SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Pacers on top
Bowlers, particularly the quicker ones, have largely stolen the limelight from batsmen in the Champions Trophy so far, writes Ivninderpal Singh
Bowlers are having a field day in the Champions Trophy. They have dominated the proceedings in most of the matches so far, except the first qualifier at Mohali where Sri Lanka crossed 300 and even minnows Bangladesh managed 265.

Fatal attraction
Injury-prone fast bowlers are tempted at times to go the Shoaib-Asif way, writes former England pacer Angus Fraser
It would be naive of me to believe that no cricketer has ever taken a banned drug in the hope it could enhance his performance.

Shuttle prince
Akash Ghai

The most prominent badminton player in India today is no doubt Saina Nehwal, but there are a few other youngsters who are making their mark with a string of impressive performances. One such talented kid is Akshit Mahajan, all of 14. A product of Hansraj Public School, Sector 6, Panchkula, Akshit has been doing quite well in state and national championships in the past few years.

IN THE NEWS
Against all odds

Had it been any other team, the victory would have been improbable. For Pakistan, it was perhaps inevitable. It was their former captain Imran Khan who said once that he expected his players to fight like cornered tigers.






  • Bossy affair
  • Hockey ignored
  Top







Pacers on top

Bowlers, particularly the quicker ones, have largely stolen the limelight from batsmen in the Champions Trophy so far, writes Ivninderpal Singh

Munaf Patel Farveez Maharoof
India’s Munaf Patel (left) and Sri Lanka’s Farveez Maharoof have proved to be the pace spearheads for their teams in the Champions Trophy. — Photos: Reuters 

Bowlers are having a field day in the Champions Trophy. They have dominated the proceedings in most of the matches so far, except the first qualifier at Mohali where Sri Lanka crossed 300 and even minnows Bangladesh managed 265. Though contemporary one-day cricket is known for high-scoring matches in which bowlers face the wrath of batsmen, in the “Mini World Cup”, teams are struggling to get past 200 after seamers rip through the top order.

Among bowlers, it is the pacers who are ruling the roost. If Farveez Maharoof did it for Sri Lankan against title holders West Indies, Munaf Patel rattled the English batsmen and Abdul Razzaq helped Pakistan restrict the rampaging Sri Lankans. In the first nine matches of the tournament, only four centuries were scored — Sri Lanka’s Upul Tharanga got two, while Bangladesh’s Shahriyar Nafees and West Indies’ Chris Gayle had one each.

Maharoof started off in style by scalping three wickets in the opening qualifier against Bangladesh. Against Zimbabwe, he got only one wicket but his fellow pacers did the damage, with Lasitha Malinga getting three and Dilhara Fernando claiming two.

Maharoof single-handedly demolished the formidable West Indies batting line-up in the last qualifier. Chaminda Vaas started the slide with a couple of wickets but Maharoof ripped through the middle and lower order to finish with amazing figures of 6 for 14, his best in an ODI and the best overall in a Champions Trophy match so far. So dominant were the Sri Lankan pacers that Muttiah Muralitharan wasn’t even needed till the West Indies were seven down.

Maharoof’s figures were also the second best in one-day internationals in India (Anil Kumble leads the list with his 6-12, also against the West Indies in the Hero Cup final at Kolkata in 1993-94). The West Indies could manage just 80 runs, their second-lowest score in ODIs, which the Lankans achieved in merely 13.2 overs.

Sri Lanka suffered in the match against Pakistan because their pacers failed to fire. For Pakistan, medium pacer Razzaq took four wickets in 7.2 overs. The islanders lost their last five wickets in four overs, of which three were scalped by Razzaq.

Indian pacers, too, stamped their authority against England, bowling them out for a paltry 125, their lowest total against India. With a spirited performance, man-of-the-match Munaf Patel proved to be the spearhead of the Indian attack, while Irfan Pathan made a refreshing comeback. Both bowlers rattled the English top order and shared the first five wickets between them.

Patel, with his disciplined bowling and controlled aggression, returned a haul of 3-18, his career-best in one-dayers. His previous best was 3-53 against Australia in Kuala Lumpur. Pathan, who responded with wickets from the other end, finished with 2-20. With his immaculate line and length, Pathan lived up to the skipper’s expectations and helped India make a winning start.

