Monday, 30 July, 2007

Nikhil tears Kunal to shreds

Photo: Anand Chaini

Kunal Bhide in action

Suhrid Barua & B D Narayankar

PUNE: It was a battle between two unseeded players, but it had enough to keep the spectators' interest alive. Nikhil Bhandari was in a tearing hurry. If not anything, he gave out an impression that he had some important stuff to do than to wield the racquet as he took Kunal Bhate to the cleaners with an emphatic 21-4, 21-6 victory in the mens' singles first round match of the 63rd Pune district badminton championships, organised by Pune District and Metropolitan Badmiton Association (PDMBA) at the WIE sports complex here on Sunday.

The nimble-footed Nikhil played with purpose and knew what exactly he had to do to get the better of Kunal Bhate. Precise with his tosses and drop shots, he foiled all designs of Kunal to run him around on both sides of the court. Nikhil was quick to realise that Kunal was finding it difficult to cope with the well-camouflaged drops as his bulky frame was hampering his movements. Many a times, Kunal was literally toyed around by the leaner Nikhil, who fully capitalised on Kunal's feet of clay at the net.

What was so good about Nikhil's game was that he was never predictable. If at one time he was teasing and tormenting his opponent with frustration-creeping drops, while at other times he engaged him in long rallies, which was never comforting for Kunal.

To add to his woes, Kunal was also guilty of faulty service returns on quite a few occasions. Nikhil just run away with the opening game at 21-4 before maintaining a tight noose over Kunal racing out to a 3-0 lead in the second game. By then, Kunal was fighting a lost battle and was merely going through the motions. His agony came to an end when Nikhil closed out the match at 21-6 in a duel lasting just 12 minutes.

Top seeds have it easy

This match apart, almost all top seeded players of almost all categories sailed into the fourth round of the tournament beating their opponents easily here today.
In just over 15 minutes in third round of the U-13 Boys’ Singles event, top seed Sudhanshu Mediskar showed Punekars he was on top form and ready to take on stiff challenges as the tournament unfolds.
For Medsikar, this tournament is a testing ground for him, as he had the greatest of challenges ahead of him to succeed and drive home a point that his career in badminton is not going anywhere, but up. This he did in grand style by thumping his rival Ranade Jay 21-11, 21-5.

Considering the reputation of Jay, Medsikar did not have any difficulty in marching past his opponent. “I knew I was playing an unseeded player. But I did not take the game lightly. I employed a waiting game so as to study Jay. It worked. I knew the weak and strong points of Jay and it was easy for me to capitalise after this realisation,” Medsikar told Maharashtra Herald here on Sunday after the match.

In third round of U-16 Girls’ Singles event, top seed Sanyogita Ghorpade defeated Radhika Joshi 21-14, 21-9 in straight games. Displaying her killer-instinct spirit, top seed Aishwarya Dobhada registered a comfortable victory over Shinani Chordia 21-0, 21-5 in U13 Girls’ Singles event.

RESULTS: Mens’ Singles: I Round: Nikhil Bhandari bt Kunal Bhate 21-4, 21-6; U-13 Girls’ Singles: III Round: Aishwarya Dobhada bt Shinani Chordia 21-0, 21-5; U-16 Girls’ Singles: Sanyogita Ghorpade bt Radhika Joshi 21-14, 21-9; U-13 Boys’ Singles: Sudhanshu Mediskar bt Ranade Jay 21-11, 21-5.

WNS Juggernaut rolls on, enter semis

Photo: Anand Chaini
A WNS player battling for possession
B D Narayankar

PUNE: Savage, beastly or devilish. These words have all the potential to exact wrath from puritans. But there are some who die to watch devilish excitement on a field on any given day. The lucky few, who had gathered to watch the quarterfinal games of Second Inter-Corporate Football Mania 2007 here on Sunday, went home delighted taking back with them fond memories of these matches.

WNS N-Trance, in an unforgiving mood, mauled Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) by six stunning goals to storm into the semifinals. Other three teams that sailed into the last four round are Ventura, IBM and Wipro. While Ventura will play IBM in the first semifinals and Wipro against WNS N-Trance on Saturday next.

Sticking to their reputation of being capable of causing a major upset in the tournament, WNS came out all blazing in the big match. They oozed loads of confidence as soon as they took to the field. “We were determined to win. For things to happen, we first consolidated our position by playing safe for the first ten minutes and then going for the kill,” Allen Almeida told Maharashtra Herald after the match.

The player that made all the difference in the one-sided encounter was Baptist Lobo, who scored an hat-trick, all goals coming in second half of the game. Doni Mehta also joined the party after curving in the goal twice in the first dig.

Doni Mehta began the campaign for WNS when he curved in the ball past TCS goalkeeper 10 minutes into the game. He once again put his team in the lead 3-0 eight minutes after firing the first. Not far behind was Allen Almeida who joined the celebration by scoring the second goal in 15th minute.

Any side going into the interregnum with three goals behind them would make them feel proud. Such a feeling sometimes can make best of the teams complacent. This did not happen to WNS who began their ‘Mission Rout’ with added vengeance in the second half.

This half belonged to Baptist Lobo scoring a hat trick. He netted the ball thrice in 35th, 45th and 50th minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, Ventura trounced WNS 4-2 in penalty shootouts. Both teams were tied at 1-1 after the final whistle. In all their three attempts, Ventura players – Himanshu, Savio Sequeria and Sri Jagtap – did not fail to score goals.

On the flipside, Nivian, Ivan George and Savio D’Souza of WNS failed to convert penalty kick into goals, which resulted in their defeat.

RESULTS: Quaterfinals: WNS N-Trance 6 (Baptist Lobo 3, Doni Mehta 2, Allen Almeida bt TCS 0; IBM 3 (Varun Jaypal 2, Ramnath Vishvanathan) bt AXA 0; Wipro BPO 3 (Michael D’Cruz 3) bt Occeans Connect 0; Ventura 4 (Savio Sequiera 2, Himanshu, Sri Jagtap) bt WNS (Faizal Razzak, Viren D’Souza)

Sunday, 29 July, 2007

It's champagne time for St Vincent's

Photo: Mukund Bhute

JN Petit celebrates double win here on Saturday

B D Narayankar

PUNE: In an arena where success has a short lifespan and spectre of defeats always staring at you, it is indeed a heroic act for any seven-time title-clincher to grab eyeballs and prove that fire still burns in their hearts even now.

The U-18 Surendra Anand Memorial Inter-School Football Tournament finals saw St Vincent’s and Army Public School (APS) trying to shine through as they were desperate to raise a toast for their retired players of yores. At last, it was St Vincent’s that re-lived their coach Wilson Andrews victory razzmatazz once more.

The Vincent’s were convincing winners against APS, thrashing them 2-1, which turned out to be a close encounter in dying stages of the match, after both the teams went into the first half goalless.

