Sudden-death begins today
Sachin backs Kapil’s stand on lively home tracks
Sir Donald Bradman’s son still a Bradsen
East Bengal slip further after draw
Holes in Tolly defence
Quarter finalists identified
Poor fields cause alarm

Adelaide, Jan. 24 
After drawing a blank in the first half, India need to score a perfect-10 in the second. It’s quite an ask, even though Sachin Tendulkar insists there is “hope” and Kapil Dev doesn’t tire of reminding us that cricket is a “funny” game.

Test No.1 for the “hope” factor and the “funny” element is as early as tomorrow, when India’s Carlton and United Series campaign resumes, against Pakistan, at the Adelaide Oval.

India need to win not just on the morrow, but in the three matches that will remain. Otherwise, the best-of-three finals will feature Australia and Pakistan.

Of course, the Indians can afford the luxury of one defeat, at the hands of Australia, but they will have to ensure a healthier net run rate than Pakistan’s. At the moment, India are way behind. In any case, it will be disastrous to plot for anything other than four straight victories.

“Instead of getting into calculations, a lesser headache will be four wins in succession... It’s tough, but we’ll have to go for it,” pointed out Sachin, looking unusually relaxed on the eve of such a big game.

While the after-effects of that Hobart loss can’t be discounted altogether, India can draw some comfort from having been comfortably placed midway through their innings. Also, defeat in Brisbane was on the last ball.

Perhaps, keeping this in mind, Sachin remarked: “It’s not that we’ve been outplayed though, yes, the better teams have beaten us.”

Tomorrow, though, India may have to contend with the elements and not just the Shoaib Akhtars: Today, it rained right through the day and the mercury plunged to around 16 degrees when a high of about 32 was forecast!

The forecast isn’t very encouraging for the day-night affair but, then, the Met Office’s track record isn’t all that good either. Still, plenty of Indian fingers will be crossed tonight.

“At the moment, the rain-bit is the last thing on my mind... What is right at the top is defeating Pakistan... No, I’m not reading too much into Pakistan’s loss last night (at the MCG)... We only have to be concerned about ourselves playing well. Let’s look at ourselves, not at others,” maintained Kapil.

The elements played big spoilsports, forcing the Indians to practice indoors, for much of the while alongside Australia’s under-15 squad.

It certainly made the colts’ day, as they watched in awe Kapil bowl to Sachin. However, neither the Indian coach nor the captain could have been too enthused about being pushed indoors.

The rain didn’t upset Pakistan’s plans. “It’s an off-day, for us,” coach Intikhab Alam said. And, before one could pop an obvious question, the wily Intikhab himself added: “I know we lost a match we should have won (last night), but morale isn’t down one bit... We did make some mistakes but, at the same time, that interruption took away our momentum...”

Clearly the team making fewer mistakes will carry the evening.

Probably realising some mistakes are inevitable Sachin, for one, appealed for patience with the youngsters. “This is one of our most inexperienced sides and, so, we should be patient. Yes, the youngsters must shoulder some responsibility, but making runs isn’t easy... Look at Ricky Ponting, even he has had three ducks in the tournament.”

To a point, that’s a reasonable argument, but Ponting has had some handsome scores, too.

Actually, India’s problems have been many: At the top, though Sachin and Sourav Ganguly had a brilliant 99-run partnership in Hobart; in the middle-order, consistently, and with the bowling, specially in the overs of death.

However, there’s little time to finally get the act right. That India have back-to-back games, next versus Australia Wednesday, only adds to their long list of woes. “It’s going to be very, very taxing,” accepted Sachin.

But was he himself fired-up to author an innings to remember in Sir Donald Bradman’s backyard? Sachin responded as all captains should: “Even if I don’t score, I’ll be very happy if victory is India’s.”

Pakistan, it is learnt, will retain the XI that did duty at the MCG — which means the terribly out-of-form Inzamam-ul-Haq will get one more chance.

