SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Mahendra Singh Dhoni curbed his aggressive instinct to anchor India in the Lord’s TestLucky lifeline
Team India was very fortunate to escape with a draw in the Lord’s Test. Now, it’s up to the players to click together and have a crack at a rare series victory, writes Abhijit Chatterjee
India should thank the English weather that they are playing in the ongoing Trent Bridge Test with a clean slate. Not many teams in the history of Test cricket have recovered after losing the first encounter of a three-match series. It was rain, with a bit of help from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, that saved India in the first Test against England at Lord’s. The visitors have got an unexpected lifeline and they should try to make the most of it.




Mahendra Singh Dhoni curbed his aggressive instinct to anchor India in the Lord’s Test. — Photo AFP

Sanath Jayasuriya has a phenomenal record of over 12,000 runs and 300 wickets in one-dayersIN THE NEWS
Ageless wonder
At 38, Sri Lankan all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya is the oldest cricketer around, though he looks as sprightly as ever. The World Cup in the Caribbean was expected to be his swansong, but he didn’t call it quits and is still going strong.



Sanath Jayasuriya has a phenomenal record of over 12,000 runs and 300 wickets in one-dayers. Photo by AFP

Sania Mirza has begun her US Open preparations on an impressive noteTennis treat
After an indifferent Wimbledon, Indian tennis players got their act together in the second half of July, raising hopes of a good show at next month’s US Open.
Sania Mirza made it to the singles semifinal at the Cincinnati Open, her best performance this year so far, before going down to top seed Russian Anna Chakvetadze.





Sania Mirza has begun her US Open preparations on an impressive note

At No. 12, South Korea’s Kyung-Ju Choi is the highest ranked Asian golfer in the world.Asian idol
Tipped by many as the Asian most likely to win a golf Major, world number 12 KJ Choi of South Korea finished tied eighth at the British Open last week. It was a creditable performance in the chilly and wet conditions at the Carnoustie course, where top players like Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Henrik Stenson, Davis Love III and Stuart Appleby missed the cut, and world number one Tiger Woods had to settle for the tied 12th spot.



At No. 12, South Korea’s Kyung-Ju Choi is the highest ranked Asian golfer in the world. — Photo Reuters

Battlefield Hyderabad
This October, about 5,000 militarymen from across the globe will converge on Hyderabad, the city of Nizams, and get engaged in a battle sans firearms. Military superpowers USA and China are sending contingents of more than 200 athletes each.

   

 

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Lucky lifeline

Team India was very fortunate to escape with a draw in the Lord’s Test. Now, it’s up to the players to click together and have a crack at a rare series victory, writes Abhijit Chatterjee

India should thank the English weather that they are playing in the ongoing Trent Bridge Test with a clean slate. Not many teams in the history of Test cricket have recovered after losing the first encounter of a three-match series.

It was rain, with a bit of help from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, that saved India in the first Test against England at Lord’s. The visitors have got an unexpected lifeline and they should try to make the most of it.

Dhoni’s gritty knock enabled India to hang on till the tea break on the final day. As the last session was washed out, England were denied a victory they thoroughly deserved. The “Ranchi rocker” delivered when it mattered the most, even as the so-called “Big Three” — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly — came a cropper. Dhoni curbed his aggressive instinct according to the critical situation, and also made amends for his first-innings duck.

Things came to such a pass because the Indians failed to bat with much application particularly in the first innings, when they conceded a crucial 97-run lead. The England attack was no great shakes, with Monty Panesar being the most experienced bowler with barely 17 Tests behind him. Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff were conspicuous by their absence. However, James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom and Chris Tremlett did not let inexperience hinder them from bowling their hearts out.

With virtually no damage done, India can still wrest the initiative in the series. On two occasions, 1971 and 1986, India didn’t lose the tour opener in England and then went on to win the series.

Did India really deserve the draw at Lord’s? One would be tempted to reply in the negative, given the way their mighty batting line-up crumbled not once but twice in the face of some ordinary, but nagging, bowling.

That India managed to stay afloat is largely due to the role played by three players — Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik and Dhoni — who did not have the enormous reputation of some of their much-fancied colleagues.

All three got fifties in contrasting styles. Jaffer, who went into the Lord’s Test with three failures behind him, was largely responsible for India crossing the 200-run mark in the first innings. Karthik, who is not a regular opener, showed both skill and heart to hang around when things were not going India’s way. Dhoni batted like a tailender in the first innings, but in the second, well aware of his shortcoming against the away-going deliveries, he played well within himself. However, he did not spare any loose deliveries in his heroic unbeaten knock of 76.

