Sportstar Aces 2022: A starry affair

It was wonderful to see the winners get such a rousing ovation. The bonding over dinner between sportspersons of different disciplines was such a heartwarming sight.

Bonhomie: Leander Paes, Sunil Gavaskar and Ajit Pal Singh share a light moment during the Sportstar Aces Awards.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

One of the most looked forward to events in the sporting calendar is the annual Sportstar Aces Awards. Like every time, this year too, the Awards were graced not just by the winners but also by a galaxy of former internationals who have brought glory and so much joy to the nation.

Where else could you get to see two Olympic Gold medallists — Abhinav Bindra and Neeraj Chopra — along with several other medalists at the Olympics, Paralympics, Commonwealth, and Asian Games. There were a couple of us who were part of the 1983 Cricket World Cup-winning team. There were also several former internationals plus media who have also been part of some of these wonderful moments in Indian sport.

So, after the awards ceremony was over – it was wonderful to see each winner get such a rousing ovation – the bonding over dinner between sportspersons of different disciplines was such a heartwarming sight. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not easy to meet everybody and understandably many were careful, but it still was a wonderful way to end the evening.

The sponsors are an important part of any event, and it was good to see the Awards being supported so nicely. It is a heartening feature that apart from the lovely trophy, the winners also either get a cash award or a watch.

One has seen many a yesteryear sportsperson showcase a lot of pretty silverware but struggle to make ends meet. Yes, of course, sport was more amateur then, but now that it has become such a professional activity it is good to see the time the winners give to attend the evening, and they are rewarded nicely for their efforts to do so.

Even as this is being written, the news has come that the Indian girls have not made it to the semifinals of the ICC women's World Cup. It was disappointing that despite scoring over 270, the team twice lost in the final over, once to Australia, and then in the final must-win game to South Africa. This does suggest that the bowling department needs strengthening if the Indian girls want to go far in multi-country events outside of Asia.

Watching the bowling, especially in the final overs, showed that there was not much variety in the bowling. Even in the 49th over, with the fielders in the deep and almost a run a ball needed by South Africa, the ball was generously tossed up, and singles were easily knocked around, and the pressure relaxed on the batters. Then in the final over a no-ball was bowled. So, despite a catch being taken, the no-ball meant no wicket and an extra run to the total and another delivery to face. It is understandable to an extent if the fast bowlers, who come running from a distance, bowl the occasional no-ball, but a spinner bowling a no-ball is unforgivable. As has been seen so many times in the past, a wicket off a no-ball can change the fortunes of the game, and here it certainly did as the no-ball wicket was that of the well-set Mignon du Preez, who was batting with a half-century to her credit.

So often we have heard the modern player say that he/she looks to do what’s in their control and if bowling legal deliveries is not within a player’s control then that person is simply not good enough. It’s a professional game now and players get well paid and deservedly so, but they also need to put in the mental and physical effort to match the expectations and the pay scales that they attract. If a spinner continues to bowl no-balls, then the bowling coach should be asked why that’s happening and he should be held accountable if the malaise persists.

These may be hard words but as said earlier it’s a professional game now and expectations have climbed up high. It may be the last time we see a couple of players in the India colours, and despite the disappointment of not getting the trophy, we must doff our hats to them for their service to women’s cricket and their magnificent careers.

Well done, girls.

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