olympics
Pakistan may have kissed the chance
of an Olympic medal goodbye
On Friday, Pakistan were placed at number four among the six teams in Pool B. If they remain at this position they could only be playing the classification match for the seventh and eighth position against the fourth placed team of Pool A on Thursday, August 21
By
Gul Hameed Bhatti
While the Pakistan hockey team may have kissed its chances of bagging any kind of medal — for the fourth Olympic Games running from Atlanta 1996 onwards — the current defending champions Australia may well be on the way to a second successive gold medal, at Beijing 2008, with the Netherlands, placed in Pool B with Australia and Pakistan, in quite hot pursuit at the moment.

Master strategist Atif is Pakistan’s greatest ever Olympian
The greatest hurdle at Los Angeles 1984 was Australia as they had repeatedly defeated Pakistan over the last few years. It fell to Atif’s genius to discover the secret of their success against Pakistan
By Dr Ijaz Ahmed
When Olympic icons are discussed, someone from the team sports is rarely mentioned. Hockey boasts a person, directly involved with all the three golds his country has obtained at the Olympics. He has three other medals of lesser shades. But what makes it special are his achievements that spanned four decades.

Wonder spinner Ajantha Mendis
tames India’s once legendary batsmen
The main reason of India’s series loss was consistent failing of their famous middle order. Sachin Tendulkar (95), Dravid (148), Laxman (215) and Ganguly (96) failed to perform upto the expectations and managed only 554 runs combined in each of the six innings they played.
By Khurram Mahmood
Sri Lanka claimed a 2-1 Test series victory with an emphatic eight-wicket win against India in the deciding third cricket Test match last week. It was their first series win over India since 2001 and once again India failed to break the jinx of beating Sri Lanka on its soil since 1993.

olympics
Pakistan may have kissed the chance
of an Olympic medal goodbye

While the Pakistan hockey team may have kissed its chances of bagging any kind of medal — for the fourth Olympic Games running from Atlanta 1996 onwards — the current defending champions Australia may well be on the way to a second successive gold medal, at Beijing 2008, with the Netherlands, placed in Pool B with Australia and Pakistan, in quite hot pursuit at the moment.

In Pool A Spain, a hockey-playing nation with only two silver and a bronze medal in previous Olympiads, may also be fancying its chances, having retained its first position in the group standing ahead of Germany with a third successive win, defeating hosts China 2-1 in the first match of the morning on Friday.

Germany, with eight Olympic Games medals to their name — two gold, three silver and three silver — following a draw against Belgium needed to lift their game up as quickly as possible and get ahead of Spain, as they were meeting South Korea in a Pool A match later in the evening on Friday.

In the end, judged by the way they performed in their first two matches at the Beijing Olympiad, being defeated by Great Britain 4-2 and then going on to beat minnows Canada by a 3-1 scoreline in a rather shoddy display, Pakistan may only be playing later in the one of the classification matches for the lower positions.

If some sports enthusiasts back home might believe that this is being unfair to the hockey team, it is really a pity that they have fallen on such hard times. While some top Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) officials believe that hockey has lost out to cricket as the country’s main money-spinning sport and there are other former players and administrators who are of the opinion that Indo-Pak hockey’s decline started with the arrival of the astro turf, these are just lame excuses.

The fact is that hockey has not kept pace with the rapidly changing scenario in all world sports. Records are being broken almost every next day in the swimming pool, athletes in track and field events are continuing to outdo others as brilliant as themselves literally by the minute. The accent is always on excellence, hard-fighting effort, a quest for top honours and the ambition of performing better than all the rest of the world.

Hockey really needs international exposure of the highest level to give it a fresh kickstart and provide the players the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of their ilk. What exactly the PHF is expecting to achieve from tournaments like the recent Setanta Trophy played in Dublin in June this year just boggles the mind.

That competition has become so tough internationally and it is so difficult to maintain one’s top position for long can be judged by the fact that Argentina, who occupy the rather high sixth position in the latest International Hockey Federation (FIH) ranking, couldn’t even make the cut for the Beijing Olympics and Canada are in the event instead!

Argentina became champions of the prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia, in May this year. Of course, Australia were not competing, but at the Champions Trophy in Rotterdam a month later, Argentina at one stage appeared nearing the top of the victory stand. Eventually, Australia won the title but Argentina took third place in the event for the first time in their history.

