In a week where at least ten movies (Wonder Woman, Baywatch, A Death in the Gunj, Dear Maya, Mirror Game, Dobaara and more) have released, it’s a miracle that there’s enough sports to write about. We can’t complain, given that sports and entertainment go hand in hand – and make the best possible couple in a country averse to all sorts of inter-caste unions.
Let The Games Begin
After an interminable buildup to the third biggest tournament in World Cricket (after the ICC World Cup and ICC World T20), the Champions Trophy 2017 is underway. Hosts England played Bangladesh in the first match on Thursday. Viewers like me aren’t used to watching 50-over games anymore. It felt somewhat like a test match despite there being the tournament’s first ever 300+ successful chase. Bangladesh scored 305, though they should have scored much more, with only Liam Plunkett managing to pick up four wickets. England – the favorites this time – chased it down with no problem, winning by 8 wickets. Joe Root scored an unbeaten century (he finally didn’t throw it away after 50), Alex Hales scored an aggressive 95, while captain Eoin Morgan chipped in with a quickfire 75 to end things. They’re off to the best possible start, though their bowling has looked a bit shaky as usual.
On Friday, the Trans-Tasman rivalry continues, with Australia taking on New Zealand. Though the biggie is on Saturday – with India playing Pakistan in an ODI. India is under a cloud of an alleged fallout between their captain (hot) and coach (cool), and it will be interesting to see how they respond to perhaps cricket’s most storied rivalry. Pakistan is not the team they once used to be, but they somehow find something special when they have to face India in any tournament but the World Cup.
Paris, We Love You
The French Open is underway. World no. 1 Andy Murray has struggled in both his first-round matches, dropping a set each. Murray next faces Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in the third round – a repeat of last year’s Olympic gold-medal match. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have steamed through theirs – looking set to face each other in the semifinals. Dominic Thiem could face Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Next-gen hope Alexander Zverev suffered a shock defeat to Fernando Verdasco in his first-round encounter. Hot-headed Nick Kyrgios, too, shot himself down again, losing to Kevin Anderson in the second round. At the moment, it seems like Nadal will cruise to his 10th title in Paris – a world record that isn’t going to be beaten anytime soon. It could be his 15th Grand Slam, three years after he won his 14th at the same venue.
The Kings Of Wales
The Millennium Stadium at Cardiff will host the UEFA Champions League Final between two of the most decorated European clubs. 11-time winners Real Madrid will face 5-time winners Juventus – both champions of their respective leagues. Juventus is the only unbeaten team in the competition this year, and have conceded a total of only three goals on their way to the Final. Madrid has won the competition twice in the last three years, and is aiming to become the first team to defend the European title.
Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to cap off an incredible season. Even though he has finished behind Lionel Messi in terms of goals scored, he has won more titles with his team. Should Madrid win this final, he will be the favorite to win his fifth Ballon d’Or trophy, finally equal with Messi. Between them, they have won all ten in the last decade. At one point, Messi was 4-1 and 5-3 ahead. But Ronaldo has proven most of his naysayers wrong. He will also look to win more team trophies after he led Portugal to their first ever Euro title last season. Last week, Barcelona retained their Spanish Super Cup title, with Messi scoring as usual.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have signed on their manager Arsene Wenger for two more years after they won the FA Cup against Chelsea last week. Many were calling for his head after they finished 5th in the league, and won’t compete in the Champions League next year for the first time in 20 seasons. But the owners have shown more faith in the longest-serving current manager in world football. They have not won the English Premier League since 2003, even though they’ve won the FA Cup five times. Wenger is yet to win the Champions League with Arsenal, too, despite having reached only one final back in 2006 against a Ronaldinho-inspired Barcelona.
Sebastian Vettel won his third race of the 2017 F1 season, defeating teammate Kimi Raikkonen in a controversial race at Monaco last weekend. Raikkonen started on pole and led for some of the race, before a shaky pit-stop strategy conveniently put him down in second place. Vettel was elevated to the top as the no. 1 driver for the team and Championship contender. The 25-point gap between him and Lewis Hamilton is a refreshing change from the last few years, where only the Mercedes drivers have competed against one another. Vettel is gunning for his fifth World title, while Hamilton is gunning for his fourth.