Friday, June 29, 2007

Party time for Renjith, Sinimole

Maharashtra Herald June 28, 2007

BY SUHRID BARUA
suhridb@sakalherald.com
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
BY SUHRID BARUA
suhridb@sakalherald.com
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

BY SUHRID BARUA
suhridb@sakalherald.com
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

BY SUHRID BARUA

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
BY SUHRID BARUA

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
BY SUHRID BARUA
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

'Pick Powar...'

MiD DAY February 6, 2007

By: Suhrid Barua February 6, 2007

BANGALORE: Ramesh Powar’s hopes of making it to the World Cup may appear dim following his exclusion from the Indian team for the first two one-dayers against Sri Lanka.Former India leg-spinner BS Chandrashekar feels three spinners should be picked if the threesome delivers.Balance needed“If you have three spinners and the selectors think they can strike a right balance and do the job, then go ahead with it,” he told MiD DAY yesterday.Averring that Powar has performed well in the series against West Indies, the 61-year-old legendary leggie said the selectors would have to take a call after weighing the pros and cons.“From the little I saw of him in Chennai, I reckon he is a decent bowler. No player should be picked for the heck of it. As long as the team benefits, it is fair enough.Be clear“If the selectors feel three tweakers and four seamers are good enough to do the job, then we shouldn’t have any second thoughts on it. Similarly, if we think five seamers and two spinners can do the job, take them to West Indies.When queried whether packing the side with three spinners would be a luxury, Chandrashekar snapped back.Performance, key“How can he be a luxury? Obviously, if the selectors decide to include three spinners in the side, they would be sure of their abilities to deliver the goods there. The bottomline is that the guys picked in the side should be able to pull their weight together,” he pointed out.

Bhaskaran should go, says Ashish Ballal


MiD DAY December 11, 2006

BANGALORE: Words are just not enough to describe Indian hockey’s pitiable slip down the ladder. Doubtless, there is a great deal of dismay all around about the way Indian hockey has witnessed a steep fall. It’s the nadirAshish Ballal, the hero of the India’s win in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games hockey final, is distraught with India’s ouster from the knockout stage at Doha. “It’s a sad day for India hockey. Surely, it can’t get worse than this. Reaching the semi-finals of the Asian Games was on expected lines. I think we’ve reached the nadir now,” he told MiD DAY.Blasting coach Vasudevan and his support staff for the team’s toothless performances, the 36-year-old Bangalorean said that there has to be an overhaul of the present set-up. “I won’t like to blame the federation for the mess. I think the coach has to own moral responsibility for the dismal shows. Get a foreign coach“Bhaskaran has always been a stop-gap kind of coach. I think he should step down and make way for someone who can resurrect out fortunes. All the selection gaffes we have been seeing is because of the coach and his support staff. Not just the coach, the assistant coach, physio should also be dumped rightway. A fresh lot has to be inducted in,” he said. “The time has come to scout for a foreign coach. I think Maurits Hendriks could be a good choice. He is the Spanish coach and the Spanish game is pretty similar to the Indian game,” Ballal stated.

Don't stop now, Saina!

MiD DAY November 13, 2006
By: Suhrid Barua
BANGALORE: The phone hasn’t stopped ringing at Saina Nehwal’s abode in Hyderabad after her final appearance at the World junior badminton championships in Incheon, South Korea, where she lost to top seed Wang Yihan of China 13-21, 9-21.Expectedly, the Nehwal ménage resembled a beehive of activity with scribes, friends, relatives and well-wishers making a beeline to gloat over India’s latest badminton prodigy.ProudAnd for Saina’s father Harvir Nehwal, it’s a moment to savour. “I feel proud today. Saina has showed that an Indian can match the best in the business.The manner in which she has clambered up the rankings this year has been simply phenomenal. She was hovering outside the top-100 at the start of the year, but to reach a ranking of 32 has been fantastic progress,” he told MiD DAY in an exclusive chat yesterday.Harvir said Saina’s impressive showing in Incheon would see a further climb in her rankings. “The next ranking list will be out on November 16 and I’m sure she would make a jump of atleast 10 rungs which would put her somewhere in the twenties,” he said.Unfair comparisonSaina matched Aparna Popat’s feat of reaching the World junior final (Aparna did it ten years back) and often comparisons are drawn between the two. Harvir, however, sees things realistically. “It’s unfair to bring out comparisons between Aparna and Saina.“Aparna has had a big influence on the game in the country with her consistent showing, while Saina has just started her career. Aparna has achieved much while Saina has just begun to find her feet on the international circuit,” he said.Make it countSaina next plays the Seniors Asian Satellite in Mumbai from November 14 to 17 and then the Asian Games in Doha from December 2.Harvir wants his daughter to make the most of the present good run. “I want Saina to maintain her same form and do well at these tournaments so that she can break into the top-100 sooner than later,” he signed off

Comeback man Mongia ready to fight

MiD DAY September 6, 2006

By: Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: Dinesh Mongia’s call-up to the national one-day side after more than a year in limbo, has injected a fresh lease of life into his not-so-happening cricket career.The stylish left-hander made his international debut against Australia in Pune in 2000-2001 and has been in and out of the side for most part, but he has no compunctions about it.“Life is not always fair. I’ve tried to make the most of the opportunities thathave come my way. I learnt to take things in my stride, which is very important for a cricketer and I strongly believe in that,” he told MiD DAY during the ongoing rolling camp here.Early daysMongia revealed that playing for the country was never on his mind when he first took up a bat as a kid. “I took up cricket because I enjoyed playing it. “When you play as a kid, you never think of playing for India, you just want to enjoy the game, that’s what I did.”So how difficult is it to motivate oneself when things aren’t going your way? “There’s no point in brooding about the missed opportunities.“Certain things are not in my hands."If you bother too much about such things, negativity creeps in and your game suffers. “So I always try to stay positive,” Mongia said.

