Nikhil Chopra set for Test debut
BSF fail to stop Bagan’s march
E. Bengal cautious vs Tollygunge
Percy Sonn likely to be next UCBSA president
Kalighat take on Bagan
Nirupama may lead women’s challenge
Aries Rocket set for a hattrick
‘Sunrise’ good

 
 
NIKHIL CHOPRA SET FOR TEST DEBUT 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Bangalore, Feb. 29 
The Indians spent much time agonising whether or not to field a third spinner, in Mumbai. Eventually, they did not. But for the second (and final) Test here, beginning Thursday, it has already been decided Nikhil Chopra will make his debut.

Traditionally, after all, Kasturirangan-prepared wickets at the Chinnaswamy Stadium appreciably improve the spinners’ strike rate.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Ajit Agarkar will sit out and the new ball will be placed in the hands of Jawagal Srinath and Sourav Ganguly. Having lost the first Test the Indians, of course, can only hope to draw the series.

While Chopra, then, makes his Test debut — his maiden ODI appearance was in May 1998 — back in the XI will be Mohammed Azharuddin and Sadagopan Ramesh.

Ramesh returns after a one-Test break, while Azhar missed seven (not considered for six; injured in the seventh). Both, however, probably aren’t exactly hundred per cent fit.

Azhar confessed to “slight pain” on the right thumb which was struck by Mortantau Hayward, while Ramesh, whose left thumb was broken in the Sydney Test almost two months ago, was forever conscious about not allowing the protective ‘padding’ to fall off.

It’s not that they are unfit but, while taking guard, both will probably be as focussed on their thumbs as on the job at hand.

The South Africans, in any case not hundred per cent sure about Daryll Cullinan’s recovery — captain Hansie Cronje said he was “okay”, but manager Goolam Raja maintained treatment for the groin injury “was still on” — suffered another ‘blow’ when Lance Klusener twisted his left ankle playing a soccer friendly as part of the warm-up ahead of this morning’s nets.

“Thankfully, it’s not a fracture, but it’s still quite tender in that area,” Raja said adding: “We’ll have to wait and watch.”

The South Africans are (again) toying with the idea of fielding Hayward, who ensured the Test here wouldn’t be Azhar’s hundredth. He looks close to being selected, but if he doesn’t play, it will only be because of the Chinnaswamy’s reputation.

To accommodate Hayward, the South Africans will have to drop Nicky Boje. That may not be an easy decision for, though Boje had a negligible role in Mumbai, it could be a different story over the next few days.

Cullinan, if fit, should come in for Pieter Strydom.

“The pressure is all on India,” insisted Cronje, for good measure adding that the handsome series-winning incentive (equivalent of Rs 35 lakh in Rands), offered by the United Cricket Board of South Africa, alone isn’t what would spur his team on.

“Beating India in India, something even the Australians didn’t achieve (in 1997-98), is our biggest driving force. That, for us, will be a historic moment,” Cronje pointed out.

Meanwhile, in an absolute first, Mangalore-made jumbo fishing nets have been positioned on the edge of the East Stand roof to discourage hurling of missiles. Should that section misbehave, or live up to reputation, the nets will be unfurled like flags, acting as a protective barrier for the players. As an idea, it’s terrific.

“We can’t risk being banned, as an international venue just because a few people may misbehave. Also, the players’ safety must get top priority. It’s an experiment, let’s see how it works. If it does, the CAB may be the first to follow su- it,” quipped KSCA secretary Brijesh Patel.

Incidentally Sachin Tendulkar, who steps down as captain after this Test, was emotionally mobbed for autographs and photographs after the team’s workout. Unusually, Sachin even jumped over the ‘fence’ to oblige a group of young fans who were themselves prevented crossing the line.

It’s one gesture that bunch will always remember.    


 
 
BSF FAIL TO STOP BAGAN’S MARCH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 29 
MOHUN BAGAN 2-BSF 0

Border Security Force (BSF) surrendered without a fight as Mohun Bagan rode roughshod in the National League tie at the Salt Lake Stadium today. The scoreline read 2-0, goals coming from Stephen Abarowei and substitute Dipendu Biswas, but the home team could have scored at least a couple more.

The skill and precision of Jose Barreto Ramirez, the anticipation and opportunism of Igor Skhvirin along with the enterprise of Stephen went a long way in Bagan stamping their superiority over their rivals. The trio’s speed and quick interchange of positions always kept the security-men guessing.

The midfield was not as mobile but Barreto made up for all the lapses. He was falling back into his own territory, initiating the moves and also moving up at the right time. The visitors found it impossible to intercept his defence-splitting throughs and wild runs down the middle. Igor wasted one such opportunity off a Barreto through when his volley was blocked by Bibhas Saha early on.

