|SPORT TRIBUNE||Saturday, March 4, 2000, Chandigarh, India|
Boxing catches them young
By Ramu Sharma
Years ago, concerned about the continued downhill trend of Indian sport, somebody coined the slogan Catch em young. It was very appropriate at that time though later it became a catch phrase like so many other such phrases have become in India. But some sports federations did follow the directives from above and made an effort to give a practical shape to the slogan.
The candle still flickers
prayers to winning ways
Boxing catches them young
Years ago, concerned about the continued downhill trend of Indian sport, somebody coined the slogan Catch em young. It was very appropriate at that time though later it became a catch phrase like so many other such phrases have become in India. But some sports federations did follow the directives from above and made an effort to give a practical shape to the slogan. Football, hockey, table tennis, among others, all have tournaments and competitions starting from sub-junior level and though these have not always served the purpose the intention was good enough. Boxing, however, has succeeded in catching them young and has managed to monitor the progress of some with potential talent. Quite a number of the juniors have, over the years, graduated to the national level and some of them have even won medals.
At this stage it must be also mentioned that boxing has been among the first disciplines in India to introduce competitions at the national level and from 1985 the federation was bold enough to extend the scope to include championships at the sub-junior level. It must also be emphasised here that it was a bold venture, particularly for a body contact sport. In view of the largely biased opinion against it, not many parents are appreciative of the inherent lessons which can be drawn from the sport. At the amateur level, unfortunately majority of the corporate houses appear to harbour similar negative thoughts.
In this respect the Amateur Boxing Federation needs to do something to dispel the generally held views about boxing being a bloody sport. In fact, it is one sport where a doctor is involved from day one where all the boxers are physically examined and their body weight determined to ensure that only competitors with compatible weights engage in a combat in the ring. There too the doctor is present, watching every minute of the bout and ready to intervene for remedial medical assistance in the event of even a minor damage. Not only that the rules are such that the referee, on his own, can stop the bout in case he finds that a boxer is not able to continue with the fight because of injury. In fact, his main job, apart from ensuring a fair bout according to rules, is to see that no one gets injured. And boxing, one must understand, is not a sport which promotes and advocates aggression. The whole theme of boxing is to ensure fair play and respect and friendship. There have been innumerable cases of teachers in school asking the warring parties to wear gloves and settle it in a ring rather than allow the grievances to be perpetuated and turn to something ugly. Unfortunately, amateur boxing has often been confused with the blood and thirst of professional boxing where money is the biggest motivator. It is in this overall picture that one must view that continued efforts of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, which continues to encourage the sport at the sub-junior level and has managed to reach a fairly respectable state in 15 years of championships. The first was held in Kanpur under primitive conditions in 1985. The ring was at the ground level and the boxers and officials housed in a dharmshala. It was to the credit of the competitors, officials and the IABF itself that the conditions did not deter them from continuing with the trend.
Not only has the IABF encourage the sport at this level through regular national championships it has taken the more important step of providing youngsters training-cum-coaching camp exposure and competition in Germany. This project was launched last year and so successful was the experience that the Germans have invited another bunch this year too. It is on the cards that such trips would soon be spread to cover other European countries.
The sport at the sub-junior level has indeed grown. The first competition in Kanpur had attracted a little over 100 competitors. The latest, in Delhi, in the last week of February, had 260 entries from 30 units. The sport had indeed grown and the enthusiasm unabated. Luckily too, Delhi did not have as much financial problems. The cash crunch was there but by and large everything worked out fairly well, thanks to the efforts of Ashok Matto, the President, in the main, the New Delhi YMCA which allowed its space for the rings, and others.
The five days of competition produced some outstanding bouts with Assam, fielding 11 boxers out of a mandatory 12, came up with the title, though tying with the Services on points but carrying the days thanks to an extra gold medal. Assams efforts needs special mention. This is a state where the sport has flourished these few years because of the single-minded devotion of one man. Mr Devan Gogoi. He started the Assam Boxing Academy which then gave way to Sports Authority hostel, a unique contribution from Indias sports monitoring giant. This has been a recent occurrence, where along with the newly appointed coach, Mr Gogoi has done wonders.
