the-south-asian.com January 2003
JANUARY 2003 Contents
Page 2 of 2
Sports - 2002 (cntd.)
Sports - 2002
The coming year will see more of this high drama. For cricket aficionados all air routes will lead to South Africa in a few months. Though Indian cricket fans are hoping for a miracle at the once-in-four-year World Cup carnival, experts are not going to be easily persuaded to put their money on India lifting the Cup.
And that, despite the fact Indian cricket has 'discovered' some very talented young cricketers in Mohammad Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Yuvraj Singh and Virendra Sehwag. The problem is that medium-to-fast bowlers still elude selectors. Which explains why, despite a formidable batting line-up, India has had a wishy-washy year in cricket.
Things started on a wrong note from the beginning of 2002. India lost the Nat West series --- its ninth straight overseas loss. After squaring the ODI series [3-3] the England captain said, " Put the Indians under pressure and they crack." A home truth, which had a usually aggressive Saurav Ganguly, fumbling for words.
The big news in cricket 2002 had little to do with the game. A controversy reared its head with the ICC forbidding players from endorsing products, which rivalled the official sponsors of the series. The players revolted and since it threatened to take away their chance to earn big bucks they stood united and even threatened not to participate in the mini World Cup in Sri Lanka.
But matters were soon sorted out as ICC withdrew its controversial clause and it was an upbeat Indian team that reached Colombo for the mini world series. Sure enough they played like champions and nothing could stop them. But bad luck struck as it rained twice in the finals with Indians having the upper hand. India and Sri Lanka shared the ICC Champions Trophy after rain washed out the final in Colombo twice.
Then came the West Indies under Carl Hooper who turned out to be more than a handful. After annihilating them in the Test series Indians thought the ODIs would be mere walkovers. But even though India chased scores in excess of 300 it lost 3-4 in the ODIs. The only consolation was that the Indians, powered with youth, are certainly one of the five teams to watch for the World Cup.
Even with Indian skipper Ganguly calling the ongoing New Zealand tour a build-up to the World Cup, it did not seem like any build up. India lost the two Test series 2-0 and at the time of writing this article had lost the first ODI.
If the Asian Games brought sweet and sour news, the masterminds of Indian chess created magic. Teenager Koneru Humpy set a new world record by becoming the youngest-ever woman to achieve the men's Grandmaster title at the age of 15 years, one month and 27 days beating Judith Polgar's Record by three months. She also became the first Indian woman to achieve the men's GM title.
And as in earlier years it was Vishwanathan Anand again who continued to make news. As the year came to a close he had four new titles to his name-- Eurotel Championship in Prague in May, Chess Classic at Mainz in July, World Cup in Hyderabad and finally Corsica Open in France.
There was more cheering news when Double Grand Master and International Master R.B. Ramesh became the first Indian to win the British Championship after seven decades. Earlier it had been annexed in 1932 by Mir Sultan.
Football too received a shot in the arm when the Tata group extended its sponsorship to the National League with LG and Pepsi chipping in as co-sponsors. Flushed with cash the Indian team appointed Stephen Constantine as the national coach. It paid rich dividends as Baichung Bhutia and his boys won the Vietnam tournament defeating the hosts 3-2.
The team played well at the Asian Games too, with Bhutia leading from the front but couldnít make it to the quarterfinals after controversy on points. In the International League Bhutia made a comeback early in the year, when he played for Bury Reserves after staying out of the game for six months.
" I feel we should lay more emphasis on grassroots level, there should be proper infrastructure for the youngsters, they should be exposed to international competition from an early age and more importantly their training should be of highest standard. If we take these steps I feel we can achieve international status," says Bhutia optimistically.
The scene on Hockey turf was far more upbeat. Despite allegations of a North-South divide, the team was in great form led by old warhorse Dharaj Pillay. Like cricket here too young players like Gagan Ajit Singh and Parabjot Singh seemed bent on ensuring that India returns to its winning ways. The two of them along with Pillay were named players of the year by the International Hockey Federation.
Though Indianís finished fourth in Champions Trophy, Pillay was named player of the tournament. To add to the happy tidings, India won silver at the Asian Games. So there was plenty to cheer as the eleven team with right blend of youth and experience once again looked like a team of champions.
Tennis seemed to mourn the parting of ways of the golden duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. The saving grace was they played together at the Asian Games and won gold for the nation. In the mixed doubles at Busan India won the silver medal. The young brigade of Vishal Uppal and Mustafa Ghosh also won bronze in doubles tie.
On the greens it was Mukesh Kumarís year all the way in the absence of senior golfersí physical problems. Kumar was Runner up at the Dutch-Bangla open in Dhaka and was fifth at the Surya Nepal Masters. He emerged victorious in a number of domestic tournaments including the DLF open, Servo Master, Royal Challenge Grand Prix, Sher-e-Kashmir and TNGE.
The season marked the return of golfer Jyoti Randhawa after a serious accident laid him low for six months. He returned hesitatingly back to his winning ways. The good news is that Jyoti Randhawa is back in action after a serious accident. The better news is that he is fast regaining his winning ways. The best news is he was recently honoured with the Order of Merit and named Asian golfer of the year---the first ever Indian to get that title. It is little wonder then that Indiaís leading professional golfer and 2000 Indian Open champion, Randhawa is an elated man. In fact, throughout his career he has maintained an impressive consistency in the Asian PGA Tour.
Even as the year came to a close it appeared that the clouds of gloom were dispersing and the stars were finally starting to smile on Indian sports. Now with the World Cup cricket round the corner, most sports lovers are hoping---and praying---that India's run of good continues in 2003 as well.
|Copyright © 2000 - 2003 [the-south-asian.com]. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.|