As for the Indians, there’s talk of dropping V.V.S.Laxman and fielding either Hrishikesh Kanitkar or Nikhil Chopra.

Kanitkar was a flop in the only match he played, but Laxman hasn’t done anything throughout. Indeed, a total of only 20 in four games has made most people forget that brilliant 169 in innings No.2 of the Sydney Test. That almost seems to have been in another century...

Eventually, of course, it’s possible Chopra may earn a recall.

How the wicket — covered all of today — will behave is anybody’s guess. But some ‘juice’, at least, should be expected.

Therefore, both captains will be hoping they lose the toss.

Calling correctly, after all, could mean calling for trouble.    

Adelaide, Jan. 24 
The other day, coach Kapil Dev called for “lively” wickets on the domestic circuit back in India. Today, captain Sachin Tendulkar said much the same thing.

“To help our cricketers play better overseas, cricket at home should be played on lively wickets... Even green tops, instead of turners, as is the case today,” Sachin remarked.

The captain added he would “speak” to the Board once the Australia tour ended. “Somebody has to take the initiative, and I wouldn’t mind doing so.”

According to Sachin, little purpose would be served by only talking about playing “good cricket.” He said: “Of course, that’s the aim, but attention must also be paid to things like outfields...”

That’s another point already raised by Kapil. But, will the Board and its affiliates ever listen?    

Adelaide, Jan. 24 
Like father, like son. If Sir Donald Bradman arguably is the most private person around, no different is his only son John.

“How did you find me?” was how the younger Bradman, who changed his surname to Bradsen back in 1972, greeted The Telegraph this after-noon. Like his father, John is based here, and is a lecturer in constitutional and environmental law at the University of Adelaide.

That query from John, a taller and leaner version of cricket’s greatest batsman, was promptly followed by words of ‘caution.’ “Look, I’m not giving an interview — I don’t give any — so don’t put anything in interview form...”

Asked whether he had actually reverted to Australia’s most famous surname, as was reported in the Media over a fortnight ago, John responded with a touch of irritation: “That’s ridiculous... It’s been blown out of proportion and they (the Media) got carried away. In any case, I have nothing to say on what really is a family matter.”

It does appear he remains John Bradsen. Indeed, the nameplate on his room (322) at the University still reads “John Bradsen.”

But, if he felt so strongly about that report, wouldn’t he have been better off contradicting it? “If I was to say something, that could lead to something else, and would go on and on... I just don’t wish to interact with the Media on something that is very personal.”

According to that report, John was introduced as “John Bradman” during a recent commemorative dinner in Melbourne, marking the naming of Sir Donald as the Hall of Fame’s male athlete of the 20th century.

At the time of changing his surname, John had written a signed article explaining his position. It included the following: “I’m tired of people ‘discovering’ who I am. I’m me. And, I am no longer prepared to accept being seriously introduced as simply someone’s son.

“I am an individual and not a social souvenir. I was popped into a metaphorical glass cage, to be peered at and discussed, like the other exhibits...”

Apparently John, a reasonably decent cricketer, “experimented” with Bradenham before opting for Bradsen.

Sir Donald’s reaction, as beautiful as any of his innings, had been: “Only those who have had to live with the incessant strain of publicity can have any idea of its impact... I understand and appreciate what John has had to endure, and hope his action will enable him to enjoy the privacy he seeks and which is his right.”

John, incidentally, declined to talk about non-Bradman matters as well. But he did remark he had been to India. “No, I can’t recall the year... I spent time in Delhi, when I was returning home from England... Of course, I would like to visit India again.”

Had he been following India’s performances in Australia? John’s ‘guard’ was up again: “But, I’m not giving an interview...” However, he did let slip that the “pressure on Sachin Tendulkar must be enormous.”

Clearly, like his father, John has a soft corner for the Indian captain.