The Sports Authority of India has generally been dismissed as a non-functional body carrying with the hang-over from the days of the National Sports Institute, its predecessor from which took over the responsibilities, liabilities and achievements and all. But in the case of boxing the SAI has come out with a fine record. The SAI hostels set up in various parts of the country has done wonderful work as far as this sport is concerned. Even the Services team, comprising boys desirous of joining the armed forces and not representing the Services as has been generally understood, also belonged to the SAI hostels.
This is a unique contribution and deserves to be lauded. Here one must dwell on the contribution of the Services, in particular, to the sport after independence. It was the boys battalions of the Services that threw up some remarkable boxers who went on to fetch laurels for India in the international ring. And some of them, like Munnuswamy Venu, Chandra Narayan, Padam Bahadur Mal, and others, made their beginning from the junior ranks. Even Dingko Singh is a product of junior boxing.
It is to the credit of the IABF that it has kept the game going despite many odds and has even flourished. The sport and the federation needs to be encouraged, and an effort must be made to understand the sport.
Unfortunately, there is
so much ignorance about boxing and standards that
sometimes it is difficult for the federation to put its
case forward. Remember the case of Dingko Singh. His case
for inclusion was turned out because he would bring
disgrace to the country. But he won the gold in the
Asian Games in Bangkok, he became our Dingko
The candle still flickers
Indias exuberant sprinter P.T. Usha is holding the forte in sprints on the subcontinent. There is still a lot of fire in her, and even the sceptics would acquiesce to this stark reality. The candle still flickers to the envy of current Indian women athletes. She shot into fame during the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 when she missed, like Milkha Singh, the bronze medal in the 400 metre hurdles by a whisker, and later went on to bag four gold medals in the Seoul Asian Games to earn the appellation of Payoli Express. She has been the national reigning champion in sprints for over a decade and is still a force to reckon with. Maintaining remarkable physical fitness for a married Indian woman, with an eight-year-old child, like P.T. Usha, is something baffling and freakish in terms of the Indian socio-cultural background.
What is the secret of P.T. Ushas exemplary physical fitness for big time track events ? One of the secrets in this context is yoga. The 5000-year-old yogic science is one of the many factors which has helped her to maintain her physical fitness and composure. Yoga expert Gopaalananda, founder-director of International Yoga Academy in Ramanathapuram, Coimbatore, who was attached to the national coaching camps a year before the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, has been instrumental in imparting yogasans to her which, she admitted to this writer, helped me a lot in many ways.
Dr.Gopaalananda has helped many top flight sportspersons like, seven-time silver medallist in world weightlifting championships for women, N.Kunjarani Devi, pugilist Jitendra Kumar, Karnam Malleswari and so forth. Says Gopaalananda: Through yoga, Usha improved the motor qualities, reduced anxiety and increased flexibility. He elaborates that through yoga, the joints and muscles get stretched which helps to attain top physical fitness which is in consonance with Swami Vivekanandas philosophy: expansion is life, contraction is death.
Recently, Usha told mediamen at a sports function in Yavatmal, about 175 kms from Nagpur: At Jakarta, I would like to finish 200 metres in less than 23 secs. At the Inter-State meet in Lucknow last September, Usha clocked 23.25 secs in 200 metres and created a new national record. The Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI) has set a timing of 22.61 secs. In 200 metres as the qualifying mark for the Sydney Olympics, which seems to be beyond Ushas reach. The Asian Track & Field Meet in Jakarta is from August 2 to 5 this year and since Usha is not training all out, according to her coach, J.S. Bhatia, due to knee problem, in her hometown, Payoli, there is not enough time for her to train with zeal and passion in order to break the 23 sec. barrier.
Says P.T. Ushas coach, J.S. Bhatia, SAI coach based in Lucknow: I would not suggest that she should compete in an individual event any further in order to ensure that her great reputation as a sprinter remains intact. The best thing for her would be to concentrate on 4 x100-metre relay for the Sydney Olympics. Bhatia is candid and forthright and his words should not be taken with a pinch of salt. Usha is unlikely to turn up trumps if she competes in sprints (individual event) since age is not on her side. The amazon is over 36 and not even a shadow of her former self when she could set the track ablaze with her bursting speed.
Usha is likely to arrive
at the NIS in Patiala sometime in March to train under
her trusted coach J.S. Bhatia. Age may not be on her
side, yet she has the grit and determination to prove
that she is still Indias most gutsy woman athlete
ever. The statisticians would corroborate this hard fact.
