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Cricket’s space taken by others

Calcutta: It’s been an unusually long off-season for Team India and, in this break, the ‘space’ has been taken over by gifted performers outside cricket.

In fact, individually and collectively, the past three months have seen exceptional results across continents. In diverse sports as well.

The hockey team set the ball rolling with back-to-back trophies in Sydney and Hamburg. Not much later, Leander Paes and Sania Mirza successfully paired with Martina Navratilova and Alisa Kleybanova, respectively, at Big W.

Then, the other night, Anju Bobby George scripted history in Paris.

It’s not that Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar are in danger of being knocked off the pedestal overnight, but there now are enough non-cricket winners to grab our attention.

Clearly, for the first time in almost three decades (the last occasion being India’s fantastic victory in the 1975 hockey World Cup), Team India’s ‘monopoly’ is somewhat threatened.

So, come October 8 — marking the start of 2003-2004 commitments — and the Sachins and Souravs will have to ensure cricket’s top billing stays intact.

“Look, even cricketers must be good athletes… I suppose because the sport itself is so commercial, the following is huge. Now, of course, Anju’s achievement should go a long way in making many treat athletics on a par with cricket,” is how the yesteryears’ queen, P.T.Usha, put it during a conversation with The Telegraph on Sunday.

Actually, the good news hasn’t only come from hockey, tennis and athletics in the fascinating Sydney-to-Paris journey. For instance…

Shooter Abhinav Bindra kept hitting the bull’s eye as Ritwick Bhattacharya continued to make an impression on the squash courts; Bhaichung Bhutia scored a double hattrick during East Bengal’s phenomenal run in the ASEAN meet; the junior footballers won a tournament in Wales, while the young spikers made the world event’s title-round in Thailand…

Moreover, while India finished no higher than fourth in the just-concluded Champions Trophy, nobody will quite forget Gagan Ajit Singh’s classics in the league game against Pakistan.

Even without a Sourav or Sachin taking guard, there has been something to cheer.

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