IOB supreme

The victorious Indian Overseas Bank team.-M. VEDHAN

IOB retained the Senior Division Hockey League title in Chennai, a city where the sport is well organised.

Chennai is probably one of the few cities where hockey is systematised with regular club-level competitions. The 2008 edition of the Rajaram Memorial Trophy, the symbol of supremacy in the Senior Division League, was conducted with a touch of professionalism at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium, where even the electronic scoreboard was operated for the super-league matches.

Supervised by Olympian and former coach, V. Baskaran, who is also the Secretary of the Chennai Hockey Association, the team consisting of Udayakumar (Assistant Secretary), S. R. Basgaran (Chairman, League Committee), P. Krishnamurthy (Tournament Director), assisted by Navaneethakrishnan and Dhanraj along with umpire/technical official Satya Prakash, the competition was organised with eclat.

It is not an easy task to ensure the logistics for conducting the league in two phases — the first for the 16 teams that were divided into two groups of eight each, and then for the top six (three from each pool) — that stretched for over a month.

All the details were well attended to, and the commitment of the organisers was evident in every endeavour. The painful reality though was the quality of the matches that was predominantly mediocre. Only a few teams such as the Indian Overseas Bank, Integral Coach Factory and Southern Railway exhibited some intensity in their approach.

The once famous Indian Bank dished out a poor performance to finish fourth in the six-team super-league.

Even the top teams were inconsistent. The needle matches suffered from specks of rough play, forcing the umpires to flash yellow cards. In some of the matches frayed tempers led to fisticuffs.

The downside apart, one must acknowledge the dominance of Indian Overseas Bank which retained the trophy with an easy win over Integral Coach Factory in the key match of the super-league. Served well by Olympian Adam Sinclair, who even notched up a hat-trick, Senthil, Senthil Kumar and Saravanakumar, the IOB team played to a plan devised by the former state star, Md. Arif.

ICF promised a lot after it outclassed its traditional rival Southern Railway, but fell at the final hurdle despite holding a two-point lead. Coach Suresh Babu had a bunch of talented players in Ramesh Babu, Rajendran and Sarath Babu. Mahendra Singh and Armugam were prominent for Southern Railway, coached by V. Jeyasekaran.

Notwithstanding the presence of seasoned stars like Tirumalvalavan, Veerasamy Raja and Dinesh Nayak, Indian Bank failed to peak at the right moment and finished fourth. That two SAI teams figured in the super-league underscored the quality training the players are receiving from coach Manoharan.

Final positions: 1. IOB (Played 5, won 4, drew 1, lost 0, points 13); 2. ICF (5-4-0-1-12); 3. Southern Railway (5-3-1-1-10); 4. Indian Bank (5-2-0-3-6); 5. SAI ‘A’ (5-1-0-4-3); 6. SAI ‘B’ (5-0-0-5-0).

* * * A noble gesture


It was a gesture worthy of the cause. During the Canara Bank Bangalore Open, the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) committed itself to raising $100,000 for the UNESCO and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour partnership for gender equality and women empowerment and leadership. The KSLTA gesture was well appreciated by the Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj, the reigning Wimbledon champion and multi-Slam winner Venus Williams (in pic) , who is the ambass ador for the UNESCO and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour venture, Mr. Larry Scott, Chairman of the Tour, and Ms. Saniye Gulser Corat, Director of Gender Equality of the Bureau of strategic planning, UNESCO.

The KSLTA secretary, C. S. Sunder Raju, said: “It gives me immense satisfaction to be part of this programme to be launched in India by UNESCO and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and Rotary International 3190 has agreed to join us in this task.”

Responding to the KSLTA gesture, Venus Williams said: “I am really touched by this generous pledge. It would go a long way in creating an environment to produce women with leadership qualities in this part of India.

“Gender equality is an issue I have always believed in and strongly supported and the response from other players too has been very encouraging. May be we can all get together as a group and do a lot more.”

Venus has been joined by other Tour stars, Tatiana Golovin of France and Zheng Jie of China, as UNESCO ambassadors.

* * * A shot in the arm


India’s quest for an Olympic medal in archery received a boost with one of the world’s renowned coaches, Lee Wang Woo of South Korea, taking charge of the National squad.

The 52-year-old professional archer-turned-golfer has been hired by the Mittal Champion Trust (MCT) for a fabulous amount and is based in Bangalore with the Trust’s archers. A regular member of the South Korean national team from 1964 to 84, Lee took to coaching in 1987. Under his tutelage, the Korean national team participated in four Olympics with distinction. Then he was put in charge of the Korean national junior team for four years.

Lee retired thereafter and became an avid golfer before he was contracted by the MCT. Lee’s contract is expected to run for at least four years initially. The Archery Association of India (AAI) has also decided to enlist his services to help the Indian archers achieve the kind of perfection their Korean counterparts have. Lee maintains that the Indians are as good as any of the other archers in the world in terms of technique and skill, but they lack in mental strength. “Indians have it in them to win an Olympic medal. What they lack is consistency. They shoot a 10-pointer and in the next probably get a six-pointer. So my task is to strengthen them mentally and train them to shoot consistently,” he said. In sport, according to Lee, the best results are achieved when one is in a happy state of mind. He is going to teach his wards to “do everything in a happy state of mind” to achieve the required results.

By S. Thyagarajan, S. Sabanayakan & Kalyan Ashok