Thrilling Test on the cards
I’m not bitter: Azhar
It’s sad fishing nets have to be used: Row
EB, Tolly play out dull draw
Suave Star may come good
Radiant wins
Savage shines

Bangalore, March 1 
It’s going to be quite an emotional cocktail, at the Chinnaswamy, over the next few days.

Sachin Tendulkar’s last Test as captain. Mohammed Azharuddin’s comeback game — first since the World Cup. Sourav Ganguly’s last Test as just a senior pro. Nikhil Chopra’s debut. The South Africans’ push to author history.

The second (and final) Pepsi Test, from tomorrow, won’t be like any other. As it’s going to mean so much, in different ways, to so many it simply cannot be. But emotions alone may not rule the roost: Potentially, a thriller is on the cards.

It was at the Chinnaswamy, back in March of 1987, that defeat to Imran Khan’s Pakistan cost India a much-hyped series. No home series has since been lost, but to keep the post 1986-87 slate clean, nothing short of a win will do.

Of course, Kapil Dev doesn’t exactly think we are in the midst of a series — “For me, it should feature five or at least three games” — but that perfectly logical personal opinion still won’t alter the records.

What also cannot change is India lost the first Test inside of three days, at the Wankhede.

Admittedly, both teams batted poorly, but South Africa did make fewer mistakes. Also, they appeared more passionate: Nothing illustrates this better than Allan Donald’s dash, from the players’ enclosure, to congratulate Mark Boucher.

For South Africa, though, only half the job has been done. They would have preferred ‘completing’ it on a more favourable wicket but, when the Donalds are around, anything is possible.

“This is my last trip to India and it would be wonderful to leave (for home) after being part of a history-creating side. As my one-day debut was in India (Eden Gardens, 1991), being part of the winning XI here would mean completing a very memorable circle,” Donald told The Telegraph, emotionally.

Donald, however, hasn’t been put off by the rather bald Chinnaswamy wicket where cracks are all too apparent. “Doesn’t come as a surprise in India,” he added, grinning.

Incidentally the controversy over a reported Board directive to the grounds and pitches committee isn’t too big a deal — in the Chinnaswamy’s context — as curator Kasturirangan, in any case, is familiar with preparing wickets of just one type.

He hasn’t disappointed.

After Australia (and, to a lesser extent, even the Wankhede), the Indians are pleased with a ‘designer’ offering. Accordingly, all three spinners in the XIV will be fielded — Anil Kumble, who cut his teeth at the Chinnaswamy, the one-Test old Murali Karthik and debutant Chopra.

Clearly, Kumble will have much work to do and, it is hoped, Murali and Chopra will lend enough support to justify playing three spinners.

In reaching that combination, the Indians have omitted Ajit Agarkar. But, then, his exclusion has had everything to do with the horses-for-courses approach. Sourav will share the new-ball with Jawagal Srinath.

While Agarkar will consider himself unlucky, lucky has been opener Wasim Jaffer. It’s only the need for a fair run — not that there is much scope for that at the highest grade — that saw him being retained after Mumbai. Failure could relegate Jaffer to the ranks of many who have both opened and closed their India-account very quickly.

Jaffer will partner Sadagopan Ramesh, who missed Test No.1.

Back in the middle-order, of course, is Azhar. The weight of 98 Tests and over 6,000 runs isn’t insignificant, plus Azhar’s comeback is at a venue which treats him like a favourite son. He may not be the cynosure, but won’t be far from all the attention either.

The duo’s return, therefore, should reduce — if not eliminate — a double headache: Faltering at the start; struggling in the middle. That will help Sachin’s unstated wish to sign off with a dhamaka not just a bang.

Asked whether he expected teammates to give that extra bit, as a ‘farewell’ gift, Sachin answered: “I always expect them to do that. One may not win, but that extra effort should be there.”

Sachin, who expects the wicket to be a “good turner,” chose not to dwell much about the last defeat in a home series. “Any loss is a defeat, why talk of 13 years or whatever?”

By the way, India lost the last Test at the Chinnaswamy — against Australia, two years ago.

Aware he could, within days, emerge an even bigger South African hero Hansie Cronje has been telling his team not to get into a wicket-induced negative mould. “The key to success, in India, is not to get negative,” Cronje pointed out.

It does help when the captain himself is so positive.

In any case, South Africa have received a boost with Daryll Cullinan declared fit. Cullinan, who has the highest average (43.46) in the tour-party, missed the first Test and his skill-levels should prove particularly beneficial on a wicket which promises prodigious turn.