Basudeb Mondal was the only exception in the Bagan midfield who tried to keep pace with the marauding forward line. Neither R.P. Singh nor his substitute Kasif Jamal looked to be in their elements. Only when Satyajit Chatterjee replaced James Singh in the second session did Basudeb find some company.

The first goal came in the 18th minute. Lolendro Singh’s cross following a James corner landed at the right place for Stephen to score with a firm right footer.

Minutes later, Lolendro’s freekick narrowly missed the target. Mohun Bagan were gaining foothold and BSF’s ploy of crowding the penalty box with nine men did not click.

Barreto was becoming dangerous by the minute and Igor’s superior ball sense and positional play was putting extra pressure on the rival defence.

But a saga of missed opportunities in the second half put paid to Bagan’s hopes of a bigger margin of victory. Barreto shot out from close following a one-two with Igor inside the box.

Then a solo Igor effort went abegging. The Uzbek took control near the BSF midfield, raced up a good 25 yards and watching the goalie come out of his charge, put the ball beyond his reach. To his utter dismay, the ball kissed the far post and went out.

Six minutes from close came the final goal. A Barreto-Igor move culminated in Igor heading the ball and placing it on a platter to Dipendu near the goal-mouth. A gentle touch put the ball past the hapless goalie.

That the visitors failed to initiate even a single positive move underlines Bagan’s supremacy. Whatever little effort they managed vanished in the face of some stubborn resistance from Sammy Omollo and Co.

The hosts, who lead the table, now have 38 points from 18 matches. They next play JCT in the city on Saturday.    


 
 
E. BENGAL CAUTIOUS VS TOLLYGUNGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 29 
East Bengal seem to have found their touch at the fag end of the National League, but will still be wary of Tollygunge Agragami whom they face at Salt Lake Stadium tomorrow.

The red-and-yellow brigade has lost thrice to Tollygunge this season and that has led to their extra cautiousness. Both teams are well behind the championship race, with Tollygunge (24 points from 17 games) a point ahead of East Bengal.

Tollygunge coach Amal Dutta isn’t attaching any special importance to East Bengal. “Since Mohun Bagan are in the title hunt a certain strategy has to be worked out against them. But versus East Bengal such specifics are not required,” Dutta said after practice today.

The presence of the veteran coach has also prompted East Bengal to be careful in their approach. Subhas Bhowmick, though, is not seeing it as a grudge match after the first-leg defeat.

The mood in the camp was quite positive, with the players feeling that a victory tomorrow and against JCT Tuesday will put them in a good frame of mind ahead of the tie against Mohun Bagan.

“I’ve stopped forecasting the outcome of a match. The team has performed well in the previous games and, luck favouring, we’ll be able to maintain the trend,” Bhowmick said.

The East Bengal coach was worried about nagging injuries to Ossius Luis Fereira, Emmaneul Opoku and Ranjan Dey but hoped they would be able to take the field tomorrow.

The striking prowess of Brazilian Ossius Luis Fereira gives East Bengal an extra edge, but Dutta insisted he didn’t require any special attention.    


 
 
PERCY SONN LIKELY TO BE NEXT UCBSA PRESIDENT 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Bangalore, Feb. 29 
Percy Sonn, acting president of the United Cricket Board of South Africa (UCBSA), is likely to take over as full-time president at the UCBSA’s annual general meeting in July.

However, Sonn, a non-White from Cape Town, may not hold office for a full three years. He could, instead, complete half that term and make way for somebody who will be ‘groomed’ over the next 18 months or so.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Sonn, a top-bracket criminal lawyer, is already busy helping the government flush out organised crime and, in the near future, could get even busier.

So, he himself may not be keen on being tied down for three years.

The question then is: Why should those with influence be looking to install him in the first place? Simple: No other non-White, at the moment, may be acceptable.

Also, somebody with experience will be required as the UCBSA’s high-profile managing director, Dr Ali Bacher, will himself step down by the beginning of October to wholly concentrate on the 2003 World Cup.

Sonn took over as acting president earlier this month after Raymond White’s resignation. White quit after a leading non-White UCBSA official, Gerald Majola (he is also a selector), blasted him for “retarding racial transformation.”

White’s predecessor was Krish Mackerdhuj, currently South Africa’s ambassador in Tokyo.

While some do feel Majola probably went overboard, just about everybody agrees White wasn’t quite the right guy at an extremely critical juncture in South Africa, not just South African cricket.

Incidentally, South Africa already has a non-White chairman of the selection committee (Rushdie Magiet). The other selectors are: Mike Procter, Clive Rice, Kepler Wessels, Maurice Garda and Majola.

Magiet, on tour with the team, is known to have a fiercely independent mind. Besides, of course, what some believe to be a hardline approach vis-a-vis captain Hansie Cronje.

It was under Magiet’s chairmanship, earlier this season, that Cronje was put on ‘trial’ by initially being appointed captain for only the first two (home) Tests versus England.

