“The future’s in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change”
Lines from the Scorpions’ ‘Winds Of Change’ come to mind when I ruminate over the past week’s happenings in the world of sport.
The song celebrates the changes in the political clime—the end of the Cold War— and was inspired by the band’s visit to Moscow in 1989.
It was the theme song for the reunification of Germany.
Winds of change are blowing over more than one sport.
Tiger Woods had two fantastic days of golf—last weekend. He came to the party on the second and fourth days at the Masters—only to prove that he’s human after all.
For Tiger, victories at the Slams have always come leading from the front.
Two days of sublime shot-making could not make amends for his inconsistency.
The links have a lot more young stars now.
South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel emulated his countryman Louis Oosthuizen, winning the Augusta National.
Oosthuizen is the holder of the British Open title.
It is the first time since 1994 that non-Americans won all four major championships—in a span of one year.
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Martin Kaymer of Germany are winners of the US Open and PGA Championships, respectively.
Golf has truly become a global phenomenon.
In cricket, the IPL highlighted the charge of the young brigade led by Paul Valthaty of Kings XI Punjab.
Valthaty tops the batting averages at 201 from three games, perched alongside Sachin Tendulkar.
Virat Kohli lurks at 141 and Ambati Rayudu proved his skipper right with a couple of dazzling knocks for Mumbai Indians.
B Chipli of the Deccan Chargers is another young gun who has a point to prove.
It’s a batsman’s game and bowlers have few opportunities to make an impact.
So far, only Iqbal Abdulla with 5 wickets has impressed consistently with L Balaji making an impact for Kolkatta Knight Riders against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday night.
The question has to be asked: Can we let a bowler of his calibre languish in domestic cricket? And for how long?
A novelty—not a change—is the Pune Warriors cheer queens all bedecked in traditional attire supporting their side.
The cameramen, unfortunately, are none-too-impressed. Lenses are seldom turned their way.
Henceforth, all women players at Grand Prix tournaments and above are expected to don skirts on court. This is an attempt to make the sport more spectator-friendly, taking their cue from women’s tennis.
The reaction to the move from Indian players was muted.
Saina Nehwal said that it’s not a big deal.
Jwala Gutta remarked that she is used to skirts both on and off-court. She just feels that no one can be forced to be more glamorous.
She adds, “Probably, they can ask the sponsors to design better clothing like the tennis girls wear. They should make nice dresses like what (Maria) Sharapova wears and so we can wear such clothes. I am ready to try, and I am sure lots of girls will be ready to try, too."
Lilyana Natsir, two-time mixed-doubles champion, believes that skirts hamper her movement on court.
The BWF are seeking to spread the game and having a few fashion icons will ease the process.
Though there have been changes in recent times where a few players have been adventurous about their attire on court with sleeveless shirts, body-fitting outfits, deeper V-necks and ‘skorts’ (shorts under skirts), most shuttlers stick to polo shirts and shorts.
Badzine, the No. 1 badminton magazine, in its guest editorial slammed the move towards more sartorial attire as one that “takes the sport one step forward, two steps backwards”.
Interestingly, the Badzine poll on the issue exhibits divergent opinions.
To the question,"Should female players be required to wear skirts?”, the answer is No—68%.
But to the query,”Do you personally think female badminton players look more 'attractive' in skirts?” the leading answer is “Yes, they look more attractive”—with 41% of the vote with only 4% saying that shorts look better.
BWF, in its response to Badzine, remarks, “BWF do not regard this change as having a negative impact on Women and their involvement in International Badminton, in fact just the opposite, the reason for the change of Regulation is to promote the Women’s game at the highest levels of the Sport (level 1 to 3 tournaments).”
Tennis: Rafa Season
In tennis, some things never seem to change.
Come clay season, and one man strides the red courts like a colossus.
‘Rafa Season’ has begun.
Once Djoker announced his withdrawal due to injury, there was an air of inevitability about the final result.
Yes, there were interesting questions about how Roger Federer would fare against his old nemesis but the Swiss great chose instead to exit in the quarters to his close friend Jurgen Melzer of Austria..
Federer has brushed aside all suggestions of being past his prime—first at the Australian Open and more recently when he reacted harshly to Martina Navratilova’s remarks that he would find it difficult, if not impossible to be No. 1 again.
At Melbourne, he said that he had been written off before and that the press should talk to him and Rafa in six months' time.
It’s three months into that deadline, and although Rafa has responded well to the challenge, it is the suave Swiss who has not been up to par.
But then such is the aura of the man that the reaction to his loss was “What? Can it be?” rather than a sense of deja vu.
Such moments will occur more frequently.
What does go through the great man's mind when he encounters yet another debilitating loss?
Does he go home and dwell on the loss? Or would he have us believe that he just shrugs them off and gets back to practice and working on his game?
Does he draw comfort from his 16 Slams? Or does he reprise past victories, past glory to re-motivate himself for yet another charge at the pinnacle?
Does he need a psychologist, much like the Indian cricket team?
Tennis is not just a game of skill; it also requires unbelievable levels of fitness and endurance.
The skills remain, but even Pete Sampras could go just that far. At 31, Sampras burnt out. Will Federer falter and follow?
Perhaps he will live on to fight much like an aging Connors rather than a fitter Agassi but it is yet too early to compose an epitaph or an epiphany to the Swiss’ tennis career.
Keep the marker ready, but hold back on the engraving.
Wimbledon has a tale to tell, and Roger Federer may have one more reason to smile, come June.
About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won’t like you at all.