Saturday, December 29, 2007

We missed experience: Coach

December 29, 2007 Maharashtra Herald

Suhrid Barua

Ratnagiri: The outgoing Maharashtra Ranji coach Chandrakant Pandit may have worn a downcast look after State were given an innings and 129-runs shellacking by Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy game here. But he chose to look at the positives from his three-year stint with the State side.
"It’s hugely satisfying to see the youngsters emerge through the ranks. The outcome here may have been a huge disappointment, but we have a flush of talent and the need of the hour is to carry this talented bunch together and evolve as a quality side."
The former India stumper, who decided to step down as State coach during the course of the ongoing Ranji game, conceded that his side missed some experienced players, though he stopped short of criticising their non-selection in this match. "Experience does make a difference to the fortunes of a side. The absence of experienced players was felt in this match," he observed.
Pandit said his team’s inability to drive home the advantage when they were 210 for 3 on day one cost his side dearly. "We should have pressed home the advantage and got a score in excess of 350. That would have allowed our bowlers some cushion to bowl at."

Forget winning, State concede bonus

December 29, 2007 Maharashtra Herald

Suhrid Barua

RATNAGIRI: Maharashtra were up against the wall going into the fourth and final day of the Ranji Trophy Super League tie against Karnataka at the Chatrapati Shivaji Stadium here, and a lot rested on the shoulders of skipper Venugopal Rao and opener Harshad Khadiwale to pull something out of the ordinary in order to force a draw.
Well it didn’t happen eventually as the hosts were bowled out for a paltry 140, handing Karnataka victory by an innings and 129 runs.
With his tails up after the bodacious hat trick on day four, Vinay Kumar was in ominous form. Bowling wicket-to-wicket, he moved the ball both ways and stifled the scoring opportunities of the home side.
He produced a gem of a delivery that climbed on Khadiwale with the latter fending it to Joshi who took a facile catch at slip. Yogesh Takawale paired up with skipper Venugopal Rao and took the attack to the opposition with some sizzling stroke-play in their 68-run fifth wicket stand. Takawale was in a belligerent mood, clunking Aiyappa through the cover region thrice in one over before sending one from Sunil Joshi crashing into the sightscreen for the maximum.
But Joshi, who enjoyed bowling on the fourth day track, which had a bit of bite in it, exacted sweet revenge on Takawale.
The batsman stepped out to the bowler and when he realised he was beaten in flight, played a defensive prod only to pop up a catch to Pawan at forward short-leg. Dhruv Mohan’s ugly swing of the bat saw him fall to Joshi for a duck.
Wicketkeeper Sunil Jadhav capped off a forgettable debut, departing for 4 to Joshi after the ball struck the front pad and umpire raising index finger.
Skipper Venugopal Rao was at his strokeful best and soon reached his fifty even as wickets tumbled at the other end. He greeted Vinay Kumar’s return to the attack for his second spell with a vintage flick shot to the mid-wicket boundary. But Vinay hammered the final nail in the coffin, dislodging the State skipper when he essayed an on-drive and was pouched by Raghu inside the 30-yard circle for 56.
It was Vinay’s fifth scalp and the win became a mere formality when he got rid of Aditya Dole to finish with career-best returns of 6-38 and a dream match-haul of 10-104. His previous best of 5-22 also came against Maharashtra in 2005.
With defeat looming large, State took lunch at 140 for 9 with tail-enders Wahid Sayyed and Samad Fallah at the crease. It just took one ball after lunch to bring up victory celebrations for Karnataka. Sayyed facing up Joshi, attempted a wild heave and holed out to Chipli at mid-on to hasten the doom of Maharashtra.
Delhi through
Delhi and Uttar Pradesh finished their league engagements with outright wins over Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad respectively to top their groups. Saurashtra and Baroda duly played out draws in their final games to end up second in their groups. The top two teams in each group ended tied at the same number of points, and were separated on the basis of outright wins and better quotient. UP had won one more match than Baorda, while Delhi had a better quotient than Saurashtra. In the semi-finals, UP will face Saurahstra in Vadodara while Delhi will take on Baroda in Indore.

Innings defeat staring at State

December 28, 2007 Maharashtra Herald

Suhrid Barua

RATNAGIRI: Winning matches is all about creating opportunities and grabbing them. Maharashtra team would have every reason to believe that they had their opportunities to land the knockout punch at Karnataka at least on two occasions.
First, when the State side were cruising along in their first essay at 210 for 3 before a dramatic collapse saw them fold up for 276. Second, when they had pushed Karnataka into troubled waters at 212 for 5 with 64 runs still required to overhaul State’s first innings score and five wickets remaining.
Clearly, State could have turned the tables on their opponents then. But it is a different matter altogether that Maharashtra failed to make the most of them and by the end of the penultimate day’s play, were fighting to avoid defeat in their Ranji Trophy Super League match at the Chatrapti Shivaji Stadium here on Thursday.
Riding on two stroke-filled tons by skipper Yere Goud and Bharat Chipli, followed by a sensational hat trick by seamer R Vinay Kumar, Karnataka now hold the aces.
The visitors piled on a mammoth score of 545 for 9 declared and buoyed by the 269-run first innings lead, their bowlers bowled with lot of fire and reduced hosts to 18 for 3 in their second dig at stumps. The hosts still trail by 251 runs.
Resuming at 239 for 5, Thilak Naidu and Yere Goud steered their side past Maharashtra’s score of 276. Once they did that, they treated the State bowlers with disdain. Goud played an innings blended with aggression and stout defense. He received solid support from another seasoned player, Thilak Naidu as they stroked the hapless Maharastra attack to all parts of the ground.
They stitched 120-runs for the sixth wicket before Naidu returned to the pavilion. His dismissal was the only breakthrough for State in the pre-lunch session.
Naidu was lulled into indiscretion by Venugopal Rao as the latter was pouched by the State skipper off his own bowling for a well-made 58.
At 332 for 6, Karnataka were in the comfort zone. Goud joined forces with Chipli and the pair continued to compound the woes of Maharashtra with a 135-run seventh wicket partnership that left State bowlers frustrated.
Goud’s hundred came from 205 balls and was studded with 17 boundaries. Once he fell to Takawale, Chipli carried on the run-fest, milking the State bowlers at will. Sensing that he may just run out of partners after inching closer to his hundred, Chipli decided to throw caution to the wind and belted three sixes and downplayed the importance of nervous 90s as he literally raced through them.
Maharashtra openers -Harshad Khadiwale and Ankit Bawne had hardly got their eye in when Vinay Kumar wreaked havoc with a stirring hat trick. He castled Ankit when the latter offered no shot to a delivery that nipped back. Nightwatchman Ajinkya Joshi was yorked off the next ball before the seamer returned in his fifth over to complete the hat trick when he trapped Ameya Shrikhande lbw to infuse excitement towards the fag end of play.

Pawan, Raghu put Karnataka on top

December 27, 2007, Maharashtra Herald

Suhrid Barua

Ratnagiri: Maharashtra coach Chandrakant Pandit would have wanted his bowlers to make early inroads on day two, if they seriously nourished ambitions of forcing an outright win and give themselves a chance of reaching Ranji Trophy semi-finals.
However, Pawan had his own ideas, as his century took Karnataka very close of gaining the first innings lead on Wednesday. The visitors ended day two at 239 for 5, just 38 runs short of taking the lead. In the morning, two seamers - Samad Fallah and Wahid Sayyed rightly responded to the call.
Bowling an incisive spell, the Fallah-Sayyed combine pitched the ball around the corridor of uncertainty and kept the Karnataka openers -Robin Uthappa and KB Pawan on a tight clamp. Uthappa threatened to regale the goodly crowd who were anticipating fireworks from him.
The Coorg-lad belted three crisp boundaries before he choose bravado over common sense. He played a nothing shot, poking at an innocuous delivery outside off stump with Takawale pulling off a blinder at first slip.
One-drop Devraj Patel also didn’t set the Mandvi beach on fire as he drove without any footwork and offered a regulation catch to Dhruv Mohan in the slips. At 38 for two, Maharastra bowlers must have been smacking their lips at the prospect of running through the Karnataka middle-order and gain handy first innings lead.
But opener Pawan, who was nervous early on - beaten outside off stump on numerous occasions, gradually grew in confidence. He found plenty of comfort in the company of C Raghu as the duo negotiated the State bowlers with oodles of grit and determination. Raghu was fluent of the two and executed some delectable wristy shots.
The free-flowing batting style of Raghu rubbed off on Pawan, who started to open up. They took their side to lunch at 103 for two and were un-separated in the post-lunch session as the State bowlers toiled without reward on a baking day.
The final session threw up exciting moments like day one. Left-arm spinner Ajinkya Joshi finally breached the 166-run third wicket stand between Pawan and Raghu when he enticed the latter to sweep, only to find Mohan at long-leg.
State skipper Venugopal decided to roll his arm over and got rid off Amit Verma for one. At the other end, Pawan didn’t allow the nervous 90s get the better of him as he first square-cut Dole to the point boundary to reach 98 before unleashing a crashing cover drive off the next ball to bring up a well-deserved hundred.

