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October - November 2006


India Sport Scene

Cricket, Hockey & Tennis

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


The Board of Cricket Control of India has recommended Rahul Dravid for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award for the year 2005. The country’s highest sporting honour was started in 1991 with the chess grand master Vishwanathan Anand as the first recipient of the prestigious award. There has been only one cricketer who has received this award band that was Sachin Tendulkar, who was given this honour in 1997/98.

Rahul Dravid has been through entirely different phases of Indian cricket and captains them as they head into a third phase. He has been a talismanic figure.

On the evening of 16th December 2003, Rahul Dravid walked into a bar in Adelaide dressed in dirty, sweaty white flannels. He had been wearing them that day when he punched the ball through the covers to win India their first test in Australia in 22 years. He made 233 and 72 not out in that test and was so moved by the moment, his colleague Virendra Shewag, later revealed, that he could not get himself to discard his whites.

The story reveals about a man who otherwise seems so drearily normal. Dravid though has been as much a player of passion as he has been one of method during an astonishing career in which he averages 58. He has played over hundred tests, his 100 test being in Mumbai in March early this year

When Dravid entered Test cricket, with an assured 95 at Lord in 1996, India were a mediocre team, winning often at home and rarely outside the subcontinent. For decades with only a few blips of excellence, India had been aside with inferiority complex, whose bowlers rarely took 20 wickets and whose batsman rarely gave their bowlers runs to bowl with.

Sunil Gavaskar was a quintessential product of this era. He could occupy the crease for long hours, with playing out time often more critical than scoring. Dravid was in that mould, a gatherer more than a hunter. An immovable object against forces that so often seems irresistible to his team mates.

Dravid quickly became the linchpin of a team- who had until then relied largely on Sachin Tendulkar – earning himself a nickname of the The Wall. An early masterpiece – 148 and 81 against South Africa and Allan Dolland in Johannesburg in 1997, cemented him in the number three position where he averages an astonishing 61.5 runs.

As the 1990s came to an end, India and Dravid were limited by attitude, not ability. They needed to win overseas to become a credible threat and Dravid had to become more than a stonewaller. He had to liberate himself and so did India.

Towards the end of 2000 a new wind started blowing in Indian cricket. Sourav Ganguly took over as a captain; John Wright came in as a coach, with one man infusing the team with self belief, the other with a modern work ethic. Dravid became the man who stepped up at key moments and made them seem seminal.

In the Kolkata test of 2001, against Steve Waugh’s Australia, Dravid played the most famous supporting role in Indian cricket, making 180 runs to VVS Laxman’s 281 as India came back from following on to win the test match and later the series. He made a match saving 144 not out in Georgetown against the West Indies the next year, before a remarkable tour to England where he spent more than thirty hours at the crease and made three centuries.

There were two landmark series in the next few months. First India almost won in Australia, with Dravid’s performance in Adelaide the highlight of the tour. Then they won against arch rivals Pakistan, with Dravid’s 270 in Rawalpindi in April 2004 the series winning innings. He has averaged 66 since Tendulkar was replaced as Captain in 2000, an indication of how critical he has been to Indian cricket. In the test that India has won recently Dravid averages 79.

Dravid also became the India one day team regular wicket keeper in 2002, giving the side an extra option that they desperately needed. He reinvented himself as a one day batsman during this period, moving from an anchor at number three to a finisher at number five or six. He later relinquished wicket keeping duties when Mahendra Singh Dhoni emerged, but averaged 44 while keeping wicket.

At his best Dravid mixes orthodox classicism wristy flourish associated with the players of sub continent. He can whip a ball outside the off stump to the mid wicket boundary, just as he can reverse sweep a left arm spinner to the third man boundary. He takes Test cricket very seriously and is currently second in the ICC’s test batting rankings...

India is lucky to have him.


ICC Champions Trophy India 2006.

ICC announces Champions Trophy to be dedicated to Spirit of Cricket International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Speed today announced this year’s ICC Champions Trophy in India will be dedicated to the Spirit of Cricket.

Speaking in Mumbai on Thursday, Mr Speed said: “From the time the

tournament gets underway on 7 October until the final on 5 November, the eyes of the cricketing world will be trained upon India.

That level of scrutiny, something that cricket is well used to these days, can be viewed as a hardship but it can also be seen as an opportunity for us all to show how great our sport really is.

