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Football’s forgotten hero
Mahesh GawliMahesh Gawli’s name has been missing from the Arjuna Award list. This soccer star’s claim to the award can’t be overlooked, writes K. Datta
The joy in the Mary Kom household in Imphal came through loud and clear as this writer called her on her cell to congratulate the four-time world-boxing champion on her nomination, at last, for the Rajiv Khel Ratna Award. “Main aaj khush hoon,” she said, raising her voice over the bedlam created by her bawling twin sons who will be two years next month.

Wait on for new swimsuit rule
Swimmers competing in Rome at the swimming world championships have said they are looking forward to a ruling by the sport’s controlling body that will prohibit bodysuits and greatly restrict the type of textiles that can be used. Swimmers feel that the new performance-enhancing high-technology suits being used by most competitors played a big part in the flood of world records that were being broken at the world championships.

Donald bats for ball tampering
Former South African fast bowler Allan Donald said the International Cricket Council (ICC) should legalise ball tampering to protect the “dying breed’ of fast bowlers. Donald said bowlers must be allowed to “prepare” the ball — ball tampering, in other words — to redress the balance between bat and ball to protect the fast bowlers from increasingly lifeless pitches.

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Football’s forgotten hero

Mahesh Gawli’s name has been missing from the Arjuna Award list. This soccer star’s claim to the award can’t be overlooked, writes K. Datta

The joy in the Mary Kom household in Imphal came through loud and clear as this writer called her on her cell to congratulate the four-time world-boxing champion on her nomination, at last, for the Rajiv Khel Ratna Award.

“Main aaj khush hoon,” she said, raising her voice over the bedlam created by her bawling twin sons who will be two years next month.

“I am a poor woman who is a world champion in boxing, which does not have the same appeal as cricket or tennis,” she had once bitterly complained on being overlooked for the award earlier. Her cup of joy will be full when she gets the official letter from the sports ministry inviting her for the investiture at Rashtrapati Bhavan on the National Sports Day on August 29, the birthday of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand. But if the announcement of recommendations for the Khel Ratna and other awards has brought smiles on the faces of Mary Kom and others on the list, it has left some others frustrated. Granted that no panels of selectors can satisfy everybody, one is still left baffled at the omission of Mahesh Gawli by the Indu Puri-headed Arjuna awards committee. One could sense the despair in the champion footballer’s reported remark that soccer is thought of as a “low grade” sport by people in authority, very much like Mary Kom once thought of her sport of boxing.

The last time a footballer was chosen for the Arjuna Award was almost a decade ago. And the, then, winner, Vijayan of Kerala, who had a rare knack for stealing goals, regrets that Gawli has not been awarded an Arjuna Award. Vijayan can sense the pain of denial. He has seen it all in his time.

Syed Nayeemuddin, a member of the Arjuna Awards committee, has gone on record regretting that the committee ignored his arguments in favour of Gawli. Nayeemuddin, who was the captain of the 1970 Asian Games bronze medal-winning team and the main pillar in its defence, not to mention his stint as national football coach, should know what he talking about. Few men are better qualified to judge a footballer than Nayeem. The members of the committee who turned down his expert opinion did little credit to themselves.

One would doubt if a majority of them have at all seen Gawli or the Indian football team, for that matter, play. Surely not Ms Puri, who reigned supreme in Indian women’s table tennis in her time. Such being the case, the committee should have gone by the word of its football member.

The All India Football Federation had recommended three men for award: Mahesh Gawli, Climax Lawrence and Deepak Mondal. Asked to pick one of them, the choice is obvious — Mahesh Gawli. For four years in a row Gawli, who plays for Dempo, Goa and India, has been the best player of the professional I-League. A tackler who seldom puts a foot wrong, few defence players are able to “read” the game better than Gawli can. His very presence in the centre of the back line inspires confidence. On the grass or in the air,

Gawli is difficult to beat. Ask any forward who has tried to breach the Dempo or Indian defence.

Had Jarnail Singh, the all-time great than whom the country has not seen a better centre-back, been alive and somehow sat on the Arjuna committee, he would have unhesitatingly cast his vote for Gawli. In fact, Gawli is a defender in the same class as Jarnail was in his day. Footballers like Gawli can’t be judged on the basis of bio-data or such bits of information written on scraps of paper to be scrutinised by selection committees or head hunting firms.

Good judges of players of team games like soccer or hockey know a good player when they see one.

If Ms Puri’s committee can still see its way to adding the name ‘Mahesh Gawli’ to its list of recommendations it will not only be giving this footballer his just desserts, it would also do a world of good to Indian football that is now happily showing improved health.

