From fear to
IN THE NEWS
breaks through Indian Open
fear to friendship
INDIA'S first tour of Pakistan in 15 years, thanks to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's intervention, went ahead, notwithstanding the security fears and the opposition to the tour. The tour perhaps helped out the two countries to achieve much more than what they did with the Lahore declaration in 1999 or at the aborted Agra summit.
Once the permission was given, the Pakistani authorities not only rolled out the red carpet for the Indian cricket team and the host of VIPs but also for thousands of ordinary fans who travelled across the Wagah border, often on shoestring budgets, to watch what arguably has been exciting, competitive cricket with a little bit of sightseeing and visits to ancestral homes thrown in.
In fact, the tour will be remembered for the flawless security cover given to the cricketers and the incident-free matches, where attack and aggression was confined to the players on the pitch. The fear of playing in Pakistan became history as the Indian team and the fans were treated as exalted guests. Doors of houses and hearts were thrown open to complete strangers. 'They are just like us' was the common refrain on both sides. The apprehension during the early days of the tour, rapidly dissolved and players thought nothing of leaving their hotels without informing the securitymen who accompanied the team. In fact, they felt comfortable and reassured enough to invite their wives to join them during the Lahore Test. As far as the wives were concerned, they found it more convenient to travel to the markets rather than go to the stadium and be cleared by the security personnel. The Indian captain also found time and the opportunity to go to Lahore's famous Food Street after the cliffhanger of a match in the last of the five one-dayers.
Initial friendliness gave way to friendship, between the players as well as the fans. Pakistanis and Indians exchanged flags. Good cricket was cheered, irrespective of the nationality. Pakistanis were gracious in defeat, congratulating the visitors.
Even before a single ball had been bowled it was well known that the series would be a contest between the star-studded Indian batting line-up and the Pakistan bowlers spearheaded by 'Rawalpindi Express' Shoaib Akhtar. Even the best of scripts have twists and turns and this tour was no exception. India found two new heroes, Irfan Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji, while Pakistan had ever-dependable Inzamam-ul Haq and youngsters Yasir Hameed and Umar Gul to pull them out of trouble. While Hameed had a century against his name in the one-dayers, Gul had a haul of six wickets in the Lahore Test.
Pathan and Balaji's performances have gladdened the hearts of Indian fans. These two cricketers are the hopes of the future. For Balaji, in particular, the tour will be all the more memorable because for many Pakistani fans he was a bigger star than even 'Little Master' Sachin Tendulkar or 'The Wall' Rahul Dravid. One reason why these two Indian fast bowlers did so well on the tour could well be the barb hurled at them by Pakistani coach Javed Miandad, who said bowlers like Pathan could be found in every 'gali' of Pakistan. It goes to the credit of Miandad, who many consider to be the toughest cricketer produced by Pakistan, that immediately after India won the first Test at Multan, he said he did not mean to belittle a youngster like Pathan.
It was a windfall for the
Pakistan Cricket Board, who laughed all the way to the bank. The board
earned Rs 40 lakh from the title sponsors Samsung, Rs 20 lakh from Hero
Honda and nearly $ 14 million from the sale of TV rights, besides the
earnings from in-stadia ads and sale of tickets. Even with a low turnout
during the Test matches the Pakistan Cricket Board made a killing by
WHEN on a song there is no stopping Brian Lara. England and the world found that on the third day of the final Test as the Prince of Port-of-Spain put behind an indifferent form not only to break the world record but to become the first player in the history of Test cricket to pass the 400-run milestone.
Not even the great Don Bradman had come near the mark. Lara first reclaimed the record from Australian Matthew Hayden and then went on to summit peak 400 as the cricketing world waited with bated breath.
Lara in full flow was a delight to watch. His feat gave the battered West Indians hope and something to cheer after they had fallen to record low. The record-breaking series has seen both the highs and lows. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Lara reclaimed the record he had made on the same ground, Antigua Recreation Ground, St John's, and against the same opponents 10 years ago.
Lara had then made a record 375 before the burly Hayden went berserk last year against lowly Zimbabwe to notch up 380. In time-honoured tradition of the gentleman's game, Hayden called up to congratulate the new record-holder.
The record resulted from Lara's belief in himself. "At the end of the first day, I felt that the pitch was good and that if any batsman applied himself they could make a big score. I realised that at the rate I was scoring at, there was a lot of time left in the game and it was possible."
"I am proud, definitely. I didn't miss having the record but it is great to have it again."
breaks through Indian Open
ONE who seeks assiduously succeeds. This is what jubilant Singaporean Mardan Mamat said after winning the 41st edition of the Indian Open at the Delhi Golf Club course last month.
"This is my proudest moment. This is my first major professional title after 10-years' wait". The turning point for Mamat came when leader Pablo Del Olmo of Mexico faltered on the par-four fourth hole and doubled-bogeyed. "As the leader slipped, I capitalised to move into no-contest zone."
Mamat was all praise for the course which, he says, was difficult but not tricky. Besides praising the spectators, who provided him a fine gallery every time he made a birdie, Mamat acknowledged the role of his caddie, Ali Jaan. "But for his guidance and assistance, I wonder if I could have won the title although I have been participating in this competition for about a decade".
Mamat, received a cheque of $ 50,000 at the $ 300,000 tournament.
