SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


 

 

Heroic in defeat
I
ndian
Test cricket, which turned 75 on June 25, has witnessed several extraordinary individual performances. Vikramdeep Johal recalls the valiant exploits of five legends who earned glory despite finishing on the losing side.
  It’s not for nothing that five-day cricket matches are known as Tests. These games “test” players’ mettle to the hilt, separating the wheat from the chaff. Limited-overs cricket might bring instant fame and fortune, but it’s the good old longer version of the game that promises glory and immortality.

Wimbledon’s lost girls
M
irjana Lucic
and Jelena Dokic are Wimbledon’s lost girls. Eight years ago, 16-year-old Dokic caused a sensation at the All England Club by beating world number one Martina Hingis, only the third time in the history of the tournament that the top-ranked woman had been knocked out in the first round.
Jelena Dokic (left) and Mirjana Lucic once had the world at their feet, but they now languish in the twilight zone Jelena Dokic (left) and Mirjana Lucic once had the world at their feet, but they now languish in the twilight zone

Tricky course
Donald Banerjee
Top of the World” reads the board at the highest tee-off point of the golf course at Chandi Mandir Cantonment. From the plains to a height of 3,000 ft above sea level, the Army course offers a journey through hill and dale.


The highest point of the three-tier golf course at Chandi Mandir Cantonment — Photo by Parvesh Chauhan 
The highest point of the three-tier golf course at Chandi Mandir Cantonment

IN THE NEWS
Lively leggie

Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla is having a rollicking time in ODI cricket. He made his debut against Bangladesh at Dhaka last month, picking up 3-37. In the one-off match against Ireland at Belfast last week, he returned figures of 3-29 as India restricted their opponents to 193.

Piyush Chawla has taken three-wicket hauls in each of his first three ODIs Photo by AFP



Prabhjot Singh Back in rhythm

 


Prabhjot Singh, who made a comeback to the Indian squad in the Azlan Shah Cup recently, scored the match-winner against England and also got a goal against hosts Belgium during the Champions Challenge hockey tournament in Boom. — Photo by PTI

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Heroic in defeat

Indian Test cricket, which turned 75 on June 25, has witnessed several extraordinary individual performances. Vikramdeep Johal recalls the valiant exploits of five legends who earned glory despite finishing on the losing side

It’s not for nothing that five-day cricket matches are known as Tests. These games “test” players’ mettle to the hilt, separating the wheat from the chaff. Limited-overs cricket might bring instant fame and fortune, but it’s the good old longer version of the game that promises glory and immortality.

A few Indian Test cricketers have excelled when the chips were really down. They stood tall amid the ruins, thereby ensuring that their team-mates could hold their heads high even in defeat. Here are five unforgettable efforts by all-time greats who stole the limelight from the winners with their never-say-die spirit.

Vijay Hazare (1948): The post-WW II Australian Test team, led by the one and only Sir Donald Bradman, was arguably the greatest of all time. India had to confront “The Invincibles” when they made their first trip Down Under.

One of the rare high points for India on the tour was Hazare’s two centuries in the Adelaide match. Against a fearsome bowling attack that featured Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Ian Johnson, the short-statured genius compiled 116 and 145, becoming the first Indian batsman to get two tons in a Test. Unfortunately, he didn’t receive much support from his partners. The Aussies won by an innings and 16 runs, but Hazare’s heroics earned praise from one and all, including Bradman himself (Incidentally, the latter was dismissed by Hazare for 201 in this match).

Vinoo Mankad (1952): The tour to England that year was a dismal one for India. Mankad, the country’s greatest all-rounder prior to Kapil Dev, salvaged some pride for the visitors in the Lord’s Test. In the first innings, he contributed 72 as an opener in a total of 235. The English batsmen sent the Indian bowlers on a leather hunt, though they found left-arm off-spinner Mankad hard to get away. The latter bowled his heart out to return amazing figures of 73 overs, 24 maidens, 196 runs, five wickets.

