The pointer, of course, is to casinos and everything associated with them. But, then, one-day cricket too is a gamble and even a thin slice of luck could make a big difference.
Pakistan, as also India, will be hoping for just that when they take on the world champions in the Carlton and United Series. The tournament gets underway with the Pakistan versus Australia clash tomorrow, while India meet Pakistan Monday.
Two former world champions and the current holders... The most talked-about year couldn’t have had a more star-spangled series at the very beginning. It’s another matter that the stock of both India and Pakistan is, at the moment, pretty low.
Yet, it’s just that which could work to their advantage. Though Test cricket is a different ball-game, having being whipped in the Test series, the sub-continent’s big guns have little else to lose. In other words, everything to gain.
Australia, on the other hand, will be playing their first tournament at home after winning the World Cup. And, as always, there are two ways of looking at it: Immense support, yes, but plenty of pressure too.
“We’ll have to be careful not to go Sri Lanka’s way... They dropped off after winning the (1996) World Cup and we can’t risk losing momentum... We definitely aren’t only completing the numbers but, at the same time, it’s unrealistic to expect us to win every one-day match,” remarked Steve Waugh.
The Australian captain, who has also emerged as an elder statesman, added: “We aren’t underestimating anybody, though looking to tomorrow’s game, it’s a fact that Pakistan are struggling.”
In keeping with the being-on-the-guard approach, the Australians had a full-day workout at the picturesque Allan Border Field, in the suburbs. Complacency, clearly, doesn’t figure in their lexicon.
Wasim Akram, on what probably is his last trip to Australia, felt the series-opener would largely determine how Pakistan play over the next few weeks. “A good start and we’ll be right there.”
For that, Akram will (again) have to lead from the front and is a mere four short of a phenomenal 400 wickets in limited-overs cricket. Today, at least, he looked utterly relaxed.
However, that couldn’t be said of all his teammates. It probably is of little help that an ex-army officer, Brig. (retd) Khwaja Mohammed Nasir, is the manager. He is, more than anything else, the eyes and ears of the new dispensation.
It’s tempting to give the opening game a ‘grudge’ label but, really, Pakistan don’t look the side which made the World Cup final last June. That Australia decimated them with little sweat is bound to play on their minds.
Still, between the World Cup and now, Pakistan won both tournaments they featured in — Toronto, where they beat the West Indies, and the tri-series in Sharjah. Akram, with just that hint of a smile, didn’t fail to highlight that.
But he felt too much ought not to be read into Pakistan’s defeats in all three warm-up matches. Twice to Australia A and, then, to Queensland the other evening.
Australia, it may be recalled, lost the tri-series in Sri Lanka, though they hammered Zimbabwe 3-0 in Zimbabwe.
Incidentally, with an extraordinary success rate of 74.14, Pakistan finished 1999 as the No.1 one-day team. Australia were a close second, with 72.97.
Perhaps, predictably, much of the focus throughout the day was on someone who, till late tonight, was headed home: Shoaib Akhtar. So much so, Akram was bombarded with Akhtar-specific questions when he met the Media this evening.
“We are more disappointed than unsettled... Akhtar, after all, is a key player... We don’t feel there’s anything wrong with his action and, honestly, it beats me how somebody running in at around 100 mph can chuck... Uske saath zyatti ho rahi hai... But I’m sure he’ll come back,” Akram declared.
He added: “Cricket needs Akhtar... Even Brett Lee...” As if on cue, coach Intikhab Alam chipped in: “Bottomline is that the sport needs crowd-pullers.”
All that, mind you, was said before the ICC revoked the ban.
Actually, news of the ban being lifted was conveyed just before midnight to Akram, by The Telegraph.
His absolutely ecstatic response was: “I’m thrilled for Akhtar and world cricket. I think the ICC has acted wisely — just about everybody, after all, had been firm in giving Akhtar a clean chit.”
But would Akhtar — who is currently in Perth — be considered for selection tomorrow? “I don’t think so, but yes, he should play against India,” Akram replied, pleased as punch with this near-midnight call.
