A shot in the arm for
Indian seamers provide a ray of hope
IN THE NEWS
A shot in the arm for
WOMEN'S hockey has never got the importance it deserves despite the Indian eves annexing the Asian Games crown at the Shivaji Stadium in New Delhi in 1982. The Asiad triumph should have put the game on a pedestal, but it did not happen.
The Asiad gold, indeed, gave some push to women’s hockey but not big enough to put the women on par with the men. The women had to play second fiddle to the men, though the Indian Women’s Hockey Federation (IWHF), headed by Mrs Vidya Stokes, has managed to keep its identity intact, despite the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) fiat to merge with the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF).
Though the IWHF and the FIH have ‘merged’ to fulfil the FIH directive, it is strictly a ‘marriage of convenience’ to put a ‘united facade’ in the international fora. Otherwise, each is his or her own. This arrangement is just as well, as the women seem to manage their affairs quite well.
The IHF and the IWHF have yet to fully close ranks, despite their public postures. The latest example was when the IWHF was forced to reschedule the final of the Asia Cup to 1.30 pm because the men were playing a ‘Test’ match against Holland in Hyderabad in the evening. It was a different matter that the men got a hiding in the three-Test series. Even the telecast of the semifinals and the final of the Asia Cup was reportedly an ‘after thought’.
Despite the cash crunch and lack of facilities, the Indian eves have done quite well. The title win in the fifth Asia Cup at the Dhyan Chand Stadium in New Delhi on February 8, would hopefully give a shot in the arm to the game, as the cupboard of women’s hockey sports an impressive look now. It adorns the Commonwealth Games Trophy, the inaugural Afro-Asian Games Trophy and the Asia Cup Trophy. The Asia Cup win has also helped India qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Spain. But one major blot on the IWHF copy book is that the Indian team could not even qualify for the qualifying tournament of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The Asia Cup triumph was remarkable as India laid low Japan, who were in an irrepressile form to the run up to the final. India did not take part in the inaugural Asia Cup at Seoul, 1985, but in the subsequent three editions, they took the fourth, third and second place in an ascending order.
When the Indian eves bested Japan through Jasjeet Kaur’s fag-end goal, it was a dream come true. Nobody had expected the hosts to finish among the finalists, let alone lift the cup. Chief coach Maharaj Kishan Kaushik would have been satisfied with a semifinal slot as he had taken charge of an almost new bunch of girls only six months ago. Expectedly, he pegged his goal at a reachable level.
But the girls, led by the nippy Suraj Lata Devi of Manipur, went beyond the’brief’ to perform nothing short of a miracle. The victory was a befitting revenge for India’s Asian Games defeat to Japan. Japan had been on a roll, devouring minnows Sri Lanka and Singapore with merciless frenzy, and then trampled upon formidables like three-time champions Korea and and Asian Games champions China to race to the challenge round.
The hosts were determined to come up trumps this time around. Kaushik told the girls to go all out as this was their chance to exact revenge. He told them that they had nothing to lose.
Though India did not lose a match on way to the final, they had a fumbling start against Malaysia, before posting a 4-2 win. India then came from behind to hold China 1-1 and crushed Kazakhstan 8-0 to qualify for the semifinal. But the hosts’ potent weapons came out blazing in the semi-final to swamp Korea 5-0, which was a revelation. The Koreans were no pushovers as they were the defending champions and three-time winners overall.
The triumph over Korea instilled great confidence among the Indian girls to go for the "kill" against Japan. And Jasjeet Kaur’s goal scripted a memorable victory to chart out a new course for women’s hockey. It is now up to to the IWHF to cash in on this success by promoting and marketing the game well, now that India have qualified for the World Cup.
The IWHF is in a position to pick and choose competitions to provide the right kind of exposure to the girls. The federation should also be able to rope in sponsors by cashing in on the feel-good factor. Another good news is that coach Kaushik has been given a four-year lien. He can now concentrate on his job, instead of looking over his shoulders to see that his job is safe.
For, Kaushik has a track record of finding himself jobless, after doing a fine job. It happened with him after the men’s team lifted the Asiad gold at Bangkok in 1998. The reasons were never really explained for his sack.
Indian women’s hockey is on an upswing and it’s now up to the IWHF, the Government and the Sports Authority of India to see to that this advantage is not frittered away. The federation should consolidate the gains to broadbase the game so that more and more girls take to hockey, and create a sufficient pool of talent.
