FOR Millions of sports fans, July 14 became a cruel test of loyalty...........

Nothing could be more unfair than the present rules governing the ICC World Cup and the Wimbledon Championships. They were invented by armchair paralegals who arrogated to themselves, rather like Roman emperors, the power to decide which gladiator should win and who should lose.

This year, Roger Federer, clearly the favorite of the media and the crowds, played the way to the semi-finals where he defeated the clay-court champion Rafael Nadal.

That pitched him in the finals against Novak Djokovic.

No one who watched the entirety of that contest [the longest single finals in tennis history]; will ever forget the sheer excellence of both the players. They were so evenly matched that it seemed a shame to see them both fight for just the one cup each so obviously deserved.

They played five gruelling sets. Neither emerged the victor. And that is when the new rules instituted only this year kicked in.

They provide that when the fifth set is deadlocked at 12 games each, the players must compete in the equivalent of a football penalty shootout.

Djokovic scored more points than Federer and took home the trophy. Federer was left with the runner's-up salver and a bitter memory.

There will be many who will argue that rules are rules and the contestants know them before they enter the tournaments.

Caveat Aspirans. Yet, it remains unfair that after hours of endeavour, the outcome should be decided by blind rules.
Rules may have the properties of Law, as Dickens Mr. Bumble explained once, ''is an ass - an idiot.''

Surely it must not be beyond the ingenuity of the ICC and the Lawn tennis Association to revisit such rules and to allow, in such even results, both the contestants to become joint winners.

Why does there have to be only ONE winner?

This is not a Roman gladiatorial fight to the death., in which Caesar acknowledges only the survivor.

If the myopic organisers look carefully, they will find there is enough space on the ICC World Cup and on the Men's Final trophy for two names to be inscribed - side by side.


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