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April - May 2009


India Sport Scene

Year in Perspective: Cricket - Hockey - Tennis - Badminton

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


Cricket

In the first test match at Karachi between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Younis Khan took full advantage of the docile surface to become Pakistan’s third triple century maker in Tests. Hanif Mohammad and Inzaman ul Haq were the previous triple century makers. Younis and Mahela Jayawardene, who complied 240 runs, became first rival captains to score over 200 runs in the same test.

This feat however could not be repeated in the second test in Lahore as the Sri Lankan tour was abandoned due to a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team. The attack horrified the cricket world and brought into focus the security of sport on the Indian continent.

The former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Nasim Ashraf fears that the attack on the Sri Lankan players in Lahore is part of a bigger conspiracy to isolate Pakistan in international cricket. If the terrorists succeed in their mission, then it is possible they would carry out similar operations in India to scare away foreign teams and players.

If such elements succeed in their aim of turning Pakistan into a no-go country for foreign teams in terms of security, there is no guarantee they will not try to do the same with India as well and try to scare foreign teams and foreign players away from playing in India and in the lucrative IPL series.

The IPL series is already being rescheduled as the state governments can not guarantee safety because the state forces are involved in the security of elections. They cannot spare forces for the IPL while the elections are on.

If India and other Asian countries stand by Pakistan at the current moment it will not be long before international cricket is revived in Pakistan but it will take at least 12 to 18 months for this to happen. PCB must now start working with the International Cricket Council on preparing a uniform security plan which is acceptable to all countries similar to what India did after the terrorist attack in Mumbai. Pakistan needs to take steps to ease apprehensions about the security among other countries and India can play its role in helping Pakistan do this. Despite the political tensions between India and Pakistan, it is necessary for both cricket boards to work together to ensure the subcontinent does not become a no-go area in international cricket.

India’s tour of New Zealand

India has an opportunity to alter a mournful record in New Zealand. After winning four of its first five tests in New Zealand including three under Pataudi in 1968 India has gone 33 years and 13 tests without a win. India has not fared well in ODI’s either.

India now has moved on from the phase when it challenged merely for the odd test victory thanks to the effort of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, its three most recent leaders. On this tour of New Zealand India is confident that it will come back with a win.

However Dhoni’s Midas touch is needed as the New Zealand tour can be extremely demanding. and this is the first time that Dhoni will be leading India in an away series.

The start of the tour did not abode well for the Indian team as New Zealand beat the twenty 20 world champion India, in both the Twenty 20 games to win the series.

The hero for New Zealand was their wicket keeper cum batsman Brendon McCullum who batted through the innings in both chases by New Zealand and brought them home.

However in the ODI’s India finally showed their strength by winning the series. The Indians, who had already clinched the series, had to be content with a 3-1 score line with one game washed by rain. Kiwis restoring some pride by convincingly winning the last game.

India’s winning streak had finally snapped as New Zealand cruised to an eight-wicket consolation win in the final One-dayer

In the fifth ODI, India’s awe-inspiring batting order witnessed a rare collapse and India was all out for a paltry 149 runs. With Sachin Tendulkar missing due to injury, Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma was the only Indian batsman to make a stand.

New Zealand chased down the meagre target of 149 runs in just 23.2 overs. Jesse Ryder gave them a flying start with Martin Guptill in what turned out to be a one-sided contest at the Eden Park. Jesse Ryder was made man of the match for his batting and bowling as he took three wickets for 29 runs in nine overs.

The fourth ODI had belonged Virendra Shewag who in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar played a breadth taking knock to take the wind out Kiwis. This was similar to the one played by Sachin in the third ODI.

An unbeaten 163 by Sachin Tendulkar led India to a comprehensive 58-run win over New Zealand in the third One-Day International and ensured that India did not lose the series.

Tendulkar, utilising his full array of textbook and improvised shots, was the stand-out figure as India scored 392 for four after being sent into bat first.

