Churchill rally to retain lead
Gopichand wins, but India lose tie
Paes falls to Pak teenager
‘I knew just what to do’
Weather holds the key for Bengal
BHA-Bagan in ground tussle
Devang to play in Bangla
Anguilla may cash in on form
Columbus wins
Tough fare in tomorrow’s card

Calcutta, Feb. 17 

Mohun Bagan, squandering the lead twice at the Salt Lake Stadium this afternoon, had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Churchill Brothers in a crucial clash between the top two teams of the Coca-Cola National League. The result keeps intact Churchill’s two-point lead over the Calcutta giants.

In what turned out to be a pretty entertaining encounter, Mohun Bagan could have gone ahead in the very second minute had James Singh not made a mess of a volley after Igor Shkvirin had beaten Osumanu Husseni in an aerial dual and set him free on the right.

James quickly made amends. It was his clever switching of play to the opposite flank a minute later — a lovely, long left-footer into open space doing the trick — that caught the Churchill defence on the wrong foot and led to the goal.

An overlapping Amitava Chanda matched it with a very good cross and Stephen Abarowei, rising high above stopper Anthony Mathews, headed home in copybook fashion.

It was a great start for a team that had come to the match without its best player and a little too wary of their opponents. But it was all given away four minutes later.

The probing lob that flew out of the Churchill defence seemed innocuous — till Sammy Omollo decided to back-head for his goalkeeper. There was no power in the header and, as the ball fell in no-man’s land, goalkeeper Sandip Nandy and Francis Silveira were soon in a dash.

Silveira’s speed made the difference in the end and, even as Nandy dived forward, the Goan was able to get in a side-volley that had the ball dancing into the untenanted goal.

Omollo may have made the huge mistake for trying the back-header from so far out, but goalkeeper Nandy must also take some of the blame for not coming out earlier than he did.

Silveira, the League’s leading scorer, thus got his ninth goal.

Mohun Bagan took the lead again, 18 minutes into the second session, when it was Igor’s turn to take full toll of an error in the Churchill defence. The Uzbek shrugged off stopper Osumanu to intercept a terrible backpass from left-back Anthony Pereira and calmly slipped the ball past goalkeeper Edward Ansah.

And again, the equaliser came quickly, Osumanu nudging in a wickedly curling Somatai Shaiza free-kick five minutes later.

Nandy, who looked a trifle tense today, will again have to take some of the blame for staying rooted to the goalline even as Osumanu scored from close. Also, Stephen, who had moved down to mark the big Ghanaian, could have done better had he been in front of him.

Both teams created several other scoring opportunities and, with some coast-to-coast action, it was all thoroughly enjoyed by the 50,000 spectators who turned up on the terraces today.

Despite the disappointing end, Mohun Bagan can look back on this game as one of the best they have played under the circumstances.

Coach Subrata Bhattacharya’s decision, and a rather sensible one at that, to rest an injured Jose Barreto Ramirez meant that his team was without its most potent weapon. However, the others were able to lift their game, so much so that it was Churchill who were at the receiving end for a greater part of the match.

Mohun Bagan used the flanks well and, with Barreto’s absence allowing Stephen to play deeper in the attacking third, he and Igor presented two tall targets for the long ball to the goalmouth. It was the standout game of stopper Osumanu that denied the two Mohun Bagan strikers more liberty.

Stephen had an outstanding game, as did a tenacious R.P. Singh while the pace of James Singh and Debjit Ghosh’s screening in the midfield proved very effective.

For Churchill, Osumanu was a tower of strength in deep defence while Silveira and Roque Barreto too had outstanding games.    

New Delhi, Feb. 17 
Despite Pullela Gopichand’s heroic win in the opening singles, India floundered against fancied South Korea in their group Y, super league match of the Thomas Cup, to lose 2-3.

After taking a 1-0 lead, India lost the next three matches to lose the tie. Abhin Shyam Gupta prevailed over Huang Sun Ho in the fifth singles 8-15, 17-15, 15-6. India now must beat Singapore tomorrow to reach the semi-final knock out stage.

In the Uber Cup, with their second successive defeat, India are out of reckoning for a semi-final berth. Today they were thrashed 0-5 by Chinese Taipei. Only Aparna Popat and Manjusha Kanwar could win a game in their respective matches. In a major upset, Hong Kong beat thrice champions Indonesia 3-2 in group X.

