A focussed young man, his eyes sparkle when you mention the word golf. Manav Das' achievements on the greens have made him India's No1 amateur golfer for the second time. He had earlier topped the rankings in 2001-2002.
He pocketed three titles, Jaypee Open Amateur, Samavir Sahi, Chandigarh and East Ind Amateur, besides earning good finishes in the 12 tournaments held by the Indian Golf Union. The all-India amateur champion, then went to Italy, where coach Donato Di Ponziano made minor changes to his technique.
‘‘With so many talented players around, one needs to improve every year. If we don't improve, there are chances that we may fall behind. Indians are talented. We have natural ability but lack technique. The juniors now are good since they have strong fundamentals,’’ he says.
Not ready to rest on his laurels, Manav has started preparing for the World Cup of Golf, the Eisenhower Trophy, to be held in Puerto Rico.
An alumni of Army School, Ambala Cantt, Manav has no intentions of turning professional. ‘‘It is an honour to represent my country. I enjoy playing for India, ’’ he says, his eyes shining with pride.
The Oil India Limited sports executive took to golf at 10 years of age. ‘‘I was introduced to the sport by my grandfather, late HK Das at the Army-run-Kharga Golf Course. I used to play with a junior golf set,’’ he recalls.
He regularly practices at the course in Ambala Cantt.
‘‘I don't have time to be at Ambala from October to February as I am playing. But, whenever I am back home, I practice upto four hours daily,’’ he added.
When Manav has to make a choice between golf and table tennis, he chose golf. ‘‘I played table tennis at the state level in the under-14 category but I decided to opt for golf. ’’ The sport has certainly gained from Manav's decision.
He has turned to yoga to increase his concentration and strengthen his back muscles.
Manav golfing achievements include representing India in the Asian Games in Busan, winning the All-India Amateur Golf Championship in 2002,and winning the SAARC championship. The champion golfer has a piece of advice for budding golfers. ‘‘Enjoy the game and strengthen basics.’’
His advice to parents: ‘‘Don't put pressure on the child or the pressure will take its toll.’’
assassin’ back with bang
ANIL Kumble's smile said it all. India had created history in Rawalpindi, winning their first-ever Test series in Pakistan and Kumble's contribution was decisive. The enthusiastic smile and spring in the steps was as much an expression of fulfillment as a fitting reply to those doubting his skills.
The vintage performance was also a timely reminder to his detractors that despite advancing years the master craftsman had lost none of his guile. The rebuff to critics could not have been more timely and convincing. Kumble, when pushed into the corner, had struck back with a vengeance.
For Kumble the journey to re-invent himself following a niggling shoulder injury started during India's tour Down Under. Made to sit and wait in the players' balcony for a major part of the World Cup in South Africa was too bitter an experience for the leggie to swallow.
Kumble's selection for the Australian tour was a matter of intense debate before the experienced spinner was given the nod ahead of Murali Karthik. After off-spinner Harbhajan Singh had a forgettable outing in the first Test at Brisbane —he conceded 169 runs for the lone wicket —that Kumble played in the second Test in Adelaide.
The genial leggie took his time to settle down. He bowled long and probing spells on unresponsive tracks to get back into rhythm. Taking wickets in every Test, a determined Kumble bamboozled the mighty Australian batting.
His 12-wicket match haul in the last Test in Sydney nearly succeeded in spoiling skipper Steve Waugh's farewell. Waugh was required to bring all his fighting qualities and experience of nearly two decades into play to save his illustrious career from being sullied. A fighting Waugh just about managed to stave off an unexpected Test as well as series defeat.
With three five-wicket hauls and 24 wickets in three Tests Kumble was at his destructive best.
"Kumble has good years ahead of him as a spinner," observed Allan Border after the absorbing series, adding that "With Kumble's return, India's bowling can only look up in coming years."
In the opening Test in Multan during the historic tour of Pakistan after 15 years, Kumble befuddled the rival batsmen with subtle changes in variations in line, length and bounce. Bowling googlies and wrong'uns, he took eight wickets as India created history winning their first-ever Test in Pakistan in 50 years. Kumble was self-effacing in hour of glory, saying the batsmen, who piled up such a huge score, deserved the credit for the victory.
Though introduced late, Kumble wasted no time in wrapping up the Pakistan second innings in the last Test in Rawalpindi to signal the first-ever series win by India in Pakistan.
Kumble had proved to be Pakistan's nemesis when he earned a 'Perfect-10' in the New Delhi Test in 1999 to emulate Englishman Jim Laker as only the second bowler to take all 10 wickets in a Test innings.
Peerless Wasim Akram had
said after the humiliating Multan defeat that Kumble's return to form
was bad news for Pakistan. The threat to rival batsmen from the
"smiling assassin" turned out to be genuine. Kumble emerged
the best bowler from both the sides, finishing with 15 scalps from three
— Europe’s best in 50 years
ZINEDINE Zidane’s transformation from a poor immigrant kid playing on the gravel pitches of Marseille to the peak of the game was completed when he was named the best European footballer of the last 50 years.
Having inspired France to World Cup and European championship triumphs and spectacularly winning the Champions League for Real Madrid, his place among the greats was assured.
