A whole new
Odd man in
IN THE NEWS
The Indian Hockey
Federation has come up with the Premier Hockey League to make the game
more popular and bring back the glory days. However, this ambitious plan
has its flaws, writes M.S.Unnikrishnan
COME January 13, a hockey extravaganza will begin at the Gachhibowli stadium in Hyderabad with the launch of the Premier Hockey League (PHL). The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) has come up with this idea to make the game more popular and attract more youngsters. Assisting the IHF in its endeavour would be ESPN and Star Sports.
It remains to be seen whether the format of the league, worked out by management professionals, would click with the fans. However, IHF President KPS Gill exudes optimism. "This is the beginning of a landmark journey, of bringing back the glory of hockey, and restoring India’s supremacy in the game," he says.
Can this objective be achieved by teams with exotic names like Sher-e-Jalandhar, Maratha Warriors, Chennai Veerans, Hyderabad Sultans and Bangalore High Flyers? How many fans would be able to relate to a team named of Sher-e-Jalandhar? Would it have the same kind of impact as playing under the state’s banner, say Punjab Lions?
Passions of players and spectators usually run high when teams represent their country, state or city. Some of the matches in the recently held Santosh Trophy Football Championship in Delhi bore this out.
Stands packed with boisterous fans was a common sight when Punjab played Manipur or when Kerala were pitted against Punjab. Die-hard supporters followed their team wherever it played. The final witnessed a sellout crowd, not seen at the Ambedkar Stadium for a long, long time, with Kerala and Punjab fans crowding the stands. Will such regional fervour be witnessed in the hockey league? Looks doubtful, though the Hyderabadis may well root for their ‘Sultans’.
The PHL has been designed to help Indian players hone their skills by playing alongside and against the best from around the globe. The league will be held in a two-tier format and each team in Tier I will be allowed to field five foreign players. Tier II will have teams like Delhi Dazzlers, Lucknow Nawabs, Imphal Rangers, Bengal Tigers and Chandigarh Dynamos. This tier is meant for the second rung.
Gill reasons that "rebuilding has to start at the ground level by giving a platform to our players to hone their talent by playing in an active league". He is confident that the PHL will provide that platform.
The PHL is expected to witness aggressive, fast-paced hockey. The logos for the teams have been designed keeping this dynamic image in mind.
The league promises to offer a medley of styles as players from different continents will be displaying their particular brand of hockey to amalgamate it into a whole. But will such ‘unification’ of styles make Indian hockey richer?
In the view of a former Olympian, the league would be akin to "rapid chess, not the classical kind". "The PHL is going to be like fast food. It will do no good to improve the dribbling and trapping skills of the players", opined another veteran player.
The new format of the 70-minute game, comprising four quarters of 17 minutes and 30 seconds each, may look exciting on paper, intended for the ESPN-Star Sports viewers, but it will break the tempo of the contest. It takes as much as 15 minutes for a game to ‘warm up’, but in the case of the PHL, the four breaks may rob the game of its natural flow and continuity.
Despite the cynical voices, the bottomline is that an effort is being made to lift the sagging image of Indian hockey. And the cash prize of Rs 71 lakh is quite a bagful. The players will also stand to benefit a lot, though richer players do not necessarily guarantee quality hockey.
The Indian cricket team is a good example. If money could make the mare go, India would have emerged as world beaters in cricket. The players rake in crores. But the performances rarely match the pay packets.
But the IHF is unfazed. It is determined to go ahead with the PHL with much fanfare. Star players like Gagan Ajit Singh, Viren Rasquinha, Ignace Tirkey, Dilip Tirkey and Arjun Halappa have been named the captains of the Tier I teams.
"The captains have been chosen after a lot of debate. Youth, exuberance, experience, popularity and an eye for the future have been the parameters for their selection," explained explains IHF secretary K. Jyothikumaran.
Gill says the main aim is to have 50 foreign players and 200 Indians in 10 teams to widen the scope and canvas of the league. He is confident that the league would help unearth fresh talent and polish their skills to make them world-class players.
The IHF has been working for the past
three years to devise the PHL. It is trying to package the league as
best as it can. Eventually, what matters is the substance and the
quality of hockey on display.
Indian golfers can
learn a lot from Vijay Singh, says K.R. Wadhwaney
VIJAY Singh was the cynosure of all eyes on the greens at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon recently. Though he finished third in the Bilt Skins tournament, he demonstrated to the 5,000-odd spectators that the world number one crown sat serenely on his head.
That Vijay has fallen in love with Gurgaon and India became clear when he said he would come again next year. While his visits are highly beneficial, he feels that there should be stronger bench strength of Indian golfers. Vijay emphasised that there was no short cut to success. "Hard work is the mantra," he reiterated.
Indian golfers should take a leaf out of Vijay Singh’s illustrious book. To steal a march over Tiger Woods is no mean achievement. He plays his game in a relaxed style and yet he is fully focussed even when he is playing against much inferior players.
Well aware that this kind of competition was not the one to make or mar one’s reputation, star players displayed exuberant strokeplay and even tried fancy shots. Justin Rose of England, who won the trophy and the $ 42,500 prize money, outshone the others because he was consistently successful in putting.
The half-Indian-half-Swede Daniel Chopra, who pocketed the runner-up prize money of $35,500, is also keen, like Rose, to bag a major title. "That is what one plays and toils hard for," he said. All were, however, unanimous in their opinion that it was great fun to play on the course that was excellent in every aspect.
