But it’s not over yet and the hope that promise will finally translate into performance flickers. For it not to be extinguished, the Indians need to open account in the Carlton and United Series.
That must be done tomorrow, against Australia, or else hopes of making the best-of-three finals will disappear without a trace in the Sydney harbour, regarded as among the most scenic anywhere.
Of course, a string of weird results could still see India make the cut, but that will again mean depending on others to see you through. It’s one scenario best avoided.
“We can’t look back... We’ve just got to focus and win tomorrow’s game,” remarked a somewhat weary Kapil Dev. The effort of constantly having to lift morale is showing on the Indian coach.
On the eve of the match, though, the Indians have been ‘hit’ by Ajit Agarkar’s non-availability.
Agarkar strained his left hamstring, while batting in Melbourne last night, and will take “a few days to recover,” informed manager Mahendra Bhargava.
Jacob Martin has also been rendered hors de combat. May not make much of a difference, but he hurt his left shoulder while effecting a save, and the swelling hasn’t subsided. He is in some pain, too.
Yesterday’s defeat, therefore, has taken an all-round toll. And while it remains to be seen whether those who get a break are able to make capital, the thinktank has been forced to look at options.
Indications are Devang Gandhi will be elevated from passenger-status — his last game was the Adelaide Test a month ago, while Agarkar’s slot could go to either Debashish Mohanty or Nikhil Chopra. As of now, then, Devang is set for No.3.
The Sydney Cricket Ground (SGC) wicket was pretty damp this evening and had some grass as well. Uncertainty over how it will actually look, tomorrow, deferred the decision on Agarkar’s replacement.
Within the team, there has been some debate over whether Sachin Tendulkar should revert to the opener’s slot. However, the general belief is that if the captain joins the in-form vice-captain Sourav Ganguly, at the top, the middle gets thoroughly exposed.
Thankfully, Rahul Dravid is back among the runs — he got 60 yesterday — and, so, some of the pressure can be taken off the captain and vice-captain.
With two losses in succession, the task for the Indians is cut out. And last night’s defeat will continue to cast a shadow till somebody either does a Saqlain Mushtaq or a Ricky Ponting.
In any case, India’s last visit to the SCG, earlier this month, saw a rout in the third and final Test.
But in seeking to make amends, one hopes there won’t be a repeat of the Samir Dighe fiasco. Apparently his promotion to No.3, last night, had been an “impulsive decision.”
Still recovering from the disappointment of authoring a fantastic hundred but finishing on the losing side, Sourav told The Telegraph: “There’s nothing that hurts more.”
But why didn’t he ground his bat sooner that he appeared to do?
“Looking back, I’m not clear about the whole thing... If a gap did remain, as the third umpire (Bill Sheahan) thought, it must have been miniscule,” Sourav replied.
Incidentally, the print Media has been divided on Sheahan’s verdict which forced a 17-minute stoppage. While The Australian noted the TV replays had been “inconclusive,” The Age felt Sheahan got it right.
Confusing the situation more is that the replays shown on the giant video screen, differed from what was telecast on Channel Nine. The MCG, one learns, has its own production unit and control room for the video screen.
All that, however, is history.
While the Indians had a late-evening workout, the Australians, who arrived in batches, had a day off.
Taking the first flight (Ansett Airlines’ AN 90) out of Melbourne, this morning, were the Sydney-based Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee. And, like other passengers availing of public transport, queued up for taxis on arrival here.
That’s unimaginable for Indian stars but, then, things are somewhat different in these parts.
With Stuart MacGill in the XIII as Shane Warne’s replacement, there’s a good chance he could be fielded. What is certain is that Adam Dale isn’t in the reckoning. The Australians, then, will effectively pick from XII.
Speaking exclusively, coach John Buchanan said: “I don’t think we’re quite into the tournament as yet... We’re in the process of warming-up...”
Meanwhile, the stand-in vice-captain (in Warne’s absence) is Ponting and not Mark Waugh, who has acted as one in the past. As a development in Australian cricket, it’s interesting.
