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August - September 2006


India Sport Scene

Cricket, Hockey, Golf

by Ramesh Seedhar, Dr C. P Dalvi & Sudhir Misra


Reputed former umpire Dickie Bird has said that ICC’s latest decision to allow the use of more technology in the game will eventually reduce the umpire’s job to counting the number of balls bowled in an over. Bird said that umpiring decisions were supposed to be at the heart of the game; and the latest move will eat into the very fabric of the game. It will be a sad day for cricket when players are allowed to appeal against the decision of the umpire. The electronic aids that have come into the game have already taken away most of the umpire’s responsibilities. Now this new playing condition will take away all their authority. With the increasing influence of the electronic aids, umpires will be limited to only three decisions to make anyway. They determine ‘caught behind’, ‘lbw’ and ‘bat pad’. Every other decision is made by technology.

India West Indies Tour

The difference between the present Indian team and that of past eras is that the current lot does not wilt under high pressure. Aggression is a quality that Indian batsmen have always had in plenty in one day cricket. They have also shown an astonishing streak in the chase. An expanding world record that nearly came to a halt at the Sabina Park. Ice cool nerves and the overwhelming desire to compete to the very end have made this phenomenon possible. There was a crucial period during which the out of form Kaif simply froze. He could not get the ball away off Taylor. Five dot balls and a leg bye were the return in an over which meant 24 were needed off three overs. The pressure was thus built up so much that Dhoni, who had won the exchanges with six and a four, blew it. it was a horrendous year in which Kaif was averaging under five runs per visit to the crease. He did not manage the last over too well either, but did finish the job with a cover slog off the penultimate ball.

The circumstances in which the match started after a night of spectacular thunderstorms might have given Pathan little time to mentally gear himself to bowling in an entirely new environment. Also the early bouncy pitch might have sparked an all too aggressive early response in regrouping well wih the medium fast, slinging style of Agarkar and the accuracy and the variety of Harbhajan.

Team India proved the point all over again of competence in limited overs cicket. An abundance of that quality was to be seen in the skipper Rahul Dravid’s century that came at better than run a ball. Without appearing to hit the ball in anger, Dravid milked the bowling in master class of conventional cricket. His and Chappell’s faith in the five bowlers concept, makes the skipper such a key figure in the batting line up that he ranks along with Dhoni and Pathan as one of the all rounders of the team. Dravid can fit anywhere in the order. Though it is apparent he is more likely to come good with a strike rate to turn one day matches if he bats up the order since his deflections off the new ball fetch runs and his forceful hook and pull take care of any retaliatory short stuff.

Gayle slowed down noticeably during his second 50, so much that the end overs did not produce the runs that were potentially indicated.

There is something almost magical with Rahul Dravid’s tryst with the Indian captaincy, there is nothing he is not willing to do for the team. He strode out to open the innings as he has been doing of late and over the next 102 deliveries eased his way to a classy, unflustered 105 that put in the shade Chris Gayle’s thunderous effort of 123 in the morning.

During the second ODI Yuvraj Singh hit Dwayne Bravo for two successive fours in the final over, it was Chris Gayle who suggested that the Trinidad all rounder try a slower delivery to deceive the left hander. That pulled off the narrow West Indian victory by only one run. Lara said that with only two runs needed from three balls, he had considered bringing his fielders in to stop a single being taken. However, he decided against it For a single at that stage would have exposed the last batsman to face the final two deliveries. The West Indian innings was held together by Ramnaresh Sarwan who fell two short of what would have been a memorable hundred. After restricting the West Indies to 198/9, India were all out for 197 in 49.3 overs which broke a 17 win streak while chasing. Dravid attributed the low scoring game to a combination of bad batting and slow wicket.

No team in the world that makes 45 runs in last 15 overs can expect to win a cricket match. That they had seven wickets in hand for the last 15 overs makes the Indian performance even more unfathomable. The middle order were almost criminally culpable for having wasted he blazing start given by Sehwag. India simply deserved to lose. This is probably the strongest Indian ODI side to have landed in that part of the world to take on the weakest and most inexperienced West Indian side ever. Still the result was in their favour. The Indian team is continuing to commit the same mistakes. Rahul Dravid, the best player in the side, should revert to No. 3 and leave the opening slot to a specialist. In a way that would help with the balance, lending the side the solidity it badly needs. Dravid blamed the batsmen for defeat. We played really badly and three run outs were critical. A West Indian bowling a chinaman at Port of Spain is not unheard of; also a googly is much more of a rarity. Mohammed pulled his trump card on Yuvraj Singht to bring another champagne moment for the West Indies at a venue where India has triumphed more often in the Caribbean. If India were mostly spun out of contest in the series by the likes of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels and then Mohammed, it must rank as a first of sorts. The touring Indians played some of their worst one day cricket, coming up with 80 per cent loss record in the series right on top of a success rate in one of its more memorable seasons.