Argentina, however, had already been denied a ticket to Beijing. In the 2007 Pan American Games, whose winner gets to play in the next Olympic Games, Argentina were surely the best team of the lot. They drew 2-2 with Canada in the final before a penalty shootout was arranged. Canada won by five goals to four. They are at Beijing, in spite of being down at number 15 in the FIH ranking.

PAKISTAN’S DECLINE
CONTINUES UNABATED

Since the Olympic Games played in Athens 2004, where Pakistan could only gain fifth position in the hockey event, they have hardly won anything important apart from their triumph at the Rabobank Trophy tournament in Amstelveen, Netherlands, back in August 2005. They had then centre-half Mohammad Saqlain as their captain and Pakistan, in fact, defeated Olympic champions Australia 4-3 in the final to lift the coveted trophy.

The rest is an unfortunate story of hits and way-off-the-mark misses. Soon after the Athens Olympiad, however, they beat arch-rivals India in an eight-match home and away series by a 4-2 margin. Pakistan finished third behind Spain and Netherlands in the 2004 Champions Trophy played in Lahore. They again ended at third place, this time in the Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur in June 2005.

Just before the Rabobank Trophy victory, Pakistan had finished fourth and last in the Hamburg Masters tournament. Then they slumped to fifth place in the 2005 Champions Trophy in Chennai, India.

Pakistan claimed the 2006 series against India winning three matches against one defeat and two draws. They won the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games at Melbourne later the same year, this time being defeated by Australia.

Pakistan made the World Cup tournament, although they finished fourth only in the World Cup Qualifiers held in Changzhou, China, in April 2006. The first five of the 12 participants moved ahead. When the World Cup was played in September of the same year, Pakistan finished sixth.

They managed just the fifth place at the 2006 Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur and finished fifth also at the Champions Trophy event of 2006 at Terrassa, Spain. Just before the World Cup, Pakistan took part in the four-nation Hamburg tournament and got third place.

They were relegated to a bronze medal finish at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. Then they slumped to number six at the Azlan Shah Cup the following year. Pakistan didn’t really enhance their reputation when they won a four-nation tournament in Moscow in July 2007. The other teams were Scotland, Russia and Ukraine!

In the 2007 Good Luck Beijing competition, Pakistan finished third behind Australia and China. They were sixth in the Asia Cup held in Chennai and seventh in the 2007 Champions Trophy at Kuala Lumpur. They won this year’s series in China by scraping through 3-2 in the end and at the 2008 Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Pakistan were fourth.

The rather lowly-rated Belgium beat Pakistan when the latter toured Europe, twice by scorelines of 3-2 and 4-2. Earlier, they had been thrashed 2-1 and 6-0 by the national team while they were in Germany.

Pakistan beat Canada in the final 3-2 to win the Setanta Trophy in Dublin two months ago. In fact, they had only beaten hosts Ireland to qualify for the final. In the league round, both Canada (2-2) and Great Britain (3-3) had held them to draws. Pakistan this year also failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy held in Rotterdam.

They are in the Olympiad only due to the fact that China are hosting the event. China were second at the Asian Games in 2006 while South Korea took gold. Two teams would have qualified for the Olympics, thus Pakistan’s bronze medal has helped them join Korea in Beijing.

 

TOP RANKING AUSTRALIA
AHEAD OF GERMANY

Although they have won just one Olympic Games hockey gold medal in 48 years, Australia are currently the highest ranking side in the FIH roster. They could also be one of the most successful field hockey teams ever. Germany, who have slipped to number two, however are the world champions having won the last World Cup competition held in 2006.

Both Australia and Germany have won the Champions Trophy titles on nine occasions each. Netherlands have taken this trophy eight times. Pakistan won the Champions Trophy three times — in 1978, 1980 and 1994.

Pakistan’s last title-winning triumphs both came in the year 1994, when they claimed both the Champions Trophy and World Cup titles. They have four World Cup trophies in their bag, which were won in 1971, 1978, 1982 and 1994.

Australia claimed the World Cup only once, in 1986, but they were runners-up in 2002 as well as 2006, on either occasion behind Germany. Netherlands have been World Cup winners three times, Germany twice and India once.

Australia have been the most frequent winners of the Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, with five titles to their name. Pakistan and India have both done so on three occasions each with Germany winning twice. Four other nations have been the winners once each: Argentina, Netherlands, South Korea and England.

