|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, December 8, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
India need regular openers: Mohinder Amarnath
Football biggest hit at Games
Cricket: Is India an international brigand?
FRIDAY, November 30, was the D-Day. On that day the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) reached a flashpoint. Who will blink first, that was the question. But the entire unhappy episode needed to be studied without bias.
Over the past few days, cricket happenings had displaced the usual quota of front page news. Not just in India, but in the rest of the cricket playing nations. Of course, compared to more than 150 nations which were affiliated to the football organising body (FIFA), cricket was being played in around 10 nations. But with England one of the parties figuring in the controversy, the issue had become front page news.
Sports can often create ruckus, even at an international level. The bodyline series in 1932-33 threatened to disrupt the relations between England and Australia, the legendary rivals for the mythical Ashes. The Basil D’Oliveria affair in 1968 when racist South Africa announced that the coloured player chosen by England would not be accepted, again created a storm. The Kerry Packer affair, split the cricket playing nations, but it revolved around money matters. No politics figured in it.
The present situation is different because the international body controlling the game (ICC) had been challenged by one of its own members. Surprisingly, this member is India, which normally abided by rules and regulations in all such bodies. The Big powers often flouted UN resolutions with impunity. How many times had the USA, China and Russia worked against even Security Council resolutions? The USA, time and again, flouted the spirit of the UN by using its Veto whenever the Security Council chided the excesses committed by Israel against the Palestinians. The other Big powers did the same whenever their vested interests were threatened.
Over the years, India, guided by leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, had tried to soothe ruffled feathers, mediated between squabbling UN members and took on the role of an unofficial referee. As a result, India’s role in international affairs of playing the referee had won admiration. India was no doubt poor and backward, but its leaders like Nehru and Indira Gandhi had a vision of the world and tried their best to ease tensions all over. Naturally, Indian peacekeeping forces were always in demand and served with distinction in international trouble spots like Korea, Cyprus, Angola and more recently, Somalia.
Though it caused heart burning among some nations, Indian diplomats played notable roles in the UN and several of its agencies. Rajeshwar Dayal, a distinguished diplomat, was the right-hand man of the late UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold during the Congo crisis of the 1960s. Of course, there was a feeling that India was playing a role which was way beyond its stature in world politics. But sensible leaders and diplomats were quietly appreciative that India, though poor and backward, was often able to produce the right man for the right job during a crisis.
That is why it is rather surprising that India, or in this case the BCCI, had chosen to take on the ICC. As in politics, sports also needs international bodies to govern the game, lay down rules and see to it that discipline was maintained. Regrettably, international sport is often the victim of politics. Take the case of choosing venues of the Olympic Games or the World Cup soccer. These generated as much heat and controversy as any major political move, creating bitterness among nations. The choice of Germany as the venue for the 2008 Soccer World Cup was a blow to South Africa which seriously condemned the role played by the representative from New Zealand whose failure to vote tilted the scales in favour of Germany.
Cricket, with less popular appeal, had not been free from groupism. Viewed as a white man’s game, the big boys, England, Australia, New Zealand and surprisingly black-dominated West Indies, tended to stick together. Cricket in the sub continent was in its nascent form and we all looked up to England as the big brother in the game. Unfortunately, as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka began to excel in the game, some of the groups in the white nations, could not stomach these successes. So, ignoring the fact that umpires in the game all over the world, made mistakes, those from the sub-continent, were singled out for criticism. As Pakistan, with its consistently good performance, rose in the rankings, the British media lost no chance to attack its players as ‘cheats’. Similarly it was felt that the Australians were unduly hostile towards the Sri Lankans.
As players and officials from the Asian sub continent refused to take issues lying down and began to hit back, the animosity became mutual. The white group could no longer ignore the fact that it was India in particular, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which generated crowds and the revenue. Yet, India could stage the 1987 World Cup only after a bitter wrangling. The same happened in 1996 when India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka generated additional funds to bag the World Cup venues.
Besides these off-the-field issues, there was a feeling that countries in the sub continent were not getting their due share in the appointment of match referees and that most of the existing ones were partial towards the white players. Racism, no doubt, was an ugly word but was often mentioned in such disciplinary measures. Indian, Pakistan and Sri Lankan players were pulled up more often by match referees and umpires. Umpire Darrel Hair made it clear he did not like the Sri Lankan players. The Pakistan players did not trust the match referee from New Zealand, John Reid. India had its own lists of complaints, most of which were justified.
Perhaps, all these feelings of persecution which had been kept bottled up inside burst open during the recent tour of South Africa. Match referee Mike Denness’ action in hauling up six Indian players on various charges, was the last straw. The ‘hawks’ in the BCCI and the media felt that India could no longer take it lying down. They demanded the removal of the match referee, claimed that the Johannesburg Test was an ‘official’ one and insisted on playing the banned batsman Virender Sehwag for the Mohali Test.
