|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, September 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
Changing face of athletics
Athletics in India has gone through many phases, the most important being the switch from the grass and cinder track to synthetic surface for most of the major competitions. That in itself is a major transformation. The change also means that the organisers do not have to spend days in marking the track and associated definitions for throws and jumps.
defender par excellence
of rare brilliance
face of athletics
Athletics in India has gone through many phases, the most important being the switch from the grass and cinder track to synthetic surface for most of the major competitions. That in itself is a major transformation. The change also means that the organisers do not have to spend days in marking the track and associated definitions for throws and jumps. Things have certainly improved for the better. But have these things improved the standard of athletics? Certainly the women have made tremendous progress with the athletes from Kerala showing the way. Women athletes in fact have given India a status of sorts in the world scene and certainly major impression at the Asian level.
Indian men have had some great moments at the Asian level in the early days and by reaching the final stages Milkha, Gurbachan and Sriram Singh have left an indelible mark in the Olympics. But what about the general standards at home? Unfortunately with the exception of the throws and the quarter-mile the overall standards have not shown much improvement. The men in fact are far behind women in this respect.
There are many reasons. Firstly with rare exceptions. The overall standard of women athletics was far too poor. There was considerable scope for improvement. With more and more women shedding their inhibitions and entering the track and field arena, it was natural that the standard did improve. Bombay in particular and girls from Bangalore and Madras contributed considerably in bridging the gap. But it was left to the women from Kerala to bring about a total revolution. The main reason for this tremendous rush from Kerala was the government’s sports policy at the schools level. The other was economics. Success in athletics opened the doors to a livelihood. And that was very important in a state where employment was not easily available.
With the Railways in the main, always at hand to help sportspersons, opening their doors, Kerala athletes made the maximum of the opportunities. The result was a general improvement in the standards, particularly in the sprints and jumps with Valsamma in hurdles and Shiny Abraham (800) providing the variety. And with the entry of P.T.Usha in the 80s Indian women athletics status reached a very high level.
Two men athletes from Kerala, T.C.Yohannan and Suresh Babu, did join the stars in the men’s section but the overall position here has not changed much. One of the reasons for the drop in the standards is the virtual withdrawal of Services from athletics. This is the one main reason why there has been no improvement in the general standards in the distances events and the walks. In fact in the recent Open Meet at Delhi the general level of the standard in these events was something like what existed in the 60s. Not a very flattering comparison.
The Services with their strenuous regimen produced a number of distances runners who thrived under the careful tutelage of coaches like the late Illyas Babar. Any coach in fact could have enjoyed training the Services boys since they were virtual readymade products all set to break into the higher class with a little touch of polish. But those days are now gone. The Services not only have a limited role in athletics but have also, it appears, do not lay the same stress on sports, like in the olden days. Whatever the reasons the limited role of the Services has certainly hit progress in men’s athletics.
The other possible reason for this lack of update in men’s athletics is perhaps motive-factor though this should in fact have helped improve the standards. Earlier on with less diversions a lot of people enjoyed watching athletics. At the state-level meets in particular, clubs and educational institutions along with Police and local units of the Services all made for a very enjoyable three days of competition. The clubs provided the support in the stands as did the students and other interested parties and the whole affair and enriched the overall atmosphere. With the increase in population and drastic reduction of space, the clubs have virtually disappeared and with them the crowds.
Now athletics is restricted in the main to stadium and the athletes having to count support on individual basis. Thus the reason for just a handful of people watching major athletics meets. And the athlete too is not running or jumping for fun. Improvement means medals and medals means money. And that in turn has been an unfortunate twist with inducements for improved performances reportedly adding to natural flair.
Thus athletics is no longer a popular spectator sport like in the earlier days. One still remembers and recalls the inter-railway meets in Delhi, easily the best organised competitions in India. The keen rivalry among the both the competitors and the supporters in the stands added to the efficiency of the organisation and in the end it was three day of great fun for everyone concerned. One of the contributory factors for the high profile inter-railway meets of those days was that they combined with the annual meeting of the General Managers.
