SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Ready for the kill
The three top subcontinental teams are banking on the big guns to go the distance in the World Cup, writes Ivninderpal Singh
T
he die is cast for the quadrennial cricketing extravaganza, which is less than a month away.



Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene (left), India’s Rahul Dravid (centre) and Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq are formidable batsmen as well as capable leaders
Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene, India’s Rahul Dravid (centre) and Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq are formidable batsmen as well as capable leaders

World cup:  flashback
Indian heroics
Vikramdeep Johal
T
he superb all-round show of Mohinder Amarnath in the 1983 World Cup final is arguably the most significant individual performance by an Indian in the quadrennial event, but there have been several other outstanding efforts. At times, a player has turned the game around single-handedly.
Kapil Dev in full flow at Tunbridge Wells in 1983 as Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Dave Houghton looks on helplessly. His astounding knock of 175 was unfortunately not taped by the BBC due to a strike.
Kapil Dev in full flow at Tunbridge Wells in 1983 as Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Dave Houghton looks on helplessly

Mismatch
M.S. Unnikrishnan
T
hey came, they saw, they conquered, leaving Indian players and fans ruminating. The five-match Super Soccer series, featuring the Sao Paulo Club of Brazil in action against local teams, was intended to expose Indian footballers to the wizardry of the visitors. But it turned out to be a mismatch as the series only helped expose the lack of depth in Indian football.

Sao Paulo’s Thiago (left) battles for the ball with JCT’s Chidi Edeh during the fifth and final match of the Super Soccer Series in New Delhi. The Brazilian club swept the series without much effort. — Photo by AFP 

Sao Paulo’s Thiago battles for the ball with JCT’s Chidi Edeh during the fifth and final match of the Super Soccer Series in New Delhi

IN THE NEWS
Golden girl
D
elhi girl Richa Mishra ruled the pool on the first three days of the swimming competition at the 33rd National Games by winning six gold medals — two on each day. In women’s 400m individual event, Richa clocked 5:12.65 to overhaul her own record at the Hyderabad Games in 2002, when she had finished the eight-lap race in 5:09.91.




Richa Mishra was on fire at the National Games in Guwahati. - Photo by PTI
Richa Mishra was on fire at the National Games in Guwahati

 

   

 

 

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Ready for the kill
The three top subcontinental teams are banking on the big guns to go the distance in the World Cup, writes Ivninderpal Singh

The die is cast for the quadrennial cricketing extravaganza, which is less than a month away. All countries have declared their best possible teams in the hope of winning the coveted trophy.

Among the cricket-playing nations, the maximum fan following is in the subcontinent. The old rivalry between India and Pakistan gives the game a new dimension, with Sri Lanka adding spice to the contest.

With all three nations laying their hands on the World Cup once, the contest becomes all the more interesting. Cricket fans in this part of the world look beyond their own countries and enjoy watching Asian countries dominating the teams from the occidental world.

India, who pocketed the trophy in 1983 after defeating the West Indies, are upbeat with their ace batsman Sachin Tendulkar finding his lost touch just before the big event. After a lot of experimentation, the final team boasts of world-class batsmen like Sachin, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. Though the selectors gambled on Virender Sehwag, his match-winning abilities will definitely boost the confidence of the team.

On the bowling front, the comeback of Zaheer Khan has given the Indian attack an experienced hand. He is ably supported by Irfan Pathan, S. Sreesanth and Munaf Patel. The spin twins, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, have the ability to flummox the opposition with their googly and doosra, respectively.

However, the Indians have to work harder on fielding. In the wake of fierce competition in one-day cricket, every player in the team must ensure that he is good in at least two of the three departments of the game (batting, bowling and fielding).

The Men in Blue have grown up as a team now. Dogged by opening worries, things seem to have fallen in place with Ganguly back in the squad and proving his skills with the bat in the series against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. Rookie Robin Uthappa has come of age.

Can India repeat its Cup-winning performance of 1983? Sure, if they continue to perform the way they did against the West Indies at home recently. Though India lost two away series against the West Indies and South Africa last year, they bounced back by beating the Windies 3-1.

However, they have to show consistency outside India too. Foreign turf continues to bother the Indians. Going by their winning percentage in one-dayers — it is 36 overseas compared to 56 at home — it seems an uphill task to bring home the trophy.

Sri Lankans, too, are holding their own. The islanders, who won the Cup in 1996, are strong contenders this time with the architect of the earlier victory, Sanath Jayasuriya, still in the squad, ably supported by Kumara Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Marvan Atapattu. On the bowling front, old warhorses Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan have returned to the fray, adding to the miseries of the batsmen.

Sri Lanka’s recent overseas success will stand them in good stead for the World Cup. After losing the series against India 1-6, Sri Lanka have won 21 of their 41 ODIs.

The third Asian contender is Pakistan. The only surprise entry in their team is Danish Kaneria, who was not part of the squad against South Africa. The PCB has also ignored injuries to their pacers — Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul — and also overlooked fresh allegations of doping against Mohammad Asif and Shoaib.