Tough road ahead for Ganguly: Viswanath

MiD DAY August 10, 2006
Tough road ahead for Ganguly: Viswanath
By: Suhrid Barua
G ViswanathBangalore: Sourav Ganguly’s inclusion among the 30 probables announced by the national selectors yesterday, may sound a bit like a storm in a tea cup.But given the deposed India captain’s not-so impressive run with the willow in recent times, speculation was rife as to whether he could be accommodated in the side now that nucleus of the side is more or less there.Was there any pressure from the BCCI top brass to bring Ganguly back in the 30 probables list? Chief selector Kiran More categorically said the Kolkata resident was a seasoned player and too much should not be read into his inclusion as only the best 30 players available in the country were picked.No surpriseFormer India batsman Gundappa Viswanath feels naming Ganguly among the 30 probables wasn’t a big surprise.“To me it was not a big surprise. It wax expected. He’s under contract with the board and so the board always had the option of picking him if required,” he told MiD DAY.Viswanath said Ganguly would have to come up with a string of big scores in the domestic circuit if he has to force his way into the national side when the selectors meet on September 7 to trim down the probables to 14.Get runs in tons“He’s got a tough road ahead of him. Breaking into the side won’t be easy as the present lot is faring well. He has to get runs by the bundle. More importantly, he has to be consistent,” the graceful batsman of the yesteryears said.Enough timeViswanath pointed out that Ganguly has enough time to work on his game if he nourished hope of playing in the 2007 World Cup.“The World Cup is still eight months away. There’s plenty of cricket to be played before that. He has enough time on his hands to regroup his game and fire on all cylinders,” he said.

'We are richer in experience'

MiD DAY July 30, 2006
'We are richer in experience'
Bangalore: After the three-day ‘outward learning programme’ ended at the Pegasus Centre of Excellence on the outskirts of the city, the India cricket team returned to base on Saturday and skipper Rahul Dravid dwelled on the specifics of the camp.Allround development“It’s a great challenge. It’s a challenge to see the boys grow not only as good cricketers but also as human beings,” he said.Dravid agreed that not much can change overnight, but the exercise can give the players new food for thought.New experiences“Obviously, nothing much can change in one day or two days. We all know that. The whole stint should at least give the players some new experiences to think about.”Dravid said the youngsters thoroughly enjoyed the innovative programme.“The whole bunch enjoyed the experience and would be richer by it. The youngsters came out and communicated to seniors. They will have a lot going for them from this stint. It will help them develop their overall personality and we will definitely see the effects in the long-term.”Tai Chi?He said Tai Chi sessions were a whole new experience for the boys. “We had a session in Tai Chi, which is like yoga. We had heard about it and we wanted to experience it. Hopefully it might benefit the boys, some might even pursue it,” the Bangalorean said.Sachin was keenDravid made special mention of master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, who is staging a comeback to the side after an injury lay-off.“Sachin showed extreme interest and participated in each of the training methods, which were pretty challenging both physically and mentally.”Dravid, however, feigned ignorance about reports of additional security ring being thrown for the ace batsman.

Indian ladies for Lord's

MiD DAY, July 18, 2006

Indian ladies for Lord's

By: Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: The Lord’s cricket ground has always been a male bastion though women have played there before. But for Indian women cricketers, it would be a moment to savour when they square off with England in the first of the five-match NatWest one-day series at the Lord’s next month.Excited girlsDoubtless, the Indian women are excited at the prospect of playing at the Mecca of cricket.“It will be a big moment for us. Playing at Lord’s is a dream of every cricketer, I’m sure our girls would relish the occasion,” India coach Sudha Shah told MiD DAY after the conclusion of the 21-day camp at the Infosys ground at Mysore for the forthcoming tours of Ireland and England.Icing on the cakeThe Indian coach believes the occasion could be even more memorable if her side manages to pull off a win. “It will be the icing on the cake. Striding out at the home of cricket would itself be a great feeling and what better than to a win on that day,” she said.Only AnjumThe Indian women had earlier endured disastrous tours of Australia and New Zealand where they failed to win a single match, with only seasoned Anjum Chopra stacking up two half-centuries in each of the series.Shah agreed there were lessons to be learnt from those two series.“I admit we didn’t bat as well as we could have, but we’ve worked on our game in the camp. Our batswomen should stand up to the task in England. “It’s important that they put runs on the board, as it would give our bowlers cushion to go for wins,” said Shah, who is a former India captain.All setSkipper Mithali Raj said her side was looking forward to playing at Lord’s. “We are all keyed up to play there. It would be a dream come true for all the girls.”Mithali said India are high on motivation even after the mauling in Australia and New Zealand.Motivated lot“We’re highly motivated because the last overseas tours were pretty terrible for us. Our batting went haywire, while we fielded poorly. As far as the conditions are concerned, we didn’t know what to expect in Australia and New Zealand, but I’m confident our batters will get it right and fire in England,” Mithali said.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Robin Uthappa all set to blast away

MiD DAY May 12, 2006

Robin Uthappa all set to blast away
By: Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: A rollicking 86 on debut against England at Indore landed him a place in the India team despite a not-so productive Ranji season.However, in a relatively short period, Robin Uthappa seems to have grown in leaps and bounds. MiD DAY caught up with the Coorg lad for a brief chat days before his tour to the Caribbean Isles.Excerpts
On his interaction with the seniors so far...You get to learn so much from the seniors. I’m learning all the time, just being with them whether at nets or off the field.
On his tendency to throw it away at times...Being a natural stroke player, at times while dominating the bowling, you tend to believe that you can do just about everything against the bowlers. Sometimes it clicks while on other occasions it doesn’t. I don’t think I need to curb my attacking instincts. All I have to do is be sensible in my shot selection and the rest will take care of itself.
On his dreadful run-out in Indore...Chappell said he hoped I’d never get out like that again. Rahul (Dravid) told me it was the most stupid way to get dismissed.
On coach Greg Chappell’s words of wisdom... His cricketing acumen is great. He tells me to make an earnest effort to play more on the front foot. He also talks a lot about the importance of working on the mental aspects of the game.
On the upcoming West Indies tour...It’s huge opportunity to show that I’m not a one match wonder. The key is to build on that (good debut knock) and remain consistent.
On the possibility of opening with Sehwag... I’m pretty excited about it. Though I’ve not opened with Viru Bhai internationally, on the domestic front I have, and he has always encouraged me a lot.

