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December 2006 - January 2007

India Sport Scene

Cricket, Hockey & Badminton

by Ramesh Seedhar

International Cricket Council (ICC) President Percy Sonn thanked India for hosting what he called an “outstanding” ICC Champions Trophy Tournament.

Thirty days of hard-fought action culminated on Sunday with Australia

beating the defending champions the West Indies by eight wickets. Australia for the first time lifting the ICC Champions trophy at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai. Australia thus retained their position as the number one cricketing nation in the world.

Although world champions Australia eventually came through to take the spoils,however, this tournament more than any other in recent memory, illustrated the unpredictability of the great game of cricket.

The formbook was turned upside-down on more than one occasion; and matches such as Pakistan’s win over Sri Lanka, South Africa’s great comeback against Pakistan and the West Indies’ win over Australia in the group stages were illustrations of that.

The ICC Champions Trophy also showed how fascinating one-day cricket

can be when there is a balance between the bat and the ball. That balance helped to define this tournament and was responsible for its success.

In the finals, West Indies won the toss and their opening batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle caned the Australian seamers. With their ungainly, open stances and high club-like back lifts, both Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul looked more like butchers than batsmen. They swished their bats hitting at everything in their way. Chanderpaul raised the stakes in the first over, with a delicate cut and an unintended edge. Two overs later, he disdainfully swiped the ball that whizzed past Brett Lee’s face, with Lee sitting on his backside, stunned. Two deliveries later, Chanderpaul hit an unusual six over third man while aiming a shot towards mid wicket

It was the cue for Gayle to join the party and he too cut loose. He smashed Glen McsGrath for two leg side sixes in an extraordinary two overs that produced 22 runs. West Indies were 49 for no loss in just five overs.

Australia had lost the initial skirmish; but then, they rarely give in easily. Chanderpaul promptly dragged the next ball on to his stumps. That was the first sign of imminent danger.

With the score on 80 for two, in the 10th over, Bracken threaded one to hit Gayle’s off stump. That was the start of the West Indies batting collapse on a pitch that carried no menace. West Indies were all out for 138 in 30.4 overs.

Set to overhaul a tiny total of 138, Australia lost two early wickets as Brian Lara attacked desperately. But Shane Watson and Damien Martyn rallied through to post 45 for two after 10 overs. After the lunch interval, for more than two hours, the skies growled angrily overhead and intermittent showers entertained. Eventually the fickle Mumbai clouds yielded and Australia resumed their march towards their maiden Champions Trophy triumph.

The forced break made the revised target easier for Australia and they were required to score just 116 runs in a maximum of 35 overs. Watson and Martyn needed only 28.1 overs to help Australia win the trophy for the first time.

Both the two finalist came from Group A. By beating West Indies in the final Australia avenged their defeat at the hands of West Indies in the group matches. Australia also beat India in the group match when Australia and India went head to head in Mohali with the place in semi-finals at stake.

At Mohali, the day couldn’t have begun better for India. Dravid won the toss and elected to bat, surely prompted by the mounds of grass that sat sadly somewhere beyond the ground and the clean-shaven pitch.

India hopefully, had also got their combination right, packing the middle order with seven batsmen. India soon got into their groove, with the stadium packed and the noise reaching a crescendo and the dholaks dancing to their own tunes. . Tendulkar took time to settle done, getting off the mark with a boundary. But McGrath, the old enemy, was nicely setting him up. He soon ensnared him for the seventh time. Pathan kept his pinch-hitting bat in the coffin. Dinesh Mongia began with flourish, pulling McGrath to the mid-wicket fence but looked scratchy against the pace onslaught

With a gilt-edged axe hanging over his neck, Virender Sehwag came up with a face-saving and place-saving knock. Rahul Dravid too delivered a polished 52, and it looked like India would finally make an imposing total. However, Australia maintained a stranglehold on the scoreboard. They kept plucking wickets and cut off every extra run. Kaif made 30. Dhoni vainly tried to crack the final overs, but India was clearly at least 20 runs short, as the rest couldn’t do enough to lift Team India out of the grave.