As John, with a walking stick by his side, had to meet the Dean of the Law Faculty, our conversation — not an interview — ended. John, though, still had the last word, so to say: He politely declined to be photographed.    

Calcutta, Jan. 24 
East Bengal’s campaign in the Coca-Cola National League is turning out to be a nightmare. Today’s barren draw against Mahindra and Mahindra left them with a mere 11 points after ten matches. More importantly, it pushed them to the joint-eighth spot with SBT which could well turn out to be the point of no return.

It was a reasonably profitable outing for the Mumbai team — playing without a coach for quite some time now — as they completed their ‘away’ engagements with the Calcutta trio with three points. With 17 points from ten matches, they are placed third, behind Churchill Brothers and Mohun Bagan.

Things just don’t seem to click for Subhas Bhowmick’s men who put up yet another insipid show though they did manage to create a couple of chances. But Bijen Singh & Co. showed once again that they cannot yet be trusted to win crunch matches.

Mahindras — quite happy to play the waiting game with Nigerian veterans Christopher Kem and Bernard Oparanozie providing solidity in deep defence — also came close and better marksmanship from Mohammed Najeeb would have made things more embarrassing for East Bengal.

Creativity was at a premium in the East Bengal midfield where Emmanuel Opoku is not even a pale shadow of what he was last year. Despite that, it was this Ghanaian who masterminded two good moves, both of which should have been converted.

Opoku ran down the right in the 17th minute and his minus found Bijen unmarked near the six-yard box. But Sanatan Singh popped up from nowhere and the two took too long to decide who would take the shot. The Mahindras defenders must have said ‘thank you very much’ before clearing the ball. It was Bijen again five minutes later who received a clever Opoku through and found himself in a position from where he could have had a crack at the goal but the striker chose to pass the ball to Sheikh Sanjib. The intention was noble but it caught Sanjib by surprise as he made a complete mess of what could have made him a hero.

The East Bengal defence was shaky and Najeeb, along with Manjit Singh, Satish Minz and Samshi Reza, threatened to score more than once. One Najeeb side-volley off Minz went straight to goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee. East Bengal had another lucky escape in the 80th minute when the referee overlooked Sangram’s trip on Manjit Singh which should have resulted in a free-kick just outside the box.

Mahindras were organised in defence and midfield though it seemed as if they were playing for a draw. The East Bengal medios, on the other hand, were confusion personified after reaching the attacking third. There was hardly any positive final pass apart from the ones Opoku tried.

East Bengal’s Ranjan Dey, who missed this match with two bookings, wept openly after the match even as some other senior members managed to smile and wave at friends on their way back to the dressing room. Ability, luck, along with commitment, seem to have deserted the team at a time when it was needed in tons. It will be very difficult to script a turnaround now, yes, even if they get a striker from Brazil.    

Calcutta, Jan. 24 
Tollygunge Agragami have been impressive in the last few matches. Tomorrow, Amal Dutta’s men will face a tough task when they lock horns with League leaders Churchill Brothers at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium.

There is some bad news in the Tollygunge camp as reliable deep defender Kajal Bhattacharya will have to sit out with two bookings and left-back Biswanath Mondal will miss the match with an injury suffered in the last match, against Mahindra and Mahindra.

That makes things difficult for Dutta as his bench strength is not exactly encouraging. Chances are that Abayomi Felix, who normally partners Isiaka just in front of the deep defenders, will replace Bhattacharya and Rash Mohan Mallik will play left back.

But, there is some good news as well as skipper Chandan Das, who missed the last match because of office commitments, is back and his presence is sure to lend solidity to the midfield.

Dutta, like before all other matches, said he will try to protect his own goal in the first half and then decide whether to attack in the second. It seems he will be happy to add just one more point to his tally of 13 from nine games.

