Tag Archives: Nasser Hussain

We see transfer of talent from other games into rugby, says Nasser Hussain

Nasser Hussain.
Nasser Hussain.

Nasser Hussain, former India rugby captain, is involved with rugby taking roots across the nation as Rugby India general manager.

The Societe Generale Junior National Rugby Sevens at the Bombay Gymkhana attracted participation from 18 States. He talks about tribals in Odisha taking up the sport, switch over from athletics, kabaddi to rugby.

Excerpts from a chat:

Rugby Sevens is the route to the Olympic Games. Looking ahead to making a mark at the Asian level before that, can you explain the roadmap for India?

Globally as well as within India, being an Olympic sport puts you in a different bracket and get taken a bit more seriously. We would love to be part of Olympics rugby sevens. Realistically, 2024 or 2028 is the vision we need to have to be part of the Summer Games. Tokyo 2020 is unrealistic to even consider being a part of the competition.

Our approach is to focus at U-18 representative teams and junior tournaments. Five to 10 years from now, they will be 25 or 27 by then. We work with the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) and have U-19, U-18, U-17 teams. The federation is pushing for U-14 tournaments as part of the National School Games by the next academic year.

Schools Nationals is the starting point for Rugby India to do talent-spotting. Having convinced SGFI to include rugby, what is the next step for talented kids to represent India?

Through the National School Games, we send the national team for the U-18 Asian Schools Rugby Sevens. The event is held once every two years. Federation cannot send an entry directly, it has to be routed through SGFI and they supported us. If there is scope, India might look at hosting the Asian U-18 event in future.

Eighteen States taking part in Junior Nationals 2016, five more than last year, shows the spread of rugby sevens. Which States have a headstart ovevr the rest? Why?

Eighteen States took part in the Junior Nationals here, 18 States send teams for the Senior Nationals in Patna. Junior representation is the same as the seniors, which is encouraging. Odisha in particular has fantastic talent in the juniors age group. Tribals are part of it. They are naturally fit and rugby fits in what they are.

Odisha is winning titles at the School Games, junior Nationals and senior Nationals, hence rugby is promoted by the State Government. Players are getting benefits, like scholarships for an India girls team member, others have joined the police, so they see the sport offering career path.

Rugby is supposed to have caught on at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, Bhubaneshwar. How did this happen?

Rugby India is involved with different States, approaching different schools to get involved. Mr Ashok Mohanty, involved with Odisha Rugby, had a contract with Dr Achyuta Samanta, founder of Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). We did an exhibition match and demonstration in 2006-2007 and they got interested.

KISS is home to 20,000 students who stay and study. They have taken up rugby, probably the number one sport at the institute. Players have gone on to represent India, girls were part of the national squad at the Asian event. We are seeing a culture developing for rugby.

For parents or young rugby players, injury is a worry, like in any contact sport. Does rugby sevens cut down the risk factor, at tournaments like the juniors Nationals?

We have faced misconception in the past about rugby being a violent game. Our approach is to let kids play non-contact rugby, called ‘touch rugby’, at the U-14 level with all the schools we approach. It promotes fitness, teamwork, leadership, all these are values of the game. We don’t push them to get into contact rugby till they move to U-16. Internationally, contact rugby is played at U-13 with slight variations.

Patna hosted the Sr. Nationals, Bhubaneshwar hosted the Jr. Nationals Rugby Sevens last year. Going by the following for the sport there, anything different in players there.

We see transfer of talent from athletics to rugby in girls’ category. Shweta Sahi, one of the India players who went to Sri Lanka for the Asian Rugby Sevens championships, is a sprinter and started rugby two years ago. Rugby has attracted football players. Mumbai police men and women sides are kabaddi players, similar skill sets are required and kabaddi or football are also a contact sport, adapting is easy. We are open to players from different sports enjoying rugby.

For junior Nationals performers, U-18 girls/boys, any future camp finalised?

U-18 girls will have a training camp in early November, maybe in Mumbai. Girls have been shortlisted from earlier competitions, we will have a relook at them and add more names, if required.

Dubai is hosting the Asian Girls U-18, the first time Asian Rugby is hosting a girls U-18 event, featuring eight teams from Asia. India has confirmed participation. For the boys, there is an U-20 in future and we are looking at sending a team to gain international exposure. We don’t get experience playing sides better than us, more professional in their approach.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Sports> Other Sports / by Nandakumar Marar / October 23rd, 2016

‘To have my son captain England in India. It couldn’t get any better’

Chennai, TAMIL NADU / UNITED KINGDOM : 

AT HOME in Madras, Joe Hussain was very keen on the tour. He was a great Fred Trueman fan. He waited by the nets and asked one of the bowlers: “Is Mr Trueman here?” The great Fred had declined this particular passage to India. “Who’s Mr Trueman?” the other bowler sneered.

