SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Far from ready
The inaugural Twenty20 World Championship is less than four months away, but India’s jampacked schedule doesn’t give the cricketers much time to prepare, writes Vikramdeep Johal
It’s a great opportunity for India to atone for their World Cup fiasco, but the players don’t seem to be in a position to make the most of it. The first Twenty20 World Championship, featuring 12 nations, will be held in South Africa from September 11-24. India have so far played only one Twenty20 international — in which they beat South Africa late last year — but what’s worse is that they are not scheduled to play any more before the championship despite a crowded itinerary.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s slam-bang style is best suited for the shortest version of the game. However, he and his team-mates have merely one-match experience of Twenty20 internationals. — Photo by AFP

IN THE NEWS
Eye-opener
Ivninderpal Singh
Gautam Gambhir is back to the forefront. After he was dropped from the World Cup squad, Gambhir staged a wonderful comeback with a well-made ton against Bangladesh, earning his second man-of-the-match award (his first was also against Bangladesh, in 2003). His masterly innings of 101 off 113 balls silenced critics of his approach and also ensured a series win. There is every reason for both Gambhir and India to be delighted by this gutsy performance.

After being dropped from the World Cup squad, Gautam Gambhir has hit back to lay claim to the opener’s slot. — Photo by AP/PTI

Watery challenge
Donald Banerjee
T
he
Chandigarh Golf Club will have its first water hazard near the 18th green. It will also soon acquire a faster and greener carpet, says Sukhjit Singh Lehal, the new course captain.

Kashmiri girls hooked on rugby
W
hile
rugby, largely viewed as a masculine sport, is still in its nascent stage across the country, a number of Kashmiri girls are preparing themselves to become good players of the rough-and-tough game.

 

SPORTS MAIL

Swimming prodigy
Apropos of Akash Ghai’s write-up "Golden Splash" (Saturday Extra, April 28), Kunal Bhardwaj’s rise in national swimming is phenomenal. This youngster remarkably boasts of 85 medals, of which over 50 are gold. It speaks volumes of his talent, skills and stamina. The record-breaker is all set to scale great heights. This augurs well for Indian swimming.

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Far from ready

The inaugural Twenty20 World Championship is less than four months away, but India’s jampacked schedule doesn’t give the cricketers much time to prepare, writes Vikramdeep Johal

It’s a great opportunity for India to atone for their World Cup fiasco, but the players don’t seem to be in a position to make the most of it. The first Twenty20 World Championship, featuring 12 nations, will be held in South Africa from September 11-24. India have so far played only one Twenty20 international — in which they beat South Africa late last year — but what’s worse is that they are not scheduled to play any more before the championship despite a crowded itinerary.

During the next three months or so, India will play five Tests (two against Bangladesh, including the ongoing one, and three versus England) and 13 ODIs, including a whopping seven against England. Bangalore will host a Twenty20 match between Asia XI and Africa XI on June 5, but there is only one Indian in the Asian squad — Munaf Patel.

England will play two Twenty20 games against the West Indies in late June, but inexplicably there won’t be any against India (The seven one-dayers should have been reduced to five to accommodate two Twenty20 matches). To top it all, India’s final ODI against England is on September 8, barely five days before their first match of the world championship against Scotland!

For the record, 14 Twenty20 games have been held worldwide so far, beginning with the Australia-New Zealand match at Auckland on February 17, 2005.

The ICC has fixed a limit of three Twenty20 matches to be hosted by any country in a year. However, none has been held on Indian soil (in fact, only one has been played in the subcontinent — Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe at Khulna last year).

With such a half-hearted approach, not much can be expected from the Indian team in what would be the third most important event in the game after the World Cup and the Champions Trophy. It’s a pity that the Board of Control for Cricket in India resisted the introduction of this version for some time, on the pretext that the popularity of ODIs would be affected, before it finally bowed to pressure from the International Cricket Council last year.

The board swung into action by organising, albeit at the fag-end of the season, the inaugural Inter-Zonal Twenty20 Championship last month. It saw the participation of some big names, thanks to India’s premature exit from the World Cup.

Tamil Nadu emerged champions under the captaincy of Dinesh Karthik (incidentally, he, along with Dinesh Mongia, were the architects of India’s Twenty20 triumph against South Africa at Johannesburg). The tournament witnessed exciting young players like Punjab’s Karan Goel, the top run-getter of the event, Mumbai’s Rohit Sharma, the lone centurion, Tamil Nadu’s V. Devendran and C.Ganapathy, and Bengal’s Manoj Tiwary and Rana Choudhury.