What India lost is not so much a one-day series as the confidence that had built up ahead of the World Cup that is to be held in the same environment and setting. Having set off to the Caribbean with sky-high hopes, Team India have managed to be soundly beaten by a team rated five rungs below them in the ICC rankings. Yet, we know it was a close run thing that could easily have swung the other way had the spirit been willing.

Another critical aspect that led India to defeat was the poor ground fielding, runs leaking when even the so-called safe hands let the ball pass through their legs. The West Indians on the other hand were keener and more resolute in the field. It was a series India should have pocketed without fuss. All that was needed was challenging conditions and Team India crumbled in the face of a varied challenge from three different points in the Caribbean.

During the first test in Antigua, Wasim Jaffer completed his maiden double century and put on 203 with Rahul Dravid 62. The real drama began when Mahendra Dhoni came in and smashed six sixes in his 69 and when Daren Ganga claimed a catch of the off spinner Wave Mohammed on the boundary. Replays failed to help but Dhoni walked off as India declared on 521-4. Indian batsman Dhoni has played down the controversy over his dismissal.

A catch that Darren Ganga took right on the boundary line triggered the incident. Dhoni, who had smashed six sixes in his 69 by then, began to walk towards the pavilion and then stood his ground, after an indication from the umpires that catch might not have been clean and that his foot might have touched the advertisement that adorned the boundary rope. Subsequently, the decision was referred to the third umpire Billy Doctrove of the West Indies, who found television footage inconclusive after ten minutes of examination and left it to the players to decide.

Dhoni walked off after some words from Windies skipper Brian Lara. According to Dhoni, Brian Lara rudely asked him to walk off. “I accepted this and went”, said Dhoni. The gentleman’s game turned ugly courtesy of Brian Lara.

The West Indies crossed all limits of decency when Lara angrily disputed a line call, wagged his finger at the Indian batsmen and then grabbed the ball fom the umpire’s hand. The matter was made worse as the match referee Jeff Crowe let him get away with his boorish behaviour.

The two captains met the umpires at he end of play and every one left the meeting feeling pleased. Lara’s opposite number, Rahul Dravid, behaved exactly in the opposite manner. He displayed great maturity to handle the situation and sensing that things were getting out of control, called his batsmen off the ground by declaring the Indian innings. At this stage Lara began to bully Dhoni and Kaif, who remained close to the pitch. He lost his cool, grabbed the ball from umpire Asad Rauf’s hands, threw it to bowler Mohammed and gesticulated at Indians to come on and bat. Dhoni decided to accept the fielder’s claim, then left the field with Kaif to signal India’s declaration at 521/6. It angered Lara even more. He went up to the match referee room and shouted (apparently at Dhoni), team sources told this correspondent.

It was test cricket at its engrossing best. A game that was slipping towards a run of the mill draw finished as one of the most pulsating contest of recent times. But India should have wrapped this game up well in time. Everything went according to script except finding a route quick enough to dislodge the tail-ender D. Mohammed who saved the day for the Windies. Though India failed to drive the last nail into the coffin, no praise is too high for the way in which they fought back, after being down in the dumps, after day two. They pulled themselves up admirably and proved the ODI debacle was put well behind. Wasim Jaffer, the Mumbai batsman (212) was built on studious application and superb shot selection as he became the fourth Indian to score a double century in the West Indies. The West Indies were given a challenge of 391 to win; but the match ended in draw. It was a grreat test that went down to the last ball.

India’s Virender Sehwag has been fined for excessive appealing in the drawn first test against West Indies. He was penalised 20% of his match fee for breaching the international cricket council’s code of conduct. Now what about Lara who grabbed the ball from Umpire, bullied Dhoni and told him to go off?

At the official prize distribution function only captain Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer who appeared to have been told about being chosen as the Man of the Match, were present at the presentation area along with team manager, Ravi Savant. Dravid could not quite marshall his men after the match.