A sparse spectators, occupying some corners of Loyola Ground, saw Craig Pereria and Danish Shaikh pierce a goal apiece for Vincent’s. Deependra Singh Chauhan was the lone scorer for APS.

Craig Pereria made the first breakthrough for Vincent’s, scoring in 40th minute with a powerful header from inside the penalty box on a corner kick.

Danish Shaikh made it 2-0 in 47th after receiving a cross from Akash Deodhar and firing in from the edge of the box to left-hand side of APS goalkeeper Jaswaran Singh.

APS’ first goal came just two minutes away from the final whistle as Deependra Singh Chauhan sent in the goal wide of diving St Vincent’s goalkeeper Sangram Lonkar on a penalty kick.

The Vincent’s failed to raise their visions of a superlative game as Amrutam Christopher and Steven Charles, both forwards, displayed a below par game. Perhaps there was something to do with the ground that they played on today.

Unlike the SSPSM Ground, Loyola Ground was a difficult terrain as it was an arduous task for players to accelerate their pace. In fact, they were tired out towards the end of first half itself. As a result they were found wanting in running past their opponents to cream in the easiest of goals.

RESULTS: U-12: Loyala 1 (Meghraj Nargund) bt St Vincent’s 0; U-14: JN Petit 4 (Rohan Kadam, Jumaid Khimjibhai, Omkar Prabhu, Suraj Kadam) bt Loyala 2 (Dhanraj Nargund, Pranav Siddeshwar); U-16: JN Petit 6 (Pratik Swaminathan 2, Vaibhav More, Ryan Yadgiri, Pizon Kodia, Samarth Gandhi) bt St Vincent’s 5 (Ninan Korunthetical, Allan Cyril, Manish Sirsat, Josua Monserrate); U-18: 2 (Craig Periera, Danish Shaikh) bt Army Public School 1 (Deependra Singh Chauhan)

Rahul Padhayay pots PGI championship

Photo: Mukund Bhute

B D Narayankar

PUNE He hopped mad. Someone’s conceded the finals to him and you know, this just makes him happy. One would think when you are second to somebody, being nervous is routine. But, no, not for Rahul Padhayay. He played a superlative game to take the sting out of top seed Sachin Sancheti forcing him to eat grass in the pulsating final match of the PGI Snooker Championship here on Friday.

When Rahul hopped in joy, he hardly could believe for a moment that he had just buried Sachin into the pit of defeat with a mind-boggling scoreline of 55-36, 69-38, 57-33 and 69-57.

Rahul outplayed Sachin in all manners, potting the balls intelligently and removing a series of snookers loaded against him with great precision. For Sachin, who mostly believed in playing safe, could not capitalise on his present form, which was great till last night.

Today he appeared out of sorts – not getting the potting right and committed fouls at crucial stages of the second, third, fourth and fifth frames. Rahul took advantage of these mistakes and took lead, leaving the top seed gasping behind.

Sachin started his campaign on a high note taking an initial lead 45-17 in the first frame. Rahul bounced back with 19-points break coming close 36-45 in his favour. “I needed just a pink to pot, but I faltered. Sachin, however, got the color and won the frame,” Rahul told Herald after the match.

Sachin got an early lead in the second frame, but could not check Rahul’s juggernut from rolling. After taking a vital seven-point break to come close to Sachin 7-14, Rahul played wonderfully well exhibiting the skills of potting and gathered a crucial break of 45 points. “This gave me immense confidence and I realised I could win against Sachin’s calibre if I maintained the same tempo. I won the frame 69-38,” he said.

Sachin began his third frame with a bang taking an early lead of 26-9 lead. Rahul, however, grabbed every opportunity coming his way and collected 17 vital break points.

There was scope for Sachin to consolidate on 26-23 scoreline in his favour, but frittered away by committing fouls on couple of occasions conceding 24 crucial points to Rahul.

Rahul also got 32 break points at a crucial juncture which gave him scope to vanquish Sachin. Fifth frame was a cakewalk for Rahul, who won the frame 43-5.

Friday, 27 July, 2007

Sachin to lock horns with Rahul in finals

Photo: Mukund Bhute
Sachin Sancheti pots to glory
B D Narayankar

PUNE: There is something magical in the manner a cueist struts his stuff on the snooker board. That calculated push, that perfect poise and his deadly potting are enough to send spectators in a tizzy. While cueists like Harish Talawade and Jaideep Deshpande have been wowing snooker-lovers with their style, not far behind are Deccan Gymkhana’s Sachin Sancheti and Rahul Padhayay, who have ruled the roost with the same explosive energy in this year’s Poona Goan Institute (PGI) Snooker Championship.

Playing in his semifinals match here on Thursday, Sachin defeated Tony D’Silva with 4 frames to one after going down fighting in the first frame. In another semifinals, Rahul Padhayay beat Jaideep Khandekar after losing first two frames. With these semifinal wins, Sachin will now meet Rahul Padhayay in the finals to be played on Friday.

Sachin won the match 29-55, 65-54, 65-40, 68-2, 48-41. The top seed started his low-key campaign in the first frame making far too many mistakes, allowing Tony to grab the opportunity to pot the balls with ease. “I should give credit to Tony. He played an excellent first frame,” Sachin told Maharashtra Herald after the match.

The next two frames – second and third – too was no different from the first. Sachin conceded initial leads to Tony. But unlike the first frame, he rocked back strongly to pot colors and reds consistently.

The fifth frame was a real test for both players. It turned out to be black-ball-frame match. The score then was 3-1. “I needed pink, but he potted it. Instead of potting the black, Tony played safe. If he could have potted, the scores would have read 3-2,” Sachin said.

“Though Tony is a good opponent, he was not able to consolidate upon his early leads in first three frames. He, however, was getting me the snookers, but I was able to remove them,” he said.

In another semifinals, Rahul beat Jaideep 29-73, 26-62, 47-22, 59-47, 59-34 and 68-43. It was riveting match as Padhayay lost his first two frames and then raised the visions of his comeback and triumphed.

RESULTS: SEMIFINALS: Sachin Sancheti (Deccan Gymkhana) bt Tony D’Silva (PGI) 29-55, 65-54, 65-40, 68-2, 48-41; Rahul Padhayay (Deccan Gymkhana) bt Jaideep Khandekar (Pradhikaran Youth Forum) 29-73, 26-62, 47-22, 59-47, 59-34, 68-43.

Expedition homecoming

Photo: Mukund Bhute

Maj Gen K Babyya talking to Capt Kirankumar Giri
B D Narayankar

PUNE: They waded their way on their cycles chanting ‘Bombay Sappers Zindabad-Maharashtra Zindabad’ on the premises of Bombay Engineering Sappers Headquarters as if they were commemorating a victory of an hard-fought battle. One could have imagined they were vociferous about their victory after having vanquished the enemies with sophisticated weapons. But that was not the case. Instead, they did it after pedaling thousands of kilometers for five days understanding the problems of ex-servicemen and cultural heritage of Konkan Maharashtra.