In the second innings, showing no signs of fatigue after his marathon spell, Mankad bravely took on the English attack which had world-class bowlers in Fred Trueman, Alec Bedser and Jim Laker. His valiant knock of 184 took India to 378, thus avoiding an innings defeat. England reached the target of 77 for the loss of two wickets, but Mankad again made them toil for their runs, coming up with figures of 24-12-35-0.

Kapil Dev (1982): Thirty years after Mankad’s tour de force, Kapil produced a breathtaking performance with bat and ball at the “Mecca of cricket”. England had a great all-rounder in Ian Botham, who had almost single-handedly won the Ashes the previous year. However, the beefy Englishman was overshadowed by his Indian counterpart in this Test.

Kapil took 5-125 as England piled up 433 runs. India’s reply was dreadful, with most of their batsmen succumbing to the pace and swing of Botham and Bob Willis. Captain Sunil Gavaskar top-scored with 48, followed by Kapil, whose 41 took India past the century mark (128). Following on, India were propped up by a classy 157 from “Colonel” Dilip Vengsarkar.

The “Haryana Hurricane” threw caution to the winds while smashing 89 off just 55 balls, including 13 fours and three sixes. As if that was not enough, Kapil removed England’s top three batsmen in the second innings as they chased 65 to win. England did it without any more hiccups, but the gangling 23-year-old’s fireworks took some of the sheen off their victory.

Sunil Gavaskar (1987): The “Little Master” accumulated 34 Test hundreds in his illustrious career. He almost got his 35th in his last innings — against Pakistan at Bangalore. Still, his 96 ranks as one of the greatest knocks on a minefield of a pitch that assisted the spinners from the word go. Under the circumstances, it was perhaps even better than his epic 221 against England at the Oval in 1979.

Pakistan were shot out for 116 in the first innings courtesy Maninder Singh (7-27). India fared slightly better, taking a valuable 29-run lead. The visitors handled the spinners much better in the second essay to make 249, giving India a 221-run target for winning the Test and the series. On a deteriorating pitch, the spin duo of Tauseef Ahmed and Iqbal Qasim gave Pakistan the advantage. Gavaskar was the only Indian batsman who kept them at bay. When his resistance ended, so did India’s — who lost by 16 runs.

Sachin Tendulkar (1999): The same opponent, the same situation, the same result. In the Chennai Test against Pakistan, Tendulkar played an innings that matched Gavaskar’s swansong in herculean tenacity. After his first-innings duck, the “Master Blaster” got going in the second as India set about chasing the 271-run victory target.

At one stage, it looked like he would take India home on his own, especially after he completed his hundred (surely one of the best among his 37 tons so far, if not the best).

Only 17 runs were left with four wickets in hand when, in a rare lapse of concentration, he holed out to Wasim Akram off the bowling of the guileful Saqlain Mushtaq for 136. This proved to be the death blow.

The Indians added merely four more runs before being bowled out for 258, giving Pakistan another narrow win — this time by 12 runs. No prizes for guessing who was named the man of the match.

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Wimbledon’s lost girls

Mirjana Lucic and Jelena Dokic are Wimbledon’s lost girls.

Eight years ago, 16-year-old Dokic caused a sensation at the All England Club by beating world number one Martina Hingis, only the third time in the history of the tournament that the top-ranked woman had been knocked out in the first round.

Dokic, who betrayed her tender years by girlishly shooing the pigeons off centre court, reached the last eight that year as the world’s 129th best player.

But 17-year-old Lucic went one better. As the world No. 134, Lucic beat Monica Seles on her way to the semifinal, where she took a set off Steffi Graf before losing.

Both young, blonde and a photographer’s dream, it should have been the beginning of a double success story.

Instead, the eventual fate of the two girls should act as a cautionary tale to the legion of wide-eyed teenagers who are playing at Wimbledon this year.

Lucic’s story is quite depressing. The Croatian has claimed that her father physically abused her causing her and her mother and four siblings to stage a night-time escape to the USA.

