SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, March 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India
 


Fitness problem need to be addressed
Ramu Sharma
W
ith more and more people taking to sports as a means of livelihood it is time that some importance should also be given to fitness, both mental and physical. India as such may be lacking in sports culture but times are changing and professionalism is becoming a way of life in a few disciplines, such as golf, tennis, football and cricket and in a few instances, boxing.

Ajay RatraRatra can do well at highest level
Gopal Sharma
S
yed Kirmani believes he has bright future. Talk was that he was the right wicketkeeper for the Indian squad ever since India won junior World Cup in 1999 in Sri Lanka. The momentous victory helped him firmly establish himself as the wicketkeeper in waiting for the Indian team. But dilly-dallying by those at the helm led to virtually a whole lot of wicketkeepers getting a look-in though they all met with limited success.

Sachin TendulkarSachin is terrific, Lara is a freak: Chris Cowdrey
Qaiser Mohammad Ali
S
achin Tendulkar is "terrific" while West Indian Brian Lara is a "freak player," and that, according to former England captain Chris Cowdrey, is the difference between the two great, talented batsmen.

Winter Olympics a success
Robert Woodward
I
n the world outside Utah, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games will be best remembered for a furious figure skating scandal, a threatened pull-out by the Russian team and a final day doping scandal.

 
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Fitness problem need to be addressed
Ramu Sharma

With more and more people taking to sports as a means of livelihood it is time that some importance should also be given to fitness, both mental and physical. India as such may be lacking in sports culture but times are changing and professionalism is becoming a way of life in a few disciplines, such as golf, tennis, football and cricket and in a few instances, boxing. Football players and cricketers may not agree on being called professionals but that is a very minor issue. Anyone getting money for playing is a professional and cricketers and football players cannot dispute that.

What is overlooked while playing for money is the fitness level needed to be able to continue earning it. One does not need experts to point a finger at Indian sportsmen and sportswomen to highlight the obvious - the lack of fitness. Somehow Indian sportsmen and sportswomen appear to have generally overlooked this essential aspect while indulging themselves in various disciplines as means of making money.

This lack of fitness has recently assumed more importance particularly after the cricket series against England and then again against Zimbabwe. India frittered away a two-match lead in the one-dayers and allowed England to draw the series. One visiting columnist wrote that but for fielding India should have won the series 5-1. And then there was statistician Mohan Das Menon working out the number of runs saved by Zimbabwe in the first Test at Nagpur. He said that Zimbabweís brilliant fielding helped the team save 40 runs. Can one say the same of India? In fact coach John Wright did not mince words while criticising the Indian fielding, saying that some of the seniors too were guilty.

The Board of Control for Cricket took serious view of the poor fielding and fitness level and at the Executive Committee meeting held in Delhi in the last week of February and decided to engage an expert, a trainer, to whip the boys into shape. The Boardís decision and the general comment on the poor fielding of the Indian team is a sad commentary on the men who wear India colours and are paid to perform.

With rare exceptions Indian cricket has generally suffered because of indifferent fielding. The main reason has been lack of direction. Budding cricketers lay considerable stress of bowling and batting but rarely, if ever, on fielding. The approach has to change and it has to come from within.

Cricket is no longer a seasonal game. It is played throughout the year and the onus is entirely on the players concerned to keep themselves fit. The world over most of the disciplines evolve their own fitness themes and in some cases international stars have a second game to fall behind in their spare time. Jonty Rhodes, for example, is an excellent hockey player who would have worn the national colours but for his preoccupation with cricket. Another name which comes to mind is that of the famous Dr Rick Charlesworth who achieved proficiency in both cricket and hockey but chose to stay with the former and ended up as one of Australias all-time great players. Then there is the example of Dennis Compton who played both football and cricket at the international level.

There are a few Indian examples too. The late Nawab of Pataudi was also an excellent hockey player and was even selected to play for the country. And C. Ramaswamy represented India in both tennis and cricket. But those days sport was leisure and one could indulge in more than one game. Things are different now and more competitive. Unfortunately even though it is more competitive the players themselves do not appear to have understood the importance of maintaining a high level of fitness. No wonder they regularly fall easy victims to pulled muscle and fatigue and need to be rested.

