|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, March 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
More than one version to sportspersons’ complaints
Did ‘sibling’ rivalry lead to Paes-Bhupathi split?
THE second parting of ways between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi shows that old wounds rarely heal. The coming together of the two talented tennis players after going their own ways two years ago, was, at hindsight, simply a marriage of convenience, and when it did not work, the pair opted to split, though this time, the initiative came from Mahesh Bhupathi, and Leander Paes was caught rather unawares.
"Leander has been caught in a situation where he suddenly has to go his own way. The commitment was for a whole year", his father, former hockey Olympian Dr Vece Paes, lamented. But there was no ambiguity on Mahesh’s part about the split. He explained: "Perhaps we were not motivating each other as we once were able to do".
"Over the past few months, our performances have been very inconsistent and, for a variety of reasons, we have not been able to play up to the high standards that we set for ourselves. While we have constantly worked to resolve our differences and maintain our status as one of the premier teams in our sport, there are certain things that we have not been able to work through. As a result, by mutual consent, we have amicably decided to part ways and re-ignite our respective careers on the tour", Mahesh said in a message to the Indian media, to put at rest wild speculation about the split.
Fortunately, there is no Enrico Piperno to beat around this time, as the favourite whipping boy. When Mahesh and Leander split the last time, the Leander camp had blamed Mahesh’s coach Enrico Piperno for sowing the seeds of dissension between the two star players. But Piperno is passé now, as Mahesh has volunteered to clear the picture himself, in no crystal clear manner.
But what did really go wrong? Why did Mahesh and Leander split again?
Well, the pair has not been doing well after their title triumph in the ATP event in Chennai early this year, to begin 2002 on a high note. But after that, their performances deteriorated to an abysmal low, losing in the first and second rounds of major tournaments.
Mahesh, in great detail, has described the slump of the star pair in recent months.
"It is no secret that our performance has dipped significantly. We have lost in the first round of five of the last six grand slams, always to un-seeded teams ranked well below us—teams we were regularly beating a while ago. In non-grand slam events, we have also recently fared poorly, losing in the first or second round in three of the last four events. This is no one person’s fault. Such early exits indicate some deeper performance related problems When we lost so often, as early as we did, I think we may both have felt a lack of of motivation. We both felt that perhaps a change would reinvigorate us and rejuvenate our playing careers".
Well, those who keep track of the Indian tennis scene and read between the lines, had sensed long before the split occurred that something was amiss. Mahesh’s opting out of the singles matches in the recent Davis Cup tie against Lebanon in Lebanon, which India swept to a 5-0 triumph with Leander playing the star role, raised many eyebrows. Though Lebanon is a weak team, Mahesh would have rather preferred to play in the singles too, but instead Harsh Mankad got the nod, and he did a good job it, by winning both his singles matches.
Here, one thing must be noted. Though the big-serving Rohan Bopanna was in the team, he was not given a chance though Leander had spoken glowingly about his talent before the Davis Cup team was finalised, in Delhi, during the DSCL National Hard Court Championship, which Bopanna won.
Rohan Bopanna, it may be mentioned, is a trainee at the Tennis village, run by Mahesh’s father CGK Bhupathi, in Bangalore. And Bopanna had also beaten Sunil Kumar Sipaeya on way to the title. Sunil Kumar, the boy wonder from Chandigarh, had been taken under the wings of Paes-En-Sports immediately after he won the very same DSCL Hard Court Open title in Delhi in 1999, at the tender age of 16 years. Much had been expected from Sunil Kumar, particularly after he was taken in by Paes-En-Sports of Dr Vece Paes, but Sunil has not really lived up to his potential.
This ‘sibling’ rivalry could be one of the reasons for the split as the All India Tennis Federation’s carrot and stick policy to keep both the Bhupathi and Paes’ camps appeased has not really gone down well with the Paes camp, which feels that the balance has been heavily tilted in favour of the Bhupathis. The inability of Paes-En-Sports, the event management company of the Paes,’ to hold the National Grass Court Championship in Kolkata last month due to lack of sponsors has also generated an undercurrent of tension, particularly in the context of the fact that the Bhupathis were active backroom players when Karnataka successfully hosted the World Doubles Championships recently.
"When you have a crash, the wounds may heal, but they don’t disappear", summed up former Davis Cupper and chairman of the senior selection committee Shyam Minotra, about the latest split between Mahesh and Leander.
