A year after World Cup high, India struggle
Gilchrist helps the team gel together: Chawla
Impossible to emulate Gayle: Kohli
Lanka seek series win in landmark Test
Paes hits a fifty
Geeta Phogat makes history
Variety is the spice for Radwanska
Leverkusen sack coach Dutt
Digvijay’s 12-yr title wait ends
Mumbai, April 1
One of the most poignant reminiscences is the six over long on, hit fittingly by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni off Sri Lankan pacer Nuwan Kulasekara.
It capped a successful run-chase of the stiff target of 275 in the summit clash, which enabled the country to recapture cricket's show-piece after 28 years. The previous triumph had come in 1983, at Lord's, London.
Other memories that run across the mind are of the celebrations that followed at Wankhede Stadium here with fireworks lighting the sky, a full-throated cheer from the packed gathering inside, across the country and elsewhere, and senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar and coach Gary Kirsten being carried around the ground by players on shoulders.
The partying by the players continued till the wee hours of the morning at Hotel Taj Mahal Palace. Elsewhere in the metropolis, fans made night into day with noisy celebrations.
The post-match media conference, jointly addressed by Dhoni and man of the tournament Yuvraj Singh, saw a jam-packed hall in the basement below the media box. Both the players had a dazed look on their faces and often looked at each other with a smile or a laugh before answering the plethora of questions.
The next day, the players were feted at the Governor's bungalow at Mumbai's Malabar Hill. They did not have much time to bask in the glory, though, as the Indian Premier League was about to start, followed by a tour to the West Indies.
It has been downhill since. Barring victories over the none-too-strong Windies away and at home, the team suffered 0-4 Test series whitewashes in England and Australia and also losing the no 1 Test status.
For Dilip Vengsarkar, a member of Kapil Dev's triumphant 1983 squad, India were always favourites to win the World Cup at home with the side they had.
"We were always favourites to win, especially because we were playing in India. Everyone contributed...In the final, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj and Dhoni did exceedingly well to chase the target," said the former skipper.
Vengsarkar blames the lack of sufficient preparation for the slide that followed. "Lack of preparation and overlapping of tours affected the performance. We went to the West Indies (soon after IPL), and then went to England and then Australia where we were found wanting in those conditions," he said.
Even in the one-day format, the team's fortunes nose-dived as they lost a weather-affected series in England, failed to make the tri-series final in Australia and then continued the flop show in the Asia Cup in Dhaka last month.
While Sachin Tendulkar and his countless fans had to endure an agonising wait for his 100th international hundred after the maestro had notched up his 99th in the World Cup, things changed off the field too, with the departure of Kirsten as coach, replaced by Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher.
The biggest blow, perhaps, came in the form of the news that Cup hero Yuvraj Singh had a rare form of cancer. He underwent treatment in USA, and is recovering now. The form of quite a few members of the team slumped, including that of Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh.
The off spinner even lost his regular place in the Test and one-day squad. The poor form in Australia also led to the decision of no. 3 batting mainstay Rahul Dravid to pull curtains on his illustrious career in which he has scored over 23,000 international runs and stands next only to Tendulkar in the Test run-getters' list.
Even Tendulkar, who called the Cup triumph as the culmination of his childhood dream, saw a significant dip in his form in England and Australia, and at the end of unsuccessful campaign in the Asia Cup, he decided to go to London to consult a specialist doctor for his injured toe.
The Mumbai Indians captain returned yesterday to lead his franchise outfit in IPL, starting on April 4.
The indisputable fact is, after the euphoria of the World Cup victory, the team's fortunes have plunged steeply. A quick resurrection of the glory days is what the Indian players and millions of fans are waiting for. — PTI
There is a sense of calm that has taken over Piyush Chawla over the past few months. He has the look of a person, who despite not totally letting go off his boyish mannerisms, has yet broken into a man's world. He, and his franchise Kings XI Punjab, it seems, are breaking on to the scene at the same time. There is a fresh, reinvigorated spirit about both, and it is not without reason. Piyush Chawla speaks exclusively to Vaibhav Sharma about IPL 5, his own bowling, the Indian team, Kings XI and much more.
