SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Packing a punch
Women’s boxing has made rapid strides in India in the past few years, writes M.S. Unnikrishnan

Women’s boxing is on the upswing in India, thanks to M.C. Mary Kom’s golden run in the World Championship and the superb show by Indian girls in the Asian Boxing Championship at Taipei earlier this year.

(From left) M.C. Mary Kom and Sarita Devi are among the leading women pugilists of the country. — PTI photo
M.C. Mary Kom, Sarita Devi and Aruna Mishra are among the leading women pugilists of the country.

Green-carpet treatment
Donald Banerjee

It has come all the way from Florida. A fine green carpet now adorns the sixth and eighth greens of the Chandigarh Golf Club. The Twift Dwarf, as the grass is called, is a vast improvement over the Bermuda Grass.

Bobby Sandhu, Captain of the Course, at the Chandigarh Golf Club’s eighth green, which has been carpeted with the Twift Dwarf grass from Florida. —  Tribune photo by Pradeep Tewari

Bobby Sandhu, Captain of the Course, at the Chandigarh Golf Club’s eighth green, which has been carpeted with the Twift Dwarf grass from Florida.

Pool star
G.S. Paul

Breaking records, even his own, is nothing new for Chandigarh swimmer Puneet Rana. Representing hosts Panjab University at the All-India Inter-University Aquatic Championship recently, Puneet clocked 1 minute 6.06 seconds to set a record in 100m breaststroke. He bettered his own mark (1:08.31), which was achieved in 2002. “I did it despite hardly doing any practice before the event,” he said.

IN THE NEWS
Top gun
Vikramdeep Johal

Overshadowing a great batsman like Sanath Jayasuriya is no mean feat for a rookie. With his back-to-back hundreds in the Champions Trophy qualifiers, Upul Tharanga has stolen the limelight from his illustrious opening partner. The Sri Lankan, who made an unimpressive debut in the tri-series on home soil in August last year, has notched up six hundreds in just 31 one-dayers.






  • Another hockey debacle

  • European hold

  • Bad umpiring

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Packing a punch

Women’s boxing has made rapid strides in India in the past few years, writes M.S. Unnikrishnan

 

Aruna Mishra
Aruna Mishra

Women’s boxing is on the upswing in India, thanks to M.C. Mary Kom’s golden run in the World Championship and the superb show by Indian girls in the Asian Boxing Championship at Taipei earlier this year. India tallied an unprecedented number of 11 medals (seven gold, two silvers and two bronze) in the Asian Championship.

The girls look a confident lot as India gear up to host the fourth World Women’s Boxing Championships in New Delhi from November 17 to 24.

Women boxers have achieved a lot in a few years, ever since the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) hosted the first national championship for eves in Chennai in 2001.

The federation’s resolve to put greater thrust on women’s boxing strengthened when Mary Kom won a silver medal in the World Championship in the USA in 2001. In 2002, she landed great punches in a series of international competitions, winning the gold in the Witch Cup in Hungary and the World Championship in Turkey. She then captured the Asian Championship gold in 2003 and 2005 and the World Championship gold in 2005.

She became a name to reckon with almost overnight, and the government recognised her prodigious talent by bestowing upon her the Arjuna Award and then the Padma Shri — a rare feat for a sportswoman. She became only the second boxer to be honoured with the Padma Shri after the legendary heavyweight pugilist Kaur Singh.

“The inaugural women’s boxing championship helped the IABF grade the players and spot talent for grooming them for bigger events,” says Dronacharya awardee boxing coach Om Prakash Bharadwaj.

Apart from Manipur’s Mary Kom, India boasts of several good women boxers, such as Kanaka Durga of Andhra Pradesh, Lekha K.C and Aswathy Prabha of Kerala, Sarita Devi and Asha Rani Devi of Manipur, Meena Kumari, Sushma Kumari, Renu and Jyotshna of Haryana, Karamjeet Kaur of Punjab, Jenny R.L of Mizoram and Aruna Mishra of Jharkhand.

“I am sure Mary Kom will win her third World Championship gold when the event is held at home, which will be a world record. I am expecting seven medals from our girls,” added Bharadwaj.

“We have been training hard and the girls are fit and raring to go. We hope to fetch a handful of medals in the World Championship,” said Mary Kom, after a taxing training session.

Dr PSM Chandran, who is attached to the women’s boxing squad, noted the amazing fitness and flexibility of the girls, whose “medical fitness” is also something to be marvelled at. The boxers have been attending regular training camps for the past two years under Sports Authority of India coach Anoop Singh. IABF president Abhay Singh Chautala has ensured that the girls are given the best of training and other facilities which are being supplemented by the SAI and the Sports Ministry.