Neither Australia nor Pakistan announced the XI — there’s enough time as the game will be played under the Gabba lights — but Waugh indicated both Andrew Symonds, arguably Australia’s most exciting one-day cricketer, and Adam Dale would play.
“The Gabba is their home turf and there are benefits in fielding the local boys,” was how Waugh put it. But he kept mum on whether the Brothers Lee (Shane and Brett) would both make the starting line-up. However, Waugh did suggest the quicks, by rotation, would be rested over the next few weeks.
Should the Lees play, there will be something special for the record books — two sets of brothers taking the field in the same colours.
Pakistan, it is learnt, may have to omit Azhar Mahmood who has a groin strain. Also, the second opening slot had not been decided upon till late this evening. It’s possible that Wajahatullah Wasti could partner Saeed Anwar.
Though it was occasionally overcast, both in the morning and afternoon, and parts of Brisbane even received a light shower, the forecast isn’t disconcerting.
Meet Intikhab Alam, cricket’s first pro coach (appointment No.1 being in 1982) at the international level.
But then Intikhab, a former captain, has never really been just a coach. For most, he remains a father-figure. That’s why the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) keeps getting him back.
The question then is: Why, in the first place, does the PCB let him go? Ask Intikhab that and he will merely smile. Even though Intikhab is under extreme pressure, this time, he spared half-an-hour for The Telegraph.
Following are excerpts
Q Whenever there’s a crisis, the PCB falls back on you...
A (Laughs) So it seems... As it was with the other assignments, this too is a challenge. I’ve accepted it because I know the boys well and have worked with them. Of course, I’m aware things have to be set right. There’s an incentive here — Pakistan getting back to winning ways.
Q Did you expect to be recalled?
A Let me begin by saying it’s most unfortunate that the year just-ended saw the removal\resignation of five coaches (Javed Miandad, Mushtaq Mohammed, Wasim Raja, Richard Pybus and Mudassar Nazar)...That the PCB itself saw so many changes is just as unfortunate.
However, where I’m concerned, I never made any ‘move’ whenever the vacancy arose. I only made it known that if the PCB wanted my services, they would have to come to me. And that’s what happened this time — I got a call from the new chief (Lt General Tauqir Zia).
Q But your appointment is only for the Carlton and United Series...
A That’s because of my name featuring on the ICC’s list of Match Referees... Though it’s understood I can’t do both jobs, I’ve formally conveyed my position to the ICC.
Q Then why hasn’t the PCB given you a longer term?
A I think that will soon be done as I’ve impressed on the new chief the benefits of continuity. Whoever the coach, he must have a reasonable tenure. If not, it’s neither fair to him nor the players. In fact, it’s the players who probably suffer most.
Q I suppose there’s more pressure on you this time... The team hasn’t been doing well, there’s more than one controversy...
A The expectations are definitely high. I mean, quite a few people expect things to quickly fall into place. But, really, it can’t happen overnight and I’m quite disappointed with our itinerary in Australia.
The fault is ours — we shouldn’t have accepted the five-six weeks break between the Test and one-day series.
You see, it takes time to adjust to Australian wickets. The shot-selection, for one, has to be perfect but it doesn’t come easy. Therefore, you need to play on the same type of wickets for some length of time. Believe me, it’s tough for the batsmen in Australia, specially those from the sub-continent.
Q Do you feel sorry for Mudassar — he was sacked even before formally taking charge?
A Well, let me put it this way: Something like that wouldn’t have happened if a system was in place, if there was continuity in the administration as well...
Q Your last innings as coach ended in April 1996. But, in between, some of the players apparently approached you on a personal level...
A That’s right. They know I never impose myself. They also know I’m willing to help anybody who has a problem and wishes to listen. At the highest level, a coach’s job isn’t strictly to coach. Rather, he has to work on the mental and psychological side.
Q So, what do you see your role as?
A Besides mentally preparing the boys, I’ve got to be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. If I’m not clear, I can’t help in formulating strategy. Basically, a coach must have excellent lines of communication with all players. He shouldn’t be insensitive, at the same time, he’s got to do his job.
