on the grassroots
IN THE NEWS
It was the West Indies who stopped India’s victory juggernaut in ODIs last year. Now, the beleaguered home team has a chance to get even and gain momentum in the run-up to the World Cup, writes Vikramdeep Johal
There are several reasons why Team India badly needs to beat the West Indies in the four-match ODI series beginning tomorrow. First, they have not won any one-day rubber since April last year, when they walloped England. The team’s dream run ended with the 1-4 debacle in the Caribbean, which was followed by disappointing performances in the Malaysia tri-series, the Champions Trophy and the five-match series against South Africa.
Second, with the World Cup less than two months away, the team think-tank has very little time to remove all the flaws — both individual and collective — and to finalise a "winning" combination. Third, India lost as many as six times to the West Indies last year, winning just once, and they would be keen to set the record straight.
Three Indian players to watch out for in particular are Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa and Joginder Sharma. Ganguly’s brave show in Tests against South Africa has been rewarded with the ODI recall. During his career, he has been much more successful in the shorter version of the game, especially as an opener. It won’t be a bad idea to try him out at the top (a left-right combination might just be the remedy for India’s opening problems).
His partner could be Karnataka batsman Uthappa, who has done exceedingly well in the Ranji Trophy this season. Incidentally, this will be the 21-year-old’s second innings in the Indian ODI team. He made a superb debut with a knock of 86 against England at Indore last year, but came a cropper in his next two matches, following which he was dropped.
Another comeback man, Haryana’s Joginder Sharma, is also three matches "old". He played all of them against Bangladesh in 2004-05, but failed to do much against the weak opponent. Subsequently, the 23-year-old all-rounder was ignored by the selectors despite consistent performances on the domestic circuit (He helped Haryana clinch the Ranji Plate Division title two years ago).
Both Uthappa and Joginder know that they have to make the most of every opportunity that comes their way. Interestingly, if the two youngsters come good against the West Indies, they would make it harder for the out-of-form Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan to find a place in the World Cup squad.
Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina are lucky to be still there in the team in spite of their recent failures. It is imperative for them to regain their touch at the earliest because of the presence of Ramesh Powar and Dinesh Kaarthick, respectively.
Fortunately for India, the fast-recovering Yuvraj Singh might return for the last two matches of the series. His absence has weakened the middle order, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni often failing to shoulder the burden.
It will be interesting to watch how captain Rahul Dravid clicks with his new deputy, Sachin Tendulkar. It doesn’t seem to be a great idea to saddle the latter with the responsibility of vice-captaincy, considering that he has been in indifferent form of late and needs to concentrate more on his batting.
As far as the West Indians are concerned, they did quite well in 2006, the high point being their second-place finish in the Champions Trophy behind Australia. However, the series loss to Pakistan last month showed that the World Cup hosts needed to pull up their socks for the ultimate cricketing event.
Flamboyant opener Chris Gayle made merry on Indian pitches last year, and he would love to do an encore. In the absence of Ramnaresh Sarwan, the consolidation work would have to be done by skipper Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Moreover, the West Indies have young match-winners in Runako Morton, Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo. Their mediocre bowlers, however, are most likely to struggle on lifeless Indian tracks.
India vs West Indies
M-matches (ODIs), W-win for India, L-loss, T-tied, NR-no result
January 21 (Nagpur), 24 (Cuttack), 27 (Chennai), 31 (Baroda)
India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Sachin Tendulkar (vice-captain), Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Kaarthick, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, Ramesh Powar, S. Sreesanth, Harbhajan Singh, Joginder Sharma, Ajit Agarkar and RP Singh (this squad is for the first two matches)
West Indies: Brian Lara (captain), Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Reyad Emrit, Chris Gayle, Runako Morton, Daren Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Dwayne Smith, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Devon Smith and Jerome Taylor
West Indies: 333-8 at Jamshedpur, 1983-84.
Lowest total: India:
West Indies: 121 at Port of Spain, 1996-97 (Lowest in India: 123 at Kolkata, 1993-94).
Highest individual score: India:
Best bowling figures: India:
Most runs: India:
Most wickets: India:
on the grassroots
Perturbed by the plight of Indian hockey, the Sports Department, Punjab, has launched a concerted drive to tap under-14 talent in 12 villages of the state. The department is now reaching out to the villages to select and train rural youngsters at special centres.
The villages have been identified on the basis of hockey internationals produced in selected belts. The emphasis is not only on training, but also on regular exposure to competition.
Besides the regular academies, the department has started hockey nurseries in these villages. Launched in April this year, the 22 training centres are coaching over 350 players. The trainees have been provided with the complete hockey kit, including playing sticks, and goalkeeper’s gear. The trainees are now going through their first gruelling test, participating in the Punjab Hockey League being played on Astro-turf.
