SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Somdev’s winning ways
India’s new tennis hope and hero of the Davis Cup tie against Taiwan speaks to A. Roy
You have again proved that you are a giant killer. How do you rate this win?
It is surely a very special win for me, maybe my best. Winning for India has been my dream and it feels great to do it in such a manner. After the loss in Romania, I was determined to win here. I prepared well coming into this tie and am glad my hard work paid off.

I think my performance in Chennai and Davis Cup should give a big boost to Indian tennis, says Somdev

Women get going
Abhijit Chatterjee
Women’s cricket came fairly late to India and the girls played their first Test match as late as the 1976-77 season when they drew with the West Indies in a six-match series. One year later they took part in the Women’s World Cup, introduced in 1973 — two years before the introduction of the men’s version — and finished a creditable fourth. The best finish of the Indian girls till date was in the 2005 tournament, played in South Africa, when they lost to Australia in the final.

Sridhar targets Indian Open
Amit Kumar Das
Struggling with his form after a five-month injury lay-off, ace shuttler Anup Sridhar is targeting the Indian Open Grand Prix. He has set his eyes on making at least the semi-finals of the tournament.

Sporting the difference
Kulwinder Sandhu
This nondescript village situated on the border of Ludhiana and Moga districts, once famous for hooliganism, is witnessing a silent revolution, which has helped it produce boxers and football players. The man behind this change is Ajmer Singh, an NRI native of this village now settled in Canada.

Ajmer Singh, an NRI native of Chakar village near Moga, has set-up a boxing and football academy under the banner of ‘Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy’ in the village

   

 

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Somdev’s winning ways

India’s new tennis hope and hero of the Davis Cup tie against Taiwan speaks to A. Roy

You have again proved that you are a giant killer. How do you rate this win?

It is surely a very special win for me, maybe my best. Winning for India has been my dream and it feels great to do it in such a manner. After the loss in Romania, I was determined to win here. I prepared well coming into this tie and am glad my hard work paid off.

How difficult was it against a top rated player like Lu?

It wasn’t an easy win. I worked really hard and made life tough for Lu. I made him work really hard for every point and took advantage of the fact that they were in a must win situation.

Was there any pressure on you?

The pressure was on Lu to win. We were in a great position on day three after Lee-Hesh won the doubles.. I just focussed on playing my game and executing my plans.

From making it to the final of the ATP Chennai Open and now winning the Davis Cup tie. Do you see your efforts making some impact in Indian tennis?

I sure do hope so. I think my performance in Chennai and Davis Cup should give a big boost to Indian Tennis.

You were a wildcard holder at Chennai Open. So did you ever think before that you will come so far?

Anything’s possible when you work hard. I had prepared well for the tournament and I am happy my hard work paid off.

Did you have any role model in tennis?

I always looked up to the Krishnans, Amritraj, Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi. My current favourite is Roger Federer.

Do you feel that you would have never made it so early if you had not moved to the US to play college tennis?

Maybe. But it’s all about hard work. I have worked really hard to reach where I am today. But the climb only gets steeper and I need to continue working hard. But a lot of people in my college (University of Virginia) have helped me a lot and without their support, this may not have happened.

How did college tennis in US help you?

It gave me a platform to work really hard and playing competitive matches all year long. It made for an incredible training base.

Do you advise others to move out and play college tennis in the US?

I would highly recommend it as long as you keep your priorities right and work really hard.

You have compared yourself with Floyd Mayweather. Why?

Well just like him, I will keep taking the hits and still keep coming back. I won’t give up in any match!! I enjoyed his wit and humour and his work ethics. I am also a big fan of Tiger Woods and Sachin Tendulkar.

Tell us something about the poet and the musician in Somdev?

I’m an avid guitarist. I love the Dave Mathews Band. Besides I also like listening to classical, carnatic and jazz. In my spare time I like to play my guitar and compose some tunes and maybe put words to them.

What are your plans for 2009?

My plans keep changing with my situation, so I can’t plan for more that 3 months at a time. Plan for 2009 is just to keep working hard. — TWF
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Women get going
Abhijit Chatterjee


Members of the Indian women’s cricket team put up a creditable performance at the World Cup Photo: AFP

Women’s cricket came fairly late to India and the girls played their first Test match as late as the 1976-77 season when they drew with the West Indies in a six-match series. One year later they took part in the Women’s World Cup, introduced in 1973 — two years before the introduction of the men’s version — and finished a creditable fourth. The best finish of the Indian girls till date was in the 2005 tournament, played in South Africa, when they lost to Australia in the final.

But before we discuss the state of women’s cricket in the country, just think of this scenario. The hosts had lost out to Australia in the semifinal of the World Cup in 1997 but nevertheless were invited to attend the final at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata (or was it Calcutta then!). But when the Indian girls reached the City of Joy to watch the final between Australia and England, instead of being accommodated in the pavilion block, they were asked to sit in the stands. And then when the team members were called to the ground for the presentation ceremony after the game the security men refused to let them through in spite of the fact that the girls said they were members of the national squad. Imagine this behaviour with the men’s squad!

While the men were hogging all the limelight in New Zealand, the women cricketers, who finished third in the World Cup, probably could grab just the bare minimum space in newspapers and passing reference in the electronic media. No special pieces, no interviews, no photo opportunity. And the fact remains that these girls play cricket more because of their love of the game and not because of the monetary benefits which playing the game entails.

