Aussie consistency vs Pak unpredictability
Sachin was a little subdued, says McGrath
Mohun Bagan get past ITI
Marathon in city on February 20
Topsel, TCT notch up wins
El Cid fancied
Track trials

 
 
AUSSIE CONSISTENCY VS PAK UNPREDICTABILITY 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Melbourne, Feb.1 
It’s in black and on white: “Success is measured by Effort.”

The words, therefore, can’t be missed as players troop in and out of the hi-tech gym at the MCG, either while going to or returning from the practice area.

Today, too, both Australians and Pakistanis couldn’t have missed what is there in absolute bold. With the first of the Carlton and United Series finals just hours away, they probably didn’t need a reminder. But, just in case...

Actually, tomorrow’s final No.1 promises to be a cracker of a game. A give-away being the build-up, with Steve Waugh coolly dismissing a suggestion — from the Pakistanis — that his team had peaked early (seven wins in succession).

“We’re in the process, but haven’t peaked,” the Australian captain declared, adding he didn’t exactly wish to start a war of words. But Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach, does believe the hosts have already exhausted aces.

However, it will be foolish for Pakistan to bank only on the law of averages to halt the world champions. Australia, after all, have played terrific cricket and it’s their consistency — brilliant fielding apart — that has given them the invincibles’ label.

The label also invites a fair degree of pressure, but Steve’s team is unlikely to be weighed down. Not when the Pakistanis are viewing the finals as an opportunity to extract revenge for utter humiliation in last June’s World Cup final.

Clearly, the Australians appear ready for any ambush.

In any case, Steve insists his team is looking to wrap it up in straight matches (tomorrow and on Friday, at the SCG), instead of stretching it till Sunday’s final No.3. “All of us would love a few extra days off, before the trip to New Zealand,” he pointed out, smiling.

However, Steve added, still smiling: “It won’t be the end of the world, though, if we can’t make it 2-0...”

As for Pakistan, unpredictability remains the most visible USP. “On their day, Pakistan can beat anybody... We accept that and realise they will probably come out shots blazing. But, we are prepared and, yes, we are the form team,” Steve remarked.

While that element of unpredictability does unsettle the opposition, as a weapon it’s double-edged: Chances of crumbling, under pressure, are that much more. And, Pakistan have been anything but consistent right through the tournament.

They made the finals with four wins, but only one — the opening game at the Gabba — was against Australia. Yet, the last time the teams met at the MCG, it’s Pakistan who lost a match as good as won.

That slip-up notwithstanding, the Pakistanis do feel comfortable at this most extraordinary ampitheatre. Indeed, that has everything to do with winning the World Cup almost eight years ago.

“It’s a very different feeling... I’m sure all the players feel the same way... For me, the MCG is like Lord’s... You are encouraged to give that extra bit,” acknowledged Wasim Akram, who turned in a superlative performance in the last game, versus India in Perth.

In fact, Steve opined Akram, who has already created history by becoming the first to break the 400 wickets barrier in one-dayers, will be the “one to watch out for”. Specifically, “dangerous” is how Steve addressed his counterpart.

Akram, looking more relaxed than ever in recent months and weeks, has a double agenda: During the finals he will be looking to kill two birds with one hit — the other, of course, is the match-fixing inquiry back home. It was, one may recall, put on hold till engagements in Australia. So...

For a change, Pakistan have had a problem somewhat similar to Australia’s: Who to leave out? While omitting Shoaib Malik and bringing back Saqlain Mushtaq has been easy, it was tough accommodating Abdul Razzaq. Waqar Younis sits out but, for the thinktank, making that decision wasn’t easy.

Steve’s headache, however, is more severe. And he admitted: “This is the worst part of my job... Telling somebody who probably deserves to play, that he won’t be there in the XI.”

Andrew Symonds, rested in the last match (Perth), must return and, so, a ‘vacancy’ has to be created. “It will have to be one of the fast bowlers, but it won’t obviously be Glenn McGrath,” Steve informed, declining to clear the ‘mystery’.