Though Pakistan have big names like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, who can tame the bowling attack of any country, the team lacks consistency (Pakistan scored 351 in the second ODI against South Africa but were all out for 107 in the fourth match). Moreover, Shahid Afridi will miss the first two matches in the Caribbean.

Pakistan’s progress in the World Cup will depend on their pace attack. However, Shoaib, Asif and Gul would have to make light of injuries and allegations to form a lethal trio.

All three Asian giants are ready for the kill. As Sri Lanka and India are in the same pool, the subcontinental rivalry will come to the fore from the very beginning. Apart from that, their performance against Australia, England, New Zealand and the West Indies would be more exciting to watch. Let’s see which of the three teams manages to stop the Aussies for completing a hat-trick of Cup victories and brings the trophy back to the cricket-crazy subcontinent.


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World cup:  flashback
Indian heroics
Vikramdeep Johal

The superb all-round show of Mohinder Amarnath in the 1983 World Cup final is arguably the most significant individual performance by an Indian in the quadrennial event, but there have been several other outstanding efforts. At times, a player has turned the game around single-handedly. Savour these match-winning feats of Indian cricketers.

* Kapil Dev (1983): India got off to a horrendous start in their group match against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. Their five top batsmen — Sunil Gavaskar, K. Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath, Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma — were dismissed in quick succession, leaving the team in tatters at 17 for 5 in 13 overs. The writing seemed to be on the wall, but skipper Kapil Dev had other ideas.

Launching a breath-taking counter-attack, Kapil blasted the Zimbabwe bowlers to produce one of the greatest knocks in one-day cricket. His unbeaten 175, studded with 16 fours and six sixes, took India to a respectable total of 266 for 8 in 60 overs. Buoyed by their captain’s pyrotechnics, the bowlers restricted the opposition to 235, securing a win that looked improbable at one stage.

Unfortunately, the match was not covered by the BBC due to a strike. In the absence of a video recording, only photographs give us a glimpse of Kapil’s one-of-a-kind innings.

*Yashpal Sharma (1983): A lively Old Trafford pitch, gloomy weather and the West Indian pace quartet in action — it’s hard to think of a more challenging situation for a batsman. It was under these conditions that Yashpal Sharma made 89 gritty runs off 120 balls, guiding India to 262 for 8. In reply, the West Indies were bowled out for 228. This was the first defeat suffered by the Caribbeans in the World Cup since its inception in 1975, and the victory was quite a morale-booster for India, who went on to humble their fancied rivals in the summit clash as well.

* Mohinder Amarnath (1983): It was back to Old Trafford for the semifinal against England, but the conditions were very different. Slow bowlers were hard to get away, and Amarnath was the most economical with figures of 2-27 from 12 overs. He got rid of two big guns — David Gower and Mike Gatting — as England were dismissed for 213. Amarnath batted at one down and provided momentum to the Indian run chase with a knock of 46. Sandeep Patil and Yashpal Sharma did the rest as India romped home victors with over five overs to spare.

* Navjot Sidhu (1987): Sidhu made a dream start to his one-day career with a hard-hitting 73 on debut against Australia at Chennai, but his knock went in vain as India lost the match by just one run. In the next encounter against New Zealand at Bangalore, Sidhu stabilised the Indian innings after early setbacks with a 71-ball 75, including four fours and an equal number of sixes. This time he ended up on the winning side, even though Kapil walked away with the man-of-the-match award for his belligerent 72 off 58 balls. Sidhu went on to score fifties in his next two matches as well.

* Chetan Sharma (1987): Bowling against New Zealand at Nagpur, the bearded Sharma was expensive during his first spell. He hit back amazingly in the slog overs to remove Ken Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfield off successive deliveries — all clean-bowled. This was the first-ever hat-trick in a World Cup game. The target of 222 was comfortably achieved by India, with Sunil Gavaskar hitting his first (and solitary) ODI hundred in what turned out to be his penultimate match. The Little Master and the "little pacer" were declared the men of the match.

* Ajay Jadeja (1996): After Sidhu’s well-made 93 had laid the platform for a big total in the quarterfinal against Pakistan at Bangalore, Jadeja went berserk in the final overs. His 45 came off merely 25 balls (four fours, two sixes) as India managed to reach 287 for 8. Waqar Younis, in particular, suffered rough treatment. Aamir Sohail led the Pakistani assault, but his brashness cost him his wicket. Despite Javed Miandad’s valiant knock, India won by 39 runs.

* Sourav Ganguly (1999): The "Bengal Tiger" broke Kapil’s record for the highest individual ODI score by an Indian when he smashed 183 off 158 deliveries versus Sri Lanka at Taunton. Seventeen fours and seven sixes came from his blazing blade. He got great support from Rahul Dravid, who struck 145 (129 balls). The two put on a mammoth 318-run stand for the second wicket, and they were together at the crease for about 45 overs. Sri Lanka never came close to chasing India’s whopping total of 373, losing tamely by 157 runs.

