IHF Juniors to the fore

The victorious IHF Juniors team with the Murugappa Gold Cup. — Pic. VINO JOHN-

THOUGH shorn of glamour teams and stars, the annual Madras Cricket Club-Murugappa Gold Cup hockey tournament at Chennai enjoyed a good deal of patronage. This came as a balm to a worried tournament committee, whose members had spoken out at the attitude of the powers-that-be in the national administration on the eve of the competition. But the crowd response clearly underlined that efficiency in organisation and a sustained competitive element can really contribute to the success of an event.

The 10-day competition on the worn-out synthetic pitch at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium gave the audience a few intense contests and brilliant individual displays, culminating in a splendid win for the Indian Hockey Federation Juniors against the Indian Railways through the tie-breaker. Even the semi-final triumph for IHF Juniors against Air-India came from a tie-breaker after a comfortable 4-1 success against Tamil Nadu XI.

Compared to the previous IHF teams, the one that figured in this tournament was not a balanced one. But the hard-working coach, Harendra Singh, strove manfully to inspire the boys from day one when they played the ONGC and won narrowly by a solitary goal. At no point did one see the IHF functioning with a measure of harmony, but individually some of the players displayed enormous talent.

Outstanding in the ranks was skipper and midfielder Vivek Gupta. He was appropriately named the Player of the Tournament, after he convincingly slotted the fifth stroke in the tie-breaker against Railways in the final to help his team take the cash prize of Rs. 75,000. Innovative and ingenious, he was always in an attacking mode, sizing up the opposition and prompting the frontline into action.

Next on the list was goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza, whose exemplary work in the tie-breaker against Air-India in the semi-final and Railways in the final won the admiration of everyone.

Nitin Kumar and Arumugam on the wing, Hariprasad and Raju from the middle, added a touch of sharpness to the attack as did defenders William Xalco and Navpreet Singh.

Indian Railways was expected to give the Juniors a challenging time, especially after the way it overwhelmed the favourite, Karnataka, in the semi-final. The 5-2 margin depicted Railways as the champion outfit. But too much emphasis on defence cost the team dear. Chander Pal was its main plank both in attack and in the midfield, but ironically enough he flunked in the final tie-breaker. Former International Rajiv Mishra shone in patches while Shiva, Vinod Kumar and Satish Kumar were prominent in the frontline. Jagmohan Singh gave a consistent performance in the midfield.

Len Aiyappa, who scored seven goals in three matches but flopped in the crucial tie against Railways, was Karnataka's trump card. Two hat-tricks, against IOB and then against ASC Bangalore, made Len Aiyappa the hero. Packing power and precision in his drag-flicks, Aiyappa made a mockery of the rival defence. But in the semi-final, Railways successfully thwarted the ebullience of this striker. Anup Antony and Amar Aiyamma, who also scored a hat-trick against ASC Centre, Bangalore, were the other star attractions in the squad.

Air-India looked a jaded lot with veterans such as Anil Aldrin, Gavin Ferreira, Davinder Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Roshan Tate, making a valiant effort to keep the team floating. But the Juniors held it goal-less and had the final say in the tie-breaker. Tamil Nadu XI, which boasted of a handful of internationals in goal-keeper Natarajan, Dinesh Nayak, Thirumalvalavan, Radhakrishnan and L. Prabhakaran, should have finished higher in the order but succumbed surprisingly to IHF Juniors by a large margin of 1-4.

On the contary, the local league champion, Indian Overseas Bank, managed to outwit Punjab Police in the needle match after a poor start against Karnataka, for a place in the quarter-final. D. Felix was its pole-star. The surprise packet was ASC, Bangalore, which came as a substitute for Indian Oil Corporation at the eleventh hour. ASC shocked Mumbai XI by seven goals to four in the opening match and managed to enter the last eight along with Bhopal XI.

On the negative side, it must be said that the quality of supervision overall was mediocre with only Mohammad Shakeel and Vir Bahadur doing a good job. Chandigarh's Satinder Sharma, an international, was forced to flash the red card for outrageous behaviour by the MEG skipper, Samson Fernandez. While walking out, Samson Fernandez stroked the back of the head of the umpire as if he was giving a pat for the decision.

