SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, December 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India
 

Colourful cricket not a matter of blacks and whites
Sanjiva Wijesinha and Barney Reid
T
HIS story about the legendary Dr W.G. Grace, who captained the England cricket team from 1888 to 1899, is worth repeating. Playing in a charity match in a little English village, WG, as he was popularly called, mistimed the first half he faced and was struck on his pad. The umpire, a local dignitary, promptly and rightly gave him out. Whereupon WG walked up to the empire and asked in a loud voice. “My good man, do you think the crowd came all the way here to see my batting “or your umpiring?”

TEEING-OFF
Top stars for Indian Open
K. R. Wadhwaney
M
ANY established stars from Asia and a few renowned pros form the USA and Europe will be seen in action in the Indian Open (March 11-15) which returns to Delhi after a forced ban of seven years. All the leading Indian professionals, including Jeev Milkha Singh, have consented to take part in the competition, which will now be sponsored by Shaw Wallace. The prestigious championship was thus far sponsored by the ITC which could not hold the meet in Delhi owing to a blanket ban on cigarette advertisement.

Football, the Kerala way
Ramu Sharma

B
ENGAL is the nerve centre of Indian football. Or so the legend goes. But two major championships within the past two months has proved while Bengal may still be regarded the home of football, the balance of power has shifted. It is no longer the power it was once. There are other contenders for the thrown with Kerala, among the foremost having a football ambience more than matching that of Bengal, both at the spectator level and at the talent stage.

  • Home pitch makes the difference
  • Sports ethics
 
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Colourful cricket not a matter of blacks and whites
Sanjiva Wijesinha and Barney Reid

THIS story about the legendary Dr W.G. Grace, who captained the England cricket team from 1888 to 1899, is worth repeating. Playing in a charity match in a little English village, WG, as he was popularly called, mistimed the first half he faced and was struck on his pad. The umpire, a local dignitary, promptly and rightly gave him out. Whereupon WG walked up to the empire and asked in a loud voice. “My good man, do you think the crowd came all the way here to see my batting “or your umpiring?”

Then, leaving the puzzled umpire, WG majestically returned to his crease resumed batting as if nothing had happened and scored a century.

The days when heavyweights like Grace could get away with treating umpires to disdainfully are dead. International cricket matches now have not only two umpires - one of them from a third country - but also a match referee appointed by the London-based International Cricket Council (ICC) with power to fine and even suspend errant players.

What happened in the second Test match between India and South Africa at Port Elizabeth in the third week of November reveals just how much an unwise action by a match referee can damage the game.

When ICC-appointed match referee, former England cricketer Mike Denness, decided to penalise a whopping six Indian players for a variety of offences, while overlooking offences by South African players, there was uproar in cricket-crazy India. The Indian players had been charged with “bringing the game into disrepute”.

Worse, Denness accused Sachin Tendulkar, considered the world’s best batsman who enjoys demi-god status in India, with tampering with the seam of the ball — for which he was given a one-match suspension and fined 75 per cent of his match fee. Hardly a crime worthy of such a serious punishment, one might think.

“Throughtout history, bowlers have employed various tactics to impart a ‘swing’ to their bowling,” says fast bowler Dennis Ferdinands. “One legitimate tactic is to repeatedly polish the ball on one’s trouser leg to impart a shine.”

What rankled Indians even more about the episode is this: the umpires on the spot who can inspect the ball from time to time during play did not complain about Tendulkar, generally regarded as a “gentleman player”, to Denness.

The chief executive of the South African Cricket Board, Gerald Majola, observed. “I found the decision against Tendulkar funny — considering that neither of the two umpires had made any complaint.” Denness waited till the end of play that day and charged Tendulkar with ball tampering. The only evidence was a television replay that showed Tendulkar running his fingernail over the ball’s seam.

If Denness had penalised anyone other than Tendulkar, the matter may have ended there. But Tendulkar’s stature in India, and the punishing of five team mates including captain Sourav Ganguly for “excessive appealing”, blew the whole issue out of proportion.

Small wonder that Indian cricket chief Jagmohan Dalmiya called for Denness’ removal. When the ICC refused, the Indian and South African cricket authorities decided to play the next Test match without Denness — calling on a South African referee to step in.

