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December 2007 - January 2008


India Sport Scene

Squash - Badminton -Tennis - Cricket

by Ramesh Seedhar


Squash

Ritwik Bhattacharya and Saurav Ghosal created history as, for the first time, two Indian players made it to the main draw of a Super-Series squash championship. Both Ghosal and Bhattacharya won their final qualifying ties to make the 32-player main draw of the World Super Series Platinum Event in Hong Kong.

Ghosal beat South African Jesse Englebrecht while Bhattacharya rallied from a first game loss to beat Chris Simpson of United Kingdom.

However, Ghosal has a tough task ahead in the first round, as he is pitted against world champion David Palmer of Australia. Bhattacharya plays Adrian Grant of England.

Hockey

The International Hockey Federation announced that New Delhi, the Indian capital will host field hockey’s World Cup for men in 2010. The 12-nation tournament will be co-hosted by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and the Indian Hockey Confederation (IHC) at New Delhi’s National Stadium. The tournament will be held in February 2010. The exact dates will be finalised by March 2008.

The World Cup is the FIH’s highest-profile event and the challenge for India is to make it the most successful event in the history of Hockey. India, who were once the masters of the game with eight Olympic titles, have hosted the World Cup once before in 1982 in the country’s financial capital of Mumbai, then known as Bombay.

New Delhi is also due to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

India will play their Olympic qualifying hockey tournament in Santiago, Chile from March 1 to 9, 2008 and are clubbed with Austria, Bangladesh, Chile, Egypt and Great Britain. According to the International Hockey Federation, which released the three groups for the qualifiers to be held early next year, Germany will play their matches in Kakamigahara, Japan from April 5 to April 13 2008, along with the Czech Republic, Japan, Malaysia, Poland and Switzerland. New Zealand will host Argentina, Cuba, France, Ireland and Trinidad & Tobago at North Shore City, Auckland from February 2 2008

Indian women will play against Belgium, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands Antilles, Russia and USA in the qualifying tournament scheduled at Kazan, Russia from April 19 to April 27 2008.

In their preparation, India started their campaign at the Singapore International Hockey Challenge 2007 for men by recording a thumping 11-0 win over Hong Kong. In this six-nation tournament India put on a ruthless performance and are now poised to meet their arch rivals Pakistan

Chess

The year 2007 will go down as the most glittering year in Viswanathan Anand’s career. In April he became the top ranked player in the game and by the end of September he had become the undisputed champion of the World.

He is the first non Russian, after Bobby Fischer, to own the top rank and the world title at the same time. In a sport dominated by Russians, Anand has carved a niche for himself that is matched only by the former champion Gary Kasparov.

In Mexico City eight well prepared men, half of them Russians had come to battle it out for the Chess World Championships. The field included the defending champion Vladimir Kramnik who had recently won against the mighty Kasparov in their World Championships clash.

Although Anand was the world number one based on rankings and a favourite to win the title, the chances of Kramnik and to lesser extent Leko and Aronian could not be ruled out. His main rival was Kramnik, who was then the undisputed champion of the world after his victory over Topalov in 2006

However once the tournament started Anand never looked back and remained the only unbeaten player in the tournament, never allowing anyone to reach within a point of his winning tally.

Anand became the World Champion in 2000 having been the India’s grandmaster since 1987. Anand has covered the distance by covering monstrous hurdles along the way. He made in the top ten world list in 1991 and the top three in 1997 and has never slipped from there.

Anand has overcome challenges, stayed away from controversies and charted his course to success by staying focussed. He is the game’s finest Ambassador and this was recognised by the award of an honorary doctorate by the Sathyabama University, India. Accepting the degree at a special convocation of the University, Anand said that the sole reason for his achievements was his determination to excel in the sport. He urged the students to pursue their education with zeal in order to reach great heights. The university’s chancellor, Jeppiar, said it was a proud moment for the university, as it was the first in India to confer a doctorate on Anand, who had done the country proud.

Tennis

Leander Paes and Martin Damm registered their second successive win in the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai overcoming a tough challenge from the Israeli pair of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram. The Indo-Czech pair, placed in the Gold group, overpowered Jonatahan and Ram 6-4, 7-5 in the round robin stage. Paes and Damm had beaten Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi, the defending champions and now have a of good chance of qualifying to the last four. They will now take on the Paul Hanley and Kevin Ullyett, in the last round robin match-up. The top two teams from the Red and Gold Groups will qualify for the semi-finals.

