Why does India always exit early in Sharjah, asks
ICC should change some laws: Greig
Vaas replaces Shoaib
East Bengal lose to E. Railways
Bagan plans hit rough weather
2-1 win for Jagrihi
Saddle Up set to score
Professionals’ opinions

 
 
WHY DOES INDIA ALWAYS EXIT EARLY IN SHARJAH, ASKS 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Sharjah, March 31 
It’s easy to understand why everybody wants a piece of Imran Khan, but his problem is even a 48-hour day may not be enough to oblige everybody.

Imran arrived at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium some 45 minutes before the Coca-Cola Cup 2000 final, accompanied by the Dubai-based millionaire-buddy Imran Chaudhry, but if he wanted to ‘settle down,’ well, there was no time.

Encounter No. 1 was with The Telegraph.

“Why does your team always make an early exit (in Sharjah),” Imran asked, grinning, even before he could be lobbed a question. Imran himself didn’t have an answer: “I haven’t been watching much cricket, so, can’t say...”

Despite starting favourites, after their 3-2 win over South Africa at home, India played awfully to lose three of the four matches.

Incidentally, Imran declined an immediate comment on Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy. “Yes, results over the past few weeks have been mixed, but as I haven’t seen enough of him (as captain), I wouldn’t like to sit in judgement right now. Won’t be fair.”

Having been invited by WorldTel — he flew in from Islamabad this morning itself — Imran had to straightaway attend a briefing-session. But even as that was on, he spotted first-cousin (also former captain) Javed Burki and, promptly, headed for the seat next to him.

Imran wouldn’t have been as enthusiastic seeing another first-cousin (also a former captain), Majid Khan, but that’s a long story.

A few minutes with Burki and Imran saw Lt General Tauqir Zia, the Amritsar-born Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman. They greeted each other and General Zia’s body-language indicated Imran have a word or two with him.

So, next was a session with the PCB chairman. The two talked about the academies coming up (Lahore, Karachi and possibly Faisalabad) and the need to recast domestic cricket.

“Problem is, our batsmen (in domestic cricket) don’t face real pressure situations... So, when they make the big league, they are out of depth when they have their backs to the wall... Our cricket must be regional-based, not dominated by institutions,” Imran remarked.

Imran, it may be recalled, made much the same point when General Zia had a session with him soon after taking charge, last December.

While talking about the academies, they were joined by Ian Chappell.

Smiling, and pointing to him, Imran promptly told the PCB chairman “absolutely nobody had better credentials” to set things right.

General Zia nodded, while Chappell mumbled something. However, Chappell was forthcoming when Imran asked about the merits of an academy. The answer was typically Chappell-like: “It’s a finishing school... Your players are very talented, what they lack is cricket knowledge.”

Neither Imran nor the PCB chairman squirmed at the latter observation.

If the idea is to revamp, somebody needs to do some plain-talking. Equally, somebody must listen.

Chappell may have had a few other things to say, but there was a break as Imran was required for his day’s opening stint on the ‘box.’ Tony Greig, who was to throw questions, was heard suggesting to the producer that Imran be given “more time.”

That over, Imran was heading back to where General Zia was seated, but got ambushed by one-time protege Wasim Akram. “Instead of talking to me, you should just relax... Now that you aren’t captain, I suppose you can afford to,” Imran quipped.

Akram, however, insisted on a few minutes. Imran obliged.

Other requests followed, some from friends who gladly come forward in Imran’s fund-raisers. It was, therefore, some time before one could corner Imran for a one-to-one.

His contract with WorldTel, though, ruled out much cricket talk.

While welcoming Pakistan’s willingness to host India not once but twice next year (a full tour and the Asia Cup), Imran nevertheless felt relations ought first to improve.

“Otherwise, there will be too much tension, and...”

Imran opined the ground realities wouldn’t change as long as New Delhi didn’t think it necessary to talk about Kashmir.

“That, really, is the core issue... Even if General (Parvez) Musharraf wants to put it on the back-burner, he can’t... The General can’t tell the very strong lobby, in Pakistan, to cool off (on Kashmir).”

According to Imran, general elections will “definitely” be held next year, after polls to the local bodies have been completed. And, yes, his Tehrik-e-Insaaf party is doing well. “There’s no political victimisation... We are growing stronger.”