Before their Beijing Olympics match against Australia on Friday, Pakistan were placed at number four among the six teams in Pool B. If they remain at this position, because they should at least end up above Canada and South Africa in the ranking, they could only be playing the classification match for the seventh and eighth position against the fourth placed team of Pool A on Thursday, August 21.

That would then be in keeping with their current position in the FIH ranking. Pakistan are placed number seven in this list. However, we keep our fingers crossed and pray for a miracle. A real one, please!

The writer is Group Editor Sports of ‘The News’

[email protected]

[email protected]

 

When Olympic icons are discussed, someone from the team sports is rarely mentioned. Hockey boasts a person, directly involved with all the three golds his country has obtained at the Olympics. He has three other medals of lesser shades. But what makes it special are his achievements that spanned four decades.

Manzoor Hussain Atif made his Olympic debut in 1952 when the Pakistan hockey team finished fourth. He was a regular in the XI when Pakistan won its first ever medal in any sport, a silver, in 1956.  The 6ft 2in full-back was at the peak of his defensive powers in 1960 when Pakistan claimed its first ever gold, dethroning India, who had won all the last six golds.

In 1964, in his fourth and last Olympic appearance as a player, Atif captained the silver medal winning Pakistan side.

As a player, Atif is regarded as one of the all-time best left full-backs of Pakistan. He also scored crucial goals off penalty corners and sounded the board in Pakistan’s victories in the semifinals of both the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. And in the 1964 Olympics, he was Pakistan’s top scorer with six goals.

But it was in the role of manager that Atif attained immortality. Manzoor Hussain Atif took the managerial role of the national team only nine months prior to the 1968 Olympics being held in Mexico. Since 1962, the team’s graph was going downwards. Pakistan had lost both the titles: at the Olympics and Asian Games. Things went from bad to worse as they finished a miserable fifth in the pre-Olympic festival in 1967.

This was Atif’s first major assignment although he had been manager in 1965 and 1966 in minor tournaments. The Pakistan team gained international exposure by a tour of Kenya — a strong team of that period — and Uganda as well as inviting Kenya and Japan to Pakistan, apart from staging a seven-nation festival tournament in Lahore.

These international matches helped Atif in building a strong combination. He made some real courageous decisions. During his previous managerial tenure, he had unearthed a brilliant right-in Mohammad Ashfaq, who had exceptional ball control and stick work. But he had been sidelined since 1966. Ashfaq was brought back.    

Abdul Rasheed Junior was a right-in but Atif switched him to centre-forward and trained him to be a poacher who could avail even half chances.

Fazalur Rehman was a great left-half and unlike conventional left-halves an attacking one. On the other hand, Gulraiz Akhtar was not so flashy but only adhered to the prime task of defence. It was a bold move to prefer Gulraiz over the popular and crowd-pleaser Fazal, who was taken as a reserve.

The main emphasis on attack was on the right trio where right-half Saeed Anwar, right-in Ashfaq and right-out performed as a well-knit unit.

As Mexico was at a height of more than 7,000 feet above sea level, so Pakistan’s training camp was held at Lower Topa near the hill station of Murree. The team was thus well prepared in every aspect.

Atif’s well-drilled Pakistan team regained the gold at Mexico in some style — winning all its nine matches. As manager, his only ‘failure’ was the bronze in 1976.

But luck also played its part. Atif, as always, had done the proper planning. As Pakistan lacked any astro-turf, Atif made arrangements for the team to stay in the Canadian city of Toronto before the tournament to get acclimatised to the astro-turf as well as the Canadian weather, a few weeks before the Olympics.

So it was a well prepared team that reached Montreal. Pakistan easily qualified for the semis without losing any game. In the semifinal against Australia, the greenshirts began sensationally; taking the lead in the very first minute and it seemed that Pakistan would be all over the Australians.

In the very next minute, the legendary forward Shahnaz Sheikh, while trying to ward off the tackle of centre-forward Ronald Riley, had a back swing which hit Riley, who in turn struck Shahnaz, with an apparently deliberate swing. Shahnaz had to be carried off the field and the Pakistan team lost the composure and the momentum, and resultantly the match as well.

Pakistan’s sorrows were deepened to see Australia beaten in the final by none other than New Zealand whom the green shirts had trounced 5-2 in the pool game. The famous English journalist Patrick Rowley perhaps rightly remarked “only a bronze medal for the best team”.

Atif was given the managerial role again in 1984, at the Los Angeles Olympics. At that time, Pakistan were the holders of all the other titles: the World Cup, the Asian Games and the Asia Cup. Still they were far from the favourites for the Olympic gold. Australia had beaten Pakistan in as many as last seven tournaments, and they were everyone’s favourites.

