SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Pluck, luck did the trick
After narrowly escaping defeat at Lord’s, Rahul Dravid’s men raised their game remarkably to achieve a much-awaited series victory, writes Abhijit Chatterjee
India had to wait 21 long years for a Test series win in England. It was a remarkable victory over the number two Test-playing nation, which had not lost a home series since 2001. Captain Rahul Dravid, who seems to have recovered from the World Cup disaster, is now in the same league as Ajit Wadekar, who led India to their first Test series win in England in 1971, and Kapil Dev who orchestrated the second one in 1986. Anil Kumble (left) and Zaheer Khan
The sterling performance of Anil Kumble (left) and Zaheer Khan swung the series India’s way. — Photos by AP/PTI/Reuters


Touch Woods
Larry Fine

T
iger
Woods crowned his year with a double heap of pleasure — raising the US PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy in triumph and sharing the joy with hugs for his wife and baby daughter. It was the world number one’s 13th Major victory but the first of 2007 and also the first he celebrated with wife Elin and two-month-old Sam Alexis, who were waiting for him in the scoring trailer.








Tiger Woods ensured that he wouldn’t end the 2007 season without a Major victory by triumphing at the US PGA Golf Championship. — Photo by Reuters 
Tiger Woods


IN THE NEWS
Punch up
Akash Ghai
It was boxing’s “macho appeal” that attracted him to the sport in his childhood. Thanks to hard work and determination, Manjit Singh has become one of India’s leading boxers at the age of 18. Hailing from Mandhana village in Bhiwani (Haryana), Manjit made his presence felt soon after he put on the boxing gloves for the first time in 2000.








Haryana’s Manjit Singh won a bronze at the Commonwealth Boxing Championship in England earlier this year. — Tribune photo by Malkiat Singh
Manjit Singh

Race against time
Donald Banerjee
McLarens, Ferraris, Toyotas and Renaults speeding down specially built arched roads could become a dream come true for Indian motorsports fans if a Formula One track is built near New Delhi for the 2009 Grand Prix, which has been provisionally allotted to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

   

 

  • Well done, India

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Pluck, luck did the trick

After narrowly escaping defeat at Lord’s, Rahul Dravid’s men raised their game remarkably to achieve a much-awaited series victory, writes Abhijit Chatterjee

India had to wait 21 long years for a Test series win in England. It was a remarkable victory over the number two Test-playing nation, which had not lost a home series since 2001.

Captain Rahul Dravid, who seems to have recovered from the World Cup disaster, is now in the same league as Ajit Wadekar, who led India to their first Test series win in England in 1971, and Kapil Dev who orchestrated the second one in 1986. After getting a lucky lifeline thanks to inclement weather at Lord’s, the Indians came back strongly at Trent Bridge and the Oval.

The morale-boosting triumph could herald a new era in Indian cricket, with the team scheduled to play against top teams like Australia and Pakistan later this year.

India have considerably improved their away Test record in the past few years. Since 2001, they have won 13 Tests abroad, with series wins against Bangladesh (two), Pakistan, Zimbabwe, the West Indies and England (one each). Between 1986 (when they won in England) and 2001, India bagged only one Test series abroad, against Sri Lanka in 1993.

On a melancholic note, the series witnessed probably the last Test appearance in England of a whole generation of Indian cricketers. Leading this pack was Sachin Tendulkar, who was good in patches but unable to touch peak form (he was at the receiving end of some horrible umpiring decisions). The other stalwarts were Dravid, Sourav Ganguly — who persevered in the face of great adversity and was also a victim of bad umpiring — VVS Laxman and of course Anil Kumble, who will perhaps remember the series more for his exploits with the bat as he got his maiden Test century (he scored more runs in the three matches than Dravid!).

Kumble did manage to take 14 wicket in the series, but he no longer looked the lethal bowler who made England dance to his tune in his younger days. India would find it extremely difficult to find a more combative player.

When they decide to retire, these five players will leave behind a rich legacy that could galvanise a new generation of cricketers. The BCCI must draw on fresh talent soon before a big void is created in Indian cricket.

The series was won 1-0, but Indian fans would argue that the result could have been 2-0 only if skipper Dravid had showed some cricketing gumption and enforced the follow-on at the Oval with the hosts over 300 runs short of the Indian first-innings total. But these critics should look at the larger picture.

