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The Good, Bad & Ugly ft. Mary Kom, Mithali Raj and South American derby

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The Good, Bad & Ugly ft. Mary Kom, Mithali Raj and South American derby

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Subhayan Dutta

11/25/2018

This week saw more bad than good with Mary Kom clinching gold at the World Championship as India’s only positive outcome. Gaurav Mukhi suspended for age-fudging, Harmanpreet Kaur being called a ‘cheat’, and South American football’s grueling scenes ahead of derby constitute our bad and ugly.

Good

The modern definition of a ‘sport legend’ must evidently be someone who has made a comeback to the top. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic can all be called one for they have successfully regained glory after career-threatening injuries. Cristiano Ronaldo too, for all his footballing abilities, endured purgatory to leapfrog Lionel Messi in 2013’s Ballon d’Or race, which many believe was his second birth. Mary Kom, undoubtedly, deserves this tag after the 35-year-old pugilist won her sixth World Championships gold on Saturday, after 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010,  to become the most successful female boxer in the history of the category. It is hard to imagine a non-cricketing athlete reaching such heights in India and she had her share of comebacks too. After starting like a rocket by winning World Championship thrice and the Asian Women’s Boxing Championship twice within five years of her debut, Mary had to take a hiatus when her two children were born. But, she returned to the fore after two years and won the championship again. Age has taken no toll on her perfection of the art as was found on Sunday as we wait impatiently for the Olympics.

Despite the Indian eves doing decently in the T20 World Cup, they were never really the real contenders, which makes their virtual third-place finish a deserving one. Both the finalists, Australia and England, have a proper T20 league in place back home in Women's Cricket Super League and Women's Big Bash League, where the players had time for proper preparations for over a year to get acquainted to the format. Like other formats, T20 is more to do with instant decision-making and calculations during the game where other countries have specialized coaches in places. BCCI have hardly taken that route for women cricketers so far, and expecting magical results only on the basis of talents was a huge blunder. A T20 match demands more defined roles from all the eleven players in the side and the Indian team just looked a bunch of talent lacking direction. BCCI had organized a Women’s T20I match, which didn’t get the desired result, following which the board has only contemplated its route forward. And this World Cup is surely the best hint at their next course of action.

Bad

India’s Asian Cup hopes are standing on a thin rope after their recent performance against Jordan was dismal, to say the least. Under Stephen Constantine, the side has looked threatening at times, when on their offence, but have failed to convert their chances up top. The last phase of Indian Super League is supposed to be a huge chance for Indian youngsters to perform and get into the squad that will start preparations from December 16. And the untimely suspension of Gaurav Mukhi by AIFF for age-fudging in the Indian Super League only bodes badly for the national team who are already over relied on Sunil Chhetri. The Jamshedpur striker has a rare burst of pace in the attacking third that has been often been seen in the ISL and Constantine wouldn’t find that trait in the likes of Balwant Singh, Chhetri, or Robin Singh. Though India should still have some exciting names in the likes of Michael Soosairaj and Thoi Singh up top, Mukhi's vibrancy could have come in very handy if Constantine knows how to use it against different teams. 

Indian cricket is filled with stories of players who had all the potential in the world to get into the national team and turn heads with their performances, but they have ended up being nobodies spending time on the domestic circuit. We come across such names every two months and this time it is time to mention Kerala’s Jalaj Saxena. The all-rounder has played 103 first-class matches so far, garnering 5823 runs at an average of 39.08. Not only with the bat but with the bowl too the 31-year-old has shown his magic taking 275 wickets at an average of 28.59 with his best figures reading 8/45. Kerala’s maiden progress into the knockout stages saw the all-rounder making 522 runs and taking 44 wickets, which was more than anyone else in the competition. His most recent feat was in Kerala’s clash with Bengal at the Eden Gardens where the batsman scored a classy 143 runs off 190 balls against the likes of Mohammad Shami and Ashok Dinda. With 378 runs and 12 wickets to his name already this season, Saxena should deserve a place in the India A team at least.

Ugly

The fairytale beginning that the Indian eves had in the Women’s T20 World Cup ended it a brutal way. And no, we’re not talking about the semi-final loss to England that brought a jolting end to their campaign. It is rather the allegations that followed suit, which has brought the India women’s cricket more shame. Within hours of the Indian side losing to England, a freelance sports agent named Anisha Gupta came out with a revealing tweet stating that Mithali Raj was being kept out of the side by politics and calling skipper Harmanpreet Kaur “cheat, liar, and undeserving”. The love lost between the ODI and T20I skipper of the side has always been an open discussion but letting the differences seep into the team management that eventually led to the side losing out on a World Cup would be seen as a serious offence with career ending punishments awaiting if the culprit is found. The COA has already summoned the two skippers after the tweet became viral with Vinod Rai expressing his unhappiness with the way things have panned out in public.

The biggest reason by far for football to survive the test of time has been passion. Somehow, each community could relate to the way their football club has played over the years that has kept the passion and the love intact for eternity. However, what should, at extreme, be limited to a fierce competition in the sport, took a very ugly turn ahead of the second leg of Argentina league’s Copa Libertadores between Boca Juniors and River Plate. Arriving at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, Boca Juniors’ team bus was vehemently attacked by the River Plate fans with stones and gas cans that has led to players being hospitalized and others were seen out of breathe and vomiting. The bus vehicle driver later revealed that he had fainted in the process and had vice-president Horacio Paolini not taken control of the wheel, there could have been a terrible tragedy. The match was eventually postponed after the crowd was made to sit hours inside the stadium. While the River Plate fans’ conduct would come under the scanner, what happened was a classic example of which line not to cross by during a derby.

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