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October - November 2004

India Sport Scene

Cricket & Hockey

by Ramesh Seedhar

Asia Cup Defeat an eye opener: Ganguly

The seeds of indiscipline batting by the Indian team were already visible at the Asia Cup before India embarked in its quest for ICC trophy. Since then the performance of the Indian team has been lackluster both in Amsterdam and England, culminating in defeat by its arch rival Pakistan in the ICC competition.

After the ignomious display in the Asia Cup final the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly said that the disappointing performance of his team in the Asia Cup Tournament should serve as an eye-opener for the busy season ahead. "There is very little we did right. We need to get our thought process sorted out from now on", lashed out Ganguly, hardly ducking any issue and owning up responsibility in areas where the Indians slipped. "We cannot lose so many finals. The wicket was on the slower side but that can’t explain away our loss". Ganguly was left perplexed by his team’s latest flop in One -Day tournament. They have now won just one out of thirteen final during his tenure. "It is difficult for me to say what the reason is. There is definitely some thing that we are not doing right", he added.

"We were expecting to win this tournament as we were the favourites, so it’s disappointing but I don’t think it’s a setback for us as a team. We have to make sure we get back to where we were in our next tournament in Holland. We need to be a bit more intense in the field and have to get our thought processes right." Ganguly was disappointed that the team could not have any good partnership when it batted under lights, chasing 229 runs for the title win. Indian team needed some body to stay with Sachin Tendulkar. Normally, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are very good with rotating strikes; but even that was not happening. The pressure was building all the time. Ganguly found very little positive outcome from the three week long tournament except for the return of Harbhajan Singh. It is a jolt, which may get them back into groove. Their batting was not up to their usual standard. The fielding is getting better but it is not enough.

Ganguly confessed that the reason he played with three seamers in the game was that he wanted to ensure there was not too many runs scored by the opposition in the first 15 overs. Three of the spinner did well which is actually, what you expect from your slow bowlers on a wicket like this one. However, you play your three medium pacers because you want to control scoring in the first 15 overs. In case one of your first bowlers gets smashed, there is the third bowler who can control things. Ganguly said the total was within reach and the side had a deep batting line-up but still India never looked like making a successful chase. However, it was all very disappointing. Sri Lankan’s fortunes have been mixed in the past 18 months but Atapattu is confident his team is developing fast. "We have shown in this tournament what we are capable of", he said, after they defeated India in the final. "This does not mean that we will not be defeated but the winning streak can be extended if we do our basics right and if we have our unit right."

Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly admitted that the exclusion of paceman Zaheer Khan from the squad for the upcoming tri-series in Holland and ICC Champions Trophy was because he was not bowling well and needed to get back his rhythm before he could be included in the team.
In the final of the Asia Cup Sri Lanka’s score of 228 was beatable. Yet so accurately had Sri Lanka read the home conditions that they were able to defend. On India’s tour of Pakistan, it was India that could read the wickets better than Pakistan.

After the fall of Sangakara’s wicket, the hosts could manage only 70 odd runs for the last seven wickets. It indicates that the dropped catch of Sangakara proved too costly for the Indians. On a sure turning pitch at the Premdasa Stadium, there was not much to differentiate between a regular offspinner like Harbhajan Singh and the non-regulars like Sehwag or Tendulkar.

For the European tour and ICC matches Ajit Agarkar has been called and Tamil Nadu’s rookie stumper Dinesh Karthik included as the national selection committee omitted Zaheer Khan and Parthiv Patel. ICC Champions trophy rules permit only 14 players per side, which has been complied with. Thus Rohan Gavaskar, who will be with the team for the Holland tri-series and the Nat West Trophy will not feature in the Champion trophy unless the ICC allows any changes in the squad in case of injuries. In the run up to the big event, India played against Australia and Pakistan in Holland from August 21 to 28 and then took on England in the Nat West Challenge Trophy.

Agarkar who came in as all rounder, was almost an automatic choice while Zaheer Khan might have been meted out a punishment for his constant fitness problems amid tours. Officially, however, Mr. Nair said after the meeting; "According to the report received from physiotherapist Andrew Leipus, Zaheer is still not fully fit and requires further rest and rehabilitation. We hope that given some more time, he will be match fit." The choice of young Kartik as the wicket keeper in place of Parthiv Patel took some time. Kartik scored over his competitors because of his performance in domestic matches and a decent run with the bat in the Under 19 World Cup in Dhaka. Mohammed Kaif who scored only 52 runs in eight matches and was selected because of his fielding. Dinesh Mongia who was not selected has proved that he is a top class all rounder player with bat and bowling. He showed his skill and has made his name very popular among the cricket fans. After the defeat in the Asia Cup, India should have selected Mongia in place of Kaif. Kaif is so much out of form that he cannot score and hardly supports the other batsman at the other end. Dinesh Mongia in India team could have strengthened the team in batting, bowling and fielding. It is sad a player who deserves a place in Indian team is left out.

In the Videocom tri-series in Holland, the rain was the winner. With the game between Pakistan and Australia declared a washout even before a ball could be bowled, representatives of all three participating teams and the Royal Dutch Cricket Board went into a four hour huddle to try and salvage a semblance of cricket from the weather-hit shambles, but to no avail. They found no way to squeeze anything more. Among the alternative discussed during the extended brain-storming session were rescheduling of rain-affected India-Australia game of Monday to Thursday, the Pakistan-Australia match of the day to Saturday, and a delayed final to be played on Sunday. None of this was possible, KNCB Media manager Hugo Nsihssen said, largely based on inputs from the Head groundsman and his support staff.

In the NatWest series against England,Indians played badly and lost the first two tests. They redeemed themselves in the third test when the result was of no consequence.

In the ICC tournament, India lost to Pakistan by three wickets in a very close match. Needing 201 to win, Pakistan fumbled and needed the steady hands of Inzamaan ul Haq and Youssf Youhan. Yousaf cerebral approach in making an unbeatable 81 runs from 114 balls were the backbone of Pakistan’s inning. Unfortunately for India, Rahul Dravid, Ajit Agarkar and Mohammad Kaif were the only batsmen to score over 20. In the Indian batting line up loose shots accounted for more wickets than unplayable balls.

Indian cricket and hockey teams are still going through the turmoil and pain of growing up, of coming to terms with their own genius. They are best left alone to figure out how with such tremendous wealth of talent, they can lose with such consistent ease.

Hockey: India’s Second Appeal too falls on Deaf Ears

The Indian Hockey Federation was left with no option but to move on from the controversial 1-2 loss to New Zealand after the game’s World-governing body rejected their protest for the second time here. The International Hockey Federation’s jury turned down India’s second appeal on the ground that the team manager had not launched the protest in time. India had initially protested against the umpire decision to award the fourth successive penalty corner to New Zealand, which saw Hayden Shaw score the winner. The Indians claimed that the award was invalid as the match had concluded after umpire Ray O’Connor of Ireland signalled that the ball had gone out of play, implying that the game was over. However, Xavier Adell of Spain overruled O’Connor and instead awarded the Kiwis a fourth penalty corner on the ground that the ball had clipped Dilip Tirkey’s foot.

The first protest was turned down by the technical delegate of the Federation of International Hockey. The defeat threw the eight times Olympic champions out of medal contention since they had lost two of their first three league matches. The players have to realise that hockey is no longer the same kind of game that was being played in their backyards years ago. All countries that have taken up hockey have killed the traditional style of play at which India was supreme. They do not possess dribbling skills like that of Pakistan and India, but rely more on power play and swift passing, it has stood them in good stead.

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