Imran may have been trounced in the 1997 general elections but, next year, it should be a vastly different ball-game.    


 
 
ICC SHOULD CHANGE SOME LAWS: GREIG 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Sharjah, March 31 
He didn’t just help recruit the big guns, he had a big hand in what World Series Cricket would be all about... It’s been well over two decades but, taking a walk down memory lane, former England captain Tony Greig hasn’t forgotten anything.

Greig spoke to The Telegraph last evening — and, yes, he came forth with plenty of ideas.

Following are excerpts

On being looked upon as one of the co-architects of the one-day revolution, specifically having worked in tandem with Kerry Packer in the late Seventies

(Smiles) I do look back with some pride... At the same time, I’m always conscious that Test cricket must not just survive, but flourish... It’s like this: Kids have a fancy for hamburgers and McDonald’s and, so, you indulge them. However, as they grow older, you wish they graduate to better eating habits. McDonald’s shouldn’t take this otherwise, but one-day cricket is quite like that... Of course, it’s important to get youngsters hooked on to cricket, to keep them away from some of the other alternatives.

On being a Packer associate

You could say I was involved with quite a bit of decision making... It continues to be a wonderful experience. The thing about Packer is he isn’t inhibited by some of the things most other people are... He’s a lateral thinker. Clearly, Packer got the people involved with cricket to start thinking... If I may add, today there’s a case for being innovative with pitches. Officially, I understand, New Zealand have taken the lead.

On having been treated like a pariah by the then Establishment

Looking back, perhaps, I could have done some things differently... May be, I should have quit straightaway... Perhaps, I let down certain people — Alec Bedser for instance, who made me England’s captain...

On whether, back in 1977-78, he expected one-day cricket to take off in the manner it has

Yes, once Packer was game enough to invest in lights. That, then, was the future. It’s important, you know, for cricket to be played at a time people can watch. Remember, cricket is competing with other activities — just as, or even more enjoyable. The next step would be to shorten the game.

On whether he would favour ODIs being reduced to 40 overs-each-side

There’s a case for that because, even today, a lot of people who watch one-day cricket feel seven-eight hours is a bit too much. Going back some years, I remember playing in the Sunday League, in England, which used to be of 40 overs. Believe me, it was extremely popular. Indeed, in years to come, we could even look at the 35-over option.

On whether cricket itself has improved or the boom is purely commercial

Of course, yes... To go back to the first World Cup (1975), the Australians treated it in jocular fashion. Today, it’s the No. 1 trophy on offer... The fielding is so much better, bowlers try out different variations (slower one, for example)... The game has changed. However, most exciting for me is cricket’s phenomenal popularity in the sub-continent.

On whether the marketing of cricket needs a different orientation

(Laughs) Cricket markets itself — just look at the TV audience, specially in Asia... More than marketing, the ICC should address itself to changing some of the laws, the one on illegal deliveries, for instance. After all, for years now, so many bowlers have been employing a slight ‘flick’. It’s just that, nowadays, because of such advanced technology, that’s getting noticed. I think some people are blind when it comes to tackling issues that need to be addressed in this era.

On talk that the first innings, in Tests, be limited to a specific number of overs

Wouldn’t like that to happen. There’s already a change from the Sixties, for example, when batsmen kept offering the pad (leading to draws)... Today, we see far more decisive results (in Test cricket) and, so, the one-day influence is very much there. What ought to be done, as I’ve said, is some laws need to be looked into.

I mean, bowling two bouncers (in an over) to Venkatesh Prasad can’t be the same as bowling two to Sachin Tendulkar. I do feel the old law on intimidatory bowling (where umpires could use discretion) was better... Give the umpires some grey area, don’t just give them a black-and-white situation.

On whether the third umpire’s jurisdiction should be increased

It’s already increasing... When everything can boil down to the last ball, if technology is available, it should be used.

On the most formidable one-day team ever

The West Indies, in the late Seventies, under Clive Lloyd... No matter what the target they themselves would set, they believed they could bowl out the opposition for less. A great side... In fact, the current Australian one, led by Steve Waugh, is in much the same bracket.

On his favourite one-day cricketers

The two Richards’ — Viv and Barry; Sachin and Adam Gilchrist... Going back in time, Sir Gary Sobers and Graeme Pollock, as well.

