Englishman James Willstrop lifted the PSA Masters trophy in New Delhi on Sunday and to crown himself the top-ranked player in the world, overcoming Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, who conceded a one-game lead and then limped off the court with a hip flexor injury.With the two topranked players in action, the match looked like heading into a tight contest before Gaultier walked off to give Willstrop a 19-21, 11-8, 11-4, 6-1 win in the $ 165,000 tournament at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.There was hardly anything to choose between the two as they refused to give even an inch of space and recorded the longest- ever game in the history of modern squash, which lasted 59 minutes.The 99-minute match opened with the lengthy first game that kept the crowd completely engrossed. The game kept on stretching even as both players had their opportunities to finish it off, exchanging nine game-points.At 15-all, Gaultier covered good ground after a long rally and eventually played with soft hands into the service wall and Willstrop was slow to react. The point left Gaultier just one step away from seizing the game but Willstrop refused to throw in the towel. However, Gaultier continued relentlessly and, with a brilliant backhand, inched closer to winning the game. Another good shot put him 1-0 up.However, the script changed completely in the next game as Willstrop surged to a 4-1 lead. Gaultier, a former World No. 1, did make his way back into the match but all his efforts were thwarted by the Englishman.advertisementThe 29-year-old Gaultier started looking tired and things became easier for Willstrop. With Willstrop just a point away from taking a 2-1 lead, Gaultier took time off to have a look at his leg but the referee insisted that he should continue.Gaultier was just not able to move inside the court after the third game and conceded the match to give Willstrop his third title on the trot.”It’s great to be the World No. 1 and three titles on the trot are just amazing. With victories, rankings improve automatically,” said Willstrop.”The last three months have been exceptionally great for me. The first game felt like an excellent exhibition of quality squash with two top players playing their hearts out. It was a high- intensity match and I could feel that,” he noted.Gaultier was obviously a disappointed man and said he backed himself to win the match after the marathon first game. The Frenchman was backed by a large crowd that had gathered to witness the final. “It’s a shame that I couldn’t even finish the match and had to walk out with the injury,” said Gaultier.”Maybe the intensity of the match was such that I overlooked the pain initially and concentrated too much on my left leg. I just couldn’t even bend my left leg after the third game. I generally take my physio with me but, financially, it wasn’t easy for me to get him here.” Gaultier will celebrate his 29th birthday next Friday and said: “Winning this match here would have been a great gift for me as I have my birthday on December 23, but I guess I will have to wait for another year now,” he said.
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Former captain Anil Kumble reckons that Virat Kohli has the “right game” to fit in at the crucial number 3 slot in the Indian Test team even though it will be impossible for anyone to step into Rahul Dravid’s shoes.”I have followed Virat closely since his India U-19 days and he has matured a lot. I am impressed in the manner he has improved in the past one year in terms of game, discipline and overall fitness”, Kumble said.”He has quickly adapted to rigours of international cricket and for a 23-year-old to do that is phenomenal. He has a Test hundred in Australia and I believe he has the right game to fit in at No 3,” the former Indian captain said on Thursday.”However, there is no one who can replace Rahul Dravid. He has been an achiever for past 16 years and it’s certainly not easy to score 23,000 international runs,” Kumble added.Kumble paid glowing tributes to Sachin Tendulkar for achieving the historic feat of scoring 100 international centuries, saying he could quickly adapt to different conditions which was the hallmark of a great player.”I have been a witness to 80 of those 100 hundreds and atleast on 20 occasions, I have been at the other end. I would invariably arrive when he would be in his 80’s and the second new-ball would be due. My job on each and every occasion was to ensure that I don’t give my wicket easily which would help him to get his hundred.”Tendulkar after completing his 100th ton had recollected a funny incident during his highest Test score of 248 in Bangladesh involving him and Kumble when both had some horrible mix-ups.advertisement”Don’t talk about it. I still get embarrassed when I watch the footages of that match,” he smiled.For Kumble, one memorable incident was Tendulkar’s maiden Test hundred at Old Trafford in 1990 which was incidentally his debut Test.”I was made to stand at the Old Trafford balcony for more than three hours as it was Kiran More’s diktat. Since Sachin was scoring runs and we were playing to save the Test, everyone got superstitious. It was difficult standing there for two hours, but I was instructed by Kiran to stand at the same position for hours. Only during tea break did I get a chance to sit,” he said.”Obviously, the 242 at Sydney was another Herculean effort where he didn’t hit a single cover drive till he reached 200. The 100 against Pakistan and the 155 against Australia (both in Chennai) where Shane Warne was bowling from round the wicket were some of the knocks I would never forget.””The brilliant thing about Sachin is his adaptibility. He could quickly adapt in any given condition. That’s the hallmark of a great player,” Kumble said.For someone, who has close to 1000 international wickets, (619 Tests and 337 in ODIs) the longer version still remains a priority.”If you are able to consistently perform in longer version, that performance would help you do well in T20s and One-days but it’s never the other way round,” he explained.Talking about young leggie Rahul Sharma , who has travelled with the Indian team for last six months having played only five games (3 ODIs and 2 T20s), Kumble said it was a tricky situation.”It’s again the ‘chicken and egg’ theory. You need to bowl lot of overs in matches but again you need to pick your best squad. Ideally, it would have been great had Rahul played a few first-class matches but problem nowadays is lack of tour games. When I went to England in 1990, we had nine first-class tour games apart from 2 ODIs and 3 Tests. Everyone got a chance which is not the case now.”Thankfully, the players during international matches at home are released to play Ranji Trophy. That’s how likes of Ajinkya (Rahane) and Rohit (Sharma) got to play for Mumbai.”Kumble was reluctant to about his brief one-year stint as the chairman of National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. He resigned from the post in December last year.”I don’t want to talk about that phase. I wanted to do a few things but we were not on the same page but NCA has done a lot of good for Indian cricket. It’s because of NCA that we have brilliant fielders like Virat, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary to name a few.”The BCCI wants Ranji Trophy matches to be played at neutral venues but Kumble for one wants cricket to be shifted to smaller centres which will produce good competitive wickets.advertisement”Recently during a one-day match Goa and Karnataka, I entered the stadium at around 11:30 and saw 55 for two on board. I thought match must have started late and then realised it was over. Just because it was a bit more challenging surface, batsmen couldn’t cope with it.”Now if you produce a turning track and match is over within two days, people raise questions. But what about the batsmen’s ability to face quality spinners on turning tracks,” he concluded.
