May 5, 2001, Chandigarh, India
Walsh: best among gentlemen-cricketers
National soccer league found wanting
sudden spurt of popularity in USA
Making waves in
East Bengal lift NFL crown in photofinish
THE squall was hardly an impediment to the celebrations. As reports trickled in from Thiruvananthapuram that East Bengal had overcome the last hurdle to lift the coveted National Football League title, incidentally their maiden achievement in the fifth edition of the championship, unbridled joy exploded at the headquarters of the red and gold brigade. The ecstasy was understandable. Not only had East Bengal realised a cherished dream, but had edged out arch rivals Mohun Bagan by a solitary point to pocket the winners cheque of Rs 40 lakh.
The fifth National Football League indeed had a photo finish. The league kicked off on December 14, 2000, but all excitement was reserved for April 30, the concluding day,which not only decided the champions but also the fate of two teams who were relegated. They were Air-India and State bank of Travancore. Their place will now be taken by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore, and Punjab Police,winners and runners-up of the second division.
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan were neck and neck till the last day. Both the teams had won 12 matches each although the former were leading by one point having drawn seven ties and were eagerly awaiting the results of their final engagements. Although both won their respective ties against SBT and ITI by identical 2-0 margins,yet the one point difference eventually put the title in East Bengal’s lap. It was a befitting tribute to the late Dipak Das,or Paltuda,the club’s secretary who breathed his last recently and had always nourished the dream of winning the coveted title.
Although Mohun Bagan had the honour of scoring the maximum goals, 40 to be precise, East Bengal had an equally impressive goal average. They scored 30 goals in 22 matches and conceded only nine, the least number by any team in the league.Credit for this not only goes to the defence but also to agile goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee. Among others who had a major hand in the title win was foreign recruit Omolaja Olalekan,who incidentally scored both the goals in the last match against SBT. Omolaja, with eight goals, emerged as East Bengal’s highest scorer,but the the league’s highest scorer was none else than Mohun Bagan’s Jose Ramirez Barreto, who with 14 goals, picked up a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh.
In the four-and-a-half month long league divided into two legs,as many as 132 matches were played on home and away basis. The NFL also had an interruption due to the Millennium Cup and from December 21 to January 26, 2001, no match was played.The participating teams also suffered on account of the pre-World Cup qualifiers when the cream of Indian football was picked for the crucial matches against the UAE, Yemen,and Brunei. FC Kochin, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Salgaocar, and Mahindra United were mainly affected. However, the All-India Football Federation did allow the participating clubs to take players on loan to make up for the loss and Khemtang Paite of Mohun Bagan who assisted Air-India towards the end and even scored a goal against Vasco on the concluding day,was one such example.Although Air-India did manage to win more matches than Tollygunge, ITI, JCT, and SBT,yet in the ultimate analysis, they fell short by two points to bow out from the league for the second time.
The most notable recovery was by JCT Phagwara. The former champions,who went into the second phase without a single victory to their credit and remained bottom-placed for a considerably long period,improved their performance by several notches to register as many as four wins which propelled them to the ninth position.JCT’s campaign was marred by injuries to key players like Hardip Sangha, who also had to miss the World Cup qualifiers, Hardip Saini, Prabhjot Singh, and Kuldeep Singh.Nevertheless players like Hardip Gill (eight goals), Jaswinder, Jaswant, and Ram Pal not only managed to pull their team out of the abyss but also saved their outfit from being relegated to the second division.
Former champions Salgaocar Sports Club, Goa, who won as many as six matches in the first phase,could win only two in the second leg. They also suffered the ignominy of tasting the maximum number of defeats (12) but eventually managed to finish sixth in the overall standings despite the absence of key players like Jules Alberto, Alvito d’Cunha and Robert Fernandes,who are doing national duty.
Overall,good quality football was on display during the league although refereeing left much to be desired in some contests.In all 282 goals were scored with 136 coming in the first leg and 146 being scored in the second phase.Besides Mohun Bagan’s Jose Barreto,who emerged as the highest scorer,the other notable scorers were Igor Shkvirin, RCPrakash,Sunday Seah, Omolaja Olalekan, Hardip Gill, Abdulateef Seriki, Francis Silveira, Bruno Coutinho, Asif Saheer and Anthony Fernandes. But it was FC Kochin’s Sunday Seah who hogged the limelight. Although basically a goalkeeper, Seah performed a dual role by also playing as a striker and fetched as many as eight goals,the highest number for his team.
Walsh: best among gentlemen-cricketers
IN this mercenary, vicious, cunning and wicked world of cricket, which is further impaired by betting and match-rigging, there have been many victors. But there are only handful of gentleman-winners.
