Azhar gets a rest
We should improve on bowling front: Sourav
New innings for Jimmy, in French & Arabic
Nitin completes the ‘double’
Utpal (7/52) sends Tolly spinning
7-man Entally no match for Aryan
Endorsement may avenge defeat
Crystal scores
Track trials

 
 
AZHAR GETS A REST 
 
 
FROM INDRANIL MAJUMDAR
 
Nagpur, March 18 
Achieving the impossible, or at least what is widely regarded as such, has been the lone motivating force for Sourav Ganguly. Be it the tour of England in 1996, when he was considered just another player on the team, or the taking over of the captaincy from Sachin Tendulkar at a critical juncture in Kochi, Maharaj’s eternal quest for excellence has been unmatched.

Not many gave him a chance in the one-day series versus South Africa. Having lost five Tests in a row, and routed in the preceding triangular meet in Australia, Indian cricket was facing its gravest crisis. The team had started looking bedraggled and clueless even on home turf. The body language was too negative and players seemed destined to their fate.

Losing had become a habit, and to arrest that slide was Sourav’s biggest challenge. He firmly believed one victory would change all that and the Kochi success came as an act of self assurance. The team had regained the confidence and the winning touch and it was best reflected in the dramatic change in their attitude, being conscious of responsibilities and collective effort.

The series victory in Vadodara has certainly renewed hopes in the minds of the cricket followers. For a change, there is optimism. Being able to extend the winning streak in the fifth one-dayer here tomorrow will help in enhancing team spirit ahead of the Sharjah mdeet.

The Indians, who arrived here at 1.20 am following a delayed flight, practised only in the late afternoon along with the visitors.

The team’s thinktank has decided to leave out Mohammed Azharuddin, Sunil Joshi, and Ajit Agarkar from the 12-member squad announced for the game. Venkatesh Prasad, who was scheduled to join the side in Nagpur for the Sharjah meet, has been included. “Since he is already here, the team management thought it fit to play him for the final one-dayer,” BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele explained.

It is learnt that Tamil Nadu allrounder S. Sriram will make his debut tomorrow while Mohammed Kaif will have to sit out. Sourav hinted that Sriram — who he hasn’t seen much but is aware of his runs in domestic cricket — may bat at No. 4. “It’s no point playing an youngster lower down the order in one-day cricket. If he plays, he has to bat somewhere higher up.”

The skipper also made it clear that Azhar had not been dropped. “With the series already decided, we told Azhar that it would be easy for us to take one or two new faces if he decides to rest himself. We can’t drop him... At least performancewise he is not in a position to be dropped. We left the decision entirely to him and he agreed. He will be back again during the first match in Sharjah,” Sourav said.

One of the main reasons for the change in fortunes has been the consistent middle-order. The return of Azhar and Ajay Jadeja and the presence of Robin Singh has not only lent solidity but has also reduced the burden of the top-order.

While how effective Azhar is on bouncy wickets may remain a matter of debate, he has once again proved that he is still focused enough to score runs in home conditions. Sceptics would have expected him to submit to the pressure, but the ones admiring his talent were willing him to succeed and he did.

He maybe a recluse on the side but that has not deterred him from offering suggestions or discussing strategies on the field and at team meetings. In fact, this camaraderie has also played an important role in lifting the team’s morale.

If Azhar’s success has come as a bonus, Jadeja has once more proved his utility in no uncertain terms. He is the quintessential pro whose mere enthusiastic presence on the field is sure to act as a motivating factor. His innings in Kochi that put India back on the winning track was an eye opener to the selectors and the BCCI officials that politics can’t keep talent out forever.

Sachin’s breathtaking century in Vadodara yesterday has come as a relief. Sourav is aware that the early loss of openers in the sub-continent conditions always upsets the calculations in the vital first 15 overs.

