Posing with a legend
“Sachin Tendulkar will pose for a photograph with the journalists.” I overheard at the Wankhede on the eve of the cricketer’s final Test. “Maybe I should have worn something better,” I thought.
“Maybe got my hair trimmed and possibly polished shoes,” the thought process went on. The photograph happened. Somewhere among hundred jostling journalists, I found myself craning my neck to be seen. Other fortunate ones were either sitting next to the Master or in front of him, and a few standing behind him. I was lost, but luckily for me, my head rose above the shoulder of the guy in front of me. And so, there was just my face among many others. The next three days were spent witnessing the legend pull off his final act. During the lap of honour, iconic speech and his one final walk to the pitch, the crowded press box was stunned into silence. There were moist eyes, throats with lumps and expressionless faces. And these were “battle-hardened” scribes, some of whom had reported on Tendulkar’s debut Test as well. I will always cherish covering this Test, and of course that photograph with the legend, despite just my “heady” presence, is one for posterity.
— Kr guruprasad
Aussies rise from the ashes
Among the various things that I will remember from 2013 will be Australia losing the Ashes and regaining it in a rare back-to-back battle. The kind of form that Australia were going into the England leg, having lost 0-4 in India and roping in a new coach in Darren Lehmann perhaps helped Alastair Cook and Co. win 3-0. But in Australia, one could see a fitting reply by Michael Clarke and Co spearheaded by Mitchell Johnson. So destroying were the Australians that their key batsmen Jonathan Trott had to abandon the tour after the first Test and head home for stress-related issues while off-spinner Graeme Swann had to announce retirement from international cricket with immediate effect after the third Test. That’s the way Australians bounce back. And what joy it was to see the Ashes returned.
When I was left awestruck
I was one of the many who got a little bored watching 350 scored with ridiculous ease when Australia toured India for seven ODIs. Nagpur was a happy exception, though. For two reasons — one, I saw two of the finest knocks in ODIs, and second, it was my first international match as a journalist. Australian skipper George Bailey and India’s star of the year – Virat Kohli – made me fall in love with the art of batting all over again. True, it was a typical flat Indian deck, but the contrast in the style of the two centuries left me awestruck. While Bailey was all class and patience, Kohli was all style and brute force. Sitting in the press box for the first time, I couldn’t help but clap in excitement on a few shots hit by the duo, probably leaving my senior co-journos confused. The fan within me refused to be bogged down at times. But then again, I was awestruck.
Grappling with reality
In February, as the news flashed that wrestling has been dropped from Olympics, I rushed to the Chhattrasal Stadium, the hub of Indian wrestling, where practice sessions were on. The atmosphere was akin to a mourning with wrestlers, from Sushil Kumar to Yogeshwar Dutt to a 13-year-old budding wrestler looking sombre. I saw a couple crying at one corner. They were trying to console each other while hugging an eight-year-old. Turns out the man was a labourer and his eldest son, a 13-year-old, was a budding wrestler, training at the stadium, on whom the impoverished family had pinned its hopes. He had brought the younger kid to motivate him. “I don’t think wrestling can survive now for long,” he said. The despondency of these humble parents stayed in mind for months to come until wrestling was taken back into the Olympics.
—Chander Shekhar Luthra
Timing is the essence
January 16, 2013 was a a day that taught me not just a lot about journalism and media, but also the importance of timing. I had written a blog on the 2013-2014 European football season with majority of the copy being on Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson. Would Pep join the EPL? Would Jose come back ‘home’ to Chelsea? Would Fergie retire at the end of the season. A lot of if’s, buts and maybe’s. It took me a lot of time to write this speculative piece and I had a feeling my readers would like it. Little did I know what was in store. The post went live around 4pm that day, and I learnt my lesson at around 8’o clock. Pep Guardiola had joined Bayern Munich on a three-year deal. Every word of my blog now was pointless. That day taught me that in nothing can be assumed and that timing is everything. It prepared me for the field I was to pursue.
world football comes home
As an Indian who loves football and a fan of Manchester United, I shall not forget two events that happened in 2013. The first happened on May 8. The gum-chewing, abuse-hurling, mind-games playing knight — Alex Ferguson— announced his retirement. The thought of him not holding the reins of the team any more was just too saddening. After all, no other manager has won 13 English League titles, five FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League trophies. The second was India securing the hosting rights of the 2017 Under-17 FIFA World Cup. So far, we Indians could only sit back and watch foreign leagues on the TV, grumbling at the pathetic state of infrastructure in the country. But now we’ve got a chance to compete in a FIFA event(never mind we have to host it to participate). Let’s just hope it doesn’t shame our country like the Commonwealth Games.
