|SPORTS & WELLNESS|
The FIFA 2010 World Cup ball, Jabulani, kicks up a debate even as its Brit designer promises tips on the winning style
The World Cup ball's British designer Dr. Andy Harland has promised to give insider tips regarding the ball to the Three Lion's stars, which could give them the edge over their rivals.
The Adidas Jabulani has come in for a volley of criticism from players, but Dr. Harland reckons that is just because the England players are not used to it. "I'd happily tell Fabio Capello everything about the ball. It would probably give him and the players a slight advantage in South Africa, there's no doubt about it. It could be the difference between winning and losing," The Mirror quoted Dr. Harland, as saying."There are certain things you can do to make the ball act differently, the way you kick it, for example. Then there's the way it acts at high altitude. There are subtle differences which I'm happy to tell Fabio all about," he added.
The 34-year-old, who designed the ball with a team of university researchers from Loughborough, admitted that he was baffled that no one from the England camp had approached them about it. "I'm astonished nobody has contacted us for inside knowledge," Dr. Harland said.
The ball for the final, the Jo'bulani, will have a gold band. It is made of natural latex and woven fabric, with eight foam rubber panels — Adidas's 2006 World Cup ball, the Teamgeist, had 14.
Meanwhile, the world's best footballers are far from impressed with the World Cup ball, with the verdict ranging from terrible to useless. The most damning statements on the Jabulani ball came from the goalkeepers, who appear to have a harder time at each big event to cope with the latest inventions. "I believe it is a shame to play with a ball like this and such an important tournament," said Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon on the weekend. Brazil's Julio Cesar said sarcastically that the ball "is similar to those you can buy in a supermarket." Spain's Iker Casillas has dismissed the object as "appalling" and England's David James expects "goals at this World Cup you would have never seen at past editions".
The ball has been the centre of attention and criticism over the past big events. Made by Adidas, who provide the World Cup ball since 1970, the Jabulani was to end the heated debate about its unpredictable trajectory as the "best" ball that has ever been made. Instead, the tradition simply continued, and like in the past, it was often the non-Adidas equipped players that led the choir and disagreed with the statement of Germany captain Michael Ballack, whose club (Chelsea) and country sports the famous three stripes. "Fantastic. The ball does exactly what I want it to do. There are no more excuses," Ballack said.
But Ballack will miss the World Cup due to injury while others have to deal with the hi-tech ball, and criticism was not restricted to goalkeepers.Serbia and Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic blamed the Jabulani for his blunder, which led to a 1-0 defeat against New Zealand on the weekend.
Italy striker Giampaolo Pazzini also found harsh words: "The ball is a disaster, for attackers as well. He are jumping into the air for a header, it makes a move and you miss it."
Spanish midfield genius Xavi was also far from in a praising mood as players could face even more unpredictability once the tournament in South Africa starts - given the higher altitude of matches in cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria.
— ANI, DPA
on young blood
The Asia Cup, to be played in Sri Lanka from the middle of June, could well turn out to be the acid test not only for skipper Mahender Singh Dhoni but also for quite a few players who, till some months ago, were counted to be among the regulars of the Indian squad. True, it will be inappropriate to equate India’s performance in the just-concluded World Twenty20 Championship with a 50-over game, but the pressure on the players will be tremendous even if India are occupying the second spot in the ICC’s one-day rankings, and would be expected to do well.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Twenty20 championship, there were enough indications that Dhoni would not lose his captaincy even if he did exhibit immense immaturity, both in team selection as well as handling of the team on-ground during the matches in the West Indies. The nation might have forgiven Dhoni once for his indulgence, given the fact that he has taken the team to great heights both in Test as well as in the one-day game, but if he were to slip again in Sri Lanka, it might well become extremely difficult for the Indian captain to retain his position. (In the past Indian skippers have lost their jobs even after losing a single series. Luckily, that era of madness is over.)
The national selectors have shown a lot of foresight by selecting a young team for the tri-nation tournament in Zimbabwe so that some of the senior players who were carrying niggling injuries after the strenuous IPL and the T20 World Cup could recover fully. The young Indian team might have floundered in Zimbabwe but it does serve India’s cause in the long run. With the World Cup (to be hosted jointly by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the sub-continent) coming up next year, India desperately needs to develop adequate bench strength for the tournament.
And let us look at the positive side of sending a young team. In the very first game against the hosts, which unfortunately India lost, Rohit Sharma came up with a fine century, his first in one-day cricket. And then in the second game against Sri Lanka, his century propelled India to an easy win. For Suresh Raina, who was leading the Indian team, the experience will stand him in good stead in the future. He might have made a few mistakes, like in the match against Sri Lanka he forgot to inform the umpire about the bowling powerplay, but overall his performance has been commendable. Also, this tour might just help Raina `A0to cement his place in the national Test squad.
For the senior players, the forced rest prior to the Asia Cup would have not only helped them get into shape but also sort out the problems they have had in the West Indies. As the old saying goes in cricket, it is best to sort your flaws at the nets, and one hopes the players are following the diktat.
In the West Indies, the one Indian player who looked totally disoriented was former vice-captain Yuvraj Singh, who carried his lack of form in the IPL to the Caribbean. But more than his poor form with the bat in the middle was the fact that he had lost his agility while fielding. Yuvraj’s problems have probably been compounded not only by fatigue but also by a troublesome knee, which probably needs attention. One would think the quicker he has his knee attended to, the quicker he will return to the field, may be after a rest of a couple of months, but well in time for the 2011 World Cup.
Why only Yuvraj? After the hectic schedule of the IPL and the T20 World Cup, most of the top-ranked Indian players must be tired but it is only Sachin Tendulkar who opts out to rest from meaningless series, like the one India recently had against Bangladesh. Every time the fatigue issue is raised, the BCCI says the same thing: nobody is forcing the cricketers to play. It is open to conjecture whether it is insecurity regarding their places in the side that keeps players going even when not 100 per cent fit. It is also open to conjecture whether the BCCI doesn't want to rest star players because of pressure from broadcasters, who have overpaid for the TV rights (one must not forget that Ten Sports had protested against the selection of the Suresh Raina-led squad).
India might be number two in the ICC’s one-day rankings, but the performance of the team in the Asia Cup has been below par. Last year, they failed to get past Sri Lanka in the final, and this year, the defending champions are the hosts. And Sri Lanka, like most teams, does very well at home. India last won the cup in the 1994-95 tournament and would have to pull out everything they have if they are hoping to lay their hands on the symbol of cricket supremacy in the continent. One only hopes that coach Gary Kirsten's dressing down of the team on their last day of the T20 World Cup in St Lucia will now have some effect.