of rural excellence
Feats of rural
As the spring struggles to break free from the tight grip of the ongoing winter chill in Punjab, people in the land of 'sant sipahis' (saint soldiers), these days, are witnessing the myriad colours of rural sports fairs in hundreds of villages across the state.
Ludhiana district and surrounding areas deserve a special mention as each year, on an average, more than 200 villages host the rural games. The 'Rural Olympics' at Kila Raipur continues to be one of the most coveted among the awaited events, each year. The increasing rush of foreign tourists as well as media persons speaks volumes for the public appreciation the event generates. The grand show capturing the raw strength and the uncommon valour of the rustic youth is an attraction rendering international recognition to a purely rustic delight. Over the past more than half a dozen decades, more venues have emerged as hot favourites among sports enthusiasts, all over the state.
Mini Olympics at
Jarkhar village have emerged as another top event on the agenda of
sports lovers and those seeking a colourful outing. Besides, raw local
talent, the games here also witness participation from a number of
national level players in different events. The list of venues hosting
certain popular rural 'melas', each year, include Kalgidhar Tournament
at Kamalpura, Lala Lajpat Rai's Memorial Sports Fair at Dhudike,
Mullanpur, Sahnewal, Ghungrali Rajputtan, Humbran, Dhamot, Gujjarwal,
Lalton Kalan, Dhurkot, Rauni, Dyalpura, Rurka Kalan, Bhamian, Buddewal,
Bhinder Kalan and Daure-ana, besides several others.
Some of the important rural festivals this year, include: Kila Raipur ( February 5-8); Jarkhar (January 20-23); Sahnewal (February 18-20); Lalton Kalan (second week February) and Kamalpura (January 29- 1 February).
In what is the beginning of a long season of winter sports, this time, tractor trolleys and bullock carts ferrying the flamboyant rural population to the site of fairs exhibiting the physical powers and artistic flair of a robust civilisation is a common sight across the district. The season continues till the end of March.
The rural festivals go perfectly to showcase the sturdy image of the state population identified largely with the towering figures in the fields of the state, which were home to the Green Revolution. The spirit of the festivals also depicts the state population's networking for inter-dependence, particularly of the rural population and the will and strength to stand against a common foe.
Besides modern sports, the rural sporting events deserve a special mention for showcasing traditional and uncommon skills in archery, riding, fencing and tent pegging, besides others. In the traditional rural 'melas', kabaddi, wrestling, jumping, riding and running were the major contests. With passage of time, the organisers added the shows of leading singers, which have also become an important component of the fairs.
Inderjit Singh Grewal was the pioneer in unfolding of the rural Olympics at Kila Raipur in 1933 when the first event was held. The event has earned the village an epithet as founder of 'Rural Olympics' and the village is a destination for scores of foreigners who flock the stadium in the first week of February, each year. Interestingly, the venue is also witness to foreign teams in events like the tug of war and kabaddi.
The games at Kila Raipur are currently organised by the Grewal Sports Association. Sukhbir Grewal, a member of the organising committee, says "Our Games are a token replica of the true Punjabi spirit".
Besides the regular sports, the Kila Raipur event gives special importance to the animal show. The cart and dog races are the main events, which showcase the importance that the local population gives to raising of the champion breeds. Also significant are shows of uncommon abilities of people including allowing stone crushing on one's chest, bending an iron rod with one's chest and breaking a pitcher with one's head, besides several others. A special mention needs to be made about the participation by the senior citizens. It is a spectators delight to watch the graying beards challenge each other in different events exhibiting masculine power in races and even wrestling. The spectators are equally charged with the war cries of the participants ranting the airs.
Kila Raipur paved the way for scores of other villages to follow the suit in providing the rural settings with sports event mixed with cultural activity. One of the biggest forces behind the sustainability of the rural events is the support from the NRIs. Jaskomal Singh, a Toronto-based businessman says "Working our livelihood in far off lands we always remember the scent of our mustard fields and the magic of our soil, which feeds the entire country. We want to do something for our country and what better than organising a sports event, which symbolises the spirit of the land."
