Paes takes India to World Group play-off
The crowd pulled me back in time: Paes
Manoj spoke from personal grudge: Azhar
No comment: Chandrachud
CLW enter last-8 stage in Beighton
Stavros posts impressive win

 
 
PAES TAKES INDIA TO WORLD GROUP PLAY-OFF 
 
 
FROM AMITAVA DAS GUPTA
 
New Delhi, April 9: 
The Leander Paes-Davis Cup chemistry got re-ignited in the nick of time to ensure India’s passage to the World Group play-off round. Syed Fazaluddin provided the icing on the cake, winning the dead fifth rubber and giving the scoreline a decent 4-1 look against bitter rivals South Korea.

With two wins out of two under his belt now, captain Ramesh Krishnan will have to wait three more days to know who our rivals will be in July’s qualifying round tie. Whoever India draws, one thing’s for sure: it would be an immensely tougher opponent than Lebanon and South Korea.

Going into today’s first reverse singles against Hyung Taik Lee well aware that a loss would almost certainly mean curtains for India, Leander pocketed the first set in next to no time. Then came a dramatic swing which saw the Indian surrendering the advantage and even going a break down in the third set.

Urging the crowd to get more involved, the Davis Cup magician fed off its high-decibel energy and wore down the gutsy Korean in two hours and 20 minutes. As Leander himself admitted later, the 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the match. “It was touch and go... could have gone either way.”

Leander’s serve was not on song today (he had nine double-faults). But for the fourth set, when he improved 50 per cent, the Indian supremo got very few first serves in. What saved him was his second deliveries which are no longer as soft as they used to be even a year ago.

Striking the ball cleanly on either flank, the 26-year-old Cup veteran — who had beaten Lee in straight sets last year in Sogwipo — ran away with the opening set before his opponent had settled down. With the Korean dropping serve twice, it was all over in 22 minutes.

Instead of consolidating, Leander played a loose service game early in the second set. The Korean No. 1 didn’t have to do much to get the vital break — a volleying error and two double-faults from Leander did the trick for Lee.

Back in the match which looked to be running away from him, Lee stepped up a gear and tightened the screws. Serving deep and surprisingly, volleying crisply, the 24-year-old didn’t give Leander a whiff of a breakback chance to close out the second set.

The third set began just as dismally for Leander. Lee made the early moves, rattling off a pair of service return winners. The Indian managed to make it 30-all, before back-to-back unforced errors brought about his downfall.

Lee looked to be on course for a two-sets-to-one lead when the match changed colours a second time. Serving for a 4-2 lead, the Korean came up with two double-faults to slump to 30-all. A typically aggressive forehand service return gave Leander his first breakback opportunity. To the Indian’s delight, Lee pushed a routine volley into the net.

The adrenaline was flowing through Leander’s veins, at last. Fighting off two break-points with courageous net-play, Leander earned a set-point in the 12th game as Lee double-faulted. The Calcuttan looked to have the point in his bag, only to see a top-spin forehand drive land inches wide.

Relentless pressure in the tie-breaker against a man going downhill paid off for the Indian. A marvellous service return, a delectable lob and a lunging volley gave Leander the crucial points which helped him wrap it up 7-3.

With the noisy crowd getting on to Lee’s nerves, a rejuvenated Leander went for the kill in the fourth set. A sequence of 12 straight points included the all-important service-break in game 5. Holding serve was all that he needed to do from that point on. He did that in style, winning his last four service games without conceding a point.

Not so meaningless

The fifth rubber was inconsequential in the context of the tie, but not meaningless for the two contestants. Fazaluddin was out to erase the black mark he had invited with a lacklustre performance Friday, while 20-year-old Seung Hoon Lee — substituting for Yong Ill Yoon — strove to impress on debut.

In the first set, Fazal didn’t put a foot wrong. He was sharp at the net and moved with quick, sure steps. Before Seung could smell the grass in his first-ever match on such a surface, the set was over 6-0.

The Korean No. 4 did well to take the second set in a tie-breaker, of course with some help from Fazal who double-faulted on set-point.

Came the final set, and it was Seung’s turn to display an exhibition of mistakes. A series of double-faults and wild volleys gave Fazal the double break which he gladly accepted to win 6-2.

RESULTS

Leander Paes bt Hyung Taik Lee 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4; Syed Fazaluddin bt Seung Hoon Lee 6-0, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2.    