Fitness should be a part of the daily discipline, a part of the game. And the BCCI would be doing a big favour if it makes it mandatory for every cricket stadium to have a full fledged gymnasium with an instructor. Merely running around the ground and doing minor exercises is not enough. Indian cricket needs much more tougher regimen if it has to match the rest of the world. As it is, India is the weakest (among other things) fielding combinations in the world. That is nothing to boast about!
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Ratra can do well at highest level
Gopal Sharma

Syed Kirmani believes he has bright future. Talk was that he was the right wicketkeeper for the Indian squad ever since India won junior World Cup in 1999 in Sri Lanka. The momentous victory helped him firmly establish himself as the wicketkeeper in waiting for the Indian team. But dilly-dallying by those at the helm led to virtually a whole lot of wicketkeepers getting a look-in though they all met with limited success.

When Ajay Ratraís selection to the previous South Africa tour looked a certainty Bengalís Deep Dasgupta got the nod largely due to the word from Geoff Marsh that he was a promising youngster.

When the 20-year-old Faridabad player finally got the nod against the visiting England in the recent six-match one-day series he did no harm to his reputation as a dependable wicketkeeper and a plucky batsman. Though he did not come up with big knocks he did enough to prove that he had the technique and temperament to succeed at the highest level. He, along with wiry Ajit Agarkar, batted well to steer India to victory in the Cuttack one-dayer. Though he scored unbeaten 30, he acquitted himself well and looked a busy batsman constantly rotating the strike and keeping the scoreboard moving before being dumped again for Tests against Zimbabwe. Ratra has now again got the opportunity to showcase his talent having been selected to play in the five-match one-day series against Zimbabwe from March 7.

During discussion with this reporter, the thinly built and unassuming lad looked phlegmatic about his selection to the national squad again. "I would like to contribute more for the country this time," was his terse reply. Asked whether he was satisfied with his performance in one-day matches versus England he was honest enough saying that he would like to improve as a batsman as well as a wicketkeeper.

"It is all about basics. If you stick to basics and start moving as soon as the ball is delivered it would not be much of problem," he replied when quizzed about the difficulty most wicketkeepers face while facing unpredictable leg-spinner Anil Kumble.

"I would like to perform better in the current series and on the basis of better performance try to force my entry to the Test squad as well", he retorted when asked about his selection to one-day squad and not the Test squad. Ratra stated that he was lucky to have got a break in the state squad at the right time by the Haryana Cricket Association. Ratra was 17 when he broke into the state squad.

He gave credit to Sarkar Talwar, Hanumant Singh, Balwinder Sandhu and Roger Binny for what he is today. "Besides I learnt a lot during my stints at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore," he stated adding that he also remained in touch with Vijay Yadav.

Sachin Tendulkar, skipper Saurav Ganguly and Javagal Srinath, he said, were all very encouraging and cooperative during his association with the Indian squad. He wisely refused to comment on the reports about Dasguptaís work behind stumps saying that he would rather prefer to concentrate more on his game.

The Faridabad lad, the second gloveman from the state to play for the country after Vijay Yadav, has risen through the rungs. He was under the tutelage of Sarkar Talwar at Nahar Singh Stadium during his formative years. He played in the Vijay Merchant Trophy and the Cooch Behar Trophy before breaking into the Haryana Ranji Trophy squad as a 17-year-old.

In the under-19 World Cup he claimed 19 victims besides faring well with the bat which fetched him a berth in India "B" led by Ajay Jadeja in the Challenger Trophy. Selected to play against England U-19 he had the scores of 143, 96 and 43 in three "Tests". He played for Board Presidentís XI against Zimbabwe in their previous tour at Indore.

Without any family background in sports it indeed is creditable for Ratra to come that far. Now it is up to him to further boost his credentials as a competent wicketkeeper batsman. The current home series against Zimbabwe gives him a good opportunity to make a mark for himself and serve the country.
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Sachin is terrific, Lara is a freak: Chris Cowdrey
Qaiser Mohammad Ali

Brian LaraSachin Tendulkar is "terrific" while West Indian Brian Lara is a "freak player," and that, according to former England captain Chris Cowdrey, is the difference between the two great, talented batsmen.

"In my book, it is Sachin by a long way," Cowdrey, said in an interview.

"Lara is a great player, but he is a freak player. He does not always deliver whereas Sachin is terrific. He is my number one by a long way," Cowdrey said.

Despite Laraís hugely successful tour of Sri Lanka in November where he scored 688 runs in three Tests, Cowdrey says the West Indian left-hander has not been consistent or focused.

"Lara can get runs against any attack on any given day. But his mind is not always on the game.

