Viability is the big question

Published : Sep 26, 2009 00:00 IST

The victorious Air India (Red) team with the Corporate Trophy.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH The victorious Air India (Red) team with the Corporate Trophy.
The victorious Air India (Red) team with the Corporate Trophy.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH The victorious Air India (Red) team with the Corporate Trophy.

The victorious Air India (Red) team with the Corporate Trophy.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH The victorious Air India (Red) team with the Corporate Trophy.

The Corporate Trophy might be BCCI’s idea of making companies to employ cricketers besides jumping on the sponsorship bandwagon, but it remains to be seen how the tournament evolves over the years.

The inaugural Sahara BCCI Corporate Trophy that concluded at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on September 8 pitted the top-billed teams — Air India (Red), led by Yuvraj Singh, and Air India (Blue), captained by Harbhajan Singh — in the summit clash. But the contest was over the moment the ‘Man of the Final’, opener Robin Uthappa, struck an unbeaten 157 (148b, 11x4, 6x6) that was high on maturity as well as class as Air India (Red) posted 284 for eight in 50 overs, leaving the worry-lines for Harbhajan despite having in his team M. S. Dhoni, who opted out of captaincy in a bid to unwind before sterner tests ahead.

Air India (Blue) scored 191 in 41.5 overs to suffer a 93-run defeat with Yuvraj’s loopy left-arm spin prising out Mohammad Kaif and Dhoni off successive deliveries. This snuffed out the contest though the ‘Man of the Tournament’, opener Chandan Madan (85), swung his bat for a while.

Though the dust had settled on the week-long tournament that rolled across Bangalore, Mohali, Dharamshala and Visakhapatnam, questions remained over its viability in a packed schedule that even forced the cancellation of the Deodhar Trophy this year.

However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) top-brass made their motives clear during the launch.

“We have seen a perceptible drop in interest from corporates, and by having this tournament we intend to revive that. We have also made it compulsory that all players who play for these various corporate teams must be bona fide employees and by this we are ensuring that these players do have a career beyond cricket,” said the BCCI Secretary, N. Srinivasan.

Rahul Dravid, who played for India Cements, said: “When I joined India Cements 15 years back, the sense of security helped me focus on my cricket better and I am glad that the BCCI has launched this tournament that will help many cricketers maintain a certain standard of living.”

The tournament might be BCCI’s idea of making companies to employ cricketers besides jumping on the sponsorship bandwagon, but it remains to be seen how it evolves over the years. The inaugural edition, with wet spells in Bangalore, Dharamshala and Mohali, witnessed truncated matches.

This only points to the need for better scheduling, away from the monsoon months. Cricket needs to perk up so that the corporates do maintain their interest in the game.


Final (in Bangalore): Air India (Red) 284 for eight in 50 overs (R. Uthappa 157 not out, S. Marathe 36, S. Raina 28, Harbhajan Singh four for 55) beat Air India (Blue) 191 in 41.5 overs (Chandan Madan 85, M. Kaif 32, Yuvraj Singh three for 30).

Semifinals (in Bangalore): ONGC 213 in 48 overs (G. Gambhir 63, Virat Kohli 46, T. Srivastav 29, Dhawal Kulkarni three for 40) lost to Air India (Red) 215 for five in 40 overs (S. Marathe 80 not out, R. Uthappa 45, A. Chavan 41 not out). In Mohali: Tata Sports Club 267 in 49.4 overs (I. Jaggi 52, N. Shetty 63, A. Agarkar 56, Pankaj Singh four for 41) lost to Air India (Blue) 247 for five in 43.2 overs (C. Madan 114, M. Kaif 56) (by VJD method).