Sharda UgraPolitics, as we understand it, is usually party versus party. Congress vs BJP vs RJD vs LSD vs WMD… you get the drift. Politics, as the Ministry of Sports sees it, is a different, diversionary kind of tactic.Here party lines blur and the only line adhered to is one,Sharda UgraPolitics, as we understand it, is usually party versus party. Congress vs BJP vs RJD vs LSD vs WMD… you get the drift. Politics, as the Ministry of Sports sees it, is a different, diversionary kind of tactic.Here party lines blur and the only line adhered to is one of self-interest. All those in favour of perpetuating self-rule on one side and the befuddled babus on another. If this were a wrestling contest, it would be like sending a 50 kg stick insect up against a 110 kg gorilla. As things stand, India’s leading federation bosses, the er… above mentioned gorillas, first have their cakes bought with public money. Then they get to eat them too with a bunch of bananas-trips to the Olympics and other world events – thrown in as bonus. Suresh Kalmadi, P.R. Dasmunshi, K.P.S. Gill, V.K. Malhotra, Digvijay Singh, K.P. Singh Deo, et al, belong to India’s original Backscratchers Union.They have survived changes of government, ideology, policy and post-Olympics purges because they look after one another. Just as the BCCI lives in mortal dread of a “corporate takeover” and so resists professionalisation, our sports administrators also invoke the bogeys of a “threat to autonomy”.It’s great, this autonomy. It means a freedom from accountability (and actually from accounting) but does not imply demonstrating the dynamism to find independent funding. For that there is always the bottomless pool of our taxes.In the ministry, when faced with this powerful all-party club, they tend to throw up their hands and then do the easy thing – go after tricolours on helmets or what the cricket team is called. In recent months, though, something stirred: elite athletes were told they could bypass their federations and approach the ministry directly for funding.Now a scale for financing sports based not on a fixed priority list of disciplines but on a dynamic performance rating is being formulated. Whether the new sports minister will follow through on this is another matter. A few months ago, a meeting of state sports ministers was to discuss moving sport from the state list to the concurrent list, i.e. putting sport under Central control. Just before the meeting, a senior Indian Olympic Association (IOA) official hosted the ministers for breakfast after which the collective power of persuasion and pakoras had them opting for the status quo.advertisementYes, the government of India is not the world’s most efficient creature and yes it has more important things to do. But when it foots the bill for most Olympic sports, you would think a statement of expenses is the least it is entitled to.
Cracking the whip on cricketers caught in a IPL spot-fixing scandal, the BCCI on Saturday imposed a life ban on pacer T P Sudhindra but handed lighter punishments to four other domestic players who were also exposed in the TV sting operation.The decision to ban the players for varying degrees was taken by the BCCI’s disciplinary committee, headed by its president N Srinivasan, which met in Mumbai to discuss the report submitted by Ravi Sawani on the matter.While the 28-year-old Sudhindra was the worst hit as his career seems all but over, Shalabh Srivastav was banned for five years. Mohnish Mishra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali were banned for a year each, according to BCCI sources.The television sting operation had claimed that they agreed to shadowy deals in the Indian Premier League and other matches.Three of the five players – Sudhindra, Mishra and Bali – were attended the meeting today to present their points of view before the panel whose other members are Board vice-presidents Arun Jaitely and Niranjan Shah.Five uncapped Indian cricketers were alleged to have been caught indulging in corrupt practices, including spot-fixing, by a TV channel which conducted a sting operation during this year’s IPL.BCCI had asked its Anti-Corruption Unit chief Ravi Sawani to conduct a probe in the matter and he submitted his report to Srinivasan a few weeks back.