SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, October 6, 2001, Chandigarh, India
 

Arjuna Award for sports promotion?
Ramu Sharma

T
he Arjuna awards function is officially over. It was a big occasion for those receiving the awards. As far as the government is concerned, it has observed all the formalities such as selecting the sports personalities for this year and presenting the awards to them. But is it really finished? There are the court proceedings on a petition filed by discus thrower Anil Kumar who apart from complaining that his case for the award was overlooked, has at the same time contested the credibility of the performance of two sportswomen who have been selected for the honours.

Marginalisation of a veteran
Ravi Dhaliwal
T
he marginalisation of a distinguished athlete could not have been more complete as one watches India’s most famous veteran sportsman, the world renowned 110-year-old Joginder Singh, writhing in pain and dying a slow yet painful death with no help forthcoming from either the government or any non-government organisation (NGO).

Hewitt — superhero or superboor?
Sanjiva Wijesinha
I
f the previous US Open tennis champion from Australia, Pat Rafter, enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a gentleman player, then this year’s winner Leyton Hewitt has earned himself sheer notoriety.Hewitt won the US Open on September 9 by defeating four-time champion, Pete Sampras of the USA, but his headstrong behaviour leading up to the date is making Australian sports fans wince.

Man who brought money to Indian cricket
Qaiser Mohammad Ali
Jagmohan Dalmiya, elected president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), speaks four languages fluently, loves cottage cheese, is a successful business magnate and dresses immaculately.

 
 
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Arjuna Award for sports promotion?
Ramu Sharma

The Arjuna awards function is officially over. It was a big occasion for those receiving the awards. As far as the government is concerned, it has observed all the formalities such as selecting the sports personalities for this year and presenting the awards to them. But is it really finished? There are the court proceedings on a petition filed by discus thrower Anil Kumar who apart from complaining that his case for the award was overlooked, has at the same time contested the credibility of the performance of two sportswomen who have been selected for the honours.

Seeking legal verdict on a sporting award is something quite new and certainly not in the right spirit. Agreed that the government and the body selecting the awardees cannot please everyone but there are other means of seeking justice. At the same time it must be admitted that there is much substance in the growing criticism on the way the awardees are selected. Even if the selection is done in good faith, there is always a chance that the people selecting the sportspersons could have made a mistake or not properly guided. Frankly, there appears to have been too many goof-ups. And the government has not been able to give a satisfactory response to the criticism provoked by the announcement of the awards in recent years. The very fact that a person like Milkha Singh has even refused to accept the award is in itself a reflection on the way the awardees are selected.

There appears to be some misunderstanding within the government as to the exact qualifications or merit for a sportsperson to be selected for the Arjuna Award. That uncertainty has created more confusion. What has indeed shocked everyone is the admission by the government in court that lifetime achievement award for one of the awardees was for sports promotion. This is a damning confession and could lead to the opening up a Pandora’s box. The government spokesman will also have to explain what he means by reportedly claiming that no specific criteria has been laid down for this category. The newspaper report quotes Mr B.K.Das, a joint secretary in the Sports Ministry as saying in an affidavit that sportspersons who have done reasonably well in their discipline and are still excelling, achieving and contributing to their discipline are considered for this award.

This is the first time one is hearing of an award being given to sportspersons for performing reasonably in their discipline and are still excelling, achieving and contributing to their discipline. Who is going to define a reasonable performance, excellence, achieving and contributing to the discipline?

The Arjuna Award is the highest national recognition of distinguished sportspersons and is presented for outstanding performance by sportspersons during the year for which it is given and the preceding year. Over the years the scope of the award has been expanded and a large number of sportspersons who belonged to the pre-Arjuna Award era, were also included in the list. Not only that the number of disciplines for which the award was to be given was also increased to include indigenous games.

Thus while in the original concept the award was given to sportsperson in disciplines which belonged to the Olympic family and cricket, the extension of the scope of the honours to include performances in indigenous games and also in the physically handicapped category has gone a long way in eliminating charges of discrimination. But the responsibility of the body selecting the awards has also increased. In fact it has made its job even more difficult. The yardstick for the award has thus varied and hence the problems.

And further extending the scope of the Arjuna Award to include those who have been forgotten and also making it for lifetime achievement has only added to the troubles. Why it should have created so much problem is something difficult to understand. If the selection committee had stuck to the main clause of Arjuna Award and only extended it over a longer period for a lifetime achievement, there would have been no confusion. But unfortunately somewhere down the line the selection committee forgot the basic principle that the award was for performance on the field and nothing else. All sorts of extraneous achievements have been included to justify the selection of some of the candidates and thus what was once a prestigious award has now been injected with unnecessary controversy. And what is worse is that Arjuna Award, it is rumoured, can now be got if a sportsperson applies for it — something not heard of in the earlier days.

