Archive for the 'Sport' Category

India v England – as it happened

As accreditation to many photographic news agencies is declined by the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control for India), The Telegraph and The Guardian publish their own images of action from the India vs England first test match:

In The Telegraph (click on the image for more):

Taking one for the team: Ian Bell has suffered a few body blows already this Test and it’s only day two

And over-by-over In The Guardian:

93rd over: India 328-4 (Pujara 99, Yuvraj 24) So, Pujara needs one run to reach his second Test hundred. And he’ll have to do it with the dulcet tones of Matt Prior ringing around his earhole. There’s lots of chatter from England out there this morning. That’s a good sign. They seemed a little flat yesterday. Pujara looks a little twitchy, scuffs a glance to square leg, and survives another LBW appeal. Another maiden.

Click here to read more

 

India’s unassuming Formula One pioneer

hereBrad Spurgeon in IHT:

Talking to the soft-spoken, matter-of-fact, unassuming Narain Karthikeyan, it is easy to forget that he is currently India’s fastest man.

It is also easy to forget that Karthikeyan, 35, is a trailblazer for world motorsport, as the first Indian to race in Formula One, the highest level of racing, when he began driving for the Jordan team in 2005.

“I was the first guy from India to be in Formula One, nobody had been to this territory before,” he said in a recent interview. “So it was all inventing it myself. Being a pioneer is always difficult, and I’m glad to have got another chance to race in Formula One.”

After that 2005 season, he spent several seasons in various other series before returning to Formula One last year to race with the HRT team, where he continues this season.

Looking at his results in Formula One, where he has scored points only once — at the U.S. Grand Prix in 2005, when most of the teams did not race because they had dangerous tires — it is also easy to forget that when he raced in the lower series in Europe, he had results to compare with those of such accomplished drivers as the former world champion Jenson Button, with whom he raced in Formula 3 in 1999, when Button scored three victories and Karthikeyan scored two. More:

Premature celebration

T N Ninan in Business Standard:

Unmukt Chand captained the Indian Under-19 cricket team that last month won the World Cup for juniors. Since then, he has been feted endlessly — by his college (which is understandable), by the Delhi government, by the media. The rules have been set aside to allow him to write a university exam, reversing the rejection of his own appeals in the past; he has been given prize money that rivals that given to some Olympic athletes; and although he is yet to cement his place in even the Delhi Ranji team, he is already being compared to some of the current stars in the senior national team. Indeed, he will soon share the stage with Kapil Dev at a celebratory event! This over-the-top celebration of a young man who is barely old enough to vote and whose promise has a long way to go before it can be said to be fulfilled could be explained by several factors — round-the-clock television’s hunger for new personalities to replace jaded ones; the country’s relative scarcity of sporting heroes; and our politicians’ need to associate themselves with those who win laurels (recall how M S Gill as sports minister exploited a photo op with a wrestling champ by pushing aside his coach, whom the minister did not recognise?). There are other examples of celebration turning into embarrassment, like the viewers’ poll run by a TV channel ahead of Sania Mirza’s match against Maria Sharapova at the US Open in 2005 — 85 per cent said Sania would win. As it turned out, Ms Sharapova won with a no-contest score of 6-1, 6-2.

It is not just in sport that wish becomes father of fact; in other fields, too, we mistake promise for achievement, and are prone to premature celebration. Take the economy. The surge of rapid growth in 2003-08 was taken by far too many people as evidence that India had arrived for good on the world economic stage, though it continued to be listed by the World Bank as one of the worst places in which to do business, and though it featured poorly in competitiveness rankings. The achievements were real, of course, for India had become the second fastest growing economy; but the tasks that remained to be addressed were equally real. More:

Following the pehelwan’s family

In Mint, Rudraneil Sengupta on how Olympic silver medal winner Sushil Kumar’s friends and family prepared to watch him fight for the first time in an international competition.
 It’s not difficult to find Sushil Kumar’s house. A few minutes after leaving Najafgarh behind on the dusty, potholed Nangloi road, a slightly asymmetrical three-storeyed white house is marked by a signboard that reads “World Champion Olympic winner Sushil Wrestler”. A large billboard of Kumar hangs from the third floor, covering almost a quarter of the façade. Vehicles slow to a crawl here, people point to the billboard or just stare before speeding away, leaving a trail of dust. more

Cricket in Brooklyn

From The Local at NYT:

The Field

A cricket field consists of a large oval-shaped grassy area of varying size. At the center of the field there is a 22-yard-long pitch, made of short-cut grass or dirt. The surface must be hard enough to bounce a hard leather ball on.