Khadiwale stands tall

December 26, Maharashtra Herald

Suhrid Barua

Ratnagiri: There were strong lessons to be learnt from the batting debacles against Delhi and Saurashtra, but Maharashtra didn’t seem to learn anything as they came up with another toothless batting display and were shut out for 276 on day one of the Ranji Trophy Super League Group ‘A’ match against Karnataka at the Chatrapati Shivaji Stadium on Tuesday.
The State top-order dug in gamely and made steady progress with the opening duo of debutant Ankit Bawne (in fact, four players made their Ranji debut) and Harshad Khadiwale, raising 42 for the first wicket.
15-year-old Ankit never looked overawed by the big stage and showed that he has the material to go up the ladder. He essayed some elegant drives against the Karnataka new ball operators -Vinay Kumar and NC Aiyappa, who kept a probing line early on, beating the outside edge of both openers regularly but without any luck.
Ankit promised more before Vinay Kumar produced a ripper to induce a thick outside edge from the opener, who offered a sitter to gloveman Naidu. His opening partner Harshad Khadiwale took over and imposed himself on the Karnataka bowlers with grit and discipline. Harshad, a member of India U-19 squad, exuded maturity of a seasoned campaigner as he drove, flicked and cut with aplomb. He opened up in the post-lunch session, dealing in boundaries and arrived at his half-century square-cutting veteran left-arm tweaker Sunil Joshi to the point boundary.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sandy too good for Isha

Maharashtra Herald, November 18, 2007

Suhrid Barua

Pune: Her route to the final has been a smooth one. For someone, who hasn’t dropped a set on her way to the summit clash, it was a significant pointer that Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia was in red-hot form. Only an extra special effort from somebody could have stopped her juggernaut. If at all she was looking for inspiration from any quarter, she didn’t really have to look far - the presence of former Indonesian top player Yasuk Basuki in the Deccan Gymhkana tennis courts on Saturday was enough to spur her on.
The pocket-sized player, ranked 263 in the world, showed the importance of playing the crucial points better as she brought the title aspirations of home crowd favourite Isha Lakhani crashing down to earth with an emphatic 6-3, 7-4 victory in the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament. It was Isha who held the early aces, breaking Gumulya to go up 2-1 after the latter smacked a backhand return into the net.
The eight-seeded Indian blew away the opportunity of calling the shots, losing the very next game at love. Isha A lapse of concentration seemed to get the better of her as she made a flood of needless unforced errors and lost the plot from thereon to concede first set 3-6.
Both players traded breaks in the first two games of the second set. There was no break of serve till the tenth game as the scoreline read 5-5. Isha may have held her serve until now, but inconsistency was her bugbear. Gumulya broke Isha in the eleventh game and later held her serve after a marathon game that witnessed five deuces to win the match.
Isha sounded gracious in defeat. "I had my chances, but couldn’t make the most of it. Hats off to Sandy."

Resilient Isha packs off Zhang

Maharashtra Herald, November 17, 2007

Pune: If the organisers of the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament needed a kick, Isha Lakhani provided it by pulling off a thrilling three setter against Ling Zhang of Hong Kong at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts here on Friday. The match, which was played on court two to facilitate National broadcaster Doordarshan get a better vantage point to beam the match live, panned out to be a disappointment initially as Isha, the lone Indian survivor, got off to a sloppy start, dropping her serve in the second set to surrender the initiative to Zhang, who exuded oodles of vim and vigour early on.
The 518-ranked Hong Kong girl was precise with her groundstrokes and consolidated her dominance over Isha, effecting another break in the fifth game to pocket the first set 6-1. Trailing by a set, Isha had a mountain to climb. The eight-seeded looked steady with her serves as she led 4-3 with games going on serve.
In desperate pursuit of a break, Isha took the bulls by the horns in the eight game and extended it to deuce on five occasions, pounding two brilliant double-handed backhand winners to stay in the contest. The long game frustrated Zhang as she slammed a forehand wide to hand Isha a lifeline.
The Indian then made a mess of her serve, allowing Zhang bounce back at 5-4. Isha literally snatched the game from Zhang with a couple of robust service returns, leaving the latter save two game points at 15-40. Zhang muffed an opportunity to save her serve when she smacked an overhead wide to tilt the second set in Isha’s favour.
The third set was a piece of cake for Isha. She broke Zhang in the second set and raced away to a 3-0 lead. She hastened celebrations, producing a break in the sixth game to have a stranglehold over the match.
Isha made heavy weather of the victory march as the sixth game went to deuce four times before she closed out the match for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 romp. "I was slow off the blocks. She (Zhang) was hitting the ball flat, so it was difficult to retrieve it. But I was more solid later and got more winners in," a bucked Isha said after the match.
Isha will lock horns with second-seeded Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia, who overcame Alexander Panova of Russia 7-5, 6-3. The 265-ranked diminutive lass broke Panova once to bag the first set. The second set was hotly contested. Gumulya broke Panova to gain the headstart. But the Russian showed remarkable resilience to reel off three straight games, including two breaks and raised visions of a decider.
But Gumulya nullified all such aspirations, breaking Panova in the fifth game en route to winning four straight games to open up a 5-3 lead. Gumulya was relentless as she broke her for the fourth time to wrap up a 7-5, 6-3 victory. "I was playing defensively in the beginning and she (Panova) was taking advantage of it. I became more aggressive and that worked," Gumulya said. The soft-spoken Indonesian has played Isha before twice with both winning once.
Meanwhile, Varatchaya Wongteanchai of Thailand and Ling Zhang of Hong Kong won the doubles title, pipping the Indonesian pair of Wynne Prakusya and Angelique Widjaja 1-6, 7-5, 10-5.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Isha keeps Indian flag flying

Maharashtra Herald, November 16, 2007

PUNE: Southpaw Isha Lakhani lifted the pall of gloom surrounding India’s campaign in the NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament, ripping apart fellow Indian Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-1, 6-1 to sail into the singles semi-finals at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts here on Thursday. Taking the court in an early morning match, the national champion settled into in top gear straightway, breaking Rushmi in the second game with a down-the-line backhand winner and jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
Rushmi struggled to get her first serve in and that allowed Isha enough leeway to go for the big strokes on her second serve. The 443-ranked Chennai girl, who has hitherto put on a determined show en route to the quarter-finals, found Isha a tough nut to crack and never looked like matching her game. She again dropped serve in the fourth game before holding serve in the sixth game, but by then it was too late for her to mount a comeback.
It was a similar tale in the second set. Isha kept her foot on the accelerator and broke Rushmi in the very first game. The early break took out whatever fight Rushmi had in her and she was merely going through the motions, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
Isha on the otherhand, was disciplined with her serve. Exhibiting solid baseline game and clinical precision at the net, she made Rushmi’s cup of woes brimming over when the latter conceded serve in the third game as Isha took charge. The 22-year-old Mumbai girl completed the formalities with a 6-1, 6-1 romp. Isha will be up against the 518-ranked Ling Zhang of Hong Kong in the semi-finals. Zhang rallied from a set down to prevail over Kyung-Kee Chae of Korea 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in a gripping contest.
The match assumed an interesting turn with both players splitting the first two sets. Zhang took the confidence of winning the second set into the decider. She broke Chae in the opening game to gain confidence The 739-ranked Korean appeared lost. Her game fell to pieces, her serve went haywire while her groundstrokes were beginning to wear an inconsistent look.

Kolesnichenko upstages Brachikova

Maharashtra Herald, November 15, 2007

Suhrid Barua

PUNE: Players like to clench their fists or punch the air, but she has an altogether different way of bucking herself up - she likes to thump her thighs every time she needs to get her concentration going. Qualifier Alexandra Kolesnichenko of Uzbekistan kept patting her thighs every now and then en route to upstaging the fifth-seeded Nina Brachikova of Russia to romp into the quarter-finals of the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Wednesday.
The Tashkent lass, who will turn fifthteen next month, exhibited remarkable resilience to signal the end of Brachikova’s singles campaign, winning 7-6 (10-8), 6-3 in an intriguing tussle on court one. The 375-ranked burly Russian known for her booming serve and power-packed groundstrokes, acquitted herself well early on even as games went on serve in the opening set until the tie-break had to be enforced.
Kolesnichenko took the first set by the skin of the teeth and that seemed to rattle her opponent. Kolesnichenko held her serve to go up 2-1 in the second set. She produced a whipping forehand winner to break Brachikova’s serve in the fourth game to ensconce herself in the driver’s seat. She then held serve to take a 4-1 lead before a bit of drama unfolded.
Brachikova broke Kolesnichenko in the seventh game after holding serve the game before to narrow down the gap to 4-3. But Kolesnichenko immediately broke back to make it 5-3. Serving for the match, Kolesnichenko didn’t find the going easy as Brachikova drove her to the wall, taking the game to deuce twice before the Uzbek prevail.
The exit of Brachikova was not the only upset of the day. Third-seeded Neha Uberoi of US put up a spirited performance against Alexandra Panova before going down 6-7 (2-7), 5-7 in a ding-dong battle. Neha’s serve let her down badly. She double-faulted whopping 13 times. Both players traded breaks in the sixth and seventh games before the set was decided via tie-break.
The second set saw Neha dropping serve in the fifth game while Panova returned the favour in the next game. Both players held serve as the scoreline read 5-5. Panova then got the crucial break in the eleventh game to seal her place in the last-eight stage. Meanwhile, two Indians -Isha Lakhani and Rushmi Chakravarthi eased into the quarter-finals where they will run into each other.

