SPORTS TRIBUNE
 

King of the world
In a country short of sporting heroes, the soon-to-be world No. 1 Viswanathan Anand stands tall as a champion player and a role model, writes Ramandeep Singh
V
iswanathan Anand, who recently won the Morelia-Linares Super Grandmasters chess tournament, will become the top-ranked chess player in the world — the only Indian to be ranked number one in any sport at present — when the rankings are announced in April. Anand’s achievements are not that well-known in his cricket-crazy homeland, but in chess circles he is already a legend. He is one of only four players to break the 2800-mark on the FIDE rating list and he has been among the top three ranked players in classical time control chess in the world continuously since 1997.

Anand’s amazing consistency has kept him in the top bracket for over a decade

IN THE NEWS
Pace power
S
pinners are likely to call the shots in the ongoing cricket World Cup, but pace bowlers also have an important role to play. In the opinion of former West Indian speedster Andy Roberts, the pitches in the Caribbean might not be as "low and slow" as expected. Munaf Patel gave an indication of the significance of pacers with a lethal spell of 4-10 against West Indies in the warm-up match at Trelawny, Jamaica. Well-supported by Irfan Pathan, Patel ripped apart the hosts’ batting line-up.



Munaf Patel (left) celebrates with Robin Uthappa after taking a wicket in the warm-up match against the West Indies. Patel is set to lead India’s pace attack in the mega event. — Photo by AFP
Munaf Patel (left) celebrates with Robin Uthappa after taking a wicket in the warm-up match against the West Indies. Patel is set to lead India’s pace attack in the mega event.


Cricket on the menu
The World Cup schedule displayed on a bat at the entrance to a hotel in Bhopal.
The World Cup schedule displayed on a bat at the entrance to a hotel in Bhopal. — Photo by PTI

Of beards, goatees & stubbles
T
he Caribbean extravaganza might be lacking Darrell Hair but certainly not facial hair, with a sizeable number of cricketers making a hairy fashion statement in this World Cup. Fashion statement is not all about just apparel, tattoo or jewellery but it can well be found perched between the nose and the upper lip, splashed along the chin or on the cheeks and this World Cup has ample of these on display.

MAIL
Useful warm-up
I
ndia showed that they are strong contenders for the World Cup by thrashing hosts West Indies by nine wickets in the final warm-up match. Nobody expected such a one-sided encounter.

  • Wake-up call

   

 

 

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King of the world

In a country short of sporting heroes, the soon-to-be world No. 1 Viswanathan Anand stands tall as a champion player and a role model, writes Ramandeep Singh

Viswanathan Anand, who recently won the Morelia-Linares Super Grandmasters chess tournament, will become the top-ranked chess player in the world — the only Indian to be ranked number one in any sport at present — when the rankings are announced in April. Anand’s achievements are not that well-known in his cricket-crazy homeland, but in chess circles he is already a legend.

He is one of only four players to break the 2800-mark on the FIDE rating list and he has been among the top three ranked players in classical time control chess in the world continuously since 1997.

Anand, who learnt the game from his mother at the tender age of six, has been on the top of his game ever since he won the national sub-junior title way back in 1983 aged 14. He became the youngest Indian to win the International Master norm at the age of 15 a year later. At 16, he emerged as the national champion, and in 1988, he became the country’s first Grandmaster.

The early 1990s saw the emergence of Anand as strong contender for chess supremacy when he won the Reggio Emilia tournament in 1991, finishing ahead of Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov — two all-time greats of chess. In the same year, he narrowly lost to Karpov in the quarterfinals of the FIDE Candidates Tournament.

Anand then qualified for the Professional Chess Association World Chess Championship final by winning against Michael Adams and Gata Kamsky. He narrowly lost to Kasparov in a World Championship match in New York in 1995. The match saw the first eight games end in a draw, a record at the championships. But in the end, the Indian chess prodigy lost 10.5-7.5.

He also won the toughest knockout tournament in recent history in Groningen in December, 1997. He won the Linares Super Trneo in 1998, one of the most challenging competitions in the game.

