Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ranji Captaincy Race

Harshad Khadiwale and Nikhil Paradkar hold the edge overKedar Jadhav for the demanding job

Pune Mirror, October 26, 2008 Suhrid Barua
Pune: With just a week to go before Ma-harashtra launch their 2008-09 Ranji Trophy Super League campaign against Tamil Nadu in Nashik, beginning No-vember 3, the naming of the state cap-tain has grabbed the maximum spotlight. As on expected lines, the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) has been tight-lipped about the same, but sources close to MCA tell us three players — Harshad Khadiwale, Nikhil Paradkar and Kedar Jadhav — all of whom have captained the state team in the pre-season warm-up games — are widely tipped to assume the ‘hot seat’.


The speculation mills have gone into an overdrive and have made us feel that Kedar Jadhav would be the one who would replace Venugopal Rao as the new Maharashtra captain. But hold on: Even though Kedar is one among the three in the fray for the captaincy role, the MCA have almost zeroed in on the two other guys — Harshad Khadiwale and Nikhil Paradkar. In all probability, it will be a toss-up between the two unless of course things change dramatically.


In some quarters, there is a school of thought that Harshad Khadiwale could be the man for the job as there are whis-pers that Nikhil Paradkar may just miss the boat because of his lack of Ranji ex-perience. Actually, both Harshad and Nikhil are looked upon as guys having a shrewd cricketing head. Incidentally, Nikhil Paradkar was just named the captain of the state under-22 side after Deepak Shilamkar wanted to be relieved from captaincy. Nikhil has impressed the people who matter with his captaincy skills during the pre-season sidegames.

What has also become increasingly clear is that the MCA won’t be looking beyond these ‘three’ or should we say ‘two’. It is also learnt that the state association would name the captain only for the first two games against Tamil Nadu and Andhra. Ask Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) president Ajay Shirke on the same? He offers a straight bat. “You can speculate in whatever way you want. We’ve a selection committee to take a call on this and you will come to know about the naming of the new captain very soon,” he intimated.

It’s worth remembering that Harshad Khadiwale was the top run-getter for Ma-harashtra last season, smacking 468 runs from seven matches at an impressive av-erage of 39.00. His average was second best after Yogesh Takawale. The fact that Khadiwale is a solid top-order batsman and can bowl military-medium pace makes him not just an asset for the state side but also the ideal bloke for the hugely responsible captaincy job.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Thokchom Nanao Singh reveals how he defied strong opposition from his father and later winning his confidence to pursue the sport

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 18, 2008

Winning laurels is always a special thing. And for 48-kg gold medal-winning light flyweight boxer Thokchom Nanao Singh it is super-special because it means a lot for the Manipuri as he desperately wanted to make a mark in the ring for his ailing father.For my dadNanao's father Totobi Singh met with a jeep accident long back and has his left leg paralysed for years now. So it was a little surprise to see Nanao dedicate the title romp to his father.

"My father can't move around on his own because of his paralysed left leg. One of my brothers is away from home working in the army, while my elder brother Shyman is a farmer and it is who takes care of them in my native village Khujama in Bishnupur district," observed an emotional Nanao.

Football to boxing

The fleet-footed southpaw used to be a football player before he switched to boxing. He had to weather much opposition from his father over his choice to pick up boxing. "When I wanted to take up boxing, my father was totally against him. So when he didn't allow me to opt for boxing, I turned defiant and refused to go to school. "Then, one day my father met my boxing coach and asked him about my skills. Only when he was convinced that I could make it big in boxing, he started to fully back me to pursue boxing. I dedicate this gold medal to my father. He deserves it. He has done a lot for me," he recounts his early days in boxing.

Jubilant dad

Father Totobi Singh was in seventh heaven." Today is a big day for our family. Nanao has made us proud. I saw the bout on television and ever since the news of his gold win trickled in, relatives and well-wishers have made a beeline to our house. We are throwing a big get-together in our house tonight," Nanao's father barely able to hide his elation.