After a five days of cycling expedition in Konkan region, as many as 31 young officers of Bombay Sappers, who began their journey on July 22, finally returned to BEG headquarters here on Thursday after Major General (VSM) K Babayya flagged in the expedition.

After a brief introduction, Expedition Leader Captain Kirankumar Giri and senior most young officer Lt Siddharth Vyshampayam gave a detailed account of their expedition to Babayya.

Speaking to Maharashtra Herald, Siddharth said the expedition was planned with an aim to foster the spirit of adventure and imbibing rich culture and history of Konkan Maharashtra. “We traversed major parts of Kolhapur, Sidhudurg and Ratnagiri regions for five days on cycle and vehicle,” he informed.

Apart from visiting Kolhapur, Sindhudurg, Deogarh, Vijaygarh and Raigarh forts, the team interacted with ex-servicemen and widows, making them aware of recruitment policies, ECHS and various other facilities. “Among all the forts that we visited, we liked Vijaydurg fort the most for its magnificence and enormity,” he said.

What was striking about it was the laying of huge boulders in and around one-kilometer radius of Vijaydurg fort. “This was done to protect from Portuguese and British invasions. No ship could sail near the fort due to heavy stones. Even if it did, it got stuck in the sea,” Siddharth said.

The team was particularly moved by recruitment problems faced by people there. “Many urged the authorities concerned to reduce the height requirement for army recruitment. They urged them to adopt the policy prevalent in Garhwal and many other hilly regions where people’s height generally is less,” he added.

The team also studied the terrain and updated the data on natural resources.

Top seed Sachin sails into semis

B D Narayankar
PUNE: He might have helped himself into the quarterfinals of the PGI Snooker Championships, but he played the game as though he was playing for the life. This was the feeling oozing out from a confident-looking Sachin Sancheti, top-seed player, after pulverizing Jaideep Deshpande in the quarterfinal match played here on Wednesday.

Living up to his reputation, Sachin beat Jaideep 47-49, 57-29, 67-21, 72-22 easily in four frames after losing the neck-and-neck first-frame battle.

Sachin began his campaign in great style, but went down in the last stages of the frame when Jaideep got a snooker against him. “I was trying to pot the green, but my opponent got a snooker against me by fluke and I lost eight points. Jaideep then turned the tables against me, while I needed just one color to pot. I was a bit unlucky,” Sachin told Maharashtra Herald after the match.

Sachin soon was cuing for safety after losing first frame. In second, he played his game with caution and did not lose any opportunity to pot colors. He won third and fourth frames as the balls were rolling in his favour. “Jaideep made grave mistakes on which I capitalized,” he said.

With this win, Sachin booked his berth in semis and would warm up his hands against Tony D’Silva on Thursday morning.

Sachin, however, has not taken D’Silva lightly. “He is a good senior player. I respect his game,” he told on the eve of the semifinal match. These words, nonetheless, must not mesmerize snooker-lovers. They know it well that Sachin had an upper hand against D’Silva as he had forced a couple of defeats over the latter in league matches. “I beat him with 80-points margin,” Sachin said.

In another match, Rahul Padhyay beat Satish Karad 5-62, 47-39, 75-46, 27-56, 64-46 and Tony D’Silva trounced Bhushan Sahne 60-37, 58-12, 61-19 in straight frames. With these wins, both also have stormed into semifinals of the tournament.

RESULTS: Sachin Sancheti bt Jaideep Deshpande 47-49, 57-29, 67-21, 72-22; Rahul Padhyay bt Satish Karad 5-62, 47-39, 75-46, 27-56, 64-46; Tony D’Silva bt Bhushan Sahne 60-37, 58-12, 61-19

Thursday, 26 July, 2007

Inter-corporate soccer from July 28

B D Narayankar
PUNE: After a year round hectic work for IT professionals, it’s de-stressing time for them. They will be out in couple of days running hard on the ground for possession or kicking the ball into the nets for victory. After an exciting Inter-Corporate Football Mania 2006, Red Carpet Eventz will be conducting this year’s Inter-Corporate Football Mania edition from July 28 to July 29 and August 4 to August 5.Speaking to reporters here on Wednesday, Goel Ganga Developments’ Director Amol Goel said the championship would kick off with Convergys taking on IBM in the inaugural match to be played at SSPMS Grounds on July 28 at 10 am.As many as 16 corporate teams would be vying for the top honours and the tournament would be conducted on knockout basis, he said.This is second time that Goel Ganga Developments was conducting the event and Tech Mahindra were the first team to lift the title, defeating Geometric last year, Goel said.This year too, Tech Mahindra and Geometric are the favorite teams to win the title. However, there were other emerging teams like AXA, WNS and Nihilent Technologies, which had the potential to cause upset in the tournament, Goel said.While Goel Ganga Developments and Coca Cola will be the presenting and associate sponsors, Kingfisher Airlines and Airtel will be the co-sponsors. Piramyds, Malaka Spice, San Marzano, Ten Downing Street, Solaris, Digilife and Hotel Le Royce will sponsor prizes. Wilson Andrews and Mathurawala from Seven-a-side Football Association are supporting the event.The participating teams are: Amdocs, AXA, Tech Mahindras, WNS, WNS-Ntrance, TJC, TCS, Ventura, I-Flex Solutions, IBM, Oceans Connect, Geometric, Nihilent Technologies, Wipro, Syntel and Convergys.

Maharashtra Meet in June 2008

B D Narayankar

PUNE: Even as the city is gearing up for the Commonwealth Youth Games in October 2008, K P Singh Deo, chairman of the Games Technical Conduct Committee (GTCC) announced that the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports City would host Inter-State competitions to test the facilities in the run-up to the multi-discipline sports extravaganza. Speaking to reporters after the GTCC meeting on Tuesday, Deo said he was satisfied with the ongoing construction work at the sports complex. “The construction work is expected to finish well before the scheduled time. Of course, the monsoons have made things easy for us,” he said.He said the Inter-State meet would be held sometime in June-July next year. “I say with confidence that that the sports complex will be up and running to conduct Inter-State Competitions in nine different disciplines next year,” he exuded hope.Deo further announced that with the help of Balbir Singh Bhatia, former secretary general, weightlifting association, the complex would also host Junior and Youth Asian competitions in August 2008, before Commonwealth Youth Games.He also took the opportunity to reveal that if Delhi failed to have the facilities ready for conducting the world badminton championship on time, Pune could get the nod to hold the event next year," Deo said.The GTCC chairman said the facilities coming up at the sports complex would be of the top-draw. “The complex will have state-of-the-art facility for conducting 17 different disciplines along with residential complexes,” he added.AVN Prasad, federation representative, told that AFI was working hard towards providing technical assistance to spectators and participants to make Commonwealth Youth Games a howling success. The federation has already set in motion the process of training to upgrade the skills of technical officials. “We are leaving no stone unturned to provide latest sports and electronic equipments for participants for improving their performances,” Prasad added.Suggested BoxDeo rues non-release of funds
Ringing a warning bell, GTCC chairman K P Singh Deo rued that if the central government failed to release Rs 330 crore every year for training athletes to prepare them for 2010 Commonwealth Games at New Delhi, India could ran the danger of slipping down from fourth position to a lowly ninth, in the overall medals tally.The announcement regarding release of funds was made in 2005 and as of yet the government had not released a single penny. “I urge the authorities concerned to release the amount every year,” he added.Asked if the government did not release the amount, Deo said they would spend money from the exchequer of the federation or would seek corporate help. But he mentioned the lackdaisical attitude of the corporate houses in this regard.