Minotra was, however, hopeful that they will be come together again as "without each other, they haven’t done well". After Mahesh and Leander patched up last year after a year-long separation, they bagged three titles and the French Open crown, and in 1999, before their first split, the pair had made it to all the four grand slam finals and won the French Open and Wimbledon, besides winning the ATP title in Chennai. They repeated the Chennai feat in 2002 too.
More than one version to sportspersons’ complaints
QUITE often some of India’s leading sports figures tend to give the impression that they are the downtrodden ones and do not get sufficient mileage for the effort put in by them on the international arena. The main target of these sports personalities is the concerned federations and of course the government, always the popular whipping agency. The media too tend to get taken in by their complaints with the result that the federations and the sports ministry is painted all black. Very rarely is an effort made to get all the versions. The result is that the public gets a lop-sided picture of a sportsperson being hounded and ill treated.
Some of the ire comes out immediately after returning from an international with the officials being blamed for the failure. On occasions the complaints of insufficient rewards are voiced after the failure to figure among the national honours during the selection of the Arjuna Awards. But it is difficult to accept that the government and the federations are regularly in the wrong. In fact it is the other way in quite a few cases.
Take for instance the controversy created by Dingko Singh, the boxer who won a gold medal in the Asian Games at Bangkok in 1998. He has been projected as someone who has been wronged by the Federation. One TV channel went to the extent of berating the federations as a whole and cited the example of boxer Gurcharan Singh who left the country as he was not happy with the treatment meted out to him. Then the channel focused on the alleged plight of Dingko Singh who came on live to say that the federation had not bothered to inquire about his injury and went to the extent of stating that he would not wear India colours in future. He also said some other thing which does not need to be repeated here. He also received enough mileage in the newspapers. The print media in fact was full of stories about how Dingko Singh was disgusted and that he would not take part in the Commonwealth Games and would preserve himself for the Asian Games, training on his own. No one thought it wise to ask Dingko how he could decide his preferences without consulting his coach or the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation.
All this makes for sensational news with Dingko as the hero and the federation as the villain. It is a pity though that a boxer of his eminence should have allowed himself to be focused in a negative manner, both in the print and visual media. Dingko should have come out with a clarification that the facts were not all trained against the federation.
He could have told them about the flat he has been reported to have been given in Imphal or the Arjuna Award with its financial trappings bestowed on him per kind favour of the federation. He could have also expressed his gratefulness to the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation for sending him to Bangkok at its own expense after the government had refused to clear him. There are other things he could have touched upon, the personal care and interest taken in his injury by Mr. Ashok Matoo, the former President of the IABF, and the consideration shown to him by the newly elected IABF officials from Haryana.
He could have expressed gratefulness for all these gestures instead of criticising one and all. Boxing officials at the Nationals held in Delhi were surprised and shocked at the criticism levelled against the federation by a boxer who has always been given due attention. Dingko Singh, it must be stated, is a very fine boxer but is reported to be very temperamental. It is a pity that the TV channel projecting his grouse did not bother to cross check with the relevant authorities Dingko is a hero after the Bangkok Asian Games but he owes everything to his coach and the federation, particularly its former President Ashok Matoo, for what he is today. He must remember that he is what he is because of the sport. He is not bigger than the sport.
Now to the question of Gurcharan Singh. He too has been honoured with the Arjuna Award and his performances in the ring has earned him a car from grateful fans in Punjab. He has done well on the Asian level and fought well in the Sydney Olympics. He lost out on countback after sharing points with Andri Fedtchouk, his opponent from Ukraine in the quarter-finals. He put up a great fight and despite what he may have felt , the final verdict was just and fair. It is not very clear why he chose to desert the army and the country and what his actual grouse was. But to blame the federation for his leaving the country is totally unfair.
Obviously he was very disappointed with himself for losing the bout in Sydney. A win there would have earned him the minimum of a bronze medal. That did not happen. Quite obviously too he has read too much into reported stories of how much money good professional boxers are making in other countries, particularly in England. According to reports he is around there somewhere making a living as a sparring partner.
Gurcharan will learn, if he has not already, that professional boxing is a different glove game. He has no idea of the hard work needed to be in a constant state of fitness. He could have asked from Devarajan, Raj Kumar Sangwan and Dharmendra Singh, boxers who left the amateur ring for professional pastures. They all learnt it too late, the demands made from the professionals and are reportedly not all that happily placed. They cannot come back to the amateur ring now.