The man picked for tapping talent is Sukhvir Singh Grewal, former hockey international and former national coach. Sukhvir’s handling of rural sports is evidenced by the Kila Raipur Games, better known as the Rural Olympics. Before embarking on this project, Sukhvir visited various villages and schools in Punjab. The vast open spaces in schools with no sporting activity pained him.
During his conversations with villagers, he realised that hockey was no longer a common man’s game, cost-wise. A hockey stick that once cost Rs 50 is today available not below Rs 600. "And even this is not the good stuff," he adds. The costs of the hockey kit and goalkeeper’s gear are prohibitive.
With a virtual block in placements, players are reluctant to put their entire energy into the game. But the enthusiasm among players in certain belts has been encouraging. Sukhvir found keen youngsters in the Amritsar-Batala-Baba Bakala area. This belt has produced a number of hockey internationals. In Jalandhar district, villages like Sansarpur, Methapur, Khusropur, Khambra and Sarinh are ideal for tapping talent. The other areas identified for the centres were Kila Raipur and Ludhiana, Ferozepore and Faridkot.
With hockey Olympian Pargat Singh, Director, Sports, Punjab, giving the coaches a free hand, the centres came into existence. Funds have not been a problem.
With 350 players competing for selection into special coaching camps, hockey revival in Punjab could be "just a stone’s throw" away.
Sukhvir said former hockey internationals had been requested to visit the coaching centres to give a boost to the youngsters.
"The involvement of the villagers is tremendous. They are ready with special facilities for the trainees," said Sukhvir.
The current under-14 hockey league is being sponsored by Western Union, which has entered this training project in a big way.
A Hawaiian teenager made history by making the cut on the US PGA Golf Tour last week — but it wasn’t Michelle Wie.
The diminutive Tadd Fujikawa fired a four-under 66 at the Sony Open to become the youngest in five decades and also the second youngest in history to make the cut on the PGA Tour at the age of 16 years, four days.
"I can’t even breathe right now," said Fujikawa. "Making the cut is awesome for me. This is the greatest feeling in the world. I wish everybody could feel what I am feeling right now."
Fujikawa, who delighted the home Hawaiian crowd down the stretch, finished with a flourish with an eagle on the 18th. His 36-hole total of three-under 137 was two shots better than the cut at even par. He ultimately finished tied 20th at five-under.
"I love making everybody crazy," said Fujikawa, who turned 16 recently. "I was just out here doing my best and if it worked out great. I was just trying to stay in moment. I am playing great right now and my game is really solid."
Bob Panasik was the youngest to make the cut, accomplishing the feat at the age of 15 years, eight months and 20 days at the Canadian Open way back in 1957.
Fujikawa needed to play the last three holes in even par to make cut and he closed in three-under par. He just missed a birdie on the 17th and on the 18th his approach rolled onto green before he sank a 12-ft eagle putt to get into the weekend action.
Wie, 17, failed in her bid to make the cut. She shot a six-over 76 on the second day to go with another disappointing 78 in the first round.
Afterwards Wie said she was going to take a break from golf. "It is time to put the clubs away after this," she said.
"I might go on vacation. I can only go up from here." She finished at 14-over 154, the fourth consecutive time she has been overmatched against the men.
She said she was pleased for Fujikawa but didn’t know him very well. "I never played with him before," Wie said. "He started junior golf after I finished. I hope he does do good. He’s really cool." — AFP
Anti-climax for Team India
The euphoria created by India’s historic victory in the first cricket Test against South Africa at Johannesburg vanished swiftly when the Proteas outplayed the visitors by 174 runs in the second Test to level the series 1-1. In the decider, they began well by amassing 414 and dismissing the hosts for 373 to take a 41-run lead.
However, they disastrously failed to capitalise on that as they were skittled out for 169 in the second essay. Then they prayed to the weather gods to save them from the jaws of defeat as the Springboks were to score only 211 runs to win the match and the series.
The weather did intervene but could not prevent South Africa from romping home triumphant after losing five wickets. The Indians were shattered as they had lost both the Test and ODI series.
Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala
What is ailing Sachin Tendulkar? Whenever I watch Cricket Classics featuring India’s matches (2003-05) on a sports channel, I marvel at the great batsman’s fabled ability to blast the best bowlers.
Tendulkar today is a pale shadow of his former self. The batsman famous for punishing Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan was unable to deal with the ordinary leg spin of South Africa’s Paul Harris in the Cape Town Test recently. D.B. Singh