Alas the Railways have gone high tech
nowadays and the computers have taken over. The General Managers do not
all have to travel to Delhi for such a congregation. That is perhaps why
the inter-railway meet is no longer the much-looked-forward-to event of
the year any more. That is one of the biggest setback to athletics since
an inter-railway meet those days was virtually the who is who of Indian
athletics. All the big names were there. Some of top athletes still take
part in the inter-railway meet, now held in various centres by turns.
The importance of the meet is, however, gone. Perhaps that too is a
phase which is over.
defender par excellence
Sportsmen are taught to take things in their stride — whether on the playing field or within the confines of their homes. At times they have to bury personal tragedies under growing hopes of an aspiring nation since at stake is not only their team's future but also their nation's honour.
On October 28,1987, the Indian team had lined up for the title clash against Nepal at Calcutta's Salt Lake Stadium for the football final of the SAF Games. Among them was Phagwara's Deepak Kumar, on whose shoulders rested the cannons of the Indian defence. The proceedings were being beamed into Indian homes through Doordarshan. At about the same time, roughly 2000 km away, Deepak's father, Mr Ram Lal Sharma, breathed his last at Phagwara. The loss was irreparable. The task at hand was onerous. The team management dithered over breaking the sad news to the ace defender. After all, the nation's honour was at stake. In the battle that ensued, Deepak, playing as left back, rose head and shoulders above others to smother wave after wave of Nepalese attacks . The 1-0 win fetched India the gold. Deepak Kumar's selection for the best defender award was just reward for the efforts of the Punjab boy in guiding the team's destiny. However, the news about his father's demise ripped his heart but he drew solace from his teachings, that there is no service greater than serving one's motherland.
In a chequered career spanning nearly one-and-a-half decade, Deepak Kumar had carved out a niche for himself in the national team. As a left back, Deepak became one of the finest exponents of the overlapping defender's role, a quality of paramount importance in modern-day football.
Employed as Deputy Manager, Security, with JCT Phagwara, Deepak, who was born on September 21, 1961, fondly remembers his days of struggle and gradual rise. "It was during my school days at Government Higher Secondary School, Hadiabad, in Phagwara that I developed interest in soccer. I participated in the Punjab Inter-District Tournament before joining Ramgarhia College, Phagwara, in 1977." The institution benefited immensely through the untiring efforts of Deepak and it was after 22 years that Ramgarhia College, Phagwara, won the Guru Nanak Dev University inter-college football title and the winning goal was scored by none else than Deepak.
In 1980 Deepak joined Punjab's top outfit JCT Phagwara and remained an active member of the team till 1994. From 1981 to 1992, Deepak represented Punjab in the Santosh Trophy. He was named the captain for the 1987 edition at Calcutta. When Punjab won the Santosh Trophy at Jabalpur in 1985, Deepak again played a major role and was adjudged the best defender. The same year he made his international debut against Bocham XI in the Super Soccer series. In 1986, Deepak represented India in the Nehru Cup at Trivandrum and was also the skipper of India XI in the match against Rest of India at Patna. The following year he played in the SAF Games at Calcutta. In 1988, Deepak represented India in the Nehru Gold Cup at Siliguri and also the Asia Cup at Abu Dhabi.
As a member of the JCT team, Deepak played in almost every major national tournament. From 1980 to 1994, he played in the Durand Cup which his team won in 1983, 1987, and 1992. In the Rovers Cup, Deepak saw his team emerging as joint winners with Mohammedan Sporting in 1983 and two years later he played in the DCM final in New Delhi. Deepak remained captain of JCT Phagwara from 1990 to 1994 but a muscle injury forced him to quit football at the age of 33. Blessed with two sons, Saurav and Gaurav, Deepak hopes to see the latter following in his footsteps.