"He is more temperamental than Sachin, whose mind is always on the game. Sachin loves the game. He is a dream."

Cowdrey, does not agree that Tendulkar has been more dominant at home than overseas. "He has got 14 (Test) centuries at home and 14 away, so in terms of centuries, he can get them anywhere. There is no question he is the best player in the world. He can get runs against any attack, on any pitch, anywhere," said the 44-year-old former skipper.

Cowdrey, who played six Tests and three one-dayers before an injury ended his international career, made his Test debut against India in Mumbai in 1984-85. Son of former England captain Sir Colin Cowdrey, Chris was appointed captain in 1988.

Cowdrey said despite Tendulkarís overwhelming presence, Indian cricket needed improvement in many areas, particularly bowling. He said India should stop relying blindly on slow pitches and should prepare sporting ones in order to do well abroad.

"I think India needs to play on quicker pitches with more bounce, so that when they go overseas, they are used to different kinds of pitches," said the former Kent and Glamorgan allrounder.

"India should be producing more (Javagal) Srinaths and Zaheer Khans. But if they are going to play on flat pitches all the time, itís very hard to produce them," he added.

"They are great spinners, yeah, but India needs to be a strong all-round side; otherwise, the great batting strength is not going to be realised."

Despite Englandís good show in the recent Test and one-day series against India, Cowdrey thinks India is still a formidable force at home.

"They generally do pretty well at home; itís not an easy place to come and win. England recently played well above themselves, but they still lost the Test series," he noted, referring to the recent home series which England that 0-1.

Cowdrey was, however, at a loss to understand why India, despite having a strong batting line-up, fails to win more often.

"India is a wonderful side. On paper, India has the best top six batsmen in the world. I donít know why they donít produce the form Australiaís top six do all the time," he wondered.

Cowdrey also wants the Indian selectors to be more consistent, patient and persistent with good players.

"I find it strange why (V.V.S.) Laxman canít get a game. I have seen him play great innings and obviously his performance against Australia (last year at home) was incredible," he said, referring to the batsmanís 281-run knock that laid the foundation for an Indian win in the second Test at Kolkata.

"May be they (selectors) should try to stick to a side longer. Australia stick to their best side and donít change it very much. I think India is doing okay, but they need to go up the ratings."

Cowdreyís love for Test cricket and his penchant to talk about the game brought him to the commentary box. "Coaching is not for me. I love coaching young kids but I didnít want to do it all the time," he said. IANS
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Winter Olympics a success
Robert Woodward

In the world outside Utah, the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games will be best remembered for a furious figure skating scandal, a threatened pull-out by the Russian team and a final day doping scandal.

For the vast majority of the athletes, spectators and people of the state capital, the 17 days of competition were a once-in-a-lifetime experience that also helped ease the pain and fright caused by the September 11 attacks.

"There was a sense of healing and a celebration of humanity here," said Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organising Committee (SLOC). "I think there was an emotion and a profound sense to the Games that were the result of the tender feelings of our nation."

More than 2,500 athletes reveled in great weather, problem-free transport and enthusiastic crowds who learnt to start for events very early to avoid long queues at security checkpoints, part of a post-September 11 security operation costing $ 300 million.

For the people of Salt Lake, normally a sober place with a heavy emphasis on the Mormon religion, the Games injected a more energetic, fun-orientated way of life.

"Salt Lake is not noted as a place where people hang around partying and celebrating, but it was mobbed," said Romney.

"It was great fun and something this community will remember for a long time."

Organisers admit they had a lot of ground to make up following the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lakeís successful bid in 1995 to host the Games. Two bid committee members faced charges for trying to buy votes.

Public support for the Games fell to 55 per cent in the Utah capital but Romney, brought in to steady the ship, turned round public sentiment and learned a valuable lesson from the Atlanta Summer Games of 1996.

Organisers in Atlanta sunned themselves in the glory of winning the Games but then forgot to fine tune their operations, resulting in a public relations disaster.

SLOC concentrated on the most important people at the Games ó the athletes ó and made sure the security, transport and the 22,000 volunteers worked like clockwork.

To add to the satisfaction of local residents, higher taxes will not be needed to pay for the Games.

Revenue was higher than expected with sales of merchandise exceeding estimates by 50 per cent to 100 per cent. The operating budget was $ 890 million compared with $ 1 billion for the Nagano Games in 1998.

"We will break even and perhaps even break even plus," Romney said. "But the Games are not about economic development, they are about people being able to open their homes to the world." Reuters
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