The speed, the petrol and the rise of the legend: Cricket revved up!
When it comes to speed, fast, all-out madness and adrenaline paced action the only word that comes to mind is Vettel. The German F1 driver who was recently crowned F1 champion lives his life around those words. Drama and fast-paced too! Its been a long time since F1 has actually drawn the hype that it used to. Previous champions like Michael Schumacher returning to the sport simply wasn't sparking interest. Before the dramatic end to this season, it was the well-made Senna documentary that reminded us all of the passion that lies in this sport. F1 has finally begun to refuel itself it seems.
Past heroes, dramatic overtakes and a conjuring of some of the fastest machines on the planet all make a Michael Bay film look slow...and all in the space of a few hours!
Reading this you are probably thinking what does this have to do with cricket? Quite simple, cricket has followed the footsteps of F1 and started to take leaps forward. Although stretching the action over five days seems a bit much, it is capturing an audience on all levels of interest and the only question I find myself stumbling upon is why on earth not? Bowlers are running in at sprinters' speeds and deliver cricket balls at a batsmen's head. Batsmen are standing guard like Samurai warriors on a quest and of course, the fielders are ready to pounce with cat-like agility. Cricket, despite the stereotype, isn't slow. It is quite the opposite in fact and with the year winding to an end, we seem to be heading towards the finish line with battles that would make the speed demons of the F1 circuit proud!
This past week saw a whole host of brilliant clashes, each one turning and twisting as cricket always does. South Africa took on Australia in five days of guts vs glory, India battled England in the dusty outfields of subcontinent cricket and the West Indies (the Caribbean representatives of the sport) slam dunked Bangladesh. Sri Lanka and New Zealand were also in action and they did not disappoint, wrestling for the win in a thrilling match-up.
It took South Africa five days to hold off the Australians to secure a draw that must have felt like a win, England pulled off a blinder and brought back a second spin bowler (Monty Panesar), turning the match around in the process. Helped by a speedy century by Kevin Pietersen, England have left the Indians with a lot to think about ahead of their next meeting. Getting beaten by ten wickets is almost unheard of for this Indian side, let alone at home. West Indies bossed their way past Bangladesh showing that being the World Champions in the shorter version of the game (called T20 - stands for Twenty twenty, which is the maximum number of overs each side gets) has benefits in the test format (the longest format - where the game has unlimited overs to bat/bowl in but must do both twice within a set number of days in order to win) as well. Sri Lanka and New Zealand were battling it out until the very last moment, with the latter eventually coming out on top.
Tomorrow, Australia and South Africa enter into the final test match of their series, with both teams needing a win to secure the world number one ranking. In the last match Michael Clarke stood tall amongst his peers by smashing another double hundred while South African Faf du Plessis saved his team by the skin of his teeth with a 376-ball century. There were injuries, there was verbal abuse on the field but tears were shed off the field this week as former captain Ricky Ponting announced his retirement from the game. That will make tomorrow his final appearance for the Australians and it comes after question marks surrounding Ponting's recent form. However, what this most likely will result in is Ponting finishing his career in the most relaxed manner, one that will make him all the more dangerous. Like a wounded tiger, he will almost certainly wash away his wounded emotions and be a snarling predator ready to leave his mark on the game in one last hunt for the number one title.
Although Schumacher, Jordan, Johnson and even the great boxing champion Ali failed in their last performances, Ponting will be hoping to buck the trend and finish on a deserved high in the final test match of the series. Cricket is the one game where legends can leave their mark but once you leave the wicket for good, there is no coming back. Unlike a lot of other modern sports, retirement in cricket is not part of an act. So you have one chance to make it count and when Michael Clarke does the coin toss tomorrow, he'll know the ace in his pack is Ricky Ponting for just that reason.
As the Bavarian world becomes snow encrusted it seems that the fast paced events of the Southern Hemisphere will allow for some summer to sneak in through the cold. If action is the essence of a sport, then cricket is helping to give it the longevity it's been yearning for. It manages this feat without the aid of petrol and hot metal but achieves its goals through the gusty ambition of charging warriors looking to leave their mark in one last battle!