February - March 2007
India Sport Scene
Cricket & Tennis
India in South Africa:
The First Test
India crush South Africa - Script History
indian team celebrated what captain Rahul Dravid described as a special moent
in the country’s cricket history after beating South Africa by
123 runs on the fourth day of the first test against South Africa at the Wanderers
Stadium. “The boys have gone a bit berserk”, said Dravid of the
scene in the Indian dressing room. “It is a great feeling for the group
to have come to South Africa and win a test match for the first time. We are
celebrating appropriately”, said Dravid. He knew many people had written
Indian’s coach Greg Chappell said that some senior players could be under
pressure following the team’s defeat in the series after the third and
final test at Newlands. South Africa completed their 2-1 series victory with
a five wicket win dspite rain causing a delay of three hours 46 minutes before
they reached their target of 211 runs.
Greg Chappell, obviously, was disappointed at India’s batting. Singling
out the second innings collapse to 169 all out, he said that the team had failed
to capitalise fully on winning the toss when they made 414 in the first innnings.
He said that some hard choices had to be made after this ignominious defeat. “There
are more questions than answers. In the nextg week or so when we get to India
and have a chance to digest what happened and discuss it’ we will have
to make some decisions about which way to go in the future”, said the
Coach. There will be some guys under pressure without a doubt. Despite the
defeat, Chappell had praise for former captain Sourav Ganguly. He’s done
what he was chosen to do, which is to get in there and get runs. His performance
in difficult circumstances, having to be rushed in at the last minute, was
exceptional. He’s done a good job.
Ravi Shastri’s comments, “I have to admit my disappointment from
this game is no different to what most of you feel. Paul Harris isn’t
the kind who turns a mile but on the fourth afternoon, India accorded him the
title of Lord Harris which wasn’t in sync with the team’s position
as well as the front-running they had done in the series. Someties I get the
feeling that knowing India hasn’t performed well overseas tends to play
on the minds of our senior players. In crunch situation, perhaps it’s
not a bad idea to push some one who does not carry a baggage. A couple of things
too stick out like sore thumbs. Sachin Tendulkar should have been brought on
to bowl with at least 100 runs still left to chase by the South Africans. His
leg spin turns a mile and South Africans have admitted they have problem in
spotting his googly.”
Anil Kumble did not use his judgement carefdully. He preferred to bowl over
the wicket on the final morning, when by going round the wicket, he could have
stifled the scoring if not picked up a wicket or two. Kumble’s reluctance
to go round cost India too many runs from both ends. India perhaps will never
get a track like this abroad certainly not in this part of the world. It was
more of an indian kind of wicket than one sees in South Africa. So in that
respect a golden chance has been wasted. I wasn’t impressed by Munaf
Patel’s fitness at all in this test series. it was pathetic to see him
in the field in this test. But he had to devote bit of time on his fitness
if he wants to do justice to himself and the team. Looking ahead, I would be
the Devil’s Advocate and urge for Virender Sehwags’s retention.
In India’s plans, he is a key player, a treasure who must be protected
and spoken to. It wouldn’t be too long before he rediscovers his lost
art and so he must be kept in the mix. Sourav Ganguly will be important to
Indian’s plan in the world cup - as would be Zaheer Khan. There are some
spunky youngsters in the side who donot care for big reputations in other camps
and guys like Dinesh Karthick and Sreesanth are suffused with positive attitude.
It adds invaluable energy to the side and I do feel very strongly about India’s
chances in the next world cup.
There is no denying the fact that Pakistani Umpire made some wrong decisions
by giving out some Indian batsmen and then not giving out Kallis when he was
caught behind by wicket keeper Dinesh Karthick. Tendulkar was also unlucky,
given lbw out, where the ball was going away from leg stump - a very poor umpiring
by Asad Rauf indeed.