Outstanding performances in this tournament should be considered while finalising the Indian squad for the world championship. Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of selectors, recently announced that a domestic Twenty20 event would be held in June prior to the team’s departure for England. For all practical purposes, this would be the selection test.

Current form (or overall record) in one-dayers is likely to be treated as a yardstick for selection, even though there is a marked difference between the two versions. The recent World Cup showed how boring one-day cricket could get at times. Twenty20, on the other hand, is a three-hour roller-coaster ride, giving teams virtually no time to recover or consolidate.

Keeping in view the demands of the new version, youth and fitness should get utmost priority. It won’t be a bad idea to "rest" or omit some of the seniors to make way for fresh faces with fresh legs. It would be a gamble, no doubt, but there are likely to be long-term gains.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who appears to have regained his touch, could prove to be the most important member of India’s Twenty20 squad. He was remarkably sedate in the match-winning knock against Bangladesh in Dhaka, but it is his slam-bang style that would be crucial in the shortest version of the game. Other key players are Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik and Dinesh Mongia. The latter’s experience of this format, having played for Leicestershire last year, could come in handy.

In the world championship, India have been grouped with Pakistan and Scotland. Assuming that the unthinkable doesn’t happen, India should finish among the top two in their group and proceed to the tough second round, where there will be two groups of four teams each. The top two from each will enter the semis, which should be India’s target. Can they do it, considering their minuscule experience of this version and their exhausting schedule? Being the Twenty20 laggards, their chances are not even fifty-fifty.

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IN THE NEWS
Eye-opener
Ivninderpal Singh

Gautam Gambhir is back to the forefront. After he was dropped from the World Cup squad, Gambhir staged a wonderful comeback with a well-made ton against Bangladesh, earning his second man-of-the-match award (his first was also against Bangladesh, in 2003).

His masterly innings of 101 off 113 balls silenced critics of his approach and also ensured a series win.

There is every reason for both Gambhir and India to be delighted by this gutsy performance. He has proven himself at the international level and given the selectors a good option for the opening slot. Moreover, with Virender Sehwag going through a prolonged lean patch, Gambhir is likely to get more opportunities. It’s up to him to capitalise on them.

Making his ODI debut against Bangladesh in the TVS Cup in 2003, Gambhir’s maiden century (103 off 97 balls) came against Sri Lanka in 2005. In 21 ODIs, he has scored 602 runs at an average of 28.66 with two centuries and as many fifties. His record in Tests has also been patchy.

To cement his place in the team in both versions of the game, Gambhir has to be consistent. So far, a majority of his memorable performances have been against Bangladesh.

If the Delhi batsman uses his strengths — compact footwork and attacking game — more effectively, he can give match-winning performances more frequently.


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Watery challenge
Donald Banerjee

Sukhjit Singh Lehal, course captain of the Chandigarh Golf Club, plans to create a water hazard in place of a sand trap.
Sukhjit Singh Lehal, course captain of the Chandigarh Golf Club, plans to create a water hazard in place of a sand trap. — Tribune photo by Pradeep Tewari

The Chandigarh Golf Club will have its first water hazard near the 18th green. It will also soon acquire a faster and greener carpet, says Sukhjit Singh Lehal, the new course captain.

The green will have the water feature in place of the bunker. This obstacle promises to test the mettle of the golfers.

A new variety of the Twift Dwarf grass, which was imported from Florida last year for two of the greens, has been developed by two golf green nurseries in the region.

The new variety, Twift Dwarf-419, is an improvement over the earlier grass which tended to lose colour in severe winter conditions. According to the course captain, the new grass will maintain its colour as well as quality.

The club spent over Rs 1 lakh on each of the two greens last year. But with the Asia Greens at Raipur Rani and the nursery in Gurgaon quoting Rs 25,000 per green, the cost would come down four times.

The Twift Dwarf carpet attains a speed of 10 to 10-plus. This is much faster than the 8 to 8-plus speed acquired on the earlier Bermuda greens.

Sukhjit hopes to carpet at least four greens with the new grass before the monsoon sets in. The greens committee of the club has already put up the matter before the management committee, requesting for an early clearance of the project. It has recommended new carpeting of all greens to bring uniformity to the course.