Churchill, who started the League with a bang, winning four matches on the trot, also have injury problems. According to their Scottish coach Danny McLennan, as many as five of his players are carrying injuries. The list includes ace Ukrainian striker Andrei Malchevsky and Ghanaian defensive mainstay Osumanu Hussaini. Malchevsky, by the coach’s own admission, is a doubtful starter but Osumanu is likely to play.

McLennan, who hasn’t seen Tollygunge recently, said he may just be a little cautious to begin with. Churchill

In another match tomorrow, ITI host JCT in Banagalore.    

Calcutta, Jan. 24 
The boys’ quarter finalists in the 17th junior state basketball championships were identified today on the courts of hosts Rakhi Sangha.

In the boys’ quarter finals tomorrow Bardhaman meet Boys’ Training Association, Chetla Park take on Birbhum, Rakhi Sangha meet Chhatra Samity and Hooghly meet BBYS.

Blue Jays and Bardhaman are already in the girls’ semi-finals. The other two teams will be decided tomorrow.    

Last Saturday’s racing, featuring the American Express Indian Champion Cup sponsored by American Express Bank, was a quiet affair. Most of the regulars abstained, though the sponsors’ invitees were there in large number. With poor fields and winners looking outstanding at crammed odds, those who value money more than the sport, perhaps considered it to be wastage of time.

But one thing is certain, the local racing has been pushed to the walls, thanks to MAM Ramaswamy who had nearly 100 horses trained in Calcutta till recently. The racing baron was here last week to load about one third of his total horse-strength for a long Chennai journey. If the market reports are to be believed, the next batch of horses may leave the station after the Turf Invitation Cup on February 27.

Sources close to him blame the turf club for his move. Leave alone penalties slapped on his winners which are unduly harsh, his losers too are hardly spared. This is the feeling in the MAM circles. Drama at the starting gates is equally annoying. Only the favoured lot are handled tenderly irrespective of their starting odds. Horses becoming lame is a regular feature because of the barren race-track, the sources added.

Whatever his reasons for the phased withdrawal from the RCTC, one must get used to Saturday’s style of racing, or in short call it ‘Chennai II’ racing. It may be good news for the RCTC heavyweight owners, but it does spell doom for the local sport unless RCTC has some contingency plan for survival. Breeze up sale is one such plan in the pipe line, one hears.

There is hardly anything to talk about Saturday’s fare. Aslam Kader won four of the six events on the card leaving Cristopher Alford to scrape the bottom. Cristopher atop Ocean Sunset, however, just about managed to beat Kargil Soldier. It was after his laborious third astride the favourite Assyrian in the opener, the Scottish Law Handicap. Cristopher’s plight was Manohar’s delight who guided a 7-2 chance Persuasion to a fluent victory over Black Mane.

Kader had his afternoon cut out. His two rides — Alterezza and Aquaria — in the Galstaun Cup and the Glasgow Courser Cup — were marked as slightly uncomfortable compared to his two armchair rides — Allosaki in the Pearson Surita Memorial Cup and Allied Forces in the Indian Champion Cup.

The champion jockey, however, treated each of his winner with equal sincerity and the Khaitans’ colours of gold and red belt were kept afloat.

The story was marginally different earlier on Wednesday. The outsiders in Kaizen in the Chettinad Republic Cup and Dramatic Turn in the Vibrant Handicap balanced it out as four favourites — three of them of hot variety — had ruled the afternoon.

The Indian Champagne Cup was the most thrilling event. With debutante Analogy bolting before the start and in the race-proper literally trailing the field, Kader brought the best out o f the Steinbeck-Roccobarocco three-year-old to put pay pretentions of Soviet Port’s brief hopes of winning the prized event virtually in his last stride.

Celtic Bleu, the hottest property in the Navy Cup and Sharp Sensation in the Baqlava Cup lived up to their odds and so was Single Dawn in the operner, the Victo Handicap. But the Richard Alford-trainee was a trifle lucky as the heavily wagered Age Of Miracle burst vessel during the race.    


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