Courtney Walsh (West Indies) is perhaps the best among gentleman-winners. In 132 Tests, 18 enduring years, he did not even once resort to any tactic which could be remotely described as mean, objectionable or unsporting. His gentlemanliness carries him much ahead of his compatriot and illustrious players, George Hedley, called "Black Bradman" and Frank Worrell.
Walsh, who recently announced his retirement from international cricket, sits at Everest, with 519 Test wickets. In surpassing Kapil Dev’s record of 434 wickets, he is unquestionably the worthy winner.
Records are meant to be broken. Many betting records standing for decades will be re-written by Sachin Tendulkar, who is only 28. But two records — one in batting and another in bowling, will not be broken. The batting milestone stands in the name of Sir Don, who scored a century in his every third outing. The bowling record is that of Walsh, with 519 wickets.
There are several instances of Walsh’s gentlemanliness. But one that needs mention, at the top of others, is his superb sporting behaviour in the 1987 Reliance Cup match between the West Indies and Pakistan.
The match was tantalistingly poised. Walsh had a chance to do a Mankad, so to say, and get Salim Jaffer run out for backing too soon. All his colleagues, excited and wanting to win the cliff-hanger, egged on him to run him out. But Walsh said "nothing doing".
This highly sporting gesture led to the West Indies losing the match and going out of the competition, but Walsh looked glorious in his bebaviour. He received heaps of bouncers from his colleagues in the dressing room, but he merely said: "I thought, it was unethical to get him out like this".
The actual incident needs narration. Walsh, tall and dark with his shirt flapping out in the gentle breeze, ran in to deliver the ball. Over-exuberant Jaffer at the non-striker’s end chose to seek a quick single. Walsh. close to the stumps, broke his run-in. He had a ball on his hip instead of dislodging the bails. He looked at Jaffer, who realised his silly mistake, and made home. Walsh gave him another look, again mild, before returning to bowl another ball.
Walsh possessed great skills as a fast bowler. He was extremely quick, he had a late swing and he was an artist in making subtle changes in his pace and angle of the ball.
Despite being a fast bowler, he was likened by all his adversaries because he did not ever give a dirty look to any one. There were instances when umpires, ever fallible, ate away his legitimate wickets. But he merely appealed and, when umpires negatived them, he picked up the ball and was seen striding back to deliver yet another of his special ball.
There was a brief spell of time when many felt that Walsh would not be able to surpass Kapil Dev’s record. There were some over-zealous journalists, who wrote his bowling "obit". But Walsh merely grinned coming back with greater vengeance. His perseverance saw him carry on. The more he grew in age, the fitter he became.
Walsh’s hallmark is that he has seen the best years of the West Indies and also the dark days. Cricket has changed upside out. But Walsh remains unchanged. He has been the best ambassador of cricket, which has been considerably sullied by match-rigging charges. The time seems to have come when the International Cricket Council (ICC) should honour him with a befitting trophy and cash award for doing yeomen’s service to the cause of cricket in dready and dark days.
Walsh was ‘Mr Consistent Courtney’. This was his endeavour and achievement. He hated recrimination and sledging.
In the end, the world of cricket may
see better bowlers in style and rhythm. There may be bowlers with
quicker speed and alarming swing. But it will be difficult to produce
another gentleman-bowler or player like Walsh, who deserves to rise as
National soccer league found wanting
INDIA'S National Football League (NFL), which culminated dramatically in East Bengal’s maiden title triumph on April 30, has been found wanting in several key aspects, like organisation, marketing, publicity, itinerary and, above all, lack of a sponsor.
"Football-wise it was the best league, with a lot of twists and turns thrown in for good measure, but it left a lot to be desired on the organisational front," said a football expert, on condition of anonymity. "Among other hiccups, the league was interrupted for over a month by the Millennium Cup, which itself was a total failure," the expert added.
The NFL was further affected on two counts — by a unique All-India Football Federation (AIFF) rule that allowed a maximum of three players to be taken from one club for national duty, and then which the pre-World Cup qualifiers are currently playing.
The first rule hit East Bengal the most, especially in the final phase of the tournament, when all its three first-choice defenders — Deepak Mondal, Surkumar Singh and Rattan Singh — were either called for the national camp or the pre-World Cup qualifiers.
But the glamorous Kolkata outfit rallied brilliantly to pip Mohun Bagan by a solitary point (46-45 in 22 matches) to run away with its first title in five years.
The biggest handicap for the AIFF was the absence of a sponsor for the third consecutive year. After the Philips team, which withdrew prematurely at the end of the second edition in 1997-98, the AIFF, for some inexplicable reason, has been unable to find a sponsor. Philips was brought in to sponsor the new concept in Indian football in 1997-98 by the International Management Group (IMG), which was contracted to AIFF, but their honeymoon lasted shorter than expected.
