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Serena Williams after losing in the women’s final match of the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournamentat at Key Biscayne, Florida, recently
Serena Williams after losing in the women’s final match of the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournamentat at Key Biscayne, Florida, recently. An injured Serena was unable to capture a record sixth title at the tournament, losing to rising teen star Victoria Azarenka of Belarus Photo: Reuters

Indian might in Kiwiland
India’s series win in Test matches in New Zealand is just another step in proving the supremacy of Dhoni’s daredevils in the game, writes Abhijit Chatterjee
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T took 41 years to come, but it was well worth the wait as Dhoni and his boys put it across New Zealand to claim a Test rubber in Kiwiland 41 years after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi-led side drubbed the Kiwis 3-1 in 1968. But the margin of victory could well have been 2-0 instead of 1-0 if only rain had not played the spoilsport on the last day of play at Wellington which left the visitors within sniffing distance of victory after the hosts had lost eight wickets in their effort to save the game.

Army winds up 'Mission Olympics'
Ritu Sharma
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HE Indian Army's ambitious sports initiative launched three years ago to groom youngsters into potential Olympic medal winners has bitten the dust. The army's "Mission Olympics — Catch them young" initiative to hunt for gold, launched in 2005 after Lt. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's silver medal for shooting in the 2004 Olympics, is to close down following orders from the top.

‘I get along well with Mahesh’
Sania Mirza speaks to A. Roy about how her maiden Grand Slam Mixed Doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi has given a fresh lease to her career
You made a great comeback from injury by winning the Australian Open mixed doubles. Were you expecting such a comeback?

I had worked hard for my comeback but the win at the Australian Open so early after I got back on the circuit was satisfying.

 





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Indian might in Kiwiland

India’s series win in Test matches in New Zealand is just another step in proving the supremacy of Dhoni’s daredevils in the game,
writes Abhijit Chatterjee

Harbhajan Singh became the highest wicket taker for India in the Test series in spite of adverse conditions for spin bowling
Harbhajan Singh became the highest wicket taker for India in the Test series in spite of adverse conditions for spin bowling

Dhoni (L) Harbhajan Singh (2ndL), Yuvraj Singh (2ndR) congratulate Zaheer Khan (C) for taking the wicket of Tim Southee during the second day of the final Test match against New Zealand
Dhoni (L) Harbhajan Singh (2ndL), Yuvraj Singh (2ndR) congratulate Zaheer Khan (C) for taking the wicket of Tim Southee during the second day of the final Test match against New Zealand
Photos: AFP

IT took 41 years to come, but it was well worth the wait as Dhoni and his boys put it across New Zealand to claim a Test rubber in Kiwiland 41 years after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi-led side drubbed the Kiwis 3-1 in 1968. But the margin of victory could well have been 2-0 instead of 1-0 if only rain had not played the spoilsport on the last day of play at Wellington which left the visitors within sniffing distance of victory after the hosts had lost eight wickets in their effort to save the game.

The series win was all the more sweeter after the drubbing and humiliation India suffered during their last tour of New Zealand. Dhoni might well rue the fact that India unnecessarily batted for about an hour on the fourth day even after they had taken a 531-run lead at the end of the third day’s play, a target much beyond the achievement of any team batting last in any Test.

What made Dhoni take the decision to go on to add 85 runs to the Indian tally on the morning of the fourth day is difficult to fathom. Some would criticise Dhoni’s safety-first attitude or was it something else? With the weather being what it is in New Zealand, India could have got along with their task of bowling to the hosts the second time around instead of wasting time with batting on.

As it is 21 overs could not be sent down on the fourth day itself due to bad light and on the final day light rain stopped play 30 minutes into the post-lunch session with India, within sight of a win, twiddling their thumbs in the dressing room. But one thought that the body language of Indians even on the fourth day was not very positive as they went about their task on the ground. Dhoni’s field placings also could be faulted, as these seemed to be too defensive.

Gautam Gambhir impressed everyone with his fine knocks in the Test series
Gautam Gambhir impressed everyone with his fine knocks in the Test series Photo: AFP

There is no doubt that India were the better of the two teams. The first Test at Hamilton was won by the visitors easily but their laidback attitude nearly allowed the hosts to crawl back into the game in the second Test. However, the tenacity and experience of the Indian batting line-up enabled the team to fight back and draw the game. And at Wellington, often termed the toughest ground to play a Test match on, India nearly pulled it off but for the weather. May be over the years Dhoni, who has a long career ahead of him, will learn to decide the best time for declaration. The senior players who had toured New Zealand earlier could have advised Dhoni to apply the closure earlier than he actually did.

Rival skipper Daniel Vettori had no hesitation in saying that he and his team were defeated by a better squad. In a newspaper column, Vettori has gone on to say that India together with Australia and South Africa should be jostling for space at the top of the ICC Test rankings. The biggest gain of this tour has undoubtedly been the rediscovering of Gautam Gambhir, who, with 445 runs in six innings at an average of 89 with two consecutive Test centuries, has played a major part in the series.

