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April - May 2006

India Sport Scene

Cricket, Hockey & Commonwealth Games

by Ramesh Seedhar

Cricket-India vs England
India rode on Munaf Patel’s brilliant debut and Anil Kumble’s guiles to beat England by nine wickets in the second Test in Mohali.

Patel and Kumble provided a lethal combination as the duo snapped up four wickets each to dismiss the visitors for a paltry 181 in their second innings to set the stage for a remarkable Indian victory.

India needed this victory if it was to overtake England in the ICC Test Championship table.
There are just two points between the two sides, who have swapped positions twice in the past three months, but now they are facing each other and a victory for either team will put some daylight between them. England are the side currently in second place and victory by one Test (1-0 or 2-1) will be enough to take them six rating points clear of Rahul Dravid’s line-up. However, the best they can do now is to draw the series if they win at Mumbai.

Needing to score 144 runs for victory, Virendra Sehwag marked his return to form with an unbeaten 76 to help India surpass the target without much fuss on a thrilling final day.

Virender Sehwag regained his form as India shattered England’s dreams with an emphatic nine-wicket win. India rode on opener Sehwag’s 11th Test half-century to get the job done.

Sehwag put on 105 for the unbroken second wicket with skipper Rahul Dravid, who remained unbeaten on 42 after his first innings 95.

The Indian opener, who had failed in his previous three innings of the series, returned to form with an aggressive 89-ball knock including one six and nine fours. India now take a 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series. With the first test at Nagpur drawn, they only need to draw in Mumbai to overtake England in the ICC rankings.

The contribution of the bowlers to the victory was immense. Anil Kumble, who picked his 500th wicket on the third day, finished with a match haul of nine wickets . For Kumble the wait had finally ended. This was the moment for history books. The ace leg spinner joined an exclusive club of Test cricketers. The 35-year-old Karnataka bowler became the first Indian and only the fifth bowler in the world to reach the landmark when he trapped Harmison LBW on the third day of match at the PCA stadium in Mohali. Kumble crossed the milestone in spectacular fashion as he grabbed the last three England wickets off only four balls. It had taken him 16 years to get there.

Kumble’s 500 wickets came a day after Muttiah Muralidharan achieved his 600th scalp. Patience and perseverance have been the hall mark of Kumble’s career. His two great rivals Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralidharan have been gifted with more genius. They spin the ball far more prodigiously, but when it comes to persistency and perseverance Kumble stands alone. When Kumble entered the record books after capturing Steve Harmison for his 500th wicket, he was engulfed by his team mate and lifted in bear hug by Wasim Jaffer.. When, two balls later, he ended the England innings with a five wicket haul, the ground rose to him and his teammates applauded him all the way to the pavilion. All, except for Chawala who sprinted back to umpire Darrell Hair to retrieve the ball as memento for his mentor. Kumble deservedly was named man of the match.
India had a lot to thank for to its bowlers, who set the game up for their side with their outstanding efforts. Munaf Patel bagged seven wickets in his debut game Seamer Patel ended England’s hopes of setting a stiff target with three quick wickets in his inspiring opening spell to finish with 4-25.

He had taken three scalps in the first innings. Dravid said Patel was of great help to the team. “In that speed if you can reverse swings the ball it’s of great help for the team. We have faced it a lot and it’s nice to have someone now who can give it back.”

Kumble’s mental toughness is legendary. It has often been said nice people do not win, but Anil Kumble has emerged a champion. While debutant paceman Patel also impressed, bagging four crucial second innings wickets to add to his three scalps in the first.

On the fifth and final day England resumed their innings at 112 for five. Patel (4/25) and Kumble (4/70) wrecked the English innings despite Captain Andrew Flintoff’s defiant 51 that helped his team to delay the inevitable. Andrew Flintoff, who top-scored with 51, put on 42 runs for the ninth wicket with Stephen Harmison.

Nervous England lost a wicket in the very first over the day when Geraint Jones played back defensively off Patel to see the ball spin back onto the stumps. The wicketkeeper-batsman could add just four runs to his overnight score of one.

