Chandigarh, Tuesday, December 1, 1998
Will India win glory at Asiad?
By Ravi Dhaliwal
Sport is class conscious. And in India there are two sets of sportspersons the cricketers and the rest. For the rest, anonymity is the only ally. With the Bangkok Asiad beckoning, the best among these unrecognised faces will be at the Asian games striving for supremacy and more importantly trying to keep intact the countrys pride.
history of Asian Games
Shruti Dhawan in limelight
Indian tennis at crossroads
Will India win
glory at Asiad?
Sport is class conscious. And in India there are two sets of sportspersons the cricketers and the rest. Here cricketers are given an importance that goes far beyond their achievements. For the rest, anonymity is the only ally and their faces go unrecognised. With the Bangkok Asiad beckoning, the best among these unrecognised faces will be at the Asian games striving for supremacy and more importantly trying to keep intact the countrys pride. The same pride which after every sports debacle is severely dented.
With everything geared up for Bangkok, it seems, or rather our sports administrators would make us believe, the Indian contingent is bouncing high on the trampoline of confidence.
The 1994 Hiroshima Asiad saw us winning a measly 23 medals. The question on the lips of every Om, Virk and Hari (they being the cynics) is whether we will fare better at Bangkok as compared to Hiroshima. Yet everybody seems to be oblivious of Richard Glieks chaos theory which states that the outcome of a phenomenon cannot be predicted because of the variables involved.
However, the variables apart, indications based on views of the chief coaches in-charge of pre-Asiad preparatory camps in progress at the NIS are revealing. It comes like a stunning blow when we learn that India will fare marginally better than the dismal fare dished out at Hiroshima. Nothing to rave about. Here is a blow by blow account of Indias hopes keeping in view the opinion of experts, chief coaches and even players at present preparing for the Asiad in the disciplines of womens hockey, boxing and men and women weightlifting.
The chief coach of the womens hockey team, Mr G.S. Bhangu, talks with a measure of confidence of his girls reaching the last four stage. Probed further the burly sardar points his finger skywards. The message is loud and clear. The rest is being left to the Almighty!
Placed fourth at Kuala Lumpur the confidence level of the girls is high. Yet if confidence could have won medals, chief coaches of all disciplines bound for Bangkok would return tonnes of gold. KL is history. The standards at Bangkok are much more daunting. True, Bhangu has keep defender Sandeep Kaur, midfielders Manjinder and Sita Gosain and the plucky Pritam Thakran all talented players yet the problem is talent exists in isolation and only in harmony will it work. Like in mens hockey, the penalty corner (PC) an explosive package of slick technique and raw power lasting just 1.6 seconds remains its Achilles' heel. Both conversion and saving are the problem areas. Custodians Tingoliema Chanu and Helen Mary are safe but their foreign counterparts are far more accomplished.
Hence, if the Indian flag has to go up, Bhangus girls will have to convert more than that what they will concede. At Kuala Lumpur Indias PC conversion rate was a miniscule 3 per cent.
This is a gray area and coaches in both men and women squads have been working on it for years. Yet success eludes them. This Pritam Thakran-led team will have to work hard if they have to top the pool which is the only way they can avoid playing favourites South Korea in the semifinals.
Chinese intimidation awaits the five-member women weightlifting squad. With over one lakh lifters, China has been canny in assimilating numbers, herding them into special and flooding a sport that, till five years ago was bereft of competition. Now the Chinese own the sport-everyone else, including India, come next.
However, two Indian lifters Kunjarani Devi (46kg) and K. Malleswari (63) are straining every sinew to alter the Chinese equation. There is something that consumes Kunjarani and it shows in her eyes. In sparkling form for the 1993 Melbourne World Championships, the usual visa hiccup meant she arrived too late for her weight category. She contested in a higher weight category (50 kg) won nothing, yet was aware that the 160 kg total she lifted would have been enough for a gold in the 46 kg category. The memory of that slipped gold still haunts her. She wants it back at Bangkok.
Again the Chinese weightlifting juggernaut has ensured that the man weightlifting squad chief coach A.K. Sirohi does not sleep without nightmares. And if both Satish Rai and A. Pandiyan are to exorcise the Chinese ghost, they will have to come up with something extra ordinary. In a sport which is static and staid A. Pandiyan has that will to excel. He knows that if has to win, his body must endure pain. Yet, watching him train, it seems there is something delicate and fragile about this ironman.
