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April - May 2008


India Sport Scene

Cricket, Hockey & Golf

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


March was the super month for India’s cricket. A month that very few Indian cricket lovers would forget in a hurry.

First, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s young Indian team turned the world upside down when it produced a magical performance at the Gabba to knock down the world champions Australia by 9 runs. In beating Ricky Pointings’s team in two consecutive matches in the best of the three finals within three days, India also achieved its first eve r triumph in this tri series in its 29-year history.

A couple of day’s earlier Virat Kholi’s India juniors had won under 19 World Cup with 12 runs victory over South Africa. Last time India won the U19 World cup was in 1900-2000 in Sri Lanka when the beat Sri Lanka in the final.

The Indian Junior team coach Dav Whatmore was not surprised by the latest win under his tutelage. India was the best team in the competition and the most consistent. He was all praise for the manner in which team had approached the competition. The boys had a strong desire to get ahead, to succeed and show what they were capable of. The team was not dependent upon one individual. It was an even spread right through the tournament and that helped to pick things up and stay consistent. Furthermore they were very serious about their cricket and had the talent to back it up.

The triumphant India under 19 World squad were given a rousing motorcade welcome in Bangalore after arriving in a special charter flight of King Fisher airline courtesy of Vijay Mallya. Sharad Pawar BCCI chief received the team and felicitated the members. He also presented a bonus cheque of 15lakhs rupees to each player and 10 lakhs to each member of the support staff.

Eight years ago in January 2000 it was another team of Indian youngsters, faces shiny sweaty that had lifted the World Cup in Colombo. The team under captain Mohammhad Kaif included a certain Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj Singh who played a vital part in Team India’s victory over Australia in the last tri series final.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India humbled the World Champions twice in three days to lift the final edition of the triangular tournament for the first time ever since it was started 29 years ago.

Team India overcame insult and injury, hostility on and off the field, from players, spectators and the media on the world’s toughest tour against the world’s best side.

The one day test series followed an ill tempered test series that Australia won 2-1, but the tour may be best remembered by India’s stunning victory in Perth regarded as the graveyard for visiting teams because of its bouncy wickets that have always responded to the Australian fast bowlers.

The test series score line might have been reversed had umpiring blunders had not gone against the Indians in the second test at Sydney.

Dhoni’s one-day team deserves lavish praise, as the average age of the team is only 22, that too after being boosted by the towering presence of Sachin Tendulkar who is now 34.

Sachin Tendulkar gave a masterly display and played a match winning performance in finals with a score of 117 not out and 91 and ranks now as the number one batsman in the ICC rankings

The win heralded an impending change in the cricketing world order while wrecking the aura of Australian invincibility.

Ricky Ponting Australian captain admitted that India had out played them in the one day final.

The tour was marred by controversy and bad blood and was in danger of collapsing after Harbhajan Singh was alleged to have racially abused Andrew Symonds. Harbhajan was given a three match ban that was overturned by the ICC following an appeal. ICC also accepted India’s demand by removing Steve Buckner from umpiring any further in the series following his umpiring blunders that robbed India of a potential victory.

Harbhajan was the prime target of the Australian media and players

It was the Australian media that created all kinds of stories to disturb the Indian team. Every other day there were nasty sledging about the Indian cricketers. However their plan seems to have backfired and failed to disintegrate the Indian team or affect their morale. Their plan had the opposite effect of getting the Indian team into a cohesive unit.

Though the controversies relating to India’s tour are refusing to die down, Dhoni is hopeful that things will be sorted out once the BCCI backed Indian Premier League (IPL) gets underway from April 18th. A dozen of Australians including all rounder Andrew Symonds are set to play for different teams in the IPL.

The rebel Indian Cricket League kicked off to a good start in 2007. However, it was overshadowed by the auction of International players who would play in the Twenty 20 Indian Premier League.

The auction attracted a tremendous amount of money, surpassing people’s imagination and made a lot of players instant millionaires.

Whether the Premier League will be successful in elevating the standard of Indian cricket is still in doubt. What is not in doubt is the amount of money Indian cricket can generate. The players however feel that it will not affect their performance but they think that it will go up. They say that the cricketers are mature enough to realize that whatever they are earning or whatever their stature or fame it is because of the introduction of IPL that will help improve performance of cricketers.

The Indian League Chairman Lalit Modi says that the revenue from the Twenty 20 league will be used by the BCCI to improve the game’s infrastructure ahead of the 2011 World Cup. The money will be used to improve the stadium facilities. BCCI is a non-profit organization and all the money that is raised is redeployed into the game. Sharad Pawar the BCCI Chairman has said that some of the money will be used to benefit other clubs. Some of it has already been earmarked for training athletes that have qualified for Beijing Olympics.

Golf

Golf in India has swung from adolescence to adult hood within a month. Nearly two years ago the game was facing mutiny over promised bounty. It has however managed to rise like a giant phoenix from the ashes with the aid of a booming economy.

Suddenly it has become the most sought destination in Asia with golfing giants like Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Miguel, Angel Jinnez and Colin Montogomeri participating in Indian events. Ironically it is the Indian stalwarts that have collected the top prizes and broken into the European order of merit of Top 10.

According to Ernie Els of USA , India is right on the heels of China and growing at a furious pace. Indian golfers are at a better level than the Chinese players. Four of the players Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv and Arjun are doing well on the US tour.

India needs to start building more courses, infrastructure and academies to coach young aspirants for the game and only then the game will take off. With the sponsors now coming in with their buying power and India attracting world attention, golf should attain the same league as cricket has.

Hockey

While most of the sports in India have improved their performance, it has not been the case with Indian hockey.

India, the eight time gold medallist failed to qualify for the Olympics first time ever since their debut in 1928.

It is a major catastrophe for Indian hockey. It has plunged to a new low and with it India’s Olympic dream.

India lost 2-0 to Great Britain in the final qualifying match. While British celebrated, the Indian players bowed their heads in shame. They could only watch with slumped shoulders the jubilant scenes of the team that took all their chances that came their way. India frittered away their chances and never played to their potential.

The coach Joaquin Carvalho and his support staff resigned soon after the debacle. However, the arrogant chief of the Indian Hockey Federation K.P.S.Gill failed to take blame for India’s failure.

The IHF is run by Gill as his personal fief. Since 1994 when Gill took over, Indian hockey has been on the decline and Gill has not been able to lift the sport from the rut it has falled into during his tenure.

Successive hockey teams slipped deeper into failure each time India played the Olympics, the World Cup or the Champions trophy. Each and every time Gill has sacked the coach. Even when in 1998, India won the Gold medal in the Asian games. Gill sacked the coach M.K.Kaushil for being too supportive to the players. Since then, Zafar Iqbal, Cedar D’Souza, V Bhaskaran. And the German coach Gerad Rach and others have been sacked.

No Indian sporting federation in India has been run as shabbily as the IHF. India’s domestic competition structure is in shambles. Few Indian coaches keep themselves abreast with developments and there is no mechanism to nurture talent.

IHF does not conduct its own championships on time. The joint venture between the Premier Hockey League and the ESPN has been a waste. While money pours into others sports, sponsors shy away from Hockey.

More India Sport Scene

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