There is a feeling India had carried the matter too far. The ICC is an international body which governed the game and of which India was a member. There were other options of seeking redress without adopting a recalcitrant attitude. If India, chose to take on the ICC in a no-holds-barred fight, it cannot expect much sympathy from other cricket playing nations. Is Jagmohan Dalmiya and his fellow hawks prepared for India’s inevitable isolation, if it chose to cross the point of no return?
Such a result would have been a bitter
blow to a nation where cricket is not just a game, but a way of life.
Indian cricket need cool-headed diplomacy which we had often displayed
on the international diplomatic field. Yes, we have complaints galore
against the ICC and some of its officials. With the co operation of
other nations with the same views, these issues can be taken up strongly
with the ICC and remedies sought.
India need regular openers: Mohinder Amarnath
"JIMMY" Mohinder Amarnath is one of the best players of fast bowling the country has produced. His duels with contemporary fearsome quickies like Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshal, Joel Garnar and Colin Croft bear testimony to his enormous skills, guts and the big heart he possessed. Such qualities came to the fore perhaps at the most crucial hour in the history of Indian cricket when playing along with the likes of legendry Kapil Dev, Kris Srikkanth and other.
He contributed with the bat and the ball at the most crucial hour as India were able to lift their maiden World Cup in 1983 defeating the mighty West Indies.
His ability to rise to the occasion resulted in several other memorable victories for the country. The typical hook shot he often played against the best in the business which went soaring over the square-leg area are still etched in the minds of avid cricket enthusiasts.
But Amarnath if he is known for such stupendous qualities as a cricketer is also known as the one who never minced words. His dubbing of the national selectors "a bunch of jokers" caused as much consternation as it took everybody by surprise.
The genial Amarnath was present throughout the first Test against England at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium at Mohali. He agreed to talk to The Tribune after some initial reluctance about the current crop of players making it clear that he was not inclined to talk on any controversial issue.
"Dasgupta played well. He came in as a makeshift opening batsman due to injury to Sanjay Bangar and went on to make a century. Scoring a 100 at this level is always a good achievement. Concentration is one factor which he needs to improve," Amarnath said when queried about Dasgupta as a batsman.
Asked whether Dasgupta could continue as an opener since his last two knocks as an opener proved very crucial for the team Amarnath preferring not say anything direct replied : "As an opener here in this Test he looked compact."
Asked again specifically about the continuation of Dasgupta as an opening batsman he commented : "Since he has been doing well and scoring runs in this position he should carry on."
About the Indian cricket board’s policy of continuing with makeshift openers instead of the regular ones, he categorically rejected the idea stating: "We need to have regular openers in the side. This is an area which is very crucial for the success of a batting side and only a regular opener can do justice to the job."
About Punjab’s Reetinder Sodhi and Railways’ Sanjay Bangar as allrounders in the Indian side Mohinder said : "I have not seen much of Sanjay Bangar playing. Therefore, I am not really in a position to comment much about him. But Reetinder Sodhi is very talented and needs to be given more international exposure. We desperately need to have good allrounders in the side if we wish to do well in the 2003 World Cup." About debutant Tinu Yohannan he said the youngster did pretty well in his first match.
When asked to specify as to why India invariably faired badly on foreign soil, he said it was primarily due to conditions and wickets there. "We do well at home as we have big home advantage. Touring oversees we have to rely more on pacers as the wickets suit them which is not the case when playing in India. We need to improve the quality of wickets at all levels, including those at the domestic level."
Mohinder did not look favourably inclined to the idea of foreign coaches employed by the board for the Indian players. "I believe in India and things Indians. We have people who can do the job. We should have Indians running the show."
About the recent statement of Indian
pace spearhead Javagal Srinath who expressed his desire to play Test
matches and not one-dayers, Mohinder evading a direct reply said:
"Well Srinath undoubtedly is a very talented fast bowler and has
served the country for long. He has been playing one-day matches.
Recently he played against South Africa and did well."
Football biggest hit at Games
THE men’s football competition of the 31st National Games which concluded at Ludhiana last week proved to be the biggest hit, if spectator response and participation are any indication. The turnout during the final played between Punjab and Goa was perhaps a record, with an estimated 22,000 spectators thronging the floodlit Guru Nanak Stadium to watch the gruelling encounter. Such response has seldom been seen at the stadium. There may have been instances of forceful participation of school children in other shows with the sole purpose of filling the galleries, but voluntarily occupying seats in every nook and corner to watch a match had never happened before. Moreover, it was a participative crowd which lustily cheered every move of the teams that night although the pro-Punjab stance was quite evident.
