SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


The same yardstick for selection needs to be applied for Sachin Tendulkar (left), Rahul Dravid (centre) and Sourav Ganguly
The same yardstick for selection needs to be applied for Sachin Tendulkar (left), Rahul Dravid (centre) and Sourav Ganguly

No place for bias
The selectors should not adopt a double standard while judging the performance of Team India’s veterans, writes Abhijit Chatterjee

W
hen f
ormer skipper Rahul Dravid was dropped for the last match of the one-day series against Australia, it spoke volumes about the mindset of the national selectors, especially Mumbai-based chairman Dilip Vengsarkar. The message was loud and clear: “Mr Dependable” of Indian cricket was being phased out. He could no longer take his place in the one-day squad for granted.


PITCH BATTLE: There is little to choose between the teams led by Mahendra Dhoni (left) and Shoaib Malik, who are themselves proven match-winners
PITCH BATTLE: There is little to choose between the teams led by Mahendra Dhoni (left) and Shoaib Malik, who are themselves proven match-winners

It’s 50-50
Vikramdeep Johal

T
he
last time India took on Pakistan in a full-fledged series, held in early 2006, the teams were led by Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq. The two stalwarts won’t be there when the arch-rivals clash in the first one-dayer on Monday. The former has been forced to take a “break”, at least for a couple of matches, while the latter has already bid farewell to international cricket.


Chandigarh skeet shooter Smit Singh has been selected for the Asian Championship to be hosted by Kuwait in December
Chandigarh skeet shooter Smit Singh has been selected for the Asian Championship to be hosted by Kuwait in December —Tribune photo by Vicky Gharu

IN THE NEWS
Crack shot

Akash Ghai
Shoot at sight” is his motto. Within three years of taking up skeet shooting, Smit Singh has become adept at hitting clay pigeons with regularity. This 16-year-old Chandigarh boy has been selected for the Asian Shooting Championship to be held in Kuwait from December 3 to 13. Only four shooters have been picked from the junior circuit, the others being Man Singh, Sorab Singh and Sheraj. “I hit 110 out of 125 targets during the trials for the Asian meet. Now I am gearing up for a preparatory camp to be held in New Delhi later this month,” says the crack shot.


Railways right on track
M.S. Unnikrishnan

T
wo
national records, created by Babu Bhai in 20km walk and Sudha Singh in 3000m steeplechase, and Amarjeet Singh’s upset win over Ranjith Maheswari in triple jump were the notable feats in the recent 47th Open National Athletics Championship at Jamshedpur, which also produced a slew of meet records.

Sameer Mon (left) of Services sprinted to victory in the 100m race Railways’ Preeja Sreedharan completed a 5,000m-10,000m golden double at the 47th National Open Athletics Championship in Jamshedpur recentl
Sameer Mon (left) of Services sprinted to victory in the 100m race; Railways’ Preeja Sreedharan completed a 5,000m-10,000m golden double at the 47th National Open Athletics Championship in Jamshedpur recentl.  PTI photos

 

   

 

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No place for bias
The selectors should not adopt a double standard while judging the performance of Team India’s veterans, writes Abhijit Chatterjee

When former skipper Rahul Dravid was dropped for the last match of the one-day series against Australia, it spoke volumes about the mindset of the national selectors, especially Mumbai-based chairman Dilip Vengsarkar. The message was loud and clear: “Mr Dependable” of Indian cricket was being phased out. He could no longer take his place in the one-day squad for granted.

The apprehension proved true when Dravid was not included in the squad for the first two ODIs against Pakistan. The selectors who decided to leave out such a key player in a high-pressure series against Pakistan perhaps believe they have enough talent at their disposal or they (read chairman) are conducting a personal vendetta against Dravid.

Strangely, the BCCI powers that be have not reacted one way or the other to this unexplained action of the selectors. Only time will tell whether Dravid can rise like the phoenix and regain his rightful place in the squad.

Only two months ago, Dravid was the undisputed leader of the team with a penchant for Test wins abroad — a survivor who had recovered from the World Cup debacle to take the team forward. But suddenly, like his predecessor Sourav Ganguly, he finds himself out in the cold. Of course, an Indian Test team without Dravid is still unthinkable, but he has indeed been put on the defensive by the selectors’ decision to “rest” him. The selectors should have had the guts to explain, at least to Dravid, why they did it.

The former skipper undoubtedly had a miserable series against the Aussies, averaging just 10.2 in six matches, but the big question is: why have the selectors forgotten so soon his contribution on the UK tour earlier this year? He led the team that recorded a historic win in the Test series against England and came agonisingly close to clinching the ODI series before losing 3-4. Moreover, India also beat South Africa in a three-match ODI series in Ireland.

There seems to an undercurrent of tension between Vengsarkar and Dravid. Time and again, Vengsarkar has said not-so-complimentary things about Dravid even when the team was doing well in trying circumstances, with the skipper having to handle not only on-field duties without a coach but also off-field ones in the absence of a media manager. Vengsarkar also used his column in the print media to fire broadsides at the then captain, an action which the BCCI should have nipped in the bud.