Indian coach Mohammed Arif was banking on the three singles ties in their Thomas Cup matchup. Gopichand gave India a flying start, winning a 95-minute long match against Seung Mo Shon 15-10, 13-15, 15-9. Nikhil Kanetkar was a flop today losing 6-15, 5-15 to left-handed Korean Hyun Il Lee. India then lost both the doubles.    

Calcutta, Feb. 17 
When the mighty fall, you can hear a pin drop. Well, there wasn’t much of an audience to talk of at the South Club today, but the committed few who did show up, sat dumb-struck through 93 agonising minutes which culminated in a stunning 3-6, 5-7 loss for Leander Paes.

In tossing the red-hot favourite out of the Indian Oil-Servo ATP Challenger, Pakistani teenager Aisam Qureshi notched up the biggest win of a fledgling career. He also dealt a body-blow to the profile of a tournament promoted by Paes’ company (Paes `En Sport) and built around Indian tennis’ hottest star.

The champion here last year, as well as the winner of Challenger titles in Lucknow and Jaipur two months back, Paes was expected to run through the field. After looking invincible in the opening two rounds, his game came apart on an overcast afternoon which seemed to have spread gloom all around.

The handsome six-footer from Lahore, who won’t be 20 till April, adjusted to the heavy atmospheric conditions much better and thoroughly deserved the upset victory. Having experienced a straight-set loss to Paes at the same stage of this event last year, Qureshi was determined to put up a better show. As he showed, he had a much-improved game to match his illustrious opponent this time around.

Coming off a decent showing at the Dubai Open — he lost a close three-setter to Martin Damm in the final qualifying round — the confident Qureshi hit a smooth one-handed backhand with flourish and served consistently well. And with the Indian failing to land his first deliveries once too often and throwing up double-faults frequently, the scenario was just right for Qureshi to go for the kill.

To the Pakistani’s credit, he kept his nerve on the big points and capitalised on most of the chances that came his way. Even after Paes saved five break-points in the fourth game of the first set with five rare good first serves, Qureshi stuck to his task and converted the sixth.

The only time he faced a break-back point — in the seventh game, following an exquisite Paes lob — Qureshi stayed cool and escaped with a solid serve-and-volley routine. At other times, Qureshi’s wicked, kicking serve denied Paes the chance of pressurising him. The Indian champion was caught off guard by the awkward bounce generated by the Pakistani No. 1.

The second set was closer, but just as it seemed a tie-breaker was imminent, Qureshi dazzled once again. Paes, serving for a 6-5 lead, wasted three game-points before being made to pay a heavy price. Qureshi brought up ‘advantage’ with a great defensive lob and then struck a delightful backhand crosscourt service return which whizzed past an advancing Paes.

The unseeded Pakistani had to live through a tense moment (at 30-40) while serving for the match, but got over the crisis with a slice of luck (a net cord).

The Indian saluted his conqueror. “He served exceptionally well... the heavy conditions didn’t help as the ball was moving slowly through the air, but it was the same for both of us. He was the better player today as he took his chances. I just couldn’t overcome the obstacles.”

Paes, who now has a week off, flies to Mumbai Tuesday for an Adidas shoot. He and Sachin Tendulkar will, in fact, feature in the same commercial for the first time.

Paes will stay back in Mumbai where he’ll play another Challenger to be held at the MSLTA complex from February 21. That tournament, incidentally, is being run by Jaidip Mukerjea, Enrico Piperno and Mahesh Bhupathi.

Ketola scrapes through

Qureshi’s semi-final rival tomorrow will be third seed Tuomas Ketola. The 25-year-old Finn survived a huge scare against Israeli qualifier Nir Welgreen before going through 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 7-5 in two and half hours.

The other semi-final will feature fourth seed Mose Navarra and Israeli Andy Ram. The left-handed Italian saw off highly-rated Aussie Dejan Petrovic 6-4, 6-4, while Ram outlasted Japanese Satoshi Iwabuchi 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.    

Calcutta, Feb. 17 
Aisam Qureshi has chosen a sport which comes way down in the popularity charts of his country

Having dared to be different, though, the 19-year-old Pakistani has concentrated hard on making a career out of tennis. The hard work and self-belief are just beginning to pay dividends.

