SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, May 12, 2001,  Chandigarh, India

Sukhwinder richly deserved award
Ramu Sharma
he award of the “Coach of the Month” for Sukhwinder Singh by the Asian Football Confederation is the best thing that could have happened to Indian football in recent times. The honour for the “guru” as it were, goes a long way to make amends for the often abrupt manner coaches are treated by some of the better known clubs and institutions in India.

Kasparov brings chess to the masses
Jack Schofield
id IBM play fair? It is a question that Garry Kasparov, the world’s greatest chess player, raised after his defeat by IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer five years ago. “I have my doubts it was a machine,’’ says Kasparov. “Some of the machine’s decisions cannot be reproduced in pure conditions.’’

Woods is greatest golfer

K.R. Wadhwaney
here is no denying that Sir Donald Bradman, who passed away early this year at the ripe age of 90 plus, has been the greatest batsman cricket has produced.

  • East Bengal’s NFL title win laudable
  • Unforgettable Walsh
  • Harbhajan Singh


Sukhwinder richly deserved award
Ramu Sharma

The award of the “Coach of the Month” for Sukhwinder Singh by the Asian Football Confederation is the best thing that could have happened to Indian football in recent times. The honour for the “guru” as it were, goes a long way to make amends for the often abrupt manner coaches are treated by some of the better known clubs and institutions in India.

And the award to Sukhwinder is certainly in sharp contrast to the manner in which Nayeemuddin was shunted out of East Bengal this year and more recently to the abrupt sacking of Shabbir Ali by Mahindra’s United and that too with three or four matches to go before the conclusion of the National Football League.

The Asian Football Confederation’s recognition of Sukhwinder has of course much to do with the performance of the Indian football team in the World Cup qualifying rounds and particularly in the match against UAE. India beat UAE 1-0 at home in Bangalore and lost 0-1 in the second leg played in Dubai. Irrespective of whether India make it into the second round of the qualifying stage, the performance against UAE has been the best ever against a foreign combination of recognised quality.

The UAE is rated 64th among the football playing countries of the world while Indian languishes at 122. That in itself should explain why Sukhwinder was honoured by the AFC, the award is obviously linked with the teams unexpected performance against UAE. The AFC at the same time must have also taken into consideration the drawn match in Bangalore against Yemen (rated 164) but retained the memory of the two splendid performance against a team rated some 60 places ahead.

Yes, the Indian football team has indeed done well and far beyond expectations too. It is a different matter that it could have even done better considering the general run of the ball. What is overlooked here is that at no time in the last couple of decades has an Indian team stood its ground against a better equipped foreign team.

India has had problems getting the better of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan in the South Asian football. And now for the same country to match UAE on near equal terms is something remarkable and bodes well for the future. The credit goes not only to the coach and the players but also to the training programme which instilled the necessary go for the occasion in the team.

Coming back to the honour bestowed on Sukhwinder, part of it should be shared by his club and its mentors, the JCT and the concerned authorities. The JCT authority it must be remembered, has always been very fair to its coaches and has retained its trust in the men chosen for the job irrespective of the fortunes of the team. Thus Sukhwinder was as much part of the braintrust when the club won the NFL title in the inaugural year and he is equally involved in the years after that despite the wayward form of the club in the league. This year and despite Sukhwinder’s commitment, JCT just about managed to avoid being relegated.

Clubs in Kolkata and elsewhere should learn from the example of JCT and treat the coaches with dignity and honour. Unfortunately these clubs link victory or defeat with the coach and hence the repeated changes in the “guru”. We have the example of Mohun Bagan last year which forsake Nayeeuddin before the end of the season, overlooking the former India captain’s early efforts in licking the team into some sort of a combination. Mohun Bagan won the NFL for the second time last year and cannot deny that much of its success was because of the fact that Nayeem had been at the helm of affairs in the beginning.

The same goes for East Bengal this year. Nayeem was the coach till the team’s defeat in the away match to lowly ITI in the NFL. The club authorities sought a change of coach in January and substituted Nayeem with Manoranjan Bhattacharya. The formula of changing coaches in mid-stream worked as it had for Mohun Bagan last year and East Bengal went on to claim the title, but the club authorities cannot be dismissive about the tremendous contribution made by Nayeem during his stay as coach.