And the government defence in the court and the clarification that the award for a particular person has been given for sports promotion has only added to the confusion. In fact it only goes to strengthen the feeling that considerations other than sporting achievement have been weighed while giving these awards this year. What these other considerations were is a big question. Arjuna Award cannot be given for sports promotion and that goes for the award for lifetime achievement too. That award for lifetime achievement should be given only to a person who has excelled on the field of sport and then taken to coaching and promotion in an active manner while keeping himself in touch with the discipline all his life. On this score even the award to Milkha Singh at this juncture fails to meet the required yardstick. Milkha received the Padma Shri in the late 50s and after retirement following the Jakarta Asian Games (or perhaps year or two later) has not been involved with athletics. Till his retirement a few years ago, he has been earning a living as a government employee and, on record, is not credited with having produced any outstanding athlete. How he was chosen this year for the Arjuna Award (lifetime achievement) is a mystery. He certainly deserved quite lot for his achievements during his active days. He could have been given a Padma Bhushan but certainly not an outdated award like the Arjuna at this stage.

And coming to the award for sports promotion as cited in the case of one of candidates this year, it is quite a surprise and could cause of lot problems in future. Every sports organiser in the country will send in his application for the Award. M.C. Chouhan who has been at the held of Indian table tennis for nearly three decades can rightly claim to have promoted the sport. The organisers of the Jawaharlal Nehru Hockey Tournaments who not only run various competitions but also hold coaching camps for promising youngsters can also claim the Arjuna Award for lifetime achievement. The Nehru Tournament organisers can boast of having contributed every single player to wear India colours. And what about Vijay Kumar Malhotra. He has done more for archery than anyone else in the country. He has converted what was once a primitive game to a modern discipline in which India earned some reputation. He still heads the Archery Federation.

The government has promised to revamp the committee set up to select the candidates. That is not enough. It must once again define the qualifications for the awards and spell out the exact degree of achievement necessary to earn the award. Once the guidelines and yardstick are set then it does not matter who comprises the selection committee.

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Marginalisation of a veteran
Ravi Dhaliwal

The marginalisation of a distinguished athlete could not have been more complete as one watches India’s most famous veteran sportsman, the world renowned 110-year-old Joginder Singh, writhing in pain and dying a slow yet painful death with no help forthcoming from either the government or any non-government organisation (NGO).

So highly laudable have been the achievements of Joginder Singh in the world of athletics that his name and photograph figure prominently in last years edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘being the oldest man on the planet to win a gold medal in the discus throw in the World Veterans Athletic Championships held in Berlin in 1998." Berlin is the same city where, exactly 81 years ago, Joginder Singh won a medal in an athletic meet in 1910 — once again a feat listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. As if this is not enough, a senior IPS officer, Mr Rajinder Singh, has written a 300 page biography in which he has given vivid details of the life and times of the veteran athlete and to top it, Joginder Singh has been feted by no less a personality than a former Deputy Prime Minister of the erstwhile USSR.

These days Joginder Singh has fallen on bad times and he barely has the energy to do anything else except to lie on his cranky cot in his one-room ramshackle tenement located in a dinghy ‘mohalla’ of the walled city. The cot is surrounded rusting cups, chipped medals, faded photographs and frayed clippings of various national and international magazines and newspapers. A solitary special police officer (SPO) stands guard at his `residence’ and the Rs 1500 he gets from the welfare fund of the Patiala police in not enough to make him meet his daily requirements. The cops are proving to be a benevolent lot as Joginder Singh once served the Police Department before retiring as SHO of the Payal (Ludhiana) police station in 1949.

Speaking in a voice heavy with emotion and anger, Joginder Singh reveals that keeping in view his achievements he has addressed several petitions to the state government for financial help but to no avail. However, the frail old man has some pleasant words for Mr R.S. Gill, Inspector-General of Police, Patiala zone who he says has been kind enough to provide him some aid.

Joginder Singh blames that fatalistic Indian thought — ‘kismet’ — for his present pitiable condition. He says "Had my son and wife been alive I would have ended my life by committing suicide. As I am all alone there will be nobody to cremate me". His only son Varinderjit Singh committed suicide way back in 1925 and his wife, Prem Kaur, died in 1995. Now, the SPO, with his friendly overtures and gossip, is his only window to the world.

Joginder Singh recalls how he befriended a former Deputy PM of USSR while competing in a meet abroad. So impressed was the Deputy PM that he took Joginder Singh along with him to Moscow. However, the biting cold was a bit too harsh on him and he returned to Patiala after spending a week in Moscow.

