Chandigarh, Tuesday, March 16, 1999

Courtney Walsh joins elite club
By S. Pervez Qaiser
West Indian speedstar Courtney Walsh became the third bowler in the history of Test cricket to have scalped 400 wickets. He achieved this feat when he trapped Ian Healy, leg before, in Australia’s first innings in the first Test match at Post of Spain on March 5, 1999. It was his 107th Test match.

Cash no panacea for progress
By Ramu Sharma

PROPOSAL to hike the cash awards for medals obtained at various grades of international competitions has been mooted at governmental level. It is a good gesture and will be welcomed by the sporting fraternity.

From anonymous contender to flag bearer
From Bob Flynn in London

RANCIS BARRETT was just another anonymous contender until he carried the Irish flag in the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In an instant of global media attention, the light welterweight boxer from Galway became a national hero.


Tee Off

Sport Mail


Courtney Walsh joins elite club
By S. Pervez Qaiser

West Indian speedstar Courtney Walsh became the third bowler in the history of Test cricket to have scalped 400 wickets. He achieved this feat when he trapped Ian Healy, leg before, in Australia’s first innings in the first Test match at Post of Spain on March 5, 1999. It was his 107th Test match.

The first bowler to take 400 wickets in Test cricket was New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee. Hadlee achieved this feat in his 80th Test match against India at Christchurch in 1989-90 by dismissing middle order batsman Sanjay Manjrekar, caught by Deen Jones.

India’s Kapil Dev was the second bowler to complete 400 wickets. Kapil Dev reached this milestone in his 115th Test match against Australia at Perth in 1991-92 series, when he dismissed opening batsman Mark Taylor, leg before wicket.

Courtney Andrew Walsh, who was born on October, 30,1962, at Kingston, Jamaica, made his Test debut against Australia at Perth in the 1984-85 series. Graeme Wood was his first victim in Test cricket.

In his 29th Test match against Australia at Sydney in 1988-89 series Walsh completed his 100 wickets by dismissing David Boon.

The tall fast bowler reached the milestone of 200 wickets by dismissing Basit Ali of Pakistan in his 58 Test match at Bridgetown in 1992-93 series.

Walsh’s 300th wicket came in his 80th Test match against England at The Oval in the 1995 series. His 300th victim was Mike Watkinson.

Walsh played 31 series in 14 years to reach the milestone of 400 wickets. The four Test series against India in India in 1987-88 and the six Test series against England in England in 1995 were the best among his 31 series. He took 26 wickets each in the two series.

In the two Test series against New Zealand in New Zealand in 1994-95,Walsh took 16 wickets at an average of 8.25. In the second Test match at Wellington, he achieved his best bowling performance in an innings as well as in a match. He took seven wickets for 37 runs in the first innings and 13 wickets for 55 runs in the match.

Walsh has also completed his 100 wickets against Australia, when he had Mark Wauge, leg before wicket, With this Walsh became only the third bowler to have captured 100 plus wickets against two specific countries after Lance Gibbs against Curtly Ambrose, both West Indian. All three bowlers have achieved the feat against England and Australia.

Only three West Indian bowlers recorded the hat-trick in a Test match Walsh is one of them. The former West Indian skipper recorded this hat trick against Australia at Brisbane in 1988-89 by dismissing A.I.C Dodemaide of his last ball in the first and M. Veletta and G. Wood with his first two balls in the second innings. It was the first hat-trick in Test cricket to involve both innings.


Cash no panacea for progress
By Ramu Sharma

A PROPOSAL to hike the cash awards for medals obtained at various grades of international competitions has been mooted at governmental level. It is a good gesture and will be welcomed by the sporting fraternity. But the pertinent question here is whether such inducements will act as a spur to better performance? And more importantly does anyone really know and understand what a top grade achievement at an Olympic or world level constitute? In a nutshell how many people at the top are really aware of what sport and achievement are all about? Cash inducements cannot buy medals. In fact, the latest proposal of a steep hike for the medal winners tantamount to accusing the sport fraternity of not performing well hitherto because of insufficient monetary incentives.