Sandhya, Parul post hard-fought wins

Maharashtra Herald, November 14, 2007

PUNE: The ITF tourneys are often considered the breeding ground for the new Sanias to take shape. And on Tuesday, two Indian players -Sandhya Nagraj and Parul Goswami showed enough grit to suggest that they can be the rising stars of Indian tennis while notching eye-catching victories in the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis tournament at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Tuesday.
Playing against 810-ranked Varatchaya Wongteanchai of Thailand, Sandhya made the right noises breaking Varatchaya’s serve in the first game. She completely lost focus after that, losing the next six games to surrender the opening set 1-6.
However, the 591-ranked Indian was a transformed player in the second set. Exuding solid baseline play, she pulled off two service breaks to run away with the second set 6-1.
There was a spring in the steps of Sandhya after her fierce second set fightback. Towering over Varatchaya in the deciding third set, she unleashed stinging winners, breaking her serve in the first, third and fifth games to close out the match at 6-1.
Wildcard Parul Goswami started her match against Jung-Yoon Shin of Korea on a jittery note, conceding serve in the sixth game to hand the opening set 6-3. But the 961-ranked Indian was quick to rebound as she broke Shin’s serve twice to take the second set 6-4. Parul was beginning to look more solid now with her groundstrokes.
The diminutive Indian produced a powerful double-handed backhand winner in the third game to effect the decisive break and assumed control. She forced Shin to drop serve again in the fifth game before wrapping it up at 6-2.
Meanwhile, day two witnessed two upsets. Seventh seeded Nungnadda Wannasuk of Thailand was sent packing by Ukraine’s Katerina Polunina in straight sets 6-4, 6-1. Fourth seed Tara Iyer of India went down to veteran Indian Rushmi Chakravarthi 4-6, 2-6.
Second seeded Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia took India’s Poojashree Venkatesha to the cleaners with a facile 6-1, 6-1 triumph. Third seeded Neha Uberoi edged out Tanvi Shah 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a nervy three-setter. Fifth seeded Nina Bratchikova of Russia halted the campaign of India’s Ankita Bhambri 6-2, 6-3. Actually, Bhambri sisters capped off a forgettable day with Sanaa Bhambri earlier suffering a 0-6, 1-6 drubbing at the hands of Korea’s Kyung-Yee Chae.
Sixth-seeded Silivia Disderi of Italy walloped Shalini Sahoo of India 7-5. 6-2. Another Indian, Sonal Phadki had enough in her tank before outduelling countrymate Prerana-Mythri Appineni 6-1, 6-7, 7-5. Eight-seeded Isha Lakhani of India blanked fellow Indian Ashmitha Easwaramurthi 6-0, 6-0.

Results: Singles First round: Katerina Polunina (Ukr) bt (7) Nungnadda Wannasuk (Thai) 6-4, 6-1, Rushmi Chakravarthi (Ind) bt (4) Tara Iyer (Ind) 6-4, 6-2, Alexandra Panova (Rus) bt Kelsey Sundaram (US) 6-2, 6-2, (6) Silvia Disderi (Ita) bt Shalini Sahoo (Ind) 7-5, 6-2, Ling Zhang (HK) bt Kumari-Shweta Solanki (Ind) 7-6, 6-0, Julia Parasyuk (Rus) bt Adnya Naik (Ind) 6-3, 6-3, Parul Goswami (Ind) bt Jung-Yoon Shin (Kor) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, Kyung-Yee Chae (Kor) bt Sanaa Bhambri (Ind) 6-0, 6-1, Alexandra Kolesnichenko (Uzb) bt Asha Nanda Kumar (Ind) 6-4, 6-1, (8) Isha Lakhani (Ind) bt Ashmitha Easwaramurthi (Ind) 6-0, 6-0, Sandhya Nagraj (Ind) bt Varatchaya Wongteanchai (Thai) 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, (2) Sandy Gumulya (Ind) bt Poojashree Venkatesha (Ind) 6-1, 6-1, Sonal Phadke (Ind) bt Prerana-Mythri Appineni (Ind) 6-1, 6-7, 7-5, (5) (5) Nina Bratchikova (Rus) bt Ankita Bhambri (Ind) 6-2, 6-3.

Parija reaches second round

Maharashtra Herald, November 13, 2007

PUNE: There was a semblance of dullness attached to the proceedings of the $25,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament being played at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Monday. A soporific ambience, coupled with a sparse crowd, greeted Parija Maloo and Vishakha Sheoran as the two players strode out to court 3 for the mid-afternoon match.
In an all-Indian contest Parija ultimately won 6-2, 6-4. Both players were lavish with their unforced errors but still did their best to make the match an interesting one. It was left to 750-ranked Parija to wrest the early initiative. She broke Vishakha’s serve with a whiplash forehand crosscourt winner even before her opponent had got the time to find her range of strokes.
A clinical down the line winner saw one more break of serve and Parija was through with the opening set, winning it at 6-2. The second set wore a similar look. Parija called the shots, breaking Vishakha’s serve with a ripping backhand winner in the fifth game to gain a slender 3-2 lead and was poised for an early victory. Vishakha may have been down and out, but she was in no mood to let Parija wipe the floors with her.
At 3-2 and down by a break of serve, the writing was clearly on the wall for Vishakha.
However, she mounted a doughty fightback, breaking Parija’s serve with an angular shot in the very next game to level things at 3-3. The joy of staying in the contest barely lasted for a minute. Three decisive errors flowed from Vishakha’s racquet as she dropped serve at love to surrender the advantage to Parija at 4-3. Parija held her nerves to wrap up the match, winning the second set 6-4 in the only women’s singles main draw match of the day.

Adyna upsets seasoned Archana

Maharashtra Herald, November 12, 2007

PUNE: Unheralded Adnya Naik created a flutter when she knocked out vastly experienced Archana Venkatraman in three sets 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and reach the final qualifying round of the $25,000 NECC-ITF women’s tennis championships at the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts on Sunday.
The opening set witnessed a gripping contest as both players struck sharp winners from both flanks. Adnya broke Archana’s serve and that was enough for her to close out the first set at 6-4. Down by a set, Archana had to bring all her experience into play in the second set. She broke Adnya’s serve to even things up, winning the second set 6-4.
Buoyed by her spunky performance, Adnya kept playing to her strengths, attacking from the baseline as well as coming up with clinical winners at the net to effect the crucial break of serve and clinch the decider 6-4 to chart her path into the final qualifying round.
In another all-Indian affair, Prachi Nadkarni was taken to the distance before ousting Geeta Manohar 7-6(7-2), 6-4. Another Indian Pooja Shree Venkatesha also kept her hopes alive of making the singles main draw, decimating hapless Pallavi Sharma 6-1, 6-0.
Meanwhile, three Indian players have been seeded in the singles main draw. Neha Uberoi is the highest seeded Indian player at No. 3. Talented Tara Iyer is seeded second while Isha Lakhani is seeded eighth and there is even a likely possibility of Tara and Isha running into each other in the quarterfinals.
Top seeded Su-Wei Hsieh of Taipei is the top seed for the championship. Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia is the second seed while last year’s winner Nungnadda Wannachuk of Thailand is seeded eight. Former India Davis Cup player Sandeep Kirtane will inaugurate the championship.
Results:(2nd Round Qualifying): Kelsey Sundaram (US) bt Nicola Mooney (Britain) 6-2, 6-4, Julia Parasyuk (Russia) bt PV Raja Rajeshwari (India) 6-1, 6-0, Kyung-Yee Chae (Korea) bt Arushi Sharma 6-1, 6-0 (India), Varatchaya Wongteanchai (Thailand) bt Sagarika Phadke 6-2, 6-2, Shalini Sahoo (India) bt Daria Bykodarova (Russia) 6-3, 6-1, Alexandra Kolesnichenko (Uzbekistan) bt Subbadharmi Sundaram (US) 6-1, 6-2, Sonal Phadke (India) bt Nupur Kaul (India) 6-3, 6-1, Arthi Venkatraman (India) bt Bhavani Ravishankar (India) 6-0, 6-1, Ashmitha Easwarmurthi (India) bt Deepna Vazirani (India) 6-4, 6-2 , Adnya Naik (India) bt Archana (India) Venkatraman 6-4, 4-6 , 6-3, GK Shweta (India) bt Shahin Ansari (India) 6-3, 6-4, Prachi Nadkarni (India) bt Geeta Manohar (India) 7-6(7-2) , 6-4 , Pooja Shree Venkateshan (India) bt Pallavi Sharma (India) 6-1, 6-0, Asha Nandkumar (India) bt Aishwarya Agarwal (India) 6-3, 6-3, Sweta Kumari (India) bt Prerna Prathap (India) 6-3, 6-2.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

September 19, 2007 Maharashtra Herald

Dhoni’s elevation is a way forward’

PUNE, Sept 18: Female fans covertly nurse dreams of having the glimpse of him, while avid male fans go to the extent of bringing out a music album on him, not to speak of his swashbuckling batsmanship. Yes, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has created a mass hysteria on the field that many would find it hard to emulate.
The appointment of the 26-year-old Ranchi Rambo as skipper of the Indian team for the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup was greeted with a pinch of salt, but rest assured, this time few eyebrows would be raised with his elevation as Team India captain for the upcoming ODI series against Australia.
With Rahul Dravid shunning captaincy, and old guards - Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly no longer keen on taking up the captaincy mantle at least in the shorter version of the game, the national selectors had little option but to press the forward direction button and zeroed in on Dhoni.
“Dhoni’s elevation as India’s ODI captain is the way forward. A wicket-keeper is the best judge on all aspects of the game. He is the catalyst for the side. Dhoni is quick-witted, cool and composed. I have no doubts that he would do a decent job,” said former India wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani, the last Indian wicket-keeper to lead the team. Kirmani, who led India as a keeper against West Indies in Guwahati way back in 1983, reckons Dhoni should be given adequate time to prove himself. “You don’t pick somebody as captain and wield the axe on him after he fails to fire in a few matches. You got to give him a fair crack of the whip. Dhoni should be given a certain amount of confidence so that he can feel his way into the new job,” Kirmani explained.
With three former skippers playing under him, there are apprehensions about Dhoni not being able to take the tough calls as and when the situation warrants. Kirmani, however, feels such a situation can be avoided if Dhoni gets the backing of the three seniors. “Dhoni is junior to Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly. So, he should look to seek their involvement and ensure they take Dhoni into confidence.”
The former national chief selector cited an example of the 1983 World Cup winning team to buttress his argument. “When we went into the 1983 World Cup, there were seven players senior to Kapil Dev. But there was no unease among the players over that. We took pride in playing and faring well for the country. If at all any player had reservations about a junior leading the team, they never expressed it and took it in their stride,” Kirmani quipped.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maharashtra Herald, September 15, 2007

