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Monday, August 12, 2019

Selection bungle - UK selectors put shot putter in 4 x 400 m relay race !

The 2001 Border Gavaskar Trophy produced chilling moments – Aussies won the first test at Mumbai, India down and almost at Kolkatta, scrambled back with classy 281 of VVS Laxman and then clinched Chepauk test to win the Series 2-1. Harbhajan Singh was the star bowler.  Do you know or remember that at concluding Test at Chepauk, India played 3 spinners – opened the bowling with Zaheer Khan and Sourav Ganguly !  .. .. and selectors toyed with left-arm spinners – in the 1st it was Rahul Sanghvi (his only test); in the 2nd Venkatapathi Raju and in 3rd Nilesh Kulkarni & Sairaj Bahutule.  Incidentally it was the last test for Nilesh who in his debut in Sri Lanka in Colombo in Aug 1997 took a wicket off his very first ball ! .. .. becoming only the 12th  bowler in Test history  to take a wicket with his first ball ~ but  his dream start was to turn into a nightmare: he sent down 419 more balls without taking another wicket, and conceded 195 runs.

In the present ICC World Cup 2019,  MSDhoni, who had pretty much batted at No. 5 all throughout the World Cup, was surprisingly sent in to bat after Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya in the semi-final against New Zealand, which raised a lot of eyebrows.  India lost in the Semi finals to New Zealand and immediately there were reports that  BCCI not happy with selectors’ dealing of India’s No. 4 problem. Indian selectors, led by MSK Prasad toyed and sort of blundered handling India’s No. 4 slot.  Test opener KL Rahul walked out to bat at number four in India’s first ICC World Cup 2019 match even though the selectors led by MSK Prasad had clearly stated that all-rounder Vijay Shankar was picked for that spot for the showpiece event as a three dimensional player. After Shikhar Dhawan’s injury, the team management decided to bring Rahul as the opener.  Rishab Pant went from nowhere and played straightaway.  And when Shankar was ruled out, they flew in opener Mayank Agarwal to fit into the middle-order. Clearly, Prasad and his team  had no clear thoughts.  But even after a  dismal show in one of the most important positions in Indian cricket, the five wise men -- Prasad, Devang Gandhi, Gagan Khoda, Jatin Paranjpe and Sarandeep Singh --  continue in their position !!  ~ this post is on how Selectors bungled – not in Cricket but in athletics.

In 2017 at London, Irony was at its cruellest as Usain Leo Bolt pulled up hurt in his final competitive race to end, in a cry of pain and agony, a decade of dominance that is unrivalled in the history of track and field. Bolt failed to finish the men's 4x100m relay race of the World Athletics Championships  after he pulled a hamstring at the home straight.  The astonishing turn of events marred what was expected to be a golden farewell.  Running the final race of his career, the 30-year-old Bolt, after taking the baton from his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake, suffered cramps on his left hamstring as he tried, in vain, to chase down the British and American rivals in the last lap of the race.

The 4 × 400 metres relay or long relay is an athletics track event in which teams consist of four runners who each complete 400 metres or one lap. It is traditionally the final event of a track meet. At top class events, the first 500 metres is run in lanes. Relay race runners typically carry a relay baton which they must transfer between teammates. Runners have a 20 m box (usually marked with blue lines) in which to transfer the baton.  As runners have a running start, split times cannot be compared to individual 400 m performances. Internationally, the U.S. men's team has dominated the event, but have been challenged by Jamaica in the 1950s and Britain in the 1990s.

The Olympic records for the event are 2:55.39 for men, set by the United States in 2008, and 3:15.17 for women, set by the Soviet Union in 1988. The women's record is also the world record for the 4×400 metres relay.  At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil-   men's 4 × 400 metres relay competition was held at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange.  The Bahamas entered as the defending Olympic champions while United States had won both the 2013 and 2015 World Championships since then.  After the United States won gold in the women's 4x400-meter relay, the men's relay team did the same.  La Shawn Merritt ran the anchor leg for the U.S. and crossed the finish line at 2:57.30. A gold was far from assured for the United States until Merritt took the baton. The 30-year-old was perhaps using his bronze-medal finish in the 400 meters as motivation.  He opened up a healthy lead on the competition and closed particularly well in the final 20 meters. Botswana was running second for most of the race. Rather than using its fastest runner for the anchor leg, the country had Isaac Makwala run the first leg. That allowed Botswana to hang with the U.S. early on, and the duo of Karabo Sibanda and Onkabetse Nkobolo helped keep the team in the thick of the medal hunt.  Kevin Borlee nearly willed Belgium to a bronze medal with an incredible run in the anchor spot, and he fell to the track upon crossing the finish line. However, he was unable to chase down Chris Brown, who won bronze for the Bahamas.

~ now read this .. .. a shambolic administration error caused Britain to be disqualified from the 4x400m relay final at the European Team Championships on Sunday night after they inadvertently named a shot putter to run the first leg. It had been planned that Rabah Yousif, a 2014 European relay gold medallist, would lead off Ethan Brown, Lee Thompson and Martyn Rooney in Poland. But somehow British team officials contrived to instead enter Youcef Zatat, a shot putter who was a squad reserve and not in the country. The team hierarchy were on Sunday night investigating how the gaffe happened.

Performance director Neil Black said: ‘It is gutting for the athletes involved. There was an error with the declaration process and we are exploring exactly what happened. ‘We’ll be reviewing with those involved in detail over the next day or so. The athletes were amazing. They were informed and took it on the chin. ‘It is the worst way to finish the event and we apologise to those who were looking forward to seeing the GB men’s 4x400m team doing battle as we know they would have competed with excellence.’  Rabah Yousif was supposed to lead off Ethan Brown, Lee Thompson, Martyn Rooney in Poland. 

Britain finished the event in fifth place in the wake of the blunder, having started the final day of the three-day competition in fourth place. Poland took the title on home soil.  Yousif has been part of 4x400m squads that took medals at each of the past three European Championships as well as bronze medals at the 2015 and 2017 World Championships. .. .. and what would one do with the selectors for such a blunder !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
12th Aug 2019.

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