Unfit Anju stretching it to get into groove


MiD DAY May 24, 2006

By: Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: Staging a comeback from an injury lay-off is never easy and ace long jumper Anju Bobby George is learning to deal with it. She endured a double blow at the Doha Grand Prix recently, finishing a poor seventh and suffering a heel injury which forced her to skip the Bangkok leg of the Asian Grand Prix.Anju participated in yesterday’s Bangalore leg despite not recovering fully. “The pain is still there. But you can’t afford to give meets like the Asian Grand Prix a miss. No elevation “My legs started to hurt after the second round."“Moreover, I was going for flat jumps as I was not getting the elevation,” Anju told MiD Day at the Shree Kanteerava Stadium here yesterday.Clearly, she looked well below her best as she leapt 6.36m to land the silver behind Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan, who cleared 6.39m to nose ahead of the Indian.Break after PuneThe 29-year-old jumper, who first shot into prominence bagging a bronze in the 2003 World Championship in Paris, was initially undecided about taking part in the Pune leg (May 26) of the Asian Grand Prix but has decided to take the plunge despite the injury not healing completely.Bobby not worried“Anyway she’s taking a month’s break in June. She would be taking part in competitions in London and Stockholm in July. So, it makes sense to participate in these meets,” said Bobby George, her husband and coach. “It’s not a major worry. Such injuries take about two weeks to heal. “Adequate rest is the answer but with events happening in a jiffy, we thought taking part in them would stand her in good stead,” Bobby explained.

Balaji to miss Bangladesh series

Thatscricket.com November 25 2004

By Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: It's official! Injury-plagued Indian speedster Lakshmipathi Balaji, will miss the forthcoming Test and ODI series against Bangladesh beginning December 7, after failing to recover from an abdominal injury.

In an exclusive interview to Thatscricket.com, the 22-year-old bowler said that the injury has taken much longer to heal than he expected and confirmed that he will not be available for selection for the Bangladesh series.

"My recuperation has come off pretty well. I'm going through my workouts regularly without any kind of discomfort. Hopefully, I should be bowling in the nets in about three weeks time, which automatically puts me out of contention for the Bangladesh series," he said.

The right-arm bowler said he was not keen on hastening his return to cricketing action, as he doesn't want a recurrence of the injury, which kept him on the sidelines for nearly three months."I know it's frustrating to sit out. The injury is taking its own time to heal. It's been nearly three months since I last hurled the cherry for India. I just want to make sure that the injury is fully healed and it does not recur," he said in a freewheeling chat with this correspondent.

Balaji last played for India against Australia in the Videocon Cup in Amsterdam last August.The lanky bowler, who created a mass hysteria after his exploits on the tours of Australia and Pakistan last season, is eyeing a comeback to the national side for the home series against Pakistan slated for February-March next year.

"Provided nothing amiss happens between now and then, I will be ready for the Pakistan series. We had turned in a remarkable performance in their own backyard early this year, and it will be great if we can cap off the season with another triumph over our arch-rivals on home turf," he quipped.

When asked whether the spate of injuries befalling the Indian seam bowlers can be attributed to "excessive" cricket played these days, the Tamil Nadu bowler conceded that too much of One-day cricket is responsible for the frequent injuries sustained by the quicker bowlers.

"Injuries are part of the game. One can't help it. I guess it has got to do with too much of One-day cricket that is being played all across the globe these days. After all we are humans only. At some point of time the body is going to give up.

"Having said that, I reckon being professionals we cannot offer any excuses. The mantra is to keep working hard on our fitness regimen and be up to it," he observed.

The confabulation veered towards the scorching six he whacked off Pakistani express man Shoaib Akhtar in the Lahore One-dayer, and Balaji is looking to recreate the same in India."I thoroughly enjoyed that. I had never hit a six before in any first-class game in India. I would like to thump a few more sixes off Shoaib when the Pakistanis tour here," he said flashing a broad grin.

Replying to a query about his batting abilities, the swarthy seam bowler, who snaffled a series-clinching four-wicket haul in the Karachi Test, made it clear that he does not see himself as an all-rounder."Look, I'd not like to consider myself as an all-rounder. Instead I would like to be a contributor. I hate to get out to a first ball duck. Obviously, I'd be a happy man if I can chip in with 20s and 30s on a consistent basis for my team," he said.

His baptism to international cricket was something, not every cricket debutant would want to emulate. The bowler was a bundle of nerves as he was taken to the cleaners by the West Indian batsmen, on a batting beauty in Vadodara in November 2002. Not only was he wicketless in that match; his four overs cost him a whopping 44 runs.

Two years down the line, Balaji sought to put things in perspective."Honestly, I did not bowl well. I struggled to get my line right in that match. But I have never lost belief in myself. I knew that I had it in me to play international cricket. I strived hard on my bowling kinks and all that has paid off," he quipped.

There's competition among the faster bowlers for spots in the national side, following the surfeit of injuries, sustained by our bowlers in recent times. But Balaji's line of thinking is that a healthy competition bodes well for the side."Actually, it's good for the side. It keeps everyone on their toes. Also that way, one does not have to bother about complacency creeping into any player," he said.

I just want to keep performing: Karthik

Thatscricket.com, December 7 2004

By Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: Wicketkeeping is a thankless job. If you happen to belong to a country like India, it's a pressure-cooker scenario that greets a new wicketkeeper's baptism to international cricket.

It's one slot in the Indian team which has increasingly come under the microscope; for two counts- either the guys blooded in haven't quite fit the bill or the selectors haven't quite been convinced that the guys picked have accomplished the job desired of them, and no one knows it better than India's latest Test wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik.

Fresh from playing a role in India's Test series triumph over South Africa, the 20-year-old player sounded satisfied with his performance both behind the stumps as well as with the willow.