Cash for medals line of thinking exposes an overall ignorance of sport and the culture it defines. No one wins or losses at will. One has to work hard for achievement and for that it is essential to know how much one can achieve. It is not everyone who can win a medal in an international competition. Only the fittest and the most accomplished athlete can win. The question in the Indian contest is whether we have any world class material? The answer is no.

The government in all honesty of purpose obviously thinks that, for instance, hiking the cash award for an Olympic gold medal from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 15 lakh is going to do the trick. Someone from India will win a gold medal if only to earn Rs 15 lakh. If winning a gold medal was that easy then India would have medal rich long time ago instead of still protecting the hard won hockey medals, a tennis silver (Atlanta) and a wrestling bronze (Melbourne).

It is time that the authorities in general and officials controlling the various federations try and distinguish the difference between the standards prevailing outside of India instead of wasting time in rhetorics and futile exercises such as increased cash incentives. The ground realities must be understood first.

As a nation somewhat still in the embryonic stage of what sport and associated culture means, Indians tend to behave like children, overjoyed at the slightest hint of success only to plunge into unbearable grief following a reversal on the playing field. We have in fact yet to understand what it means to lose before we mature to accept victory. A country which resorts to violence on the defeat of its cricket team, for instance, needs to do a lot of rethink on the subject of sport and sportsmanship before talking about paying more money for medals.

While the government has every right to offer what ever possible inducements for what it thinks may bring better results a more down to earth approach at the Indian Olympic Association level could go a long way in viewing the general standard of sport in the country in a proper perspective. In this context the IOA could perhaps ask the various federations to make available the details of the prevailing standards at the world, Olympic, Commonwealth and Asian levels and then try and ask government patronage for only those internationals where the country has some possible chance. A medal need not be the criterion but there must be some sort of respectability about the performance of the Indian representative.

The reason for governmental misconception of sports standards can be attributed to the federations, some of whom often tend to misrepresent facts for short-term gain. A federation which promises medals where none are possible in order to be able to send a team with officials is certainly not doing the cause of the concerned discipline any good.

Thus India had no business whatsoever to send such a huge contingent to the Asian Games. This is not to criticise the poor performances of some of the participants but to point out to the totally unnecessary expenditure incurred on disciplines where the country’s standards is not up to the mark. The federations owe the public an explanation for sending participants in disciplines in which India has yet to make a beginning. Losing is not a crime but to put up an amateurish display at the international level is something that cannot be excused.

The same applies to the Commonwealth Games and of course the Olympics. India should stick to the games in which it qualifies and not indulge in luxuries. Hockey is a must in the Olympics and boxing is by qualification. For the rest, with the exception of a couple of athletes, a perhaps the tennis entries, India should keep its representation to the minimum in the Olympic Games. As for the Commonwealth Games, the Athletics Federation displayed rare realism by not fielding a team. The standard was far above the Asian level and with rare exceptions Indian athletes are not always up to the continental level.

In this context it is rather a pity that there seems to be a misconception over the performances of some of the athletes in the Asian Games in Bangkok. Take the case of Jyotirmoy Sikdar. For too much is being made of her gold medals both at the state and national levels. There appears to be a genuine feeling in some quarters that the athlete is a medal prospect at the forthcoming Olympics at Sydney. Nothing could be more wrong.

While complimenting her for her fine showing in Bangkok it must also be acknowledged that Jyotirmoy’s medals were not won because of great timings. She won because the rest of the field was of a poor quality. The top Chinese were missing, no fault of hers though. Jyotirmoy’s performance would have meant something if her timings were somewhere near the best Asian performance. Unfortunately, despite her medal-runs, the athlete could not even come under the national mark of Shiny Wilson, the only athlete in India to come under two minutes for the half mile.

