Bagan manage one through Dempo debris/National league
Bagan cautious in optimism
I had lost all enjoyment, says Sachin
Indians dither over line-up
DKS shot out for 191 by City AC
The Ravi Shastri Column
Saturday flag-off for BMSC rally

Calcutta, Feb. 22 
That heady feeling is back. It happens when you are right at the top. You walk a little taller, you smile more often, and your goals are so well defined. Mohun Bagan are there. Well, almost. At 32 points from 16 matches, and building on it, beyond the National Football League field...

Dempo Sports Club of Goa were despatched 1-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium today, but not before nearly a dozen sitters were wasted and the tourists were reduced to near debris. Uzbek Igor Skhvirin scored, way into the 75th minute, set up briliantly by substitute Brazilian Jose Barreto Ramirez.

Dempo are now deeper into relegation zone, with only nine points from 15 outings.

The signs were clear from the start. Apart from a few initial forays, through Mohammad Reza and Kannan Priolkar (the two who scored in their 2-0 shock win over East Bengal), there was not much evident in the Goan team that resembled anything like a gameplan. Not that Mohun Bagan showed any great sense of direction, but the firepower in their armoury is so superior, one never thought it would be necessary.

In hindsight, it should have been an essential component of strategy today. That would have meant less energy per move, and an output commensurate with input. The three-forward (with Stephen Abarowei more withdrawn and readily the gamemaker) format was okay, but an adequate supply system should have been standard fitting.

The attacks started early — in the 11th minute Stephen Abarowei missed from close a Dipendu Biswas pass off a James Singh prompt. That was when Dempo initiative was sapping, and the maroon-green gathering at the Goan goalmouth was steadily becoming a boring regularity... Nine minutes later an overlapping Samuel Omollo had headed a Lolendra Singh flag-kick, goalkeeper Vikrant Sharma tipping it over.

The entry to the Dempo defence zone was easy. You walked in. Thereafter, one had to spend a great deal of time saying ‘hello’ to sometimes nine players, if not 11.

A late first session sequence makes for interesting reading. 34th minute: Lolendra’s tip from the left had Dipendu heading hurriedly, way over the bar. 42nd minute: Dulal Biswas trekked up the right, dodged two and shot into Sharma. 43rd minute: Igor, from sniffing distance of the goal, whipped a volley that would have gone straight in, except that it took Stephen’s shoulder full blast. Stephen fell like dead wood. 45th minute: Debjit Ghosh, in search of adventure, was up to the rival goalmouth, and, off one helping, took a diving header that went straight into the goalkeeper.

And all that was only part of the Bagan fire today.

Stephen was moving with the team, trying to make sense through a great deal of foggy ‘strategy’. What really was irritating was the extent of individual play that the players involved in. The opponent may be weak, but it is still a team game, and a bit more of understanding among the attackers and the feed line could have stretched the defence to advantage.

Sixth minute into the new session Stephen latched onto an R.P. Singh pass and entered the box. He beat one through a feint, a second through speed, but the left-footed angled tap was weak, and into the goalkeeper.

Igor was cursing his luck next minute when his boomer of a volley managed to find the woodwork.

It was getting all too frustrating. Coach Subrata Bhattacharya had to revoke his decision to rest his Brazilian star. A round of sprays, and he was ready. What Ramirez is capable of is in those delectable passes, off-the-ball runs and established set-pieces that can work.

Ramirez was without much work in the initial stages of his outing because he was not fed properly. Then Basudeb Mondal was brought in, and the game reorganised itself into the attacking third.

It was 15 minutes to time, and tempers were not in check. Before things got too out of hand, though, Barreto observed a chance to the left. He loped into the pass and shot a grounder to the goalmouth where Igor had stationed himself. The Uzbek’s quick deflection left Sharma with no chance.

That was when the thick defence gave way. Dempo fell to pieces and, attack as they did, there wasn’t much fun trampling debris.

That was hardly the end of the Dempo debacle. In the 34th minute of the half Basudeb, moving the body of the team well, took a rasping volley which was saved by the goalkeeper.