"Yeah, I'm pretty happy with my performance. My work behind the stumps has been decent enough. As for my batting, I've every reason to feel that I haven't let my team down. Actually, pretty pleased that I was able to chip in for my team's cause after initial failures in the Mumbai and Kanpur Test against Australia and South Africa respectively," he said.

The pocket-sized wicketkeeper from Tamil Nadu was bullish about cementing his place in the Test side."I just want to keep performing. That's the only way I can seal my berth in the side. The rest would take care of itself," he said.

Surprisingly, Karthik first made his made his One-day international debut before getting his first Test cap against the Australians in Mumbai. As things panned out, the youngster looked like firmly entrenching his Test spot before the selectors choose to spring a surprise, overlooking him for the three-match One-day series against Bangladesh.

However, Karthik hasn't let that dent his confidence in any way."Getting picked or dropped is part of every cricketers life. I'm no exception. Being a professional I have learnt to take things in my stride. Such things don't bother me. I'm just focused for upcoming Test series against Bangldesh," he said.

The gloveman brought out on display his batting abilities for the first time at the historic Eden Gardens when he notched a workmanlike 46 under extremely hostile conditions, to bail the hosts out of potential trouble. No wonder, Karthik is looking to build on that."My team needed me to hang in there as most of our frontline batters were back in the hut. The South African bowlers were also on top. I've derived a plenty of confidence from that knock as it came under trying circumstances. I want to consistently contribute with the bat so that the team's purpose of having a keeper, who can be counted upon to get the runs whenever the chips are down is fulfilled," he said.

Stunningly, Dinesh Karthik is the tenth wicketkeeper (before him Nayan Mongia, M.S.K.Prasad, Saba Karim, Sameer Dighe, Vijay Dahiya, Deep Dasgupta, Ajay Ratra and Parthiv Patel) to play for India in the last six years; which speaks volumes of the spate of keepers the selectors have tried out.

When pressed hard for his opinion, Karthik only offered a straight bat as he would normally do to protect his stumps. "I don't have anything to say on this," was his terse reply.

India are one of the favourites: Clark


Thatscricket.com
December 29 2004

By Suhrid Barua
Chennai: World champions Australia eves' 4-3 triumph over India in the seven-match One-day series may have been on expected lines but skipper Belinda Clark believes there is still room for improvement.

"We're happy that we are able to pocket the series. It was probably on expected lines. But yes, we're touch disappointed with our effort in the last two games," Clark told Thatscricket.com in an exclusive interview.

The 34-year-old New South Waleswoman, who is the only Aussie woman cricketer to have donned hundred ODIs caps, feels the Southern Stars could have clinched the series in a much more convincing fashion had they got used to the Indian conditions better.

"I honestly feel we didn't acclimatize ourselves to the conditions as we'd have liked. Had that not been the case I'm sure the end result would have been different," said the 1998 Wisden Australia Cricketer of the Year.

The right-hander, who notched her career-best ODI score of 229 against Denmark at Mumbai during the 1997-98 World Cup, singled out a few positives from the India sojourn."I thought Leonie Coleman who is relatively new to international cricket, did a fine job behind the stumps. Our regular glovewoman Julia Clare Price was unavailable for the tour, and in her absence Coleman was a standout performer.

"Karen Rolton was outstanding with the bat throughout the series. Cathryn Fitzpatrick bowled well. All in all, there are quite a few positives we can take home from this trip," she said.

What's her assessment of the Indian side? "India are a good all-round side. They have the wherewithal to be a formidable international force in the years to come, not that they are not already, Clark observed. "Obviously, they knew the home conditions better than us but that's no way trying to take away credit from India for the kind of showing they put up against us." The 2005 World Cup is slated to be held in South Africa from April.

And Clarke reckons the Indian trip was just kind of build-up they required for the big-ticket event."It was just what the doctor ordered. The seven-match series would have given us a fair idea of our strengths and weakness.""We have a three-match ODI series coming up against New Zealand in March and hopefully that series will set us up in the groove before we go into the big one in South Africa." said Clark, who has amassed over 4,000 ODI runs.

Whom does she sees as potential threats to Aussies for the World Cup title? "Having tasted world cup success on four occasions, we surely've a lot to play for. We'd be looking to have another crack at it and lay our hands on the world cup for the fifth time.

"I know people are calling us runaway favourites but I think India, England and New Zealand will be serious contenders for the World Cup crown. Of course, upsets can always happen in One-day cricket but these are the four sides who should make it to the World Cup semis," the ace batswoman remarked.

The Indian hospitality towards visiting teams is well known in world cricket circles and Clark is no exception."The hospitality here has been tremendous. The Indian women's cricket board took good care of us and we'd carry fond memories to Australia," Clark signed off.

Sudha harbours ray of hope for women's cricket


Thatscricket.com April 22 2005


Sudha harbours ray of hope for women's cricket

By Suhrid Barua
Chennai: Even as the country bask in the glory of our women cricketers reaching its maiden World Cup final, India eves coach Sudha Shah is not willing to take credit for the team' success.

An out-an-out hard taskmaster, Shah terms it as a "success" of everyone associated with the women's cricket team be it the captain, selectors or the officials who work conscientiously behind the scenes to achieve the desired results.

The former India captain who appeared in 20 Tests and 13 One-day Internationals, unlike most coaches, believes in letting her work do the talking rather than tom-tomming about it herself.

The 47-year-old Canara Bank employee in an exclusive interview to ThatsCricket.com shared her views on what India's first-ever World Cup final-reaching feat could do in changing the face of women's cricket in India.

Here are some of the excerpts:

Q. Women's cricketers are like poor cousins compared to our cash-rich male cricketers. No money, no recognition- women's cricket has often failed to make its presence felt. Do you feel India's maiden entry into the World Cup final could see things changing for the better?

A: (After a pause) We were overwhelmed by the response we got from our fans, media and off course our sponsors when we landed in Mumbai from South Africa. We touched down at around 12:30 at mid-night but were surprised to see over hundred pressmen waiting for us at the airport something we are not used to.