* * *It’s a landmark

It was a landmark moment for both Harinderpal Singh Sandhu and Anaka Alankamony, (in pic) the men’s and women’s winners in the PSA and WISPA events respectively. The two events were held concurrently as the Indian Challenger tourney, first in the series of four listed till the end of the year by the Squash Rackets Federation of India. The SRFI is utilising this competition, funded by the Union Government, as an exercise in preparing the Indian teams for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

The PSA tournament was a $ 6000 event, while the WISPA tournament carried a prize money of $4000. Considering the modest prize money, top-ranked players from abroad were not expected to take part, leaving the field open for the Indians to dominate. The overseas players were given the pride of place in the seedings in both the men’s and women’s sections, but when the competition reached the final stages it resembled a National Championship. Never before in such tournaments in India has the host dominated the way it did this time. Anaka, just past 15 in age, won her first professional title on debut while Harinder too grabbed his maiden title. “Whatever be the stature of these events, they are scheduled PSA and WISPA events, and to that extent the outcome must be considered historic,” said Maj (retd) S. Maniam, Consultant Coach of the SRFI.

Harinder accounted for his higher-ranked countryman, Siddarth Suchde, in a pulsating final 11-13, 10-12, 11-8, 14-12, 11-5, while Anaka asserted her supremacy by dismissing her senior Surbhi Misra 11-8, 11-8, 12-10.

* * *The Saina connection

Deccan Chargers’ association with Saina Nehwal and her appearance at a Mumbai book release function as the brand ambassador of the Indian Premier League team is an interesting development. A badminton player, in keeping with her status as an emerging youth icon in India, was invited to grace a cricket event.

It is unusual for a sportsperson other than a cricketer to be associated with the IPL, that too at a time when Twenty20 cricket creates its own stars. Deccan Chargers’ decision to link up with Saina points to a new line of thinking — that top players from other major sports can help promote a cricket team.

At the launch, Saina received the first copies of the two books based on Deccan Chargers’ turnaround in the second edition of the IPL, played in South Africa — ‘Not Just Cricket’ and ‘Beyond Runs and Wickets’.

Captain Adam Gilchrist led Deccan Chargers from the front, inspiring the team, which finished last in the inaugural edition in 2008, to victory in IPL-II. Saina is a great fan of Gilchrist and had watched a few IPL games featuring Deccan Chargers.

India’s badminton sensation has scripted numerous upsets on court with her power-packed strokeplay, so her curiosity and interest in the free-stroking Australian opening batsman was only natural. The Deccan Chargers skipper intimidates bowlers with his striking ability.

Saina’s forehand smashes are so brutal they leave her rivals reeling. “If I had been a cricketer, I would have loved batting, playing big shots,” she said.

Saina also admires Sachin Tendulkar’s composure under pressure and his consistently high-quality performances. She expressed her delight over her association with a cricket team. “Cricket has a huge following. People are interested in the sport, which will only benefit badminton. We will also get support from cricket-loving people,” she said.

The Hyderabad-based Deccan Chargers can hope to attract more fans, especially the young generation whenever Saina is able to attend the IPL matches.

The World No. 5 in women’s badminton, whose career is managed by Deccan Chargers’ owner, Deccan Chronicle, may be setting a trend. India already has in cueist Pankaj Advani, shooter Abhinav Bindra and boxer Vijender Singh famous sporting achievers. If other IPL teams take a cue from Deccan Chargers, cricket will definitely win more goodwill.

* * *A master indeed

Coaches toil, and when their wards translate the hard work into results, they earn name and fame. One such selfless and unassuming man is K. P. Thomas, Olympian Shiny Wilson’s uncle, but better known for giving Indian athletics a class long jumper, Anju Bobby George.

She is the prize product of Thomas ‘Master’ but he had a hand in the development of athletes like Molly Chacko, Joseph Abraham, Jincy Philip and C. S. Muralidharan, an ex-Army official, during his long stint as the coach of the Kuruthode Government School in Kottayam District. Perhaps it is because of his sincere approach and the affection he showered on his wards that a star performer like Anju even now keeps her ‘Master’ informed of her performances.

“Prior to any meet she takes part in and thereafter too, she calls me and seeks my blessings,” said the modest coach, now retired but working on a new agenda of producing an Olympian from his Vannapuram village, in Idukki District.

“I have 50 young children from Standard II to VII, and with the blessings of sports lovers, I have undertaken coaching them. If I have, even now, at least four athletes serving the country I am sure I can come up with a champion from this young group,” he said with a touch of confidence.

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