World Rally Championships 

Indian driver S D Roy ended his British Rally Championship season on a high as he finished 31st overall on Saturday’s (10 November) Tempest 2 Rally. Milton Keynes driver Roy and his co-drciver Bradley Magnus Wisbech came home sixth in the BRC Stars 1400 series and fourth in class S1 in their 1400cc MG ZR, in the seventh and final round.

The crew had a trouble-free run in their Creative Media prepared MG across the 45-mile Aldershot-based gravel event to end their campaign on a positive note as Roy finished fifth overall in the drivers’ championship and third in the FIA class standings after completing six of the seven rounds.

Cricket.

Twenty 20 World Championships

The Twenty 20 final was one of the best final in cricket history. Like the famous World Cup semi final of 1999, it was an epic and proved that limited over cricket can be just as compelling to watch as the full scale game.

India won the title because they had that extra ounce of something intangible; call it bottle, nerve or faith. Initially the Indian team were slow to find their feet in the tournament until in their match against England, Yuvraj Singh, then kick started the campaign making history with six sixes in the over. India then notched back to back wins over South Africa and Australia and began to look like the team of the tournament.

One measure of India’s achievement was that the youngsters had succeeded where the experienced batsmen had failed.

During the final against Pakistan, Gautam Gambhir came to India’s rescue with an inventive 75. He showed great composure scoring 60% of India’s score and batted from the start of the innings to the 18th over. When he was out, the baton passed to Rohit Sharma and the 20year old scored 30 from 23 balls.

Pakistan started well scoring freely until Nazir was brilliantly run out. The run out prompted a period of near paralysis for Pakistan. In the next six overs they lost three more wickets. With seven wickets down and 54 runs to win in four overs Pakistan looked dead. Misbah hit Harbhajan Singh, India’s most bankable bowler for three sixes in an over and Pakistan were back in the game showing that there was still life in the match. However India’s seamers did not yield. Sreesanth hit the stumps from one end and R.P.Singh from the other. The final over found Pakistan needing 12 runs with the last man on the crease. Joginder who was preferred to Harbhajan made a panicky start. His first ball was a wide. The second was smashed for a six. Six runs were now needed from four balls. The next balls was straight and Misbah in trying to flip over the wicket keeper lofted it to fine leg.

India had edged out their neighbours and arch rival Pakistan by a tiny margin of five runs in the final over. Had Misbah ul Haq hit another boundary to add to his tally of four sixes in his splendid knock of 43 runs, the trophy would have gone to Pakistan.

Prior to the World twenty 20 tournament, the Indian team was written off. India was considered as push over in this format of the game. The lack of Twenty 20 experience was a blessing for the Indian team. The new captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh had played in just one international, while the youngsters had figured in one domestic tournament. There was no media hype and no pressure to do well hence the team was relaxed and able to perform to their potential.

The players who had spent some time away from the team however had unrelenting pressure to make an impact. Virendra Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan were expected to carry the young players.

Sehwag had a mixed tournament, but his innings against England, along with his opening partner Gautam Gambhir proved crucial. His innings set the scene for the blistering knock by Yuvraj Singh who could then come and play with freedom and not restricted to hold the innings. Harbhajan’s bowling, except in the final, was exceptional. The ease with which he bowled his yorkers was amazing and he kept the batsman tied down. Pathan claimed three crucial wickets in the final against Pakistan. Rudra Pratap Singh managed to swing the ball perfectly. Although he did not win any man of the match award he was definitely the best Indian bowler. Sreesanth had an erratic tournament.

The batting responsibilities were shared throughout. Gambhir provided good starts and his shot selection in the final was much to be admired. He and Rohit Sharma looked the only batsmen who could force the pace on the slow track at the Wanderers in the final.

The disastrous fielding during the England tour had raised doubts over India’s ability to tighten up on the field. However in the Twenty 20 tournament India’s fielding proved to be far better than anybody could imagine. Dinesh Karthik’s lunge to dismiss Graem Smith of South Africa and Robin Uthappa and Rohit Sharma’s direct hits typified the Indian team’s athleticism.

