The World’s Danc­ing TO THE CA­LYPSO

FOR THE DJOKER’S RECORD 28-1 This With the Mi­ami Open ti­tle on Sun­day, No­vak Djokovic, only 28, con­tin­ues to shat­ter records

The Economic Times - - Sports - Bo­ria Ma­jum­dar Andy Kent

The U-19 World Cup in Jan­uary. The women’s and men’s World T20 ti­tles on Sun­day. West Indies cricket, in a mat­ter of months, is the toast of the crick­et­ing world. Salary dis­putes and fight with the West Indies Cricket Board, and the un­avail­abil­ity of key play­ers notwith­stand­ing, there is in­deed a new fire in Baby­lon.

The man­ner in which the Windies made it hap­pen is all the more spe­cial. It wasn’t the ef­fort of one Chris Gayle, but rather of the en­tire team that made this vic­tory pos­si­ble. If it was John­son Charles and Lendl Sim­mons ver­sus In­dia, it was Mar­lon Sa­muels, Sa­muel Badree and Car­los Brath­waite in the fi­nal against Eng­land.

And in the women’s fi­nal, the West Indies out­gunned three times cham­pion Aus­tralia to win their maiden ti­tle.

So what is it that makes the West Indies so good in the shorter for­mat even as they con­tinue to strug­gle in red ball cricket?

With­out doubt the West Indies vic­tory is a great out­come for world cricket. As Ian Bishop said, “It’s great for fans back home and it will give West Indies cricket a new fil­lip. It is more so be­cause both the men and women have done us proud.” The resur­gence of West Indies cricket that Bishop an­tic­i­pates thanks to this vic­tory will be the great­est legacy of the T20 World Cup.

There is also lit­tle doubt that world cricket needs a strong West Indies. We need hy­per en­ter­tain­ers like Bravo and Gayle, char­ac­ters like Sa­muels and Brath­waite. In the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, the cam­eras could not re­sist the sheer pull of Usain Bolt. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that at Eden Gar­dens on Sun­day, it was Sa­muel, Brath­waite, Sim­mons & Co. all the way. And even Gayle. So what, if he also failed in the fi­nal and didn’t live up to his billing? It was his night as much as Sa­muels’, Brath­waite’s and Badree’s.

It is also a vic­tory for the man­ner in which the West In­di­ans play their cricket. There is a method to their mad­ness and crit­ics who said that the team has “no brains” now look silly. The West In­dian way -- in­tu­itive and en­joy­able yet frag­ile -is pro­foundly dif­fer­ent to the English way, which is sci­en­tific and or­gan­ised with a clear em­pha­sis on method.

If the English and Aus­tralians are real pro­fes­sion­als, the West In­di­ans at their best are the Great Am­a­teurs. And with cricket con­tin­u­ing to strug­gle with halfempty grounds around the world, the sport needs the f lair Bravo and party bring to it. It won’t be wrong to ar­gue that this West In­dian suc­cess owes much to the ad­vent of the In­dian Premier League (IPL). At a time when West Indies cricket has been strug­gling to cope with the im­pact of NBA bas­ket­ball and ma­jor league base­ball, the IPL cre­ated su­per­stars out of men like Kieron Pollard and Su­nil Narine.

Not hav­ing played a sin­gle Test match for the West Indies, Pollard, be­came a mil­lion dol­lar man. If Pollard and Narine started the Caribbean invasion of the IPL, it was Gayle who soon be­came its poster boy. Win­ning matches sin­gle­hand­edly for Ban­ga­lore, Gayle is still the toast of the IPL. On the heels of Gayle and Pollard fol­lowed Sa­muels, Bravo and Sim­mons. West Indies, from nowhere, had again be­come a force to reckon with. The com­mer­cial suc­cess of the T20 leagues across the world meant these play­ers, and more who are com­ing up the ranks have some­thing se­ri­ous to as­pire to. There’s name, fame and money to be made and it is enough to lure them back to cricket from bas­ket­ball and base­ball.

While Test cricket con­tin­ues to be the pres­tige for­mat in Eng­land and Aus­tralia, T20 is now the for­mat of choice ev­ery­where else, and cer­tainly in the Caribbean.