ICC president Malcolm Gray and Chief Executive Malcolm Speed — both Australians — hit back swiftly by withdrawing official status for the match. The game went ahead anyway and Dalmiya, a former ICC president who had defeated Gray at the election, said he will raise the issue at the March Executive Board meeting of the council.

In India, demonstrators burnt effigies of Denness and the matter came up for discussion in Parliament. Even the distant Australia, which had nothing to do with the dispute, was drawn in with Prime Minister John Howard stating his support for the ICC.

Denness was perhaps merely implementing Speed’s recent call for tough measures against cricketers’ misdemeanours. But such harsh measures are rarely applied consistently.

From the Indian point of view, Denness’ high-handed action was the latest example of a long-suspected ‘first world bias’ in the world of cricket. England’s wicketkeeper Jamie Foster was blatantly rude to Zimbabwe’s Andy Flower in an October match but was let off. Playing against India earlier in the year, Australians Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath certainly behaved “in a manner that brought the game into disrepute” but they went unpunished.

In a notorious 1987 match, when England captain Mike Gatting pointed his finger at Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana and indulged in a prolonged slanging match, the British press lauded him for standing up for his players against a “wily oriental umpire”.

But when Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga behaved similarly with an Australian umpire in 1999, he was castigated in the Australian and British media for daring to question the umpire.

“Dalmiya has been painted as the villain in the dispute besetting world cricket because he challenged the Anglo-Australian administrative hegemony,” wrote cricketer commentator Ashis Ray in The Times newspaper of London on November 28.

“What is the ICC?” thundered Dalmiya, whose business skills helped restore the ICC from near penury to its current state of prosperity. “It consists of all the board members — and in a democratic process, the majority views should prevail. Individuals cannot decide such issues.

“We don’t want a confrontation within the ICC — but if it came to that we will not be found wanting.”

Indeed, if it ever came to a vote, some observers feel Dalmiya will win. While England, Australia and perhaps New Zealand are expected to support Gray, the other six members — Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe — are tipped to side with India.

Tauquir Zia, chief of the cricket board of Pakistan, a country that strongly protested past moves to finger some of its fastest bowlers for faulty bowling action, said: “I think Jagmohan Dalmiya is within his rights to protest against the inconsistencies of the ICC.”

Majola added “The ICC thought they were being strong but they have lost ground by being inflexible.”

It is the cricketing nations of South Asia that have helped attract crowds and give a financial infusion to a dying game since the 1990s, attracting cash and corporate sponsorships not only for the game but also its governing body.

International cricket’s overlords in London need to be reminded that the game that once used to be played by the British upper classes has long left the green fields of England for the dusty plains of South Asia. — Gemini News

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TEEING-OFF
Top stars for Indian Open

K. R. Wadhwaney

MANY established stars from Asia and a few renowned pros form the USA and Europe will be seen in action in the Indian Open (March 11-15) which returns to Delhi after a forced ban of seven years.

All the leading Indian professionals, including Jeev Milkha Singh, have consented to take part in the competition, which will now be sponsored by Shaw Wallace. The prestigious championship was thus far sponsored by the ITC which could not hold the meet in Delhi owing to a blanket ban on cigarette advertisement.

Shaw Wallace has committed that it will not only provide a new lease of life to the Indian Open but will do everything for the promotion of golf in the country. The prize money has been increased from $ 300,000 to $ 500,000. This is the richest competition in South Asia and no wonder many outstanding professionals have evinced interest in taking part in the competition.

Of the five-year contract, Shaw Wallace will hold the meet at Delhi Golf Club (DGC) course for three years. The club authorities, with Ashok Malik, as captain, and Kapil Bhatia, as president, have already started improving the course. Malik, who himself participated in the competition on several occasions and was connected with Shah Wallace, is determined to make this meet the most prestigious in Asia. He has it in him to make a grand success of the competition.

Several Indians have made their presence felt in Asia through their achievements in this competition. If Billoo Sethi is the only amateur to have won it way back in 1965, Delhi’s Ali Sher is the only caddy-turned-pro to have won the title twice in 1991 and 1993. When he retained the title at Delhi in 1993, he proved that his previous win was not a fluke. Since then his progress has not been inspiring but golf is no less unpredictable than cricket. Maybe, he will return to prove a point that he is still a force to reckon with on this course, where he has grown from boyhood to manhood.