In the end, to hold out for 96 overs was creditable for India. Rain was inevitable, considering the unpromising forecast. In fact, it was a surprise that it rained so late. However, what of the men who were expected to deliver for India?

Of the players who were turning out for India most probably for the last time at Lord’s, the biggest failure was Tendulkar, who will rue the fact that he could never get a century at the “Mecca of cricket”. Much was expected of him, but on both occasions, he settle down, executed some good strokes but lost his wicket without being able to take full advantage of the below-par England bowling.

As far as Ganguly is concerned, he was playing with great concentration and knew that glory was withing his grasp, especially in India’s second innings, if only he could take his team within striking distance of a victory. But the Sidebottom delivery which dismissed him could have on some other day been dealt with easily. The fact that Ganguly was concentrating so hard might have been his undoing. Also, there was some doubt about the umpire’s decision, but then with neutral umpires doing duty, the hue and cry of bad judgement was missing.

In both innings, skipper Dravid got out without getting in, which is not something that can be said about Tendulkar, VVS Laxman or even Ganguly. It’s a pity, but the fact remains that with the skipper unable to get going, the middle order tended to come apart. And the team nearly paid a big price for that.

At Lord’s, there were four Indian cricketers who were playing their first Test in England. They all gave a good account of themselves. Rudra Pratap Singh took his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket, while S. Sreesanth mopped up the tail in the first innings. Karthik and Dhoni, of course, fought hard in the second innings. This performance will help them do well in the rest of the series.

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IN THE NEWS
Ageless wonder

At 38, Sri Lankan all-rounder Sanath Jayasuriya is the oldest cricketer around, though he looks as sprightly as ever. The World Cup in the Caribbean was expected to be his swansong, but he didn’t call it quits and is still going strong.

In the second one-dayer against Bangladesh at Colombo, he claimed his 300th ODI wicket to help Sri Lanka win the match and the series. He is the only player in one-day cricket to achieve the double of 10,000 runs and 300 wickets (his run tally is 12,116 from 398 matches).

Jayasuriya is arguably the most successful all-rounder in ODIs. His nearest rival, South Africa’s Jacques Kallis, is a distant second with 9,144 runs and 233 wickets in 261 games.

The “Matara Marauder” was in fine form during the World Cup, cracking centuries against Bangladesh and the West Indies. In the final versus Australia, he top-scored for his team with a valiant 63.

Since then, his batting form has been erratic — he hasn’t got a fifty in his last eight ODI innings. However, he is expected to rise to the occasion in the Twenty20 World Cup in September. In the shortest version of the game, he has to his credit a 23-ball 51 made against New Zealand last year. Will the inaugural tournament in South Africa be his last hurrah? With Jayasuriya, you never can tell. — Agencies

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Tennis treat

Rohan Bopanna (left) and Prakash Amritraj have shown marked improvement in recent weeks

Rohan Bopanna (left) and Prakash Amritraj have shown marked improvement in recent weeks
Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj have shown marked improvement in recent weeks 

After an indifferent Wimbledon, Indian tennis players got their act together in the second half of July, raising hopes of a good show at next month’s US Open.

Sania Mirza made it to the singles semifinal at the Cincinnati Open, her best performance this year so far, before going down to top seed Russian Anna Chakvetadze.

As a result, she moved up three places to be ranked 35th on the WTA charts. She must be keen to match (or better) her best show in a Grand Slam event, the fourth-round finish at the 2005 US Open.

In women’s doubles, Sania clinched the title with American Bethanie Mattek to be ranked 36th. This was Sania’s fifth career Tour doubles crown and the second of the year after the Morocco Open, where she paired with American Vania King in May.

There was good news for India in the men’s section as well. Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj reached the singles semifinals at the ATP Challenger Series tournaments held in England and the USA, respectively.

Seventh seed Bopanna shocked second seed Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistani in the quarterfinals of the grasscourt tournament, but his fine run was cut short in the semis by unseeded Harel Levy of Israel.

He has moved 20 places on the ATP charts to be ranked 213, the best position held at present by an Indian in men’s singles. This is also Bopanna’s all-time best ranking.

In doubles, Bopanna teamed up with Qureshi to bag the doubles title in the event held in Manchester. This was Bopanna’s second doubles crown in the Challenger Series this year, the previous being at Dublin, Ireland, with Adam Feeney earlier this month. At No. 105, Bopanna is the third highest ranked Indian in men’s doubles, after Leander Paes (9th) and Mahesh Bhupathi (21st).