Nayeem’s case is but an example. Amal Datta and other well known personalities among the coaches have had similar experience with Kolkata clubs earlier. If one remembers even the great P.K. Bannerji has not been spared. Clubs in Kolkata, which is considered the football capital of the country should try and change their views regarding the essentials of a coach. His performance should not always be linked with the result, particularly defeat.

The clubs of course cannot always be blamed. There are other compulsions pressurising them into going for a change of coaches. The performance of the club, particularly in the local super division league is very important and the only scapegoat for a poor showing is often the coach, no matter how big a name he is or has been.


Kasparov brings chess to the masses
Jack Schofield

Did IBM play fair? It is a question that Garry Kasparov, the world’s greatest chess player, raised after his defeat by IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer five years ago. “I have my doubts it was a machine,’’ says Kasparov. “Some of the machine’s decisions cannot be reproduced in pure conditions.’’

The point is that humans can and do make unpredictable moves, but a computer’s can be precisely accounted for, and should be repeatable, as in a scientific experiment.

“To prove the success of your experiment you have to be able to repeat it in pure conditions,’’ he continues. “The event was organised by IBM, run by IBM, paid for by IBM, and no information required by professional players and computer specialists was released.

“Their refusal to release printouts, their refusal to continue with the programme, their decision to dismantle Deep Blue - the only impartial witness - just puts this single experiment out of the scientific rank.

“IBM benefited immensely; I suffered a humiliating defeat. But at the end of the day, it has no significance, either for man versus machine [as a] sporting contest or for scientific investigation. I think the experiment will have to be renewed but differently. The machine has to be supervised as thoroughly as the human player and every single datum has to be revealed.

“So I think that IBM didn’t behave properly, but it’s a big big corporation, and it’s virtually impossible to challenge them in the media. They buy too much advertising - that’s what I was told by certain press organisations.’’

Kasparov, now 37, had been world chess champion from the age of 22, and had never lost a match to a human opponent, so he might have been forgiven for holding a grudge against computers. But that is not the case. Like many travelling players he uses the Chess Base programme to prepare himself for games, and he plays “speed chess’’ against computer programmes before competitions. “It’s useful for professional players because it sharpens your tactics. So I’ll play a few blitz games against the computer because it’s the ultimate test.’’

His visit to London last month to play a charity match, coincided with the launch of Virtual Kasparov, which he says is the first significant chess programme for the Sony PlayStation. I went to talk to him in his suite at London’s Savoy where he does not took out of place.

Kasparov is well dressed and looks fitter, tougher and, unnervingly, no older than when we last met some 15 years ago. His CV lists weight-training as one of his interests, and I’d rather face him over a chessboard than in a boxing ring.

Neither is likely to happen, but perhaps I can beat the Virtual Kasparov instead. Does it play like him?

“It caters for everyone from total beginners, but at its highest level, it does imitate Garry Kasparov’s playing style,’’ he says. “First, it prefers Kasparov’s openings over Karpov’s or Kramnik’s [the world chess champions before and after him]. Every chess programme is quite different in evaluating positions, because the priority systems are designed with different values.

This one obviously will prefer a more aggressive approach. It tends to value initiative, and that’s pretty much Garry Kasparov’s style: aggressive, adamant.’’

What’s important, he says, is taking chess to home game players rather than PC users. “That’s quite new for chess,’’ he says. “Its success could symbolise the sweeping change in the perception of the game in a non-chess orientated audience.’’

Of course, most serious chess players have portable PCs because they need to run ChessBase, a huge database of chess games that first appeared for the Atari ST in Germany in the 80s. Kasparov runs it on a subnotebook PC, a Toshiba Libretto.

He has also been involved with a number of websites over the past six years, and the current focus is KCO, Kasparov Chess Online.