However, till late this evening, nothing specific was announced. According to an ACB spokesman, “discussions were continuing.”
The spokesman added: “We don’t expect trouble at the SCG (tomorrow) as, more than anything else, lovers of sport will be aware this is an Olympic year and Sydney is the host... A negative image obviously won’t be well received anywhere.”
It is understood there are no plans to discontinue the practice of throwing open the gates around an hour before the scheduled close of one-dayers.
Taylor, who is revered as a national hero, spoke to The Telegraph this afternoon. As usual, he was warmth personified. Candid, too.
Following are excerpts
Q It’s been a year since you quit. How have the past 12 months gone?
A (Laughs) Actually, I’ve quite enjoyed myself... Not going for training sessions, not having to sweat even in the off-season... Don’t think I’ve missed the game much... One reason could be that I’m still involved, though in a different capacity (Channel Nine commentator).
Q But declaring your innings couldn’t have been an easy decision...
A I played the game because I enjoyed it, but there’s so much pressure as well: Travelling, being away from the family 10 months in a year... It really was nice to wake up, one day, and say I don’t have to do all that anymore. Of course, there could come a time when I may feel I should have played a year more, but I don’t feel that way now.
Q You weren’t even tempted to have one more go at the West Indies?
A I could have gone, yes, but it would largely have been because a lot of people wanted me to. But, then, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it... Like I’ve said, I would have gone because people wanted me to. Really, you should play because you want to, not because others want you to. I quit at a time when I was still enjoying the game and the game was enjoying me.
Q Has this new hat fitted comfortably?
A I’m watching and learning. Learning from the Benauds, Lawrys and Chappells. For me, it’s definitely a learning curve and, hopefully, I’m getting better. Is it easier sitting in the box? Oh, yeah, the game does look different.
Q Cricket isn’t an Olympic sport, but you’re an ambassador for the Sydney Olympics. Do you see it as a big honour?
A Yes, absolutely. I’ve been featured on the ticket brochure, have appeared on TV commercials... Cricketers don’t get a chance to be associated with the Olympics, I’m happy I’ve been assigned a role.
Q Should cricket return to the Olympic fold?
A Not until it really gets globalised instead of largely being a Commonwealth sport. Then, because so much cricket is already being played, you don’t need cricket to be noticed (as an Olympic sport). For cricketers, the ultimate today is probably being part of a World Cup-winning team... The Olympics, at least now, won’t be in the same bracket.
Q It appears you are mobbed more after quitting...
A (Laughs again) Fortunately, I still have fans, some still like my ugly face! I’ve probably signed more autographs in the past year than at any other period. (Very emotionally) That people still want to shake my hand or be photographed has made playing for Australia even more worthwhile.
Q To talk of Australian cricket. You must be pleased the selectors now have one captain for both versions, isn’t it?
A No doubt about it and that’s probably the best thing my retirement has brought about... To run the show, Australian cricket must always have one captain. It’s good for team harmony and there’s that continuity value, too.
Q Steve Waugh has indicated he will review his future after the series in New Zealand. Should he actually consider retiring?
A Well, that didn’t crop up during the one-to-one we had after last month’s Adelaide Test. He’s only recently become a father for the second time and one can begin to miss the family... The family-factor does come into play and one realises there must be life after cricket. There is. And, it is... However, I’ll be surprised if I don’t see Steve for another year.
Q As an Australian, you must have been thrilled when Steve lifted the World Cup at Lord’s. But, at the same time, did the pain of losing the 1996 final return?
A I felt it. After all, the only thing I didn’t win as captain was the World Cup. Looking back, I can’t change anything... Don’t wish to either but, bottomline is that as a cricketer, I had more highs than lows. So, I can still look back on my career with some degree of satisfaction.
Q What makes the Australians tick with such harmony?
A Top of the list is our development programme. Indeed, our bench strength is very good and there’s competition. I mean, just look at Gilchrist. There were fears that Healy’s retirement could lead to a void but, straightaway, Gilchrist has made such an excellent impression. A fantastic hundred, catching anything that moves...
