Browsing 'Sports' News

Credits Reuters: Gale Monfils in Qatar Open 2018

Credits: Reuters

The spectators were impressed by the power play showcased by Gael Monfils into winning the Qatar Open Championship.

Just a year ago, Monfils, the French tennis player ranked number six in the world. He aimed to win the men’s end of season championships in London for the first time in 2017, but unfortunately could not make it up throughout 2017 due to varied aliments. He had to withdraw from six tournaments which caused a sudden drop in his ranking from six to forty-six.

Monfils was invited to the main draw, backed by his previous performances in, which he reached three finals. The potential was there but was recognized only when he gained ground against the highly talented Russian, Andrey Rublev, 6-2 6-3 in just over one hour.

It was quite evident that the field in Qatar Open 2018 lacked excitement with the absence of Djokovic, a major defender. The number one seeding has been handed to the world number five, Dominic Thiem, which may have been a key reason for pushing new tennis stars. The game could possibly have taken another turn provided Djokovic’s presence. However, the occurred chain of events proved favorable for Monfils who eventually bagged the title.

Monfils who arrived in Qatar after a four-month break due to a knee injury voiced “I had a very good year in 2016. I finished sixth and then couldn’t really defend my chances in 2017,” he said. “I had a long rest in order to come back strong in 2018.”

The break did not affect his performance which would have been a common speculation instead it turned out to have worked positively for the 31-year-old Monfils who mesmerized spectators with his extraordinary performance of awesome defense and rising offence. His counterpart in finals, Rublev, too acknowledged after the defeat that Monfils “was much fresher, moving much better than me, missing less,”.

The win at Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2018 certainly enhanced his morale as the player exclaimed after winning, “I like this tournament so much, you know,” he said after his win. “I always come back. And I was very close and finally get it. So, I’m just very happy and very proud.”

His fans now look forward to his performance at in the Australian Open in Melbourne next week. His big win at Qatar ExxonMobil has improved his ratings but he will still have no advantage of enjoying a seeding in Melbourne, as opposed to his counterpart in the finals, Rublev, who is expected to rise to at least 33 and be among the top 32 seeds at the first Grand Slam event of the season.

Monfils might be a little disheartened with the fact that he would be playing without being seeded in Melbourne, which as usual is an advantage in the Grand Slams.

Hopes for fans are high as they now look forward to seeing their favorite players strike again at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Qatar’s decision to offer Kuwait the Gulf Cup hosting rights is a goodwill gesture. It’s also an execution of sports diplomacy. While Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have been unbending in their resolve to isolate Qatar, Kuwait has steadfastly stood by the tiny, yet defiant Gulf State.
Had the prestigious tournament taken place in Qatar, where it was originally scheduled, nothing would have changed in terms of world opinion. Rather, Qatar would have received positive reception for maintaining its standards when it came to hosting international tournaments. And on the other spectrum, the standoff would have remained and Kuwait would have continued in its quest to find peace in a tinderbox that the region has turned into.

Sports diplomacy has the power to transcend political differences and bring people together, even at the Government level. It can revive hope where there was previously only despair. Qatar, by handing over the 23rd edition of the Gulf Cup to Kuwait, has shown that it is willing to share. Qatar has had the privilege to host multiple global sports events, but it also wants others in the neighbourhood to have equal recognition as sports hub.

Kuwait especially needed this tournament. The Kuwaitis have for long been deprived of opportunities to enjoy watching international football in the country. It has thrice been suspended by FIFA for political interference since 2007. Now, with the tournament set to kick-off on December 22 in the country, there is great anticipation and excitement. There is history attached to it. The first Gulf Cup tournament took place in 1970, and was won by the Kuwaiti team.

Qatar’s decision to forgo the tournament is aimed at leaving an impression on the Arab bloc, but they are likely to remain sceptical, which would be on expected lines. The blockading nations wouldn’t have joined in the tournament had it taken place in Qatar. So all’s well that ends well. The tournament will now see all the participating nations – Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen – come out in full strength and fight for the trophy. FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, has expressed gratitude, thanking Qatar for its laudable step and declaring it as a win for football lovers.

