IN THE NEWS
Santosh Trophy returned to Delhi after 60 years. The action-packed thriller saw the rise and fall of fortunes of different teams. M.S. Unnikrishnan looks at the tournament where Kerala emerged the champions while attacking Punjab had to settle for the second spot.
goals, decisive matches and a captivating final marked the 59th Santosh
Trophy at Delhi. Kerala settled an old score with Punjab to emerge
victorious. The championship proved to be a goal fest.
Many impressed with their play — from forwards to goalkeepers. Gurjit Singh Atwal, Abdul Naushad, Silverster Ignatious, Naushad Pari, Sunil Chetri, SK Dayanand, Shaji D’Silva and Narendra Singh weaved their way into rival territories to score for their respective teams while star goalkeepers AV Nelson, Kameshwar Singh, Naseem Akhtar and Norens Singh did their best to thwart the forwards to keep their teams in the hunt.
Punjab captain Gurjit
Singh Atwal led from the front, slotting home 10 goals to be the top
Abdul Naushad of Kerala was the player of the championship. He scored five goals in as many matches.
Atwal’s lethal blows were feared by all. A former Panjab University player employed with the Border Security Force, he scored consistently to take Punjab to the challenge round after 10 years.
He scored ‘four-in-a-row’ against star-studded Goa in the semifinals. He netted five goals from the quarterfinal onwards, after scoring five goals in the preliminary cluster matches. Atwal booted home Punjab’s first goal in the championship when he rode past the entire Chhattisgarh defence to hit the mark.
Atwal followed that with a
hat-trick against Tripura and Punjab won 7-0. He opened the scoring
against Meghalaya, whom Punjab beat by 3-0. Four goals on the trot
against Goa and one against Manipur in the tie-breaker shoot-out
elevated Atwal to the top scorer’s slot.
Abdul Naushad and Silvester Ignatious of Kerala were also class acts. They scored when Kerala needed the goals.
Naushad hit the mark five times in four matches, and his stunning flag kick goal against Punjab, which curled into the far post, sent the spectators into a tizzy. He shone bright in the championship.
Medio Naushad moved up to score goals and set up goals for others to cash in. He booted in two goals against Railways in the opening group C quarterfinal league, got a goal against Delhi, and opened the scoring against Services in the semifinal. His goal against Punjab helped Kerala level 2-2. He was a member of the Kerala team which beat Goa to lift the trophy in 2001 in Mumbai.
Twentysix-year-old Silvester Ignatious made good use of his experience of the past four editions of the Santosh Trophy to earn the reputation as the ‘man with the golden boot’.
Silvester set the ball rolling when he slotted in the first goal against Railways. He anchored Kerala rest of the way. He does not evoke much interest but has proved to be the surprise element. The winner against Punjab was a testimony to that.
Ambedkar Stadium has always been a happy hunting ground for Punjab, who consider it their ‘home ground’.
Mohammad Nushad, Ignatious and Naushad Pari made it an ‘alien’ territory for them in the crunch contest. Naushad Pari, who scored the second goal against Services, set up the pass for Ignatious to score the title-clincher.
Delhi’s Sunil Chetri, who plays for Mohun Bagan, also made a mark. In the first match against Gujarat, he started with a hat-trick. He added three more goals in other matches, including one against Kerala in the quarterfinal, but Delhi failed to make the semifinals.
Narendra Singh of Manipur stood out with his fine goals, including a hat-trick. SK Dayanand of Karnataka and Shaji D’Silva of Services also impressed, but their teams could not progress beyond the quarterfinals. Both supported a bull-in-a-China-shop kind of aggression.
The championship also witnessed breath-taking saves by goalkeepers. Punjab’s Kameshwar Singh, Kerala’s Nelson, Uttar Pradesh’s Naseem Akhtar and Manipur’s Norens Singh were impressive under the bar.
The full house for the final sent out a positive signal that there is a future for the game in the country.
IN THE NEWS
Missing their fast bowling duo of Mohammad Sami and Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan found a hero in Danish Kaneria, who spun the hosts to victory in the second Test against Sri Lanka.
Kaneria’s seven for 118 in the second innings overshadowed fighting centuries from Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul Haq, Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumara Sangakkara in the match. Kaneria completed a 10-wicket haul as he had claimed three wickets in the first innings.
The win levelled the
two-Test series 1-1 and prevented Lanka from completing a hat-trick of
series victories in Pakistan. They had won the series in 1995-96 and
In the second innings he broke Lanka’s resistance, claiming Sanath Jayasuriya, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Jehan Mubarak, Romesh Kaluwitharana and Farveez Maharoof with his leg spinners.
Test of blunders
In total disregard of essential umpiring qualities, New Zealand umpire Billy Bowden, who officiated in the first Test at Bangalore recently, gave a number of unfair decisions against India. Firstly, he rejected an lbw appeal by Irfan Pathan when Justin Langer was lbw to the very first ball of the match. Again, when Clarke was in his mid-seventies, he was lbw to Anil Kumble whose loud appeal along with other Indian players was turned down.
Bowden appeared more interested in seeing Clarke complete his maiden Test century on his debut. Thirdly, when Rahul Dravid and Irfan Pathan were developing a nice partnership, Billy declared Irfan out though the ball had not touched his bat. The biggest blow was inflicted by Billy by promptly declaring Sehwag out lbw though the ball from McGrath first hit the edge of the bat of Sehwag and then hit his left pad.
The Indian cricket team suffered a crushing 217- run defeat at the hands of world champions Australia in the first Test of the series. Heroes of the World Cup 2003 turned out to be zeroes in the match. India got a stunning blow when the backbone of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, was ruled out of the first Test.
The Indians lost the toss and bowled badly in the later part of the first innings. Then our batsmen compounded the misery by playing pathetically in both the innings.
Indian batting, no doubt, suffered due to the absence of Sachin Tendulkar recently but what caused concern was the way the top order, touted to be one of the best in the world, struggled in the current series against Australia.
While it was heartening to see youngsters like Irfan, Parthiv, Kaif and Harbhajan taking the fight to the Australian camp, the Indian think tank should seriously ponder over the failure of seniors.
Indian cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly should be sacked as he has not been a successful captain. It has only been the middle order which has made the real contribution and Ganguly has not been taking the right decisions.
He is an egoist who feels ashamed of taking any suggestions from other members of the team. It is high time the selectors decided the captaincy issue. Rahul Dravid is the best option we have.
Suraj R.K. Kapoor