Apart from Sethi and Sher, there are three other Indians who have won the title in 37 years. Calcutta’s Feroz Ali won in 1998 at the Royal Calcutta course, Arjun Atwal in 1999 and Jyoti Randhawa claimed it in 2000.

In this competition, Jeev has flattered to deceive. He raises visions of victory and then runs into unforeseen problems. Maybe, this time, that is, 2002 will be a lucky year for him. He is one who deserves to claim the title though his performance should be more consistent than it has been.

The new sponsors have set aside a huge budget of Rs 50 crore for the promotion of golf. Apart from the Indian Open, it will sponsor several other competitions to bring about promotion of the game at different levels. Actually, the sponsors should help promote amateur golf (men and women). This section is languishing for several reasons. The better the standard of amateurs, the better will be the quality of pros.

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Football, the Kerala way
Ramu Sharma

BENGAL is the nerve centre of Indian football. Or so the legend goes. But two major championships within the past two months has proved while Bengal may still be regarded the home of football, the balance of power has shifted. It is no longer the power it was once. There are other contenders for the thrown with Kerala, among the foremost having a football ambience more than matching that of Bengal, both at the spectator level and at the talent stage. These are the conclusion that come to fore after the fortunes of the teams during the National Championship for the Santosh Trophy held at Maharashtra and the football championship which was part of the multi-discipline National Games in Punjab.

The Santosh Trophy held in Maharashtra this year is the premier tournament of the country and generally draws the best talent available at the state-level. The talent part of it may not stand scrutiny since states like Kerala in particular has been contributing generously to Bengal football for quite some years. This is something unavoidable because Bengal clubs provide money for the footballer., on a scale which no other centre in India can afford to do. The top Kerala players thus wear Bengal colours or often make up its bench strength but that has not prevented the Kerala state team from doing well in the nationals.

The very fact that the state has entered the final of the Santosh Trophy on 10 occasions since it first fought for the title in the year 1987-88, and wearing the crown on four occasions including in the recently held competition in Maharshtra, underlines the enormous talent and depth available in Kerala. Ten appearances and four title wins a period of 13 years is a record which even Bengal, winners of the title on 29 occasions, cannot match. Always a popular sport in the State the game has received tremendous boost from the time it reached its first final in 1987-88.

The Santosh Trophy held in Maharashtra this year was a little different from the competitions held in earlier years. Bengal was reduced to playing with reserve footballers since the major clubs refused to release their professionals. And unlike Kerala which has managed to put up a good show in successive nationals even without the top players, Bengal faltered. Its showing in this year’s Santosh Trophy was particularly bad. It made an early exit from the championship, halted in its progress by Tamil Nadu. Not only that, it was the first time that Bengal reportedly failed to score even one goal in the competition.

One of the reasons for a rather new set of semi-finalists at the Nationals in Maharashtra was, apart from the early departure of Bengal, winners of the title on 29 occasions, the exit also of Punjab, once a very strong challenger, and a six-time title winner. Kerala and Goa have been in the finals a number of occasions but it was quite a new experience for Tamil Nadu and the Railways. The former, always a promising combination, has not always performed to its known potential.

The standard at the subsequent competition at the National Games was understandably not the same as was seen in the Santosh Trophy though the final between Punjab and Goa had its moments. The teams had gone through a tough series in the Santosh trophy at Maharashtra and it was not possible to keep up the tempo in a tournament which came almost immediately after. Kerala could not repeat its performance and while Goa, despite holding territorial advantage lost the final to Punjab. The title win in the National Games should help Punjab rebuild its football.

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SPORTS MAIL
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Home pitch makes the difference

WHILE the scars of India’s dismal performance in South Africa had not yet disappeared, India crushed England by 10 wickets in the first Test at Mohali. This sudden strike of form can be attributed only to playing on a home pitch. By now it has become an established fact that the home pitch and home crowd play a vital role in the victory of a home team in cricket matches. In South Africa, South Africa won. In India, India are winning. Ganguly is also coming out with statements of making a clean sweep. It is clear that matches played on home pitches are not evenly poised. The home teams always carrying a distinct advantage. It shall be better if the ICC passes a resolution that two teams will play in a third country only. Only then we can have a true and fair contest.

Jagvir Goyal, Bathinda

Sports ethics

It is not a question of suspension but of discipline of players. I am sad at what happened to India cricketers in South Africa but I always believe that players should have some ethics.

Surjit Singh, Canada

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