SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


The superb performances of Patiala girl Ruchi Trikha have given a much-needed boost to Indian fencing.
The superb performances of Patiala girl Ruchi Trikha have given a much-needed boost to Indian fencing.

Fencing to the fore                      
Indian fencers have started making their presence felt at the international level, writes Rubinder Gill

I
ndian
fencing is definitely on a roll. For a sport that had no takers till recently, it is fetching medals for the country now. An Indian team participated at the Thailand Open from July 7 to 13 and came back with gold medals in the epee event and a silver in the foil. The star of the show for India was epee fencer Ruchi Trikha.

For the record
Vikramdeep Johal

Break me if you can — that’s what every world record seems to say teasingly. The longer it stands, the greater is its value. While Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were compiling a staggering 624-run partnership in Colombo last week, cricket aficionados in England were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jim Laker’s “unbreakable” record (19 wickets in one Test).

The original Big Mac
V
ision Unlimited, The Outstanding Legacy, a biography of MA Chidambaram (1918-2000), a distinguished industrialist and sports administrator, was released in Chennai last week.

IN THE NEWS
On the rise
Akash Ghai
Gursher Singh Harika was in Class VI when the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association selected him under its talent hunt scheme in 1999. Seven years later, this Mansa boy topped the alternative list of the Australian Open 2006 (juniors) at Melbourne in January and was at number 52 on the alternative list of Wimbledon (juniors) as on June 2 this year.

Gursher Singh Harika has performed well in international tennis tournaments for juniors in recent years

Gursher Singh Harika has performed well in international tennis tournaments for juniors in recent years

Master writer
K.R. Wadhwaney
I
feel forlorn and lost,” said a dejected KN Prabhu after losing his wife. Now he has joined her as he died after a bout of pneumonia at Mumbai on July 30. The only sports journalist to receive the prestigious C.K. Nayudu award, Prabhu endeared himself with players and officials because he was friendly, non-controversial and, above all, scholarly in his writings.
KN Prabhu was the doyen of Indian sports journalism

KN Prabhu was the doyen of Indian sports journalism

   





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Fencing to the fore

Indian fencers have started making their presence felt at the international level, writes Rubinder Gill

Indian fencing is definitely on a roll. For a sport that had no takers till recently, it is fetching medals for the country now. An Indian team participated at the Thailand Open from July 7 to 13 and came back with gold medals in the epee event and a silver in the foil. The star of the show for India was epee fencer Ruchi Trikha.

A total of 35 fencers took part in a high-altitude camp at Shilaru, Himachal Pradesh, recently to prepare for the World Fencing Championship to be held in Italy from September 26. After trials, four fencers in each section were selected for the world championship as well as the Commonwealth Senior Fencing Championship. Ruchi and another promising fencer, Geeta Devi, were sure-shot selections.

Confident of a good show, the team management and the fencers themselves are also aware of the bigger picture. The real target after the world championship is the Commonwealth Senior Fencing Championship to be held in Northern Ireland later in the year.

“With the experience from our participation at the world championship, we will have a realistic chance of winning medals at the Commonwealth championship,” says Ruchi.

Indian fencers are taking small but sure steps towards improvement and getting to the world level. In another endeavour to provide them international exposure and training, Ruchi, India’s best fencer at the moment, has been selected to go to Italy before the world championship for a 20-day training camp.

The Commonwealth championship has been a happy hunting ground for the young swordswoman.

In January this year, at the Commonwealth Junior Fencing Championship in Chennai, she created history by becoming the first Indian fencer to bag a medal at an international event. She won two bronze medals — in individual epee and team epee.

Specialising in the epee event, she brought home two gold medals from the Thailand Open. India finished on top in individual as well as team events in epee, thanks to the cuts and thrusts of the 19-year-old Patiala girl. Besides Ruchi, Geeta Devi has also shown promising results. She won a bronze in the epee individual event and a silver medal in the foil event.

India also did well in the foil team event, finishing second.

The competition was certainly tough. There were five teams from the hosts Thailand, besides Asian powerhouses South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, besides Qatar and Kuwait.

At Shilaru, preparations were in full swing. Fencers were put through the paces to increase their oxygen intake and build their stamina at the high altitude. Besides, the sword-wielders also practiced foot movements and other technical aspects of the sport.

There have been a few path-breaking happenings in the old sport. The gains by Indian fencers have been noticed far and wide. In another first for the sport, Artos, manufacturers of world-class fencing equipment, too, have zeroed in on India. They invited the Fencing Federation of India (FFI) to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU). Indian fencers definitely stand to gain as equipment and talent go hand in hand in the cut-thrust world of sport today.
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For the record
Vikramdeep Johal

The whopping 624-run partnership between Kumar Sangakkara (left) and Mahela Jayawardene sent cricket statisticians into overdrive.
The whopping 624-run partnership between Kumar Sangakkara (left) and Mahela Jayawardene sent cricket statisticians into overdrive. — AP/PTI
photo

Break me if you can — that’s what every world record seems to say teasingly. The longer it stands, the greater is its value. While Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene were compiling a staggering 624-run partnership in Colombo last week, cricket aficionados in England were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jim Laker’s “unbreakable” record (19 wickets in one Test).

