Tuesday, May 26, 2009

End of an era??

I haven’t touched upon sports since I have begun, so this post is dedicated to all sports lovers.

Well, unlike the LS elections where an incumbent government romped to victory, it is exactly the reverse in sports where champions from the past era are slowly but surely biting the dust. I will quantify this statement using examples from three sports close to my heart, cricket, tennis and Formula one.
All these sports have seen the same trend, champion players and teams losing their way to more fleet footed and smart competitors. In some cases like F1, the decline is sharp and very evident whereas in others like cricket, it is a slow and winding downward march.

Let’s look at my favourite sport first, cricket. The once invincible Aussies have seen their grip slowly slacken. It all began from the time India beat them 2-0 in the Commonwealth ODI series in 2008. Since then, the Aussies have lost to New Zealand and South Africa in the ODI’s and to India and South Africa in tests. True, they have won a number of matches too, but the aura of invincibility that surrounded them is gone. No longer are teams scared of the never say die Australian cricket team. The most prominent reason for their decline is the exit of ageing players.

Their batting has been hit the hardest. Sure they do have a great domestic structure but even then you can’t replace men like Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist in a hurry, a fact that has been reinforced by the IPL, with Hayden and Gilchrist being the top scorers. One wonders why they left international cricket, being in such sublime touch, but then they must have had their reasons. Their bowling has not suffered so much with Lee and Johnson taking over the baton from McGrath and Warne.

A similar fate has fallen on Roger Federer, who, it seemed (and he still can be) would be the greatest player of all time. Federer’s dominance over world tennis was unprecedented, a record consecutive 237 weeks as no. 1 and winning almost all titles in 2006, 07 and 08, excluding the French open. He somehow lost the plot from the 2008 season onwards, losing to Novak Djojovic in the Australian open and to his long time nemesis, Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. After that his career has gone on a downward trajectory, winning only one title, the US open last year, a far cry from his heyday in 2004 when he had a 74-6 win loss record.

The reasons why this has happened? Well, I’m not really an expert in tennis but it seems that being diagnosed with mononucleosis in 2008 definitely had an effect on his morale. And continuous losses to Nadal, not just in the French open last year but also on Federer’s turf, at Wimbledon and the US open this year also had a bearing on his performance.

Let’s move on to the scenario in Formula One now. F1 since the late nineties has seen Ferrari completely dominate it,(Renault in 2007 was the exception with Alonso winning the title). But look at the results this year, McLaren and Ferrari are not even in the top 3 constructors and as for their drivers, it seems as if they have developed cold feet.

Kimi Raikkonen at Monaco has been the only top 3 finish for a Ferrari this year. I mean, it’s been a total turnaround, from being the hunters to being hunted. Brawn F1 has really swept the season this year, winning five out of six races. Well I don’t think the big guns are sitting still, but they have to make a turnaround fast if they are to mount a challenge this season.

I’m sure there are some other sports as well where such a story is being played out, but my limited knowledge in sports restricts me to these three. Nothing dramatic in all these happenings though, because it is very difficult to sustain competitive advantage for a long time in today’s world and all credit to these individuals or teams who have managed to stay at the pinnacle of sport for such a long time.

Well, don't write off these champions yet, they could still reclaim their past glory and get back to where they belong.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Poll"it(r)ics II : UPA all the way

Well, it’s really been a long time since my last post. All thanks to our wretched exams and last minute preparations!!! . Well the exams are behind me now and I’ve got 6 exam free months so hopefully I’ll keep posting regularly.

Continuing from where I left off in my last post, the Lok Sabha results are out today and I’ll be the first one to acknowledge that my predictions were way off the mark. The 3rd front threat has been neutralized to a great extent, with the grouping winning just 70 odd seats, much lesser than my expectations. The NDA is somewhere close to what I predicted, at 159 seats. The UPA numbers are really a pleasant surprise because it will finally ensure some stability for our country.

The Indian voter seems to have voted decisively in favour of the UPA, in fact the Congress has really come into its own in this elections, notching up 200+ seats, a whopping 55 more than the 2004 tally. Uttar Pradesh with 80 seats has been one of the success stories for the Congress as it has taken 21 seats, putting it at par with Mulayam Singh and Mayawati in a state which was considered to be its nemesis.

The best thing about such a decisive verdict is that the Congress does not have to go with a begging bowl to any party. A strong majority at the centre ensures that the UPA can now pursue its agenda, unhindered by millstones like the Left Front which created a lot of trouble in the 2004 elections. Talking about the left, it seems to have lost the plot completely, winning just 24 seats. In fact now a lot of parties (the SP and RJD for instance) could come to Congress to include them in the alliance. So the Congress is actually in a position to pick and choose the best allies according to its convenience. It may even dump Lalu and go with Nitish Kumar in Bihar, rubbing salt into the NDA's wounds and also shutting out the SP since Nitish’s JD(U) has won 21 seats, equivalent to SP’s 22.

So that’s it, lets hope that the UPA gives cabinet ministries to competent people and pursues a pro- reform agenda in the next 5 years.