|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, June 23, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
New combinations emerging
Cricketers give sporting chance to urban gangs
Hockey needs better marketing
Recently there occurred an event which went almost unnoticed but for a few newspapers. An Indian team won the inaugural Asian junior hockey title at Ipoh, Malaysia, was feted by the federation at a function in Delhi. It was news for just one day. But the sentiments emerging from that one gathering needs to be paid some serious attention. One has to find out the reason why the victory in Ipoh did not stir the imagination of either the ministry or those who profess to be interested in sport. Is it because hockey is not considered important enough to merit due attention?
The IHF president hit the nail on the head when he complained about the unfair treatment meted out to hockey. "The win over Pakistan in the Prime Minister’s Cup in Dhaka was more significant than the Paes-Bhupathi exploits," he is reported to have said. He is also quoted as saying that while Harbhajan Singh has become a household name for his exploits in mere two Test matches, it is a pity that the skilful Sikh (Rajpal) is not even known to many.
Hockey is not asking for any special attention. All it needs is the same treatment, same media exposure as cricket. Here again the IHF president was on the spot when he said " Cricket victories are being over-exaggerated, so is the Indian duos French Open triumph. And in spite of our under-18 hockey team annexing the inaugural Asian junior hockey title at Ipoh, we are yet to receive even a routine congratulatory message from the ministry, leave alone media attention." He is right here. A cricket victory immediately evokes congratulatory messages from the President and Prime Minister but no one has told them about a game called hockey is also played by India.
This is not the first time that the media and the ministry have overlooked hockey. To be brutally frank, for most people in India there is no sport other than cricket and cricketers and that too at the international level.
No one grudges cricket its image or the exposure given to it. But there has to be some yardstick, some fairplay in judging the performances of cricketers and the cricket team with those playing hockey, football and other games. It has to be admitted though that cricket has been sold better and has caught the imagination because of its huge history, the vast reservoirs of statistics and the general ambience it generates.
But India cannot afford to ignore other games at the cost of cricket. Judged by any standard, the standing of Indian cricket in the world is much lower than that of hockey, badminton, billiards and snooker. Let us compare just cricket and hockey. Indian cricket languishes at the bottom half of a group the total number of which is less than 10. Comparatively hockey has a much higher status, always being among the top twelve of the world of some 60-odd countries playing the game. And irrespective of whether it wins the world, Olympic, Asian Games and other titles ( which it has ) the quality of play produced by the team is always held in high esteem. That is not so with cricket where barring a few individuals, India as a team has nearly always done badly. One does not need to give example though the latest performance against lowly Zimbabwe is all too fresh in memory.
But for all the indifferent and poor showing the cricketers by and large earn much more money, and are in the news all too often. Much more is written about them than players in any other game except for odd occasions like the time Gopichand won the All-England badminton and in keeping with the Indian ethos, became a hero for a few months.
Gopichand has been kept on the sports page for days after his one performance. India’s win over Australia in the home series is still being lauded and digested with Harbhajan for instance being feted in function after function, offered money and land and even a senior post in the police department. That was ridiculous. How can a state government offer the senior post to a cricketer for performances on the field of sport? One cannot gift away such important positions. These positions have to be earned. It is unfair to the officer holding such ranks and in fact devalues the whole police force. But such is the reaction for a performance by a cricketer.
Now take the performances of Indian hockey in recent times. There was the title win in the final of the Prime Minister’s Cup in Dhaka, the fine work of the under-16 which won the Asian title, the school team which won the Asian School championships and the fine showing by the under-21 in the Asian circuit. Not many realise that beating Korea 7-1 in the Ipoh tournament was a remarkable achievement. Korea it must be remembered is the among the top teams in the world, not only among men and women but also in the juniors. In fact Korea lays considerable stress on its junior teams, having built up the game from the level from late 80s. Ask M.P. Ganesh who was in charge of the Indian juniors at that stage. He saw the transformation of Korea from an also ran country to Asian Games champions, Asian continental champions and finally runners-up in Olympics. But then there is no cricket in Korea and hence the projection of and importance to hockey.
Critics may run down hockey because it has fallen from its Olympic pedestal. That is a very negative way at looking at things This attitude is in sharp contrast to the one taken as far as cricket is concerned.. Cricket has not shown any improvement despite the huge sponsorship. But it has not discouraged the sponsors. Despite the continued run of poor scores and performances, the sponsors have not withdrawn. In fact more and more corporate houses are willing to pool in money to support the game.
If only hockey had the same patronage! Given the general background of the players and the low-key treatment given to them by both media and the government, a little more money, would probably revolutionise the whole game. Even today a hockey match in India attracts more crowd than a domestic outing in cricket. Only a handful of people watch the Ranji and Duleep Trophy matches. But these are given full media attention, both visual and print. But not so hockey at the same level. Even football, which is arguably the most popular game in the country, despite its poor standards, gets the same raw deal from the media, particularly the visual media.