Later, the AIFF also fell out with ESPN/STAR Sports, which telecast the league initially, the official reason being the government’s refusal to provide up-linking facilities to the official broadcaster.
Sources say that AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi’s whimsical ways are responsible for the shortcomings of the national league. "There is undue secrecy about every decision that he takes," said a source. "And he does not take into confidence any other federation official. It is widely believed that he is responsible for the AIFF breaking up with the IMG, ESPN/STAR Sports and also for not finding a sponsor," the source added.
Since IMG, a Mark McKormack company, went out of the scene, the NFL has got little publicity in the media, thanks to AIFF’s lackadaisical ways. The marketing of the league has also been badly hit. Now, a committee has been formed under industrialist Vijay Mallya, who unsuccessfully challenged Dasmunshi in the annual AIFF elections late last year, which will try to find a sponsor for the next NFL.
Another gray area has been the telecast of matches. Giving example of the AIFF’s Rs. 60 million contract with Doordarshan for the fifth edition, sources call it a "shady deal." They wonder why the government-run DD would pay so much money when it did not have time to show all the matches live on its DD Sports channel. "Not more than 20-25 out of 132 matches were shown live on this channel," said a source.
And during the India-Australia cricket Test and one-day international series in February and March the live telecast of matches was relegated to regional channels like Bengali and Malayalam. The AIFF, however, has not protested the step-motherly treatment meted out to the game, which further raises doubts about its contract with DD, the source said.
The NFL itinerary and logistics has been a topic of ridicule, as teams have had to crisscross the vast country with very little or no gap between matches.
"Since the country’s weather varies drastically, it becomes a hectic task for a team that has to travel from one part of the country to another immediately after playing a match. The travelling eventually tells on the players’ performances," the source said. IANS
sudden spurt of popularity in USA
YOGA, a path to enlightenment that winds back 5,000 years in India, has suddenly become very popular, attracting film-stars, sportsmen and judges of the Supreme Court in the USA.
Some 15 million Americans include some form of yoga in their fitness regimen — twice as many as did five years ago; 75 per cent of all US health clubs offer yoga classes, the Time magazine, in its cover story says.
Many in those classes are looking not inward but behind. It quotes supermodel Christy Turlington, a serious yoga practitioner, as saying, "Some of my friends simply want to have a yoga butt. But others come to the discipline in hopes of restoring their troubled bodies. ‘Yoga makes me feel better,’ they say. ‘Maybe it can cure what ails me."’
Yoga now straddles the continent —from Hollywood, where $20 million-a-picture actors queue for a session with their guru du jour, to Washington, where, in the gym of the Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and 15 others faithfully take their class every Tuesday morning.
Popular TV show host Oprah Winfrey devoted a whole show to the benefits of yoga earlier this month, with guest appearances by Turlington and stud-muffin guru Rodney Yee.
Comparing Western and Indian tradition, the magazine says the Indian tradition develops metaphors and ways of describing the body (life forces, energy centres) as it is experienced, from the inside out. The Western tradition looks at the body from the outside in, peeling it back one layer at a time, believing only what it can see, measure and prove in randomised, double-blind tests.
Time quotes a 1990 study of patients, who had coronary heart disease, which indicates that a regimen of aerobic exercise and stress reduction, including yoga, combined with a low-fat vegetarian diet, stabilised and in some cases reversed arterial blockage.
Its author Dr Dean Ornish is in the midst of a study involving men with prostate cancer. Can diet, yoga and meditation affect the progress of this disease? So far, Ornish will say only that the data are encouraging.
Yoga was little known in the USA — perhaps only as an enthusiasm of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and other icons of the Beat Generation — when the Beatles and Mia Farrow journeyed to India to sit at the feet of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968. Since then, Time recalls, yoga has endured more evolutions of popular consciousness than a morphing movie monster.
First it signalled spiritual cleansing and rebirth, a non-toxic way to get high. Then it was seen as a kind of preventive medicine that helped manage and reduce stress. "The third wave was the fitness wave," says Richard Faulds, president of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. "And that’s about strength and flexibility and endurance."
The magazine says today
yoga is practiced by so many stars with whom audiences are on a
first-name basis —Madonna, Julia (Roberts), Meg (Ryan), Ricky
(Martin), Michelle (Pfeiffer), Gwyneth (Paltrow), Sting — that it
would be shorter work to list the actors who don’t assume the
"asana," or a yoga stance. IANS
Making waves in
THE mention of Jyotsna Vashisht brings a vision of a self confident player with a killer instinct. The non- resident Indian had created waves in the ITF women’s tennis tournament held last month at Chandigarh where she was able to reach the semi-finals. Jyotsna was undergoing training under the guidance of Kawaljeet Singh a renowned ITF coach who had trained Sunil Kumar, a former Davis Cup player.
