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June - July 2009


India Sport Scene

Year in Perspective CRICKET - HOCKEY - TENNIS - BADMINTON

by Ramesh Seedhar


Anand receives Chess Oscar for the sixth time

India’s Grand Master Vishwanathan Anand received his sixth Oscar from the FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. He had previously won this annual award in 1997, 1998, 2003, and 2004 and in 2007.

Anand became the only non-Russian to win it more than five times. The late Robert J. Fischer, the chess genius from the US, won it three times while Russian Garry Kasparov won it a record number of 11 times

The Chess Oscar is awarded by the Russian chess magazine “64 — Chess Review” on the basis of a poll carried out amongst chess journalists and experts The Oscar comes in the form of a statuette called the “Fascinated Wanderer”.

Anand was declared the World Champion for 2008 after he successfully defended his world championship against Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn.


Hockey – Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and the Asia Cup

India won its fourth Sultan Azlan Shah Cup when it defeated the host Malaysia 3-1 in the finals.

Not even the craziest of Indian cricket fans can remain indifferent to the fortunes of Indian hockey. Even the cricket’s superstars like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, M.S. Dhoni, Virendra Sehwag or the game’s latest generation of millionaire icons, applaud the medals that dangled on the chests of India’s young hockey team at the end of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament. However we all remain sceptical about the consistency of their performance

In the wake of some significant performances in Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand and in the four nations Gold Cup in Chandigarh, India had started as favourites in Ipoh. A surprising 2-2 draw against Egypt in the opening match stunned the hockey lovers, but it is to the credit of the players that they managed to recover quickly and end the competition without a defeat in the next five matches that included the intense game against Pakistan.

During the tournament, India beat Malaysia twice, in the league and then again in the final, both by very impressive margins and all looked well for a promising future.

However, India’s chief coach Harendra Singh cautioned not go over board. He said that Indian hockey is moving in the right direction but it would be wise not to read too much into the victory

Every Indian has been brought to believe that it is hockey that is India’s national game. Any little sign of revival in these lean times that it is going through is welcome

This time the campaign of the Indian hockey team has received some media attention. This is as it should be, but let us not lose our sense of proportion in lauding the Indian team’s showing. It was only two months ago that the nation went into a depression following India’s failure at the Santiago Olympic qualifier

The road to recovery is long and full of challenges far tougher than the one faced at Ipoh. Developing juniors take time to hone their talent and we have to patient if we wish to maximise our potential.

The frailty of Indian hockey once again emerged as India failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the Asia Cup

India faced a must-win situation against the nimble-footed Chinese. India who is the defending champions was under tremendous pressure as even a draw against Chinese would eliminate them from the tournament. Needing an outright win to book a place India squandered a two-goal lead and settled for a 2-2 draw against China. Thus their title defence went up in smoke

This is the second time that China dashed India’s hope in qualifying rounds, for it was again China who is responsible for eliminating India from qualifying for the Beijing Olympics.

China’s tenacity and their ability to slow the pace of the game won the day for them against an inconsistent Indian side which played well but only in patches.

China progressed to the semi-finals from Pool B as the second best team. Pakistan has already booked their place in the quarter finals with a draw against China in their opening match and followed it by beating India. Pakistan now plays South Korea in the finals.

In the playoffs India vented their frustration for reaching the semi-finals by beating Bangladesh 11-1 for the 5-7th place. They then went on to beat Japan 5-1 to take the 5th place.

Meanwhile, it is good news that the ministry for sports has decided to lay 40 more synthetic turf pitches to attract more and more youths to take to hockey. Hockey is no longer the same game as their ancestors once knew it to be.

In the pre-artificial turf age of hockey, players played bare-footed on natural grass grounds, even grassless ones. A hockey stick would cost just a few rupees. A good hockey stick now costs anything between Rs.500 and Rs.5, 000 and a pair of boots a couple of thousands more making the game out of reach of many Indians.

It is this aspect the sports ministry needs to pay special attention if it wants to bring the game within the reach of the talented but impoverished youth.


Badminton World Team Badminton Championships The Sudirman Cup

In the Sudirman Cup Badminton Championship that are taking place in China India has won their pool and a right to play Bulgaria, who finished on top of pool 3A. India beat Bulgaria 3-0 and is now promoted to Group 2 in the World Team Championships, the second tier of this prestigious tournament.

In their progress to the top of pool B outclassed Australia 4-1 in their first match in Group 3 producing a clinical performance.

The mixed doubles pair of V. Diju and Jwala Gutta gave India a rousing start, dispatching Benjamin Walkate and Kate Smith in just 24 minutes World No.12 Chetan Anand showed his class as he beat Jeff Tho also in straight sets. In men’s doubles, Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas faced little difficulty in overcoming Glenn Warfe and Benjamin McCarthy to win the tie. In the dead games Saina Nehwal, World No. 10, took just 20 minutes to trounce Leisha Cooper. India then fielded a new combination of Shruti and Aparna in the Ladies Doubles, who lost to Eugenia Tanaka and Kate Wilson Smith. This was their only loss on their way to top of Pool B. The ladies doubles is a new pairing after Jwala and Shruti parted company following the Indian Open.