Cullinan is expected to replace Pieter Strydom, but the debate over quick Mornantau Hayward continues.

Considering the psychological blows Hayward inflicted in the tour-opener, the thinktank is tempted to include him. However, as Hayward can only come in for Nicky Boje, fielding just one spinner (Clive Eksteen) could be disastrous. So, it’s going to be a tricky decision. Only, South Africa’s USP is its fast-bowling attack, not the spinners.

Though the South Africans weren’t forthcoming, it seems Lance Klusener has recovered from the ankle injury sustained yesterday.

With everybody convinced the top will come off sooner rather than later, batting first — and, if possible, for the only time — must rank as top priority with both Sachin and Cronje. It won’t even be necessary for the captain winning the toss to announce intentions.

For a variety of factors, Bangalore’s response to what should be a cracker of a Test has been poor. The KSCA, though, is hopeful of “interest picking up.”    

Bangalore, March 1 
“When the time comes, things do change for the better,” observed Mohammed Azharuddin, the former captain, who will be playing his first Test after exactly a year.

Though Azhar has missed only seven Tests (six because he was overlooked, one through injury), his last appearance was exactly a year ago — in Colombo, during the Asian Championship.

Speaking to The Telegraph, after this morning’s workout on the eve of the second and final Test versus South Africa, Azhar added: “I’m not bitter. I’ve always believed in destiny and that belief will stay. Indeed, my hard work has paid off and my recall is a just reward for everything I’ve put in.”

But, because of the circumstances, won’t he be under more pressure?

“You do know I think positively and, whatever the situation, I’m optimistic. In keeping with that, I’ll go out in a positive frame of mind. I’m focussed on getting runs and helping the team win. Tomorrow onwards is a real big Test for Indian cricket.”

But for quick Mortantau Hayward, who injured Azhar’s right thumb in the tour-opener, the Test here would have been his 100th. Now, the earliest Azhar can reach that landmark — he will become the fourth Indian — will be next season during Sri Lanka’s visit.

“Getting to 99 Tests itself is very satisfying. I’m happy with whatever has worked out. As for the 100th, I can only cross the bridge when I’ve reached it. No, I don’t think the next so many months (till the Lankans arrive) will cause anxiety.”

Azhar, however, declined comment on the Test about-to-begin being Sachin Tendulkar’s last as captain. “I wouldn’t like to say anything at all. Don’t think it will be appropriate.”

But Azhar did remark his “best wishes” were with Sourav Ganguly, Sachin’s successor.

Later, talking to newsmen, Azhar “thanked” fans across the country for backing him when he was ignored from the start of this season. And, yes, Azhar insisted he wasn’t out to prove a point.    

Bangalore, March 1 
“It’s sad if (fishing) nets have to prevent spectators from throwing missiles. However, if that’s the only way out, then it’s different,” remarked Raman Subba Row, Match Referee in the India versus South Africa series.

Subba Row was reacting to the KSCA move to have nets positioned on the edge of the East Stand roof, at the Chinnaswamy, to discourage hurling of missiles. They will unfurl, like flags, should spectators resort to mischief that can injure players.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Subba Row revealed that nowadays Match Referees have to fill a separate form should there be “any failure on the part of the ground authority” to implement safety/security measures decided upon by the ICC last year.

Match Referees will have to tick any/all of the following:

a) Spectator(s) entering the field during play; b) Spectator(s) entering the playing area before the players/umpires have left the field; c) Spectator(s) throwing objects; d) Other.

Besides, Match Referees have to describe the incident and fax the report (to the ICC) “as soon as possible.” All part of getting tough.    

Calcutta, March 1 
East Bengal’s tale of woes in the current National League continued today when they failed to do what matters — score goals — in their match against Tollygunge Agragami at the Salt Lake Stadium.

Missed chances and Tollygunge’s defensive ploy proved to be the bane of the home team, who, dressed in their white jerseys, lacked the red-gold sparkle.

For the better part of the match, East Bengal dominated, and the way Tollygunge played, it never seemed that they wanted to go for three points. But their ploy worked well, and East Bengal trooped off, booed by their supporters, with only one point added to their kitty. They are now on 24 points from 18 encounters, one point behind Tollygunge Agragami.

Having fallen way behind in the title race, the East Bengal camp was in a rather pensive mood, with coach Subhash Bhowmick saying: “The way we missed chances today, we didn’t deserve to win.”