Off-spinner Laker destroyed Australia with figures of 9-37 and 10-53 at Old Trafford in 1956. When he died in 1986, he was still the only bowler to take all 10 wickets in a Test innings. It was in 1999 that Anil Kumble matched the feat with his 10-74 against Pakistan at New Delhi.

The 19-wicket haul, however, has not been repeated. Debutants Bob Massie and Narendra Hirwani, besides Muttiah Muralitharan, have all fell short by three wickets. Despite keeping in view the glorious uncertainties the game is famous for, several experts think this is one bowling record that might elude even the Sri Lankan spin wizard.

In recent times, major batting records have proved to be much more fragile than the bowling ones. Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama exhausted Indian bowlers with their 576-run stand at Colombo in 1997-98. Barely eight years later, it has been bettered by their compatriots Sangakkara and Jayawardene. In fact, the record for the highest partnership for any wicket has been eclipsed thrice in the past 15-odd years.

Similarly, the milestone for the highest score in a Test innings has also been crossed three times in the past decade or so. Lara scored 375 against England in 1994 to overtake Sir Garfield Sobers (365 not out vs Pakistan, 1957-58), then Matthew Hayden smashed 380 against Zimbabwe in 2003-04 and later that season Lara reclaimed his record by hitting an unbeaten 400 against England (don’t forget that Sobers’s record had remained unbroken for over 35 years).

In contrast, quite a few bowling achievements have stood the test of time. The record for the most number of wickets in a three-match series still belongs to England’s George Lohmann, who took 35 against South Africa way back in 1895-96 (Richard Hadlee and Harbhajan Singh came closest to breaking it, with 33 and 32 scalps, respectively). For any Test series, no one has been able to dislodge Sydney Barnes from the top spot (49 wickets in four matches against South Africa in 1913-14). Above all, there is Laker’s 19-90.

Why are batting records under greater threat these days? The main reason is that there are many run machines in Test cricket today but very few “greedy” wicket-takers. Among the batsmen, you have big names like — hold your breath — Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Kevin Pietersen, Stephen Fleming, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara (and Sanath Jayasuriya, now that he has returned to Test cricket).

On the other hand, the great bowlers’ club is virtually restricted to Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Glenn McGrath.

Another important factor is that today’s top Test batsmen, thanks to the impact of one-day cricket, score runs at a fast pace, which helps them reach milestones a lot quicker. The rest is taken care of by the “sleeping beauties” (formally known as pitches), particularly in the subcontinent.

Batsmen might be ravaging the record books every now and then, but it is the bowlers who eventually win matches for their teams. Without belittling the efforts of Jayawardene and Sangakkara, it has to be said that Muralitharan was the man who ended South Africa’s stubborn resistance on the final day. As far as the 624-run stand is concerned, it is truly an astonishing achievement, though its ultimate worth will be determined by the number of years (or months) for which it survives.
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The original Big Mac

Vision Unlimited, The Outstanding Legacy, a biography of MA Chidambaram (1918-2000), a distinguished industrialist and sports administrator, was released in Chennai last week.

Chidambaram came from a family of businessmen and became the Director of the Indian Aluminium Company at a young age. He was instrumental in founding the Southern Petrochemical Industries Corporation (SPIC) and served as the chairman till his death. He was the Mayor of Madras in 1955.

MAC became the Vice-President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 1956, President from 1960-61 to 1962-63 and treasurer for about 20 years. He was the head of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) for 32 years. He was also the President of All-India Lawn Tennis Association from 1963 to 1966.

MA Chidambaram (extreme left) was an outstanding industrialist and sports administrator; Chidambaram’s son AC Muthiah with Sharad Pawar (right) at the book release function.
MA Chidambaram (extreme left) was an outstanding industrialist and sports administrator; Chidambaram’s son AC Muthiah with Sharad Pawar (right) at the book release function.

He played a significant role in the negotiations between the TNCA and the Madras Cricket Club over the construction of a stadium on the club’s ground in Chepauk. Completed in 1980, this stadium was later named MA Chidambaram Stadium in his honour.

Chidambaram was the son of Raja Annamalai Chettiar, a noted businessman and philanthropist. His son AC Muthiah was also the President of the BCCI

Sharad Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister and BCCI President, released the biography authored by Kolkata-based business writer and editor Sujoy Gupta.

Pawar said Chidambaram, affectionately called "MAC", was a genius of his time, a true believer in democracy who provided a level playing field to his workers.

