‘Lancs stint a big boost for Sourav’
Truant MacGill in a spot
Mohun Bagan snatch victory
Sukul, Parekh qualify
Punter’s corner
‘Chieftan’ definitely coming to Calcutta: MAM

Sydney, Feb. 6 
“Deep down, Sourav Ganguly desires to be the world’s No. 1 batsman. Joining Lancashire is one big step towards realising that ambition.”

It’s a ‘heavy’ statement to make but, then, Bobby Simpson knows what he is talking about.

Simpson, Australia’s coach for over a decade and India’s consultant in the lead-up to and during the last World Cup has, like the Indian vice-captain, signed up with Lancashire for two seasons (2000 and 2001).

And, speaking to The Telegraph this morning, Simpson confirmed he “strongly” recommended Sourav who will be an “asset” for Lancashire.

“The County had been negotiating with others as well and, because I’m the coach, I was kept informed... Obviously, I made a very strong recommendation. I did so on three counts: Sourav is not only an outstanding one-day player, he is very good in the longer version as well; he is more than a tidy bowler and, has developed into a fine catcher in the slips.”

Simpson added: “That I was most comfortable working with Sourav, as consultant, was also at the back of my mind in making the recommendation. Indeed, I’m looking forward to renewing our relationship... Actually, when I began the India assignment Sourav probably didn’t like the workload. But, soon enough, he did begin to enjoy working with me.”

Improving Sourav’s shuttling between wickets was one area Simpson focussed on during his consultancy stint. He intends to focus on that yet again.

“Besides, despite his brilliance to anything pitched on or outside off, Sourav can still be a little vulnerable, particularly on pitches with some bounce. So, I’ll be working on that, too...”

According to Simpson, Sourav has it in him to fulfill his unstated desire of emerging No. 1.

“For that, though, Sourav needs to take advantage of every opportunity and regularly post big innings. Also, he must work at the vulnerable areas... Believe me, Sourav will improve tremendously, after just one summer, and the benefits will accrue to the Indian team next season.”

Incidentally, Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, who spent over a decade at Lancashire, said much the same thing, during an exclusive chat just a few days ago.

That the County structure sees a change from this summer — the Championship has become two-tiered — the risk of a burnout, explained Simpson, will be negligible.

Simpson, who succeeds Dav Whatmore (he quit midway last season to begin his second innings as Sri Lanka’s coach), returns to County action after a decade — in 1991, he had coached Leicestershire.

“Firstly, I enjoy coaching and secondly, I see this as a huge challenge... After all, while Lancashire have consistently been a top one-day side, they haven’t won the Championship for over half-a century.

“Additionally, Lancashire have an enviable tradition besides being the biggest and oldest County... With so many quality players around — Michael Atherton, Neil Fairbrother and Andrew Flintoff, to name just three, besides of course Sourav — my job will be to raise the performance level by a few percentage points.”

But surely, with his high-profile, won’t he be back to being under pressure?

Simpson laughed and replied: “But pressure comes with all assignments, it’s part of life... And, as you know, I’ve never ever been put off by pressure. Really, no challenge has been too intimidating to duck.”

Looking back on his stint with Leicestesire (Anil Kumble, by the way, is the County’s pro this summer), Simpson remarked: “As the County was struggling, the approach there was very different. I had to inject fresh ideas, all-round changes had to be made...

“As it turned out, within two years, Leicestershire won the Championship with Jack Birkenshaw, who had been my assistant, as coach. My role at Lancashire will be different.”

Simpson informed that as part of the pre-season training, the John Crawley-led Lancashire will be in Cape Town from March 12 for a series of matches. Sourav, of course, will then be busy with international commitments.    

Sydney, Feb. 6 
With Shane Warne continuing to weave magic with his spinning fingers opportunities for the other leggie, Stuart MacGill, are at an absolute premium.

While it remains to be seen whether MacGill will create history at the next ‘break’, he certainly scripted something very dubious recently.

According to today’s The Sun-Herald, MacGill left all the recognised enfant terribles far behind by his sensational disappearing act — which nobody, not even the team manager, discovered — during last month’s New South Wales (NSW) versus South Australia Pura Milk Cup match in Adelaide.

The report states MacGill took an evening flight out of Adelaide for Sydney, after stumps on Day III, to attend his girlfriend’s birth-day bash. The flying time is just over two hours. And, next morning, MacGill took the first flight back, well in time for the final day’s start!