Set to chase a teasing 249 for eight, Australia began on a gallop and aided by some poor fielding by the Indians, pounded their way home by the 46th over. Indian bowlers should have learnt from McGrath how to keep line and length despite being attacked by Indian batsman with their stroke play. Indian bowlers however sprayed the ball and thus gave opportunities for Australia to score fast.

Ricky Ponting smashed a rollicking 58 to supplement Shane Watson’s breezy 50 to leave India reeling in pain, if not in shame. Australia lost merely four wickets as the sceptre of dew faded and the bounce evaporated faster than the crowds in the stands.

By the time the dew surfaced and the air became cold and misty, the stands were almost empty.

India’s campaign to win on the home soil came to a sad end. It had promised so much but had failed to deliver. In fact the whole contingent from the Indian sub-continent, India Pakistan and Sri Lanka failed to make the semi final stage. If they wish to participate at the next ICC Champions trophy, they rectify the mistakes in their game plan. They have also had to raise the standard of their fielding and bowl consistently at length without giving away too many wides

Pakistan will be the next to host the Champions Trophy in 2008, under a new format where only eight teams will take part. That should increase the intensity and excitement still further.

Drugs in Cricket

There were many plusses at the ICC Champions trophy tournament. First the adherence to Spirit of Cricket and the second a continued strong stance against drugs in sport through WADA.

A day after the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) officials expressed dissatisfaction over the ICC’s doping policy, ICC, the cricket’s world governing body reaffirmed its commitment to the codes of WADA.

ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed said that the current ICC Champions Trophy is the first tournament since ICC became signatories to the WADA Code.

It has presented ICC with some challenging issues particularly the logistical ones particularly as no infrastructure or culture of drug-testing exists currently in India.

ICC is committed to ensuring that cricket retains a zero tolerance attitude to drug-use. It is also committed to ensuring that those full members of the ICC that are not currently testing their players outside of ICC tournaments, start that process as soon as possible.

Since testing began in 2002 no player had tested positive for a banned substance at an ICC tournament with the exception of the two Pakistan bowlers.

The Pakistan bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were the first to be tested as positive for taking the steroid nandrolone. The Pakistan Cricket Authorities have taken action by banning these players and withdrawing them from their squad to represent Pakistan at the ICC Champions trophy. Shoaib has been banned for two years while Asif for one year. Both the players have however denied taking any banned substance knowingly. Asif has lodged an appeal against his ban while Shoaib is still considering an appeal. A report from Pakistan’s drugs panel mentioned that the injury plagued Akhtar took supplements, vitamins and herbal medicines for several years without informing the Pakistan board staff. Akhtar claims that he has never seen a list of banned substances issued by WADA.

It is a tragedy that the careers of two top cricketers have been tarnished in this way, but at the same time it emphasises that cricket has zero tolerance of drugs use.

Yasir Arafat and Abdul Rehman replaced the banned Pakistan bowlers for ICC Champions Trophy Champions Trophy squad following the withdrawal of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif.

The Oval test fiasco.

Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas has been replaced as the Team Manager for the ICC Champions Trophy in India following his failure to play a stronger role in the Oval test fiasco. The former stylish batsman has been the Pakistan manager since early this year. He has also been referee in the past a chief selector and ICC.

Another scalp of this fiasco has been Darrell Hair. A concentrated drive by the powerful Asian bloc has forced ICC to decide to remove from the elite panel of umpires. Hair’s position had become untenable during the August Oval test between England and Pakistan. He had accused the Pakistan bowlers of ball tampering and had penalised them five runs. Pakistan refused to take the field after fourth day in protest. The umpires Darrell Hair and his colleague Billy Doctrove from West Indies were forced to award the match to England, the first ever forfeited test match.

An ICC inquiry cleared the Pakistan captain, Inzamam ul Haq, of ball tampering but found him guilty of bringing the game into disrepute and banned him from four one day internationals.

England women deny sledging claim

The England’s and Wales cricket Board has played down the sledging claims against the National Women’s team during the recent series against India. The allegations were made by India’s Captain Mithali Raj following the teams return to India.

An ECB statement said that England took pride in playing cricket within the spirit of the game and the series against India was no different.

In the two test match series India won 1-0.