Four overs later, Patel struck again, trapping Liam Plunkett plumb in front for one. Before England could recover from the twin blows Patel came back to dismiss Matthew Hoggard with a yorker. England thus capitulated for a paltry 181 leaving India to score 144 to win.

Sehwag then took centre stage with his characteristic flamboyance as he rattled up the required runs in quick time while Captain Rahul Dravid (42 not out) gave him company until the end. Dravid played a typically solid knock as India, who took a 38-run first innings lead by making 338 in their first innings, ensured they would go into the third Test in Mumbai with a huge psychological advantage.

For England Monty Panesar, who was included in the team as late replacement for Ashley Giles was a real find. He was the star attraction at Mohali where his grandparents and many other relatives turned up in force to cheer and watch him play for England.

Monty Panesar who was inspired by Indian legend Bishen Singh Bedi, is the first Sikh spinner to play for England. Monty turns out for Northants, Bishan Singh Bedi’s old County. The 23-year-old can speak Punjabi ‘fluently’, but English is the language at home.

Former England captain Mike Gatting said Monty Panesar has the potential to be an asset for the team. “Monty can be a great support to Ashley Giles and the duo can cause a lot of trouble to the best batsmen,” he added. The 23-year-old Panesar took 46 wickets at 21.5 runs apiece for Northamptonshire in eight county championship matches last season.

He is regarded as one of England’s brightest spinning talent, in a country where quality spin bowlers have become a rarity.

In Nagpur, Monty was over the moon after bagging his maiden Test wicket, the prized scalp of Sachin Tendulkar.

It was India’s 13th Test win in 48 Tests against England at home and Dravid’s fourth win as captain in 13 Tests.

India’s victory stimulated the British media, who hailed India’s nine-wicket victory in the Mohali Test and said it was a stern reminder for England that Test cricket on the subcontinent was a world away from the euphoria of Ashes.

The Guardian’ said it was a cakewalk for the home team in the end and it must be hoping to win the series in Mumbai, which is expected to be a spinner’s paradise. “It might have been close, but in the end it was a cakewalk, with Virender Sehwag, shaky at first following three successive failures, scoring an unbeaten 76 from 89 balls which was the icing on the Indian cake,” the paper said. Set 144 to win after bowling England out for 181, India cruised home on the stroke of tea for the loss of Wasim Jaffer and must now be optimistic of making it 2-0 on what is expected to be a spinner’s paradise at Mumbai. “For England, it was yet another reminder that Test cricket on the subcontinent is a world away from the euphoria of last September when they defeated Australia in the Ashes series. Andrew Flintoff’s biggest task now is to keep heads up and belief intact,” it said.
England can boast an impressive seam bowling battery with Flintoff (4th) Matthew Hoggard (10) Stephen Harmison (14th) in the IICC rankings. They are all capable of match winning displays. India also has an impressive bowling talent with Kumble (11th) Irfan Pathan (12th) and Harbhajan Singh (18th).

India has an edge in batting power. The combination of Rahul Dravid (6th) known as the wall, Virendra Sehwag (9th) Sachin Tendulkar (12th) and V.V.S. Laxman (23rd) is enough to give the best bowlers a sleepless night. England by contrast have just have only one player in the top 25 batting places, Andrew Strauss at 15. Although all is to play for in the final test India must be the favourites to win the series and reach the spot of number two in the ICC rankings.

The FIH, hockey’s world governing body has ruled that there will be nine direct qualifiers for each of the men and women’s competitions at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Hosts China plus eight from the continental federation championships).

The five continental champions will qualify directly for Beijing, but the remaining automatic places will be allocated to the continents based on the world rankings after the World Cups later this year.
This new rule change once effected can make it more challenging for India to qualify for after each continent has been allocated its quota of automatic berths, their respective championships will decide which nations fill those positions.

The former 12-team tournament to determine the remaining qualifiers is replaced by six competitions - three each for men and women. Each competition will have six teams each. And will play on a round robin basis with the top two teams facing off to decide who will make it to Beijing.

