|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, May 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Himachal cricket set for big boost
Himachal Pradesh finally overcame the jinx when they qualified for the knock-out stage of the previous edition of the Ranji Trophy Championship for the first time. Though Himachal could not sustain the tempo and were unable to go any further, getting through the league phase itself ahead of the state like Haryana was no mean achievement for the players of a state hitherto perennial punching bags even at the zonal level.
have a lot to prove
cricket set for big boost
Himachal Pradesh finally overcame the jinx when they qualified for the knock-out stage of the previous edition of the Ranji Trophy Championship for the first time. Though Himachal could not sustain the tempo and were unable to go any further, getting through the league phase itself ahead of the state like Haryana was no mean achievement for the players of a state hitherto perennial punching bags even at the zonal level. The success was achieved due to the efforts of among others, Sangram Singh, the highest scorer from North Zone, who was selected to play in the Challenger Trophy for India "A", former skipper Rajiv Nayyar and veteran paceman Shakti Singh who were as consistent as ever.
During a chat, Mr Anurag Thakur, president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, sounded satisfied with the efforts of the players. This, Mr Thakur felt, augured well for the team as this would generate a healthy competition among the players to do well.
The construction of a modern stadium at Dharamsala was among the foremost steps, he informed, the state association was taking to improve infrastructure which was a prerequisite for the development of cricket in the state. Setting up of a cricket academy at Una was another major step which was likely to improve the game in the hill state. Mr Thakur revealed that due to a series of steps taken talented junior cricketers had now started emerging which would soon result in better representation from the state in the zonal teams. He stated that a senior functionary of the association had been assigned the task of looking after school cricket. Mr Thakur was candid enough to admit that it was, however, not possible yet for Himachal with limited resources at its disposal to compete with a state like Punjab. But he was emphatic enough when he said that the game was set to get a boost in Himachal in the days to come.
"We are thankful to the Himachal Pradesh Government. We put forward the proposal which was okayed within no time giving the association 15 acres of land at a key location at Dharamsala for the construction of a cricket stadium," revealed Mr Thakur dwelling at length on the key project at hand. Mr Thakur, who took over nearly two years back, sounded pretty optimistic about the project which, he said, besides promoting the game was certain to give a boost to tourism in the state situated as it will be in the lap of enchanting Dhauladhar ranges.
"The work is likely to start by the month-end and finish within the next six months. We propose to hold a Ranji Trophy match in the stadium next season," he revealed.
"We would like to hold camps for the Indian squad before it embarks on an overseas tour. Outside the subcontinent Indian players face hard and bouncy tracks. So we would have nearly five to seven hard tracks in the stadium so that Indian players practice here before they leave for any foreign tour. Besides, the climactic conditions in Dharamsala are almost akin to those prevailing outside the subcontinent. So practising in Dharamsala would help Indian players prepare better for the challenges overseas," revealed Mr Thakur.
"Initially the stadium would have a seating capacity of nearly 20,000 spectators. Pavilion block would be able to accommodate 1500 spectators, while two VIP blocks would house nearly 600 to 1000 enthusiasts each," he said.
Situated near Degree College at Dharamsala the stadium would have a proper drainage system to flush out rainwater, the hilly areas being more prone to unseasonal rains, he said. The stadium would have a unique indoor practice area with a roof overhead and proper lighting arrangements for practice even in late hours.
He said a cash prize one-day tournament would be held annually in the stadium every year in which players from all over the country would be invited to participate.
After the completion of this stadium Himachal Pradesh will have four stadiums others being at Una, Mandi and Bilaspur.
"Why the people of Shimla should suffer and be denied an opportunity to play?" he queried when asked about the proposal of the state government to construct a cricket stadium at Annandale in Shimla. The land had been leased to the Army which expired long back. The state government, he said, was making efforts to regain the land.