That memory may seem another world, another lifetime away for the smokey-haired 61-year-old who now presides over the bat-on-ball echoes of the Ilford Cricket School tucked proudly, if a touch shabbily, round the back of Beehive Lane just off the A12. But Joe Hussain has reasons for that pride.

And not just because his son, Nasser, is having a net and Joe’s young hopefuls are queuing up to bowl at the England captain.

“Cricket is so important in India,” he says. “Hockey used to be the number one sport but cricket has overtaken it by miles. Now it’s like a religion. But cricket fans are very knowledgeable and very welcoming. It’s like here,” he says, looking round the obviously mixed ethnic group on Thursday afternoon, “it brings people together.”

Cricket has been important to Joe. He scored a hundred for Madras University against Hyderabad before he came to England in 1960. Over here it helped him meet his wife, Shireen, at an Ilford game and when the couple returned to India for 10 years, cricketing memories of Joe batting for Madras at the Chepauk Stadium were among the early inspirations for the young Nasser Hussain.

“I didn’t want to over-push the boys,” says Joe, whose daughter, Benazir, trained at the Royal Ballet and is now a principal ballerina in Perth, Australia. “But cricket has been something of a passport. When Nasser had already got a maths scholarship to Forest School, our elder boy, Mel, went and scored a hundred against their first XI and Mr Foxall, the headmaster, came up at tea and said: “We must find a way to get him here too.”

All four siblings are now successes in their own field, but with cricket so ingrained in Hussain senior, it was with real angst that he faced the possible cancellation of a tour to his homeland following an England team captained by his son. “It was something quite unbelievable for me,” says Joe with a smile of the purest, most wistful paternal pleasure playing around his lips. “To have my son captain England in India. It couldn’t get any better.”

Then came September 11 and all that has followed. Joe, like everyone else, furrows his brow at the memory. “Of course the world has changed,” he says, “and no one should ever forget what happened. But life must go on. All my friends are ringing up from India saying, `Are they coming? Please tell them how welcome they will be.’ I think we just have to go. I just hope that the security arrangements are not so tight that they can’t go out and see what a wonderful country India is.”

“Besides,” he adds as the conversation is momentarily silenced by a particularly loud report from Nasser’s bat as he takes the gun to the bowling machine in the net over to the right of us, “it will be such a challenge for the lads. To bowl against Tendulkar, to bat against Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in their own country is a terrific test. No one here can imagine how big Tendulkar is in India. Far bigger than Beckham or any sportsman is over here. He and the others aren’t just stars, they’re like gods.”

Discussion of such celestial beings is delaying attendance on younger earthlings. Tom Yallop and Ricky Royds have already played for South of England Under-14s, Varun Chopra has been to an England Under-15 training course at Old Trafford and a local paper cutting on the noticeboard pictures him receiving his award as Ilford young player of the year from Nasser himself.

All three live locally, all three can see the natural progression from this elderly three-net hall to the great cricket arenas of the globe, which has already been made by the likes of Graham Gooch, John Lever, Nasser Hussain and now young James Foster.

“I took over here in 1990,” says Joe. “By then Nasser was already on his way and I promised myself I would produce another Test player. James Foster is just 21 and he’s going on the tour. I’m so proud of him.”

When Foster had that much publicised spat with Andy Flower in Zimbabwe a month ago, it was Joe who got on the phone to keep his spirits up. He would do just the same for any of the three, or indeed for the scores of boys and, more recently, girls who follow this ageing, Indian, chain- smoking Pied Piper to put cricket in their dreams. Cricket’s new money finds its way to many places infinitely less deserving than this old hall, where the outer wrapping is at so much variance to the gleaming spirit within.

On winter weekends the place is heaving, as indoor tournaments take their turn. For a while the kids were predominantly Asian, but Joe has noticed more white children coming to cricket as football’s intensity squeezes too much of the fun out of the game. But another crack from the far net reminds you that colour has nothing to do with it, and how proud we are to have England captained by an Englishman called Nasser Hussain.

So far Tom Yallop has been on tour to Taunton, Ricky Royds has been to Folkestone and Varun Chopra has done best with a school trip to Barbados.

“It was great,” says Varun, already pushing six feet at just 14 and restlessly flicking the ball around his wrist as he readied himself to bowl. “I didn’t score a lot of runs but I got among the wickets and when our keeper was injured, I had to do that too,” he said.

In truth, the three kids are not hanging too heavily on Joe’s words this afternoon. They want the chance to bowl at their hero. One day they, too, will hope to tour India and other foreign parts. In cricket it was ever thus.

