Cradle of hockey
IN THE NEWS
The upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka offers the Indian team a chance to get close to the top of the rankings, but beating the Lankans at home will test the mettle of this experienced Indian team, writes Abhijit Chatterjee
FOR a team which has won three of its last ten Tests, one each against South Africa (at home), against Australia (at Perth) and against Pakistan (at Delhi), India would have their task cut out as they look for a win in the three-Test series against Sri Lanka in their backyard. A win in this series will take India within handshaking distance of the top team in the ICC Test table. But this is easier said than done, even if the visitors have, with the induction of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid into the squad, a batting line-up, which can be the envy of any cricketing team in the world.
But the visitors would surely miss their one-day skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who opted out of the team after leading the squad in the Asia Cup in Pakistan, citing fatigue. In fact while Dhoni had the guts to say that he needed rest to unwind, the maddening schedule of the Indian team is bound to tell on the performance of the squad although the seniors were not in the team for the Asia Cup.
But the absence of Dhoni has given another opportunity to Parthiv Patel to make a comeback, who last played for India in October 2004.
So far India have played five Test series in Sri Lanka winning just one, in 1993 when allrounder Manoj Prabhakar fashioned the victory with 12 wickets in three matches. India waited for another eight years before tasting their second Test win on the island nation when Zaheer with seven wickets sent the home team crashing.
As if Muralitharan was not enough, India’s campaign will be rendered more difficult by the devastating form of the new Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis, who ran through the Indian team in the just concluded Asia Cup. Getting dismissed to a spinner is one thing but being unable to read a spinner is something altogether different. How the Indians, specially the seniors who were not in the squad for the Asia Cup, tackle him is an interesting prospect.
Captain Kumble, another master bowler himself, has brushed aside the issue. He was of the view that the Indians would play all the Sri Lankan bowlers on merit, be it Vaas, Muralitharan or Mendis. Brave words indeed from somebody who is sometimes still unreadable after so many years in the game. Another Indian veteran Sourav Ganguly is of the view that the Indian batsmen, given their vast experience, would be able to sort out Mendis sooner than later. One only hopes that it is sooner!
But even if the Indian batsmen are able to sort out the Sri Lankan bowlers it will not be enough to win the series. One huge problem for the Indians might well be their inability to grab 20 wickets in each of the three games. Much would depend on the fast bowlers. Indian speedsters were in top form in the tour of Australia but bowling on the tailor made strips of Sri Lanka might be a different ball game. Among the four fast bowlers only Zaheer Khan has the experience of bowling in Sri Lanka.
But one question that is troubling many is the fact that Zaheer is coming back after a long layoff and might find it difficult to regain top form immediately. But he is surely the fulcrum of the Indian bowling attack. The other fast bowlers, R.P. Singh, Munaf Patel and Ishant Sharma, are yet to play in Sri Lanka especially given the fact that the Lankans have a surfeit of left-handers.
If Zaheer is able to fire then it will be a little more easy for the other fast bowlers in the squad to be among the wickets. And if the fast bowlers get going then the task of skipper Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh would become all the easier. Plagued by injuries Sachin Tendlukar is on the threshold of a unique record. He needs 172 runs to overtake Lara as the leading run-getter in Tests. But the team should not be loosing sleep over this as they are scheduled to play non-stop cricket for the next six months and more.
WHO could have imagined that one day a game that originated in rural India will find a place at the national-level? The national tourney for atya patya was held at St. Joseph’s Senior Secondary School, Sector 44, Chandigarh.
Atya patya, although being around for a while, in its current form is actually the customised version of "kho kho". The present day form of the game came into being when veteran players and sportsmen gave considerable thought to an overhaul. A meeting was held at Delhi in 1982, at the time of the Asian Games, and as a consequence the Atya patya Federation of India was formed.
The Federation soon spread its roots in a number of states and union territories such as Delhi, Haryana, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Kamataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir, and many other states.
The game requires agility, assimilation of fine technique and skills, abundance of energy, cardio-respiratory endurance, strong knees and extreme control on foot, alertness and quick reflex action for rapid activity. These qualities can be developed through playing the game over a long period of time. Atya patya is a basic Indian sport, which is simple in form, but difficult to master.
Baljinder Singh Balli, secretary of the Chandigarh Atya Patya Association opined that once the required technique is mastered and sufficient skills attained, the game can become thrilling, exciting and quite entertaining, like any other fast-paced sport.
As per the rules framed by the Atya Patya Federation of India, each game consists of two innings, with one inning lasting for 7 minutes. Every team consists of 12 players each. There are two batches of assailants with each batch consisting four players.