Delivering the knockout punch

Suhrid Barua

Pune: If he is experiencing a top of the world feeling, you can hardly accuse him of being cocky. Boxing prodigy Vikas Yadav has every reason to count the accolades coming his way after punching to glory in the World Cadet Boxing Championships held at Baku, Azerbaijan recently. A product of Pune-based Army Sports Institute, Vikas may have been an unknown commodity before he embarked for the World Championships, but after outboxing Ciprian Apodaresei of Romania to win the 48kg gold, the young lad has ensured enough newsprint would be reserved for him.
"I’m so used to the media writing only about our cricketers. Boxers hardly get any attention unless they do something spectacular on the world stage. So, it’s a nice feeling to know that people are recognising my feat in Baku," Vikas told the Herald in an informal chat.
The 15-year-old Bhiwani lad recounts his red-letter day in Baku. "I started my early rounds on a scratchy note. The final bout was pretty tight. I got little jittery by the early onslaught from Ciprin, but fought back to settle the issue in my favour," said the talented pugilist, who has been attached with ASI, Pune since 2006.
Like the hallmark of a true champion, Vikas attributes his momentous day to coach Rajendra More. "I feel, the credit for bagging this world crown goes to him," he remarked with a tinge of gratitude. And there are no prizes for guessing why he sees Commonwealth Champion Som Bahadur Pun as his role model. "I box the same way like he does. I always try to imbibe his boxing attributes," he opined.
Vikas is now setting his sights on winning a coveted gold in the 2012 London Olympics. "I want to keep training hard and make the most of all the international exposure. Obviously, a gold in the 2012 Olympics is my dream and I will give my best shot to achieve that."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Maharashtra Herald, September 7

Uthappa menage on seventh heaven

By Suhrid Barua

Pune: The last time Robin Uthappa wore the blue pyjamas, he played an ugly swipe that led him to spoon a return catch to Chaminda Vaas in a must-win World Cup game against Sri Lanka at Port of Spain. His dismissal sparked off a forgettable batting collapse and saw India make the worst possible exit from the cricket’s showpiece event. Save for getting a look-in against Bangladesh in the rain-abandoned 3rd ODI at Chittagong (not a ball was bowled), Uthappa has been confined to the sidelines since then.
Even during the ongoing England tour, he has been more of a passenger carrying out the non-playing XI player duties with aplomb. Five matches in the series gone, he was slowly slipping into oblivion, but on Wednesday, like cometh the hour cometh the man, Uthappa strode out to the wicket as if he had a point to prove.
The big wheels were back in the pavilion when they were required to finish off the chase, but Uthappa exuded admirable composure and gumption to play the spoiler to England’s party plans. If at all, there was a statement to be made to the selectors about his inclusion in the side, perhaps this was the best possible way. It was not all about using the long handle.
He put a lot of thinking in his batting, improvising richly and taking a strong liking for the fine-leg region, milking runs at will as boundaries were hard to come by in front of the wicket with the England bowlers using yorkers and slower deliveries to great effect. “He showed great character. It is never easy when the onus was on him to do the job. Hats off to him,” said Robin’s father Veenu Uthappa.
Veenu, a former international hockey umpire, feels the hunger to do the country proud could be seen in the way his son batted. “Ever since the World Cup, he hardly got a match. So when the opportunity was there, he grabbed it with both hands. He told me before the match that he was keen to prove his worth in the side and he really pulled his weight.”
With seniors pros like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly making the right noises with the willow, Uthappa was forced to bat at an unfamiliar No.7 slot. “He has never batted so low down the order. He showed that he can be a good finisher,” Veenu said bursting with pride.
He, however, insists that the opening position is the ideal spot for Uthappa. “He knows that there is no vacant slot at the top. He’s willing to bide his time and wait for his opportunities. I hope this knock will help him to cement his place in the playing eleven,” Veenu added.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Breeding ground for wrestlers

Maharashtra Herald, July 21, 2007


PUNE: The Army Sports Institute (ASI), Ghorpadi is fast emerging as a breeding ground for churning out talented wrestlers, who have made a mark on the world stage. For the last couple of years, ASI has been instrumental in unearthing new talents in wrestling, thanks to the systematic implementation of ‘Mission Olympics’ scheme aimed at producing medal-winning matmen for 2008 Olympics and 2010 Commonwealth Games.
"We have identified three categories among the pool of wrestlers at our disposal. We have the juniors (aged 12-17), sub-juniors (aged 17-20) and seniors (aged 20+-26). "The basic idea is not just to have a smooth transition once the seniors fade away from the mat, but also to ensure wrestlers are performing on a consistent basis and not resting on past laurels," said Lt. Gen. Shivaji Babar, the man who supervises wrestling under the able leadership of Col. Satpal Ahelawat, Commandant of Army Sports Institute here.
Babar says wrestlers from ASI have been regularly in the medal bracket in recent times due to the hard work put in by Belarusian coach Leonid Liverman. "Liverman took charge of our wrestlers in 2004 and since March 2006 our wrestlers have started to show positive results at the international level," Babar said.
It is worth recalling that ASI grapplers have been enjoying a decent run in recent times. It all started at the 2006 Doha Asian Games where ASI wrestler Vinayak Dalvi won a bronze in 55-kg greco-roman event.
And in doing so, he created a landmark of becoming the first Indian wrestler to win an Asian Games medal after a hiatus of 38 years.
The 2006 Military World Wrestling Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, served another opportunity for ASI grapplers to showcase their prowess and Bhausaheb Patil made his strong presence felt, scooping up a silver in the 66-kg category.
The 'Pehelwans' from ASI continued their stellar run, bagging two bronze medals at the 2007 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in Canada. Manoj Kumar (84 kg) and Kanhyalal Yadav (55 kg) rose to the occasion to pick up gold in their respective weight categories.
Babar feels wrestlers must not get complacent and look to cash in on their present good run. "Our grapplers have done well for themselves so far. This is an important year for us with the world championship and world military games slated to be held later this year. Surely, the way our wrestlers are performing, we can definitely expect our wrestlers to be among the medals."
He, however, sounded a note of caution about preparations for the World Wrestling Championship. "The Baku (Azerbaijan) World Wrestling Championship assumes a lot of importance for us.
"The top eight finishers in each category will qualify for 2008 Olympics, and considering that we would want the maximum number of wrestlers to make the cut," Babar explained.
Startingly, Babar also revealed how wrestlers had to burn a hole in their pockets to take part in the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in Canada. "Our wrestlers had to foot their own expenses for the trip. Neither the Sports Ministry nor the Wrestling Federation of India were able to fund the wrestlers. We are talking to the Sports Ministry regarding this and are extremely hopeful of something positive emerging for the future," he opined with a splash of hope.

Gymnasts break new ground

Maharashtra Herald, July 18, 2007

PUNE: There was a time when Indian gymnasts couldn’t even mull taking part in international competitions. So appalling were our standards that it was never thought to be a worthwhile exercise to send our gymnasts for international meets.
But that appears to be a thing of the past. Indian gymnasts are now not just participating in international events, but beginning to make a statement.
The quartet of Sanjay More, Sampat Shirsat, Tensubam Singh and Babun Das (all from BEG, Khadki) not only did the country proud, but also brought smiles on the faces of gymnastic lovers with a stellar effort, bagging a coveted bronze in the group event of the recently-concluded 7th Asian acrobatic gymnastics championship at Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The talented quartet underwent strenuous training at the Army Institute of Physical Training (AIPT) under coach K C Vadiraj and under the able supervision of Brig. Ashok Rathore. And what makes their achievement all the more remarkable is that they managed to script glory on their debut. "This is the first time that the Indian team has taken part in an acrobatic gymnastics meet. We never had the thought process going of sending our gymnasts for international meets, as we were not up to international standards," said Major C Vajiram, in-charge of gymnastics at Army Institute of Physical Education (AIPE) near Hadapsar.
Vajiram who himself is a former international gymnast, says the Indian gymnasts deserved a pat on their backs for putting up an eye-catching performance. "Not long ago we were way behind most of the top Asian countries. So, you can well imagine how much we were lagging behind," he said.
Vajiram was sanguine about the Kazakhstan bronze medal effort acting as a springboard for the sport to blossom in the country. "Sometimes you need a kick to reap laurels on the world stage. I think this is a very good beginning. I’m sure performances like this would pave the way for our gymnasts to attain such feats in future," he added.
AIPT coach K C Vadiraj is also on seventh heaven. "The boys put in the hard yards and full marks to them," said the man who has been training the triumphant foursome for the last three years.
Vadiraj made a pitch for improved facilities if the gymnasts have to sustain such performances. "We need a hi-tech gym. We also require the services of a well-qualified physiotherapist, who can ensure speedy recovery of injuries. Abroad, we’ve seen how gymnasts take lesser time to recover from injuries because of the availability of top-notch physios.
"In India, our gymnasts suffer injuries and lack of a good physio means the rehab programme of our gymnasts is longer and it forces them to skip national camps and tourneys," Vadiraj added with a ring of realism.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bahutule eyes September return