The South Africans, on the other hand, must have come to realise by now the difference the absence of Allan Donald can make to the side. His pace is always threatening and neither Shaun Pollock nor Steve Elworthy or Nantie Hayward have been able to create an impression on the Indians. The spinners have fared no better.

The South Africans, as Hansie Cronje said, will be “playing for pride”. They, too, are likely to try out a few youngsters. Pollock and Jacques Kallis may be rested while Henry Williams, who is now fit, and Neil McKenzie may be tried out. Lance Kluesener is still not “doing alright” and it’s unlikely he’ll have a bowl.

The bowlers, anyway, are unlikely to play any big role in what is may to be another run feast. “Looks good for batting,” was how Sourav described the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) ground’s wicket.    


 
 
WE SHOULD IMPROVE ON BOWLING FRONT: SOURAV 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Nagpur, March 18 
Things are all falling into place for skipper Sourav Ganguly. Top contender for the Man of the Series award to be announced tomorrow, Sourav has learnt to keep collective interests above personal gains.

“This is not the first time I’m in the running for the Man of the Series, but I’m happier with the way we’ve played. After the reverses in Australia and the two Tests at home, the turnaround has been fantastic,” he said.

“We played good cricket in all the four games so far. Even in Faridabad, where we lost, we were in a position to win. That was the most satisfying part. We never surrendered meekly. We still have some areas to work on which we’ll have to sort out. For instance, we have to bowl well in the first 15 overs. I understand it’s not easy to bowl on these flat wickets. Still, we can bowl better than what we’ve been,” Indian skipper remarked.

He wishes to give credit to the whole team for this achievement, though, he feels that “the batting in general” has helped immensely in putting things in order.

The focus will now shift to the Sharjah tournament but, he insists he hasn’t thought about it yet. “There is still one game to go in the current series. I’ll think about the next meet after it gets over tomorrow. There will be three days in between an we can concentrate on it then. However, I guess, the wickets there will also be very similar to the ones here, maybe even flatter,” Sourav said.

Hansie Cronje feels Sourav’s real test will be on tours. “It’s too early to pass a judgement on his captaincy. The Indians are always strong opponents at home. But Sourav has definitely helped in bringing about a positive attitude in the team,” the South African skipper said.

Sourav did not want to make a big issue of the matches that India will have to play versus Pakistan in Sharjah, strained political equations notwithstanding. Replying to questuions, he said India will play Pakistan if the BCCI wants India to, and refused to be drawn into such “petty things” and “keep playing cricket.”    


 
 
NEW INNINGS FOR JIMMY, IN FRENCH & ARABIC 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, March 18 
Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath has already begun lessons in French. Soon, he will be learning Arabic, too.

If it’s a trifle confusing, well, Mohinder is heading for Morocco.

Of course, Mohinder isn’t settling down there but, in the near future, much of his time will be spent in Rabat and Tangiers not Mumbai.

“I’ll be working with — not for — Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, who intends promoting cricket in Morocco. Towards that end, I’ll have to start things from scratch,” Mohinder told The Telegraph.

Bukhatir and the Sharjah-based CBFS, incidentally founded by Bukhatir himself almost two decades ago, have been ‘awarded’ rights to get Moroccans hooked on to cricket.

Mohinder, though, couldn’t elaborate on how the CBFS clinched the deal.

Getting the Moroccans switch ‘allegiance’ may take some time — soccer and athletics are the favoured sport — but a beginning is being made and Mohinder will play a big hand.

Obviously, once the infrastructure is in place, the CBFS will market Morocco as an ‘off-shore’ venue. Quite like Sharjah and, more recently, Singapore and Toronto.

According to Mohinder —credited with a most shrewd cricket-brain — Bukhatir approached him in January and he agreed to join hands after a brief visit to Morocco last month.

“A formal agreement (with the CBFS) will be finalised within the next fortnight and I’ll head for Morocco straight after that,” Mohinder informed.

Tangiers, some 240 kms from capital Rabat, will be the immediate focus of Mohinder and the CBFS’ attention.