Atif accepted the challenge, and as always started the homework in a meticulous and planned manner. Pakistan had been conceding a lot of goals off penalty corners. In the 1982 World Cup, the Russian goalkeeper had revolutionised goalkeeping on penalty corners. He used to rush down from the goal-line and lie down horizontally close to the top of the striking circle thus narrowing down the striker’s vision of the goal. It should be noted that drag flicks off penalty corners were not permitted by the rules those days.

Although the Pakistani goalkeeper Moinuddin had himself suggested employing the same tactic but the Pakistani management didn’t agree. It goes to Atif’s credit that he adopted the ploy. Both the goalkeepers, Moinuddin and Shahid Ali Khan, were trained for this but Moin was to be the first choice because of his height and long steps.

As mentioned earlier, the greatest hurdle was Australia as they had repeatedly defeated Pakistan over the last few years. It fell to Atif’s genius to discover the secret of their success against Pakistan.

Through deep video analysis, he concluded that Australians made sudden forays into the Pakistani territory. These attacks originated from their right side in which invariably as many as seven players including the right full-back, the right-half and the centre-half took part. To counter that Atif adopted the policy of ‘nipping in the bud’.

He told his centre forward to tackle the Aussie centre-half as soon as he entered the Pakistani half. Similarly, the left-in and the left-out were assigned to counter the opponents’ right back and right-half respectively.

The last phase of the training was done in Vancouver, Canada, whose climate is similar to that of Los Angeles. When the team reached Los Angeles, it was physically, mentally and tactically very well-prepared.

But they made a shaky start, drawing with New Zealand after squandering a two-goal lead in the last three minutes. Two other drawn games meant that they finished second in the pool and thus had to face the menacing Australians in the semifinal. The Aussies, as expected, had pulverised all the opponents winning all the five pool games with ease.

But the master strategist’s team upset all the calculations and defeated the Aussies — it was regarded by some as the biggest upset in the team events of that Olympics.

Pakistan then went on to win the final and an Olympic gold for the last time. And it was also the last time that MH Atif managed Pakistan either at the Olympics or the World Cup.

Under his management in three Olympic games, Pakistan won two golds (1968 and 1984) and one bronze (1976). And in all the three campaigns combined, Pakistan lost just one match, the 1976 semifinal against Australia.

His Olympic tally as player consists of one gold and two silvers — including one as captain.

All these achievements make Brigadier Manzoor Hussain Atif not only the greatest Olympian Paksitan has ever produced but also the most successful hockey Olympian in the history of world’s biggest sporting event. Arguably he is the greatest Olympian from any team sport.

The writer is a freelancer

[email protected]

caption

Skipper Manzoor Hussain Atif is standing at second place on the podium after winning the hockey silver medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

 

I am certainly not an expert on shooting, at least not in the context of the sport at events of international importance. In fact, I didn’t even start writing about it, still with marginal interest though, when I got a little excited about finding out what Pakistani marskmen, if there were any, had achieved at the highest level in world and regional competitions. It was quite a learning experience. Pakistan’s (sporting) shooters had been taking part in the Olympic Games since Helsinki in 1952, which was in fact only their second Olympiad.

There were no medals won though. Pakistan didn’t get any positions at the Asian Games either. It was not until six years ago that Pakistan shooters landed their first medal at the Commonwealth Games. A couple of medals were picked up at international events of slightly lesser importance. The haul has been quite encouraging at the South Asian Federation (SAF)/South Asian Games over the years: a total of 69 medals is not too bad a return for exponents of this art, which involves playing with pistols, rifles and shot guns.

Thus, I surprised even myself when I rounded off my article ‘Pakistan will be represented at Beijing Olympiad by a lone marksman’ in the July 27 issue of ‘The News on Sunday’ perhaps, unknowingly — or was it prophetic, saying that India’s Abhinav Bindra was one of the shooters looking for a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympiad.

I had written “India are now, at Beijing 2008, in fact expecting to bring home a gold medal or two from the shooting events. Abhinav Bindra and a female shooter Anjali Bhagwat are seriously eyeing to attain the highest positions at the forthcoming Olympiad.”

That was still as many as 12 days before the start of the mega sporting event! On August 11, three days into actual competition, Abhinav Bindra did win a gold medal for India, the first solo gold attained by anyone from the country at the Olympics apart from the eight the country has taken home from the hockey competition since it won its first in 1928.