The skipper admitted after the match that his bowlers were visibly tired and could have given away easy runs to the hosts in the second innings. Dravid got support from his England counterpart Michael Vaughan, who said he fully understood why the former did not enforce the follow-on.

The Indian skipper’s “safety first” approach has to be seen in the context of the series, which could have gone either way had the weather not intervened during the first encounter at Lord’s.

Let’s not forget that in the third Test, India were reduced to 11 for three in the second innings when they were batting under no pressure. At Trent Bridge, they lost three quick wickets chasing a small target of 73. These figures show why Dravid had no choice but to go on the defensive in his quest for a historic win.

The victory is all the more creditable since it was achieved without the services of a full-time coach. True, in manager Chandu Borde, India did have a very good “think tank”, while the support staff comprising Robin Singh (fielding coach), Venkatesh Prasad (bowling coach) and Gregory King was also there to help Dravid. However, it was the seniors who organised the nets and egged on the juniors (some of whom were not even born when India won their last series in England in 1986) to give their best.

If the Indian batsmen by and large lived up to the expectations, the bowlers also delivered when it mattered the most. Zaheer Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh and S. Sreesanth, together with Kumble, prevented England from reaching 400 in any of their innings. With 18 wickets, Zaheer was the pick of the Indian bowlers, but the other pacers, RP Singh and Sreesanth, were also impressive and came up with fine spells whenever the situation demanded.

Dravid wanted followers of the game to look at Sreesanth’s contribution in the series rather than focus on his on-field antics in the second Test. And at the Oval, he almost swung the game India’s way with three wickets in England’s second innings, even as the other bowlers struggled.

The action now shifts to the seven-match one-day series, beginning on August 21. The matches will be particularly important for players like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, RP Singh and Gautam Gambhir, who all figure in the squad for next month’s inaugural Twenty20 World Cup. They have to switch gears and get into the thick of things — the sooner the better. 


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Touch Woods
Larry Fine

Tiger Woods crowned his year with a double heap of pleasure — raising the US PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy in triumph and sharing the joy with hugs for his wife and baby daughter.

It was the world number one’s 13th Major victory but the first of 2007 and also the first he celebrated with wife Elin and two-month-old Sam Alexis, who were waiting for him in the scoring trailer.

“It’s a feeling I’ve never had before, having Sam there and having Elin there. It feels a lot more special when you have your family there,” said Woods, whose daughter was dressed in a red outfit, copying her father’s favourite Sunday attire.

“It used to be my mom and dad. And now Elin, and now we have our own daughter. So it’s evolved.

“I wasn’t really paying attention when I saw them. I was so excited and just wanted to give Elin and Sam a kiss and get back to signing my scorecard.”

The Southern Hills scorecard showed Woods with a one-under-par 69 for an eight-under 272 total and a two-shot victory over fellow American Woody Austin.

Woods had four US Tour victories and runner-up performances at the Masters and US Open but he hungered for victory in the US PGA, the last Major of the season.

“Any time you win a Major, it’s always going to be a great year and this certainly is,” he said.

The world number one put himself in a commanding position by firing a 63 in the second round to equal the lowest score in a Major.

Woods led by two shots after the second round, increased his lead to three in the third and stretched his advantage to five strokes after he birdied the eighth hole on the final day.

Yet victory did not come easily. Austin and three-time Major winner Ernie Els of South Africa kept up the pressure and the lead dwindled to one before Woods exhorted himself to rally back — and did just that.

Woods said experience had made him a better player than he was in 2000 when he dominated the sport.

That year he won the US Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 strokes, took the British Open by eight and claimed the PGA title in a playoff against former junior rival Bob May.

“It’s just experience,” Woods said about what makes him superior now to the all-conquering player who went on to add the 2001 Masters to complete the so-called Tiger Slam.

“Understanding how to manage my game around the golf course, I have more shots than I did then just because of that many more years to learn them, and how to make adjustments on the fly, just comes with experience,” he said.

“And I’ll say the same thing seven years from now, more experienced than I am now.”

Woods won the British Open and the US PGA Championship in 2006 but it was a painful year for the champion, whose father, Earl, died after a long battle with cancer.

“Looking back on the year, golf-wise it’s been a good one. I’ve won a Major. Off the course, it’s been great.