Foursome awesome enter pre-quarters

B D Narayankar

PUNE: Jaideep Khandekar, Bhushan Sahade, Satish Karad and Jaideep Deshpande stormed into the quarterfinals of Poona Goan Institute (PGI) snooker championship here on Monday after defeating their rivals.

Jaideep of Deccan Gymkhana came from behind after losing the first frame 11-48 to Antony D’Gama of PGI with scores of 64-21, 57-26 and 59-43.

Bhushan Sahade outclassed Colonel Sanchez 26-58, 55-37, 62-19, 79-18 before bouncing back into the game with a vengeance after tasting defeat from the latter.

Satish of Samarth Club trounced Yogesh Sharma of Poona Club 17-64, 65-25, 66-41, 16-65, 63-45, while Deshpande beat George Fernandes after conceding the second frame with a scoreline of 60-51, 43-58, 50-33, 50-47.

Jaideep proved too good for his rival Antony after the first-frame defeat, mauling him in the following three frames. “I had to focus on my game after I lost my first frame. I was a bit nervous though when I began my second frame,” Jaideep told Herald after winning the match.

All of three -- Jaideep, Bhushan and Satish -- endured good initial breaks in their second frames suiting their style that catapulted their confidence to a different level. Soon they were potting pinks, reds, blacks and greens with elan. “When I got the initial breaks, I became confident. I enjoyed my game thereafter,” Satish said.

Bhushan opened his first frame in great style taking a lead of 30 points early on. Never did he allow Sanchez to give him snookers. “I gave a couple of snookers that squeezed confidence out of him. I took full advantage of his mistakes, pocketing vital points at regular intervals of the match,” he said.

RESULTS: Jaideep Khandekar (Deccan Gymkhana) bt Antony D’Gama 11-48, 64-21, 57-26, 59-43; Bhushan Sahade (Dadar Gymkhana) bt Colonel Sanchez (CMA, Khadki) 26-58, 55-37, 62-19, 79-18; Satish Karad (Samarth Club) bt Yogesh Sharma (Poona Club) 17-64, 65-25, 66-41, 16-65, 63-45; Jaideep Deshpande bt George Fernandes (PGI) 60-51, 43-58, 50-33, 50-47

Monday, 23 July, 2007

Shubhankar qualifies for nationals

B D Narayankar

PUNE: Continuing his good form this season, Shubhankar Renavikar won his third consecutive state-level U-12 Boys’ Cadet Table Tennis Championship held at Thane on Friday and qualified for nationals scheduled at Chennai in December.

In the finals today, he overwhelmed Shaun Rebello 11-8, 11-5 and 18-16 in straight games. Shubham earlier had beaten Shaun at Nagpur State Championship.

Harish, Felix surge ahead

B D Narayankar

PUNE: Harish Talawade and Felix Francis won their respective matches against Raju Khandke and Tony D’Silva in round robin stages of PGI Billiards Championships here on Friday.

While Harish beat Raju won 101-57, 102-99, 101-53, 102-54, Felix defeated Tony 102-64, 101-40, 101-76 and 100-18.

RESULTS: Harish Talawade bt Raju Khandke 101-57, 102-99, 101-53, 102-54; Felix Francis bt Tony 102-64, 101-40, 101-76, 100-18.

Thursday, 19 July, 2007

Ping ponging for the big league

B D Narayankar

PUNE: There appears to be one name that sports-lovers can't miss out whenever the subject of table tennis crops up for discussion. Shubhankar Renavikar. That is not to say that there are no other players that warrant a mention.
Winning six district and two state ranking championships in U-12 boys’ cadet category must be definitely something special. And now he has set his sights on clinching his third consecutive state ranking championship in Thane to qualify for national championships to be held at Chennai in December. He had won Mumbai and Nagpur state championships earlier. He is not leaving anything on his fate to happen. He is slogging to brace up for the big event, and if he lays claim on it, he is sure to go places in coming months.
For this to happen, he has been sweating it out with coach Ajay Sidhaye and gaining match practice with Rohit Maharao. “Ajay, sir is looking after my basics and Maharao is giving tips on playing an attacking game,” a coy Shubhankar told the Herald here on Tuesday.
Shubhankar is keenly awaiting the Thane championship and is upbeat of winning it. And why not? He has had a very phenomenal run, losing only one game in a match in the last two state raking championships. His mind is made of steel and is evident in the way he beat Mumbai and Thane players, rated much above than others in Maharashtra. “I am hopeful of reaching finals at least. I have played against Mumbai and Thane players before and had beaten them convincingly,” he says with a touch of confidence.
Qualifying for nationals means big for Shubhankar, who has no family background in table tennis or any sports for that matter. His father is an engineer and runs a manufacturing unit and mother is a doctor. His grandparents, however, are a source of inspiration, as they want their grandchildren to achieve something in life, even if in sports. Shubhankar is also a good cricket and football player. “Table tennis is my first love, as it is an individual game and I never have to fight for a place in the squad,” he said.
For the last two years, Shubhankar has many sweet memories to share it with his friends and supporters. He, however, takes delight in sharing the special moment when he reached the finals of the state championship at Mumbai. “More than winning, I enjoyed reaching the finals,” he gushes.
Shubhankar has everything in the right place and he is not seen wanting in physical training and practice. “I devote two hours for physical training and practice during school hours and in holidays, I do it for four hours,” he said.
So who is his favourite player? Pat came the reply: “Jan-Ove Waldner, a Swedish player. He is the Michael Jordan of table tennis and a legend both in native Sweden and China,” Shubhankar said. Can we do anything for Shubhankar? No, but certainly pray to Almighty that somebody idolises him a few years from now on.