It hurts India when they are not winning tests abroad. But if it was so, they would have picked five bowlers for this test. They have taken two steps backward from the days in Pakistan when the five bowler theory was heralded with much fanfare. Now against a weaker bowling attack, they have chosen to strengthen their batting at the cost of bowling. There was merit in Sehwag’s effort but Kumble was, well just Kumble. He is a strong individual, a tough cricketer, mentally and physically. He bowled 70 overs in this test. Munaf Patel and VRV Singh were okay but a judgement must wait since they have just emparked on an arduous journey. India does not need an extra batsman, when Dhoni, Pathan, Kumble are strong presence low in the order. If it means sacrificing VVS Laxman or Yuvraj to respond to team’s call so be it. Rahul Dravid (146) and Mohammed Kaif (148) not out played fine. But the one from Sehwag was sumptuous 180 runs. The batting aficionados must have loved what Sehwag and Brian Lara produced at the start and end. Lara stamped his presence on the game with a decisive innings. He saved the day for his team, India declared 588/8 and that was enough for West Indies to follow on. Luck was not with India. Rain robbed them of 90 overs. At close West Indies were 294/7. India just needed a few more overs to finish the tail-enders. Dravid knock secured India a draw.

West Indies and India then headed to Jamaica for the final test with the series still open after India held on for a draw in St. Kitts. Chasing an unlikely 392 for victory the tourists reached 298-4 at the close with Rahul Dravid unbeaten on 68. It was the third successive draw in the series, an outcome, always likely after openers Virender Sehwag 65 and Wasim Jaffer 54, shared a stand of 104. West Indies had earlier declared on 172-6.


India snap a 35-year jinx

India pulled off an emphatic 49 run win in the fourth and final test against the West Indies at the Sabina Park to clinch the first series in the Caribbean in 35 years. Requiring 269 for a win, the hosts were bundled out for 219 in their second innings courtesy Anil Kumble, who finished with fantastic figures of 22-4-3-78-6. The leg spinner was introduced into the Indian attack a bit late, went for runs midway through but captain Rahul Dravid’s persistence paid off as the veteran had the Windies wobbling.

Soon, the wheels came off in the form of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Pedro Collins and Corey Collymore, as the Indians raced toward a historic win. They had last won a series in the Caribbean back in 1971 under Ajit Wadekar’s captaincy. It also meant India had won a series of note barring the victory over Zimbabwe in 2005 outside the sub-continent for the first time in two decades, after the win against England in 1986.

Kumble provided the finishing touch but it was Sreenath who started the slide. The spirited seamer got rid of the openers to give India a headstart before coming back to provide the vital breakthrough after R, Sarwan (51) and Dawayne Bavo (33) had threatened to pull the game away with a run partnership for the fifth wicket. The 23 year old sent down a brilliant delivery that moved after pitching and Sarwan nicked it to Dravid in the slips. West Indies 126/5. Two runs later, Bravo was gone as he tried to whack Kumble out of sight only to see his stumps shattered. That was virtually the last straw as wickets kept falling regularly from the other end even though Denesh Ramdin 62 not out (8 fours and 1 six) attempted a late charge. Dravid had spread the field for Ramdin and tried to choke the tailenders at the other end. It worked and the Indian celebration began when Collymore tried to cut Kumble and the edge landed in wicket keeper Dhoni’s gloves. Anil Kumble would have made every cricket writer in the world run in search of latest adjectives with this performance that had commitment written all over it. His battling knock against all odds and the crucial partnership he shared with Dravid was what turned the match in the first place. What can one add to Rahul’s performance that has not been said already about an outstanding performer? The fact that he averages above 97 in test match wins abroad signified his contribution to the side. Drawing on his technical brilliance Rahul came up wih another couple of knocks that will stand out as one of the best played in adverse conditions in a single test match. The team jelled as a unit, Munaf and Sreesanth working their socks off. Though not any where near fiercely threateniing, the two did the job competently in grabbing the early wickets to open the doors for the spinners to strike. Sreesanth on his part was rewarded for pitching the ball in the right areas and keeping a cool head. One has to appreciate the mental toughness of this youngster who came back strongly after being pasted all over the park in the earlier games. With the slow stuff, if it was Harbhajan Singh in the first innings it was the turn of Anil Kumble in the second. Man of the Match was Rahul Dravid and also Man of the Series. Four Indian top batsmen failed to score runs in both the innings.