“The first stadium should come up there. The next will probably be in Rabat... Before that, the locals will have to be introduced to league cricket. At the moment, nothing organised exists,” Mohinder remarked.

Some cricket is played (on soccer grounds, mind you), even by the locals but mostly by expats from the sub-continent, but it will still mean beginning at the grassroots.

“It’s one huge challenge, if it wasn’t so, I probably wouldn’t have joined this CBFS endeavour... In time, I’ll have to seek the help of some former players too,” Mohinder said.

Asked whether he was disappointed the Indian Board never availed of his services, Mohinder laughed: “Not disappointed... It’s just that I haven’t been considered good enough. It was the same for much of the time when I was a player; it’s been no different in recent years.”

Mohinder, who coached Bangladesh in 1993-94 and whose name crops up each time the Indian coach is changed, added: “Clearly, credentials alone don’t mean anything (in India)... However, I’ve never been too bothered.”

His tone was far from bitter — the loss, after all, has been Indian cricket’s. For the record, Mohinder played 69 Tests (4,378 runs, 32 wickets) and 85 one-dayers (1,924 runs, 46 wickets) between 1969-1989.

It’s a career that made Lalaji, more than anybody else, proud.    


 
 
NITIN COMPLETES THE ‘DOUBLE’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 18 
Nitin Kirtane overwhelmed fourth seed Rohan Bopanna to lift the singles crown at the Central Revenue Masters and complete a ‘double’. The top-seeded Kirtane, who won the doubles yesterday in the company of Saurav Panja, romped to a 6-2, 6-4 win in the singles final today.

Kirtane relied on his experience to outplay his much younger opponent at the High Court Club court on the Maidan.

Down 1-5 in the second set, Bopanna tried to stage a comeback but Kirtane just lifted his game a notch or two to wrest the initiative again.

In addition to a silver trophy, Kirtane picked up a purse of Rs 30,000 while Bopanna had to settle for Rs 14,000.    


 
 
UTPAL (7/52) SENDS TOLLY SPINNING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 18 
Bengal skipper Utpal Chatterjee carried his Ranji form to the quarters finals of the CAB League’s championship play-off as Mohun Bagan took charge against Tollygunge Agragami today.

Plucking out seven wickets for just 52 runs, the left-arm spinner sent Tollygunge crashing to 174. Srikant Kalyani came out with the only note of defiance as he made 51. Bagan had replied with 48 for one in the 18 overs they got to bat on the first day of the two-day tie.

East Bengal ran up a huge 530 for six in their quarter final against Aryan Club. Alokendu Lahiri scored a 216-ball 208, even as Arun Lal showed that he still is a force with a 146 off just 128 deliveries. Rohan Gavaskar (42), Ajoy Verma (41) too joined the party.

On the first day of their relegation play-off ‘final’, Calcutta Gymkhana and Kumartuli fought a grim battle at the Eden Gardens. Kumartuli had scored 377 for nine thanks to an innings of 94 from Mohammad Ziauddin.    


 
 
7-MAN ENTALLY NO MATCH FOR ARYAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 18 
Port Trust rode a first-half strike by Manoj Das at the East Bengal ground this afternoon to get past West Bengal Police in a first division group A clash of the Bengal Hockey Association league.

Earlier at the same ground, Aryan Club trounced a seven-man Entally AC 8-0 in group B action. Santosh Kumar Singh helped himself to a hattrick, while Mohammad Aquil and Syed Salim Hassan scored a brace each. The other goal came from Nadeem Ahmed.

Entally, relegated from the elite group A after they failed to turn up at several match last season, look to be heading the wrong way again.

In second division, Calcutta Wanderers Club drubbed Kalyangarh BM 3-0 at the Police ground and Aikya Sammilani tamed Khalsa Sporting 2-0 at the Town ground with both goals coming from Subir Haldar. L. Belung, Karan and Ishtiaq Hussain scored in the Wanderers game.