India had squeezed everything required for a team to click in Twenty 20 World Championships. The most unforgettable two weeks in modern day Indian cricket were, as the Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said, a result of team effort.

India – Australia

The Futures Cup


The visit by the Australian team to the Indian sub continent soon brought down to earth the euphoria and the expectations that had been raised by the Twenty 20 win. Australia soon proved that they were still the number one team to beat. In the ODI series they beat India comprehensively. Australia took the Future Cup series 4-2. India found some joy in the end, but the series belonged to the Australian pace men and the hard hitting Andrew Symonds. The Twenty 20 match was a consolation win for the Indian team

India Pakistan Series.

The current series between India and Pakistan is turning out to be a really ding dong battle and both sides have displayed gripping cricket. India currently leads 2-1 after playing three ODI matches with two matches more to be played.

In the third ODI, Salman Butt’s heroic century went in vain as India made amends for the Mohali debacle by beating Pakistan with a comfortable 46-run margin to take a 2-1 lead.

Chasing a stiff target of 295 for victory, the 23-year-old Butt very nearly took Pakistan home with a career-best 129 but the visitors lost steam in the end to be bundled out for 248 in 47.2 overs on a difficult wicket. The Pakistani run chase largely centred around the left-handed Butt but a spate of wickets in quick succession in the last few overs turned the scale in India’s favour.

Having failed to defend a mammoth 321 in Mohali, the Indians for the Kanpur test reverted to the five-bowler combination. The combination of two spinners Harbhajan and Kartik that had previously helped India to win the first ODI again rewarded them as both the spinners Harbhajan Singh and Murali Kartik not only choked the run flow to some extent but chipped in with useful wickets.

The Indians in their innings scored a competitive 294 with the in-form Yuvraj Singh (77) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (49) being the top scorers. Their 100-run fourth wicket partnership was the highlight of the innings.

India were given a good start with an opening stand 68-runs by Ganguly(39) and Sachin Tendulkar (29). Both the openers survived some torrid moments, with Kamran Akmal dropping Ganguly in the first ball of the innings. Once Ganguly was settled he came down the wicket to hit Umar Gul over long off for a six. Tendulkar too survived a hostile Shoaib Akhtar spell, during which he edged the pacer just over first slip, finally breaking the chains by hitting Gul for successive boundaries on two occasions, bringing in the team’s fifty in the eighth over. India cruised to 68 in the 11th over before Sohail Tanvir’s double strike pegged India. India lost both the openers in a space of 14 runs. Tendulkar edged Tanvir and Ganguly lost his off-stump.

This was a record 44th half century opening partnership between the Ganguly and Tendulkar eclipsing Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrists’ record of 43 fifty-plus stands.

The run rate then took a nose dive as Gautam Gambhir (25) fell to Abdul Rehman. The captain and -vice captain then got settled and added 100 runs in 15 overs Yuvraj looked good for a century but was caught by Misbah-ul-Haq off Rehman in the 47th over. Irfan Pathan (17) and Harbhajan (10) were unbeaten in the end. Tanvir was the pick of the Pakistani bowlers, claiming two for 26 in his tidy 10 overs.

Chasing the stiff target, Pakistan sent in the explosive Shahid Afridi (12) to open with Butt. Irfan Pathan, with the new ball cleaned up Afridi’s off-stump in the fourth over. Younis Khan (21) shoulder-armed an RP Singh delivery only to lose his off-stump and Pakistan were reduced to 72 for two. Butt, at the other end cruised along, racing to his fifty in 48 balls. Butt propelled Pakistan to 100 in 99 balls but Yuvraj managed to cut short Mohammad Yousuf’s (16) stay with a direct hit as Pakistan lost their third wicket at 104. Yuvraj shone with the ball as he trapped Shoaib Malik (12). Kartik dismissed Misbah-ul-Haq (34) in the 42nd over to trigger a batting collapse as Kamran Akmal (2) fell to R P Singh. From 214 for four, Pakistan slumped to 231 for seven in 44 overs. Harbhajan, was outstanding and just did not enjoy the luck finally dealt the deadliest blow when he trapped Butt with his penultimate delivery.

That dashed whatever hopes Pakistan had of winning the match

The Third Win for India at Gwalior

India clinched the ODI series by defeating Pakistan in the fourth ODI at Gwalior.

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