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.