IN THE NEWS
Gone with the Windies
India’s recent success in one-day cricket matches under the stewardship of Rahul Dravid has made them the favourites in the ODI series against the once-mighty West Indies. Considering the instability in the Caribbean team, the Indians might achieve an easy away series win. But that should not see the players becoming complacent or performing below expectations.
Skipper Dravid is not the one to take things lightly. He made it clear at his first press conference after landing in Kingston (Jamaica) that he held the West Indies in high regard, despite their current record.
At home, any team can be a handful. The West Indians, led by the great Brian Lara, can pose quite a few problems to the visitors, especially since quite a few Indian players are touring the islands for the first time. Add to this the variable bounce of the strips in the West Indies, the strong winds blowing across many grounds and the string of fast bowlers that the Caribbean tend to produce, and you have all the makings of some very exciting cricket.
The Indian selectors have done well to pick the same squad which did duty in the two-match series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. The team has only four players — the skipper, vice-captain Virender Sehwag, the flamboyant Yuvraj Singh and the struggling Mohammad Kaif — who have previously toured the West Indies. For all other members in the squad, it would be a learning experience.
The youngsters in the team would not be burdened by the fact that the West Indies were once the best team in the world. The future of Indian cricket lies in the hands of players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, S. Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ajit Agarkar, and a good showing in the West Indies would be beneficial to them individually as well as to the team. Players like Robin Uthappa, Venugopal Rao and Munaf Patel should use the trip to gain valuable experience, which should serve them well when India return to the Caribbean next year for the World Cup.
Ever since Dravid has taken over the mantle of leadership from Sourav Ganguly, whose name, it seems, should not be uttered by anybody in the current Indian team, Indian have won 18 of their 24 one-day matches (and some of these losses have come at times when the stars of the team had opted to take rest after wrapping up the series like the one against England). More importantly, the Dravid-led squad recently set a world record of successfully chasing the victory target in 16 matches on the trot, eclipsing the previous world record held by Clive Lloyd’s West Indies team.
Going by the form book, India are way ahead of the West Indies in the ICC rankings, both in Tests as well as well as one-dayers. The West Indies, who seem to be a pale shadow of their former self, have won just two Tests in the past three years and one of the victories have come against Bangladesh. They have lost 20 of the remaining 28 games.
Their recent one-day record is equally dismal but for their unexpected victory in the 2004 Champions Trophy. India, who are yet to win a Test rubber in the West Indies after the historic win in 1971 when Sunil Gavaskar made his debut, should hope to set the record straight this time.
The Indians, who left without having a customary conditioning camp, should be happy that the one-day series is being played before the Tests as they have being playing the shorter version of the game in the past few weeks before taking well-deserved rest.
One player who will be sorely missed during the one-day series not only by the Indians but also by the hosts is Sachin Tendulkar, still to recover following his shoulder surgery. It is no use rushing through with Sachin’s rehabilitation.
It is better that he has adequate rest now before he picks up the willow for competitive cricket, since India need his services especially for the World Cup.
When the cricket season started last year, players like Ashish Nehra and Laxmipathy Balaji were in the forefront of the Indian team. However, injuries have forced them to make way for bowlers like Rudra Pratap Singh and Munaf Patel, who have proved to be suitable replacements. It does mean the end of the road for Nehra and Balaji, with so much cricket still to be played between now and the World Cup. Also waiting in the wings is Chandigarh’s VRV Singh, who by now must have recovered from the assault of England’s Kevin Pietersen. Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Kaarthick should also not lose hope because in him India have yet another utility player.
FIFA WORLD CUP
biggest sports extravaganza of them all — the football World Cup —
will witness 32 countries vying for the FIFA golden trophy in Germany.
Like Mexico, Italy and France, Germany is organising its second FIFA
World Cup. The first saw Franz Beckenbauer lift the trophy as captain of
the winning team in 1974.
The World Cup, which was first televised in 1954, is now the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, exceeding even the Olympic Games. The cumulative audience of the World Cup 2002 event — summing over all matches — was estimated at 28.8 billion, with 1.1 billion watching the final between Brazil and Germany.
The history of the World Cup dates back to 1930 when Uruguay got the chance to host the first-ever World Cup following the untiring efforts of the then FIFA president Jules Rimet. It was originally known as the World Cup or Coupe du Monde but was renamed in 1946 in honour of Jules Rimet (Jules Rimet Trophy) and this continued till 1970.
In the 76-year-old history of this tournament, it was only in the 1942 and 1946 when competitions were cancelled due to World War II and its aftermath. And throughout the war, the Italian Vice-President of FIFA, Dr Ottorino Barassi, hid the FIFA World Cup trophy in a shoebox under his bed and saved it from falling into the hands of occupying troops.
Just before the 1966 World Cup final in England, the trophy was stolen during a public exhibition, but was found seven days later, wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a suburban garden hedge in Norwood, South London, by a dog named Pickles. Pickles met his untimely end when he was strangled by his own leash.
But as a security measure, FIFA secretly manufactured a replica of the trophy for use in post-match celebrations. The replica was also used on subsequent occasions until 1970 and was sold at an auction in 1997 for $ 425,015.
In 1970, Brazil’s third victory in the tournament entitled them to keep the trophy for good. However, the trophy was stolen again in 1983, and has never been recovered. After 1970, a new trophy, known as the FIFA World Cup Trophy, was designed. This is not awarded to the winning nation permanently, irrespective of how many World Cups they win. It will not be retired until the name plaque has been entirely filled with the names of winning nations in 2038.
