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June - July 2007


India Sport Scene

After the World Cup; Cricket; Tennis; Hockey

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


This was one of the worst World Cups despite the fact that the two best teams in the tournament reached the final.

The final day cricket degenerated into a farce when the players went off in twilight after 33 overs and then returned in total darkness so that the quota of 36 overs could be completed.

Never has world cup been won in such absurd conditions. Nothing was visible except the electronic scoreboard, which did not know what was going on. The closing ceremony could not be seen. A sport which produces such a chaotic climax is not a sport for it does not favour the sport itself or its fans. The tournament was itself not well run. The organization that allowed too many minnows and also allowed the tournament to run for far too long seriously needs to think regarding the future of the World Cup. In the current structure most one day matches are one sided and dull.

However there were some highlights. Adam Gilchrist’s century in the final will be remembered for a long time. Gilchrist produced the greatest piece of hitting seen in any of the nine world cup finals, scoring 149 runs from 104 balls.

In previous World Cups there had been only four centuries scored in the final for such is the pressure of the occasion. The first was by Clive Lloyd, the second by Viv Richards, the third by Arvinda de Silva. The highest century was from Ricky Ponting who scored 140 not out in the last World cup final.

Australia, who was the favourites, won the final, but the weather did not allow Sri Lanka to compete. Despite the valiant efforts of Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankans were behind in the run rate set by the Australians with the help of Adam Gilchrist.

With the condition deteriorating and the rain coming and going Sri Lankans were always just behind the run rate required. When two overs were deducted Sri Lanka were trapped in a horrible dilemma, the light was too bad for batting but they could not go off because they were behind the run rate and the Duckworth Lewis calculation would not work in their favour.

However Sri Lanka must be feted for the skills its cricketers displayed in the run to the final and once there refusing to give in to Australia. Australia had ended the two previous World Cup finals in record time. Pakistan in 1999 was beaten by the Lord’s slope and a remorseless, disciplined, glowing bowling and fielding effort by Australia. India four years later was felled by a fateful first over that set a sinister tone. Sri Lanka could have also easily collapsed under the unmitigated fury of Gilchrist’s genius.

In a rousing chase that Kumar Sangakkara thought through and then rode his luck Sri Lanka were always in the chase. Sanath Jayasuriya hung in without yielding to his ego and Sri Lanka remained on track. Jayasuriya and Sangakkara preserved, not entirely convincing in the beginning but never lacking in intent.

But the conditions were continually hampering Sri Lanka’s chase. The clouds played up threatening to deposit their contents with the result that although Sri Lanka was on course with their internal targets they were behind the Duckworth Lewis system. They took a gamble and lost the contest. The Duckworth Lewis system can inflict a double whammy. In chasing runs you risk losing wickets which in turn hitches up the par score which entails greater risk and so on.

This World Cup will be known for the number of coaches and players that have departed. Eleven of the sixteen World Cup coaches have parted company.

Those who have also played their last World Cup as Captains are Stephen Fleming of New Zealand, Inzamam ul Haq of Pakistan Craig Wright of Scotland and Brian Lara of West Indies.

Brian Charles Lara, who retired from International Cricket following the World Cup, was one of the greatest batsmen of all times. West Indies have over the years produced many wonderful cricketers, but Lara was special.

Ever since the great Don Bradman, no batsman has managed to build huge scores as frequently as Lara has done. His record of 11953 Test runs at an average of 52.88 with the highest score not out and 10405 runs in one day test speaks volume of his ability. Lara led an inexperienced team and was always under pressure while batting. He scored 34 centuries, many of which were made when his team was in crisis. This it is testimony to his great batsman ship.

Unfortunately, did not get the honours he deserved. On many occasions he won the match single-handedly when the rest of the team let him down.

His high back lift and electrifying cover drives will stand out for ever in the memories of his fans.

Glen McGrath retires from International cricket arguably as the greatest fast bowler in history not to have relied primarily on pace. Single-handedly he made famous the employment of relentless off stump line; the bounce that he generates with his high arm action is greatly underrated. The left-handed batsmen have proved particularly vulnerable to his cunning. For McGrath taking wickets has been a priority and he has shown that he can satisfy this demand.

Another person who will be sorely missed from the next World Cup will be India’s Anil Kumble. Anil Kumble has been one of the most accurate leg-spinners and his contribution to Indian cricket has been fantastic in both forms of the game. His strength has been his line and length and accuracy.

His score of 547 wickets in 113 tests at an average of 28.65 runs, arguably makes him India’s biggest match winner. In the ODI’s he has the most wickets by an Indian bowler. 337 wickets in 271 matches at an average of 30.89 and an economy rate 4.30 are very creditable.

Anil Kumble’s retirement from One day Internationals could be a fore runner to similar announcements from some of the other senior members of the Indian team

Duncan Fletcher, England’s coach has tendered his resignation. It was Fletcher’s intention to resign after England’s game against Bangladesh. Four senior members of ECB decided that Fletcher should be persuaded to stay until the end of four test series against West Indies. However this plan was scrapped after England’s devastating loss to South Africa where they were beaten by nine wickets.

