|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, July 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
cricket on the upswing
jinx overcome at last
best but modest to the core
cricket on the upswing
The Indian team after its wonderful performance in the NatWest Trophy in England can set its eyes on next year’s World Cup with a fair amount of confidence. Immediately after the win a number of experts, both at home and abroad, had expressed the view that the ‘‘new look’’ Indian team could give a run to any team in the world, never mind its relative low ranking in the ICC’s one-day cricket ratings. True, there are certain grey areas in the team. But then there is enough time from now till February next, when the World Cup will be hosted by South Africa, to iron out the glitches and plug the loopholes in the Indian squad.
In as many as nine finals on the trot the Indian team had faltered and it was left to the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif to take the Indians to a win which is historic by all accounts. For one, the Indian team was the only the second team in cricketing history to chase such a huge total, 325 to be precise. And like the icing on the cake the victory came at Lord’s, venue of India’s solitary triumph in the World Cup way back in 1983.
But more important, the victory came in spite of the failure of ‘‘three pillars’’ of the Indian batting, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and the super star Sachin Tendulkar. While the Indian skipper did give the Indian innings a good start the two other ‘‘pillars’’ could not come good at all. And prey what was Sachin trying to do when he left his wicket in an effort to execute the stroke? In fact it is worth remembering that these players were present in the Indian team in all the nine finals which India have lost in the recent past. But Yuvraj, who has definitely matured a lot from the time he graduated to international cricket, and Mohammad Kaif did not allow the occasion to overawe them. They put their heads down and went about their task of scoring runs in a very systematic manner. And not once did they try to execute risky strokes unlike their more illustrious seniors. And the result is there for all to see.
As one peeps into the crystal ball in an effort to gauge the opposition that the Indians will face in next year’s World Cup the national selectors might think it worthwhile to give a thought to the proposal made by Gundappa Vishwanath that as a short-term measure it might be worthwhile to induct Javagal Srinath into the one-day squad. Immediately after the series against the West Indies Srinath announced that he would like to stop playing Test cricket and concentrate on the shorter version of the game till the World Cup. But then he did not get the nod of the five ‘‘wise men’’ when the squad for the tour of England was being selected.
Srinath’s presence in the squad will put the other medium pace bowlers — Asish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar — under pressure to perform even better that they are doing at the moment. maybe, they can also pick up some useful tips from the senior pro who has been around for quite some time and has quite a few tricks up his sleeves. And Srinath can come into the team in place of Tinu Yohannan who though good has to improve his game by a couple of notches if he is to be noticed at the international level.
It is apparent that Rahul Dravid would willy-nilly have to keep wickets in the World Cup because Kaif comes into the squad only when a regular keeper is not playing. And now that Kaif has become such an important cog in the team Rahul has to perfect his glovesmanship even more. If needed he can take specialised training in this art. In any case he has gone on record to say that he is enjoying his new job which is helping him to concentrate more while batting. For now the likes of Ajay Ratra and Deep Dasgupta will have to cool their heels.
Some fine-tuning here and there and this Indian team should be in a position to give any team a run for its money in next year’s World Cup. There is a lot of cricket that the Indian team will have to play between now and the World Cup but then these games will allow the team to fine-tune itself further. More important, in this campaign the young brigade will probably lead from the front.
overcome at last
It was jubilation all around at 11 p.m. on July 13, 2002, when India went past the imposing target of 325 set by the English team to win the NatWest Trophy by two wickets with two balls to spare. The scenes were reminiscent of the 1983 World Cup final against West Indies which was won by Kapil’s ‘devils’. The only difference between this win and the world cup final win at Lords was that in 1983 the Indian team defended a modest total of 183 against the West Indian batting line-up which included the likes of Sir Vivian Richards who on his own was capable of compiling the required runs and this time it was the biggest run chase for a team batting second in England and with half the side back in pavilion, including the master blaster Sachin Tendulkar.
Both Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif still in their teens took just about 20 overs and 90 minutes to accomplish the feat. They plundered the English attack and had a century plus stand averaging over eight runs per over, which was reminiscent of the unbeaten knock of 175 by the legendary Kapil Dev against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup from a precarious position of 20 for 5. The English team did not have time enough to think and regroup as their bowlers were drowned in the avalanche of strokes unleashed by these two teenagers who grew in their stature with every passing moment and stroke. I was reminded of the exploits of two young national heroes — Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh and Chander Shekhar Azad — in the pre-Independence era. Bhagat Singh and Chander Shekhar Azad belonged to Punjab and UP. The duo of Yuvraj and Mohammed Kaif also hails from Punjab and UP. All four were heroes in their own right and made the entire nation proud, though for different reasons.