What were the factors behind the tremendous response? Undoubtedly, the newly installed floodlights were a major attraction but a close analysis reveals a lot more. To put it in simple terms, the ideal conditions and facilities coupled with high quality competition which came in one go led to the huge success of the competition.
Any Punjab team playing in the final on home ground always draws encouraging spectator response. But then one thing or the other has always been missing. If the seating arrangements and infrastructure are good, the match timings may not be suitable for sports enthusiasts, most of whom are office-goers. But if the timings and other arrangements are good, the poor quality of contests keeps the spectators away. However, the football semi-finals and final fulfilled all spectator requirements. The matches were played in the evening and stretched into the night under floodlights. There was ample space available to accommodate the spectators in the sprawling stadium and above all, the high-voltage contests contributed to the electrifying atmosphere.
Although Jalandhar’s Guru Gobind Singh Stadium, too, witnessed some needle-contests in the quarterfinal league, yet the ingredients which go into making such competitions successful, were lacking in some way or the other. The stadium and infrastructure is inferior as compared to Ludhiana’s Guru Nanak Stadium and it also does not have floodlight facilities.
Opined former Indian hockey captain and Olympian Pargat Singh: "Both hockey and football are games which go down well with the robust Punjabis. These games involve display of strength, stamina, endurance and skill and Punjabis always take pride in asserting their supremacy in these spheres. What has been missing all these years is the right atmosphere for holding such contests. Poor management, inadequate publicity, and improper marketing, have contributed to the prevalent disinterestedness. Once, when the Pakistani hockey team played a Test match at Jalandhar a few years back, the stadium was packed to capacity in view of the high-quality contest. But ever since, we have seldom had such contests."
Just as the floodlit Guru Nanak Stadium
may prove to be a boon for Indian football in general and Punjab
football in particular, installation of floodlights in Punjab or Chandigarh
hockey stadia may also give a big boost to Indian hockey.
A keenly fought football or hockey match under ideal conditions with
adequate spectator facilities may perhaps be the best source of
entertainment in the present tension-ridden society. A cross-section of
the spectators interviewed at Guru Nanak Stadium during the football
final expressed a strong desire to watch more such contests. "It is
better to come and spend one-and-a-half hour here than watch TV or
movies, was the common refrain. Ludhiana has indeed shown the way. The
other cities should not be far behind.
Kudos to Punjab for fine showing
Punjab earned plaudits by walking away with the Raja Balanda Singh Trophy in the 31st National Games. The hosts topped the medal tally by capturing more than 160 medals which contained more than 60 gold. It is for the first time in the history of the National Games that Punjab overtook the half-century mark in gold medals besides extending their overall reach past 150. Barring hockey, Punjab did exceedingly well in all other disciplines reaping rich rewards. The level of competition at the Games was quite high was 54 meet or national records were smashed.
Tarsem S. Barmah, Bacala
I want to congratulate you and also express my gratefulness for giving full coverage of the National Games. I am appreciating your efforts especially because I was shocked by the way the Games were ignored by TV channels and certain newspapers. However, I would like to suggest that during such important Games your pages should give the coverage under different headings discipline-wise. There should not be a hotch-potch of sports news.
Matvinder Singh, Chandigarh
The Haryana Government has reportedly given Rs 25 lakh to Karnam Maleshwari; who won a bronze at the Sydney Olympics. However, after getting huge monetary benefits, a plot and promotion, she has not competed in any international event. Similarly, a Punjab athlete, quarter-miler Paramjit Singh received monetary benefit from the Punjab Government, but at the recently concluded 31st National Games, he did not represent Punjab and also did not participate. Another athlete, Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, after winning two gold medals in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games received monetary benefits. She also stopped participating in competitions. On the contrary ‘‘Flying Sikh’’ Milkha Singh won two gold medals in the third Asiad but did not get any monetary-benefits or plot. Again he participated in the fourth Asiad in 1962 and won two gold medals but did not get any monetary benefits. He is the only Indian athlete who won a gold in athletics in the Commonwealth Games. He should be given Bharat Ratna.
Narinder Singh, Chandigarh
South Africa deserve praise for registering a resounding win over India in the third Test of the three-match series. Outplaying the visitors in all departments of the game, the hosts routed India by an innings and 73 runs. Earlier Gibbs, skipper Pollock and Kallis made valuable contributions with the bat to help South Africa raise a decent total of 566 which proved insurmountable for India. Pollock and Ntini tore the Indian batting into smithereens with their hostile and accurate fast bowling. The much-touted Indian pace attack of Srinath and Prasad failed disastrously.
Ankit Arora, Rohtak