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October - November 2009


India Sport Scene

Year in Perspective Cricket-Hockey -Tennis-Badminton

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


Badminton

Badminton lovers in India eagerly looked forward to see the world’s best players in action when Hyderabad staged the world Badminton Championships.

All the top international players including men’s world number 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, Worlds number 2 Jin Chen, of China and world’s number 3 Peter Gade of Denmark, world’s number 4 Taufik Hidayat had confirmed their confirmation of participation. In the women’s event World’s number 1 Mi Zhou of Hong Kong, world number 3 Yian Wong of China had also accepted to take part. The cynosure of the Championships was likely to be India’s own Saina Nehwal who was looking forward at these championships to give her fans in India an opportunity to show her growing status in the world of Badminton.

The championships started with a controversy as the English contingent walked out a day before the Championships opened complaining of lack of security to their team. However their exit did not deter any of the other countries from taking part on what was to be an exhibition to top class Badminton.

The Indian contingent did not start well and the Indian players failed to exploit their home advantage. On the first day no Indian player managed to advance to the second round with the exception of Chetan Anand.

The men’s doubles pair of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas, Aditi Mutatkar in women’s singles, and mixed doubles pair of Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan crashed out the tournament in the first round itself. Chetan was the lone Indian who shone on the first day by winning his men’s singles opener against Korean Ji Hoon Hong Matsuo.

However, Saina Nehwal did not disappoint and hardly showed any fatigue from a recent bout of chickenpox. Sixth seed Saina, who got a bye in the first round, stormed into the pre-quarterfinals of World Badminton Championships with a straight-game victory over Russian Anastasia Prokopenko.

She followed her victory by becoming the first Indian to reach the quarter finals where she suffered a straight-game loss to Wang Lin of China. The Chinese girl, who lost to Saina in the final of Indonesian Super Series, defended well and frustrated Saina by pushing the dribbles back. Saina found it difficult to manage her backhand drive and conceded several unforced errors to lose the match. The other Indian hope Diju and Jwala proved no match for defending champions Nova Widianto and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia.

It was China that dominated World badminton Championships by taking four of the five titles at stake. Lin Dan left a lasting impression as he became the first player to complete a hat trick of title triumphs in the means singles.

Lin Dan who had won the world title twice, the 2008 Beijing Olympics Gold, and the prestigious All England Championships earlier this year. Lan Lu of China too had glorious tournament winning her maiden singles title. Lan Lu, thus served a reminder that she is finally emerging from the shadows from her more familiar counter parts.

Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia who is ranked as World’s number 1 in Men’s singles had a disastrous tournament. It was a similar situation for MI Zhou of Hong Kong ranked number 1 in Women’s singles. Both failed to get past the quarter finals.

The manner in which Lin Dan beat his team mate and practice partner in the final, gave a reminder that he belongs to a different breed. The other finalist Chen Jin acknowledged that Lin Dan’s ability to mix his awesome smashes with delectable cross court drop shots and half smashes separates him from other players and makes him the best men singles player in the world today.

Athletics

The legendary Michael Johnson struggled to describe Usain Bolt’s feat as he shattered records. He, along with others, was curious to know how fast Usain Bolt might have gone if he had not been sprinting at the end of his world record run at the Beijing Olympics. They had their answer at the world athletics championships that were held in Berlin this summer. Bolt demolished the field both in 100 meters and in 200 meters. In the men’s 100 meters final he recorded an astonishing time of 9.58 seconds, .011of a second better than his world record that he achieved in Beijing. In 200 meters he again left the field struggling to catch up with him. His record time 19.19 seconds was again 0.11 second faster than what he had achieved in Beijing. Bolt did not just break the record, he destroyed it. It yet remains to be seen what more he has got to offer for he is still working on his start and according to him he came to Berlin with little training.

