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Say Cheers: A cheerleader for the Bangalore Royal Challengers performs during a preview in Bangalore
Say Cheers:
A cheerleader for the Bangalore Royal Challengers performs during a preview in Bangalore. Owner Vijay Mallaya has hired 24 members of the US-based cheerleader group Varsity for the second season of the IPL, which starts today in South Africa. Mallaya has renamed the group White Mischief
Photo AFP

BEYOND AZLAN CUP
After the win in Ipoh, the Indian hockey team should not rest on its laurels as stiffer challenges are ahead, writes Prabhjot Singh
W
E are a nation of emotional sports buffs who get charged at the slightest provocation — be it a win over Pakistan in hockey or cricket or overseas Test series win or a crushing defeat in a T20 match. Depending upon the state of our minds, we tend to treat our sports stars as heroes or zeroes. Right now, the nation is jubilant over the win in the just-concluded Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament, our first in 14 years. May be because the wins are so few and far between that even getting to the podium in a decimated tournament makes the hockey fans feel as if the team has won the world championship again.

Bouquets & brickbats for Buchanan
Former Australian coach John Buchanan’s theory of rotating captains in IPL matches has raised a few heckles, but the plan has also found some takers, says Abhijit Chatterjee
W
HILE there is no denying the fact that the twenty20 format is still in a nascent state, the cricketing community has been a house divided after Australian coach John Buchanan floated the theory of rotating captains. This has brought many questions to the fore about the game that has already changed to such an extent that oldtimers find it difficult to keep track of what goes on in the field. Buchanan’s theory of revolving captains has raised the heckles of many players. If it is implemented, it remains to be seen whether it will set new standards for other teams to follow in the shortest version of the game or not.

 





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BEYOND AZLAN CUP

After the win in Ipoh, the Indian hockey team should not rest on its laurels as stiffer challenges are ahead, writes Prabhjot Singh

RARING TO GO: The victory has given a boost to the morale of the Indian team which is now all set for the Kuantan tournament in Malaysia
RARING TO GO: The victory has given a boost to the morale of the Indian team which is now all set for the Kuantan tournament in Malaysia
Photo AFP

WE are a nation of emotional sports buffs who get charged at the slightest provocation — be it a win over Pakistan in hockey or cricket or overseas Test series win or a crushing defeat in a T20 match. Depending upon the state of our minds, we tend to treat our sports stars as heroes or zeroes.

Right now, the nation is jubilant over the win in the just-concluded Azlan Shah Cup Hockey Tournament, our first in 14 years. May be because the wins are so few and far between that even getting to the podium in a decimated tournament makes the hockey fans feel as if the team has won the world championship again.

There is no denying the fact that the win at Ipoh is a big morale booster for a team that has been tottering at the brink of ignominy for the past few years. Losing an Olympic berth (2008) for the first time in 80 years and failing to qualify for the Asian Games medal round (2006) had been the lowest points that the Indian hockey touched in the first decade of the 21st century.

Year 2009 has, however, showed some signs of a recovery for the national game of the country. Though regaining the glory, which once this eight-time Olympic champion enjoyed, looks like a gigantic task, a beginning has to be made sometime somewhere. To say that Ipoh has been the watershed may not be an appropriate appreciation of the team that has done fairly well in its 2009 engagements so far.

Captain Sandeep Singh holds up the winner’s trophy after India beat Malaysia in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup field hockey in Ipoh
Captain Sandeep Singh holds up the winner’s trophy after India beat Malaysia in the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup field hockey in Ipoh Photo AFP

The 18th edition of the Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament was not only without a European outfit but also without the ever-present Australia. Even last-time champions Argentina was conspicuous by its absence.

The 2009-edition had New Zealand (7th), which was the highest ranked team in the tournament, as well runners-up of the last edition — India, along with Pakistan, Malaysia and Egypt taking part.

Starting as a pre-tournament favourite after a fine showing both in the Punjab Gold Cup Invitation Tournament in Chandigarh and the Test series against New Zealand, India got a jolt in its opener when Egypt scored twice, including a goal in the last minute of the game, to split points.

The Punjab Gold Cup had featured Olympic champions Germany and New Zealand besides Holland and hosts India. It was a double-leg tournament.

India had lost the Punjab Gold Cup final to Holland 1-2 but won the series against New Zealand 2-0 before emplaning for Ipoh. Before the Gold Cup, India toured Argentina to share honours in a Test series, the first of its type in recent years.

The Ipoh Test had assumed significance as the International Hockey Federation formally cleared Kuantan, also in Malaysia, to hold the Asia Cup for men next month. The Kuantan tournament would also serve as a qualifying tournament for the 2010 World Cup to be held in New Delhi.

After the first-match jolt, India defeated Malaysia twice and also scored an enterprising 2-1 win over its archrival Pakistan on its way to the finals. In between, India also played a drawn game against New Zealand.

The comfortable 3-1 win in the final was without a goal by drag flicker and top scorer of the tournament, Sandeep Singh, captain of the champion team. Sandeep was also adjudged man of the tournament.

