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August - September 2009


India Sport Scene

Year in Perspective: CRICKET - HOCKEY - TENNIS - BADMINTON

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


The battle for the ashes between England and Australia has captured the imagination of the British media. Their media coverage has helped to bring back the cricket lovers once again to watch test cricket. However it is an isolated case and it is apparent that test cricket is losing its charm with the public. To get the public to watch test cricket there needs to be some innovation to enhance its popularity.

It is not just that test cricket is losing its charm, the ODI’s are also in danger of a possible extinction. The one-dayers are not getting crowds to full capacity as they did some time ago.

The sparsely filled stadium at the Sabina Park in the ODI series between India and West Indies is an indication that the administrators have really got to do some hard thinking to get the spectators back. The administrators have real challenge on their hands to make test cricket appealing enough for the public to come in good numbers.

It is the roaring success of Twenty 20 that is posing a serious threat to the other formats of the game and it becomes imperative for the administrators to find ways and means to save the Test cricket and ODI’s from the twenty 20 game.

The recent ICC World Twenty 20 Championships that were staged in England drew capacity crowds at all venues suggesting that Cricket is still very popular but in a changed format.

In the recent ICC World Twenty 20 Championships India the holders failed to make the Quarterfinals stage. The new champions were Pakistan, who played with passion and pride to buck the odds on the big stage. Pakistan’s victory was a triumph of spirit.

Younis Khan’s men had not played much international cricket after the terror strikes in Pakistan. They could have been excused for being rusty and disjointed. However adversity brought the team together with Younis emerging as a strong leader.

Pakistan under Younis was fearless and played with tact. Pakistan also picked its moment when to strike and executed its plans with finesse.

For Pakistan, Shaid Afridi resurfaced as a match winning all rounder. He was outstanding with his leg spinners. he bowled with precision and strangulated the batsmen during the middle overs.

The Sri Lankans too deserve credit for progressing to the final. Only months before they had suffered a traumatic experience in Lahore when their bus was the target of an attack from the terrorists.

Dilshan was adjudged the Player of the tournament. He was light on his feet, innovated and creative and hit the ball with power. The Sri Lankan duo of Mendis and Murlitharan formed the most potent spin combination in the competition. The young Mendis, who was one of the injured in the terror attack showed exemplary courage to get back to the game so soon.

The holders India were one of the most balanced team and were expected to reach the final stages. However their inability to score from short pitched bowls against England and West Indies resulted in their early exit.

On the post mortem of India’s failure, Lalit Modi disagreed with the Indian coach Gary Kirsten that IPL affected the Indian teams performance in Twenty20 World Cup. According to him his brainchild T20 event was rather a good ground of preparation for the global tournament in England.

Modi said that IPL is here to stay although some say IPL is good and some say it is bad. The cricket tournaments are held throughout the year and players will have to adapt to the schedule. It is not practical to see top Indian players skipping IPL. The cash-rich tournament was here to stay with top Indian players continuing to play in it.

The big event Champions Twenty20 League will again be held in South Africa later this year

India in West Indies.

India won the ODI series 2-1 after the fourth and final match was abandoned due to rain.

The Indian captain Dhoni was adjudged the Man of the Series. Dhoni said that a series triumph on foreign soil is always special and showered praise on his bowlers for adapting to the conditions. It’s a pleasure to win a series out of the country. We have a very good bowling attack with bowlers taking the initiative. The youngsters who came in and got a chance have proved themselves.

Dhoni said that he was most pleased to see Ishant Sharma return to form after a lean spell. Ishant who was given the responsibility of opening the attack in the washed out fourth and final ODI was bang on target from the word go. Ishant bowled the West Indies captain Chris Gayle for duck with the second ball of the innings and gave away just 17 runs in his four overs

The Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni also lauded the contribution of his deputy Yuvraj Singh. According to him Yuvraj is the backbone of India’s batting line-up. Coming in at number four he always takes up the responsibility and sets up the platform for the batsmen further down the order to contribute.

West Indies captain Chris Gayle said he was disappointed at not getting a chance to level the series due to bad weather.


Shaan Bhatnagar and his friend with Yuvraj, the Indian cricketer, at the special Charity match at Indian Gymkhana in London


L: Sam Bhatnagar(left) with legendary fast bowler Gladstone Small and Kimmi Kumar; R: Masters’ Cricket tournament at Indian Gymkhana London in June 09

The Future of Cricket The Rise of Twenty 20.

In his new book titled The Future of Cricket. The Rise of Twenty20, the former Australian Coach John Buchanan has taken pot shots at some of India’s great cricketers. They include Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and business tycoon Vijay Mallya.

The book mainly deals with the Indian Premier League but Buchanan has made some scathing observations on the Indian cricketers.

Buchanan says that he does not doubt Tendulkar’s greatness in Test and ODI formats but insists that Twenty20 is not the format for him. Tendulkar is one of the very top batsmen in the history of cricket, but he is ineffective at this stage of his career as a T20 player.

T20 game requires not only the finesse and skills but also the power and domination. It also requires an ability to take the bowlers on while being creative. One has to be inventive and fearless and he does not see those qualities as part of Sachin’s make-up at this stage of his career.

According to Buchanan Yuvraj Singh tried to be a modern-day Ganguly but Buchanan does not think Yuvraj has the charisma or the dignity with of Ganguly.