Q.The Kings XI side has worn a fresher look this season. What according to you is the reason for that?
A.Well, the boys are training hard and they are trying their level best to up their performances from last year. If you compare it to last year, we have quality bowlers as well. The balance is much better this time around. There are also some players who have been dominant on the domestic scene and we are all excited to be playing together as a team.
Q.There has been a conscious effort from Kings XI to bring in a lot of utility players. You are someone who has contributed with the bat in the past. Looking to improve on that?
A.T20 is not a game that gives you too much time to think about your game. We have to make decisions pretty quickly. But I have had a very good first class season and I am confident that I can chip in wherever the team needs me. But my primary role is of a bowler and that is what I will be focused on. But again, if I can contribute lower down the order with a quick 20-30, it will be an added bonus for the team.
Q.In this format, which is the shortest in cricket, how do you, a leg spinner, see your role in this side?
A.I believe that whatever be the format, T20, ODI or even Test matches, if you want to contain a side, the best way to do so is by picking wickets. As a bowler, I feel I have done that reasonably well for Kings XI, and I am looking forward to do more of the same this season as well.
Q.What are your views on Adam Gilchrist taking over as captain-cum-coach?
A.Well, it has been really good for the side. He gels well with all the players, he is always there, lending an ear to all the players and the support staff. He is just a great guy to have around. He is the binding factor for the team and makes the team gel together as a unit.
Q.Your India teammate and former Kings XI captain Yuvraj Singh is recovering from cancer. Any message for him?
A.I am thrilled that he is recovering well, and I spoke to him a few days ago, and he should be back in India soon. I am just happy that his health is improving by the day. He is a great guy, and people just know the cricketer, I for one know the person and want someone like him to be back to his best as soon as possible.
Q.Ever since the World Cup, the Indian team's performance has dropped drastically. Do you see any particular reason for it?
A.Not really. The team has performed in foreign conditions, be it Australia or England, even earlier. It just didn't click this time around, and when you play the game long enough, you realize that these kind of things happen in the game all the time.
Q.You made an impressive start to your career, and we are seeing another youngster, albeit a batsman, take the stage by a storm. What is happening to Virat Kohli all of a sudden?
A.Virat has been batting in a different zone altogether. Everytime he goes in to bat, you get the feeling that he just wont get out. It is fantastic to see and bodes amazingly well for the team. When a player is in that zone, there is really not much you can do, except stand and marvel at his prowess.
Though I am a bowler, and I have to say, that even for someone in that good form, all it takes is one good ball!
New Delhi, April 1
"I understand that it's better to play to your own strengths rather than emulating someone like Chris because matching him is almost impossible. Only he can bat like that," said Kohli.
"Chris Gayle is the hardest hitter of the cricket ball in the world," he added.
Kohli, who shares the dressing room with Gayle as a part of the IPL franchise, Royal Challengers Bangalore, however admitted that batting with the talismanic opener could be extremely intimidating.
"The most difficult thing is to keep yourself safe!," he said jokingly. "On a serious note, batting with someone like Gayle can be very intimidating. When you see him batting like that at the other end, you might get bogged down with the pressure of coping with his strike-rate.
"It also works the other way. You don't need to worry about the scoring rate because he's doing all the hitting at the other end. You only have to ensure the wickets are intact," Kohli told IPL's official website.
Kohli, who had also led the Royal Challengers in the last edition of the IPL in the absence of injured skipper Daniel Vettori, said leading the team was "a fun experience".
The 23-year-old lad from Delhi said he would like to imbibe a few qualities from each of his Royal Challengers' captains.
"From Rahul Dravid, I'd want to imbibe his patience. He is very calm and patient under the most pressure-filled situations. If your side is losing, as a captain it's not easy to control your emotions. But Rahul bhai does it so wonderfully well.