At Kuala Lumpur, the Indian pugilists found their skill was blunted by technology. Computer scoring has always been controversial. After Hiroshima, chief coach G.S. Sandhu, in his report submitted to SAI, has asked for a PRO to liase with the international body. In a close bout friendship obviously helps. But his request remains closed in a file. Leave alone a PRO not even a doctor is accompanying the contingent. And to think of it, in the history of organised sport, boxing is considered to be the most dangerous of all games.Dingko Singh and Gurcharan remain Indias best bets. The only problem is they have yet to learn how to play the computer. A big problem that.
To be an
Olympic champ is to walk with god. For Indians an Asian
gold medallist will do so. We have to brace ourselves.
China and the Koreas, nations which once were at par with
India in sports, now leave us gasping for breath. Bangkok
will help us define greatness greatness not in
isolation but in rivalry. And in this rivalry will we
revel is a question which only time will answer.
Brief history of
FORTYONE out of 43 member counties will participate in the 13th edition of Asian Games to be started from December 4 in the Thai capital Bangkok. Saudi Arabia has pulled out of the Asian Games due to the Ramadan while Afghan is not participating because of financial problems.
The first Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1951 were attended by no less than 11 countries which participated in six disciplines. The counties were Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) Iran, Burma (now Myanmar), Afghanistan, Thailand, Malaysia and host India. Nepal and China sent observers. Competition were organised in athletics, swimming, football, cycling and weightlifting. Japan walked away with 24-gold, 20 silver and 16 bronze medals followed by India with 15 golds, 16 silvers and 21 bronzes.
At the second Games held in Manila in 1954, cycling was dropped out but three new disciplines, wresting, boxing and shooting were included, making a total of eight events. Japan remained in the lead with a tally of 37 gold, 24 silver and 24 bronze medals followed by the Philippines, 10 gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze medals.
The number of the participating countries rose to 20 at the third Asian Games held in Tokyo in 1958. The number of events increased from eight to 13. Japan dominated the Games to an amazing extent. She cornered 67 gold, 41 silver and 30 bronze medals. Philippines took the second spot with eight gold, 19 silver and 22 bronze medals.
The fourth Games held in Jakarta in 1962 were the most spectacular to date and also the most up to date. Japan maintained her outright superiority in various events and this was evident in that from a card of 12 events, she won 73 gold, 55 silver and 24 bronze medals. Hosts Indonesia took the second position with 11 gold, 12 silver and 28 bronze medals.
Thailands capital Bangkok hosted their first Asian Games in 1966 and these were the fifth in the series. Japan, who had continuously improved its performance in the past Asiad, went one better when it won 78 gold, 53 silver and 33 bronze medals followed by South Korea and Thailand who bagged 12 gold each. Contests in these games were organised in 14 events and 16 countries participated.
The sixth Asian Games were originally allotted to South Korea to be hosted in Seoul. But South Korea was unable in honour its commitment and Thailand stepped in to organise their second successive Games in Bangkok in 1970. Contests in these games were limited to only 13 events. Eighteen countries participated in the sixth edition of the Games. Japan maintained its position at the top of the medals tally with a haul of 74 gold, 47 silver and 23 bronze medals. South Korea with 18 gold, 13 silver and 23 bronze medals stood second.
Teheran, beautiful capital of the Aryameher Empire, was chosen as the venue of the 1974 Asian Games. Barring Taiwan, that had been expelled by the Asian Games Federation and the Peoples Republic of China admitted in their place, all member countries took part. More than 3000 players from 25 countries participated in 16 disciplines. Japan improved its gold medal performance still further in winning 75 medals. Iran came second with 36 and the China, participated for the first time, bagged 33 golds.
Pakistan was given the privilege of hosting the eighth Asian Games at Islamabad in 1978. Owing to internal troubles, it was unable to honour the commitment and the hunt began again for a host. Thailand Olympic Committee again to take the responsibility for organising the Games in order to save the movement. After getting aid of 2.7 million dollars by 11 countries, to meet the expenses of the organising the Games, Thailand organised the eighth Asian Games. A total number of 3842 players from 25 countries participated in the 19 disciplines. Japan faced stiffer competition from China and the two Koreans contrived to retain their place on the top of the medals tally with a haul of 70 golds. China was second with 51 golds.
