task for India
IN THE NEWS
Despite a new captain
and a new coach, Team India failed to deliver in the
Chappell must be wondering what hit the Indian team in the final of the
Indian Oil Cup against hosts Sri Lanka. Losing or winning is part of any
game but the way the Indians handed over the Cup on a platter to the
hosts must have made the coach shake his head in dismay. Nothing what
the Indians did that day seemed correct as the hosts took the honours
with some splendid cricket. For Greg it is obviously a return to the
drawing board and the nets as he attempts again to put the Men in Blue
on the right track.
Even in the league phase, the Indians looked rusty, losing twice to Sri Lanka and scraping through to the final after a hard-fought victory over the West Indians, who were fielding a second-string team. India might not have gained much from the tournament but the West Indies surely did. It gave the Caribbeans a good idea of their bench strength as they prepare to host the next World Cup.
The efforts put in by Chappell with his team at the Bangalore camp seemed a waste as the Indians simply could not do anything right on the day which mattered. Maybe the Australian would have to redraw the strategy for a team which has developed a knack for choking in the final (the Indians have won just one of the 15 finals they have figured in since 2000).
With the 2007 World Cup not very far away, Chappell would have to draw on all his cricketing skills, besides seeking the help of all his backroom boys, if the Indians are to improve upon their current seventh place in one-day rankings. But in the final analysis it is the cricketers on the ground who would have to deliver and for that there seems to be no easy solution in sight at the moment.
Even after claiming four wickets with 122 runs on the board, the much-vaunted Indian spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh gave away as many as 104 runs in their 20 overs without claiming a single wicket. The spinners provided easy pickings for the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold.
Kumble strayed on to the legs far too often and was also far too short. It is quite possible that Kumble’s role in one-day wicket is slowly, but surely, coming to an end. And Harbhajan needs to be told that yelling at fellow players on the field is no way to build team morale, especially when the chips are down. In any case it was his bowling which let the team down.
It was probably during this phase of the game that the Cup slipped out of the hands of the Indians after the fast bowlers, particularly Ashish Nehra, had done some good work to keep the hosts under some sort of check. Nehra bowled with guts as he went on to claim six for 59 in his 10 overs to finish the tournament with 12 wickets at an economy rate of 4.12, an effort which in the end proved to be of no use. The irony of the whole Sri lanka innings was that no other Indian bowler could claim a wicket and the remaining three wickets were run-outs.
Barring these run-outs, the Indian fielding was by and large sloppy, except of course the efforts of Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif and the skipper. The worst was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who job behind the stumps could well be on the line after his string of miserable showings in Sri Lanka. He not only dropped Jayasuriya and Jayawardene but his wicketkeeping in general was sloppy and not definitely international class.
However, it were the batsmen who really let India down. Virender Sehwag got going only in the final, scoring an electrifying 22-ball 48, with 26 of them coming off one over from Dilhara Lokuhettige, but he failed to get a big score. His knock, though, set the tone for the Indian chase of the highest total recorded in the tournament.
The Indians were in command at 186 for two with skipper Dravid having grafted a well-made half century and the flamboyant Yuvraj Singh playing sensibly. And then the Indians choked. The captain was the prime culprit, setting off for a very risky single against a sharp fielding side which knew that a couple of vital wickets would be enough to win the clash. And once he and Yuvraj were back in the dressing room there was very little the Indians could do to swing the game their way.
The Indians, after many years, played
five regular bowlers in the final but it did not prove to be any better
than playing seven batsmen and four regular bowlers. However, this
experiment is worth another try as the hunt for the elusive all-rounder
would probably continue, even as JP Yadav missed out on playing even a
single game in Sri Lanka.
Sportspersons need nerves of steel to perform well in crunch situations. It becomes easier for them to handle pressure once they have had a few sittings with Sukhdev Singh. This much-in-demand yoga instructor has worked with eminent players like golfer Jyoti Randhawa, cricket skipper Rahul Dravid, top shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore, Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan and Indian hockey captain Dilip Tirkey, besides several supermodels.