He was referring to the opportunities that came their way, and were inexplicably wasted on the balmy afternoon. The best among them was perhaps the one in the 39th minute, when Ratan Singh’s pass down the middle found Brazilian Ossius Luis Fereira, who lobbed over an advancing Bivash Ghosh and, despite an unprotected goal in front of him, failed to place it in.

In the turmoil that followed — the Brazilian was being chased by a host of Tollygunge defenders — a few players crashed inside the goal, and Isiaka hurt his thigh muscle and had to be taken off. That forced Tollygunge’s first replacement, with Rashmohan Mallick coming in. Later, however, Tollygunge coach Amal Dutta said that the injury was not very serious, and that Isiaka would be available for the next match against FC Kochin on Sunday.

With Tollygunge Agragami playing mostly in their own half, it became difficult for the East Bengal forward line to get past the defence. Jackson fed the attackers often from the deep to no avail.

Opoku, though not in top form today, did take a couple of rasping shots at the goal, but failed to break the deadlock. Ossius and Seikh Sanjib were the culprits on the other occasions.

East Bengal’s run of bad fortune did not end there. Early in the second half, in the eighth minute to be precise, Dipankar Roy, looking dangerous inside the box, was tripped by Partha Sarathi Dey. It looked to be a genuine penalty, but referee Rizawan ul-Haq chose to overlook the incident.

Tollygunge came out of their defensive shell only during the latter part of the second half. The best of their few forays was a powerful longranger by Kajal Bhattacharya that crashed into the outer wall in the 73rd minute.

A rather dejected Bhowmick said that with so many chances, East Bengal should have won today. “Tollygunge are supposedly playing very well, but today they could not even come near our box,” he said. He admitted his team came under pressure in the second half. “We needed to score and we were not getting it. But Tollygunge could not play any football today.”

Dutta, on the other hand, was happy with his team’s performance. “We are still under pressure against big teams like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. My goal was to snatch a point today. I wanted to play a defensive game and succeded in preventing them from finding the mark,” he said.

He is now aiming at finishing within the top five in the League.

East Bengal, who travel to Bangalore to taks on ITI on Saturday, will miss Jackson (out with two yellow cards) and Anit, too, was injured today. Tollygunge, too, will miss Felix for their next match, out with two yellow cards.    

Working satisfactorily in his morning trials, Suave Star may make a winning debut in the Balchand Trophy in Mumbai races on Thursday. Niall McCullagh will partner the Altaf Hussain-trainee.


2.30 pm: Placid 1. Sacred Mission 2. Akhnoor 3.

3 pm: Intel 1. Little Champ 2. Barrier Reef 3.

3.30 pm: Fire Blossom 1. Minneapolis 2. Grand Vazir 3.

4 pm: Impatiens 1. Dras 2. James Bond 3.

4.30 pm: Suave Star 1. Color Me Good 2. Grey Area 3.

5 pm: Perception 1. Mama Mia 2. Fairy Dust 3.

5.30 pm: Flying Home 1. Comment Allez Vous 2. Fire Girl 3.

6 pm: Smash For Cash 1. Draculla 2. Celebration Time 3.

Day’s Best: Placid Double: Fire Blossom & Flying Home

Turf Invitation Cup

Calcutta: The venue and the new dates for the Indian Turf Invitation Cup have been finalised. The glamourous two day show will now be held in Bangalore on April 1 and April 2 but it will be hosted by the Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC), according to a RCTC sources. Originally scheduled to be held in the city during the last weekend, the programme was cancelled owing to labour trouble. The source, however, added, that modalities to stage such events at an outstation turf centre are yet to be worked out.    

Riding a well-judged race, C. Rajendra partnered the Magansingh Jodha trained even-money favourite Radiant to victory in the 1,400m Indian Express Trophy in Mumbai on Wednesday.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Aziz Mahmoud Plate, Div-II 1,400m: (1-4-2) Dream Image (Bajrang) 1; Howard House 2; Sher Dil 3. Won by: 2-1/2; 3/4; (1-28.4). Tote: Win Rs 25; Place: 14; 36; 16; Quinella: 283; Tanala: 960. Fav: Dream Image (1).

2. Littleover Trophy 1,600m: (5-4-7) Endorsement (Gallagher) 1; Au Revoir 2; Princess Jo 3. Won by: 1/2; Dist; (1-40.9). Tote: Win Rs 12; Place: 10; 13; 22; Quinella: 16; Tanala: 56. Fav: Endorsement (5).

