|SPORTS TRIBUNE||Saturday, October 25, Chandigarh, India|
crowds to stadiums
exploits left a lasting impression
hampers national wrestling champ
back crowds to stadiums
Whatever has happened to the sports loving public of India? The crowd has virtually disappeared from the stadiums of the main cities. It does not matter what the game is. The public appears to have totally given up the habit of going to the stadiums to see the action from the stands. One of the main reasons advanced relates to the influence of television. That could be true perhaps only of cricket, and that too for the conventional five-day Test matches.
In this respect the empty stands during the recent Test match against New Zealand in the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad was a candid expression of the near total domination of television to add to the declining interest in five- day cricket in India. But the absence of crowds at the same time also dealt a big blow to the continually touted notion about the popularity of cricket in the country.
The game is popular, a social event, a gambler’s joy but that is all. It is, however, not enticing enough for the common man to buy a ticket and sit in the stands a full five days of a match. It is a selective popularity and are contradictions of an ethos totally Indian. A one-day match is of course a different proposition though here the crowd participation depends entirely on the contestants involved. The public is very particular about this aspect of the game.
Cricket, however, is not the only game that has drifted away from the common man in recent times. Even football, arguably the most popular sport in the country despite the noise made about cricket, does not have the type of attendance for which it was known till the eighties. And television cannot be blamed for lack of public support from the stands in this case. The only way to enjoy domestic football competition is from the stands.
Perhaps the biggest sufferer is hockey. This was a sport which used to draw big crowds all over. One of the main reasons was of course the star-value available on the field since India was one of the top hockey playing countries in the world. All that is gone. These days there are very few stars and the game too appears to be losing its hold on the public.
Contrast the lack of crowd support these days to the earlier times where every football match, irrespective of the star rating, attracted large number of people. It did not matter if the fare offered was good. Local football and hockey attracted its own variation while the bigger tournaments packed the stadiums on the sheer weight of their importance. It was the same case with badminton, table tennis, volleyball, basketball and other related games. The crowd was always there.
Television can only be blamed for capturing important events. But what is the explanation for the lack of interest even at the local level? Except perhaps in Kerala and smaller centres of Punjab there is hardly any public response to even state level competitions.
It is very difficult to understand the diminishing interest of the public in domestic sport. This aspect is all the more intriguing since there is much more debate on sport at various levels. Sport in fact has become more of a debating point than anything else with the fortunes of the national team given all the importance.
One of the main reasons for this declining interest could be that competitive sports is no longer a source of enjoyment. It is now totally performance oriented with the money aspect the overriding theme. No longer does any one watch a football or a hockey match to derive pleasure. He wants his team to win at any cost. The quality of the game is of little importance.
And the public, too, has gone international. It is only interested in India’s performance at the international level. It is no longer interested in the domestic competition, even cricket. Ranji Trophy matches for instance are played to empty stadiums irrespective of the star value in the teams. The same is the case with competitions in football, hockey and other games at the national level.
Some of the federations, too, appear to be oriented towards international events, the entire concentration being on preparing national teams rather then development and promotion of the sport at home.
The net result is that
India sport is nearly all for export promotion, nothing for home
consumption. That is perhaps one of the causes of a near total eclipse
of domestic level sport and the subsequent loss of interest among the
public. Something must be done to revive the interest at the domestic
level. Then only will the crowds come back.
exploits left a lasting impression
What Dhyan Chand was to hockey, Wilson Lionel Garton Jones was to billiards. They had magnetism in their hands: ball just stayed glued to their sticks.
Called ‘Gentle Giant’, Wilson was as much a father of billiards as Prof D.B. Deodhar was of cricket. It was just a coincidence that both belonged to a small city, Pune.
These similarities do not end here. All three stayed modest all along without gloating about their achievements, which were many and unparalleled. Again, all three were virtually uncared for by their respective federations.
The exploits of Jones have been so fascinating and admirable that they have left a lasting impression on billiards and generations for this marvellous sports, called green baize.
Jones was at his dazzling best at Calcutta’s great Eastern Hotel where, in 1958, he became the first Indian to wear the World-Amateur billiards crown. His display in this championship was captivating to all those who had the privilege to be present in the hall. His blazing achievements and accomplishments played a pivotal role in providing a great fillip to the game which, among others, saw Geet Sethi revel in the game in later years.
