Crossing the final hurdle!
The term ‘Final hurdle’ finds abundant usage in sports. Only legends can be associated with the phrase. The word ‘final’ means the achievement is of humongous proportions; the word ‘hurdle’ emphasizes that there lies a tough path ahead for the player to drench in glory. Some have had a chance to go past it, some slow; some fast. Some, unfortunately, haven’t gone past it. Some still have the time. A sneak peek into a few final hurdles in Cricket and Tennis follows:
1. Sir ‘Don’ Bradman’s theatrical farewell duck
The Don, arguably the greatest batsman to have ever played the sport, needed just four runs –an effortless square cut, an eloquent straight drive, an artistic pull or for that matter, four cheeky nudges to cross ends – any of these could have let him retire with a batting average of ‘100’! Alas, for Bradman, the historical hurdle remains a ball from Eric Hollies that beat him to disturb the timber.
2. Ivan Lendl’s Grand slam runner-up streak
For Lendl, the right term might well be finals’ hurdle, for he had to go home happy with a runners-up trophy four times between 1981-84 before he managed to snatch his first grand slam title at the French Open. When the final hurdle gets steeper and steeper with every attempt, the extent of satisfaction or devastation when you finally go/not-go past only gets exponential. In Lendl’s case it was true as he crossed the hurdle by defeating John Mcenroe after being two-sets down in the final!
3. Kapil Dev’s laborious stretch
Kapil Dev, the best swing bowler from India had his glorious days behind him when he entered the 400-wickets milestone in 1992. It took him more than a year and a half and about 14 test matches to finally go past Hadlee’s tally of 431 wickets. He retired two tests later which again indicates how important it was for him to cross that final hurdle.
4. The ‘Roger- Rafa’ mutual hurdles
The men responsible for the 7-year duopoly before the Serbian invasion in 2011 have had their own share in creating hurdles for one another. For Nadal, the only noticeable silverware that has not got added to his showcase has been that of the year-end championship title – Federer winning six of them hasn’t helped Nadal’s cause! From the other end, Nadal had acted as the hurdle for Federer’s French dream for 4 years before divine (read ‘Soderling-knocking-out-Rafa’) intervention came in 2009 giving Federer a better shot at the title which the Swiss took with open hands. For Federer, one other hurdle still remains – He hangs tantalizingly close at 285 weeks to the ‘286 weeks at No.1’ record which Sampras holds.
I don’t wish to get to Sachin’s conquest of the hundred hundreds for two reasons – One: The master has been chasing an asymptote that nobody else can probably get to and Two: He is about to get hold of the asymptote sooner than later!