Dingko has been very unfair in his
criticism of the federation while Gurcharan could perhaps have only
harmed his own interest by leaving the country, a country in which the
federation helped him to attain so much. The media, particularly the
visual one, needs to ensure that while boosting its own image as a
champion for the sports persons it should also give the other version
too. It is only fair.
Hyderabad gears up for National Games
hi-tech city of Hyderabad is fast gearing up to host the National Games
in November this year. The capital of Andhra Pradesh is a heady mixture
of heritage, traditional hospitality, industry and commerce. The
information technology revolution finds its strongest base in this city.
Hyderabad is also famous for its beautiful pearls, glass-embedded
bangles, nirmal paintings, gunmetalware, kalamakri paintings, cuisine,
besides historic monuments. It has also produced well-known players like
P. Gopi Chand (badminton), Mukesh Kumar (hockey) and V.V.S. Laxman
Hyderabadis are making all efforts to make the National Games unforgettable. With the announcement of dates for the games, efforts to make all the playing arenas ready well in advance are in full swing. The stadiums being constructed are of international standard and will have all the modern gadgets and facilities for players as well as officials. The participants will get the finest facilities for the games.
The main stadium at Gachibowli is likely to cost about Rs 20 crore. It will have a seating capacity of 30,000, an eight-lane synthetic athletic track and a four-lane synthetic practice track. Added to these will be latest high-mast lighting for day-night events and obstruction-free viewing for all spectators.
Gachibowli will have another stadium for badminton and table tennis, which will be fully air-conditioned and wooden flooring will be of international standard. An aquatic complex for swimming, diving, water polo and synchronised events is also nearing completion at Gachibowli. The pools will have controlled temperature through modern heating systems and lighting will be of international standard. A 2000 capacity multipurpose stadium for volleyball, basketball and handball is coming up at Yousufguda at the cost of Rs 8.94 crore. It is more than half complete. Saroornagar will have a 2000 capacity multipurpose stadium which will be used for gymnastics and wrestling. Fateh maidan will host tennis matches. This stadium has seven synthetic surfaces and the central court has a seating capacity of 4000. The velodrome at Osmania University will host cycling events. It is more than half complete. Besides these, stadiums for taekwondo, football, canoeing and kayaking sepak takraw, fencing, archery, judo, hockey, boxing, kho-kho, kabaddi and shooting are in advanced stages of preparation.
The games village will be at Gachibowli. It will be a blend of rocks and ravine, woods and water. The total cost of developing this aesthetic and comfortable dwelling units will be Rs 130 crore.
Besides developing the venues for various games, Andhra Pradesh is training its players so that they are able to strike gold in as many events as possible. There is motivation in the form of cash incentives to sportspersons and coaches who win medals. Training facilities are being provided on a big scale and there is no dearth of infrastructural facilities.
Why make coach a scapegoat?
That all was not well with the Baljit Dhillon-led team is now evident from the statement of the legendary Dhanraj Pillay. The fact that he was compelled to play as an outside-right is shocking. Ajit Pal, the former skipper, was right when he said ‘we should give up playing hockey if we fail to reach the semis’. Why make only the coach a scapegoat? The IHF is equally responsible.
PROF AMARJEET MANN, Sangrur
Once again, the nation was dejected over the performance of the national hockey squad. The coach has been fired. The team failed miserably at Kuala Lumpur. The tournament was played under flood lights. The Indians were sent a week in advance. In India there is not a single floodlit hockey ground. There are seven cricket grounds, three athletics fields, two golf courses and a number of indoor stadium which are flood lit. But nobody has ever thought of providing this facility to a game which has brought more laurels to the country in the Olympics and Asian meets. Holland, a country of Punjab’s size, has 50 Astro-Turf grounds.
MANJITINDER S. JOHAL, Mandiani
The standard of Indian hockey has declined. The Indians always sent a shiver down the spine of our opponents in the past. The services of former players should be requisitioned. Their lectures can be arranged periodically.
RAJINDER KUMAR, Sunder Nagar
I was shocked to know that our hockey team finished tenth in the hockey World Cup recently at Kuala Lumpur. Our past was glorious. We won in the Olympics from 1928 to 1956. After that our performance has been dismal. We boast of our past, but that will not serve any purpose.
BANSI RAM, Garhshanker
India finished a poor tenth in the tenth edition of hockey World Cup which recently concluded at Kuala Lumpur. It finished ninth in the ninth edition of the World Cup at Utretch. Guess where this nation (second only to China in population) will be placed in the eleventh WorldCup?
At the eleventh position.
VIPIN SEHGAL, Ladwa