"I want Anil Kumble's competitiveness and the never-say-die attitude. He not only motivates his team but also sets an example for everyone to follow by putting in his 100 per cent effort in the field.
"Vettori's composure is tremendous. The way he backs his bowlers in crunch times is especially amazing. I'd like to learn that from him," explained Kohli. — PTI
Lanka seek series win in landmark Test
Colombo, April 1
Sri Lanka, who won the first Test in Galle by 75 runs, are determined to scalp the tourists again at the P Sara Oval and clinch their first series victory since 2009 when they beat New Zealand 2-0 at home.
Andrew Strauss's spin-wary England will slip to number two behind South Africa if they lose or draw the Test on a traditionally sporting Oval wicket that offers assistance to both batsmen and bowlers.
It was at the same venue that Sri Lanka played their inaugural Test in February 1982 against an England side led by Keith Fletcher, which won by seven wickets inside four days.
Strauss will look for a similar result from the tourists, but his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahela Jayawardene wants to settle for nothing less than a win in the landmark Test.
"I'll be very proud to be on the field on Tuesday and even prouder if we can claim a series victory," said Jayawardene, who hit a brilliant 180 in the Galle Test to put his side on top.
It was a morale-boosting win for sixth-ranked Sri Lanka, who have struggled in recent times in Test cricket following the retirement of their world bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan.
The Galle victory was only their second, and the first at home, in 18 Tests since Muralitharan quit in July 2010 with a record 800 Test and 534 one-day wickets.
The other win came in December, when Tillakaratne Dilshan's men thumped South Africa by 208 runs in Durban, but went on to lose the series 2-1.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who claimed nine wickets against South Africa, destroyed England in Galle with six wickets in each innings to earn the man of the match award.
Jayawardene was delighted with the way 34-year-old Herath has shaped up and was confident the spinner will continue to build on his 132 wickets from 36 Tests so far.
"Herath has been around a long time and is a class act," the skipper said. "He's the most experienced bowler I have right now and he's taken the responsibility to shoulder the attack." Sri Lanka will be bolstered by the return of all-rounder Angelo Mathews, who missed the first Test with a calf injury, but left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara has been ruled out with a groin strain.
England, meanwhile, were left to ponder a new bowling combination after Stuart Broad returned home for assessment on a calf injury he sustained in the first Test.
Tim Bresnan and Steven Finn are standing by to replace Broad, but both could play if England decide to drop spinner Monty Panesar and leave Samit Patel to share the spin attack with Graeme Swann.
England are desperate for a turnaround after their fourth consecutive Test defeat in Galle, following the 3-0 series hammering by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
While Pakistani spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman claimed a combined haul of 43 wickets in the UAE series, Herath and off-spinner Suraj Randiv grabbed 18 of the 20 wickets in Galle.
Jonathan Trott's determined 112 in the second innings and Ian Bell's 52 in the first were the only signs of resistance by the tourists against the turning ball, while Strauss is struggling to find form.
The England captain has gone 23 innings without adding to his 19 Test centuries, averaging a poor 28.52, and has managed just one three-figure knock in his past 48 innings. — AFP
Paes hits a fifty
Miami, April 1
Paes and Stepanek, who were seeded seventh, rallied to upstage second seeds Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 yesterday.
After dropping the first set, the Australian Open champions broke Mirnyi and Nestor twice in the second set to force a match tie-break.
The Indo-Czech combination trailed 1-4 before winning six straight points to surge ahead. Stepanek closed out the victory with an unreturnable volley to clinch the win in 82 minutes.
"Well actually Radek came to me and said something simple on my service return (in the second set) and that changed the whole momentum of the match. I have got to give full credit to Daniel and Max, they started out amazingly, they were all over us in the first set," a jubilant Paes said after the triumph.
"Over all these years of playing, I have got to thank many partners, I have got to thank many coaches... I have to thank my father but most importantly my wonderful partner right now, Radek Stepanek," he added.
Paes, who did little celebratory jig with Stepanek after the match, collected his third straight crown at Crandon Park, having triumphed with Lukas Dlouhy in 2010 and Mahesh Bhupathi in 2011.