While Patel and Pathan did it for India, Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram worked wonders for New Zealand. Defending a modest total against the Proteas, the Kiwis rode on their disciplined bowling and romped home winners. A brilliant opening spell by Mills and incisive bowling by Oram demolished the South African top order. Both pacers claimed three wickets each and later the lower order was cleaned up by the spinners.

Bowlers have had their say in the tournament so far. Seamers begin the demolition act and spinners finish it off. Though voices have been raised about the condition of pitches, bowlers should be given due credit for their inspired performances on Indian wickets.

Cricket is not all about scoring boundaries and entertaining spectators. It is also about restricting willow-wielders from posting big totals.
Top

Fatal attraction

Injury-prone fast bowlers are tempted at times to go the Shoaib-Asif way, writes former England pacer Angus Fraser

Shoaib Akhtar could be banned for two years if found guilty by the inquiry committee.
Shoaib Akhtar could be banned for two years if found guilty by the inquiry committee. Photo: PTI

It would be naive of me to believe that no cricketer has ever taken a banned drug in the hope it could enhance his performance. Several English cricketers — Ed Giddins, Graham Wagg and Keith Piper — have failed tests but each was found guilty of taking recreational drugs, not steroids.

The most high-profile doping incident involved Shane Warne, who tested positive for a diuretic, and was banned for a year.

Despite there being no evidence that taking nandrolone — the anabolic steroid found in the samples of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif — will increase the rate at which an athlete recovers from injury, this is the suggested reason why the tests were positive. It is no coincidence that fast bowlers are the cricketers who have been caught. It is they who have the most physical jobs and they who sustain the most injuries.

This is not to excuse the pair, who should be hit hard, but it is easy to see why bowlers may be tempted to go down this dangerous path.

Ironically, I was on my way to the gym when I heard the news. My regular visits seem to make very little difference to my appearance these days but the increased amount of time cricketers spend there, along with the desire of coaches and physiologists to make them bigger and stronger, has increased the chances of coming into contact with certain substances.

During my career, I spent as much time training in the gym as any cricketer. I also spent a fair amount of time injured, but not once in 19 years was I offered or encouraged to use steroids. The use of drugs was pretty widespread among fast bowlers but they were not on the banned list and I took anti-inflammatory or painkilling tablets during the last 10 years of my career.

Each night, before bed, I took tablets to try to rid my body of aches and pains caused by a day’s bowling. If I was feeling particularly tired or sore, I would take ibuprofen dispersible powder during the tea interval. It refreshed you and left you with lots of energy. I used to think that if this was what legal drugs did to you, heavens knows what those on the banned list could do.

The England players dabbled with a supplement called creatine at the start of the 1995-96 tour of South Africa to increase muscle strength, energy and endurance but I, along with several players, did not like the concept and stopped after a couple of weeks. We were delighted with our decision when, several years later, there were reports it caused brittle bones.

There are several reasons why drug use in cricket is low. To play the game, which involves standing in 40°C heat for more than six hours a day, a player needs endurance. Fast bowlers need to combine this with up to 150 explosive deliveries and, as of yet, there is no substance that provides both in equal measure.

Cricket also requires a lot of skill, and I am not aware of any drugs that can help hand/eye co-ordination. I hope this remains the case.

By arrangement with The Independent
Top

Shuttle prince
Akash Ghai

Akshit Mahajan has the potential to make it big in badminton.
Akshit Mahajan has the potential to make it big in badminton. — Tribune photo by Malkiat Singh

The most prominent badminton player in India today is no doubt Saina Nehwal, but there are a few other youngsters who are making their mark with a string of impressive performances. One such talented kid is Akshit Mahajan, all of 14. A product of Hansraj Public School, Sector 6, Panchkula, Akshit has been doing quite well in state and national championships in the past few years.

Akshit, who took to the sport at the age of five, became the Haryana state champion in the under-10 category in the tournament held at Karnal in 2001.

The next year, he did an encore and retained his title in the state championship at Kaithal.

The same year, he got the third position in singles and second in doubles in the All-India Ranking (under-10) Tournament at Chennai. He again got the third spot in singles and second in doubles in the championship at Thane.