Surprisingly, there is no clamour for foreign coaches to train the girls as they have been consistently delivering results under the guidance of Indian trainers.

But the prospects are not that rosy for the male boxers shaping up for the Doha Asian Games in December. The men are currently training in Patiala, but they can hope to make it good only if they are serious about their objectives. There is, however, some consolation for them as India had won five medals in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne earlier this year.

“Our boxers can do well in the Asiad only if they firm up their conditioning, technique and tactics, and the will to win medals,” added Bharadwaj, who is now involved in the overall preparation of the boxing squad.

The boxers will have a month-long training-cum-coaching stint in Cuba before the Asian Games. Overall, Indian boxing is poised for a major makeover.
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Green-carpet treatment
Donald Banerjee

It has come all the way from Florida. A fine green carpet now adorns the sixth and eighth greens of the Chandigarh Golf Club. The Twift Dwarf, as the grass is called, is a vast improvement over the Bermuda Grass.

The Bermuda Grass became popular seven years ago when it replaced the Calcutta Grass on the club greens.

But with the passage of time, its susceptibility to monsoon conditions became apparent. Fungus infection curtailed the growth, restricting the roll of the ball, says Bobby (Sandeep) Sandhu, Captain of the Course.

The Twift Dwarf carpet has caught the fancy of cricket associations also. The Ferozeshah Kotla wicket in Delhi and the Jaipur pitch wear this green carpet.

Sandhu says the Chandigarh Golf Club had become the first club in North India after the one in Delhi to go in for the Twift Dwarf.

The sixth and eighth greens acquired a new look two months ago. Seeing the expenses incurred, the club is building its own Twift Dwarf nursery on the seventh green — it is a play-cum-nursery hole.

“The Twift Dwarf tends to lose colour in severe winter conditions, but the quality of the fine carpet is unaffected,” adds Sandhu.

But with other nurseries coming up in the region — Ranjit Nanda’s nursery in Gurgaon and Asia Greens at Raipur Rani — the club will soon acquire these greens for the other holes.

“The president of the Chandigarh Golf Club, G.S. Sandhu, has allowed free flow of funds for improving the greens,” he says.

To cut the greens to perfection, the club has also imported two ride-in mowers, again from Florida.

Armed with the new greens and the new mowers, the club has rolled out a fine green for the new golf season which started off with the junior and sub-junior nationals.

Next on the calendar is the Samarvir Sahi Tournament in November-end, followed by the Hero Honda pro circuit in December-January.

The nine holes on the campus side of the golf club (first, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th) have got night lights.

Sandhu is all praise for the committee members. A former media committee chairman, Dr G.S. Kochhar, was also at hand during the interview. He mentioned the name of Rahul Bakshi, who is just 17 but has made a mark for himself on the national junior circuit.

Bobby Sandhu has also been named captain of the Indian golf team for the Eisenhower Cup (world amateur event) to be held in Cape Town (South Africa) from October 20 to 30.
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Pool star
G.S. Paul

Swimmer Puneet Rana’s achievements have not yet been duly recognised.
Swimmer Puneet Rana’s achievements have not yet been duly recognised. — A Tribune photograph

Breaking records, even his own, is nothing new for Chandigarh swimmer Puneet Rana. Representing hosts Panjab University at the All-India Inter-University Aquatic Championship recently, Puneet clocked 1 minute 6.06 seconds to set a record in 100m breaststroke. He bettered his own mark (1:08.31), which was achieved in 2002. “I did it despite hardly doing any practice before the event,” he said.

Puneet created records in 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke events in the National Aquatic Championship held at Delhi in October, 2004. Ranked 40th in the world, he is the country’s medal hope for the Doha Asian Games, if not the Olympics.

Earlier this year, he represented the country in the Asian Swimming Championship at Singapore and the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Puneet also participated in the 11th FINA World Aquatic Championship at Montreal (Canada) in July last year. “Though I failed to win any medal at this championship, my world ranking rose to 40. At the Asian Championship at Bangkok in August last year, I created an Asian record in 50m breaststroke and won the silver medal,” he recalls.

“I am confident of participating in the Asian Games (and the Olympics) as my timing is better than the qualifying criterion. I am also hopeful of winning a medal,” said Puneet.

However, the swimmer laments that he hasn’t received the recognition he deserves.