Sharma, in fact, was the only decent performer in the Goan team. But for him the scoerline would have been rather odd, misses notwithstanding. In the 45th minute, a delectable Ramirez side volley was taken in promptly by Sharma.

Ramirez, though, also had his bad moments. In one such, a minute into injury time, he just failed to connect a Lolendra pass to the goalmouth.

Misses were the order of the day. And Igor put the icing on the cake a minute before the long whistle, snapping a sharp header straight into Sharma’s lap.    

Calcutta, Feb. 22 
Sitting relaxed, the jubilation milling around, Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya was beaming in well-deserved glory. “I can still not talk about the title,” said he. “That’s still pretty far away.” He was being reasonably cautious, but he knew there was more to his team than what came out versus Dempo at the Salt Lake Stadium’s 1-0 National Football League win.

“Any of the top teams which win three matches on the trot from now will be winner,” Bhattacharya said. Bhattacharya said he was forced to field Jose Ramirez Bareto because “the final opening was just not happening.”

He defended his decision to bring on Basudeb Mondal late in the match by saying that it was a decision taken before. “It is when I bring him on.” Dempo coach Ahmed Sanjari was not too downcast in defeat. “I know we are in relegation zone,” he said, “my players are mostly in the 19-22 year segment and the Iranians are not the best from that country.” Effectively he conceded that he lost to a far superior team and that a draw was what he had been looking for. Sanjari was busy describing how football in Iran was superior and how the best from that country would only go to Europe and not India. That, unfortunately, had little bearing on the day’s loss.

“We want a win, desperately,” he added. Not that one such so late will mend a leagueful of mistakes.    

Mumbai, Feb. 22 
Sachin Tendulkar insists his shock announcement Sunday was made after careful consideration but, this afternoon, the soon-to-quit captain was momentarily lost in thought when asked whether he had already begun to feel different.

“Hmmm… It probably hasn’t sunk in as yet. May be, it will, when I take the field in the two Tests…” Sachin told The Telegraph, just before the team’s workout at the Wankhede.

Sachin will relinquish captaincy in Bangalore, after the second Test (March 2-6) versus South Africa. The first Test, here, gets underway Thursday.

Perhaps realising he had allowed himself to be emotionally stumped, Sachin quickly added: “It’s a decision that had to be taken some time and, where I’m concerned, it’s done. I had lost all enjoyment.”

But, should circumstances change at some point in time, will he consider innings No. 3 as captain?

Sachin paused and answered: “I haven’t given that any thought… Indeed, I’m not even thinking of the announcement I made the other day. Today, I’m just looking forward to the two Tests, nothing more. I don’t wish to…”

That explains why Sachin didn’t make any attempt to ‘explain’ his decision to teammates when they assembled, for the first time after Sunday’s announcement, this afternoon.

“Frankly, my decision was made for off-the-field reasons and I would like to leave it at that… We have an important series ahead of us, and I wouldn’t like the team to think about what really is a personal decision,” Sachin pointed out.

That, of course, is easier said than done. While none of the players is openly talking about Sachin’s extraordinary decision, some have privately voiced concern over just how involved he will be between now and March 6.

Then, there is the succession bit. The selectors shouldn’t look beyond Sourav Ganguly, who is a certainty both in Tests and ODIs, but Ajay Jadeja’s name could also be floated.

It hasn’t helped matters that, when pressed at a book release function the other day, Sachin himself narrowed down the contenders to two: Sourav and Jadeja. They may not acknowledge it, but both are bound to get a trifle distracted.    

Mumbai, Feb. 22 
Should five specialist bowlers be fielded, or one less to accommodate an extra batsman? That, simply put, is the dilemma facing the Indian thinktank. Of course, it will have to be quickly overcome as the first Test, against South Africa, begins Thursday. More than anything else, it’s the Wankhede wicket which has spread confusion of sorts. In the morning, there was more than just a tinge of green but, by the evening, much of the grass had been scraped off.

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but the grass-removal operation coincided with the Indians’ arrival at the ampitheatre. Initially, there was talk of fielding just four bowlers (two quicks and an equal number of spinners) but, by the evening (after the scraping act), consensus towards an extra bowler was emerging: Three spinners (Anil Kumble and the two rookies —- Nikhil Chopra and Murali Karthik) and two quicks (Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar).

