SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, September 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India

Time for rethink on awards
Ramu Sharma
HE awards drama for the year is over. The presentation ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan last week brought an end to a debate which was quite unnecessary but at the same time very damaging to the very cause the occasion espoused. It was the largest awards presentation ceremony ever which also fuelled speculation whether the whole affair was worth the exercise.

Sledging and Sunil Gavaskar
K.R. Wadhwaney
HE Concise Oxford dictionary says: “Sledging is a cricket slang — the heaping of insults on an opposing player in order to break his or her concentration”. Though in operation for several years, sledging has always been of two types. One is a verbal onslaught and another is subtly enacted exercise on the ground and off it.




Time for rethink on awards
Ramu Sharma

THE awards drama for the year is over. The presentation ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan last week brought an end to a debate which was quite unnecessary but at the same time very damaging to the very cause the occasion espoused. It was the largest awards presentation ceremony ever which also fuelled speculation whether the whole affair was worth the exercise.

It is a nation’s duty to honour its outstanding sportspersons. Every other country does it and though India’s record on the field of sport is rather dismissive considering its size and population. There is no reason why it should lag behind. But unless and until some order is brought about and a more positive approach is adopted, the whole affair will be reduced to a ritual.

Till a few years ago there was just more than a passing interest in the awards among the public. For every one person selected there must have been a number of others unhappy at behind left out of consideration and perhaps some deserving cases were ignored but overall there was not so much fuss when the selection was made.

The trouble started when money was associated with the awards. And there was more bitterness among the rejected when facilities of free train journeys were added to the awards. The awards were now loaded with goodies and everyone thought he or she should have been considered. What made it even worse was when sportspersons were asked to apply for the awards. This was perhaps the dangerous step ever taken by the authorities. The awards, it appeared, could literally be had for the “asking”.

Those involved with the awards in the Sports Ministry could be said to have acted rather hastily. No one doubted their intentions but with so many pulls and pressures, the measures adopted for the benefit of the sportspersons seems to have gone out of control. Ms Uma Bharati was clueless when it came to money incentives. She acted more on sentiment and wrong advise while increasing the financial dole of the medal winners. Needless to say that she was totally in the dark about the standards in the various international competitions.

But this general lack of understanding and knowledge about sport has been the main problem with those who hold the political reins of Indian sport. The blame for this should be shared by the government ruling at the centre and the federations where not many of the office bearers appear to have much knowledge of not only their own sport in specific terms but also of sport as part of a day to day culture. The rather sad part is the large number of politicians who have jumped on to the bandwagon of sports. It is not good for sports, particularly in the Indian context where sports does not figure very high on the priority list and a medal is the only language which appeals to them.

In view of the controversy surrounding the latest awards, the ministry would be advised to do a rethink on the whole procedure. First and foremost it must be made clear that awards are only for performances of high quality with consistency as the theme. And secondly, the ministry in consultation with sports federations, must make it very clear that awards need not be given every year. There were more performances to record last year because both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games were held within months of each other. This year, barring the World Cup Athletics and Champions Trophy there are not many important events. That should mean fewer awards at stake and in turn it means not many in line for the Arjuna Awards next year. There are many other associated issues which could be thrashed out. But in the main it must be made clear that awards will be given only for those who upgrade national marks in international meets.


Sledging and Sunil Gavaskar
K.R. Wadhwaney

THE Concise Oxford dictionary says: “Sledging is a cricket slang — the heaping of insults on an opposing player in order to break his or her concentration”.

Though in operation for several years, sledging has always been of two types. One is a verbal onslaught and another is subtly enacted exercise on the ground and off it. The motive of both is to make a dent into concentration of the opposing player. Both are intimidatory tactics.

If the abusive words are used in a heat of moment to disturb the rhythm of the opposing player, the subtle sledging also brings into focus the player’s unsporting attitude and behaviour. Both types of tactics are causing insurmountable harm to the game, once a noble discipline.

If bowling bouncers have been brought under check, the verbal beamers, now a common strategy, are being thrown by all Test teams, including Indians. Here Australians have mastered this art and they have succeeded in upsetting opponents more with their questionable tactics than with their bowling or fielding.