Jaywant Lele, former BCCI secretary, was completely bowled over by the natural beauty after he visited the Annandale ground. He said if constructed it could be the most beautiful and the highest cricket stadium in the world, revealed Mr Thakur.
spectators were there to enjoy the game of cricket in the remote and
tribal belt of Kinnaur where I was invited as a chief guest at a
tournament organised by the locals. And this when there were no big
stars playing," he replied when quizzed how popular the game was in
the state. "Teams from Chandigarh go and play at places like Rohru
which also draw crowds." Mr Thakur certainly looks concerned with
the betterment of cricket in Himachal and spares a lot of time from his
hectic schedule looking after cricketing matters of the state. How much
good he can do, however, remains to be seen.
have a lot to prove
This is the year of the Asian Games, and many other important international events like the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Championships and the Asian Grand Prix meets. The Indian athletes, who have been breaking records by the dime a dozen during the past two years, will have a lot to prove when they compete in a number of domestic meets lined up as warm-up meets in the run-ups to the major competitions ahead.
But the first three National Athletic Circuit Meets held in Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai recently produced just lukewarm results, belying the high expectations aroused by the athletes.
Top athletes like Shakti Singh, Bahadur Singh, P. Anil Kumar, Jagdish Bishnoi, K.M. Beenamol and Neelam J. Singh participated in the meets, and expectedly cantered away with the medals, but their performances did not set the tracks on fire, and certainly did not measure up to their ‘record’ performances earlier, barring Anil Kumar’s record-equalling race in the first leg in Delhi on May 1.
Anil Kumar, India’s fastest runner, ever since he blazed a golden trail in the Open Athletic Meet at Gandhinagar in 1997, scorched the tracks at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on a humid and hot evening on May 1, to equal his 100m sprint national record of 10.33 secs he had posted in Chennai in 1999.
It was a commendable performance by Anil in the season-opener as he was returning to the track after a long lay-off due to a knee injury. But sadly for him, he fell a victim to another injury when he collapsed on the track after playing an encore in the 100m at the second leg of the National Circuit Meet at Bangalore. He will be out of action for a few weeks, before he gets back into action.
Veteran Bahadur Singh completed a hattrick of wins in shot put, when he touched his best of the season, 19.61 metres, at the third leg in Chennai. This performance of his bettered Bahadur’s Delhi distance of 19.13 metres and his Bangalore measurement of 19.48 metres. But national record holder Shakti Singh has not been able to repeat his best of 20.42 metres. He could cover a distance of a mere 18.88 metres in the third meet at Chennai, though it got him the silver.
Harwant Kaur proved to be more than a match for seasoned Neelam J. Singh in women’s discus in Chennai though Neelam had the satisfaction of finishing far ahead of Harwant in the first two meets in Delhi and Bangalore, to win the gold. The indifferent form of the athletes is a cause for concern as the Amateur Athletic Federation of India (AAFI) has been sparing no effort to give the best of training and competition facilities to the athletes. Nine foreign coaches have been engaged to give specialised attention in each event —Volodymyr Hudilin for hammer throw (men and women), Anatoly Fatyeyev for combined events, Belski Victor for horizontal jumps, Yuriy Ogordodnik for sprints and hurdles, Viktor Omelchenko for javelin throw, Yuriy Minakov for shot put and discus, Uladzimir Polahau for middle and long distance and Inna Zavereva and Sergiy Chevelev as masseurs for women and men respectively.
The performances in the circuit meets will be taken into consideration for the selection of the Indian squad for the three Asian Grand Prix meets to be held in Hyderabad (May 18), Bangkok (May 21) and Manila (May 26). The star athletes have definitely not reflected the sort of quality they had displayed while setting 20 odd national records during the last two years, though it is another matter that the AAFI took several months to ratify just four of those so called records, created mostly on Indian tracks. One important record the AIFF Technical Committee has not ratified is the one created by Gurpreet Singh in the 110m hurdles in the National Open Meet at Lucknow when he clocked 14.07 secs to erase the record standing in the name of Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, who created it in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Since Randhawa’s was a hand-timed record, the AAFI has sought some clarifications from the International Athletic Federation before according it official status.
The year 2002 is crowded with international events as the Commonwealth Games will be held in Manchester from July 25 to August 4, the Asian Championships at Colombo from August 9 to 12 and the Asian Games in Pusan from September 29 to October 14.
But the indifferent form
shown by top athletes, when it comes to international competitions, has
been a source of constant worry for the federation and the Government as
a fortune is being spent for their training and foreign outings.
