SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, May 19, 2001, Chandigarh, India
  Afro-Asian Games: friendship at enormous cost
MS Unnikrishnan

HIS is one “friendship” which would cost the exchequer a tidy sum Rs 100 crore. But it’s no big deal, considering the magnitude of work to be done. Yet, many feel that the inaugural Afro-Asian Games, touted as the “Friendship Games”, would be a “white elephant”. They say India can least afford to splurge its precious funds on such specious Games, which can otherwise be utilised to provide drinking water to lakhs of people in parched villages around the country.

An Olympian deserves better treatment
Ramu Sharma

EWSPAPERS last week were full of reports about the treatment meted out to Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, one of India’s all-time greats in athletics. The reports made mockery of the country’s much touted and repeatedly publicised commitment to honour and reward outstanding sports personalities.

Throwback to another age
John Mehaffy

N an era of manufactured sporting personalities as uninteresting as the platitudes they mouth, Darren Gough is a throwback to another age. “You smile so much I’m surprised you’re a genuine Yorkshireman,’’ former West Indies captain Richie Richardson once commented. “There must be some West Indian genes in you.’’

  • Match-fixing is here to stay
  • Ties with Pak
  • Afro-Asian Games
  • Kudos to Sachin


Afro-Asian Games: friendship at enormous cost
MS Unnikrishnan

THIS is one “friendship” which would cost the exchequer a tidy sum Rs 100 crore. But it’s no big deal, considering the magnitude of work to be done.

Yet, many feel that the inaugural Afro-Asian Games, touted as the “Friendship Games”, would be a “white elephant”. They say India can least afford to splurge its precious funds on such specious Games, which can otherwise be utilised to provide drinking water to lakhs of people in parched villages around the country.

But then, critics had also labelled the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, which reportedly cost a whopping Rs 1000 crore, as a “white elephant”, though the games had helped drastically alter the profile of the Capital, for the better.

The Afro-Asian Games, on the flip side, may drill a huge hole in the pockets of the tax-payers but on the plus-side, the games would enable Delhi get its clean-up act in place, and expedite the work on the many flyovers under various stages of construction all over the city.

The Afro-Asiad has come as a befitting occasion to give a face-lift to the many show-piece facilities like the Nehru Stadium, the National Stadium, the Indira Gandhi indoor stadium, the Talkatora swimming pool and the shooting ranges, built for the ’82 Asiad 20 years ago, and which had all gone into disrepair a long time ago.

The Afro-Asiad is being used as a golden ruse to mend broken stands, and update the outdated equipment. Though only five months remain for the “Friendship Games” to begin (November 3 to 11), work on the games got “kick-started” after the government gave the go-ahead, with the steering Committee, headed by Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Uma Bharati, the coordination Committee, headed by Lt -Governor of Delhi Vijay Kapoor, and the Stadium Committee, headed by Executive Director (Team’s Wing) Maj O P Bhatia, getting down to the brasstacks in right earnest.

Ironically, however, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the brain behind the games, has not yet constituted an organising committee, though its president, Suresh Kalmadi, had raised a banner of revolt when Ms Bharati raised doubts about the feasibility of holding the games as scheduled.

The biggest gainers from the Afro-Asiad would be the athletes and the hockey players. A brand new synthetic track would be laid out for the athletic events, though the existing polyurethane track at the Nehru Stadium has completed only five years of its normal seven-year life span. The National Stadium will get two synthetic hockey turfs—one for competition and another for practice—and a third hockey turf is already in the process of being relaid at the Shivaji Stadium. But there are no plans to install flood-light at the National Stadium, though that option may be considered once the necessary permission is obtained, and funds become available, after the games.

The government’s motto is “first repair before you replace” as there is a virtual embargo on new construction. Still, it’s going to be an enormous task, and the billion dollar question is, would the authorities be able to accomplish “all the special repairs and purchases” in a short span of five months? “Our first attempt is to repair and we will replace only if something is beyond repair”, observed a source.

Sports Authority of India (SAI) Executive Director (Team’s Wing) Maj. O P Bhatia said very emphatically that five months would be enough for the athletic track to be relaid and he also assured that the old track, which can be rolled up, would be re-utilised elsewhere for training purposes. Since various agencies would be handling the repair\renovation works, there would be no overlapping of work either. Central Public Works Department (CPWD) will carry out the repair work at the Nehru Stadium and the National Stadium, while the Delhi Development Authority will do the repair work on its “baby,” the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, and the shooting ranges at Tuglakhabad. New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) will spruce up the Talkatora swimming pool while the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) will handle the renovation works at the Ambedkar Stadium and the Chattrasal Stadium. The Delhi Lawn Tennis Association will carry out the necessary repairs at its facility at Haus Khas in New Delhi.

