South Africa grab Day I honours
You live or die with what you yourself do: Shepher
Richards wants a specific proposal
Rajasthan on run feast
Lahiri guides Sporting to 3-wkt win
IFA to take on AIFF
Tolly to make defensive start vs SBT
Shakti, Anju to be in limelight

 
 
SOUTH AFRICA GRAB DAY I HONOURS 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Mumbai, Feb. 24 
India 225

South Africa 27/0

Just one partnership — a record 52 for the last-wicket, also the highest in the Indian innings, puts in perspective Day-I of the first Pepsi Test.

As can be made out, it was disastrous for India. Sachin Tendulkar appeared to win half the battle by winning the toss but, by early afternoon, the advantage was frittered away quicker than one downs paani-puris on Chowpatty.

It will be pointless blaming the Wankhede wicket, though there was considerable bounce and movement in the first session (69 for two in 28 overs). But, then, that’s to be expected. Moreover, the Indians aren’t being paid for galli cricket.

Of course, Sachin himself produced a brilliant 97 (208 minutes, 163 balls, 12x4, 2x6), an innings where he consistently counter-attacked, but not for the first time found himself at the helm of a rapidly-sinking ship.

Sachin fell in the 90s for only the third time, tripping at the doorstep of what would have been his 23rd Test century and the first against South Africa at home. He did sign his own exit but, before that, lots had happened.

Actually, that the Indians were in for trouble was evident in over No.1 itself — an absolute giveaway being debutant Wasim Jaffer’s body-language.

Not many enjoy the advantage of earning their first cap on home turf, but instead of making capital of an opportunity which arose after Nikhil Chopra was made to sit with the reserves — an 11th-hour decision — Jaffer was nervous with a bold N.

“All debutants get nervous… It’s good to be a little nervous,” had been one Sachin remark yesterday. Obviously, Jaffer took that too seriously and was very tentative with footwork.

That Allan Donald, who seems to be weighing on the Indians like a Glenn McGrath, got him within 20 minutes came as no surprise. Incidentally, Donald’s furious opening burst apart, his first three overs after lunch (which ended the second spell) were maidens.

A solid start was imperative, and that failure affected the middl-order as well. Besides the last-wicket partnership between Ajit Agarkar (41 not out in 42 deliveries, 8x4) and debutant Murali Karthik (14 with two boundaries), only one after pair (Sachin and Ajay Jadeja) could cross the fifty-mark.

Hansie Cronje kept rotating his bowlers, not allowing an already unsettled Indian line-up to become too familiar with any one bowler’s line and length. It paid off handsomely and Cronje himself was on a hattrick (as was Jacques Kallis, later).

Unusually, the South Africans put down four catches (Lance Klusener, Mark Boucher, Herschelle Gibbs and Shaun Pollock being offenders), yet could wrest all the initiative. With little sweat, at that.

Jaffer’s departure brought Rahul Dravid to the crease and while he took 23 minutes and 15 balls to get off the mark, at no time was he in discomfort. At the other end, V.V.S.Laxman, too, was looking reasonably good.

A short-arm pull off Donald fetched four and a crisp off-drive, this time off Pollock, also netted a boundary. It seemed the wait to get off the mark (all of 30 minutes and 23 deliveries) had been worth it.

But, as it happens so often, Laxman himself undid all his own good work by deviating from the Manual.

In walked Sachin, to a predictably huge roar, and began with a divine cover-driven four at Kallis’ expense. If that was an announcement, nobody could have missed it.

Drives — to the on-side, square and off — the paddle-sweep, square cuts, two pulled sixes off left-arm spinner Clive Eksteen, playing his first Test in over four years… Everything was on offer.

For a change, Sachin batted in fashion that comes naturally, and it’s a huge pity none complemented his effort.

First to leave Sachin ‘stranded’ was Dravid, bowled by a beauty from Donald that sent the off-stump flying. The South Africans were overjoyed as it was a ‘big’ wicket — Dravid had 148 and 81 in his last two innings against them (Johannesburg, January 1997).

Sourav Ganguly, like Laxman and Dravid before him, took time to hit his first runs (29 minutes and 20 balls) but perished to a slower one from Pollock. It was a half-volley all right, tempting enough to be smashed through covers, but the change in pace trapped Sourav.

