DRESSING ROOM TALES
RAJ Singh Dungarpur has got his reasons down pat. He says the Indians lost because of a paucity of all-rounders, low fitness level, and lack of mental toughness. The board aims to rectify all that by 2003. About Azharuddin’s captaincy the board president was rather ambiguous, saying the decision rested with the Indian selection committee and he didn’t have any role at all. But he did have rather pungent things to say about Gavaskar’s remark on TV that, in the game against Zimbabwe, instructions had gone out from the Indian dressing room to finish the chase in the penultimate over and not leave it to the last. Sunny also said that somebody in the dressing room had opposed the instructions and that a board inquiry was in order. Dungarpur called Sunny’s comments “inappropriate and unfortunate”. And later added that perhaps there should be an inquiry into the way Sunny scored 36 runs in 60 overs in the ’75 edition of the World Cup. Sunny promptly replied that in fact such an inquiry was held, and he did appear before the then board president. News is that Sunny was reportedly told about the instructions by a senior member of the team management in St James Court hotel a day after the match, ostensibly in the presence of Dungarpur and the icc president Jagmohan Dalmiya. Coach Anshuman Gaekwad, however, denied the whole affair and even produced the players, Javagal Srinath and Robin Singh, to support his claim that no instructions were passed on. Both players were only too willing to deny receiving such instructions. However, it transpires that the issue was discussed in the dressing room around the time the two players were in the middle but whether instructions were sent out nobody really knows for sure.
To be fair, the fan behaviour for the major part of the day in India’s match against Pakistan was exemplary. This in Manchester, where the Pakistani fans outnumbered the Indian fans by perhaps 5 to 1, and at a time when the two countries were fighting a full-blown border war. In fact, the politicians back home were more tense than the fans here. Nawaz Sharif, reportedly, rang up Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram twice after the Pakistan loss and said: “Aur koi team nahin mili thi harne ko, ab final jeet kar hi lauto.” (Didn’t you find any other team to lose against, now return only after winning the final). Even the Indian defence minister George Fernandes wrote a letter to the team congratulating them on their victory and talked about the big significance it perhaps had on the morale of the troops on the border. Five of us in the Indian media contingent depended heavily on a local Pakistani, Zardad Khan, for being driven around for the matches. A cab driver in London, Zardad took a fancy to us and then hung on as friend. So, while travelling to Manchester we had a Pakistani supporter and five Indians in the same van. Zardad was full of arguments about who should play. He was particularly upset with Nayan Mongia’s performance, and claimed he could bat better. But we duly reminded him that Mongia didn’t drop a single catch in eight matches and the only byes he conceded were in the last match India played.But to no avail.
ON A GULAG DIET
AMAY Khurasia did have a case to be included in India’s last match against New Zealand, but he didn’t get a look in. Khurasia, incidentally, got very few nets as well on the entire tour. In fact he was going around with a most persecuted look. In the New Zealand game he was offered biscuits by some photographers while he was standing on the boundary line for the 12th man chores. He took the biscuit but then returned it with the comment. “I’ve really been done in. Abhi biscuit khate dekh liya to kamal hi ho jayega.” (It’ll be too much if they see me eating the biscuit). This because of the rather strict rules prevailing in the Indian camp about diet. But Khurasia shouldn’t have worried, he should have known that Andrew Kokinos’s contract with the board was coming to an end.
TEAM ON THE COUCH
The Pakistan team has been taking some psychology classes from the new assistant coach, Pybus from South Africa. In sessions with the team, Pybus would ask the players to visualise Akram holding aloft the trophy at Lord’s, with the rest of the squad cheering. As a result many Pakistani players now say that all they can dream about is holding that cup.
IN the gloomy scenario of India’s performance, the tennis duo of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi provided the cheers. At the Queens tennis tournament, where I met up with Leander, he was his candid self. Incidentally, the two haven’t had time to celebrate their victory in the French Open, and they might have to wait a month longer considering their choked playing calendar at the moment. After the victory Leander flew straight down to London while Bhupathi had to stick around for three hours to get his urine tested for drugs-simply because he couldn’t get it going. After media reports of a strained relationship between the two, things seem to have been sorted out. Says Leander: “That was because of somebody trying to cause a problem between us. Some people jump onto your bandwagon after you have some success.” The two are aiming at winning more grandslams and also the doubles gold at Sydney 2000. The one worrying aspect is that opponents now come prepared to face them. Says Leander: “Earlier, when we were underdogs, we would often be a break or a set up before our opponents realised what was happening. Now, they gun for us.” That’s the price of success, young man.
A FERRARI FOR SHOAIB?
JEFF Thomson on whether anyone would break his 99 mph speed barrier and touch 100: “The bowler would need to run up in a Ferrari.”