We hardly get to see so many people receiving us at the airport when we come from tours abroad. It feels good to get recognized. It's great to know that there are people who are following our World Cup showing and are backing us throughout. If the reception we got at the airport is any indication and is a harbinger of things to come, I have no doubt in my mind that the future bodes well for the game in the country.

Q. Mithali Raj was foisted with the responsibility of captaincy in place of Mamatha Maben just weeks before the World Cup. What's your take on her captaincy?

A: I reckon Mithali did a superb job at the World Cup as captain. For someone who had taken the mantle of captaincy for the first time and that too in a big-ticket event like the World Cup, she hardly showed any nerves at any time during the World Cup.

Even when the things were not going our way she took things in her stride and was able to bring the best out of her team-mates.What's so good about her is that she is a team player who would do everything for the side. She has herself said in the media circles that she does not think herself as captain when she is batting at the wicket which itself speaks volumes of her attitude.She is cool and is very level headed which would always stand her in good stead. I'm sure with more experience she would develop into a fine leader in the years to come.
Q. Indian spinners are counted as the best in the World but at the World Cup our seamers really lived up to their expectations and often kept the opposition under sustained pressure by making early inroads. Do you think that our bowling attack have the potential to be the best bowling attack in the world?

A: Why not!, Our spinners are our trumpcards and were expected to dish out the best at the World Cup. The triumvirate of Neetu ( David), Deepa (Marathe) and Nooshin (Al-Khadeer) performed to our expectations in South Africa but hats off to Amita (Sharma) and Jhulan (Goswami) as they shouldered a lot of responsibility in the seam bowling department and that made a big difference to our overall performance at the World Cup.

Q. A coach always has a role to play in a team' success. How much difference do you think you have made to the fortunes of the side ever since you took over the job of coaching the side?

A: (Grins) It's difficulty for me to assess as to how I have contributed to the team doing well. It's for the others to judge. I have a talented bunch of individuals at my disposal and always knew that they were going to deliver.

The only thing I would always tell the girls is to stay positive. I also keep harping on trying to enjoy the game and that they shouldn't exert undue pressure on themselves when the chips are down.

Q. Indian batting and bowling look formidable but the same cannot be said of our fielding. Do you feel it's one area most other international teams score over us?

A:"You are right. Our batting and bowling is okay. We need to work on our fitness regimen and also on our mental toughness and once we are strong on these two aspects we can be a world-beater not to say that we're not now.

Q. Australia's dominance in women's cricket is quite phenomenal. Apart from a narrow World Cup final defeat to the White Ferns (New Zealand) in 2000 they have been riding a consistent wave over the years. Do you think their game revolves too much around the veteran quartet of Belinda Clark, Karen Rolton, Lisa Kieghtley and Cathyrn Fitzpatrick?

A: I would think so. Obviously they are their key players but they are ageing. Once they hung up their boots, Australia would find it hard to fill the void left by them. Of course there is Lisa Sthalekar who is young and promising but mind you filling in their shoes is easier said than done.

Q. Indian women have a well-earned break. What lies ahead of us as far as international assignments are concerned?

A: Well, England are coming to India to play one Test and five ODIs in November-December. We have a tour of Australia and New Zealand coming up in February-March for one Test and a few ODIs besides a Twenty20 meet. In June we are off to England for a series of Tests and One-day Internationals. Everything is tentative as of now. That's quite a lot of cricket ahead of us.

Indian women's team carry billion Cup hopes


Thatscricket.com March 10 2005

By Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: Even as the Indian women's team embarks for South Africa to take part in the World Cup beginning March 22, there is a great deal of optimism all around. There's a sense that the team have the ammunition to win the World Cup.

Normally before a World Cup, there's so much of media hype and hoopla around the team but this time it's not just confined to that; there's a genuine feeling that this team could corner glory.Skipper Mithali Raj, who took over the reins of the side from Mamatha Maben just before the World Cup, feels Australia and New Zealand are two sides, who could spoil the Indian party.

"Aussies and Kiwis are formidable outfits. They would be tough to beat. If we've to win the World Cup, we've to vanquish both these sides," she said in an interview to Thatscricket.com on eve of her team's departure on Thursday."I see them as our biggest threats. But I think if we play to our potential, I don't see any reason why I can't put it across them.

"The 23-year-old Indian batting mainstay said the team w'd have to play as a team and added that individual brilliances would count for nothing."We got to jell as a team. We need to play as a cohesive unit. Individual brillance would mean nothing. After all cricket is a team game and all eleven players would have to pull their weight," she observed.

The Hyderabad-based girl, who created a huge stir when she smashed a superb 214 against England in Taunton in 2002, conceded that the team had a solid blend of youth and experience."We've got a good team. Our batting looks okay while bowling is in good health. Our only worry is our fielding but we have worked hard on it during the World Cup training camp and hopefully we'd show significant improvement in that department in the World Cup," she signed off.

Aussies series could act as a catalyst

Thatscricket.com January 6 2005

By Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: Indian eves' spirited performance in the recent ODI series against world champions Australia could act as a catalyst for women's cricket in the country, feels former India all-rounder and Womens Cricket Association of India (WCAI) secretary Shubhangi Kulkarni. Speaking exclusively to Thatscricket.com, Kulkarni believes the team's sterling showing against the formidable Aussies was just what the doctor ordered."Look, not many gave us a chance against Australia at the start of the series They were always the overwhelming favourites. I thought we gave a pretty good account of ourselves in the series which should stand us in good stead for the upcoming World Cup.

"In hindsight, if you look, a few of the matches were extremely close and it could have gone either away. Had the lady luck been smiling on us, the end scoreline of 4-3 could have been different," she says.

Kulkarni agrees that the impressive performance of the Indian team would pave the way for more sponsors coming into the game."The response from the sponsors have been encouraging. Especially after our display in the recent series against Australia, the response has been very positive. I'm sure that there would be a lot of sponsors in women's cricket in India ," she says.

The Pune-based cricketer was of the opinion that the confidence level of the girls would be sky-high when they embark for South Africa to take part in the 2005 World Cup starting March 15.