Even the Indians were left stunned before the victory and the gold medal sunk in. Bindra has already returned home and found him to be the toast of a grateful nation. A young man who doesn’t really need the cash awards he has been overloaded with — his family owns mega businesses with a turnover of 300 crore rupees — has been met with such an overwhelming outpouring of admiration and recognition as never before experienced by an individual sportsman.

Bindra arrived in New Delhi on August 14 and huge crowds beat drums and sang to welcome him, on his triumphant return home from the Beijing Games.

“Jab tak suraj chand rahe ga, Bindra tera naam rahe ga” (As long as the sun and moon remain, Bindra the nation will remember your name), chanted the crowd at New Delhi’s international airport as a smiling but composed Bindra emerged to dozens of waiting television vans.

“A very happy Independence Day,” Bindra told the thronging mass a day ahead of the August 15 Independence Day celebrations, showing off the medal he won the previous Monday. The 26-year-old Bindra took gold in the men’s 10m air rifle event, capping at least a decade of training, mostly funded by his wealthy business family from northern Punjab state.

Bindra’s gold also marked a long-awaited dream for India, which has watched for years as neighbour and Asian rival China has racked up medals at Olympic competitions for which Indian athletes have rarely even qualified.

Politicians lined up to congratulate Bindra on his return, including President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “I feel extremely overwhelmed. I’m happy that I’ve done it,” said Bindra after a breakfast of his favourite dishes with President Patil.

Most sports commentators noted Bindra’s win could not have come without private assistance — steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal’s Olympic Trust helped Bindra out when his supply of ammunition dried up due to government controls.

Bindra’s parents, meanwhile, who met him at the airport with hugs and kisses, now have their eyes on a less lofty prize for the sportsman who his mother quickly dubbed India’s “most eligible bachelor” — getting him married.

‘GOLDFINGER’ BOWS OUT WITH COLD FINGERS

What surprised most sportseers was the fact that, in spite of Bindra’s talent and expertise, it was either the country’s outstanding shooter Samresh Jung or the Athens 2004 Olympics silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who were tipped to win the medals at Beijing. Neither got anywhere near.

Samresh Jung has been such a prolific medal winner at international events — he has not won any at the Olympics though — that during the 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne he was dubbed as ‘Goldfinger’ by the Games’ volunteers. He was in contention for as any as eight gold medals: eventually he pocketed five gold in addition to a silver and a bronze in his various pistol events.

At the end of the event in Melbourne, he was also bestowed upon the prestigious David Dixon Award for an excellent display at the Commonwealth Games.

But Samresh Jung turned into ‘Coldfinger’ at the Beijing Olympiad earlier this month. In the men’s 10m air pistol qualification on August 9, Jung returned a score of 570 and could only attain a pathetic 42nd place out of 48 shooters. He failed to qualify for the final.

Three days later, Jung competed in the men’s 50m pistol qualification. The result he attained again was aweful. With a score of 540, all he could receive was the 42nd spot out of 45 competitors. That brought to an end his participation at the Beijing Olympic Games. He has claimed seven gold medals at two Commonwealth Games.

Rathore, who had won the men’s double trap silver medal at Athens four years ago and earned the distinction of being India’s flag bearer at the march past in Beijing, disappointed this time round. With a score of 131 in the double trap qualification, he ended a poor 15th out of 19 participants.

My ‘prediction’ about Anjali Bhagwat was way off the mark, even though I got Bindra’s result right. In the women’s 10m air rifle qualification, she finished 29th out of 47 and failed to make the final. Bhagwat’s teammate Avneet Kaur Sidhu took the 39th spot.

In the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions qualification, Anjali Bhagwat managed to finish only at 32nd place out of 43 shooters. Sidhu was placed at 42nd, just one position above the woman who was at rock bottom.

In the men’s trap qualification, India’s Manavjit Singh Sandhu did well, but eventually occupied the eighth position out of a field of 35. Mansher Singh ended at a creditable number 12.

While Bindra won the gold medal in the men’s 10m air rifle final, his teammate Gagan Narang finished ninth out of 51 shooters in the qualification. Pakistan’s lone marksman Siddiq Umar also featured in the qualification round: with a score of 578, he managed only the 48th position.