“As you know, it’s a very harsh time in the market,’’ he says, “it’s more about survival. The site is expanding, and we’ve developed a product of very reasonable quality. If we sail through these stormy waters, then by the end of the year we will have a very strong site and commercially it will be a success.

“Chess is suffering from a lack of visible support in the mainstream,’’ says Kasparov, meaning TV and national newspapers. The internet “allows us to expand the boundaries dramatically. We know that millions of people are playing chess, but without TV coverage, you can hardly expect to get any serious advertising revenues. With the internet we can compensate for the lack of TV coverage, and sooner or later that will raise awareness of the value of chess competitions on the professional level. It’s the only way to go.

“Also we’re doing a lot with schools and the response is always positive: parents and educational authorities are happy with kids playing chess, not wasting time running round the streets, and it creates good communications between different countries and continents.’’

Kasparov has founded a chess academy in Tel Aviv, and the programme is awaiting approval by the Israeli ministry of education. He then wants to extend the idea through the rest of the world.

The aim is not just to raise awareness, but to get it on the curriculum in the USA and other countries. “The academy in Israel plays a vital role in realising my greatest dream: to see Garry Kasparov’s legacy as having chess in every classroom worldwide. Things like Virtual Kasparov are small steps on a long road with a very noble goal at the end.’’ — By arrangement with The Guardian


Woods is greatest golfer
K.R. Wadhwaney

There is no denying that Sir Donald Bradman, who passed away early this year at the ripe age of 90 plus, has been the greatest batsman cricket has produced.

Similarly, Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer world has produced so far. He stands ahead of Muhammad Ali, Pele and Carl Lewis. At 25, he has already achieved several unbelievable milestones and, by the time he bids adieu to professional golfing, he is expected have all the major trophies meticulously placed on his coffee table and in the sitting room.

Woods is unquestionably the preeminent sportsman of not only his time but of the millennium. What is most remarkable about Tiger’s achievements is that he has not been embroiled in any controversy. This is in sharp contrast of many other ‘greats’, who had their quotes of controversies and misunderstandings. Undisputedly, he is the most endearing gentleman-sportsman the USA has given to the rest of the world.

When India’s hard-hitting batsman, C.K. Nayudu, was young, his father used to tell him: “Go out, in rain, hail and storm, and hit them hard all over.”

Similar was the advice given to Woods by his Jhai mother Kultide. “Kill them,”, she used to tell her young son as he ventured out to face the competition. These words from Woods’ mother were surprising as she, at other times, preached for Buddhism to secure inner peace.

Woods appears to have taken mother’s lesson literally as he has virtually mowed down his opponents. In winning major after major, he has annihilated some of his toughest rivals. It is said he seems to have subdued the game itself, beaten it into submission.

Both cricket and golf are known to be games of glorious uncertainties. But Bradman and Woods have shown that they are the real masters. Bradman scored a century in every third outing, while Woods’ form stays unaffected on any course and in any weather.

What renders Tiger Woods so extraordinary a golfer? He possesses all the pre-requisites — technique, style, deep concentration, determination, and big match temperament — but what renders him superior to all others is that he possesses a mental picture of the ball rolling into the hole. This has been the only advice that his father, Earl, had given to his son.

Behind the success of every man, there is a woman, it is said. Indian chess player Vishwanathan Anand has the support of both his wife and mother. Similarly Woods has unflinching support of his mother and father.

In cricket, a player hits a moving ball. In golf, a player has to hit a stationary ball. But hitting the golf ball with precision is much tougher as it is more sensitive than a cricket ball. What renders golf a tough discipline is that one has to play against oneself, instead of playing against others.

What has helped Woods march over his experienced rivals is that he has achieved complete mastery over his mind when the game is in progress. He has developed an uncanny synchronisation of his mental faculties with his robust physical condition to achieve the impossible. He commits far lesser number of mistakes during a round than his reputed rivals. He is the most focussed player on the course. This is what his rivals like Ernie Els, have said often while talking about Woods’ exploits on the course.