Long may it remain.

source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk  / The Telegraph / Home> Sport> Cricket / by Brough Scott / November 10th, 2001

For Nasser, Chennai all about memories

Chennai, TAMIL NADU / UNITED KINGDOM :

Chennai :

Emotions flooded former England skipper and commentator Nasser Hussain’s mind as he made his way to the pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Friday. Born in then-Madras in 1968, Hussain shares a special bond with the city – he spent the six years of his life in Chennai before moving to the UK.

Incredibly, in the mid-1980s, Hussain even scored a few hundreds at Chepauk as a TNCA league cricketer. “I’m very pleased to be back in the place of my birth. I think I was born in a hospital just over the other side of the stadium. Actually, I didn’t realise that. It was Ashwin who told me about that the other day when I saw him,” Hussain told TOI on Friday.

The 48-year-old was sad to see the devastating effects of  Cyclone Vardah but lauded the people of Chennai for coming up with a “magnificent” rescue act.

“It’s obviously been difficult to see the devastating damage from the cyclone over the last couple of days. But the community spirit from the people of Chennai, the way they have been trying to clear up the trees on the road has been absolutely magnificent,” Hussain said.

An honourary member of the Madras Cricket Club (MCC), Hussain wants to soak in the atmosphere here over the next five days.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> Sports News> Cricket News / by Bagwati Prasad / TNN / December 17th, 2016

Touch, and go

Mumbai, MAHARASHTRA :

WomensRugbyMPOs22feb2016

Rugby in the country, and in Asia, has a lot of picking up to do, writes TANAY APTE

In our cricket-crazy country, it would be safe to assume that all other sports fall under the minority category. In their fight for more recognition, football, hockey, badminton and even kabaddi now have glitzy, cash-rich leagues — modelled, ironically, on the IPL. These have gone some way in increasing the sports’ fan following, but are nowhere close to dislodging cricket off its pedestal.

And then, we have rugby. The first rugby match was played on Indian soil nearly 150 years ago, in 1872, in Kolkata — a team of Englishmen took on another with Scottish, Welsh and Irish players. Almost a century later, the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU) was founded in 1968. But, it received recognition from the International Rugby Board only in 1999.

The sport is a huge hit among Western European countries, Oceanic countries and, of course, in South Africa. To increase its popularity in Asia, the governing body, Asia Rugby, introduced the Asian Seven Series in 2009. Although it has not set the world alight by any means, the quality of rugby has definitely improved.

After the success of last year’s Asian Rugby Sevens Olympic Pre-Qualifiers in Chennai, the city was given a chance to host the Asian Rugby Development Sevens Series as part of the Asia Rugby Sevens calendar. The tournament took place at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on February 20 and 21.

Nasser Hussain, the General Manager of Rugby India, had said, “Riding on the success of last year’s edition, the top teams in Asia are well prepared to raise the bar of the competition. We will witness some of the best Rugby in Asia, during the course of the tournament.” He was not wrong.

Hosts India competed against the likes of South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Guam, Bangladesh, Nepal, the UAE, Lebanon, and Chinese Taipei, which eventually emerged victorious in the men’s section, beating Thailand 36-21 in the final, with a powerful display. The women’s final was a cracking affair, in which South Korea defeated Guam 24-19, via a golden try after the game ended in a tie at the full-time whistle.

The Indian women’s team won the bronze medal match against Nepal in a lopsided encounter, in which the score read 39-0. The men’s team ended up with a sixth-place finish.

In a country of more than a billion, you would expect some semblance of a crowd at an international sporting event. But, although their numbers were scarce, the locals turned up the volume throughout the tournament. With drum beats, whistles and loud cheers, the atmosphere at the stadium egged on the players to give it their all.

Rugby is still not a professional sport in India (though there are roughly 50,000 men and women playing it), and the sport finds it hard to attract the investment needed to take it to the next level.

Asia Rugby’s tournament consultant, Aaron Stockdale, however, believes there is light at the end of the tunnel. “Over the past decade, India has consistently been developing as a serious contender in the Asian rugby circuit. With an event of this stature being held here, it is only a matter of time before the youth of this nation help build a formidable line-up that will compete amongst the best.”

The 2019 Rugby World Cup is scheduled to take place in Japan — the first time an Asian country will host the event. Japan’s stunning win over South Africa in the World Cup last year sent shockwaves throughout the sport. It put Asia on the rugby map and, more importantly, gave hope to the Asian rugby nations that they can mix it up with the big boys and not feel out of place.

However, that date might be a bit too soon for India, as the sport is still in its infancy. But, with careful nurturing, we can one day see ourselves staring at TV sets as the national team goes toe to toe with rugby’s finest.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / by Tanay Apte / February 22nd, 2016