As we went to the press with the issue of ‘The News on Sunday’ in your hands, late on August 14, Gagan Narang and Sanjeev Rajput were getting ready to represent India in the men’s 50m rifle prone qualification on Friday. On Sunday (today), the two will also take part in the men’s 50m rifle 3 positions qualification, an event that will see Pakistan’s Siddiq Umar in action again.

THE GREAT BROWN HOPE

Accolades are being showered right, left and centre on gold winner Abhinav Bindra. He has been dubbed as ‘the Great Brown Hope’ by a grateful enthusiast. He says: “Just look at our boy. He looks like an ordinary IT guy or an engineer or friendly grad student. He is now a national hero. A Peter Parker of sorts. He is the great common brown guy hope! Not all of us can have Michael Phelps’s upper body, but some of us can imagine looking like this (like Bindra).

“From a virtual non-entity to the country’s hottest property overnight, Abhinav Bindra has struck gold. Not just in the Olympics. The Chandigarh shooter who picked up India’s first ever individual gold in Olympics is expected to see his brand value shooting up to a couple of crores, riding not only on his historic feat but also his youthful personality.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Beijing Olympics were hit by a fresh ‘cheating’ row after India’s gold-medal winning shooter said that his gunsight had been tampered with before the final round of his event.

Bindra said he had discovered the alteration as he practiced before the final of the 10m air rifle event which he went on to win. Competitors are given three minutes of ‘sighter’ shots to zero in their sights before the competition officially begins and it was at this point that Bindhra discovered that someone had moved his rear sight.

Dr Amit Bhattacharjee, Abhinav’s personal mental trainer, said: “When Abhinav fired the first shot in the sighting time (practice time), it hit the target between the fourth and fifth rings.

“It is unthinkable of any shooter competing at this level to score 4.5 points. But he remained calm and corrected the angle (of his sight) and the end result is in front of you.”

The Indian team authorities said that no official complaint had been made about the incident, since it is acknowledged to be the responsibility of the shooter to take proper care of his rifle.

Baljit Singh Sethi, India’s deputy Chef de Mission who is also the secretary general of the National Rifle Association of India, said. “Actually, you cannot blame anyone for it’s your duty to take care of your gun. He was the only Indian to qualify, so there were shooters only from other countries in that room.”

Bindra has recalled going to the toilet at the same time his German coach Gabriela Buehlmann went out for a cigarette, leaving the gun unattended. It was at this moment that the Indians suspect the rifle was tampered with.

The allegations of cheating came a day after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was forced to answer allegations in the US media that three of China’s gold-medal winning gymnastics team were underage.

According to Olympic regulations gymnasts must turn 16 by the end of an Olympic year, but several reports in the Chinese media appeared to refer three of the Chinese gymnasts as 13 and 14 as recently as a year ago.

A PLETHORA OF AWARDS FOR BINDRA

Bindra’s shooting medal is the first gold for India in 28 years, since the men’s field hockey team took first place at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Bindra has been rewarded by various Indian state governments and private organisations for his achievement. These include the state governments of Punjab — Rs 10 million (approx $250,000), Haryana — Rs 2.5 million, Maharashtra — Rs 1 million, Karnataka — Rs 1 million, Tamil Nadu — Rs 0.5 million, Madhya Pradesh — Rs 0.5 million and Chattisgarh — Rs 0.5 million.

Other organisations that rewarded Bindra include Chandigarh civic administration — Rs 0.5 million, BCCI (the Indian Cricket Board) — Rs 2.5 million, Indian Railways — lifelong free pass for Bindra and one companion in First Class AC, Spicejet Airways — lifelong free flight ticket to Bindra, Samsung — Rs 2 million, Orissa Government 0.1 million and Bihar Government Rs.1.1 million.

In 2000, Bindra had received the Arjuna award and in 2001, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna — India’s highest sports award.

More cash awards and rewards keep pouring in. Rupees two lakh came from Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (also called the parliament of the Sikhs), Rs 15 lakh by Steel Ministry of India and a gold medal by the State Government of Kerala. The Patna Indoor Stadium will be renamed after Bindra.

Bindra holds a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) from the University of Colorado, US. He is the CEO of Abhinav Futuristics — the sole distributor of Walther arms in India. Abhinav has sponsorship tie-ups with Samsung and the Sahara Group.

He has something more to cheer about as all cash rewards announced for him by several state governments, PSUs and sports bodies will get exempted from Income Tax. Cash awards announced so far amount to about Rs three crore. A senior official from the Central Board of Direct Taxes said Bindra will get exemption as he is an amateur.

