Track fetches frown from SA
Bengal surrender without a fight
Former stars blast system
Shankar Moitra Bengal coach
Sibilla holds the edge
Amour strikes
Track trials

Vadodara, March 16 
The hope kindled in Kochi and kept alive in Jamshedpur received a blow of sorts in Faridabad yesterday. The question now is, will Vadodara be the place where Indian cricket, humiliated in Australia and at home in the Test matches, make a fresh start tomorrow?

If Sourav Ganguly’s team beats South Africa at the IPCL Stadium here, not only will they take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match Pepsi series, they will also prove that Indian cricket is still alive and kicking. It will not just be a series win against a clinically professional outfit, who play their cricket with minimum fuss and error, it will also rejuvenate a team that was well and truly down for the counts till very recently.

Not many, perhaps not even the South Africans, had given India a chance after a clean sweep of the Test matches and rattling up 301 in the first one-dayer. But, for once, India performed as a team and snatched what is likely to enter the record books as a memorbale win if not a great one.

The new skipper led from the front to make it 2-0 in Jamshedpur before Hansie Cronje’s men ensured their skipper’s enviable record of not losing three one-dayers in succession remained intact.

By the look of it, the IPCL Stadium pitch promises to be an exciting one-day wicket, with a hint of dead grass that was undergoing bladework late this afternoon. The outfield is remarkably smooth and green and with curator Aunshuman Gaekwad predicting that bounce will be even, anything timed properly won’t take long to race to the fence. But the former national coach also predicted some turn which obviously didn’t please Cronje and Co. who practised at Kiran More’s Alembic Sports Academy ground rather than at the venue.

The South African skipper dropped in for a little while to have a look at the pitch and didn’t seem amused by what he saw before walking off in what seemed was dismay. While Cronje wasn’t available for his comments on the wicket, coach Graham Ford had no doubt that it was “meant for the home team”.

“We had a good one-day wicket in Kochi and a terrible one in Jamshedpur. The one at Faridabad was okay but this one is likely to aid the Indian spinners,” Ford said.

The Indian skipper chose be remain diplomatic, saying it’s a good one-day wicket which is likely to produce “some good cricket” and predictably added that “this is a crucial match”. Though he didn’t commit himself, it seems as if he would prefer setting a target here, expecting the spinners to do the job under a merciless afternoon sun.

But to do that he will certainly need soemthing in the region of 260-270 and the man who could have made it a certainty, is having a poor run.

Sachin Tendulkar may have given up captaincy to concentrate on batting, but with an uncharacteristic tally of 59 from three innings, the ‘Little Master’ is yet to do justice to what he does better than most — score, in hundreds and fifties. He chose to do a bit of knocking even as the team avoided batting and bowling practice and did some stretching and catching. Tomorrow may be the day of his return to form and that will surely minimise the national concern.

Ajay Jadeja, meanwhile, has slight fever but is expected to play tomorrow. The trio of Jawagal Srinath, Syed Saba Karim and S. Sriram were expected later in the evening.

Cronje said he doesn’t want to disturb the winning combination and Moranantau Hayward and Henry Williams are yet to be hundred per cent fit. But the temptation to field off-spinner Derek Crookes in place of either Dale Benkenstien or Peiter Strydom may be difficult to resist.

Cronje informed that Lance Klusener, who didn’t bowl in the first two games and did so for just two overs in Faridabad, is fit to bowl now.

Cronje, whose team faced some resistance early in the first Test and encountered nothing like that in the second, is aware of the fact that the Indians look a diferent lot now. “This is the most difficult stage of the tour and this South African one-day team hasn’t been together for long. Somehow, we have lost the momentum that helped us pocket the Test series,” Cronje said.

He did say the absence of Alan Donald is being felt but added that those in form should take the team through in the last two matches. Talking about that, the skipper certainly is in fine nick as is Gary Kirsten, but the sudden disappearance of the monstrous blows from Klusener must be worrying the skipper.    

Calcutta, March 16 
MUMBAI 182, 315 BENGAL 117, 138

It took 107 minutes and 29.1 overs on the final day for Mumbai to wrap up the Bengal second innings in the Ranji Trophy Super League tie at the Eden Gardens today.

It brought to an end another disastrous campaign for the hosts, who had to remain content with 13 points. Mumbai finished their Super League engagements with an all-win record in their four games and moved directly into the semi-finals.

The 242-run defeat inflicted on Bengal was more a pointer to the state of the game here than a pronouncement of the authority of the visitors.

