|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, March 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Steve Waugh shown way out
The disaster at Kuala Lumpur
"THEY went forth to battle, but they always fell", wrote James Macpherson years ago .How true this statement sounds after the Indian hockey debacle at Kuala Lumpur in the tenth World Cup a few days back. Touted as dark horses at the World Cup, the Indians left the country’s shores rather early amidst high hopes. After all they were out to make history with a string of successes behind them, including gold in the Asian Games, gold in the junior World Cup and the title in the Champions Challenge Trophy at Bukit Jalil’s National Hockey Stadium a few months earlier. But alas ! they did make history, though of a different kind.
After having been knocked out of contention for a berth in the semifinals following defeats against South Korea, Malaysia and England, the Indian team was in a pathetic state .The Indian Hockey Federation faced flak for the disastrous outing and accordingly the blame was passed on to coach Cedric D’Souza midway through the World Cup. In the first instance of its kind in the annals of international hockey, Cedric D’Souza was sacked and IHF secretary K. Jothikumaran’s subsequent tirade against Cedric indicated that all was not well with Indian hockey. Dissociating himself completely from the team selection, Jothikumaran was candid and blunt. "This is Cedric’s team," he told journalists in the evening shortly after the coach had been told to hand over charge to CR Kumar.
After Cedric’s departure India went on to beat Cuba 4-0; Poland 4-1; went down fighting to Australia 3-4; beat Spain 3-0; but lost to New Zealand 1-2. In Cedric’s presence, India drew with Japan 2-2 in the opener; lost to Korea 1-2; lost to Malaysia 2-3 and lost to England 2-3.
In the aftermath of the debacle, the players were initially hesitant to speak. However, an undercurrent of tension was clearly palpable. On board the Malaysia Airlines flight back home, I asked former skipper Dhanraj Pillay whether all was well with the team. His grim expression and carefully chosen words clearly indicated that buried deep inside him was anger against the team management. The pent up feelings ultimately found expression at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, where a special counter had been set up by the immigration authorities to facilitate speedy check-out of the hockey team.
A remark by a lady manning the counter over India’s poor performance had Pillay seething with anger. "Yes, we have lost, but we have not sold our country’s pride," shouted the former Olympian as Customs and Immigration officials rushed forward to pacify him. Later, with no one present to receive them, the players chose their own destinations.
Pillay’s subsequent disclosures were indeed startling. "There are times when performances are weakened by conditions contrived by human force. The problem began in the camp itself with Cedric D’Souza selecting his favourites and identifying those he disliked, including myself. His training was tough and we were attending classes for almost the entire day. His behaviour towards one of the senior-most players, Mukesh, was very bad and he finally quit the camp in disgust. Later Mukesh, Riaz and Sameer were not called for the final camp while he could not keep me out."
"Cedric believed in the divide and rule policy," he continued. "Despite tall claims of unity, the team was fragmented," he said. "Cedric left every player puzzled with his ideas and his training devices included a laptop computer, and projector. During lengthy video-sessions, we were learning hockey on the blackboard followed by 7-8 hours on the field. The players, not used to such training, were getting bored and tired.
Coordination between classroom lessons and practical training was lacking. When the team reached Ipoh for acclimatisation prior to the World Cup, there was another method waiting for the Indian team and the players were told to learn that quickly. Only about 40 per cent of what we picked up at the camps could actually be utilised," said Pillay.
Dhanraj Pillay was also upset over the change in players’ positions. There were no proper wingers and most of the players were not in their comfortable positions. The coach played me as a right winger despite knowing that I was not comfortable in that position. The same held true for some other players. However, once Cedric left, CR Kumar reverted us to our favourite positions and we discovered our winning touch." Regarding team selection Pillay said he was invited to be on the panel for the final selection in Ipoh at the insistence of IHF chief KPS Gill, secretary K. Jothikumaran, and manager KGS Alva. "I insisted on the inclusion of striker Gagan Ajit Singh and centre-half Vikram Pillay, but Cedric had other ideas," he concluded.
There is no doubt that India were struggling in the first few matches. The opener against Japan almost ended in disaster after Japan were ahead 2-0. However, it was with some difficulty that the team managed to split points with the Japanese although past record against Japan clearly stood in India’s favour.
The goalkeeper, Jude Menzes, and defence continued to wilt under pressure and the soft goals continued to embarrass the team management.
According to skipper Baljit Dhillon, Jude Menezes had sought rest but he was persisted with despite poor form. Talking to The Tribune Baljit had lamented the weak defence and poor goal-keeping. "After conceding early goals, the pressure on the forwardline increased. We were not only coping with the deficit but also struggling hard to press for the lead. The replacement of Jude with Devesh Chauhan did have some impact but by then it was already too late." The juniors also were far from impressive in the initial ties. They seemed to be overawed and bereft of ideas and appeared clueless in the face of sustained attacks by the Japanese and Koreans. It was only at a later stage that youngsters like Jugraj Singh, India’s main hope in penalty corners, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh made an impression. According to Baljit, who has figured in more than 300 internationals, experience definitely counts in a major event like the World Cup.