Indian capital New Delhi hosted the ninth Asian Games in 1982. A total number of 4595 players from 33 countries participated in 21 sports. China finished first for the first time with 61 golds. Japan took the second spot with 57 golds.
The tenth Asian Games were organised in the South Korean capital Seoul in 1986. A record number of 4800 athletes from 27 countries took part in 25 games. China with 94 gold, 82 silver and 476 bronze medals took the first position. Hosts South Korea stood second with 93 gold, 55 silver and 76 bronze medals.
Chinas capital Beijing was the venue of 11th Games in 1990. A record number of 36 countries participated in these games. The number of sports was 36. China with a record number of 183 gold, 107 silver and 51 bronze medals headed the medals tally followed by South Korea with 54 gold, 54 silver and 73 bronze medals.
A record number of 7300 competitors and officials from 42 Olympic Council of Asia member nations participated in the 12th edition of Asian Games in 1994 at Hiroshima. They were competed in 34 sports with 337 gold medals were at stake. Hiroshima was the ever non-capital to stage the Asian Games held. China with 137 gold, 92 silver and 60 bronze medals topped medals tally followed by South Korea with 63 gold, 53 silver and 63 bronze medals.
Shruti Dhawan in
IT is not just my aim but the only determination to become like Steffi Graf, the world leader in women tennis, says with grit the 5 ft 7 inches tall Shruti Dhawan who astonished all with her superb performance to win the ITF Womens Circuit Masters event which concluded in Delhi recently.
The daughter of Mr R.M. Dhawan, a central government employee and himself a keen sportsman, Shruti fell in love with the racquet eight years back at the age of eight when her family used to stay near the Chandigarh Club. Shrutis father used to take her and her brother Nakul along to the club where she was imparted initial training. But it was under coach Baldev Singh, at the Lake Club courts, that Shruti learnt her fundamentals. Two years later, in 1992, she started playing at the CLTA Academy in Sector 10 where her game was further and polished. Here she was lucky to practice under the watchful eyes of Mayank Kapoor and Sandeep Sharma. The CLTA gave the much desired boost to this talented girl and with match exposure both at home and outside the results started pouring in. At 12 she won the bronze medal in the doubles at the National Women Festival at Patiala.
The year 1995 gave this Chandigarh girl her first international exposure when she attained the runners-up position in singles at ITF tournaments for under-14 in Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Calcutta and also claimed the same age group title again at Colombo, Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Calcutta. In December, she reached the last four stage in Brunei in an ITF tournament. Next year she clinched the doubles title in the National Mini Junior Tournament for under-14 at Mumbai partnering Shilarka.
The past two years have been result oriented ones for Shruti who moved to Delhis AITA academy for learning the finer points of the game.
In 1997 she won a host of tournaments like Eternit Everest North Zone, AITA North Zone at Chandigarh, New Delhi & Lucknow followed by the under-18 doubles title at Chennai with partner G. Sheetal of Karnataka and the under-16 doubles title at Chandigarh. When she was included as the youngest member of the Indian team for the Asiad-98, many an eyebrows were raised but Shruti soon answered all with her performance in the final of the $ 20,000 ITF Womens Circuit Masters event held at DLTA Complex, Delhi, where she stunned the top seed Sai Jailakshmi. It was indeed a great performance, says her father, The credit for this goes to coach Gajendra Singh and Balram Singh who had been working hard with this shy girl, he adds.
This year, she represented India in the World Youth Cup at Hiroshima (Japan) and the World Youth Games at Moscow, where she reached the pre-quarterfinal in the singles and the quarterfinal in the doubles. She added another feather in her cap by winning the National Junior Hard Court Tennis Championship for under-18 held at Chennai in August.
Sixteen-year-old Shruti is sponsored by Wilson and Nike. She is, however, facing difficulty in finding a sponsor from the public sector, as major institution like Air-India, petroleum boards etc only sponsor players after they attain the age of 18. This is thus limiting the career of this rising star of Indian tennis.