MAC was also an important component of the Imperial Cricket Conference, now called the International Cricket Council (ICC), through his long representation of Indian cricket at the international forum, securing for it respect in the global arena. — Agencies

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IN THE NEWS
On the rise
Akash Ghai

Gursher Singh Harika was in Class VI when the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association selected him under its talent hunt scheme in 1999. Seven years later, this Mansa boy topped the alternative list of the Australian Open 2006 (juniors) at Melbourne in January and was at number 52 on the alternative list of Wimbledon (juniors) as on June 2 this year.

Recently, he returned from Algeria, where he competed with 32 players from countries like Italy, South Africa, Great Britain, Morocco and the hosts in the ITF Junior Grade 4 and 5 tournaments. He finished runners-up in the doubles event of the Grade 4 tournament. In singles, he reached the quarterfinals in the Grade 5 tournament, a performance which was good enough to boost his world ranking from 405 to 330.

He got a chance to play in Grade 3, 4 and 5 tournaments in Tunisia, Syria and Lebanon in July this year, but due to the ongoing West Asia crisis, he could not go to Syria and Lebanon. However, in the tournament held at Tunisia, he reached the quarterfinals (doubles). His recent performances have raised his hopes of playing in the US Open (juniors) event starting on September 3.

His entry into the tournament depends on the draw. “I have to improve my world ranking to get an entry. For the purpose, I am working hard on the court under the guidance of my coaches Kanwaljit Singh and Sandeep Singh at Harvest Tennis Academy, Jassowal”, said Gursher, the top seeded player of North Zone. Presently, his ranking on the world junior circuit is 380.

With his crisp volleys and his ability to play long games, Gursher is confident that he has the potential to make a mark on the international senior level. The only hindrance is the non-availability of funds.

“I have done so much on the junior circuit at national and international levels but the government is yet to acknowledge my achievements or provide any monetary help. As tennis is an expensive sport, it is very difficult to manage things on your own”, laments Gursher, who won the under-18 gold medal for Punjab in 2004 at the age of 15.

Gursher was also the winner of the ITF (Under-18) Junior International Championship held at Chennai in September last year. Now he is keen to make his presence felt at the senior level.

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Master writer
K.R. Wadhwaney

I feel forlorn and lost,” said a dejected KN Prabhu after losing his wife. Now he has joined her as he died after a bout of pneumonia at Mumbai on July 30.

The only sports journalist to receive the prestigious C.K. Nayudu award, Prabhu endeared himself with players and officials because he was friendly, non-controversial and, above all, scholarly in his writings.

Prabhu was India’s Neville Cardus. If Cardus was proud of saying that he was the “Guardian”, Prabhu prided himself on staying associated with the Times group. He played one long and abiding innings for more than three decades after a brief stint in the News Chronicle at Mori Gate (Delhi) which, according to Prabhu, was all chaos even in those days.

“It was a promenade for pimps, prostitutes and pickpockets,” said Prabhu in his autobiography.

WG Grace was said to be a great big schoolboy in every thing he did. Of Prabhu, it was said that he could be equally enthusiastic and boyish in whatever he did. Displaying wonderful modesty and lack of vanity throughout his reporting career, he was willing to be a party to “spirited evenings” after the day’s reporting.

Prabhu was kind and considerate to his juniors; he tried to “lbw” all those who were his contemporaries or seniors. When stationed in Delhi in the 1950s, he was well-known for his ability to spot talent. Many Delhi journalists admitted that they were his ‘find’. During his reporting days, the conditions on Indian grounds were shocking. He and other journalists encountered many problems. But he retained his friendliness and cheerfulness.

Prabhu played a key role in popularising cricket in the country and increasing respect for sports journalists.

During his illustrious career, he was once involved in a controversy with the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) officialdom. The officials wanted to take action against him but they desisted from acting in haste.

A science graduate from Melbourne, Prabhu had an abiding love for English literature and history.

He contemplated certain avenues open to him in the late 1940s when India was undergoing turmoil. But he thought journalism was the only suitable occupation to plunge in. He did not regret his decision.

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SPORTS MAIL

Worthy victors

In an all-European final witnessed after a fairly long time, Italy got the better of France, albeit via a penalty shootout, to lift the football World Cup trophy. They silenced their critics, who had written them off as being overly defensive, listless and boring, by annexing their fourth World Cup title on the strength of their impregnable defence. Having conceded an early lead, Italy did not become jittery and panicky. Rather, they put everything at stake and equalised. After that they kept a vice-like grip on the match, which went into extra time.

When it came to the penalty shootout, odds were against Italy who were carrying the tag of “shootout chokers”. But they showcased great character and strength by driving in all their penalty kicks. Their goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon did a splendid job. There were no chinks in his armoury. He stood like a rock and helped his side win 5-3. The Azzurri gelled as a well-knit unit, sacrificing their individual interests and emerged as deserving winners. Without any charismatic stars, they came, played and romped home champions.

Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala

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