|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, January 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
quicksand of mediocrity
tips from Sachin
Muralitharan quickest bowler to take 400 Test wickets
Tennis: quicksand of mediocrity
It is heartening to learn that the All-India Tennis Association has decided to take steps to improve the standard of the game in the country with the minimum and at the same time optimistic objective of trying to ensure that at least one if not two players are placed in the first 100 in the singles ranking of the ATP. The steps envisaged to achieve this end includes the setting up of an academy which would have 72 youngsters to be coached by experienced Indian and foreign coaches. This was one of the most important decisions taken at the Executive Committee Meeting of the AITA held in Chennai during the Tata Open in the first week of the New Year.
While the selection of the youngsters for training and the working of the academy is a long-term process it would have been appropriate if the AITA had also spelt out steps to be taken in the immediate future, not for placing players in the top 100 of the world but for building a strong enough team to help maintain India’s high profile in the Davis Cup competition.
It must be remembered that India has a very creditable record in the Davis Cup despite not having a player in the top l00 for more than a decade. Ramesh Krishnan was the last player to have made the grade. He was in fact in the 20s. That the team has done well despite the absence of a ranked singles player is mainly because of the tremendous burst of energy Leander Paes is blessed with whenever he is wearing national colours, be it the Davis Cup or the Olympics. Leander has scored some remarkable victories and has a success record second only to Ramanathan Krishnan in the Davis Cup competition while in the Olympics Games he has won a bronze medal, the honour obtained in the 1996 Games at Atlanta.
But Leander is cast in a different mould, his temperament and spirit came to the fore from the time he made his entry into big-time tennis in India while still in the Britannia Amrithraj Academy. Unfortunately, he is not getting younger and there seems to be no replacements in sight. Mahesh is a great doubles player in company with Leander but his singles record is not as hot. And therein lies the problem.
Both Mahesh and Leander play all their tennis abroad and in the highest of the grade and replacement for them is not going to be easy. One hears of Rohan Bopanna, tall and well built with a big serve to match and general all round game. He has been inducted into the Davis Cup squad but it is still to early to say anything positive about his prospects. Bopanna reminds one of Royappa in his university days. He too had a good serve and the general get up which now favours Bopanna. He did not, however, do justice to his talent.
But then that has been the story of Indian tennis, particularly over the last decade or so. So many promises are made at the age of junior level, national title won at 16 but only to fade out. Sunil Kumar of Chandigarh had so much in him when he won the National title a couple of years ago but since then he has not really distinguished himself. The fact is that there are any number of players who could be counted at a particular level, good enough to play in the domestic circuit but not good enough to make a mark at the international level.
Mediocrity is the name of the game in India. There are a large number of youngsters who have taken up the game, three to four times more in number than in the 80s. One of the reasons is the money at stake. But no one has really risen above the general level of mediocrity like Leander has done in his days. Quantity should have thrown up some quality but it has not done so yet.
The reasons for the stagnation is very obvious. Like in most other games cricket, hockey and football for instance, Indians lack fitness and stamina. In fact that is one aspect everyone glosses over. There is plenty of skill but unless it is backed by a high level of fitness, there is no way an Indian tennis player or that matter football and hockey player, can make an impression on the international scene.
Ramesh Krishnan has stressed on this aspect in an interview with a major newspaper recently. According to him skill alone does not suffice. The game has changed a lot these days and one has to be in the top physical condition. He is not the first to say so.But then little or no emphasis is placed on fitness by the coaches. In fact coaching too needs to be reoriented to suit modern day tennis. Some of them reportedly still stick to the old system where the wooden racquet was used. Wooden racquets just did not allow the flicking about of the frame as they do now with the light weight ones. Further, according to the report, the sage advice resounding off the courts across our nation: "Racquet head up, keep that wrist firm and watch the follow through" is not relevant at all. Good players no longer follow through, they follow up and you may keep the wrist firm only if you care to sacrifice top-spin. That is the reason why this description of some of the coaches as belonging to the wooden age.
The All-India Tennis Association can provide the necessary platform
but it is the responsibility of the players to give a thought to the
physical fitness aspect. Skill and talent alone is not enough. Hence the
continued stagnation of the standard of the game.