 
 
THE CROWD PULLED ME BACK IN TIME: PAES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 9 
For a man of few emotions, the wide grin Ramesh Krishnan wore doing the victory lap with his team at R.K. Khanna Stadium this afternoon was as spontaneous as it was significant.

The 39-year-old non-playing captain had played his cards right and guided India through a tricky clash against potential troublemakers South Korea. The move to bring in Vishal Uppal for Syed Fazaluddin in the doubles rubber had turned out to be a masterstroke.

“Yeah, I am relieved because we knew we had our task cut out against the Koreans,” Ramesh said after India advanced to the Davis Cup World Group play-off stage in his first year as captain. “The next step will be tougher, but Mahesh (Bhupathi) should be back by then.”

Refusing to be pessimistic, Ramesh was hopeful Bhupathi would get back his normal game and gel again with Leander, despite the long lay-off.

“We have to keep our fingers crossed, but it’s always possible to draw from memory especially after the kind of success they have had in the last three years,” he said.

Ramesh didn’t get jittery when Leander was down in the third set. “Normally, he gets charged up when it gets very close in Davis Cup. It was just a matter of one break...”

Leander was happy he had delivered in a crunch match yet again. “In tough situations, I generally rise to the occasion. I was annoyed with myself for getting into a hole. Actually, I was trying to do a little too much. But as always, the crowd pulled me back. That’s the charm of Davis Cup.”

That’s the magic of Leander Paes, too. In 11 years of committed service to the nation, the Beckbagan boy has now made a ‘clean sweep’ of all three matches in nine out of 25 ties he has played in.

“I am getting on in age and I know I’m in the latter stages of my career. The longer a match goes, the more it takes out of my body now. But there’s never a problem with motivation. Every time the need arises, I have tried to raise my game and succeeded more often than not,” said Leander.

Having engineered a victory in yet another tough battle, Leander is taking two weeks off before embarking on the claycourt season in Europe. A well-earned rest, it goes without saying.    


 
 
MANOJ SPOKE FROM PERSONAL GRUDGE: AZHAR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, April 9 
Former Indian skipper Mohammed Azharuddin today termed Manoj Prabhakar’s allegations of match-fixing against him as “baseless” and an outcome of “personal grudge”.

Azhar said he would decide on his future course of action after seeking legal opinion.

He said that Manoj, who had contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1996, had sought his support. “I did not oblige him and after his defeat he has been making allegations against me,” Azhar said.

[Yesterday, Prabhakar had said that Azhar and Ajit Wadekar were involved in fixing matches. At a discussion on the website wahindia.com, Prabhakar said that no match could be fixed without the involvement of the team management, particularly the captain who can change the course of the game.

Prabhakar had alleged in 1997 that during the Singer Cup in Colombo in 1994 a team-mate had offered him Rs 25 lakh to perform badly in a match. He said on being made the offer he had gone to the team management. “Team management is what? The manager, the captain and the vice-captain,” he said when asked who they were.

A panellist then asked: “You mean when Azhar was the captain and Wadekar the manager?” Prabhakar said: “Yeah, I am quoting those. The manager said it’s okay. You’re too good a player.” And the captain? “Captain — you know what I said — without the captain you can’t do anything.”]

“As far as I know the BCCI has already filed a suit against Manoj for compensation. At this stage I will only say that a inquiry by Y.V. Chandrachud was conducted and his report is already on record,” Azhar said.

When contacted by The Telegraph, Azhar said that he had nothing to add to his earlier statement and that he will speak to the Board and his lawyers first before further reacting to Prabhakar’s accusations.

He also refused to react to the charges against South African skipper Hansie Cronje and teammates.    


 
 
NO COMMENT: CHANDRACHUD 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 9: 
Justice (retd.) Y.V. Chandrachud, who probed allegations of match-fixing by the Indian cricketers, today declined comment on Manoj Prabhakar’s ‘revelations’ yesterday.

Contacted by The Telegraph in Mumbai, he said: “I began and finished my inquiry in 1997. I’ve nothing to add to my report... As for what Prabhakar is now saying, I myself have nothing to say. Indeed, I wouldn’t like to waste my time talking about Prabhakar.”

Justice Chandrachud, it may be recalled, had given Prabhakar ample opportunity — during the inquiry — to come clean with everything he knew. Prabhakar didn’t play ball.    


 
 
CLW ENTER LAST-8 STAGE IN BEIGHTON 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 9: 
The quarter final line-up of the 105th Servo Beighton Cup was decided with Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) completing the list today.