What probably broke the line of communication between Dravid and Vengsarkar was the former skipper’s decision to quit captaincy out of the blue. He informed BCCI president Sharad Pawar of his decision without taking Vengsarkar into confidence. Now that the former skipper is not doing so well with the bat, Vengsarkar thought this was the most prudent time to strike.

Since Dravid is not in the good books of Vengsarkar (even if the latter denies any feud with him), an immediate comeback looks difficult.

But then, anything is possible in Indian cricket. It was during the Challenger Series at Mohali two years ago that the selectors decided to “rest” another former captain, Ganguly, then out with a mild injury, for the first two games against the visiting Sri Lankan team.

The Bengal southpaw needed to wait for nearly 18 months (during which he religiously played in every first-class game for Bengal) before regaining his place in the squad. However, the 34-year-old Dravid does not have age not on his side.

One question which the selectors might have to answer is: Do they have the guts to drop Mumbaikar Sachin Tendulkar if he fails in four or five games? Will the “Master Blaster” also be judged solely on the basis of current form? Or is it that only players like Dravid and Ganguly have to prove their form and fitness in game after game, series after series?

Vengsarkar had once talked of young cricketers like Manoj Tiwary, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma filling the void created by the absence of senior players.

Only time will tell whether these players (along with the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag) can take Indian cricket forward. If that be so, the “resting” of Dravid could be a welcome step with an eye on the 2011 World Cup. Otherwise, the selectors would have to eat their words and recall Dravid as they had to do in Ganguly’s case. 
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It’s 50-50
Vikramdeep Johal

The last time India took on Pakistan in a full-fledged series, held in early 2006, the teams were led by Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq. The two stalwarts won’t be there when the arch-rivals clash in the first one-dayer on Monday. The former has been forced to take a “break”, at least for a couple of matches, while the latter has already bid farewell to international cricket.

Their places have been taken by Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Shoaib Malik, two dynamic cricketers in their mid-twenties.

Dhoni and Malik have a lot in common. Both have been given the reins of captaincy ahead of more senior players. Against all odds, they guided their teams to the final of the Twenty20 World Cup (Dhoni’s daredevils won a cliffhanger).

The skippers are keen to hit back after ODI series defeats, with India having lost 2-4 to Australia and Pakistan going down 2-3 to South Africa. Among current Indian batsmen, Dhoni has the best average in ODIs against Pakistan — 60.22. For the Pakistanis, Malik is on top with a figure of 47.22 (his highest ODI score, 143, came against India at Colombo in the 2004 Asia Cup).

Temperamentally, too, they are level-headed, likeable players with their feet firmly on the ground.

With the two captains being so similar, can their teams be any different? Indeed, there is little to choose between the two sides going by their recent track record against each other in one-dayers. Of the last 10 matches, both have won five each. Interestingly, the last three series between them have all gone in favour of the visiting team. India won 3-2 and 4-1 on Pakistani soil in 2004 and 2006, respectively, while Pakistan won 4-2 in India in 2005.

Unpredictability is a major strength as well as a big weakness of the two subcontinental foes. A great performance in one match is often followed by a shoddy show in the next.

Under the circumstances, the team which manages to be more consistent — or less inconsistent — would come up trumps. The decisive contest could be between Indian batting and Pakistani bowling.

The series opener at Guwahati will be the first one-day encounter between the two sides this year. It would delight one and all if the series is decided in the fifth and final game at Jaipur on November 18.

Head to head

Venue M Ind Pak NR
India 21 6 15 0
Pak 25 10 13 2
Neutral 62 24 36 2
Total 108 40 64 4

Last 10 one-dayers: 5-5
Schedule: Nov 5 (Guwahati), Nov 8 (Mohali), Nov 11 (Kanpur), Nov 15 (Gwalior), Nov 18 (Jaipur)


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IN THE NEWS
Crack shot
Akash Ghai

Shoot at sight” is his motto. Within three years of taking up skeet shooting, Smit Singh has become adept at hitting clay pigeons with regularity.

This 16-year-old Chandigarh boy has been selected for the Asian Shooting Championship to be held in Kuwait from December 3 to 13. Only four shooters have been picked from the junior circuit, the others being Man Singh, Sorab Singh and Sheraj.

“I hit 110 out of 125 targets during the trials for the Asian meet. Now I am gearing up for a preparatory camp to be held in New Delhi later this month,” says the crack shot.

Starting with air rifle (peep sight) in 2004, Smit soon switched over to skeet shooting as he found aiming at flying objects more thrilling.

The decision paid dividends the same year as Smit became the state champion in the junior skeet category.

“In 2005, I again triumphed in the state championship, besides securing the eighth position in the 49th National Shooting Championship at Hyderabad,” states Smit.

In 2006, though he could not achieve a podium finish in the nationals at New Delhi, he improved his score to 97/125, enabling him to participate in the selection trials for the Asian championship. A medal at the nationals, however, has eluded this four-time state champion.

This Class XI student of DAV Model School, Sector 15, dreams of winning an Olympic medal. “I am receiving tips from coaches as well as senior shooters,” says Smit, who is keen to get an entry to the 2012 London Olympics. 

