Irfan Pathan set to soar higher
Football needs more support
Irfan Pathan set to soar higher
FROM the confines of a mosque in Vadodara to the international arena, it has been a long journey for junior India cricketer Irfan Pathan.
The left arm medium pacer is the latest bowling sensation in Indian cricket. Recently he hogged the limelight by grabbing nine wickets, including a hat-trick, against Bangladesh in the Asian (under-19). Four-Nation Cricket Tournament in Pakistan. He was in fact instrumental in clinching victory for India. He has also been named among the probables for the upcoming four-Test series against Australia.
A deeply religious player, Pathan says: ‘‘If Allah grants me power I would like to play long for India’’. Still under 19 years, he already has four years of international experience at the junior level. He has carved out a niche for himself through fine performance.
Over six feet tall, Irfan besides being a left arm medium pacer is also a useful batsman. He generally plays at six down. Inspired by Wasim Akram and Zaheer Khan, Pathan has the distinction of representing the country in almost all age categories. He is a regular with the India A side.
His first hat-trick came in the year 1999 against Thailand in Malaysia in the under-15 Asia Cup. The very next year he achieved another hat-trick in the under-15 World Cup in England against Sri Lanka. Though in the under-19 World Cup in New Zealand he did not achieve much yet he distinguished himself by getting an average three runs per over.
In domestic first class cricket, he has grabbed 87 wickets in three years. Like the recent nine-wicket haul, he scalped 10 wickets against Central Zone in 2002 in the Duleep Trophy. Just three months earlier playing for India A in England he took 17 wickets.
Son of a muezzin, Mehmood Pathan, at Vadodara’s Juma Masjid, Irfan Pathan initially faced financial difficulty. He is the eldest of two brothers and a sister.
He expects a call for the
senior Indian team soon. Robin Singh, coach of the junior Indian cricket
team quipped at Wagah after crossing over from Pakistan soon after
winning the under-19 Asian cricket title that the young lad had
performed exceptionally well and the day was not far when he would don
India colours. Perhaps he is right.
Football needs more support
THIS has been a year of limited success for Indian football. East Bengal of Kolkata won the ASEAN title, being the first club to win outside of the country after a many years while Baichung Bhutia earned recognition at the Asian level along with a few younger players. That is the sum total of achievement but in the context of the generally poor image projected of Indian football in the world outside, even small images like these are usually magnified out of proportion.
It is one of the tragedies of Indian sport that football, easily the most popular game in terms of active public support from the stands, has virtually stood standstill from the mid-70s. And that despite the game and the players given some international exposure starting modestly enough through the Nehru Gold Cup in the country. It is a different matter that the Indians could not match the visiting teams but a start was needed and thus the first step taken. Unfortunately these tournaments in India did not help much. Instead of the players getting a feel of the game as played by outside countries, the competition only exposed to the public, the limitations of Indian football.
The opening of the doors to the foreign players did help considerably in boosting the image of some of the richer clubs and quite a few visiting stars became favourites of the public but the overall standard did not improve. The import of foreign players often meant the eclipse of potential Indian stars, a trend that continued for quite a long time. In fact it still exists though in the past few years players like Bhutia and Vijayan have more than matched some of the material from Africa.
The All-India Football Federation’s move to start a national league on the lines of European League in 1996, one thought would be a breakthrough. In fact the first such league was an outstanding success with the second phase, played on home and away basis, producing some real top class stuff. JCT, Phagwara won the title the inaugural year. But frankly this was about the only year the League had something to offer. After that it became a formality despite minor changes in the format. Nowadays it is merely a question of going through the motions with the standard of the game generally at the mediocre level.
One of the reasons for the continued stalemate in the state of the game has been the none too satisfactory treatment from the visual media. Unlike cricket which gets unstinted support from television, football and for that matter hockey, have to fight for TV time. Doordarshan did try to help but has not really succeeded in showing the matches live all the time. And without support from visual media means less or no money from the corporate sector. In turn it means no cash to run tournaments.
Lack of support from visual media has cost football and hockey considerable amount of money in terms of sponsorship. And this in turn has meant that a number of tournaments have had to close shop. And those tournaments which do continue to exist, do so with the bare amount, unable to pay for big teams from Kolkata and Mumbai and elsewhere. At present, with the possible exception of IFA Shield, Rovers and Durand, all other tournaments are in trouble. The popular DCM Tournament, the tournament which was the first one to bring in foreign teams to India, has not been help for some years now. Sponsorship trouble has stopped a major tournament in Assam while the Lal Bahadur Shastri Tournament in Delhi has met with the same fate. Bangalore has almost given up the Stafford Cup while Andhra Pradesh has virtually no tournaments left. Rovers among the elite tournaments has had problems with sponsors and the Durand Football Tournament too is reportedly beginning to feel the pinch.