Domestic titles in Italy and Spain as well as three World of Player of the Year awards are further testimony to the modest 31-year-old’s status among his peers.
Now, 150,000 fans on a UEFA website poll have put him above the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff as the best European footballer of the past 50 years.
However, just with all the previous honours that have come his way, ‘’Zizou’’, the softly-spoken son of Algerian parents, remains the most humble of superstars.
Pele of Brazil and Argentina’s Maradona stand alongside Zidane as the three leading lights of the world game, each the dominant force of their era.
Like the two South American strikers, Zidane rose from the most modest of backgrounds.
One of his first coaches, Jean Fernandez, claimed his deft ball control developed from playing on the sand and gravel pitches of La Castellane, the poor district of Marseille largely populated by North African immigrants.
It enabled him to learn quickly and his talent was identified early when he became a French under-16 international in a team where he met his best friend, Christophe Dugarry, the man who dubbed him ‘’Zizou’’.
Zidane trained to become a young professional at Cannes, like Patrick Vieira, before joining Dugarry at Bordeaux.
But for all his remarkable club achievements, Zizou’s real team, the one in which he is the undisputed master and inspiration, remains France’s national side.
His debut against the Czech Republic in 1994 was outstanding, coming on as a substitute in the last 18 minutes to score two goals.
IN THE NEWS
HE was the youngest and fastest bowler to reach 500 wickets. He is now the highest wicket-taker in 127-year history of Test cricket, 521 wickets in just 89 matches. He has been called the greatest spinner as well as a javelin thrower. World opinion is sharply divided where he is concerned.
That is Muttiah Muralitharan for you. He has braved controversies to make history. At one time it seemed that Courtney Walsh's record of 519 wickets wouldn't be broken in a hurry.
In these amazing times when batsmen are making merry and scoring runs by the ton, Murali was competing with famed Australian leg spinner Shane Warne to see who would first reach 500 and then break the record. Warne reached the 500-mark first but Murali overtook Walsh's record. While Walsh took 132 Tests to record his 519 wickets, Warne has taken 517 wickets in 110 matches.
Murali and Warne, two characters who have caused enough controversies, Murali on the field and Warne off it, have also done a great service in reviving the art of spin bowling. Both have proven to be match-winners for their countries.
Indian leg spinner Anil Kumble has already predicted that Murali could think of 800 Test wickets. It may seem a little far-fetched at the moment but with Murali anything is possible. Sri Lankan media has hailed the only Tamil in the team as a hero. So has Indian legend Erapalli Prasanna. "I am delighted spinners can now be placed at par with fast bowlers. That spinners are setting targets for pacers is highly satisfying," he said.
In this moment of glory, Murali has, perhaps, found the maximum support. Players, current and former, as well as critics have said that 'Murali should be cherished and not admonished.' Inspite of this show of support, jarring notes can be heard, questioning the legality of his deliveries.
Murali's doosra has spelled trouble for all. The batsmen dread it, so does the ICC. In March Murali was reported for it. The experts measured Murali's wrist and elbow actions, giving sleepless nights to Murali and the ICC. He continues to bowl the doosra, mesmerising novice Zimbabwe batsmen with it.
This deceptive delivery leaves the right-handers instead of coming in to them like a normal off-break. Murali has taken all criticism, saying, "I have a deformity on the elbow because it's bent. I can't straighten it whatever is said and done. I can't change me."
And Murali has done exactly that as he continues to win matches for his country.
Five in a row for Michael
Michael Schumacher won the Spanish Grand Prix to equal Formula One's record start to a season. Schumacher has swept all the five races held this year, giving sleepless nights to his opponents who are still trying to figure out who can stop the unstoppable Michael.
Britain's Nigel Mansell had won the first five Grand Prix in 1992, driving for Williams. This was Schumacher's 75th win in his 200th race. The six-time world champion is already looking forward to the next race, hoping to break another record.
On current form Schumacher looks unbeatable. Standing alone at the very top of this sport of man and machine he is his own competitor. In his endeavour he has been greatly aided by the Ferrari bosses and engineers. They have provided him with a perfect foil to translate his talent into reality.
India’s cricket win
Congratulations to the Indian cricket team for the historic win against Pakistan in both forms of the game. Every member of the team and coach John Wright deserve appreciation for this victory. Some people and media in Pakistan may attribute this to match-fixing or poor umpiring, but the truth is that the Indian team put up a splendid show. On the other hand, the Pakistan team were less talented and did not display fighting qualities.
For India many good things emerged from this tour. The team learnt how to win in crunch situations. Yuvraj Singh, Balaji and Irfan Pathan proved their worth. Irfan Pathan was easily the find for India.
Dev Dutt Sharma, Shimla.
The Indian cricket team won the Multan Test in superb fashion. Congratulations to Sehwag for achieving a landmark in cricket history.
Dr Rajan Malhotra, Palampur.
Too many cooks spoil the broth
It seems every cricketer is keen to present his views in the print and electronic media. If we analyse these views, we end up nowhere. The adage ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ appropriately applies to these half-cooked views. This is unfortunate and has a negative effect on sports. It will be better if these specialised reports are written by the chosen and select few.
Prem Singh, Noida.