MacGill did so without permission, but as his escapade wasn’t noticed then itself, it’s unlikely he will be booked though a reprimand is on the cards. The New South Wales Cricket Association, which meets next week, is expected to discuss MacGill’s outrageous behaviour.

Today being a Sunday, however, The Telegraph wasn’t able to get an official reaction.

MacGill’s escapade would have remained unnoticed but for somebody who spotted him at Sydney airport and, belatedly, informed the powers-that-be.

To avoid ‘detection’, MacGill apparently took a Qantas flight, even though the team flies Ansett. Obviously, much thought went into the planning, probably more than what goes into plotting dismissals.

Interestingly, the report quotes a state-level official as saying: “It worked brilliantly... He should be employed in the intelligence service.”

Struggling to avoid defeat, NSW lost that game by 78 runs, with MacGill not out without scoring.    

Calcutta, Feb. 6 

M. BAGAN 2 SALGAOCAR 0 Sadly, in the end, it’s only about goals. Mohun Bagan got two at the Salt Lake Stadium today, to overcome a huge hurdle in their quest for the National League title, but the convincing margin hardly tells the story.

It does not talk of the delightful brand of soccer Salgaocar presented on a rain-drenched surface that was to have hampered their game. And it does not say how close it really was for the Calcutta giants.

But the scoreline does reflect the brilliance of two home team heroes.

If Mohun Bagan did not let in a goal, a major share of the credit must go to the ‘impregnable’ ’keeping of Sandip Nandy. The goals they scored are but another reaffirmation to the growing stature of Jose Barreto Ramirez.

Mohun Bagan’s latest overseas recruit is proving to be their ‘big catch’. Today, he scored both goals and showed, in ample measure, that he was as much about skill and perception as he was about perspiration.

The Brazilian, who covered a huge lot of ground through the match, produced some lovely moments upfront — none more skilful or dramatic than his first goal which came as early as the ninth minute. Controlling James Singh’s corner-kick some 10 yards from the goal, Barreto slipped past his marker and, before even goalkeeper Juje Siddi could react, he fired a rasping drive that bulged the roof of the net.

If the goal stung Salgaocar into activity and brought Mohun Bagan under sustained attack, Barreto’s second, scored some 35 minutes into the second half, took the fight out of the Goan outfit.

Basudeb Mondal had snatched the ball from Jules Alberto near the half-line and, drawing the lone defender to him as he raced towards goal, he laid it on the right for Barreto running alongside. His crisp volley was blocked by Siddi, but the ball ran into the Brazilian’s path again. He finished off the rebound with a left jab, the ball flying in off Siddi’s palm.

There were a whole lot of other occasions when the teams came tantalisingly close to scoring, and Mohun Bagan’s Uzbek recruit Igor Shkvirin saw a left-footer in the 73rd minute graze the crosspiece.

It was a game that will be remembered for the fight the two teams put up — Salgaocar stitching a tapestry of passes in the attacking third and threatening to score and Mohun Bagan looking dangerous every time the trio of Barreto, Stephen Abarowei and Igor came away on a counterattack.

But for the goal, the first half almost entirely belonged to Salgaocar and they paid for very ordinary finishing. Goalkeeper Nandy was also to deny them on several occasions.

Santos almost scored for Salgaocar in the 20th minute. The Brazilian wrongfooted Debjit and then got past Nandy but the former managed to stick a foot out in the nick of time and block the shot. Then, 10 minutes later, Venkatesh’s curling cross from the right had D’Cunha heading goalwards only for Nandy to block.

To Mohun Bagan’s credit, they hung in when the going was tough and were able to lift their game in patches. Once Abdul Khalique was replaced by the more skilful Basudeb Mondal, the home side were able find a foothold in midfield.

Salgaocar were lucky that referee K. Shankar did not point to the dreaded spot when stopper Fanky Barreto handled the ball on a James Singh cross.

Dusit Chalersman leaves for home to play in the King’s Cup.


MOHUN BAGAN: Sandip Nandy; Dulal Biswas (Satyajit Chatterjee 72nd), Debjit Ghosh, Hussain Mustafi, Dusit; James Singh, R.P. Singh, Abdul Khalique (Bausdeb Mondal 31st). Stephen Abarowei (Amitava Chanda 82nd), Jose Barreto Ramirez, Igor Shkvirin.