India also clearly lacked a prolific scorer to match the stature of Pakistan’s Sohail Abbas or Argentina’s Jorge Lombi.
Low on motivation after the debacle at
Kuala Lumpur, the Indians now face another herculean task. With the next
challenge in the Champions Trophy looming large in Germany, time is
indeed running out for the former Asian giants. Will they emerge from
the abyss where they have fallen to wipe out bitter memories of Kuala
Lumpur? Will the Indian Hockey Federation come up with a blueprint for
the future to redeem lost prestige? Only time will tell.
Steve Waugh shown way out
IT came as a surprise to most Australians and, no doubt, to cricket captain Steve Waugh as well. In a ruthless move that many saw as a knee-jerk reaction to Australia’s defeat at the hands of New Zealand and Sough Africa in the limited over cricket competition played in Australia in January, the national selectors sacked Steve Waugh in February as captain of the Australian one-day cricket team.
Waugh, a veteran of 325 one-day international (ODI) matches and captain of the team that won the prestigious World Cup in 1999, has been one of the country’s most successful cricket captains.
Australia has won 63 per cent of the 106 one-day games under his captaincy. And last year the Aussies posted a 16-game winning streak in the longer Test version of the game with Waugh as skipper.
Although they have retained Waugh as captain of the Test team the selectors have called on nuggety batsman Ricky Ponting to replace the 36-year-old Waugh as one-day captain. Affectionately called ‘Punter’ for his fondness for a wager and his hobby of owning greyhounds, the 27-year-old is the first from the island state of Tasmania ever to captain Australia. His stint starts with an ODI series against South Africa next month.
Ponting was surprised by the selection for the top job — bypassing current vice-captain Adam Gilchrist and spin bowling legend Shane Warne.
"It is a move of breathtaking audacity," said well-known Australian cricket writer Peter Roebuck. "The selectors have thrown away caution and given youth a chance. Australia has taken a leap in the dark and jumped a generation." Gilchrist, many hold, would have been the ideal choice. But the Australian selectors’ traditional reluctance to give the top job to the wicketkeeper would have been a major factor against his selection.
Others here feel that the inspirational Shane Warne, veteran of 175 one-day internationals, would have made the most successful captain. His flair, his sharp cricketing brain and his performance when previously on the cricket field alone are not enough for this highly reputable post, often called the second most important job in Australia after that of Prime Minister.
Warne’s encounters with foreign gambling moguls — he was found guilty and fined for having accepted money from an Indian bookmaker in exchange for match information — and other much-publicised indiscretions may have jeopardised his selection.
Moreover, Warne’s recent form in one-day internationals has been declining. His bowling now lacks the variety exhibited in the past. Batsmen who previously lost their nerve when the spin maestro came on to bowl have recently shown a lot more confidence against him.
The final choice lay between Ponting and Darren Lehmann. The latter is a tough competitor, desperately unlucky to miss selection for the national team in recent years. despite phenomenal performances in domestic cricket.
In the current season he has established himself as the most prolific run scorer in the history of inter-state completion for the Pura Cup. Unfortunately he was not able to turn in similar performances for the national team.
The 32-year-old Lehmann, although he would have been a worthy successor to Waugh. He has a reputation as a tough and talented player who impressed as a member of the 1999 World Cup team and currently captains the Sough Australian state side.
With Waugh now being sacked as ‘limited overs’ captain, the question that immediately pops up is whether Ponting is the best choice to take over the reins. Observes Tasmanian Peter Smallbane: "Ricky is one of the most talented players in the one-day game —but it is a risky move thrusting the captaincy on him. I believe the selectors have taken a bold gamble."
But Ponting himself feels confident and up to the job.
"I think the extra responsibility sits pretty well with me and I enjoy the challenge of knowing I am captain," he says. "I have to set some sort of example to the other guys."
Those who have watched Ponting develop over the years recall several factors that will work in his favour. When it came to his turn to bat at his debut Test at the Melbourne cricket ground in 1995, Ponting ran all the way from the dressing room to the wicket — something no other batsman has done.
He did so not to shake off any butterflies in the stomach or to steady any wobbly knees. He was just sending a bold message to his opponents, "Here I am — I have been waiting for the chance to take you on."
A tough customer who is relentless in his pursuit of excellence in the field, Ponting can be expected to marshal his troops aggressively, though on occasion he is known to have gone over the top. Some years ago when a particularly fast ball by Indian bowler Javaagal Srinath struck Ponting, the Indian sympathetically walked towards him to inquire how Ponting was — only to be berated by an angry batsman in strong language.
Ponting’s exuberance will be the
vital factor that determines the success of his team. But if luck does
not come his way in the early stages of his captaincy, he could be a
hard taskmaster. — Gemini News
INDIAN golfing stars are in the same mould as heroes in several other sporting disciplines. They twinkle one day and sadly get fused the next day.
