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 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
GRACEFUL, BOTH ON AND OFF THE PITCH