IN THE NEWS
all the way
A consummate team
effort helped Railways win the Ranji Trophy cricket championship, writes
DOGGED determination and firm resolve saw Railways emerge triumphant in the Ranji Trophy Elite group final. Under self-effacing and unassuming Sanjay Bangar, they pulled the rug from under the feet of the fancied Punjab to lift the glittering trophy for the second time after three years.
Railways proved that there was no substitute for hard work and self-belief. Throughout the five-day contest, Railways never lost focus, no matter what the situation. A motley group of players hailing from different states, Railways displayed the type of bonhomie and togetherness on the field which enabled them to come back from the brink.
Railways did not make an impressive start to their Ranji campaign. In their first four matches, they conceded first innings lead to Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat, while taking it against Bengal. It was the time when the team could have lost track midway. But the players soon started to regroup. Once it got going, there was no stopping Railways. Chugging on quite effortlessly, it steamrolled any opposition that came its way.
The 133-run defeat Railways handed to Andhra Pradesh was their first victory in the fifth match of the championship.The win proved to be the ideal boost the Railways engine needed after which it became more effective.
The seven-wicket win over strong Karnataka in the next match proved that Railways meant business. A victory by a similar margin against Hyderabad in the next match meant that they were set up the summit clash with Punjab.
During the final, they played like champions. Once they were provided a whirlwind start by diminutive opener Amit Pagnis on the first day, Railways went from strength to strength. Captain Sanjay Bangar proved how he had matured as an allrounder, playing crucial knocks in both innings and chipping in with wickets.
Middle-order batsman Yere Gaud chose perhaps the most crucial time to prove his credentials as a top-notch batsman. First he steadied the somewhat shaky Railways innings. After the task had been accomplished, he, in the company of tail-enders, batted long enough to take the match beyond Punjab.
But it was allrounder JPYadav who emerged the most vital cog in the wheel of the Railways. Yadav, who played two one-day matches for India in 2002, was perhaps hell-bent on proving a point or two to the national selectors in view of the ongoing one-day series against Pakistan.
During the final, Yadav showed how much he had improved as an allrounder since he last played for the country. He completed a five-wicket haul, which helped his team taking the crucial first-innings lead. Yadav proved that he was a more than a useful batsman, scoring 63 in the first innings and hammering 97 in the second.
Perhaps overawed by the magnificent achievement, Bangar had to be prodded by his team-mates to leave the chair and accept the winners trophy. But once the trophy was handed over to him by chief guest Intikhab Alam, there was instant roar and jubilation in the Railways camp. The players celebrated the victory by performing bhangra amidst beating of drums and blaring of music. No mean achievement this and the players enjoyed every moment of it.
An elated Vinod Sharma, the Railways coach, while appreciating the team spirit, said the triumph was the culmination of the team efforts and expressed the hope that the players would finally get their due.
Sounding optimistic, Bangar expected that the victory would result in better facilities, playing conditions and some incentives for the players. Bangar, who played for India before he fell out of favour lamented that players like Harvinder Singh, Kulamani Parida, Yere Gaud and JPYadav deserved some recognition.
When fans played truant
NO TV coverage, improper choice of venue, the ongoing one-day series against arch-rivals Pakistan and the general lack of interest in domestic cricket meant that the Ranji Trophy final was played in front of empty stands at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.
This despite the fact that some of the players figuring in both teams had represented the country. A pity that virtually nobody, except for the organisers, mediapersons and those attached with the teams, was there to applaud the heroic efforts of Pankaj Dharmani, Sanjay Bangar, JPYadav and Yere Gaud.
The PCAStadium had just organised the first Test against Pakistan in which cricket lovers not only from the region but those from the nearby areas thronged the venue in large numbers. So the Ranji Trophy final, bereft of big stars and played at the same venue immediately after a high-profile event, was not able to attract the crowd.
Moreover, the venue has never attracted fans in a match of the domestic championship, even if some top-notch players figure in a team.
Maybe, things could have been different had the match been played at a place starved of real cricket action for quite some time. Hosting the match at venues like Amritsar, Jalandhar or Patiala could have done the trick. The absence of live TV coverage did not help the cause either. — G.S.