Arjun Atwal, for example, emerges out of the title-draught in 2001 to win the Singapore Masters. The jubilation for this tremendous triumph was short-lived as he failed to make the cut in the Malaysia Open a few days later.
Golf, like cricket, is indeed unpredictable. But the performance should not vary so alarmingly as it does in the case of the Indian golfers. Tiger Woods, for example, wins often; he does not win sometime. But it is very, very rare when he is unable to make the cut.
What are the causes for this deplorable disease, which prevents Indian stars from playing to their potential consistently?
Two important causes are (1) Indian stars get carried away quickly; and (2) Lack of temperament to emerge out of the pit of despair.
If golfers keep their head down instead of getting satisfied or swollen-headed, they will not run into unforeseen problems as they often do.
The lack of temperament is because Indian stars are devoid of self-belief. They must remember that every round is a new round and they should leave their previous doings in hotels instead of carrying them along with them on courses.
The Professional Golfers Association of India’s contribution in promoting golf has been amazingly great. The PGAI President, Mr Pawan Kant Munjal, is everready to provide sponsorship to golfers. The time seems to have come when he should provide them with thought training, through psychologists, so that they are able to perform consistently instead of being consistently inconsistent.
A bad accident
Jyoti Randhawa, one of the most outstanding professionals in the Asian region, will be out of action for at least six months following his motor-cycle accident. Indeed, he is young and loves adventurism, but he is too precious a golfer to risk driving two-wheelers on the killer roads of Delhi and around.
According to orthopaedic doctors, Randhawa will be up and about in two or three months. But the shoulder comes into play in golf extensively. He has got to be careful that his injury heals quickly enough. Those, who are aware with problems with shoulder dislocation, predict that he may be out of active golf action for six to nine months. It will take him a long time to regain form. It is indeed a great loss to Indian golf. He will of course lose a lot of earnings through golf. He is a professional. He can ill-afford all this loss.
There is a very rich entry for the
Royal Challenge Indian Open, which is on the high road to achieving new
heights. The sponsors have signed contract with the Indian Golf
Union/Professional Golfers Association of India for five years. They are
determined that Indian golf will be truly on the road to stabilising.
Coach to blame for debacle
IT is really unfortunate that India finished tenth in the hockey World Cup at Kuala Lumpur. Coach Cedric D’Souza is responsible for India’s poor performance. He failed to develop confidence among the players and as a result, India lost to Korea and Malaysia and were held 2-2 by Japan. when Cedric was dropped as coach, India bounced back and gave brilliant performances against Cuba, Poland, Australia and Spain. There was no sign of pressure on the Indian players and they played with great confidence after Cedric’s removal. The exclusion of Cedric proved to be a morale booster for the Indian team. It was unfortunate for Indian hockey that Gagan Ajit, who gave an outstanding performance in the junior World Cup, was dropped just before the start of the World Cup. Baljit Dhillon, Dhanraj Pillay, Deepak and Prabhjot gave an outstanding performance. After watching the performance of Daljit, Arjun, Deepak and Prabhjot, I feel the future of Indian hockey is bright. Former skipper Ramandeep should also be included in the Indian team. The IHF should appoint Rajinder Singh as coach.
RAJDEEP SINGH, Phagwara
Germany make history
Kudos to Germany, who ambushed Australia 2-1 in the final of the 10th hockey World Cup and romped home with the coveted cup for the first time. They stupendously lived up to their pre-tournament ‘favourities tag’ by conquering the summit which always remained insurmountable in the past for them. They played flawless hockey in every department besides keeping the Australians, who played free flowing hockey, on a leash.
The final was fiercely contested until the very end. However, the Germans kept their nerves, defended their citadel with brilliant anticipation and uncanny interception and ultimately shattered Australia’s dream of winning the cup for the second time.
The Australians, who remained unbeaten in league matches and who drubbed Holland 4-1 in the semifinal, could not do much against the stout Germans who were found too formidable to be subdued. Their dream run in the tournament was truncated when Domke deflected the ball home six minutes before the long hooter to seal their fate. However, the titanic battle for supermacy enthralled the hockey lovers. Congratulations to the Germans on their historic win.
TARSEM S. BUMRAH, Batala
I suggest that reports on life and works of luminaries in Indian hockey should appear frequently in newspapers. Some should be included in text books, so that sports lovers get to know more about the former stars. Literature and demonstrations are important tools in dissemination of knowledge.
This will raise the standard of hockey. For instance Capt Manna Singh of Amritsar and Padamashree Prithipal Singh, former Director, Students Welfare, Punjab Agricultural University, contributed a lot towards upliftment of Indian hockey.
Dr MANMOHAN SINGH, Hoshiarpur
All were boasting of a repeat of 1975. But the matter of the fact is that our boys were nowhere near the mark against Japan and Korea.
They played a pathetic game and received a drubbling. The played an individual game and took too much time to pass the ball.
D.R. SHARDA, Chandigarh