Without sounding boastful, I would say that I pretty much fancy my chances against Stan Wawrinka on the field of play with a tennis ball.
Okay, for the sake of clarity, I need to mention that the game I have in mind is cricket, which, as evidenced by Stan’s show at the Chennai Open this week, he has absolutely no skill for.
To all the Smarty Pants already off to shoot angry mails telling the Editor of this paper to enlighten this columnist that the Chennai Open is a tennis tournament, my elaborate response would be: ‘chill’! Chennai Open is actually a tennis tournament where they hand players — why not? — a cricket bat to hit tennis balls.
Seriously, they have this ritual at the end of every match on the centre court, where the winner is asked to slam the balls into the stands with a cricket bat to the accompaniment of a TV presenter bellowing boisterously with a frenzy that is generally not possible for others to summon unless they have live ants gnawing their buttocks.
Apparently, there is some charity angle to this byplay, but you have to wonder at the wisdom of the authorities who have come to the conclusion that the best way to the hearts of tennis fans is through cricket.
If ever this tradition of asking tennis players to have a short go at a more popular local sport is emulated by, say, the US Open, we may have to witness the spectacle of Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic on an automobile, shouting saliva-tinged profanities at pedestrians, which, by all accounts, is the most popular pastime in New York.
Coming back to Wawrinka, another thing that he had to do at this year’s Chennai Open was — okay, this should be obvious — drive an autorickshaw, which a local newspaper succinctly captured with the headline ‘Wawrinka does a Baasha’, because we media people know the best way to the hearts of Chennai tennis fans is through Rajni film titles.
We were informed that Waswrinka’s act was for an ATP World Tour promotional video. But there is also a distinct possibility that he might have joined the Ola fleet, considering the fact that some of its ‘surge prices’ in recent times come close to what he is bound to make here at the Chennai Open.
If Wawrinka was asked to drive an auto, another player Gullermo Garcio-Lopez had to try his hand at — very normal, you’d think, in a tennis tournament — making dosais. It seems a huge tradition in the tennis world to have its players to don the chef’s hat because everyone knows the easy way to make it to newspapers is through events that lend themselves to cheap puns (Local papers, waiting on cue, went for ‘Serving’ aces and dosas kind of line).
Anyway, Garcio-Lopez manfully played around with the tawa, but the dosai never turned out as it should, but was still better than anything that I have made. But in my defence, I never actually learned to make dosai because I never got the opportunity to make it, which is because I have never played in a tennis tournament.
The thing is these kinds of side events reveal the eagerness of tennis to shed its elitist image and make sense to common people. But if tennis is serious of holding an appeal for masses it should contemplate changing its existent scoring system, which as of now seems thought up by the guy who revealed to Arvind Kejriwal the ‘OddEven Formula’. For instance, when a player wins a ‘point’ mostly he/she gets ‘15 points’, and suddenly, for no apparent reason, the same ‘point’, at another occasion, fetches only ‘10 points’. In the tie-breaker, as if it is impacted by the fall in Chinese economy, players get only one ‘point’ for a point. In most tennis matches, the crowd is silent as it is probably calculating how much the next point is worth.
On the contrary, take cricket, the rules are simple and logical: If the ball, whose trajectory is towards the stumps, hits the batsman on the pads, he is out, unless otherwise the impact of the ball is outside the offstump, or when the ball is actually pitched beyond the legstump, and of course, this is all assuming that there is no inside-edge off the bat and the umpire has not got it wrong, in which case the batsman may still refer it to DRS, which the said match may follow or not.
So all things considered, Wawrinka should consider himself lucky if next year the Chennai Open authorities don’t hand him a cricket bat while an excited TV presenter asks him to explain the Duckworth and Lewis rule to the fans.
But if I were Garcio-Lopez, I wouldn’t be taking any chance. I would be already learning to make kuzhi paniyarams.