Later, Cronje did get a unanimous vote of confidence — his term extended till April — but that initial two-Test appointment didn’t exactly send the right signals.

Magiet is expected to push for the inclusion of more Blacks, at least in the A sides, but even he probably won’t go beyond a point. In time to come, though, it will be the Blacks’ involvement that will influence just how big an impact cricket will have.

With good reasons, the UCBSA wants to capitalise on a recent market survey conducted by a leading agency which listed cricket as the third fastest growing sport (after basketball and aerobics).

Significantly, this growth cuts across the racial ‘divide’.    


 
 
KALIGHAT TAKE ON BAGAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 29 
Kalighat will meet Mohun Bagan in the CAB senior division knockout final. In the second semi-final today, Kalighat beat Aryan by 92 runs.

Kalighat rode Palash Bhowmick’s 58 and Charanjit Singh’s 47 to 229 for seven in the allotted 45 overs. Aryan, in reply, were bundled out for 137. Sabir Ali, Dibyendu Roy, Charanjit and Murtaza Lodhgar captured two wickets each.

In a senior division league tie, centuries by Devang Gandhi and Deep Dasgupta helped Mohun Bagan make 496 versus Ballygunge United. Devang made 139 while Deep contributed 146.    


 
 
NIRUPAMA MAY LEAD WOMEN’S CHALLENGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 29 
Nirupama Vaidyanathan is likely to lead the women’s challenge in the Rs 5 lakh Indian-Oil Servo senior national grasscourt tennis championship at the CC&FC from March 4 to 11.

Nirupama, the first Indian woman to have won a round in a Grand Slam, hasn’t played the nationals since she joined the WTA Tour four years ago. This was announced by tournament director Dr Vece Paes said at a press conference today.

In men’s singles, Davis Cuppers Syed Fazaluddin and Prahlad Srinath are doubtful starters. In their absence, Mustafa Ghouse, Nitin Kirtane and Vishal Uppal will be the key contenders.    


 
 
ARIES ROCKET SET FOR A HATTRICK 
 
 
BY HONKY DORY
 
 
Heading for his third straight win in as many starts during the current season, the in-form Aries Rocket is taken to win the 1,400m Indian Express Trophy in Mumbai on Wednesday. Hardly penalised for his last his last fluent victory, the H. Daji-trained four-year-old by Cristofori out of Pearls Of Wisdom will be ridden by Brahm Prakash.

SELECTIONS

2.50 pm: Dream Image 1. Classic Chic 2. Touch Of Elegance 3.

3.20 pm: Endorsement 1. Au Revoir 2. Running Royal 3.

4 pm: Sariano 1. Monday’s Pride 2. Rich Rewards 3.

4.30 pm: Aries Rocket 1. Radiant 2. Evidence Of Faith 3.

5 pm: Satellite 1. Summer Of Fortytwo 2. Omerta 3.

5.30 pm: Dressed For Dinner 1. Conduction 2. Short N Sweet 3.

6 pm: Burning Issue 1. La Tour D’Argent 2. Fashion Delight 3.

Day’s Best: SarianoDouble: Dream Image & Aries Rocket    


 
 
‘SUNRISE’ GOOD 
 
 
BY OUR TURF CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 29 
Super Sunrise was impressive from among the following horses exercised this morning:

Outer sand track

1,400m: Lovely Lucy (Rb) and Flaming Ferrari (Rb) in 1-46 1/5s; (800m) 1-3 2/5s; (400m) 31 4/5s. Both level and were easy. Super Sunrise (C. Alford) in 1-45s; (800m) 57 1/5s; (400m) 27 4/5s. Unextended.

600m: Consul’s Secret (Razzak) in 42s; (400m) 28s.

Sand track

1,600m: Aznavour (Connorton) in 2-3 3/5s; (1,200m) 1- 32 3/5s; (800m) 1-1 1/5s; (400m) 28 3/5s. Easy.

1,400m: Harry The Horse (Connorton) in 1-49 3/5s; (1,000m) 1-20 2/5s; (400m) 31s.

1,000m: Single Dawn (Merchant) in 1-20 3/5s; (400m) 29 3/5s.

800m: Classic Leader (Gurang) and Rising Chorus (Rutherford) in 57 1/5s; (400m) 25 1/5s. Former neck better. Mameena (Afzal K.) in 59s; (400m) 27 4/5s. Zingari (Afzal K.) in 1-1 1/5s; (400m) 30 3/5s. Ardon (Rutherford) in 59s; (400m) 29s. Swingtime (Razzak) in 1-1 2/5s; (400m) 29 2/5s.

600m: Piece Of Cake (Rb) in 37s; (400m) 23s. Moved well. Opera Star (Rutherford) in 45 1/5s; (400m) 28 2/5s.    

 

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