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February - March 2004


India Sport Scene

India's Renaissance in Sport 2003

by Ramesh Seedhar


The year 2003 was a year of renaissance of Indian sport. After a long period of tranquillity, India started emerging out of its shadow to dominate in hockey, cricket and athletics.

The Indian Junior Hockey team won the World Cup while the Seniors insured their place in the 2006 World Hockey tournament by lifting the Asia Cup and following it by taking the gold in Afro Asian Games.

Building on the success achieved at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester the Indian Women's Hockey team won the Gold at Afro Asian Games beating South Africa in a very tense final.

There were also gold medals in swimming and athletics in the Afro Asian games and we eagerly wait on how India performs on the world stage at Olympics in Athens.

In cricket India has always been strong when playing at home but Ganguly was determined to cut out the flaky edge which led India regularly capitulating away from home. His insistence on improving fitness, working on fielding, never letting up and never accepting from his charges anything less then the best has changed India's cricket. His addiction to victory was contagious and rubbed on his side with the result that in the recent tour to Australia not only the senior players performed well but the juniors also showed signs of maturity beyond their age.

Eventually, breathlessly and perhaps unsurprisingly the final test match of the most riveting series between Australia and India was drawn and forcing Australia's captain Steve Waugh to admit that India are the only true rivals to their supremacy and the Border-Gavaskar trophy should be rated above the Ashes. In the recent tour over four superb test matches India and Australia could not be separated, each country winning one each. India by virtue of having won it three years ago retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

India have thrilled everybody with their attractive band of cricket, scoring the maximum number of runs in a test series, and on the pitches where runs could be hard earned and then squeezed wickets from attacking strokes. Their attacking play was so appreciated that it can be judged from the fact that in the fourth test match at the Sydney Cricket ground over 190,000 people attended the test to watch and admire. And there was much to admire; as it was a farewell to Steve Waugh, who was playing in his last test match for Australia and who could have given him such majestic send off but India. For the record, never before at Sydney Cricket ground have so many runs been scored in one test match.

There was the batting of Sachin Tendulkar to admire whose return to form with 241 not out, put India in a dominating position leaving Australia always catching up, a role unfamiliar to Australia For the match referee it was difficult to choose the player of the series. There were some fabulous batting performances from Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virendra Shewag, Laxman and Ricky Ponting while Kumble, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan displayed great bowling feats.
The title of 'the player of the series' was eventually awarded to Rahul Dravid whose batting has been sublime, both technically and stylistically. It is his mental strength that sets him apart from players who are equally gifted. Kumble became the third man to take eight wickets in a test innings at Sydney. Kumble again showed how great a cricketer he is! He has now taken 382 Test wickets with leg spin at a healthy average and an impressive strike rate.
Sourav Ganguly has a couple of new talents who have amazed us with their maturity. Partiv Patel who is 18 has been learning quietly with Ian Healy. It showed in his glove work and footwork. His enthusiasm let him down in a couple instances in the last test. Had he accepted the chances offered who know whether India would have won the match?
Irfan Pathan 19 years old is another find. He bowls his left armers at a good pace and with a gift of swing. His victims in the match were Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting. We now await the arrival of Rohan Gavaskar son of the great legend Sunil Gavaskar who is joining the squad for the triangular one-day series.
 

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