Q Have you, too, begun carrying a lap-top?
A (Laughs again) I may, soon enough. That’s on the agenda.
Q Who, then, is a good coach?
A Somebody who communicates with ease. Bottomline is getting the message across quickly.
Q For all the talent, why is Pakistan so inconsistent?
A We aren’t professional enough. That’s reason No.1. Another could be that the commitment isn’t always hundred per cent... Look at somebody like Saeed Anwar. He’s so gifted, yet he isn’t consistent. In my book, it’s no good getting a big score in one innings out of five.
Q Has the ban on Shoaib Akhtar demoralised the team?
A No, and I wish to place on record our acute disappointment at the timing of the ban. The decision ought to have been taken weeks ago and not after we landed in Australia. Shoaib, though, has taken it bravely and is determined to stage a comeback that will make headlines.
It’s significant that no umpire has called him. Equally, it’s significant that a question mark has been raised over one type of delivery only. Believe me, in the past, people have got away with murder.
Q The final question: What are the changes suggested by you to the new PCB chief?
A One has already been implemented — that there be an advisory committee, comprising former players, instead of a general body and council running the show. Frankly, we don’t need so many people. What remains to be implemented is revamping domestic cricket. We’ve got to focus at the grassroots, the schools and colleges... Even club cricket... It can’t remain neglected.
Note: This interview was conducted well before the ICC lifted its ban on Shoaib Akhtar
Markus Hantschk, an unpretentious 22-year-old with the experience of no more than 10 Tour matches under his belt, played way above his ranking of 127 to conjure another of those stunning upsets which makes men’s tennis such a fascinating spectacle. His 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory, after seeing off five break-points in the make-or-break final set, sent the screaming fans home with the realisation that they had probably seen a new German star dawn on the horizon.
Golmard had earlier staged a remarkable recovery to pull off a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 verdict over Czech Republic’s Martin Damm. The first semi-final threw up some top-drawer stuff which paled in comparison to what the fans got in the next match.
Hantschk, coming into this tournament with a heavy dose of Challenger-level exposure, surprised Pioline with his heavy groundstrokes and the consistency with which he mainatined a high standard. As always a slow starter, the Frenchman dropped serve in the third game.
The Frenchman was lucky to get even as a Hantschk backhand drive, which looked good, was called long on break-point in the eighth game. Not to be thrown off gear, the young German immediately recaptured the initiative putting pressure on Pioline’s second serve.
A set up, Hantschk played a loose service game to let Pioline back in the match. That was enough for the revitalised Frenchman to grab the second set.
The decider was taken to the tie-break as Pioline missed out on a series of opportunities. The master of tie-breakers didn’t get it right this time, sending Hantschk to his maiden Tour final.
Earlier Golmard shifted gears at just the right time to advance to his second career final. The left-hander, who plays his tennis with great passion, took a toilet break early in the second set to come back with renewed vigour.
Damm, the 27-year-old Czech veteran, played a near-flawless first set. He served big, controlled the rallies well from the baseline and played the big points with Pete Sampras-like calmness.
The only break came in the fourth game, Damm coming up with two fine whipping backhand returns. Serving for the set, the bald-headed Damm faced his moment of truth at 30-all. Following a sharp exchange at the net, the Czech ‘manufactured’ a clever lob which left Golmard stunned. The momentary crisis weathered, Damm captured the set with the fourth of his 12 aces.
The pony-tailed Golmard, sporting a bandana to complete a smart hairdo, must have refreshed his thought process while he visited the toilet. He came out in a more aggressive frame of mind and was a different player thereafter.
Choosing the right approach shot to charge the net, the 35th-ranked Golmard put more pressure on the Damm serve. The Czech, who didn’t face a single break-point in the first set, suddenly found himself 0-40 down in the fourth game. Damm managed to pull back to deuce as Golmard netted a regulation volley after setting up the kill skillfully. On the fifth break-point, though, Damm succumbed to the relentless pressure.
