"The beauty of sport is that it stirs even the heads of the states. President Barack Obama called Popovic to congratulate. Ever heard Indian President or the Prime Minister calling owner / coach / captain of IPL-winning team? Only the ruling political caucus in the franchisee city will try to make capital out of it. The cricket politicos are of a different class and their antics need an entire column to dissect. So much for our sport and our politicians!"
By Veturi Srivatsa

In the frenzy of the football World Cup, some other major sporting achievements are getting dwarfed. The mad football lover is bound to say: When the World Cup is on who is bothered about any other sport?

In India, which has nothing much of its own to celebrate, fans can pick and choose which international sport to watch. Still, the first preference would be the universally popular sport - soccer.

One great sporting achievement that largely went unnoticed except in the columns of dailies, whose reporters' trip was sponsored, was the NBA finals won most handsomely by San Antonio Spurs beating Miami Heat 4-1 in the best-of-seven series.

The Formula 1 racing rivalry and the mind games between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is creating its own suspense and excitement at the paddocks, leaving the fans in a tizzy.

The all-England championships where the big four - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - will renew their rivalry on the hallowed grass at Wimbledon, starting Monday. The people will still find time to watch the great men of racquet sport, football or no football.

The badminton Super Series tournaments are on but don't seem to count, despite quite a few world-ranked Indians taking part in it. Worse, even the sports administrators are little interested in the fast-approaching Commonwealth Games followed by the Asian Games. All one gets to hear is the unseemly fight between the top officials of the Indian Olympic Association whether India should bid for the 2019 Asian Games or not. Mark you, the office-bearers have just taken over the reins after the International Olympic Committee lifted the suspension on the national Olympic committee after 14 months.

Even if the officials manoeuvre a positive decision the government will think twice whether they should hold the Games at all when the country's economy is in such a poor state. The argument forwarded for hosting the Games is that any mega event will create jobs and boost the economy and that the hosting cities will address many of its infrastructure issues.

Just as the World Cup gets to its business end, Indian cricketers will be gearing up to take on England in a series to wipe out the memories of the 2011 washout when they were both done in by grassy pitches and seaming tracks.

F1, tennis and cricket are followed in India as keenly as football but the kickabout sport is followed with passion in certain pockets of the country. The sport is globally popular and not many can match it, even, perhaps, the Olympics for sheer number of countries play it.

It's a bit funny to watch ad campaign for India's cricket tour to England when people are just in no mood to be distracted from football. It would be interesting to know how many people watched the recent India-Bangladesh one-day series and how many cared to remember the teams and scores. The grapevine has it that there were no takers for the TV rights and India board's trusted TV company had to bail Bangladesh out by agreeing to beam it.

It appeared as if cricket was being played on a football turf, seeing the way the ball was misbehaving. The low scores may have forced some fans to find out how exactly the teams fared so poorly. Who would like to watch such cricket?

Going back to the NBA finals, one witnessed a truly dominant performance by the Spurs and the chroniclers of the sport could not find another series to match this one, both their attack and defence leaving nothing. The victory margins give an indication of the overwhelming superiority of the Spurs over Heat, who won the finals last two years. Last year's was a big shocker for the Spurs who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as it were.

The diehard Spurs fans have much to drool over his favourite team's virtues. The stats back them, even if the entire series was not as exciting as basketball buffs hoped for, more so after last year's turn around when Spurs looked to have sewn up the finals.

Already the speculation is on whether the Spurs will see the return of Tim Duncan, its part owner, Manu Ginobili and their legendary coach Gregg Popovic. But all three have given positive signals of being on the bench next season to pep up Tony Parker and the Most Valuable Player of this season's finals Kawhi Leonard.

The beauty of sport is that it stirs even the heads of the states. President Barack Obama called Popovic to congratulate. Ever heard Indian President or the Prime Minister calling owner / coach / captain of IPL-winning team? Only the ruling political caucus in the franchisee city will try to make capital out of it. The cricket politicos are of a different class and their antics need an entire column to dissect. So much for our sport and our politicians!

(Veturi Srivatsa is IANS Sports Editor and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])


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