|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, August 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
And finally the Afro-Asian Games are on
Hyped-up Indians shown their place
And finally the Afro-Asian Games are on
This can only happen in India. The Afro-Asian Games have been in the news for quite some time now but the final approval from the government has come just two months before the scheduled start of the event. As per a report in one of the newspapers "the Cabinet today (August 23) approved a proposal for holding the first Afro-Asian Games in Hyderababd from October 24 following a recommendation by the Afro-Asian Games Council".
It is totally beyond comprehension why the Cabinet should take such a long time and so close to actual staging of the Games to give its approval.
It was at most a formality since the decision to allow Hyderabad to host the Games must have been taken as far back as the National Games held in the city last year.
And again why should another approval be needed when the Government had already okayed the proposal when it was first scheduled to be held in Delhi in 2001.
Not only was the approval given but the government had virtually taken over the entire organisation with the Sports Minister, Ms Uma Bharati, being made in charge of the whole show.
The cancellation because of the 9/11 happenings in the USA was on government orders but the subsequent postponement to November this year must have had its blessings.
But the change of venue following the bait of "world-class infrastructure" offered by Mr Chandrababu Naidu at the National Games perhaps necessitated a fresh approval for a project which was totally Indian in thought. Though there was no formal statement from the government, it was taken for granted by one and all that Hyderabad would be the venue for the postponed Games and all that remained was a matter of financial implications and the amount the Centre had to fork out.
Thus the question of Cabinet approval at this stage was rather strange since the project was approved with Delhi as host.
It stood approved again with Delhi as host of the postponed event. In the event the consent should have automatically been extended to Hyderabad which took over the mantle as hosts. As things stand one should be grateful for small mercies. The Cabinet could have taken more time, perhaps another month and more to send the signal.
It is, however, difficult to understand the lack of urgency on the part of the government, particularly when it is well versed with the calendar followed by the international sports organisations and more so when it is a party to host the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 for which the bidding had to be made some eight years earlier.
Political compulsions or whatever the reasons for the delay, the Games have suffered even before the scheduled start. One of the most popular events of the Afro-Asian Games, the football competition, is the hardest hit with Senegal reportedly withdrawing and Cameroon, pressed with engagements in Europe, reduced to sending a team minus its stars.
For all the negative publicity the Games have received and the suspense created by the governments, one hopes Mr Chandrababu Naidu and Hyderbabad would make a success of the event.
There are some other grey areas, too, which need to be attended to. One of them pertain to the format of the Games, particularly in events like athletics.
There is need to liberalise the format and opening these individual events to cover more competitors.
The present mode envisaging the top two athletes from the continents with the host filling in the remaining spots may work to India’s benefit in the inaugural Games but that is all.
Unless the format is changed to include a wider field there is every possibility that Indian athletes may not be figuring in the successive editions, if there are any, of the Games.
The IOA must ensure Indian presence in
the Afro Asian Games after the Hyderabad edition by asking for a change
of rules. Otherwise it will look ridiculous if India as founder and host
of the inaugural competition is not able to figure in the editions to
Hyped-up Indians shown their place
The 25th Champions Trophy proved if proof was indeed needed that Indian hockey has a long way to go before it can hope for a podium place in a big international competition.
This is not the first time that Indian hockey raised such high expectations. The only difference in 1992 and 1996 and now is that there were no TV channels to blow the slightest Indian triumph out of proportion.
In 1992 just before Barcelona Olympics, India went on a five-nation European tour and won 14 matches, drew one and lost one. The visitors won two tests each against Belgium, England, Wales and Holland and drew Test series 1-1 against Germany.
India also figured in a four-nation tournament then and after winning all the matches in round robin league lost to Spain in the final. But in the Barcelona Olympics, the Indians fared miserably.
The Indians then won Azlan Shah hockey in 1995 but in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics they finished way down the leaderboard. Same was the case in the Sydney Olympics. India just had to beat Poland ,a very lowly team but muffed an open chance in the dying moments that cost them a place in the semifinals.