SALGAOCAR: Juje Siddi; Francis Coelho, Roberto Fernandez, Franky Barreto, Roque Pereira; S. Venkatesh (Jules Alberto 68th), Gbenga Lawal, Habib Adekule; Dharamjit Singh (Shabbir Ali Mondal 41st), Alvito D’Cunha (Azamat Abduraimov 74th), Joao Dos Santos.

Referee: K. Shankar.


Calcutta, Feb. 6 
Saurav Sukul and Pratim Parekh qualified for the ITF junior world ranking tournament at the Dakshin Kalikata Sansad in Deshapriya Park today with victories over the top two seeds in the qualifiers. Sukul crushed top seed Dhruv Kumar 6-1, 6-4 and Parekh swept past No. 2 Vivian Chhetri 6-2, 6-0. The main draw begins tomorrow too

ITC, Topsel in semis

ITC and Topsel moved into the semi-finals of The Telegraph Merchants Cup badminton tournament with contrasting victories at the Saturday Club this evening.

ITC swept past J. Thomas 2-0, while Topsel tamed Casuarina Confectionaries 2-1.    

Mumbai Feb. 6 

‘Chieftan’ keeps date with history after major hiccups

Fortune favours the brave. The saying goes aptly for the hot-favourite, Smart Chieftan, who today bagged the 2,400m McDowell Indian Derby which nearly slipped out of his grasp when the heat was building up. It was no minor achievement for his jockey, Richard Hughes, who only last year had lost the coveted trophy when coming wide round the last bend to allow Saddle Up and Supervite to humble his heavily fancied filly Running Flame.

Riding to a plan, Hughes had the Placerville-Stunning four-year-old settle in the rear until the 800m marker. Improving the shortest way home in final stretch, Hughes only managed get into troubled passage behind Ray Of Light, Congratulations and a weakening Priceless Ally. Moreover with Alchemy and Run Forrest Run running abreast on the outside Hughes was left to sit and suffer.

The dame fortune smiled on the Karan Singh-trainee only in the last furlong when Alchemy accelerated and Run Forest Run started weakening. Hughes was quick to switch the course and the Chieftan started unleashing his past dazzle. The big striding horse covered no less than 50 metres on the wide out in the final 150m to put his head in front with the winning-post still a stride away. Easying up his charge and returning to the area crowded by photographers, Hughes took a long sigh of relief and followed it by a quick thanks giving prayer for his maiden success in the Indian Derby. For the Chieftan’s rivals, there was no real hard-luck story. Great Investment had all the chances in the world but the horse took the home-turn 10-wide after being fifth or sixth nearing the turn. The Arti Doctor-trainee felt his legs, perhaps. Congratulations, too, was up-front when Hughes was sorting out his problems yet the Padmanbhan-filly failed to quicken.

Padmanabhan’s Bangalore Derby winner, Alchemy, ran up to expectation and so did the filly Ray Of Light. Rajendra kept the Todywalla-trainee at her task right from the word ‘go’ behind the pace-makers, Jeweller and Priceless Ally. Shooting in to lead at the top of the stretch Rajendra must have been wondering if he was destined to notch up his first Indian Derby until Smart Chief dashed his hopes.

If form held good in the Derby, the rest of nine event in the card had little to offer to the followers of favourites. Aslam Kader riding a strongly fancied Anagram lost the Breeder’s Produce Stakes at the bend which he traversed very wide.