ICC Awards for 2006

Some of the top names in cricket were on hand in Mumbai to present this year’s ICC Awards 2006. Imran Khan, Sunil Gavaskar and Tony Greig, are some of the people that attended the function. The local Indian hero Sachin

Tendulkar presented the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the Player of the Year.

Sri Lanka’s Jayawardene was named Captain of the Year. 29 year-old Jayawardene displayed impressive leadership qualities, leading his side to a series of impressive victories against tough opposition. Between 1 August 2005 and 8 August 2006, Jayawardene captained his side in nine Test matches, winning five of them, and 14 ODI’s, winning ten.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting was named international cricket’s Test Player of the Year. The 31-year-old Tasmanian topped the poll ahead of team-mate Michael Hussey,Pakistan’s Mohammed Yousuf and spinners Muttiah Murlitharan of Sri Lanka and Australia’s Shane Warne.

Since last year’s awards women’s cricket has come under the auspices of the ICC. Australian Karen Rolton became the first Women’s Player of the Year. She beat India’s Anjum Chopra and Katherin Brunt of England to that honour.

India the richest cricket nation.

It is no coincidence that when Lalit Modi was elected as a member of the BCCI committee that the fortunes of Indian cricket would change. Today, Lalit Modi is the most important cricket administrator in the world. He has made India as one of the richest cricketing nations. As Vice president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and as Chairman of their marketing sub-committee, Modi is exploiting, for all its worth, what he calls the most powerful brand in the world of sport. As a result, he will be as influential as anybody else in shaping what international cricket will look and feel like in the years to come.

Modi and 21st century Indian cricket is a perfect match.

Born to a wealthy Indian family, with tentacle like business interest, he spent much of his youth in the United States learning about marketing in sport. He believes that sport business is like no other business, having the ability to cut across all creeds and castes. That is why he decided to make his own mark by bringing televised cricket through Ten Sports and ESPN to India.

The timing was spectacular. Indian cricket had been rejuvenated by the rebirth of its rivalry with Pakistan in 1978, the 1983 World Cup victory, by the arrival of cricketing superstars like Sachin Tendulkar. Most importantly in the 1990’s, by the happy combination of double digit burgeoning economic growth, the proliferation of one day internationals and consumer crazy middle class that wants to watch cricket.

Television did for Indian cricket what it had done in UK for football. Even in a country where running water is hard to come by, where two fifth of the population live below poverty, 86 percent are known to be watching television as their main hobby.

From the deals Modi negotiated at Ten Sports and ESPN, he found that BCCI were underselling their rights and that corruption was rife. The television stations would be in profit after the first year of a four year deal and that side deals were an integral part of negotiating process. It was his love of cricket and frustration in knowing that Indian cricket was being short changed and corrupted that encouraged him to fight the system.

His challenge to the system started in Rajasthan, where he allied himself with the Chief Minister and pursued Rungta family through the courts. Rungta family had run Rajasthan cricket as a personal fiefdom. He did the same with Jagmohan Dalmiya, the man who had run the whole of Indian cricket as if it were its personal fiefdom. Dalmiya loved power as much as Modi loved money. Modi therefore backed Sharad Pawar, a powerful politician from Mumbai and set about running a ruthless election campaign prior to the BCCI elections. Dalmiya was ousted from office and pursued through the courts for alleged financial irregularities.

Since then, BCCI led by Pawar and Modi have transformed the finances of Indian cricket. In the four year prior to the arrival of Modi, the BCCI income was estimated at $67 million. Since the arrival of Modi, the four year cycle that began in January 2006, BCCI income has already passed $1 billion.

Modi has been ruthlessly efficient at exploiting the BCCI property. A four year television deal with Nimbus raked $612 million, team and shirt deals with Sahara and Nike brought another $641 million, dwarfing equivalent contracts in any other sport. A TV deal with Zee TV for India’s matches on neutral venues is worth another $219 million.

With technology changing at such a rapid pace Modi plans to exploit every available revenue stream.

BCCI with their new found wealth, intend to change the infrastructure. As a priority Modi wants to make India’s 22 international stadium into state of the art providing spectators far greater access and better facilities.

