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This is a hair-pun-free zone August 25, 2006

Posted by ramanand in Cricket, Ramanand.
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Man, what a mess. A bunch of babies in their nappies could hardly have made a bigger mess. And given that we have “top” legal teams in the fray (isn’t the fact that these lawyers already boast of a sterling track record in football and tennis litigation an indication of the state of modern sport?), the stink raised can only complement the bawling of journos and former players all over. With babies at least, you can change their diapers and give them a wash.

In particular, the volume has been the highest in the chatter from England, Australia and Pakistan. Pakistan has already declared Darrell Hair some kind of slimy monster (the “Go Back” poster in the linked article is hilarious, given that he is at home in England and suggests that the sub-contintental cottage industry of protest material is thriving), producing this wonderfully absurd comparison between Hair and a toothbrush moustache by Hairy, sorry, Harry Pearson. In England, the controversy has, in its wake, triggered off a rash of hirsute puns. This has become so infectious that no phrase remotely related to a bunch of dead cells is safe from writers. (I have had to be so vigilant in avoiding this fever that it has left me eyeing relatives of rabbits instead of whiskets to raise and pull out). A majority of English commentators have been in favour of Haq’s haqs. This in turn has brought down upon them, the collective ire of the Aussies, who say that Woolmer’s past form is as good as a prize horse in matters of tampering and attacking the English hacks for cooing for Pakistani haqs.

As a neutral, I must say I have greatly enjoyed the spate of wonderfully opinionated writing that has been suddenly unleashed. Every position on the three sides of the fence has been taken and attacked. I loved this bit by John Stern of The Wisden Cricketer:

But back to the Oval. I’m wondering how this issue will come to be labelled by cricket history. It doesn’t seem to have a ready tag. ‘Bad Hair Day’ makes a nice headline but is more of a judgment than a description;

and

So now we know why the ICC moved to Dubai: they needed more sand to stick their heads in.

Reactions from the Aussie press and ex-players has been unanimous. Perhaps this can be ascribed to the fact that since last year, we have been in the middle of one long war stretching from side to side of the Equator: a war that never really went away, but simply simmered, and is just starting to prepare for one long boil that will climax pretty soon. Meanwhile, the Aussie cricketers rough it out in their “jungle camp” as the dogfight resumes in London.

The South Africans left Sri Lanka because of security concerns. I hope someone will soon ask: Is it now safe to play cricket anywhere?

[Sorry for all the bad pun-ditry. It’s a hair-pun-free zone now. Starting now.]

Hello boys, August 9, 2006

Posted by Abhishek in Abhishek, Miscellaneous.
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So I am back after a long outing in woods, which involved, breaking into a preist’s home at 12 at night, watching Tiger cry for quite some time, England finding a solution to their age-old problem being a bare-chested sporting country, and much much more.

Regular programming will resume shortly. Till then, enjoy the links that Ramanand provides here.

Wanted: A Duellist August 6, 2006

Posted by ramanand in Ramanand, Tennis.
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In the days before Indian cricket team selectors could toss aside last year’s medium-pacers like they would banana peel, the constant refrain used to be: “Can’t a nation of close to a billion produce at least one medium/fast bowler?”. The crop of Munaf and VRV may have pushed the focus to different problems, but we can borrow the lament and apply it thus: “Can’t a globe that has tens of thousands of tennis players produce a player who can challenge Roger Federer?”

Almost everyone I know who follows tennis stopped back and stayed by a television screen because two players were engaged in elegant battle; not just in a single tournament, but over many seasons. Tennis has never needed any better advertisement (especially before smartly attired young Russians whose names ended in “-ova” started to appear on billboards). For my generation, the recent legends of Borg and McEnroe were replayed in the battles of Lendl-Becker, Becker-Edberg and then ultimately Sampras-Agassi. Since these also featured a stellar support cast of Connors, Wilander, Ivanisevic, Rafter, and Courier, tennis was not a collection of ‘breadsticks’ and ‘doughnuts’ as it threatened to be in the last couple of years of “The Rogera”.

Roger Federer, out of nowhere, has installed himself (and with poise) as the definitive player of his eneration – a fact that no one even wants to start disputing. Such unanimity amongst both watchers and critics is as rare as Federer getting beaten on grass. So much so, that despite our affection for the Swiss, we will grasp at any straws, even if they come from a clay-filled, grass-less surface.

Rafael Nadal has provided it to us in the last 14 months. The attachment of the suffix “-ever” to some glorious epithets before Federer’s name awaits victory at Roland Garros, preferably with Nadal to greet him from the other end. But with Nadal’s astonishing ascent to the finals of Wimbledon (which even the kindest of critics will point to his easy draw, earned by his ranking from the clay-court spoils), we are in danger of getting too excited about this “rivalry”.

Perhaps the US Open will give us a good idea as to where Nadal stands. Those hands that rubbed in glee anticipating a long run of Roddick-Federer clashes have been thrust deep into pockets. Does Nadal really promise to be the only spell, mental or physical, against a man who would probably have been burnt for being a warlock in less englightened times? This time we’ll wait and watch.

Update:

Rajk points me to this unbelievable Federer moment. You may not believe it even after you see it. Andy Roddick didn’t seem to.