At each end of the pitch there is a wicket, consisting of three wooden stumps driven into the ground and two small horizontal sticks, called bails, connecting the tops of the stumps to each other.

Teams

Like baseball, cricket has a fielding team and a batting team that alternate. The fielding team sends nine players to the field. They can be positioned wherever the team captain chooses. The fielding team also sends out a bowler and a keeper, who stand closer to the pitch, but behind the wickets on opposite sides.

The batting team sends out two batsman, who carry flat-sided bats and wear protective padding and helmets. They each stand in front of a wicket, facing each other. More:

Celebrating losers at London Olympics

In The Telegraph:

Humorous bill boards featuring the work of artist Sarnath Banerjee have gone up all over East London bringing to bear a typically Bengali way of looking at the Olympics.

“There will be many, many more losers than winners,” Sarnath pointed out.

“Ami Kolkatar chhele (I am a Calcutta boy),” said the 40-year-old artist who was born in Calcutta and was a “chhatra (pupil)” at the Assembly of God Church School.

Sarnath has focused on losers rather than winners because he is attracted by this “element of slight tragi-comedy or comi- tragedy”.

He feels people underestimate the shock suffered by losers and that often the vanquished never recover — something he has tried to reflect in the 12 posters he has done on the Olympics theme.

In his opinion, “the Olympics are a very dehumanising thing”.

How many of his large billboards have gone up in London?

“Besh kota aachhey (quite a few),” he remarked modestly in an interview with The Telegraph conducted in a mixture of Bengali and English. More:

Mary Kom, the boxer from Manipur

Rahul Bhattacharya profiles the phenomenal Mary Kom — five-times world champion and mother of two — who has had to battle against far more than just her opponents in the ring. From Intelligent Life magazine:

She is in the ring right now, and to be ringside when Mary Kom is in action is to feel the kinetic heat of boxing. It is molecular. She is padding against a man whom, a little while ago, in his spectacles, sweater and moustache, I took for a government officer. Now, shorn of the first two, he has transformed himself into a provocateur, a matador. He is baiting Mary, taunting her with words and jabs in the face. When their heads come together, their spit and sweat fall on each other, the blazing whites of their eyes are falling into each other’s. Kom is 5ft 2in officially, an inch more in her own estimate, but looks smaller—even more so in her headgear. Small, but taut: a packet of tensile strength.

Her muscles must be on fire. Counting her rounds against the bag, the mirror and the other women at the camp, national- and international-level boxers, she has completed the equivalent of two full-length competition bouts. Those girls were heavier and taller. This is just as well because when women’s boxing debuts at the 2012 Olympics, Mary must play taller opponents, who will have a longer reach. Most of her championship victories have come as a pinweight boxer, 46kg, whereas in London the lightest class, flyweight, is 51kg.

But next to Mary, these other girls were ponderous. Their feet were sluggish, their positioning not so clever. She could fight with her guard down, testing her reflexes by offering them her bare chin as a target, and counter-attacking in angles unfamiliar to boxers who take the orthodox stance. More:

Why we don’t understand Viswanathan Anand’s genius

Rohit Brijnath in Lounge:

He is genius hidden behind a buttoned-down demeanour; he is brilliance locked away. Think of it like this: Eventually it took a supercomputer, in a second attempt, to defeat Garry Kasparov, which suggests only the astonishing computing power men like Anand own. Yet, while we see him win, and we celebrate his win, many of us, who thought Kolkata’s Alekhine Chess Club was a hideaway only for gaggles of geeks, don’t know how, or why, he wins. He is a champion we don’t understand and thus cannot entirely appreciate.