If there is to be one specialist batsman less, out of contention could well be opener Wasim Jaffer. The opening slots will then go to V. V. S. Laxman and Nayan Mongia. Incidentally strongly placed, at the moment, to make his debut is middle order bat Mohammed Kaif. Assured of his first cap is Karthik. No decision on the batsmen-bowlers’ balance has yet been taken, but it’s significant that captain Sachin Tendulkar, for one, believes the turn will be appreciable.

In fact, even former captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth, who heads the Board’s select committee on grounds and pitches, shed his earlier sporting-wicket-talk and admitted the home team’s spinners stand to benefit. Not that the South Africans were taken in by talk about preparing a “sporting wicket.” That’s being terribly vague and the visitors saw through it rather quickly. So much so that vice-captain Shaun Pollock made no effort to conceal a smile while remarking: “It remains to be seen…”

What also remains to be seen is how quickly top-notch bat Daryll Cullinan recovers from the groin injury sustained in the tour-opener. “He’s responding well is all I can say,” commented manager Goolam Raja and that, too, very hesitatingly.    

Calcutta, Feb. 22 
Four-wicket hauls by George Pal and Pronab Ghoshal helped City AC dismiss Dakshin Kalikata Sansad (DKS) for 191 on the opening day of the CAB senior division league tie at Kalighat ground today. City, at close, were 23 for one.

The match is being replayed after the umpires told the CAB tournament committee that the tie, as per original schedule, “was not played in the right spirit”. City AC had won that match at Deshapriya Park, DKS’ home ground. Several of the home batsmen were out stumped.

The committee had met following a complaint from Rajasthan that DKS had lost the match intentionally. The result had pushed Rajasthan to the relegation zone.

Volleyball teams

Partha Majhi and Tusi Sankhari will lead the state men’s and women’s squads for the youth national volleyball championship at Nowgaon, Assam from Friday.

FCI inter-zonal soccer

East Zone defeated Head Office 2-0 in the FCI all-India inter zonal football meet at SAI today. In other matches, North beat South 1-0 while West and North-East played out a goalless draw.

Railway gymnastics

Northern Railway and CLW won the men’s and women’s championships in the all-India Railways Gymnastics in Chittaranjan recently. Seven team participated in the meet. Awanish Kumar Singh and Pumpa Ghosh were adjudged men’s and women’s individual champions.

Ladies’ golf

Rita Punwani took an early lead with a round of two-under par 68 in the Taj Trophy golf meet for ladies at Tollygunge Club today. She is followed by Renuka Philip, Rashmi Prasad, Anu Tripathy and Nalini Lall. Fifty-six players teed off.    


Adjust bouncer as per batsman’s height

I am a right-hander and end up scooping the ball while playing a cover drive. Where lies the problem?

(Tarang Jain, 16, Bokaro. Jonathan Babinall, 13, Darjeeling. Swarup Majumdar, 14, Tinsukia)

The problem is that you are not getting to the pitch of the ball as a result of which your head is lifting up too early.

I am a right-hander who is comfortable on the off-side but struggle against full-pitched deliveries on the leg. Please advise.

(Vikas Kothari, 13, Howrah)

Open up your stance a bit and watch the ball closely out of the bowler’s hand.

I am not comfortable against leg-spinners. Shall I have to alter my stance?

(Rajorshi Das, 12, Sonarpur. Malay Nayak, 19, Bankura)

Concentrate on your footwork and don’t get too close in your stance.

I am comfortable on the frontfoot but not so while playing off the backfoot. What is your advice?

(Nasim Ali, 17, Calcutta)

You are probably not getting back and across enough.

I am a right-hander and find it difficult to keep the straight drive along the ground. What’s going wrong?

(Ankit Harbhajanka, 16, Howrah)

Same as the first question: You are not getting close enough to the pitch of the ball.

I prefer using a heavy bat but struggle while playing with a horizontal bat. Shall I start using a lighter one?

(Rajiv Pathak, 15, Calcutta)

It’s not a bad idea.