"(It's) really, really special. Fifty tournaments takes a little doing and 600 matches takes a little bit of doing," said Paes.
"Having done a three peat here in Miami is awesome. Next year, I hope to start another one." An equally elated Stepanek said he felt honoured to team up with Paes.
"We fought through it, and we got on top of them in the second set all the way," said Stepanek.
"We (were) the more aggressive, and, I would say, creative team in the Tie-break, as well. That's why we won. I am thankful to Lee for playing with me. It's an honour to play with a legend," he added.
Mirnyi and Nestor finished runner-up for the second straight year, and were bidding to lift their third trophy in 2012, after successes in Brisbane and Memphis. — PTI
Geeta Phogat makes history
Patiala, April 1
Coming from a family of wrestlers in Bhiwani where all four of her sisters are top grapplers of the national team, Geeta herself started wrestling at the age of 12. Her father Mahabir Singh was a renowned wrestler who encouraged Geeta to take up the sport.
He introduced Geeta to wrestling and trained her in the basics of the sport. Breaking all conventions of a male dominated society to slug it out in the mud, Geeta catapulted her passionate zeal for wrestling to win laurels for the country at both national and international levels. What keeps Geeta going is the unflinching support from her family and her father's cherished dream to see her on the top of the Olympic podium.
Under the able guidance of her father, Geeta trained hard and perfected her moves. Her hard work paid off when she won three consecutive gold medals in the Asian Cadet Championships in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Since then, there has been no looking back.
Watching her achievement, the Mittal Champions Trust sponsored her and wrestling, for ages the domain of men in India, saw a crossover when she created a benchmark by winning the gold in newly introduced women's wrestling event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She has been training at NIS, Patiala, for the past couple of years earlier under PR Sondhi and OP Yadav, who is her current coach.
Delighted over her achievement, her father Mahavir Singh said: I am happy but there is no time for celebrations. She has to be focused and prepare for an Olympic medal and we don't want to divert her attention. Her coach PR Sondhi said it was her sheer dedication, determination and years of rigorous training that helped her achieve this glorious feat.
Notably, the women wrestling was introduced in the Olympics eight years back in 2004 and ever since then, no Indian women wrestler has ever been able to qualify for this mega event. Moreover, in Olympics there are only four weight categories for women i.e. 48 kg, 55 kg, 63 kg and 72 kg, which makes the competition even more severe.
While Geeta has managed to make it to the Olympics, hopes of Anita (63 kg) and Gursharanpreet Kaur (72 kg) dashed on the last step with both losing to their opponents in the semifinal bouts. Meanwhile, Neha Rathi (48 kg) lost her very first bout to Mongolian wrestler and bowed out of the tournament.
Variety is the spice for Radwanska
Key Biscayne, April 1 The 23-year-old from Krakow, already by far the most successful Polish women's player ever, has yet to win a Grand Slam event but with nine WTA titles to her name that seems only a matter of time. "It's a great feeling to win a tournament like this here in Miami. It's the biggest tournament after grand slams, especially with all the top players here." "You have to play six very good matches to win this tournament. So I'm just extremely happy," added Radwanska, who also won a top level event earlier this year in Beijing. Radwanska, who didn't lose a set in the tournament, beat Sharapova by making her work hard and think hard by using a variety of strokes that clearly frustrated the Russian. That approach has become her trademark. "I think my tennis, it's just about trying to mix it up. I think I was born with that. So it's never been one shot or one thing. When we practice, we practice everything. That's what we were doing all my life pretty much," she said. What Radwanska lacks in terms of a big serve, she more than makes up for in intelligent positional play and crafty variations of speed and spin. While she plays down her progress, in beating world number two Sharapova, who she had lost to seven times in the previous eight meetings, Radwanska highlighted the improvements she has made in the past 12 months. "I really played well today, you know, from the beginning until the end. I was really focusing on my serve, and I'm very happy I didn't lose my serve. It was actually I think the key in this match. "But it's just a great feeling to beat those kind of players, especially in the final and playing great tennis," she said. — Reuters
Key Biscayne, April 1
The 23-year-old from Krakow, already by far the most successful Polish women's player ever, has yet to win a Grand Slam event but with nine WTA titles to her name that seems only a matter of time.