The issue isn’t Anand, it’s just chess. As a sport, it’s a wonderful but opaque and internal activity. While concentration of this type requires physical reserves, it is the essential sitting-still combat. Two men huddled over a board like wartime generals over a miniature battlefield of 64 squares which offer unlimited permutations, yet cling-filmed in mystery. No one moves, only pieces. Even then, only after a while, and there is, presumably, a pleasure in the waiting, in the anticipation, in the expected or unexpected launch of an idea. But we miss this beauty because we’re unsure of the activity in his head, the calculation, the clarity, the jumble of theories, the reaching into memory, the creation of bluff, the studied face, the tiny fidgets (do they read body language? Surely, yes). More

Infatuation with Everest has inspired Everest-sized absurdities

Don Messerschmidt, an anthropologist with a passion for mountain research and writing, in Himal:

In the list of names that the highest mountain inspires are Everest toothpaste, a variety of hard red winter wheat, unaffiliated Everest colleges in Nepal and in North America, and, among others, Everest Affiliates, an investment firm in Canada with the motto ‘Making millionaires since 1997′. There is also Everest candy, whisky, computer software, and a brand of special underwear (don’t ask). Everest is even a popular name for baby boys. And, computer techies take note: a sophisticated solid-state drive called the ‘Everest 2 Platform’ is waiting for you to join the team.

The infatuation with things ‘Everest’ began with an obsession among British climbers in the early 20th century to summit the big one, and it ‘peaked’, so to say, after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay topped it on 29 May 1953. That towering event was, to use another well-worn cliché, a ‘titanic act’ of determination and perseverance. Continuing the play on words, following the death of Hillary in 2008, British actor and adventurer, Brian Blessed, who made his own three attempts on the mountain, described Hillary as “a kind of titan”.

Hillary, who was never one to mince his words, summed up the events of that day when he met his friend, George Lowe, during the descent. “Well, George,” he said, “we knocked the bastard off!” A week later, Hillary was knighted for this accomplishment. But despite the fame Hillary would enjoy for the rest of his life, he apparently did not hold much romantic affection for the big rock, or at least not for the shenanigans later perpetrated on and about the peak. In a 2003 interview for The Guardian newspaper, he made this blunt summation: “It’s all bullshit on Everest these days.” Hillary was, obviously, not referring to the ascent of Everest by his son, Peter, in 1990, nor to Peter’s follow-up ascent in 2002 with Brent Bishop, son of the 1963 American Everest summiteer, Barry Bishop. More:

Crowding by ‘hobby climbers’ is path to tragedy

In The Guardian:

Ralf Dujmovits had reached the South Col of Mount Everest, at a height of just under 8,000m, on 18 May, when he made the painful but necessary decision to turn back due to the stormy conditions that had taken hold at the summit.

The 50-year-old German, who is considered to be one of the most experienced mountaineers in the world, was astounded and horrified to see a long queue of tourists snaking their way up the mountain as he struggled in difficult conditions to descend.

He described his experience on Wednesday after an image from his camera caught the attention of picture editors around the world with its depiction of human overcrowding on the most popular mountain in the world.

“I was at around 7,900m and saw in the distance on the Lhotse face a human snake, people cheek by jowl making their way up. There were 39 expeditions on the mountain at the same time, amounting to more than 600 people. I had never seen Everest that crowded before. More:

History matters

In Mint Lounge, Rohit Brijnath asks why India isn’t a bit more careful about preserving its sporting past.

Do you recall a first tennis racket? The first bat, the first clumsy pads? Do you have a sporting history? I remember entering Calcutta’s Gander and Co., buying hockey sticks that were then pitted by a divider and oiled, cork balls that cracked, heavy footballs whose only promise after the rains was concussion after a header. I had a scrapbook, with pictures of a balanced Sunny and a diving Solkar gummed across a page.

But memory dies and scrapbooks find their way into a kabadiwallah’s (scrap dealer’s) jute bag. So much fades. Not just our history, but more vitally the athletes. Their clippings, letters, jerseys, bats…it all becomes a precious past lost in a storeroom. Unless you reclaim it. Unless you start a museum, open a hall of fame. Unless you protect history. more

The Sachin Tendulkar interview in Time

Bobby Ghosh talks to the cricket legend:

On his inner monologue while batting:

Sometimes I chat to myself, sometimes I don’t. Most of the times, it’s my subconscious mind that’s working. I don’t have time to complicate my mind, so I try to keep it empty. Being in “the zone” is when you’re not thinking of anything, merely reacting.

One would like to be in that zone more often, but it’s not that easy. It’s like you are completely cut off from the crowd, from the noise they are making. Your subconscious has taken over.