It was the highest international ODI score against New Zealand. The Kiwis in their innings also started well. They were on target to overhaul the Indian score when they reached 166 without loss before the middle order self-destructed and they were all out for 334.

New Zealand had reason to think luck was on their side when they won the toss. They had an early success with the dismissal of Virender Sehwag, India’s danger man for only three. He was followed by Gautam Gambhir for 15 and India were two for 65 in the 13th over.

Then Tendulkar supported by Yuvraj Singh brought the score in India’s favour. With both batsmen in full flow India stepped up a level and New Zealand had no answer to contain India. Yuvraj Singh and imperious Tendulkar piled on 138 in 16.4 overs for the third wicket. During the batting power play they added 69 runs propelling India from 105 after 20 overs to 206 after 30 overs. Yuvraj in only 60 balls scored 87 with 10 boundaries and six sixes.

On a ground with short boundaries, the Indian innings produced 18 sixes in all, equalling the world record for an international innings. New Zealand in their innings added another 13 to set a record 31 sixes in a match.

Tendulkar contributed with five sixes and 16 fours. His 163 runs coming from 133 balls, before he retired hurt leaving the field to a standing ovation. He was suffering from a pulled stomach muscle.

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni kept the scorers busy as he cracked 68 from 58 deliveries to continue the destruction of the New Zealand bowlers.

The 20-year-old New Zealand fast bowler Tim Southee recorded devastating figures and went for a humbling no wickets for 105 off his 10 overs. The most successful of the New Zealand bowlers was Kyle Mills with two for 58, while Jacob Oram took none for 34.

Faced with a mammoth total and an asking rate of 7.86 per over, New Zealand had no choice but to attack from the start and Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder raced to 166 by the 22nd over before the New Zealand innings fell apart. Ryder pushed the ball to Suresh Raina, who had not been comfortable out in the field, but this time he fired a return straight back to wicketkeeper Dhoni and McCullum was run out for 71. New Zealand innings collapsed after his departure. Ross Taylor made seven before stepping out of his crease seeking a possible leg bye, whereupon he was run out by a perfect shy at the stumps from Yuvraj. The Indian fielding, which had seen Ryder dropped on 43 and McCullum let off on 38, was suddenly on song.

Ryder posted his first ODI century before playing a half-hearted shot and was caught by Zaheer Khan off Harbhajan Singh. His innings of 105, included 12 boundaries and four sixes.

But there was no other New Zealand innings of note until bowlers Mills and Southee came together at 251 for eight and restored a little pride after the pasting they took with the ball.

With winning the ODI series the Indian team had justified their billing and are now looking forward with confidence to do well in the tests.

Hockey

India scored three first-half goals to stun the much fancied Pakistan 3-1 and set up summit clash with their archrivals in the final of Genting Four-Nation Under-21 Hockey Tournament at the Taman Daya Stadium Malaysia.

Playing firebrand hockey right from the start, the Indians scored through Pramod Kumar (1st min), Diwakar Ram (14th min) and Danish Mujtaba (19th min) to lead 3-0 before Pakistan reduced the margin in the 51st minute with a penalty corner strike by Muhammad Attique. However Indian colts’ habit of faltering at the final hurdle continued as they allowed arch-rivals Pakistan two late goals finally winning 3-2.

This was India’s third convincing win in as many days. Earlier they had outplayed hosts Malaysia and then demolished Singapore. For Pakistan, it was their first defeat of the tournament.

However in the final India could not repeat the score and lost to Pakistan in a high-voltage encounter. Pakistan skipper Haseem Abdul Khan fired home the golden goal in the 73rd minute, three minutes into extra time, much to the disappointment of Indian fans.

However, it was the Indians who hadstruck the opening blood from their first penalty corner in the 22nd minute when striker Pramod Kumar was brought down by a Pakistan defender. Diwakar flicked home in characteristic style past the custodian Imran Shah, but the Pakistanis protested saying they were not ready. After a consultation between the umpires the penalty corner was ordered to be retaken and this time Mandip deflected in an indirect shot to give India the lead.