Veterans like Arun Ghosh reposed
tremendous confidence in Deepak as he was considered to be the
play-maker. His overlapping role as a defender proved to be a boon for
the team on numerous occasions. Some considered him to be a master of
the swing on the left flank. No matter what people thought of him; the
fact remains — Deepak was a terror for the tormentors and a source of
inspiration for the forward line, of JCT and India.
of rare brilliance
It was a wonderful effort indeed! The swashbuckling unbeaten knock of 177 by Ambati Tirupati Rayudu during India’s recent under-19 tour of England which enabled India to wrap up the series 3-0 must rank among the best-ever knocks played by a batsman while chasing a target in excess of 300 runs. India, in pursuit of a huge score of 304 for victory, at one stage were tottering first at 96 for 4 and then at 135 for 6. But the wristy and elegant Hyderabadi, the land which has produced cricketers of the calibre of M.L.Jayasimha, Mohammad Azharuddin and VVS Laxman, kept his cool. Using the long handle he made mockery of the England bowling attack resulting in a virtual run avalanche for his team. When he slammed Kyle Hogg for a six to seal a stupendous victory he was fast approaching a double century. It really was a dream performance by the 17-year-old Rayudu. Teams have earlier won matches chasing such targets but a team winning on the brilliance of a single individual is a rarity.
The victory ensured a 3-0 whitewash by the Indian team after a not-so-fruitful run in the Test matches. The earlier matches saw Rayudu get into the groove. India overhauled the 265-run target in the first match in which Rayudu’s contribution was a modest 34. In the second match he was involved in a 154-run opening-wicket stand with Haryana’s Manvinder Bisla. India won a thriller as No 11 batsman Chandrasekhar Atram hit a last-ball six. Rayudu with his sterling efforts in the last match won accolades from the Indian team coach Robin Singh and left the host team dazed.
Rayudu made his Ranji debut against Himachal last season. Though he scored just 33 runs he gave enough hints of being a batsman of potential. He did not find a berth in the squad for the next match versus Baroda which Hyderabad lost ending their campaign in the quarterfinal in the national championship. A three-month stint at Brisbane under the great Frank Tyson helped Rayudu remove the grey areas in his batting, while another stint at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore enabled him to further fine-tune his batting skills. Rayudu earlier gave glimpses of his prodigious batting talent when playing in the under-15 World Cup in England he notched up a brilliant 116.
Incidentally, three Indian teams—India seniors, India under-19 and Indian women—toured England recently almost at the same time and each team left an indelible mark due to superlative performance on the field. India lifted the three-nation NatWest Trophy completing the second highest chase in the history of one-day cricket to beat England at Lords, which revived the memories of the 1983 World Cup victory by inimitable Kapil Dev. Rayudu came into his own and played a marathon knock of 177 off just 114 deliveries which had unbridled aggression rare to be seen at this level in the last one-dayer. Mithali Raj, 19-year-old Indian women’s team vice-captain, created history scoring a record-breaking 214 in the second Test at Taunton. She overhauled KLRoltan’s score of 209 as the highest score by any player in women’s Test cricket. Incidentally, five double centuries have so far been scored in Tests in women’s cricket and all five have come against England.
Robin Singh later revealed that Rayudu was a tremendous athlete and an extremely agile runner between the wickets. The shy batsman, who idolises his statemate Laxman, has a rich repertoire of shots and plays virtually every stroke in the book which enables him to score at a fast clip. Being nimble-footed and athletic means possibility of dot balls when he is at the crease is remote. This was amply proved during his historic Taunton knock. Besides being a destructive batsman Rayudu also bowls off-spin which enhances his value to the team. Besides Atram and Rayudu, Robin named left-arm pacer Irfan Pathan Junior, Timil Patel and Abhishek Sharma, both spinners, as talented enough to play for the country.
That Rayudu is a talented opening
batsman has been proved beyond doubt now. There does not appear much
doubt regarding his temperament either. India has long suffered from the
lack of quality opening batsmen. What Rayudu should do is to carry on
the good work and hope for a nod to the senior squad.
Almost all the leading professionals are expected to take part in the inaugural Forest Hill Golf Club (Chandigarh) Open from October 16 to 20.
It is a nine-hole course at present and soon it will become an 18-hole course. The golf-addicts and golf architects who have had an opportunity to play on this small course, emphasise that it is one of the finest courses. The authorities are determined to make it a pride course just as Mohali’s cricket stadium has turned out to be.
Chandigarh has become the country’s nerve-centre in sports. There are many national and international level officials and sportspersons stationed in the city. The sports arenas are being given a face-lift so that participants continue to make quick progress.
As Hero Honda Tour’s southern leg of competitions come to an end this month, the golf pros will be seen in action in Delhi and around. One of the most important events — Honda Siel — will be played at DLF Course (Gurgaon) from October 3 to 6. The pro-am will be held on October 2. The competition carries a prize money of Rs 25 lakh.