I am a right-hander and struggle against off-spinners. Shall I concentrate on playing with the spin?

(Avijit Roy, 15, Bankura. Hitesh Chopra, 9, Calcutta)

That’s good thinking but also concentrate on the footwork.

I am a right-hander and take a leg-stump guard. I struggle with deliveries coming in from outside off. Should I take a middle-stump guard?

(Sharad Daga, 14, Rishra)

Make sure you get across enough with either front or back foot rather than changing your guard for the moment.

The ball always passes my bat when I try to play the square cut. Am I not getting closer to the ball or is there something wrong with the movement of the backfoot?

(Suhrid Naum, 15, Ranchi)

Your backfoot is not getting across enough.

I am a right-hander but end up hitting the left pad with my bat while driving on the leg. Please advise.

(Rounak Das, 10, Howrah)

The problem is that you are falling over too much. Open your stance a bit.

I am a leg-spinner. What is the ideal line of attack against a left-handed batsman?

(Basant Daga, 16, Rishra)

Off stump or just outside.

I always end up bowling short while trying to bowl the slower one. Please advise.

(Rajdeep Dutta, 14, Calcutta)

Try and finish your action. Also watch the spot you intend to bowl very closely.

I am right-arm fast bowler but find it difficult to bowl against left-handed batsmen. Please help.

(Ravish Bali, 18, Bhagalpur)

Don’t try too many things. First, concentrate on a good solid line to bowl at.

I am a medium-pacer but struggle with direction while bowling fast. What is the solution?

(Joy Mukherjee, 15, Jamshedpur. Manoj Kumar Rana, 13, Calcutta. Abhishek Deshmukh, 16, Ranchi)

Cut down on your pace a bit so that you get a little more control.

I enjoy bowling quick. Do I have to make adjustments to my action to bowl a perfect bouncer?

(Debojit Das, 12, Agartala)

It largely depends on the height of the batsman. A bouncer to Tendulkar will have to be pitched at a different place as opposed to one to Srinath. The idea is to make the batsman (tall or short) fend it off his throat.    

Calcutta, Feb. 22 
The Bengal Motor Sports Club’s (BMSC) Servo Millennium rally will be a big affair. To be held from February 26 to March 1, it will cover a longish first leg transport sector from Calcutta to Suliguri, through Bardhaman, Ilambazar, Siuri, Nalhati, Farakka, Malda, Raigunj, Islampur and Bagdogra.

The rally, which has attracted 16 four-wheelers (mostly Maruti Esteems) and 15 two-wheelers will then go over, via the Pankhabari Road, to Darjeeling.

The rally will then move to Teesta Bazar via Peshoke Road and then towards Algara, Lava, Gorubhatan and will be back in Siliguri.

Till then, the rally will be in the time-speed-distance format. From the second leg the special stages come in, for about 130km, including trasport, dirts track and forest pathways.

A total of Rs 5 lakh is up for grabs. The four-wheeler winner gets Rs 85,000 (group A car) and the two-wheeler winner Rs 52,000 (group C). Prizes will be given on March 3.

Entrants are mostly local with some outstation riders still expected. Mr Kunal Banerjee, secretary BMSC, said the FMSCI has accorded ‘national’ status to the events.

State triathlon

The ninth state triathlon championships (junior and seniors) come off at the Subhas Sarovar Sunday. More than 50 participants from five districts, including Calcutta will take part.

The meet will be organised by the Bengal Triathlon Association. The seniors will be required to cover 1.5 km swimming, 40km cycling and 10km running. The juniors will swim 0.5 km, cycle 10km and run 5km.

Xaverians win 18-0

Xaverians today whipped Julien Day School 18-0 in the BHA third division league. That included four goals (including a hattrick by Graham Paul and two each from Santosh Rao, Md Jasmin, Steven Gardener and Noel Pinto.

In the other match of the day, Bhowanipore beat Paikpara Sporting 2-0.

Mercantile golf

Madhya Bharat paper (77 points), Williamson Magor D (88) and Williamson Magor H (97) led the fields in divisions I, II and III, respectively, of the Millennium Merchants’ Cup golf meet at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club today.    


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