So, Sourav was next out. Jadeja, never quite convincing, and Nayan Mongia, out for a duck, followed. All this while, Sachin kept punishing the South Africans (specially Klusener) and, on a couple of occasions, even got carried away by chasing near wides.

More than the others, Sachin’s assault got to Donald, who gave him the looks he largely reserves for the Mike Athertons. What upset Donald even more is that umpire Srinivas Venkatraghavan turned down a confident appeal for a catch at the wicket when the Indian captain was in the 70s.

Though India never could slice away any of the initiative, they hadn’t been totally in the pits by the tea break (142 for four). It’s the last session which pushed them there.

Anil Kumble (who replaced Mongia) averted the Cronje hattrick, but wasn’t around for long. He probably could have been, but paid the penalty for not promptly responding to an admittedly cheeky call from the captain.

Perhaps Kumble didn’t expect someone on 96 to act thus, but Sachin did. The manner of his dismissal must have upset Kumble. It appeared to upset Sachin, too: Within minutes, he fell chasing a Kallis delivery way down leg.

Sachin didn’t wait for the umpire’s index finger and, initially, Kallis showed little emotion. He probably was remembering that bit about poetic justice — in Kallis’ previous over, Sachin was dropped by Gibbs.

As Sachin’s was the ninth-wicket to fall, everybody was reconciled to an immediate closure. Instead Agarkar, who ended the sequence of five Test ducks in-a-row with some enthralling stuff, and Karthik (who is likely to be promoted by his employers, Railways), extended it by over 50 minutes.

Kallis, who may have got more respect than he deserved, returned the best figures, while Donald, Pollock and Cronje collected two wickets each. For Donald, it’s now two down with eight to go. In other words, eight wickets and he realises his dream of 300 in Test cricket.

The South African openers played out the eight overs that remained and, if they continue the neat job, the ask for India will become terribly stiff. As a tribute to former quick Tertius Bosch, the South Africans wore black arm-bands.

Up in the heavens Bosch, who passed away recently, would have been delighted with his teammates’ performance.    


 
 
YOU LIVE OR DIE WITH WHAT YOU YOURSELF DO: SHEPHER 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Mumbai, Feb. 24 
Frank Chester, Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird, David Shepherd…

Some of the most respected umpires ever, have been produced by England and, today, 59-year-old Shepherd became only the second umpire (after Bird) to officiate in 50 (or more) Tests.

Appropriately, Shepherd was presented with two mementos – one by National Grid, sponsors of the ICC’s umpires and Match Referees’ panel, and by the Mumbai Cricket Association.

Soft-spoken and forever jovial, unlike some umpires who prefer not to smile and make it a point to stay aloof, Shepherd spoke to The Telegraph at some length last evening.

Following are excerpts

On recording a half-century of Tests as an umpire

(Laughs) Well, ever since the international panel has come into being (from the 1991-92 season) we’ve been getting many more opportunities. Before that, in the off-season in England for example, we wouldn’t wear our coats at all.

On whether being respected as one of the best umpires puts him under more pressure

Indeed, yes, though I must add nobody expects mistakes from any umpire… The longer you’ve been around, though, the more they expect you to get things right.

On his long innings at Gloucestershire (as a batsman) before turning to umpiring

I put in 15 years (1965 onwards), playing alongside the Mike Procters, Zaheer Abbas’ and Sadiq Mohammeds… (Adds laughing) I would bat anywhere, as I strongly believed any number was better than 12! We didn’t win the Championship during that period, but we did lift one-day trophies.

On why he chose to become an umpire

To stay involved with the game, I could either have taken to coaching or become an umpire. I opted for the latter because no matter how good a coach you may be, the results just won’t be there if there’s a dearth of talent. Basically, what you do depends on so many other people. It’s different with umpiring — you live or die with what you yourself do.

I became a first-class umpire in 1981, officiated in my maiden ODI in 1984 and stood in my first Test a year later. I consider myself lucky I could make a career out of what essentially was a hobby.

On whether he admired and/or is indebted to any one umpire

Barry Meyer, who too played for Gloucester.