3. Aziz Mahmoud Plate, Div-I 1,400m: (1-6-9) Rozansky (Ranjane) 1; Bolt Of Lightning 2; Natural Talent 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 4-3/4; (1-27.8). Tote: Win Rs 245; Place: 64; 17; 37; Quinella: 786; Tanala: 13,351. Fav: Sariano (7).

4. Indian Express Trophy 1,400m: (1-2-5) Radiant (Rajendra) 1; Aries Rocket 2; Family Fortune 3. Won by: 1; 4-1/2; (1-25). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 11; 15; 54; Quinella: 26; Tanala: 536. Fav: Radiant (1).

5. Imperial Heritage Plate 1,200m: (9-10-3) Omerta (Rupesh) 1; Satellite 2; Common Spirit 3. Not run: Summer Of Fortytwo (6). Won by: Hd; 3-3/4; (1-13.3). Tote: Win Rs 49; Place: 15; 13; 26; Quinella: 42; Tanala: 437. Fav: Satellite (10). (Note: Omerta secured the verdict following a successful objection lodged against the original winner Satellite.)

6. Archimedes Plate 1,600m: (3-9-11) Dressed For Dinner (McCullagh) 1; Pass The Buck 2; Short N Sweet 3. Won by: Nk; 3/4; (1-40.1). Tote: Win Rs 70; Place: 29; 17; 25; Quinella: 196; Tanala: 2,299. Fav: Conduction (2). (Note: There was a stewards inquary into the running of the race).

7. Sion F. Nessim Plate 1,800m: (9-5-1) La Tour D,Argent (Bajrang) 1; Native Hunter 2; Reactor 3. Not run: Blades Of Fury (7). Won by: Dist; 1/2; (1-54.6). Tote: Win Rs 68; Place: 25; 17; 15; Quinella: 134; Tanala: 1,257. Fav: Native Hunter (5).

Jackpot: Rs 1,33,154; (Carried over); (C) Rs 17,120.

Treble: (i) Rs 670; (ii) Rs 2,377.    

Calcutta, March 1 
Eau Savage, Tequila Shot, Ispahan and Minelta were impressive from among the following horses exercised this morning:

Outer sand track

1,200m: Ballot Master (Merchant) in 1-34s; (800m) 1-4s; (400m) 31 3/5s. Easy.

1,000m: Consul’s Secret (Razzak) in 1-13 1/5s; (400m) 30 2/5s. Good.

800m: Acadameus (Rb) in 1-0 3/5s; (400m) 28 3/5s. Easy. Jayaashva (Razzak) in 1-0 3/5s; (400m) 28 3/5s. Classy Twist (Rb) in 1-2 4/5s; (400m) 31 3/5s.

Sand track

1,400m: Magic Ring (Akhtar) in 1-53 3/5s; (800m)1-2 3/5s; (400m) 31 1/5s. Last Gamble (Sher) in 1-43 3/5s; (800m) 1-1s; (400m) 29 1/5s. Easy. Sky Hawk (Sher) in 1-44s; (400m) 31 4/5s. Global Harmony (Manohar) in 1-58 2/5s; (400m) 33s.

1,200m: Harry The Horse ( Connorton) in 1-24 3/5s; (800m) 55s; (600m) 40s; (400m) 25s. Fit

1,000m: Eau Savage (Shanker) and Ebony Knight (Afzal K.) in 1-4s; (800m) 48 1/5s; (400m) 23 3/5s. Former 2 ls better.

800m: Aznavour (Connorton) in 57s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Ispahan (Afzal K.) and Minelta (Connorton) in 52 1/5s; (400m) 22 3/5s. Both level. Both moved well. Opera Star (Rutherford) in 1-0 2/5s; (400m) 29 2/5s. Zingari (Afzal K.) 55 3/5s; (400m) 26 1/5s. Easy. Strictly Royal (Rb) in 58s; (600m) 25 3/5s. On The Bit (Connorton) in 54s; (400m) 24s. Moved well. Supreme Desire (Rb) in 57 2/5s; (400m) 29 2/5s. Tequila Shot (Shanker) and Mameena (Afzal K.) in 50s; (400m) 23 1/5s. Former 4 ls better. A fit pair. Single Dawn (Merchant) and Rising Chorus (Rutherford) in 53s; (400m) 23 2/5s. Both level. Software (Rb) in 58 4/5s; (400m) 28 4/5s.

600m: Ardon (Rutherford) in 39s; (400m) 25s. Golden Haret (Rb) 40s; (400m) 26s. Piece Of Cake (Tamang) in 39s; (400m) 25s.    


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