Why is promoting fair play important?

Use of banned substances and doping to enhance performance to gain an edge over rivals. Employing tools like a sandpaper to rub on a cricket ball to make its swing more pronounced, thereby making batting more difficult. Accepting money for spot-fixing or even fixing the outcome of a game. If you think about what links all these different things, it is the fact that these are all forms of cheating prevalent in sports, even at the elite level.

The mentality of winning at all costs through your own performance is a good one to have, both individually and as a team. But when that same mentality pushes you to the brink and makes you adopt malpractices, then it is definitely wrong.

Even though there are checks and balances already in place in most elite sports, this hasn't been enough. Be it bans that prevent participation for a fixed number of years or even a lifetime, it still hasn't proven to be foolproof.

The allure of winning at the greatest of stages is one that might push even the best-intentioned to wrongdoings. It is therefore important to educate from a very young age on the importance of playing clean, regardless of what sport it is.

The reputation of professional cycling as a sport was battered when the repeated doping offences of U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong, once considered an icon in the sport, was proved beyond doubt. Here, a 30-foot effigy of the disgraced American cyclist burns during Bonfire Night celebrations in Edenbridge, south east England in November 2012.

Most elite athletes grow up spending countless hours in their chosen field, losing out on other standard rounded education that most of us undergo. This does come at a cost at times, as implications of a wrong move might not be fully understood before it is done. Apart from ruining their own reputation, that of the sport in which they are involved also takes a huge beating when an individual or a team resorts to cheating to gain an advantage.

What we can do is to keep driving at the message that victory is worthy only if it is attained in the right way. By playing it clean, irrespective of the level at which you are playing the sport, you display gamesmanship that is often remembered, even if in a losing cause. Victories are important, yes. But only when it is attained without bending the rules.

Nurture the young stars

Despite our burgeoning reputation as a powerhouse in a number of sports, India as a country is still lacking and lagging in many others. While the lack of skill might be a reason, it doesn't paint the complete picture.

It is hard to accept that for a country of our size and population, we do not have enough competing at the highest level in many sports. We can make progress in this if we are able to identify talent at a young age and groom them.

In India, there is sometimes a strong emphasis on education, even if it is at the cost of other skills. Without the right backing, many youngsters talented in sports and arts have had to stick to academics. Within sports too, the focus has been in a few select ones, like cricket.

By widening our view as a society, we can make steady improvement. If you are good in a sport and wish to pursue it, you are bound to do better if you feel encouraged to do it. When this goes along with the financial and infrastructural backing of the government and the corporates, then chances are that a new star will be born!

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What can we do to bring about CHANGE in the way we promote sports and encourage leisure activities?

Quite a lot, actually. From changing the way we foster sports to tweaking the ways in which we perceive our sportspersons, there are many things that we can work on, right from the time we are at school. Here are five such aspects that we can change, along with activities to make you dwell further on these subjects....

There's more than one sport

Ask anyone who their favourite sports star is and chances are that the answer will be a cricketer. For a country of over a billion, our perspective seems to be rather limited when it comes to sport, as most of us take to just cricket.

From badminton to tennis, hockey to football, athletics and many others, India has a presence in a wide range of sports other than cricket. What's more, we have even had great performances in recent times in a number of these sports.

While backing our cricketers and following the sport religiously does no harm, it shouldn't come at the cost of other sportsperson losing out on our backing. Fans play a central part in performances and the support that we can offer might even enhance how they fare on the day.

It is important to go out and show the support, filling the stadiums and pouring messages of love and support online. While we are already getting better at it and giving more and more attention to those playing other sports, there's plenty of room for improvement.

If we start doing this, then there will be more takers for other sports as well. And when that happens, we might stop looking at whether we have got on the medals tally at the Olympics, and rather look at where exactly we are on the table.

Win or lose, back your stars

We live in an age when there are extremes of emotions all the time. We celebrate our stars and even hero-worship them when they produce favourable results. When these very stars are at the receiving end of heavy defeats, we rubbish them and question their intent.

Even though this has been something that has been around almost all the time, it is now more vitriolic in the virtual world, where everyone's opinions can easily be amplified. Not even in public offices is the public scrutiny so harsh at times, making the position of sportspersons really difficult at times.

While many stars say that they are inside their own bubble and aren't affected by stringent criticism that is sometimes endless, it is our responsibility as fans to indulge in our following in a more effective manner. There is no need to go overboard with our praise, nor is it necessary to tarnish reputations when our country's representatives fail at the first hurdles.

Brewing hate does a lot of harm, not just for the one at the receiving end, but to the sport as a whole. It is important to remember that those representing a country are the finest in their sport in their nation and they would likely want to win, as much if not more, than the fans following the sport.

It might be easy to forget that in the end, elite athletes and sportspersons are also humans. Even though many high-profile sportspersons have voluntarily come out with their mental health issues in recent years, fans continue to associate their stars with superhuman performance all the time. While this creates a lot of euphoria, it also pushes fans to unruly behaviour when their expectations aren't met.