Maharashtra Herald July 13, 2007

Pune: Injuries can happen to any cricketer. But often a recovery path is crucial in shaping the career of a player. Sairaj Bahutule, Maharashtra Ranji skipper for the last two seasons, is in the middle of a rehab after undergoing an operation on his bowling arm and knows the essence of taking things easy.
“My rehabilitation process has come off well so far. I had this operation in April last and my doctors are pleased with my recovery,” Bahutule told the Herald yesterday.
The former India leg-spinning all-rounder revealed that the healing process in the post-operation period has given him enough encouragement to signal an early return to competitive cricket.
“Normally, an operation of this nature takes about six months to be in playing condition. But my progress has been nice and fine. I’m targeting a return to action at least by mid-September,” Bahutule exuded hope.
He said he would be working with the team’s physio on the sidelines of the Ranji probables camp. “It would help me fast-forward my comeback to competitive cricket,” he says with a smattering of excitement
The 34-year-old, who figured in 2 Tests and 8 one-day internationals for India, is kicked about the upcoming season. “Maharashtra is a developing side. There is flush of talent in the side. We have some promising youngsters like Yogesh Takwale and Nikhil Paradkar, who can take us to the next level. As a senior, I have a role in helping these young turks grow and fulfill their promise,” Bahutule puts things in perspective.
He, however, is not entirely chuffed with his performance last season. “To be honest, it wasn’t outstanding by any stretch of imagination. I thought my showing was average. I would like to better that this season.”
On Maharashtra’s chances this season, Bahutule has no doubts the team has the ammunition to turn in a decent display. “We have a good blend of youth and experience and that should work to our advantage,” he pointed out.

Shubhankar, Devika ready to climb performance ladder

Maharashtra Herald, July 11, 2007

Pune: There are young and hungry for success. And the city-based paddlers -Shubhankar Renavikar and Devika Bhide have been making just the right noises on the table tennis table with sterling performances in the just-concluded state ranking table tennis championships in Nagpur.
Shubhankar, a sixth standard student of Muktangan High School, was unseeded in the cadet (under-12) boys’ singles event, where he countered mild resistance in disposing off S Rebello of Mumbai 11-8, 11-4, 11-7 to clinch the title.
Devika Bhide, a sixth standard student of Kalmadi High School, lapped up the cadet (under-12) girls’ singles crown. She used the Nagpur event to exact sweet revenge on Avanti Saoji of Nagpur winning 11-2, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6. It is worth remembering that Devika had finished second best to Avanti in the Borivali state ranking championship.
Former Indian paddler Ajey Sidhaye, who has been coaching the two promising paddlers for the past few years, is justifiably on cloud nine.
“Shubhankar went into the tourney loaded with confidence after having won the state ranking championship in Borivalli last month. He just enacted the same form here,” Ajey said.
The 49-year-old coach feels Shubhankar’s asset is his intelligence. “He (Shubhankar) knows his strengths and weaknesses very well. He possesses an superb forehand top-spin, but needs to work on his backhand strokes. He also has to improve his service,” observed Ajey, whose playing career spanned from 1972 to 1988.
Ajey, who donned the India colours at the Asian Junior championship in 1976, believes Shubhankar can go places if he has his feet firmly planted on the ground. “He has the potential to climb the success ladder. His parents are very supportive, either his father or mother always accompanies him to every tournament outside Pune. I hope he makes the most of all that and go on and play for the country.”
Ajey, however, rates Devika as a complete player. “She is young, but has a complete game. But she must learn to put her thinking cap on. She is playing and winning which is fine, but there would be occasions when when you have to read the game better and outthink your opponent. I’m sure with experience she would get it right,” Ajey signed off.

Monday, July 9, 2007

‘I was never approached by Zee’

Maharashtra Herald July 9, 2007

Pune: After being in the eye of the storm over reports that he may be plying his cricketing skills in Zee Group’s soon-to-be-launched Indian Cricket, League (ICL), Maharashtra Ranji batsman Dheeraaj Jadhav has said he was shocked and surprised to see his name crop up over his participation in the league.
“I was away in Chennai playing in a tournament and suddenly I heard all this talk about me joining the ICL. I'm still trying to find out that newspaper, which supposedly carried that news item. I have never been approached by anyone from Zee. Forget approaching, I don’t even know the format of ICL,” Jadhav told the Herald in an informal chat.
Jadhav said he was feeling perturbed about the whole thing. “It was tough on me for sure. MCA delivered a show-cause notice to which I have replied. I think they (MCA) are satisfied with my explanation. They now know the real thing,” Jadhav said with a sense of relief palpable on his face.
The 27-year-old left-handed opening batsman did not rule out vested interests working against him. “I just get the feeling that somebody is out there doing some dirty stuff,” he observed without divulging much.
However, Jadhav, who forced his way into the national squad for the fourth and final Test against Australia in 2004 on the back of a superb hundred he racked up for India against India ‘A’ in a warm-up game, was bullish that the ICL-joining episode won’t dent his chances of playing for Maharashtra in Ranji Trophy. “I don’t think so. I’ve no plans of playing for any other side or league. I take a lot of pride in playing for Maharashtra and I will continue to do so,” Jadhav added.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Let Dhanraj talk to me first: Carvalho

Maharashtra Herald, July 7, 2007
Pune: There are times when a team dominates a game throughout, but yet ends up on the losing side. That’s what befell the Indian hockey team when they foozled twelve penalty corners against Argentina to go down 1-2 in a crunch league tie of the just-concluded Champions Challenge Cup hockey tourney in Boom, Belgium. It effectively spoilt whatever slender hopes India nourished of sealing a spot in next year’s Champions Trophy after the opening game loss to New Zealand.
So has the malaise of poor penalty corners conversions has once again started to haunt the side? National coach Joaquim Carvalho begs to differ. “Our penalty corner conversions in the Argentina game was a big let-down. It cost us dearly. But it’s not fair to say that our performance from the short corners was disappointing overall. I though Dilip (Tirkey) and Sandeep (Singh) fared pretty well in the other games,” Carvalho told the Herald.
Carvalho, who was a member of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics team, has comforting words for comeback lad Sandeep Singh. “Sandeep did whatever was expected of him. He’s a long road ahead of him. He would be even better served if he makes an effort to be more innovative while taking the corners,” he pointed out.
He was of the firm opinion that the Boom tourney was a massive learning curve for his young side. “The conditions were tougher than what we encountered in Kuala Lumpur during the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament. The wet, chilly conditions posed a quite challenge for our boys and they came out with flying colours,” he said with a ring of satisfaction.
Veteran Dhanraj Pillai recently went on record saying that age shouldn’t be a criterion for national selection and that he should not be cold-shouldered for good. So what’s his take on that? “Let him (Dhanraj) talk to me. He should know better whether he’s good enough to play for the country. If he thinks he has it in him to don the Indian colours, that’s fine. I don’t think age should be an impediment in selection matters and Dhanraj is justified in thinking that way,” Carvalho said, carefully choosing his words.

Drama unfolds over controversial third goal

Maharashtra Herald July 6, 2007


Pune: The very spirit of sportsmanship came into question after Friends Union ‘A’ players threatened to stage a walk -out after referee Feroze Shaikh ruled the third goal in favour of Pune Railway Police after Friends Union players protested that Amol Bhosle’s strike sailed wide.Umpire Feroze Shaikh told Herald that the ball indeed went inside the Friends Union goal and tore apart the net before going out. “It was clear that the ball had hit the net inside before sailing out,” he said after the match.The organising committee gave five minutes time to Friends Union to decide on whether to continue with the match or stage a walk-out. Fortunately, better sense prevailed among the Friends Union players. They played with more determination to score again to take the match down to the wire before the cops held out to emerge victorious.Friends Union coach Avinash Shiranpalli, however, downplayed the incident. “These things happen. It’s all part of the game. We have to take such things in our stride,” he said after the match.“They (Friends Union) had the option of playing under protest. We gave them five minutes to take a call, but they chose to continue playing. All is well that ends well,” said R B Makasare, a MHA official.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Discipline is the key: Nikolai Snesarev

Pune: The Athletic Federation of India (AFI) took its own sweet time before waking up to the reality of recruiting a foreign coach. Persisting with home-bred coaches have largely helped our athletes to script a podium-finish in multi-discipline events like Asian Games and Commonwealth Games over the last decade or so.
But when it comes to the larger picture of winning medals at the Olympics and World Championships, we are often left with more uncomfortable questions than answers.
Harbouring serious intentions of producing athletes of world-class material, the national federation inducted Belarusian Nikolay Snesarev to hone the skills of our middle and long-distance runners.
Ever since Snesarev took charge in March 2005, there has been a steady and sure surge in the fortunes of our middle and long-distance runners.
The feats of Surender Singh, Sinimole Paulose, Sunil Kumar, OPV Jaisha and Preeja Sreedharan have gone a long way in grabbing the eyeballs.
Mind you, big-tickets events like World Athletic Championships happening this August (Osaka) and the 2008 Beijing Olympics not far away, Snesarev knows it only too well that it is preposterous to even think about a medal-rush at Osaka. “See, I’ve been with the Indian team for just over two years, which is just not enough to churn out medal-winning athletes at meets like World meet and Olympics,” he told the Herald on the sidelines of the just-concluded National Combined Jump and Throw Championships.
The 59-year-old Belarusian coach is swelled with pride when he says that he has been successful in inculcating discipline in the athletes. “Talent is there, but the discipline was missing earlier. The runners have the wherewithal to progress to the next level. The big plus is that they have disciplined themselves both on and off the track, which is showing in the results.
“It is just a question of putting it together. Success doesn’t depend on any one factor. For instance, an athlete must get proper diet, systematic training, proper massage, enough recovery time, adequate acclimatisation etc. These are essential ingredients for an athlete to succeed,” the soft-spoken Snesarev explained even he answers a call on his cell.
Snesarev, who was the head coach of the erstwhile Soviet Union athletic team from 1980 to 1992, took the opportunity to reveal the thinking process of how the sport is run in Belarus and India. “The population of Belarus is just ten million, which is half of Delhi. Yet, Belarus logged 15 medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Believe it or not, one of our top official was sacked because the expectation of 25 medals went unfulfilled,” he says, flashing a grin.
Ask him about the potential stars in the making, Snesarev, declines to open up. “I don’t want to emphasise on individuals. It is not good for the others. But I must tell you that we’ve improved more than one-and-half-minute in men’s 10km, 45 seconds in men’s 5,000m and more than one minute in women’s 5,000m,” the bespectacled coach remarked.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