Cricket Team in
by Sudhir Misra
See-saw made me giddy and shaken.Victory and defeat may be two sides of the
same coin. Yet, the emotions generated by either are so different that one
finds in a whirlpool of contradictory feelings lost for words and even numbed
sensations. In the course of two weeks, the Indian players were found spraying
beer, running around like wild boys and seemed to be a happy unit in Johannesburg.
Till the morning of Saturday December 30 morning, the Indian team looked happy
and on top of the world; the South African players, on the other hand, were
looking anxious and concerned. Even their wives and girlfriends sat in the
dressing room ignoring each other.
By the evening, everything had changed. As the last wicket fell, and S Sreesanth
stormed away angrily, the South Africans were hugging and squeezing each other
wildly. They danced and joked around too; but didn’t spray the beer or
champagne on each other; they just drank it.
For the first time, there was no sign of the support staff. The most disappointed
man, however, was coach Greg Chappell. In the morning, he was hopeful and confident;
in the evening he was bewildered and incredulous. How could a line-up boasting
of Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly and Dhoni not last 50 overs? How can they keep
collapsing like this on fifth day. Chappell just couldn’t take it: after
spending about 15 minutes with his boys, he went back to the team hotel to
drown his sorrows in solitude.
Chappell will have to rejuvenate himself and infuse some fight into the Indian
team. He has to be daring. If he could put his foot down at least now and bring
some important changes at the top of the order.
Over the last few years, with the emergence of One-day cricket, a lot has changed
in managing a cricket team. There is no place for single-dimensional players
anymore. Everybody needs to bat, bowl and field. The three Tests here in South
Africa have shown that bowlers win matches.
In the first Test, the South Africans collapsed against the fury and precision
of Sreesanth for 84, despite Andre Nel’s heroic 21. The one who steadfastly
held the lower order was Shaun Pollock.
India had slipped to 188 for seven in the first innings; but they managed to
make a modestly domineering 249 thanks to some unbelievable strokes from VRV
Singh. His 29 off 19 deliveries broke South Africa’s spirits. In the
second innings too, India were down to 148 for seven; but they fought their
way to 236 on ZaheerKhan’s dogged 37. At one stage India had crashed
to 183 for 8. But they brought some semblance of respect thanks to the push
given by S Sreesanath ‘s entertaining 28. The second innings, however,
was disastrous. The top order crashed to 85 for six. South Africa seemed to
be racing away to a resounding win.
But then MS Dhoni dug his heels in. Batting with a bruised finger, he cut out
his strokes and happily defended. He got able support, first from Anil Kumble
and then Zaheer. With bad light looming ominously, it looked like their resistance
would save the day for India. Sadly, Dhoni played a mindless slog just a few
seconds from tea to squander the chance of becoming a hero. Zaheer prolonged
the fight with Sreesanth for another half hour or so. But by this time, South
Africa had sniffed blood; nothing could stop them after that. Interestingly,
South Africa have also been well served by their own tail. Pollock scored a
valiant 40 in the second innings. In the second Test, however, Pollock played
a killer role. He smashed an unbeaten 63 to lift South Africa to 265 for eight
just when they seemed to be sliding towards disaster.
In the final test, India, after their first respectable start so far, collapsed
from 99 for no loss to 143 for six. Another couple of wickets would have given
India a reasonable target to flirt with. But Pollock’s crunching knock,
in the company of Andrew Hall (21) and Morne Morkel (27) threw India out of
the game. To score 354 on the last day in South Africa is not only difficult
S. Sreesanth: Known as the new Mammootty thanks to his acting and dancing skills,
was the bowling find for India this year. And it’s not just the record
books that suggest he’s here for a long haul.
Former cricketers are impressed with just about everything they’ve seen
of him-that smooth run-up, flawless action, upright seam position and easy
follow-through. His temperament-often the cause of Sreesanth’s downfall-is
an asset too. Malayalees have a new cine star, Team India have a new swinging
MS Dhoni Maybe it had something to do with the shorter, black mane he sported
in 2006. The law of averages caught up with Mahi this season but with a little
bit of luck (and longer locks?), the Jharkhand dasher could well turn out to
be the hero next year. His technique may be jiffy and the shot-selection whimsical
at times, but there’s no doubting the innate talent.
