SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Carvalho (left), seen here with Sardara Singh, considers the team more important than any player ‘Performance is the only mantra’
Chief coach Joaquim Carvalho talks to B Arindham about a host of issues pertaining to Indian hockey, particularly the team’s preparations for the all-important Olympic qualifier
Q: What changes did you bring about in the team that retained the Asia Cup?
A:
The changes I made were simple and straightforward. I asked the players to run hard, be aggressive in attack and solid in defence. The stress was also on discipline, teamwork and honesty…it was about giving 100 per cent. Another thing we did was making the video analysis programme more planned and fruitful….we scouted for the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and planned accordingly.

Carvalho (left), seen here with Sardara Singh, considers the team more important than any player

Pete Sampras (left) showed that he was a match for Roger Federer in the Asian exhibition series Tennis titans
How do you compare two champions who have more in common than just their sporting prowess? Pete Sampras against Roger Federer — now that is tricky, for it’s age versus youth, or rather, past versus present (and the foreseeable future). Interestingly, they have the same sun sign (Leo) and are separated in their dates of birth by only four days (and one decade).

Pete Sampras (left) showed that he was a match for Roger Federer in the Asian exhibition series. — Photo by Reuters

Kumble led from the front in the Delhi TestIN THE NEWS
King of Kotla
Anil Kumble couldn’t have asked for a better start to his captaincy stint. India won their seventh Test in a row at Ferozeshah Kotla as Kumble became the first Indian skipper to bag the man-of-the-match award in his debut Test as captain. With a commanding presence, he impressed everyone with his leadership skills. Kotla proved again to be his happy hunting ground. It was here that he got his “Perfect 10” against Pakistan in 1999. He has also been part of Team India in six of the seven consecutive Test victories at this venue. His 55 wickets at Kotla make him the only Indian bowler to have taken over 50 wickets on a ground.

Kumble led from the front in the Delhi Test. — Photo by AFP

The Indian kickboxing team which took part in the 2nd Indoor Asian Games in Macau Kicking off in style
Indian kickboxers performed creditably to win two silver and six bronze medals at the 2nd Indoor Asian Games in Macau recently. Their show was all the more significant because they were participating for the first time in a tournament officially recognised by the Olympic body.

The Indian kickboxing team which took part in the 2nd Indoor Asian Games in Macau

Manipur’s Gangapati Chanu made her presence felt at the 9th World Wushu Championship held recently in Beijing Silver lining
IT was a sporting feat that virtually went unnoticed. Manipur’s Gangapati Chanu put up a superb performance to win the silver medal at the 9th World Wushu Championship held in Beijing from November 11-17. Competing in the women’s 75kg sanshou event, Gangapati finished second behind Britain’s Michelle Manser, while the bronze went to Canada’s Natalie Moi.




Manipur’s Gangapati Chanu made her presence felt at the 9th World Wushu Championship held recently in Beijing. — Photo by PTI

   

 

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‘Performance is the only mantra’

Chief coach Joaquim Carvalho talks to B Arindham about a host of issues pertaining to Indian hockey, particularly the team’s preparations for the all-important Olympic qualifier

Q: What changes did you bring about in the team that retained the Asia Cup?

A: The changes I made were simple and straightforward. I asked the players to run hard, be aggressive in attack and solid in defence. The stress was also on discipline, teamwork and honesty…it was about giving 100 per cent. Another thing we did was making the video analysis programme more planned and fruitful….we scouted for the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and planned accordingly.

Q: How is the team shaping up for the Olympic qualifier?

A: The team had a stint in Germany in October. Since early November, the players have been attending a month-long camp in Bangalore where the focus is on skill, fitness and strength. The mental aspect of the game is also being looked into. We cannot take Britain lightly, especially after the influx of a few players from Scotland and Ireland into their ranks. Still, I am very optimistic. I never give up.

Q: Who are the players you look forward to for delivering the goods?

A: All players are important for me. I am concentrating more on the team than on any individual. So it would be unfair to single out anybody. We have a very talented bunch of youngsters and some very committed seniors. It’s a well-balanced side.

Q: What was the inside story about Sandeep Singh being dropped? There have been polls for Sandeep….

A: People who conduct these polls are not aware of the facts. I am not going to compromise on discipline and commitment. Stardom and past laurels means nothing to me…no individual is more important than a team. Sandeep is supposed to be a penalty-corner specialist and for that one needs to practise day in day out. He was missing practice at camps and that is not acceptable. I dropped Raghunath in spite of him being a drag-flick specialist. This is because he was not performing. So there is no bias…performance is the only mantra.

Q: How would Ric Charlesworth’s inclusion help you?

