THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CHAMPIONS
Leading sports accessories manufacturer Adidas have an interesting punch line “Impossible is Nothing” which is very much relevant in sporting world. Since in sport after setting a record or for that matter setting a world record even the individual or the team believes that the record could be broken and records are meant to be broken.
So when Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth set his world record in 100 m race in just 9.72 sec- onds, nobody has imagined it could be broken so soon by the same man. Bolt improved his world record with a time of 9.58 seconds. It looks a herculean task for another athlete to surpass this record. But sports scientists now claim that it is possible for a man to run faster than this record.
When Kapil Dev broke Richard Headlee’s world record of taking the most wickets in test matches, seldom he imagined that the record for taking highest wicket in test cricket would be a spinner. That too someone who had been constantly questioned of his bowling action. A wise man Kapil Dev thus once remarked that records are meant to broken.
So Team India’s rise to number one ranking in the test cricket and its fall in this English summer is not beyond explanation. After all one cannot expect a team to be remain at the top forever. Having said that even the ardent critic of Indian team won’t have imagined the top ranked team would fall like piece of cards.
So when did team India played like champions? Or did they deserve to be number one team at all? A team who never played well in overseas during the entire 90’s, under the leadership of Saurav Gan- guly started winning matches in abroad. Under Dhoni’s leadership India ascent to the top in 2009, after ranking system was introduced by ICC in test matches. India replaced Australia as the number one team who dominated world cricket for over a decade. Needless to say the expectations were very high from Indian team.
India responded to these expectations by playing some astounding cricket during last couple of years. India won test series in Pakistan and in England, showed resilience to come back from defeat to draw series against Sri Lanka and against South Africa. Chased down a difficult target on a spinning fifth day track against England and batted almost two days to salvage a draw against New Zealand in Napier. India was not as dominant as Aussies were, but they justify their position at the top. However, Sport lovers wanted not only to see India winning but expected ruthlessness and sheer domination from them. What they have seen regularly from aussies. India did falter on this ground. In sports the Numero Uno position is much appreciated and acknowledged. Ask this question to Roger Federer or Tiger Woods or to come back speed star Michael Schumacher. They will tell how difficult it is to be hang onto the number one position and it is perhaps more difficult to come back to the pinnacle once it is lost. Roger Federer is number three in the ATP rankings, a good enough ranking. But after 2002 for the first time he spent a year without winning a grand slam. Though he defeated Novak Djokovic in the semi final of the French open this year and reached the semi final of the recently concluded US open, yet it wasn’t the vintage Roger Federer who could demolish a player with killing me softly skillful play. Statistics also not favouring Federer as he is now in to the thirties and lost two significant matches against Jo Wilfred Tsonga and Novak Djokovic which he was leading two sets to Nil and managed to lose both the occasions. Once in Wimbledon and recently in US open. In 178 matches this happened only twice in his career and rather happened very quickly.
Yet we love to see them doing well. We love to see an elegant Roger Federer sending an ace and winning a tense match comprehensively or Tiger Woods shrugging of controversies and doing well in Golf course. People love them not because they are number one but because they justify their ranking by playing some outstanding and consistent game. And when they started to fall people look at them with disbelief and feels the same frustration and pain as the players themselves go through.
So when Roger Federer failed to convert two match points and went onto lose the game in US open this year, he shook his head slightly in disbelief. Since these are the points he won comprehensively for years. But the doubt wasn’t only in his face but it was in the minds of the millions of fans who love to see Roger Federer win. One could see the same desperation in five times Formula One Champion Michael Schumacher who failed to win a single podium finish after his much hyped return. Same desperation and haplessness was seen in Ricky Ponting’s attitude when he became the first Aussie captain to lose the Ashes twice. When England piled up huge scores in the down under series, Punter must have realized he is no longer part of a team who once called the “invincible”. Sports thus justify the saying “Nothing is perma- nent” and “”Every good thing comes to an end” that includes the number one tag
India’s world cup triumph and their elevation to the top of the rankings is no way flesh in the pan. However, notwithstanding their number one status, their dominance was by far less than their prede- cessors. It might not last long in the memories either. People remember Pete Sampras or Michael Schum- acher because their domination was longer.
Rise and fall in sport is a part of the game. Someone’s rise will be someone’s fall. But to see India dethroned so effortlessly pains everyone. Team India’s rise was slow but the fall is so swift that it had taken everybody by surprise. Hopefully the newly crowned England will learn few lessons from India and guardany complacency.