It has been a long journey for Sukhdev, who belongs to Yamunanagar in Haryana. As a youngster, he tried his hand at everything, even yoga. He proved to be good at triathlon and swimming and represented Kurukshetra University at the All-India Inter University Swimming Meet in 1992.
Soon after, Sukhdev decided to enrol himself at Panjab University in Chandigarh to get his degree in law, since swimming alone was not enough to secure his future. However, he continued to pursue his first love, representing India at the Asian Triathlon Championship in Chennai. Despite being selected for the state triathlon team for the 4th National Games at Bangalore in 1997, he had to return as the event was cancelled.
Sukhdev was at a crossroads with no concrete plans for the future. He took up a job as a swimming coach at a hotel in Chandigarh and it was here that he decided to take up yoga as a career since swimming was not getting him anywhere.
He completed his masters in yoga and "preksha" meditation from the Jain Vishvabharati Sansthan in Rajasthan. He studied and practised day and night, especially concentrating on the needs and requirements of sportspersons.
"When you practise yoga, you develop harmony between your body and mind, thereby strengthening both. Yoga is of great benefit to sportspersons as it makes them mentally alert and physically lithe," he says.
The first break came with the Indian junior handball team and the women’s cricket team for whom he conducted yoga sessions. For a while he trained golfers at the Chandigarh Golf Club. Better prospects and greater exposure led him to Delhi where he came in contact with former Indian cricketer Yograj Singh and great left-arm spinner Bishen Singh Bedi. There was no looking back.
Sukhdev’s big success story was his role in the rise of Jyoti Randhawa. The golfer acknowledges Sukhdev’s contribution in helping him reach the pinnacle of Asian golf. According to Sukhdev, "Concentration is of the utmost importance for golf as it is a game of patience and can stretch on for several hours. You do not need strength but rhythm and flexibility and you also need to be relaxed to play well."
Randhawa, who was the first Indian to win the Asian PGA Tour ‘Order of Merit’ golf title in 2002, broke his collar bone in a motor cycle accident just prior to the tournament. It took him six months to recover, during which he practiced yoga under Sukhdev for 30 to 40 minutes daily. Making a superb comeback, Randhawa not only bagged the prestigious title but was also voted Player of the Year.
The 36-year-old Sukhdev, also a water polo player, has also been a yoga instructor at the Asian PGA Academy at the Palm Resort Golf and Country Club in Malaysia. "Working with different kinds of people and meeting different needs at the same time exposed me to so many facets of the mind and the body. After all, it is all about synergy between the two."
His yoga tips, however, are not reserved for the rich and the famous. Even ordinary people who come to him for guidance are obliged.
task for India
THE odds are stacked firmly against India as they begin their campaign in the eight-nation Rabobank hockey tournament, which starts tomorrow in Amstelveen, Holland.
India are clubbed with Pakistan, Spain and Germany, while the other group comprises Holland, Korea, England and Olympic champions Australia. India’s recent record against their group rivals does not inspire confidence. They were beaten twice by Pakistan in the Lahore Champions Trophy late last year and once during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur two months ago. They were also thrashed in Lahore by eventual winners Spain. India managed to defeat Germany in the Champions Trophy, but the latter had fielded an inexperienced side.
Making it to the top six in Amstelveen would be a realistic goal for India. Anything better than that seems unlikely. In the seven-nation Azlan Shah Cup, India had finished a poor fifth. They were whipped both by Malaysia and Korea during the league phase, and barely managed to beat the former in the fifth place playoff. India also suffered defeats at the hands of Pakistan and eventual champions Australia, even though the team fought hard in both matches.
The Kuala Lumpur tournament was a "trial by fire" for new coach Rajinder Singh Jr, and given the short time he had to prepare the team, it wasn’t that bad a show. Moreover, India missed the services of Viren Rasquinha in the midfield and Gagan Ajit Singh in the forward line. Both these top players are back to strengthen the squad, along with full-back Kanwalpreet Singh. Importantly, Rajinder has a well-prepared side at his disposal this time, thanks to the rigorous training camps in Patiala and Chandigarh.