* Sachin Tendulkar (2003): India have never lost to Pakistan in the World Cup so far, winning all four clashes. The architect of the fourth victory was Tendulkar, whose 75-ball 98 kept India ahead of the required run rate while they were chasing a big target of 274 at Centurion. When he was dismissed in the 28th over, the score was already 177. Dravid and Yuvraj scored the remaining runs without getting separated.

* Ashish Nehra (2003): This Delhi left-arm pacer might be nowhere in the picture today, but he was once a force to reckon with. He is best remembered for one devastating spell — 6-23 against England at Durban (the best figures by an Indian bowler in the World Cup). In reply to India’s 250 for 9, the Englishmen were shot out for 168. No prizes for guessing who was the man of the match.

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Mismatch
M.S. Unnikrishnan

They came, they saw, they conquered, leaving Indian players and fans ruminating. The five-match Super Soccer series, featuring the Sao Paulo Club of Brazil in action against local teams, was intended to expose Indian footballers to the wizardry of the visitors. But it turned out to be a mismatch as the series only helped expose the lack of depth in Indian football.

The Indian teams did not show any urge to learn anything from the Brazilian club. They mostly indulged in their negative brand of defensive, possession football, as their sole intention was not to let in a goal. Even then, the Indian teams failed to sustain the tempo throughout and panted for breath when the game entered the decisive phase. Sao Paulo utilised this period to knock in goals at will.

Only Mohun Bagan withstood the pressure to restrict the visitors to just two goals. Mohammedan Sporting conceded six, Kerala XI, East Bengal and JCT three each.

It should have been a wonderful opportunity for the Indian clubs to play ball with Sao Paulo and learn the nuances of Samba magic. But Baichung Bhutia’s condemnable behaviour in the opening match itself queered the pitch for the hosts.

The series was organised by the Tatas and the Indian Football Association (IFA). The All-India Football Federation took least interest, which was glaringly evident in the match between Sao Paulo and JCT in the Capital, with none from the federation bothering to turn up.

Sao Paulo had so very quickly sorted out the predictable game of the Indian teams that one of the players openly boasted to a boy from the Brazilian Embassy, while trooping into the Ambedkar Stadium to play against JCT, that they would win the match by five goals. Though they fell short by two goals of the predicted tally, their victory against JCT was very comfortable nonetheless.

Sao Paulo coach Antonio Carlos Da Silva said with a glint of pride that his players did not exert even 30 per cent of their potential to get the better of the Indian players. “What our youngsters learn in 15 years, your boys try to learn in 15 days, which is not the right thing to do,” Da Silva said.

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IN THE NEWS
Golden girl

Delhi girl Richa Mishra ruled the pool on the first three days of the swimming competition at the 33rd National Games by winning six gold medals — two on each day. In women’s 400m individual event, Richa clocked 5:12.65 to overhaul her own record at the Hyderabad Games in 2002, when she had finished the eight-lap race in 5:09.91.

She also sizzled in the 200m backstroke event where she registered a record timing of 2:29.34 to beat Karnataka girl Shikha Tandon’s mark of 2:30.32 in 2002.

Richa also won gold medals in 1,500m freestyle, 200m breaststroke, 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly.

She won the 1500m freestyle event clocking 18:14.97 minutes, while in 200m breaststroke her timing was 2:51.52 minutes. In 200m freestyle, she finished the race in 2:12.83, while in 100m butterfly, she clocked 1:05.93.

However, she had to be content with a silver in the 200m butterfly and even failed to make it to the podium in the 50m breaststroke. — PTI

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SPORTS MAIL

Worthy victors

Kudos to Mumbai who reasserted their supremacy by claiming the prestigious Ranji Trophy after a gap of two seasons. They defeated Bengal by 132 runs in the final to romp home with the national championship title for the 37th time.

Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan provided not only star power to the Mumbai outfit but also played a stellar role in helping them lift the coveted trophy in style. Sachin’s century in the first innings enabled Mumbai to score a decent 320. Making his debut for the victors, Zaheer scalped five victims in the first innings, because of which Bengal were skittled out for 143, and four in the second to be the wrecker-in-chief.

Bengal, like the perennial bridesmaid, lost their second successive Ranji final owing to their dismal batting in the first innings. Set 472 to win, they responded determinedly in their second essay in which Manoj Tiwary and Sourav Ganguly hit 94 and 90, respectively, to keep their side in the reckoning. But once the duo’s partnership of 117 ended, the other batsmen meekly threw in the towel. The last six wickets fell for a mere five runs. However, Mumbai’s superlative performance in all departments of the game can’t be belittled.

Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala

 II

Mumbai began their Ranji Trophy campaign disastrously this season but they ended it with a bang by winning the title for the 37th time.

Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Jaffer and Zaheer Khan contributed immensely to Mumbai’s victory. For Bengal, the efforts of Manoj Tiwary, Sourav Ganguly and Ranadeb Bose went in vain. Still, Tiwary and Bose were impressive and the two might break into the Indian team sooner than later.

Arvinder Singh, Mohali

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