The beginning of this great tournament was marred by the difficulties of intercontinental travel and war. In the inaugural tournament, none of the European countries pledged to send a team until two months before the start of the competition. Rimet eventually persuaded teams from Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In all, 13 nations took part — seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America. Similarly, a few South American teams were willing to travel to Europe for the 1934 and 1938 tournaments, with Brazil the only South American team to compete in both.
The first World Cup was the only one without a qualifying competition. Since the second World Cup in 1934, qualifying tournaments have been held to thin the field for the final tournament. They are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), overseen by their respective confederations.
In the tournaments between 1934 and 1978, 16 teams qualified for each finals (except in a few cases where teams withdrew after qualifying). The finals were expanded to 24 teams in 1982, then to 32 in 1998.
In all, 207 teams have competed to qualify for the World Cup finals, and 78 nations have qualified at least once. Of these, only 11 have made it to the final match and only seven have won. Six of the seven champions have won at least one of their titles while playing in their own homeland, the exception being Brazil, who lost the deciding match (known as Maracanazo) when they hosted the 1950 tournament.
Brazil is also the most successful World Cup team with five victories out of its seven appearances in the final match. It is also the only nation to have participated in every World Cup finals so far.
Brazil are the
favourites to win in Germany, too, despite the hosts enjoying the
advantage of a supportive crowd. Brazil beat
Germany 2-0 in the 2002 FIFA World Cup final to win the fifth title and
defeated them 3-2 at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Germany last year.
But this time the hosts have done their homework well and winning the
trophy will not be a cakewalk for any of the contenders.
IN THE NEWS
Jayanta Talukdar has made such rapid strides in recent years that the Archery Association of India (AAI) now views him as a potential Olympic champion. His gold in the Olympic recurve event at the first World Cup Archery Championship at Porec, Croatia, recently has not come as a surprise to those who have been closely following his career over the past two years.
Jayanta bested a world-class field, including Olympic silver medallist Marco Galiazzo of Italy and Magnus Petersson of Sweden, to hit the bull’s-eye in the World Cup.
The Assamese boy has indeed come a long way from the days when he used to shoot with bamboo bows and arrows in Guwahati. His elder brother Nikhlesh Talukdar has been his role model.
Jayanta’s life took a dramatic turn when he was spotted as a 16-year-old by selectors of the Jamshedpur-based Tata Archery Academy during a countrywide search for archery talent four years ago.
Basic and advanced training under the expert guidance of coaches Dharmendra Tiwari, Poornima Mahato and Korea’s Lim Chwe Woong has so wonderfully fine-tuned Talukdar’s accuracy that he is now perceived to be on a par with Korean archers, who are considered the best not only in Asia but also in the world.
Jayanta’s medal-winning spree started with a bronze in the team event at the 32nd National Games in Hyderabad in 2002. Thereafter, it has been a steady rise, winning several medals at the junior and senior nationals. He entered the big league when he won two gold in the first Junior Asian Archery Championship in 2004. He then captured one gold in the FITA round, a silver in the Olympic round and a team gold in the Malaysian Grand Prix. He bagged a team silver in the Junior World Archery Championship in the UK, a silver in the Senior World Archery Championship at Madrid and another medal at the World Championship in New York to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The 20-year-old Jayanta, pursuing education through open school, gave his Class X Board exams this year, and hopes to pursue his education alongside archery. He is a very cool and collected archer, who has set his sights on an Olympic medal. But he knows his limitations and which areas he needs to work on to realise his ambition.
Jayanta says he has to work hard on his fitness "as I get tired when I approach the medal round. Archery is a taxing sport, and the medal round is decided only after three days of hectic competition, with each day’s ‘shoot’ lasting around five hours."
"If I do well, I will get awards and rewards", he says confidently. The days of shooting with primitive bows and arrows are well and truly behind him. His carbon recurve archery kit costs upward of Rs 1 lakh while a compound archery kit costs over Rs 1.5 lakh.
"Jayanta has the skill and talent, and the fighting spirit to boot. He can become an Olympic champion if he keeps on improving", says Tata Academy coach Dharmendra Tiwari, who has been with the young archer ever since he was drafted into the Tata fold.
Tiwari said Tata Steel offered a monthly contract for Rs 10,000 to Jayanta after he performed well in the Junior World Cup. This amount is in addition to the facilities he avails of at the Tata Academy, like food, equipment, services of the foreign coach, foreign exposure, medical cover, TA/DA, education, etc. The archer has also the option of staying in the academy as long as he wants.
Jayanta is now focusing on doing well in the Asian Games in Doha this year-end, though his ultimate aim is to make a podium finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Flop show in final
India A failed to repeat their commendable league performance against Pakistan in the final of the Eurasia Series six-nation limited-overs cricket tournament in Abu Dhabi.
They allowed Pakistan, who appeared to have reserved their best for the final showdown, to accumulate a challenging and stiff total of 288 for four, with captain Hasan Raza contributed an unbeaten 106. Indian new-ball bowlers RP Singh and VRV Singh were both wayward, conceding 60 and 77 runs, respectively, without claiming a wicket.
India A started their daunting run chase disastrously as they lost their openers cheaply. However, captain Venugopal Rao and Reetinder Sodhi, who scored contrasting fifties, steadied the innings, giving the team a glimmer of victory. But the 40th over proved to be the turning point of the match as Rao and Sodhi were dismissed in the space of four balls. The rest of the batsmen meekly threw in the towel, paving the way for Pakistan’s facile triumph.
Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala
Rahul Dravid deserves praise for his fine knock of 92 runs and his partnership with Virender Sehwag of 138 runs which laid the foundation for India’s victory in the second ODI against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi. The win also enabled India to level the series 1-1.
Gurudev Singh Jain, Baltana