On whether he has a proposal to help English cricket acquire consistency

(Smiles again) You know, you can’t have turkeys dancing at Christmas... The turkeys, in this context, are the Counties... They will continue to survive. Instead, therefore, England should have an amateur league — across the country — which will allow talented cricketers to play the game after meeting other commitments. In time, England should select players from that lot.

Finally, on being appointed co-ordinator by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)

I’m not quite sure whether that’s a formal designation but, yes, I’ve agreed to help get coaches from overseas to work with the juniors, specially, and at the academies when they come up.    


 
 
VAAS REPLACES SHOAIB 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Sharjah, March 31 
Shoaib Akhtar, who missed today’s Coca-Cola Cup 2000 final, needs “active rest,” according to the Pakistan team’s physio-cum-doctor, Dan Keisel.

“Rest for him isn’t lying down at home... He should continue to train, but not exert himself,” Keisel, who has made a comeback after being sidelined earlier in the season, told The Telegraph.

Though the MRI done this morning didn’t reveal anything serious, Shoaib has “overs-trained” a left groin muscle, informed Keisel. There’s a back problem, too.

Keisel confirmed Shoaib had been playing the tournament with the help of “anaesthetics,” which worked for “three-four hours.” He added: “Of course, at no time, did we give him an overdose...”

Obviously Shoaib himself was very keen to play but the pain, in the words of Keisel, was “unbearable”.

Significantly, Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas has replaced Shoaib in the Asia XI for the match against Rest of World in Dhaka, on April 8.    


 
 
EAST BENGAL LOSE TO E. RAILWAYS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 31 
Eastern Railways defeated East Bengal by four wickets in an A.N. Ghosh cricket match today. After restricting East Bengal to 198, for seven, Eastern Railway reached the target, losing six wickets.    

 
 
BAGAN PLANS HIT ROUGH WEATHER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 31 
Mohun Bagan Club’s proposed celebrations on Sunday — for becoming the National League champions — have run into rough weather. The club has received a letter today from city Police, instructing it to demolish a podium that has been constructed for the purpose.

Mohun Bagan did not consider it necessary to seek police permission for the function. They have been given clearance by BHA, the hockey season being on.

However, club secretary Anjan Mitra is reading more into the matter, and said that this was the fallout of Mohun Bagan’s recent problems with BHA. Police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai happens to be the state body’s president.

Mohun Bagan officials are quite adamant that they will resist any attempt to thwart their function and Mitra has spoken to Home Secretary Souren Roy and sent a letter to the Left Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta.

Mitra said that in the past, the club has never been required to take permission from police for such matters. “It is our ground, we can do what we want,” he said, perhaps forgetting that it is actually the Army property controlled by the police and PWD.

There will be a soccer tournament less next year in the city, with McDowell pulling out as sponsors of the Cup in their name. Thus, the tournament will be held for the last time this year, Ranjit Gupta, IFA joint secretary, informed at the IFA AGM today.

With sponsors opting out, and the gallery fiasco still on, Calcutta, once considered the Mecca of Indian football, may well see interest in the game dipping sharply.

After nearly two years of the gallery collapse at Mohammedan Sporting ground, the state government has agreed to construct tubular structures at that ground, but the other two enclosed grounds of the Maidan will see partial renovations which will allow only 8,000 spectators in the green galleries. Last year, the stands had remained barren.

Gupta informed the meeting that IMG was approached to change the Calcutta League into a professional league. But, the project had to be scrapped as IMG demanded $50,000 for advising the IFA on how such a step can be taken.    


 
 
2-1 WIN FOR JAGRIHI 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 31 
Jagrihi defeated Muslim Institute 2-1 in the first division group B match of the BHA League today.

At the East Bengal ground, Jagannath Dey and Somak Roy sounded the board for the winners, while Sudip Singh pulled one back for Muslim Institute.

Daljit Singh meet

CESC B defeated Customs B 4-3 in the Daljit Singh hockey meet today. Kishor Kujur (2), Sunil Soren and Christopher Thomas scored for the winners. For Customs. J. Mansoor scored twice, with S.K. Shaw completing the tally.    


 
 
SADDLE UP SET TO SCORE 
 
 
FROM PRAVESH GUPTA
 
Bangalore, March 31 
All arrangements for the running of the ‘Invitational’ races during the week-end starting tomorrow seem to be complete. The Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) has done a marvellous job and the Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) top brass appear to be mighty pleased for the co-operation they are getting from all quarter. After all it is the RCTC who is playing the host to the ITC sponsored two-day mega show.