The grass-root game can be developed on
grass turfs, as there is really no need to go for synthetic surface
everywhere. States like Jharkhand, Orissa, Manipur and Haryana have
shown the lead, and others should take a leaf out their example.
Indian seamers provide a ray of hope
INDIA never had it so good as far as pace bowling was concerned. At best, the country had a lone pacer, good enough to match the best in the business with little or no support from the other end. Peerless Kapil Dev virtually ploughed a lonely furrow though a host of seamers shared the red cherry with him. After Kapil quit cricket, Javagal Srinath took over as the leading new ball bowler of India. He shared the new ball with many seamers for over a decade, without the benefit of a durable partner, except for the period when Venkatesh Prasad was around. Bowling long spells on placid tracks at home, he started showing signs of wear and tear sooner than expected. After Srinath called it a day, Zaheer Khan looked the logical choice to take over as the pace spearhead, but without the benefit of a steady partner. Though pacers like Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra, at times, also did well, they lacked consistency, the most crucial factor at this level of the game.
The long and arduous series Down Under has provided a fresh ray of hope that if they are groomed properly, the perennial drought of quick bowlers that the country faced for so long can well be a thing of the past. Irfan Pathan is already being touted as the find of the series, while Laxmipathi Balaji impressed all with his consistency and accuracy.
Ironically, the two seamers would have had to cool their heels on the benches had there be no injury problem to the first-choice seamers or had Srinath been around!
But by a sudden quirk of fate, they were not only blooded into the team, but also regularly shared the new ball with a fair degree of success. If India returned from Australia with their reputation enhanced, equal credit goes to Pathan and Balaji. Pathan claimed the wicket of Mathew Hayden off a delivery that deviated out to the left-hander kissing his blade before being caught behind in his third over of the debut Test at Adelaide. When he took the wicket of skipper Steve Waugh and then Adam Gilchrist in quick succession with a stinging yorker that curled in to the left-hander in the Sydney Test, the energetic 19-year-old swing bowler virtually announced his arrival on the international stage. Pathan capped his wonderful performance with a four-wicket haul against Zimbabwe at Perth, which fetched him his maiden ‘man of the match’ award.
Balaji showed improvement with each game. Initial anxiety over and nerves settled, he showed remarkable character and skill while bowling to destructive batsmen like Hayden and Gilchrist and did not let the team down.
"Balaji and Pathan represent the new generation of pacers in India," former captain Kapil Dev said, adding that the new breed of bowlers were talented and mature in their approach
"The biggest change in India for the last one-odd year is that we have learnt to depend on our pacers. This is a big thing. Even a few years back we were largely dependent on spin attack. But now we are depending on pace bowlers, which is very heartening," gushed Kapil Dev, India’s ‘cricketer of the century’, after watching the performance of the promising duo and others.
Zaheer was at his best in the first Test a Melbourne. Bowling at brisk pace and getting the ball to deviate, he plotted an unexpected Australian batting collapse and won plaudits from no less a person than Steve Waugh, who said that Zaheer had it in him to be up their among the best in the world.
Ajit Agarkar did justice to his talent at last in the Adelaide Test. Agarkar, who made a sensational start to his international career, taking fastest 50 wickets in one-day matches, cleverly exploited the extravagance of the Australian batsmen. Notching up his career-best haul of six wickets, Agarkar firmly put India on course to a historic victory. The enigmatic seamer proved that if he bowls with his mind and does not try to outdo, he can serve the country for long.
So much was expected from Nehra, particularly after his creditable performance in the World Cup in South Africa. But the left-arm pacer looked woefully out of sorts and largely struggled throughout the series. A fully fit Nehra, when in rhythm, can be more than handful as he proved in the World Cup game against England. The left-handed seamer claimed six wickets, scripting a crucial victory for India.
Ever since he was spotted by Dennis Lillee, Munaf Patel, who played for India "A" last year even before playing a Ranji Trophy match, is already being talked about as latest pace sensation.
"He could have felled a batsman had he been playing here," said Chandarkant Pandit, former India wicketkeeper and coach of Mumbai, referring to the 22-year-old Patel during a Ranji Trophy match against Punjab being played in dense fog and chilly weather conditions at the PCAStadium in Mohali. Pandit revealed that Patel had the ability to generate pace and get the ball to bounce awkwardly due to his height. Munaf is being rated as the fastest bowler in India.
