The patch-up between
Sourav Ganguly and Greg Chappell gives both of them the opportunity to let their actions speak louder than words,
THE peace brokered in Mumbai between Sourav Ganguly and Greg Chappell has given the Indian skipper one last chance to prove that he still has it in him to lead India, at least till the 2007 World Cup.
The Review Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had little option but to hammer out the compromise between the warring captain and Chappell. It could neither have dumped Ganguly, in view of his impressive overall record, nor the coach, who had been called upon to shape the team for the World Cup.
The credit for hammering out this compromise of the high-profile dispute, which for more than a fortnight had held centrestage, relegating even politics from the front pages of most newspapers, must go not only to the three former Indian captains, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Srinivas Venkataraghavan, but also the BCCI President, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, as also his predecessor, Jagmohan Dalmiya, all members of the Review Committee. The other member of the committee was S.K. Nair, the "lame duck" Secretary of the Board.
All three former
captains who attended the meeting of the committee must have had a soft
spot for Ganguly for his loss of form in recent times. They, too, have
during their playing days suffered a slump in form and know how big the
struggle is to regain their touch. They also knew that the record of the
Kolkata southpaw was indeed very good and he deserved some more time to
deliver the goods again.
When selected, Chappell, whose name first came up during the series against Pakistan when Wright had expressed a desire to return home, also had the recommendation of the skipper himself. Ganguly had once travelled all the way to Australia in August, 2003, prior to India’s tour Down Under, where he ironed out flaws in his batting under Chappell’s tutelage. And post-training, Ganguly scored a classic century at the Brisbane Gabba.
There is no doubt that Ranbir Singh as well as Dalmiya, both very persuasive speakers, must have played a major role in hammering out the truce, no matter how temporary. The patch-up was brought about even though both the captain and the coach had been warned that the issue would be settled on the basis of performance. Now it is up to these two to prove they have it in them to stay on.
Ganguly has the home series first against Sri Lanka and then against South Africa to prove that he has some cricket left in him. The painstaking century scored against Zimbabwe is no proof that he has regain his batting touch. He has to score runs and do so consistently if he has to justify his place in the team. The issue of captaincy will, of course, be decided on a series-to-series basis, but if Ganguly can regain his batting form then the whole issue can be looked from a different perspective.
As far as the coach is concerned, he
will have to gel well with the boys, especially with players like
Harbhajan Singh, the lone member of the squad that toured Zimbabwe who
came out in open support of his captain, even alleging that the coach
has brought about an air of fear and insecurity among the players. There
are also reports that the coach is putting too much of workload on the
players. All this has to be sorted out. But more important than that
Chappell will have to imbibe the Indian ethos (just as Wright had done
over the years) if he is to get along well with the boys.
THE practice of pitting a star-studded mixed team against a top side is more than 30 years old. England and Australia hosted Rest of the World teams in the 1970s, but these unofficial series were organised to compensate for the cancellation of South Africa’s scheduled tours.
The upcoming Super Series is in the same mould, yet it is different. The three one-dayers (October 5, 7 and 9) and the six-day Test (October 14-19) between Australia and ICC World XI will enjoy official status, much to the displeasure of statisticians. It will be held every four years with the team finishing at the top in ICC ratings taking on a side of star cricketers, selected by an elite panel.
Both World XI squads have been selected with the aim of forming the best possible combination(s). Andrew Flintoff — the thorn in the Australian side during the Ashes series — has been picked for both squads, while Kevin Pietersen and Steve Harmison are in the one-day and Test teams, respectively.
One notable player conspicuous by his absence will be Sachin Tendulkar, who, though having recovered from the elbow injury, has wisely heeded the advise of the Indian team physio and withdrawn from the series as he cannot afford to take any risk ahead of a packed schedule.
Tendulkar has been replaced by Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and Rahul Dravid in the Test and one-day teams, respectively. The only other Indian, apart from Dravid, who has made it to both teams is Virender Sehwag.
The Australians will look at this series as a springboard to recovery after the heart-breaking Ashes loss. It will be a test of Aussie character and resolve, especially for the captain Ricky Ponting, who will be under pressure not to lose another series.
The Aussies are nursing their wounded pride and will be raring to prove that the Ashes loss was just an aberration in their splendid record. But they are up against formidable foes who are keen to deal the final blow to the invincibility of the Aussies.
Chinks in the Aussie armour were turned into gaping holes by England during the Ashes series.There has been an upheaval in the team, with non-performing players axed and new ones drafted in their place. Trevor Hohns, chairman of the selectors, has said the Super Series is the start of preparations for the 2007 World Cup. Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn have been dropped from the one-day and Test teams, respectively. But the selectors have come down heavily on Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz, both losing their place in the side.
In their place come fast bowlers Shaun
Tait and Nathan Bracken and all rounder James Hopes. The selectors will
be hoping that Hopes will emulate Andrew Flintoff and will be a cover
for Gilchrist or a non-performing bowler.
ROHAN Bopanna’s riveting display against Sweden’s Thomas Johansson in the Davis Cup tie was a revelation. He rediscovered himself to show a different facet of his game, though the trademark of his tennis has always been his big serve.