'Discipline is the key'

Maharashtra Herald July 3, 2007

Pune: The Athletic Federation of India (AFI) took its own sweet time before waking up to the reality of recruiting a foreign coach. Persisting with home-bred coaches have largely helped our athletes to script a podium-finish in multi-discipline events like Asian Games and Commonwealth Games over the last decade or so.
But when it comes to the larger picture of winning medals at the Olympics and World Championships, we are often left with more uncomfortable questions than answers.
Harbouring serious intentions of producing athletes of world-class material, the national federation inducted Belarusian Nikolay Snesarev to hone the skills of our middle and long-distance runners.
Ever since Snesarev took charge in March 2005, there has been a steady and sure surge in the fortunes of our middle and long-distance runners.
The feats of Surender Singh, Sinimole Paulose, Sunil Kumar, OPV Jaisha and Preeja Sreedharan have gone a long way in grabbing the eyeballs.
Mind you, big-tickets events like World Athletic Championships happening this August (Osaka) and the 2008 Beijing Olympics not far away, Snesarev knows it only too well that it is preposterous to even think about a medal-rush at Osaka. “See, I’ve been with the Indian team for just over two years, which is just not enough to churn out medal-winning athletes at meets like World meet and Olympics,” he told the Herald on the sidelines of the just-concluded National Combined Jump and Throw Championships.
The 59-year-old Belarusian coach is swelled with pride when he says that he has been successful in inculcating discipline in the athletes. “Talent is there, but the discipline was missing earlier. The runners have the wherewithal to progress to the next level. The big plus is that they have disciplined themselves both on and off the track, which is showing in the results.
“It is just a question of putting it together. Success doesn’t depend on any one factor. For instance, an athlete must get proper diet, systematic training, proper massage, enough recovery time, adequate acclimatisation etc. These are essential ingredients for an athlete to succeed,” the soft-spoken Snesarev explained even as he answers a call on his cell.
Snesarev, who was the head coach of the erstwhile Soviet Union athletic team from 1980 to 1992, took the opportunity to reveal the thinking process of how the sport is run in Belarus and India. “The population of Belarus is just ten million, which is half of Delhi. Yet, Belarus logged 15 medals at the 2004 Olympics. Believe it or not, one of our top official was sacked because the expectation of 25 medals went unfulfilled,” he says, flashing a grin.
Ask him about the potential stars in the making, Snesarev, declines to open up. “I don’t want to emphasise on individuals. It is not good for the others. But I must tell you that we’ve improved more than one-and-half-minute in men’s 10km, 45 seconds in men’s 5,000m and more than one minute in women’s 5,000m,” the bespectacled coach remarked.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

‘We are progressing at a slow pace’

Maharashtra Herald June 29, 2007

Pune: The cupboard in the middle and long-distance running department looked bare for Indian athletics some years back. But if the performance of our athletes in the recent times is anything to go by, things do look heartening. The Athletic Federation of India (AFI) has realised the importance of reclaiming the past glory of long and middle-distance runners and roped in the services of Belarusian Nikolay Snesarev to look after our metric-milers.
His presence seemed to have yielded the desired results. “Snesarev has been asked to work specifically with the middle and long-distance runners. Our performance in these races has soared in the recent past. Surender Kumar Singh, Preeja Sreedharan, Sunil Kumar, OPV Jaisha and others have done exceedingly well. The progress of these runners is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Athletic Federation of India secretary Lalit Bhanot.
Among the present crop, Surender Singh has emerged as the most exciting prospect. The Armyman, who garnered a bronze in the mens’ 10,000m at the 2006 Doha Asian Games continued his great run capping off a superb double, winning the 5,000 and 10,000m at the 13th Federation Cup athletics championships in Kolkata last May.
Incidentally, Surender literally set the icing on the cake, obliterating the 18-year-old meet record of Gulab Chand (he clocked 14:01:33secs) timing 13:51:64 secs en route to sewing up the 5,000m gold.
Bhanot says athletics is no longer confined to the rural belts as it used made out to be. “Athletics used to be taken by youngsters from rural areas. But we’ve seen a growing trend where young turks from the rural pockets are taking up athletics,” Bhanot said.
He believes the future of Indian athletics is in good health. “We have put in place a strong junior programme, which is well streamlined. Things are looking up no doubt but at a slow pace,” Bhanot said with an air of optimism.
The AFI secretary singled out the exploits of triple jump sensation Renjith Maheshwary. “Look, there was a time when nobody could think of clearing 16 metres in triple jump. Today, we have a guy like Renjith Maheshwary who has gone on to clear 17 metres. It’s a good sign that we are faring well in metric-mile races as well in jump events,” he observed.
On the upcoming World Athletics Championships to be held in Osaka this August, Bhanot isn’t willing to stick his neck out. “Frankly speaking, I don’t see any hopes of a podium finish. We would have our task cut out. Of course, the big-ticket event would act as a springboard for our athletes to better their performances for the future,” he says with a shrug.
But he discounted the fact that there is a gulf of difference in the standards of Indian athletics and the world’s best. “We have bridged the gap on the international stage. We are not hugely lagging behind them as it is made out to be.”

Friday, June 29, 2007

Party time for Renjith, Sinimole

Maharashtra Herald June 28, 2007

A year back, Anju Bobby George carrying a heel injury, huffed and puffed leaping 6.21 metres while picking up the silver behind Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypaklova in the Pune-leg of the 5th Asian Grand Prix Athletics Championships.
And on Wednesday, Anju taking the long jump pit after a long injury lay-off could only manage 6.21 metres. Requiring a gargantuan effort to book her ticket for the Osaka World Championships, Anju looked a pale shadow of her own self. Facing the wrath of the wind resistance, she struggled to get the required elevation to go anywhere close to the magic mark of 6.60 metres – the qualifying mark set for the Osaka world meet.
But all is not lost for Anju as far as qualifying for the World championships is concerned. The ace Keralite is expected to participate in quite a few Grand Prix events in Europe.That probably explains why husband-coach Robert Bobby George is not unduly perturbed by Anju’s insipid showing here.
“The damp conditions didn’t make things easy. Lets not make any excuses, she was not moving well today but she has time till August 10 to seal her participation for the World meet,” he said the Maharashtra Herald. In fact, Anju chalked up her best timing of 6.21 metres in her first jump itself before tapering off in the subsequent five jumps leaping a lowly 5.94 metres in her fourth attempt.
If the mood among Anju’s supporters was downcast, Renjith Maheshwary gave the hosts plenty to cheer about as he scooped up the men’s triple jump gold in style with a best leap of 16.78 metres. Renjith, endured two foul jumps in his bid to go all out for a distance above 17 metres.

He looked chuffed with his effort. “I think I fell at least six metres short of the slippery track conditions. But overall, I’m happy to clinch my third gold,” the demure Kottayam lad said. Kazakhstan’s Valiya Roman and Bibu Mathew of India took the silver and bronze respectively with leaps of 16.62 and 16.54 metres respectively.
The real thrill for the spectators came in the form of the women’s 100m final. Sri Lankan sprint queen Sushanthika Jayasinghe was up against Uzbekistan ‘s Guzel Kubbieva to whom she played bridesmaid in the Bangkok and Guwahati legs.
Sushanthika knew she had to work on her reaction to the starting gun and seemed to have done her homework well. She zipped to an early lead and maintained it to clinch the gold, clocking 11.34 secs, pushing her arch-rival to the second spot. The Uzbek girl timed 11.43 secs, while Vu Thi Huong of Vietnam secured the bronze with a timing of 11.54 secs.
Sinimole Paulose became the second India to sew up the golden hat-trick when she romped in the women’s 1500m final. Sinimole ran a matured race lagging behind initially before get the much-needed kick at the right time to make a mockery of the contest towards the end as she broke away from the rest of the pack on the home bend to court glory. “I’m not entirely happy. The wet surface didn’t allow me to put my best foot forward,” she bemoaned in her hour of happiness.
Surender Singh once again swapped 1-2 positions with Sunil Kumar in the men’s 3000 final. The Army man blazed to victory clocking 8:01:86 secs, while Sunil managed 8:02:02 secds.
Chitra Soman’s rode largely unchallenged to take the gold in the women’s 400m final timing 53.19 secs. But the day belonged to Joseph Abraham, who snapped up the gold with a personal best of 49.86 secs in an event featuring Doha Asiad silver medallist Meng Yan of China. The CRPF sub-inspector mounted a late charge overtaking Kazakhstan’s Yevgeniy Meleshenko at the last hurdle to touch the finish line.
India also made its presence felt in the throwing events as well. Saurabh Vij lapped up the gold in men’s shot put, hurling the iron ball to a distance of 17.36 metres. In men’s discuss throw, Vikas Gowda flung the discuss to a distance of 59.96 metres, not enough to take gold as he finished behind Iranian strongman Sammi Abbas who send the discuss to a distance of 61.86 metres to cap a hat-trick of wins.