Australia has done much the same as England in replacing their long standing coach with a former wicket keeper who has never played test cricket. However he has been in charge of their National Academy and knows the players and their potential.

The position to succeed Pakistan’s late coach Bob Woolmer has been advertised abroad as well as in Pakistan but is unlikely to prompt many foreign applications whatever the cause of his death.

The coach with the hardest job of all is probably the man who succeeds Bennet King as the West Indies Coach. The West Indies cricket board are so inept that they never even fulfil the agenda themselves.

The coaches of Bangladesh, Canada, Ireland, Holland and New Zealand are also departing making this the World Cup of failed coaches.

India’s coach, Greg Chappel has given way to a successor not yet chosen even though India is about to tour Bangladesh. To be a coach of India is an impossible job in world cricket. India’s megastars have they say. It is rumoured that they have to ring their agent first to see if sacking is allowed by their sponsors. Indian players’ sponsorship is dependent on how long they stay on the crease and therefore on television.

Greg Chappel was an honest coach who wanted to make a difference to Indian cricket. He did not mind challenges but was up against massive road blocks in a system built around star culture. He took great pride in coaching the Indian cricket team. He often dwelled on the passion for the game in India and it spurred him on. Chappell noted that cricket was ablaze of colour in the sub continent He relishes grooming cricketers and Suresh Raina, Rudra Pratap Singh, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are some of the cricketers to whom he has given reign.

However Indian cricket has a lot of commercial interests that are strangling the game. He was keen about youth and transition and was prepared to transform the system and met with stiff resistance when it mattered most-in the run up to the world cup.

Happily Chappell’s suggestions about the adverse effects of excessive endorsements and their impact at various levels have forced the Board to act and if successful Indian cricket will survive the crisis.

Just one bad day, one loss to Bangladesh has caused upheavals in Indian. The players contracts stood cancelled as the BCCI board took a hard stand after the team crashed out of the World Cup in the initial stages. According to the Board’s new directive not more three endorsements are allowed per player. The Board have stated in their defence that the seniors can handle the pressures but not the juniors. The agents are currently signing up new entrants and offering them three to four year contracts. At 17 or 18 years of age a player, even before establishing himself in the team, earns a contract of 10 lakhs rupees. Can he handle such money matters at a time when he should be focussing on his cricket? Also there is more to it because once a player signs a contract he is obligated to the agent and BCCI feels that it is trying to save the players from agent’s stranglehold.

The agents however feel that they are promoting the talent in the country by spotting the talent and deciding to handle his career. In their opinion the sport and the country thus benefits. In their opinion BCCI must accept that exceptional ability and hard work earns a player an India cap and like all highly qualified professionals they must be paid for having the persistence to achieve the highest echelon of sport in the country.

The players agents have taken the punches thrown by BCCI silently but they hope that the Board will review and reconsider their decision as in their opinion it goes against the fundamental rights of the freedom of the Indian constitution to restricts earnings of an individual.

At present some of the top endorsement earners are Sachin Tendulkar who has 11 endorsement giving him annual earnings of approximately of 45-50 crores of rupees; Mahendra Singh Dhoni has 13 endorsements giving him annual earnings of 5-7 crores.; Rahul Dravid has 11 endorsements and an annual earning of Rs 10-15 crores; Sourav Ganguly has 10 endorsement with the annual earnings of Rs 3-4 crores; Yuvraj Singh with 5 endorsements and an annual earnings of 3-4 crores; Virendra Sehwag has 8 endorsements with an annual earnings of Rs 5-7 crores and Sreesanth with three endorsements and an annual earnings of Rs 80 lakh-1crores.

Latika Khaneja, Director of College of Sports management thinks that curtailing endorsements that appease all those who are jealous of cricketers making relative easy money and will enrage public succour when the team is down and out. It will however dilute the dream of thousands of young cricket lovers who aspire to grow up and become a big star. It will dilute the glamour and fanfare that makes a game a religion by slowly moving corporate support out of cricket.

BCCI however state that they are not against the players making money or have agents or mangers. It is also wrong to say that the contracts have been cancelled. They have been redrafted and will suit every player. They are stating that the agents are projecting a wrong picture. The Board have the responsibility to ensure that the players are not misguided or lose their focus. The Board is engaged in giving the players the best of facilities and only thinks of the player’s interest.

India now goes on to tour Bangladesh where they will play three ODI’s and two tests. This will be followed by the tour of Ireland and then they visit England. Rahul Dravid has been retained as captain for the three tours. Ravi Shastri who has been appointed as the manager will have youthful team under him, since the Board has instructed the selectors to pick youngsters for the trip. It will be a challenging and testing time for the new manager for the side will be up against a resurgent Bangladesh.

Chappell has been offered by the BCCI to guide the hopeful at the National Cricket Academy and this will be seriously considered by him. It will be too India’s benefit if he takes this post for he is well suited to the task. As a coach he never meant to undermine the seniors but strove to create the bench that would keep the seniors alert and ready.