As fans, it is necessary that we change our perspectives and back our stars throughout, regardless of the results. We all want the team we support and the individual representing our country to win all the time. But we also know that there can be only one winner in any tournament as opposed to many losers. It is therefore pivotal that we back our stars during their setbacks, as much as we cherish their wins like our own.

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What was the journey of hockey player Dhyan Chand?

Born on August 29, 1905, in Allahabad to Sharadha Singh and Sameshwar Singh - a soldier in the British Indian Army, Dhyan Singh was drawn towards hockey at a very early age. Like his father, he too enrolled himself in the army at the age of 16 and continued to play his favourite sport there.

At the Mexico Olympics, when Bob Beaman jumped beyond 29 feet; the world record at that time being a few inches above 26 feet, the field judges went on to change the measuring tape to ensure that they were using the right measurement. Beamon's 'Leap to Infinity' was attributed later to the low gravitational pull at the altitude at which the jump was taken. Legend has it that something similar happened with Dhyan Chand after a match in the Netherlands where his hockey stick was changed as people thought that he had some sort of a magnet in his stick that made the ball stick to it. In fact, it was a great tribute to his dribbling talent.

To summarize Dhyan Chand's achievements, he played a major role in India winning gold medals in three successive Olympic Games; in 1928 (Amsterdam), 1932 (Los Angeles) and 1936 (Berlin) and scored 570 goals in his career which span from 1926 to 1949, during which he played 185 matches. The number of goals would exceed a thousand if his domestic matches were included in his total score. He indeed deserved titles like 'The Wizard' and 'The Magician'. It is a result of his exceptional career that India's highest sports award in any sportsperson's lifetime achievements is named after this great sportsman as 'Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award'.

Dhyan Singh was born on 29 August 1905 in Allahabad, which at that time was a part of the United Province of Agra and Oudh, and is named now as Prayagraj in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Dhyan's father, Sameshwar Singh, was a part of the British Indian Army and his frequent transfers affected the study of his three sons; Mool, Dhyan and Roop, till the family settled finally in Jhansi, another district in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Dhyan Chand hardly played any hockey till he was recruited as a sepoy in the 1st Brahman Regiment of the British Indian Army, in 1922, as a seventeen-year-old teenager. The Regiment was reorganised later as the 1st Punjab Regiment. Once Dhyan Chand joined the army, he started participating in various Regimental and Army games and hockey was one of them. Young Dhyan Singh was seen practising hockey even under the moonlight, which earned him the nickname of 'Chand' (the Moon), a name that stuck with him till the very end.

When an Army team was sent to New Zealand, Dhyan Chand was a member of that team. The team performed exceptionally well and Dhyan Chand started getting recognition as an attacking forward. In 1925, the Indian Hockey Federation started selections for forming an Indian hockey team for the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics; five Province teams were formed for the players to demonstrate their hockey skills. The teams played again in 1927 before the Indian team for the Olympics was finalised. Incidentally, before leaving for the Olympics, the team played against a Bombay team and lost. Obviously, not much was expected from the team who lost to their home team.

However, what happened thereafter was totally unexpected. The Indian team played a few matches in England, winning all of them and also all its pre-Olympic matches. In its pool matches in the Olympics, the Indian team beat Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland convincingly and despite some of its players indisposed and even an unfit Dhyan Chand taking field, the Indian team won the final match against the home team with Dhyan Chand scoring two out of three goals. The Indian team not only won the gold medal, but what was even more remarkable was that none of the teams could score even a single goal against India. Dhyan Chand scored 14 out of 29 goals scored by the Indian team in five matches.

The Indian Army did not relieve Dhyan Chand for the 1932 Olympic trials but the IHF selected him without any trial. This time, his younger brother Roop Singh was also in the Indian team and once again the Indian team routed all teams to win the gold medal. In the finals, India defeated the host team with a record margin of 24-1. Of the 35 goals scored by the Indian team during the Games, the two brothers had a combined tally of 25 goals.

In 1936, the Army refused to relieve Dhyan Chand once again for the trials and once again the IHF included him in the final team and as the proposed captain refused to participate, this time Dhyan Chand was called upon to lead the Indian team. In a pre-Olympic match, India suffered a defeat against Germany but when it mattered, India defeated Germany 8-1. It is said that Adolf Hitler was so impressed with Dhyan Chand's play that he offered the player a citizenship of Germany and the rank of Colonel in the Army which Dhyan Chand refused politely.

Dhyan Chand's scoring blitz can be measured from the fact that the second-highest international goal scorer is Sohail Abbas of Pakistan with 348 goals; way behind Dhyan Chand's tally of 570. For his achievements, Dhyan Chand was given an Emergency Commission in 1943. In 1956, the Indian Government honoured him with the Padma Bhushan and after his death in 1979, in 1980, the Indian Post and Telegraph Department issued a 35 paisa commemorative postage stamp in honour of him. In 2002, the National Stadium in New Delhi was also renamed as the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium.

What Donald Bradman is to cricket or Muhammad Ali to boxing, Dhyan Chand is to hockey. Among all the sports' personalities of India, Dhyan Chand stands tall, head and shoulder above the rest just as his statue on Sipri Hill in Jhansi.