Then, it’s quite obvious everybody is enjoying each other’s success. Like I’ve said, enjoyment is essential... And, because each one is backing the other, the brand of cricket played by Australia is excellent... The opposition is constantly under pressure as the home team rarely has a bad session.
Q There’s always the risk of complacency setting in. How should Australia guard against it?
A Be strong mentally, be confident but not overconfident. I see the up-coming tour of New Zealand as a real test. Today, New Zealand is certainly playing a much better brand of cricket and our guys will be put through a searching examination... Different conditions, away from home crowds...
Q Who are the most promising youngsters in Australia?
A Jesus, that’s tough... There are five-six guys, but I won’t put a finger on just two or three.
Q The one-dayers have only just begun, but did India’s performance in the Test series come as a surprise?
A Absolutely. The Indians were far too defensive, so very different from their approach at home in 1998-99. Surely, just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you’ve got to change your game. Yes, Sachin attacked, but what about the other batsmen? Till Laxman produced that gem in Sydney, everybody else just sat back and defended.
The bowling was to have been a big worry, but the Indians should have tried to force the issue with their batting, which is top class. Yet, Sourav, Dravid... They all defended. (Adds laughing) They tried to see off McGrath, Fleming, Warne and even newcomer Brett Lee. I mean, you’ve got to score off somebody.
I’m amazed the way even Lee was treated... Just look at the number of wickets he picked up on debut. The Indians should, at least, have gone after him... Oh yes, they disappointed me in a big way.
Q Finally, what’s the legacy Mark Taylor has left behind?
A (Smiles) But you should be asking others that or, better still, you tell me! What I tried to leave behind is that everybody concerned should see cricket as a game only... I know cricket today is a multi- million dollar sport, is professional and people tend to get very serious about it. But, it should always be seen as a means of enter-tainment.
Keep the game simple and it will be a great product for years.
Al Houwaidi’s stellar show for his new club, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal, in the Asian Club Championship got him the honour. The striker netted all the goals in his club’s 3-1 double-leg victory over Qatar’s Al Sadd. The result took Al Hilal into the quarter finals.
Coached by Slobodan Santrac, Shandong won their maiden league crown to earn the accolade. They also won the Chinese FA Cup, beating Dalian Wanda.
Kuwahara guided Jubilo to their third title of the season when they won the J-League, beating Shimizu in the championship play-off. Iwata had earlier won the Asian Super Cup and the Asian Club Championship, in April.
Salem, Jan. 13 (UNI): Bengal beat Goa 25-20, 25-22, 25-17 in a group C match in the men’s competition of the 48th national volleyball championships here today.
Defending champions Punjab, Kerala, Services and the Railways scored emphatic victories to enter the men’s quarter finals.
What East Bengal tried, and failed, was to seal the issue as early as they could. They put their best foot forward, Bijen Singh et al, and a motivated half line that managed good domination. They swarmed the rival defence, unnervingly stiff that it was, and if not for some brilliant saves by Juje Siddi, it could have signalled a rejuvenation. “But what can I do if there are so many misses?” asked coach Subhas Bhowmick after the match.
He is right. In the tenth minute a Falguni Dutta-Rennedy Singh one-two saw Ranjan Dey in front of the goal, and even Siddi off-centre. It is difficult to shoot out from there. Dey did. Four minutes later Emmanuel Opoku shot straight into Siddi, before Bijen again found Siddi in his volley. In the 38th minute Siddi rose brilliantly to effect a fine save. Siddi was the superstar of the day if there was one.
And then Dipankar Roy shot out a Tushar Rakshit pass from close. ‘Bad misses’ will be a rather modest estimate for these. With the flanks in flow and the midfield decently active, it was criminal.
Most importantly, there was no concerted Salgaocar effort at the other end. The defence, of course was solid, and that was expected. But it was breached, many a times.
“I need a positive striker,” asserted Bhowmick. “I have told the club so.” Last heard, the club was considering “looking out” for another foreigner, though not everybody is happy that Willie Brown remains “underutilised”.