Anand has won three consecutive advanced chess tournaments — a form of chess introduced in 1998 in which the help of computers is taken for the calculation of variations — in Leon (Spain).

Another career highpoint came when Anand became the world chess champion in December, 2000, in Tehran. He remained unbeaten in the tournament and became the first Asian player to annex the title, which was earlier the stronghold of Soviet players.

Anand emerged as the champion in the first and second FIDE World Cup held in Shenyang (2000) and Hyderabad (2002), respectively.

Another crowing glory for him was when he won the 2003 World Rapid Chess Championships in Cap d’Agde (France). Each player had 25 minutes at the start of the game, with an additional 10 seconds after each move. Anand beat Vladimir Kramnik in the final.

He has made the rapid chess format his own and is regarded as the world’s best player in this category. He has defeated almost all top players, winning several titles in the process: Corsica (1999-2005), Mainz (2000-2006), Leon (2005), Eurotel (2002), Fujitsu Giants (2002) and the Melody Amber (five times). He has won the the rapid category of Melody Amber seven times. In 2004, Anand won titles in Corus and Dortmund.

Anand has won numerous awards, which include Arjuna Award in 1985, Padma Shri (1987); the inaugural Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, India’s highest sporting honour, in 1991-92, British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award in 1998 for his book My Best Games of Chess, Padma Bhushan (2000), Jameo de Oro, the highest honour given by the Government of Lanzarote in Spain in 2001. This award is only given to illustrious personalities with extra ordinary achievements. He has won the coveted Chess Oscar four times — 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004.

Anand divides his time between India and Spain where he resides in a little town just outside Madrid called Collado Mediano.

He is actively involved in promoting the game and his ambition is to take chess to the grassroots level. He has inspired an entire generation of chess players in India with his sucess story. From K. Sasikiran and Surya Shekhar Ganguly to Parimarjan Negi and Koneru Humpy — all owe a lot to him.

In a sporting world distinguished by cut-throat competition and intense rivalry, Anand’s amazing consistency has kept him in the top bracket for over a decade. And he is certainly not past his prime.

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IN THE NEWS
Pace power

Spinners are likely to call the shots in the ongoing cricket World Cup, but pace bowlers also have an important role to play. In the opinion of former West Indian speedster Andy Roberts, the pitches in the Caribbean might not be as "low and slow" as expected. Munaf Patel gave an indication of the significance of pacers with a lethal spell of 4-10 against West Indies in the warm-up match at Trelawny, Jamaica. Well-supported by Irfan Pathan, Patel ripped apart the hosts’ batting line-up.

His nagging accuracy sets him apart from other Indian pacers, such as Pathan, S. Sreesanth and Ajit Agarkar, who are often erratic. Having regained his fitness, the 23-year-old Patel will most probably spearhead the Indian pace attack in the World Cup. He will be keen to maintain the momentum when India take on Bangladesh in their first group match today. So far, he has taken 22 ODI wickets in 17 matches at an average of 28.68.

Meanwhile, autorickshaw drivers in Patel’s home district of Bharuch (Gujarat) have promised a free ride for commuters across the city for a day if India win the coveted Cup.

The Bharuch District Autorickshaw Association announced that if Team India clinches the World Cup, its members will give passengers free rides the very next day. The final is to be played on April 28.

Posters, reading "Come on India, Jo India World Cup jite to bija divase free savari" (If India wins the Cup, we will give free rides the next day), have been put up behind the rickshaws.

"We pray our team wins the Cup and hope our boy, Munaf, does wonders too," a rickshaw driver said. We all too hope that happens. — Agencies

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Of beards, goatees & stubbles
Amlan Chakraborty

Monty Panesar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sajid MahmoodThe Caribbean extravaganza might be lacking Darrell Hair but certainly not facial hair, with a sizeable number of cricketers making a hairy fashion statement in this World Cup.



HAIRY STATEMENT: (from left) Monty Panesar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sajid Mahmood

Fashion statement is not all about just apparel, tattoo or jewellery but it can well be found perched between the nose and the upper lip, splashed along the chin or on the cheeks and this World Cup has ample of these on display.