Adding prayers to winning ways
The woman who has collected more medals in major international sporting events than any other-Kenyan athlete says she has recovered her will to win. After faring poorly in the last Olympics in Atlanta, Mary Nakhumicha recalls, I thought I was finished.
The weakness of her performance is comparative: she won a silver in the javelin at Atlantas Paralympics, the top international competition for disabled athletes.
But it has to be compared with a javelin bronze in the 1990 World Championships, javelin and shot put gold and discus silver in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics; javelin gold and shot-put silver in the 1994 International Paraplegics Championships in Germany; and javelin and shot gold and discus bronze in the International Wheelchair Games in Stoke Mandeville, England, 1995.
In fact, she has won a medal in every international event in which she has participated. Several of her victories set world records.
Her winning ways began with her first appearance in an international event, despite her lack of experience and exposure at this level when she collected a bronze for Kenya in the World Disabled Championships in Holland in 1990.
Nakhumicha - fifth born in a family of 10- was struck by polio at the age of five. Part of her right leg was paralysed. Her sporting interest was sparked by watching a television programme on youngsters competing in a paraplegics championship.
I was immediately interested and decided to try my luck, she recalls. When I heard there was going to be a regional competition for the physically disabled I went along and took part.
But taking part has never been enough for the woman who regards herself as an athlete who happens to be disabled rather than a disabled athlete. Even winning has not been enough: she has wanted to excel.
Her ability and determination were quickly spotted by a national coach catering for the disabled. His prognosis was rapidly borne out by Nakhumichas performances. And there is no sign that her medal-winning days are over.
Late last year she finally overcame her Atlanta disappointment, winning two gold in the javelin and shot put, and a discus silver in the seventh All-Africa Games in South Africa. She even broke her own javelin record with a throw of 21.5 metres, improving on her Barcelona Paralympics record by 2.45 metres. That gives her a tally of 14 medals, eight of them gold, in nine years.
Now she has her sights on this years Sydney Paralympics in Australia. I dont feel satisfied with my achievements so far, she says. I still feel young enough to keep on competing for another few years.
What makes her tick? Determination, hard training and dedication, she replies. There is no short cut to success. So whenever there is an international championship I always go out of my way to step up my training and put an extra effort into my preparations. I dont rest on my laurels.
She attributes her recent successes to God and to Bishop Musa Magodo, who owns a childrens home in Nairobi. While feeling low in the wake of Atlanta, she was introduced to Bishop Magodo at one of his regular Nairobi crusades.
My father had just died, she explains, and I wanted someone to take care of me. I told Bishop Magodo of my plight and he sympathised with me and agreed to have me in his home.
Since then, he has proved the best substitute for my father and his prayers have done wonders. He has healed so many people and has been the inspiration behind my latest achievements.
There was a time in cricket when bowling used to be an underarm mode. The game may have looked ungainly, but there were fewer hassles. As the bowling switched over to an over the shoulder method, it on doubt became more rhythmic, but the hassles around it have increased.
Most of the bowling actions are smooth, yet a few are cumbersome and laboured. As long as these difficult actions remain within the threshold of permitted parameters of cricket laws, there is no problem. But, there are some bowling actions, engaged in long controversies, as they infringe the laws.
Before we go into the parameters of the throwing law, let us try and understand as to why the illegitimacy comes in. It happens when the bowler tries to generate a sudden jerky force, either to extract more sharp turn or bowl an express delivery.
As we move over to the definition of throwing, as per the MCC Laws, one observes that it has essentially three parts. The first part says that there is a straightening of the arm, whether complete or partial. That means that violation is bending and then its straightening. The second part of the law relates to the time of its straightening process, which is before the ball leaves the hand. The last part says that the use of wrist is not debarred. On the face value, these provisions of law appear to be quite clear and simple, but it is not so.
Complexities in judging of illegal deliveries arises as majority of bowlers involved are border line cases. Judgement in any case remains a subjective matter. Thats why, in earlier times when observation was through naked eyes only, the difference of opinions did exist. Modern technology dissects the bowling action is slow motion which can also be seen from various angles. But as the observations are interpreted differently, there are never ending controversies.
Lets also focus on a developing process of a thrower. To start with no bowler aims to be a chucker. The aberration creeps into the bowing action during the formative stage, rather unconsciously. The unaware bowler, like other, is merely striving to acquire an effective bowling skill.