So when it comes to real competitions like the Champions Trophy, World Cup or Olympics, Indians are always in the vicinity of sixth or seventh place given the number of the teams.
In the 25th edition of the Champions Trophy, India had little to show by way of their performance. India who scored less goals then Argentina who finished fifth would have been in a worse position had world champions Germany fielded their full team.
The view that India lost the match against Holland that they should have won does not hold water because the defending champions were far superior to them in all departments of the game. The character of the game has changed dramatically. There is no off side rule and no team is assured of victory till the last minute because chances to score or equalise are there till the end.
Holland conceded three goals but when they got chances they pumped in at will and the way they were going, they could have won by much higher margin.
The Indians did not make it to the 3/4 play off on their own. It were the Australians who did a favour by routing Argentina 8-3 and due to better goal difference India’s hopes for a bronze were raised.
India, while winning two matches and losing four, scored 19 goals and conceded 23, and that speaks itself for their forward line and defence.
In a tournament in which goals were scored seconds before the long whistle, the Indians have no excuse to offer for their defeats at the hands of Holland, Australia, Argentina and Pakistan.
The Indians struggled to beat Germany which was blasted by all the teams except Argentina.
The Indians cannot take refuge under the pretext of their "stunning defeat" against Holland for their demoralised show, barring against Pakistan in the league match, Australia also lost to the hosts in the league but made it to the final.
Indian defence was tentative, forwards lacked precision and midfield was not consistant but all these were swept under carpet as they routed arch rivals Pakistan 7-4 in a dramatic match.
Suddenly everybody from coach to goalkeeper to captain and to forwards were on TV screens. They talked endlessly about the sudden transformation in the team, little realising that they were out of the reckoning for the gold or silver and were not sure of 3/4 play off.
However, history repeated itself. If it was a tragedy in the Cologne edition last year, it became a farce for the Indians who again lost to Pakistan after thrice taking the lead to finish fourth.
Rajinder, however, defended his choice of players and also the substitutions. "Everything depends on the match situation, and I did not see the need to use my bench strength."
Champions Trophy is one of the two tournaments conducted by the world hockey body (FIH), the other being the World Cup.
The Indians must realise that there is difference between these two tournaments and the three-nation tournaments. Victory is important but after winning a small tournament it is more important to keep one’s cool.
Indians were lucky that Germany sent a developmental team and there were no Spain or Korea in this tournament.
Indian hockey has to get out of its Pakistan-centric attitude. It is feel good factor when India beats Pakistan but sometimes it may be good for India to lose to Pakistan if that helps them to win the top slot. There is a need for Indian selectors to be ruthless. Sentiments and emotions have no role while picking up the team for the country. Time and again many unfit players were selected just because of their reputations and the country had to pay the price.
Unnecessary hype before important tournaments has never helped any team. One knows what happened to South Africa in the cricket World Cup or France in the soccer World Cup.
Yet another monthly golf magazine will hit the stands on September 4, 2003. The magazine produced by Tiger Sports Marketing and Media Transasia, will be called the ‘Golf Style’. Inderjit Bushwar will be the Editor, while Brandon de Souza will be the Managing Editor. Joy Chakravraty will be Senior Editor.
This will be third monthly magazine. Two already existing magazines are Golf Lines (Bangalore) and Golf Digest (Delhi). Golf is indeed on the take-off in this country. But there are apprehensions whether there is sufficient corporate backing for three to survive and throb. Only time will tell.
When cricket was finding its feet in this country in a big way, three sports magazines — Sportstar, Sports Week and Sports World — sprang up. All three had backing of wellknown newspapers. But with the passage of time, two closed down. First Sports Week went out of circulation and then Sports World died. Now Only Sportstar is serving the cause of sports in the country.