She has played just two WTA tournaments this year and none in the previous two as she wages a legal battle against both her father and agents who she claims have tried to sabotage her career.

Her father and well as the IMG group say all charges against them are baseless.

Before she fled to Florida, the German-born Lucic had the world at her feet.

She had been the youngest-ever Grand Slam champion when, at just 15, she partnered Hingis to the women’s doubles title at the Australian Open.

Lucic says that a shortage of money and sponsors have thwarted her comeback potential, although she proved in a rare appearance at Indian Wells in March that she can still compete when she won her first-round match.

If nothing else, it gave the former world number 32 a ranking again, albeit a humble 450.

“It’s extremely difficult and frustrating,” said Lucic.

“But all I ask for is a chance. If I get that I can have success and play tennis again.”

Dokic, once the world number four, is now in the twilight zone at 647. Her career didn’t implode with the same intensity as Lucic’s — she followed up her run to the 1999 Wimbledon quarterfinals with a semifinal place the following year.

But her life has been just as colourful with an estrangement from father Damir, claims of kidnapping and a dizzying switch between Serbian and Australian colours. — AFP

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Tricky course
Donald Banerjee

Top of the World” reads the board at the highest tee-off point of the golf course at Chandi Mandir Cantonment. From the plains to a height of 3,000 ft above sea level, the Army course offers a journey through hill and dale.

The undulating course with a number of water hazards, air tunnels, double-decker greens with delicate curves and angles is surrounded by a thick forest spread over 10 km.

In the night, denizens of the jungle like sambhar, blue bull, wild boar, deer and hill goat make their entry into the fairways. But they are back in their forest cover at the crack of dawn — when the Army jawans step in to set things right.

The three-tier course is one of the most challenging in the region. A nullah meanders through the course, posing a water hazard to the greens of three holes. Three World War II discarded bridges are the aluminium passages over the Khola nullah.

While the front nine is mostly the plains, the back nine is undulating, reaching its peak at 3,000 ft on the par-four 11th hole.

A semi-blind green on the second hole, a deceptive water hazard on the fifth hole, a double-decker green on the 14th, two water hazards on the 17th and the longest 650-yard par-five 18th green make up for the challenging drives and short game.

There are termites on the 10th green. This is a major problem and the Army jawans are busy every morning removing the pests.

The General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Western Command is a golf lover. The course is also a nursery of Twift Dwarf grass, which was once only imported from the USA. The Army Commander has offered this particular grass to all units of the command.

All said and done, golfers have to be at their best to master the tricky Chandi Mandir course.

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IN THE NEWS
Lively leggie

Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla is having a rollicking time in ODI cricket. He made his debut against Bangladesh at Dhaka last month, picking up 3-37. In the one-off match against Ireland at Belfast last week, he returned figures of 3-29 as India restricted their opponents to 193.

First Blood
Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza avenged her Bangalore Open defeat by beating Russia’s Yaroslava Shvedova in the first round at Wimbledon. Sania, ranked 44th, took just 55 minutes to outclass the world No. 80 Photo by Reuters

In his third ODI, playing against his toughest rivals so far (South Africa), he again claimed a three-wicket haul. He was the pick of the Indian bowlers with a haul of 3-47 in 10 overs. His two-wicket burst rattled the Proteas — Morne van Wyk was beaten by the turn and Herschelle Gibbs was flummoxed by a straight one that beat his bat to hit the stumps. He also got rid of all-rounder Andrew Hall to reduce South Africa to 190-6. However, the seventh-wicket stand between stand-in captain Jacques Kallis and newcomer Vernon Philander took the match away from India.

There is no doubt that Piyush has the potential to become an ideal replacement for Anil Kumble in the shorter version of the game. In Tests, though, it will take him some time to cement his place in the squad. He has played just one so far, against England last year at Mohali, in which another debutant, Munaf Patel, stole the show.

Hopefully, with determination and hard work, he could one day fill the vacuum that will be created when Kumble quits Test cricket. — Agencies

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