So while we cel­e­brate this great West Indies vic­tory, we must also ac­knowl­edge that it is a very spe­cific kind of resur­gence. It is per­haps the ul­ti­mate tri­umph of the white ball over the red ball, of T20 over Test cricket. As ten­nis’s Big Four ( Nov a k D j o k o v i c , Rafael Nadal, Roger Fed­erer, Andy Mur­ray) has been re­duced to the Big One (Djokovic), the mea­sures of that one’s great­ness have be­come ever more strik­ing.

Con­sider money. In win­ning his third straight Mi­ami Open men’s ti­tle on Sun­day, 6-3, 6-3, over Kei Nishikori, No­vak Djokovic sur­passed Roger Fed­erer as the ca­reer prize-mon­eyleaderon­theATPTour. His$1,028,300win­ner’scheck­puthis ca­reer win­nings at $98,199,548.

Or con­sider ti­tles. Djokovic, still only 28, now holds the ca­reer record for ATP Masters 1000 ti­tles with 28, and he ex­tended to 16 his streak of con­sec­u­tive matches won at the Mi­ami Open. He has won 29 of his last 30 matches here dat­ing to 2011, and this was the site of his first ATP Masters 1000 win, in 2007. And then there are the rank­ings. Djokovic will ex­tend to 92 his streak of con­sec­u­tive weeks hold­ing the No. 1 rank­ing.What else? With Sun­day’s vic­tory, Djokovic im­proved to 28-1 for the sea­son and be­came the first player to win three straight Mi­ami ti­tles since An­dre Agassi from 2001 to 2003, also ty­ing Agassi for the most wins at the tour­na­ment. Djokovic be­came just the sev­enth player in his­tory to win the first two ATP Masters 1000 events back-to-back at In­dian Wells, Calif., an­datMi­ami,and­heis­theon­ly­player to win both ti­tles in the same year four times (2011, 2014-16).

This was his 63rd ca­reer ti­tle, and he passed his coach,Boris Becker, in ca­reer wins, with his 714th.

“Boris’s wins by far is the most im­por­tant record,” Djokovic said. “I had a phone call with him, and we had a laugh about it. Of course I’m very grate­ful and proud of all the achieve­ments. The fact that I put my­self in a po­si­tion to make records and to have my name in the his­tory books is a great in­cen­tive be­fore matches like this, but I didn’t think about it too much, and I didn’t im­pose any pres­sure or I didn’t want to have it as a dis­trac­tion, but rather as mo­ti­va­tion.”

Nishikori broke Djokovic’s serve in the first game of the match, only to have his serve bro­ken in the very next game. His ground­strokes were solid in the early go­ing, and he was match­ing Djokovic point for point through the first four games be­fore be­ing bro­ken again to fall be­hind, 2-4, and once more to fall be­hind, 3-5. Djokovic held serve to win the first set and broke Nishikori to start the sec­ond set, never los­ing mo­men­tum from that point on. Af­ter Nishikori held serve to pull to 3-4 in the sec­ond set, he came up hob­bling and had to have his left knee worked on dur­ing the changeover, but he did not use that as an ex­cuse, cit­ing Djokovic’s dom­i­nant­playthissea­sonas­there­a­son for the out­come.

“It’s tough to find his weak­ness, h o n e s t l y,” said Ni s h i k o r i , who missed out on win­ning his first ATP Masters 1000 event but will re­main at No. 6 in the rank­ings. Nishikori jogged around a bit be­fore the start of the eighth game and then watched Djokovic win the first point on a back­hand win­ner down the line. Djokovic went up, 300, with an easy cross­court fore­hand win­ner. Af­ter he won the next point, a group of pelicans flew over­head in a V for­ma­tion for a brief dis­trac­tion, and he raised his arms to them. He won the game at love on a ser­vice win­ner­to­goupby5-3with­Nishikori serv­ing to stay alive.

Djokovic got to break point and match point twice only to see Nishikori save both, but he cap­i­tal­ize­donhisthird­chanceasNishikori hit a fore­hand long. Djokovic pumped his fist in cel­e­bra­tion, and he would soon de­part Mi­ami. His next stop on the way to the French Open is the Monte Carlo Masters, where he will most likely sur­pass $100 mil­lion in ca­reer win­nings.

The New York Times


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