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Wait on for new swimsuit rule

Arianna Kukors of the US, who created a world record in 200 m event, feels suits improve the times.
Arianna Kukors of the US, who created a world record in 200 m event, feels suits improve the times. Photos Reuters

Swimmers competing in Rome at the swimming world championships have said they are looking forward to a ruling by the sport’s controlling body that will prohibit bodysuits and greatly restrict the type of textiles that can be used.

Swimmers feel that the new performance-enhancing high-technology suits being used by most competitors played a big part in the flood of world records that were being broken at the world championships.

Arianna Kukors, who smashed her own women’s 200m individual medley world record by nearly a second and became the first women to swim under two minutes seven seconds when she won gold in 2:06.15, said that she welcomed the change.

Kukors, who only swam the event because a teammate scratched at the US trials, said that it was impossible to say just how much the new suits contributed towards the records, but they made a difference.

“Each swimmer is different, but the suits certainly improve the times,” the 20-year-old said.

Michael Phelps is excited about the time when quality of swimsuits will no longer be an issue
Michael Phelps is excited about the time when quality of swimsuits will no longer be an issue

“It will be very difficult for others to break all these amazing world records. But that simply means that for a while the focus will not be on the times.”

Rice said that she believed it would take some time for swimmers to get back to the level at which they are now.

“But swimmers will then simply be ranked on their positions, but you will still have first, second and third places, even if they do not have the times that are being achieved now.”

Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, who won bronze in the women’s 200m IM, quipped that she hoped the new suits that were allowed would be easier to get in. “It takes me a long time to get into my swimsuit now,” she said.

Superstar Michael Phelps said that he too, looked forward to the changes.

“Swimming is going to be swimming again. “The issue of the swimsuits will no longer be a question and that is something very exciting. I am very excited about the whole thing and I think it will be great for the sport.” — DPA

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Donald bats for ball tampering

Former South African fast bowler Allan Donald said the International Cricket Council (ICC) should legalise ball tampering to protect the “dying breed’ of fast bowlers.

Donald said bowlers must be allowed to “prepare” the ball — ball tampering, in other words — to redress the balance between bat and ball to protect the fast bowlers from increasingly lifeless pitches.

“The ICC would shoot me for saying it but, with the wickets that we play on and the dying breed fast bowlers are becoming on these flatter wickets, I would say we do need some sort of defence mechanism, something to fall back on to say ‘Right, we can do this. We can now prepare this ball to go’,” Donald was quoted as saying in Cricinfo.

Donald, currently the Warwickshire coach, however, knows that his plea is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Donald agreed that bowlers had altered the condition of the ball in various ways to get prodigious reverse swing.

“There is no doubt guys tampered with the ball,” he said of the fast bowlers of his time.

He recalled one incident in the mid-1990s when he saw a former fast bowler pick a little chunk of leather live on the television during a Test match against England.

“The guy was just chipping away with his nails and I couldn’t believe how he could get away with it,” Donald said. “The commentator, a famous former player, said ‘Steady on’, but he (bowler) denied it later. Let’s not kid ourselves, there is no question it still goes on.” Donald agreed the best method, if the ICC relented, was to rip the ball without artificial help.

“I wouldn’t bite it,” he said with a chuckle.

“One way is if the ball gets scuffed on one side, and there is a tiny little chunk that is missing, you pick it up and just keep that side dry and keep working on it, while shining the other side very heavily without putting any moisture.” — IANS
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Superb Saina

Through “Saina Soars High” (Saturday Extra, June 27), M.S. Unnikrishnan enabled the readers to have a peep into the ace woman shutler Saina Nehwal’s life, background, achievements and her phenomenal rise at the international level.

The teenager deserves accolades for halting Chinese players’ dominance over badminton. She annexed her Maiden Super Series title thrashing World No. 3 Chinese Lin Wang 12-12, 21-18, 21-9 in Indonesia. Trailing by a game, she roared like a wounded tigress to devour her opponent by clinching the next two games and the coveted title with that she got her name en-shrined in history books as she became the first Indian woman to win such a prestigious series. Her is the best ever performance by any Indian woman and is not second to all England Championship titles won by Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopi Chand, her coach at present.

Saina has set an example for the aspiring Indian badminton women players to emulate. This Haryanavi girl has it in her to conquer many more battles. She should savour her spectacular success, which she has achieved through her sheer hard work, commitment, perservance, persistence, fortitude, tenacity and tremendous parental support, but should not let it go to her head. There should be no room for any complacency. World Championship going to be hosted by India this year should keep her awake, alert and vigilant. At the same time her managers should see that she does not burn herself out.

Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala

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