Credit : Gp Capt Achchyut Kumar

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HOW IS MATHS USED IN FOOTBALL?

You see the player advancing towards the goal, clearly trying to score. But the goalkeeper doesn't stand his ground. He runs towards the player instead of staying on the post. Why would he do that? The reason is maths!

Football is often referred to as "O jogo bonito", Portuguese for The beautiful game' - a nickname popularised by the Brazilian great, Pele. And rightly so.

Just like any other beautiful movement, football requires rhythm, coordination, and balance. And at the same time, it also requires skill. However, just being a master at tackling, shooting or goalkeeping does not necessarily make you a great player.

Some of the best football players on the field today are also terrific mathematicians, who use maths in football. The instinctive understanding of the concepts of geometry, speed-distance-time, and calculus which they utilise isn't determined by the ability to solve equations on a blackboard. And this application itself gives them the edge over other players. If you've watched the popular television show Ted Lasso, you will probably understand this claim by watching the coaches and players strategising how to tackle their opponents So, how is maths used in football? Let's look at calculations used by players for some of the most common goals and defence strategies in this beautiful game:

United we stand! Tiki taka football strategy

A great example of real-time use of geometry to create space and beat defenders is the tiki taka-a popular method that became the talk of town when Spain claimed the Euro Cup and the World Cup in 2008 and 2010. This is a systematic approach to football founded upon team unity and a comprehensive understanding in the geometry of space on a football field.

How do players perform tiki taka?

The football players try to form triangles all around the pitch to maintain the ball possession, making it difficult for the opponent to obtain the ball and organise their game. Tiki taka has proven to be very successful as a football strategy.

Eyes on the prize. Goalkeeper's one on one

One of the best examples where football and maths go hand in hand is distracting a striker. The goal is to create a larger obstruction to reduce the space available to score, hence lowering the probability of a goal

Often when a striker is in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper (like in our introduction), the latter charges towards the striker rapidly to close the space thereby reducing the angle and space available to strike the ball. This is another successful ideology of mathematical football.

How to hit a chip shot?

One of the most beautiful moves in football is chipping a charging goalkeeper. As the space reduces, the cool minded striker notices the increase in space to score. A 3-dimensional view allows the striker to kick over the charging goalkeepers head, and into the goalpost.

The chip shot, which is quite popular among both fans and players, doesn't require power, rather a deft touch that follows a perfect parabola into the net.

Know thy enemy! Save thy penalties

Teams these days are aware of the past penalties taken by players. Most players follow a pattern in their penalty shots and this analysis of the previous shots puts the keeper in a much better situation to predict the next shot.

Goal posts: to go square or to go round?

The goalposts we see now are circular and have an elliptical cross-section. The goalposts before 1987 had the square cross-section. This invariably meant that most of the shots that hit the posts, came out instead of going in which brought unnecessary disappointment to the teams.

Does football strategy need data analysts and mathematicians?

 While football maths was initially used for strategising the buying and selling of players, it is now integrated to what it can also do on the tactical analysis of the game.

Believe it or not, almost every football team today has a team of mathematicians or statisticians who help the coach define football strategies based on data. A huge amount of data is collected and analysed to understand opposing teams game-play, strengths and weaknesses of players, and to define tactics.

For example, if two players pass the ball 300 times to each other on average in a game, what kind of advantage can the opposition gain by reducing their total number of passes to 100?

Football tessellation

One very obvious example of mathematical football is the shape of the ball itself. The most familiar spherical polyhedron is the ball used in football, thought of as a spherical truncated icosahedron.

What does football tessellation mean?

 The football is usually made of white hexagon shapes and black pentagon shapes - this is an example of a tessellation figure.

PAKISTAN’S 2009 T20 WORLD CUP TRIUMPH

Here, we will sharpen our sports quotient by taking a look at one iconic moment from sporting history. Here's a look at the 2009 edition of the T20 World Cup that was won by Pakistan...

After losing against India in the final hurdle of the 2007 T20 World Cup. Pakistan went on to win the next edition that was held in England in 2009.

The 12 teams in the competition were split into four groups of three, with two teams from each group progressing to the Super 8s.

Pakistan lost their first game against England, but won against the Netherlands to finish second in Group B and qualify for the Super 8s stage. Pakistan were grouped along with Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Ireland in Group F during the Super 8 stage. After losing their first game in this stage against Sri Lanka, Pakistan notched up victories against New Zealand and Ireland to finish second behind Sri Lanka in the group and qualify for the semis. Pakistan defeated South Africa by seven runs in the semi-final to set up a final against Sri Lanka, who defeated West Indies convincingly in their last four clash.

Chasing 139 for victory, Pakistan lost just two wickets, reaching the target with eight balls to spare to become just the second side to lift the T20 World Cup title.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Pakistan were the losing finalist in the inaugural T20 World Cup held in 2007 that was won by India.
  • With 13 wickets in the tournament, Pakistan's Umar Gul was the highest wicket taker of the 2009 T20 World Cup.
  • Runners-up Sri Lanka had the top-scorer of the tournament. Tillakaratne Dilshan, who notched up 317 runs, was also named the player of the series.

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