Dhoni put up a mediocre show in West Indies this year, so he will be itching
to set the record right in the World Cup. One bit of advice for Dhoni: Carry
a pouch of prudence in that huge bag of bravado.
South Africa - Third Test
Wasim Jaffer led India’s batting renaissance with a century as the
visitors seized the early initiative in the series-deciding third and final
cricket Test against South Africa here today. Jaffer, barely lucky to make
the eleven, slammed 116 to power the Indians to 254 for 3 at close on the first
day, the highlight of which was the 153-run opening stand the Mumbai batsman
shared with a new partner in Dinesh Karthick.
Karthick, playing a Test after a gap of 16 months, made a gritty 63 from 240
minutes and 170 balls inclusive of seven fours and did not allow the hosts
a wicket till the first two sessions.
Although India lost three wickets in the final session, including the one of
Jaffer, they looked set for a good first innings total and putting the hosts
There is a huge rough, abrasive area around the good length spot for a left-hander
which could be of absolutely lethal assistance to ace spinner Anil Kumble,
more so since India would be bowling last on this track.
Captain Rahul Dravid (29) did his side a huge favour by winning the toss and
asking Karthick to step in the opener’s slot, necessitated by Virender
Sehwag’s poor form.
Jaffer went into his stride early, leading India to 61 for no loss by lunch
and reaching his half century, as well as 1000th run in Tests, by driving Shaun
Pollock (1-32) straight down the ground on resumption.
Karthick too reached his landmark, though he had a slice of luck on 32 when
Graeme Smith at first slip dropped a catch off Pollock with the score on 95
for no loss.
The two openers duly completed the first century stand by Indian openers ever
in South Africa and advanced the total to 153 for no loss by tea. Karthick
was dismissed soon on resumption by debutant left-arm spinner Paul Harris,
caught close to the wicket by Hashim Amla, as South Africa finally managed
their first success of the day.
Dravid got into his stride quickly, driving and flicking boundaries at will
before Pollock tied him down with the most incisive spell of the day. Pollock
bowled with great heart and accuracy at the fag end of the day and finally
had his man when Dravid edged him behind the stumps for 29 runs, made from
63 minutes and 58 balls and including five fours.
Just before Dravid was out, Jaffer completed his century by flicking Harris
for three, the relief on his face being as evident as he knelt on the turf
Jaffer batted for six hours and hit 15 fours from 244 balls, this being his
third century in his 17th Test.
Sachin Tendulkar (28) looked assured in the final hour he spent at the crease
and negotiated the South African quick’s, armed with the second new ball,
with a measure of confidence.
On Friday, India batted like philanderers; on Saturday, they bowled like millionaires.
It’s no surprise, then, that they will go back home on Sunday as paupers,
losing almost everything they had gained over the last month in a gripping
and oscillating battle.
South Africa, who amazingly capitulated in the first Test at Johannesburg,
clinched the three-match series 2-1. They came back strongly to first hoodwink
the rain and a brittle Indian batting lineup in Durban; here, they just held
on to their coolest nerve to outwit them by six wickets in a bone-tingling
On the last day of a nerve-racking tour, the threat of rain loomed over Cape
Town. South Africa, chasing 211 for a sweet victory, had already stolen the
edge by racing away to 55 for two in 16.2 overs on the fourth evening. India
needed to cut off every run, bowl a string of maidens, squeeze the pressure
and strangulate them.
They had to play it like a game of chess, plotting every move slowly and carefully;
they should have played a game of patience. Instead, they bowled like they
had a thousand runs in the bank, like they had a flight to catch in the evening
(which incidentally, they had to). Worse, Rahul Dravid’s field-settings
were baffling, if not unfathomable and totally inexplicable. He spread his
fielders everywhere, leaving huge gaps near the bat and in the middle. Yes,
he was defending a small total but by having just two on the off-side for Kumble,
and leaving the entire on-side open for the pacers, he telegraphed his fears
to Pollock and Smith. Both exploited the openings to pick up free gifts.