A: Ric is a legend in his own right. He is one of the most experienced coaches. But here his job is off the ground. He is the technical director. He gives suggestions and the ones we deem fit will be taken. There will be no interference in day-to-day coaching.

Q: What is your definition of modern hockey?

A: Modern hockey is all about playing according to the situation of the match. Top-notch teams like Australia and the Netherlands do not play fancy hockey. They play effective hockey. We need to use substitutions to the hilt, play hard and effective hockey and translate individual skills into group skills.

Q: Has the Premier Hockey League (PHL) helped Indian hockey?

A: It has surely built hype. The media coverage has brought in money. The visibility factor is a big thing. It creates a support base…the inclusion of foreign players gives a chance to junior players to rub shoulders with the biggies. Youngsters come to know that there isn’t money only in cricket when they see a player like Dilip Tirkey make Rs 5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh from one tournament.

Q: How would you describe the protest after the Twenty20 World Cup victory celebrations?

A: First I would like to clear one thing. I have nothing against cricket. In fact, I watched the final myself and was supporting MS Dhoni and his team…I was biting my nails. I celebrated too. Most of the cricketers are my friends. But what I found very odd was that the state governments were vying with one another to reward the players but not a word of congratulations came for my boys who are the champions of Asia in a very high-voltage and tough tournament. It was as if cricket was the only sport and all other sports were pushovers. I was protesting this apathy from the administration. This protest was a precedent set for later generations.

Q: What are two things that you would like to change if made the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) boss?

A: I would like to make the administration more professional and strengthen the domestic structure. I would also like to build on the infrastructure for the game in the country and creates awareness.

Q: Has Chak De! India created a renewed love for the sport?

A: The film was well made and has certainly hogged the limelight with the amount of media coverage it got. For the boys, it’s still a lot of hard work and commitment to continue winning. The best thing it has done is to give a slogan for victory — Chak de.

Q: How would you like to be remembered as a coach?

A: I will be satisfied if the boys give 100 per cent in every game. The results don’t worry me. Having said that, I would like to keep my winning ways uninterrupted (laughs). — TWF

Chilean challenge

World No. 8 India are the top seed in the six-nation Olympic men’s hockey qualifier to be held in Santiago, Chile, from March 1-9 next year. Their rival teams are Britain (ranked ninth), Chile (20th), Austria (25th), Bangladesh and Mexico (joint 28th).

Mexico, Pan America’s sixth-ranked team, made it to the event after the withdrawal of Egypt.

India have to win this tournament to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. The biggest hurdle in their way, of course, is Britain.

Prior to the qualifier, the players will figure in the Premier Hockey League in Chandigarh, a four-Test series against Belgium in Chennai, followed by a training-cum-exposure trip of Australia.

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Tennis titans
Vaibhav Sharma

How do you compare two champions who have more in common than just their sporting prowess? Pete Sampras against Roger Federer — now that is tricky, for it’s age versus youth, or rather, past versus present (and the foreseeable future).

Interestingly, they have the same sun sign (Leo) and are separated in their dates of birth by only four days (and one decade).

Federer might have beaten Sampras 2-1 in their three-match Asian exhibition series, but the loss in the final encounter in Macau leaves no doubt that mere statistics won’t do justice to a comparison between these all-time greats.

Sampras, born on August 12, 1971, announced his arrival on the ATP circuit in 1990 with a victory in the US Open, where he beat Andre Agassi for his first taste of Grand Slam success. He then did it at the 1993 Wimbledon, a win that marked the beginning of the Sampras era. From 1993-95, he dominated the world of tennis, clinching six majors during this period. By the time he retired in 2002, Sampras had won a record 14 Grand Slam titles, ahead of the likes of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi.

Federer, born on August 8, 1981, shot to limelight when he knocked out defending champion Sampras at the 2001 Wimbledon. Though Sampras was already over the hill by then, it turned out to be a gruelling match. The Swiss won 7-6. 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 in the only Grand Slam encounter between them.

It took Federer two more years to win his first Grand Slam crown. He was nearly 22 when he conquered Wimbledon in 2003. Like Sampras, he won six of the 10 majors in the next three years. Federer, with 12 titles, is currently second on the list of players with most Grand Slam wins. While Sampras was 28 when he won his 12th Grand Slam, Federer has bettered him by two years.

Both have a strikingly similar career graph. They have never won the French Open. Federer reached the final at Roland Garros in 2006 and 2007, and has time to go for the elusive title.

Sampras never went beyond the semifinals at Roland Garros. While Agassi can be credited for keeping Pistol Pete on his toes throughout, Federer has found a more-than-formidable challenger in Rafael Nadal. Great on grass, not-so-great on clay — that has been the common story of Sampras and Federer.

