SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, September 8, 2001, Chandigarh, India

Roughest, toughest & highest motoring event
H. Kishie Singh

HE third Maruti Raid de Himalaya! The roughest, toughest, longest and highest motoring event in India. Definitely the highest in the world, that’s the Maruti Raid de Himalaya. The event will cover 3000 km in seven days, and be in a rarefied class of its own!

Prasad’s fitting rebuff to critics
Gopal Sharma

ELL done ‘Venky’. What a way to silence the detractors! Venkatesh Prasad, the lanky Karnataka seamer, was not considered good enough for even 26 probables selected in May for the Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka tours. The seamer knew that he had it in him to serve the Indian cricket and never lost heart. He continued to toil hard at the nets in firm belief that he would get the nod sooner than later.



Roughest, toughest & highest motoring event
H. Kishie Singh

THE third Maruti Raid de Himalaya!

The roughest, toughest, longest and highest motoring event in India. Definitely the highest in the world, that’s the Maruti Raid de Himalaya. The event will cover 3000 km in seven days, and be in a rarefied class of its own!

Pre-event scrutiny is on October 5, 2001, Shimla. The vehicles will be checked for safety as per the regulations laid down in the supplementary regulations as well as those stipulated in the national competition rules. Competition licences, blood group certification etc will be also checked.

October 6, The Raid flags off from Shimla for Manali, 300 km away. The first stage from Gumma to Nogli will be 75 km long. The second stage is brand new. The road, just got completed a month ago, is 60 km from Nirmand and Bagipul to Ani via “never seen” villages of Dalash and Chuwai. The Raid will cross Jalori Pass (10,000 feet above sea level) on its way to Manali. The Raid will reach Manali by nightfall. At night servicing will be allowed but strictly within the areas demarcated as secure service area. The route for this day is rough but quick.

The next day, October 7, the raiders cross the famous 14,000-foot-high Rohtang Pass and come down to Grampho to start the competitive stage to Kaza, 135 km away. This is a long and difficult competitive stage taking in the breathtaking views of Spiti along with the terrific altitude gains of Kunzum La at over 3500 metres in a few hours! This will no doubt be a precursor of things to come as both vehicles as well as the participants should feel the desperate need for oxygen! Then a run along the plateau that stretch from Losar to Kaza with a brief blast through the most dangerous gorge on the route, 2 km after a village calls Hull, which has been fondly nicknamed both “The Grand Canyon” and “Mackennas Gold” by competitors in previous events.

A night halt at Kaza will provide an entertaining experience to those not on good terms with the cold! All night servicing once again in a strictly enforced secure service area.

October 8, an early start from Kaza and one long competitive stage of 135 km back over the Kunzum La, down to Batal, past Chotta Dhara and Chattru back to Grampho.

From there a long transport stage of about 75 km to Darcha where the competitors would be flagged off on the first tarmac competition to Sarchu. Another transport to Pang which is the night halt at an Army camp!

A medical facility will also be there to take care of those suffering from the effects of high altitude sickness. The halt halfway to the plains of Ladakh will help many acclimatise to the rigours of high altitude. All in all this should be definitely one of the toughest legs for the Raiders.

October 9 will take the Raiders from Sarchu to Leh via the Polokongka Pass. A total of 300 km. The flag off is a mass start on the Morey Plains. The Raiders stand mudguard to mudguard and every one leaves together as the starter’s flag drops, not at the one minute intervals as is normal.

Down the long sandy plain, where to use the tarmac road that runs alongside will be instant disqualification, till one reaches a bend in the valley about 24 km away.

A right turn, through a break in the ranges, crossing dry lake beds into the gully that leads to the banks of the Tso Kar, a huge salt lake at 14,750 feet above sea level, around the lake and then through it at a critical point and up to Polokongka La 5000 metres high.

Getting there will be tough.... often the road will not be there and the dry stream bed that wends its way down to the lake far below will have to be straddled and used as a road! Past the sulphur springs at Puga where the yellow jets from underground geothermal sources will combine with the bleak and hostile cold desert landscape to force you to believe that you have arrived at a lunar destination! A left turn at the fork at Puga and one is on the way to the Indus at Mahe. A short run in a “wadi” will bring the drivers to the banks of the river that gave its name to our country!

A tarmac stretch that will wind along above this magnificent river for close to a hundred km till the stage ends at Upshi. A mall transport shall see the end to the easiest leg for the Raid. Night halt is in Leh.

