I have revenge on mind: Paes
Basudeb to lead Bengal
Absence of coach not worrying Ramesh
BNR near quarters berth
Unfancied horses to the fore

 
 
I HAVE REVENGE ON MIND: PAES 
 
 
 
 
FROM AMITAVA DAS GUPTA New Delhi, April 6 Just as the Indians are a mystery package for European teams on the world stage, South Koreans have spelt trouble for us at the zonal level. The guarded optimism in the Indian ranks, even as they go into tomorrow’s Asia-Oceania group I second-round tie on familar terrain, is thus understandable.

The South Korean Davis Cuppers, never a force to reckon with in international tennis, have come here high on hope, banking basically on two factors. The first one is their historical superiority over India — they are 4-2 up on head-to-head Cup clashes. More realistically, the Koreans feel they can cash in on Mahesh Bhupathi’s absence to bag three rubbers which will give them the passport to July’s World Group play-off round.

Tennis, like most other sports, is played in the mind. It’s more so in the case of players like Syed Fazaluddin — high on talent, low on self-belief. And yet, in Bhupathi’s absence, Ramesh Krishnan’s best bet for the second singles on a grasscourt is the tall Calcuttan. As Syed Nayeemuddin’s elder son braces up for his third ‘live’ singles match on the morrow, he would be well aware that his country’s chances of earning a World Group play-off berth hinge on his performance over the next three days.

Such pressure could easily stymie national grasscourt champion Fazal’s natural serve-and-volley game. But the fact that he’ll be taking the court (against Korean No. 1 Hyung Taik Lee) after Leander Paes (versus Yong Ill Yoon) at the R.K. Khanna Stadium tomorrow, should help soothe nerves and set the adrenaline flowing.

Playing on grass and that, too, under a scorching sun are unlikely to suit the Koreans. But, as they have shown over the years, supreme fitness and enviable stamina have often helped them overcome limited skills and far-from-perfect technique. Both Ramesh and Paes should know that from their experience at this very venue in 1991, when the unknown Chang Eui Jong beat both fancied Indians. It needed young Paes’ energetic tennis in the decisive rubber to pull India through in that tie.

There’s nothing to suggest that the current Korean duo — the 24-year-old Lee, who squeezed into the top-180 of ATP rankings after winning the Kyoto Challenger recently, and 26-year-old Yoon who won the 1998 Asian Games gold — would be any different from their predecessors. Yoon, in fact, has the added advantage of having beaten Paes twice in two meetings (at the 94 Hiroshima Asian Games and last year’s Davis Cup tie in Sogwipo).

“Yeah, I have revenge on my mind,” Paes said after Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha drew Yoon’s name at the draw this morning to set up the sequence of matches for the tie. Refusing to predict the scoreline after Sunday’s final rubber, the Indian ace said the home team has to give it the best shot and hope for a favourable result.

Yoon is carrying a leg injury and hasn’t played a tournament in the last four weeks. Korean captain Hong Joo Won, though, is not too worried. Both Yoon and Lee, he feels, can get the better of Fazal.

The odds are going to be stacked heavily against Fazal, even as Paes is expected to clinch both his singles matches. A point from any of Fazal’s singles rubbers will be a huge bonus.

Irrespective of Fazal’s singles form, he will have to give Paes all the support in the key middle rubber — Sunday’s doubles. The same pair has been retained despite its unexpected loss to the Lebanese duo in Lucknow’s first-round clash two months ago. They have got to make sure such a nightmare doesn’t haunt Indian tennis this coming weekend.

The serious Ramesh has done his job of preparing the team for this crucial assignment. He must have told his players the Koreans won’t lose lying down, they have to be beaten. It’s now upto the players to deliver. More so Fazal. This could be a make-or-break tie for him.

The Indians’ first workout on the match court, at R.K. Khanna Stadium this afternoon, went off quite well. The bounce and pace satisfied the players as well as the non-playing captain. The one irritant was something about which they could do nothing — the Doodarshan TV cameras which have been placed barely three feet from the tram lines near the net.

The margin on either side of the net is less than what is generally required (12 feet). In this case, it’s less than 10 feet on one side and about six on the other. And to worsen matters, the cameras have been positioned in such a way that players running to retrieve wide balls could ram into them and seriously hurt themselves.

The AITA, it seems, has taken special permission from the ITF to clear the less-than-adequate courtside space. Who would take the blame if one of the players get hurt?

“What can we say when special permission has been given to them?” Ramesh asked helplessly even while admitting that it was a serious hazard.    


 
 
BASUDEB TO LEAD BENGAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 6 
Midfielder Basudeb Mondal will lead a 20-member Bengal squad in the national football championship for the Santosh Trophy in Thrissur. The defending champions will play their quarter final league matches on April 10, 13 and 16.

Missing from the squad are Bijen Singh, Debjit Ghosh and Reaz-ul Mustafa. While the first two are nursing injuries, Reaz-ul is down with jaundice.