“The mind and the body are one,” emphasise” Jom Loehr, founder of a leading sports and motivational training centre. LGE Performance System in Orlando (Florida). One of the most renowned psychologists in the world of sports Loehr says: “Mental toughness is not just something you can sit in a room and visualise and all of a sudden you are mentally tough. The ability to handle physical stress takes us right into the ability to handle mental and emotional stress”.

On April 8, 2001, Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club to become the first golfer to hold the titles of the four modern major championships at the same time.

Woods finished 16-under 272 with two strokes ahead of his nearest rival, David Duval. When Woods clinched the issue amidst tense atmosphere with his final birdie on the final hole, he quickly buried his face in his black cap. He later said he was shedding tears of joy. He was a black champion amidst the white throng of spectators in the exclusive club, which accepted its first black member only in 1991.

Inside five years of his taking to professional golf, Woods is rated as a dynasty unto himself. He has already won 27 times in 98 starts on the PGA Tour. He needs two more victories to equal Jack Nicklaus’ record. As against Nicklaus’s five majors in 17 outings, Woods has already gained six majors as many as 17 tries. It is great going.

Woods works assiduously on his shots on the course. His hallmark is that he takes practice as match and match as practice. This helps him play to his potential and capabilities more often than many world-class players.

Apart from rigorous training on the course, Woods spends a lot of time in the gym. He works on developing his muscles, particularly shoulders. He believes that robust physical conditioning is the key for the mind to function sharply. His strong shoulders help him hit a very long ball. It is said that he hits the ball longer than many other golfers of his class. Steady in chipping, he is very consistent in putting. He seldom misses a putt if the ball is within 12 ft of the hole.


East Bengal’s NFL title win laudable

Congratulations to East Bengal on becoming the new National Football League champions. They overcame the final hurdle defeating State Bank of Travancore 2-0 in their last match to romp home majestically with the coveted title. As only a win could put them on top, the team displayed an attacking game. East Bengal prevailed over their rivals through their excellent team work, cohesion and coordination. The hero of their fantastic win was Omolaja Olalekan who netted both the goals for his side. East Bengal thus dethroned defending champions Mohun Bagan who, despite their 2-0 win over ITI in their final league tie, had to eat the humble pie. The eventual winners pipped their arch rivals just by a whisker and thereby realised their cherished dream. Both the Kolkata giants ran neck and neck till the last day. In the end the champions collected 46 points from 22 outings while the runners-up ended up with 45 from the same number of matches in a photofinish contest. Only one point made all the difference.



Three cheers to East Bengal for lifting the coveted National Football League title. It is the maiden NFL title for the Kolkata giants who scored a rousing 2-0 win over State Bank of Travancore in their last match. The credit for the rare feat goes to Nigerian striker Omolaja Olalekan, who scored the decisive goals in the 42nd and 74th minutes.


Unforgettable Walsh

Heartiest congratulations to Courtney Walsh for becoming the first bowler to reach the 500- wicket mark. More than this stupendous achievement which I am sure no other fast bowler will be able to accomplish, his conduct on and off the field is laudable. I think he personifies humility. In this age when the end and not the means seems to be the guiding principle of all our actions, it is indeed heartening to find people like Walsh who believe in the traditional concepts of sportsmanship, honesty, dedication and commitment. Indeed Walsh has proved that good people do not necessarily finish last. During the Test match at Sabina Park against England in 1998, Walsh put his arms around the then newly appointed skipper Brian Charles Lara confirming his support to the new captain after having himself been jettisoned without ceremony from captaincy. Indeed I wondered at that time whether such a good person can really exist. A universally admired man, Walsh to me represents all that is good about humanity.


Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh has done a great job for India. He has raised hopes of a dying nation. He claimed about 63.2 per cent of the total Australian wickets in the entire series. When Kanitkar performed splendidly in his very first ODI, Saurav Ganguly at the prize distribution ceremony had commented: “I think this man, has got a bright future”. But where is Kanitkar today? When Yuvraj Singh scored 84 against Australia in Kenya, newspapers put him on the front page also. But where is Yuvraj today? Hence Harbhajan must not get complacent and get carried away by his achievement. He must keep his feet firmly on the ground.