The third division clash between Presidency Muslim HS and Marian Friends ended goaless at the Customs grounds. CC&FC Gremlins got a walkover when opponents Armenian SC failed to turn up for their game at the Mohun Bagan match.    


 
 
ENDORSEMENT MAY AVENGE DEFEAT 
 
 
BY HONKY DORY
 
 
Lost narrowly to Lady Moura in her maiden start and winner of a mile race in her subsequent outing, the Sunderji-trained filly Endorsement is out to avenge defeat in the 1,600m Manjri Stud Breeders’ Juvenile Fillies’ Championship at the Mumbai races on Sunday. Mark Gallagher partners the Placerville-Princess Clemente daughter.

SELECTIONS

2.20 pm: Touch Of Elegance 1. Insatiable 2. Saranyu 3.

2.50 pm: Ovid 1. Let’s Have Fun 2. Henki 3.

3.20 pm: Common Spirit 1. Days Of Thunder 2. Mama Mia 3.

4 pm: Soviet Ace 1. Running Star 2. Simply Noble 3.

4.30 pm: Capitulate 1. Amarilo 2. Track Charm 3.

5 pm: Endorsement 1. Lady Moura 1. Arikana 3.

5.30 pm: Soul Mate 1. Prince Of Zara 2. Temple Quest 3.

6 pm: Foretell 1. Dominate Force 2. Silently 3.

Day’s Best: Endorsement Double: Common Spirit & Soviet Ace    


 
 
CRYSTAL SCORES 
 
 
BY TITAN BOY
 
 
Coming with a smart stretch-run, Aslam Kader partnered the Darius Byramji-trained Crystal Moment to an impressive victory in the Hemavathi Cup at the Bangalore races on Saturday.

RESULTS

(With inter-state dividends)

1. Bhatkal Plate, Div-II 1,400m: (6-1-2) Athabasca (Kader) 1; X-Pac 2; Alminstar 3. Won by: 5; 2-1/4; (1-29.3). Tote: Win Rs 15; Place: 12; 17; 28; Quinella: 31; Tanala: 146. Fav: Athabasca (6).

2. Bhatkal Plate, Div-I 1,400m: (1-9-2) Royal Steps (Gallagher) 1; Supreme Glory 2; Axe 3. Not run: Wool U Gooli (5). Won by: Hd; 6; (1-29). Tote: Win Rs 27; Place: 11; 18; 12; Quinella: 47; Tanala: 182. Fav: Axe (2).

3. Hemavathi Cup 1,200m: (12-6-3) Crystal Moment (Kader) 1; Acute 2; Silver Patriarch 3. Won by: 1-1/2; SH; (1-15). Tote: Win Rs 36; Place: 16; 15; 17; Quinella: 49; Tanala: 173. Fav: Acute (6).

4. Summer Dust Plate 1,200m: (4-8-10) Surge Of Power (Appu) 1; Gallant Chief 2; Empress Of India 3. Won by: 4-1/2; 1; (1-16.7). Tote: Win Rs 47; Place: 21; 41; 79; Quinella: 344; Tanala: 10,604. Fav: Hot Property (2).

5. Narmada Cup 1,800m: (4-1-5) Comet Star (Appu) 1; Hong Kong Boy 2; Cyclades 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 2-1/4; (1-56.1). Tote: Win Rs 73; Place: 27; 12; Quinella: 36; Tanala: 481. Fav: Hong Kong Boy (1).

6. Manipal Plate 1,200m: (4-1-5) Briscay (Rakesh) 1; Chippo 2; The King And I 3. Not run: Rise Above (3). Won by: 1-1/2; 3; (1-18.4). Tote: Win Rs 33; Place: 14; 15; 24; Quinella: 36; Tanala: 293. Fav: Chippo (1).

Jackpot: Rs 6,696; (C) Rs 1,039.

Treble: (i) Rs 69; (ii) Rs 745.    