The menace continues to grow as chucking has gone unabated. This is because the authorities are weak. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is no more than a paper tiger. The main reason why it has not been able to discipline players is that it usually observes two sets of rules — one for favourite individuals and another for other players.

In the MCC spirit of cricket lecture, India’s eminent cricket personality said: “Sledging has degenerated into downright personal abuse. If there is protection for the umpire from the players, why not protection to players from abusive players?” The celebrated star adds: “...Unless something is done about it (sledging), the good name of the game that we all know will be in mud”.

Blaming the marked decline in the behaviour of players on the field to the modern world of commercialisation of the game, the advent of satellite television and the motto of winning at any cost, Gavaskar went on to say that ‘sportsmanship has gone for a six’ in the last 15 years or so.

What India’s cricket God Gavaskar has said is nothing but total truth. But the fact of the matter is that he himself was guilty of sledging during his playing days when the game was not so commercialised.

There are several instances of Gavaskar’s sledging at home and abroad and on ground and off it. Here only a few blatant instances are quoted.

1. Ranji semifinal between Karnataka and Bombay in 1982. Left-handed spinner Raghu Ram Bhatt claimed eight wickets for 123. This included a hat-trick as Bombay were dismissed for 271. Sudharkar Rao hit an unbeaten 155 as Karnataka piled up 470 in reply. Bhatt, batting at number 11, scored 30 before being run out. He added 91 runs for the last wicket with Rao.

Gavaskar, the Bombay skipper, was frustrated. In Bombay’s second innings, he did not come at his customary position of an opener but he came to bat at number eight, with Bombay needing 39 runs to avoid an innings defeat. He chose to bat left-handed, and Karnataka could not dismiss him. He played 66 deliveries, 60 of them left-handed. His batting left, right, left was not only a kind of sledging but a gesture of contempt to all concerned.

Late Ashok Kamath (he rose to become a Resident Editor of the national daily) was a reporter when, in an open letter to Gavaskar, he said:

“Tut, tut, tut.

“Some blokes just have no sense of humour. Look at how they reacted to your great show on the last day. One indignant soul stood up and chanted loudly: left, right, left. For a moment I imagined that it was a military command coming from the nearby MEG Parade Ground...... Great show, skipper. You have proved a point...”

Kamath adds: “... I presume that your behaviour that day could vaguely be called gamesmanship. I also suppose that, to quote your own words, on the question of gamesmanship, you believe ‘the best way to try and take it as part of the entertainment so long as it is not destructive, so long as it is not personal and so long it does not offend public taste. I wonder how many of your team-mates who were witnesses believe that your pranks were not destructive, not personal and did not offend public taste”.

2. Duleep final between South and West at Bombay in 1986-87. South won after taking a big first innings lead. The relevant parts of the review say: “The pressure developed to the extent where the Godlike figure of Gavaskar, who would like to give the impression that he can do no wrong, resorted to the type of gamesmanship and pressure tactics on umpires which have become a cause of concern for cricket administrators all over the world.”

“Srikanth had hurt himself while fielding the previous day, but he did not leave the field. Naturally, he could not have asked for a runner, even though he was in obvious pain while running between the wickets. “But was there any justification for Gavaskar seemingly trying to deliberately aggravate the effects of the injury? He could be seen gesturing to fielders to take a shy at Srikanth’s end at the slightest of pretexts, perhaps in the hope that one sharp turn would put Srinath out of action... Srikanth did exchanges words with the little master on the field”.

3. In the same match, the Azharuddin and Sadanand Vishwanath fifth wicket blossomed. Gavaskar shocked every one present on the ground when he appealed for a catch in the slips against Azharuddin when the ball bounced off the ground in front of him. Then fielders gheraoed the umpire. Azharuddin and Vishwanath expressed their indignation at the goings-on. Gavaskar gave a dressing down to Vishwanath. When asked, Gavaskar said that he merely told Vishwanath that he retained the right to appeal.