The teams for these tournaments would be decided by the same method employed to determine the allocation of quotas for direct qualification.

The new rules are expected to benefit the European teams on the men’s side as they are likely to receive the bulk of the additional automatic qualifying spots, as Netherlands, Germany and Spain are firmly entrenched among the top six in the world.

Commonwealth games
India the host nation to stage the Commonwealth games in 2010 in Delhi started their quest to inform that they are now a nation to be taken seriously at world sport.

They highlighted this fact by tally of gold medals at the 18th Commonwealth Games that are recently being held in Melbourne.

The Indian team at Table Tennis , that won a Bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester staged a sensational turnaround against higher-ranked Singapore to snatch the men’s team event gold. The Indian team consisting of Subhajit Saha, Achanta Sharath Kamal and Soumyadeep Roy made a remarkable comeback to shrug off a 2-0 deficit and win the next three matches

Singapore, who had earlier won the women’s team gold in table tennis, could not repeat their performance in the men’s event as a fighting Indian team held their nerves and generated enough firepower to turn the tables on Singapore and dash Singapore’s hopes with a 3-2 upset.

The Indian shooting team won three gold medals and a silver to boost their tally of medals from the Shooting Ranges. Samresh Jung claimed his third gold at the Games when he teamed up with expert shooter Jaspal Rana to win the 25m Centre Fire Pistol pairs at the Melbourne International Shooting Club.

Tejaswini Sawant hit the bull’s eye to win women’s 10 m air rifle individual event for her second gold while Avneet Kaur Sidhu, making her first appearance at the Games, won the silver medal.
Indian players found themselves within sniffing distance of victory against defending champions England in the badminton mixed team semi-finals before going down 3-2 in a nerve-wracking encounter.

After their 5-0 drubbing by England in a league match , India brought in young Saina Nehwal and Anup Sridhar in the singles in place of seasoned Aparna Popat and Chetan Anand and the duo won both their matches to bring India tantalisingly close to a sensational victory. The day certainly belonged to the promising Saina Nehwal, who pulled off yet another major upset, thrashing world no nine Tracey Hallam in straight sets.

Hallam’s reputation took a battering as she lost 21-23 15-21 to a player 88-rank below him.
In the final, England, the present holders play Malaysia, who beat New Zealand 3-1 in another semi-final.

At Boxing, three Indian boxers including, Olympian Vijender, stormed into quarterfinals in various divisions.

. In the lightweight section Ajay Kumar and in the super heavyweight category Verghese Johnson had contrasting wins in their pre-quarterfinal bouts to advance their medal hopes.

The talented Vijender, who recently caused a flutter by out boxing Athens Olympics bronze medallist Kim Jung Joo of South Korea at an exhibition match in Delhi, proved too strong for Alvyn Andy Gabriel of Seychelles in welter
weight class.

India began their quest for a maiden medal in the Commonwealth Games men’s hockey by drawing 1-1 with Malaysia in the preliminary league Group B opening match

India began its campaign to defend the women’s hockey title at the Commonwealth Games with a stinging 2-4 loss at the hands of Australia

India-Pakistan Series
Fourteen legal deliveries were all that were bowled in the fifth and final day of the first test between India and Pakistan. This was to allow Rahul Dravid and Virendra Sehwag to bid for the world record of runs scored for the first-wicket partnership. However, Sehwag was out while still three runs short of the record. Two balls later, the play was stopped for the last time in this ill-fated match.

India finished at 410 for one, chasing Pakistan’s 679 for seven declared. Shewag added seven runs to his overnight total 247 before he edged Rana Naved’s third successive bouncer to wicket keeper Akram Kamal. V.V.S. Laxman walked to play the last ball of the over. Dravid had faced two deliveries in Shoaib Akhtar’s second over before umpire Rudi Koretzen and Daryl Hair decided that enough was enough and called the proceedings to halt for good. Clearly, the effort had been to give Dravid and Sehwag a chance to go for the 51-year-old record of Pankaj Roy and Vinoo Mankad set against New Zealand at the Nehru stadium in Madras.