October 10 run is all tarmac. Leh-Kargil-Leh is 460 km and after the salt lakes, rivers beds and gravel tracks, this all tarmac competitive may be a piece of cake. But watch it! Fatigue in both men and machines will take its toll. Those who make it back will go straight to the secure service area, an early dinner and sleep.

October 11 the sting in the tail! Leh-Tangland La-Manali 470 km! A long day from Leh to Manali over the Tanglang La at 17,548 feet. This will be the highest point of the Raid and it is the second highest motorable pass in the world!

Though a large part of this day’s stages will be broken tarmac the passes are all loose gravel and a Raiders delight. Coming at the end of a gruelling six days racing this day will be viewed with trepidation as it is the longest day yet.

October 12 Manali-Kandi-Shimla. Another early start from Manali and the cars and bikes will leave Manali for the less crowded Kulu Valley. From Bajaura a brand new stage up Kandi Pass and down to Mandi. A long transport into Karsog and Kelodhar.

From Kelodhar to Ani, a beautiful forest competitive stage for 55 km, through the most pristine, untouched Himalayan cedar forests. Back down to the Sutlej and the final stage from Kingal to Basantpur should complete the Raid in 2001.

The Raid will be “flagged in” at Shimla by the early afternoon and the cars committed to a Parc Ferme. There they will await the post event scrutiny which will be held the next day.

October 13 Post event scrutiny will start as soon as the provisional results are announced and the period for protests are over. The final results will be declared after the scrutiny is over. The prize distribution ceremony will be held at the Kufri Holiday Resort at Kufri.

Organised by the Himalayan Motorsport Association in close association with the Department of Youth Services and Sports, Himachal Pradesh, the Maruti Raid de Himalaya is now running for the third consecutive year.

Supported by the Indian armed forces, the event runs along the border areas and this year will have its further point at Kargil, of Kargil fame.

This year the Raid is listed on the International Offroad Rallies Calendar of the FIM, Geneva, Switzerland, as one of 12 events worldwide that make the listing for the second year in a row! Foreign entries have been received from England including an all-women team which will compete for the Coup de Dames Trophy.

Standard entries are open till September 10. After that a late entry fee will be charged. The Raid is open to two-wheels, four-wheelers and trucks. There is also a category for prototypes. Build your own and race it!


Prasad’s fitting rebuff to critics
Gopal Sharma

WELL done ‘Venky’. What a way to silence the detractors! Venkatesh Prasad, the lanky Karnataka seamer, was not considered good enough for even 26 probables selected in May for the Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka tours. The seamer knew that he had it in him to serve the Indian cricket and never lost heart. He continued to toil hard at the nets in firm belief that he would get the nod sooner than later. The statement of Selection Committee Chairman Chandu Borde that Prasad might get a recall even if not among the probables made it amply clear that he was very much in the reckoning. But why his name did not figure in the list in the first place is baffling. When he was selected to play in the three-Test series he made a telling contribution. Sharing immense load with Zaheer Khan he played his role salvaging at least some pride for the country in the otherwise forgettable series. And this marked the completion of yet another comeback by the brave seamer.

After the first Test at Galle in Sri Lanka, Prasad, who was playing competitive cricket after considerable gap, looked like getting into his groove, particularly in the second Test at Kandy. Putting the ball in the right slot and making it do a bit the old war horse reaped a rich harvest ending up with a creditable five-wicket haul in the second innings to set up a series-levelling victory for India. Prasad emerged the most successful Indian bowler in the series finishing with a haul of 11 wickets in three Tests. A fitting repartee to his critics who had started believing that he was over the hill!

In fact, Prasad, for some unknown reasons, has remained on trial ever since he made impressive debut in England in 1996 claiming 15 wickets in the three-Test series, including a five-wicket haul at the Lord’s. Prasad, during the tour, won accolades from no less a person than former England pace spearhead Bob Willis, who said the seamer had great potential.

In the Bridgetown Test when India visited the West Indies last Prasad bowled his heart out and along with Abhey Kuruvilla helped dismiss the West Indies for a paltry 140 in the second innings, presenting India a golden opportunity to score just 120 runs and register what would have been a memorable away victory against the once-mighty rivals. Prasad scalped eight wickets in the match. Unfortunately, the Indian batsmen gave the most spineless batting display as the team was bundled out for 81 runs, falling short by 39 runs.