First Test : Sri Lanka Vs England

Sri Lanka made an amazing 537 -9 Their highest ever second innings score to earn a draw in the first test at Lords as England paid for missed chances.

Chamindra Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekaze shared a record Sri Lankan ninth wicket partnership of 106, Kulasekaza 64 and Vaas 50 not out. Bad light ended the match with Sri Lanka 178 runs ahead. Interruptions for weather also conspired against the frustrated host.

Sri Lanka and England Test Series ended in 1-1 draw. Sri Lanka beat England in twenty twenty by 2 runs. In ODI England lost 1-0 by 20 runs played at Lords

Sri Lanka won 2nd and 3rd ODI and won the series 3-0. Sri Lanka won by 46 runs and by 8 wkts. in the third ODI.


Sach is back with a bang

Sachin Tendulkar marked his comeback with 119 balls 154 for Lashings World XI and Recreational match against Cambridge University XI. Tendulkar opened the innings and was greeted to the crease with loud cheer from a 100-strong crowd. He looked to be in good nick despite the long lay off negotiating the bowlers with ease.


Hockey - Kuala Lumpur

India’s title hopes were dashed when they lost 0-1 to formidable Netherlands in the semifinal of the 15th Sultan Azlan Shah Eight-Nation Hockey tournament. A 64th minute penalty corner by Roderick Weushtof Sealed the victory for Netherlands. India did have their chances. But some wayward shooting denied them success. Ironically, they received just one penalty corner, in the 42nd minute. But their drag-flick specialist was on the bench at that time, having been susbstituted a little while earlier. Dilip Tirkey’s direct hit was deflected out. The Indian forwards had a few pot shots at the Dutch goal but with little conviction and a few times they got it right, goalkeeper Klaas Veering stood up to the challenge. The Indians put together a few good moves, but could not convert a couple of openings.

In the final the Dutch beat Australia by 6-1 and India beat new Zealand 3-2 to take the bronze medal. India in their group beat Malaysia 5-2, Korea 3-0 and only lost to Australia 4-1. India under new coach Vasudevan Baskaran is now a very improved side.


KIRAN MATHARU

17-year-old golf sensation and Ladies’ Amateur Champion is leading the way for the next generation of young female golfers.

Even at Kiran’s tender age, her whole golfing career has been a successful one but in 2006 alone she has cleaned up with award upon award. In February this year, Kiran was named Junior Female Sports Personality of the Year at the Sony Sports Personality of the Year Awards and has recently snatched the title of 2006 English Ladies Close Amateur Champion, with a 5/4 win at West Lancashire Golf Club.

Kiran has an amazing golf handicap of + 3.4 which is the lowest female classification in Great Britain, putting her at number one on the UK golfing circuit and holds a rank of number two in the world, in the under 19's category. 2005 saw her collecting numerous honours again, including the European Girls Winner 2005 as well as holding onto The Nick Faldo National Series Champion, which she has kept for two years running. Kiran also has the required golfing skills to be a member of Team Faldo, set up in 2002 by Nick Faldo to nurture the next generation of golfing champions for Europe, which Kiran truly is.

With all this under her cap, Kiran remains a typical teenager, shy, pretty and awkward, except to when it comes to holding a golf club. She trains with her coach six times a week and jogs every morning to maintain her stamina.

She follows in her father’s ambitious sporting footsteps, Amarjit Matharu, who turned to cricket after finding it a struggle to be accepted into the golfing fraternity due to the colour of the skin. But this by no means put him off introducing his daughter to the sport. Kiran’s introduction to golf at 11 years old, impressed Neil Harvey, a local professional, so much with her natural swing, that he insisted she take serious lessons and could play for Yorkshire within six months.

Her first lessons were with Mark Pinkett before progressing even further with Peter Tupling. By 14 Kiran was playing off scratch. Her swing is a thing of artistic beauty, with a relaxed yet powerful drive. Amarjit is also a member of the Cookridge Hall Golf Club and can often be seen with Kiran in the practice nets. Her father has constantly remained the driving force behind ‘Team Matharu’ and will ensure she turns professional.

Watch this space – Kiran Matharu is hot on the heels of golfing stardom and celebrityville. Her main goal is to be one of the best players in the World and there is no doubt she will achieve this.

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