The fact that they fell three runs short of the landmark bid did not seem to have bothered Dravid unduly. “We are not disappointed”, he said, “and to get 401/1 is a big achievement. We did not expect to get that far and it is good that we got so close.”

Rahul Dravid scored 128 runs from 233 balls that included 19 fours and remained not out, while Shewag scored 254 in 247 balls that included 47 fours and one six.

Dravid went on to clarify the animated conversation on the field between him, Coach Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly on the morning of the first day by stating that there was no issue between Chappell, Ganguly and him: “We were discussing cricket.”

The first test ended in a draw.

Second Test
The beamer bowled by Shoaib Akhtar in the last ball of the 126th over during the Indian innings in Faisalabad was definitely against the spirit of the game. After being hit all over the field, Shoaib Akhtar came round the wicket, slipped in a beamer, and aimed straight at the throat of the batsman Mahindra Singh Dhoni. What followed next was a nonchalant walk back by the bowler without rendering any apology to the batsman or to the umpire. Had it hit the batsman, the beamer could have proved fatal. Such acts need to be severely condemned and even punished.

The laws of cricket may suggest that the bowler may be reprimanded on the first instance, but here it needed to be dealt beyond the rulebooks. The Faisalabad wicket was slow and the bowlers were at the mercy of the batsman all the time. One could understand the frustration and the sense of defeat creeping into the bowlers. However, all said and done the beamer bowled at 150Km per hour clearly indicated that Akhtar had no sporting intention whatsoever. We have seen best of fast bowlers Imran, Wasim and Waqar operating with not just great pace but with class and finesse. The act of Shoaib Akhtar did not fall in either category.

No amount of words is enough to praise the longhaired wicket keeper batsman from Ranchi, Mahindra Singh Dhoni. He was simply a batsman confidence personified. One of the sign of the champion cricketer is that they can perform within the first few given opportunities. Four years of good Ranji trophy experience has laid the right foundation for him to graduate to the international level. His encounter with Shoaib Akhtar was an important building block in his career. The time he walked into the crease after Yuvraj Singh’s dismissal was itself a great test as the team was fighting to avoid the follow-on. However, the way he took Shoaib by the scruff of the neck was some sight to watch.

V.V.S. Layman’s innings was overshadowed by the brilliance of Dhoni and Irfan Pathan and in their ability to handle pressure. After watching Irfan Pathan batting in Pakistan, one must admit that he is now a true all rounder.

India’s abject capitulation on the fourth day of the third test match against Pakistan brought a sad end to a series in which they had promised much better. The eventual margin of defeat in this decisive game was a thumping 341 runs. Only Yuvraj Singh’s second test century stood between them and greater humiliation.

India will look back on the third and final test as a tale of missed chances and missing spirit. At each turn of the match, the visitors were found wanting. Home supporters here are aghast at the lack of grit displayed by both the bowlers and the batsmen. For a team that had bounced back off the ropes at both Lahore and Faisalabad there was lamentable lack of spunk in the Indians. The choice to bowl first was the first indication that something was not quite right with the thinking or the preparation for this game.

Irfan Pathan’s hat trick and Pakistan’s score of 39 for six was put in perspective by Akram Kamal’s century. Instead of capitalizing on the situation, Rahul Dravid’s men surrendered it. The way India’s top batsmen have performed in the second innings against the blistering assault by Pakistan’s bowlers, shows the difference between a team that wants to win and one that could have.

Faroque Engineer’s comments
Former Indian wicket keeper batsman Faroque Engineer has strongly dismissed Moin Khan’s observation, saying that Sachin Tendulkar was certainly not on decline and will bounce back to make Pakistan eat his words. Sachin may have reached his peak but he is certainly not on decline. Experience will only make him better, said Engineer.

Former England captain Nasser Hussein also supported Tendulkar against any such criticism by saying that the Indian was one of the greatest batsmen that had ever played and should not be written off. Sachin although he is idolised is human and can have lean periods but he deserves credit for what he has done, said Nasser Hussein.