Jyotirmoy should have been clocking between one minute 55 plus to be reckoned as a world class athlete. At present we must be content with her achievements in Bangkok and help her cut down her timings to below two minutes. That would be progress. It would be wrong to place her in a category she does not belong to.

The federation must step in and help view her performance and those of some of the other medallists in a proper perspective to prevent further misunderstanding of the capabilities of our athletes. Some of the other federations too need to educate the authorities on the exact nature of the medal performances in various disciplines. Then only can there be a more rational approach expected from the government, something more acceptable than the proposed inducement of a hike in amount for an Olympic medal. It must be emphasised once more that Olympic medals cannot be weighed in terms of cash.


From anonymous contender to flag bearer
From Bob Flynn in London

FRANCIS BARRETT was just another anonymous contender until he carried the Irish flag in the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In an instant of global media attention, the light welterweight boxer from Galway became a national hero.

This triumph came only 15 months after Barrett was boxing as a junior in the west of Ireland. A meteoric rise by any standards, but not unique in the world of ever-younger athletes. Yet even hardened Irish sportswriters described Barrett’s achievement as “miraculous”.

For Barrett was a traveller from Galway and, as a result, had never been allowed into local boxing clubs or access to training facilities. The boy glowing with pride on the Atlanta track had been ostracised by the local community for most of his life. For five years Barrett had trained in a metal container with no running water or electricity on his family’s site outside Galway.

Southpaw, a feature documentary about Barrett directed by Liam McGrath, was released this month. It was named one of the top five films in the World Cinema section at the Sundance Festival last month.

Immediately after the 1996 Olympics the boxer married Kathleen McDonagh and moved to a caravan site in London. He now has two children, 18-month-old Frankie and Whitney, three months. In Neasden I find the Olympic hero, now 22, among the rows of caravans filled with Irish voices and children playing. He is one of a huddle of dark-haired boys trying to fix a car. Barrett looks up and shakes hands. He has a solid grip, a muscular walk and the gentlest of smiles.

“Travellers are the real Irish people,” he says. “There are more travellers in Ireland than any other part of the world. They come from the time of the famine when people never had money to pay the rent and they moved out to live in tents in the country. In the area where my family comes from a lot of people went to America, but the travellers stayed in Ireland and kept the old traditions.’’ Barrett talks the way he boxes, quietly and quickly. His outer calm is offset by an inner restlessness, as if there were a dynamo thrumming inside him.

We find a cafe in the high street (Barrett, like his parents, has never touched alcohol) and he talks about fulfilling dreams. There is neither arrogance about his success nor anger at the prejudice he has faced throughout his life. Through winning, he hopes, will come acceptance of who he is and his way of life. “I’ve been turned away from places in Galway because I was a traveller,” he says, matter of factly. “I think it’s because settled people see travellers are different, they stay in caravans and make a living from scrap and some are on the dole. One of the Galway councillors said travellers should be tagged like cattle, and that’s not very nice.”

Liam McGrath says: “Boxing is more than just a sport to Francis, it’s a way of declaring himself and his community to the rest of the world. That and the relationship between Francis and Chick is what the film’s about, boxing is a much bigger thing in these circumstances.’’

For over two years McGrath filmed Barrett, following him from Galway to the Olympics and subsequently to London, contrasting the travellers’ life, including Francis and Kathleen’s marriage in a communal travellers’ wedding, with the tense build-up to the fights. McGrath captures the epic sweep of Barrett’s story and the twin touchstones of boxing and the surrounding love of his family, and Gillen.

“I wanted to address the stereotypes about travellers and boxing and how Francis overturns them,’’ says McGrath. He is amazed that the film is going into cinemas with its unfashionable subjects of boxing, travellers and victimisation. “I’m sure it’s because of Francis. As soon as I met him, I knew we had someone special here. He symbolises the feeling of pride in a marginalised community”.

