Sports vibrant in recent times

P. V. Sindhu and Ben Stokes gave sports lovers a lot of excitement as they raised the bar in their performances.

P. V. Sindhu has won a major final and that is good news for Indian badminton.   -  PTI

P. V. Sindhu winning the badminton world championship was the best sporting news in recent times.

Yes, there was the Indian cricket team’s huge win over the West Indies too. But those who follow the game know that this West Indies team is just a shadow of the great outfits that played in the 1970s, ’80s and till the mid-90s. The talent is still there, but the fierce desire and pride in performance that the Windies teams of yore had is missing.

With the proliferation of Twenty20 leagues and the financial security that they provide, there’s a ‘couldn’t really be bothered by how I play for the West Indies’ attitude among the players today. Where they miss the point is that their stature and marketability increase only by how they perform for the West Indies.

Returning to Sindhu’s win, it could be the turning point for her. She was consistently reaching the finals but was unable to go over that last step. Now that she has done that — and that too against a player with whom she has fought hard but not always won — she will have the belief that she can win anywhere.

It’s just like a batsman who keeps getting out in the 90s and then one day gets to a century. Once he has found a way to get there, it becomes that much easier the next time around.

To see Sindhu’s big smile when the Indian flag went up and the national anthem was played brought goosebumps even as far away as in the West Indies.

Whether it was the addition of the Korean coach, Kim Ji-Hyun to her support staff or whether there was a change in her training methods that did the trick only she can say, but a 21-7, 21-7 win in the final shows total domination over an opponent who had troubled her so much, even in the recent past.

What it also shows is that Indian badminton is blessed to have Pullela Gopichand as a coach. There was no ego involved as he realised that maybe a different perspective and approach were needed to make the difference between a silver or a gold for Sindhu. Thus the addition of the Korean to the support staff.

Australia was scenting victory in the Headingley Test when Ben Stokes rewrote the script.   -  Getty Images

Elsewhere in the cricketing world, New Zealand and England’s comebacks after being one Test down was terrific to see. It showed that Test cricket is still the format to watch when two well-matched teams are competing against each other.

It’s never easy for a touring team to come back after losing the first Test, especially in the subcontinent, but that’s exactly what New Zealand did under their inspirational captain Kane Williamson. In the hot, humid draining conditions in Sri Lanka, every player pulled out something extra with the bat and the ball for the win that helped them level the series.

The England win with Ben Stokes playing a superb innings has brought life back to the Ashes series. For, if England had lost the Test, then Australia would have retained the Ashes. Stokes’ partnership with last man Jack Leach was terrific as they made their way towards the target.

If last year was a forgettable one for Stokes with his problems off the field that ruled him out of the Ashes series, this year has seen him at the nerve-jangling end of the World Cup final and now this Headingley win. Both the wins were possible only because Stokes kept his cool.

Typically, everyone in England started calling it the greatest Test innings ever and the game as the greatest Test match ever.

They forgot that only a few months ago Kusal Perera had played a similar innings away from the subcontinent — in South Africa — to take Sri Lanka home. Perera also batted with a No. 11 (Vishwa Fernando) who had no pretensions to batting, while Leach the English No 11 had earlier in the season almost scored a century against Ireland in the only Test match played at Lord’s by coming in as a makeshift opener in the second innings. But then who is going to give credit to little Sri Lanka? Their media is hardly as presumptive as the British and Australian media are.

You might have noticed that whenever the term ‘greatest ever’ is used, there is an English or Australian connection. So Shane Warne’s delivery to bowl Mike Gatting is called the ‘Ball of the Century.’ The Ashes have always been hyped up by the media of both the countries and so anything above the ordinary is always called the greatest, forgetting, or more accurately, ignoring what happens elsewhere in the cricketing world.

Be that as it may, it’s good to see Test cricket get its pre-eminence back and may it continue long.