Munaf gears up for
Munaf Patel was rated by Australian pace legend Dennis Lillee as the fastest bowler in India. — PTI photo
National league holds promise for Indian hockey
Zidane set on his goals
Going Dutch in Spain
Munaf gears up for
EVER since he burst on to the national scene after being dubbed as the fastest pace bowler in India by none other than the legendary Dennis Lillee, life has not been same for Munaf Patel. After he was blooded into the India A squad against New Zealand in the home series last year without having to undergo the rigours of the domestic cricket, Munaf has been taking wickets regularly, though not by the bucketfuls. Those who have observed the lanky pacer from close quarters admit that Munaf is indeed pacy. Mumbai coach and former India wicketkeeper Chandarkant Pandit recently conceded that Munaf was quite sharp.
Doubts about the effectiveness of the 24-year-old pace sensation surfaced on account of lack of swing movement in his deliveries. Some critics felt that his bowling action and his wrist position at the time of ball delivery was not very conducive to swing bowling, while there are those who contend that while at the time of releasing the ball only the right side of his body and shoulder came into play. Munaf depended solely on this half of the body to gain momentum with the left side not coming into action at all. As it is, they felt, it would be tough for Munaf to be successful on account of pace alone.
Dr Vipul Chawda, physical therapist with the Mumbai team as well as for the West Zone, who has closely monitored the progress made by Munaf, however, contended that there has been no respite for the genial pace bowler ever since he played his first class game. Munaf, in fact, surprised one and all when he was selected to play for India A when he had not even played a Ranji Trophy match.
"The most important thing about him is that he puts in hundred per cent whichever team he is playing for. There are bowlers who would bowl two or three deliveries per over with the maximum effort while virtually going through the motions for the rest of the overs. But Munaf would always bowl all deliveries of the over with the same vigour," Chawda revealed.
"After he was inducted into the Mumbai squad, he has taken a tremendous load this season. With bowlers like Avishkar Salvi having broken down due to injury and Ajit Agarkar away on national duty, Munaf shouldered the responsibility of spearheading the pace attack remarkably well," he said.
"Munaf being a good athlete was able to withstand the pressure of the heavy workload as besides playing first for the Mumbai Ranji squad and then for the West Zone, he has regularly represented the country in India A squad, playing against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. He, in fact, never had the time to visit a gymnasium and work on improving muscles and shoulders stronger —a pre-requisite for a good fast bower."
Chawda revealed that whenever he got the time, he consulted coaches like Paras Mhambrey and others to iron out flaws in his bowling. He admitted that there was a lack of movement in his deliveries.
"The hectic season is coming to an
end. His stint at the MRFPace Foundation at Chennai after the season
under the guidance of pace guru Dennis Lillee would be important. A
couple of months at the pace bowling foundation under the watchful eyes
of pace bowling specialists and a stronger body through proper weight
training and Munaf could be a better bowler," he said.
National league holds promise for Indian hockey
COME September, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) will launch the National Hockey League to give a fresh impetus to the game in the country. Will the proposed league, carrying a total prize money of Rs 71 lakh, with the winners pocketing a whopping Rs 30 lakh, rejuvenate Indian hockey?
Indian Hockey Federation president KPS Gill firmly believes that the National Hockey League will herald a "new era" for the game in the country.
India have had limited success in international hockey ever since the Astroturf was introduced in 1976. India won just one Olympic gold medal after that — in the depleted Moscow Games in 1980, when the USA and other major European and Latin American countries gave the game the go-bye.
Interestingly, a year prior to the introduction of the Astroturf, India lifted the World Cup, for the first and last time, at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. The team, led by Ajit Pal Singh, was considered ‘unbeatable’ and their 2-1 triumph over Pakistan in the cup clash was considered as a classic contest.
Sadly, whenever the subject of the World Cup is mentioned, no one seems to remember the hockey World Cup, but only the triumph of Kapil’s Devils in the cricket World Cup of 1983!. That is indeed the irony of Indian sports, and the hockey players of that era are upset that no one remembers that singular achievement of Indian hockey team.
It has been an unsteady ride for Indian hockey ever since, though the game is in the eye of the spotlight yet again, with India managing to qualify for the Olympic Games at Athens this year.
Opinions differ, on the concept of the National Hockey League, which, for the present, looks city-centric. And the league may also sound the death knell of the National Hockey Championship for the Rangaswamy Cup, which was once considered as the launching pad for many a hockey star.
Do we have to dispense with the national championship to accommodate the national league?.
"Not really", feels former Olympian Balbir Singh (Senior), the man with the ‘golden stick’, who was a member of India’s three Olympic gold-medal winning teams. He says the national championship can easily "co-exist" with the national league, and he was not averse to the national league. He feels that the league is a "good concept", and if the boys can earn some money, "what’s wrong with it?"
He, however, suggests that each session of the league could be of 20 minutes duration, instead of 17-and- a-half minutes, as has been proposed in the present format, with four breaks in a 70-minute game.