I feel it’s the conscious mind that messes things up. The conscious mind is constantly telling you, this might happen or that might happen, even before it has happened. Your conscious mind tells you the next ball might be a out-swinger, but when it’s coming at you you realize it’s in-swinger… so literally, you’ve played two balls.

On how often he is in “the zone,” and how he gets there:

I would say 50% of the time I’m in that zone. Sometimes I am there instantly, sometimes I get there through a couple of shots, and sometimes I’m fighting to get that feeling. You focus on your breathing and all those kind of things. But it’s not a guaranteed formula that works always. More

Falconry

Meera Subramanian in Saudi Aramco World:

Image from Saudi Aramco World

Some stories have no beginnings. But sitting around a fire in a spacious landscape with radiant stars overhead, next to a man with a gyrfalcon on his fist, I get a sense of a beginning. The bird is exquisite, otherworldly, glowing in the light of the fire. When I am offered the chance to hold it, I do not say no. We slip the thickly padded, finely embroidered cuff from his hand to mine. I stroke the bird’s feathers with the backs of my fingers. Its weight is, somehow, just right: light enough not to be a burden, heavy enough to convey the substance of what rests on my wrist.

I am in the desert of the Ramah Wildlife Refuge outside Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, close to the border of Oman. In the darkness of the dunes are foxes and owls and, if the conservation efforts are working, hares and houbara bustards. It is the first day of the International Falconry Festival, a gathering that will bring hundreds of people from dozens of nations to this sandy spot to celebrate the world’s growing recognition of their artful sport—indeed, their obsession.

 Late in 2010, at a meeting in Nairobi, unesco announced that it would inscribe falconry onto the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). The room, filled with expectant falconers, broke out in cheers so long and loud that a recess had to be called. Abu Dhabi had spearheaded the effort that led to this announcement, submitting the application on behalf of 11 disparate nations: the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Belgium, France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Mongolia and Korea. It was the largest and most internationally diverse application UNESCO ICH had ever received. More:

‘A lifetime of experiences’: Rahul Dravid

Parahawking in Nepal

Rahul Dravid calls it a day

Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid, 39, has announced his retirement from international cricket. He has been the second highest run scorer in Test history.

The wolf who lived for the pack

Harsha Bhogle in cricinfo:

Rahul Dravid batted exactly like the person he is: stately and upright, dignity and poise his two shoulders, standing up to everything coming at him with minimum fuss. He picked his shots carefully, almost like he was weighing the risk for fear of letting himself and his side down. There was little about him that was flamboyant – there isn’t with an oak – and patiently, brick by brick, he built giant edifices. He is a good man and he batted like a good man. More

Dear Dravid, thank you

Shekhar Gupta in The Indian Express

You have to be audacious, obdurate, even a bit dour — just like Rahul Dravid, actually — to start a tribute on the day he announced his retirement with a few more statistics, as if all the sports pages this morning won’t have enough of them. But also consider these. That in the history of the game, only three Indians have retired with a higher away average than at home. The other two are Sunil Gavaskar (52.11) and Mohinder Amarnath (51.86), but Rahul Dravid tops them with 53.03. (This is not counting Sachin Tendulkar whose away average is the highest, at 54.74, but still less than at home, 56.37.) That on the 18 occasions that he had to take guard at 0-1, he averaged 51.94. That his career highest, 270, was scored away, in Rawalpindi (2004), when he had come in after Sehwag had been dismissed on the first ball by Shoaib Akhtar. That in the 45 occasions he came in to bat after the first wicket fell between 11 and 20, he averaged 60.54. That with 123.06 deliveries between two dismissals, he has been the second most durable batsman in the game ever, after his contemporary Jacques Kallis (125.55), but then, Kallis never had to play South African bowlers, and Dravid never got easy runs from an Indian attack. More:

Well left, Dravid!