However, not everybody is happy with the team selection. The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) has already raised many an eyebrow by omitting five players who played in the Junior World Cup in Rotterdam last month — drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza, VS Vinay, Adam Sinclair and Tushar Khandekar. These juniors’ recent familiarity with the Dutch conditions could have come in handy for the team.
Sandeep’s omission has particularly baffled many hockey lovers, and IHF chief KPS Gill’s argument that he has been "preserved" does not hold water for them. The drag-flicker’s presumable replacement, Namdhari player Didar Singh, has been assigned the arduous task of getting goals for India through penalty corners. He may find things too hot to handle.
Promising Punjab and Sind Bank player Ravipal Singh, who failed to figure in the junior squad for the World Cup but was surprisingly included among the senior probables, will be making his debut for the country.
Dilip Tirkey’s men may not go far in
the August 14-21 tournament, but their performance would have a bearing
on their preparations for the Champions Trophy in Chennai this December
and the World Cup in Germany next year. A good show would boost their
confidence; a bad one would take them virtually back to square one.
WHEN Sania Mirza declared earlier this year that her target for 2005 was to reach the top 50, critics didn’t give her much of a chance. They thought she was spending too much time obliging sponsors and enjoying her celebrity status. However, mixing style with substance, Sania has proved them all wrong by reaching a career-high ranking of 48.
The 18-year-old has quickly established herself as a tricky opponent for top players on court. Her dazzling earrings, confident media comments and endorsements have already made her an Indian youth icon off the court.
Ranked 206 at the start of 2005, Sania has not looked back since she got a lucky Australian Open wildcard. She stunned US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dubai Open in March, showing an all-out aggression unusual in Indian women players who have in the past displayed a tendency for soft serves and tame baseline rallies.
With her objective achieved, Sania is now keen to improve her showing in the Grand Slam events. She reached the third round at the Australian Open, bowed out in the first round at the French Open, and went down fighting to Kuznetsova in the second round at Wimbledon.
Her build-up for the US Open, which begins on August 29, has been fairly good. She reached the last eight at Cincinnati in July and then toppled Russian world number nine Nadia Petrova at last week’s San Diego Classic. She played in the JP Morgan Open earlier this week despite a stomach muscle pull but lost in three sets to world No. 51 Iveta Benesova in the opening round.
If she can remain injury-free in the
next few weeks, a good show at the last Grand Slam of the year is
definitely on the cards. — Agencies
Murali at his best
Muttiah Muralitharan sent the inexperienced West Indies crashing to defeat, grabbing eight wickets for 46 runs in the second innings of the second Test to help Sri Lanka sweep the series 2-0. Playing international cricket after a layoff of 11 months because of a shoulder injury, Murali took no time to get into the groove and scythed through the Windies’ batting which was clueless about playing the spin wizard on a wearing pitch.
He made up for the forced absence of Chaminda Vaas, who pulled a hamstring, and garnered his 14th haul of 10 wickets in a match, increasing his tally of wickets to 17 in two Tests. Once accused of chucking, Murali has taken the bittersweet moments of his career in his stride and concentrated on rattling the batsmen around the world with his spin arsenal. At 31 he is going great guns and is likely to overtake Shane Warne sooner than later.
Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala
A world power in football, Argentina is moving towards that distinction in hockey also. Runners-up to India in the Junior World Cup four years ago, they forced their way further up to scale the summit at Rotterdam recently. According to coach Harendra Singh, lapses at crucial moments and the unfavourable umpiring were the reasons for India’s failure. However, former India captain Pargat Singh attributed it to lack of concentration, confidence, control and commitment.
Prixit Shakya, Shimla
Past his prime
Sachin Tendulkar is no doubt a great batsman, but he is no longer the player on whom the Indian team once depended heavily. Erratic form and injury have made him a pale shadow of his former self. It is too early to completely write off Tendulkar, but the veteran must make way for a talented youngster when the time is ripe.
Y.L. Chopra, Bathinda