A common complaint of the members is that the untreated water for irrigating the greens stinks. Besides setting up a treatment plant, the club will also go in for partial computerisation of the irrigation system, says Sukhjit, who plays with a handicap of six and has three hole-in-one feats to his credit. He stated that club president Ravi Sandhu had given prompt clearance for various projects.

The problem faced by the members due to the criss-crossing on the seventh and ninth greens will also be solved by raising the height of the ninth tee.

Sukhjit also wants to import another ride-on fairway mower from Florida. At present, the club has only one which can mow nine fairways in a day. With the second on hand, all 18 fairways can be mowed in a day.

Trees shedding leaves on the greens is another major problem. Local machines can clear the leaves only from the roughs, but sucking these from the tender greens is the job of the Toro Versa VAC. "The club has one such machine. It needs one more to keep the greens in perfect condition," says the course captain.

He agrees that the club failed to get any major pro tournament last year. "It was sheer bad luck that even the Chandigarh Ladies Open became a local event because of the clash of dates. But this year we will get a major pro tournament," he promises.

The Yamuna sand in the bunkers will be replaced by stone-crushed sand from Rajasthan and the unwanted bunkers will be done away with.

The club will go in for night golf tournaments very soon, says Sukhjit. According to him, the club president is keen on attracting corporate golfers to the nine flood-lit greens in the cool evenings this summer.

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Kashmiri girls hooked on rugby

Many girls in the Valley are finding rugby a highly
Many girls in the Valley are finding rugby a highly exciting sport. — Photo by PTI

While rugby, largely viewed as a masculine sport, is still in its nascent stage across the country, a number of Kashmiri girls are preparing themselves to become good players of the rough-and-tough game.

Many girls in Kashmir are finding rugby a highly enjoyable sport, with local rugby tournaments being organised here with increasing frequency.

Shedding their traditional dress for tracksuits and T-shirts, enthusiastic girls in Srinagar duck and tackle as they play the game.

"I have chosen this game because I love it. It is exciting and tough. Rugby is getting popular in Kashmir. A lot of tournaments are being organised here. A snow rugby tournament was also organised here. Perhaps, a national tournament of snow rugby will soon be organised here. Rugby has become really popular here," said Anjum, a budding player.

Saaba Akhtar, another rugby player, hoped that the game would see the participation of more girls.

"It is really good that girls are also playing it. There are two levels in rugby — touch and tackle. We girls play touch rugby and boys play touch and tackle both. We also want to play tackle rugby. I appeal to girls to come forward," she said.

The sport, which was introduced in the Valley about three years ago, didn’t find too many takers initially but picked up gradually.

"When we started rugby, there was no response from children as parents were hesitant to send their wards here. But it developed gradually. Schoolteachers and principals helped a lot in encouraging the children. We have about 1,000 boys and girls playing with us. The game is developing a lot here," said Mohammad Maqbool, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Rugby Association.

Rugby, which began in India back in 1872, used to be played mainly in Mumbai and Kolkata under the patronage of the Bombay Gymkhana and Calcutta Cricket and Football Club, respectively.

Rugby was included in the National Games held in Guwahati earlier this year. — ANI

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SPORTS MAIL

Swimming prodigy

Apropos of Akash Ghai’s write-up "Golden Splash" (Saturday Extra, April 28), Kunal Bhardwaj’s rise in national swimming is phenomenal. This youngster remarkably boasts of 85 medals, of which over 50 are gold. It speaks volumes of his talent, skills and stamina. The record-breaker is all set to scale great heights. This augurs well for Indian swimming.

The Chandigarh teenager should be provided facilities, training and coaching to enable him to realise his dream of becoming a world-class swimmer.

The Swimming Federation of India and the Sport Authority of India should take note of his numerous accomplishments so that he can be groomed to excel at the topmost level. He has it in him to emulate his idol Michael Phelps. The time is ripe to catch him young.

Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala

Dhoni’s sizzler

Mahendra Singh Dhoni sizzled in the searing heat to guide India to a hard-fought victory over Bangladesh in the first one-dayer. He suffered cramps and had to use a runner (Yuvraj Singh). However, he managed to stay till the very end, well-supported by fellow wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik. This was sweet revenge for India, who had been shocked by their rivals in the World Cup match at Port of Spain.

Dhoni has made a timely return to form; yet again, he has proved his utility while batting at the No. 3 slot.

It remains to be seen how well he would do on the tour to England, considering that he has often struggled on pitches outside the subcontinent.

Ramesh Kumar, Chandigarh

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