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December 2004 - January 2005


India Sport Scene

Hockey & Cricket

by Ramesh Seedhar


HOCKEY: INDO-PAKISTAN SERIES REVIVED AFTER FIVE YEARS

The season that had promised so much with India winning the Afro-Asian games, unfortunately did not blossom and India’s poor showing in the Athens Olympics put us back to square one.

Since then India has played in the eight match series against Pakistan with a younger team under the leadership of Dilip Tirkey.

It was great to see Dilip Tirkey in action to lead the team in the series that was played in Pakistan and in India. Pakistan won 4-2 with the other two matches drawn. A 2-0 win in the last match for India has left them optimistic for future.

Tirkey has been a good motivator for the side and his own performance has shown tremendous improvement in the past couple years. He has matured and is able to get the best out of the side. He is formidable in defence and when he is leading the team looks more purposeful.

In their two previous encounters that were played in Hyderabad, India had beaten Pakistan on both the occasions and this seems to charge them up again in the final match.

At Hyderabad, Sandeep Michael scored first after exerting a lot of pressure on the Pakistan defence. It was Tushar Khandekar who started the move with a good run on the left flank combining with Vikram Pillay, the ball finally came to Michael who scored with deflection after Pillay had a say in the move. There were some more chances for India but they did not materialise into goals. It seemed that Pakistan were short on motivation, probably they felt that the job was done after the series had been won. However this does take away the credit from the defence led by Tirkey along with the custodian Adrian D’Souza...

The new world record holder for maximum goals scored in the international hockey, Pakistan’s Sohail Abbas was not able to add to his tally. Pakistan got six penalty corners and all were wasted to some extent. The credit for that should go to Adrian D’Souza who had been terrific throughout the year. He charged out to stop Abbas and in the bargain received a green card for charging out too soon. But he had saved the citadel and in the end that is what counts.

The matches were played in a very friendly spirit and it was nice to see such camaraderie between the two teams. The teams formed a kind of an umbrella for Sohail Abbas as he walked out to the final match of the series.

From India’s point of view whenever they meet Pakistan next they will go in with appositive feeling having won the previous clash.

It has been a great series even though one can question the timing of it, but still having some hockey is better than having no hockey at all.

Australia pulls out from Champions trophy.
Olympic hockey champions Australia citing security fears have pulled out of the Champions trophy to be held in Pakistan in December. The Pakistani hockey federation said that they had conveyed Australia had conveyed to them that they will not be coming citing baseless security fears that are not only disappointing but also disturbing for us. India will replace Australia in the event.

 

Cricket
Adam Gilchrest’s Australians finally won the Sunil Gavaskar trophy and claimed the prize that this generation of Australians cricketers has never made. A series win in India. This they did without their captain Ricky Pointing.

They must feel like Alexandra the Great who was supposed to have wept after winning his battle in India as there were no more worlds for him to conquer.

Indian fans are rightly proud of their astonishing home record: only two home series defeats between David Gower’s 1984-85 tour and the present defeat by the Australians.

Perhaps they will accept that losing to the world champions is not a disgrace. The victory in the last test at Mumbai against Australia did give them a hope but the defeat by Pakistan in the one day international played to mark the Indian cricket board’s platinum jubilee, their 75th anniversary seems to suggest that the Indians have lost the stomach to fight.

India is due to start a short series against South Africa. South Africa themselves at the moment are going through a crisis therefore India better beat them or the future will look dismal.

India’s failure against the Australians was mainly due to the lack of runs made by their top order batsman. It also owed a great deal to the Australia’s stubborn bowling and passive-aggressive field placings. But it is hard to believe that there was no more to it. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly are all top drawer players. Yet their collective contributions have added up to just 2312 runs in fifteen innings. The bulk of the runs in the series have come from the likes of Mohd.Kaif, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh.

Eleven months of hectic cricket and mounting pressure due to absence of senior pace bowlers seems to have taken the toll of our young fast bowlers. The latest casualty is young Irfan Pathan who sustained a muscle injury during second test match against Australia in Chennai.

Irfan who has played almost every game ever since he made his debut against Australia in December 2003 has created a niche for himself in Indian cricket with his swinging yorkers.

India is playing a lot of cricket and there is a possibility that excess cricket is causing a lot strain to fast bowlers like Asish Nehra, Zaheer Khan and Balaji. It must have been the same case with Irfan. The selectors and the CCI must ensure a proper fitness regime so that injuries do not occur.
Irfan has pulled his back muscle which is very common amongst the fast bowlers these days and is expected to recover in a week’s time.

Besides injury there could be other reasons. The team looks unsettled since their victory in Pakistan. It could be Ganguly that has unsettled the team with his unshakeable faith in talented but suspect youngsters like Yuvraj Singh and Parthiv Patel.

Consistency of selection has its merits, particularly when judged against the chopping and changing that characterised previous regimes. But in this case it might have gone too far. Yuvraj is hardly cut out to be an opener. His performance merits him in the middle order.

Patel was finally axed from the squad for the fourth test as the selectors removed their blinkers and finally acknowledged that he has been losing them the matches. They probably got the message from the billboard in Mumbai displaying a cartoon of cack-handed Parthiv Patel. The caption Parthetic. A handful of glaring misses in tests have turned his non-stick gloves into a national talking point. Worse still, they effectively made India lose the series. It was his failure to catch Matthew Hayden for duck that helped Australia regroup in Chennai. India then would have had the chance to square the series despite the rain that robbed them of batting on the last day.

Had India had won the second test in Chennai who knows what a rejuvenated India with its confidence restored would have done in the other two tests, certainly the series would not have been lost.

The loss of series has been blamed on bad umpiring, but Indian fielding needs to take its share of blame.

At least there are indications that the top order batting is slowly coming back to form. India managed to get some pride by the efforts of their bowlers and in particular their spinners and now needs to sustain it.

India needs both of them at the same time if it is regain its position in the cricket hierarchy. The series against South Africa will provide the answer.

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