“After having lost to him (Paes) last year, I wanted to make it 1-1,” Qureshi said after shocking the top seed in the quarter finals of the Indian Oil-Servo ATP Challenger today.

“I knew exactly what to do this time... I made him play a lot of balls and put pressure on him. And I didn’t panic on the big points,” analysed Qureshi, before admitting that he hadn’t checked out on the draw (before today’s match) as to who his next opponent would be. That was too far from his mind when he stepped on to the court to meet Paes.    

Calcutta, Feb. 17 
DELHI 236 - BENGAL 194/4

Nikhil Haldipur and Rohan Gavaskar’s flashes of brilliance had suggested that Bengal would overhaul Delhi’s modest total of 236 on the second day itself. All that was until both gifted away their wickets and then Sourav Ganguly flattered to deceive.

A premature end brought about by bad light, following an appeal by Srikant Kalyani, halted proceedings with 19.2 overs remaining and the hosts still 42 runs adrift. But the downpour that lashed the city late in the evening suggests that it would have been prudent to continue for some more overs and seal the five-point advantage.

After all, the option was always open as the the fall of another wicket could always have prompted the batsmen to down shutters. Under fading light, Robin Singh’s pace did pose a problem but the others shouldn’t have been too hot to handle.

A scheduled start looks very unlikely tomorrow and further rain could even ruin Bengal’s chances. In case the match fails to get off tomorrow and thereafter, the teams share six points.

The weatherman has forecast moderate to light rain tomorrow.

If Laxmi Ratan Shukla (four for 70) hastened the visitors’ doom this morning, Haldipur (92) and Rohan (53) set up a 123-run second-wicket partnership to steady the innings. It helped overcome the early loss of Devang Gandhi.

His confidence having reached its lowest ebb, the opener was laden footed as he went for the drive — off only the second ball he faced — and snicked it to the wicketkeeper.

One striking feature of the Haldipur-Rohan partnership was their superb running between the wickets. Haldipur, as always, was the more flamboyant with his strokeplay.

None of the bowlers made any impact on him as the lefthander drove and cut with elan. An elegant cover drive off Robin was followed by another square of the wicket for his half-century.

There were 16 boundaries in his 118-ball innings until a sudden rush of blood had him stepping out and trying to lift Rahul Sanghvi over the top. The ball landed in the hands of Sanjay Gill at mid-on.

A sixth Ranji hundred would certainly have placed Haldipur in good stead ahead of the selection for the South Africa series.

Rohan was no less guilty as he also fell in similar fashion, the outer edge going to point. Having survived on 27 when Ashu Dani dropped a sitter at first slip, Rohan made the most of the opportunity. He was never afraid to use his feet against the spinners and hit eight fours in his 89-ball knock.

Ganguly began by late cutting Nikhil Chopra but left in the same over, the ball taking his pad and bat before landing at silly point’s hands.

Sanghvi, bowling with a six-man onside field, did get the ball to turn and trouble the batsmen. In fact, Kalyani was even lucky to have survived on one such occasion.

Earlier, Shukla forced Delhi to surrender 70 minutes after the start today. Akash Chopra (95) was unlucky to have missed out on a well-deserved century. The opener was the last man out, the desperation of having ran out of partners leading to his exit.    

Calcutta, Feb. 17 
The Bengal Hockey Association (BHA) has been pushed into a tussle with Mohun Bagan over the use of the club ground for the BHA League.

According to a BHA source, a letter was sent to Mohun Bagan club authorities on January 28. Then on February 5 another letter, along with the fixtures, was sent to the club.

The source added that Mohun Bagan had verbally agreed to let hockey matches be played on their ground.

But on the match days — February 11, 14, 15 and today — the ground was not ready. There was no marking on the ground, no goalposts, and the matches had to be resceduled and shifted to other grounds.

Mohun Bagan officials, though, have a different story to tell. According to club secretary Anjan Mitra, there was a verbal agreement with the BHA that the ground will be available for hockey only after February 26. He added that he will try and make the ground ready for hockey as soon as possible.

But Mohun Bagan’s reluctance to let the club ground be used for anything else apart from football was obvious from the secretary’s comments. “What is the use of playign hockey on grass? Let them play on the astro turf at SAI.