The playfield for atya-patya is a bit different from Kho Kho. There are breadth wise strips known as trenches (Pali), 23 ft 1 in long and 13 inches in width. For junior players (under 17), the size of the play field is different. Each trench is 12 inches x 21 ft, the distance between the front lines of adjacent trenches is 10 ft and the central trench is 12 inches x 81 ft.
The game has been played since time immemorial, albeit under different names. It has been improvised and rules have been added according to situation at hand and convenience. The game was also known as Sur-pati, Lon-pati, Darya-Bandh, Saragari, Saramani, Tilli, Uppinat, Uppupatti, Choupat Pati, Panchwati, Chikka etc.
THE dusty remote village of Jiwan Nagar, 40 km away from Sirsa, is doing the state of Haryana proud. The village has produced many talented hockey players, including two Olympians and many international and national players.
Sardar Singh, another talented player hailing from this village, has recently been selected to lead the national hockey team. Because of this achievement Sardar has been awarded the post of a DSP in the Haryana Police. Interestingly, his elder brother Didar Singh also plays for the national team.
Two more players, Harpal Singh and Didar Singh Senior have represented the Indian team. All these reputed players are the products of one nursery, which has nurtured the talent, abound in this village.
At a time when the national game is in tatters with many controversies surrounding it, Sri Guru Hari Singh Mahavidyalya Society is making a remarkable effort to help the national game regain its glory. With financial support from Namdhari Seeds, a Bangalore-based MNC developing fruit, flower and vegetable seeds, the society is running the hockey nursery at Sri Guru Hari Singh College and School in the village. The society is headed by Sukhdev Singh Sandhu and Harmeet Singh is its chairman. The society is credited with providing wholesome environment for developing quality players.
The nursery is also the cradle of the Namdhari hockey team, which is considered among the top teams in the country. The present strength of the nursery is 200 players. Budding players are being offered hostel facility apart from Rs 100 as daily dietary allowance. Due to an abundance of potential players in the area Haryana’s Sports Department has also adopted 15 players from the school to aid their development.
The nursery is being run from an outdoor stadium situated in the forecourt of the educational institutions. It also offers 12-station gym comprising sophisticated machinery to help build muscle power.
With a view to catch them young, the nursery admits under-12 players only. They are offered many facilities to excel and are not required to pay school fee. Apart from this, they are offered a nutritious diet daily.
The players undergo intensive physical exercises and learn rudiments of the game under the watchful eyes of four coaches Gurmej Singh, Gurcharan Singh, Sukhdev Singh, and Gurnam Singh. These players undergo two such rigorous sessions of three hours daily.
The selected players graduate to play on astro-turf at Bhaini Sahib near Ludhiana where they hone their skills under seasoned coaches. In order to provide them exposure, they are taken to European countries to play in league club tournaments during summer vacation every year.
IN THE NEWS
Prakash Amritraj’s dream run at the Hall of Fame tennis championship came to an end as the second seed Fabrice Santoro of France thwarted the Indian’s challenge to successfully defend his title at Newport.
Prakash, on his way to the final made some huge upsets in the tournament, but the 35-year-old Santaro made sure that everything goes according to his plan as he beat the Indian 6-3, 7-5. The Indian Davis Cupper started his final clash on a bright note as he broke Santaro in the very first game of the match.
But the Frenchman came back hard and broke right back en route to winning four straight games. Amritraj’s consecutive unforced errors closed out the second game. In the final game of the opening set, Amritraj made three unforced errors before a strong forehand winner off a net cord went saw Santaro win the set. Santoro had the only break in the second set, taking a 6-5 lead, before hitting a backhand passing shot at 40-0 to win the match and title.
Amritraj, the son of three-time Newport winner Vijay Amritraj and a wild-card entry, was the lowest ranked player to reach a Newport final. He entered the week at 305th in the world, and he became the first Indian to play in an ATP final since Leander Paes won Newport 10 years ago. Vijay Amritraj, who won 13 titles in 26 career finals, watched his son from behind one of the baselines. "We talked after the match. He told me my strategy was right, but I just needed to be a little more aggressive," Prakash said. While Amritraj earned $32,000, Santoro collected $64,000 for his title win.
Prakash’s stupendous show at the Hall of Fame tennis tournament in US saw him attain his career-best ranking, moving up a whopping 101 rungs to 204th spot in the ATP chart issued earlier in the week. Though Amritraj lost the final, he gained 191 points and became the first Indian to reach an ATP singles event final after veteran Leander Paes, who won the championship way back in 1998. Apart from Prakash, no other Indian made any impact in the rankings list. — UNI