Though the SAI had no plans to relay the athletic track, it had to fall in line, fearing criticism from the International Amateur Athletic Federation as the existing track had worn out at places, making it unfit for top-level international competitions.

Extensive repair works will be undertaken at other stadia too, especially the Indira Gandhi indoor stadium, where falling debris from the leaking roof has become a life-endangering hazard. Improving the lighting and sealing the leaking roof would be the two important works to be carried out at the Indira Gandhi stadium. Desilting of stormwater drains, and repair of roads are some of the other major works being undertaken. In many of the stadia, the public address systems and electronic scoredboards also need replacement.

The change of scoreboard at the Nehru Stadium would cost quite a packet, as the SAI plans to replace the first-generation giant scoreboards with digital alfa-metric or viedo-metric scoreboards, depending on the cost. And then there is some equipment like javelin, polevault, discus, touch pads for swimming, diving boards and arms and ammunition and measuring equipment, which needs to be imported.

The whole idea is to restrict the expenses on renovation of stadia and import of equipment to about Rs 30 crore, and limit the entire expenditure on the games to a maximum of Rs 80 crore, though sources conceded that with the escalation in costs, the figure may well touch, or even cross, the Rs 100 crore mark.

But this estimate has not included whatever sponsorship money that may trickle in, as sponsors are bound to queue up once the momentum for the games builds up. The IOA had managed to mop up a couple of crores in sponsorship deals alone for the Olympic contingent, though India’s chances of winning medals at the Sydney Olympics had been pegged at the very bottom.

The SAI has also effected some major administrative reshuffles for its smooth functioning at this crucial juncture as Lt-Col Ahluwalia has been brought back from Patiala to Delhi as chief administrator of stadia while regional director at Bangalore M P Ganesh, a former Indian hockey team captain, will assume charge in Delhi as Executive Director (Personnel), to take over some of the responsibilities previously handled by secretary Amrit Mathur, who is now fully involved with the Afro-Asiad cell.

Though about 3,000 sportspersons and officials are likely to congregate in Delhi for the games, the Afro-Asiad will be smaller than our own National Games, as only about 23 countries may actually be competing in the games.

But with the IOA having committed to provide free air travel and board and lodging, the number of participants may swell. With Pakistan refusing to change the dates of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament, the hockey contest may be robbed off some of the sheen as South Korea would also be missing, while Sri Lanka’s decision to postpone the SAF Soccer for the convenience of the Afro-Asiad will give the soccer tournament some competitive edge.

In tennis, India may be robbed of a couple of sure medals, if the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) refuses to change the dates of the World Doubles Championship to be held in Bangalore on the same dates as the Afro-Asiad, though Vijay Amritraj has been requested by the All-India Tennis Association to discuss the matter over with the ATP officials, and get the dates changed. India expect a minimum of three medals from tennis alone in the Games.

However, the overall projection of India’s medal prospects is not very encouraging as out of the 436 medals up for grabs, the hosts’ chances are put at 18 medals, and if the going is beyond expectation, another 10 medals may come. For, a brand new athletic track and new imported equipment may not fetch India more than two medals from the track, while in other disciplines like boxing (3), hockey (2), shooting (6), tennis (3) and weightlifting (2), the hosts may pick up another 16 medals, but none from swimming and football.

One fervently hopes that the prophets of doom are proved wrong, and the country hauls a clutch of medals, to justify the organisation of the Games at enormous cost to the public coffer.


An Olympian deserves better treatment
Ramu Sharma

NEWSPAPERS last week were full of reports about the treatment meted out to Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, one of India’s all-time greats in athletics. The reports made mockery of the country’s much touted and repeatedly publicised commitment to honour and reward outstanding sports personalities. The item received attention because it involved Gurbachan Singh who was one of the athletics greats of the 60s, only the second Indian after Milkha Singh to figure in an Olympic Games athletics final. An Asian Games gold medallist in the decathlon, Gurbachan also has had a distinguished and much decorated career in the CRPF.

What really prompted the media to publicise the event was the manner in which a public sector undertaking had ignored the claims of Gurbachan Singh and instead had allotted a petrol pump to another sportsman whose credentials reportedly would not have stood scrutiny. It is still a mystery why and how Indian Oil chose to overlook Gurbachan’s claims. Perhaps they had their own compulsions in a country where merit is not always the criteria for following a rule and pulls and pressures can make up for other deficiencies. One will have to wait for IOC to come up with their version of the case before taking a collision course.

Over the years the award of cash, flats and petrol pumps to outstanding sportspersons has become a practice. It is a gesture of appreciation and at the same time provides, in some cases, a means of livelihood to people , who , after a distinguished career in sports, have no other means of earning a living. But most importantly it is an award for proficiency in sports.

The criteria has been fixed and rarely is there a chance of any manipulation. At least that is the general feeling. Unfortunately not all deserving and in some cases also needy ex-sportsmen have been thus rewarded. One does not know even to this day if Makhan Singh, a contemporary of Milkha Singh, and handicapped now, has been given a petrol pump. His is an old case and even media has given up following it.

Coming to the present case Gurbachan has a right to be upset. He is reportedly not upset because of not being allotted a petrol pump but hurt that another person, with much lesser credentials had been preferred over him. “What hurts me most is not the petrol pump, but being relegated to the position of a non-entity by preferring a junior cricketer who, by all accounts, has nothing to prove as an eminent sportsman. This is nothing but rubbishing my credentials. It’s an irony that playing in C.K. Nayudu under-22 tournament is considered better than qualifying for the Olympics final.” said an embittered Gurbachan.

The athlete, who is on the selection panel of the Amateur Athletics Federation of India, is reported to be planning to move the court as “it is a matter of my honour, and I also want to make sure no other deserving sportsperson is denied his due.” A successful appeal by Gurbachan could open up a Pandora’s Box .

Gurbachan applied for allotment of the petrol pump as a resident of Kamah in Nawanshahr district. In May this year a brief interview was held before selecting the candidate who in, Gurbachan’s opinion, was not even eligible to apply. The eligibility criteria as laid down by the rules says that the person should be an Arjuna Awardee or winner of a medal at Olympics/Asian /Commonwealth games and recognised world championships or national champion under the recognised national championships. Gurbachan qualifies on all accounts and rightly wants to know “on what basis I have been ignored.”

This is not the first time that Gurbachan has been given a raw deal. He is still carrying a grouse with the government for ignoring his claims to a Padma Shri award, an honour given to many sportspersons, quite a few athletes among them having achieved much less than Gurbachan. He is rightly incensed at the manner in which sports awards are being distributed, particularly in the last few years where it is not always merit but the approach that counts. Arjuna Award and Padma Shri honours are national awards and should be awarded only to deserving candidates. Unfortunately some of the awards have been reportedly given on basis of recommendations from the highest level.

The present case is very important not because it deals with Gurbachan Singh. There is obviously something drastically wrong with the system of honouring outstanding sportspersons in the country. This is not the first complaint and neither is it likely to be the last. The government and in particular the Sports Ministry should be involved in such awards and an official present while the papers are scrutinised and claims accepted. It will ease the burden of guilt on the parties presented the awards if the government at the Centre is involved.

The involvement of the Sports Ministry in such selections would go a long way in assuaging hurt feelings of rejected candidates while at the same time assure the successful sportspersons of having received what was their due and without having to put pressure for it. Here one would like to make it very clear that while the rule entitles every outstanding sportsperson to a petrol pump in this case, the government must make sure that even in this category only the needy sportsperson should be given preference.

Indian Oil Corporation or for that matter any public institution have the right to give petrol pumps or whatever to anyone they want or consider proper but once the criteria is laid down and it is accepted then there is no way those rules can be flouted. In this case Gurbachan appears to have all the credentials but has still been overlooked. Perhaps there is a clause in the IOC rules while he has not read. But he was called for the interview. Maybe he did not do well at the meeting. Did the rules insist that he or the sportspersons concerned should also acquit himself or herself properly at the interview? This case throws up a number of questions. From reports in the media it appears that Gurbachan Singh has been treated shabbily. And not for the first time too.


Throwback to another age
John Mehaffy

IN an era of manufactured sporting personalities as uninteresting as the platitudes they mouth, Darren Gough is a throwback to another age.

“You smile so much I’m surprised you’re a genuine Yorkshireman,’’ former West Indies captain Richie Richardson once commented. “There must be some West Indian genes in you.’’

Neville Cardus, the imaginative writer on music and cricket for the Manchester Guardian, would have relished the Yorkshire and England fast bowler.

Red-faced with effort, whole-hearted in endeavour both for the county of the White Rose and for his country, Gough is a Yorkshireman Cardus would have appreciated as one of the larger-than-life characters who inhabited his writings on the summer game.

Cricket and its American cousin baseball owe much of their attraction to formal structures of space and time which serve to display a great deal of the character of the men who play the sports for a living.

International cricket also reveals national characteristics.

Gough possesses qualities of aggression and determination that Australians openly admire but remains as recognisably English as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

More urgently for Englishmen, awaiting the arrival of the latest Australian side, he is, at 30, now in his prime as a match-winning strike bowler.

First, there is the two-Test series against the mercurial Pakistanis, and the opportunity to join the seven England bowlers who have taken 200 wickets in Test cricket.

English fast bowlers of genuine international class have arrived once a generation since the 1950s when Britannia still ruled the waves and Frank Tyson, Freddie Trueman and Brian Statham were available for the mother country.