Golmard was on a roll now, pounding aces with increasing regularity. And his double-fisted backhand crosscourt returns were a treat to watch — hit clean as a whistle. One of those delightful passes earned him the important break in Game 3 of the decider.
A break up and serving as well as he was, Golmard was very much in the driver’s seat. He wanted to make up for lost time, a knee injury having forced him out of action in the second half of ‘99 after a marvellous first five months.
Damm kept himself alive with two very smooth service-games, but the frustration of failing to break-back drove him to hara-kiri. Serving to stay in the match in the ninth game, the Czech sent a forehand long on the second match-point to signal a momentous victory for Golmard.
The Frenchman celebrated the moment by going prostrate on the court and throwing his hands heavenwards. “I am 26 and it’s now or never for me. It was a big win,” was Golmard’s explanation for being so ecstatic.
The move, one is given to understand, was to “clear the air.” But it’s quite likely that the atmosphere could get even more heavy.
In what is without precedent, Hair handed over a “strongly worded” letter to Match Referee Cammie Smith last evening. In fact, Hair first read out the letter, signed by all five Australians who will officiate in the Carlton and United Series, beginning tomorrow.
The occasion was the customary pre-series/tournament meeting of captains, coaches and managers with the Match Referee and the umpires. Hair, of course, took everybody by surprise. But, then, that’s in keeping with quite a few of his decisions.
Basically, the letter made two points: One that the umpires are not biased and, secondly, that if the Indians and Pakistanis believe there is a “racist touch,” it ought to be cleared straight-away.
It’s no secret that teams from the sub-continent have been having problems with some of the umpires. It’s no secret either that most of the misgivings have been against Hair.
For Hair and Co. the immediate ‘provocation’ appears to have been Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) secretary Shafqat Rana’s remark earlier this week. Rana was quoted as saying the Australian umpires’-encouraged ban on Shoaib Akhtar had “racism” written all over.
That the Indian media didn’t take too kindly to many of the decisions during the just-ended Test series seems to have contributed to the drafting of an extraordinary letter.
For the record, though, neither the Indians nor the Pakistanis have formally complained about the umpiring.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, there was “absolute silence” when Hair finished reading the letter. The first to react was Pakistani manager Brig. (retd) Khwaja Mohammed Nasir. He said something to the effect that no matter how good an umpire is, he still won’t have friends.
That actually broke the ice, coming as a god-send for Smith, who could continue with the meeting. Neither the Indians nor the Pakistanis are willing to go on record with their response, but Indian manager Mahendra Bhargava did say “everything” would be reported back to the Board.
Indeed, the Board (s) must respond.
Privately, the Pakistanis specially, are very upset. “It’s a means of putting us under pressure... Yesterday’s meeting certainly wasn’t the forum for all that,” remarked somebody very senior.
It’s unlikely that the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) was in the dark, but the ACB’s Media manager, Brian Murgatroyd, insisted this morning that the ACB had “no comment.”
[According to a delayed agency report from Melbourne, though, ACB chief executive Malcolm Speed has called for a full report on the episode.]
Captain Steve Waugh, for his part, was pretty forthcoming. “The umpires have a tough job and I don’t see anything wrong with the umpires raising the issue (yesterday)... Hair obviously had it on his chest, now he’s off with it...
“As I see it, teams going overseas shouldn’t be weighed down by a siege-mentality... Really, it’s all in the mind. We, too, had this mentality in the 1970s and 1980s, when touring the sub-continent, but have overcome that.”
Irrespective of Steve’s views, it’s unlikely that the last word on this issue has been spoken.
Hair apart, the letter was signed by Peter Parker, Simon Taufel, Steve Davis and Darryl Harper.
Late this evening, Match Referee Smith revealed he wouldn’t place the umpires’ letter before the ICC. For him, therefore, the matter is over. “Lets only look forward to some good cricket,” Smith insisted.
Among the four in contention, the 2,000 Guineas winner from Vijay Singh’s yard, Legal Steps and Darius Byramji’s Astrodance, who lifted the Oaks in impressive manner, are in the reckoning whatever their shortcomings in the department of speed or stamina. Legal Steps, too, is suspect beyond a 2,000m trip while Astrodance’s poor class remains a talking point. They are joint favourites for the Derby.