Felix storms into last four

B D Narayankar
PUNE: In a match featuring two Poona Goan Institute (PGI) cueists, Felix Francis beat Crazol D’Silva 101-83, 100-72, 68-101, 86-101, 100-40 and stormed into last four round of the PGI Billiards Championship here on Wednesday.

Both Felix and Crazol were brilliant, with former winning first two frames and latter the next two. First four frames were simply fascinating and it was a sea-saw contest. Felix, however, prevailed in the decider and appeared running into his best form when he steamed past Crazol 100-40. It was simply exhilarating stuff under pressure.

The first frame bore the stamp of authority as Felix clinched the first frame 101-83 in a hard-fought battle. A superb clearance to pot balls snuffed Crazol’s steam out. In next frame too, Felix prevailed 100-72. In the third, Crazol hit back with 68-101 triumph mesmerising Felix.

It was vital for Felix to impress his personality on the match to qualify for the last four round.

In yet another match, Raju Khandke won 67-break points, a feat to cherish. He beat his rival Ashok Punjabi 100-60, 102-14, 100-93.

RESULTS: Felix Francis bt Crazol D’Silva 101-83, 100-72, 68-101, 86-101, 100-40; Felix Francis bt Leo Alfanso 100-34, 103-42, 100-23; Raju Khandke bt Ashok Punjabi 100-60, 102-14, 100-93

Meet the unsung foursome!

B D Narayankar

PUNE: There will be many in India fretting on the awesome foursome for taking up gymnastics as a career.

Perhaps people would have hallowed their decision to take up cricket or hockey as a profession. Ignoring the mouthful skirmish, the gymnasts of Bombay Engineering Group (BEG) feel elated to have walked the unwalked. One has to be brave to take such a decision and the quartet of Sanjay More, Tensubham Singh, Sampat Sirsat and Babun Das must be walking with their heads held high after bagging a bronze at the recently-concluded 7th Asian acrobatics gymnastics championship in Kazakhstan.

The foursome, though have a penchant for cricket and hockey, they are gymnast maverick. “We know cricket and hockey fetches name, fame and money. Still we wanted to do something for India in gymnastics, as India doesn't have much to boast of at the international level. Hence, we decided to take up gymnastics, acrobatic gymnastics specifically,” Sanjay More told the Herald here on Tuesday.

More than anything else, the foursome had resolved to take up gymnastics when they were residing in a sports hostel. “Since we were great pals, all of us decided to be gymnasts, after one of us got involved with the sport. There is everything so fascinating about the game. It has strength, power, flexibility and supple movements,” says Babun Das.

“Gymnastics is considered an important sport in European countries so much so that they have included it in the training programmes of all other sports including football and hockey,” Sampat Sirsat said. “I suggest India should follow suit. It makes one physically and mentally tough,” Tensubham Singh added.

Talking to them one realises that the Kazakhastan honeymoon has not gone into their heads and they seriously are looking ahead - first to fare well in the nationals next year and qualify for the four-men group world events.

At present, they have a total of 24 points and they are vouching for 30 to qualify. “The way we are going about under coach Vadiraj Kesari’s guidance is quite satisfactory,” Buban Das said with optimism.

On Kazakhstan performance, the foursome was satisfied with their performance. “We felt at home as the weather was like Pune. Even though it was freezing over there, we felt comfortable going through the tournament,"Sanjay More added.

Tuesday, 17 July, 2007

Sonu, Sancheti are the top guns

B D Narayankar

PUNE: If somebody is slithering his cue through his dexterous fingers to perfection, potting colors at regular intervals and winning huge breaks consistently, it must be Sonu Gurudatta, and he is one of the favourites to win PGI Snooker and Billiards Championship.

Gurudatta has everything in his repertoire. His self-belief is amazing. “He has had a good outing in the tournament and a good chance to lift the title,” Crazol D’Souza of Poona Goan Institute (PGI) told Maharashtra Herald on the eve of the last sixteen round.

One of the best reasons for Gurudatta to leave his stamp on the tournament is his consistency. Last two years has been good for him. “He had reached PYC Hindu Gymkhana Snooker Championship finals twice and laid his claim on one of them,” Crazol said.

Even as snooker-lovers are rooting for Gurudatta, they well know it will be a herculean task for him to prevail upon other top contenders. Before climbing the summit, Gurudatta has tough battles on his hands. He has to cross hurdles in the form of Sachin Sancheti (147 Club), Harish Talavde (Mischiefmakers), Anthony D’Gama (PGI), Yogesh Sharma (Poona Club) and Tony D’Souza (PGI) among others.

Sancheti is another favourite. He has been deadly in league stages pulling off some thrilling encounters. “He can be destructive and defeat anybody on a given day. He is good at potting and winning 30-40 breaks regularly. On this level, it is something amazing. Equally good are Talavde, D’Gama, Sharma and D’Souza, all of them have the ability to raise their bar to shock Gurudatta and Sancheti,” Crazol said.

George Fernandez also has been performing consistently, overwhelming better players in straight sets. At times, he had to sweat it out to win close battles. That, however, would have done a world of good for him – staying focused and winning at critical points of the game.

It will not be a surprise if Sameer Sheikh too turns the applecart in his favour. He has had a good outing in the tournament. His runaway victory against Jaideep Deshpande, another qualifier for pre-quarters, is something to cherish. He took delight in the rare moment of winning 61-break points, highest so far in the tournament. “Beating a player like Jaideep was not simple. He made it look simple, though, by capitalizing on Jaideep’s mistakes,” Crazol said.

Monday, 16 July, 2007

Sameer towers over Jaideep

B D Narayankar
PUNE: Sameer Sheikh was guaranteed a runaway victory at PGI snooker championship here on Friday even before the ball was potted. For, when he went all guns blazing for glory, he found himself up relishing the rare moment of winning 61-break points, highest so far in the tournament.
Sameer proved too good for his rival Jaideep Deshpande, belting him to submission winning 62-28 and 67-26 in straight sets. “I did not have much to display. I had it easy. Never did I feel let down even by my mistakes. Soon I capitalised on them by playing a focused game,” Sameer told the Herald after winning the match.
In both the frames, Sameer endured good initial breaks suiting his style, that catapulted his confidence to a different level. Soon he was seen potting the pinks, reds, blacks and greens with great precision. “I felt I was not pushing the cue through my fingers, but slithering a magical wand. I enjoyed my game thoroughly and winning 61-break points was something amazing,” Sameer said with elation.
Sameer opened his first frame in great style taking a lead of 30 points early on. Never did he allow Jaideep to give him snookers. “I gave a couple of snookers that squeezed confidence out of him. I took full advantage of his mistakes, pocketing vital points at regular intervals of the match,” Sameer said.
The second frame too was a calkwalk for Sameer. He outclassed his rival in tactics and potting. “I did not relish the game when there was no competition coming from Jaideep. I thoroughly enjoyed fortifying my position with solid breaks,” he said.
In yet another match, Aditya Hoole defeated Sabi D’Souza springing from the depths in the second frame winning 56-28, 28-57, 59-4.After handing out a crushing 56-28 defeat in the first frame, Aditya went pale in the second, tasting defeat 28-57. “This woke my spirits up. I was soon teeming with confidence and pulverised Sabi with an unbelievable scoreline of 59-4 in the deciding frame,” Aditya said.
In yet another match, Divesh Inamdar drubbed Colonel Sancez 62-63, 54-44, 56-22. After undergoing harrowing experience in the first frame, Divesh romped home in the second. The final frame was even easier for him to finish off his rival with a huge margin.
RESULTS: Snooker: Sameer Sheikh bt Jaideep Deshpande 62-28, 67-26; Divesh Inamdar bt Colonel Sancez 62-63, 54-44, 56-22; Aditya Hoole bt Sabi D’Souza 56-28, 28-57, 59-4; Rishi Ramaiah bt Abhishek Deshmukh 65-43, 74-21.

