Wednesday, February 08, 2006

DEATH OF A SPORTSTAR

It was in the summer of 1984 that my father introduced us to The Sportstar and that probably explains the liking I have for Liverpool. Those were the days when there was no television and the newspapers carried black and white images of my favourite sportspersons. The Sportstar showed us the true colour of sports coupled with some of the finest prose we could lay our hands on. It was a habit that I shared with my brothers for weeks and years; for more than 20 years. My brother who is abroad, goes for the online edition week after week. I must confess that over the years, I have lost touch with this wonderful friend.

Each issue of The Sportstar was something that me and my brothers did not mind having a fight. Being the eldest, I had the final say. Also, I was the one who got it from the newstand. The initial issues were marked by the rise of a German tennis player called Boris Becker. Liverpool with people like Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush were the best footballers with the exception of Maradona and Platini. Golf gave us Ballesteros (hope I spell the name correctly).

Of course, the best coverage was with regard to cricket. The photographs were simply superb. There was a special centrefold photograph that gave me the opportunity to decorate the walls of my hostel room. There are still some photographs that are highly valuable for us.

R.Mohan and Nirmal Sekhar amazed us with their writing skills. There was also Robin Marlar for cricket and Peter Bodo for tennis. Then there is the peerless Brian Glanville talking sense of football. He was and still is aiming his guns or his pen at people like Sepp Blatter. I haven't touched a tennis racquet in my life but 'Stan Smith's tennis class' gave enough inspiration to go for a imaginary backhand shot down the line. It was much later that I heard the Dire Straits going full throttle with 'Sultans of Swing'. The Sportstar was the first to give the phrase 'Sultan of Swing' on a cover to mark the 15 wicket haul of Richard Hadlee in the Brisbane test. The special issues before a major sporting event and after were highly coveted.

In the later years, Sunil Gavaskar graced the pages and soon a number of former players joined the bandwagon. There were high quality articles interspersed with mediocre stuff. That, I believe started the slide. People like Rohit Brijnath continue to do the good work even today.

What really prompted me to write is the new look of The Sportstar. It was recently relaunched in a tabloid form. There are no longer any photos on glossy paper. The new look makes The Sportstar a very pale shadow of its former self. The newstand owner was sad to report the alarming loss of leaders. While 30 copies were sold in a week, this week only one copy was picked up by a reader. Change is needed, but not in this way.

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