He talked about those days when he vehemently opposed Nanao's desire to take up boxing. "Yes, I still remember those days even today. I was fully convinced that my son has all the makings of a good boxer when I met his coach," he reminisces Nanao's early days.Nanao senior now wants his son to give an equally eye-catching performance at the upcoming World Junior Boxing Championships to be held in Mexico later this month. "I want him to get a medal there. Then we will have an even more bigger feast in our house," he added.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

'Kalmadi is thinking about 2020'

Says IOC president Jacques Rogge on India's much-talked-about bid

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 16, 2008

Pune: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi is using every possible platform to crank up the seriousness of India bidding for the 2020 Olympics. And what better stage than to furthering the same in front of International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge. The IOC top official was in the city to officially inaugurate the Olympic Values Education Programme and Indian National Club Games.IOA president Suresh Kalmadi, who wore a nervous look throughout the function, talked of the importance of cashing in on the Beijing 'high'.
"We won our first-ever individual Olympic gold medal in Beijing, we won our first boxing medal in Olympics. So the momentum given by our athletes should be vigorously taken forward by intensifying our Olympic movement," remarked IOA president Suresh Kalmadi, while carefully choosing his words.He, however, stopped short of saying anything about the 2020 Olympics bid, but didn't miss out on the opportunity of taking a dig at the hype and hoopla surrounding cricket. "It's a land of cricket and cricket but time has come for Olympic sports to take centrestage now that we've amassed our best medal haul in Beijing," he said.
Even as all and sundry waited expectantly to hear from Rogge about India's 2020 bid, the Belgian only acknowledged India's image as host of big-ticket events."India has successfully hosted the Asian Games (1951 and 1982), Afro-Asian Games (2003) and now the Commonwealth Youth Games. It has carved a niche for itself as competent host of big events."
After striking the play-it-safe card, Rogge finally opened up regarding the 2020 bid. "I think Kalmadi is thinking about it for a long time now. All I can is that I expect a sincere, solid bid from India when it happens in 2011. I've nothing more to say on this," he added.

Still did it

Indian gold winning weightlifter Yamini reveals that she has no coach and how she plodded the hard grind under the supervision of former C'ommonwealth Games gold medallist Shailaja Pujari

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 15, 2008

The trials and tribulations of a sportsperson often go unnoticed when the hour of glory arrives. And for Indian weightlifter Yamini, the story is no different. Firing what looked to us as a sort of a bombshell after she won the gold in the women's 58-kg category, the Andhra girl revealed how she traversed the hard grind without any coach. "I don't have a coach. It was only because of the encouragement I got from former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Shailaja Pujari, who is our family well-wisher, to take up weightlifting. I have all the training equipment fixed up at my home and I used to take lessons from Shailaja from time to time," Yamini said.

The SriKakula girl admits that had it been not for Shailaja's persuasion to take up the sport, she would have never taken a fancy to weightlifting. "My father is a Railway employee while my mother is a lecturer. Both come from non-sports background. It was only on Shailaja's wheedling that I picked up weightlifting," Yamini said, showering all the credit to her mentor. It's only at the national camps that Yamini gets the opportunity to hone her skills. "At the recent national camp in Bangalore, I trained under Anita Chanu and Shamta Shetty. It's only during national camps I train under their supervision. That's the way it is," she added.

What's next was the obvious question? "In two years time, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games are coming up. So the ultimate goal is to win medals at these two events and carried it from them with an Olympic medal," she observed. But the 15-year-old knows that a podium finish at the Olympics would indeed take something 'special' out of her. "I am not tom-toming that I would win an Olympic medal in 2012. But there's nothing wrong in living a dream as I know my task will be really cut out," she added with a coyish tone.

For the stats-minded, Yamini hoisted 80 kg in snatch and 98 in clean and jerk for a total lift of 178 kg to pocket the yellow medal.

My ring craze

India's best boxing medal hope at CYG, Sunil Sadhu's father and elder brother may have excelled in kabaddi but boxing is his first love

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 14, 2008

It was the sport of kabaddi that dominated the Sadhu ménage. Father Sadhu Ram Siwach is a former international kabaddi player, who is currently serving as kabaddi coach with Haryana Police. Elder brother Satish Kumar is also a former national level kabaddi player. But yet, it was boxing that Sunil Sadhu had a penchant for.Sunil studied at the Happy Sister Senior Secondary School in Bhiwami, the same school where Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh took his early academic lessons.