CLW defeated Western Railway 2-0 at the East Bengal ground in the last game of the pre-quarter final league.

Army XI take on CRPF in the first quarter final game at the East Bengal ground tomorrow.

Anil Toppo struck the first blow for CLW in the 15th minute, managing to dribble past the Western Railway defence to make it 1-0.

The score remained that way in the first half with Western Railway making the odd attacks without any result.

Sushil Minz increased the score for CLW in the 46th minute to seal the match. The game was played at lethargic pace with railwaymen rarely challenging the CLW domination. In the hot and humid climate, the winners too were just going about the motion.

BHA League

In a BHA division B league match, Aryan routed Real Sports Friends 7-0. The other match in the same division proved to be a non-starter with Entally failing to turn up against Jagrihi.

Khushmit Singh opened the scoring for Aryan. The other scorers were Francis Joseph, Satish Kumar, Umesh Tiwari, Syed Salan Hassan, Mujib Ahmed and Nadeeb Ahmed.

In the third division Victor Banerjee scored a hattrick in CCFC Gremlins’ 5-0 win over Ballygunge Institute.    


 
 
STAVROS POSTS IMPRESSIVE WIN 
 
 
BY HONKY DORY
 
Mumbai, April 9 
The Cooji Katrak-trained three-year-old colt Stavros scored an impressive five-length victory over the topweight Feel The Force in the 1,200m Gool S. Poonawalla Million at the Mumbai races on Sunday. Pesi Shroff partnered the gutsy son of Tecorno-Mrs Rose to victory.

RESULTS

(With inter-state dividends)

1. Mayapan Stakes 2,000m: (4-3-5) Great Pasha (Shroff) 1; Forest Fire 2; Pass The Buck 3. Won by: 3/4; 3; (2-8.8). Tote: Win Rs 40; Place: 22; 19; Quinella: 55; Tanala: 207. Fav: Forest Fire (3).

2. M. N. Nazir Trophy 2,400m: (2-1-3) Dominat Force (Appu) 1; Silently 2; Adam’s Blessings 3. Won by: 4-1/2; 5; (2-41.6). Tote: Win Rs 18; Quinella: 14. Fav: Dominat Force (2).

3. Amber Flash Plate 1,100m: (4-3-5) Zosyn (Bernard) 1; Caribbean Mystery 2; Smash For Cash 3. Won by: 2-3/4; 5-1/2; (1-9.2). Tote: Win Rs 37; Place: 17; 24; 15; Quinella: 228; Tanala: 1,260. Fav: Zosyn (4).

4. Al Marzouk Plate 1,400m: (10-3-9) Place de Ville (Kharadi) 1; Bolt Of Lightning 2; Pistol Star 3. Won by: 6; 2-1/4; (1-29.4). Tote: Win Rs 54; Place: 18; 17; 182; Quinella: 81; Tanala: 10,098. Fav: Seventh Fleet (6).

5. Gool S. Poonawalla Million 1,200m: (2-1-5) Stavros (Shroff) 1; Feel The Force 2; Oh So Quick 3. Won by: 5; 2; (1-14.1). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 14; 24; 25; Quinella: 129; Tanala: 1,007. Fav: Suave Star (6).

6. Jimmy Bharucha Trophy 1,400m: (1-6-4) Amazing Dream (R. Pandey) 1; True Thriller 2; Storm Again 3. Won by: 3/4; SH; (1-28.7). Tote: Win Rs 92; Place: 26; 18; 31; Quinella: 386; Tanala: 6,972. Fav: Royal Engagement (9).

7. Maharaja Jiwajirao Scindia Trophy 1,800m: (9-1-5) White Metal (Rajendra) 1; Great Investment 2; Star Fortune 3. Won by: 1; 1; (1-53). Tote: Win Rs 33; Place: 16; 31; 15; Quinella: 164; Tanala: 1,183. Fav: White Metal (9).

8. Ibiza Plate 1,200m: (6-7-10) Heaven’s Feel (Bajrang) 1; Sleepyhead 2; Declaration Of Love 3. Won by: 3/4; 1/2; (1-15.7). Tote: Win Rs 46; Place: 21; 78; 17; Quinella: 1,866; Tanala: 8,574. Fav: Declaration Of Love (10).

Jackpot: Rs 34,813; (C) Rs 1,285.

Treble: (i) Rs 510; (ii) Rs 1,594.    

 

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