Bobilli Vijay Kumar in The Times of India:

For friends, he is Jammy: sweet, with a tinge of tanginess; for teammates, he is Mr Dependable, the knight who is always there in the darkest hour; for admirers and bowlers alike, he is The Wall: upright and unbreakable. But if you really want to unravel the mystique behind the man called Rahul Dravid, you need to go back to that fabled tale from the Mahabharata. More:

 

Quiet please

Sport commentary on TV these days is too much chatter not enough analysis, too much repetition not enough dissection, writes Rohit Brijnath in Mint Lounge

Thanks, God, I will say in homage to Wasim bhai if someone can invent a device which can stop me hurling the kitchen sink at my television. No, not a clichémeter to go with snickometer, wherein commentators receive a low-voltage shock every time they intone “run in hard”, but something far simpler. In this age of Hot Spot, super slo-mo, ball trackers, why isn’t there a button on my remote which allows me to watch television with the sound on but the commentary off? more

A “golf challenge” with a hockey stick

Journalist Rahul Bedi narrates a lovely story in Tehelka:

Golf has aptly been defined as a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into a small hole, with weapons singularly ill- designed for the purpose. But the emotion, drama and angst surrounding this seemingly simple manoeuvre are enormous.

And it is exaggerated manifold if one such touchy being is challenged to a match by an ignorant and iconoclastic player like me, equipped with bizarre instruments like a hockey stick, croquet mallet and a billiard cue, with the express intent of showing up this wholly inane game and proving the freemasonry of golfers and their hugely expensive equipment is redundant.

My rival for this comical joust was a highly emotional and complex man, for whom golf was not just a game but a metaphor for life. Unthinkingly, he subscribed to all the rubbish about how chasing a ball around endlessly in wide open spaces was the ultimate test of human character.

All went well for my competitor till the 8th, par-four hole, when his concentration slackened. Till now he had sported a supercilious ear-to-ear grin, confident of conclusively nailing my disdain for his life’s prime passion to my equally derisive golf gear and wholly inappropriate dress. More:

India’s fastest woman: a desperate and hungry vegetable seller’s daughter

From Asia Sentinel:

Roy’s story is all the more remarkable because she and her family are so poor that she usually is only able to eat two meals a day, with little attention to the kind of nutrition top athletes need. It is estimated in the west that the average 21-year-old female weighing 110 lb. (50 kg.) needs 2350 calories per day. Training four hours a day, Roy should be consuming another 1,500 calories per day to maintain her body weight.

Roy is the third among four daughters of Bholanath Roy, who earns his living selling vegetables door to door in his village. She is now studying for a bachelor’s degree from Sriampore College in Hooghly district. While her eldest and youngest sisters are already married, the third is a school dropout. Only Asha Roy has managed to continue with her studies and pursue her dream of becoming one of the best athletes in the country.

“I am illiterate and I could never get a proper job because of it,” Roy’s father said. “I wanted my daughters to study. Asha is the only one who has sustained the effort and is now studying for her degree.” He earns just about Rs 3,000 (US$61) per month by selling vegetables from door to door in his village.

Bulu Roy, 45, Asha’s homemaker mother, said the family lives in abject poverty. “When my husband falls ill, it becomes difficult for the family to make ends meet. However, we have encouraged Asha in her running and never put pressure on her to get married. We are unable to provide her with the nutrition or training she requires to become the best, but despite that Asha has thrived purely on her talent.” More:

Abhinav Bindra​ chronicles his journey to Olympic gold

India’s first individual Olympics gold medallist (Beijing 2008​), shooter Abhinav Bindra, 29, stresses that it wasn’t talent but sheer perseverance that pushed him to the top. In an interview with Mint, he talks about his biography In A Shot at History: My Obsessive Journey to Olympic Gold, co-authored withsports writer and columnist Rohit Brijnath:

What inspired you to write this book?

The biggest motivation was to make an attempt to share my experience with people and give them an insight into my journey, into my life, my sport and me as an individual. I hope some young people benefit from it. I really believe everybody has to chart their own course and if somebody benefits, I’ll be delighted.

Much has been said about your dedication and hard work. Does the book deal with that aspect?

I am not talented at all. If I could achieve any amount of success, anybody can. It’s all about hard work, a lot of hard work. It’s about a lot of perseverance where you have to be committed and true to your goal. If you do that, no barrier is hard enough to cross. More:

Living next door to Sachin Tendulkar

Dilip D’Souza in The Caravan:

The best-known cricketer on the planet is now my neighbour. I mean, even with my aging arm muscles I’m sure I could fling a stone from my balcony and shatter the pristine plate glass of Sachin Tendulkar’s windows, not that I’m about to attempt that feat. After three years building his mansion, he moved in one balmy September morn. That day, on the otherwise nondescript lane in our Mumbai suburb, there was a steady influx of TV cameras, pert correspondents wearing inordinately tight clothes, crowds of excited young men, schoolgirls carrying bouquets and wiping sweat off their brows, women carrying what looked like trophies of a kind, a group with a welcome banner that climbed a tree and incurred the neighbours’ wrath—all right, my wrath—when they casually snapped a few three-foot-long branches and threw them to the ground.

