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Tentative Start For Indian Sports Formidable cricket team fails to breach the final frontier

Updated: January 28, 2012 2:22 pm

Indian sports has begun 2012 on a tentative note. The dream of the purportedly the best ever cricket team led by MS Dhoni to win the first-ever test cricket series in Australia went up in smoke at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

Mahesh Bhupathi’s and Rohan Boppana’s hope to start their new alliance as country’s lead tennis double pair with a title win in Chennai Open was shattered as they lost in the semifinals and the World Number four shuttler Saina Nehwal again flattered to deceive crashing out in the quarter final stage of the Korea Open Badminton Super Series.

However, veteran star Leander Paes brought some cheers to the home crowd when along with Janko Tipsarevic last week he won the doubles title at the Chennai Open, defeating fourth seed Israeli duo of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich 6-4, 6-4. But Paes must be worried about finding a strong Indian partner for the London Olympic.

The failure of Saina Nehiwal to win any major title for last one year has been a big cause of concern. She is country’s medal hope in the Olympics. She is going through a long lean period and one prays that she regains her form soon, otherwise it may be too late.

Same is the case with Mahesh and Bopanna. It remains to be seen if they can get their act together before July. For, Mahesh and Paes who split after ten-month reunion, it is going to be their last Olympics.

For the aging “golden” trio of Indian cricket—Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the failure to win the series in Australia must have come as a huge disappointment. This is perhaps going to be their last test tour of Australia. They will forever regret having not breached the final frontier.

The super rich Indian cricketers must have realised by now that only money and past reputation cannot browbeat the opponents. No matter how Indians play in the remaining Australian series and whether Sachin will get his 100th international century or more will not gloss over the fact that one day world champions could not achieve for which they went down under—that was to beat the Aussies in the test series.

It is no secret that world cricket owes its financial and commercial survival to India. Most of the countries where this game is played does not approve of Indian board’s so-called hegemony in the ICC but can do nothing about it.

India-Australia series has overtaken the Ashes and now it is much-awaited showdown in the cricket world and the Commonwealth Bank which had withdrawn its sponsorship of the ODI tri series—involving India, Australia and Sri Lanka—has again agreed to sponsor it after finding out that the ongoing test series has registered much higher viewership than that of the Ashes.

The Australians, having outwitted and outplayed India on the field, have kept up the facade of praising Sachin Tendulkar to the skies because they have realised that huge Indian expats come to watch the matches mostly to see the master blaster in action.

Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young is still hopeful that the remaining two tests will also see good turnout because “fans are eager to see Sachin making his 100th ton, they want to be part of the history”. As it was not enough, the former West Indies captain Brian Lara also jumped in the fray saying: “Ricky Ponting hadn’t scored a century in two years till he got one at Sydney the other day. Such things happen even to the best and Sachin will get to his 100th hundred sooner than later. Most of the milestones Sachin is creating now will be beyond others. No one will be able to touch them. There will be a certain amount of anxiety, some his own and some from expectations of fans and people around him.” Tendulkar has now gone 18 innings without a test century.

However, Lara was frank in his view that Team India will not be seriously compromised as people make it out to be when Sachin, Laxman and Dravid hang their boots at last. “I think the youngsters coming up can hold their own though the transition will take some time.”

There is a sizeable section of cricket buffs who are surprised at this hype. The question they ask, is Sachin’s hundred is important or India’s victory. They reason out that Australian skipper Michael Clarke declared the innings when he was on 329 during the Sydney Test and not going for records.

I think we have become record-obsessed country and it will be interesting to see the reaction of fans if India lose and Sachin scores his 100th ton in the same match. Coach Duncan Fletcher has not been able to infuse spirit of cohesiveness in the team. After he had taken over India lost number one test ranking and has suffered six successive defeats abroad.

Another foreign coach Micheal Nobbs, who took over the affairs of Indian hockey in September last year also after keeping a low profile, hit the limelight with a startling disclosure that foreign teams are still overawed by the Indians. This is one statement which even surprised the diehard supporters of the Indian hockey.

India hockey team, which failed to qualify for Champions trophy, finished poor third in Asian games and is yet to qualify for the London Olympics, still “evoke awe among the international teams,” said Nobbs. He claimed that Indian hockey team might not have achieved any significant success in the last two decades, but international teams were still wary of the eight-time Olympic champion. In the last three decades (since the 1980 Moscow Olympic gold) India has achieved nothing but still international teams are afraid of us.

He said that he was 90-95 per cent confident that India would qualify for the London Olympics but with a rider—If something did not go awfully wrong or we did not have a really bad game or bad umpiring decisions, we should qualify. Our destiny is in our own hands.

India, who failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games, have a chance to make the cut if they win the qualifying tournament to be held at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium from February 18-26.

The other participating teams in this first qualifying tournament are Canada, France, Poland, Italy and the USA. Italy has come in place of Egypt who pulled out of the qualifier because of financial crunch. According to him: “The fitness of the team has improved by leaps and bounds. In Champions Challenge I tournament we were the fittest side.We are slowly getting the benefit of sports science. We are getting stronger day-by-day but we have to be stronger to keep ball possession.” Another positive thing, which happened for country’s sportspersons, was the reassuring statement by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) promising them all help.

IOA has also exuded confidence of better showing by the Indian sportspersons in the London Olympic Games and other international competitions this year. “We are hopeful that our medal tally in this year’s Olympics will better than that of the 2008 Beijing Olympiad where we had bagged three medals,” IOA acting president Vijay Kumar Malhotra said.

India is likely to take part in 15 disciplines—subject to the qualifications—Aquatics, Athletics, Archery, Boxing, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Shooting, Rowing, Sailing, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling. Prof Malhotra said that the IOA asked the sports federations concerned to specifically find out the requirements of the sportspersons who had qualified and were likely to qualify for the Olympics and tried to provide them the coaching and training facilities.

By Harpal Singh Bedi

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