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West Indies in England, Wimbledon and More
by Sunil Gavaskar
Jul 13, 2007

If you were a genuine sports lover, didn’t you have a smile on your face last weekend? On the Saturday, West Indies played one of their best one-day games in recent years and went on to win the third and final one-dayer against England and with it won the series in style. Then the next day, Roger Federer showed just why he is the king of grass by beating Rafael Nadal in a thrilling five setter to win the All England Tennis title for the fifth year in a row and join the immortral Bjorn Borg, who had done it in the late 70s. The manner in which he raised his game in the deciding set, especially when he was down 15-40 on his own service twice in that set, was something to behold, for Nadal wasn’t giving him an inch and covering the court, as if his life depended on it. Still, Federer made him look a bit slow in the manner in which he recovered to win both the games and though Nadal may not have shown it, he would have known in his heart of hearts that the match had turned against him when he wasn’t able to break the Federer twice in that set inspite of being on the verge of doing so.

Federer was modest enough to say that he was lucky and that he better win all that he can before Nadal catches up with him, for seeing the way the Spaniard has played on grass in the last two years to reach the finals both times, indicates that he will be holding the trophy over his head and biting it, as he does the French Open trophy sooner rather than later. If anything, Nadal will, in all likelihood, win the All England title before Federer wins the one he wants so badly, the French Open. In Paris, one was rooting for Federer simply because he is not getting younger and because Nadal had already won it twice and it would have been fitting for Federer to win the title that he covets more than any other at the moment and thus complete a career grand slam.

That brings us by the way to why in recent times a win in a major tournament is called a slam, for all along one was under the impression that a Grand Slam was when all four majors were won, be it in tennis or golf. However it is a bit confusing to hear that Federer has won 11 grand slams when in fact he has won 11 major titles but guess that’s really academic. Federer bids fair to win the most majors by a player and is closing in on Sampras’ 14 titles. The fact that he has started winning since 2003 shows the gap that is there between him and the others and in the tournaments where he has lost, he has either been in the semis or in the finals as in the French Open the last two years. If he wins that, then he will join a rare band of greats who have won all the four major titles in the game during their careers. Not that it will, in anyway, take anything away from him if he never wins at the French Open but he will probably feel that a lot more than others and statisticians will record it and bring it out if ever they want to bolster the argument that he isn’t the greatest player of all time.

The West Indies were disappointing in the Test series and the unseemly collapse in the first one-dayer when the bowlers had done well to restrict England to a manageable total, gave visions of another clean sweep by the home side but not only did the Windies pick themselves up but also played in typical Carribean flavour to give plenty of entertainment to their fans. There was the aggressiveness in the bowling, there was dash in the batting and the fielding, while not being spectacular, had all the calypso ingredients like athleticism flat throwing on top of the stumps followed by some wild throws and a liveliness that’s so Caribbean. Perhaps it was Gayle’s captaincy, for the team seemed not only to believe in themselves but also enjoying themselves hugely with big broad smiles and the body shaking laughter that made the spectator also smile. Gayle has been seen as an anti-establishment figure because of his approach and cool dude attitude but on the field he is as serious as anyone else and the captaincy had brought about a certain responsibility that sat well on his shoulders. Whatever it was, he was the man to whom the team responded and while it’s unlucky for Sarwan to be injured and so miss out on the captaincy, it may well be a good idea to give Gayle the captaincy for some time as Sarwan is a younger man and can get it back when Gayle has had enough. With the temperament that Gayle has, he will be skipper only for a few years and then want to be relieved of the responsibility and enjoy his cricket unburdened.

Yes it was a good weekend to see some personal favourites win and if the coming one is as good, then India could be on the way to winning the first Test against England. Yes, that would be fantastic indeed.

More Views by Sunil Gavaskar
  Results have been utterly disappointing for New Zealand
  National duty comes first
  One-day game is alive and well
  Dhoni bears the fury of the media
  Spirit of Cricket
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