"The Australia series was a big morale-booster for us. Our girls are teeming with confidence after our efforts against Australia," she says.Replying to a query on whether one international series was a sufficient preparation for the showpiece event like the World Cup, Kulkarni says that there are a quite few domestic tourneys coming up which should be an ideal build-up for the showpiece event."See, the World Cup was initially slated to start from February 15 and in that scenario the Australia series would have been very well-timed. But they put off the World Cup by a month, which left us with a very little time to arrange for other international engagements.

"We have the Inter-Railway meet coming up in Mumbai from January 25 and then we have the senior national championship in Chennai from February 14. These two meets should be adequate enough to gear ourselves for the World Cup," she says.

Kulkarni, who took a bow from international cricket in 1990-91, reckons that nothing much should be read over the issue of Mithali Raj taking over the captaincy baton from Mamtha Maben."Mamtha was injured and that's why she couldn't play. Mithali is young and of course, she can be groomed for the future. As for the present, I reckon Mamtha is doing a good job and I see no reason for changing it."

Asked to pick the positives from the India-Australia series, Kulkarni was all praise for Jaya Sharma."Jaya Sharma did a find job with the willow. She was consistent throughout. Anju Jain also had a good run so did Monica Sumra," she says.

Kulkarni reveals that the Indain team's World Cup camp would be held in Mysore from February 25. "Our World Cup camp will kickstart at Mysore's Infosys grounds. Infosys have been lending a great helping hand towards the development of women's cricket. It was because of their unstinted supprt we're able to host the first two ODIs in Mysore. They assured us to provide all the facilities for holding the World Cup camp," she says.

Shanta puts World Cup money on India, Australia

Thatscricket.com February 6

By Suhrid Barua
Bangalore: Former India all-rounder and Women's Cricket Association of India (WCAI) national selection committee chairman Shanta Rangaswamy today predicted an India-Australia final in the forthcoming women's World Cup starting in South Africa late March.Talking to Thatscricket.com in an exclusive interview, Rangaswamy said India along with Australia would start as firm favourites and should clash in the summit clash of the showpiece event. "To my mind, it should be an India-Australia final," she said. "Both have balanced line-ups and with the kind of form they have showed in the recent past, I have no doubt in my mind that India would make it to the final alongside Australia."She said India had done well in the recent home series against Australia and added that the confidence of the girls would be sky-high for the big-ticket event. "Obviously, the confidence of the girls have taken a giant leap. Australia are the numero uno side in the world and doing well against them have raised expectations among the Indian public," she said.Rangaswamy refused to buy the theory that the Indian batswomen won't find it easy coping with the seaming conditions in South Africa. "I don't think so. We've done well in South Africa before. Getting acclimatization to the conditions will be the key. Once we are able to do that, the rest will take care of itself." The national selector-turned Doordarshan commentator lavished praise on promising Indian batswoman Mithali Raj for her consistency. "She's our real backbone. Whenever the chips are down she would stand up and be counted. She's technically sound and is the player to watch out for in the World Cup," she said.The chief selector said that Mithali was definitely a captaincy material and is being groomed for the future. "She's the attributes to be a captain. She's definitely someone we are keeping our eye on for the future," she said. Rangaswamy stoutly denied talk that Mithali was being given the captaincy in the recent ODI series against Australia so as to ease out regular skipper Mamtha Maben for the post. " There is no truth in that. Mamatha had a problem with her knee and that's why she did not play in few of the matches and in her absence the captaincy baton was handed over to Mithali." Thr ex-India player, who notched her lone Test century against New Zealand in Dunedin in 1976-77, however, was far away from being satisfied with the seam attack. "I am not happy with our seam attack. Jhulan Goswami has done well and looks to be good prospect for us. That apart the seam line-up lack the teeth. Although our spin attack is the best in the world, we would still be better off with a few more quality seamers in our side."

Kirmani throws weight behind Ganguly

Thatscricket.com September 18 2007

Kirmani throws weight behind Ganguly

By Suhrid Barua
Bangalore : Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) national selection committee chairman Syed Kirmani today threw his weight behind the beleaguered Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly ahead of the much-hyped India-Pakistan ICC Champions Trophy clash in Edgbaston on Sunday.
In an exclusive interview with Thatscricket.com, Kirmani said Ganguly was doing a good job at the helm and as such there was no cause for any concern on that front. "There is nothing wrong with his captaincy. He has marshalled his troops quite well and moulded the side into a winning outfit in the last few years.""It's unfair to squarely lay the blame on the skipper just because the team is under-performing. But then, that's how life is.
When the team is faring well, the captain gets all the accolades and again when the team is going through a bad patch, it's the skipper who gets the stick. I think it's something we would have to live with," he said.
The chief selector was however, not sure as to why the team is not able to show the same intensity, which was in full evidence during their successful sojourns of Australia and Pakistan.
"See, I won't know why the team is not able to display the same form which saw them scaling new heights in Australia and Pakistan. The boys have to show some mental toughness, stay focussed and believe in themselves, which could be the way forward for the team at this point of time," he said calling spade a spade.
Referring to the Sunday's high-voltage clash with archrivals Pakistan, the suave, mild-mannered former India glove-man said the match had all the ingredients of a humdinger. "An India-Pakistan match is never dearth of excitement. This time also it won't be any different. I hope India really pull up their socks and upstage the Pakistanis," he added.
On the ever-growing debate on whether India should play a specialist wicketkeeper or stick to the tried and trusted formula of asking Rahul Dravid to double up as wicketkeeper, Kirmani noted that a specialist keeper has to be seriously thought of in the long run.
"Rahul has done a fabulous job for the team for the past few seasons but at the same time we have to be on the lookout for playing a specialist keeper since it's a specialist job," he observed.
On the inclusion of rookie keeper Dinesh Kartik in the side, Kirmani said the youngster needs to get a fair crack of the whip before he can be judged. "First of all, he should be given a fair chance to show his wares. Cooling his heels in the dressing room would do no good to his confidence. Only by playing him in the eleven one can instil confidence in him and one can find out whether he's cut out for this level or not," he opined.
Asked whether Virender Sehwag's lean run with the bat could be attributed to shortfalls creeping into his technique, Kirmani said all these loose talk is doing the rounds only because runs have dried up from his bat.
"When he cracked that blazing 195 in Melbourne and later power-packed 309 in Multan, nobody was talking about his technique. Now that he is in the midst of a slump in form, people are asking questions about his technique.
"If with that same faulty technique as critics have made it out to be, he could score runs by the bundle, I'm sure he can do the same now. It's a cycle where there are good and bad phases. It's a matter of time before Sehwag comes out of the rut and delivers," he remarked.