“I am carrying on because I have a passion for swimming. This sport suffers a lot of neglect in India. I was on cloud nine after winning gold medals in 100m and 50m breaststroke at the 2004 SAF Games at Islamabad. Thereafter, I created an Asian record at Bangkok. Despite these achievements, neither the Punjab Sports Department nor the Chandigarh Sports Department have come forward to honour me. I did not get even a congratulatory phone call from them,” rues Puneet.

At present, Puneet is doing MBA at Panjab University after completing Bachelors in Computer Science from Punjab Engineering College. “Despite being an ace swimmer and a qualified engineer, I am without a job,” he says with bitterness.

The setbacks, however, have not deterred Puneet from making a splash every time he competes.
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IN THE NEWS
Top gun
Vikramdeep Johal

Upul Tharanga has shown amazing consistency in recent months.
Upul Tharanga has shown amazing consistency in recent months. — Reuters
photo

Overshadowing a great batsman like Sanath Jayasuriya is no mean feat for a rookie. With his back-to-back hundreds in the Champions Trophy qualifiers, Upul Tharanga has stolen the limelight from his illustrious opening partner. The Sri Lankan, who made an unimpressive debut in the tri-series on home soil in August last year, has notched up six hundreds in just 31 one-dayers. He is the only batsman to post five centuries in ODIs so far this year, followed by Jayasuriya with four.

Tharanga’s amazing consistency has made things easier for the other batsmen, particularly captain Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. He can keep the innings together as well as score runs at a fast pace.

The 21-year-old left-hander has risen from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix, considering that his family home in Ambalagoda was washed away by the tsunami in 2004.

With Tharanga in full cry at the top of a strong batting line-up, Sri Lanka have become one of the hot favourites for the Champions Trophy. Of course, he will be put to the test against top-class teams like Australia, India and Pakistan.

Explosive starts are likely to decide the fate of quite a few matches in the tournament, and Sri Lanka seem to have the upper hand in this area. The Tharanga-Jayasuriya duo is arguably the most formidable opening pair around, rivalled only by the Australian twosome of Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich. Don’t forget that the two Sri Lankans hold the world record for the highest first-wicket stand — 286 against England at Leeds in July this year. The breakneck partnership enabled Lanka to overhaul a huge target of 322 runs in just 37.3 overs and sweep the series 5-0.

A decade ago, Sri Lanka won the World Cup in the subcontinent largely due to the blazing knocks of Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana at the top and a rock-solid middle order. Will history repeat itself?
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SPORTS MAIL

Another hockey debacle

Faring no better than the men, the Indian women finished 11th in the hockey World Cup in Madrid. The eves lost to Holland, Germany and Spain by an identical margin (2-3), drew with England 1-1 and went down to China 0-1. In the playoffs, they were outplayed by South Korea but managed to beat South Africa to avoid the wooden spoon.

The eves, on whom many hopes had been pinned, lacked speed, skill and stamina. Their trapping, feeding, passing and scoops were erratic. There was no cohesion between the forwards and the defenders. One failed to understand which brand of hockey they were playing — offensive or defensive. They dished out a hotch-potch brand that proved disastrous.

A complete overhaul of the entire hockey set-up in the country is required if men’s as well as women’s hockey is to be of any worth internationally.

Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala

European hold

Asia is losing its sway and say in hockey. There are only five Asian countries — India, Pakistan South Korea, Malaysia and Japan — which take active part in international tournaments. Europe has eight nations which almost every time qualify for the Olympics as well as the World Cup.

Europe controls two important panels: the technical delegates and the jury of appeal. This gives European teams an advantage in international matches. Whenever they lodge protests against decisions of umpires, their applications are considered favourably. The rules have also been altered and framed in such a way as to suit the European style of hockey.

As present, neither India nor Pakistan have adequate representation in world hockey bodies. Therefore, whenever India or Pakistan lodge protests, even the genuine ones are overruled.

The Asia hockey body and the Indian Hockey Federation should take serious note of the state of affairs and make combined efforts to tackle the problem effectively.

Iqbal Singh Saroya, Mohali

Bad umpiring

Congratulations to Australia for winning the DLF Cup in Kuala Lumpur. India could have reached the final had umpiring been up to the mark in the last league match against Australia.

England umpire Mark Benson declared Sachin Tendulkar caught behind, but on realising his mistake he called him back. However, the damage had been done. The decision unsettled Tendulkar, as a result of which he got out a few balls later.

Later, when India looked like overhauling the modest Aussie total of 213, came the dismissals of Mahendra Singh Dhoni (off a no-ball) and Harbhajan Singh (caught behind off a ball which didn’t touch the bat). Consequently, India lost the match by a narrow margin.

DK Aggarwala, Phagwara

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