Sportsperson getting monetary benefits in a professional category are levied. Bindra hails from an industrialist family with the group companies promoted by his father having a turnover of more than three hundred crore rupees, majorly into food processing and pharmaceuticals.

The historic victory for the young Abhinav from Chandigarh was one of the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history, that came against heavy odds as he entered the event ranked number 17 in the world, and was pitted against Athens Olympic champion Zhu Qinan of China and Henri Hakkinen of Finland rated much higher than him.

But Bindra proved that hard work and focused display can create topsy-turvy results and get over any reputation. Incidentally, Bindra was in deficit against Zhu and Hakkinen after the qualifying round. The moment Bindra fired a near-perfect 10.8, he was a winner.

Bindra finished with 104.5 in the 10-shot final, taking his tally of points to 700.5 as against Zhu’s silver winning performance of 699.7 (597 + 102.7) and 699.4 (598 + 101.4) by Hakkinen. His first shot in the final — a 10.7 — saw him move to third place and by the time he was preparing to fire his fourth, he had risen to the second spot.

Since his childhood, Bindra hardly delivered a noticeable performance in his initial years. But he came to the limelight when he had won a bronze in the 2001 Munich World Cup with a new junior world record score of 597/600. In the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, competing in the air rifle event, Bindra had won a gold in the pairs event and silver in the individual event. In the 2004 Athens Olympics, Bindra had failed to win a medal.

He went on to become the first Indian shooter to win a World Championship gold in Zagreb on July 24, 2006. Due to Bindra’s achievement, India has figured in the medals tally so early in Beijing Olympics 2008, a distinction India hardly secured in previous Olympics.

Certainly, Bindra is a new role model for millions of young talents in India, who come from sports other than cricket. He has shown the way for others to follow. Since winning the cricket World Cup in 1983 raised the cricketing standards of India and which helped produce masters likes Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev, other sports may well get greater attention in that country and here in Pakistan also.

 

Wonder spinner Ajantha Mendis

Sri Lanka claimed a 2-1 Test series victory with an emphatic eight-wicket win against India in the deciding third cricket Test match last week. It was their first series win over India since 2001 and once again India failed to break the jinx of beating Sri Lanka on its soil since 1993.

Sri Lanka secured the series winning the third and final Test match by eight wickets at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium. The venue has remained fortunate for the hosts as they had recorded their first ever Test win, also against the same opponents way back in 1985.

The first Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground Colombo was won by Sri Lanka comprehensively by an innings and 239 runs. India bounced back and squared the Test series by winning the second Test at Galle by 170 runs. The third and decisive Test at Saravanamuttu Stadium Colombo was again won by Sri Lanka, by eight wickets who also won the Test series by 2-1.

The loss to Sri Lanka cost India four rating points to push them down in the ICC Test ranking. Sri Lanka now sits on 108 ratings points after starting on 103 while India has slipped to 109 after entering the series on 113. After winning the Test series Sri Lanka are now at fourth position behind India with a difference of one point.

The new system of review of umpiring decisions was introduced for the first time in the series and it generated a lot of attention. The hosts Sri Lanka’s skipper Mahela Jayawardene used the law very well and at the right time due to which he get more decisions in his favour than his counterpart Anil Kumble.

The main reason of India’s series loss was consistent failing of their famous middle order. Sachin Tendulkar (95), Dravid (148), Laxman (215) and Ganguly (96) failed to perform upto the expectations and managed only 554 runs combined in each of the six innings they played. Interestingly, their accumulative total of 554 runs was 46 short of Sri Lanka’s first innings total of 600 runs in the inaugural Test.

After scoring only 95 runs with an average of just 15.83 in the series, Sachin Tendulkar has dropped to his lowest ranking in 15 years in the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. He started the series in 13th position and finished in 23rd place.

Tendulkar’s Test runs tally now is 11877 and he is only 76 runs short of becoming the leading run-getter in Test cricket history. Before starting the Test series the master batsman needed only 172 runs to overtake former West Indian batsman Brian Lara’s most runs record of 11953, but fell short by 77 runs. Tendulkar will miss the One-day International series against Sri Lanka because of an elbow injury.

Sri Lanka’s new sensation and unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis claimed 26 wickets at an average of 18.38 in the three-Test series and broke the 62 years old record of England’s Alec Bedser’s 24 wickets for the most wickets in a debut series he set also against India in 1946.