Bengal coach Sankar Moitra was confident of a good showing. “This is the best possible side from the available talent. The squad has the right balance of youth and experience,” said Moitra.

The Bengal squad leaves by air Saturday morning.    


 
 
ABSENCE OF COACH NOT WORRYING RAMESH 
 
 
FROM AMITAVA DAS GUPTA
 
New Delhi, April 6 
At a time when teams and individuals are strengthening their entourage by hiring more and more specialised personnel, the All India Tennis Association’s (AITA’s) decision to do away with a coach for the Davis Cup team defies logic.

Enrico Piperno’s contract wasn’t renewed — for the first time in 10 years — at the beginning of this year. Nor has a replacement been named for two home ties running (Lebanon in February and South Korea now). For a change, though, the AITA can’t be blamed for turning a blind eye to the welfare of the sport. It has the backing of the man who’s in charge of the team.

Yes, Ramesh Krishnan doesn’t mind the absence of a coach one bit. The 39-year-old Ramesh, India’s youngest non-playing captain, has the energy and enthusiasm to double up as planner, motivator, coach and manager of a team trying to find its feet at the zonal level. Indeed, he has taken to his new role as fish to water.

Not very keen to discuss the coach’s issue in the midst of an important campaign, Ramesh says he is “managing quite well and not missing an extra hand.” His logic is simple — rather than have a coach who is more of a sparring partner for the boys, it makes sense to have a couple of extra youngsters train with the regular players and thus get a feel of the Davis Cup ambience.

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are not in agreement, both having gone on record as saying that a coach is essential for the team. But Ramesh doesn’t care. He has been given a responsibility which he has taken with utmost seriousness and prefers doing it his way. His modus operandi may not be conventional, but as long as he delivers none can complain.

It’s early days yet, but there’s no doubt that Ramesh has made an encouraging start. Handicapped as he is by the absence of Mahesh Bhupathi, the younger member of Indian tennis’ first family is trying to make the most of a losing situation. If he can motivate the erratic Syed Fazaluddin to play to his full potential and squeeze out one singles rubber against the South Koreans, India’s chances of making the World Group play-off round will be that much brighter.

Be it Paes, Fazal or debutant Vishal Uppal, the players are liking the way their new captain is going about his job. Paes hasn’t got Vicky Lavee here as girlfriends are a strict no-no with Ramesh, but the senior pro isn’t cribbing. “All of us appreciate what Ramesh is doing and we are enjoying the togetherness,” Paes observed.

Ever since he took over in January, Ramesh has been in constant touch with all the players through e-mail. Not only does he enquire about their welfare, instructions are also issued regularly especially to the younger guys.

Ramesh is a strict disciplinarian alright, but he is also ensuring that there is enough fun and frolic in the week leading to the crucial tie. “A lot of people had doubted as to how Ramesh would interact with the team, but he’s been terrific. He’s not uptight with the boys and knows exactly when to relax,” says Vece Paes, the team doctor.

Naresh Kumar, arguably the country’s shrewdest Davis Cup captain, is not surprised to see Ramesh slipping into the captain’s shoes so smoothly. “After having worked with him for three years as captain (1991-93), I knew he would make a good captain. He was very co-operative as the senior player, gelled well with the younger boys and had a sharp brain. Just watch out for his progress,” Naresh said while watching the Indians practise on Centre Court this afternoon.

Whether Ramesh will surpass Naresh, only time will tell. For the time being, it’s good that Indian tennis has found a man who promises to be an efficient navigator.    


 
 
BNR NEAR QUARTERS BERTH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 6 
BNR moved to within a win of securing a berth in the 105th Beighton Cup’s quarter-final league when they tamed all-India FCI via the tie-breaker today. Customs too needed penalties to squeeze past Bhillai Steel Plant after 70 minutes of regulation time failed to produce a goal.

There were no problems with scoring at the CCFC ground in Ballygunge, where Chittaranjan Locomotive Works swamped Jammu & Kashmir 12-2. Anmol Topno had a hattrick as he accounted for five of the goals. The other CLW strikes came from Eric Lakra, Susil Minz (two each), Selvenisa Tirkey, Anisem Lakra and A. Bara. The J&K goals came from Charanjit Singh and Surinder Singh, the latter scoring from a penalty stroke.

CLW now meet Hyderabad XI in a third-round clash tomorrow, even as Customs take on Sikh Regimental Centre.

At the Mohun Bagan ground, it was FCI who drew first blood, Prabhakar Singh capping a fine run down left with a goal from a difficult angle in the sixth minute.

The local outfit found the equaliser in the 27th minute, after some sustained pressure on the FCI goal. International Anmol Aind’s fine cross from the left saw Rajat Minz scoring on second attempt.

FCI came back strongly in the second half and then in extra-time the scoreline stayed 1-1. The deadlock could not be broken with the first set of five pushes each and the tie-breaker moved to the ‘sudden-death’. Rajat Minz sealed the match after BNR goalkeeper Freddie Ekka had dived right to deny Navbeed Singh in the first of the ‘sudden-death’ pushes.