After this win all eyes are now on the Kuantan tournament. Malaysia has been preparing its team for the tournament. The winners of the Asia Cup (May 9 to 15) will decide the automatic qualifier for the New Delhi World Cup. India, being the host, gets automatic entry.

India, however, cannot take Kuantan tournament lightly because of having an automatic qualification for the World Cup. Besides the hosts Malaysia, other tough opponents would include Pakistan, China and Korea. So Sandeep and his men have less than a month to gear up for a real acid test.

India has also been indirectly cautioned not to take the hosting of the World Cup for granted as the International Hockey Federation chief, Leandro Negre, wants an elected Indian Hockey Confederation (IHC) to be in office soon. It may be recalled that last year, the National Olympic Association had taken over the control of the IHC and appointed an ad hoc committee to look after the day-to-day affairs of the sport.

The IOA controlled ad hoc committee has not only to set the IHC house in order but also to ensure proper selection and training of the national team for all international competitions from now onwards.

A series of wins, both in invitation and FIH events, would boost the morale of the team further. Coach Harendra Singh and Ramandeep Singh Grewal have a challenging task on their hands as those opposed to the present set up have been strongly advocating the need for a foreign coach.

Besides putting in place a democratic IHC, holding of National Hockey Championship and reviving Premier Hockey League, are other tasks that should be high on the agenda of the IOA and ad hoc committee looking after the sport. IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi, who has quite a lot on his plate, including looking after preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi besides preparation of Indian contingents for the 2010 Asian Games, should act fast and relieve himself of the additional work of the hockey ad hoc committee.
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Bouquets & brickbats for Buchanan

Former Australian coach John Buchanan’s theory of rotating captains in IPL matches has raised a few heckles, but the plan has also found some takers, says Abhijit Chatterjee

WHILE there is no denying the fact that the twenty20 format is still in a nascent state, the cricketing community has been a house divided after Australian coach John Buchanan floated the theory of rotating captains.

This has brought many questions to the fore about the game that has already changed to such an extent that oldtimers find it difficult to keep track of what goes on in the field.

Australia’s former coach John Buchanan, who is training Kolkata Knight Riders team for the IPL, justifies his rotating-captain theory by saying this would bring in “different ways of thinking”
Australia’s former coach John Buchanan, who is training Kolkata Knight Riders team for the IPL, justifies his rotating-captain theory by saying this would bring in “different ways of thinking”
IPL Chairman Lalit Modi (L) and Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Shah Rukh Khan in South Africa. SRK says he wants to try the new theory
IPL Chairman Lalit Modi (L) and Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Shah Rukh Khan in South Africa. SRK says he wants to try the new theory Photo AFP

Buchanan’s theory of revolving captains has raised the heckles of many players. If it is implemented, it remains to be seen whether it will set new standards for other teams to follow in the shortest version of the game or not.

Strangely enough, the new-age cricketers are willing to give this concept a shot.

According to the former Australian coach, who trains Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), which has the charismatic Saurav Ganguly as the icon player and captain, the team will have four captains, who will have different roles to play in a given situation.

According to Buchanan the captaincy of the team would be shared by Ganguly, Chris Gayle (West Indies), Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) and Brad Hodge (Australia). But he did not spell out the roles that the different captains would have, both on and off the ground.

What was not specified was that would the captains take charge in different games? Or would the four captains separately decide on the batting lineup, field placing, bowling changes, with one captain to coordinate between all of them.

And in case the four captains do not see eye-to-eye then who will take the final call — coach John Buchanan or team owner Shah Rukh Khan? Who will go out for the toss? Or who will decide to opt for batting or bowling once the toss takes place? The theory seems to have created more questions than solutions.

Buchanan, who has never played at the highest level but has guided the Australian team to two World Cup victories, says this would bring in "different ways of thinking." But many see it as a ploy to sideline Ganguly, who was the first to ridicule the move. (The Punjab team in the IPL has different players, looking after different aspects of the coaching sessions. But on the field there is one captain).

An early reaction to the Buchanan’s theory came from South African coach Mickey Arthur, who advocated the traditional approach to the captaincy issue. "I favour the one-captain situation because then the team is clear about who is in charge at all times. If you have more than one guy as leader, you don’t know whom to turn to," he was quoted as saying.

Sunil Gavaskar, too, was critical of the Buchanan’s plan as was another former skipper — Dilip Vengsarkar.

But the theory did find some supporters as well. Former South African coach Ray Jennings, who was replaced by Micky Arthur, thought the idea was interesting.

Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath and skipper Ricky Ponting echoed similar thoughts. Ponting went on to say that Tasmania actually experimented with two captains a few seasons ago with one captain doing the field placing, while the other looked after the bowling changes.

There are some takers for this theory among the younger Indian players, too. Robin Uthappa, who will be joining Team Bangalore this season, says, "The four-captain theory is a unique concept. It is possible that people may accept it later".

Star batsman Sachin Tendulkar has neither appreciated nor denounced the plan. However, he doesn’t see anything novel in the idea for senior players always chip in with suggestions, he adds. But he made it clear that no such experiments would take place at the Mumbai Indian camp.
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