The success in mixed doubles as partner with V Diju have spurred Jwala to spurn her tried and trusted women’s doubles partner Shruti Kurien with whom she had won a record number of eight National Doubles titles. Jwala and Shruti decided to part ways without actually stating the reason for doing so.

In the second round India again gave an impressive all-round display against Ukraine winning 5-0. Saina Nehwal was particularly dominant for India in the women’s singles, seeing off Mariya Diptan in just 22 minutes

In their final match against Scotland, India’ ace badminton player Saina Nehwal rallied to tame Susan Hughes and India went on to win 5-0 to top the pool and qualify for the promotional play off. After losing the first game, world number 10 Saina got her act together to stage a brilliant come back by clinching the next two games.

In Women’s doubles, Aparna Balan and Shruti Kurian are consolidated their new partnership and hardly broke a sweat to defeat Emma Mason and Jillie Cooper

In the promotional race in Group 2,Thailand beat Russia and is now promoted to the elite group.


Tennis Davis Cup

India has been drawn to play South Africa in the group play off for promotion to the World group in the Davis Cup competition.

This season South Africa is in great form. It will be the third time that India will clash with South Africa in Davis Cup. On previous two occasions when they met South Africa came out winners and it is high time that India reversed the situation.

The South African team is ranked 27 in the World. They have Kevin Anderson as their top singles player and the doubles specialist Wesley Moodie has vast international experience. The other members of the team include the singles players Izak van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen, Jeff Coetzee and Jager Rik de Voest as their reserve doubles player. John-Laffnie de is the non-playing captain of the team.

India, who is ranked 17, is likely to retain the same team that they had announced for their tie against Australia. The team comprises of Somdev Devvarman Rohan Bopanna in singles while Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi forming the doubles pair. Both teams last competed in the World Group in 1998.

India reached the World Group play-off last year, bur lost to Romania.

India were given a walkover in their third round of Asia-Oceania Group tie against Australia after the 28-times champion boycotted the Chennai tie citing security concerns.

Australia’s plea for a change of venue was based on the security concerns that had forced the IPL to change its games from India to South Africa. Australia plea was rejected by the Davis Cup committee. Its appeal against this decision was also turned down by the International Tennis federation. Australia then resorted to this extreme step by forfeiting the match despite assurances of foolproof security given by the Indian authorities and the clearance by the ITF nominated security agency.

Australia’s pull out could have wider implications particularly in respect of the Commonwealth Games and the World Hockey tournament in New Delhi in 2010. Mercifully, Commonwealth and Olympic Associations and International Federations take a more pragmatic view of such issues.


Cricket The Indian Premier League.

One of the benefits that have come out of the Indian premier Leagues is that it has been a launching pad for a welter of talented cricketers.

Before the first edition of Indian Premier League, Yusuf Pathan was just another name with possibilities. Now he has cemented his place in the Indian Twenty 20 and the ODI’s. With Yusuf Pathan there are no half measures. Even miss-hits soar over the ropes. Most of his runs have come from old fashion slogs but he can also hit the ball straight and has displayed a rare ability to close out the games.

Rohit Sharma is gradually finding his way fter a spell of inconsistency and disappointments in the international arena. His footwork and his timings have improved. Rohit’s ability to innovate in the Twenty 20 format has unsettled the bowlers and his rapier like strokes have found the gaps to keep the scoring rates up. The IPL has made him a mature batsman.

Pragyan Ojha, the left arm spinner has been a revelation in the Twenty 20. He has bowled with precision, skill and heart. After a successful Sri Lankan tour, Ojha has turned matches for Chargers and done a lot of damage with his flight and drift. The left arm spinner has beaten many a right handed batsman in the air with his flight.

The pace man Kamran Khan from Azamgargh, who was picked out from no where for Rajasthan Royal by Shane Warne shows great promise. The 18 year bowler was spotted and encouraged by Warne and he has not let his captain down. He varies his pace, can deliver to speeds of 140km per hour that can catch the batsman unawares. He is still learning and maturing. He needs to refine his action but he is young and should be able to rectify it.

Leg spinners Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra continue to impress. Piyush tends to push his leg breaks and possess a very handy wrong’un. Amit Mishra rips his leg spinners harder but lacks Chawla’s bite in googlies. Both however have enhanced their reputation in the IPL.

Another one that is catching an eye is Abishek Nayar of Mumbai Indians. In the match between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians he struck Andrew Flintoff for three sixes in an over.

The Twenty 20 cricket has its limitations and can curtail a cricketer’s repertoire. However the Indian Premier League has allowed a lot of young cricketers from the periphery to the centre stage. As a result India has managed to find greater depth and strength on the bench, the qualities that made Australia a power house for long time

There is an intense competition for places in the Indian ODI and Twenty20 teams. The fact that younger Indian cricketers are getting a feel of the South African conditions during the IPL should accelerate their development. The exposure should improve their technique even if Twenty 20 cricket is not the best format.