On the spate of injuries, Indian bowlers have sustained in recent past, Kirmani said bowlers have to be honest if they want to further their careers by staying injury-free."Hiding injuries doesn't help anyone-neither the individual concerned nor the side. When a bowler tries to hide injuries and play with niggles, it's he who has to pay a price in the long run which in turn could even pan out to be a career-ending injury," he added.

On India's short-term bowling coach Bruce Reid's recent comment that left-arm spearhead Zaheer Khan is "mentally lazy" and does not work hard enough on his fitness, Kirmani offered a straight bat. "He (Reid) is entitled to his opinion. It won't be prudent for me to comment on that. In my book he is a fine bowler. It's as simple as that," he signed off.

BCCI mum about women's body merger

Thatscricket.com May 25 2005

By Suhrid Barua

Bangalore: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) remained tight-lipped about it's much talked-about merger with the Women's Cricket Association of India (WCAI).Talking to Thatscricket.com, BCCI secretary SK Nair said he was not in a position to comment on the issue as it was yet to come up for discussion."We haven't initiated any discussion in this regard. There is lot of time for that," Nair said.When asked why the BCCI has been maintaining a stoic silence on the issue considering that the male cricket bodies of Australia, England and New Zeaaland were already amalgamated with the women's bodies, Nair offered a straight bat.
"Please don't put words into my mouth. At this juncture, I don't wish to say anything on that. Issues like this have to be discussed in a threadbare manner and hopefully we would soon move things forward," he said.It's worth noting that the International Women's Cricket Council (IWCC)-the world governing body of international women's cricket, was recently merged with the world governing body for men's cricket-International Cricket Council (ICC) during the March-April Women's World Cup held in South Africa.It may be pertinent to point out that the Women's Cricket Association of India (WCAI) had earlier expressed optimism that the merger would come about soon. The women's body has been given a year's extension by the ICC to merge itself with the BCCI.

Sehwag double century lits up Chinnaswamy

Sehwag double century lits up Chinnaswamy
By Suhrid Barua

Bangalore: The other evening teammate VVS Laxman smeared Holi on Virender Sehwag after he scripted a fine little cameo of 39 and remained unconquered. On Saturday, he chose to play Holi of a different kind. In what is now becoming bit of a regular feature now, Mr Sehwag once again made a mockery of his critics who would often talk mordantly about his lack of technique and footwork. Scorecard of Day ThreeAfter all how can you keep harping on the fact that he's not the conventional Test opener. Today he showed once again that he is very much cut out for this level as he waded into the Pakistani attack scoring a blazing double century to bring India on an even kneel with Pakistan as the hosts finished the day 379 for six, still 191 adrift of Pakistan's first innings total of 570 on day three of the third and final Test at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium here.The day belonged to Sehwag. He didn't allow the Pakistan bowlers to settle down. Every time Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq rung the bowling changes, the Delhi Bomber would take the attack to them and rattle them. He cut, drove, pull with élan to leave the visitors clueless. The Delhi swashbuckler who brought up his 10th Test hundred in the post-lunch session, had to endure the early loss of his opening partner-Gautam Gambhir who fell to Kaneria, caught behind the wicket for 24. Local boy Rahul Dravid was in sublime touch picking a few boundaries before he fell largely due to his own indiscretion. He attempted an over-ambitious sweep off Kaneria and was adjudged lbw for 22. Batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar in search of his record-making 35th hundred, started proceedings in a positive fashion getting the measure of the Pakistan attack quickly. He cracked seven sweetly-timed boundaries before throwing it away. He went for expansive drive on the off-side but only managed to sky a simple catch to Younis Khan off part-timer Shahid Afridi.VVS Laxman joined Sehwag and the pair mixed caution with aggression to maintain the vice-like grip on the Pakistani bowlers. Laxman took his time to get his eye in and the calm approach of the stylish Hyderabadi enabled Sehwag to play his natural game as he scored more freely to close in on a double century in the post-tea session.The right-hander reached his double hundred in his own inimitable style. He went for a big heave on the off-side off Kaneria but misjudged the line completely even as the ball ballooned up high in the air but luckily it fell in a no man's land area triggering a standing ovation from the Chinnaswamy crowd.Few minutes later off the same Sehwag brought an end to his extended Holi celebration as he was foxed by Kaneria getting a leading edge while trying to work the ball away, offering a return catch to the bowler.His marathon knock of 201 contained 262 balls, 28 fours and two sixes.Pumped up by Sehwag's dismissal, Kaneria got rid of skipper Ganguly having him stumped by Akmal for one to extend his dry run with the bat.Keeper Dinesh Kaarthick joined forces with Laxman and the duo looked to play out the day when the latter perished. Kaarthick departed executing a well-timed drive off Sami only to see Asif Kamal plucking a good catch. Kaarthick made 10.VVS Laxman grew in confidence and solidified the lower-order with a unbeaten half-century (51). Giving him company was Irfan Pathan on nought at close. A lot depends on how the Laxman-Pathan partnership prosper on Sunday if India have to move closer to the Pakistan's first innings total of 569. At the moment though it looks a tall order but knowing Laxman one could sense that the game is heading for a draw.