With a number of
tournaments going out of commission for lack of money there is very
little scope for players to show their skill. As it is the limelight in
the National League is hogged by visiting stars.
VIRAAT Budhwar, aged less than 10, is highly talented as, according to experts, his swing of the clubs is modelled on scientific lines. He is also keen on the game at this tender age and takes his training and practice seriously. All this speaks well for him.
But should he be sent abroad for training? Some dispassionate golf experts are of the view that Viraat should continue to undergo training here instead of rushing to Italy, Europe of the USA. There is a vast difference in life-style here and abroad. Training in foreign country may not yield the desired results for two reasons. The youngster may not be able to adapt to new environment and life-style in foreign land and the government subsidy of Rs 5 lakh may not sustain him for more than a month or so. Short training does not bring rewards. The long term programme is the only key to success.
The fact of the matter is that there are quite a few eminent coaches in the country. Among them is Nonita Lal Qureshi. She is highly qualified. She has the ability to explain and express and, above all, she is very understanding to handle a kid. Have faith in her or Indian coaches instead of solely depending upon foreign coaches who, even after providing certain concessions, know how to extract their pound of flesh. They are professional in every respect. There are many youngsters who have gone abroad for training and returned disappointed in several other disciplines, including cricket.
Professional golf revolves around money. It is a very tough life. Participation in pro golf abroad is advantageous only when a player makes a ‘cut’. If he fails to make the ‘cut’, he is a huge loser as he bears all his expenses from air fare to lodging and board and transport. Pros, like, Vijay Kumar and Mukesh, who perform so creditably on the Indian circuit, fail to twinkle abroad because they do not possess sufficient money cushion. In foreign countries, money and money alone is the friend of a golfer. If he possesses money support and he plays with the devil-may-care attitude, there lies the ‘rub’ of the game. Money is life-line for a pro golf.
Indian pro golf has taken off in a big way. This is for sure. But corporate bigwigs should invest more in pro golf for better outcome than has been the case now. When their financial health makes satisfactory reading, their self-belief will increase automatically. According to Daniel Chopra, who is now settled abroad, he has been playing well because balance in bank makes a good reading and he is not unduly bothered about expenses.
Kudos to hockey team for AAG title win
HEARTIEST congratulations to India hockey coach Rajinder Singh and his boys for winning the gold in the Afro-Asian Games at Hyderabad. In fact this is the fourth title victory under him. First India won the Three Nation Invitation Hockey Tournament at Sydney in June followed by the second win at Hamburg where India won the Four-Nation Hockey Tournament.
The third was Asia Cup victory. Now the Indians are capable of winning the Athens Olympics next year. There is no dearth of talent in India as was seen at Hyderabad because in the absence of Dhanraj Pillay, Baljit Singh Saini and Baljit Singh Dhillon, the young team put up an impressive show.
The young Harpal Singh justified his inclusion through his praiseworthy performance. The enthusiasm shown by the Hyderabad crowd is also memorable.
PRITPAL SINGH, Patiala
It was really a praiseworthy performance by the Indian hockey team. They won the title in the first Afro-Asian Games defeating Pakistan 3-1. Congratulations to the coach and his entire team for putting up a sterling performance. We were overjoyed. The Indian team must work hard to match the speed, stamina and the fitness of the European and Australian teams for the Olympics. God bless the Indian hockey team.
SUB-MAJOR H S NAGRA, Ropar
Heartiest congratulations to the Indian hockey team for winning the gold medal in Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad. All the players played their hearts out. In the entire match, Pakistan were seen struggling and in the last 10 minutes the goal by Gagan Ajit Singh dashed Pakistan’s hopes. The role of Indian goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan cannot be ignored. If the Indian team plays with the same commitment and spirit as seen in the Asia Cup and Afro-Asian Games, the team will definitely rewrite history in the Olympics.
AS JASWAL, Chandigarh
After inflicting a 4-2 defeat on Pakistan in the Asia Cup India again emerged victorious in the final of the Afro-Asian Games at Hyderabad, defeating the arch rivals 3-1. It was a very exciting match. India’s 2-1 lead at half time increased to 3-1 towards the end of the second half when Gagan Ajit Singh scored a splendid goal. The Indian defence proved to be formidable. For their outstanding performance, the Indian players deserve all praise. This match will be remembered by hockey fans for a long time. It was the grit and hard work which enabled the Indians to emerge triumphant.
NIRMAL SINGH, Patiala