“I’ve always been curious about people on the outskirts of society, and for most of us the travellers are people you only read about in the papers,’’ says McGrath. “From the minute I met Francis we got on like old friends. He just brings everything back down to earth for everybody around him. He’s one of those people who can make you look at the world in a different way.”

Southpaw is now part of an on-going project for McGrath who is currently filming Barrett’s Sydney Olympics campaign, which began with Barrett’s victory in the Irish senior quarter-finals.

Born in 1977 in Galway, one of a family of 13, Barrett is descended from generations of travellers. His childhood interest in boxing came from his grandfather who was an army boxer, and his father, who passed on a love of the sport to his sons. This, along with his humility, is evident in every frame of Southpaw. He says that until he hit the Olympic trail he was a “nobody”, despite his two junior Irish and seven intermediate titles.

Barrett’s childhood was spent boxing in the shadows of blind prejudice.

“When I was about 10, me and a couple of my brothers were in a boxing club in Salthill in Galway but the priest that ran the place didn’t like travellers and he put us out of the club. We were barred from every club after that. Sometimes it was like being the black people in America. It would have been easy to pack it in then, but I’m too fond of the sport.”

Barrett and his brothers took an aluminium container at the Hillside site in Galway and converted it into a gym, complete with ropes, punchbag and handpainted boxing pictures. Barrett trained day and night in the “lovely little spot” in which his brothers, all now boxers, still work out. His 13-year-old brother Dermott won the Irish junior title last year. “There was no running water and no electricity a lot of the time,” says Barrett. “We had a generator, but it broke down a lot. At night I would train in the candlelight, shadow boxing until I got a full session in.”

His eyebrows are only slightly thickened with flecks of bruises. There are no scars yet. He is still amateur and works on the roads for a living, digging BT ducts. “It’s great for keeping the weight down, good exercise.” He has still to encounter the rapacious managers, the fixers and liggers, and the faint reek of underworld money in the professional game.

In boxing there is always a guru, usually the coach — Tyson’s derailment began with the death of his original trainer. Ali had Angelo Dundee, and Prince Naseem has Brendan Ingle. Barrett has Chick Gillen, a soft-spoken man in a tweed jacket. Gillen, Barrett says, “is like a father” to him. The 66-year-old Galway barber — an ex-boxer and Connaught champion - formed the Olympic Boxing Club in 1988, following the ideals of the Olympics and open to allcomers. There was no permanent gym and the boys would box in the open and under street lights.

“Chick has done an awful lot for travellers. He knows all about them. He lived beside my grandfather in Claddagh for years. He’s never doubted me and he’s looked after me in all my Irish fights. He’s one in a million.’’ Barrett says he doesn’t see that much of him now he lives in London. “Chick doesn’t travel, he’s too fond of Galway.’’

Gillen encouraged Barrett to enter the senior championships and he won through to the Irish final where he met John Morrisey. By the last round Morrisey was winning 10-8 on points. “Chick got me in the corner,” Barrett recalls. “He said now, Francis, where do you want to go? I said, the Olympics. He said, here you go then, box the way you always box, don’t rush. I went in and won the match by 14-12.”

With Olympic qualification came the attention of the media. Barrett found himself “invited in” after years of exclusion: “Myself and other travellers were getting recognition and respect for the first time.”

He was the first Romany to reach the Olympics and when Barrett carried the Irish flag in Atlanta, he admits: “I was so excited I couldn’t feel my feet. I really was walking on thin air.”

He was in constant phone contact with Gillen, whose barber shop was invaded with well-wishers. “Don’t injure anybody, now,” Gillen warned over the phone before Barrett’s first Olympic match. When he beat Brazilian Zely Ferriara by a record margin of 32-7, he was headline news. Two nights later he lost 16-10 to the Tunisian, Fathi Missadui, who went on to win the silver medal.

Barrett returned to a rainy Galway glorious in defeat. The aftermath was a mix of public acceptance and official rejection. Barrett was still a Romany, and as Irish writer Tom Humphries says in the film “Everyone wanted him to conform, get a house and become ‘normal’.”