Golf has indeed a lot of readership in the country. But Indians have never been known to buy magazines and books to read. They believe in borrowing and never endeavouring to return books and magazines. Even libraries are not buying as readily as they should. According to publishers, librarians want their own pound of flesh. This is indeed shocking. But more shocking is that leading golf clubs in the country are devoid of their own libraries. No wonder, material on golf is difficult to secure.
The first fund-raising Daksh Prayas Golf Tournament will be held at Classic Golf Resort (Gurgaon) on September 7. The day-long competition will be teed-off by Kapil Dev. Renowned corporate houses and eminent personalities will be seen in action.
The meet, with many innovations, will indeed be a fun competition but leading corporates will play the round with all intensity to win the trophy.
While announcing the date for the tournament, Kapil Dev said he was indeed happy to have been involved with the project. Proceeds from the tournament will go towards bringing alive a new health institution for under privileged children.
According to organisers, the response for participation in the competition is very encouraging. It will be a delight to watch players of varying shapes and sizes play. Some professionals will also figure in the competition.
In the first competition for ladies this season at Chennai, two young players, 12-year-old Vaishnavi Sinha (Noida) and 11-year-old Meghna Behl (Delhi) showed their promise and talent in no uncertain manner. They showed that they were getting ready to take on renowned Indian stars.
Both Vaishnavi and Meghna had returned after undergoing useful training in Malaysia and South Africa, respectively. Those who watched them play say that both have modelled their game on scientific lines and should progress quicker than other girls.
Junior golf needs more support and guidance than professional golfers. Here Indian Golf Union will have to be alive to the situation.
A promising lad
A tiny-tot in the age group of 7-8 has
done marvellously in the world competition. As a mark of recognition,
the Delhi Golf Club has allowed him to play at the course. But his
father spends all day at the club. Should he do that? He should leave
his child alone. Let him grow independent. Does his father or mother
stay in school when he goes to his classes? The child is lucky that he
has a sponsor. This is a healthy sign of encouragement.
What ails Indian hockey
THE biggest drawback of Indian hockey players against European teams is that they do not release the ball quickly. The more they hang on to the ball the more they suffer. Baljit Singh Saini and Baljit Singh Dhillon have this drawback. Symptoms of this disease are also showing in Prabhjot Singh, who otherwise is a powerful player. Our dribbling and short passes have failed to produce any fruitful results against the Europeans. Therefore, a strategy of long passes should be adopted. Moreover, Indians invariably play slow hockey. At present, the Australians and the Dutch play the fastest hockey in the world. As per one estimate, the Australian players exchange the ball among themselves 50 times in a minute, whereas the Indians are very slow. Our defenders, who offer penalty corners on a platter, should be properly trained to remain cautious in their own territory. Lastly, our former hockey stars should not give uncalled for comments during a tournament. Overall, the present combination is capable of bringing laurels in future.
JATINDER SHARMA, Nawanshahr
Lack of coordination resulted in India’s defeat in the Champions Trophy. Only Gagan Ajit Singh and Dhanraj Pillay played well. Making changes in the team is necessary. It is indeed shameful that we do not have 11 players who can challenge the Europeans.
Dr RAJAN MALHOTRA, Palampur
Hockey fans were disillusioned when Holland, Australia and Argentina outclassed India displaying superiority in all departments of the game in the Champions Trophy. Our hockey has been crippled due to faulty selection. India are no match to the formidable Europeans due to lack of talent, poor stamina and speed. The Indians can’t depend on dribbling against the hit-and-run method coupled with fast speed of the Europeans.
JASWANT SINGH SANDHU, Jalandhar
India finished fourth in the Champions Trophy and coach Rajinder Singh admitted that that the team committed 'harakiri' by missing as many as eight gilt-edged chances. The coach also said that Pakistan dashed their hopes of winning the bronze. Missed chances have cost India dear on more than one occasion. The team must address this problem urgently.
BMSingh Narang, Chandigarh