Amidst all the euphoria of India winning the Champions Trophy in style, you couldn’t ignore the massive irony that the 50-over final turned out to be a T20 game and the ICC came away with egg on its collective face, but I wonder whether the cricket bosses even gave two hoots how it all ended.
The Champions Trophy triumph, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the World Cup win, only emphasized the obvious – that Dhoni’s Indian team is undoubtedly the best ODI side as indicated by the ICC rankings. Never mind that eventually it was their T20 skills, honed to sharpness by the recent IPL, that helped them see off the English challenge that ended in a whimper amidst wickets falling like the summer rains.
For Dhoni, it was another high point and a jewel in the crown in his amazing cricket career that not too long ago, would have all but ended had Amarnath convinced his fellow-selectors to sack the Jharkhand stumper as India captain.
In the bargain, it was Amarnath who got the boot and today, Dhoni is the monarch of all he surveys in cricket. Such are the vicissitudes of sport that the man who was almost down and out following a string of defeats not so long ago, is today put on a pedestal and hailed as the best ever India captain, a sobriquet he no doubt deserves.
The last part of India’s triumphant march in the Champions Trophy was tinged with sadness in my heart following the death of Dicky Rutnagur, a man I held in awe if only for his prodigious writing. I make no claims of knowing Dicky, but he was very much a legend at the time when I made my first entry into a cricket press box, some 30-plus years ago.
It took some courage on my part to introduce myself and exchange pleasantries, for his reputation had preceded him and I was determined to at least shake hands with Dicky.
In those days of typewriters and when journalists had easy access to cricketers who were not surrounded by a horde of officious, gun-toting security officers, the cricket press box was filled with legendary writers with Dicky, Seshadri and Prabhu at the top of the heap. For us young journos, it was an experience sitting alongside these men, much less cover a cricket match.
I could barely take my eyes off Dicky if only for the fact that usually, he was the last to leave the press box long after stumps as he wrote some half-a-dozen reports for various publications, and when we young guns met, we used to wonder at his prodigious output, day after day, match after match.
Those were the days when press boxes were without TV monitors and we had no recourse to cricket websites or a Google to churn out “expert” reports. We went solely by what we saw and learnt from interactions with seniors like Dicky and of course, the players. In Dicky’s passing, another chapter has ended and only memories remain.
In fact, India’s win has been one bright spot in the past few days as there were two tragic deaths on the racing track of Le Mans following high-speed crashes that were grim reminders of the inherent dangers of motorsport. For all that, life goes on and we are into the Wimbledon fortnight at the end of which, I fancy a Federer vs Djokovic final, especially since Nadal is out of the tournament.
The early matches at Wimbledon drove home the fact that the serve-and-volley grasscourt game is all but extinct. Instead, we have slugfest from the baseline, like the ones we saw at Roland Garros. So much the pity and all the more reason we should treasure the likes of Federer whose one-handed elegant backhand, balletic movements and yes, good hands at the net make for compulsive viewing.
In my book, Wimbledon is the ultimate sporting event, given the rich history and the Old World charm that permeates the club on Church Road in London SW19. There is so much beauty in the sameness that we see year on year and surely, the Wimbledon fortnight provides us the breathing space and reprieve from the wretchedness that we witnessed in cricket the past few weeks.
Should Federer win his unprecedented eighth Wimbledon crown, then that would be most fitting finish to the Indian summer leading into the monsoons.