Among the spinners the aberration tends to afflict the off-spinners more. This is because an off-spinner bends his elbow more to derive a clockwise spin, which is akin to turning of the door knob. The leg-spinners, for anti-clockwise spin bowls with an higher elbow, which is bent lesser as compared.
Majority of the spinners have a smooth action. They either bowl without any straightening process or it is very nominal and gradual. But certain off-spinners, aspiring for vicious turns, do so with a jerky force generated by sudden straightening of elbow that the bowling process becomes questionable. This illegal mode is also employed by certain fast bowlers who go wrong in striving to get their express deliveries. The phobia of achieving 100 mph can cost dearly. Shoaib Akhtar must have realised the hard fact.
The divergence of views of the international cricketers on throwing also makes an interesting study. Bobby Simpson finds the throwing law to be quite clear. As one of the member of the ICCs advisory panel for illegal deliveries, he pleads for strict implementation of the legal provisions. Another member, Ranjit Fernando of Sri Lanka feels that straightening of the elbow is inevitable. The straightening could be permitted, but limited to say 10 to 15 degrees. The legendary Frank Tyson also opines that bending of elbow is inevitable. He blames an open action for throwing.
Sunil Gavaskar feels that the law should give a proper definition of a legal delivery. The present law talks about illegal delivery only. According to him, the simple definition of legal delivery could be that at the point of delivery, the arm from shoulder to fingers is ramrod straight. And according to Wasim Akram, the Pakistan skipper if somebody has a bent arm, it is not chucking. Chucking is when you stop and throw. Vivala-difference.
And now the rectification aspect. Initial correction during the development stage is ideal. It should preferably be handled by a knowledgeable person. With modern technology, it should be possible to pin-point the exact location of the violation in the bowling action. The erring bowler must be convinced. The rectification process might cause a small setback to the bowling rhythm, which can be recovered with some efforts.
Weak umpiring is another aspect, which does not help the cause against chucking. Whether it is fear of controversy or lack of backbone, the umpires generally are reluctant to no ball a thrower. And when an umpire does call, he faces a union like reaction of the fielding side. Remember the walk out by Sri Lankans team in Australia Self-interest over-rides the cricket interest.
As some bending of arm
is inevitable and the modern technology is bringing about
more cases of suspect action, the provisions of law also
need a review. It is not a constitution review, so why
should there be any hesitation.
Groom youngsters for World Cup
After being thrashed in Test and one dayers in the recently concluded tour of Australia, the Indian cricket team has again been beaten by South Africa. Even the tailor-made wickets provided by the BCCI could not save the Indian team. Gavaskar has rightly said that form may be temporary but quality is permanent. South Africa pacers and medium pacers displayed their quality and bowled beautifully on dead and spinner friendly wickets to capture all the Indian wickets. The BCCI should prepare a long-term plan for supporting wickets to encourage pace bowlers in domestic cricket and players like Ricky , Yuvraj Singh, Sodhi, Manish Sharma and Kaif should be groomed for the 2003 World Cup to be held in South Africa.
The pace at which things are moving in Indian cricket is a matter of concern for every Indian cricket lover. It is difficult to understand our cricket board chief saying we tried to bring some young blood into the side but failed due to which we are recalling veterans like Azhar and Mongia. I have nothing against Azhar and Mongia but there is certain limit upto which a person can perform. I mean to say that Azhar (37) is not the future of Indian cricket. If we do not give a chance to young stars like Kaif, Reetinder Sodhi, Yuvraj, Ravneet Ricky and Manish Sharma they will disappear from the scene. Look at Sri Lanka. They decided that if they want to have a good future they have to go for youth and the result is before us.
After Sachins unexpected decision to quit as captain at the end of the Test series against South Africa, our national selectors had no choice but to select Saurav Ganguly as the new captain. He has been named captain for the matches against South Africa as well as the three-nation event in Sharjah from March 22 to 31. It is a good decision to select Ganguly as the new captain. He has been named captain at a time when the team is in a shambles. Saurav Ganguly is the best man for the job at the moment.
Although India lost the first cricket Test to South Africa, yet the bowlers deserve praise for their brilliant performance in the Test. Kumble, Srinath, Sachin and Kartik gave marvellous performances. When South Africa were chasing a victory target of 163 and were well placed at 106 for two, everyone thought that South Africa would win the match easily. But Anil Kumble gave a great performance taking three wickets and South Africa were struggling at 128 for 6.