“We are doing good work here today,” one argued when I went over to remonstrate, “and you’re trying to stop us? These were just twigs! They blocked part of our banner! Besides, do you know how many poor people our organisation helps? Bet you don’t help any!”

Whatever.

And when Tendulkar appeared at his entrance in the early afternoon, the boom mikes snapped forward like a crowd of alert cobras, cameras pressed in, men shouted and up on my fourth-floor balcony, overlooking the scene but with no stone at the ready (I promise), I heard despairing feminine wails from somewhere inside the crush. The bouquet girls and trophy ladies were not even visible any more. Later reports, no surprise, suggested there had been some minor injuries. More:

 

Grand Prix racing makes its passage to India

IHT report from New Delhi:

It was with both trepidation and excitement that the Formula One community arrived in New Delhi for the first Indian Grand Prix, which takes place this weekend at a new purpose-built circuit, in Greater Noida, 50 kilometers from the city.

The fear had to do with the usual worries that foreigners have about going to India: mainly illness transmitted by food, mosquitoes, and other sanitary-related conditions. The excitement had to do with the sheer splendor of visiting one of the world’s great cities and cultures, in a country with the second-largest population in the world.

To top it all off, the circuit — the Buddh International Circuit — was said to be one of the great new racing palaces of the kind that have sprouted up around the world to hold Formula One races, from Kuala Lumpur to Abu Dhabi to Shanghai. It was designed to be the second-fastest track on the calendar, behind Monza, and built at a cost of around $400 million. More:

High hopes for Indian Grand Prix: The inaugural Indian Grand Prix this weekend near New Delhi is Formula One’s most ambitious move into a new country since it entered China in 2004 with the Grand Prix in Shanghai.

The sardar of spin

Ramachandra Guha on Bishen Singh Bedi in The Telegraph:

In the third week of August, I got a call from a friend in Delhi, the great slow bowler, Bishan Singh Bedi. “Everyone around me is shouting Anna Hazare! Anna Hazare!” he said, “a few months earlier the same people were shouting IPL! IPL!” “Instead of a Jan Lokpal Bill,” remarked Bedi, “what Parliament should have passed is an Anti Herd Instinct Bill.”

This may have been the most insightful remark I read or heard on the whole tamasha at the Ramlila Maidan. It was certainly the wittiest. And it was entirely in character. As player and captain, as coach or commentator, and, not least, as a plain old citizen of the Indian republic, Bishan Bedi has long been known for his robust independence of mind. His opinions are sometimes foolish, at other times farsighted — and at all times, his own.

I first met Bishan Bedi in 1974, when I was just out of school and he was at the height of his cricketing renown. He had come for dinner to my uncle’s house in Bangalore, where he polished off a bottle of whisky. The next morning, he ran through a very strong Karnataka side. Later that year I joined St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. In a city crowded (even then) with Very Important People, Bedi was a presence. He was the captain of the Delhi Ranji Trophy team, and soon to be captain of India. He dressed colourfully, bowled beautifully — and spoke his mind. In those pre-liberalization days, his glamour was enhanced by the fact that he was only one of two Indians in the capital to own and drive a Volkswagen Beetle (the other was the professor, Mrinal Datta Chaudhuri, of the Delhi School of Economics). More:

Where there’s a wheel, there’s a wail

Rohit Brijnath in Mint Lounge on why he’s not a fan of F1.

So go on then you Sarojini Nagar Senna, you Vettel from Vikhroli, lick your fingers and stiffen your hair in the reflecting door of your polished BMW. Press the accelerator and lose your timidity as a man. Then go take a deep whiff of burnt rubber, bruise the eardrums, ogle the pit girls at that thing called the Delhi Formula One (F1). Watch the kiss of metal skin as a Red Bull shoves aside a Prancing Horse; discuss the cojones required to overtake at 300 kmph; drool over the sex of this technology; amuse yourself with the fact that Lewis Hamilton is a distant relative of a Patna getaway driver.

Have a nice day. Enjoy.