Deepa from Gujjarwal village says, "I can frankly say that except for a couple of rural 'melas' who can manage funds from sponsors, none of them was possible without financial support from our NRI brothers. They give us money and in return they seek nothing except for their names being published in the posters and small publicity material.
The 'mela' is a big event for the locals. The entire exercise of a 'mela' is one of the most eagerly awaited events by all the villagers, throughout the year".
Mini Olympics at Jarkhar village began in 1986. The event has earned a special place in the hearts of sports lovers all over the district. The village, this year, witnessed the Games from January 20 till 23. Instead of showcasing a mix of traditional games with the current form, Jarkhar Games witness the events in their modern day format.
Jagrup Singh, organising secretary, says, "We want the youngsters to stay abreast with the latest developments in their respective sports arena. The Games shall have competition in hockey, basketball, handball volleyball, wrestling, athletics, besides kabaddi." The event witnesses a sizeable participation from girls as well, in their respective categories.
Music has become an inseparable part of the Games. Leading Punjabi singers including Surinder Chhinda, Jagmohan Kaur and Hans Raj Hans, besides several others, are the faces permanently associated with the rural festivals. Folk music rules the roost and this year Harbhajan Mann is performing at the Jarkhar Games.
Steve Waugh, looking back at the career of one of his most valuable players, Matthew Hayden, said, "He was so good sometimes, it was embarrassing to bat at the other end." The former captainís statement might sound a bit self effacing, but the fact was that Hayden's big frame and an even bigger heart made him arguably the most dangerous opening batsman along with Adam Gilchrist.
In 103 Tests Hayden scored 8,625 runs at an average of over 50, with 30 centuries. In ODIs too Hayden, in 161 matches scored 6,133 runs with 10 centuries. But his impact was not in the numbers alone, it was how he got them. Hitting the cherry all over the park, and charging down the track, with his huge frame, demoralizing the bowlers totally. It was a rare sight to see Hayden pull out of a stroke, or check his shot mid-way as his strength meant that he could even hook a delivery from outside the off stump, and yet with his timing, make the stroke look aesthetically pleasing and score from it too.
Hayden had a wonderful career, but the last 12 months had been extremely testing for the Queenslander. He had failed to bat with any conviction and his batting average for the year had dipped to around 20. Series losses to India and South Africa only compounded the misery as the call for axing Hayden grew in size and sound.
So, when Hayden announced his retirement after the series against the Proteas, it was only expected. It must have been tough for Hayden, as top batsman are used to complying with lofty standards. But he took the criticism and fought hard against an ageing body and wavering form. He couldn't fight it and ultimately did hang his boots, but his spirit was as indomitable as ever.
An ICC ranking is not the stamp of approval that Hayden requires. He was at times better and at times worst than the numbers, just like any other batsman. But the fact is that he was amazing against all top bowlers, all top teams and never was there a better man on the field to have wielded the bat like it was a sword and the bearer a master swordsmen, cutting the opposition to shreds. Obnoxious maybe, but a champion for sure.
Real wizard of Oz
Matthew Haydenís retirement after the South Africa series has come as a half bakes surprise. The barrage of criticism that the south paw had received had left him with little choice but to call it quits. But even as he walks out of international cricket on a low, he has the right to hold his head high. He was in my opinion one of the greatest batsman to have raced the game. I remember the way he mauled Zaheer Khan in the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa. That little cameo of an innings by him just swayed everything away from India. Also the 2001 series against India, where Harbhajan had the Aussies in a fix, Hayden was the only man to b standing and delivering as he pleased.
He did have his share of controversies, but his greatness was a notch above the murky level at which cricket is played at times these days. He will always be remembered as a great who carried his bat with a lot of pride, and also gave his hundred per cent whenever he donned the national colours.
SK Bhambri, Chandigarh
India has finally found a new tennis star, in the form of Somdev Devvarman. He played his heart out at the Chennai Open and was close to winning the title. He could not make the cut for the Australian Open, but that doesn't matter as the hope of a new star is enough to get the Indian fans going.
He has a wonderful career ahead of him and should improve his game if he wishes to break into the to 100 rankings. But it will not be an easy ride ahad as he has to work extremley hard and look at Sania as an example, that making the cut might still be easy but stying there is the tougher part of the job.
DP Singh, Ludhiana