On whether it ought to be mandatory for those aspiring to become umpires to have played the game at a certain level

So many of my colleagues (in England) have played first-class cricket… That experience certainly helps. Actually, the higher the grade of cricket played, the better. It helps, for instance, provide an insight into how players respond in given situations. However, I don’t think we can have a blanket mandatory requirement.

On a belief, which isn’t uncommon, that England produce better umpires than cricketers

(Laughs yet again) That’s rather sad, isn’t it? Umpires in England get more opportunities and, so the saying, practice makes perfect, can work there. It’s for others to judge whether we achieve perfection, but opportunities are definitely there.

On the introduction of Match Referees and third umpires

I think we were all a bit sceptical when technology, by way of replays, first came into being. But, over the years, the misgivings have disappeared. In fact, considering the progress being made, I see a much larger role for third umpires. I wouldn’t have a problem with that — anything that helps to get decisions right should be welcomed. We are, after all, only human.

As for Match Referees, their presence has certainly improved discipline. At one stage, if you recall, on-field behaviour had become very bad.

On whether, after the introduction of Match Referees, the umpires have tended to leave everything to them

No, the umpires definitely haven’t been shirking responsibility. Match Referees are there to assist us and we can first admonish a player and, then, report him.

On why umpires don’t rarely ever call bowlers with a suspect action, preferring to leave the ‘dirty’ job to others

Oh, oh… Please don’t drag me… I know there are problems there… In England, unless somebody chucks blatantly, we refer him to the ECB which sets in motion the business of filming the ‘suspect’ and so on.

On whether controversial replays ought to be shown on the giant video screens, which are a feature of many grounds across the world

Though I would sympathise with someone who may miss the action and, so, would like to see replays, I’m not entirely comfortable with that. It doesn’t do the umpires any favours. Besides, because everything comes to a standstill, replays can slow the game.

On the pressures associated with umpiring

They vary from region to region and, because we largely know what to expect, we’ve got to be prepared. It could be for the climate, for the type of pitches in particular areas… Being prepared is part of the day’s job.

On whether he admits having made mistakes

(Smiles) Yes, and please do remember, the perfect man is yet to be born… At times, going by the body-language of the batsman, I’ve instantly realised I made a mistake. On other occasions, it’s been after watching highlights on TV. I feel terrible, but…

I can’t recall whether, at the end of the day in either a Test or ODI, I’ve had a word with the batsman in question — I probably have, though — but I do remember having taken the initiative, to speak to the player, in County cricket.

On standing in Tests as opposed to ODIs

It’s tougher in Tests, where we could have many close-in fielders and multiple bat-pad appeals… Yes, in the ODIs, there may be many appeals for run outs but, there, we can fall back on the third umpire’s help.

On whether there have been occasions when matters threatened to get out of hand

Well, yes, though generally I’ve known captains to keep things under control… One instance I do recall was in the West Indies in 1995, the series when Australia beat them… Centrestage then was taken by Curtley Ambrose and Steve Waugh and, just when I was stepping in, Richie Richardson (the captain) pulled Ambrose away.

As captains have the biggest responsibility, I appreciated that. Indeed, it’s up to all captains to ensure the spirit of the game isn’t ever breached. Cricket, then, will still be played 200-300 years from now… I’m not too happy with some of the things we do get to see, but cricket still is much, much better than soccer. Today’s cricketers aren’t setting a dreadful example for the generations to follow. Some of the footballers are.

On the one captain who impressed him most in the way he conducted himself and led the team

Mark Taylor. Whatever the problem, he would deal with it firmly and calmly.

On whether the ICC’s panel should only comprise the most highly-rated umpires and not umpires from every country

I reckon it’s politically correct to have umpires from all Test-playing nations. At the same time, each nation must offer some incentive to its umpires, an incentive which takes the form of being recommended to the ICC… This aspect can’t be ignored.

Since it’s a related personal opinion, I wish to add I’m not in favour of ‘neutrals’ standing at both ends.

Finally, on standing on one leg each time the score touches ‘Nelson’ (111)

(Smiles again) It’s something I picked up playing for Gloucester… ‘Nelson’ is considered unlucky and, to stave off any harm, it’s believed that getting your feet off the ground helps… So…

Am I very superstitious? Yes. To cite another example, I consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky. That combination won’t stop me from officiating, but I’ll have a piece of wood strapped on to my watch!    