Meanwhile, I will be watching the Calicut Ladies Embroidery Championships. Anything. Just not this. Sebastian Vettel and the slower herd behind him are incredible, gifted folk. They compete in a sport where the implications of a mistake go way beyond defeat. They just don’t move me. more

 

Speedy Singh

He’s a long-distance runner whose own coach concedes is not as fast as he used to be.

“We’ve learned to pace ourselves a little bit better,” said trainer Harmander Singh.

Then again, Fauja Singh, no relation, was 89 years old when he started competing in races. And now he’s 100. “I am but a simple man,” Singh the competitor, a Sikh with a long white beard who only speaks Punjabi, said in a translated statement. “I give it my best shot and it happens that the results are better than others.”

The centenarian, who lives in the United Kingdom by way of India, is ready to compete in Sunday’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in an attempt to land a Guinness World Record.He’s already set three records for men over 90 — one for 10,000 metres, which he completed in 64 minutes in the Lahore Marathon in 2005; and two in Toronto, for a half-marathon in 2004 (2 hours 29 minutes 59 seconds) and a full marathon in 2003 (5 hours 40 minutes 1 second).

Now he wants one more record in his century-old age. more

The Nawab of Cricket (1941-2011)

In ESPNcricinfo:

Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who overcame an impaired eye to become a visionary and pioneering captain of the Indian Test team, has died in Dehli at the age of 70. He was suffering from interstitial lung disease. He is survived by his wife Sharmila Tagore, his son Saif Ali Khan and his two daughters Soha and Saba Ali Khan. Tagore, Saif and Soha are prominent actors in India’s film industry.

Pataudi played 46 Tests between 1961 and 1975 and was arguably India’s greatest captain. He was given the leadership in his fourth Test, when he was 21, in Barbados in 1962, because the regular captain Nari Contractor was in hospital after getting hit on the head by Charlie Griffith. Pataudi was the youngest Test captain, a record that stood until 2004. He led India in 40 Tests and had a successful career despite impaired vision in his right eye, which was damaged in a car accident. He also captained Sussex and Oxford University. More:

On meeting a childhood hero – and letting him down: Edward Craig

‘An innings played with one leg and one eye’

Billed for trouble

Blogger Pragmatic Desi on how the Sports Bill should ideally do away with the need for a sports ministry altogether.

The Draft Sports Bill presented to the Cabinet by the Sports Minister, Ajay Maken has created its fair share of controversy. The Union Cabinet has returned it to the sports ministry for reconsideration and the accompanying public spat between ministers of the UPA government has been rather ugly.

Before getting into the debate proper, let us get a few facts out of the way. While all the media attention has been on cricket, the Bill also deals with 65 other sports in India. While the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) — as do other sports bodies — gets benefits from the government via tax-exemption, subsidised land allocation and use of other subsidised public services, the government has provided Rs 490.84 crore from its budget to these sports bodies in the last three years.

In that sense, these sports bodies are no different from the NGOs who take government money and are thus considered as Public Authority under the Clause 2 (h) of RTI, 2005. The opposing argument is that the government should simply stop funding these bodies and leave them to the mechanisms of the free-market.more

Moved to tears

Sportswriters don’t cry. But one day in Atlanta in 1996, Leander Paes did something that moved Rohit Brijnath to tears. In Mint Lounge

Sports writers don’t cry. Maybe cynicism clogs our tear ducts. We’re supposed to be hard-nosed, Damon Runyon-worshipping creatures, drinking cheap whisky and holding dying cigarettes to complete the cliché. Except, some days, sport turns you inside out, it takes a different grip on the throat and everything goes haywire.

Goddam, Leander Paes, I say.

Covering the sporting 1990s was often like a tired investigation into mediocrity. But I admired athletes because they fought hardship and handicap. I’d go to training grounds and listen to the music of athletes training for major games, the wrestlers with their grunting rap, the boxers with their grim percussion on bags. Then I’d see them touch official feet and grimace.

Pictures invaded our home, of Pete Sampras’ barn-door shoulders and Ronaldo’s turbine-like thighs. Sport was too fast, professional, muscular for India, and you could smell fear on many Indian athletes. But Sachin Tendulkar didn’t have it, Viswanathan Anand didn’t feel it and Leander couldn’t spell it. more

The space between ‘very good’ and ‘great’

Rohit Brijnath on Indian badminton player Saina Nehwal in Mint Lounge:

Saina Nehwal is temporarily and intriguingly caught in an almost-there place where few young players reach. This insane, alluring space between very good and great, this space of promise but no guarantee, a space so small it can be bridged by a single inspired moment, yet bridging it is so uncommonly hard.