“Moreover, with the National League on, the football team needs to practice on the club ground. So even during the hockey season, we have to practice in the morning.”

He also added that he had requested the BHA not to schedule any matches at the Mohun Bagan ground from the next season.    

Calcutta, Feb. 17 
Devang Gandhi is likely to turn out for Kala Bagan Club in the Dhaka league. The club officials had preliminary talks with the India opener at the Eden Gardens today.

According to the programme, Devang will play in April on a match-to-match contract. The details will be finalised shortly.

The club is also reportedly interested in hiring Nikhil Haldipur and Laxmi Ratan Shukla during the same period.    

Bangalore, Feb. 17 
On her second to Congratulations in the 1000 Guineas, Anguilla looks good to lift the 1,600m Ashwapriya Cup, for runners rated 40 and above which is tomorrow’s main attraction. Working best in the field of eleven runners, the Rashid Byramji-ward by Razeen out of Exquisite in the safe hands of Aslam Kader is expected to have things going her own way.


2 pm: Concur 1. Royal Debut 2. Star Wings 3.

2.30 pm: Power Extreme 1. Lovely Lips 2. Pro Vost 3.

3 pm: Haynes Park 1. Abolisher 2. Royal Power 3.

3.30 pm: Psychedelic 1. Akasaka 2. Winning Memories 3.

4 pm: Anguilla 1. Estocade 2. Solo Act 3.

4.30 pm: Imperial Weapon 1. Predicament 2. Royal Castle 3.

5 pm: Auric 1. London Bells 2. Crown Ivory 3.

5.30 pm: Placid Ark 1. Eyewitness 2. Strokes Of Fire 3.

Day’s Best: Anguilla Double: Concur & Haynes Park    

Columbus, an 8-1 lesser fancied horse from trainer Arti Doctor’s yard, scored a fluent victory over the course-favourite Spice Boy in the 1,400m Brijendra Plate in Mumbai on Thursday. Bajrang Singh partnered the Gold Discovery-Liebestraum four-year-old to victory.

RESULTS (With inter-state dividends)

1. Exhilaration Trophy 1,600m: (1-2) Count Dracula (Fortune) 1; Stone Ridge 2. Won by: 1-1/2; (1-46). Tote: Win Rs 21. Fav: Stone Ridge (2).

2. Ahmed Khairaz Plate 1,600m: (4-3-5) Natural Gift (Aadesh) 1; Exstream 2; Falconaire 3. Won by: 3-1/2; 2-3/4; (1-42.9). Tote: Win Rs 26; Place: 13; 14; 21; Quinella: 45; Tanala: 312. Fav: Natural Gift (4).

3. Narayandas J. Dave Plate 1,200m: (2-7-8) Clear Sense (Shroff) 1; Yewall 2; Mama Mia 3. Won by: 5-1/2; 2-3/4; (1-14.9––Record). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 12; 10; 19; Quinella: 25; Tanala: 90. Fav: Clear Sense (2).

4. Brijendra Plate 1,400m: (6-8-7) Columbus (Bajrang) 1; Spice Boy 2; Legendary Lover 3. Won by: 3; 3-1/2; (1-27.1––Record). Tote: Win Rs 55; Place: 19; 10; 14; Quinella: 75; Tanala: 300. Fav: Spice Boy (8).

5. P. B. Avasia Plate 1,200m: (9-4-1) Portentous (Kamlesh) 1; Dreadnought 2; Gay Minstrel 3. Not run: Rise And Shine (6) & Innara (12). Won by: SH; 2-1/4; (1-14.9). Tote: Win Rs 75; Place: 21; 19; 14; Quinella: 166; Tanala: 1,396. Fav: Dillinger (5).

6. Clarinet Plate 1,200m: (3-6-10) Timeless Appeal (Bajrang) 1; Impartial 2; Right Arrow 3. Won by: 3; 1-3/4; (1-16.5). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 16; 12; 53; Quinella: 31; Tanala: 378. Fav: Timeless Appeal (3).

7. Brave Ruler Plate 1,600m: (10-8-11) Avalanche (Prakash) 1; Rebounding Ray 2; Classic Chic 3. Not run: Contingency (9). Won by: 3-1/4; 2-1/4; (1-44.2). Tote: Win Rs 133; Place: 25; 12; 48; Quinella: 86; Tanala: 3,729. Fav: Rebounding Ray (8).