RESULTS (With inter-state dividends) 1. Bangalore Turf Club Ltd. Trophy 2,400m: (1-3-2) Berlino (Hughes) 1; San Marino Star 2; Altiama 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 2-1/4; (2-37). Tote: Win Rs 50; Place: 26; 15; Quinella: 49; Tanala: 302. Fav: San Marino Star (3). 2. Madras Race Club Trophy 1,000m: (1-12-11) Secret Blessing’s (Bernard) 1; Zee Green 2; Amorous Delight 3. Won by: 9; Nk; (1-0.8). Tote: Win Rs 36; Place: 17; 119; 34; Quinella: 1,200; Tanala: 9,205. Fav: Adam’s Legend (5). 3. Mysore Race Club Trophy 1,600m: (10-15-5) Smooth Operator (Kharadi) 1; Touch Of Elegance 2; Debut 3. Won by: 6-1/2; Nk; (1-41). Tote: Win Rs 39; Place: 18; 242; 110; Quinella: 4,116; Tanala: 29,481. Fav: St. Vincent (3). 4. Hyderabad Silver Vase 1,000m: (8-11-15) Amber Wine (Kharadi) 1; Mister Money 2; Dancing Minstrel 3. Won by: 4-3/4; 3/4; (1-2). Tote: Win Rs 35; Place: 16; 78; 119; Quinella: 1,104; Tanala: 58,563. Fav: Raise A Toast (1). 5. K. T. Sampat Trophy 1,000m: (13-6-1) Strength To Strength (Biramne) 1; Table Dancing 2; Jet Set 3. Won by: SH; 3-1/2; (59.9). Tote: Win Rs 993; Place: 78; 36; 34; Quinella: 6,019; Tanala: 1,09,770 (C.o). Fav: Gold Dust (3). 6. Breeders’ Produce Stakes 1,400m: (8-10-7) Secret Halo (Rajesh) 1; Star Shine 2; Far Excellence 3. Won by: 3/4; Nk; (1-26.7). Tote: Win Rs 65; Place: 20; 24; 53; Quinella: 229; Tanala: 8,818. Fav: Anagram (4). (Note: The winner survived objection lodged by the rider of second placed horse). 7. R. N. Kanga Gold Trophy 1,400m: (3-7-4) Khaalis (McCullagh) 1; Mission Impossible 2; Absolute Power 3. Won by: 1/2; 1-1/4; (1-26.6). Tote: Win Rs 29; Place: 14; 18; 15; Quinella: 119; Tanala: 546. Fav: Khaalis (4). 8. McDowell Indian Derby 2,400m: (8-11-1-10) Smart Chieftan (Hughes) 1; Ray Of Light (Rajendra) 2; Alchemy (McCullagh) 3; Congratulations (Eddery) 4. Won by: 3/4; 3/4; 2-1/2; (2-32). Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 10; 44; 52; Quinella: 189; Tanala: 2,238. Fav: Smart Chieftan (8). 9. Delhi Race Club Trophy 1,200m: (10-9-1) Lady Moura (McCullagh) 1; Endorsement 2; Absolute Hit 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 6; (1-13.4). Tote: Win Rs 35; Place: 15; 13; 48; Quinella: 34; Tanala: 1,283. Fav: Endorsement (9). 10. Royal Calcutta Turf Club Trophy 1,200m: (4-20-3) Ella Mon Amour (Rajendra) 1; Gold Buck 2; Comment Allez Vous 3. Won by: 6; 1-3/4; (1-13.4). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 13; 34; 34; Quinella: 100; Tanala: 671. Fav: Ella Mon Amour (4). Jackpot: Rs 1,911; (C) Rs 348. Treble: (i) Rs 2,498; (ii) Rs 29,475; (iii) Rs 100.    

Mumbai Feb. 6 
When Rashid Byramji made a statement on Saturday morning that Smart Chieftan was the best horse in the country today, the maestro knew what he was taking about. But the narrow victory of the horse came as a shock to his mentor Karan Singh. However, having been a good jockey in the past Karan knows perils of riding a hot-favourite and that too in an event of Indian Derby magnitude. Karan expected a runaway victory but was sporting enough to accept the verdict. It being his first Indian Derby win he was in an elastic mood. MAM Ramaswamy was full of praise for the winning trio — the trainer, the jockey and obviously the horse who he said possesses a big heart. Cyrus Poonawalla, who bred the Chieftan was, however, a worried man, though for different reasons. He made a public request to MAM that horseowner skips the Turf Invitation cup in Calcutta in view of the ‘Triple Crown’ here. The Chieftan, Poonawalla said; would be eligible for a hefty bonus stakes if he won the Indian St. Lager, the third leg of the triple crown. The horse having already won the Indian 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, today, just needs to win the Lager for the ‘crown.’ MAM however, has his own plans. Asked if he was going to follow the Poonawalla-advice, MAM said: “Smart Chieftan is definitely going to Calcutta.” He was non-committal about returning for the Indian St. Lager which follows shortly after the Turf Invitation. It hardly came as a surprise when Ramaswamy’s son, MAMM Muthiah came forward to receive the Derby trophy. The new generation seems to be taking the charge. Poonawalla Jr too was calling the shots.    

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