I’m thinking this last month amid the plunk of shuttles as Saina loses a match she really shouldn’t. It’s June, it’s Singapore, her face tells you nothing, like it’s a mask bought from a shop of professional stoics. As she plays, she keeps wiping her shins, where I can see thin red lines, blood, it seems, from a fall from a treadmill. I watch Saina-usually on TV-more than any Indian because no other Indian plays at such an elevated level every week and this day she’s losing but I’m watching because one day she, brilliant, battling, is going to win and I just have to be there. More:

Kumar Sangakkara’s 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture in full

Kumar Sangakkara delivered an exceptional speech in his 2011MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, touching on the history, culture and opportunties for Sri Lankan cricket as well a moving recounting of the terrorist attack on their team bus in Pakistan. In The Telegraph, London:

I was fortunate that during my life I never experienced violence in Sri Lanka first hand. They have been so many bomb explosions over the years but I was never in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In Colombo, apart from these occasional bombs, life was relatively normal. People had the luxury of being physically detached from the war. Children went to school, people went to work, I played my cricket.

In other parts of the country, though, people were putting their lives in harm’s way every day either in the defence of their motherland or just trying to survive the geographical circumstances that made them inhabit a war zone.

For them, avoiding bullets, shells, mines and grenades, was imperative for survival. This was an experience that I could not relate to. I had great sympathy and compassion for them, but had no real experience with which I could draw parallels.

That was until we toured Pakistan in 2009. We set-off to play two Tests in Karachi and Lahore. The first Test played on a featherbed, past without great incident.

The second Test was also meandering along with us piling up a big first innings when we departed for the ground on day three. Having been asked to leave early instead of waiting for the Pakistan bus, we were anticipating a day of hard toil for the bowlers.

At the back of the bus the fast bowlers were loud in their complaints. I remember Thilan Thushara being particularly vocal, complaining that his back was near breaking point. He joked that he wished a bomb would go off so we could all leave Lahore and go back home.

Not thirty seconds had passed when we heard what sounded like fire crackers going off. Suddenly a shout came from the front: “Get down they are shooting at the bus.”

The reaction was immediate. Everyone dived for cover and took shelter on the aisle or behindthe seats. With very little space, we were all lying on top of each other. More:

Inside the ER at Mt. Everest

Dr. Luanne Freer, founder of the mountain’s emergency care center, sees hundreds of patients each climbing season at the foot of the Himalayas. Molly Loomis in The Smithsonian:

A middle-aged woman squats motionless on the side of the trail, sheltering her head from the falling snow with a tattered grain sack.

Luanne Freer, an emergency room doctor from Bozeman, Montana, whose athletic build and energetic demeanor belie her 53 years, sets down her backpack and places her hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Sanche cha?” she asks. Are you OK?

The woman motions to her head, then her belly and points up-valley. Ashish Lohani, a Nepali doctor studying high-altitude medicine, translates.

“She has a terrible headache and is feeling nauseous,” he says. The woman, from the Rai lowlands south of the Khumbu Valley, was herding her yaks on the popular Island Peak (20,305 feet), and had been running ragged for days. Her headache and nausea indicate the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness, a mild form of altitude illness that can progress to High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), a swelling of the brain that can turn deadly if left untreated. After assessing her for HACE by having her walk in a straight line and testing her oxygen saturation levels, the doctors instruct her to continue descending to the nearest town, Namche Bazaar, less than two miles away.

Freer, Lohani and I are trekking through Nepal’s Khumbu Valley, home to several of the world’s highest peaks, including Mount Everest. We are still days from our destination of Mount Everest Base Camp and Everest ER, the medical clinic that Freer established nine years ago, but already Freer’s work has begun. More than once as she has hiked up to the base camp, Freer has encountered a lowland Nepali, such as the Rai woman, on the side of the trail ill from altitude. Thankfully, this yak herder is in better condition than most. A few weeks earlier, just before any of the clinics had opened for the spring season, two porters had succumbed to altitude-related illnesses. More: