|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, July 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Abhinav Bindra has learnt from Sachin
factor of Indian cricket
"being misused" by federations
has made Wimbledon interesting again
Once Hitler had stopped bombing us, Wimbledon was a quiet — indeed boring place to grow up. The football team in the 1940s and 1950s had not yet made its breathtaking ascent from amateur status to (for a time) the Premier League. But there was always the tennis.
Yes, once a year Wimbledon came onto the world’s radar screen for a whole fortnight. But not necessarily for all its inhabitants. Those of us who lived in the postal district of West Wimbledon, in the days of few cars and even fewer televisions, spent several years trying to discover where this other `Wimbledon’ was.
The famous All-England tennis courts are in fact on the edge of Wimbledon which you come to when you drive out from central London. They are in Wimbledon — although nobody ever calls it that: the area, bordering on Southfields and Wandsworth, is known rather grandly as Wimbledon Park.
Once, with the aid of our first bicycles, we had discovered where this other, world-famous Wimbledon was, as West Wimbledon teenagers used to queue for what was then copious standing room on either side of the centre court. Observers, who say that, with its magical delayed final Wimbledon has finally discovered ordinary people as spectators — as opposed to all those recipients of "corporate entertainment", seem to have forgotten that there used to be a lot of people off the streets until standing room was abolished.
In common with many — but clearly not most tennis fans — I fell out of love with Wimbledon when McEnroe made rude and childish behaviour into a routine, rather than the exception. The brilliant Sampras, an altogether cooler customer, just made Wimbledon boring. The last time, before this year, that I gave my home suburb’s tournament a chance was in 1996, when Cliff Richard was singing in the rain and there was precious little tennis — boring or otherwise.
The veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke told the world, through the medium of the BBC last week, that the problem was the grass. Tennis was better as a spectator sport on almost any other surface. He quoted one famous player as declaring: "Grass is for cows." End of debate.
Or not. The final this year between Rafter and Ivanisevic has shown the world that grass court tennis is, as it were, now back on its feet. Everybody knows what a tremendous match it was. But the semi-final the previous Friday between Agassi and Rafter was also a sensationally good match to watch.
I have to confess that my wife and I returned to the centre court last Friday as unashamed recipients of corporate hospitality. On the way there we were told that centre court tickets were changing hands for $5,000. Any thoughts we might have had that this was the way to finance our summer holiday faced the practical difficulty that we had numbered tickets, and our hosts would soon be aware of the dirty deed. The temptation simply did not arise.
My wife has been a fan of `Goran’s’ for years. I felt I ought to support Britain’s Henman, but he had plenty of support on the Friday, and when the crowd cheered a double fault from Ivanisevic I decided to echo the endearingly temperamental Croat’s appeal for Divine Intervention.
In the end, of course, Divine Intervention easily triumphed over a partisan British crowd and a partisan British press. In that sense it was, as they say, No Contest, although in fact we saw the 125-1 outsider Ivanisevic in two almighty contests.
As for rude and childish behaviour, this is now once again the exception. Good manners and sportsmanship were in the ascendant. Ivanisevic kept his tantrums to a minimum. The worst behaviour I saw was on the part of a lineswoman who sneaked on Agassi, who had used an expletive which was inaudible to the crowd but picked up by the microphones. In the all pervasive world of media technology, a chap can’t even mutter to himself in private these days...
Abhinav Bindra has learnt from Sachin
Abhinav Bindra, who holds the junior world record in the 10-metre air rifle event, says he has learned to battle adversity from batting genius Sachin Tendulkar.
"His intensity and the hunger to succeed has helped me," said Abhinav the world’s eighth ranked shooter. "I look at the way he works and concentrates. But what I admire most about him is the way he fights it out."
"He always remains hungry for good scores and that is why he succeeds."
Both Abhinav and Tendulkar started young and achieved glory early. Abhinav reached an Olympic final at age 18. Tendulkar has created many records since making his Test debut at the age of 21 against Pakistan in 1989.
The former Indian captain clearly is a virtual guru to Abhinav, who recently won the prestigious Den Haag Cup in the Inter-shoot 2001 leg of the European Circuit.
"Even when things are not going for him, his determination to fight and score is really great. And the way he carries himself on and off the field is admirable."
But unlike Tendulkar, Abhinav has several problems, particularly in the absence of expert guidance.
"My biggest problem is that I do not know how to prepare or how to peak at the desired time (without the help of an expert)," he said. "In shooting, which is so competitive and where the difference between the top 20 is almost nothing, it is essential that you peak at the right time."
Although Abhinav has been doing well at the national and international events, he feels a coach can help him achieve better results.
"I shoot only air gun and I have only 60 shots at the Olympics to perform. So it is essential to peak then," he explained. "For this, you need experts who can plan out the training (schedule) so that you are in form when needed.
"If I train systematically, I am sure it will help improve my performance."
Abhinav’s next assignment will be the Commonwealth Shooting Championship (Bisley, England, August 24-31) and the World Cup final (Munich, August 25).
Abhinav — and other top rifle shooters like Anjali Ved Pathak — has been missing a coach since last December when Hungarian Szcusak Lazlo left India after the expiry of his contract.
Probably to offset Lazlo’s absence, Abhinav has hired Gaby Bulhmenn, a well-known lady shooter and coach from Switzerland.
Abhinav will make another important
decision next month when he will switch to the much tougher 50-metre air
rifle events. He will pursue the prone and three-position events,
considered the toughest of rifle events, with an Olympic medal at the
Athens Game in 2004 as his target. — IANS
factor of Indian cricket
The invincible Aussies were stopped in their tracks early this year during their tour of India by an unfancied Indian side which came from behind after getting a comprehensive drubbing in Mumbai to wrap up the series 2-1 with exciting wins carved out in Kolkata and Chennai. Even the staunchest and diehard supporter of the home side was not willing to risk a wager on an Indian win.
The Indian team threw up two heroes in the shape of batsman V.V.S. Laxman and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh who scripted the two astounding victories. In the process V.V.S. Laxman became the highest scorer in an innings for India and Harbhajan became the first Indian to take a hattrick in Tests and scalp 32 victims in a three-test series.
As is our trait we blew the Indian team’s performance out of proportion, losing track of past history which bore testimony to the fact that Indian cricket had seen bright moments of the kind earlier also but what they had always laced was the consistency. They could not extend their supremacy like the Aussies, the South Africans and the West Indians for a longer period. Any team which is not a consistent performer cannot hope to be billed as a top-class team.
The moot point is to know as to what is lacking in our players that they cannot sustain and extend their winning streak for a longer period of time. To my mind it is the lack of concerted team effort. The concept of team is paramount if consistency in performance has to be achieved.
When India embarked on the Zimbabewean tour after the morale-boosting test series win against the unofficial world champions Australia, most scribes, critics and cricket pundits had said the Indian side would steamroll the relatively weak Zimbabwean cricket team. But true to our Indian character we found it too much to carry forward the burden of our new found winning ways against the Australians.
Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, S.S. Das and Ashish Nehra all showed their individual brilliance but overall the team effort left much to be desired and the Zimbabeweans led by their never-say-die skipper Health Streak and the consistent performer Andy Flower were able to hold their own against the much vaunted Indians and drew the two-match Test series 1-1.
Our tales of woe did not end here as we lost the one day test series to the unfancied. West Indies despite enjoying superiority in the earlier matches of the league. There was a stage when the Indians were in danger of losing the match by a huge margin. No body even commented on the often repeated story of lack of consistency and team work or effort. Playing Tendulkar with an injured foot in the final was another criminal act which not only denied the Indian team 11 fit men but at the same time it was an effort to endanger the future of the most brilliant cricketer of modem times. Nobody has raised a finger against the team management for such a callous act.
The selection of the team for the Sri Lankan tour once again brought into focus the leak of freightedness of our cricket administrators. Two young players, Dinesh Mongia and Harvinder Singh, who were not failures in the few opportunities they got were shown the door. How can you build a team and the confidence of the players if such a policy of selection is persued? Such an attitude on the part of the national selectors brings in uncertainty in the minds of the players who then stop thinking of the team and start concentrating on their individual survival with so much money at stake. The right course would be to first spot the talent in the domestic circuit and then to nurture it at the International level by keeping faith and confidence in their abilities.
If India has to make a bid to be the
leader in international cricket then the administrators have to show
proper acumen to pick up the players with the right temperament without
fear or favour, knit them into a team and give them a longer lease to
enable them to attain their optimum potential. More emphasis should be
laid on the team effort which should be glorified moe than individual
The cloak and dagger period is over. Truth at last will be out! One hopes so. It has virtually been acknowledged now that Indian sport is not free from the evils of drug. What has been missing is proof. In two major disclosures recently, one, a national weekly quoting a former manager informed the readers about the alleged use of drugs by cricketers and the other, the news in a leading daily about the huge number of Indian sportspersons taking drugs. The allegations and the report in the weekly has since come under scrutiny with Anshuman Gaekwad, the Manager concerned, complaining about being misquoted but he can do little to undo the damage. As for the revelations, concerning sport other than cricket, in the daily there is little room for denial since the admission has been made by a reputed organisation directly under the control of the Ministry of Sport.
The Sports Authority of India is the organisation that has admitted that there had been 257 positive cases out of 3078 tests carried out since 1991. This admission was forced out it in an affidavit involving a Public Interest Litigation filed by marathon runner Sunita Godara in the Delhi High Court in May 2000. The story had come out when the affidavit on the matter was filed in the court in December 2000 but it did not cause so much sensation then as it has now when the whole issue made a reappearance recently. Perhaps the media on the whole was preoccupied by other sports then.
The publicity claimed by this revelation now has necessarily forced the hand of the Sports Ministry. With the Minister herself now taking in hand Indian sport and those who control it will be perhaps forced to answer some pertinent questions. The Indian Olympic Association and its affiliated units, in particular the athletics and weightlifting federations may have to field quite a few awkward queries from the Ministry. Both these federations have been under scrutiny for some time now. The athletics federation has taken some action in the past but has as yet no solution to offer to the reasons for the string of world class performances prior to the Sydney Olympics. As has been written repeatedly in some newspapers the doubts about the genuineness about the performances have since gained currency because of the inability of the athletes to even come anywhere near the performances recorded at home. And the very fact that the AAFI is taking its own time to ratify the marks is proof that it has at last finally woken up to the realisation that suspicion that not everything was on level with all those performances cannot now be dismissed lightly.
It is a pity that it required a PIL to draw out the drug aspect of Indian sport. The original theme of the PIL related in essence to the award of the Arjuna Award and other state and national honours to only those with a clean chit. The scope has widened enough to catch more than one fish as it were. According to Sunita Godara who argued that the SAI lab in Delhi was being misused by the federations and that out of around 500 dope tests carried out, over 300 had turned positive but action was taken only against some 30-odd positive cases.
The question then is who is to blame for the inaction against the rest of the sportspersons? Obviously the Federations! Will the government or for that matter the Ministry of Sport call for an explanation from these federations? One of the problems facing the Ministry is the lack of authority or recognition of the SAI lab. Tests carried out at the lab have no international sanction. But if action can be taken against a few on the basis of tests conducted at the SAI lab why should there be any doubts about the tests against the others?
Availability of certain drugs in the market without a doctor’s prescription is one of the main reasons for the spread of drug habit in the country. Since then and because of the very physical nature of the sport weightlifting and weightlifters have always come under scrutiny on the international stage. And it is no secret that powerlifting, its allied sport, has had a very suspect record in India and there was a time when the International Powerlifting Federation had suspended a number of Indians, including an experienced and regular traveller to the various competitions, for having tested positive. Powerlifters apart some athletes too have adorned the suspension list released by the international federation.
The expose by the newspapers and the admission by the SAI should be the first step towards cleansing the whole system in Indian sport. The IOA and the federations must be made accountable with the Coach bearing full responsibility for any such misdemeanour by his or her charges. The SAI should now take immediate steps to upgrade its lab in Delhi and apply to the international body for recognition. There is no point in having a lab in Delhi if the findings cannot stand scrutiny in a court of law.
And more importantly the federations
must ensure routine that drug-tests be carried out on all
sportspersons of international character and particularly on those who
record performances beyond certain logical expectations. Also
important is drug test during major national meets. The AAFI had
promised something on those lines after P.T.Usha made a noise about
illegal performances last year. It is not known whether such tests
were carried out during the domestic meets so far in the season.
Chandigarh, capital of Punjab and Haryana, is small city as compared to metropolitan cities. But its record in sports arena has been second to none. It has produced more versatile sportspersons and outstanding officials than many other bigger cities.
Chiranjeev Milkha Singh has been going from strength to strength. He has been playing consistently staying among first three in the two prestigious competitions that he has so far played, keeping the flag flying of the Milkha clan and Chandigarh.
Again in the exclusive club of 200 and under, Jeev is bound to make his presence felt in the US circuit sooner than later. It will not come as a surprise if he gets within 100 inside of another year. What is remarkable is that he is playing without getting unduly perturbed and tense even in the presence of his parents.
Milkha was a great news whether he was running or relaxing on or around track. Now it is Jeev who is making headlines on course. It is now more than likely that he will be as renowned a golfer as Milkha was an athlete in 1960s.
There is insurmountable pressure on children rising from sporting families. Sir Donald Bradman’s son had to change his name as he could not withstand the pressure of father’s legendary feats. Only few children have succeeded in igniting the torch of fame of their parents. Even legendary run-compiler Sunil Gavaskar’s son, Rohan, has not been able to break in the league of representing country in official Indian Test team or one-dayers.
Where many have failed, Milkha has succeeded in throwing Jeev who is country’s pride and joy. Tiger Woods, unquestionably world’s best, feels that Jeev has the making of a top-class golfer. The American black supremo feels that India’s modest "tiger" can be Asia’s lion, as Vijay Singh has been for many years.
Jeev’s successful appearances in British Open and Japan circuit have led to country’s golfing stock rising. The credit for Indian golf looking up goes to the Professional Golfers Association of India. The progress will be quicker if the Indian Golf Union wakes up from its deep slumber. It must help develop amateur golf. The professionals will rise from the ranks of amateur golfers. The better the standard of amateur golfers, the better will be the quality of professionals. Similarly women’s golf needs thrust and recognition from the ladies section of the IGU.
Shiraz Kalra has come of age. He was the best at the qualifying school meet at Pune among 292, who were seen in action. He played superbly throughout to provide an ample evidence of his talent and temperament. He will be among many new faces in the pro circuit this season.
The PGAI will have to conduct this meet with greater care and planning so that participants are genuinely playing to turn pros instead of just wielding their clubs.
According to those, who have been watching Shiraz play, he is a player who is bound to make a good roar in pro lobby. Some other pros in the last two years have not yet got going. Pro circuit is so much different from amateur competitions.
Some renowned cricket players turned golfers were wanting to become pros. How can they unless they take part in Qualifying School Tournament and perform creditably. It is not everybody’s cup of tea to play professional golf.
There are multi-national sporting companies which are busy promoting only corporate golf. There is nothing objectionable in sponsoring this branch of golf. But these companies should invest some money in promoting junior golf. The champions will emerge from among juniors.