The rapport that exists between the Murugappa Group and the Madras Cricket Club contributed to a near-perfect conduct of the event. Adding to the element of sophistication in giving the tournament that extra mileage from all sides was the personal enthusiasm shown by the Directors of the Murugappa Group, notably A. Vellayan, who is even prepared to host a four-nation tournament once the Stadium gets equipped with floodlights and a new synthetic pitch by October this year.

The interest taken in attending to details by V. R. Rajasekhar, President, Madras Cricket Club, and Vice-President, K. R. Ganapathy, and the Organising Secretary, S. L. Rajiv Reddy, should not go unacknowledged. An added attraction this time was the Cholamandalam Man of the Match award from the quarter-finals.

M.A. Alagappan, Vice-Chairman, Murugappa Group, presided and gave away the prizes. — S. Thyagarajan

<15,0m,,0>ONGC capitalises

IN the absence of the defending champion, Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai, two outstation teams made it to the final of the Ace Basketball Club's all-India men's tournament for the Magnolia Trophy this year. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Dehradun, which won the trophy, and Customs and Central Excise, Kochi, moved into the final, eliminating the other local outfits.

This year the major event had a subdued note for various reasons. The Indian senior team was preparing for the Asian championship and was getting ready for some `Tests' in Europe. So all the leading outfits did not have the services of some of their main players. IOB was in bad shape as four of its players were in the camp and its main rebounder, Shabeer Ahmed, who injured his knee badly during the Asian qualifying tournament in Delhi, was advised not to play. So IOB was not available for the event. ONGC did not have its main shooter, Des Raj, and Murali. Even Punjab Police did not come because of the absence of some top players.

From the beginning it was clear that the outstation outfits would dominate. Indian Bank, Chennai, is an aging side. Without any recruitment for the last four or five years the Bank side, a former Federation Cup champion, is competing in local tournaments with the help of some guest players. However, this year, Indian Bank did not have the help of two guest stars, Sukavaneshwaran and Mohan Raj, who played for the only Club team in the tournament, Hindustan BC.

Even before the commencement of the competition DLW (Varanasi) withdrew. But its announcement came late and the organisers decided not to include any other side in its place. So ONGC and Southern Railway had it easy even before the start as they both qualified for the knock-out quarter-final from Group `C' without playing a single tie. However, they clashed for the No. 1 position in that pool and ONGC won comfortably.

Central Excise (Kochi) and Hindustan BC from Group `A', ICF and Tata Steel (TISCO) from Group `B' and Indian Bank and Customs RC from Group `D' qualified for the next stage.

AOC (Secunderabad), State Bank (Chennai) and Bhilai Steel Plant had to bow out in the first phase itself. The quality of contests was not high. Even three of the four quarter-finals were one-sided. But in the last quarter-final, Indian Bank rallied superbly to wipe out a 25-point deficit to beat Tata Steel. Three city teams, Hindustan BC, Indian Bank and ICF, did well. Both Indian Bank and ICF reached the semi-finals, but they were overwhelmed by the outstation sides. ICF fought hard against Central Excise (Kochi), but it did not have the defence to get past the rival. In the other semi-final, ONGC completely outclassed Indian Bank.

In the final, Central Excise began well by outbasketing the rival and controlling the rebound. But ONGC broke away in the second half to score a comfortable victory. The Kochi team was clearly outplayed. It started well, but failed to maintain the momentum right through.

With Mohit Bhandari passing brilliantly, ONGC mowed down the rival in the second half. Even ONGC's defensive rebounding improved and the team walked away with the trophy and Rs. 25,000 prize money.

Vijay Kumar, IPS, Commissioner of Police, Chennai, gave away the prizes.

The results:

Final: ONGC 96 (Suresh Kumar 23, Pradeep Kumar 30, Nishant 22) beat Central Excise, Kochi, 77 (Subash Shenoy 14, Sunny Thomas 12).

For third place: Indian Bank beat ICF 69-57.

Semi-finals: Central Excise, Kochi beat ICF 70-65, ONGC beat Indian Bank 86-63. — M. C. Raman