Some tips from Sachin
Ace Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar showed South African batsman Neil McKenzie how to beat Australian bowler Shane Warne.
McKenzie told Afrikaans weekly Rapport in Johannesburg that talking to Tendulkar had helped him get over some of his problems against spin bowlers.
McKenzie was one of the better performers in the disastrous Test series in Australia earlier this month, in which the home side swept the boards with a 3-0 victory. His 224 runs in the series were beaten only by teammates Jacques Kallis and Gary Kirsten, who made 245 each.
McKenzie said he decided to work to beat spin bowlers after struggling in his first Test against Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan in 2000. He said everyone thought he could not stand against spin bowlers after that tour, but his Australian performance had proved them wrong.
McKenzie attributed much of this success to Tendulkar. In South Africa, I spoke for a long time with Tendulkar about how to beat Warne, because he is the batsman who has performed the best against him. We talked about many things, but I think his best piece of advice was to stand with my feet wider apart.
"It looks like it helped, but I should not be speaking too quickly, because there are still many games against the Aussies ahead."
South Africa is currently playing in a triangular series with New Zealand in Australia, and will face a second round of three Tests when the Australians tour South Africa next month.
In a follow-up to the race controversy plaguing South African cricket, fast bowler Makhaya Ntini said he did not want to be recognised as a "quota player" because he is black.
"When I play for my country, I want to know that I am good enough," Ntini said after the debacle in which a white player was replaced by a coloured one before the final Test against Australia.
Percy Sonn, President, United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA), used his veto to do this, citing the transformational quota system of the board, which requires that more opportunities be created for black players who couldn’t play in international sides in the apartheid era.
The decision sparked rows about the emotional effects on both white and black players. Many former white national players blamed the quota system for South Africa’s poor performance in Australia.
Ntini said he felt "hurt" when he was referred to as a "quota player."
"I want to know that I am good enough to play for South Africa. To be honest, the transformation process (of the UCBSA) makes us feel that we are not good enough to be in the team.
"I can only talk for myself, but whenever I am selected, I believe I was selected because I deserved a place in the team. I have played in 20 Tests and many one-day games, but there are still people who are not happy when I am selected. It makes you feel uncomfortable. It makes it difficult for you to establish yourself within the team."
Muttiah Muralitharan quickest bowler to take 400 Test
Muttiah Muralitharan became the youngest and the quickest bowler to take 400 Test wickets when he clean bowled tail ender Henry Olonga in the third and final Test against Zimbabwe at Galle on January 15, 2002.
He claimed his 400th wicket on the third delivery of his 58th over in Zimbabwe's second innings which was also his first delivery of his 4010th over in the 72nd Test match.
The Sri Lankan off-spinner is the seventh bowler and only the second spinner after Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne in Test cricket's 125-year history to reach the cherished milestone.
Muralitharan is eight Tests quicker than New Zealand's Richard Hadlee (80 Tests), the previous fastest, and 20 Test quicker than Warne.
At 29 years and 270 days he is also two years and 74 days younger than Warne, who was the previous youngest at 31 years and 344 days when he took his 400th wicket against England at The Oval on August 25, 2001.
The first bowler to take 400 wickets in Test cricket was New Zealand's Richard Hadlee. Hadlee achieved this feat in his 80th Test match against at Christchurch in the 1989-90 series by dismissing middle order batsman Sanjay Manjrekar, caught by Dean Jones.
India's Kapil Dev was the second bowler to complete 400 wickets in Test cricket. Kapil reached this milestone in his 115th Test match against Australia at Perth in the 1991-92 series when he dismissed opening batsman Mark Taylor, leg before the wicket.
West Indian speedstar Courtney Walsh was the third bowler to have scalped 400 wickets. Walsh achieved this feat when he trapped Australian Ian Healy, leg before at Port of Spain in the 1998-99 series. It was Walsh's 107th Test match.