He didn’t. Crowds greeted him and he was hugged by the same town councillors who had just decreed that the Barretts’ hillside caravan site would not be made permanent after a court action by local residents. This was followed by a ruling that no new families would be allowed on to the site. As Barrett was about to be married, he and Kathleen were deemed a new family and could not return home. Two weeks after his triumphant return, Barrett and his fiancee moved to London.

In London Barrett found himself a new coach, Luigi Leo — “a lovely fella who has really looked after me.’’

In 1997 he fought himself into a wreck when he tried for the English and Irish titles simultaneously —something that hadn’t been achieved for 43 years. With Leo coaching in London and Gillen in Ireland, he had 15 fights in 10 weeks, travelling between London and Dublin. He lost the Irish semi-final in March but won the English ABA final in London two days later: it was the first ABA title to go to a boxer from the west of Ireland.

Last August, a month after Southpaw premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh, Barrett suffered a shocking backlash from his own community. While visiting his parents he was challenged by a group of travellers to take part in a bare-knuckle boxing match. He refused. When he and his father visited the other Romanies to talk it over, they were attacked with knives. Francis required 30 stitches for cuts to his neck, hands and back. His father was treated for two stab wound to the chest. Two men were arrested and are awaiting trial in Galway. The Barretts are now fully recovered and Francis still yearns to return to Galway.

“I’m always going back to Galway for a couple of weeks. I miss Chick and my family and I miss the fresh air,’’ he says. “But I don’t think I’ll move back until I’ve done all my boxing and maybe have my money made. Eventually I’d like to become a trainer and take over from Chick. I’d take in young lads no matter where they came from — travellers or settled people.” — By arrangement with The Guardian


Harmeet indecisive on turning pro

Tee Off
by K.R. Wadhwaney

Chandigarh’s Harmeet Kahlon won the Northern India Golf Championship at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) course recently. Except on the penultimate day when he was totally off-colour, erring in putting and also in the long game, he was the most consistent among all the participants. He deserved to win the title.

Those, who have watched him play recently, feel that he is unquestionably the most improved player and should go places if he further sharpens his mental faculties. He, however, remains indecisive when to turn pro. He feels that it is a tough decision and he has to weigh the pros and cons before jumping from amateur status to the rank at professionals.

Ashok Kumar Mahto finished second, while Aman Bahl was placed third. Amit Luthra, a tall and hefty local golfer, was rather wayward in hitting. He did not play to his potential. An Arjuna awardee, he also faltered in putting. No wonder he was not invited to be one of the five selected for the recently concluded Indian open at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, the second oldest golf course in the world.

Decision appreciated

The decision, though belated, spread happiness as the Indian Golf Union (Ladies Section) decided to send a four-member team to take part in the 21st Queen Sirikit Championship in New Zealand.

“We deserve to take part as we have put in a very hard work for this competition”, said Nonita Lall Qureshi who will be playing for the 15th time in this competition, which began 21 years ago. Last year she was non-playing captain, when the meet was held at Mumbai. Parnita, only 18, will be playing for the fourth time, while Shruti, unquestionably the most improved player in the country, will be making her debut.

The participation of the Indian team in the Sirikit Tournament has been made possible because of Indian Oil’s readiness to sponsor the four-member team. Had IOC not come forward, the team would have missed participation for the first time in 21 years.

There is an urgent need for the IGU to provide further assistance to the ladies section which is always throbbing with ever new ideas. The ladies always hold their meets independently. They conduct their affairs more meticulously than men. Their prize distribution function is always more glamorous and colourful than function organised by the men unit.

The three-member team will not have enough time to acclimatise to the varying conditions in New Zealand, where the course is one of the toughest. High velocity winds make it all the more hazardous. But all players are optimistic of performing well, though competition is expected to be razor-sharp.