Prior to this series, Prasad, bowled an incisive spell claiming 10 wickets in the Durban Test against South Africa. The batsmen were kept on a tight leash by the wily seamer. That the team lost the Test by a huge margin as Indian batsmen giving a pathetic display were dismissed for 100 and 66 runs in two innings is a different matter.

Crowning moment for the bowler was perhaps in the 1999 World Cup at Old Trafford against the arch-rivals Pakistan in the Super League match when India were in desperate need for a win to stay in reckoning. In conditions favourable to his type of bowling the likes of Saeed Anwar, Inzmam-Ul-Haq, Salim Malik, Wasim Akram and Moin Khan were clueless facing Prasad who struck rhythm straightway and went on to claim career-best haul of five for 27 to give Indian supporters a highly gratifying victory. The victory as it was scored in the politically highly surcharged atmosphere due to the Kargil conflict was doubly satisfying.

Prasad now may not be as sharp as he used to be. But the genial medium pacer and a perfect team-man that he is, Prasad still is capable of troubling the best in the business. When on a song, Prasad can be more than handful with his leg cutters and slower ones. He has the natural advantage of the bounce he gets off the wicket due to his height which more often than not takes the batsman by surprise. With rich experience to bank upon the 32-year-old seamer is the only Indian to make the batsmen play most of the time.

The emergence of Zaheer Khan, who in a short period of time has proved that he has a bright career ahead of him and the promise shown by Ashish Nehra of New Delhi are good signs for Indian cricket. They both are young and can go places if they evince keenness to learn from their mistakes and keep their heads in place. Wiry and young Mumbai pacer Ajit Agarkar, who has the distinction of taking the 50 wickets in the least number of one-day matches, remains very much in the picture.

But sidelining a bowler like Prasad or keeping him perennially on trial would not be fair. He certainly deserves a better deal. More so, when the lanky seamer has served the nation with distinction. With the hectic international commitments the team has in the near future and the resultant injuries that are bound to happen it becomes necessary all the more to either rotate the players, particularly fast bowlers or make them play matches selectively. Prasad must be part of this set-up. This will only be good for the Indian cricket.

Home sm

Indians lacked fighting spirit

SRI Lanka did not deserve to win the Coca Cola Cup but India did deserve to lose. All lessons learnt in previous encounters came to nought and our leaden-footed batsmen succumbed enigmatically to the guiles of Murali. In the third Test the bowlers performed much below their potential. Remember how the opposition used to hit out at Chandra to make him forget his line and length. Well, Zahir and Harbhajan did just that and dealt a bitter lesson to their senior partners. They proved that Murali’s magic works only if you let him dominate. A new team is being formed and Ganguly, Dighe (permanently) and Badani should be dropped. Sodhi, Sachin, Srinath, Laxman and Kumble should be back to give the team the much-needed boost.



Indians lost the third Test match as well as series against Sri Lanka owing to their own mistakes. The irresponsible batting, lack of fighting spirit and the wrong decision of the Indian think-tank are the main reasons. When players like Badani and Kaif are performing badly in every match, why were Dinesh Mongia and Jacob Martin not included? The captain’s favourite players are playing continuously despite repeated failures and the deserving ones are made to sit on the benches. The time has come to replace Saurav Ganguly as captain. He has failed to inspire the team. When seniors are themselves performing poorly how come they blame young players. Three runouts in one innings and at a critical stage do not speak well of the performance of any team. Such performance and leadership cannot give India victory against South Africa and England.



Kudos to the Sri Lankan cricket team for winning the Test series against India. They played very good and positive cricket. All these qualities were missing in the Indian team. Indian players, especially those in the middle order, were unable to capitalise on the opening in every match. The Indian team should be aggressive. I suggest inclusion of Nayan Mongia and Virender Sehwag for the South Africa tour. Ganguly must not to be so emotional on the playground.

R.N. BHAT, Sundernagar


How satisfying it is that openers Das and Ramesh laid good foundations for India but we never crossed the 300 run mark and faced a humiliating defeat in the final Test at Colombo. India lost both one-day and Test series. Middle order batsmen Ganguly, Badani, Bahutule, Kaif, Dighe and Dravid could not show their class. In the last Test, the Sri Lankans hit four centuries. Muralitharan was rightly adjudged ‘man of series’. Our tailenders, including Harbhajan, Zahir and Prasad held the fort for some time.

Y. L. CHOPRA, Bathinda