So, there are no prizes for guessing where Sunil got his inspiration from.Vijender drive"I was in standard three while Vijender was in standard eight at that time," Sunil recalls. "I was used to seeing Vijender regularly win prizes at school assemblies. Just seeing him win laurels from such a young age gave me the drive and passion to wear the boxing gloves I see Vijender as my role model and want to do big things in the ring like he did in the Beijing Olympics.

No family disapproval

So how about any family 'disapproval' regarding picking up boxing considering that two senior family members had excelled in kabaddi. "My father may have excelled in kabaddi but he never forced me to take up the sport in which he dazzled. He gave me a free hand to pursue a sport which I like the most, Even my elder brother took a same stance and allowed me to opt for boxing," remarked the 18-year-old, who took the whole nation by storm when he won the 2006 world Under-17 boxing crown in Istanbul, Turkey.


The talented pugilist, who has been talked about as the next big thing in Indian boxing, seems to have made the right noises in CYG. Dishing out a clinicial brand of boxing against JR Ronald Woodside, Sunil took his Bahamas opponent to the cleaners as the referee stopped the contest when the Indian jumped out to a robust 9-0 lead. "Beginning has been good. But I need to guard against complacency as I gear up for my quarterfinal bout against Zambia's Peter Shulla on Wednesday.

Height doesn't matter

Thats' how Indian light flyweight boxer Thokchom Nanao Singh feels after sending shivers down the spine of his Sri Lankan opponent to romp into the quarterfinals

Suhrid Barua, October 13, 2008

The Indian light flyweight pugilist sent shivers down the spine of his Sri Lankan opponent to seal his place in quarters The picture of confidence was reflected in his swagger to the ring. It was as if Thokchom Nanao Singh was in a mood to 'party hard' in the ring. He gave an impression that he was in a tearing hurry to finish things off she he outboxed Weerapurage Sadun Kumara of Sri Lanka to storm into the quarter-finals in the light flyweight category (48-kg) of the boxing event here on Monday.

The stands may have been only half full but it failed to act as a downer on Nanao as he unleashed a fusillade of power-packed punches against the hapless Sri Lankan from the word go to straightway assert his supremacy over his opponent. Nanao just raced to an imposing 8-0 lead in the opening round to trigger cheers from the stands. The Army Sports Institute boxer towered over his opponent in the next round forcing the Sri Lankan to serve mandatory eight counts, leading the referee to stop the contest.

Coincidentally, his next round opponent, Thomas Stubbs of England, was also at his fiery best, toying with Ricardo Blackman of Barbados in a ridiculously one sided bout before the referee stopped the contest. So, both the quarter-final competitors would be super-confident after coming off RSC wins in their first round bouts.

From the Indian perspective, Nanao has been bandied about one boxer who should go the distance."I came to the ring thinking that I would wrap up the bout in the first round itself but it wasn't to be. I was not thinking of playing all the four rounds. I knew that once I ran up a huge lead in the first round, the win was within my striking distance, a bullish Nanao said after the bout.

The 2007 Commonwealth Boxing Championships silver medallist, countered all the talk going around about his height disadvantage. "I may not have a tall reach but I've my battle plans ready for my opponent. In boxing, courage and desire is important and I've those attributes in abundance," the Manipuri lad.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What more

Given the utter confusion surrounding the CYG, one is left wondering how much more one has to put up with when the action begins on Sunday

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 12, 2008

Pune: Given the utter confusion surrounding the CYG, one is left wondering how much more one has to put up with when the action begins on Sunday. If there is one thing that we are very good at, it has to be sports rhetoric. Take for instance, Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi wearing torrents of pride in his sleeves when he recently talked about India’s readiness to host the 2020 Olympics. Of course, there’s nothing amiss in spelling out about India’s seriousness to bid for the world’s biggest sports extravaganza.