The two horses capable of upsetting the favourites could be the Alford-trainee, Splendid Pride, and Darius’ other ward, Alameda, a gelding. Their recent workout over the Derby course have confounded the morning birds. Till recently, they were known to possess the class but not the stamina needed to win a Derby. Between the two, Alameda has the right temperament for a Derby contender.
He may not mean much to the students of form, but take a look into his career graph. The Steinbeck-Parfait Amour son wrapped up his brilliant first season on a high note, finishing a close fifth behind the likes of Her Excellency and Acrobat in the Poonawalla Breeders’ Million in Mumbai. He continued the good work in the summer before his form declined. However, he gave a hint of his past brilliance recently in Bangalore when he finished third behind Smart Chieftan, the Indian Derby favourite, and Acrobat. He was promptly deported to the city and within 10 days of his arrival was made to run the Guineas. His Guineas’ run, which was a forward one, was not very disappointing. He has been on the up since. Stamina is in his blood and he has the stamp of class. He may be in the news shortly after 3 pm tomorrow. Read as: Horse number, last four runs, horse name, trainer, jockey, weight & draw:
Wills Calcutta Derby Stakes 2,400m (Terms, 4-y-o only)
1 2130 Alameda [D. Byramji] C. Alford 56.0 4
2 3322 Audible [Vijay] P. Eddery 56.0 6
3 1141 Legal Steps [Vijay] A. Kader 56.0 5
w ---- North American [Sunderji] (Withdrawn) 56.0 --
5 4001 Scavenger’s Son [Soheil] M. Kharadi 56.0 7
6 0423 Splendid Pride [R. Alford] R. Hughes 56.0 3
7 0113 Allosaki [D. Byramji] N. Connorton 54.5 8
8 2401 Astrodance [D. Byramji] C. Ruzaan 54.5 1
9 2122 Opera Star [R. Alford] A. Merchant 54.5 2
10 4400 State Treasure [R. Alford] R. Gowli 54.5 9
1. Alameda (1) 2. legal steps (3) 3. astrodance (8) Alameda: Has improved by a ton since his Guineas’ run. Likely to take some beating. Legal Steps: If he stays the trip, hwe may be one to beat. Astrodance: Pace favouring, she may be right there. Splendid Pride: Upset, if any.
CARD & SELECTIONS
1. Robin Hood Cup 2,2oom (Cl IV,Rt. 22-50, lower class eligible 12.30 pm: Tejeni 60 Bird 4; Charlene 59 Connorton 2; Athletico 54.5 C. Alford 1; Air Comamnd 49 Merchant 3.
1. Athletico (3) 2. Air Command (4)
2. Zara Shah Cup 1,600m (Cl II, Rt. 66-94, lower Class eligible) 1.05 pm: Astrajoy 60 Bird 1; Absolve 56.5 Amil 3; As Ever 55 Kader 4; Prince Obolensky 55 Connorton 7; Majestic Star 53.5 Merchant 5; Classic Leader 53.5 Gurang 2; Remember The Day 50.5 Rutherford 6.
1. Prince Obolensky (4) 2. Remember The Day (7) 3. As Ever (3)
3. Astounding Handicap1,200m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72) 1.50 pm: Consul’s Secret 60.5 Bird 2; Sky Hawk 58.5 Amil 3; A Million Memories 58.5 Eddery 8; Amarante 56.5 C. Alford 6; Light Reflections 54 Hughes 7; Constantine 51.5 Yacoob 4; Sheerness 51 Islam 5; Magic Fountain 50.5 A. P. Singh 1; Anytime Better 48.5 Ruzaan 9.
1. Light Reflections (5) 2. Amarante (4) 3. Consul’s Secret (1)
4. Aspirant Cup 1,100m (Terms, 3-y-o only) 2.25 pm: Rock Falcon 58.5 Hughes 7; Ashbury 55 Eddery 1; Ballet Master 55 Merchant 2; Magnifico 55 C. Alford 3; Alocina 53.5 Kader 5; Madame X 53.5 Shanker 6; Quizzical 53.5 Amil 4.