Vijay, like Tiger Woods, believes in ‘caring and sharing’. He said he was happy that he had amassed millions but he would not burn them at Las Vegas. When asked, he said, "I have already launched a charity foundation in Florida (where he live presently). It is open to every needy player regardless of race or colour.
How one wishes India’s cricket stars, who possess bulging kitties, invest a bit of their money on such schemes for thousands of needy players — be it in cricket, hockey or any other sport.
Indeed, every sponsor thinks of his own product while investing sizeable funds in promoting such a ‘fun meet’. But Indian sponsors should rise to the occasion and sponsor players like Ashok Kumar. There is talent but it needs timely nourishment by way of foreign competitions.
The organisers have, however, gone on record saying that a system to help youngsters is on the anvil. This is a healthy development.
If enthusiastic golfers, pros and amateurs, watched stars with rapt attention, four Indians — Amrintinder Singh, Rahil Gangjee, Jaichand and Keshav Misra (amateur) — who caddied for stars, were the real gainers. "It is great watching Vijay and others in action," they said. "We have learnt the art of managing the course," said the player-caddies.
The response from spectators was
encouraging. But quite a few were carrying cellphones which disturbed
the players. How one wished they had left their gadgets at home instead
of causing annoyance to players.
Odd man in
IN the bunch of South African cricketers, Hashim Amla stands out. Not a frequent sight after Saeed Anwar decided to hang up his boots, Amla sports a flowing beard which sets him apart from the rest. And he is the first cricketer of Indian descent to represent South Africa at the national level.
"My grandparents hailed from Surat and I was sort of briefed by my friends and relatives in South Africa about what to expect here. It has been just that," he said.
"This is my first tour of India. This is a great place and I am simply amazed by the passion of the public for cricket," says Amla.
Cricket runs in his blood and Hashim’s elder brother Ahmed is also a first class player. Hashim wears his glasses during practice and looks more like a preacher than a cricketer. A devout and religious Hashim requested the United Cricket Board of South Africa to remove logos promoting alcohol products from his apparel and the board obliged.
"Hashim had requested to allow him sport gears without the logo and the board decided to relax the rule for him," team manager Gerald de Kock said.
Hashim skippered South Africa at the 2002 Under-19 World Cup and is already hailed as captaincy material.
A useful part-time spinner, Hashim also seemed in love with the culture and traditions in the country.
"Besides winning the series, I would like to return from India with fond memories. You have a great culture. This is a fantastic place and I am looking forward to meeting some fantastic people here," Hashim said.
A very competitive cricketer with a deceptive look, Hashim is also determined to shine in the Test series in what could have been his own country.
Amla is one of the five non-white members of
the team. Since making his debut in 1999-2000, he has hit seven centuries,
including four last season alone, for a career aggregate of 2,369 runs in 34
matches for an average of 50.40. — UNI
IN THE NEWS
SOUTH African batsmen were expected to fall like ninepins before Indian spinners. Instead, they frustrated Anil Kumble and Co with their solid defence for over two days in the Kanpur Test. India’s tormentor-in-chief was 29-year-old Andrew Hall, who occupied the crease for almost 10 hours (588 minutes) to score 163 off 454 balls.
Displaying extraordinary patience and concentration, Hall not only completed his maiden Test century but also became South Africa’s highest individual Test scorer on Indian soil, eclipsing Daryll Cullinan’s 153 not out in the Kolkata Test, 1996-97. He also crossed his previous highest score of 99 not out, made against England at Leeds in 2003.
Playing an unfamiliar role — of an opener — Hall curbed his natural attacking strokeplay to help his team post a potentially match-saving total. He got his runs mostly in ones and twos, hitting only 17 boundaries in his big hundred.
Refusing to rest on his batting laurels, Hall used his beguilingly gentle medium pace to dismiss two of India’s top batsmen, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. That was the icing on his well-deserved cake.
SHE came, she holed, she conquered. Irina Brar of Chandigarh was simply unstoppable in the Mawana Ladies Northern India Golf Championship at the Delhi Golf Course. Making a strong comeback, the BA final year student shot a record three sub-par rounds in four days to win the tournament for the second time.
The 21-year-old dominated the proceedings to such an extent that she seemed to be competing with herself. She called one of her sub-par rounds "average" and felt she should have holed a lot more putts.
JOHN WRIGHT, the coach of the Indian cricket team was disappointed over the performance of the squad. The team has been giving a poor performance over the past few years. They could not win even a single title. The coach has declared that no cricketer will be retained permanently in the team only because of his name and fame. Good performance is essential. The warning was the need of the hour.
India's batting in the Nagpur Test match against Australia was disappointing. Sachin Tendulkar and rest of the top order did not play well. India certainly need a new cricket team now.
A major problem with the Indian cricket team is lack of a stable opening pair. Since the past few years, the Indian team experimented with various combinations like S.S. Das, Sanjay Bangar, S.Ramesh, Akash Chopra and Yuvraj Singh but all efforts proved futile. Another major problem is excess of cricket being played by the Indian team. Due to excessive matches our players' physical fitness suffers.
Why ignore Kumble?
Why did Sourav Ganguly drop Anil Kumble for the match against Pakistan? Had Kumble played, India would have won the match. Harbhajan Singh did not take a single wicket.