Wilbur pots glory, defeats Crazol

B D Narayankar

PUNE: Disappointed after giving an Inoff (committing an error on black) to his rival in the tie-breaker, Crazol D’Souza watched Wilbur Francis raising his cue in joy after he defeated him 75-73 and 68-61 in a close battle in PGI Snooker and Billiards Championship here on Thursday.

Wilbur and Crazol played amazing game in the deciding frame. The latter started his second stint on a confident note leading 18 points on black. But his opponent soon spoiled his party when he potted pink, blue and black, taking the frame to a tiebreaker. “Wilbur was simply amazing. Potting of three colors gave him immense confidence. I wilted under pressure and gave him the Inoff,” Crazol told Herald after the match.

The first frame was not that easy too. Crazol gave a tough time to Wilbur by giving him three snookers making slim his winning chances. Wilbur got all the three snookers and posted a win elegantly.

RESULTS: Snooker: Wilbur Francis (PGI) bt Wilbur Francis (PGI) 75-73, 68-61; George Fernandez (PGI) bt Devesh Inamdar (Deccan Gymkhana) 47-52, 70-30, 71-39; Harish Talavde (Mischiefmakers) bt Leo Alfanso (PGI) 47-33, 60-36; Yogesh Sharma (Poona Club) bt Nelson D’Souza 35-51, 62-43, 62-33; Sameer Sheikh (Friends) bt Wilbur Francis 52-41, 53-55, 48-16; Jaideep Khandekar bt Ninad Ghag 69-31, 25-66, 82-42

Saturday, 7 July, 2007

Tug-of-war: Is everything well with MHA?

Photo: Polygrass Stadium

B D Narayankar

PUNE: Are Maharashtra Hockey Association (MHA) working towards promoting hockey at the grassroots level? A little probe into the infighting between some of their office-bearers and some of their shunned members will suggest that the parent body has failed in the prime duty.

To keep their pot boiling in their kitchen, a section of MHA members have been playing dirty politics to keep Benny Boodle’s rebel Poona District Hockey Association under wraps, which is waiting for their approval to conduct inter-school and inter-collegiate tournaments to improve the standard of hockey at the grassroots level, inviting schoolchildren play under the light of professional expertise.

Perhaps power politics was not enough to keep in abeyance the application, the office-bearers have brought in a tinge of personal rivalry into the whole affair. It is learnt Boodle had been instrumental in upstaging an all-important MHA office-bearer from the secretary’s post then.

Perhaps the office-bearers also are wary of the fact that the rebel Poona District Hockey Association having big names Dhanraj Pillay and Ramesh Pillay on their list of panel members would destroy their chances to have a meaty say in matters of decision-making.

And what is the tactic applied by the office-bearers to keep in abeyance the application? It is a rotten morsel to digest. MHA, in a clever move, has prompted two other applicants in the form of Babasaheb Ambedkar Hockey Association run by former national referees MB Shaikh and RB Makasare and an organisation operated by Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) councilors. The association, moreover, is demanding a utopia to happen – the applicants should join hands to first form Poona District Hockey Association and then fight for approval.

When contacted MHA Joint Secretary Ikram Khan, he told Herald on Friday denying that there was no such storm brewing up between the office-bearers and the applicants. “I am not against Boodle. He is a good friend of mine. Since I have received two other applications for recognition, I have to balance my decision. Neither, we want any delay in approving the associations in fray. The matter will be discussed in the next week’s annual general body meeting and a decision will be taken in the first managing committee meeting immediately after MHA elections,” he said.

Commenting on the whole issue, Boodle said he had high regards for MHA and their intentions of promoting hockey everywhere in Maharashtra. “I am not here to wage a battle against the parent body. Nor keen on being recognized as a rebel. I want to work with MHA,” he said without opening up further for more reaction.

Boodle sympathizers, however, are disappointed with MHA’s unrelenting attitude to accord recognition so as to conduct inter-school tournaments. Feeling the guilt, MHA now has plans to conduct such an event on their own. “MHA Constitution clearly says that the body should be conducting national, inter-state and inter-district competitions, not inter-school and collegiate tournaments,” they contended.

As the storm was turning from bad to worse, Pune sports lovers hopes to see MHA buries their hatchet as soon as possible. Will they do it? Let’s wait and watch.


This is not the way, MHA

Chaos has been the buzzword for Maharashtra Hockey Association (MHA). The association, which never stops thumping their chest for having popularised the sport at the grassroots level, are least bothered about conducting hockey matches with a hint of professionalism.

The protest of Friends Union over awarding a goal against them at a crucial juncture of the match in the 104th All India Aga Khan Hockey Tournament, played here at Polygrass Stadium, exposed the unprofessional approach of MHA to conduct a national event of this kind.

The technical table, whose main duty is to maintain decorum during the match, failed to stop the manager and coach of Friends Union to invade into the field. The law, however, says that they should have been summoned by the technical officers to their table for registering the protest or solving the controversy.

Things worsened after the coach and manager entered the playing arena creating feud between players and referees. The protesting team alleged that the referees were not ambling and keeping pace with the players, hence it was difficult for them to sight the ball properly. The Friends Union were contesting that the ball, instead of piercing into the net, bounced out of the sideline after their goalkeeper had brought out a wonderful save.

The story did not end there. MHA also failed to provide medical facilities during the tournament. And there have already been several injuries registered. According to law, there should be a first-aid kit and icing facility with the technical staff, besides a sports medico to attend to the injured players immediately.

Nor there was any arrangement made for reserve players’ bench which should have been available next to the technical table. It was total chaos as the said bench was far-fetched.

Another nightmare for players, right from the first day of the tournament, was that they were slipping down on to the ground due to the accumulated mud. MHA did not take pains to coordinate with Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to dust off the pitch.