 
 
RICHARDS WANTS A SPECIFIC PROPOSAL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, Feb. 24 
South African great Barry Richards is undecided on how to respond to any call from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), sounding him out for the coach’s job. Intikhab Alam is the current coach.

“I haven’t heard anything as yet,” Richards, who is here as part of the Channel Nine commentary team, told The Telegraph this evening.

But, will he be interested — Bob Woolmer, for instance, declined an offer last year?

“You see, it will depend on so many things… What exactly will the work be, the duration, the time of the year that I’ll be required… I can only give a detailed answer after I’m presented with a specific proposal,” Richards replied.

Well, that’s being reasonable enough.

Agencies add: The PCB has decided to talk to either Geoffrey Boycott or Richards as coach of the national team.

“We have decided to talk to either England’s former Test player Boycott or Richards in the next couple of days,” manager operations Yawar Saeed said.“Once the talks are finalised the coach will be given the assignment before the Sharjah Cup next month.”

The Pakistan team had five coaches in 1999 before recalling former captain Intikhab in December last year.

South African coach Richard Pybus was axed after the Test series in Australia. Saeed was the manager of the team then.

Javed Miandad resigned from the position two weeks before the World Cup in May last year.

Mushtaq Mohammad took over and Pybus acted as his deputy. Former Test player Wasim Raja was hired in August but he too fell out with senior players.

PCB also tried to hire former South African coach Bob Woolmer after the 1999 World Cup, but the financial details could not be worked out.

A Reuters report from London quotes Boycott as saying: “In Zimbabwe (where he was commentating on England’s one-day series), I got a message from Pakistan to ring certain numbers. I haven’t spoken to anybody. I’ll wait and see what happens.”    


 
 
RAJASTHAN ON RUN FEAST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24 
Lack of sting in the Bengal attack was not unknown to the Rajasthan team. To their delight, they discovered that the home bowlers can’t even stick to the basics and fielders lose all interest when the chips are down.

Taking full advantage of the aimless, amiable bowling — aided by the fielders on numerous occasions — the visitors cruised to 295 for three on Day I of their Ranji Trophy Super League match at Eden Gardens. Anshu Jain and Rahul Kanwath posted career-best scores and shared a second-wicket stand of 256 which almost ensured that Rajasthan won’t lose this match. The duo demonstrated enterprise and application which neutralised hints of technical defficiency.

Opening bowlers Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Sumit Panda didn’t begin badly after the visitors won the toss. Both of them bowled a good line with the former sending back skipper Gagan Khoda in the seventh over.

Shukla produced one that kicked up and straightened after pitching, the bounce surprising Khoda. The edge was taken well by Nikhil Haldipur, low to his left, at second slip.

Moments before, in the same over, Shukla tempted Jain to go for a hook but Panda reacted late at deep fine leg as the ball landed inches in front of him. It proved costly as the opener, despite miscuing several similar shots, managed to elude the reach of the fielders. Wrichik Majumder, off Panda, grassed one that did carry when the batsman had 81.

The 20-year-old reached his second Ranji hundred off 226 balls, hitting 12 fours before falling to Utpal Chatterjee for 115. Kanwath and Jain ruled the second session, adding 118 runs in 31 overs. Panda was the man to suffer most, going for 44 runs in seven overs.

Kanwath was more enterprising, playing some whipping shots off his legs, and dominated the partnership. He also survived on 31, dropped by Srikant Kalyani at first slip off Utpal. His second Ranji hundred came from just 118 balls, with 15 fours. He made 143, with 22 boundaries, before throwing away his wicket.

Utpal, despite carrying a stomach infection, bowled tirelessly. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to inspire his young teammates. Leg-spinner Wrichik struggled with length and direction and off-spinner Sourasish Lahiri hardly made the right-handers drive against the break.    


 
 
LAHIRI GUIDES SPORTING TO 3-WKT WIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24 
Satrajit Lahiri’s unbeaten 112 took Sporting Union to a three-wicket win over Shibpur Institute in a CAB first division championship play-off match today.

