Sunday, April 18, 2010

CFA, Isinbayeva and Lara

Over the course of my internship at the Hindu, I have been covering the St-Joseph’s Chennai Football Association senior division football league, which represents the highest form of league football in Chennai. The league provides the odd compelling narrative if not the greatest quality of football and on April 22, the last day of the season, league leaders Integral Coach Factory (26 points from 10 games) face Chennai Customs (24 points from 10 games) in a fixture that will determine the outcome of the competition. While, all that ICF need is a draw, Customs need to grab all three points from an encounter that I am relishing not because of the likely standard of football, but the potential story.


Of larger international significance though is the announcement of Yelena Isinbayeva’s indefinite sabbatical from pole vault. The Russian’s performance at the Beijing Olympics was the highlight of the 2008 Games for me, even greater than Michael Phelps’ stratospheric feats and Usain Bolt’s shocking showcase of speed. Phelps’ achievements had a monotonous tone of inevitability about it and the sprints which Bolt practices, while spectacular, aren’t quite as pleasant to watch as the pole vault, which Isinbayeva gorgeously specialises in.

Isinbayeva who is the first woman to overcome the 5 metre barrier has had a remarkable foothold over the event, which has seen her break 27 world records, but of late her success has dried with failures first at the World Outdoor Championships and then at the World Indoors at Doha last month. She says she retains a commitment to win gold at the 2012 Games in London, but while a break helps some recover lost spark, for others the best way to regain form is to compete through the parched patch. It would be a pity if we have seen the last of Isinbayeva’s best, but she has already given us such wonderful memories to treasure, not least that glorious leap at Beijing.


And finally of Brian Lara, who at the age of 41 is on the verge of a return to competitive cricket by playing for Surrey in both the County Championships as well as the T-20 competition in England. Although the Trinidadian remains the most naturally talented batsman I have seen, a redoubtable genius blessed with strokes of enigmatic brilliance, doubts persist on the potential success of his return. An indestructible force on his day, I would imagine Lara to have been a hugely successful T-20 cricketer had it arrived when he was still in his elements. But, considering Lara’s absence from cricket for almost three years, I wonder if we’ll get to witness the remains of his undoubted class or if we’ll be consigned to seeing a failed and miscalculated return of yet another champion. Lara though will be optimistic, for if he can flourish in his stint in England, the riches of the IPL will certainly be on the offering, especially considering the introduction of two new franchises.

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