This is greatly overdue. For example recently in Goa, it transpired that thousands of spectators failed to gain access to the ground despite holding tickets. The stadium had minimal entry points to allow access to 40,000 spectators. The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and a show case venue of Indian cricket has disgraceful facilities for spectators.

The rejuvenation of domestic cricket in India is also high on the agenda and there are plans afoot for a new intercity domestic league. The BCCI have promised to give 26% of gross revenue, to the Indian players, both domestic and international, so they too can benefit.

Modi is determined to take the game to India’s massive population. He plans as many as 25 matches per year against Pakistan in neutral countries such as America, England, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and United Arab Emirate where India will play two matches against their great rivals.

It is his motivation to simply take the game to an audience who only get to see their team play on television. He has been contact with the England and Wales Cricket Board to arrange matches against Pakistan at Lords. The ECB would be given a match fee and BCCI would keep the television rights. His critics point out that by playing on neutral venues, allows the BCCI to keep the television revenues, and could put Modi on a collision course with the International Cricket Council.

India has already bared their teeth over future tours programme, where they think it does not allow them the maximum potential to exploit their home matches. The Champions trophy that was played in India benefits all nations rather than the hosts.

The traditionalists are not used to such brash commercialism and naked exploitation. They see a difference between sport and business, but they have to know that cricket cannot survive without money. India has therefore got to have the balance right.

The BCCI is now preparing to bid as much as $1 billion for control of television rights for every International Cricket Council from next year to 2015.

Starting after 2007 Cricket World Cup, the deal would cover the new Twenty20 World Championships, the Champions trophy tournament, and most notably the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.

Every broadcaster including Channel 4 and Sky would have to go to the Indian board to negotiate a fee to cover the tournaments. This would place BCCI, an amateur body in position of enormous power over the world game.

If successful, the bid could be seen as emphasising the power shift in what some English once fondly imagined to be their game. Already ICC has moved their headquarters from Lords to Dubai thus emphasising the power shift from west to east.

After taking control over the revenue from India’s TV rights , India is now emerging as an economic powerhouse and flexing its muscle in audacious move to take over Cricket’ world wide television coverage.

India is now regarded as the most important market in International cricket, generating over 60% of sports overall income. Matches in India can attract stadium audiences of up to 100.000. When Sachin Tendulkar walks out to bat for the Indian test team against Pakistan, the domestic TV audience is said to exceed the population of Europe.

However one thing stands in the way of the Indian bid. ICC’s commercial arm has previously ruled that bids for the ICC rights should be restricted to broadcasters and agencies. Any bid by the Indian cricket board would be disallowed unless the Indian Board persuaded ICC Development committee at their next International meeting.

India’s economic growth now rivalling China, call centres taking bites out of western economies the Indian industrialists taking over British and French steels, this is another move in India’s apparently unstoppable rise.

Hockey World Cup

India’s dismal performance at the World Cup has left them last in the pool with only one point. Coach Vasudevan Bhaskaran was obviously a disappointed man and failed to put up a brave face as India ended without a single win to their credit.

He said that you cannot expect to win if you concede close to ten short corners in every match. Our deep defence has really faltered in this area, India gave away corners very easily, and was then unable to defend them. The team has been very inconsistent and has struggled to hold on the opponents from scoring

I think the biggest thing that has been lacking is the mental strength of the team. The team is talented and at par with the best of the world. However they are not mentally strong and must learn how to cope with pressure.

On the positive side, the show by young strikers Shivendra Singh Tushar Khandekar and Hari Parsad were one of the plus points, and hopefully they will mature into better players in two to three years time.


Saina Nehwal thwarted a spirited challenge from Bae Youn Joo of Korea to reach the girls’ singles final at the World Junior Badminton Championship in Incheon, South Korea.

World No 32 Saina, etched out a stunning performance to prevail over the Korean winning in two straight games 25-23 21-13. She is now one win away from creating history.

Saina, seeded 14th, disposed of Bae in just 35 minutes to set up a title clash with top seed Wang Yihan of China. Yihan defeated Kim Moon of Korea 21-16 21-13 in the other semi-final.

For Saina, the Korean was a tough nut to crack but the 16-year-old was at her agressive best and played with a purpose. Saina has got some good wins in this tournament by defeating Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese and Korean girls.

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