Cricket is unique in the way it embraces a sense of decency through the Laws of the Game, including a specific section on The Spirit of Cricket that stands for tradition, respect, and fair play and excel. So today I call upon all players and officials to pledge themselves to use the ICC Champions Trophy as a springboard in the quest to uphold that Spirit and, by doing so, show the world why cricket is a magnificent sport.

The International Cricket Council confirmed the Code of Conduct

hearing into two charges brought against Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq will take place on 27 and 28 September in London.

The charges will be considered during a private hearing conducted by the Chief Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle. ICC President Percy Sonn said the hearing would allow all concerned parties to present their evidence in relation to both charges. The hearing will be a fair and independent process that will deal with the two cricket matters that arose out of the Oval Test match,” said Mr Soon.

The concerned parties will have an opportunity to present their evidence and after listening to this evidence the adjudicator will make his decision. Inzamam will be required to answer two charges relating to ‘changing the condition of the ball’ and ‘bringing the game into disrepute.

The former is a Level 2 charge, for which the penalty is a fine of between 50 and 100 per cent of a player’s match fee and/or a one Test or two ODI ban. The latter is a Level 3 charge for which the penalty is a ban of between two and four Test matches or four to eight ODI matches.

The final of the 2011 Cricket World Cup will be played in Delhi at the state of the art stadium to be built at the banks of River Yamuna at a cost of about five billion Rupees. Lalit Modi, Vice President of Cricket Control for India said that the Board would build the modern world class stadium the first of its kind. We are going to pull out all stops to ensure that 2011 World Cup final which will be hosted in the new stadium in Delhi.

The International Cricket Council awarded the premier tournament to the hosts India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangla Desh after their joint bid defeated the bid from Australia and New Zealand in April this year. The four Asian countries met in London during their annual meeting and agreed during the ICC annual meeting and agreed that the final will be allocated to the Indian capital and the two semi finals will be played in Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium and Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium. The opening ceremony will be staged in Dhaka. The BCCI stadium will be built on a 70 acre premium site between the posh Maharani Bagh area and the banks of Yamuna in South Delhi. The land is being sold on a subsidised basis the work on the new stadium, would begin this year. The total cost of the stadium is estimated to be around Rs 4-5 billon for the whole project.


Rolling Camp for the Indian team.

Coach Greg Chappell says senior players need to get back to the basics. Speaking about the next batch of senior players slated to take guard at the rolling camp on Tuesday, Chappell said that there will be some variations, but sometimes the senior players need to get back to the basics as well. I think this (the ongoing rolling camp) is an opportunity to get them back to the basics, the former Australian captain said. The good thing about good players like Tendulkar, (Virender) Sehwag, (Rahul) Dravid, Yuvraj (Singh) and (Mohammed) Kaif is that these guys have been around for a long time but they are prepared to revisit the basics from time to time. There are no short-cuts, no magic formula. It is about applying the basics better than the other person. We won’t have any trouble with the senior guys because they revisit the basics all the time.

On Tendulkar, Chappell said the batsman will basically ‘revisit’ the basics like what everyone is doing. Tendulkar will have an input on what he wants to do. He has a very good feel for what he needs. We - (Bio mechanist Ian) Frazer and I - had a session with him up in Mumbai last week and he is working on some specifics. He is very good in understanding his own game

On specific goals vis-à-vis the Champions Trophy, Chappell said the team would vary their goals from time to time depending upon the opposition and the conditions and try to utilise its resources to the best. We have identified some areas in one-day cricket where all teams are finding it difficult. We also find it difficult and we are trying to get better at, he said.

Chappell said they were looking at repositioning some of the resources against different teams because some of them have faster bowlers, so that the team could match “what our best attribute is against their best attribute at that time. It could mean someone who bats down the order might bat up the order and someone who bats up the order could bat down the order. I don’t think there are any set solutions to any situation. So we need to be ready for giving our best attribute to that situation”.

Chappell said hitting the stumps is a critical thing in one day cricket and if one can get one or two run-outs in one-day cricket, it does make a big difference like having an extra bowler. So we are just trying to improve all around. It is very hard to have one to one session when you get a group of 15 players but it can be done with just five players and that was one of the reasons behind having a small group this time. We won’t have an opportunity like this again before the World Cup and it is a blessing in disguise. On the second phase of the rolling, Chappell said that it has been another good camp. We varied it a little bit this time as M S Dhoni, R P Singh, S Sreesanth, Suresh Raina and Munaf Patel identified fielding as an area that they wanted to work on as well.