Results: Men: 100m: 1. Liang Jia Hong (China) 10.38s, 2. Sittichai Suwonprateep (Thailand) 10.52, 3. Wachara Sondee (Thailand) 10.55; 400m: 1. Wang Liangyu (China) 46.22s, 2. Reza Bouazar (Iran) 46.60, 3. Prasanna Amarasekara (Sri Lanka) 46.61; 1,500m: 1. Sajad Moradi (Iran) 3 mins, 41.14 secs, 2. Hamza Chatholi (India) 3:44.21, 3. Joseph Sajeesh (India) 3:44.42; 3000m: 1. Surendra Singh (India) 8 mins, 01.86 secs, 2. Sunil Kumar (India) 8:02.02, 3. Amirov (Tajakistan) 8:16.42; 4x100m relay: 1. China 39.773 secs, 2. Thailand 39.779, 3. India 40.53; 4x400m relay: 1. Sri Lanka 3 mins, 07.31 secs, 2. India 3:08.86, 3. India B 3:10.13; 400m hurdles: 1. Joseph Abraham (India) 49.86 secs, 2. Yevgeniy Meleshenko (Kazakhstan) 49.94, 3. Kuldev Singh (India) 50.94; Triple Jump: 1. Renjith Maheshwary (India) 16.78m, 2. Roman Valiyev (Kazakhstan) 16.62, 3. Binu Mathew (India) 16.54; High Jump: 1. Kim Young-Min (Korea) 2.15m, 2. Hari Shankar Roy (India) 2.15, 3. Sergey Zassimovich (Kazakhstan) 2.10; Shot put: 1. Saurabh Vij (India) 18.51m, 2. Gholum Ahmed (Kuwait) 18.38, 3. Polyemg Chatchawal (Thailand) 17.46. Discus throw: 1. Samimi Abbas (Iran) 61.86m, 2. Vikas Gowda (India) 59.96, 3. Wu Tao (China) 56.73; Women: 100m: 1. Susanthika Jayasinghe (Sri Lanka) 11.34ss, 2. Guzel Khubbieva (Uzbekistan) 11.43, 3. Vu Thi Huong (Vietnam) 11.54; 400m: 1. Chitra K Soman (India) 53.19 secs, 2. Marina Maslyonko (Kazakhstan) 53.77, 3. Olga Tereshkova (Kazakhstan) 54.11; 1,500m: Sinimol Poulose (India) 4 mins, 16.56 secs, 2. Sushma (India) 4:22.58, 3. Svetlana Lukasheva (Kazakhstan) 4:24.33; 4x100m relay: 1. Thailand 44.0 secs, 2. China 44.07, 3. Singapore 47.53; 4x400m relay: 1. China 3 mins, 32.56 secs, 2. India 3:33.79, 3. Kazakhstan 3:42.07; 100m hurdles: 1. Anastasiya Vinogradova (Kazakhstan) 13.22 secs, 2. Natalya Ivaniskaya (Kazakhstan) 13.45, 3. Sheena Atilano (Philippines) 13.65; Long Jump: 1. Anju Bobby George (India ) 6.21 m, 2. M H Prashusha (India) 5.76, 3. Sushmita Singha Roy (India) 5.72; High Jump: 1. Marina Aitova (Kazakhstan) 1.93m, 2. Nadezhda Dusanova (Uzbekistan) 1.91, 3. Bui Thi Nhung (Vietnam) 1.85; Triple Jump: 1. Xie Limei (China) 13.95m, 2. Li Qian (China) 13.56, 3. Sardi Rakhima (Kazakhstan) 13.48; Javelin Throw: 1. Pamang Buoban (Thailand) 54.89m, 2. Xue Juan China) 51.71, 3. Liliya Dusmetova (Uzbekistan) 49.70; Shot Put: 1. Li Ling (China) 18.15m, 2. Lin Chia-Ying (Tapei) 16.36, 3. Lee Mi-Young (Korea) 16.29.

Athletes have plenty to play for

Maharashtra Herald June 27, 2007
Pune:The inclement weather has charted its plans to play truant to the smooth conduct of the Asian Grand Prix athletic championships to be held in the Baburao Sanas Sports Ground on Tuesday. Intermittent showers throughout the day with spells of bright sunshine in the afternoon, made the practice session of the athletes far from a cosy affair. To tell the truth, the amount of pounding the tracks have received from the torrential rains over the past few days, may not render the surface unplayable, but it is sure to affect the timings of those, who are keen on going the extra-mile in their quest to give their best shot.
Obviously, it doesn’t need a rocket scientist to understand why all eyes would be riveted on Anju Bobby George when she takes guard in the long jump pit. The 30-year-old coming off a long injury lay-off owing to a heel injury has gradually paced herself in the groove, clocking a modest timing of 6.28 metres in the Guwahati leg of the event a few days back. But the Pune leg would present Anju a photo opportunity to clear the qualifying mark of 6.60 metres for the forthcoming World Athletics Championships to be held in Osaka, Japan, this August. It’s not going to be an Anju-show all the way.
The fierce rivalry between Sri Lankan sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe and Guzul Khubbieua of Uzbekistan would be renewed when the duo take the starting blocks in the women’s 100m event. Susanthika, the 2000 Sydney Olympics bronze medallist, finished a close-second to Khubbieua in both the first two legs at Bangkok and Guwahati. And this time around, Susanthika would be straining her last nerve to pull off a gold medal finish.
Triple jumper Renjith Maheshwary is another Indian, who would keep the spectators interested. Fresh from his twin gold-winning feats in Bangkok and Guwahati, where she scripted a new national record, the Kerala lad would be looking to make the most of the recent consistent shows and go into the forthcoming Asian Athletics Championship and the World Athletic Championships with a positive frame of mind.
His state-mate Sinimole Paulose is another Indian, who would be keenly watched. Sinimole is riding a wave of success, having bagged the women’s 1500m gold in the Bangkok and Guwahati and the talented metric-miler would be itching to make it a grand treble. Among the other Indians, the duo of Sunil Kumar and Surender Singh would be pushing hard to get into the medal bracket after swapping 1-2 positions in the Bangkok and Guwahati legs. All and said done, the stage is set for a day of scintillating action and the organisers might just be better served by uttering the rhyme ‘Rain, Rain Go Away.’ And who knows the weather gods might just relent.

WFI may take a soft stand on Amol

Maharashtra Herald June 25, 2007

Pune: The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) may take a soft line over the fate of dope-tainted Maharastra wrestler Amol Buchade. The ace grappler was among eight found guilty by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) of drug-abuse at the 2007 National Games in Guwahati. Amol secured a silver in the 94kg category at the multi-sports extravaganza.
“We are awaiting the report from the IOA, which we would be receiving in a few day’s time. We’d take the issue further once we get the report,” said WFI secretary Kartar Singh on Sunday.
Kartar, a twice Asian Games gold-winning wrestler, however, indicated that the WFI is in favour of giving Amol a decent hearing before anything is decided upon. “Amol is just 24, and has lot of wrestling left in him. We don’t want to do anything in haste. He (Amol) would be given an opportunity to present his case and then, we would act accordingly,” Kartar said.
The WFI secretary, who also has the distinction of being the national champion from 1973 to 1988, feels it is too early to talk about the quantum of punishment to be handed out to the grappler. “We would constitute a special committee, which would meet to thrash out whether any quantum of punishment is there to be handed out
to Amol,” Kartar explained.
Meanwhile, the man in question sounded bullish of coming out clean. “My conscience is clear. I’ve done nothing wrong. I was down with a bout of typhoid a month before the National Games and was undertaking medication for the same,” he said.
Amol conceded it was wrong on his part to have participated in the National Games. “In hindsight, I feel I shouldn’t have taken part, especially when I was under the weather. My physical fitness was not up to the mark then, but mentally I was strong enough to take the plunge,” Amol says with a tinge of dejection.
All he wishes now is to play for the country again. “I want to turn out for the country and reap more laurels. I not only want this whole episode get over as soon as possible but also get a clean chit from the Federation,” Amol quipped.

'Nothing wrong with Sehwag's technique'

Maharashtra Herald June 21, 2007


PUNE: It’s a prolonged lull that has tested not only the patience of the selectors, but also even his staunchest supporters. Nobody can disagree that the huge blade of Sehwag has been on mute mode for a fairly long time now. Just when it seemed that there would be no end to slump in his batting form, the Najafgarh bloke raised visions of getting into Sehwag-like groove during the recent Afro-Asia Cup in India, where he clobbered two knocks replete with scorching strokes to all parts of the ground.
It was clear that the selectors were still not convinced about his run-getting ways despite his fine showing in the Afro-Asia Cup and cold-shouldered him for the upcoming tours of Ireland and England. Probably the 40s and 50s are not enough to force the selectors’ doors open. Big hundreds were all what the five wise men of Indian cricket must have been anticipating from Sehwag after a forgettable World Cup showing in the West Indies.
The fierce competition for places in the Indian team is only going to make his comeback journey even sterner. With the current Test pair of Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik doing enough to justify the faith of the selectors, a spot at the top of the order in the longer version of the game looks a far cry. Even in the one-dayers as well, the task is cut out for Sehwag. The presence of seasoned players like Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar can also greatly negate his plans of staging comeback.
However, Sehwag’s coach Amar Nath Sharma firmly believes that it is not the end of the road for his ward. “I agree that Veeru would find it tougher than before to force his way into the side. Competition for places is always there, but remember one thing; ups and downs are part and parcel of life and cricket is no exception. I can tell you Veeru is working hard on his game and would be back in the national side sooner than later,” Sharma told Maharastra Herald on Thursday.
The Delhi-based coach, who first spotted Sehwag at the Government Boys School ground at Vikas Puri in West Delhi when he was just fourteen, pointed out that players of Sehwag’s calibre doesn’t emerge just out of nothing. “He’s a special talent. We have seen how he has decimated the best attacks of the world when on song. I’m confident that he would bounce back and silence his detractors,” he said.
Widely perceived to be a victim of technical kinks, Sharma was quick to clarify that all these loose talk doesn’t do any good to his confidence. “I don’t see anything amiss in his game technique-wise. People are jumping the gun because the Sehwag run-machine has gone dry for far too long. He looked very good when he slammed a blistering 168 for ONGC in the DDCA Hot Weather tournament a few days back. It is only a matter of time before he fires again,” Sharma explained.