George has it easy, defeats Advani

B D Narayankar

PUNE: The ‘sanyas’ from the sport did not bother him much nor did it affect his game. Despite this, he showed extraordinary determination to succeed in the PGI Snooker Championship being held here on Friday. PGI’s George Fernandes, raising his vision of a comeback, trounced Jugal Advani of Panchasheel Club 57-47 and 83-70 in straight frames.

Shedding his initial inhibitions, George started his campaign steadily. He, however, failed to take an early lead despite getting a handful lot of opportunities.

This saw the battle between George and Advani streaming neck-and-neck. It was fascinating for onlookers, but the board-gladiators felt the heat of the competition. Soon the nerves got hold of Advani and he started committing far too many mistakes that gave leverage to George to capitalise and win the frame 57-47.

“The fight went down to the black-ball-game in my favor. I should thank myself that I kept my cool,” George told Herald after the match.

Exuding confidence after melting down his opponent in the first frame, George blew apart Advani 87-70 in the second frame. Displaying a tremendous game, the winner potted reds and colors impressively. “I went for unthinkable angles to pot the colors,” he said.

In the second frame, George capitalized after Advani broke the bunch to his advantage. Consequently, the former made a break of 25 points and later played safe, not giving enough room for the rival to break huge points.

RESULTS: Snooker: Bhushan Shahade (Dadar Club) bt Chaitanya Halde (PYC) 56-17, 56-37; Billiards: Felix Francis (PGI) bt Bhushan Shahade (Dadar) 100-76, 97-101, 101-55; Mohan Jagtap (PSC) bt Divesh Inamdar (Deccan Gymkhana) 100-94, 101-56; Harish Talavde (Mischiefmakers) bt Uday Kunde (Deccan Gymkhana) 100-45, 100-57

Thursday, 5 July, 2007

Rakshak protect pride, derail Metro 2-0

B D Narayankar

PIMPRI: Metro ‘B’ had to leave the ground with their shoulders drooped after Rakshak Sports Club delivered the sucker punch, authoring a 2-0 victory in a drab encounter in the 104th All-India Aga Khan hockey tournament being played at Polygrass Stadium here on Wednesday.

The silken touch was clearly missing in the Metro-Rakshak game. Both teams were not in their elements, often faltering at not only reaching the ball on time, but also in weaving patterns and launching a convincing attack. Even the two goals scored by Rakshak were not in the classical mould, which was quite evident in the match between PCMC and Kridaprabhodini on Tuesday afternoon. Both goals were scored in an unconvincing manner, hardly offering any bout of excitement to the sparse crowd.

Rakshak struggled to find their groove in the match, but still managed to surge ahead in the second-round of the competition after receiving a walkover in their first match against Hanumantrao Bhosale Sports Club. Although Rakshak appeared rusty, they did display patches of brilliance. Things started to happen for Rakshak in the first-half itself. They showed a semblance of urgency to score early in the match.

Gaurav Kamble opened Rakshak’s account in the 9th minute of the match when Aumkar Desai set him up just outside the rival’s box, essaying a loose ball to waiting Gaurav who pulled the ball backwards, turned his stick and his reverse-flick crashed into the Metro goal. Rakshak, however, failed to maintain the tempo. They fabricated several raids with a flurry of slick passes, but failed to weave intricate moves to translate their dominance into goals. They lacked professionalism to press home the advantage after getting the initial lead. Rakshak also squandered the opportunity to convert three penalty-corners thereafter. Apparently, the penalty-corner hitters lacked the sting to hammer home the goals. Even the blockers lacked the skill to trap the ball.

Rakshak’s early goal forced Metro on the backfoot, pushing them under pressure that rattled their self-confidence. They neither could show up a confident game in the second-half too.
Metro had a good chance to score the equaliser in the fifth minute, but their goal-bound move was spoiled by agile Rakshak goalkeeper Indrajit Virkar after blocking Sandeep Gadkavi’s hit after receiving the ball from Musa Tangal from the left-hand side of the striking circle.

In the next minute, Rakshak earned their second penalty-corner, but Kamble failed to find the target as he hit the ball poorly and was easily deflected by Metro defender Shah. He, once again, deflected Aniket Kadam’s shot that lobbed over Rakshak goalkeeper’s head in the same minute.
Almost immediately, Rakshak could not beat Metro goalkeeper Parman, who made an extraordinary save anticipating Aniket Kadam’s hit from a penalty-corner push from Yogesh Sasane.

Rakshak’s second goal was built around a clever move of their forwards who drilled holes in the opponent’s defence in the dying minutes of the game. Shah, in a wonderful move, barged into the striking circle and reverse-scooped the ball to Kiran Bhame, who crammed in the goal, sealing Metro’s fate.

RESULTS: Rakshak 2 (Gaurav Kamble, Kiran Bhame) bt Metro 0; Rovers Academy 2 (Ajinkiya Kalbhor, Sumit Asware) bt Hockey Lovers 1 (Rajik Sheikh);

Wednesday, 4 July, 2007

MHA to reach out to schools and colleges

B D Narayankar

PIMPRI: After picking up the gauntlet of popularising hockey in remotest districts of the state, the Maharashtra Hockey Association (MHA) plans to make the sport popular amongst school and college going students. Soon they will be holding an under-16 , under-17, under-18 and under-19 inter-school and inter-collegiate hockey tournaments at the famous Polygrass Stadium here.

It is not that the schools and colleges have not been participating in hockey tournaments. It has to be said that the kind of amateur settings that exists was doing no good to hockey in a city that had produced players like Baburao Nimal, Vikram Pillay and Dhanraj Pillay. The children sometimes played three matches in a day at substandard stadiums that did not cater to the needs of players to hone their skills. They even had to bear the brunt of amateur referees dishing out flawed decisions at crucial junctures of the matches.

It has been the district administration that has been conducting hockey tournaments for school children every year. The standard of such tournaments is anybody’s guess as the administration conducts as many as 45 other sports events along with hockey. "MHA, hence, has been pursuing hard to ring in a semblance of professionalism into the sport at the grassroots level,” MHA Joint Secretary Ikram Khan told the Herald here on Tuesday.

MHA has already assigned the task to MB Makasare and AB Sheikh belonging to Ambedkar Hockey Association (AHA) for initiating a dialogue with various schools and colleges in the city. “With the immense experience of Makasare and Sheikh in the field of hockey, we are hopeful of succeeding in our endeavour to improve hockey among school and college students,” he said.

In fact, the process had already begun with 25 schools and 10 colleges agreeing to meet for a deliberation in the next couple of weeks. The school managements were so much impressed with the concept that they have suggested MHA to conduct camps for school children to raise the quality of the game at junior level. “We are seeking help from the district administration in this regard to provide necessary infrastructure and district sports officer Anil Chornule is impressed with our concern,” Sheikh said.