The stubble apparently cost Richard Nixon the 1960 US Presidential election people allegedly voted for John F Kennedy’s tanned cheeks against Nixon’s stubble after watching both in the televised presidential debate.

But cricketers run no such risk and the designer stubble, or the "Five o’clock shadow", has found quite a few takers.

This is basically the hair growth visible late in the day on the face of a person who has shaved in the morning, and appeals to the cricketers because of the nature of their job.

The Men in Blue seem to be in love with it, be it Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh or Irfan Pathan. Abroad, Andrew Flintoff’s gingery-blond designer stubble won him the 2005 Beard of the Year award from the Beard Liberation Front, even though it’s his team-mate Liam Plunkett who manages to get the more rugged look of all.

Goatee is also high on the popularity chart in this World Cup. Menacing Lankan offie Muttiah Muralitharan sports a tuft of hair on the chin (he also has a moustache). Daredevil Kevin Pietersen or a wily Zaheer Khan have a special liking for this kind of facial hair.

Among lesser menaces, it finds acceptance in England’s Sajid Mahmood and the West Indies’ Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Smith and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

The Soul Patch — the strip of hair between the lower lip and the chin — is relatively new in the vogue, a style originally made popular by the Beatniks in the 1950s and 1960s.

It’s the same patch Aamir Khan sported in Dil Chahta Hai. It appeals more to the younger cricketers and its proud owners include Ravi Bopara, the British cricketer of Indian origin, and Lankan spinner Malinga Bandara. Soul Patch’s other monikers include scruff, liptee, cookie duster, taint-brush, pussy mop, cadillac, meat scratcher, crab-catcher, soup catcher and flavor stripe.

Hashim Amla, however, believes in volume and he prefers the Chin Curtain to the Chin Strap. He boasts of contemporary cricket’s most luxuriant beard. But he can’t take the status for granted since Pakistani run-machine Mohammad Yousuf, who, post-conversion, also flaunts a flowing beard that pops out of the helmet.

And when it comes to the beard, Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq clearly leads from the front. His thick, bushy facial growth has of late developed two distinct white patches, signalling the career twilight for the burly Multani.

Though the likes of Shahid Afridi have a long way to go to emulate the captain, the buccaneering all-rounder, as reveals his cheeks, surely has the potential to do so.

Monty Panesar, meanwhile, belongs to a different league altogether and though Harbhajan Singh may have more victims under his belt, the British spin sensation boasts of a more impressive beard.

The tweaker was twirling his moustache with pride after beating the likes of Cuban leader Fidel Castro to win the Beard of the Year 2006 award during the disastrous Ashes campaign Down Under.

Among the World Cup coaches, only the mustachioed Dav Whatmore (Bangladesh) keeps the tradition alive. For the others, facial hair are a strict no-no.

Going by a Greek proverb, a beard signifies lice, not brains. On the contrary, William Shakespeare made Beatrice assert in Much Ado About Nothing that he who has a beard is more than a youth and he who has no beard is less than a man.

Both schools of thought have their fair share of followers but the majority of the cricketers definitely think somewhere in between the extremes. — PTI

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MAIL
Useful warm-up

India showed that they are strong contenders for the World Cup by thrashing hosts West Indies by nine wickets in the final warm-up match. Nobody expected such a one-sided encounter. Pacers Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan bowled superbly and never let the West Indian batsmen settle down. Pathan’s bowling must have come as a heartening news for the Indian team management. The only cause for concern is the form of Virender Sehwag. He was dismissed for a duck against the West Indies, and it was left to Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik to take India home.

India must be wary of their rivals in the first match, Bangladesh. The way the latter upset New Zealand in a warm-up match shows that they are no pushovers.

Arvinder Singh, Mohali

Wake-up call

Apropos of the editorial "Wizards of Oz" ( February 22), the Kiwis deserve accolades for routing the Aussies in the Chappell-Hadlee ODI series. Hitherto considered invincible, Australia had to bite the dust first at the hands of England, followed by the 3-0 clean sweep by New Zealand, suffering five defeats in a row.

However, despite these losses, Australia cannot be taken for granted for the World Cup.

D.K. Aggarwala, Phagwara

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