What hockey needs is a good salesman, someone to project its achievements, both past and present, with a special word on the golden days. Recent performances at the junior level should be highlighted in the visual media and special mention be made of the players who made it all possible. Regular interviews must be conducted of old stagers(not officials) and the finer points of the game be discussed in seminar over television. While stress should be mainly on Indian hockey and how to improve the standard, there should also be discussions on the way other countries, particularly South Korea and Malaysia in the Asian context, are going about improving their game. Pakistan hockey too should be highlighted. It must be remembered that despite the overall changes in the theme all over the world, Pakistan has still managed to keep a control over its standard and is rated among the top four countries in the world. India could learn something from Pakistan in this respect.
There are other aspects too which must be given due importance. First and foremost hockey must be made financially attractive. Cricket, Tennis and golf for instance, have become money spinners irrespective of the standards. The game will certainly improve if it can attract a high profile sponsor and the players are given more money. The federation alone cannot do much. The whole mind-set has to change if hockey is to be placed on the same platform as some of the other games, especially cricket.
Given the successful run in recent times, beginning with the victory of the senior team in the Prime Minister’s Cup in Dhaka and the subsequent string of titles in the age group tournaments, Indian hockey could be said to have come back on the right track. It is now up to the IHF, the media (visual and print) with the help of financial backing to ensure that India is back to the ways in the international arena.
New combinations emerging
The transfer season is drawing to a close and new combinations are emerging in the football arena. While some clubs have benefited immensely from the inter-club transfers by roping in top-notch players, others are ruing the loss of stalwarts and are chalking out contingency plans for the current season.
Earlier this week, the All-India Football Federation released the fifth list of transfers after due approval. With this, the total number of players who have sought transfer this season has gone up to 237.
The most talked-about transfers are those of star midfielder Joe Paul Ancheri and striker IM Vijayan who have shifted their loyalty from FCKochin to National Football League champions East Bengal of Kolkata. In fact Ancheri’s contract with East Bengal for a whopping Rs 18 lakh makes him the highest-paid player of the country this year. His friend and team-mate IMVijayan also opted for the red and gold brigade although he commanded a much less price, Rs 12 lakh to be precise.
Mohun Bagan’s Brazilian recruit Jose Barreto, the highest scorer in the NFL with 14 goals, nevertheless commanded the highest price among all foreigners and Indians. He agreed to assist Mohun Bagan for another season for Rs 35 lakh.
Mahindra United, who finished seventh in the National Football League with 25 points,are among the major gainers this season. They have managed to bring into their fold Salgaocar’s star forward Jules Alberto, who excelled in the pre-World Cup qualifiers recently, and Air-India’s Khalid Jamil. Besides, Mahindas have also recruited Churchill Bothers’ Uday Koner, Jeevan Moras and Kamal Thapa (Dempo) besides Naushad Pari of Mohun Bagan. Mahindras have also succeeded in bringing into their fold Venkatesh, who missed the World Cup qualifiers due to an injury, Habib Adenkunle, and Surkumar Singh (all East Bengal) Suresh (Mohun Bagan); and Churchill’s Noel Wilson. Goalkeeper Virender Singh, who also played in the World Cup qualifiers, striker Raman Vijayan and Mohammed Nakeb have got a handsome raise and hence they preferred to remain with the Mumbai outfit.
Salgaocar, Goa, made up for the loss by inducting Kalyan Chaubey of Mohun Bagan, Tamjen Klbang of Tollygunge, Akshay Das of East Bengal and J. Murali of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore.
Bangalore’s Indian Telephone Industries,who barely managed to retain their slot in the National Football League, have brought in some new faces. They are East Bengal’s Thyem Reghuvi, Amandeep Singh, S.K.Sanjib, Zaheer Abbas Hamza, and Trijit Das.
ITI lost the services of Prahlad Rawat who opted for Tollygunge Agragami, Kolkata, and Nasir Jamil, who joined Air-India, and Rishi Kapoor who signed for Mohun Bagan. Similarly, K. Naushad and Muhammed Shafeeq, both of ITI, signed for FCKochin.
Goa’s Churchill Brothers have also recruited some new faces, including Hindustan FC’s Vikrant Sharma and Subhash Negi besides Peter Domnic Mascarehhas of ITI.
Former Nigerian striker Chima Okerie, who came out of wilderness after the Indian Football Association (IFA) lifted the ban on him,has decided to assist the Bengal-Mumbai Football Club. Although the club does not figure in the high-profile National Football League this season,yet Chima may play a vital role in shaping the club’s destiny in the near future. Initially Tollygunge Agragami had shown interest in recruiting him but his demands made the club management to have second thoughts. Also joining him in the new club is Jude Odegah of Vasco SC.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore, who have qualified for the National Football League for the first time, have also signed a couple of experienced players, including Gumpe Rime, Gregory Clark and R. Ravi Bab, all from Vasco SC.
Punjab’s JCT Phagwara have not signed up any player in the inter-club transfers. According to assistant coach Parminder Singh, the club will rely on the existing combination. However, some ex-JCT players are likely to assist Punjab Police this season. They are stopper back Jagjit Singh who was with the Bengal-Mumbai Football Club and Surinderpal Singh. Former left winger of of JCT Jasbir Singh may also assist Punjab Police. Incidentally, Punjab Police have also qualified for the National Football League and hence will be keen to put up an impressive show.
The transfer lists show that Kolkata giants East Bengal have lost heavily as nine players have opted out of the red and gold brigade but the induction of Ancheri and Vijayan will make up for the loss to some extent. Mahindra United look to be the most impressive combination as they have roped in a host of experienced players and internationals.
But coaches ,too, have a hand in shaping the clubs’ destiny. Even newcomers can spring surprises with proper grooming. This has been proved by stalwarts like Mohammed Habib, T.K.Chathunny and Sukhwinder Singh in the national circuit.
Cricketers give sporting chance to urban gangs
Youths from the graffiti-scarred high-rises of Britain’s inner cities are more likely to use a cricket bat for a mugging than for slogging a ball over the boundary.
But that could soon change. Cricket chiefs are seeking to break away from village greens and take the sport into some of the poorest urban areas in the country — in a bid to stop young people turning to crime.
A major new scheme, headed by West Indian sporting hero Viv Richards, will this year seek to take the game into deprived estates and schools across Britain.
Over the next two months cricket workshops will be held in places from Newcastle in northeast England to Hackney in London, via Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham and Gloucester. If no grassed area is available, they will take place in the streets. Local coaches will be trained to keep the sport going once the summer is over and disused sites will be converted into cricket pitches. Richards will host coaching sessions himself in many of the cities.
"It is all about getting cricket into parts of the country where it is not usually played. Cricket can really help people in the inner cities and make a difference to their lives," said Tim Hodgson, a coordinator for Activate, a sports development group running the project on behalf of the England and Wales Cricket Board and funded by Channel 4 television.
A club in south London has been lauded as a role model for others to follow. Brixton lacks many things — jobs are scarce, schools are poor and the police is understaffed. But for one man what was really missing from the area was a cricket pitch. If you got that, cricket coach Tony Moody believed, you could start to combat everything else.
So began a Brixton fairytale and the story of the Lambeth Cricket Club, a team from the local estates who still practise on a concrete wicket and have no ground to call their own, but who have humbled the might of Surrey.
"We are going to make Brixton something to be proud of. The quality of life here is going to increase. People need to be proud of it, away from the image of muggers and riots," Moody said.
The task is huge. Brixton’s crime problems include vicious gangs of Yardies who control the local drug trade. Two weeks ago a man was killed while sitting in his car on a Brixton street in a shooting police have linked to the Yardies. A woman was recently kneecapped after accidentally running into the back of a gangster’s car. But for Moody these terrible influences can be fought off from a cricket crease.
Moody (47) who came to Brixton from the West Indies when he was 13, long had a dream of getting local youths involved in cricket to keep them off the streets. After working for 14 years as a hotel security guard, he gave up his job and began to teach cricket in the local schools. Interest was huge and he formed a youth team. By 1998 he had enough players to form the Lambeth club.
For Reco Gilfillian (18) and dozens of teenagers like him, the club has been a saviour. Moody’s passion for cricket was infectious and led to the discovery of hidden talents in people who might never have considered the game.
"Cricket gives you something to do. There are bad influences and bad people around, but cricket keeps people from just hanging around the streets where they might get into gangs. I don’t know where I would be without cricket," he said.
After first meeting Moody when he came to coach in his primary school, Gilfillian has now played for a Surrey County Cricket Club youth team. "I remember when he first picked up a ball. He clean-bowled me on the school playground. What a talent," remembered Moody.
Last year Lambeth played Surrey’s under-19s at London’s famous cricket ground, The Oval — and won easily. Orane Turner (17) who hit the winning run, has gone on to play for a Surrey youth team. "It was great. I never thought I would ever get to play at The Oval," he said.
But in terms of facilities Lambeth is a cricketing desert. Some 250,000 people live in the borough, but there is only one cricket pitch — and that is The Oval. The Lambeth club still practise on the concrete school pitch where they began life three years ago, and have to play all their games away or in neighbouring parts of London.
But that is going to change. Richards is to meet the team in August as part of a plan to donate space in a local park to provide Lambeth with a permanent home — and its very first grass pitch.
Moody said: "Usually we play teams in villages in Kent or Surrey, and now we will be able to invite them to play at our home ground and give them the full Brixton experience. It is actually a wonderful area and I am sure they will enjoy that," he said.
Only 436 persons from a population of 100 crores will constitute the Organising Committee for the inaugural Afro-Asian Games at New Delhi from November 3 to 11 this year.
The committee for the eight-discipline Games outnumbers the Sydney Olympic Committee, which hosted a mammoth 30 discipline event successfully. The committee is almost twice the size of the Special Organising Committee (232 members) that was entrusted with the responsibility of hosting the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.
Does not this show immense knowledge and wisdom of the Sports Minister Uma Bharti and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Suresh Kalmadi!
The members of the committee come from different walks of life. There are ministers by the dozen, members of Parliament and other politicians, industrialists, eminent persons, bureaucrats, actors, cricket players and media persons.
The list of officials is a veritable whose who. It will do justice to a marriage reception of the Prime Minister’s (any Prime Minister for that matter) son or foster son!
In no stadium, there is any hall which can accommodate about 500 people with the Organising Committee is called upon to meet to transact business a special ‘shamiana’ will have to be erected for the purpose.
Of the 436 members, about 100 are out-station persons from Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and other distant places. The air tickets will cost about Rs 10 lakh (average Rs 10,000 for return ticket). The board and lodging for these members will cost another Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakh. There will be TA and DA admissable to local officials, as was the case in the 1982 Asian Games.
A single Organising Committee meeting will cost the organisers (Government and IOA) about Rs 25 lakh. If only two meetings in five months are held, the expenditure will be Rs 50 lakh. Who says India is not a wealthy nation!
In the list, there are some retired cricket players. When Sydney organised the Olympic Games, Allan Border or Dennis Lillee were not included on the committee. Similarly, there are actors on the committee. What role are they expected to play in organising the Games. Are they included to provide an ornamental status to the committee!
In accordance to norms and in view of precedence during the Delhi Asian Games, all these 436 members will have to be provided ceremonial kit, that is, shirts, trousers, blazer etc. It should cost the Government another amount of Rs 10 lakh!
The Executive Committee comprises only 73 members. This is twice the number of officials associated with the 1982 Asian Games (38 officials). In two decades, the population of the country has grown. No wonder both the Organising Committee and the Executive Committee have been adequately enlarged.
Jr hockey team does India proud
Congratulations to the junior India hockey team for winning the youth Asia Cup. Although credit cannot be given to any single player as it is a team effort but still Rajpal Singh and Tushar Singh deserve praise for being declared the player of the tournament and player of the final, respectively. It is all because of coach Rajinder Singh’s efforts. Government officials should realise that hockey is as important as cricket. Why were no congratulatory messages forthcoming for the Indian hockey team? Anyway, Mr K.P.S. Gill, even if government officials do not congratulate your team, we Indians congratulate you and wish you good luck for the future.
Namrta Mohan, Chandigarh
It is a very good season for hockey players and hockey lovers in the country. Some time back, India won the Prime Minister’s Cup in Dhaka, defeating Pakistan in the finals. Now, India have won the inaugural Junior Asia Cup (under-18), hockey title at Ipoh (Malaysia) defeating Uzbekistan. Team captain, Jugraj Singh, who scored the opening goal, was the highest scorer of the tournament. Jugraj Singh and coach Narinder Sodhi are products of Rock Rovers Hockey Club, Chandigarh. Mr K.P.S Gill, president, Indian Hockey Federation, said the other day at Delhi, that there were no congratulatory messages after these big achievements. He is right. The players must be encouraged and rewarded.
B.M. Singh Narang, Chandigarh
The assertion of Chandu Borde, chairman of the selection committee, that Yuvraj’s omission was due to the latter’s inconsistent form is ridiculous. If Borde’s memory has not failed him, would be tell the public as to how consistent was Vinod Kambli when he was persistently included in the team? The fact is that Borde and others could not relish the presence of so many players from Punjab. This is a glaring case of shameless discrimination. Borde must realise that Yuvraj Singh is a dashing, aggressive batsman and he deserves to be in the Indian cricket squad. Borde is unfit for the position of chairman of the selection committee.
R.S. Dhillon, Chandigarh
It is heartening to note that the national selectors have picked a strong team for the tri-series in Zimbabwe on the basis of ‘performance’ only. The inclusion of Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Dinesh Mongia, Virendra Sehwag and Harvinder Singh is a welcome step taken by the national selectors. Now it is up to these cricketers to justify their inclusion. The exclusion of opener S.S. Das and Nehra is unfortunate but the selectors did not want to disturb the opening consistent partnership of Tendulkar and Ganguly. Harvinder Singh has been preferred to Ashish Nehra because the former impressed the selectors in Ranji Trophy matches. It is a good trend that domestic cricket is also keenly watched by the selectors. I wish the Indian team good luck.