1. Ashbury (2) 2. Rock Falcon (1) 3. Alocina (5)
5. Wills Calcutta Derby Stakes 2,400m (Terms, 4-y-o only) 3 pm: Alameda 56 C. Alford 4; Audible 56 Eddery 6; Legal Steps 56 Kader 5; North American (Withdrawn) 56; Scavenger’s Son 56 Kharadi 7; Splendid Pride 56 Hughes 3; Allosaki 54.5 Connorton 8; Astrodance 54.5 Ruzaan 1; Opera Star 54.5 Merchant 2; State Tresure 54.5 Gowli 9.
1. Alameda (1) 2. Legal Steps (3) 3. Astrodance (8)
6. Oakmead Trophy 1,200m (Cl I, Rt. 88 & over) 3.40 pm: Chief Of Staff 63.5 Rutherford 2; Amyntor 61.5 C. Alford 1; Prosperous 57 Merchant 5; Dominate 56.5 K. Gurang 13; Schillaci 56 Hughes 4; Seccessor 56 Manohar 10; Falconhead 54.5 Eddery 12; Qui-ckDraw McGraw 54 Gowli 11; Kansai 51.5 Shanker 6; Pertigalete 51 Yasin 3; Bold Invader 51 Ruzaan 8; Acquest 51 Islam 9; Arlington 47 Amil 7
1. Schillaci (5) 2. Arlington (13) 3. Falconhead (7)
7. Aphroze Handicap 1,200m (Cl V, Rt. 0-28) 4.15 pm: Magic Ring 60 Akhtar 1; Alyssum 59 C. Alford 6; Internal Affair 58.5 Merchant 5; Knight Charmer 58.5 Amil 3; Bul Bul 57 Yacoob 2; Remember Me 55 Gowli 7; Tabasco King 51 Kujur 4; Lord of The Manor 50 Brij S. 8.
1. Remember Me (6) 2. Alyssum (2) 3. Knight Charmer (4)
Day’s Best: Light Reflections
Double: Athletico & Prince Obolensky
1. Kalinadi Plate: Rare Jewel (Shakti) 1; Selected Princess 2; Empire Royale 3. Not run: My Goodness (10). Tote: Win Rs 47; Place: 16; 23; 16; Quinella: 151; Tanala: 669. Fav: Empire Royale (3).
2. McDowell’s Centenary Fillies Stakes: Symphony Of Fire (Appu) 1; Alylady 2; Lintola 3. Tote: Win Rs 48; Place: 13; 10; Quinella: 16; Tanala: 251. Fav: Alylady (3). 3. Maj. Gen. Telfersmolleett Memorial Plate: Sunspirit (Arun R.) 1; Rosalie 2; Decorated Hero 3. Tote: Win Rs 88; Place: 30; 19; 18; Quinella: 230; Tanala: 1,661. Fav: Decorated Hero (3). 4. McDowell’s Centenary Colts Stakes: Strides Of Fire (Eddery) 1; Gullane 2; Soviet Bay 3. Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 12; 19; Quinella: 27; Tanala: 50. Fav: Strides Of Fire (5). 5. Dupont Plate: Badge Of Fame (Hughes) 1; Mr Belvedere 2; Northern Frontier 3. Tote: Win Rs 30; Place: 15; 15; 42; Quinella: 51; Tanala: 454. Fav: Badge Of Fame (4).
6. Hoysala Cup: So Royal (Appu) 1; Devonlock 2; Sun Hawk 3. Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 11; 67; 28; Quinella: 221; Tanala: 2,655. Fav: So Royal (11). 7. Bagalkot Plate: Narver (Nagesh) 1; Optical Illusion 2; Niveditha 3. Tote: Win Rs 31; Place: 17; 25; 68; Quinella: 170; Tanala: 5608. Fav: Narvar (3). Jackpot: Rs 2,900; (C) Rs 205.
Treble: (i) Rs 1,441; (ii) Rs 325.