Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Celebrating Jumbo

It is indeed sad but true - Indian Cricket is all about stars-stars with flair, style and charisma. One wouldn’t mind India losing a match, if Sachin scored a century in it or Sehwag got a trailblazing 50. And there lies unfortunate way in which we perceive the game and its spirit. Talking about match winners, Sachin undoubtedly is one of India’s biggest performers, yet he has not been the most consistent, persistent, diligent performer for India; and no, I’m not talking about Dravid either. The most underrated, overlooked yet most productive player for India in recent times has been Anil Kumble. And this is not me, but the statistics that shout it out aloud. Away from the limelight and the media’s glare , poor old Jumbo does not get a small mention anywhere in the various cricket columns written by everybody from ex cricketers to administrators to scantily clad television anchors , even on his birthday – 17th October. I’m sure everyone remembers the newspaper supplements and magazine covers dedicated to Sachin on his birthday. But I know, Anil Kumble, as always would be the last person to be perturbed by this. For someone who holds an array of bowling records (including being only the 2nd person in the history of the game to score 2000 runs and 500 wkts in Tests, after Warne), he is hardly a discussed name in Indian Cricket. Nonetheless, I hope this stalwart is blessed with greater success in the future, and the selectors - the wisdom to pick him in the team. All the Best Jumbo

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Monday, October 09, 2006

All Blown Away

I hate to be repetitive but I just have been so absorbed by the formula 1 championship that I just couldn’t help myself from blogging about it . . .
Michael Schumacher retired from the Japanese Grand Prix due to an engine failure, in a race that he would have most definitely won, had fate not intervened. . . . Bitter Bitter disappointment. To understand the extent of disappointment of Schumacher’s exit from the race, one needs to know the situation.
2004 – Schumacher wins 13 out of 16 races – he showed unbelievable consistency, absolutely no one came close.
2005 – The ground below Schumacher’s feet slipped giving him no time to react! He slumped to a miserable finish at 3rd position in the championship. Alonso’s great driving and McLaren Mercedes’ bad luck narrowly snatched away the championship from Raikkonen’s grasp.
2006 – Everyone expected Alonso to steam roll the competition into submission, but guess who’s back in form – The man in scarlet – Michael Schumacher. Now 2006 was an uphill task for Schumacher because he not only had to regain his lost fire but he also had to catch up with the flying Spaniard.
The season after the US grand prix swung heavily in favour of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, with the German showing why he is the undisputed king of the track. Simultaneously the cracks in Renault started up – an engine failure at Monza for Alonso and he lashed out in the press, blasting off his own team for lack of support, He then went on and blamed the FIA (Federation Internationale d’Automobile) the regulatory body of F1, alleging them of “rigging” formula one, of fixing results and of manipulating the rules and regulations to help Michael Schumacher.
Now Monza (Italian Grand Prix) was even more poignant and historic because Michael Schumacher after much speculation declared his intentions of retiring at the end of the season. Cut to Shanghai, Michael Schumacher overtook Alonso on the track – fair and square; yet Fernando went on record saying that Renault was deliberately botching up his championship chances. This surely was not the way a true champion would react to failure. A true champion is one who after victory, rejoices, celebrates but begins his quest for the next win; and at the same time, takes defeat in his stride, not looking for scapegoats for his failure.
The Scenario before Suzuka (Japanese Grand Prix) – Alonso and Schumacher – both were tied at the top of the championship table with 116 points a piece.
As the race progressed, Schumacher stamped his authority all over the race by overtaking Massa, albeit in a preplanned move, and running off at the head of the pack of cars. Alonso, too, to his credit splendidly overtook Trulli and then tactically, in an engrossing game of pit-lane poker came in front of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa after the first round of pit stops.
The stage was all set for an epic battle to the finish – The Grand Master versus the New kid on the block.
Sadly, it was not to be. In an unfortunate twist to the tale, Schumacher’s engine blew up, a mere 17 laps from the chequered flag, leaving Alonso to take the lead. Alonso, now in 1st place, drove a flawless race after that to finish the race, which in all probability is his championship clinching race.
But what happened after that was truly special. Schumacher stepped out of his, now defunct car, waved out to his fans – not the most common thing you would see a driver do, after having to retire from the lead position of a grand prix. He walked all the way back to the pit lane; into the Ferrari garage, with a smile on his face. He met each and every member of the pit-crew. Hugging and shaking hands with them , thanking them for the unflinching support he had received from them .He walked across to the Ferrari think tank – Jean Todt and Ross Brawn , embraced both of them and sat down with them to watch the remainder of the race; all without showing any disappointment or anger.
Was he not disappointed? Of course he was, and why not? It was his penultimate grand prix. He was leaving the job he loved doing the most. It was his only chance at winning his 8th Championship but now it was all over. Which driver wouldn’t feel aggrieved? But here was a true champion. And here in lies the difference between Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.A driver who has won 92 times and one who has raced 85 times. I am sure Alonso will go on to be an illustrious driver with a great record. But he has lots to learn from Michael. Schumi had demonstrated his ability to ruthlessly strive to win but to also accept defeat gracefully, something a certain hot headed Spaniard has yet to learn. The wizened old man of Formula one isn’t the most revered person in F1 for nothing. His track record speaks for itself. But his true character shone through in the most unlikely of times.

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .