SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, December 9, 2000, Chandigarh, India

Closing gender gap in sports
By Mohinder Singh
S the gender gap closing in sports? Women are now beating world records held by men 10-15 years back. If Greene, the fastest man on earth, did 100-metres in 9.8 at the Sydney Olympics, Marion Jones, the fastest woman on earth, took only 10.75 seconds.

Kirti’s demand on ‘disclosed incomes’
By Ajit Sahi
ormer cricketer-turned-member of Parliament (MP) Kirti Azad wants the government to make Indian players — who allegedly used a scheme for tax evaders to declare illegal incomes three years ago —disclose the source of those incomes.

A hobby that costs FIDE President $ 4 m
By V. Krishnaswamy
AMYKIA is not really the most happening country nor are people across the world queuing up to go there for a holiday. In fact, the chances are that a majority of Indians do not even know, if at all, where it is on the map.

Cricket site brings kudos to kids
By P. Jayaram
hen cricket-crazy Karan Mahajan, then 13, and his younger brother Shiv (11), launched their own web site back in 1997, they never imagined there could be money in it.





Closing gender gap in sports
By Mohinder Singh

IS the gender gap closing in sports? Women are now beating world records held by men 10-15 years back. If Greene, the fastest man on earth, did 100-metres in 9.8 at the Sydney Olympics, Marion Jones, the fastest woman on earth, took only 10.75 seconds.

Whereas it took men 75 years to knock 25 minutes off the marathon record, women have done it in 15 years. The English Channel crossing record for both men and women is currently held by a woman swimmer.

No wonder the feminist demand for social and economic equality with men is now joined by a call for “athletic equality” or “physical equality”. Possibly the strongest plea for it is made by Colette Dowling in her latest book The Frailty Myth (Random House).

Earlier, Dowling had argued that women have an unconscious tendency to make themselves emotionally dependent on men. This time she makes out that it’s culture not nature, that is inhibiting women from being as active as men or having their athletic achievements taken as seriously. “For centuries women have been shackled to a perception of themselves as weak and ineffectual,” says the author. Hers is a plea for the freedom for women to enjoy the strength of their bodies whether at the playing fields or walking down the streets.

The apparent disparity in athletic achievement between boys and girls, she argues, has nothing to do with innate ability and everything to do with training and expectation —only if girls “got out of the doll corner” and practiced like boys. It’s another matter whether girls should be spending as much time as boys in kicking or throwing a ball, when their own type of play develops them empathy and imagination.

Dowling, however, concedes that boys and girls may experience competition differently — and so a difference in motivation. For example, one of the things teenage girls like about sports is winning the approval of others, whereas boys simply want to win.

Surely the history of women’s participation in sports is dispiriting. As late as hundred years back it was thought that active sports could harm women’s reproductive potential, anyway compromise their femininity. In the Olympics itself, right till 1948 women’s track events were limited to races under 100 metres, evidently on the assumption that women weren’t “fit” to run longer distances. When bicycling became a rage, women were discouraged from cycling; some fearing it would afford them unwelcome mobility, others disapproved of women developing the aggressive look of “bicycle face”.

The twentieth century has seen a growing presence of women in sports (female athletes constituted, 40 per cent of participants at the Sydney Olympics). Yet sexism in sport remains a reality. Women’s representation in the administrative hierarchy of the International Olympic Committee is disappointingly small. Similarly, majority of members on sport governing bodies at the international and national levels tend to be men. And whatever female officials are present, they mostly fulfil stereotyped role, such as physiotherapist, masseuse, and hostess. Even in a game such as badminton where female participation nearly equals that of males, women form a small minority among its senior administrators.

The media coverage of women’s events has a long way to go, too. Not only it is far below what’s justified by women’s participation, the coverage itself “sexualises” them, focussing more on gender than performance. “Stop looking up the undies,” pleads the spokesperson of an Australian woman’s group at Sydney. And cut out sexist reporting like that of a male tennis linesman saying, “I can’t concentrate while standing behind such and such female players”. Or talking of sweat showing in the nether regions.

In the recent words of the IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, “the problem of women athletes is solved”. But then one can’t help mentioning that the first women’s marathon was not held till 1984. Even today women are not allowed boxing or wrestling events at the Olympics.

At a more fundamental level there is much evidence to suggest that within society in general there is a perception that being a woman and being an athlete are incompatible. This is complemented by a perception within sport that to be a woman is to be an inadequate athlete and to be a successful woman athlete is to be an inadequate woman.

For men participation in sport confirms and enhances their sexuality but for women participation undermines and questions their sexuality. Women are required to establish their sexuality through a “sex test” and culturally by having to demonstrate that their interest in sport does not detract from their commitment to heterosexual relationships, marriage and family life.

Dowling argues that the frailty myth blights women’s lives in other spheres outside the field of competitive sport. From lack of exercise they miss on a few welcome structural changes in the brain. Anyway exercise is known to ward off depression. Again there’s the link between inactivity on the part of younger women and osteoporosis among the elderly.

Dowling’s feminine ideal is a kind of ponytail Amazon who breast-feeds her baby at the sidelines of the soccer field, as Joy Fawcett of the United States team had done. Or the six-footer basketball player Angeles Sparks sneering at weakling male predators.

The image of a muscular woman can evoke some uneasy emotions deep down in males, as if she was trying to become a man. Will muscles do away with the last traces of a woman’s vulnerability — so endearing to many men? And what if women hurt themselves in trying to do what nature didn’t intend them to do?

Yet the athletic woman exudes a certain charm and confidence. There’s nothing apologetic about her hard-earned muscles, something that her mother didn’t have. In athletes we recognise women who own their bodies, inhabiting every inch of it. The sight of it can be quite sexy. And then the likes of tennis players Sabatini or Anna Kournikova, combining both muscles and looks.

Maybe, another ideal of female beauty is emerging, the athletic female body.


Kirti’s demand on ‘disclosed incomes’
By Ajit Sahi

Former cricketer-turned-member of Parliament (MP) Kirti Azad wants the government to make Indian players — who allegedly used a scheme for tax evaders to declare illegal incomes three years ago —disclose the source of those incomes.

“All kinds of rumours are afloat that one of the cricketers had then declared a sum of Rs160 million under the voluntary disclosure of income scheme (VDIS),” Azad said. Azad’s demand comes in the wake of many Indian players being accused of match-fixing.

The VDIS was launched in 1997 to mop up part of India’s black economy. The scheme stipulated a flat taxation rate of 30 per cent on all incomes disclosed under the scheme. It also granted anonymity and immunity from prosecution to those who made the disclosures.

“We don’t want to know how much income they declared under VDIS,” said Azad, when reminded of the anonymity clause. “All that a player needs to do, if he used the VDIS, is to give an affidavit telling us where he got that money from,” added Azad, a member of the victorious Indian team that lifted the World Cup in 1983.

Now a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP, last week Azad raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, demanding a disclosure of the players’ incomes, asking the Income Tax Department to open their bank accounts.

Former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin, former one-day star Ajay Jadeja and former test cricketer Ajay Sharma are among the players, including overseas players, termed guilty of match-fixing by the CBI.

“The media has also said these cricketers have property worth tens of millions,” said Azad, adding, “this needs to be exposed.” Having raised the issue once in the Lok Sabha last week, Azad said he had given notice for a fuller discussion on the issue and expected it to be taken-up this week or next week.

His demand adds another twist to the eight-month-old scandal that broke out when the Delhi Police booked former South African captain Hansie Cronje for match-fixing on the basis of his telephonic conversations with a bookie.

Though the CBI probe — that followed the hue and cry and was revealed in October — found these players guilty of match-fixing, the investigative agency disfavoured prosecution, saying charges against the players would not sustain due to a lack of evidence.

A separate probe by former CBI official, K. Madhavan, on behalf of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) made on November-end, virtually echoed the CBI’s findings.

“Al Capone, the big gangster of California, could never be caught for his crimes,” said Azad when reminded that both the CBI’s and the cricket board’s own investigations had found the law inadequate to prosecute the errant players. “But even he was booked on the basis of an obscure tax violation case and taken in,” Azad added, suggesting a similar remedy to tackle the current problem.

The BCCI imposed life bans on Azharuddin and former cricketer Ajay Sharma on Tuesday for their alleged involvement in match-fixing. It also debarred cricketers Ajay Jadeja and Manoj Prabhakar from playing any official matches for five years while exonerating Nayan Mongia.

Azad believes the match-fixing scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. “People had been talking about match-fixing even before the Cronje episode came up. After he accepted, people started believing something happened,” he said.

But Azad warned against the continued limbo saying the media trial in the absence of any firm action on the part of the BCCI would be harmful to the game.

— India Abroad News Service


A hobby that costs FIDE President $ 4 m
By V. Krishnaswamy

KAMYKIA is not really the most happening country nor are people across the world queuing up to go there for a holiday.

In fact, the chances are that a majority of Indians do not even know, if at all, where it is on the map. But for those who do have an interest in chess, it is not an unfamiliar country. For it has an interesting man, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, as its President, who also happens to be the President of the FIDE, the world chess body.

Kalmykia happens to be the only Buddhist country in Europe and was once a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Now where does chess figure in the scheme of things for this young businessman, whose personal wealth is believed to run into billions.

So much so that he calls conducting and financing a world chess championships like the one currently underway in New Delhi, as a personal hobby. “People love collecting paintings, cars and so on. I love chess and it is my main hobby. I love spending money on sponsoring it,” says Ilyumzhinov, through an interpreter.

Pray, how much does this hobby cost him ? A mere $ 4 million! “I have spent close to $ 4 million of my own money for these championships,” he announces without a trace of regret or arrogance.

Each year Ilyumzhinov’s country sends a few youngsters to study in India. And he hopes that will encourage bilateral relations between the two countries. But meanwhile can we request Ilyumzhinov to send a few Ilyumzhinovs. Indian sport badly needs some.

This is the third edition of the FIDE’s World Knock-out Chess Championships. But women are having their own event alongside for the first time. Unfortunately just like in the men’s section, the strongest women’s player, Hungarian Judit Polgar, has stayed away. So have her two sisters, Sophia and Zsuzsa, who form the most formidable chess trio in the world.

However, the defending champion, Xie Jun of China, whose planned title-match with Judit Polgar never really took off, is here. The women’s field has a lot of young contenders, but two ladies, who hold a considerable amount of spotlight are the veterans Maya Chiburdanidze and Nona Gaprindashvili.

The two former women’s world champions, are legends in women’s chess. Chiburdanidze in fact has played in New Delhi in the mid-1980s, when the Indian capital used to have regular GM tournaments like the now-defunct Bhilwara GM tournament.

Talking of the Bhilwara chess tournaments in New Delhi, Pravin Thipsay and Dibyendu Barua will have fond memories of them. Back in 1982, the two had completed their international master titles in the same event that year.

Those days there were just a handful of international masters in India. But now when there are more than two dozen, the number of good GM tournaments has come down. At least in New Delhi, which has not had one since the 1990 Triveni Grandmasters event where the title was shared by Viswanathan Anand and Gata Kamsky. Judit Polgar, too, played in that event.

Monday was not a very happy day for either Barua or Thipsay. While Barua playing the event lost to Evegeny Vladimirov of Kazhakstan, Thipsay’s wife, Bhagyashree Sathe Thipsay lost her first game to Chinese-born Dutch player, Peng Zhaoqin. Besides helping his wife, Thipsay is also the AICF’s representative to help in media affairs for the championships.

Interestingly, the Triveni Group of Industries which sponsored that 1990 GM event is owned by Dhruv Sawhney, who became the president of the All-India Chess Federation around that time.

Maybe, it is time for the affable and suave Sawhney to come up with a couple of more events like that.

Perhaps it is also time, he took up chess as a more serious hobby, just the way FIDE President Ilyumzhinov has ! Maybe not to the same tune of money, but a mere fraction of that will do. — UNI


Cricket site brings kudos to kids
By P. Jayaram

When cricket-crazy Karan Mahajan, then 13, and his younger brother Shiv (11), launched their own web site back in 1997, they never imagined there could be money in it.

That was till January. Life changed for the two when Britain-based, a major sports network, took note of their “Indian Cricket Fever” site.

“We received a surprise offer in our mailbox. wanted us to become their official Indian cricket providers. A few weeks later, we had a 20-page contract stuffed in our postal mailbox. The really exciting part of the offer was its monetary implications — we would get paid £ 200 a month plus 50 per cent of ad revenue earned from the site, not to mention a stock option in and a free dotcom address,” said Karan.

Ironically, the “fever” caught on when the two brothers, students of Delhi’s Modern School, were getting weary of their pet project. “We had only earned $ 25 till then from the site, which required us to update the site almost every single day to keep pace with the Indian cricket team’s exploits, on and off the field,” Karan said.

The brothers were chosen by Rivals from over 100 Indian cricket sites for their “singular passion, dedication and web-designing skills”. Since then, the two have developed a new web site and Indian cricket fever moved into its new address: to

Long before zoomed in on the two, their site had been noticed by others. In 1998, when the site was about eight months old, the Webmaster of had said in an award citation: “I never thought I’d be awarding a sport-related page, but this site is exceptional! Authored by a team of 12 and 14-year-old brothers, it provides the user with content galore in anything related to the game (sport) of cricket. Also included is Indian cricket news, stats on cricket teams, pictures and everything is easy to find, keeping you on the site from start to finish!... I’m sure these kids could give some of the adult webmasters a few good lessons!”

Karan says he and Shiv learned web-designing on their own after a friend signed them up for a free account.

Computer magazine DQWeek had also published a huge half-page feature on the site. “We were a bit surprised by our own success. The site was growing fast as we approached the 50,000 hits (mark). We were not earning much from the site — we didn’t even have a dotcom address, but the praise from our visitors from over 90 different countries served as a constant source of inspiration.”

The association with Rivals may put an end to the kids’ worry about earning. They may well have to start thinking about spending now.

—India Abroad News Service


Tainted players part of corrupt system

WHEN Allan Donald became the first South African player to claim 300th Test wicket, he made a fine gesture. He said he missed Hansie Cronje standing at mid-off that day. Don’t we feel that he has been forgotten too easily? Did he really possess something for which he was the most respected cricketer in the world? I remember during a Titan Cup match in 1996, Ganguly was batting and he ran for a single, collided with the bowler and was given run out. This ‘tainted’ youngman came from mid-off and asked him to continue. Even SA cricket fans wanted the board to forgive him. I was pained to hear that effigies of Azhar and jadeja were burnt in Bombay and I think there is something wrong with our love for cricket. Yes, they befooled us, they played with our emotions but a life ban should satisfy us as they are only a part of an entirely corrupt system. It is surprising to hear from some senior cricketer that all the awards should be taken away from them. Azhar’s million dollar on-side flick and jadeja’s towering sixes off Younis in World Cup’96 bound millions of fans in the same tone. Let them realise the magnitude of their mistake but to hate them is not fair.


Gagandeep Singh

Kudos to Gagandeep Singh of Punjab whose career- best haul of six for 14 helped Punjab pip Haryana in a war of nerves. Haryana were sent to a humiliating innings and 123-run defeat in the memorable match of Ranji Trophy league (north zone). By maintaining an impeccable line and length Gagandeep made the rival batting look spineless. Quite interestingly, while Haryana seemed under pressure, Punjab were confident. They were perfect in each and every department and exploited all the sources and talent well to achieve a record victory. Such performances in national tournaments have provided relief to cricket fans at a time when match- fixing is grabbing all the media attention.


Windies’ showing

The former West Indian Test great Colin Croft has reportedly commented that the West Indies cricket team, currently touring Australia, should be sent back home. I fully agree with his comments. Having seen the poor performance of West Indies in the first cricket Test of the five-match series against Australia, one can’t help saying that the team does not deserve Test status. They were dismissed for a paltry 82 in their first innings and were sent packing for 124 in the second. Thus they suffered an innings and 126-run defeat, their biggest ever at the hands of Australia in 70 years. The tormentor of the hapless tourists was none other than Glenn McGrath, who scalped 10 victims for 27 runs only in the match which lasted less than three days. It is a pity that the team, which was so great in the past, has climbed down to the bottom rung of the ladder so quickly. It is disgraceful. It appears that the series being contested could turn out to be a one-sided affair unless Brian Lara and others bat with responsibility.


Punjab’s performance

Heartiest congratulations to the Punjab cricket team for topping the zonal cricket tournament in Ranji Trophy. What a great performance! They won all the matches outrightly thus getting the maximum 40 points. Except for Delhi, they handed down innings defeats to other teams. Before 1993, the year when Punjab won the only Ranji Trophy title, I remember the Punjab team was not able to qualify from their zone. At that time only two teams were eligible from every zone to qualify. Haryana and Delhi were at that time very strong teams.