A Class XI student Shruti practices at DHAITA, Delhi, and has a busy tournament schedule. She uses each match as a ground to gain maximum experience.
The tennis fraternity has a lot of hopes on this mentally tough girl whose greatest asset is poise and a cool temperament. Playing long rallies are her forte. A weak service was my drawback but my coaches have utilised their experience in improving the same, says Shruti.
Indian tennis at
IN spite of the unprecedented international success achieved by Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, both in doubles and in singles primarily by the former, Indian tennis today finds itself at the crossroads. The main reason for this; is the loss of the Davis Cup play-off tie to Great Britain and the resultant relegation to the zonal groups.
This is not to suggest that the Indian duo bowed tamely to the British players. Rather, they fought a brave battle against the higher ranked players and against heavy odds. Even in losing the tie at 3-2, for India it has been no less than the proverbial glory in defeat.
However, the fact remains that the Indians now once again find themselves pushed back to the lowly zonal competitions, where they would have to face the tennis minnows like Japan, China and company. Hence, the problems and labours of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi and Indian tennis begin afresh. To first get out of the zonal competition and then seek a spot back in the elite World Group.
India tennis no doubt, has cornered a lot of Davis Cup glory in the past. As a matter of fact Davis Cup and India have had a chequered history together. Rarely has one nation with so little to show in terms of computer rankings and circuit points so regularly ambushed big-name teams to virtually carve out a semi-permanent place for itself in the group of 16, the World Group, to which only the best can hope to aspire.
If in years past it was the threesome of Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaidip Mukerjee and Premjit Lall, succeeded by the Amrithraj brothers and Ramesh Krishnan, Indias hopes now revolve around the pairing of Paes and Bhupathi.
But the actual bane of Indian tennis all these years has been the lack of a support cast for the front-ranking players. And todays scenario is no different.
What we are suffering from right now is the undeniable lack of quality support players. Paes and Bhupathi, one might argue, are doing so well, in India and abroad. But, beyond that all India can talk of now is those two players, both self-made and both fast improving, but both, surprisingly, unable to motivate the youngsters who take to the courts, aspiring to be no more that state and national champions.
As a result, the term reserve talent has no place in the current framework, one that hinges on mediocrity, and waits in the fatalistic hope that some player will have the grit and determination of Paes, or will come from abroad like a breath of fresh air, like Bhupathi, and take Indian tennis through another decade of World Group glory.
Todays second string, players like Gaurav Natekar, the Kirtanes, Prahlad Srinath and Syed Fazluddin, can pose no challenge to any Davis Cup team, however bad it may be, in the world right now. This raises the obvious question: what if Paes or Bhupathi are unable to play for the country in a Davis Cup tie? A possibility that the optimistic Indian patriot and the nonplussed Indian tennis administrator does not even want to think about, simply because the answer is too scary and uncomfortable.
In fact, contrary to Davis Cup results, the conditions and the level of play at the second string level, have gone from bad to worse over the last couple of years. Long after Ramanathan Krishnan, Jaideep Mukherjee, the Amrithraj brothers and Ramesh, even till the late eighties, reserve talent, however little it might be, existed in the form of the Zeeshan Alis, the Vasudevans and the Enrico Pipernos, players capable of pulling off a challenger hero or a Future Circuit event there. Yet, now in 1998, the dearth of any such prominent second string is what needs to be delved into, keeping the future in mind, something that every tennis association is supposed to worry about.
Now to call up Leander and Bhupathi to bail the country out of the Asia-Oceania group competitions at the cost of their international rankings, especially, when they are aspiring to be the worlds no. 1 doubles combination, it would be asking for too much. So, the problem at hand has to be dealt not with minor redressals for improvement here and there, but with an entire attitudinal change. We cannot shy away from the fact that Indian tennis at this juncture needs some bold initiatives.
and Bhupathi are required to be left alone for scaling
greater heights in ATP competitions, we should not mind
thrusting the youngsters into Davis Cup competition
straight away. Prahlad Srinath, who has shaped up well in
the recent months, can possibly play the singles, while
the doubles specialists like Vikrant Chadda and Gaurav
Natekar can be recalled to chip in. One never knows, such
an audacious move may well prove to be a blessing in
disguise for Indian tennis.
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