Monday, October 13, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

60 YEARS AGO!!!!

July 31, 1948. 3 pm. First Round of football match at the London Olympics. 11 Indian men led by Sailen Manna were ready to create history. These men playing barefoot (except Balaram Parab, the inside right) kicked off the first ever international football match played by the Independent Indian team. India gained independence in 1947 and a year later the AIFF got affiliation from FIFA following which India got their chance to showcase their football skills in the London Olympics and here they were up against France. Though the Indian team had players like Sailen Manna, Sahu Mewalal, T Ao and Sarangapani Raman, France always had the upper edge even before the kick off as Indian were playing barefoot. Well this was one of the reasons due to which India failed to play in the world cup two years later, something that every Indian football lover regrets till date. Well coming back to the match despite playing barefoot the Indians put up a spirited show. Despite being a goal down in the 30th minutes, the Indians came back to level the score through Raman in 70th minute. However at last India couldn’t keep the pace as the French scored a goal in 89th minute to seal India’s fate. Well this is from where the Journey of Indian Team began after independence. In the coming years Indians really made a mark for themselves on the international arena winning the Asian Games Gold in 1951 and 1962 and also finishing 4th in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. But 70’s saw a decline in Indian soccer and today as I write this blog we are ranked 153rd in the world.
However while I write this blog and try to peep into our football history, I am really surprised that those running the show have completely forgotten to even recognize this historic day. Only yesterday as India were playing Afghanistan in the AFC challenge Cup, it was commentator Novy Kapadia who informed the viewers about this historic day. Unable to resist myself from knowing more about this match, I visited the All India Football federation website thinking that I would get more information about this historic day. But to my utter surprise there is no mention about this day which saw the beginning of Indian football on the international arena. However the website was very informative atleast when it came to informing about the heroics of its office bearer- none of them on field. Information like which office bearer became match commissioner how many times in the World cup were easily available, but what was not available was the names of those barefooted players who took the field on July 31, 1948. Well now one can’t even blame why we are 153rd in the World ranking. They say in Hindi- “ Manushya apne ateet se seekh leta hain” meaning Man learns from his past. But here we have forgotten our past.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


She may not be a medal prospect in Beijing Olympics, but couldn’t resist myself from writing about her in this blog because of just one reason- her grit and determination of not giving up. Pramila Aiyappa (G G Aiyappa as she was known then) was the first Indian Heptathlete to have participated in the Olympics at Sydney where she finished 24th. On 15th August when India will be celebrating its Independence Day, Pramila will start her Olympic campaign in the Heptathlon event at the National Stadium in Beijing. But four years back, Pramila had almost given up hope of participating in the World's biggest sporting extravaganza. In 2000 Pramila had become the first Indian to participate in the Heptathlon event in Olympics. After finishing 24th in Sydney, she missed the ticket to Athens by just 3 points. She was so disappointed that she almost gave up the sport forever. She gave birth to a child, which kept her busy. However her husband Aiyappa, who also coaches her, knew that Pramila still had it in her to make it to Beijing. It was his motivation that made Pramila once again get back on to the tracks. Getting back into shape was not at all easy. Pramila's progress was steady but time was running out for her. She once again missed the qualifying mark for Beijing by a whisker at the Interstate Senior Athletics meet in Madurai in June this year. This left Pramila with just the National Jumps and Combined events in Bangalore in July, the last event for Olympics qualification. Knowing that it was her last chance Pramila gave it her best and defied all odds to qualify for her second Olympics. With her dream fulfilled Pramila has set a realistic target for herself in Beijing, where she wants to break the National Record, which will also help her surpass her own personal best of 6105 points. Pramila will not only face stiff challenge from the World's best, she will also have two more Indian's JJ Shobha and Susmita Singha Roy competing with her in the same event. But like Sydney where she edged out Soma Biswas in the same event, in Beijing too she wants to be the top Indian and make a mark for herself. But whatever may be the outcome in Beijing, Pramila has proved that if there is a will there is a way….All the best Pramila!!!!
Pic: Chinmaye A Bhave