Doubts about the digital live coverage back home had been worrying the RCTC bosses. The arrival of equipments and the technical staff late yesterday night has brought relief. “Races will be covered live if nothing untowards happens;” said Vineet Verma, CEO and Secretary RCTC. However, N. M. Ghose, senior steward RCTC, felt sorry about the Calcutta race crowd who missed show which could have been its own.

The month of April in the garden city may not be an ideal time for horse racing, the turf professionals are, however, not complaining. More importantly, the spirit to compete in the ‘Invitational’ races is there to be seen. Most of the top guns in every department of the sport are already here. More are expected to arrive by tonight.

The two ‘terms’ events which take the centrestage on Saturday are the 3,000m Wills Stayers Trophy and the 1,200m Wills Sprinters Trophy. The stayers’ events will be a four-horse affair and there is hardly any reason to look beyond Saddle Up and Allied Forces. It is because Nicodamus is yet to match strides against top-notchers, though youngest in the field while Super Sunrise is no good at all. Between Saddle Up and Allied Forces, the former enjoys a definite score advantage if their past clashes are taken into account. Allied Forces did come as close as a ‘head’ to the Dhariwal-trainee in the 2,800m Queen’s Cup, Calcutta, but then the Bold Russian-Queen’s Rule five-year-old was made to race within 10 days of his arrival from Mumbai. Saddle Up is now looking fresh and fit and may justify his odds as an odds-on favourite.

The Sprinters Trophy is, comparatively, a tough contest among Bountiful Treasure, So Royal and Polar Falcon. If the long Bangalore stretch may work to the advantage of Polar Falcon and the Treasure, the short-burst of So Royal and his recent record-breaking effort in Hyderabad makes him a live danger. All things considered, Polar Falcon gets the first call as the Ajaad-Himafushi four-year-old colt has been winning his races, albeat in Delhi, with ridiculous ease.

SELECTIONS

1.15 pm: Roman Flame 1. Nobody’s Angel 2. Lance’s Pet 3.

1.45 pm: Adamile 1. Desert Gold 2. Semoran 3.

2.15 pm: Great Eastern 1. Axe 2. Soviet Port 3.

2.45 pm: Saddle Up 1. Allied Forces 2.

3.25 pm: Splendid Crown 1. Bounty Bay 2. Crystal Moment 3.

4 pm: Polar Flacon 1. So Royal 2. Bountiful Treasure 3.

4.40 pm: Antwerp 1. Comet Star 2. Badge Of Fame 3.

5.20 pm: Tricon 1. Careless Beauty 2. Rosalie 3.

6 pm: Al Dente 1. Fly Past 2. Wakonda 3.

Day’s Best: Saddle Up Double: Roman Flame & Tricon    


 
 
PROFESSIONALS’ OPINIONS 
 
 
FROM TITAN BOY
 
Bangalore, March 31 
The following are the opinions expressed by professionals about the winning chances of their wards: Stayers’ Trophy Darius Byramji: Allied Forces will avenge Queen’s Cup defeat (suffered at the hands of Saddle Up). Juggy Dhariwal: Saddle Up has got over all his problems. He is going to win tomorrow. Aslam Kader: Saddle Up beat Allied Forces narrowly in the Queen’s Cup. I will reverse the verdict this time. Pesi Shroff: I am happy with the work of Saddle Up. He is back to his old form. Warren Singh: Two of the top riders will be crossing swords. The clever one will win the race. Sprinters’ Trophy Darius Byramji: So Royal has improved a great deal. He will take some beating. Jim Foley: Polar Falcon continues to improve. I think he can win this race. Arti Doctor: Specialist will have to beat So Royal and Polar Falcon. S. S. Shah: Khaalis definitely has a chance to win. He is looking much improved compared to what he was in Mumbai. He will be right there. Bajrang Singh: Not much of a chance for Specialist. So Royal and Polar Falcon may decide the sprint event. Aslam Kader: Bountiful Treasure is in great heart and will definitely like the long Bangalore straight. He will be right there. Sathish Narredu (Asst. to Jim Foley): The way Polar Falcon has been winning his races, it looks like a mere formality for him. Richard Hughes: I think Polar Falcon can win this race.    
 

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