While the elevation of Sourav Ganguly as India captain is a matter of pride, the standard of the game in his own state is witnessing a steep downslide. The side has failed to qualify beyond the Super League stage for the third consecutive season.

To be very fair, Bengal did not even deserve to go further. Having finished the zonal stage as the third team, they never displayed the willingness to excel. The batsmen failed to show the right temperament while the bowlers lacked acumen. The players were simply not focussed enough, with Utpal Chatterjee and Srikant Kalyani being the only exceptions.

Mumbai skipper Amol Muzumdar felt that the choice of track did play a part in the ouster. “Bengal needed five points to qualify and should have prepared a good wicket. I was surprised when they decided to play on a spinning wicket,” said Muzumdar.

But Utpal did not agree. “I knew the nature of the soil here and there was no way it would have lasted for more than two days. But it was not a bad one either. Strokemaking was difficult but batting wasn’t impossible,” the Bengal skipper countered.

None expected Bengal to pull off a miracle. But what surprised all was the meek capitulation. Resuming at the overnight score of 67 for four, Bengal batsmen seemed resigned to their fate. Rajesh Pawar (five for 60) and Ramesh Powar (five for 46) shared the wickets.

Syed Saba Karim, who was scheduled to take an afternoon flight to Ahmedabad for the fourth one-dayer versus South Africa tomorrow, survived for 63 minutes — the longest among the batsmen today.

Saba Karim and Rohan Gavaskar added 28 runs for the fifth wicket before Rohan was foxed by the turn. Nikhil Haldipur’s presence is no more a matter of assurance, given his suspect temperament, and once Saba Karim left the writing was on the wall.

The spinning duo of Pawar and Powar ensured Bengal’s miseries ended quickly.    

Calcutta, March 16 
The post mortem has begun, as another disappointing Ranji Trophy campaign ended for Bengal today. Most former state players feel that the entire set-up needs an overhauling, or else the slide will continue.

Utpal Chatterjee thinks it will need the involvement of all concerned to change the tide. “The players haven’t yet learnt to take responsibilities. Everyone is content with passing the buck. This can’t be developed overnight and has to come from within. The administrators and selectors will also have to get their act together.”

Gopal Bose says “everything is wrong” with the system. “The local league lacks competition. We need to have six divisions of 15 teams each. More importantly, the matches should be held at bigger grounds. If corrective measures are not taken immediately, the problems will only be compounded.

“It’s also time for some tough talk. New faces will have to be tried out,” Bose remarked.

Bengal’s last Ranji Trophy winning skipper Sambaran Banerjee feels that if corrective measures are immediately not taken Bengal might have to wait for another 50-odd years to lift the title.

“We’ve got to focus on the supply line — the under-16 and under-19 players. Moreover, there is too much focus on international cricket here. That has to change and the local cricket set-up needs restructuring,” the former national selector said.

Former coach Arun Lal did not want to comment on the issue.

Utpal also felt that the BCCI should give more importance to domestic cricket. “The stars are forever absent from domestic meets because of international commitments. It happens nowhere in the world. Their participation will always help the others judge their true worth.”    

Calcutta, March 16 
Shankar Moitra will coach Bengal in the forthcoming Santosh Trophy in Thrissur. The probables will be selected after the selection committee meeting on March 23.

The IFA will name an assistant to Moitra, if needed.

Bagan celebrations

Mohun Bagan players and officials raised the flag at the club lawns today amid a motley gathering of supporters.

Yesterday, the club had sealed the National Football League after Salgaocar lost 0-2 to FC Kochin.

Club officials said they would launch festivities on March 22 when they hope to beat arch rivals East Bengal. Mohun Bagan play their last match against Tollygunge Agragami on March 26.    

Bangalore, March 16 
On their current workouts and form, Raaz, Sunspirit and Sibilla are likely to be involved at the finish in the 1,200m Kanteerava Cup tomorrow.

However, the one who holds the edge is the Rashid Byramji-ward Sibilla with apprentice Surjeet Singh in the saddle.


2.30 pm: Adorer 1. Mum’s the Word 2. Jungle Cat 3.

3 pm: Bountiful Gesture 1. Carnival Craze 2. Undoubted 3.

3.30 pm: Tattoo 1. Imperial Weapon 2. Decorated Hero 3.

4 pm: Sibilla 1. Raaz 2. Sunspirit 3.

4.30 pm: Psychedelic 1. Cranberry 2. Daiimio 3.