Pakistani allrounder Wasim Akram was the fourth bowler in the history of Test cricket to have scalped 400 wickets. He achieved this feat in his 96th Test match when he had Russell Arnold, caught by Mohammed Akram in Sri Lanka's second innings at Sinhalese Sports Club ground, Colombo, on June 16, 2000.
West Indian fast bowler Curtly Ambrose become the fifth bowler in the history of Test cricket to have scalped 400 wickets. He achieved this feat when he had English opener Mike Atherton, caught by Brian Lara at first slip in England's only innings in the fourth Test match at Headinglery, Leeds, on August 17, 2001. It was his 97th Test match.
The last bowler to take 400 wickets before Muralithatran was Australian leg spinner Shane Warne he took his 400th wicket when he had England middle order batsman Alec Stewart, caught by wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist in England's first innings in the fifth and final Test match at The Oval on August 25, 2001.
Born on April 17, 1972 at Kandy, Muttiah Muralitharan made his Test debut against Australia at Khettarama Stadium, Colombo in 1992-93. Craig McDermott was his first victim in Test cricket. He completed his 50 wickets in his 13th Test match when he dismissed Indian opening Batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu, caught by Ruwan Kalpage, at Ahmedabad in 1993-94.
In his 23rd Test match against New Zealand at Hamilton in 1996-97, Muralitharan completed his century of wickets by bowling out Stephen Fleming. England's middle order batsman Ben Hollioake was Muralitharan's 200th victim in his 42nd Test match at The Oval in 1998.
The off-spinner became the first Sri Lankan bowler to take 300 wickets in Test cricket when he dismissed South African captain Shaun Pollock, caught by Dilshan at Durban in 2000-01. It was his 51st Test match.
Muralitahran took 260 wickets in 43 Test matches at home while he dismissed 144 batsmen in 29 Test matches outside Sri Lanka. He has taken 10 wickets in a Test match 10 times, a world record and five wickets in an innings on 33 occasions.
Zimbabwean Grant Flower has the dubious distinction of being dismissed most often by Muralitharan (10 times), followed by South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher (eight times.) South African Daryll Cullinan, Waqar Younis and Yousuf Youhana both Pakistan, have been dismissed by Muralitharan on seven occasions each.
He took nine wickets for 51 runs against Zimbabwe at Kandy in the
previous Test match which is his best bowling performance in an innings
of a Test match. His best bowling in a match came against England at The
Oval in 1998 when the dismissed 16 batsmen for 220 runs.
Bowler M Balls Mds Runs Wkts AVG 5WI 10 MW Best 400th Courtney Walsh (West
Indies) 132 30018 1144 12688 519 24.44 22 3 7-37 107 Kapil Dev
(India) 131 27740 1060 12867 434 29.64 23 2 9-83 115 Richard Hadlee (New
Zealand) 86 21918 809 9612 431 22.29 36 9 9-52 80 Shane Warne
(Australia) 98 27374 1321 11493 430 26.72 20 5 8-71 92 Wasim Akram
(Pakistan) 104 22627 871 9779 414 23.62 25 5 7-119 96 Curtly Ambrose (West
Indies) 98 22103 1001 8501 405 20.99 22 3 8-45 97 M. Muralitharan (Sri
Lanka) 72 24157 1047 9508 404 23.53 33 10 9-51 72 Opponent Test
Australia 7 306.2 46 922 22 41.90 1 — Bangladesh 1 45.1 10 111 10 11.10 2 1 England 5 410.5 122 814 35 23.25 2 1 India 12 637 152 1680 51 32.94 3 1 New Zealand 8 374.1 102 912 39 23.38 3 — Pakistan 11 564.5 130 1495 60 24.91 4 1 South Africa 10 653.1 157 1496 70 7-84 8 2 West Indies 6 331.3 89 830 44 18.86 5 2 Zimbabwe 12 703.1 238 1248 73 17.09 5 2 Total: 72 4026.1 1047 9508 404 23.53 33 10 Home 43 2436 641 5497 260 21.14 21 7 Abroad 29 1590.1 106 4011 144 27.85 11 3
Courtney Walsh (West Indies)
Kapil Dev (India)
Richard Hadlee (New Zealand)
Shane Warne (Australia)
Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)
M. Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)