After getting into the under-13 category in 2004, the shuttler had to settle for the third position in the state championship but he emerged the winner in 2005. Displaying powerful shots, he also remained on the top in under-16 doubles the same year. He was ranked fifth in singles and second in doubles in the under-13 category.

Akshit has also called the shots in several national ranking competitions held at Pune, Chennai, Kochi, Nandyal and Indore.

In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded a scholarship of Rs 5,000 by the Haryana Government.

His coaches Ravinder Kapoor and Davinder Rana are confident that Akshit has it in him to make it big in the sport. Akshit, who has been honing his skills at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, Sector 3, Panchkula, is all praise for the Hafed Badminton Nursery, which has adopted 24 shuttlers and provides them rich refreshment regularly, besides giving them badminton kits.

“I want to excel at the highest level in the sport. For the purpose, I have been spending three hours daily on my training,” says Akshit, whose ultimate aim is to win the gold medal at the Olympics.
Top

IN THE NEWS
Against all odds

Abdul Razzaq’s all-round heroics secured a much-needed win for the beleaguered Pakistan team.
Abdul Razzaq’s all-round heroics secured a much-needed win for the beleaguered Pakistan team. Photo: Reuters

Had it been any other team, the victory would have been improbable. For Pakistan, it was perhaps inevitable. It was their former captain Imran Khan who said once that he expected his players to fight like cornered tigers.

This team did that for their current, stand-in captain Younis Khan.

Chasing 254 to win at the ground where England had been dismissed for 125 three days earlier, they had 11 balls to spare when Abdul Razzaq almost nonchalantly struck a six over long-off to win the match.

It was hardly a case of normal service resumed. The team were already without captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, suspended for bringing the game into disrepute.

Barely a day before their Champions Trophy opener, they were deprived of their main fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, who were sent home after failing a drugs test.

Another fast bowler, Shabbir Ahmed, is out after he was banned for a year after being deemed to have an illegal action.

Writing in his column for Pakistan’s The Nation, former captain Rameez Raja said the way Pakistan regrouped after being hit by the doping scandal clearly established that the team had its priorities right.

“This win should go a long way in instilling self-belief in a squad that has been much harried in the recent times. Pakistan may practically be down to their last eleven, but from the evidence of this first encounter, it is still good enough to upset the best laid plans of many,” he wrote. — Agencies
Top

sm
SPORTS MAIL

Bossy affair

The write-up “In a tight spot” (Saturday Extra, September 30) was an eye-opener. The BCCI should take cognisance of its contents.

Greg Chappell has transgressed his limits as coach and assumed a dictatorial stance. In Rahul Dravid he has found a captain always at his beck and call, docile and pliable. Dravid has lost self-confidence and always looks up to Chappell for decision-making. No wonder, Chappell could not pull on with the assertive Sourav Ganguly, whom he virtually got rid of with the infamous spats.

The coach’s tactics have confused several members of the team. No one knows his exact position in the batting order due to constant shuffling. The worst-affected is pace spearhead, Irfan Pathan, ho doesn’t know “whether he is a bowler who can bat or a batsman who can bowl”.

Chappell is still busy in experimentation and self-aggrandisement. In virtual oblivion till his selection as coach, he is now always trying to hog the limelight.

After India’s 1-4 defeat against the West Indies and the ouster from the tri-series at Kuala Lumpur, one is doubtful whether India can reach even the final of the 2007 World Cup — an achievement to the credit of Sourav Ganguly in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

D.K. Aggarwala, Phagwara

Hockey ignored

Hockey is our national game but our performance in this sport has been very poor in the past two decades or so. The Indians finished 11th in the World Cup at Monchengladbach, narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon.

One of the main reasons for the fiasco is that hockey is being ignored in India. Virtually the entire focus is on cricket. We celebrate the birthday of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand as the National Sports Day, but there is hardly any stress on promoting the game itself.

Despite the setbacks, the Indian players must train hard for the Doha Asians Games in December. The Sports Ministry should step in to put Indian hockey back on track.

Mridul Dhingra, Naraingarh

II

The time has come to overhaul the Indian hockey set-up. The coach should be asked to step down. The IHF top brass has no business to continue. Most of the players who are past their prime should quit rather than doing more damage to the team.

Pushpinder Pathania, Gurdaspur

HOME PAGE



Top