After the change of ends, Pakistan applied pressure for the equaliser and they were soon rewarded when Haseem broke past Innocent Kullu and shot past Chaubey to level the scores.

India again took the lead against the run of the play in the 48th minute from their third penalty corner after Jay Karan was fouled. The Indians repeated the indirect drill with Mandip once again getting the magic touch. The Indians, however, were unlucky to be denied a penalty stroke shortly when forward Victo Singh was tripped inside the striking circle by Usman Tariq. In the hunt for the equaliser, Pakistan turned on the heat in the final minutes. With Indians guilty of making mistakes Pakistan equalised and the match had to go to extra time. Hassem of Pakistan then broke the Indians’ heart when he found the net just three minutes into the extra time to register a thrilling victory for his side.

Tennis

The Davis Cup third round tie between India and Australia will be held at Chennai May 8-10. Setting aside the long tradition of playing on a grass court at home, India has decided on hard court surface for the visitors.

All India Tennis Association (AITA) Secretary General Anil Khanna said the decision to play on hard-court has been taken keeping in mind the interests of the players. as country’s top singles players Somdev Devvarman’s has an affinity for the surface.

It will be for the first time in 30 years that India will host a Davis Cup tie on a hard court. Indian team’s non-playing captain SP Misra had informed AITA that players are keen on playing in Chennai. Chennai had recently conducted an ATP tour event where all the leading players of the world participated. Somdev registered his best career performance at this event by reaching the final. He was also the star of India’s 3-2 away win against Chinese Taipei in Davis Cup last week.

The players after Somdev’s exploits on the hard courts unanimously chose Chennai as the venue to host 28 times champion Australia. It was a team decision taken after

India beat Chinese Taipei in the previous Davis Cup round.

Australia is a very tough team on grass. Hewitt is a former world no.1 and Chris Guccione is a tall left hander with an excellent serve and volley game. Playing in Chennai would benefit the Indians who are used to heat conditions in May. It is going to be hot and very humid and the Indians are comfortable playing in the heat and hope that the Aussies may struggle in the humidity. The team which won against Chinese Taipei will be retained.

Other Indian players including Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have all played in Chennai during the Chennai Open and are familiar with the conditions. Executive Director of AITA Ranbir Chauhan is to visit Chennai to finalise with officials of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association, police, hotels and a security company to oversee the arrangements.

The winner of the tie between India and Australia will move to the World Group play-off.

Badminton

It’s not everyday, that an Indian stands a fair chance of slaying two top Chinese Badminton stars in a row. Saina, who stunned world champion Zhu Lin 22-20, 11-21, 21-11 in a 56-minute in the third round of the Swiss Open Badminton Championships in Basle.

In the quarterfinals she looked like toppling Lu when she led 17-13 in the decider. However, the 21-year-old Chinese logged in eight straight points to book a semi final berth. The score finally reading 18-21, 21-8, 21-17 in the third seed’s favour.

With Saina’s loss the Indian challenge at the $200,000 Super Series event came to an end as Chetan Anand too went down 21-9, 20-22, 17-21 to Chinese Taipei’s Yu Hsin Hsieh in the third round.

Although Saina, ranked No. 9 in the world, let slip the advantage against the former All England finalist, there was very little to choose between the two players in their first meeting. The 18-year-old found herself trailing 1-6 early on in the match with Lu maintaining the point difference in the early stages of the first game. Saina levelled scores at 16-all and then fought tooth and nail to seal the advantage. Lu got off to a 7-1 lead again in the second game, but this time the former world bronze medallist won the tussle levelling the match in 31 minutes. The decider was a neck-and-neck affair with Saina opening up a 14-9 lead. The Indian later got herself in a more comfortable position, but Lu’s brilliance and stamina denied Saina a famous win

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