Paes braved cramps to see India through against Pakistan
Sanath Jayasuriya bid adieu to Test cricket during the Kandy match against
Pakistan last week.
IN THE NEWS
Reliable as ever
Despite the emergence of some young players, Leander Paes remains Indiaís trump card in the Davis Cup, writes Ivninderpal Singh
Leander Paes has done it yet again. He won the battle for India against Pakistan at the Brabourne Stadium. The stage was set for the crucial rubber when Pakistanís number one player Aisam Qureshi downed Indiaís Prakash Amritraj to restore parity at 2-2 in the Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie. So the tie between rivals India and Pakistan went into the final match.
The 33-year-old Indian captain rose to the occasion by deciding to play in the decisive second reverse singles instead of letting Rohan Bopanna spill his guts. It paid off and India managed to remain in Group I and kept their record clean by winning all encounters against Pakistan in Davis Cup history.
The hero of many campaigns against stronger teams in the past, Paes braved a severe bout of cramps in sweltering conditions to carve out a memorable five-set victory. This was reminiscent of his win against Goran Ivanisevic in the World Group (qualifying rounds) in 1995. He defeated Ivanisevic 6-7(4), 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-1 and helped India get past Croatia 3-2.
Though this Davis Cup lion has never played for personal milestones, he achieved one after the India-Pakistan tie. He has become the sixth best in terms of win-loss record in the Davis Cup. Paes had a 76-30 record after the February tie against Korea, which put him on a par with Hungaryís Balazas Taroczy (76-19). Now he has crossed that landmark and stands alone at No. 6 position by making it 78-30 in this premier menís team competition.
The physically and emotionally drained Indian star was at pains to explain the agony he went through before pushing India to a dramatic 3-2 win over Pakistan. "Itís been a tough week for me, becoming a father, taking care of Aiyana and Rhea and then coming back to blend with the boys. It was a very emotional finish for me and I am fortunate it ended in the right fashion," said Paes.
The Indian captain, who made his Davis Cup debut against Japan at Chandigarh in the doubles rubber in 1990 when he was 17, is apprehensive about young talent in the country and the paucity of reserves in the side. "For me to play the deciding rubber at the age of 33 shows that there is something wrong. We will have to tackle this issue," he said.
Though he was proud of the young Turks for the hard work they had put in, his answer to the reason for Indiaís failure to enter the tournamentís World Group ó lack of depth in singles ó raises questions about youngsters not being blooded early enough. Paes said the main problem was that "we are lacking a good steady singles player. Both Prakash and Rohan have been working hard and are improving, but till the time they are ready to take on the mantle and get confidence with a few more wins under their belt, we would struggle in singles."
Paes, who turned professional in 1991, is more of a doubles player. His career-high ATP ranking is No. 1 whereas in singles his best has been the 73rd position. Even today, he is eighth in the doubles ranking (not forgetting his bronze in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics). Despite this, he had to play in singles to spare India the blushes. It is high time youngsters were groomed to be able to take the baton from Paes.
Tried and Tested
Sanath Jayasuriya (36), one of the most fearsome strikers, has called it quits as far as Test cricket is concerned, though he will continue to play one-dayers.
In a career spanning 15 years, he was one of the players responsible for Sri Lankaís ascent in world cricket, lifting it from the shade of subcontinental superpowers India and Pakistan.
Jayasuriya started off as a middle-order batsman in 1991, making his Test debut against New Zealand. But his moment of glory came during the 1995-96 tour of Australia when, after being promoted up the batting order, he hit a swashbuckling 112 in the third Test at Adelaide. After that, there was no looking back for him.
The 1996 World Cup was the pinnacle of Jayasuriyaís one-day career. Along with Romesh Kaluwitharana, he decimated the opponentís bowling attack in the first 15 overs ó when field restrictions were in place ó to clear the way for the following batsmen to finish the match. It was pinch-hitting at its best. Sri Lanka won the World Cup and Jayasuriya was named the player of the tournament. He revolutionised the way batting was done in the first 15 overs.
He carried on in the same vein when India toured Sri Lanka the next year. He hit a mammoth 340 ó the highest individual score by any Sri Lankan batsmen ó and shared a 576-run partnership ó the highest ever Test partnership ó with Roshan Mahanama (225).
Jayasuriya had by now become the mainstay of the Lankan batting and opened in both Tests and one-dayers and the team relied on him for a good start. He took over the reins of the team from Arjuna Ranatunga in 1999 and led the side till 2003. In that period Sri Lanka won 18 of their 38 matches which made him the most successful captain in the islandís Test history. In 2001-02, he led the team to a record 10 consecutive Test victories. No mug with the ball either, he is an extremely effective left-arm spinner.
Jayasuriya announced his retirement from Tests before the start of the second Test against Pakistan in Kandy recently. It was a painful last Test for him as he injured his thumb while taking a catch. He finishes his Test career as the highest run-getter in both forms of the game for Sri Lanka.
But we have not seen the last of the "Butcher from Matara". He will carry on playing one-dayers till the 2007 World Cup and try to rework the magic that made him the most destructive batsman in the 1996 edition.