We did some extra fielding stuff this morning. It went very well. The boys responded excellently to what we were doing in the camp. I am hopeful that the third one will go even better.

Asked about the aspects of fielding that he focussed on, the coach said it was on throwing from the deep. We are reasonably good in the short distance, but we need to work on the longer distance throws. We are working on a few areas in their technique so that they get more power and accuracy when they throw.


Paes ends title drought, wins US Open with Damm

Leander Paes won his first Men’s doubles title at a grand slam in five years by wresting the US Open crown with Martin Damm of the Czech republic.

Paes and Damm scored a shock 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3 victory over second seeds Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden and Max Mirnyi of Belarus in the final of the US Open at the Flushing Meadows. Paes, 33, last registered a grand slam triumph in 2001 at the French Open with Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom he also won the French Open and the Wimbledon in 1999.

This is also Damm’s first ever major title. Paes has also won three mixed doubles titles in grand slams. Paes and Damm pocketed $400,000 as winner’s prize money. The lengthy opening set was a power struggle that stayed on serve to force a tiebreak.

Even then, Bjorkman and Mirnyi just barely held their own. The 6’5” Mirnyi, nicknamed “the beast,” used his enormous reach to take care of some high overhead shots. While across the net, Paes clinched numerous points by poaching. Both teams were equally fierce on their serves, but Bjorkman and Mirnyi’s 15 unforced errors and 9 double faults cost them the match. In the second set, the gap started to widen. In the third set, both teams fought it out until Paes and Damm, up 4-3, managed to snatch a break to serve for the match. When Damm pounded back an overhead for a sideline winner to secure the title, a jubilant Paes bounded into his arms.


India face major embarrassment at Hockey World Cup

India to languish in a situation at the bottom of the World Cup’s preliminary pool should not be a surprise, more so after the display in the first two games.

India’s dreams of entering the World Cup semi finals after three decades have now vanished and they are facing acute embarrassment. After two defeats and a draw in three games, they are now out of any contention.

The way the Indian team has played and displayed its inability to capitalise on opportunities is an indication that life will only get tougher as the tournament progresses.

The body language of the Indian players is reflecting their mental condition. They don’t seem to be in the contest, and conceding late goals continues to be a big problem.

Succumbing to intense pressure should not happen so frequently in international sport. Competing at this level, players should be accustomed to handling pressure.

Unless a dramatic turnaround takes place and sees India producing a stunning upset, India is confronted with the ignominy of finishing the pool games without a single victory.

Both South Korea and Holland will now be looking to rub salt into India’s wounds, especially with the race for semi finals heating up. Posting victories and adding to their goal tally will be important for both these rivals when they take on India.

Leaving aside the game against defending champions Germany, who were not too strong coming into the tournament, India knew that their two toughest matches were the last two games. The tournament draw suited India, allowing them to play the title-holders in an early game. Their plan and hope should have been to pick up full points from the next two outings against England and South Africa.

That would have given India a chance of making the semi finals for the first time since 1975, but it turned out to be mere wishful thinking. The Indians team could have gradually played itself into the tournament and steeled itself for the tougher contests.

Our team has shown no spark in its game. The tactics it has adopted left everyone surprised. It was as if we were playing for draws every time we got on to the turf, and scoring goals was not in our plan of things.

Even if India failed to make the semifinals, victories against England and South Africa would have ensured that they stayed in the race for the top-six positions. Now that is looking extremely unlikely.

India allowed South Africa to dominate the proceedings in a match where we could have built on Ignace Tirkey’s first-half goal, which was the result of a quick strike from the top of the semi-circle.

But India failed to increase the lead and saw South Africa bounce back to once again spoilt our day after the Indian defence conceded a late equaliser. Both teams lacked the ability to dominate for long, but South Africa had an edge as they made more threatening moves. Despite its scattered attack, South Africa succeeded in frequently putting pressure on the Indian goal.

The Indian players’ morale cannot be very high going into the match against South Korea. And the Koreans know that a win against India could lift them into the World Cup semi-finals for the first time.


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