THE US Masters, the year’s first major golf tournament, promises to provide one of its most memorable editions if the sport’s Fab Four stand and deliver.
Three-time winner Tiger Woods, world number one Vijay Singh, defending champion Phil Mickelson and 2004 runner-up Ernie Els have all produced triumphant form on occasions this season.
Hopefully they will find similar inspiration amid the rhododendrons, azaleas and loblolly pines at Augusta National in the April 7-10 event.
"So many of the top golfers have been playing well. Right now I feel very happy with my swing, there’s no doubt about it. And I love my new Nike T60 three-wood. I’ve never hit a three-wood that far, so that’s exciting to have that arsenal in the bag."
"The Masters, to me, is the hardest test of golf we play. It requires the whole package. You can’t come here with one part of the game missing. You’re just not going to function. It’s exciting for me to come over here and play the tournament."
— Vijay Singh
"I don’t feel the mentality
to win the second major is really any different than trying to win the first. It’s
still the same challenge. I love Augusta National and my main goal right now is
to try to get that lonely jacket a little buddy to hang with."
— Phil Mickelson
feel like I’m swinging the club well and hitting a lot of solid golf shots.
But I just haven’t quite put it all together these past few weeks in Florida,
so there are a couple of little things I want to work on for the US Masters
UNPREDICTABILITY is supposed to be the hallmark of the Pakistan cricket team. It seems now that the Indian squad has also imbibed this quality. After the appalling loss in the Bangalore Test, Sourav Ganguly and his men had virtually become the underdogs for the six-match one-day series. The pressure was on them to make a winning start. They have done exactly that, going 2-0 up, thanks primarily to the unstoppable Virender Sehwag and the juggernaut from Jharkhand named M.S. Dhoni.
Sehwag was in full cry in the Kochi and Visakhapatnam one-dayers, but he was dramatically overshadowed in the second match by Dhoni, who came in at one-down as the pinch hitter. His promotion caught the Pakistan team off guard. Going way beyond what was required of him, Dhoni finally blossomed at the international level.
Dhoni’s blazing innings took most people by surprise, but not those who had seen him hit hundreds for Jharkhand and India A. One hopes this knock will give him confidence to score runs at his usual batting spot down the order, where he would be expected not only to attack but also to consolidate the innings.
Dhoni’s blitzkrieg was in stark contrast to the disappointing batting performance of four ‘big guns’ — Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif — who totalled merely 26.
In the Kochi match, India missed out on a chance to cross the 300-run mark as the quartet failed to deliver (their collective contribution was 27).
If they get going in the next two matches, India won’t find it difficult to wrap up the series.
Pakistan, on the other hand, badly need
their top order to fire on all cylinders to come back into the series.
With bowlers playing second fiddle on the batting-friendly pitches,
whichever team bats better would emerge on top. But with both teams
being so unpredictable, the bottom line is that just about anything is
all the way
TEACHING local people how to eat rotis with their hands and taking them to temples are among the many things that have won hearts for the Indian women’s cricket team in South Africa.
The cricketers, who made it to the semifinals of the 2005 Women’s Cricket World Cup here after beating the hosts and England, have endeared themselves to locals for their humility and friendliness.
The team members have been teaching South Africans the art of eating rotis and curries with their hands rather than forks. They even got the locals involved in prayer services at local templesand the celebration of Holi recently.
Martielise van der Merwe, a local Afrikaans-speaking women’s cricket player and coach for under-13s, was initially daunted by the task after being selected by the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA) to look after the Indian squad.
The Indian team got Van der Merwe going to one of the Hindu temples here for the first time.
"I celebrated the Holi festival with them together with the local Indian community in Laudium (west of Pretoria). We also had our own celebration, playing with coloured powder and water at the High Performance Centre of the University of Pretoria, where we are staying," Van der Merwe said.
"I’ve also learnt to eat spicy foods, something I could not really do before.
"The team has been really warm and friendly to myself, our bus driver Titus Ramonyai and our security officer Annie Mashaba, with all of us learning so much about Indian culture," Van der Merwe said as she pointed out those colleagues, who like her, were sporting shirts of Sahara, the sponsors of the team.