IN THE NEWS
Indiaís new world ladies billiards champion Chitra Magimairaj is concentrating on the Doha Asian Games to pocket a medal for the country.
Following her title win at the recent World Ladies Billiards Championship in England, she would focus on both snooker and billiards.
Chitra, who was initiated into snooker by legendary cueist and Dronacharya Awardee Arvind Savur, took to billiards on the insistence of her seniors and had practice sessions lasting more than 10 hours each to prepare for the Cambridge tourney, which has launched her into the global reckoning.
The 32-year-old Bangalorean rates her title clash with Englandís Emma Bonney, whom she defeated 193-164, as tough. "My rival was under tremendous pressure as she had to retain the title. Bonney is the biggest billiards player in England. She was a real threat for me but I kept cool. With five minutes to go, I had a fantastic 38-point break. I got confident that I could do it and I succeeded," she said.
Before playing billiards and snooker, Chitra was good at cricket and hockey. She would have captained the womenís cricket team in the nationals but she opted to play in the Asian Hockey Championship. She was a good defender. She was not selected for the Asian championship as she suffered injury in the leg. She was out of action for more than two years during which she underwent three surgeries in the leg. But her determination has brought her the world title. ó Agencies
Oliver Kahn is determined to be part of Germanyís World Cup squad despite being told he is no longer the first-choice goalkeeper.
Kahn hinted that he might retire from international football last week after Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced that Arsenalís Jens Lehmann would be his No. 1 goalkeeper at the World Cup which begins on June 9.
But despite Kahnís bitter disappointment at losing his place in the starting line-up after 86 appearances for Germany, he said he wants to be part of the host nationís challenge this summer, even if it is just as a squad member.
"Itís important for the team that Iím present during the World Cup," the 36-year-old Bayern Munich star told a press conference.
"Itís not an easy situation. Of course, I was disappointed not to be chosen as first choice after working so hard.
"But itís more important that I give my support to the whole team so that we can achieve our objective ó to be world champions."
Kahnís pledge of loyalty to the German squad was immediately welcomed by Klinsmann. "My compliments to Oliver," Klinsmann said.
"His experience and desire to put himself at the service of the team and to do everything he can to help us in the World Cup is very important."
Germanyís general manager Oliver Bierhoff echoed Klinsmannís sentiments. "Oliver Kahn has shown once again that he is a great sportsman," Bierhoff said.
"Jurgen Klinsmann has taken his decision, Iíve accepted it, Iíve thought about it and Iíve decided to do whatís best for the team," said Kahn, adding that he has "no conflict" with his rival Lehmann. ó AFP
Yet another flop show
The Indian menís hockey team put up a dismal show in the Commonwealth Games, disappointing lovers of the game all over the country. India drew with Malaysia, lost to Pakistan, scraped past South Africa and trounced minnows Trinidad and Tobago in the league matches. They failed to make the semifinal grade for having scored less number of goals than Malaysia. Their cup of misery was full to the brim when they lost to New Zealand to finish a poor sixth in a field of 10. One wonders what will be their plight in the World Cup.
The same old malaise of muffing goal-scoring chances in the striking circle proved to be Indiaís bane. Consequently, the team has fallen into an abyss and no concrete efforts are being made to retrieve it from there.
It is not being allowed to settle as a well-knit unit because of the frequent changes made in its composition. There is no harm in inducting youngsters but sweeping changes are not advisable.
Tarsem S. Bumrah
Apropos "On the sack track" by Prabhjot Singh (Saturday Extra, April 8), it is a matter of great shame that Indian hockey is being ruined by factionalism, regionalism and unfair selection. A few years ago, Australian hockey great Richard Charlesworth had offered his services as Indian teamís coach but it was not accepted. He is the man who can do wonders for Indian hockey if given a chance.
Sundar Singh Giani
The continuous dismal performance of our hockey team is a sad commentary on our national game. The sacking of the coach and the frequent chopping and changing of players wonít help matters. The coach should make efforts to iron out the playersí flaws.
Haul of fame
India performed quite well in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, bagging 22 gold with an overall haul of 50 medals. A whopping 16 gold medals were bagged by the shooters. Despite the unfortunate doping scandals, the weightlifters, as also the boxers, also brought some medals. The paddlers took home two gold and a bronze, their best show at the games so far. Ace shooter Samresh Jung, who bagged five gold, a silver and a bronze, was awarded the coveted David Dixon Award, which was the icing on the cake.
Despite the fairly good show, there is room for improvement. Shooting must be promoted at all levels and the professional shooters must be given the best training so that they can excel while competing with top marksmen from countries like China and Korea.
The other games in which players have performed well should also be given encouragement by the government. The womenís hockey team once again put up a good show by winning a silver. They missed the gold as the team was inexperienced. The womenís team gets less exposure as compared to the menís but the results are vice-versa.
The fact that India didnít perform well in swimming, gymnastics and athletics should be a matter of concern for the respective authorities. We should work harder so as to perform better in the Olympics and other major tournaments.