Yesterday, left-arm spinner Prabir Mukherjee (not Acharya, as reported) took eight for 101 to bowl out Shibpur for 273. Sudip Mitra of Sporting Union made 79.    


 
 
IFA TO TAKE ON AIFF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24 
The IFA is gearing up to take on its parent body, the All-India Football Federation (AIFF). The IFA general body today decided

The IFA decided to take all possible measures to make the AIFF pay its dues — to the tune of nearly Rs 28 lakh. If necessary the IFA would go to court. The body, however, agreed that before going to court, “all possible options must be tried out”.

IFA secretary Ranjit Gupta said that as they were not getting any money from AIFF, they would not be able to pay the visiting teams and match officials coming to Calcutta for the National League. “This is very unfortunate, but we just can’t afford to pay them from IFA funds,” he said.

He also added that despite the National League being almost on its last leg, the higher-ups in the AIFF were still in the dark whether a contract with Coca-Cola has actually been signed.

A letter written to the AIFF secretary, K.N. Mour, by Gupta, who is also an executive committee member of AIFF, was also presented in the meeting. The letter has asked for clarifications for large sums being paid out of AIFF coffers, including unsanctioned amounts being taken out in name of members, and the Fifa grant of $ 50,000 which is supposed to be used for developmental purposes.

Gallery impasse

The issue of gallery construction at enclosed Maidan grounds for the forthcoming season got the short shrift. The police and the government have restricted entry to the grounds after the collapse at the Mohammedan Sporting ground in 1998. At today’s meeting, however, no concrete solution was put forward.    


 
 
TOLLY TO MAKE DEFENSIVE START VS SBT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 24 
When Tollygunge Agragami take on State Bank of Travancore (SBT) tomorrow at home, coach Amal Dutta plans to play a cautious game, with only Seriki Abdulateef playing upfront.

He, however, wants full points, snatching any opportunity that comes his way. Having already reached his goal of getting 20 points — they now have 21 from 16 — he now wants atleast five more from the remaining six matches. “That will take us to a decent standing in the League,” he added. Tollygunge are now at seventh spot.

Playing at full strength, he will be relying on the striking prowess of Seriki and the skill of Shasthi Duley and Chandan Das to get full points.

SBT, on the other hand, will miss first-choice custodian Feroz Sharif, who has a one-match suspension with two yellow cards. They will, however, go all out and play for full points, coach Mohammed Najeeb said.

SBT now have 20 points from 16 matches, occupying the eighth spot in the League table.

Fixtures changed

Some of the remaining matches of the National League have been rescheduled, resulting in the League ending on March 26, instead of March 20.

In the city, the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal derby has been postponed to March 22 — instead of March 15. Tollygunge Agragami will take on Mohun Bagan on the last day, March 26, instead of March 20. The changes have been made as enough police personnel would not be available from March 14 to 21 due to Id-ul-Doha (March 15) and Holi (March 20), Ranjit Gupta, secretary IFA, said today.    


 
 
SHAKTI, ANJU TO BE IN LIMELIGHT 
 
 
FROM A CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 24 
The spotlight will be on Shakti Singh, Rachita Mistry and Anju Markose in the second international circuit athletics meet being held under floodlights tomorrow.

About 100 athletes will compete in 15 events, eight for men and seven for women. There are 27 foreign athletes — eight from Russia, six each from Kenya and the Ukraine, five from Belarus and two from Nepal.

In the recent trials at Patiala, Shakti heaved the shot over 20 metres. At the first international meet in Bhopal held yesterday, he won the discus and shot put double. He is aiming to repeat the feat.

Asiad silver medallist Anil Kumar, in discus, and Igor Toulak of Russia, in shot put, will be his main rivals.

In women’s long jump, Markose set a national record at Bhopal. In this event entries are limited and Markose’s main rival is Bengal’s Soma Biswas.

Rachita is making a comeback after an operation in September. She clocked 11.64 secs to win the 100m in Bhopal and is expecting stiff competition from Bengal’s Saraswati Dey and girls from Belarus and Russia.

Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, P. T. Usha, Bahadur Prasad and Paramjit Singh are skipping the meet because of injuries.    

 

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