Double ton-up Younis puts Pakistan on top

Thatscricket.com March 25

By Suhrid Barua

Bangalore: Cricket can be a great leveller. Week's back he endured two failures in the Mohali Test which led to talk doing the rounds on whether he should be dropped for the Kolkata Test. The amount of pressure was enormous considering he was named the vice-captain for the tour ahead of seasoned Yousuf Youhana, who was stripped of his vice-captaincy despite doing little wrong with the bat in Australia.

Clearly, Younis Khan had plenty at stake going into the Eden Gardens. He took upon himself to silence all the loose talk surrounding his batting form. The knack of the former Pakistan players to press the criticism button every time a player fails, only served to increase the resolve and hunger of Younis. He cracked a timely hundred at the Eden to make his critics eat a humble pie.

If that Kolkata ton was like a movie trailer, he showed a whole movie of his batting skills at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium here en route to a magnificent 267 to put Pakistan in an impregnable position as the visitors were all out for 570 in the final session on day two of the third and final TVS Test match.

Younis' marathon innings came off 504 balls, contained 32 fours and one six. His long haul at the wicket ensured Pakistan couldn't possibly lose the Test match. Being a game of glorious uncertainties, nothing can be said for sure but yes, Pakistan are sitting pretty.

More importantly, the first innings total of 570 have given their bowlers the cushion they might require to bowl India out twice if they want to nurse hopes of a series-levelling win.

Earlier, in the morning, skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq would have hoped to press on the pedal. But his plans were negated as he fell in the second over of the day.

Balaji had the smile back on his face when he caught Inzy at the crease at his overnight score of 184 thus ending their grueling stand of 324 for the third wicket.Younis Khan and Yousuf Youhana consolidated Pakistan's position as they raised 77-runs for the third wicket before Youhana made his way to the pavillion.

The right-hander was looking in pleasing form before he was pouched by gloveman Kaarthick off Harbhajan for 37.Harbhajan, who was currently in the news for all the wrong reasons was in the middle of a good spell as he accounted for Asif Kamal and Abdul Razzaq in quick succession to throttle the run-flow.

The Chinnaswamy track, which held firm on day one, was affording some turn amply evident in the dismissal of keeper Kamran Akmal, who went back to play a forceful shot only to see his the ball turn sharply and rattle his timber for 28.

The blazing sun didn't help the cause of the Indians who were made to chase the leather for most part. With the visitors not keen on effecting a declaration, Younis Khan continued in a cool, calculated manner to bring up his maiden Test double hundred and also became the first Pakistani to attain the feat in India.

Even as he was closing in on a triple ton, Mohammad Sami got himself run out which sparked off a mini collapse. The end came for majestic Younis who played a tired looking shot, holing out to Pathan to hand Harbhajan a five-wicket haul. Last-man Danish Kaneria perished off the first ball he faced. He went for a mighty heave but failed to clear the boundary being consumed by Laxman in the deep for a blob.

Harbhajan never looked liked he was being perturbed by developments unfolding off the field as he bowled like a man with a mission to finish with returns of six for 153 to restrict Pakistan below the 600-score mark.

Faced with ten overs for the day, the Indian openers- Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir got off to a brisk start rattling up 55 without any loss. Sehwag once again started his innnings on a belligerernt fashion as he tore into the Pakistan attack clubbing five fours and one towering six off leggie Daniesh Kaneria to remain unbeaten on 39. Gambhir was giving him solid company on 13 with two hits to the fence.

Inzamam, Younis cut Indian bowlers to size

Thatscricket.com March 24

By Suhrid Barua

Bangalore: Not many cricketers are fortuitous enough to feature in hundred Test matches. It calls for a gargantuan amount of tenacity, consistency and off course the ability to reach there. Inzamam-ul-Haq joined an elite brigade when he took the field at the Chinnaswamy on Thursday.
Not just chuffed with his 100th Test appearance, Inzamam was determined to make the occasion a memorable one. The Indians had it coming the moment Inzy strode out after the early departure of their openers.What unfolded in the end was something that would have sent shivers down the Indian spine.
The big man from Multan whose languid elegance, so synonymous to his batting, was brought out in full evidence as he along with vice-captain Younis Khan belted rollicking hundreds as the tourists closed out day one on 323 for two.
He was looking in ominous form remaining unconquered on 184 with 25 boundaries while his deputy Younis Khan was not out on 127 containing 12 fours and one six as the pair raised a monumental 316-runs for the third wicket.
The Indian bowlers, who had everything going for them in the last two Tests were clueless against the onslaught of Inzamam. He played every ball on its merit. If the ball merited respect, he would just play defensively down the line and when there were loose balls on offer, he would pounce on it.
The supreme confidence of Inzamam rubbed off on vice-captain Younis Khan as the pair frustrated the hosts' bowlers who remorselessly went about their job.The burly man brought up his 20th Test hundred and became the only fifth batsman in Test history to achieve the feat in his hundredth Test.
He now joins the likes of Colin Cowdrey, Javed Miandad, Gordon Greenidge and Alec Stewart in the list. If one thought the sultry conditions would take its toll on him and Pakistan skipper would throw it away, Indians were in a for rude shock.
His famish for runs continued as he milked the bowlers to all parts of Chinnaswamy.Younis Khan, whose confidence soared after his superb hundred at the Eden, continued to make merry and provided the ideal support cast for his captain.
He soon arrived at his eighth Test ton as the Indians surrendered the initiative thick and fast and at times only looked like simply going through the motions.
To start off the day, Inzamam did the most important thing correct-he called the coin correctly and promptly decided to make first use of the wicket.The move didn't seem validated initially as swashbuckler Shahid Afridi perished, pouched by Dravid in the slips off Balaji, who was settling down into a nice rhythm.
Yaseer Hamid, who tipped out Salman Butt in the eleven in place of Taufeeq Umar, started on a confident note with a punchy drive off Pathan. But he only flattered to deceive.
The pint-sized right-hander dangled at an away-going delivery off Pathan to be snapped by keeper Kaarthick for four.Home-town hero Anil Kumble toiled throughout the day on a track which had very little for the bowlers. His 23 overs cost 93 runs with nothing to shown on the wickets column.