The exit of Argentina from the Football World Cup 2006 meant that my interest in it was over and I focused again on the other two sports I love. Cricket and F1. And interesting stuff happened in both over the weekend.
In F1, the US Grand Prix brought a sense of deja vu as only 9 of the 22 cars finished the race with Nico Rosberg being the only one out of points. The first corner on the first lap was a mess and resulted in the elimination of a lot of cars (including the “ever unlucky” Kimi) and yellow flag for around 6 laps. As soon as the yellow flag was removed another accident removed a few more cars from contention and brought back the yellow flag. Felipe Massa (who is a great driver on his day) was in the lead then held on to it till the first round of pitstops where Schumacher drove the Ferrari like crazy on the entry and exit laps (like only he can) to reclaim the top spot. He then drove a brilliant race from there on to gain a 12+ seconds lead before the final lap. I have always felt that one of the greatest strengths of Michael Schumacher is the way he drives is car in and out of the pits and the way he blazes his way away just after the pitstop with the new rubber on the car. Also, the fact that the Indianapolis track is better for the Bridgestone helped Michael’s case. Alonso’s Renault seemed a bit off colour and the guy had to give up his third place on the starting grid to team-mate Fisichella after showing resistance for a couple of laps.
After the race Michael has cut down the Spaniard (reminds me of Crowe in The Gladiator) Alonso’s lead to 19 points with 8 races to go in the season. It also brought up a Ferrai 1-2 after a year (the last one being at the last Grand Prix fiasco here last year). Also the Contructors Championship lead has been cut down to 26 points.
In cricket, Jayasuriya and Tharanga tore into the English attach to chase down 322 in 37.3 odd overs and the way Jayasuriya was going (152 off 99 balls) a 400 run target wouldn’t have been difficult at all. To add insult to injury, it completed a 5-0 whitewash of England in England. Also they erased the long standing 285 run opening stand held by Ganguly and Tendulkar to 286.
The best event, however, was a very sweet Indian victory in the West Indies. This is only the second Indian series victory in WI and has come after 35 long years. Also it is a first actual Indian test series victory outside the subcontinent (Zimbabwe was a farce, though the victory against Pakistan was of much better quality) in 20 years and has finally erased the dubious record of sorts. Kumble was ecstatic after taking the last wicket and the joy of the Indian team was there for all to see. Dravid and Kumble’s batting and Sreesanth and Bhajji’s bowling in the first innings and Dravid’s batting and Sreesanth and Kumble’s bowling in the second were the highpoints of the Indian team. Dravid (the Man of the Match and the series) was a manual on how to bat on a difficult wicket. I have been a great critic of Dravid the captain and a great fan of Dravid the batsman. This test match (and the series on the whole) again showed why Dravid is easily one of the finest craftsmen in the trade and explained his being called “The Wall”. Also, the test highlighted the utility of Anil Kumble to the Indian team and I sincerely hpe that the Indian selectors (led by the irrepressible Kiran More) would see sense and keep him in the scheme of things for the WC2007. Kumble bowling India to victory reminded me of his valiant attempt to bowl with a broken jaw. It almost seemed a poetical justice that this man gets the final wicket lead India to a victory that will be remembered for some time to come.
A low point in the test, however, came just before lunch on the third day when Lara missed a Harbhajan ball that spun miles and turned around and mockingly applauded the curator for making a turner despite his request for a pacy one. The fact that the amount of spin on the ball would have put Indian tracks to shame did not seem to go down well with the WI captain. Agreed that Lara did not get the team and pitches to match his demands but that does not justify his on-field behaviour. There are forums to express such displeasure and the cricket field is the last one of those. Also it once again shows the difference between Tendulkar and Lara. Tendulkar by his behaviour and demeanour has achieved the status of a demi god while the mercurial Carribean batsman is still a mortal. Through out the series the only glimpse of the great Lara was in the third test when Lara anchored the WI and averted an otherwise clear defeat. I hope Lara realizes his mistake and apologises for his naive behaviour on the field.
Once the dust settles India must realize that the victory has come against a comparatively inexperienced and weak WI team and that bigger and tougher battles lay ahead and that to prove themselves many more such victories are required.
PS: Also the past weeks sporting events consisted of news concerning two more greats. First was the exit of one of the best tennis players (and my all time favourite) Andre Agassi from Wimbledon. Next was the superb play of the legendary Zidane against the mighty Brazil to take France into the semis of the FIFA World Cup. I wish I could write about those too.