Jones regained the title of World Championship in 1964 at War Memorial Town Hall, Pukehole (New Zealand) after failing at the doorsteps in the final in 1960 and again in the final in 1962. He retired in 1967. He played in seven World Championships.
Jones’ record in domestic circuit was mind-boggling as he won the national title for 12 times in 1950-52, 1954-55, 1957, 1960-61, 1963-66. He was also national snooker champion in 1948, 1952, 1954, 1958 and 1960. Twice in 1954 and 1960, he won the billiards-snooker double.
Essentially self-taught and self-coached, he picked up finer points of occupying ‘top table’ from his renowned four predecessors, Walter Lindrum (Australia), Joe Davis and Tom Newman (England), and Clerk McConally (New Zealand), whom he had an occasion to watch.
Jones was an intense competitor. When he felt that it was time to retire, he did it without any fuss. He immediately took to teaching youngsters with the same intensity. Among his numerous pupils are two famous players, Michael Ferreira and Geet Sethi. Both readily acknowledge that Jones was their ‘Guru’s’ crusading spirit. For Ferreira and Sethi to say this shows how humble they continue to remain and how great Jones was in his coaching ability.
In his illustrious career, Jones did have occasions to meet many world renowned celebrities. But one moment that he remembered fondly was when he called on the President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, and Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Jones recalled: "As I entered his (Nehru’s) room, I saw him leave the kidney-shaped table at which he was at work. He came up to me lightly on his feet, his eyes lit up with happiness as though he was meeting a long last friend. And he shook my hand warmly. It was my proudest moment".
A journalist of the national daily about this meeting summed up as thus: "When great men meet, what do they talk about? Nothing, really, and not much for headlines. There is about such a meeting a silence most eloquent, and eloquence most silent. So little is said and yet so much understood".
The meeting lasted roughly seven minutes. Of this, photographers took four minutes merrily clicking away. When Jones was leaving, Panditji, in his own typical style, told him: "Try to keep the trophies as long as you can".
Decorated with ‘Padma Shri’ in 1966, Jones deserves to be decorated with Padma Bhushan posthumously. Winner of ‘Dronacharya’ in 1996, he said: "I dropped ‘Garton’ because it sounds too English.
This showed his nationalism and humility. It was an education to talk to him. (My last meeting with him was in 1997 in Ashoka Hotel after he had received the Dronacharya award.)
Born at Pune on May 2, 1922, Jones was a voracious eater in his young days. He once took 12 kulfies after taking a full Gujarati meal.
Wilson was a brilliant after-dinner speaker. His style of delivery and method of narration were marvellous. He was a store-house of anecdotes. He would hold audience spell-bound just as he held them spellbound with his artistry on the table.
The pity is that Wilson died unsung and unheralded. Yet another noble soul leaves permanently and sporting world is indeed shrinking.
hampers national wrestling champ
Penury comes in the way of Meena, 18-year-old national wrestling champion from Haryana, making a confident shot at a gold medal for the country at the international level.
"I have to support my two unemployed brothers Ajit Singh and Vikram and parents as agriculture income from a small land holding is not sufficient," Ms Meena, who was crowned national wrestling champion in the 48 kg category Hyderabad National Games, told The Tribune at her modest house in Bamla village in Bhiwani.
The national champion, who has also been national junior judo champion said if she could get a job, her financial worries would be over leaving her only to concentrate on getting an international title.
A dilapidated house with ‘kucha’ floor vouches for Meena’s economic hardships. Though she refuses that family may under debt in view of the last year’s drought, people from her village suspect her claim.
Meena won accolades for her village when in 2002-2003 national championship at Hyderabad she and Virender Garewal (120kg category) of the same village emerged national champions.
She revealed that her staple diet includes two litres of milk daily apart from vegetables, dal and fruit.
The 21-year-old Virender Garewal has got a job in the Railways. Bamla village boasts of nearly 20 national players in judo and wrestling and 100 of state level. Garemal says that her twin goals were doing MA in English and an international gold medal in wrestling were achievable but for financial security to the family.
Ms Meena is worried that her brothers were not in a position to support the family for long.
Her elder brother, is a state level sprinter in the 1500 metre category. He owes his success to Meena a s she inspired him to be an athlete.