Sampras won seven Wimbledon, five US Open and two Australian Open crowns. His classical serve meant easy points on aces or service winners. The speed of his serves was frequently above 200 kmph on the first serve and about 180 kmph on the second.

Federer, with an all-court playing style, has won five Wimbledon, four US Open and three Australian Open titles. He hits his groundstrokes while the ball is on the rise, a style reminiscent of Agassi. His first serve (typically around 190 kmph) and his ability to perform in high-pressure situations has lifted him way above his peers.

The comparisons can go on, and more statistics can be reeled off, but the truth remains that to give either of them a vantage point is an extremely arduous task.

In all likelihood, Federer will overtake Sampras’ record of most Grand Slam titles in the coming year or two. That, for the statistically minded, might end the argument, but for tennis buffs, there isn’t a tiebreaker for this one.

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IN THE NEWS
King of Kotla
Ivninderpal Singh

Anil Kumble couldn’t have asked for a better start to his captaincy stint. India won their seventh Test in a row at Ferozeshah Kotla as Kumble became the first Indian skipper to bag the man-of-the-match award in his debut Test as captain. With a commanding presence, he impressed everyone with his leadership skills.

Kotla proved again to be his happy hunting ground. It was here that he got his “Perfect 10” against Pakistan in 1999. He has also been part of Team India in six of the seven consecutive Test victories at this venue. His 55 wickets at Kotla make him the only Indian bowler to have taken over 50 wickets on a ground.

Of the 10 man-of-the-match awards he has won in his Test career so far, three have come at Kotla.

Kumble will also cherish this victory for long because he made a winning start to his innings as captain, becoming only the seventh Indian to do so after Polly Umrigar, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag.

Having become India’s 30th Test captain at the age of 37, Kumble was in total control and he hardly looked like a debutant skipper. His controlled aggression, clear vision and self-confidence gave Team India an edge over their arch-rivals.

With a level-headed approach, he juggled his bowling resources judiciously, never allowing the Pakistani batsmen to dominate. Leading by example, he took seven wickets in the match and batted with determination in the first innings.

Having gone 1-0 ahead, Kumble would have to ensure that his team doesn’t become complacent. A series win will be a big boost to India before the tough tour Down Under.

As he is set to be the skipper for the Australian tour, Kumble will get a huge opportunity to display his skills against the best team in the world.

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Kicking off in style
Gursharan Singh

Indian kickboxers performed creditably to win two silver and six bronze medals at the 2nd Indoor Asian Games in Macau recently. Their show was all the more significant because they were participating for the first time in a tournament officially recognised by the Olympic body.

TP Shyam Parsad (low kick, full contact, 75 kg) Shinde Pradeep Prakash (low kick, full contact, 86 kg) won silver medals, while bronze medals were bagged by Anchal Sharma (semi-contact, 57 kg), Sanjay (semi-contact, 74 kg), Satish (semi-contact, 79 kg), Omar Kasim (light contact, 71 kg), Amir Khan (full contact, 57 kg) and Pradeep (full contact, 86 kg).

India could have won at least one more silver but for the poor umpiring decision which went against Amir Khan.

Though the team was cleared by the Indian Olympic Association for participation, the expenses were met by the state association or by the participants themselves. Several players confided that till the last moment they were busy arranging the amount required instead of practising.

Even the four-day training camp at New Delhi before the games was not very successful because of a fund crunch. The players were able to participate in this tournament because of the efforts made by SS Harichandan, the working president of the Indian Kickboxing Association.

It’s high time the Indian Olympic Association recognises kickboxing because these players have shown their worth. Kickboxing as an Olympic sport is no longer wishful thinking but a lot closer to reality.

For the development of kickboxing in India, we not only need more coaches and referees but also well-managed coaching camps. It’s heartening that the association is planning to hold training camps for players and courses for coaches in January, 2008, at Amritsar, besides the National Championship and some international challenge fights.

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Silver lining

IT was a sporting feat that virtually went unnoticed. Manipur’s Gangapati Chanu put up a superb performance to win the silver medal at the 9th World Wushu Championship held in Beijing from November 11-17.

Competing in the women’s 75kg sanshou event, Gangapati finished second behind Britain’s Michelle Manser, while the bronze went to Canada’s Natalie Moi.

What makes her achievement exemplary is the fact that India had won a solitary bronze in the sport, courtesy Bimoljit Singh, at the Doha Asian Games last year.

The championship was predictably dominated by hosts China, who won 18 of the 40 gold medals awarded. Chinese Macau were a distant second with three gold, five silver and four bronze, followed by Vietnam (3-4-7).

At the Beijing Olympics, wushu will be listed as a special event, named the 2008 Beijing Wushu Tournament, to be held from August 21 to 24. Let’s see if Indian players can rise to the occasion by picking up a few medals. — Agencies

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