It would be appropriate to term the NatWest Trophy victory as culmination of the Indian team effort which had been lacking on earlier occasions. The skipper, Saurav Ganguly, led from the front with a swash buckling knock of 60 and was the epitome of national euphoria as he rushed to towards Kaif.
The jinx of continuous losses in finals abroad has finally been broken at the right time and with the right blend of youth and experience. It was heartening to see that during the entire NatWest series, the Indian team clicked as a unit. Fielding which had been the bane of Indian cricket in the past became the team’s strength with Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Mohammed Kaif and Varinder Sehwag giving it the required teeth and zip.
The present one-day squad barring any injury or sudden loss of form does not merit any change and the Indian selectors and administrators would be serving the national interest by persisting with the present team.
The Indian think-tank must take advantage of the upbeat mood of the Indian cricketers and ensure that the forthcoming one-day series with West Indies, ICC Trophy in Sri Lanka and the series against New Zealand become the stepping stones for the Indian team’s fling at the World Cup in 2003 in South Africa.
It is shocking: it’s brazen high-handedness and total corruption. In other countries, governments sincerely endeavour to reduce mal-practices in the arena of sports. But in this country. sadly, the government seems to promote corruption in sports.
Sportspersons of different disciplines are aghast at the unscrupulous doings of the Urban Development Ministry which, through naked force, has obtained 125 ‘tenure memberships’ of the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) by extending lease from 2010 to 2020.
In an anxiety for the club to stay and golf to progress, the panicky DGC officialdom conceded all UDM’s demands without realising that there is not a solitary instance when lease of the known sporting club has been terminated.
The UDM’s coercive method in securing 125 ‘tenure memberships’ is nothing but asked high-handedness. The DGC, already short of funds, will be poorer by about Rs 2 crore as UDM-sponsored officials will walk in almost free. (The entrance fee for new member is Rs 1.5 lakh).
What is cause for concern is that the UDM’s shocking action will deprive genuine golfers, waiting steadfastly for years, from getting membership as the already over-utilised course, will be burdened with ‘free-loaders’.
In the list, there is an influential businessmen. He has been placed in the category of ‘eminent sportspersons’. He is miles away from sports eminence. Who is an eminent sportsperson? One who has brought laurels to the country or achieved distinction in domestic competitions. This businessmen has no such credentials.
While this businessman is being ‘bestowed’ membership through UDM, another highly reputed hockey star is being denied membership under one pretext or the other. He is Ajitpal Singh, who captained India to victory in the 1975 World Cup.
The UDM had extended the club’s lease from 2000 to 2010 in 1996. Then also the ministry had obtained some memberships for bureaucrats and politicians. Those lease papers were reportedly lost or destroyed. It is worth investigating as to how those papers were lost and who was responsible for it.
Corruption in sports is one of the main reasons for India’s performance staying poor in international competitions. Favoritism in government, which is charged with impartial governance, is shocking.
The DGC existed even before Partition. When Independence came about, it was to be replaced with housing complex. But the Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, intervened and used his good offices for the club to stay. Later, when Panditji visited the annexe of the DGC, he was impressed by the surroundings. He went on record as saying that it was one of the best decisions he had taken for the club to stay.
Now the ball is in the control of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. Will they act so that ‘free-loaders’ do not disturb the harmony of the club and course? The club is unquestionably one of the best in the country and the course is meant for genuine lovers of golf.
Most of the members of the club are disappointed with UDM’s undue interference. But they seem to be helpless, as are club’s president Kapil Bhatia and captain Ashok Malik.
best but modest to the core
At 30, star German defender Florian Kunz is the world's best hockey player. He led Germany to the historic gold-medal victory against Australia in the World Cup at Kuala Lumpur four months back. Yet he has no airs and graces. He is calm, humble, open to reason, obliging, and modest. When the FIH conferred upon him the 'best male player of 2001' award at the Hard Rock Cafe adjoining Kuala Lumpur's Concorde hotel on March 6 in the presence of a select gathering, Kunz in his own humble way said it was a great morale booster at the crucial juncture. Three days later, he played a stellar role in Germany's first-ever gold medal victory in the World Cup at the Bukit Jalil National Hockey Stadium.