It’s going to be a tough call but, eventually, the axe could fall on Brett Lee. It’s inconceivable, as of now, that Damien Fleming will be dropped. But, then, it can be tricky sticking one’s neck out too much...

Really, if Steve does have a restless night, it won’t be because of any pre-game nerves, it will all be over which quick to leave out.

Of much lesser concern, for Steve, is the injury to Ricky Ponting’s right thumb. Ponting hurt himself while fielding in Perth, but the injury isn’t serious. “I’ll definitely back him to play,” Steve said.

Seeing a potential belter, which is what the wicket promises, can only hasten Ponting’s recovery. Again, going by the look of the wicket, setting a target is what the captain winning the toss should opt for.    


 
 
SACHIN WAS A LITTLE SUBDUED, SAYS MCGRATH 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Melbourne, Feb.1 
It began at The Oval last year, during the World Cup, when a Glenn McGrath beauty got Sachin Tendulkar for a duck. That one delivery, which induced a catch at the wicket, put India on the exit-road, while Australia’s campaign gained momentum.

For McGrath, who finds it “challenging” bowling to the Sachins, that was the first of many ‘points’ at the maestro’s expense. More recently, McGrath claimed Sachin both in the Test and one-day series’.

Yet, asked by The Telegraph, whether he had indeed wrested total psychological advantage, a smiling McGrath responded: “Perhaps, a fairer contest would be back in the sub-continent, where conditions probably won’t give me an edge.”

Very sporting but, then, that’s a quality not unexpected from the recipient of the first Allan Border Medal.

[Steve Waugh, narrowly beaten by McGrath, quipped: “Look, I can’t be too happy about Glenn getting it, can I? After all, I’m the one who got beaten... Seriously, though, Glenn is a most deserving awardee and, should I again finish behind him, it will mean I’ve been doing my job.”

It’s significant that Steve picked McGrath in his Team of the Century, preferring him to Ray Lindwall. Just goes to show the respect Steve has for his top spearhead, who never lets him and Australia down.]

As for McGrath, he added: “Sachin, I thought, was a little subdued (in Australia)... There was a lot of pressure and it showed... It was tough on Sachin and, purely in the mind, I did have that edge over him.”

Incidentally, McGrath missed Australia’s last tour of India, in early 1998.

Currently the toast of all Australia, McGrath also addressed a special Media conference this afternoon.

Following are excerpts

On being adjudged not just the Cricketer of the Year (1999-2000), but also the Test Cricketer of the Year

(Grins) It’s an honour, a terrific feeling... I still have to pinch myself to believe I’m playing for Australia. The awards come later... Somehow, I didn’t sleep well and everything still hasn’t sunk in. However, what’s more important is the team has done very well, over the past 12 months.

On whether he was expecting to get the awards, specially the Allan Border (Cricketer of the Year) Medal

Well, I knew I was in with a chance. I thought it would be between Steve, Ricky Ponting and myself... And, we’re the ones who actually finished in the top three... Healthy rivalry within the team is just fine.

On whether the awards and last night’s celebrations could prove a bit of a distraction for the Carlton and United Series finals

I’m trying to stay focussed...

On the past 12 months

I began well, in the West Indies, though I was slow in getting the rhythm right in the recent home series’... It was in the Perth Test (versus Pakistan) where I got back to bowling the way I should have been, and ended the home Tests with a ten-wicket haul against India (at the SCG). It was nice to have begun with ten wickets (Port of Spain, first Test) and finished with the same number.

Of course, I’ll be happy if, next summer, I can peak earlier.

On the (best of three) finals versus Pakistan

Pakistan are a dangerous team and, while they may have had the better of me in recent exchanges, I did bowl well in the World Cup final (13 for two, nine overs)... My thoughts right now? I’m confident and I’m glad there’s one more chance to get at them.

On the support he gets from the other end

Makes it tougher for batsmen... They can’t then just look to seeing off one bowler... Indeed, they’ve got to keep thinking all the time.

