The lockdown has a bright side. With no live sport happening, people have been bitten by the nostalgia bug. They are digging up old matches, watching the old masters, looking at how things were and generally soaking in the atmosphere from a forgotten time.
If you watch enough tennis, however, there is another angle to the nostalgia factor. For years now, the ATP has played the Champions Tour — a men’s tennis tour intended for former tennis professionals, who have since retired from mainstream professional tennis. The Tour brings together many of the greatest tennis players in history for nostalgic, competitive and entertaining tournaments in cities around the world.
So tennis fans still have the opportunity to admire John McEnroe’s skill at the net or Goran Ivanisevic’s service action or just the way Bjorn Borg moved around the court. And if all of that wasn’t enough then there is always Mansour Bahrami, whose showmanship has made him a long-standing and popular figure in invitational tournaments.
And who among us will ever forget Kim Clijsters and the skirt episode at Wimbledon.
These matches are all essentially meant to be a lot of fun but they also allow the big stars of yesteryear to connect with the sport. It means they are not just consigned to the history books or to the commentator’s box.
And from the fan’s perspective, it is always nice to have the opportunity to watch some icons back in action. The mind’s eye takes them back to a different era and so many more connected memories emerge. Who were you watching with, what were you eating, where were you… it all comes alive.
But each time one watched the tennis legends display their skills, one cannot help but wonder why cricket has never considered having a regular league of legends.
Who among us wouldn’t want to watch Shane Warne float up a leg-spinner again or VVS Laxman flick that very same leg-spinner through the leg-side against the turn? Who wouldn’t want to relive the Ricky Ponting pull shot or the Sachin Tendulkar straight drive? Or even watch Glenn McGrath or Wasim Akram coming in off a short run and make the ball move off the seam…
If there was a doubt over whether this will work, one only has to look at the recent Road Safety World Series or even the buzz that the charity game for bushfire relief in Australia earlier this year created.
More frequent events
There have been sporadic attempts to do this. The World Master’s Cup which was played in India between March 3-12, 1995 was one such attempt. Now, for this tournament, the organisers managed to bring together a top-class roster of retired cricketers. India had a full-strength line-up including everyone from Gavaskar to Kapil Dev. West Indies had Richards, Garner, Greenidge and more. England had Gatting, Emburey, Snow, Underwood... you get the drift.
One remembers watching Joel ‘Big Bird’ Garner running in; the talk about how Sylvester Clarke was the meanest of the West Indies bowler; of course, watching Graeme Pollock score 79 in their match against India. One watched them and wondered how good they would have been at their prime.
We had all heard of Pollock’s legend but never seen him bat but at the ripe old age of 51, he made 79 off 96 balls with 11 fours. At the end of the match, he was given a standing ovation by the crowd.
The final between India and West Indies drew a packed house as it was a replay of the 1983 final but the West Indies crushed India by seven wickets. The buzz was crazy but mostly, it was the nostalgia that brought a tear to the eye. But for some reason, the tournament never became a regular feature.
There have been the odd legends matches since. But these have tended to be one-offs, like the attempt by Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne. The first-ever Over 50s World Cup was played in Sydney in 2018 and the title was won by Australia and the next edition was planned for March 2020 but that had to be postponed due to pandemic.
But something regular would help. Maybe something held alongside the World Cups could work – as it does for the Grand Slams. A stadium close by, a T20 game... just to let fans get a glimpse of their skills. We have the T20 World Cup and the ODI World Cup to at least keep things going and if one truly wants something regular, then something in the various yearly T20 leagues would really take things up a notch.
This would not be an attempt to just rake in more money, rather it would – in this fast-paced era – keep the memories of the greats alive for that little bit more. And that alone should make it worth pursuing for the game’s administrators.
Would you like to see such tournaments more often? Or is that not a feasible idea? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section or get in touch with us on Twitter @thefield_in.