In an event where the world record has been broken just five times since electronic timing began, Bolts achievement was simply extra-ordinary. A run like the one he produced in Berlin leaves us with many questions, not in the least is, how can we put into words such astonishing feat? Bolt has been called everything from an alien to a freak; and Johnson has suggested that for these kinds of performances, the language fails us.

At the IAAF World Athletic championships in Berlin Usain Bolt had cornered all the attention and it was impossible for the rest of the athletes to make an impact. Although there were many personalities, performances and contests that whetted the appetite of the enthusiast, these Berlin Championship for ever will be remembered for Usain Bolt and his records.

Berlin will always be remembered for fast sprinting. It was here in the pre war Olympics that the world was stunned when Jesse Owens became the fastest man on earth. Now the baton has been passed to Usain Bolt

Tennis

Just as Usain Bold is currently ruling over athletics so is Roger Federer in Tennis. Just a month after becoming a father to two twin girls the world number one, won his fourth title of the year and is lining up for 5th. The US Open.

By winning his first round match at the US Open Federer became the first tennis player in history to earn the staggering amount of $50 million in career prize money. These figures are just Federer’s winnings on court, but if you take into an account what Roger Inc have accumulated in endorsement contracts, appearance fees and other bonuses he could have put around $200 million in his Swiss Bank account. The money making machine is not finished yet for at the time of writing this article he is still going strong in the US Open having reached the semi final stage. Federer has a record of 15 grand slam titles wins and a run of 22 consecutive grand slam semi finals appearances.

For the Indians, the US Open has been a mixed bag. Sania Mirza crashed in the second round while Leander Paes will have to wait for his 10th Grand Slam title as the Indian and his partner Cara Black failed to defend their mixed double crown. They suffered a shock 2-6, 4-6 defeat at the hands of local wild cards Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott.

Paes still can return with a title from the US Open if he and Czech Lukas Dlouhy win their men’s doubles final against Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark.They have now done that!

Cricket

Cricket waits its next powerhouse

West Indies and Australia have dominated the game for 33 years and now the field is open. Australia’s topping has been popular yet their supremacy was healthy as it promoted attacking cricket. Test cricket now sits at the mercy of any nation with the required credentials. South Africa occupies top place in the rankings. However it is close run thing with India and Sri Lanka snapping at their heels. India has become confident, ambitious and organised. The occasional triumphs that it used to enjoy are no longer enough. Also it is no longer a soft target overseas.

Under Sourav Ganguly India began to redress their reputation by winning series in Zimbabwe and Pakistan. Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble carried the torch lit by Ganguly. Dravid captained India by winning the series in England, the West Indies and India’s first test victory in Africa. Kumble was in charge of one of the India’s most famous victories at the Australian bastion at Perth. Now with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar India is poised to take first place in the rankings. A distinction it has never previously attained.

Now that Australia has fallen after losing the Ashes to England. The race to become number one test team in the world has become exciting.

In India the domestic cricket is now better funded. Grounds are improving, wages are higher and the game is open. The IPL and the Twenty20 has brought the crowds in huge numbers. In previous years fitness and fielding was a problem with the Indian cricketers. The batsmen also used to crumble facing pace bowling. Now it is all changed. Fitness and pace bowling has been emphasised.

In the ODI’s and Twenty India has become a force to reckon. In the current triangular series being played in Sri Lanka India has won the finals by beating New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

No side has won a match at the Premadasa Stadium batting second in the last 13 ODIs played here but India broke that hoodoo by beating New Zealand by six wickets in the second match of the Compaq Cup tri-series and again by beating Sri Lanka, although this time they batted first. This win also takes India to the top of ICC’s ODI rankings.

The real positive to come out in this tournament was Rahul Dravid’s comeback and a superb performance of another man on the comeback trail: Ashish Nehra whose career was thought to be as good as over after he suffered a serious ankle injury during the 2003 World Cup became a match winner again.

Nehra generated good pace and bounce and, more importantly, moved the ball either ways after pitching. He got Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum the New Zealand openers, one a left-hander and the other a right-hander, out leg-before with balls that came in after pitching showing that he was back in form and had recovered from injury.