Prakash Amritraj performed so well over the fortnight in the USA that his singles ranking shot up from 467 to 276.

Incidentally, Rohan and Prakash are the only two Indians in the top 300 of ATP rankings.

Prakash reached the last eight at the Hall of Fame Championships at Newport, Rhode Island, becoming the first Indian in eight years to go this far in an ATP event after Leander Paes made it to the quarterfinals of the same competition in 1999.

The son of former tennis ace Vijay Amritraj beat higher-ranked Serbian Ilia Bozoljac en route to the last-eight stage, where he was beaten by fifth seed Nicolas Mahut of France.

Buoyed by this performance, Prakash progressed to the semis of the Comerica Challenger hardcourt event in Aptos, California. He shocked fifth seed Brunc Echagaray of Mexico in the quarterfinals, but lost to American Donald Young in the next stage.

Karan Rastogi made his presence felt by ending India’s 25-year overseas claycourt title drought, winning the ITF Futures tournament in Morocco earlier this month (Ramesh Krishnan had triumphed at Stuttgart in 1982). Rastogi is the third highest ranked Indian in men’s singles at 343.

Hopefully, Bopanna & Co will maintain the momentum when they face bigger challenges — the US Open and the Davis Cup. — Agencies

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Asian idol

Tipped by many as the Asian most likely to win a golf Major, world number 12 KJ Choi of South Korea finished tied eighth at the British Open last week. It was a creditable performance in the chilly and wet conditions at the Carnoustie course, where top players like Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie, Henrik Stenson, Davis Love III and Stuart Appleby missed the cut, and world number one Tiger Woods had to settle for the tied 12th spot.

Jeev Milkha Singh was also among the casualties. This was the first time the Indian golf star failed to make the cut at a Major.

Choi began with two successive rounds of two-under-par 69 to be in the sole second spot at the halfway stage. However, a one-over 72 in the third round and an even-par 71 in the fourth one dashed his hopes of taking a crack at the title.

“It was a good learning experience. To play in the tough conditions was good for me,” he said.

This was the best outing for Choi at the British Open, bettering his tied-16th finish at Royal Troon in 2004. Overall, the Korean star’s finest show in a Major has been a third-place finish in the US Masters in 2004.

The 36-year-old Choi cut his professional teeth on the Asian Tour in the 1990s before finding success on the US Tour.

He is lying fourth on the 2007 PGA Tour Money List with earnings of $3,438,492. The three golfers above him are Tiger Woods ($5,214,385), Phil Mickelson ($4,120,588) and Vijay Singh ($3,887,916).

Jeev is all praise for Choi. “It’s excellent for Asian golf what he has done. He’s contributed a lot on US soil. I feel there is a lot of talent in Asia. If KJ can do it, why not us? That’s how I feel. He’s a good player and it’s a big encouragement for the rest of the guys, especially when he had come out from the Asian Tour. We should also be working hard to get there,” Jeev said.

Born on May 19, 1970, in Wando (South Korea), Choi was a competitive powerlifter before he took up golf. He could lift 350 pounds as a 95-pound 13-year-old teenager, thus getting the nickname “Tank”.

He will make another attempt to become the first Asian to win a Major when he launches his title assault under more familiar surroundings in the USA, where he has won six times, including twice over the past two months. His recent victories were at the Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National.

“I’m looking forward to next month’s US PGA Championship. I will be aggressive during that week,” he promised. — Agencies

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Battlefield Hyderabad

Bravo the bison is the mascot of the 4th World Military Games, to be held in Hyderabad from October 14-21
Bravo the bison is the mascot of the 4th World Military Games, to be held in Hyderabad from October 14-21. Photo by PTI

This October, about 5,000 militarymen from across the globe will converge on Hyderabad, the city of Nizams, and get engaged in a battle sans firearms.

Military superpowers USA and China are sending contingents of more than 200 athletes each.

Barely 75 days are left for the 4th World Military Games, which are set to be the biggest sporting extravaganza hosted by India after the 2003 Afro-Asian Games.

Of the 127 members of the Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM), better known as the International Military Sports Council, about 80 countries have confirmed their participation.

“Friendship through sport” is the motto of the games, being held for the first time outside Europe. Bravo the bison, the mascot, derives its name from the 54 Infantry Division, also known as the bison division, which is involved in organising the games.

The Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh’s Gachibowli sporting complex will be the venue for most of the disciplines. — Agencies

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