In the IPL matches, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Harbhajan Singh and VVS Laxman were expected to influence, and on some occasions single-handedly win. Their subdued performances highlight that Test match temperament does not necessarily ensure prolonged success in the T20 game. Dravid is a great representative of Indian cricket, a team man, humble, and a well-spoken gentleman. But unfortunately Dravid could not score a single run in the early rounds of the IPL, and in Buchanan’s opinion, is not suited to this form of the game. In fact Buchanan went on to say that the likes of Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman were unfit for cricket’s shortest format

Buchanan likened Ganguly to the Australian great Ian Chappell. Ganguly was the model for the new breed of confident and combative Indian cricketers. Ganguly showed that Indian cricket could stand up for itself. He is similar in that way to Ian Chappell who stood up for what he believed and was not afraid to take on the administration.

On the other hand, Buchanan felt Ganguly was always comparing himself with Australian greats like Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Ganguly has an inquisitive mind and wanted to know all about Ponting, Warne and McGrath. Buchanan sensed he was measuring himself against them, checking to make sure that his methods were comparable to that of the greats of the game.

Badminton

After a reasonably successful 2008 when Saina Nehwal shocked World No 5 Wang Chen on the way to the Quarter finals of 2008 Beijing Olympics her progress has been steady and sure.

Her stupendous victory over World No3 Lin Wang in the final of the Indonesian Open Super Series now ranks her in the World’s top 5. Saina is first Indian women to do so.

Robin Soderling’s defeat of Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the French Open

Tennis tournament proved to be a huge inspiration for Saina Nehwal. After watching the World No1 fall at the French Open Saina said to her father “Papa” when someone like Soderling can outclass Nadal in his own backyard-on a clay court why should not I think of beating the big players. I have to switch gears mentally when I next face them.

The fact that Saina scripted her own piece of history a few days after the French Open by becoming the first Indian women to win a super series title is a great achievement.. It was remarkable victory all more so as she came from behind after losing the first game. Her victory over world No3 ling Wang 12-21, 21-18, 21-9 in 49 minutes was proof of her new found confidence.

Saina came of age with this victory and staked her claim to be counted among the very best when she displayed Chinese-like resolve to win her maiden Super Series title.

Saina, who is based in Hyderabad, belongs to a rare breed of players, not frequently found among Indians. She not only promises but performs with a high degree of consistency. Badminton is there in her genes. Her mother Usha Nehwal was Haryana State champion while her father Harvir Singh was a University champion.

Saina Nehwal’s feat by winning the Indonesian Super series badminton championships is a remarkable achievement and that puts up among the top five in the world. She has achieved that by sheer consistency.

The Sports Minister M S Gill hailed Saina Nehwal’s historic triumph in the Indonesian Open and hoped that the player will continue her winning ways on the international circuit.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Saina Nehwal for winning the Indonesian Open, describing her “extraordinary feat” as a “milestone for Indian sports.

Applauding her success Prakash Padukone, the former World No.1 said that Saina Nehwal is currently the “most complete player” in India and has the making of a World No.1,

Saina Nehwal has put her name alongside the greatest of Indian sportspersons feels her coach Pullela Gopichand. Her achievement has been recognized throughout India and the Badminton Association of India (BAI) president V.K Verma has announced a cash award of Rs.2 lakhs for Saina Nehwal for her title triumph in the Indonesia Super Series.

Tennis

It has been a fantastic month for Roger Federer. In Paris it took Roger Federer to the very summit, but also, more importantly it put an end to the long running debate about who is the greatest player of all times. He further confirmed his credentials by winning the Wimbeldon and thus beating the all time record of Sampras by wining 15 grand slams.

The French crown was the one missing trophy in his impressive collection of grand slams. It was something that the Swiss had sought with missionary zeal ever since he first set foot on the slippery turf 11 years age.

For an outrageously gifted player who has been celebrated by the sports media everywhere with a certain awed indulgence ever since he won his first grand slam title in Wimbeldon 2003 the French open came after several agonizing and heart broken moments.

However one question still remains. Would Federer be able to achieve this feat if Nadal was fit and around for this Spaniard was suffering from injury.

In the 1980’s John McEnroe style tantrums were the future of professional sport. Gamesmanship was part of the course, not just on Centre court but to the other sports as well. However the table has gone back to players again becoming gentleman. and The flag bearer for sportsmanship has been Roger Federer.

This year at Wimbeldon it was again an epic final. The last set went 16-14 t with both competitors unflinching, relentless and defiant to the last. The players inspired us not only with their tennis but also inspired us as people. After the match, Andy Roddick’s thunderbolt serve was replaced by a light gracious tone. Roger Federer was dignified and as gracious as ever.

Who can say that sportsmanship is dying. One has to only look at Wimbledon.

How bizarre things can be when love interfere with sport. In Hyderabad Police have arrested two love struck teenage boys for stalking the tennis player Sania Mirza. Ajay Singh Yadav was arrested as he tried to barge into Mirza’s house apparently to profess his love and seeking to marry Mirza a day before she was to be engaged to Sohram Mirza. Singh had rushed to Mirza’s house and demanded to see her. When he refused to leave despite being warned, the police took him into custody. Yadav’s identity card identified him as an engineering student from the northern city of Noida. Yadav’s arrest came just a day after another engineering student from the southern state of Kerala, Mohammed Ashraf, was arrested when he tried to enter Mirza’s house. Ashraf threatened to commit suicide if Mirza’s engagement ceremony was not cancelled.

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