With the Gulf crisis as the backdrop, the tournament will be quite fiery, especially when the Saudis and the Emiratis lock horns with Qatar. Although the athletes don’t, and shouldn’t, really care about the political conflict that their respective countries are embroiled in, the Gulf Cup could see tempers flying. Good sense must prevail.

India clinched the deciding match against New Zealand in the final ball of the final over in Kanpur recently. It was a moment that made Ramesh Yadav jump up with joy. He became almost hysterical. I was sitting alongside him in the stadium. Ramesh, who belongs to U.P., works as an electrician in Doha and is on a one-month leave.

We got talking and he shared how much he misses playing cricket in Doha. There are places to play, but it’s mostly make-shift. He wishes for a proper cricket ground with all the related facilities where he and his fellow workers from all parts of the Indian sub-continent can play a professional game of cricket after work.

For Qatar to become a center of sports in the real sense, it must move beyond football now. Basketball, handball and motor-racing are also quite popular, with the State providing enough impetus. But cricket is a game that Qatar must re-focus on. Build more public infrastructures, facilities, academies and cricket grounds, especially because close to two million-strong workforce from India, Bangladesh and Nepal enjoy cricket more than any other sport. Playing on well-manicured green grass with pads and helmets in a cricket park is a different feeling from playing on hard turf. And a happy worker is a productive worker.

Equal attention ought to be paid to the development of the national cricket team, which is not doing so well.

Cricket has been a part of Qatar’s sports culture for long, but has fallen by the wayside. It made its international debut in 1979, at an invitational tournament that also featured Bahrain, Kuwait, and Sharjah. For a period during the 2000s, Qatar was one of the top-ranked non-Test teams in Asia, standing fourth in the 2004 Asian Cricket Council Trophy. However, it has since been relegated to the lower divisions of the ACC system, and has failed to qualify for any World Cricket League events.

In the 2017 ICC World Cricket League Division Five, held in September in South Africa, Qatar won the third-place playoff to remain in Division Five. Not a happy place to be in. The tournament was part of the World Cricket League(WCL) which determines the qualification for the 2023 Cricket World Cup.

The team may be at an ebb, but there are ways to improve the ranking and stature.

Get India on board

Cricket Coaching by Certified Coaches.

Qatar is already in talks with Dav Whatmore, the Sri Lanka-born Australian coach, who will be providing guidance to Doha-based cricket academies as part of the “Trucoach – CSS Whatmore Centre for Cricket” initiative. But he will not be a permanent fixture and will only be providing coaching lessons now and then. Even that much would benefit cricket in Qatar immensely, but difficult situations require long-term measures.

India has seasoned coaches even at the academy level and they possess the wherewithal to reverse the fortunes of the tailspinning national team. They can be spread across academies in Qatar, playing a major role in shaping budding cricketers. Like John Wright, the former India coach, says, ‘coaching is just moulding a group that has the skills and the attitude to win’. The men in maroon have the character and the potential to win, which they showed when they won the seven-nation International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World Cricket League Asia Division 1 event in Thailand with a heroic run chase. They defeated Saudi Arabia, who had stayed unbeaten in the tournament coming into the finals.

Whether from India or elsewhere, Qatar needs a top-class full-time international coach who can get them some really tough playing opportunities to bridge the gap. Instilling belief will be the starting point. It can be developed with time, like a win here and a win there.

The critical question is whether the Qatar Cricket Association will take the initiative and approach cricketing greats for coaching assignments in a manner it has not done before. Like a revolution that has made football so popular today. If the development of cricket is not taken upon on a war footing, public interest will further diminish, ultimately resulting in the shrinking of the talent pool. Merely surviving on the fringes could prove fatal for cricket in Qatar.