Jackpot: Rs 64,035; (C) Rs 1,123.

Treble: (i) Rs 489; (ii) Rs 3,985.    

Calcutta, Feb. 17 
A seven-horse strong line-up will face the starter in the 1,600m Police Commissioner’s Cup on Saturday. There are a total of seven events on the cards and each race has been well represented. First race starts at 12.40 pm.


1. Play Boy Handicap 1,200m (Cl V, 5-y-o & over, Rt. 0-28) 1.240 pm: Golden Express 60; Accentor 59; Swingtime 57; Kinght Charmer 55.5; Unlimited 55.5.

2. Desiree Cup 1,600m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 1.15 pm: Prince Of War 60; Amerrico 58.5; Artifact 58; Carabineer 48.5; Go India Go 48.

3. Gudarz Handicap 1,200m (Cl IV, 5-y-o & over, Rt. 22-50) 1.55 pm: Giltedge 61; Silver Raising 60; Heaven’s Blessing 59.5; Royal Ruler 59; Constantine 56.5; Jayaashva 56; Crown Prince 55.5; Floral Path 55; Dramatic Turn 53.5.

4. Paddy’s Darling Cup 1,400m (Cl V, Rt. 0-28) 2.30 pm: Rheinheart 60; Media Star 56.5; The Cigar 55.5; Answerable 55.5; Armila 53.5; Tabasco King 47.5; Lord Of The Manor 47.5.

5. Police Commissioner’s Cup 1,600m (Cl I, Rt. 88 & over) 3.05 pm: Treasurer 60; Dominate 59.5; Prince Obolensky 57.5; Falconhead 56.5; Giorgio 55.5; Allosaki 53; Kansai 51.

6. Leprechaun Handicap 1,200m (Handicap for 3-y-o only) 3.40 pm: Annella 62; Magnifico 56.5; Arctic Fancy 55; Queen’s Logic 55; Santillana 54.5; Airs Image 48.5; Little Boy Blue 48.5; Compliance 48; Private Lives 48; Three Good 48; Ingleside 47.

7. Bright Law Handicap 1,200m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72) 4.15 pm: Remember The Day 60; Just Kidding 57.5; Ocean Sunset 56; Dancing Fire 51.5; American 51.5; Rule With Honour 50.5; Kargil Soldier 47.5.

Jackpot: 3; 4; 5; 6 & 7.

Treble: (i) 2; 3 & 4; (ii) 5; 6 & 7.


Outer sand track

2,000m: The Royals (Merchant) in 2-45 4/5s; (800m) 1-6 3/5s; (400m) 33s. Easy

1,400m: Splendid Pride (Merchant) and Dominate (Gurang) in 1-45 4/5s; (800m) 58 2/5s; (400m) 27 3/5s. Former 4 ls better. Mystic Hill (Amil) and Joe The Pro (Connorton) in 1-38 3/5s; (400m) 28 3.5s. Former finished ahead.

1,200m: Falconhead (Amil) and Treasurer (C. Alford) in 1-25 4/5s; (800m) 54 1/5s; (400m) 27s. Former finished ahead by 2 ls.

1,000m: Compliance (Amil) and Giorgio (C. Alford) in 1-10 1/5s; (400m) 26s. Former finished well ahead, latter was easy. Artifact (Surender) and Ocean Sunset (C. Alford) in 1-8 2/5s; (400m) 26 3/5s. Former was 6 ls ahead.

800m: Armila (Amil) and Generous Present (C. Alford) in 55 2/5s; (400m) 28 2/5s. Former 4 ls better

600m: Bonzer (Kasbekar) in 46 2/5s; (400m) 30 2/5s. Easy. Prizren (Rb) in 41s; (400m) 26s. Handy. Remember Me (M. Reuben) and Too Soon To Tell (Manohar) in 41; (400m) 27s. Former was 2 ls better.

Sand track

800m: State Treasure (Merchant) in 51s; (400m) 24. Very easy. Mameena (Connorton) in 49s; (400m) 24s. Fit. Golden Heart (Rb) and Strictly Royal (Gowli) in 55s; (400m) 26s. Both level.    


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