Ali Jaan became the first caddie to 'carry the load' of two successive champions. Last year, Mike Cunning won the title. This year he was way down at joint 42nd position with amateur Harinder Gupta. Mamat, won with 23 strokes less than last year's champion while twice champion, Ali Sher, who won in 1991 and 1993, failed to make the cut this year.
Ali Jaan, who is Arjun Atwal's caddy, approached Mamat two days before the start of the competition. Mamat jokingly asked Jaan, "what if Atwal returns to participate in this competition." The caddie said, "Sir, I am now committed to you and I will caddy for you regardless of Atwal's presence".
Ali Jaan was the topic even at the winners' press conference. Olmo, who finished five strokes behind Mamat, said, "My next year's caddy will Ali Jaan".
"Nothing doing", quipped Mamat, adding that "I have tied up with him for life as long as I come to Delhi to take part in this or any other tournament".
Born in Singapore on October 31, 1967, Mamat turned pro in 1994. At Royal Troon he became the first Singaporean to qualify for the British Open. In the same year, he came close to winning on the Asian PGA circuit when he led the Sabah Masters by one stroke with three holes to go. His luck deserted him as he had a triple bogey at the 16th. He dropped down to fourth. He enjoyed a career-best season in 2001 when he ended the year in 13th place on the Davidoff Tour Order of Merit.
The future of this
prestigious tournament, the biggest in the country, is uncertain as
sponsors Shaw Wallace don't seem inclined to continue with it. The
sponsors' feel that they are not getting their money's worth. Promoting
golf is one thing but getting something out of sponsoring is quite
the eight-metre mark
IN one of the greatest achievements in Indian athletics in recent years, Amritpal Singh obliterated the 30-year-old mark in the long jump. It took everyone a few minutes to absorb the momentous event.
Such miraculous performances are rare in Indian athletics but still it took a back seat to cricket, as all other sports in our country do. The Rawalpindi one-dayer occupied the front pages and Amritpal had to be satisfied with some mention on sports pages.
Amritpal was almost an unknown entity before he set the Federation Cup meet alight in Delhi. He had jumped to 7.98 m at the All-India Police Championships in Chennai last year but had disappeared from the scene after that due to injury.
In less than an hour at the Nehru Stadium on that hot March afternoon he crossed the eight-metre mark thrice. His best of 8.08 m removed one of the biggest names of Indian athletics from the record books.
TC Yohannan had won the gold medal at the Tehran Asian Games in 1974 with a fantastic leap of 8.07 m. For three decades his performance had stood the test of time. Only Sanjay K.Rai had been able to cross the eight-metre mark. His best being 8.03m.
What Amritpal achieved was almost a miracle, clearing the eight-metre mark three times in one competition. It was no flash in the pan, a one time show like so many other performances in Indian athletics.
Amritpal was dogged by hamstring problems at the SAF Games in Islamabad and could not repeat his Delhi performance. He is still young, at the beginning of his career. He is an impressive figure, a tall man, a near look-alike of Shoaib Akhtar, to the hair style and flowing locks and mannerism. He does attract attention while taking his jumps, clapping loudly for the path to be kept free while he starts his run-up. Tremendously strong, he obviously knows his ability.
rises for Japan
FINALLY the load proved to be too heavy for the aging shoulders of Leander Paes. In the Asia-Oceania Zone Group 1 Davis Cup face-off, India lost to Japan for the first time in 74 years.
With the score-line balanced at 2-2, the 'miracle man' of Indian tennis failed to post a victory which would have carried India to the next rung. The burden of playing on all three days as well as being the captain placed incredible strain on the man who wears his heart on his sleeve when playing for the country.
Paes has pulled off many incredible wins in the Davis Cup, upsetting players placed way above him in the rankings but this time the Japanese had the last laugh. Prakash Amritraj lost both the singles. Paes and Bhupathi won the doubles but the task was too much for Paes in reverse singles.
AFTER winning the Samsung Cup one-day cricket series against Pakistan, India went on to win the first Test which was a pleasant surprise as it was the first Indian Test victory on Pakistan soil. Heartiest congratulations to Virender Sehwag for his triple century. The decision to declare the first innings when Sachin Tendulkar was batting on 194 was unfortunate. Double centuries are not scored every day and it was an injustice to the ‘master blaster’.
PRITPAL SINGH, Patiala
It was a day of jubilation for India when our cricket team won the one-day series againast Pakistan. Kudos to Rahul, Kaif, Pathan, and the coach for shaping India’s victory. Pakistan have been good hosts. Now, the people of India are looking forward to the visit of the Pakistan team to this country.
HARDEV KAPOOR, Hoshiarpur
India clinched the five-match one-day series against Pakistan despite enormous pressure. The Indians performed well in all the five one-dayers and rewrote history. Three cheers to Tendulkar and Laxman for their fine batting.
RAMANDEEP CHAWLA, Abohar
It was a tremendous achievement on the part of the Australian team for their brilliant performance in the first Test against Sri Lanka. Trailing by 161 runs in the first innings, the Aussies showed their fighting spirit subsequently. Really they are heroes with records.
NAVDEEP BHATIA, Khanna
Kudos to Muralitharan of Sri Lanka for taking 500 wickets in 87 Tests. Out of three players with 500 wickets or more two are spinners. Even in India, Prasanna, Venkat and Bedi were notable spinners. In modern times, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble have established themselves as spin bowlers.
PROF Y.L. CHOPRA Bathinda