Kumble just couldn’t pull out his miserly line and length, often dropping
too short, too full or just too ‘hittably’. He bowled 25 overs
but went for 74 costly runs and had just one wicket for his painstaking efforts.
India had one fast bowler too many (Munaf Patel bowling just one over) and
were one spinner too short. Oh yes, the second spinner, Virender Sehwag, too
bowled one. In the end, when it was all over, Tendulkar too got a couple. But
by then Jacques Kallis (32) and Andrew Prince (37 not out) had already done
all the damage. Playing coolly but aggressively and running for everything,
they hustled to a 77-run partnership for a fitting finale to a hard-fought
series. They attained the target in the 65th over, with just 15 minutes and
12 overs to go.
It all started in the morning, though, with South Africa springing a stunning
surprise: they promoted Pollock to open the day while India had happily made
all their plans for Kallis: how to stop him; how to ensnare him quickly and
how to apply the pressure on them.
It was a brilliant move wrapped in a bold gamble. Pollock is their best player
against spin; he bats aggressively and gets runs super quickly. It was an attacking
tactic but it wouldn’t have hurt them too much in failure either.
Pollock got off the blocks, clipping Kumble for a double. India needed some
luck to come quickly back into the match after their disastrous collapse on
the fourth day. They didn’t get it. Graeme Smith drove Zaheer Khan’s
first delivery and managed only an inside edge: the ball missed the stumps
by a lot less than an inch and even went for a four.
That was the cue South Africa were waiting for. Flicking, driving, cutting
and making the most of every loose delivery, they kept the score card moving
on all four wheels. By the 26th over, they had clocked 100, and were gliding
away. Luckily, for India, the clouds finally opened up at 11.20.It was a welcome
respite for them. They were clearly rattled by Pollock’s controlled belligerence
and Smith’s disciplined strokeplay: they couldn’t have handled
even two-three overs at that stage. The break allowed them to regroup, re-plan
and come back with calmer nerves and some hope.
Eventually, play started at 3.05, with the skies still looking sad. In the
new equation, South Africa needed exactly 100 runs more in a maximum of 49
overs; India still needed those eight wickets. They got one with Zaheer striking
in his third over. 127 for three. A glimmer of hope. Four overs later, he struck
again. Pollock had gone. It was 132 for four.
The match had come alive again. But India needed Kumble to quickly step into
the picture. He had taken only one wicket till then while he was expected to
wipe them out with one tiny spell. He didn’t. There were a few moments
of tension, pressure and screaming; but you don’t win Test matches riding
on them. You need wickets. And you don’t bowl like millionaires while
defending a small total; or bat like philanderers while setting a target on
the fourth day.
CAPE TOWN, Jan 6: Like a new baby, Sourav Ganguly came back into the Indian
team exactly after nine months. But his arrival wasn’t marked by joy
or euphoria; rather, it was greeted with scepticism and cynical laughs: India
had just been battered in the One-day series and his recall was seen more as
an appeasement ploy.
Out here, in South Africa, it was worse: the under-currents and hidden fears
had started simmering even before he landed in Johannesburg. Nobody really
knew how Ganguly would blend with the others; nobody dared to think how the
old differences would be tackled.
Worse, nobody really believed he would last long on the hard and bouncy pitches
here against express speed and raw aggression. Later, when he eventually melted
into the team smoothly, coach Greg Chappell revealed that it was indeed a volatile
situation for the first few days: it could have exploded on anybody’s
But Ganguly steadied himself and was more than ready for the next bouncer.
He went on to make a most extraordinary 83; he may have missed out on the first
century of the tour but his knock became the rallying point for India. Suddenly,
almost every batsman (apart from Virender Sehwag, of course) started looking
as good as his reputation.