Winning the right to host two biggies — 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games is a big thing achievement wise and IOA can take a lot of credit for that. Holy MessBut the pertinent point here is that are we doing enough to ensure the Games, hosting of which are a matter of ‘pride and prestige’ for the country, has been reduced to a ‘holy mess’ thanks to the unprofessional functioning of the organisers, are conducted in an orderly manner.Excuses will be there for all the ‘circus’ that is going all around the Games venue.

Even two top officials of IOA had been to the Beijing Olympics to carry out a feasible study of how to conduct an event of such magnitude with utmost ‘professionalism’. Even those efforts of IOA seems to have fallen flat. Talking of the all-pervading chaos girdling the Games, one just wonders how much one has to put up with when the real ‘action’ starts on Sunday. To start with, the scribes were made to run from pillar to post to obtain their accreditation passes for the Games.

What’s more, the agency handling media accreditation wanted the scribes to fill up a written accreditation form and then told to do the same online. Believe it or not, the agency again wanted the members of the fourth estate to go through another written form process as the agency claimed that they lost all data’s of the journos due to virus problem. Can they ever be such a height of chaos witnessed anywhere else?

If you thought that was it, you are wrong. The multi-discipline extravaganza was hailed with gusto as being the ‘Green Games’ as all the 71 participating teams were supposed to get saplings from their respective countries and plant it in the complex but it was conspicuously unnoticeable inside the complex. Wrong people?Worse, is the absolute lack of information about the players and other things related to it. There’s no clarity on the part of the organisers when it comes to digging out information from them. Surely, the right people are not in the right place or it could be the either way; the wrong people are at the wrong place.

How can one miss out on a word about the ‘volunteers’. Most of them don’t seem to be avid lovers of sports and only seem to be going through their motions. All their energies were channelised in not ‘letting in’ anyone leading to numerous unwanted situations when the entry-seeker happened to be a competitor. It’s better off ending it there itself as tiredness overwhelms taking a dig at them.

Let’s live on the hope that the organisers would take drastic measures to pull up their socks, even their shirts and trousers and ensure India’s image as hosts of a big-ticket event is not sullied.

Concentration talk

Olympics bronze medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar gives his take on the medal hopes of the Indian grapplers at the Commonwealth Youth Games

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 12, 2008

Pune: Having attained the exalted status in the sport — a podium finish in Olympics — Sushil Kumar now knows more than a thing or two on how to chart a route to success on the big stage. To put it simply, his epochal effort at Beijing has not just given Indian wrestling the much-needed springboard but also ensured the sport is alive and kicking from the perspective of more youngsters taking a fancy to the sport.Pep talk

And for the seven matmen, who were selected from a list of forty probables that attended the national camp at the Army Sports Institute, Pune, Sushil has some pep talk to offer. “I will be speaking to the boys. I think all seven of them have trained hard for the Games and are serious medal contenders, rather I should say they are favourites to win even the gold,” observed the 25-year-old on his arrival in the city on Saturday.

Focus important

Touching on the strategizing part, Sushil feels the Indian wrestlers must guard against lapse in concentration. “In wrestling you can’t indulge in much strategy making. It’s not like some other sport where you garner a healthy lead and sit on it. It could be a win by a fall, or by a technical superiority, so our wrestlers should put more focus on maintaining a higher level of concentration as fortunes of a player can change pretty fast during a bout,” he explains.

Stiff competition

Sushil, however, sounded a note of caution for the Indian grapplers. “Watch out for wrestlers from Nigeria and Canada. They have it in them to dominate the event. But our wrestlers are well prepared. Also, playing in front of their home crowd should spur our wrestlers to come out with something ‘special’,” he signed off.