'Dhoni's elevation a right move'

Maharashtra Herald June 21, 2007

Pune:His flowing locks and butchery with the broad willow drives the fairer sex crazy. And in just two years of international cricket behind him, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has indeed become a cult figure. As a just reward for his exploits on the cricket field, he was entrusted with the responsibility of being skipper Rahul Dravid's deputy for the forthcoming twin tours of Ireland and Scotland.
It is not often that wicketkeepers in Indian cricket are handed the vice-captain's job. Former India wicketkeeper Chandrakant Pandit feels Dhoni's elevation is the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket. "I think it's a good move. He's matured as a keeper. He has worked hard on his keeping and is improving all the time," Pandit.
Pandit, who featured in 5 Tests and 36 ODIs between 1986 to 1992, believes wicketkeepers take time to blossom. "You don't expect a wicketkeeper to be at his best straightway on his initiation to international cricket. Look at Dhoni, he wasn't technically sound keeping-wise when he made his international debut, but being part of the national team has definitely helped to improve his keeping."
Pandit says the growing maturity of the Jharkhand swashbuckler can be seen in the way he bats nowadays. "He's a tough cookie, who will easily throw away his wicket. He learnt over the last couple of years that he is a key member of the side and that the team expects him to do the job. What is interesting to see is that he has toned down his attacking instincts and plays well according to the situation, which is so heartening to see," Pandit observed.
He, however, says keeping up to the likes of Kumble and Harbhajan in Test matches would be his litmus test. "He has done fairly done in the one-dayers, but I'm yet to see him keep up to spinners in the Test arena. It would be interesting to see how he copes up with that challenge," he added.

Darts and laurels for city family

Maharashtra Herald June 19, 2007
PUNE:As a sport darts may not possess a huge fan following like cricket in the country and could even struggle to capture the imagination of the sports buffs, but it is slowly but surely showing signs of making an impact in India.
Ask four-times national darts champion Ashfaque Sayyed and he would vouch for that. “Darts is still in its nascent stages as far as public awareness is concerned. But what is interesting is that lot of people have a fair idea of darts, but they don’t know enough about the rules of the sport and also about how to play,” Ashfaque told Herald yesterday.
The 43-year-old national champion feels darts has the potential to grow as a sport if enough is done to promote the game at various levels. “It’s a sport that people may enjoy if they take IT up. Obviously, the All India Darts Association (AIDA) has done a lot to keep the sport alive in the county, ever since they conducted the first national dart championships in 2002. So, I have no doubts that darts would pick up in a big way,” he puts things in perspective.
Four nationals crowns in a row would mean winning national titles must have been a cinch thing for him, but Ashfaque believes there is cut-throat competition now than it used to be two years back. “It’s true that for the first couple of years I had a virtual cakewalk. I won’t deny that. But I faced stiff competition in the 2006 nationals and in the 2007 edition at Hyderabad. Actually, it’s a healthy sign, lop-sided matches are never good for the sport or for the crowd,” he says with a touch of realism.
Serious stuff aside, how does it feel about being called the first darts family in the country? For stats-minded, his wife, Ayesha Sayyed was runners-up in the women’s singles in the just-concluded 2007 nationals in Hyderabad, while his daughter Nausheen Sayyed finished second-best in the girls’ youth or under-18 segment. “It’s a great feeling, I can tell you that. We are passionate about darts and train at home mostly. We do it at our own comfort level. Lets see how we can take it further,” he says.
Wife Ayesha is swelled with pride talking about her feats. “Darts is a kind of sport, which even I as a housewife can play while taking care of my household duties. It’s a sport where you don’t need much physical strength, though I’m no way saying that fitness is not important in darts,” she observed.
Daughter Nausheen, little bashful by nature, even dared to compete in the women’s singles event and reached the semi-finals, where she went down to her mother Nausheen. No wonder, Ashfaque has nothing but praise for his daughter. “She has a natural throw, which gives her an edge over her opponents. Having a natural throw is a great asset in darts, something I worked on for two years to perfect it. She can make it big on the international stage provided she has the desire and realisation to do it. I hope she surpasses whatever I’ve achieved in darts,” Ashfaque signed off on an optimistic note.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Don’t blame him!

MiD day March 30, 2007

By: Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: Even as the voices for Rahul Dravid’s ouster from the mantle of captaincy get louder and louder after India’s unceremonious exit from the World Cup, former India batting great Gundappa Vishwanath feels the India skipper is still the right man for the job.“How can you lay the blame only on Dravid? As a captain he did the best he could. When our whole batting department failed at the World Cup, it’s unfair to train guns on the skipper alone,” Vishwanath told MiD DAY yesterday.Vishwanath said the team’s poor performance must be attributed to their spineless batting display in the Carribean. “As I look at it, the Indian batsmen’s failure to fire cost us dearly. Our batsmen took the run-chase against Sri Lanka very lightly. Our shot selection was below par and all these combined to complete our disaster recipe.”However, according to Vishwanath the powers-that-be need not press the panic button just yet and should persist with Dravid as captain. “I saw nothing wrong in Dravid’s captaincy at the World Cup. He did a pretty decent job and doesn’t deserve the flak when our batting wasn’t clicking,” he remarked.“By persisting with Dravid, Indian cricket can only move forward. There aren’t enough options to look at.“If you look at the young guns, I don’t think Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag are ready. Yuvraj has come back from an injury prior to the World Cup, while Sehwag has run into some sort of form only against Bermuda after hitting a long trough. They can only be groomed for the future.”

'Irfan must play'

MiD DAY March 8, 2007

BANGALORE: The Indian bowling attack has been touted as one of the most balanced attacks ever to go into a World Cup. The five-pronged seam attack Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan along with the two tweakers Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh has what it takes to do the containment as well as the wicket-taking job at the showpiece event. DebateBut the debate has started on whether the team’s think-tank should play three seamers and two spinners or take the field with four bowlers to accommodate a seventh batsman. Former India all-rounder and member of the triumphant 1983 World Cup side, Madan Lal, who picked up the important wicket of the dangerous Vivian Richards, feels India must field five bowlers in the mega event. “Our strength lies in playing five bowlers. Our best bet would be to go in with three seamers and two spinners,” he said.The 56-year-old former coach believes the team management must look at playing three seamers at all times. “I don’t think it would be wise to play two seamers and two spinners. If one of the seamers gets carted around, we must have another seamer as cover,” he pointed out. StressedMadan stressed on the inclusion of left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan in the eleven. Pathan looked impressive in the warm-up opener against The Netherlands finishing with one for 12 off his six overs.“My three would be Zaheer (Khan), Irfan (Pathan) while the third seamer could be a toss-up between Munaf and Sreesanth. Irfan must play because he lends balance to the side.I know there is a lot of talk surrounding his form and fitness, but you must remember that if a guy like Irfan concedes 45 or 50 runs off his allotted 10 overs, and pitches in with a handy 40 or 50, the side will benefit immensely.”The former India all-rounder was also categorical about playing two spinners. “Tracks in the West Indies no longer have the trampoline like bounce and have slowed down considerably over the years. Anil and Harbhajan are seasoned guys and would come handy on those wickets,” he opined.

Team more experienced than Kapil’s Devils

MiD DAY February 23, 2007
By: Suhrid Barua
BANGALORE: As the World Cup draws closer, comparisons between Kapil’s Devils and Rahul Dravid’s men have set the cricketing tongues wagging. And member of the 1983 World Cup-winning team, Kirti Azad, feels the present side is much richer on experience. Cannot compare“Actually, there shouldn’t be any comparison. The present team is vastly experienced. You’ve three guys who have scored over 10 thousand runs and played quite a lot of matches. There’s a storehouse of experience in the side,” Azad told MiD DAY.The 48-year-old former national selector, however, pointed out that the 1983 World Cup team was packed with all-rounders who would invariably come to the party. “We had the likes of Amarnath, Binny, Madan Lal who would chip in whenever we needed them to.
Kirti AzadThen, we had Kapil Dev who led the side very imaginatively,” he said.“You don’t have to get a hundred or take a five-wicket haul for a side to win. If you pick a crucial wicket or pull of a brilliant run out or weigh in cameos of twenties or thirties at decisive moments, nothing can be bigger than that,” Azad added.Need five bowlers?Azad’s only concern is the bowling department. “I don’t agree with the theory of going in with four frontline bowlers,” he said. “We could have Dhoni batting at No 6 and use Pathan as an all-rounder at seven (provided he is fit), followed by the four bowlers.“I don’t think that is the right way to go about it. You have to assume that one bowler is going to have a bad day. Then you would end up bowling the rest twenty overs with non-regular bowlers which can be a big risk,” he said.Azad believes two spinners must be fielded at all times. “Anil and Harbhajan should be in the playing XI at any cost,” said Azad, who played 7 Tests and 25 ODIs for India