The Goan team, coached by Iranian Ahmad Sanjari, crowded the defence right from the start as Amal Dutta’s men, outnumbered in the attacking third, failed to manage a proper look at the goal and settled for a 0-0 draw.
It turned out to be a profitable trip for the visitors — who came here with just two points from five games, as they collected two more — having held East Bengal 1-1 earlier. Sanjari said he was “happy” with the outing.
Dutta, whose team didn’t show much urgency in the first half but dominated the second, said he wasn’t disappointed either. “Having lost the last two matches, we had to be a bit defensive today,” he said.
Proceedings were painstaking in the opening session as both teams waited for the other to attack. But their hopes of replying through counterattacks didn’t quite materialise as both chose to concentrate on defending.
Tollygunge, however, wasted the chance of the day at the stroke of half time when skipper Chandan Das’ lob from the deep cleared the off-side trap and found an unmarked Srikanta Dutta. The lanky striker, with just the goalkeeper to beat, somehow allowed Vikrant Sharma to collect the ball from his feet.
His team, which doesn’t create many scoring opportunities, can’t afford to let such chances go when they face Salgaocar Sunday.
The Bright Law Cup poses the most difficult task of spotting the winner. Barring the erratic-performer The Cigar and the recent winner, Global Harmony, none among the 11-horse field have seen the winning post for long. Therefore, it may pay to follow the disciplined galloper from trainer Mujeeb-ur-Rahman’s yard who seems to be maintaining his winning form. Black Mane, Tawny Rebel and The Cigar may follow Global Harmony home. Md Amil partners the four-year-old gelding.
CARD & SELECTIONS
1. Adelina Plate 1,200m (Terms, 3-y-o only) 1.05 pm: Actress 57 C. Alford 1; Astrotot 55 Rabani 5; Arctic Fancy 53.5 Gowli 4; Atacada 53.5 Amil 2; Saffron Rose 53.5 Merchant 6; Tsaynen Blue 53.5 Shanker 3.
1. Actress (1) 2. Arctic Fancy (3) 3. Tsaynen Blue (6)
2. Sea View Handicap 1,200m (Cl IV, 5-y-o & over Rt. 22-50) 1.45 pm: Abstract 60.5 C. Alford 8; Legal Fiction 56.5 Islam 1; Storm Centre 56 Engineer 3; Prince Of War 53 Merchant 9; As You Please 52.5 Shanker 6; Work Order 52.5 Amil 2; Jayaashva 51.5 A. P. Singh 5; Alezaan 51 Tamang 4; Crown Prince 50 Yasin 7.
1. Legal Fiction (2) 2. Abstract (1) 3. Prince Of War (4)
3. Harvest Star Handicap 1,400m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 2.20 pm: Royal Applause 60 Merchant 2; The Epicurean 60 Som S. 5; Iron Warrior 55 C. Alford 1; Millenium Affair 53 Akhtar 3; Friendly Knight 52.5 Saran 6; Timbertop 52 Rabani 4; Gul 51.5 Manohar 7.
1. Iron Warrior (3) 2. Gul (7) 3. Royal Applause (1)
4. Wandin Handicap 1,200m (Cl V, 5-y-o & over Rt. 0-28) 2.55 pm: Swingtime 60 Bird 5; Techno Pace 59 Rabani 4; Gallant Heights 57.5 Merchant 1; Vested Interest 57.5 Amil 2; Desert Story 50.5 Shanker 6; Time Of Times 48.5 Salim K. 3.
1. Vested Interest (4) 2. Time of Times (6) 3. Gallant Heights (3)
5. Bright Law Cup 1,600m (Cl V, Rt. 0-28) 3.30 pm: Unlimited 60 Salim K. 9; Black Mane 59.5 Akhtar 1; Global Harmony 57 Amil 8; The Cigar 56 Salam 2; Angstrom 55.5 Islam 11; Rheinheart 54 Shanker 5; Tawny Rebel 53.5 C. Alford 4; Morning Light 53 Manohar 6; Racing Baron 50 A. P. Singh 3; Generous Present 49.5 Surender 7; Queen’s Theatre 48.5 Rabani 10.
