time he became a big name, his dad used to finance his needs of weapon / ammunition etc ... if he had depended on the system, we wouldn't really know there is a guy around named Abhinav Bindra.
Now lets come to cricket. This post is already becoming too long so let me not talk about the Pakistan series right now. Let me talk about the direction given by the govt. to the BCCI (and other Sports federations) about their players not being allowed to sport the tri-color on their garments / helmets etc. There was this hue and cry from the cricketers (who naturally got the spotlight ... damn them) who claimed to carry their patriotism on their sleeve. There was this whining from Yuvi among the cricketers though SRT (the one guy whose helmet for the past many years has carried a tricolor) was diplomatically (and characteristically) silent. There were also some interesting comments from others, notably from Narain Karthikeyan ... I really love this guy. He says (I quote) - "We as sportsmen are only doing the country proud by performing well. I have the tricolour on my helmet, but I can probably sell that space to sponsors and make a lot of money." - Read the entire article here - http://www.theage.com.au/news/Sport/Flag-ban-for-Indian-sports-stars/2005/02/23/1109046970077.html?oneclick=true
My take on this. Forget sportspeople ... they r not the beginning and the end. U and I, the common man on the streets, have to follow the flag code ... till a couple of years back, we couldn't even fly the tri-color from our houses if we wanted to ... today, we can but it is still a tricky situation coz u don't really know what the govt might contrue as "disrespect to the flag" and who wants to find out by going to jail? Basically, the same laws apply to sportsmen, whether Yuveraj takes pride in sporting the tri-color or not ... what a cry-baby ... really ... this basically tells me that before this recent order, he really had no idea there was something called a flag code. See, its not like I am saying it is correct or not correct but what is applicable for me is applicable for Yuveraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar.
Ok time for me to run home to wifey ... more posts soon. I still have to talk about the Pakistan tour and hopefully follow it properly over the course of the tour.
Look out for more posts from me, guys. I just got a second wind.
Of course, I cannot end this post without mentioning our finance minister who, with his latest budget, has really made me a richer man from the next financial year. I guess all I can say is - there really is god, and his name is P. Chidambaram.