"It all depends on how quickly he is able to pick up the finer points of the game," Pandit replied when asked how much time Munaf would need to be good enough to play for the country. The 6 feet 3 inch Patel has been an integral part of India "A" squad and taking wickets.
Avishkar Salvi and Amit Bhandari are the other seamers, who have done well enough in domestic cricket and can be counted among the clutch of promising seamers who could be groomed to play at the highest level.
Yograj Singh, former India pacer, emphasised on the need for the current crop of pacers to follow a strict schedule designed to make them physically stronger. As quick bowling resources are scarce in the country, a bowling coach on a regular basis is needed to iron out flaws in their bowling technique.
"They should take the right type of diet and be regular at the gymnasium for strenuous workouts. Their progress should be monitored round the clock to ensure that there are no distractions," Yograj said.
"Look at the physique of McGrath, Akhtar, Lee and Gillespie. A fast bowler would be more effective if he is physically strong and is a good athlete.
"Ajit Agarkar is a talented seamer. But he is so lean. Somebody should take charge of the youngster and work on improving his physique," he observed.
Pakistan has summoned Imran Khan and
Wasim Akram to help out their fast bowling attack, which boasts of some
of the fastest and the most talented bowlers in the game. It was this
attack which New Zealand batsmen found too hot to handle recently even
in their own den. One wonders what prevents the BCCI from appointing a
bowling coach to give vital inputs to the Indian seamers, who are in the
process of finding their feet at this level of the game?
ON February 15, when star Indan cricketer VVSLaxman, married computer science student G. Sailaja in Hyderabad, another Hindu wedding across the border went practically unreported. Star Pakistan cricketer Danish Parabha Shanker Kaneria, the only Hindu playing for Pakistan, tied the knot with Dharmita at a traditional Hindu wedding in Karachi. Also known as Nany-Danny, the right-hand batsman is only the second Hindu to play for Pakistan. Earlier, his cousin, Anil Dalpat, played for Pakistan as a wicketkeeper.
Born on December 16,1980, at Karachi, the leg-break bowler made his Test debut in the second Test against England at Faisalabad in 2000-2001. Kaneria made his ODI debut in the Champions Trophy against Zimbabwe at Sharjah in 2001-2002.
The tall,wiry legspinner, armed with a well-disguised googly, reminds one of Abdul Qadir and looks well set to pick up the baton from Mushtaq Ahmed as Pakistan’s premier legspinner. Kaneria was hyped as a secret weapon when England toured Pakistan in 2000-2001. Though his impact in the Test series was minimal, he made his mark not only against Bangladesh but also against South Africa in a home Test when his five-wicket haul won Pakistan the match. Against Bangladesh he made a haul of 34 wickets in five Tests but his awesome figures of 12 for 94 in the opening game of the Asian Test Championship in August, 2001, won him accolades not only in Pakistan but also in cricket circles worldwide.
Besides playing for the Pakistan team, Danish Kaneria has also represented Habib Bank, Karachi Cricket Association, Pakistan Reserves, and Pakistan National Shipping Corporation.
Asia Cup win laudable
I was delighted to know that our women's hockey team lifted the Asia Cup defeating the mighty Japan on home ground. It was indeed a daunting task for our team as Japan had scored 46 goals in four matches. However, our team was in high spirits and never let the Japanese gain the upper hand. The match winner by Jasjeet Kaur was commendable.
The 5-0 victory over South Korea is no less significant. The title vitory also secured a direct berth for India in the 2006 World Cup in Spain. The victory was a big consolation for the Indian team after they failed to qualify for the Olympics. This victory was the result of the hard work of the team and chief coach Maharaj Kishan Kaushik.
Bansi Ram, Chak Hajipur
Heartiest congratulations to our women's hockey team on their maiden victory in the Asia Cup. In the keenly contested final at the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi, they defeated Japan 1-0. Earlier in the semifinals, the Indians routed South Korea. Incidentally, India are now Asia Cup winners in both the men's and women's sections. M.K. Kaushik, the coach, deserves congratulations for the historic win.
Shriram Sharma, Bhiwani
The Indian eves deserve accolades for winning the Asia Cup beating Japan in the final. On their way to the final, they overpowered South Korea 5-0.The victory was possible due to calculated efforts of the team.
Navdeep S.Bhatia, Khanna