After Trueman was put out to grass in 1965, he was succeeded as his country’s strike force by the part-time poet John Snow. Then came Bob Willis, who turned himself from R.G. Willis to R.G.D. Willis in tribute to American troubadour Bob Dylan.

And now there is Gough, who announced his presence by claiming New Zealand’s premier batsman Martin Crowe as his first international victim in a 1994 one-day international.

Gough’s early progress was sometimes spectacular, sometimes confused, in a fraught period for English cricket.

He won the hearts of the hard-bitten Sydney crowd with six for 49 and 51 with the bat in the losing 1994-95 Ashes campaign before falling victim to injury against the West Indies in the following English summer.

Hampered by physical problems and carrying too much weight in his early days, Gough could have been one of the promising under-achievers who proliferated in English cricket during the 1990s.

Instead there existed a steadiness of purpose, steely competitive spirit and a keen intelligence which eventually produced from the years of disappointment a bowler verging on greatness.

Gough overcame his injury problems and, aided by the central contract system which enables England players to save their energies for international cricket, emerged last year as a fast bowler worthy to succeed his renowned predecessors.

Two vignettes, both at Lord’s, captured the imagination. England, booed from the field after losing the 1999 series against New Zealand, were bottom of the unofficial Test rankings at the start of a two-Test series against Zimbabwe.

On the third evening of the first Test, they were in a strong position against a spirited and chivalrous side, distracted by events back home in their troubled country, but there had still been little to excite the spectators on a dull May day.

In a spell of vivid pace, Gough transformed the evening, evoking whole-hearted roars from the crowd as Zimbabwe tumbled to 39 for five en route to an emphatic defeat.

More and better was to follow. Last year, England crumbled against the West Indies in a seeming reprise of the previous 20 years in the first Test and seemed down and out in the second.

The 100th Test at the home of world cricket was transformed when Gough took a steepling catch at third man in West Indies’ second innings. West Indies succumbed to Andy Caddick for 54 and England went on to win a heart-stopping match by two wickets.

Gough, at the crease when England secured their improbable victory, went on to take 25 wickets at 21.10 as the home side won their first series against the West Indies since 1969.

He followed up by skilfully overcoming the unfriendly pitches of Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the winter tour, conquering conditions in the former country which had proved too much for Dennis Lillee, acclaimed by many critics as the finest practitioner ever of the fast bowler’s art.

In Sri Lanka, Gough evoked memories of fellow Yorkshireman Trueman, the first man to capture 300 Test wickets, who twice dropped his pace to win Test matches with off-cutters in the early 1960s.

Trueman, instantly recognisable with his flopping black hair and northern England pallor, is best know to the modern generation as a radio commentator who found little good to say about the modern game.

According to Michael Atherton, Gough is no fan of Trueman. The England opening batsman is also wary of bestowing the ultimate accolade on his team mate. Reuters 



Match-fixing is here to stay

Match-fixing is back in the news sooner than expected. The report datelined London (April 29) that match-fixing was still widespread in international cricket and that some of the recent one-day matches between Pakistan and New Zealand might have been fixed makes sad reading. Sometime back it had come to light that the Australian bookies had used call girls to lure some top cricketers. Woman power, they rightly thought, would prove as effective as money power, if not more. If the high and the mighty could succumb to the charms of Manekas in the ancient times and the Monicas in the recent times, an ordinary cricketer would then be a far easy kill. This confirms my fears that match-fixing is here to stay. The ill-gotten gains are too high to be given up easily. Cricket will never be the same anymore.


Ties with Pak

I disagree with people whose priorities have got so warped that they are not able to discern as to what should come first - their nation or fun and frolic. They seem delusioned enough to subscribe to the view that indulging in sports with Pakistan is the panacea to iron out all our differences and make all our problems disappear. I fail to understand how I can be expected to play games with a hostile neighbour who is responsible for, and keeps killing my family members with blatant audacity. Have we no sense of national pride and nationalism left ? Pakistan, on the other hand, has recently gone on record to state that it will not play with India anywhere right now. They seem to value their pride more than we do ours, it appears.


Afro-Asian Games

The Afro-Asian Games are just five months away, but the preparations leave a lot to be desired. Preparing at the eleventh hour it seems is the policy of Indians. Not only are the pools to be built but new turfs are also yet to be laid. It happens only in India!


Kudos to Sachin

Kudos to master blaster Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar for achieving the rare feat of 10,000 runs at an average of 42.63. He played his first ODI against Pakistan on December 12, 1989 and took five years to score his first international hundred. He made 1, 760 runs against Sri Lanka and 1, 552 runs against Australia at an average of 46.31 and 50.06 respectively. Playing in his 266th ODI he also registered his 28th century. The 27 year-old player has the unique ability to cross swords with his rivals. Even Walsh and Akram, fast bowlers of the bodyline era in 1996, could not curb the little master. Heartiest congratulations to Sachin for reaching the milestone.