But he could never really exploit his strong point to make a mark due to his inconsistency. Bopanna silenced his critics with slam-bang tennis against Johansson. His solid performance has boosted his confidence sky high, though he fell on the treacherous grasscourt rendered potholed due to incessant rain and tore the tendon of his left ankle joint. He would be out of action for a month, which is very saddening as he was reaching peak form after being laid low for seven months following a bicep surgery on the right arm.
After the surgery, he was not very sure of staging a comeback to tennis. But his positive attitude and hard work helped him get back, and that too with a bang.
His booming serves, amazing groundstrokes, effective backhands and forehands, and searing net volley have made him a player to be taken note of.
The Delhi Lawn Tennis Association courts have always proved a happy hunting ground for Bopanna as he had won his maiden International Tennis Federation’s Futures title in the Capital three years ago, defeating Dmitri Mazur of Uzbekistan, after pairing up with Vijay Kannan to bag the doubles crown.
Bopanna was not really the first choice for the second singles slot in the India-Sweden Davis Cup clash. Captain Leander Paes could have exercised the option of opting for Harsh Mankad. Harsh, being the senior and higher-ranked player, had a natural claim and Leander was inclined to favour him. But Harsh spoke out of turn to spoil his chance as he had insisted that he would join the team only as a playing member.
Bopanna eventually got the nod and seized the god-sent opportunity to prove a point or two to many people. But the most important point he proved was that he was not a "softy" as tennis watchers had thought him to be. He has the power and stamina to play attacking, aggressive tennis, though the big points still elude him.
Lack of big-match temperament? Perhaps. But Bopanna has vowed to iron out the flaws to do better than his show against former Australian Open champion and this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Johansson.
He was ranked a lowly 600 after he returned from his surgery break, but within a short span, he bridged the gap to 311.
Bopanna took up tennis rather late, at the age of 15, when he was taken to Nandan Bal’s academy in Pune for formal coaching. But being the son of tennis-playing parents, Bopanna grew up in an atmosphere grounded in tennis, and got the initial coaching from CGK Bhupathi. Bhupathi eventually donned the mantle of his mentor, though Bopanna also had a stint with the famed Nick Bolletteri Academy in the USA, and sessions with Bob Brett. Brett has instilled in him tremendous confidence and a dramatic makeover in his tennis.
Though the 25-year-old has matured late, he can still prove himself, provided he is guided and nurtured properly. His professional career is handled by Mahesh Bhupathi’s company Globosport, which has made Sania a superstar. Sri Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain College, from where Bopanna graduated, has also financially supported him to make trips to Malaysia and Australia, besides some other well-wishers.
But Bopanna will have to play consistently and win matches and tournaments to assert his credentials.
FOR a change, Sania Mirza was not the star performer for India at the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata. The Uberoi sisters — Shikha and Neha — played superb tennis to reach their maiden WTA doubles final. They were blown away by the Russian duo of Anastasia Myskina and Elena Likhovtseva in the title clash, but the upset win in the semis against Melinda Czink of Hungary and Yulina Fedak of Ukraine showed that the sisters were no pushovers.
Shikha also did well to reach her first WTA singles quarterfinal, where she lost to Myskina. She certainly outshone Sania, who was shocked in the second round by Czink and bowed out in the doubles semis.
Shikha’s impressive show has
improved her WTA ranking from 152nd to 139th. Her doubles ranking has
also risen to a career-best 208th, while Neha’s is up to 188th.
— Photos by PTI/AFP/Reuters
INDIA won both Tests against Zimbabwe to register their first series win outside the subcontinent after nearly two decades. It was in 1986 that India, under Kapil Dev, won an away series against England 2-0.
The victory against Zimbabwe was on expected lines as the latter had a weak team. Irfan Pathan excelled as a wicket-taker, claiming as many as 21 scalps in two matches. He even proved to be a reliable lower order batsman. No wonder Pathan won the man of the series award.
It is time for Javed Miandad to eat his own words. He had equated Pathan, on his induction into the Indian team, with one of the innumerable kids playing cricket on the streets of Pakistan.
— D.K. Aggarwala
The Kiwis played a superior game and deservingly lifted the Videocon Cup by winning the final of the tri-series in Zimbabwe. Both Stephen Fleming and Nathan Astle hammered the Indian bowlers all over the place. The Indian bowling attack proved ineffective before the onslaught of Astle, who stood firm till the end.
On a wicket which was playing quite easy, the Indian total should have exceeded the 300-run mark. Barring Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif, the Indian players did not play up to their potential and hence could not consolidate the innings. New Zealand bowlers were successful in containing the Indian batsmen in the slog overs. The total of 276 runs failed to challenge the Kiwis and they achieved it comfortably.
— Nirmal Kumar
The Indian hockey team was outplayed by three top teams — Pakistan, Germany and Spain — in the Rabo Trophy at Amstelveen. They secured a face-saving victory in the last match against England to avoid the wooden spoon.
On the other hand, Pakistan put up a spirited performance to lift the trophy. Defeating Olympic champions Australia was no mean task, but their determined effort made it possible.
With an eye on the Champions Trophy in December, the Indian selectors and the coach should gear up to meet the challenge.
— Manju Dhawan