“I am in good form and should perform better than what I did at Mumbai last year”, said Parnita. Shruti is, as always, her usual self, happy-go-lucky. She is a type of player, who will motivate her colleagues though she will be taking part for the first time. Nonita will be a sobering influence on her two colleagues.

A proposal

The DGC captain Rajiv Puri (Kitoo) is planning to organise the biggest prize money tournament next year, 2000. “It will carry $ 1 million in prize money”, said Puri adding: “I will have to get cracking to raise the needed funds for the competition”.

Bedi injured

S.S. Bedi, a live-wire ‘starter’ had an unfortunate accident at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) course the other day as he was hit by a golf car. He had to undergo an operation for his fractured hip bone.

“We want him to resume duties as he is the only one who can organise proper ‘matches’ for golfers and guests”, said two members, adding: “We feel lost without him”. His views were endorsed by many other members.

Bedi has been working at the club for the last more than 30 years. He knows every one by his/her first name and he is aware of every member’s priorities. He organises matches accordingly. Recently, he was presented a car, thanks to some office-bearers of the club. When asked, Omi Malhotra merely said: “He richly deserved it”. So said Kapil Bhatia.

Sport Mail

Lahore Test match was a farce

A lot of interest had been generated by the first-ever Asian Test Cricket Championship. This was an experimental step, which would have determined the future of the world Test cricket championship, advocated so strongly by ICC chairman Jagmohan Dalmia. India fumbled in the inaugural tie in Calcutta, but played better at Colombo and looked all set to enter the final and play Pakistan at Dhaka. But what happened in the final league match at Lahore between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was seen by all cricket lovers of the subcontinent. A depleted Sri Lanka managed to snatch full batting and bowling bonus points, due to Pakistan’s indifferent batting and bowling. When Sri Lanka crossed the 300-run mark, Wasim Akram came on to bowl, got the first ever Test hat-trick by a Pakistani and finished off the last five Sri Lankan wickets quickly. Only Geoff Boycott in his syndicated column had the guts to come out openly against the Pakistanis, calling the whole affair a farce. One did expect Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri to come out and criticise the grossly unsporting conduct of the Pakistani team. But they kept quiet and in fact Gavaskar went on to defend the Pakistani team in a syndicated column in a Pakistani newspaper. Can Gavaskar explain why Wasim Akram came on to bowl only after Sri Lanka completed 300 runs? Why was Saqlain Mushtaq brought in so late? If matches are to be ‘fixed’ by the players in such a manner, should 20 million people of the subcontinent waste their time in watching the live coverage of these Test matches?



The match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was a farce. The way Pakistan gave opportunities to Sri Lanka to collect bonus points was shameful. Pakistan easily gave away all their wickets before 100 overs. To add to it they bowled so cheaply that Sri Lanka managed to score 300 runs. Akram deliberately didn’t bowl before Sri Lanka managed 300 runs. Pakistan have really tarnished their reputation.


* * * *

Sack Azhar

India could not reach the final stage the World Cup in 1996 as our team’s performance and leadership remained below par. The non-inclusion of two deserving allrounders who were in their peak form in 1996 in the team, namely Robin Singh of Tamil Nadu and Ajay Sharma of Delhi made a big difference in the team’s ultimate performance in 1996. Besides, skipper Azharuddin neither clicked as captain nor as batsman. His captaincy and batting was also found wanting in the recently held Test series. It is high time the selectors sacked Azhar. Ajay Jadeja or Anil Kumble can replace him as captain. Sadagopan Ramesh and Saurav Ganguly are ideal openers while Sachin Tendulkar should bat at number four.


* * * *

Akram’s feat

Magic, excitement and records are always on the cards whenever arch-rivals India and Pakistan clash in Test cricket. After Kumble’s 10-wicket haul, it was the turn of 32-year-old Wasim Akram to set a new record with his Test hat-trick. In limited overs cricket also he has hat-tricks to his credit. He is the 22nd Test player in the world to achieve this feat. With his maiden hat-trick Wasim has joined the select band. Congratulations, Akram!



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