For nearly three decades Joginder Singh was the undisputed king in the world of veteran athletics. A cursory glance of his passport, which has been stamped with visas of nearly 23 countries, reveals that he was born in 1880 at Lahore. From Moscow to Melbourne and from Singapore to Sydney, Joginder Singh has seen it all but now, living amidst apathy and penury, there is just one thought that keeps on crossing his mind "Who will cremate me?"

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Hewitt — superhero or superboor?
Sanjiva Wijesinha

If the previous US Open tennis champion from Australia, Pat Rafter, enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a gentleman player, then this year’s winner Leyton Hewitt has earned himself sheer notoriety.

Hewitt won the US Open on September 9 by defeating four-time champion, Pete Sampras of the USA, but his headstrong behaviour leading up to the date is making Australian sports fans wince. Hewitt’s most recent outburst — making racist allegations against a linesman at the US Open tournament in New York — was his worst to date from an otherwise talented player. Since he burst on the world tennis scene, Hewitt has been regularly in the news for his outspoken comments. In January last year, after defeating fellow Australian Dejan Petrovic at the AAPT championships in his home town Adelaide, Hewitt claimed that he could not believe some people in the crowd were cheering for his opponent against him.

"It’s weird," he said. "But it’s the stupidity of the Australian public."

A month later Inside Sport magazine rated Hewitt Australia’s least admired sports person.

At the beginning of this year at the Australian Open, Hewitt was slapped with a $ 2,000 fine for swearing in his five-set match Spaniard Carlos Moya.

He earned another $ 2,000 fine at the French Open in May this year for calling umpire Andreas Egli a "spastic". Hewitt later apologised amid condemnation from disabled advocates.

The latest example of crude histrionics occurred in a hard fought game against African-American James Blake at this year’s US Open — one of the world’s four major tennis tournaments that are referred to a Grand Slam competitions.

During the third set, the fourth seeded Hewitt was foot-faulted for the second time by the linesman on his side of the court, Marion Johnson. Hewitt’s serve was broken on the next point. With the score then tied at one set each and trailing 2-1 in the third set, Hewitt stormed up to the umpire — who co-incidentally happened to be Egli, the target of his "spastic" outburst — and amid boos from the crowd demanded that Johnson be changed.

"I’ve only been foot-faulted at this end," shouted Hewitt. "Get him off the court. Look what he’s done."

It was then he came out with the words that sparked condemnation from far and wide. "Look at him, look at him, look at him," he shouted, wildly gesticulating at Johnson, who like Blake in African-American. "Look at him and you tell me what the similarity is."

Most onlookers were horrified. Former Wimbledon and US Open champion John McEnroe, who was covering the event as a television commentator, was quick to slam Hewitt for his comments which he felt dealt solely with the issue of race.

Hewitt later apologised to anyone taking offence at what he had said but denied his comments referred to the fact that both Blake and Johnson were black Americans. "It was a conversation between me and the umpire," he told the press. "I’m not racial in any way at all. People can have their own opinions."

"I was just asking the question in an easy way. You can perceive it any way you like." Hewitt’s racial slur has been condemned by tennis fans back home in Australia as well as around the world.

"It’s hard to accept it as something other than racial issues," observed Blake’s father Tom. "You look at the source and question the motives. It didn’t need to be said — it’s a shame." Richard Williams, father of this year’s US Open women’s champion Venus Williams, was more blunt: "Where he’s from, Aboriginals are treated worse. When you are accustomed to treating black people like dogs, what makes you think they are going to change?"

So is Hewitt a maturing and misunderstood tennis prodigy like the famous John McEnroe of the seventies, who was dubbed ‘superbrat’ for his on-court antics — or just a player with poor social skills and a racist attitude?

Born in 1981 in the south Australian city of Adelaide, Hewitt comes from a family of sporting achievers. His mother, Cherilyn Rumball, was a top grade netballer while father Glynn Hewitt was a tough footballer in the premier Australian Rules League (AFL). His sister, Jaslyn, is also a champion junior tennis player.

Hewitt won his first professional title in 1998 and consequently decided to forgo further education, joining the ATP tour on a full time basis. He made his Davis Cup debut in 1999 and has been a regular in the national tennis squad ever since, winning several professional titles along the way.

Australian Davis Cup coach Wally Masur refused to criticise Hewitt’s remarks or be drawn into the issue of his unsavoury comments. "Leyton is an aggressive competitor. He runs his own race — that’s his personality and everybody takes that personality on to the court".

"He got the linesman changed because he had lost confidence in him. You’re entitled to ask for that.

After defeating Blake, Hewitt won his next three games — the first a tense five setter in the fourth round against German Tommy Haas, the next another tough five setter against American Andy Roddick, and finally an easier semi-final against Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov — before coming up against Sampras in the final. In a blistering display of power-tennis, Hewitt crushed the more experienced Sampras in straight sets 7-6, 6-1, 6-1, becoming the 11th Australian to win this prestigious tournament.

