Good times ahead

R. RAGU

With Indian Bank offering a tidy sum towards the sponsorship of the Senior Division League, the CFA hopes this will mark the beginning of better times.

Things are happening for football in Chennai. At the fag end of the Senior Division League this season came the banner announcing that Indian Bank was sponsoring the league. “Our efforts are beginning to bear fruits,” said E. Sugumaran, the CFA (Chennai Football Association) secretary on the latest development. He said Indian Bank had come forward to provide a tidy sum and this could be the beginning of better times ahead.

Curiously enough, the announcement of the league sponsorship came on the day Indian Bank was playing its last match of the season, and most importantly, getting ready to wear the championship crown. A victory that day in the derby match against defending champion ICF would have sealed it for Indian Bank. But, as it happened, the match ended in a draw. Indian Bank, thus, had to wait for a few more days because another team, SAI, with five matches in hand at that stage, had, at least on paper, the chance of overtaking the former’s tally of 21 points in the event of winning all its matches. However, SAI drew one of its matches, dropped points and Indian Bank clinched the Raja of Bobbili shield, the symbol of supremacy in local football.

The season will be remembered not only for Indian Bank regaining the title after five years but also the interest some teams took in recruiting foreign players (read Africans) to bolster their chances. This new trend could transform local football, improve competition and perhaps the sport can even woo the crowds back to the stadium.

All that the CFA needs is a ground of its own to chart out its calendar without any ad-hocism. Perhaps the Chennai Corporation will allow it to use the Kannappar Thidal facility, which is close to the Nehru Stadium.

* * * Team comes first

V. GOPINATHAN

He declined the icon status for Hyderabad in the IPL, but preferred not to call it an act of sacrifice. “I won’t call it a sacrifice. There were lots of discussions before the auctions were held in Mumbai. The strategy was to get the best combination and my decision to decline the icon status was part of those efforts,” said V. V. S. Laxman (in pic).

“For me, the team is more important than anything else. And I do believe that we got the best combination which should be good enough to win the championship,” he stressed.

Does he now regret declining the icon status?

“Certainly not, for me cricket is top priority,” he said.

About being named the skipper of the Hyderabad team in the IPL, Laxman is upbeat. “It is definitely a huge honour to be the captain of a side that includes so many great players,” he said.

On the challenges of leading such a high-profile squad, he said that most of the overseas cricketers in his team, including Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Shahid Afridi were all good friends of his for many years. “More than that, they are all match-winners with vast experience and they all know their responsibilities. Each one of them has a role to play in the team’s success. Even the young cricketers who rub shoulders with the best should have a great chance to elevate their status with consistent performances,” he explained. Laxman also believed that Hyderabad coach Robin Singh’s biggest contribution can well be his reputation and the ability to inculcate commitment among the team members.

* * * Hard work is the mantra

MOHAMMED YOUSUF

Groans and moans meant he had done his job well. Most of the players from the world-beating Australian cricket team enjoyed going through the grind though, and complaints were few and far between. As Australia’s Physical Performance Manager and later Strength and Conditioning Coach from 2000 to 2005, Jock Alexander Campbell (in pic), who is currently the ICL’s High Performance Director, set off on a sound wicket, thanks to being skipper Steve Waugh’s personal trainer. The fact that he had played with Glenn McGrath and Stuart Clark in domestic competition also helped.

Taking charge just two days before the Perth Test (2000-01) against the West Indies, led by Jimmy Adams, Campbell hadn’t seen Mark Waugh notch up a century live.

“We’ll have to do something about that,” said Mark Waugh, who then went on to crack a century. Then, good friend McGrath got a hat-trick, dismissing Sherwin Campbell, Lara and Adams in succession while notching up his 300th Test wicket in a thrilling win for Australia.

HBW (hard bloody work) was Campbell’s mantra and he introduced regular weight training right away, both during and off-season.

He next focussed on acclimatisation, tackling temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius for settings such as Sharjah and the players responded to his call very well.

In the initial stages of Campbell’s stint with the Australian team, doctors grimly predicted that Brett Lee would never again attain peak prowess after an elbow ligament tear. But under Campbell’s supervision, the fast bowler recouped very well and even bowled some of his fiercest spells during the 2003 World Cup.

Campbell had also helped Shane Warne to shed half his body weight over a six-month period.

Talking of the launch of the new league by the BCCI, Campbell said, “There’d be no IPL (Indian Premier League) had it not been for the ICL (Indian Cricket League).” The ICL, according to him, has created greater opportunities not just for players but coaches and others connected with the game.

Campbell is in India with partner Paul Watson from Jock Athletic, an academy they run in Sydney that has not only cricketers but even Olympians as trainees. He relishes the challenge of building up the ICL and is confident that Tony Greig’s vision will take it places.

* * * The Right Balance

Not a single gold from a nation of one billion” has been the lament of the sports lovers in the country at the end of every Olympics. However, there is a person who believes he can spot at least two potential gold medallists by 2012 and he plans to groom them from his own sports institutions.

The man who nurses that dream is Mr. Chenraj Jain, a noted educationist and chairman of the Jain Group of Institutions in Bangalore, who has an unbridled passion for sports. Chenraj firmly believes that sports and academics can co-exist. “I have proved that in my educational institutions and all the top sportspersons of my college are also very good in academics, they score over 85 per cent. It is all a question of finding the right balance,” says the man who has built a multi-crore sports complex with facilities for all major sports including a 10-lane international swimming pool, cricket stadium, tennis courts, a golf course and multi-purpose indoor stadium at JIRS campus on Kanakapura Road near Bangalore.

Chenraj has now unveiled two sports schools — the Jain Heritage School and the Jain Academy of Sporting Excellence.

Both the institutions are scheduled to go on stream in June and would have the services of top national and international coaches.

The schools’ eminent panel comprises Brad Murphy, director of Australian Sports Gateway, Ranji star Vijay Bharadwaj (both for cricket), Enrico Piperno, the Indian Fed Cup team captain, Peter Tramacchi, an Australian coach and former Junior Davis Cup team captain (both for tennis), J. D. Walsh of Walsh Basketball School, New York, Olympian swimmer Nisha Millet, Vincent Subramaniam, former National coach of Singapore football team, and G. K. Vishwanath, former State table tennis champion and National doubles winner.

Chenraj also disclosed that similar sports hubs are being planned across the country.

By S.R. Suryanarayan, A. Joseph Antony, V.V. Subrahmanyam & Kalyan Ashok