World Cup hero Aslam Sher Khan opines that the concept of the national league is "good, and a novel idea". He says the league will help give a professional touch to the game in India, as hockey had always functioned within the frame-work of an amateur set-up in India.
Former Olympian Zaffar Iqbal, too, feels that the national league should be given space to grow. His view-point is that one should have a positive view of this initiative of the IHF, instead of finding faults. "Something may emerge out of the exercise. Let us wait and watch," he suggests.
But many other Olympians, who do not want to be named, say that the IHF did not seek the opinion of players before venturing into the new territory. They are not very happy with the format of the league. "Hockey is not a basketball match to be restricted to 17-and-a-half-minutes with four intervals", observed a veteran Olympian, who was a player, captain and coach.
Another former Olympian says the league concept, per se, is commendable. He says the proposal to allow five foreign players in each team (four on the field, at any given time), is a commendable step as it would help the Indian players to learn many things on the field, and perfect their skills. But the point is that can Indian clubs afford to recruit quality foreign players at the price they ask? Former Olympian and captain Ajit Pal Singh said the national league and the national championship should be conducted in such a manner that both should complement each other, for the betterment of Indian hockey. "The league should be for clubs, and the national championship for the states", he observed. "The more, the merrier" should be the motto and attitude of the IHF, he felt.
Zidane set on his goals
TWO lethal headers by Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final against Brazil on July 12, 1998, had propelled the hitherto unknown French soccer player into the realms of fame. Ever since the Marseille lad, son of Arab immigrants, continues to ride the crest of popularity. His transfer from Juventus to Real Madrid last year for a record sum of $ 68.6 million further strengthened his credentials.
Born on June 23, 1972, Zinedine Yazid Zidane shot into fame when he was billed as France's potential saviour in the 1998 World Cup. Zidane's stunning goals in France's 3-0 victory against Brazil sparked nationwide celebrations. According to rough estimates, over 1.5 million people thronged the Champs Elysees that night with the revelry surpassing the Liberation Day celebrations of 1944.
success, Zidane has a level head and remains the down-to-earth, simple
guy. Off the field, he enjoys his family life with his wife and two
sons. But when in competition on the pitch, Zidane enjoys what he does
best — scoring goals.
Going Dutch in Spain
RONALD Brower's goal inside 10 seconds of extra time in the final of the hockey Olympic qualifiers at Madrid on March 13 was certainly a golden one. It not only put the Dutch firmly on course to Athens but also piled further misery on the Spaniards, reeling under the impact of serial bomb blasts in the city a day earlier. The 2-1 verdict at Club de Compo Stadium followed a 70-minute battle in which honours were even after both sides had scored a goal each. But for Spain's Alberto Esteban, the emotionally charged final ended in heartbreak. Having skipped the semifinal against Pakistan to express solidarity with his countrymen following the blasts which claimed 180 lives, Esteban, like many of his team-mates, had hoped to bring some cheer to the grieving public. Brower's late strike, however, shattered their dream. Some measure of consolation for the Spaniards came in the end when Francisco Fabregas was named the best player. On the whole, it was a brilliant team-effort by the Dutch which enabled them to overcome all odds.
India, who lost to the Dutch 4-2 in the semifinals, had a chance to win the bronze but Pakistan turned the tide against them with a 4-2 verdict. Incidentally, it was the second defeat for India at the hands of Pakistan in the tournament after Sohail Abbas' four-goal blitzkrieg in a league match.
Sohail Abbas, Pakistan's tall penalty corner expert, emerged as the highest scorer while Holland's Floris Evers was adjudged the best young player. The best goalkeeper award went to Britain's Simon Mason.
India had a representative in the high-voltage final as Chandigarh's Satinder Sharma officiated as an umpire in the Holland-Spain contest.
Cricket brings morning cheer
FOR the past few years, newspapers had been arriving at my doorstep carrying tales of misery. Stories of death, destruction, rapes and riots were a routine affair. But on March 14 the newspaper was different. India had won the first one-dayer at Karachi against Pakistan and the front page was full of praise for the team. Thank you cricketers. You made my day!
K.L. Arora, Chandigarh
Celebration of India’s victory by the Karachi public won millions of hearts in India. It was perhaps the first India-Pakistan match which was not played in a war-like atmosphere.
Subhash Agrawal, Delhi
Cricket for peace
After many years the Indian cricket team is visiting Pakistan. The media refers to the two teams as arch rivals etc. I personally feel that the time has come to change this nomenclature. In the changed scenario, it will do some good to the peace process.
P.N. Menon, Amritsar
In the Madrid meet, India missed good scoring chances against Belgium. It is surprising that India are persistently failing to defend the lead in the closing stages.
Natha Singh, Ludhiana
The Indian hockey team managed to qualify for the Athens Olympics in the qualifying tournament at Madrid but the performance was hardly inspiring. Missed chances, poor dribbling, non-conversion of penalty corners and poor defence were the reasons for the lacklustre performance. It is a matter of concern that we conceded 17 goals in six matches and we have no penalty corner specialist. We need full backs like Surjit Singh and Michael Kindo.