Sachin Tendulkar, back in the squad after skipping the West Indies tour, scored 46 valuable runs before skipper MS Dhoni (35 n.o.) and Suresh Raina (45 n.o.) saw to it that India broke the Premdasa jinx.

There were other positives too. Nehra’s comeback and RP Singh’s return to form and fitness meant that a bowler like Ishant Sharma could afford to come in first change to trouble the opponents. If Nehra was hungry for some action, so was RP Singh. He too had a point to prove and didn’t let go of this opportunity. He mixed his deliveries well and never hesitated to dig in one short or bowl the slower ones every now and then.

And while the focus was on the fast bowlers part-time spinner Yuvraj Singh also proved incisive, grabbing three wickets for 31 runs to hasten New Zealand’s fall


Ramesh Seedhar adds

“ASHES DEFEAT WILL HURT” says Lillee

The Ashes defeat will have hurt the Australians hard. Along with the reversal the world champions have also seen their world rating slip to an all time low. “The wound is deeper when the battle for the Urn is lost”, according to pace Guru Dennis Lillee. “I hate to lose any series but in a series like the Ashes where there is so much tradition involved, the defeat is harder to take. The pain is more”, said Lilleee, who is on a visit to the MRF Pace Foundation.

The Ashes is similar to a series between India and Pakistan. It bites down deep. On the positive side this should call for more dertermination and a harder fight next time - it makes you want succes more dearly in the next seies. The players should also be prepared to work harder for it. A parallel can be drawn to what Australia went through in 1983 when Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rodney Marsh all called it quits on the same day. The Australian Test team has seven high profile retirement in the last three seasons and it will be hard for youngsters to step in straight away. We are talking about some of the best the game has seen and youngsters who come in as replacements must be given time to mature. Even a player like Matthew Hayden took his time to deliver. “we have to wait as nothing is going to hapen in a day”, noted Lillee.

Australia’s domination was so heavy that the present fall looks steeper. It was cobination of many factors that put them on top. Rod Marsh did an excellent job with the academy. There was also some natural talent and it comined well. If you look at the game over a period of time, it is only the GREATS who have performed straightway. Allan Border was one such, his game was always solid. Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar were able to achieve results fom their first series. It is nearly impossible for players to replicate that. But Australia falling a bit and other teams being on the same level is good for the game as it is made more exciting. Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting said he had given no thought to resigning despite the disappointment of another Ashes series defeat on English soil. Australia hve been knocked off the number one slot in the ICC test rankings and are now placed behind India at the fourth position.


TENDULKAR, RAHUL CAN FILL VIRU’S VOID

Indian off spinner Harbhajan Singh said that despite the absence of Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan from next month’s tri-series in Sri Lanka, the side will go into the competition as firm favourites. “Sehwag is a key player. Any team in the world would miss a player like him. But now that he is not playing, we will have to do well without him.” He also pointed out that the return of vererans Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid would offset Sehwag’s absence. “We are a strong team and it’s a balanced side. Besides, we have a number of match winning players in the ranks. If we play to our potential, we will return with the trophy”, said Harbhajan.

India’s opener Gautam Gambhir became the number one test batsman again.

FLINTOFF OUT OF ODI SERIES

Set to undergo surgery on his injured right knee, all-rounder Andrew Flintoff has been withdrawn from England squad for the one day series against Australia and next month’s Champions Trophy.


Formula One

It was a bitter sweet moment for the Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella who made a big break through with a stunning performance from pole position at one of the sports most demanding and revered circuits, The Belgian Grand Prix.

It was a beautiful shock for the owner Vijay Mallya and his team Force One when it won its first points in Formula One. The aviation and liquor tycoon was struggling to realise what his team had done. He had set a target for his team to achieve some points this year and now that has reached this goal he has his sight for podium finish for his team for the first Indian Grand Prix scheduled for 2011 and Good Luck to him and India.

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