All Geared Up

Six boxers - T Nanao Singh, V Durga Rao, Vikas Yadav, Neeraj Goyat, V Santosh and Satender from city's Army Sports Institute (ASI) are lending final touches to their preparations for the CYG. Here's a close look at them.
Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 8, 2008
T Nanao Singh (48-kg)
Age: 17
Birthplace: Imphal
Punching Highs
Gold, 2005 Cuban National GamesSilver, 2007 Senior Commonwealth Boxing Championships
Gold, 2008 National Junior Boxing Championships
Gold, 2007 National Junior Boxing Championships
The southpaw from Manipur is known for his nifty footwork and supple reflexes. But the talented lad, who joined the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in 2004, believes in counter-attacks and combination punches to unsettle an opponent. Though he is short-statured, Nanao makes up for the height disadvantage with a steady overall game. Shouldn't be a surprise if he pulls off a podium finish at CYG. Big things are expected from him in the coming years.
V Durga Rao (54 kg)
Age: 17
Birthplace: Vishakapatnam
Punching Highs
Bronze, 2008 Russian International Boxing Championship
Gold, 2008 National Sub-junior Championship
Gold, 2007 National Sub-junior Championship
Quarterfinalist, 2007 World Sub-Junior Boxing Championship
Quarterfinalist, 2008 World Sub-Junior Championship
The swarthy-skinned boxer models himself on Mike Tyson. He first joined the Mumbai Engineer Group's Boys Sports School, Bangalore centre, in 2003 before being part of the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in 2004. Son of a meat shop owner, Durga has solid defence to fall back on when he is at the receiving end of his opponents. His mental preparation before a bout is exemplary and he is somebody who boxes from the mind. A dark horse for a medal at CYG.
Vikas Yadav: (57kg)
Age: 16
Birthplace: Bhiwani
Punching Highs
Gold, 2007 World Cadet Boxing Championship
Gold, 2008 Children of Asia Games
This baby-faced boxer, who joined the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in 2005, was an unknown commodity until last year when he catapulted himself into national attention, winning the World Cadet crown. A storehouse of talent, Vikas's participation in CYG was unexpected as Roshan Singh was widely tipped to make the cut. He likes to mix aggression and defence to the hilt, but has to guard himself against getting rattled when he is pushed to a corner.
Niraj Goyat (60 kg)
Age: 17
Birthplace: Chandigarh
Punching Highs
Gold, 2008 Nationl Junior Championships; also emerged as the most promising boxer of the meet
A relatively unknown name from the Army Sports Institute's boxing staple, Neeraj joined ASI in 2005. The upcoming CYG will be his first international exposure. A boxer with plenty room for improvement, Neeraj has strong willpower and it was this trait that helped him to outbox the likes of M Karthick and Children of Asia Games gold medallist Anil Kumar for a berth in the CYG team. He banks a lot on uppercuts and left hooks to earn points.
B Santosh (60 kg)
Age: 18
Birthplace: Vishakapatnam
Punching Highs
2008 National Sub-junior Championship2007 National Sub-junior Championship2006 National Sub-junior Championship Like V Durga Rao, V Santosh joined MEG's Boys Sports School, Bangalore centre in 2003 before being part of the Army Sports Institute in 2004. Santosh relies a lot on right hooks and straight punches to gain most of his points but his physical fitness is little susceptible. According to his coaches, Santosh is bandied about as a medal prospect for 2010 C'wealth and Asian Games.
Satyender 75 kg
Age: 18
Birthplace: Bhiwani
Punching Highs
Gold 2008 National Junior Boxing Championships
Gold 2007 National Junior Boxing Championships
Gold 2007 YMCA Boxing Championship
He is the second southpaw after T Nanao Singh in the ASI's boxing brigade. Satyender joined the Army Sports Institute (ASI) in 2005 and is currently serving as a Havildar in the Artillery Training Centre in Hyderabad. Satyender not only has a robust defence but also scores a lot from his straight punches.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

High Hopes

Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President G S Mander says they will not settle for anything less than seven gold medals at the upcoming Games

