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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bajrang Punia bags gold ~ but the crowds talk only about IPL

The enterprising IPL 2017 enters its concluding phase with MI playing Pune today. 

Virender Sehwag, Kings XI Punjab's director of cricket operations, was unimpressed by the performance of their overseas players in the knockout game against Rising Pune Supergiant on Sunday. Kings XI careened to 32 for 5 in the Powerplay, with all four Overseas Stars of Martin Guptill, Eoin Morgan, Shaun Marsh and the captain Glenn Maxwell having fallen. They were eventually bowled out for their lowest total in the IPL - 73 - and were knocked out of the tournament. "I'm very disappointed," Sehwag said in the post-match press conference. "I can say that none of the foreign players took responsibility and at least played 12 to 15 overs. Their role was at least one of the top four should bat for 12 to 15 overs, but none of the batsmen took the responsibility. "I think they were complaining that the wicket was a bit slow but when you play international cricket so much, you should get used to playing on difficult or good wickets.

Mumbai Indians are in familiar territory - playing a qualifier, that too at Wankhede Stadium. They have made it past the league stages in seven out of 10 seasons now and have won both their previous playoffs at this venue. Winning here for them might sound as easy as sweating in the Mumbai humidity. What do they have to worry about now? It's their form against Rising Pune Supergiant, who have qualified for the playoffs for the first time, in their last season. Rising Pune had the better of their neighbours in both the previous matches this season - they first won by seven wickets at home and then handed Mumbai their first loss while chasing this season, that too at their fortress Wankhede.  But then they are depleted now ! – still today’s match should be interesting.

The crowds would be in their vocal best - Australian tearaway fast bowler, Pat Cummins  had this to say about IPL : “It is the crowds that make the IPL. Its unlike anywhere else in the world. I played for Kolkata and packed out Eden Gardens. If you win there will be hundreds of people running after the bus. Its just crazy.” Commenting on the support for the teams Pat said, “Some of the local Indian guys are like gods over there, a hundred thousand people chanting their name, crying with excitement, its pretty surreal”

Can you recognize this performer instantly ?  Asian Wrestling Championship 2017 has just concluded.  It was held at the KD Jadhav Indoor Stadium, Indira Gandhi Arena, New Delhi.

Bajrang Punia ended India’s gold medal drought on the penultimate day of the Asian Wrestling Championship, taming South Korea’s Seunghui Lee 6-2 in the men’s 65kg freestyle category.  Bajrang, who has been mentored by Olympic bronze-medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, made a dramatic comeback in the second round of the contest to win the title. After trailing by two points in the opening three minutes, the Indian was more aggressive in the second round, unleashing counterattacks to which his rival had no response. Bajrang’s strategy paid off as he enhanced the lead from 3-2 to 5-2 when the bout was five minutes old.

India ended its successful campaign at the Asian Wrestling Championships with a silver medal as Sumit went down to Yadollah Mohammadkazem Mohebi of Iran in men's 125kg freestyle gold medal bout on the final day of the competition,  on Sunday. The Indian wrestlers finished with 10 medals, including a gold, five silver and four bronze, bettering their tally of nine medals in the last edition of the Asian Championship at Bangkok, Thailand.

Now read this report from the New Indian Express, Chennai edition of 15th May 2017.  The turnout at the Asian Wrestling Championship speaks a lot about interest of Indian viewers. When so many are fighting to do their country proud, the topic of discussion among most spectators was the IPL.

On Sunday, Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore — two teams already eliminated from the tournament — attracted much more spectators than wrestlers at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium. Sumit won the men’s freestyle heavyweight silver to help India bag ten medals and better their haul of nine from the previous edition of the event in Bangkok. Nobody noticed. Wrestling, a sport that has brought Olympic medals, continues to be neglected. While so many are willing to pay thousands on tickets for an IPL game, the wrestling championship, where entry was free, took place in front of empty stands.

Among the few who turned up, the ones making more noise were foreigners. Countries like Iran and Kyrgyzstan had more support, with fans waving flags throughout. Stepping out, one could hear the cheers resonating from the Feroz Shah Kotla. Wrestling Federation of India secretary general VN Prasood felt it was an exception. “Crowds were less this time. But when Sushil (Kumar) and Yogeswar (Dutt) were having trials before the Rio Olympics, the stadium was full. During the Pro Wrestling League too, we had crowd troubles. Police had to use lathis to control people. Glamour quotient is a big deal,” Prasood told Express.

Here too, Olympians Sakshi Malik and VineshPhogat were present. But even their star value was not enough. “Now, we have a really talented batch coming up. But we need to get more people to come and support these players. The sport will grow more, as support from people will motivate the athletes more than anything,” opined Satpal Singh, noted coach and gold medallist at the 1982 Asian Games. In a city like New Delhi, people prefer sports that are more glamorous. But that is not the case in villages. People love wrestling in the small towns of neighbouring Haryana and other places. There is also more passion there, according to Prasood.

“With many international wrestlers coming in, such tournaments can only be held at venues that can provide the necessary facilities. Criteria like distance from the airport and good hotels for international athletes can only be given if such tournaments are conducted in a city. But we have a lot of hope for the upcoming nationals. I’m sure this won’t be the case that time,” concluded Prasood.

Somehow makes a sad reading !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

16th May 2017.

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