His first effort in the second innings of the drawn second Test at Napier was something he can justifiably be proud of. Opening the Indian second innings after being asked to follow on Gambhir scored 137 runs during a 643-minute marathon stay at the wicket. His second century in the third Test was a quicker effort with 167 runs coming in 352 minutes. If Gambhir took the batting honours, although V.V.S. Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar also scored a century each in the course of the series, the bowling honours certainly belong to Harbhajan Singh. He took 16 wickets at an average of 21.37 under not so favourable conditions for a spin bowler.

After touring New Zealand once Bishen Bedi had said that even gripping the ball properly is a difficult task in New Zealand. Also among the wicket-takers was Zaheer Khan who claimed 13 wickets at 30.76 runs a piece. Zaheer now looks a complete bowler and under bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad his talent has really blossomed. He maintains his intensity from his first over right till his last, something that the other medium pacers in the Indian team have to learn from him.
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Army winds up 'Mission Olympics'
Ritu Sharma

Lt Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver medal for shooting in the 2004 Olympics had led to the launch of Army’s “Mission Olympics — Catch them young”
Lt Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver medal for shooting in the 2004 Olympics had led to the launch of Army’s “Mission Olympics — Catch them young”

THE Indian Army's ambitious sports initiative launched three years ago to groom youngsters into potential Olympic medal winners has bitten the dust.

The army's "Mission Olympics — Catch them young" initiative to hunt for gold, launched in 2005 after Lt. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore's silver medal for shooting in the 2004 Olympics, is to close down following orders from the top.

The orders given by the Indian Army have shattered the Olympic dreams of 23 sportspersons who have been training under the army's programme.

"Orders were given for closing down the programme last month (March) as it failed to yield results," a senior army official told IANS. The army pumped in nearly Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) into the project and an Army Sports Institute was set up in Pune to nurture the Indian dream of making a mark in the international sports arena.

The three-phased programme was targeted to see a steady flow of talent from 2010 onwards in four different sport disciplines. "Through the programme, the army aims to achieve respectable levels in the Asian and Commonwealth Games, then focus on doing well in the Olympic Games and finally create a steady flow of talent to win medals for the country at the Olympics," an official associated with the programme said. Under the mission, children in the age group 14-16 are trained to excel in shooting, archery, wrestling and equestrian events. Veteran sportsmen Milkha Singh, Sriram Singh and G.S. Randhawa were taken on board as consultants.

The programme has produced very good results — every trainee qualified for the nationals. Abhilasha Joshi, of the shooting team, defeated international shooter Anjali Bhagwat and the team stood third in the 2008 January national shooting championships. Another extraordinary talent is Kulwinder Singh, who won the national junior championships in 2008 in the 24-metre rapid fire.

It is reliably understood that the programme was scuttled because of strained relations between the current army chief General Deepak Kapoor and former chief General J.J. Singh (retd), whose brainchild the project was. — IANS
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‘I get along well with Mahesh’

Sania Mirza speaks to A. Roy about how her maiden Grand Slam Mixed Doubles title with Mahesh Bhupathi has given a fresh lease to her career

WINNING COMBINATION: Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi after winning the Australian Open Mixed Doubles title earlier this year
WINNING COMBINATION: Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi after winning the Australian Open Mixed Doubles title earlier this year

You made a great comeback from injury by winning the Australian Open mixed doubles. Were you expecting such a comeback?

I had worked hard for my comeback but the win at the Australian Open so early after I got back on the circuit was satisfying.

You must be very encouraged the way you started this season.

Yes, the start has been good and I hope I stay healthy the whole season. Couple of other tournaments are also coming up before the important French Open and Wimbledon. The most important thing for me at this stage is that I am feeling better than before and not thinking what I am going to achieve in future.

How has been the experience of playing with Mahesh Bhupathi?

Mahesh is one of the greatest doubles players in the world and it has been a great experience playing alongside him. We get along extremely well on and off the court.

You trained with famous Gil Reyes (Andre Agassi’s coach) in Las Vegas. Can you elaborate on the training session you had there?

Gil Reyes is a world-renowned trainer, who has worked with the likes of Andre Agassi. I had a short stint with him and would like to go back to him to benefit more. What can you dream more? It should help me improve my game. He, as we all know, is a fantastic trainer. I am just excited about it.

Are you happy with the way your career has progressed?

In a way, I am happy. But can’t be satisfied because as a sportsperson I have to keep on improving everyday. I am making steady progress and that certainly makes me happy. My dream of winning a Grand Slam came true with the Australian Open and I have to just keep on performing.

How do you see the success of Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman?

It’s great for Indian tennis. Somdev and I played juniors together and I feel proud that another batch mate has made a breakthrough at the international level. As for Yuki, I’ve seen him as a kid and it’s wonderful to see him do so well in the Juniors.

Why is that in the women’s section we didn’t get the same success?

Hopefully, we will see some girls emerging a few years down the line.

Recently the government introduced new laws for representation of Indian players. It seems that the Fed Cup team has been the worst hit. What do you think about it?

I’m sure the Government has its reasons for making these laws. I personally take a lot of pride in playing for my country and would continue to play if selected and of course, if fit. — TWF
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