Suhrid Barua , Pune Mirror, October 5, 2008

Pune: The flash bulbs and the shutterbugs may be running after the cricketers or to some extent the Sania Mirzas or Saina Nehwals. But make no mistake, they would now even carve out space for hitherto less popular sport like wrestling in the backdrop of Sushil Kumar’s winning India’s first wrestling medal in Olympics after a long hiatus of 56 years. Fully realising the importance of cashing in on the momentum the sport has got from Sushil’s monumental effort at Beijing, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is now earnestly seeking to provide the icing on the Beijing cake with a gold rush at CYG.
“I will not settle for anything less than seven gold medals (there are seven weight categories at the event),” averred WFI president GS Mander. “Wrestling has got a new leash of life after Sushil Kumar’s high in Beijing. We just can’t sit gloating over his glory but rather undertake concentrated efforts to ensure that the younger lot get adequate opportunities to show their wares. And we are doing that.”Ready for the challengeMander, who is in his fourth term as WFI president, feels that the Indian wrestlers should be ready to front up to some stiff competition from grapplers from Australia, Canada, Nigeria and Pakistan at CYG. “I’m not saying we can’t overcome them. Our preparation has come off well so far. The talent pool is deep and we are doing our best to nurture them and hope the results will show at the Commonwealth Youth Games,” reasoned the 73-year-old.
The WFI president believes people’s perception about wrestling have undergone a metamorphosis. And a strong statement from the wrestlers at CYG would only go on to buttress that. “Earlier, people used to think that there is no future in taking up wrestling. But that thinking has changed. It’s no longer a non-lucrative sport. You have seen how an Olympic medal fetch prize money running into crores. An highly impressive showing from our grapplers at the CYG can just set the ideal launchpad for the sport to take off in a big way,” he quipped.
Strikingly, the WFI has taken all ‘care’ to keep the morale high of the wrestlers who couldn’t make the cut for CYG. “All the probables would have to train here till October 10. Just because the seven are selected for CYG doesn’t mean the others who competed with them are lacking in skills. They all are good and would get their chances in future. If any of the non-selected wrestlers for CYG leave the camp, they will be blacklisted and will not be summoned for any camp in future.” Mandir indicated that he means business.
He cited the example of WFI secretary and former Asiad gold medallist Kartar Singh who even at the age of 50, still actively plays the sport. “I take pride in saying that Kartar Singh is a great example for youngsters. Recently, he won the 13th consecutive gold at the World Veterans Wrestling Championship in Russia. There can be no shortage of motivation for the boys when they have someone like Kartar Singh to look up to,” he goes high on the ace grappler of yesteryears.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

High Hopes

Vijender Singh would be counting on cousin brother Balwinder, who would be taking part in the 69-kg category, and rest of the Indian boxers to fire on all cylinders at the Games

Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, October 3, 2008

Pune: The chants of ‘Vijender Zindabad’ reverberated the MIT ground here on Thursday, as the Indian sports’ latest poster boy made his entry to grace the opening function of MIT Summit ‘08 State-level Inter-Engineering Sports Meet here. Soon the ‘Bollywood’ looks of the 23-year-old Bhiwani boxer grabbed fulsome attention of all and sundry.

CYG talk
And with the much-hyped Commonwealth Youth Games just nine days away, the confabulation obviously veered to Indian boxers’ medal hopes at the event.Vijender sprang a surprising revelation about his cousin brother Balwinder (69-kg) taking part in the CYG. “He’s training hard and readying himself to give a good account of himself at CYG. I don’t want to put him under any undue pressure as far as pulling off a podium finish is concerned,” explains the demure pugilist who’s beginning to show a maturity beyond his age.

All Vijender wants is to see Balwinder to give his best effort and not worry much about the result at CYG. “When an Indian boxer takes the ring, billion Indians want that guy to win. I’m not different as a lot of pride and prestige is at stake. As long as he is boxing to his natural strengths, I will be a happy brother,” he chuckles.
‘Not just Balwinder’

So will he be counting on only his cousin brother to corner glory at CYG? “No. I’m not saying that. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be rooting for the other seven boxers.
Interestingly, the howling success of the boxers at Beijing even prompted the world boxing body president to ask the Indian boxing contingent in ‘jest’ whether it was indeed the ‘Indian’ boxers who boxed at Beijing.coming off ageEven Vijender reckons the Indian boxing has come off age. “I know the momentum is with us, especially after the way all the Indians boxers performed at Beijing. “Not just me, even Akhil and Jitender gave a magnificent showing at Beijing. Let me tell you, this is just the beginning, and we have many more miles to traverse in our pursuance of glory,” Vijender added, wearing pride in his sleeves.