Over the past couple of years, women cricket in India is being run by the BCCI but it is definitely the poor cousin. Lack of adequate infrastructure, lack of opportunities and also lack of match practice has not deterred the Indian women from giving their best in the World Cup in Australia. In the group matches, India beat Pakistan by a very handsome margin of 10 wickets and edged Sri Lanka by 35 runs, losing to England, the eventual champions, by nine wickets. And even in this match one thought that the Indian girls were beaten more by experience than on the basis of cricketing skills.

Then in Super Six, India beat strong contenders and hosts Australia by 16 runs. And to prove that this victory was no fluke, they again beat Australia by three wickets in the play-off for third place. In the other matches in the Super Six India lost to New Zealand by five wickets (and this was a match where the Kiwi girls were reported to have said that they had avenged the defeated suffered by their men counterparts at home to the Indians), and then beat West Indies by eight wickets.

Three Indian girls, middle-order batsman and former captain Mithali Raj, fast bowler Amita Sharma and spinner Priyanka Roy found a place in the ICC World Cup team. Mithali, a member of the Indian Railway team, scored a total of 248 runs in seven games at an average of 62.00 (highest score 75) and was undoubtedly the mainstay of the Indian batting. Amita Sharma, yet another member of the Railway team, claimed nine wickets in the seven games she played at an average of 17.33 and an economy of 2.55. Spinner Priyanka Roy, playing in her first World Cup, claimed 12 wickets in the tournament at an average of 14.00 and an economy rate of 4.27, figures any bowler can be proud of.

But where does women’s cricket in India go from here? For one, the BCCI should give more facilities to women cricketers and all its affiliated units so that more and more girls can take to cricket, given the hype the game has in the country. Also, more tournaments should be conducted for girls both at the state level as well at the national and international levels.
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Sridhar targets Indian Open
Amit Kumar Das


Despite a twisted ankle, Sridhar still played in the Olympics before being forced to take a five-month break File photo

Struggling with his form after a five-month injury lay-off, ace shuttler Anup Sridhar is targeting the Indian Open Grand Prix. He has set his eyes on making at least the semi-finals of the tournament.

“I’m playing in an international tournament in India after quite a long time so I’m very excited. I’m in reasonably good shape as well. I think if I can win two-three good matches that would be OK. As far as results go, I think semi-final and above would be good, and I think it’s realistic as well,” Sridhar said.

“I tend to look at a situation like this as being a huge opportunity to play myself back into form, get my confidence back and earn some ranking points in the process, he added. Sridhar twisted his ankle in March last year but still played in the Beijing Olympics in August before being forced to take a break for five months.

Returning to the court, Sridhar played in the Malaysian Super Series, Korean Super Series, German Open, All England Super Series, the National championship and the Wilson Swiss Super series but he found the going tough in all the events.

However, the Bangalorean says he is determined to get his form and fitness back and is working hard with his pshyio Muthu Kumar. “I am working with Muthu Kumar, a physio in Bangalore for about a week now and I am confident that together we will be able to get me back to full fitness”, he said.

Once the highest-ranked Indian in the world, Sridhar is now languishing at number 48 but the Bangalore shuttler said he is eyeing the top 15 by the end of this year. “I definitely aim to be back in the top spot by the end of the year. I will need to be around the top 15 to achieve that and I have planned my schedule to allow an extended period of training to get my fitness to the right level”, he said. — PTI
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Sporting the difference
Kulwinder Sandhu

This nondescript village situated on the border of Ludhiana and Moga districts, once famous for hooliganism, is witnessing a silent revolution, which has helped it produce boxers and football players.

The man behind this change is Ajmer Singh, an NRI native of this village now settled in Canada.

Ajmer has set-up a boxing and football academy under the banner of ‘Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy’ in the village. He has hired specialised coaches and nurtures the dream of producing an Olympian from this academy in the next five years.

He has already announced prizes of Rs 50 lakh to those children of the academy who will win gold medals in the Olympics, besides, many other cash prizes for other positions and also Rs 10 lakh for those who get selected for the Olympics.

His efforts have provied opportunities to the youngsters of nearby villages of Minia, Lopo, Kussa, Bode, Lohara, falling under Moga district. Many youngsters have joined these academies with the hope of making it big.

Sukhdeep Singh, a student of plus two of this village has already won a silver medal in boxing at the national school games held in Indore in December 2008. This 18-year old youth has also won a gold medal in the state school boxing championship. Three other youths from the academy, including two girls, had won three gold medals, besides, three silver medals in the last state level school championships.

Ajmer Singh has now adopted Sukhdeep Singh and decided to strengthen his skills in Canada for six months. He has already hired a specialised boxing coach for him.

Recently Ajmer purchased two-acres adjoining the stadium to construct world-class indoor boxing rings with a seating capacity for at least 800 people.

Being a football player for an Ontario Club, his love for the game and his native village has attracted more than 90 children, who are being trained in the game by Captain Blaur Singh and Dr Balwant Singh.

These children are now educating their elders to quit drinking. The sale of liquor has declined by more than 35 per cent during the past couple of years in this village.

Sports has also brought a positive change in the education and learning skills of the children who are now showing more interest in studies, scoring better in academics. “One poor boy quit studies after having failed to get through Class-II exams two years back. But he was again admitted to school by Ajmer and surprisingly he stood first in the annual exams the next year”, revealed Dr Balwant Singh.

For those still doubting the immense potential that sports holds in shaping a society, look no further, as a village shows India how to go about developing its coming generations.

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