Since then, of course, Ganguly has got hit in virtually every other match;
he has taken blows on his body, on his shoulder and on his elbow too. He flinched
almost every time but he didn’t look harried or uncomfortable like he
used to earlier; if anything he looked much more determined and eager to keep
Indeed, he batted much better after each hit. That, according to people close
to him, is his new philosophy: ‘‘It’s better to get hit than
to get out.’’ More importantly, for the statistically-minded,
he is the highest run-getter for India in this series. This second coming,
of course, wasn’t easy; it has come after months of immense pain, tribulations
and a million doubts. In fact, every single former cricketer and expert was
absolutely sure that he was finished as a player; he alone believed that he
still had a few days left in him.
So while the Indian team floundered, and the world laughed, he worked hard
on his fitness, corrected his thought process and waited for his turn. When
it finally arrived, he came prepared: he took middle-stump guard, unlike the
leg-stump one that most prefer on such tracks; he also tried to get forward
instead of the normal tendency to go on to the backfoot. Both worked.There
is one critical flaw though: he crouches too much at the time of delivery;
this is not allowing him flexibility to weave his body backward or forward
against short-pitched deliveries. That’s one of the reasons why he’s
getting hit so many times.
Ganguly wouldn’t worry about these little things though; he has proved
everybody wrong and has also scored more runs than anybody else. Now, there
is no doubt that he will be back in the One-day side too. It’s just ironical
that he will probably replace the one man who was most vocal in his favour:
The 2006 season was one long lesson for the colourful Hyderabadi. Lack of fitness
and consistency were believed to be Sania Mirza’s chief sins.
She tackled the first by hiring a South African fitness expert. Sania armed
with a meaner game turned out at year-end events in Hyderabad and Doha, serving
notice of what is to come. She has done her homework well and she is going
to have some memorable highs in the new year. After a shaky start to her second
year on the Tour, she did well to finish at 65 on the WTA rankings, giving
herself good ground to launch her 2007 campaign. She reached the semi-final.
The teen badminton sensation has in her what many Indians lack: the traits
of a champion. Saina loves to dominate; derives pleasure in decimating opponents;
she hates to lose and has the guts to fight; has the ability to learn from
mistakes and is ever-willing to improvise; she has the humility to take success
in her stride and her simplicity allows her to remain firmlyontheground.
Having made a grand entry into the senior level in 2006, Saina is convinced
that the only way to sustain the tempo is to get fitter and speedier which,
she says, are the secrets of the East Asians’ success.
We expect Olympic silver medallist shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore to emerge stronger
and better at the end of 2007. He has chosen to devote the first half of
the year to training which means he will be missing two World Cups. It will
adversely affect his ranking.
It also means that Rathore has that much more time to get used to his gun which
he changed after the Athens conquest. His performance at the Asian Games showed
that Rathore is gradually getting into peak form. “My best is yet to
come” said Rathore.
DOHA, Jan 6: Defending champions Leander Paes and Martin Damm of Czech Republic
suffered a heart-breaking upset defeat at the hands of an unseeded pair in
the $1 million Qatar Open ATP tennis doubles final on Saturday.
The third seeded pair of Paes and Damm were defeated 1-6, 6-7 (3-6) by Russian
Mikhail Youzhny and Serb Nenad Zimonjic, in the season-opener, a build up to
A total of eight break of services were witnessed during the match with Paes-Damm,
the reigning US Open champions recording three breaks and Youzhny-Zimonjic
five. Paes had also won the trophy in 1998, with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi.
Youzhny, a Doha doubles runner-up in 2005, won his second career ATP doubles
title, while Zimonjic claimed his fourteenth. “This is a great start
to the New Year. I was without my partner (Fabrice Santoro) but I am happy
to have won with Misha,” Zimonjic said.
“We are sort of undefeated because this is only the second time we are
playing together and we had to retire in St. Petersburg last year when we were
winning. We just got better as the week went on, just like the weather,” he
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