Dona, Sourav Ganguly’s wife, calls him on his mobile. Anil Kumble picks up the mobile since Sourav has just gone to the field for batting.
"Hi Sourav," says Dona.
"Sorry, he is batting. This is Anil," Kumble replies.
"Oh, sorry," Dona says. "Where is Sourav? I have a very important thing to discuss with him."
"He is batting," Anil informs. "Should I ask him to call you when he will be back here?"
"No, No," Dona said. "I will hold, he will return soon."
How to make Maggi
Step 1: Boil one cup of water
Step 2: As soon as Ganguly goes for batting, put the noodles in the boiled water and add the tastemaker.
Step 3: Stir till Ganguly is on the field.
Step 4: As soon as Ganguly is back in pavilion, your noodles are ready to eat.
Q:What is common to a 100 mtrs race and Ganguly’s innings?: They both last for the same time
A: Ask him to go to bat
A: The hole in the wall
Q: Who is the only cricketer who does not bat, bowl or field and yet plays international cricket?
A: No comments.......
Q: What is the difference between God and Ganguly?
At least God does not think he is Ganguly.
Haq led from the front
Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq deserves congratulations for leading his team to victory in the Bangalore Test. Haq took a gamble by setting India a target of 383 in just over a day’s play. It was not a very big target as India had world-class batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid in their ranks.
However, Haq and his team-mates played with great determination and made India bite the dust. Kudos to Younis Khan for his well-made 267 and an unbeaten 84. Haq also made a brilliant 184. They played as a team, not like India, whose players play more for their records.
It was shocking to hear Ganguly admit that India were a bit too defensive on the last day of the Test. Keeping in view his performance in recent matches, Ganguly should be stripped of captaincy, at least in Tests.
Subhash C. Taneja, Rohtak
Virender Sehwag’s run-out on the final day of the Bangalore Test proved to be the turning point of the match. A misunderstanding between Sehwag and his opening partner Gautam Gambhir while taking a single led to this run-out. The defensive approach of the other batsmen also proved fatal. India should have won the series 1-0 but due to their own mistakes they had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Y.L. Chopra, Bathinda
The Test series between India and Pakistan, dubbed as the ‘Battle Royal’, proved true to its name. India outplayed Pakistan in Kolkata to take a 1-0 lead but the visitors bounced back majestically in the third Test in Bangalore.
A commanding performance by their batsmen and bowlers helped Pakistan beat India by 168 runs to level the series 1-1. Younis Khan and skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq, who cracked 267 and 184, respectively, in the first innings, laid the foundation of their side’s fantastic victory.
Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala
Ganguly must go
After his dismal performance in the Test series against Pakistan, does Sourav Ganguly deserve to be retained as captain in the ODI series against Pakistan? The answer is no. He has neither been able to lead the team from the front nor perform well as a batsman.
The selectors seem to have made a blunder by retaining him as captain of the Indian team in the first two ODIs. They should make amends by dropping Ganguly for the next four ODIs.
Natha Singh, Ludhiana
Everybody is baying for the blood of skipper Sourav Ganguly for India’s inept batting in the Bangalore Test. Why single out Sourav for the disgraceful debacle at the hands of Pakistan? It has been often observed that Sachin Tendulkar plays for his records and not for the country. This was amply demonstrated by his shaky effort in scoring just 16 runs in 55 minutes to surpass Sunil Gavaskar’s aggregate of 10,122 runs.
Instead of fighting it out and then getting defeated, our batsmen went into their shell against the determined onslaught of Shahid Afridi, Mohammed Sami, Arshad Khan and Danish Kaneria. Barring Gautam Gambhir (52), Sehwag (38) and an unbeaten knock of 37 by Anil Kumble, all others failed miserably. Together, the four stalwarts — Sourav, Sachin, Dravid and Laxman — scored a paltry 39 runs.
It is high time that players like Ajay Jadeja were recalled to strengthen the batting line-up.
Dharam Paul Sharma, Chandigarh