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Railways right on track
M.S. Unnikrishnan

Two national records, created by Babu Bhai in 20km walk and Sudha Singh in 3000m steeplechase, and Amarjeet Singh’s upset win over Ranjith Maheswari in triple jump were the notable feats in the recent 47th Open National Athletics Championship at Jamshedpur, which also produced a slew of meet records.

The emergence of some new champions, particularly from the coaching stables of former internationals PT Usha, Rachita Mistry and Nalluswami Annavi, greatly embellished the meet, which was the last domestic competition for athletes to attain the qualification mark for Beijing. In the end, only Babu Bhai and 800m runner Shajeesh Joseph made the Olympic cut.

Railways once again ruled the roost to emerge champions with 29 gold, 25 silver and 21 bronze (including 13 gold in the men’s section), while Services, who competed only in the men’s events, finished a distant second (five gold, six silver and five bronze).

About 750 athletes, including around 180 national campers, participated in the meet.

Shot putter Vikas Gowda, who has already qualified for the Olympics, long jumper Anju Bobby George and thrower Seema Antil kept away for various reasons.

The Open meet was originally scheduled to be held at Ranchi, but was shifted to Jamshedpur as the JRD Tata Stadium boasted a new synthetic track.

A failed marathon runner-turned-walker from Gujarat, Babu Bhai of Services clocked 1 hour, 23.40 minutes to create a national mark and book himself a ticket to the Olympics. Similarly, Sajeesh Joseph also ran a brilliant 800m, clocking 1 minute, 47.42 secs to meet the Olympic qualifying standard.

Babu Bhai and Sinimol Paulose were adjudged the best male and female athlete, respectively. Sinimol received the honour for her wins in 800m and 1500m.

The defeat of Maheswari at the hands of 26-year-old Pathankot resident and Railway employee Amarjeet Singh came as a shocker as the national record holder was expected to dominate the triple jump pit.

Amarjeet proved that his gold-winning effort at the inter-state meet in Bhopal was no fluke when he leaped 16.53 metres to wrest the gold, which also helped him avenge his defeat at the hands of Maheswari in the inter-railway meet at Bhubaneswar two weeks ago. Amarjeet’s distance also overturned the meet record of 16.39m, set by Maheswari at Hyderabad in 2005.

Maheswari, who had jumped 17.04m at the Guwahati Grand Prix meet to set a national record and earn a berth for Beijing early this year, had to settle for the silver with a jump of 16.14m, which did no good to boost his morale. Of late, his jumps have been showing a declining graph as at the World Championship in Osaka (Japan), his distance was only 16.38m.

Sudha Singh of Railways scripted the second national record of the four-day meet when she won the 3000m steeplechase, clocking 10:18.76 minutes, to erase the old record of 10:44.65 set by S Santhi of Bangalore in 2005.

Sudha has shown remarkable improvement recently as she had won the inter-railway event with a time of 10 minutes, 52 seconds.

Sudha, who works with Central Railway, was a cross-country runner but under the guidance of former international Rachita Mistry, she has come of age as a steeplechaser.

Twenty-year-old S.N. Arunjit won the 200m gold with a meet record of 20.92 seconds. He had won the 100m gold and 200m silver in the inter-state meet at Bhopal after capturing two gold medals in sprints at the National Games in Guwahati.

The emergence of 17-year-old Manpreet Kaur of Punjab as the women’s shot put champion with her very first throw of 13.62m was gladdening too, though the distance fell short of her personal best of 14.49m set in the Federation Cup in Delhi last year.

The 100m events also produced new champions as Sameer Mon of Services and Sarada Narayan of Chennai scorched the track to win the men’s and women’s gold, respectively, with their personal best timings. Sameer, a gold medallist in the 4x100m relay at the SAF Games in Colombo last year, clocked 10.53 seconds.

Sarada, who timed 11.83 seconds, finally turned the tables on Poonam Tomar, thus avenging her several defeats at the hands of the Delhi girl.

Preeja Sreedharan captured a double by winning the 10,000m and 5000m golden double with meet records. In the absence of Anju Bobby George, Rashmi Bose ruled the pit in women’s long jump to fetch the only gold for Kerala, though the 6.06m she leaped was way below her personal best of 6.22m.

The first day of the meet witnessed three meet records, which included Chatholi Hamza’s swift race in the 1500m.

He clocked 3:39.9 to break the record of Bahadur Prasad set in 1995. Hamza, who won a bronze in the World Military Games in Hyderabad, was the second Indian after Bahadur to clock a sub-3:40 time in the race, though he just missed the Olympic qualifying mark.

Preeja, who holds the national record, won the 10,000m race with a meet record time of 33:25.0, while high jumper Benedit Stanley, a trainee of N. Annavi, cleared 2.19m to bag the gold with a meet record. In the 5,000m race, Preeja clocked 15:45.96 to erase Sunita Rani’s record.

Sahana Kumari cleared 1.82m to erase Bobby Aloysius’ high jump record, but she needs to soar past 1.91m to make the Olympic cut.
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