"It's a great feeling to win a tournament like this here in Miami. It's the biggest tournament after grand slams, especially with all the top players here."
"You have to play six very good matches to win this tournament. So I'm just extremely happy," added Radwanska, who also won a top level event earlier this year in Beijing.
Radwanska, who didn't lose a set in the tournament, beat Sharapova by making her work hard and think hard by using a variety of strokes that clearly frustrated the Russian. That approach has become her trademark.
"I think my tennis, it's just about trying to mix it up. I think I was born with that. So it's never been one shot or one thing. When we practice, we practice everything. That's what we were doing all my life pretty much," she said.
What Radwanska lacks in terms of a big serve, she more than makes up for in intelligent positional play and crafty variations of speed and spin. While she plays down her progress, in beating world number two Sharapova, who she had lost to seven times in the previous eight meetings, Radwanska highlighted the improvements she has made in the past 12 months.
"I really played well today, you know, from the beginning until the end. I was really focusing on my serve, and I'm very happy I didn't lose my serve. It was actually I think the key in this match.
"But it's just a great feeling to beat those kind of players, especially in the final and playing great tennis," she said. — Reuters
Berlin, April 1
The duo, with Hyypia acting as "team chief" and Lewandowski as the coach, will remain in charge "at least" until the end of the current campaign, the club said in a statement.
"I know the team," said Hyypia, who ended his playing career at Leverkusen last season after a decade at Liverpool.
"I believe in this team. We want to show an insecure team... the way to get back to success."
Leverkusen are in sixth place ahead of Werder Bremen and VfL Wolfsburg on goal difference.
Dutt had taken over last year following a successful stint at Freiburg but he struggled at Leverkusen, who were beaten in the Champions League knockout stages by Barcelona last month and also out of the German Cup. "We just had to act and show a sign that would give our season target of playing internationally a new push," said club boss Wolfgang Holzhaeuser. — Reuters
Digvijay’s 12-yr title wait ends
New Delhi, April 1 Digvijay produced a grandstand finish with a 12-foot birdie putt on the last to defeat Asian Tour winners Mohammad Siddikur of Bangladesh and Gaganjeet Bhullar of India by two shots at the $300,000 event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the PGTI. Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit rolled back the years with a 67 to finish in fourth place while overnight leader Ashok Kumar was in contention before dropping four shots in the last six holes at the Delhi Golf Club. He ended his campaign in tied eighth place. “This is very special for me. There’s no feeling better than winning an Asian Tour title in India at the Delhi Golf Club. I've won on the local circuit before but this takes the cake,” said Digvijay, who totalled 11-under-par 277 to win $47,500. Digvijay, who was three shots back at the start of the day, came charging home with a superb back nine highlighted by birdies on holes 13, 14, 16 and 18 to the delight of the home crowd. — PTI
New Delhi, April 1
Digvijay produced a grandstand finish with a 12-foot birdie putt on the last to defeat Asian Tour winners Mohammad Siddikur of Bangladesh and Gaganjeet Bhullar of India by two shots at the $300,000 event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the PGTI.
Thai veteran Boonchu Ruangkit rolled back the years with a 67 to finish in fourth place while overnight leader Ashok Kumar was in contention before dropping four shots in the last six holes at the Delhi Golf Club. He ended his campaign in tied eighth place.
“This is very special for me. There’s no feeling better than winning an Asian Tour title in India at the Delhi Golf Club. I've won on the local circuit before but this takes the cake,” said Digvijay, who totalled 11-under-par 277 to win $47,500.
Digvijay, who was three shots back at the start of the day, came charging home with a superb back nine highlighted by birdies on holes 13, 14, 16 and 18 to the delight of the home crowd. — PTI