Tuesday, 3 July, 2007

Foreign teams big draw for Ambedkar tourney; MHA seeks BCCI help for funds

B D Narayankar
PUNE: To revive the golden era of hockey in Pune, the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) along with various hockey organisations are trying to rope in teams from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia to participate in this year’s Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial Gold Cup Hockey Tournament scheduled to be held at the polygrass stadium here in October. And all this with the help of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

The organising committee members of Ambedkar Hockey Association (AHA) and Maharashtra Hockey Association (MHA) have been making sincere efforts from past two years to rope in some of the top international and Indian teams to make the tournament a memorable event.

As enormous money was required to conduct the mega event, MHA and AHA are leaving no stone unturned to seek financial help from BCCI that had promised to divert funds to encourage other sports in the country. “A delegation consisting of MHA, AHA, Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) members including City Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) City President Azam Pansare will be meeting BCCI President Sharad Pawar at New Delhi in the next two weeks,” Tournament Organising Secretary MB Makasare Told Herald here on Monday.

Hopeful of getting financial help from Pawar, Makasare said: “Never in the history of Maharashtra any municipal body had agreed to spend Rs 30 lakh for conducting such a sporting event.”

The organisers have also met Indian Hockey Federation (IFH) general secretary Jyotikumar during the junior hockey tournament held at Chennai recently. “Fascinated with our zeal to bring international players to our city, Jyotikymar has assured help to us,” Makasare said.

The competition, which will pit top Indian teams against Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Malaysian teams, will witness 20 teams battling it out for top honours. “We want to come up with a competition that will help young hockey lovers watch international players here at the Polygrass Stadium,” AHA Treasurer MB Sheikh said.

“This will be our best tournament ever with more teams and a format that will showcase some of the most talented players right here. We cannot think of a better way to introduce good hockey by facing world-class teams in our home venue. Our crowds during matches this past season reflected a need for foreign clubs to add variety to the hockey played here,” Sheikh said.

Monday, 2 July, 2007

Bring me back, Dhanraj tells Carvalho

B D Narayankar
PUNE: Frustrated at not being picked for the Indian hockey squad for the past three years, ace hockey star Dhanraj Pillay gave a clarion call to national coach Joaquim Carvalho and Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) KPS Gill to consider him for national selection for major tournaments including Beijing Olympics next year.
Though Dhanraj doesn’t doubt the credentials of Carvalho as India coach, he was appalled at his mentor’s indifference towards him. “There is no reason why players like me and Len Aiyappa should not be playing for India. We still are fit and have passion for the game. I haven’t announced my retirement yet. I feel there's lot of hockey left in me. Carvalho and Gill should peep into my recent form and the way I am playing for my club,” he told Herald just before the felicitation programme at a city hotel here on Saturday.
Elaborating on Len Aiyappa's exclusion from the national side, Dhanraj said the burly drag-flicker has been cold-shouldered despite being the top-scorer in the last three PHLs.“Why haven’t the IHF included Len Aiyappa. He is the best drag-flicker available in the county at the moment. They didn't even bother to call him for the camp despite his exploits in the last three PHL tournaments,” Dhanraj said calling a spade a spade.
He said age should not be a criterion for selecting a player as long as he is performing for the country. “Age should not be the criteria. If a player is over thirty years and able to produce results, he should be playing for the country. Having senior players in the side helps the team to perform even better,” he said.
He pointed out that youngsters could imbibe many new skills by the mere presence of the seasoned campaigners. “Youngsters can learn many skills while playing with us. There is a marked difference between giving tips from the sidelines and playing with them. When many European countries like Holland do not have problems in fielding veteran players like George Lauby, what prevents IHF to select players like Len Aiyappa and me,” the highest goal scorer for India quipped.
Will that happen when his relations with KPS Gill have touched the lowest ebb? “I was not in touch with IHF after the ill-treatment meted out to me during the Athens Olympics. Relations have improved for now after I had a meeting with Gill recently. He has some wonderful ideas to promote hockey at junior level with my cooperation,” Dhanraj said.
Dhanraj was skeptical about the current Indian team’s prospects of winning major tournaments. “The team lacks killer instinct. There are far too many young and inexperienced players. Some of them don’t even deserve a place. They are poor in releasing and flicking the ball into the goal,” Dhanraj said.
Being a mercurial sprinter and a prolific goal-scorer himself, he was disappointed with Indian team's defence and forward line. “We need Baljit Singh Dhillon and Daljit Singh to excel in world hockey. Nor do we have distributors and penalty converters,” he said.
He said the IHF must pick the right players if India has to emerge as world-beaters. “We need to develop a formidable team to win an Olympic gold. Picture is grim for Indian hockey. It will take at least six years for us to become world-beaters. For this to happen, the IHF must be honest in picking the right players; do away with likes and dislikes and sacrifice favourtism,” he said.

‘Motivation is difficult in depleted field’; Anju fails to qualify again for Osaka

B D Narayankar

PUNE: Indian ace jumper Anju Bobby George, who could not leap the much-needed 6.60-meters mark to qualify for World Athletics Meet at Osaka, laid her claim on long-jump gold after leaping 6.42 meters in the combined meet here on Friday, improving her 6.21 meters leapt in the final leg of Asian Athletics Grand Prix a couple of days back.

Anju began her last qualification quest on Indian soil nervously. First couple of her attempts went waste after the referee fouled her. The third attempt saw her jumping 6.42 meters.

The feat must have raised Anju’s bar to give her best, but the jump was far below her personal best of 6.83 meters at Athens Olympics.

Anju has been struggling to find form in the recent past, a heel injury adding to her woes. She had done better in the second leg at Guwahati on June 23, leaping 6.28 meters, which was far short of the qualifying mark as well.

Anju, however, is optimistic as she always is. “I am confident of clearing 6.60 meters any time. I actually had touched that mark, but was fouled. I have enough experience in competitions and injury worries will not flag my spirits. I am recovering, but there is still some work to be done. I and my husband-coach Bobby George are working on getting back the rhythm required for big occasions,” Anju said.

Unfortunately Anju has been left to improve her record without much of a competition coming from other Asian athletes. “Motivation is difficult in the depleted field. I want more competition. There is hardly any from the Indian contenders. I give my best when the contestants are good. That’s why I perform well outside India,” she said.

Moreover, Anju had to brave the breeze, run against it and leap for the best today. “I was not getting the elevation right because the wind was flowing into me,” she rued. Conditions today were much better than a couple of days back when it was raining. The track was heavy and I was not getting the grip right for elevation. I had to change my spikes thrice. I had no such problem today,” she said.

Jumping 6.42 meters today has been good for Anju just before the World Athletics event at Osaka and she is brimming with confidence. “I fancy my chances. I am sure I will be in the top six bracket,” Anju stated.