Unlike many players, success has not gone into his head. He never gets tired of signing autographs. For journalists and photographers he is ever-obliging. For fellow guests at the Concorde, he was like any other occupant, seldom heard singing praises about his team or stature. He was easily accessible to inquisitive children or fans.
Nicknamed Floh, Florian Kunz was born on February 22, 1972 at Leverkusen. He took to hockey at the age of five and made his international debut in 1994 when he participated in the Champions Trophy at Lahore where Germany finished runners-up. The following year, Kunz played in the Europeans Nations Cup and the Champions Trophy at Dublin and Berlin ,respectively, where Germany emerged champions. Minor differences with coach Paul Lissek kept him on the sidelines but he was granted another chance in 1999 and fully justified his inclusion as Germany won the European Nations Cup. In 2000 he was once again a member of the German team who finished runners-up in the Champions Trophy at Amstelveen and secured the fifth position at the Sydney Olympics.
Last year, Florian Kunz almost single-handedly took Germany to the title victory in the Champions Trophy at Rotterdam as also the European Nations Cup at Luzern.
Standing 6 feet 6 inches in his socks, Kunz indeed is a towering figure. He is also a bit superstitious. Having been unable to strike form early in the World Cup, he contacted his girlfriend back home who managed to send him his favourite stick through Michael Green's mother. Two quick goals against Pakistan with this stick brought back the smile on his face. Though rated as the best player in the world, Kunz is never over-confident. In the match against the Netherlands, he sought coach Bernhard Peters' advice following the award of a penalty corner. A bit worried about his lack of form, Peters asked Kunz to try out Bjorn Michel . Kunz heeded the advice and Michel dutifully converted. The skipper was among the most satisfied in the German camp.
Employed as an estate agent, Florian Kunz still has many years of hockey in him. Whether it is at Gladbacher HTC or with the national team, Kunz will continue to play a dominant role — and seldom claim credit for the achievements. For, Florian Kunz is a team man.
Hats off to Indian cricket team
Fantastic, stupendous and terrific. This is how one would describe India’s morale-boosting victory over the English in the final ODI of the NatWest series at Lord’s. India’s victory in the tri-series is a landmark achievement in the sense that the jinx of India failing to win the finals has been broken. Secondly, the victory was achieved despite the early exit of Sachin, the mainstay of our batting. It was one of the greatest run chases and this may well go down in the history of ODIs as one of the all-time great matches.
M.K. Bajaj, Yamunanagar
Kudos to India for clinching the NatWest triangular series in England. The victory is laudable. The nation is proud of Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif for their outstanding performance, despite being under pressure with five wickets down just for 146 runs. The new stars deserve all praise and appreciation.
Anjiv S. Jaswal, Chandigarh
The NatWest triangular series win over England on Saturday will remain a memorable chapter of Indian cricket history. The blend of youth and experience achieved the unbelievable target of 326. Despite some biased umpiring decisions, the team continued to fight with determination and proved that nothing was impossible. It was a team effort. A solid foundation laid by Ganguly and Sehwag was further cemented by the young Yuvraj and Kaif. The contribution of Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan cannot be ignored.
Gian P. Kansal, Ambala
India’s stupendous triumph over England in the NatWest tri-series at Lord’s was indeed creditable. It will do Indian cricket a world of good as the youngsters Kaif, and Yuvraj, have brought a sudden whiff of fresh air into Indian cricket. If the Indian cricket team can apply a sense of commitment and the will to put up a good show with the bat and ball as demonstrated in the tri-series, there is no reason why the team will not return with the World Cup next year. Nevertheless, for once the Indian team has shown its ability to win a crucial match without depending on Sachin Tendulkar.
K. Gopakumar Menon, Sonepat
Hats off to young stars Mohammed Kaif and Yuvraj Singh who snatched the incredible victory from the jaws of defeat in the NatWest series. After Tendulkar’s departure, the English camp was getting ready for celebrations but Yuvraj and Kaif turned the tables on the hosts to steal the show amidst thunderous applause. They batted courageously to tear the English attack to smithreens.
Karnail Singh, Ranjit Sagar Dam
India came to Lord’s having lost nine straight finals. Here was a golden chance for them to end their drought for a tournament win. And India did it thanks to youngsters like Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif and Virender Sehwag. Chasing a huge total of 326 runs India won with two wickets in hand. The Indian team was inspired by an 87-run knock by Kaif. The BCCI must nurture the youngsters as they will play a crucial role in next World Cup in South Africa.