The Indian team in the prestigious Queen Sirikit Golf Championship looked no more than a bunch of novices. To finish low among the participants may be understandable, but to finish 50 strokes behind the leaders, Japan, is dismally shocking. This proves beyond doubt that the Indian women are still imprisoned at the kindergarten stage.
The performance of the women is indeed shocking. But worse is their attitude. They don’t seem to express shock and concern at their pathetic display. They merely say that the leaders in the Sirikit tournament have different coaches for different aspects. They don’t seem to realise that these Japanese and other women have progressed to stardom because they have been working dedicatedly to climb up the ladder. There is no short route to success in razor-sharp international competitions.
This year, the government graciously provided the air passage for the team. Each team member was paid $ 50 a day as out-of-pocket expenses. This was more than sufficient for dinner since breakfast is inclusive of complimentary lodging and lunch is provided to every participant on the course.
The Indian Golf Union’s performance in promoting amateur golf is far from satisfactory. It is a body which is devoid of planning. There is no long-term programme for juniors and women players. The general standard of amateur golf continues to stagnate. For the time, the IGU officials should be careful in choosing teams for participation in important international competitions. There is no point in sending a sub-standard team only to return humiliated. In sharp contrast to the women’s team, Indian juniors did satisfactorily.
Rules are vague
Golf in the country has gained prominence in the last five or six years. Sponsors are prepared to invest in golf. But sadly rules pertaining to amateurs and professionals are very vague. There are a few players who are having the best of both because in this country nothing succeeds like reputation. Some players participate in the amateur circuit but are also reaping the harvest of the pro circuit through advertisements.
According to the Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI), only those who succeed in the qualifying school can take part in the pro circuit. Some players refuse to take part in the qualifying school. There are several anomalies which the PGAI and IGU should sort out so that needless bickerings are reduced. The amateur rules have got to be made stricter so that no one can take undue advantage.
It is learnt that Ajay Jadeja is endeavouring to turn pro. He is likely to participate in the qualifying school contest. He is a player who is bound to succeed.
Quality, it is said, will rise from quantity. this is generally true provided sincere efforts are made to groom talent. The response from juniors for the six-week summer camp at the Delhi Golf Club is encouraging. There are, however, complaints that the programme has not been properly chalked out for the trainees, ranging from eight years to 18.
Indeed trainees from the under-privileged class are provided a sizeable concession. But the general quantum of fees is considered high. For some individuals it can be tough going. The DGC, with Kapil Bhatia as president and former five-time national champion Ashok Malik as captain should make a success of this programme. Like cricket coaches, golf coaches are also making a very good ‘killing’.
The PGAI and the IGU
should take a leaf out of the books of Thailand, Japan and some other
units which are throwing talented pros at the age of 14. There is no
dearth of talent in this country. What is needed is dedicated set of
officials to chalk out proper programme for the juniors.
Kudos to Inzamam for impeccable knock
Hats off to Inzamam-ul-Haq who slammed a majestic 329 in the first cricket Test against the injury-plagued and depleted New Zealand at Lahore. His monumental feat enabled him to join the elite club of triple-century makers. He recorded the 10th highest individual total in the history of Test cricket and became the 15th batsman in the world to achieve such a rare milestone. His mammoth total of 329 was more than half of 643, a spectacular achievement indeed which amply showed his class, calibre and prowess. The strapping and burly Haq dismantled the hapless New Zealand bowlers in a characteristically blunt fashion raining fours and sixes at will. He gave only once chance in the course of his impeccable knock.
TARSEM S BUMRAH, Batala
Kudos to Hooper
Carl Hooper, captain of the West Indies cricket team, deserves praise for the marvellous victory over India by 10 wickets in the Bridgetown Test. By winning this Test they levelled the series 1-1. Special credit goes to Dillon, the pace bowler who broke the backbone of Indian batting in both innings. Similarly, the batting of Hooper himself and of Chanderpaul was also praiseworthy.
SUBHASH C TANEJA, Rohtak
Das a failure
Except for 33 runs by S S Das as opening batsman in the first Test, his contribution in the remaining innings of the first and second Test matches was virtually nil. In the three-day match held before the start of the third Test at Bridgetown Shiv Sunder Das was out for a duck in both the innings. He is a mere passenger. Dinesh Mongia is in a good mould and India will surely benefit from his bold batting.