5 pm: Measure By Measure 1. Ronson 2. Save The Day 3.

5.30 pm: Red Bird 1. Sense Of Time 2. Dunhill Star 3.

Day’s Best: Psychedelic

Double: Adorer & Bountiful Gesture    

The Cooji Katrak-trained filly Ella Mon Amour claimed the Kailashpat Singhania Stakes at the Mumbai races on Thursday.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Kailashpat Singhania Stakes 1,200m: (1-2-3) Ella Mon Amour (Rajendra) 1; Noblest Motive 2; Nature’s Miracle 3. Won by: 1-1/4; Dist; (1-12.9). Tote: Win Rs 11; Quinella: 17. Fav: Ella Mon Amour (1).

2. Jeanne D’Arc Trophy, Div-II 1,100m: (3-5-1) Maestro (Bajrang) 1; Alflora 2; Gasconade 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 1-3/4; (1-10.2). Tote: Win Rs 72; Place: 16; 13; 16; Quinella: 104; Tanala: 777. Fav: Keep The Faith (6).

3. G. R. Khairaj Plate 1,100m: (6-3-7) Elusive Charm (Appu) 1; Mick’s Mystique 2; Very Beautiful 3. Won by: 3/4; SH: (1-7). Tote: Win Rs 46; Place: 16; 24; 17; Quinella: 319; Tanala: 1,630. Fav: Clear Sense (1).

4. Jeanne D’Arc Trophy, Div-I 1,100m: (6-8-2) Dancing Dreams (McCullagh) 1; My Blue Moon 2; Different Crown 3. Won by: 1/2; 5; (1-6.9). Tote: Win Rs 57; Place: 20; 18; 54; Quinella: 160; Tanala: 4,883. Fav: Days Of Glory (7).

5. Mrinal Plate 1,200m: (3-7-9) Benghazi (Prakash) 1; James Bond 2; Soliel 3. Not run: Opening Balance (4) & Navroze Supreme (6). Won by: 3-3/4; 2-1/4; (1-14.5). Tote: Win Rs 15; Place: 12; 28; 13; Quinella: 90; Tanala: 215. Fav: Benghazi (3).

6. Meherjee J. Dhunjishaw Plate 1,800m: (7-6-1) Sunny Sez (Praka-sh) 1; Picasso 2; Fortune’s Wheel 3. Won by: 2-3/4; 1-1/2; (1-54.2). Tote: Win Rs 77; Place: 19; 16; 14; Quinella: 123; Tanala: 1,007. Fav: Fortune’s Wheel (1).

7. Place Girl Plate 1,800m: (1-6-3) Epic Queen (Daniel) 1; Miracle 2; Prime Of Life 3. Won by: 3-1/4; 1-1/2; (1-56.3). Tote: Win Rs 68; Place: 22; 17; 21; Quinella: 122; Tanala: 816. Fav: Prime Of Life (3).

Jackpot: Rs 72,801; (C) Rs 1,527.

Treble: (i) Rs 3,052; (ii) Rs 1,053.    

Calcutta, March 16 
Alsadena was impressive when the following horses were exercised today:

Outer sand track

1,400m: Flying Power (Kujur) and Kargil Soldier (Smith) in 1-42 4/5s; (400m) 29s. Former a length better. Armed Alram (Rabani) in 1-53s; (400m) 32s.

1,200m: Master Charlie (Brij S.) in 1-30s; (400m) 28 2/5s.

1,000m: Alsadena (C. Alford) in 1-9 3/5s; (400m) 27 3/5s. Good.

800m: Emadeus (C. Alford) and High Life (Rabani) in 1-0s; (400m) 30s. Former 4 ls better. Sky Command (Manohar) in 59s; (400m) 27s.

600m: Scimitar (Sher S.) in 42s; 28s. Friendly Knight (Rb) in 47s; (400m) 30s.

Sand track

1,200m: Optimum Choice (K. Kumar) in 1-31s; (400m) 30s. Classy Twist (Rb) in 1-27 3/5s; (400m) 25s.

800m: Ebony Knight (Afzal K.) and Minetta (Connorton) in 50s; (400m) 24s. Former too good. Garden Of Heaven (Amjad K.) in 53s; (400m) 26s. Moved well. Infierno (Som) in 1-1s; (400m) 30s.

600m: Run-Ahead (Yacoob) in 37s; (400m) 23s. Impressed. Diplomatic Gesture (Rb) in 40s; (400m) 26s.    


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