Dravid rejects Inzamam criticism
Indian captain Rahul Dravid has rejected criticism that he violated the spirit of the game in Inzaman’s dismissal in the one-dayer. Pakistan skipper Inzamam was given out for obstructing the field in Peshawar. Inzamam allegedly called the appeal unsporting and said it could have an adverse effect in relations. Dravid replied that India did not act in any manner that was unsporting or against the spirit of the game.

Legendary batsman and a key functionary in the International Cricket Council, Sunil Gavaskar has said that Shoaib Akhtar’s bowling action could be called into question again. The statement is bound to ruffle a few feathers.

Gavaskar, Chairman of the ICC’s cricket committee was also a part of the review committee on chucking laws. Gavaskar in a discussion in a television programme said that no bowler is cleared for good and is open to scrutiny at any time. There is one thing every one needs to understand, is that every ball bowled can be scrutinised and called into question. The umpire out in the field can call the bowler if they feel that the action of the bowler is not right.

Shoaib, who was cleared by the ICC after being reported thrice for chucking, has once again come under the scrutiny with some former cricketers. India’s coach Greg Chappell hinted that his actions were questionable.

India’s captain Rahul Dravid was fined twenty percent of his match fees for India’s slow over rate in the first one-dayer against Pakistan in Peshawar. The rest of the Indian team members were fined ten percent of their match fees. The decision to impose the fine was made by match referee Chris Broad. India was found to have bowled two overs short in the first one-dayer. Pakistan won the match by seven runs based on Duckworth-Lewis method bad light stopped play. India had scored 328 all out and Pakistan reached 311 for seven in 47 overs.

Tendulkar smashed 10 boundaries and a six in his 113 balls. The master blaster silenced his critics by his return to form with a bang. He went on to complete his 39th one-day century with class strokes. Indian at one stage were 303 for four, with five overs more to go. An inspired India showed little mercy as they decimated Pakistan with an emphatic five-wicket victory to clinch the one-day series with an invincible 3-1 lead. After bundling out the hosts for a paltry 161 in 41.5 overs the Indians romped home with 17.3 overs to spare to record their second consecutive one-day series triumph on Pakistan soil. It was an awesome all round display by the visitors who relied on the newcomer Rudra Pratap Singh 4/40 and Irfan Pathan 3/26. Rahul Dravid’s 59 and Yuvraj Singh’s 37 laid the foundation for the Indian win.

We have some young bowlers in R. P. Singh, Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth along with some experience in Zaheer Khan. Greg and Ian have been working hard on the bowlers after the test series.

Barring Shoaib Malik, none of Pakistan’s other batsmen got among runs after their first game against Peshawar. The rediscovered bowling of Pathan, who made early inroads in each match, contributed significantly. Equally important was the superb bowling displays of R. P. Singh and Sreesanth in their first year of international cricket. The key to India’s success was the pressure being exerted from both ends.

India end one-day series in style

Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Dhoni shared a breathtaking stand of 146 to clinch an eight-wicket win in the final one-day game against Pakistan. Thus giving India a series win 4-1. Yuvraj made an unbeatable 107 from 93 balls and Dhoni 77 not out. Dhoni hit four sixes in the final three overs to reach a target 287 with 19 balls remaining. Pakistan looked well-set after Mohammed Yousuf 67 and Younis khan 74 not out took them to 286 for eight in Karachi. Sreesanth took a career best 4-58 including three wickets in three overs. India won by eight wickets.

Dhoni zooms to third place in ODI’s
Indian wicket keeper batsman Dhoni has smashed his way into the third place in one-day batting rankings becoming the first Indian batsman to occupy a top three slot since Sachin Tendulkar in 2004. Dhoni was dismissed only once in hitting 219 run-ins four innings against Pakistan in the five match series at a strike rate of 136.87. Dhoni is joined at the top by the leading runs scorer of the series Yuvraj Singh who climbed to 9th in the ICC league table, Rahul Dravid 10th with Sachin Tendulkar 17th place. Irfan Pathan is the other as well as fourth in the bowling table. His 65 runs contributed in the first match of the series has helped lift him to fourth in the list of all-rounders. India has now climbed to third place in one-day rankings.

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