On Brett Lee

Has a very good action and possesses good pace, too. But, he must work hard, in the off-season particularly, and stay fit.

On whether he has set targets

(Pauses, and answers smiling) I would rather we talk of the goals set by the team... We’ve won seven Tests on-the-trot (sequence beginning in Zimbabwe) and it would be nice to make it ten on ten in New Zealand... However, speaking personally, in the immediate future, I’m looking to touch the 300 wickets mark in Tests and 200 in the one-dayers. After that...

Finally, on whether the recent birth of his and wife Jane’s first child (a son) will force any change in priorities

Oh, no... It’s just that the feeling is different... I haven’t been able to see much of him... (Adds laughing) May be, in years to come, I’ll teach him tennis or golf. Or, even help him become a batsman!    


 
 
MOHUN BAGAN GET PAST ITI 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 1 
Mohun Bagan continued their winning ways in the Coca-Cola National League, and began the second leg with a 2-1 win over ITI, Bangalore today.

Having lost two points to them in Bangalore, the home team did well to bring in full points at the Salt Lake Stadium. But the win lacked the dominance they had displayed in their last match against Tollygunge Agragami on Saturday.

Mohun Bagan had to wait till the 40th minute to draw first blood when a Stephen Abarowei-Igor Shkvirin combination yielded result. And then in the 74th minute Basudeb Mondal increased the lead. But minutes later came Yousuf Ahmed’s goal, helping ITI narrow the margin.

The fact that veteran defender Samuel Omollo was shown the red card ( a result of two yellow) and will be unavailable for the next match against Salgaocar on Sunday, will add to their worries.

Mohun Bagan clearly missed Brazilian playmaker Jose Barreto Ramirez. Abarowei, initially, played a withdrawn role but once he moved up, the Bagan attack had more bite. But Igor, rather uncharacteristically, missed a few sitters.

Abarowei set up the first goal with a magnificent run down the left flank, and then getting past defender Nasir Jamal, sent a measured cross to Igor. Igor’s header left goalkeeper N. Balaji rooted to the spot.

The second goal, too, was a result of a solo run down the left, but this time it was Basudeb. From the far corner he deftly placed the ball, a defender getting a touch but failing to prevent the disaster.

ITI were able to pull one back when, following a free kick, Yousuf Ahmed made no mistake.

Both teams missed several chances and, though, for most parts Mohun Bagan dominated, there were times when ITI built up the pressure and showed how brittle the hosts’ defence was. In fact, with Omollo far from his best, the Bagan defence lacked the cohesiveness needed to contain a strong forwardline.

Bagan got a chance to go ahead in the 23rd minute, when a Basudeb freekick was just tipped over the crossbar by Balaji. Minutes later, Naushad Pari could have forged ITI ahead had his piledriver found the mark.

In the 36th minute, ITI got a golden opportunity when R.K. Prakash’s shot was blocked by Nandy and the forward failed to capitalise on the rebound.

In the 38th minute, Dulal Biswas sent a cross to Igor inside the box and the Uzbek tried a back volley that sailed over.

Mohun Bagan could have gone up by two goals in the dying minutes of the first half when Igor found the mark off a Abarowei pass, but Kasif Jamal was ruled offside and the goal disallowed.

Mohun Bagan started the second half on the offensive, with Igor looking menacing. But it was again a saga of missed chances. In the 15th minute, Basudeb sent a cross to Igor, whose shot sailed over. Minutes later, the Uzbek ran down the right flank and failed in his attempt to place the ball inside the far post from a rather acute angle.

In the dying minutes of the match, Mohun Bagan squandered another golden opportunity. Igor’s essay found Khaleque on the left who crossed to Abarowei inside the box. But the Nigerian’s powerful header hit the post.

Earlier, midway through the second half, Prakash was unlucky not to have scored for ITI when Nandy did well to snatch the ball from his feet inside the box. And in the 83rd minute, Nandy failed to collect a Gabriel header cleanly and the ball was cleared from the goalline.