4. India-Pakistan fourth Test at Ahmedabad in 1987. First day. Pakistan were in trouble when an ugly scene developed between Gavaskar and Younis Ahmed. They exchanged hot words. The umpire had to intervene. Gavaskar alleged that Younis had been grumbling about the umpiring. When Younis survived an appeal off Yadav, Gavaskar retorted: “Now at least will you stop grumbling”? This led to further trouble. Younis threatened Gavaskar showing his bat. Gavaskar dared him. Younis then said that he would settle the issue in the dressing room.

As the day’s game ended, Gavaskar was seen standing outside the Pakistan dressing room. He met Pakistan manager Syed Nasir Ahmed and asked him: “Where is your number four? He said that he would teach me a lesson. Nasir replied him: “Younis told him that you (Gavaskar) had abused him”. “With his reputation, do you really believe him?” Gavaskar quipped and left.

Should a player of the reputation and stature of Gavaskar have stood outside the Pakistan dressing room?

Off the ground

1. At a party hosted by film producer Barkha, for her sister Reena on the completion of their movie ‘Karishma’, Gavaskar said: “Indian films are made by assess for masses”. This kind of statement showed his frustration as he had failed to make a break-through in this industry.

Says Dev Anand: “Here is a case of vindictiveness and Sunny’s remarks smack not only of frustration but malicious intentions he bore against the film world which threw him out”.

Late Janki Das, producer and actor was once a renowned national cyclist. He wanted to file a suit in the Supreme Court. But Amitabh Bachchan stepped in the controversy. He wrote to Janki Das, saying: “May be a meeting with Gavaskar would solve a great deal of the problem, rather than your taking such a hard line. Gavaskar is a personal friend of mine and when I meet him next I shall not hesitate to express the feelings his alleged statement has asoused within our fraternity”.

There are two schools of thought. Those, who are blind followers of Gavaskar, say that the quoted incidents do not fall in the category of sledging. Dispassionate observers say that these incidents pertain to his playing days when he was youthful and brash. Since then, he has grown calm, sedate and matured and he has every right to say what is good for the game and what is not.


Kudos to Anju Bobby George

Three cheers to Indian athlete Anju Bobby George who won the first ever medal for India in the Athletics World Championships. The 26-year-old athlete from Changanachery made India proud by winning the bronze medal. Prior to this, Anju also won an Asian Games gold and a Commonwealth Games bronze. She registered improvement in a short span. We can hope of a gold from her in the forthcoming Olympic Games.



Hats off to Anju Bobby George for becoming the first ever Indian to win a medal at the World Championships. Her name will now go into history books. It shows that the talent is there which needs to be traced. Proper diet and facilities are also necessary. The mindset of parents who stress on 'studies' needs to be changed. Training by international achievers is another requirement. Let us forget cricket for some time.

H.S. DIMPLE, Jagraon


Long jumper Anju Bobby George has added yet another feather to the cap of Indian athletics. After the legendary T.C. Yohnan who made history for India with a gold medal jump at the Asian Games, it was Anju George who cornered glory for India. After securing the bronze at the recently concluded World Championships hopes have been pinned on her for a medal in the Olympics. Credit goes to the budding athlete who has properly exploited her talent through scientific coaching.


Short distance

At the World Championships in Paris, Anju George could not jump the same distance which she achieved on home soil. Her national record in this event is 6.74 metres. At Paris despite the good track and after getting training from Mike Powel, which cost the Indian Government Rs 30 lakh, she jumped a distance of 6.70 metres.

On the other hand "Flying Sikh" Milkha Singh clocked 46.1 seconds on home soil in 400 metres and in the Rome Olympics he clocked 45.6 seconds.


Jugraj Singh

The report about the accident involving promising hockey star Jugraj Singh came as a bolt from the blue for Indians in general and hockey fans in particular. At present, he can be termed as the commander-in-chief of our hockey team as he is a master-blaster. To my mind, it is not Jugraj but Indian hockey which has been hospitalised. I pray to the Almighty to bestow enough energy to this wounded lion to roar again in the field of international hockey. I also request the Chief Minister of Punjab to rush to DMC with a letter of promotion for Jugraj after his excellent performance in the recent Champions Trophy.