Having won his first Grand Slam Final in just 20, Hewitt has proved himself a highly talented and combative player, with the potential to become one of the greats of Australian tennis — just like his much-admired compatriot Pat Rafter.

Sadly, at the moment, the similarity ends there. GEMINI NEWS

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Man who brought money to Indian cricket
Qaiser Mohammad Ali

Jagmohan Dalmiya, elected president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), speaks four languages fluently, loves cottage cheese, is a successful business magnate and dresses immaculately.

Dalmiya originally belongs to Sikar district of Rajasthan state before his family shifted to Bengal many years ago. A young Dalmiya played club-level cricket, but when he grew up he had to pay more attention to the flourishing construction business of the family.

But the Kolkata-based Dalmiya was destined to make a name in cricket administration. Starting with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), of which he is the life President, he rapidly progressed to get elected to the secretary’s post in the BCCI in 1990-91.

He lost to C. Nagraj the next year, but came back after two years to wrest the chair again. He remained there until 1997, when he touched the pinnacle of cricket administration by being elected to the President’s post of the International Cricket Council (ICC) — the first Asian to hold the top post of a world sports body.

Dalmiya may not subscribe to conventional ways of management, but he can teach a few lessons to seasoned administrators. He showed these attributes in ample measure as the BCCI secretary and then as the ICC President.

Dalmiya’s ability to attract sponsors and sell his ideas is extraordinary. When he took charge of the ICC, its coffers had about £16,000. But by the time he left the organisation, the figure had gone up many times.

And although Dalmiya’s pet project of "globalisation" of cricket was criticised by some, he convinced his colleagues in the ICC about its effectiveness to garner funds. "My only regret is that they took too long to understand it," he had said just before laying down office.

Another unique aspect of Dalmiya’s ICC tenure was that he was the last man to remain its President for a period of three years. Every chief will now get two years, as was decided at the time of Dalmiya’s election in 1997.

Dalmiya, however, left the ICC post in controversial circumstances, as he was alleged to have favoured his friends while allotting the television rights of some major tournaments, including the 1999 World Cup. While he denies the allegations, the inquiry continues.

Determination and will power to fight against all odds is Dalmiya’s forte. "If he has to work, he can work all night without flinching," said one of his close aides. "He never tires of working."

He showed his ability to prevail in adversity when India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka jointly bid and fought a bitter battle with the other ICC member countries to successfully host the 1996 World Cup.

Even the 1987 World Cup, held in India and Pakistan, was brought to the subcontinent due the untiring efforts of Dalmiya and Inderjit Singh Bindra.

Indian cricket acquired a new identity as the Dalmiya-Bindra combine helped fill the coffers of the BCCI in the early 1990s. But, for some inexplicable reason, the two have since parted ways.

Dalmiya’s ability to converse in four different languages often helps him convey his point easily. Besides Marwari, his mother tongue, he can also speak Bengali, Hindi and English. IANS

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Hockey being neglected

Two hockey tourneys, the World Cup qualifying meet in Edinburg and the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur, have come and gone leaving Indian hockey where it has been since the 1960 Rome Olympics when Nasir Bunda, the dreaded inside-left of Pakistan, made India taste their first defeat. That defeat proved to be a watershed. Ever since our hockey team has been receiving drubbings. The fifth position is certainly shocking. The only question before us now is how to regain lost glory. Some of the factors responsible for this decline are mismanagement, biased selection and politics. It is claimed that hockey is our national game. However, it is being neglected. A cricket match between unknown teams makes headlines whereas a hockey match of international level usually goes unnoticed. A TV channel has even gone further. It has categorised sports into two categories — cricket and all other sports. We have by some divine intervention, qualified for the 2002 World Cup. It naturally fills us with nostalgia. I am aware of the fact that medals are seldom won by prayers yet I hope that the venue proves lucky for India once again.

PROF SURJEET MANN
Sangrur

Kudos to Venus

Venus Williams of the USA deserves praise for winning the US Open title for the second year. She beat her younger sister Serena 6-2, 6-4. Incidentally it is the first time since 1884 when two sisters reached the final of the US Open. Venus Williams proved that she is number one in the game. I wish her all success in future.

Subhash C. Taneja
Rohtak

Indian football

The performance of the Indian national football team can improve if the authorities concerned pick players from amongst Indians living in Europe. A recent example of a country following this trend is Jamaica. Jamaica qualified for the World Cup in France in 1998, for the first time. I believe Indians will have no problem getting into the national side because I have watched India’s last two tours of England, where they achieved good results but the general standard of play was very poor technically and physically. We have many Asian football tournaments in England where most of the participants are aged between 16-30 and the games are really competitive.

INDERJIT S. BHANGU
Birmingham

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