Bagan had to play the last few minutes with 10 men as Omollo saw his second yellow card of the match in the 85th minute. He brought down a goalbound George Ekeh — considered to be ITI’s most dangerous forward — outside the box, and was promptly penalised.

After the match, the Bagan camp looked relieved, coach Subrata Bhattacharya admitting that today was not one of their best matches. But he did not look unduly worried about missing Omollo for the crucial match versus Salgaocar.

However, ITI coach, A.D. Nagendran expressed his dissatisfaction with the standard of refereeing and said they will lodge a written complaint with the AIFF against today’s referee J. Ravishankar.    


 
 
MARATHON IN CITY ON FEBRUARY 20 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 1 
A marathon for men and women will be held in the city on February 20. The event, jointly organised by Central Excise Athletic Club and Anandabazar Patrika, will begin at the Salt Lake Stadium and finish at the Anandabazar Patrika tent in the Maidan.

A total purse of Rs 1.5 lakh is to be won and a number of state and national level marathon runners will participate. Women athletes will cover half the route.    


 
 
TOPSEL, TCT NOTCH UP WINS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 1 
Topsel edged past M.N. Dastur 2-1 in the The Telegraph Merchants’ Cup badminton chahis evening.

J. Thomas and TCT achieved ‘clean sweeps’ in their respective matches.

While the former dismissed Selvel 3-0, the latter made short work of Berger paints.    


 
 
EL CID FANCIED 
 
 
BY OUR TURF CORRESPONDENT
 
 
Trained by S. Mangalorkar and ridden by C. Rajendra El Cid is fancied to win the 1,600m Naval Glory Plate in Mumbai on Wednesday.

SELECTIONS

3 pm: Shooting Mercury 1. Dressed For Dinner 2. Short N Sweet 3.

3.30 pm: Laktara 1. Foreign Connection 2. Safarando 3.

4 pm: Berliet 1. Countach 2. Monkey Tricks 3.

4.30 pm: Very Beautiful 1. Innara 2. Numero Uno 3.

5 pm: El Cid 1. Northern Supreme 2. Cyber Space 3.

5.30 pm: Rock Venture 1. Proper Pride 2. Red Trident 3.

6 pm: Ocean Falls 1. Yewall 2. Heart Beat 3.

Day’s Best: Berliet Double: El Cid & Ocean Falls.    


 
 
TRACK TRIALS 
 
 
CALCUTTA, FEB. 1
 
 
Artwork and Tsavo were impressive when they worked today.

Outer sand track

1,600m: Astrodance (C. Alford) in 1-54s; (400m) 27s. Handy. Alameda (C. Alford) in 155 4/5s; (400m) 25 1/5s. Impressed.

1,200m: Artwork (C. Alford) and Tsavo (Rb) in 1-20 3/5s; (400m) 26 3/5s. Both moved well. Quickdraw McGraw (Gowli) in 1-22 2/5s; (400m) 26 4/5s. Pushed. Aflicker (C. Alford) in 1-23 1/5s; (400m) 26 4/5s. Good.

1,000m: Giorgio (Rb) and Acceptor (C. Alford) in 1-9 4/5s; (400m) 26 4/5s. Both handy. Slice Of Life (Rabani) and Queen’s Theatre (M. Reuben) in 1-12 3/5s; (400m) 27 4/5s. Both easy.

800m: Silver Toy (C. Alford) and Appear (Rb) in 53 4/5s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Both moved well. Allaying (Connorton) and Soviet Port (M. Reuben) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Both very easy. No. 65 (Rb) and no. 57 (M. Reuben) in 57s; (400m) 29s. Former half-a length better.

600m: Friendly Knight (Bird) in 41s; (400m) 27s. Easy.

Sand track

800m: Arizona Star (Sher) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Moved well. Self Made (Salim) in 52s; (400m) 24s. Good. Knight Charmer (Bird) in 54s; (400m) 26s. Easy.    

 

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