“Last year, the golf was great, but off the course it was difficult. So I will certainly take 2007 over last year any time.” — Reuters


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IN THE NEWS
Punch up
Akash Ghai

It was boxing’s “macho appeal” that attracted him to the sport in his childhood. Thanks to hard work and determination, Manjit Singh has become one of India’s leading boxers at the age of 18.

Hailing from Mandhana village in Bhiwani (Haryana), Manjit made his presence felt soon after he put on the boxing gloves for the first time in 2000.

Within four years, he became the state champion. Since then, he has been winning the Haryana title without fail.

Graduating to the international level, he won a bronze at the Senior Commonwealth Boxing Championship in England earlier this year.

Manjit was also part of the Indian squad at the President’s Cup in Poland. Last year, he won bronze medals at the Junior Asian Cadet Championship (Vietnam) and the Azerbaijan championship.

At the national level, he clinched the gold in the 2007 junior nationals and the All-India BD Chandiwala Boxing Championship.

His achievements catapulted him to the top-six bracket, which led to a call-up for the invitational boxing meet in Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, I had to skip the event as its dates clashed with the August 25-31 national meet at New Delhi,” he rues.

It was a tough decision for him, but a practical one. “Only the national championship certificate helps us to get a government job. I am looking for a job, so as not to remain dependent on my family for my expenditures. I have been spending over Rs 2,500 extra per month on my diet alone,” he says.

Manjit, who mostly relies on his right punch to win bouts, has been honing his skills at the Bhiwani Boxing Club under experienced coach Jagdish Singh.

He envies foreign boxers who are provided with facilities and support by their government. “Here, we have to manage on our own,” he states.

“I have been performing well at the international level for the past couple of years, but haven’t yet received the cash prizes announced by the government. A secure future can encourage any sportsperson to perform better,” he says. Manjit is still to get the Rs 1.50 lakh award from the government for his Commonwealth championship medal.

“The cash awards should be given promptly to motivate sportspersons,” he opines. 


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Race against time
Donald Banerjee

McLarens, Ferraris, Toyotas and Renaults speeding down specially built arched roads could become a dream come true for Indian motorsports fans if a Formula One track is built near New Delhi for the 2009 Grand Prix, which has been provisionally allotted to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

A tall order, no doubt, and just two years to do it. It all sounds wildly optimistic.

However, IOA president Suresh Kalmadi is confident of building the track. The money will be raised through government or private funding. The association has just 24 months to do it. A proper contract won’t be signed until everything is in place.

One has to admit that planning, funding, acquiring land, constructing a track and supporting infrastructure and ultimately holding an F1 race in just two years seems improbable, particularly with all the bureaucratic and logistical hassles that the project may face.

The pressure of having to do everything in such a short time frame may lead to a shoddy end product, and if it doesn’t pass muster with the F1 bosses, the IOA would have to kiss the contract goodbye. And then what purpose will the track serve?

An F1 race is no mean event — the venue requires an airport in its vicinity, five-or-more-star accommodation, good road/rail connectivity, optimum weather conditions and above all, fans who are ready to pay and see the race in all its glory.

A recent news report about a street circuit, possibly around India Gate, which is put to use during the Republic Day parade at Rajpath, seems a workable solution. According to the report, renowned German circuit designer Hermann Tilke visited the Capital sometime back and felt that the Rajpath location would make a good street circuit.

The Rajpath street circuit accommodates almost one lakh persons, including the security personnel. For the Republic Day parade, temporary stands are erected to accommodate the spectators. The same could be done for the F1 Grand Prix. The German Grand Prix can accommodate 50,000 spectators. By that justification, Rajpath could be the answer. However, as they say, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

If the IOA meets the demands of the Formula One management, India will become the fifth venue to be added to the calendar in recent months.

Valencia and Singapore will hold races for the first time in 2008, while Abu Dhabi will enter the fray in 2009, followed by South Korea a year later.


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SPORTS MAIL

Well done, India

Congratulations to Team India for winning a Test series in England after over two decades.

This series proved to be special for veteran leg-spinner Anil Kumble, who not only surpassed Glenn McGrath as the third highest wicket-taker in Tests, but also scored his maiden century.

Gurudev Singh Jain, Baltana

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