Monday, October 24, 2005

Tennis' Role Models

Thanks to TOI and their ilk, scantily clad models peering out from front pages is not an uncommon sight these days. Nevertheless, I took a quick look at the pretty young thing on Sunday's Deccan Chronicle and to my surprise found the picture was that of a "ball girl" from the Madrid ATP Masters. I also discovered that the ball girls were really models, meant to 'sex up' the event. Now, apparently the idea is also to be extended to the season-ending WTA event, with male models as the ball boys. Naturally. It's all good, mate. Not that I mind shapely young things cavorting about, but tennis hardly needs sexing up. Besides, these days it's not as if we need more avenues for such things. But more importantly, I think it deprives some budding tennis aspirants of the opportunity to get a closer look at their idols (I do recall some tennis stars having done stints as ball boys). As for ATP Masters, perhaps it was an unitended blessing, given the withdrawals that hit the event. - NK

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Baffling Selections

So VVS Laxman is out in the cold yet again, and Ajit Agarkar finds himself in the thick of things once again. Honestly, I cannot for the life of me make out how Agarkar makes the national squad without really proving anything - apart from the fact, of course, that he doesn't really belong there. Zaheer Khan hasn't really found much favour with Greg Chappell, and seems to have built up a reputation as a bit of a shirker when it comes to training (if one were to go by insider accounts in the media). He has been blowing hot and cold in the last year or so, but of late was pretty good and no worse than those considered worthy of playing the Lankans and the South Africans. But the selectors seem to have reserved their best for Lakshmipathy Balaji, who has done little wrong and finds himself out of reckoning - I hope the selectors have a logical explanation, other than that they wanted to blood 'youngsters'. The only pleasant surprise is the Kerala youngster Sreesanth - hopefully he will be more than just a passenger. - NK

Change of Guard

Leadership changes have never been easy in Indian cricket – in fact, one might extend that to all sub-continental cricketing nations – but when the incumbent decides that the time has not yet arrived for the change, the whole process degenerates into an ugly power struggle of the kind that has just been witnessed. One has to look back a couple of years to find a shining example of how it should be done - when Nasser Hussain so graciously offered to step down, having recognised a successor in Michael Vaughan and that his own batting had a shelf life. We have now travelled to the other end of the spectrum in the Ganguly-Chappell-Dravid-BCCI saga. In the process, the image of both Ganguly and the board have taken a bit of battering, although I must admit it is Ganguly who has come out worse off. Unfortunately for Ganguly, he does not have anyone else to blame but himself this time – his me-against-the-world posture will not wash, for there was no conspiracy to dethrone him surreptitiously. The coach was clear in his opinion (even if it was made public to suit some quarters) and the selection committee simply muddied the waters by dilly-dallying before and after the Sri Lanka tours. The discordant noises from within the side were natural given that he was a popular and successful captain who had backed some to the hilt and the declining fortunes of the team added to the mix. The new coach also threatened to upset the established order of the last few years, and not surprisingly ruffled feathers. Whether Chappell will be successful or not is a moot point – what is clear is that he has decided to be his own man, and has already taken a somewhat radical departure from the low-profile approach of John Wright. As his older brother indicated recently, speaking in a forthright manner is something the Chappells picked up at the breakfast table. It did not have to end this way for Ganguly. His legacy has now been tarnished by this wholly unnecessary scandal, particularly as he always had a number of detractors who were waiting for him to fail, and fail miserably. Our national character is such that there are always people from one part of the country who would like some others to fail. There is also no dearth of such people within the cricket establishment and the media, not just the public at large. No sooner than the scandal broke out, out came the likes of Raj Singh Dungarpur from the woodwork, spewing vitriol. In the end, the same vile characters that Ganguly had helped shut up found renewed energy to mount vicious attacks, and it was largely Ganguly himself who opened the door. - NK PS: Ganguly could have done without the likes of Lokendra Pratap Sahi doing his bidding. A champion sportsperson should seek redemption through his athletic gear, not media minions (not suggesting Sahi was acting at Ganguly’s behest).