World record-holder off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan also contributed to beating India in the Test series and he extended his series tally to 21 wickets at 22.23 and his career total is now a record 756 Test wickets with the average of 21.96.

Before starting the Test series, all the talk was about how the Indians will face Muttiah Muralitharan, but the debutant Ajantha Mendis destroyed the visitors’ strong batting.

During the Test series Indian batsmen managed only one hundred — Sehwag 201 at Galle — and seven fifties and never crossed 350 runs in the series. On the other hand Sri Lnakan batsmen scored four centures in the first Test at SSC alone.

On the bowling side for India, only Harbhajan Singh created some trouble for the opponents with his 16 wickets at an average of 28.12. No other Indian bowler averaged less than 30. Harbhajan and Kumble took 24 wickets between them, even two less than Ajantha Mendis’s 26 all by himself.

The writer works in the art department at ‘The News on Sunday’ in Karachi

[email protected]

 

INDIA IN SRI LANKA TEST SERIES 2008

Sri Lanka batting

Player  Mat          Inns          NO          Runs          HS          Ave          BF          SR          100          50

TT Samaraweera          3          4          1          243          127          81.00          471          51.59          1          1

DPMD Jayawardene          3          5          1          279          136          69.75          545          51.19          1          2

TM Dilshan          3          4          1          186          125*          62.00          265          70.18          1          0

BSM Warnapura          3          5          1          243          115          60.75          423          57.44          1          2

KC Sangakkara          3          5          0          229          144          45.80          440          52.04          1          1

KTGD Prasad          1          1          0          36          36          36.00          56          64.28          0          0

HAPW Jayawardene          3          4          0          107          49          26.75          273          39.19          0          0

WPUJC Vaas          3          4          1          70          47          23.33          154          45.45          0          0

MG Vandort          3          5          0          39          14          7.80          133          29.32          0          0

BAW Mendis          3          3          0          19          17          6.33          33          57.57          0          0

KMDN Kulasekara          2          2          1          6          5*          6.00          48          12.50          0          0

M Muralitharan          3          3          1          0          0*          0.00          6          0.00          0          0

 

Sri Lanka bowling

Player  Overs          Mdns          Runs          Wkts          BBI          BBM          Ave          SR          5          10

BAW Mendis          163.1          24          478          26          6-117          10-209          18.38          37.6          2          1

M Muralitharan          160.5          18          467          21          6-26          11-110          22.23          45.9          2          1

KTGD Prasad          28.0          0          142          5          3-82          5-142          28.40          33.6          0          0

WPUJC Vaas          59.0          7          220          5          2-32          4-106          44.00          70.8          0          0

KMDN Kulasekara          33.0          6          138          1          1-42          1-67          138.00          198.0          0          0

 

India batting

Player  Mat          Inns          NO          Runs          HS          Ave          BF          SR          100          50

V Sehwag          3          6          1          344          201*          68.80          366          93.98          1          1

G Gambhir          3          6          0          310          74          51.66          568          54.57          0          3

VVS Laxman          3          6          1          215          61*          43.00          443          48.53          0          2

R Dravid          3          6          0          148          68          24.66          358          41.34          0          1

SC Ganguly          3          6          0          96          35          16.00          226          42.47          0          0

SR Tendulkar          3          6          0          95          31          15.83          155          61.29          0          0

I Sharma          3          6          3          35          17*          11.66          126          27.77          0          0

Harbhajan Singh  3          6          0          65          26          10.83          96          67.70          0          0

KD Karthik          2          4          0          36          20          9.00          55          65.45          0          0

Z Khan 3          6          1          43          32          8.60          129          33.33          0          0

PA Patel          1          2          0          14          13          7.00          44          31.81          0          0

A Kumble          3          6          0          29          12          4.83          100          29.00          0          0

 

india bowling

Player  Overs          Mdns          Runs          Wkts          BBI          BBM          Ave          SR          5          10

Harbhajan Singh  152.0          21          450          16          6-102          10-153          28.12          57.0          1          1

I Sharma          71.3          16          213          6          3-20          3-56          35.50          71.5          0          0

Z Khan 92.0          10          352          8          3-105          4-127          44.00          69.0          0          0

A Kumble          134.5          20          400          8          3-81          5-122          50.00          101.1          0          0

V Sehwag          9.0          0          31          0          -          -          -          -          0          0

SC Ganguly          11.1          1          39          0          -          -          -          -          0          0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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