Martial arts rule
One colossal stadium, multiple rings, participants from Asia and Africa under one roof. The sixth World Gojukai Karate-do Championship held at NSCI, Worli, in December flaunted fitness, competitive spirit and some high-quality martial arts. From Iranian women (with their hijab on), Kenyan kids to India’s nine-year-old girl, the tournament promoted brotherhood. As far as the sport is concerned, aggression did the talking. One did not require to sledge to win a point, the power of a flying kick could intimidate an opponent and it was done gracefully. The cacophony of the cheerleaders added to the atmosphere. There were medals distributed but it was sports which won at the end of the day. The contest required speed, action, athleticism, a healthy mind and muscle power – all that goes into making a true sportsman. And it was a delight to cover this
Difficult to be neutral
At times it is difficult to remain neutral while reporting. Especially, when a friend or an Indian(s) is competing. I found myself in such a situation during the Gujarat Kensville Challenge 2013. Shiv Kapur was among the favourites. He started the last day with couple of bogeys. For the first time, in my career, like any other Indian fan, I started praying for his recovery. Adding to the drama was Kapur’s closest rival Andrew McArthur scoring three birdies in a row as they approached the closing. Raheel Gangjee’s disappointment the previous year flashed my mind. Fortunately, Kapur had recovered and enjoyed a two-shot lead going into the final hole. That gave me enough courage to reach the putting green. When Kapur scored a par to pocket a winner’s cheque of €32,000, my joy knew no bounds. Thereon it was easy to resume as a sports journalist.
This year had a sad experience for me and that was Viswanathan Anand losing his chess world championship. Considering Magnus Carlsen’s superb form and Anand’s age, I wasn’t so sure that the Indian can retain the title. But, I had least expected that my hero would lose his crown without beating the challenger even once. After the initial rounds, when Magnus started playing more aggressively and confidently, there was just one hope, that at some point, Anand would bounce back and will show this young chap his place. But that never happened. Instead, like an old warrior, he dethroned himself and made way for the new king. I know, it’s not over yet and Anand might come back and challenge Magnus for the title, but the way he lost his supremacy was the most painful thing for me to watch this year.
I was in Cuffe Parade when my colleague told me that Prithvi Shaw had crossed the 500-run mark. Delighted, I rushed to Azad Maidan where Rizvi Springfield (Bandra) were toying with St Francis D’Assisi (Borivli) in a Harris Shield match. I was so excited that I even told the cabbie about the boy. Thirsty, I gulped down two glasses of nimbu paani before setting foot onto the ground. I spotted Prithvi. But believe it or not, he top-edged the next ball and was caught. “Panauti hai tu yaar (You are jinxed),” the other reporters rubbed it in. I was smiling, but embarrassed. Only Englishman Arthur Edward Jeune Collins (628 not out at the age of 13) and Charles John Eady (566 at the age of 31) had scored more runs in a single innings in competitive cricket. Prithvi was in some mood. He could have gone all the way. I am sorry, Prithvi.
In sports, forties is the time when a player is usually retired. Even Sachin Tendulkar could not escape this . But for a certain Pravin Tambe, it is just the beginning. Undying spirit, passion and love for the game kept Tambe going for years. And he finally got his due at 41 when he got picked for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. A Rahul Dravid discovery, Tambe got one wicket in three IPL games and followed it with 12 in five Champions League T20, making him the top wicket-taker.
His biggest dream —to represent Mumbai —turned into reality when Tambe, now 42, made his Ranji debut against Orissa this December. Tambe is an example of why one should not stop dreaming because you never know when destiny would knock your on door.