India trounced Bulgaria 3-0 in a Group 3 play-off to secure a promotion to Group 2 of the Sudirman Cup badmintonIndia trounced Bulgaria 3-0 in a Group 3 play-off to secure a promotion to Group 2 of the Sudirman Cup badminton


Indian Premier League (IPL): The Latest Sensation in cricket

By Shridhar Rao

Recently, a new format of cricket was introduced to the world i.e. the T20 Cricket. Many countries including India and Australia did not think that this format of cricket would succeed. They termed it as a slaughter of bowlers and said that it was not to stay for long.

Then, in 2007, the first T20 World Cup was held and it was a huge success. India went on to win the T20 World cup and hence, T20 got a grand welcome in India. This gave birth to the ICL and then to counter the rebel league, the IPL was formed.

The IPL was started by the BCCI. IPL aimed to cash the huge success of T20 format as well as to counter the rebel ICL.

The IPL started and many international players were signed in under a contract with IPL. IPL listed many great players of all times such as Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid from India, Glenn Mcgrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden from Australia, etc.,

IPL aimed to start a league exactly in the same way as the Football league in England operates. The bidding for the IPL teams started and the bids that came for the IPL teams shocked many people. The IPL teams such as Kolkata, Mumbai, etc. were purchased by Shahrukh Khan and Mukesh Ambani respectively for more than 7 million U.S Dollars. The teams were then renamed and the

IPL Kolkata was renamed as Kolkata Night Riders, IPL Mumbai was renamed as Mumbai Indians, IPL Delhi was renamed as Delhi Daredevils, IPL Chennai was renamed as Chennai Superstars, IPL Mohali was renamed as Kings XI Punjab, etc.

Then came the next stage of bidding for the players and many players were auctioned by the IPL. Among the players who received the highest bids were M.S. Dhoni, Andrew Symonds, Ishant Sharma, Shane Warne, Harbhajan Singh, etc.

Finally came the time for the promotion of the teams. Here, all the teams released their promotional video songs. Kolkata Night Riders went on to deserve the best promotional prize (though there wasn’t any such prize) as they had SRK with them.

IPL and ICL – the difference

The IPL is an officially approved Twenty20 tournament, and unlike the ICL, which is not recognized by any of the national boards or the ICC, it will have a better status, international reach, players, and the requisite infrastructure by default. Since the IPL is approved by the ICC, players are not worried of bringing their international/first-class careers to a halt - as is the case with the ICL - whose players have been banned by the various boards. Another major difference is with regard to franchises - the ownership of the team rests with the individual owners and not one single entity.

The Grand Nautanki

Whatever maybe the outcome of this “Grand Nautanki” it will change the face of cricket. It will attract cricketers to put a price on them as TV channels and other stake holders come out with innovative methods to reap profits.

For the next 44 days from April 18, 2009, India’s grand cricket nautanki gets underway as the modern gladiators owned by Bollywood stars and corporate firms battle for a prize money of US $5 million - five times the prize money at the 2007 ICC World Cup.

The current tournament of 20 overs a side has the blessings of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) whose only interest appears to be to keep on filling its pockets.

It is all fine to have such a league but what about the national team’s performance. It has been very much below par except for an occasional victory.

On the other hand, the Australians professionals. For them country comes first and many of them are not even keen on participating in this grand nautanki.

Instead of having this kind of a nautanki, it would have been better had these investors put their money in state sides for the Ranji Trophy and other national level tournaments where there is loyalty to the state. Here a player from Delhi bought by Kolkata plays against Delhi, only for money.

Comparing the IPL to the English Premier League (EPL) football should not be even done. Clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea playing in the EPL may have foreign stars but also has local players in its side and many of them have been nurtured from youth sides of these clubs. Thus these football clubs have a loyal fan following.

The television rights for IPL has already been given out for over $1 billion while the franchisees have already committed close to US $723 million. Top players are expected to earn minimum Rs one to two crores per season.

Sadly the players were being auctioned like cattles in fairs. The only difference was this auction was held in a five star hotel in front of the media.

The players’ constant complaint about the overdose of cricket now seems to have been pushed into the background in the wake of the moolah dished out to the players.

The only complaint now, if any, would be the price on each player. It could well stir up feelings of both joy and anger as some youngsters have been priced higher than some seniors.

The following are the bid amounts and winners for various teams in the Indian Premier League:

Mukesh Ambani won the bid for the Mumbai team for $111.9 million.

Vijay Mallya won the bid for the Bangalore team for $111.6 million.

Deccan Chronicle won the bid for the Hyderabad team for $107.01 million.

India Cements won the bid for the Chennai team for $91 million.

GMR Holdings won the bid for the Delhi team for $84 million.

Shah Rukh Khan won the bid for the Kolkata team for $75.09 million.

Ness Wadia won the bid for the Mohali team for $76 million

Emerging Media won the bid for the Jaipur team for $67 million.

These figures only go to show how much money is being spent by Bollywood stars and industrialists on these modern day cricketers for a momentary pleasure, since Twenty-Twenty is not a game for the connosieurs. It may even not be able to help the Indian cricketers in the long run except to make them quick millionaires.

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