Jyotsna, who recently completed her graduation from Princeton University, New York, began playing tennis while she was in India and in 1992 she learnt some finer points of the game from Kawaljeet Singh. After going to the USA she wanted someone who could understand her language and train her accordingly. "So Kawaljeet Singh filled the gap", says Jyotsna.
Jyotsna has always tried to plan her schedule in a way that it includes all the big tournaments she wants to play. She stayed in India for two months and played ITF meets at Chandigarh and then at Pune before flying back to New York.
Kawaljeet Singh, who has been the accompanying coach on her tours, says Jyotsna has the potential of reaching the top level of world tennis in 2002. "Now she is ranked 600 and after her India leg, her ranking will be anywhere around 500. By the end of December, it should reach 200-300", affirmed Kawaljeet.
In India, Jyotsna has beaten top ranked Indian players, Manisha Malhotra and Karishma Patel, in ITFmeets. In January last, in combination with Romana of Indonesia, she won the ITF doubles women’s title at Florida, USA. In India she partnered Shruti Dhawan, another top player who hails from Chandigarh and hopes to perform well in the international circuit. In the Chandigarh ITF meet, both reached the semifinals.
Jyotsna, a product of Welham School, Dehra Dun, says that women tennis players abroad get a good deal of exposure by participating in tournaments as long as their physical strength permits, since there are many sponsors. But in India it is not so and women players seldom go out of the country to participate in circuit tournaments and that was the reason they could not achieve much at the bigger level.
Kudos to Walsh for rare distinction
West Indies’ supremo Courtney Walsh’s farewell to Test cricket and one dayers was sad. He claimed 519 wickets over 17 long years. Up to the age of 38, he never became unwell or was ousted from the team on medical grounds. He captained the West Indies but then left it in favour of Jimmy Adams and Lara. He left the scene on a winning note by beating South Africa in the fifth Test. In contrast, India’s outstanding cricketers left only when they outlived their utility or were thrown out. Walsh’s record of 519 wickets will remain inact.
Y.L. CHOPRA, Bathinda
Kudos to the world’s great fast bowler, Courtney Walsh for, achieving the rare distinction of becoming the highest Test wicket taker in cricket history. His final decision to retire from international first class cricket was sad. Isalute Jamaica which has produced the world class bowler.
GURSAHIB SINGH, Ludhiana
Hats off to Sri Lanka who, turning the form-book topsy-turvy, outclassed Pakistan in all departments of the game in the final of the triangular one-day series at Sharjah. They majestically romped home with the Ary Trophy by inflicting a 77-run defeat on their fancied rivals. The Lankans had been brutally mauled by Pakistan in the league matches and were least expected to lift the coveted trophy. First they amassed 297 runs, an impregnable total, and then with clinical precision bowled their opponents out. Acutally Pakistan were themselves to blame for the humiliating defeated. They commenced their run-chase in a whirlwind fashion scoring over eight runs an over, but soon found it difficult to sustain the tempo.
TARSEM S. BUMRAH, Batala
I watched with interest the Ranji Trophy final and I must congratulate Baroda skipper Nayan Mongia for winning the national championship. At the same time, I was pained to see the level of cricket they were playing. It is because of our poor level of dometic cricket that we fail to deliver on foreign soil. I saw Australian first class cricket in the Pura Cup on Star Sports and found that there was a lot of difference in their attitude and professional approach. We may lag behind in terms of funds and technology but what about the basic things, like fitness level, body language and commitment? The introduction and reasonable success of some of the youngsters at the international level may be a very good sign but as long as our domestic cricket does not improve, we will continue to struggle abroad.
VINISH GARG, Baltana
Punjab’s defeat at the hands of Railways in the semifinals of Ranji Trophy was largely due to the wrong policies of the BCCI because four of their key players were doing national duty. This is another discrimination against Punjab players because previously the selection committees was hesitant to include even a single player from Punjab despite allround good performances of Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Sharandeep Singh and Pankaj Dharmani. Now to make the Punjab team weak in Ranji Trophy four key players were named in the one-day squad against Australia. In the quarterfinal, Mumbai were not in full strength and similar was the position of Karnataka. What was the problem in postponing these matches for a month or so? Ranji Trophy used to be premier tournament when Bishan Singh Bedi, Madan Lal, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, Maninder Singh, Kapil Dev and other renowned cricket actively participated in it. Over the years either renowned players themselves tried to ignore these matches or remained busy doing national duty.If the BCCI is sincere about the Punjab players, let us see how many of them find a place in the Indian team which will undertake a tour to Zimbabwe shortly.
PRITPAL SINGH, Patiala