Despite shuttling between Bhiwani and Bamla village for her studies and two sessions of practice every day, Meena spares an hour daily for her younger brother Vikram before starting her studies late in the night.
Praising her daughter, Kartar Singh, her father said he encouraged her daughter to take wrestling seriously.
The only regular income of the family is what Meena earned from wrestling bouts as last year drought did not leave the family with enough resources to continue education of Meena and two brothers.
Though her father tries to keep Meena away from household chores and work in farms, she never misses an opportunity to work in the fields and tend to two buffaloes.
Meena says: "I am proud of my parents specially mother who had encouraged me to follow in the footsteps of elder brother of my father Kapoor Singh who had also been crowned at the national level."
Hayden’s knock praiseworthy
Hats off to Mathew Hayden who shattered the world record of West Indian Brian Lara. Hayden, scored 380 runs. Such a knock is rarely seen in modern cricket. Ray Price had to face the music when Hayden hit him for several sixes. Other bowlers were also treated with scant respect. Players and artists do not belong to any country so I feel proud of his magnificent performance.
— ANKIT ARORA, Rohtak
Kudos to Mathew Hayden for his record breaking score. He surpassed Lara’s 375. Hayden deserves all praise as he scored these runs with great aggressiveness.
— R.N. BHART, Batala
The first Test at Ahmedabad got off to a fine start for the Indian side but the Kiwis with their dogged determination forced a draw. While Sachin Tendulkar still has to find his rhythm, Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly gave fine performances. At the end the second day’s play, when India piled up a whopping 500 for 5 declared, Kiwis were left gasping for breath. Our bowlers, including Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer and Balaji bowled brilliantly but failed to get wickets.
— PROF SUDHIR GHAI, Ludhiana
Asia Cup hockey
The Indian hockey team did a splendid job in the finals of the Asia Cup. By defeating South Korea in the semis and Pakistan in the final, the Indians have shown their superiority in the continent. It was their first title win in the Asia Cup. The victory at Kuala Lumpur was a sweet gift for the injured Jugraj.
— RAJAN PARMAR, Dharamsala
Hockey lovers all over the country feel proud of the Indian hockey team. Their combined efforts have resulted in victory in the Asia Cup for the first time. This splendid win is all the more praiseworthy as it was achieved without the services of India’s penalty corner specialist Jugraj Singh.
Before the tournament the Pakistan skipper had openly declared that no team could stop Pakistan from lifting the Asia Cup. This turned out to be an empty boast.
— NATHA SINGH, Ludhiana
Heartiest congratulations to the victorious Indian hockey team. These boys have really given a boost to the morale of hockey lovers. I have been waiting to see such success since long. Immediately after the victory I was delighted to read the news about announcement of cash prize for victorious hockey team by Mr Jagjit Puri.
— IQBAL SINGH, Ludhiana
Our hockey team’s triumph in the 6th Asia Cup at Kuala Lumpur is laudable. In the final India outclassed arch-rivals, Pakistan in all departments of the game and won 4-2. Earlier, in the semifinals, our boys outplayed the tough South Koreans, Throughout the Asia Cup our team played like champions. Coach Rajinder Singh, deserves congratulations for this glorious performance.
— SHRI RAM SHARMA, Bhiwani
Reading about the removal of sportsmen in the police I am reminded of my class mate Prithipal, the great hockey full back who won the Olympic gold. He was a high first divisioner throughout up to M.Sc from PAU. He was not only fearless full back but also fearless in life. The question of psycophancy did not arise and he openly used to voice concern over police high-handedness. A former DIG took it as defiance and told him that he would rot as an SI throughout his life. I was posted as SDO Irrigation in 1957 at Gandakheri near his village where he met me and asked me for an introduction with the late Partap Singh Kairon. I told him that Mr Kairon did not require any recommendation for an introduction.
On meeting him, Mr Kairon rang up Mr Ayanta Swamy Ayangar, Union Railway Minister, to inquire if he had any job for Prithipal. A telegram appointing Prithipal as Welfare Officer, Northern Railway, was received on the breakfast table there and then. Prithipal said his DGP would not relieve him. Mr Kairon ordered "Prithipal Singh s/o Wadhawa Singh is hereby relieved by me to join Northern Railway". Later Mr Kairon made him Director, Youth Welfare, PAU.
Is there any PS Kairon now?
— CHARANJIT SINGH, Amritsar