 
 
TRACK TRIALS 
 
 
BY OUR TURF CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 18 
The Stud, Cyber Freak, No Regrets and Ashbury were impressive from among the following horses seen exercising today:

Outer sand track

2,000m: Sharp Sensation (C. Alford) in 2-37 1/5s; (1,200m)1-28 2/5s; (400m) 27 3/5s. Easy.

1,400m: The Stud (Connorton) in 1-39 4/5s; (800m) 53 1/5s; (400m) 25 1/5s. Moved well.

1,200m: Iron Warrior (C. Alford) and Supreme Desire (Rb) in 1-29 3/5s; (800m) 59 1/5s; (400m) 29 2/5s. Former head better. The Cigar (Sher) in 1-30s; (800m) 58s; (400m) 27 3/5s. Pushed. Staffordshire (Rb) in 1-27s; (800m) 1-0s; (400m) 31s. Moved well. Cup Of Life (C. Alford) 1-32 3/5s; (800m) 59s; (400m) 28s. Easy. Aliqa (Rb) in 1-28 3/5s; (800m) 59 3/5s; (400m) 30s. Easy.

1,000m: Cyber Freak (Rb) and Too Soon To Tell (Manohar) in 1-9s; (400m) 26 3/5s. Former 6 ls better. No Regrets ((Rb) and Prizren (M. Reuben) in 1-9 3/5s; (400m) 27 1/5s. Former neck better. Prodigious (Rb) in 1-21 4/5s; (400m) 31 1/5s. Classy Twist (C. Alford) in 1-17 4/5s; (400m) 27 1/5s. Urged.

800m: Ashbury (C. Alford) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Fit and well. Winning Hand (Rb) in 57 2/5s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Bold Invader (Rabani) and Kansai (Islam) in 53 4/5s; (400m) 26 4/5s. Former a length better. Aristotemus (Amjad K.) in 58 4/5s; (400m) 26 1/5s. Good. Privy Council (M. Reuben) and Double Dancer (Akhtar) in 54 2/5s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Former a length better. Field Marshall (Rb) in 1-1 2/5s; (400m) 30 2/5s. Desert Force (Gowli) in 59 1/5s; (400m) 29 1/5s. Remember Me (M. Reuben) and Rule With Honour (Akhtar) in 53 3/5s; (400m) 26 3/5s. Former 2 ls better. Scimitar (Sher S.) in 58 2/5s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Allodium (C. Alford) and Avionic (Rabani) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Former a length better.

600m: Jeweller (C. Alford) in 47 2/5s; (400m) 31s. Kargil Soldier (Rb) and Flying Power (Kujur) in 41s; (400m) 27s. Former 6 ls better. Gentle Priest (Rabani) and Armed Alarm (Islam) in 40s; (400m) 26s. Both level. Whitney (Upadhya) in 41 3/5s; (400m) 28s. Pushed.

Sand track

1,400m: Crown Prince (Rb) in 1-47s; (400m) 30s.

800m: No Surrender (M. Reuben) in 50s; (400m) 23 3/5s. Floral Path (Rb) and Software (Haroon) in 50 2/5s; (400m) 23s. Both level. Strictly Royal (Rb) and Golden Heart (Haroon) in 53 1/5s; (400m) 25s. Former a neck better. Garden Of Heaven (Amjad K.) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Easy. Silver Raising (Rb) in 50s; (400m) 25s. Fit.

Gate practice, outer sand track

From 2,000m to 800m: Annalee (A. P. Singh), Alyssum (Islam), Quizzical

(Tamang), Amarula (C. Alford) and Alvarada (Rabani) in 1-26s; first 800m in 52s. The first three jumped out well and they finished in order named being separated by 2 ls, 2ls, 6 ls and a distance.

Noted on Friday, outer sand track

1,200m: Athletico (A. P. Singh) and Fame Star (C. Alford) in 1-26 2/5s; (400m) 29 2/5s. Former 3 ls better.    

 

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