There are several reasons for this competition shifting from prestigious the Delhi Golf Club to DLF Country Club. One of the most important reasons is said to be DGC’s demand for berths in the pro-am event. The sponsors and organisers have their own limitations and they cannot meet the demands of the DGC. The DLF authorities, in comparison, make a very reasonable demand and also provide all facilities to the organisers in the club and on course, which is definitely less busy than the DGC’s course.
Whatever may be cricket’s following, golf in the country is on the up-swing as Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI) and Tiger Sports are blending superbly to render the annual calendar stronger than before. The TMS’s livewire Brandon De Souza has emerged out of ‘health scare’ and is as active on and off the course as before. His shedding off 9 kg of weight gives one the impression that he is re-starting participation in pro golf.
Vijay misses cut
In his first tournament, Volvo China, Vijay Kumar narrowly missed ‘cut’ as he lacked in experience. The sponsors and promoters are optimistic that he will make his presence felt in the Asian circuit before he completes his IO-event tour. The sponsors are said to have told him: "Don’t worry, be happy and play your natural game".
Playing competitive golf abroad is far tougher than playing on home courses. As Vijay realises this and develops fighting temperament, he will have his imprint in the circuit. He has the talent and skill. But he has to develop faith in himself that he is inferior to none. Therein lies his success.
In the passing of the resolution on ‘tenure membership’ at the extraordinary meeting, the Delhi Golf Club has lost many friends. Officially, the resolution has been carried 75-24, but the opposition, led by Akash Lal, has shouted ‘wolf, wolf’.
One has not only to be
honest but appear to be honest. If the management was confident of the
75-24 verdict, they should have ordered for ‘re-count’ instead of
adjourning the meeting. Allegations and counter-allegations have not
enhanced the DGC’s prestige.
A satisfactory Indian cricket tour
Douglas Hondo wrecked the Indian batting line-up and the Indians were struggling at 87 for 5 when Mohammed Kaif joined Rahul Dravid. Both of them laid the foundation of the Indian victory but it was Kaif whose knock of 111 from 112 balls helped India score 288 for 6. No doubt Kaif gave the rivals a chance when the score was 225 but he played a cool and calm innings. No one can forget his two boundaries on the leg-side. Coming at No 7 and scoring a century is a real achievement. But for his innings, the result of the match would have been totally different.
Kudos to Rahul Dravid for his brilliant batting display throughout the Test series in England. He again proved himself as the most reliable batsman for India. Aggregating 600 plus runs from four Tests speaks volumes of his extraordinary qualities. His innings of 217 runs in the last Test requires a special mention, as he hardly gave any chance to the Englishmen. Congratulations, to Saurav Ganguly and his men, as it was the most satisfactory overseas tour for India in many years.
The recent Test series in England ended well for Rahul Dravid who scored 602 runs in six innings averaging 100.33. He hit three consecutive centuries in the last three innings ending with 217 at Leeds. In the last Test match a total of 1023 runs were scored in the first innings.
Despite good performances by the Indian hockey team in the Champions Trophy held at Cologne, recently, India suffered defeats by conceding last minute goals to Holland and Germany. We were leading Holland 3-2 but the score was soon level 3-3. We were also holding Germany 2-2 but conceded a goal in the dying moments to lose 2-3. But the biggest upset was registered by Pakistan who were trailing 1-3 12 minutes from the close. In these 12 minutes Pakistan outplayed India and scored three quick goals to win the game 4-3 and deprive India of the bronze medal. At the Sydney Olympics India lost the chance of entering the last four. Will our coaches and senior players do something?
In the Champions Trophy, despite the pivotal role of Dhanraj Pillay, most of the goals came through promising full back Jugraj Singh. India repeated the same story of first squandering the hard-earned lead and then surrendering from all angles to lose the fight for the bronze in the 24th Champions Trophy. In their very first league encounter, India were leading 3-2 but they let the Dutch equalise in the dying minutes. In the second match, the Germans scripted a 3-2 victory, again in the last few minutes. Arch rivals Pakistan, trailing 1-3 till the 62nd minute, scored three goals in five minutes to walk away with the bronze.