Friday, June 27, 2008


You have heard people calling him Anil, Mr. Kumble or for that matter Jumbo. But now he has a new name for himself given by none other than his close pal and teammate Rahul Dravid aka The Wall aka Jammy. Led by Test captain Kumble himself, the Test specialists of Indian cricket are presently undergoing a conditioning camp at the Chinnaswamy stadium. The camp has been conceived by Kumble himself who wanted players who didn't make it to the One-day side and at the same time, are Test specialists, get back into shape for the Sri Lanka Test series which begins in July. A very noble idea and on the first day of the camp, all except Sourav Ganguly (becuase of his father's ill-health) were present at the camp. At the end of the first day's session, as the players walked back to the pavillion…with all the mediapersons, their cameras and booms mikes stood in attendance at the boundary, hoping to get a sound byte. The first person to walk back was none other than Dravid, a favourite of all the mediapersons in Bangalore and as he came close, one of the reporters called out " Dravid ji". All present there expected a 'no comments' or a silent walk back to the pavillion, but instead Dravid, with his trademark Hindi accent replied "Kumble jee, Kumble jee bolenge" and had a hearty laugh himself as he walked up to the pavillion, leaving all the reporters and camerapersons laughing their heart out on Jumbo's new name " Kumble Jeeeeeeeeeee"

Monday, June 9, 2008


Have you ever imagined that after winning an important tournament the Indian cricket team goes to bed empty stomached? Sounds weird, but nevertheless, its true. The most glorious moment of Indian cricket history was actually followed by a dinner less night. It was 25th June 1983, the historic day when Kapil's Devils had done the impossible. Even after scoring a mere 183, they managed to defeat the mighty West Indies and lift the World Cup, the only time that India manged to achieve this feat. We all saw the frenzied celebrations in the balcony of Lord's while Chika (Krish Srikkanth) enjoyed his puff from the cigarette. But what happened off the screen is completely unbelievable.
The Indian team was staying at the St.James Hotel in London. On a normal day, it takes about five minutes to reach the hotel from Lords. But after that historic win, the Indian team was busy celebrating in the dressing room. Little did they know that they were heading for a major surprise when they left Lords. A huge Indian crowd had gathered on the streets, cheering India's biggest victory and it took the team not five minutes but three long hours to reach their hotel.
By the time the World Champs had finally managed to reach the hotel, to their utter surprise, there was no dinner left for the team. The team slept empty stomached, but the feeling of being 'on top of the world' was so overwhelming that little did they realise the hunger pangs. It was only after they woke up next morning, that they rushed for a heavy breakfast.
Now this too is one of the facets of Indian cricket. Today, Indian players have the luxury of single occupancy in a five-star hotel with 24 hours room service. But when India lifted the World Cup, the players were used to sharing rooms and as mentioned above, sleep hungry, at times too.

However Kapil's Devils had the opportunity to make up for that night. This year, as we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of India's World Cup victory, all the players of the then team will reassemble in London to commemorate that historic day, which will be followed by a gala dinner. Cheers to the victorious dinner, just 25 years late……