Full text of the press release issued by the BCCI following its Working Committee meeting

Mr. Niranjan Shah, Honorary Secretary, BCCI, has announced decisions taken at the Working Committee meeting of the BCCI held on April 7, 2007.

1. With a view to strengthening domestic cricket, efforts will be made to ensure that all Test / ODI Cricketers play Irani, Duleep, Challenger and some Ranji Trophy Matches.

2. Every Association will be directed to prepare fast and lively wickets for domestic tournaments.

3. The BCCI will do away with home and away rotation and allot venues for Irani Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Ranji Trophy semi-finals and finals and one-day all-India knockout.

4. It was decided that all affiliated units should start their own state academies by April 2009. These academies would be linked to the National Cricket Academy for the purpose of uniformity in coaching.

5. It was decided to scrap the present zonal representation in the senior and junior selection committees. BCCI will appoint selectors on a full time basis based upon the eligibility criteria which would include stature as a player, selection experience etc. They will be remunerated suitably and appointed for a two-year term. The BCCI will take steps to propose necessary amendments to the Constitution to give effect to the above decision.

6. Regular and frequent Under-19 and India A tours to Australia / England / New Zealand / South Africa / West Indies will be undertaken.

7. The Working Committee has directed the Selection Committee to send a young team to Bangladesh under an experienced captain. The selection committee, after discussions has appointed Rahul Dravid as captain for India's tour to Bangladesh, Ireland and England.

8. BCCI will appoint a permanent manager for the Indian team for a two-year term. The Board will also appoint a permanent Media Manager for a two- year term.

9. Notice will be issued to Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh under Rule 38 of the Memorandum and the Rules and Regulations of the Board asking for an explanation for their comments made to the media.

10. Working Committee approved the Performance-based Payment to the players and decided to do away with the present gradation for Retainership. Apart from the payment, the following points would form a part of the contract.

•  A player will endorse not more than 3 sponsors / products

•  No Sponsor can contract more than 2 players.

•  The players will not be allowed to do any sponsor-related events 15 days before the tour and also during the tour.

•  Before every tour, all the contracted players have to undergo a fitness test and only those who fulfill the benchmarks will be considered for selection.

•  No player shall have exclusive contracts with electronic or print media. Only the captain can write a column or talk to the media but not exclusively.

•  The players shall take prior approval of the Board before signing any endorsement contract and will submit a copy of the agreement to the Board. All the players shall submit a copy of the existing contracts with sponsors to the Board.

•  All the players will have to play a stipulated number of domestic matches when not playing for India.

•  In the event of injury to the player, the Board will compensate him the match fees that he would have earned for a maximum period of six months.

11. The Working Committee decided to form a Cricket Advisory committee consisting of the following ex - captains: Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, MAK Pataudi, Chandu Borde, Ravi Shastri, Krish Srikkanth and S Venkataraghavan under the Chairmanship of President [Sharad Pawar] and will include all the Office Bearers.

12. The working committee appointed Ravi Shastri as Cricket Manager for the India's tour to Bangladesh. It was further decided that Venkatesh Prasad will be the bowling coach and Robin Singh, the fielding coach.

India is salvaging its pride from the defeat by Bangladesh in the World Cup by eyeing a clean sweep in the three-match ODI series against Bangladesh, and obtain a psychological boost ahead of the tougher assignments in the coming months.




India have a 2-0 lead in the series after a pair of comfortable victories in Dhaka, However the way Bangladesh ran India close in the tour opener, any possibility of a replay of the World Cup upset cannot be ruled out.

The pitch, according to the curator, would be full of runs though there would be something for the bowlers too, but this could all be frustrated by the bad weather.

India is intending to give the youngsters a chance and Robin Uthappa and R.P.Singh are expected to play in place of Zaheer khan and Sreesanth.




Tennis

Sania Mirza has become the first Indian to be seeded number one in a WTA event after she was given top billing in both the singles and doubles competitions of the $145,000 Morocco Open.. The Indian ace, who was out of action for the past two months due to a knee injury, makes her return to court at Fez in Morocco.

In the doubles competition, the 20-year-old has teamed up with American Vania King and the duo will take on the unseeded Russian-Ukrainian pair of Alla Kudryavtseva and Olga Savchuk in the opening round of the clay-court event.




Hockey

By finishing third at the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament, India had achieved the target they had set for themselves at the beginning of the event.

The Indian coach Carvalho said that before we left the Indian shores, our target was finish in the first three, and yet, not to expect too much from this young side. This we have managed to achieve by beating Korea 1-0 in the playoff for 3-4 positions.

The Indian team now needs to improve from here on and has plenty of work to do. The team have the talent and potential, and the core of the team for the Champions Challenge tournament next month has been formed.

Summing up his team’s performance in this tournament, Carvalho said: “It has been a very satisfying experience for me. It’s a new team and also my first assignment. I think the future is bright for Indian hockey. We have just started our journey.”




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