1. Global Harmony (3) 2. Black Mane (2) 3. Tawny Rebel (7).
6. Cherry Handicap 1,400m (Cl III, 5-y-o & over Rt. 44-72) 4.05 pm: Sky Command 61 Manohar 7; Just Kidding 59.5 Rutherford 8; Attire 59 C. Alford 9; Citadel 57.5 Amil 6; Scimitar 56 A. P. Singh 1; High Life 53.5 Islam 2; Klondyke Rose 51 Shanker 3; Royal Ruler 50.5 Salim K. 4; Gentle Priest 48 Rabani 5.
1. Just Kidding (2) 2. Sky Command (1) 3. Gentle Priest (9)
Day’s Best: Legal Fiction Double: Vested Interest & Iron Warrior.
2 pm: Kingston Heath 1. High Clarity 2. Access All Areas 3.
2.30 pm: Desert Lord 1. Summer Mood 2.
3 pm: Carnival Craze 1. Whitehall 2. Blaze Of Fire 3.
3.30 pm: Placid Ark 1. Regal Wind 2. Obsession 3.
4 pm: Scenic Star 1. Machine Gun Kelly 2. Nayaab 3.
4.30 pm: King’s Common 1. Something Fishy 2. Stella Blue 3.
5 pm: London Bells 1. Nobody’s Angel 2. Lion Of Judah 3.
5.30 pm: Andretti 1. Paddy Fox 2. Silver Warakh 3.
Day’s Best: Desert Lord Double: London Bells & Andretti
BY HONKY DORY
Trained by D. Surti, Shirley Valentine claimed the Mayor’s Trophy in Mumbai on Thursday.
(With inter-state dividends)
1. Trinity College Plate 1,200m: (6-2-1) Damroo’s Gift (Ranjane) 1; Super Cop 2; Double Barrel 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 3-1/4; (1-17). Tote: Win Rs 38; Place: 21; 89; Quinella: 367; Tanala: 1,732. Fav: Amorous Delight (5).
2. Highway Star Plate, Div-II 1,000m: (2-4-3) Final Recovery (Bajrang) 1; Say No More 2; Let’s Have Fun 3. Won by: 3/4; 3/4; (1-3.2). Tote: Win Rs 27; Place: 12; 13; 18; Quinella: 33; Tanala: 165. Fav: Say No More (4).
3. Volcan Plate 1,600m: (6-2-1) Proper Pride (Prakash) 1; Burning Issue 2; Fashion Delight 3. Won by: 2-3/4; 1; (1-46.6). Tote: Win Rs 40; Place: 17; 18; 21; Quinella: 84; Tanala: 636. Fav: Red Trident (3).
4. Highway Star Plate, Div-I 1,000m: (6-1-2) Aunty I (Prakash) 1; Fairy Flight 2; Dark Beauty 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 3-3/4; (1-2.3). Tote: Win Rs 35; Place: 14; 16; 38; Quinella: 57; Tanala: 1,018. Fav: Aunty I (6).
5. Mayor’s Trophy 1,000m: (6-5-4) Shirley Valentine (Bernard) 1; Safarando 2; Momentous Mover 3. Won by: 2-3/4; 1-1/2; (1-2.3). Tote: Win Rs 67; Place: 16; 35; 11; Quinella: 441; Tanala: 1,925. Fav: Momentous Mover (4).
6. Gold Giver Stakes 1,400m: (2-5-6) Thunder Struck (Belose) 1; Thanks 2; Backburn Rocket 3. Won by: 8; 3/4; (1-30.1). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 14; 32; 20; Quinella: 144; Tanala: 611. Fav: Thunder Struck (2).
7. Basque Plate 1,200m: (3-10-11) Court Of Appeal (M. Narredu) 1; Impartial 2; Ocean Falls 3. Won by: SH; 1-1/2; (1-18). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 14; 18; 35; Quinella: 73; Tanala: 499. Fav: Court Of Appeal (3).
Jackpot: Rs 3,836; (C) Rs 660.
Treble: (i) Rs 292; (ii) Rs 365.