Pic Courtesy:Chinmaye A Bhave

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


We still have pictures of an elated Mohinder Amarnath going for the stumps after India's historic World Cup victory at Lords on June 25th,1983. But has anyone ever wondered as to where lies that historic ball, which got Michael Holding - the last West Indian batsman - out. It has taken 25 long years to crack this trivia and now it's fnally out. Just recently, I was a part of an event that was organised to kick start the silver jubilee celebrations of India's historic World Cup victory and the dais being shared by two greats, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, both recalling those moments of glory. And just when we thought we knew everything, Gavaskar startled all by revealing a fact that the world was yet to know.
Well it was the last ball of the 52nd over. West Indies were reeling at 140 for the loss of nine wickets. They needed another 44 runs for their third straight World Cup win but had their backs to the wall as the last wicket took centrestage. Mohinder Amarnath started his run up to bowl to Michael Holding. The spectators were all sitting on the edge as everyone at Lords knew that it was just a matter of one ball and India was on its way to creating history. Sunil Gavaskar was fielding at backward point. As Amarnath bowled, the ball hit Holding's pad and the rest is history. Over the years, Indians have watched over and over again on TV Amarnath appealing and Umpire Dickie Bird raising his fingers to signal that India was the new World Champion. Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma and Madan Lal each managed to get a stump for themselves respectively from the batting end, as the jubilant crowd engulfed them on the field.
But what none of us had seen is what Gavaskar revealed. As has been written before, Sunny was fielding at backward point. As the ball hit Holding's pads, it went straight to backward point and completely unaware of the fact that Dickie Bird had already raised his finger signalling an out, Sunny like a committed fielder grabbed the ball to ensure that an extra run was saved. But as he looked up, he saw a mad rush of spectators who on to the field. Realising that they had won the match and the World Cup, he ran towards the dressing room with the ball in hand, the fastest ever sprint that he could ever think of.
So for all those who were guessing about the whereabouts of that historic ball, Sunny still has it with him.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


It’s a story of a life cut short. But even after his death this man leaves behind a legacy that every racing driver of the country looks upto. Last weekend as I visited the Kari Motor speedway in Coimbatore a sparkling image struck my eyes. As I entered the speedway I saw a memorial with a image of a man on it. I guessed that a memorial at this speedway must be of a motorsport legend and it was important for me to know who that person was if I really wanted to cover motorsports in depth. The man whose memorial I had seen was Sundaram Karivardhan or Kari as he is fondly known. He was a legendary figure of Indian motorsports. Apart from being a successful formula car racer, he was also a designer and constructor of several formula cars, his most famous design being the Formula Maruti open wheeled race car. His low cost cars helped other racers, notably Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandok and Armaan Ebrahim , to their entry into motorsports.
Quiet and shy in nature from a very young age, he showed a keen interest in bikes and cars. In the UK he attended the Jim Russel racing school. Later, when he returned to India in the mid-70's, he started participating in the Chennai's Sholavaram. His first race was 1973 Sholavaram Grand Prix meet, later he appeared every year in newly constructed formula cars from his own garage. He raced until 1995, the year of his demise. .
But more than racing Kari is credited with building the FISSME (Formula India Single Seater Maruti Engine) widely known as formula Maruti which was launched in 1988 Notable drivers who took part in the inaugural race in this class were J Anand, Akbar and R Gopinath , all of them would later become national champions in Formula 3.
Later years saw drivers like Narain, Karun, Armaan and other future national champions making their debut races in a Formula Maruti series.
But Kari had another passion- Aviation as his family owned a Cessna airplane. In 1989 he started a small manufacturing plant near Coimbatore to manufacture Power Gliders.
However this legends life was cut short by one of his passion. He died on 24th of August 1995 while flying a Puspak trainers aircraft. The purpose of flying was to log some additional flying time as required to retain his flying license. The accident was widely mourned by the racing scene.
His demise almost created a vacuum in Indian Motorsports with dwindling crowds in the Chennai track and after the 1997 season made the MMSC scrap the All India Grand Prix Meet altogether. In 2002 his long-time friend and co-racer B. Vijaykumar stepped in to build and launch Formula LGB and Formula Rolon race cars and also constructed a race track in his hometown- The Kari Motor speedway, which is a major motorsports hub.
Widely known as a gentleman racer, his unselfish ways and dedication to the development of Indian motorsports attracted many new talents into Motorsports. Kari also earned admiration from several quarters more for his character than his racing talents. Though born in one of Coimbatore's wealthiest families, Kari was easily approachable by several people irrespective of social barriers. Kari was nevertheless considered a unique man with his soft-spoken nature and publicity shy nature. He was good in spotting new talents and training them to become professionals like Akbar Ibhrahim and five time national Rallying Champion Hari Singh.
Today India may have many drivers on the international driver, but whenever one has to speak about Indian Motorsports, you can’t forget the Legenday Kari.