Both teams squandered several scoring opportunities during regulation time and in the 15 minutes of extra-time.

The only BHA league match of the day, a first division (group B) encounter at the East Bengal ground, lasted just 15 minutes because of a walkout by Real Sports. Trouble erupted after umpire Tejinder Pal Singh Gill awarded a penalty stroke to Muslim Institute when the opponent goalkeeper “sat on the ball”. Real Sports the decision and refused to continue. The umpires called it a day after waiting another 10 minutes.    


 
 
UNFANCIED HORSES TO THE FORE 
 
 
BY STAR RACER
 
Calcutta, April 6 
As such the heat generated by the underground cable fault today at the racecourse made the sultry afternoon’s conditions unbearable, outsiders added to the punters’ woes. Sterling Prospect was the lone clear favourite to deliver in a seven-event card dominated by friendless winners, more importantly in the jackpot legs.

The biggest blow was served by Mystic Hill in the feature, the RWITC Trophy, following the victory of another rank-outsider Magic Ring in the Cavalry Cup over 1,400m. The two horses are known to be for their exploits over shorter sprints. While Mystic Hill won from the front in the hands of Md Amil, jockey Akhtar on Magic Ring waited patiently behind Kinkozan till 50m from home and notched up the verdict in a calculated finish. A quietly fancied Defiance in the first leg of the pool, the Cally Handicap, had contributed his bit.

As a result of their victory, the jackpot pool went for a toss after the third leg itself. The entire pool of Rs 2,69,420 will be carried forward to the penultimate race-meeting on April 13.

RESULTS

1. Cradle Of The Deep Handicap 1,200m: (3-1-6-2) Marimba (C. Alford) 1; As You Please (P. Alford) 2; Arizona Star (Sher) 3; Hurricane Star (Manohar) 4. Not run: Ironstone (5). Won by: 7-1/4; 2-3/4; 1-3/4; (1-14). Tote: Win Rs 27; Place: 18; 13; Quinella: 22; Tanala: 155. Fav: As You Please (1). Winner trained by Vijay S.

2. Dashmesh and Hargobind Stud Grand Annual Handicap 1,600m: (2-4-3-1) Allaying (C. Alford) 1; The Stud (Connorton) 2; Alvarada (Kader) 3; Ashbury (M. Reuben) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; Nk; 2; (1-40.6). Tote: Win Rs 37; Place: 21; 15; Quinella: 41; Tanala: 165. Fav: Alvarada (3). Winner trained by Bharath S.

3. Cally Handicap 1,200m: (1-8-7-5) Defiance (Rutherford) 1; Abstract (A. P. Singh) 2; Freeatlast (Shanker) 3; Mameena (Connorton) 4. Won by: 1/2; 2; 1/2; (1-14.3). Tote: Win Rs 54; Place: 17; 39; 17; Quinella: 834; Tanala: 6,805. Fav: Mameena (5). Winner trained by R. Alford.

4. Cavalry Cup 1,400m: (5-4-3-2) Magic Ring (Akhtar) 1; Kinkozan (P. Alford) 2; Avionic (C. Alford) 3; Aristotemus (Amjad K.) 4. Won by: 1/2; Nk; 3; (1-28.7). Tote: Win Rs 398; Place: 84; 38; Quinella: 1,911; Tanala: 8,426. Fav: Avionic (3). Winner trained by Sanjeev C.

5. Hyderabad Race Club Trophy 1,600m: (2-1-6-4) Sterling Prospect (C. Alford) 1; Prince Of War (K. Kumar) 2; Rheinheart (M. Reuben) 3; Single Dawn (Gowli) 4. Won by: 4-1/2; 1/2; 3/4; (1-40.7). Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 12; 85; Quinella: 151; Tanala: 746. Fav: Sterling Prospect (2). Winner trained by Vijay S.

6. R. W. I. T. C. Trophy 1,400m: (6-2-3-8) Mystic Hill (Amil) 1; Adventure (Kader) 2; Acquest (C. Alford) 3; Bold Invader (Shanker) 4. Won by: Nk; 1-1/4; 2-1/2; (1-26.2). Tote: Win Rs 473; Place: 47; 12; 37; Quinella: 218; Tanala: 6,123. Fav: Adventure (2). Winner trained by Vijay S.

7. Combined Operations Handicap 1,200m: (4-2-5-6) Tribal Warlord (Shanker) 1; Swingtime (Razzak) 2; Dizzy Diver (A. P. Singh) 3; Zingari (Amil) 4. Won by: 3/4; 1; 1; (1-15.3). Tote: Win Rs 65; Place: 27; 22; Quinella: 131; Tanala: 2,262. Fav: Armed Alarm (1). Winner trained by Rodrigues.

Jackpot: Rs 2,69,420 (Carried over to April 13).

Treble: (i) Rs 56,860 (C.o); (ii) Rs 5,837.    

 

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