Special invitee Manoj still mum on briber’s name
Dhruv enters semi-finals
Bengal cruise into title-round
Tollygunge in semi-finals
Paes-Siemerink in semi-finals

New Delhi, April 27 
There was just one no-show (Union minister Arun Jaitley), but 29 invitees turned up. Clearly, the conference hall at hockey’s National Stadium had never before seen so many cricket luminaries.

While the host, Union sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa himself turned up sharp at 11.00 am, there were quite a few latecomers.

A minute beyond the appointed hour came cricketer-turned politician Chetan Chauhan, while coach Kapil Dev, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president A.C. Muthiah and Rajiv Shukla, one of the newest entrants in the Rajya Sabha, were late by five, ten and 15 minutes, respectively.

Bishan Singh Bedi who, in his playing days would bring up the tail, opened the invitees’ innings. The early birds included (unbelievably) Mansur Ali Khan ‘Tiger’ Pataudi and Inderjit Singh Bindra.

The most regal entry, of course, was made by International Cricket Council (ICC) president Jagmohan Dalmiya, former BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur and current vice-president (Central) Kamal Morarka.

Well, Morarka’s silver Benz stood out among the Toyotas, Astras and Hondas. Not to speak of the Ambassadors.

Incidentally, there were some invitees for lunch only — heading this list was controversial Manoj Prabhakar (he arrived as ‘early’ as 12.50 pm, confusing many who weren’t aware he had been invited), with joint top seed being Ajay Jadeja.

[Predictably, Dhindsa was asked whether he did his bit to persuade Prabhakar reveal the identity of the teammate who allegedly offered him a Rs 25-lakh bribe (in 1994), and the minister promptly answered: “I did, but I couldn’t force him... The home minister (L.K.Advani) himself has assured him protection, but...”]

While Bedi was the first to arrive, Union minister (and BCCI vice-president from West) Manohar Joshi was the first to leave. Madhav Rao Scindia, Kapil and the rest followed.

Kapil — like Sunil Gavaskar, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar later — declined to comment, but others insisted the meeting was “fruitful.”

However, Bedi did say: “I would have been happy had the time allotted been much more (than just under three hours)... We could really have had an open debate.”

Bindra, who made sure his departure didn’t coincide with Dalmiya’s, remarked he stood by everything he said last week and would “share” all information, to which he was privy, with the appropriate investigative agency.

“I know I’ve been calling for a CBI probe, but I’ve been doing so with good reasons. We, in the Punjab Cricket Association, know what a CBI inquiry is all about. I’ve still been advocating one as the circumstances demand it,” Bindra pointed out.

With the BCCI, too, now talking of the CBI, Bindra had reason to gloat. He didn’t.

The seating arrangement (finalised by SAI secretary Amrit Mathur), by the way, was such that Dalmiya and Bindra were on the same side of the ‘divide’. Predictably, though, they ignored each other.

While it remains to be seen what shape the proposed government inquiry will take, it’s significant a “voluntary declaration of assets” by players and officials was “discussed” at today’s meeting.

Henceforth, cricket will actually be a different ball-game. Things could also be very different for the BCCI — which is under pressure and on the backfoot — as well.    

Calcutta, April 27 
The fourth day of the all-India ranking Bharat Petroleum Bengal state junior tennis meet passed off without upsets with the remaining seeds sailing into the semi-finals.

Dhruv Kumar of Bengal, the top seed in the boys’ under-16, beat Anshuman Dutta of Assam 6-1, 6-0. Boys’ under-14 number one R. Vasudevan of Tamil Nadu too had an easy outing, defeating local boy Farid Alam 6-1, 6-2.

In the girls’ sections, top seed K. Fathima Baig of Tamil Nadu was hardly troubled by seventh seed Sharmistha Choudhuri of West Bengal in under-14. Fathima, however, fell to Priyanka Parekh of West Bengal in the under-16.    

Calcutta, April 27 
Bengal notched up their third straight win in the round-robin league to ease into the final of the 5th Eveready East Zone hockey championship.

Sunil Soren struck a brace, while Poulus Soy and Junas Bara netted one each before Lallmawiliana reduced the margin for the visitors from north-east.

A snap shower around noon did enough damage to rule out the day’s first match between Bihar and Assam at the CC&FC. The match has been rescheduled to 8 am tomorrow, at the East Bengal ground.

Bihar have another engagement in the afternoon — against Bengal, at CC&FC. The final, expected to feature defending champions Bihar, comes off Saturday.

Bengal got an early goal, as Poulus Soy and Sunil Soren combined well on the left. Soy’s final pass, to a well-placed Soren inside the striking zone, was smartly pushed home.

Christopher Thomas, who caught the eye with his ball distribution, came close to doubling Bengal’s lead in the sixth minute. But his powerful drive, following a penalty corner, was pushed out of harm’s way by custodian Lalong Liana — the first of half-a-dozen saves by the Mizoram goalie.

Junas Bara and Gurdhyan Singh missed sitters before the latter made amends by utilising a Soy cross.

Not satisfied with a two-goal cushion, Bengal pressed hard in the second session. Chances came thick and fast, so did misses. Goalie Lalong and the two central defenders were kept busy round the clock.

The loss of Ngurzamiliana, who was doing a decent job in defence, hurt Mizoram.

He suffered a nasty cut above the left eye off a Bengal player’s stick and had to leave the field after 20 minutes. Soon after, Bengal struck twice.

First, Soren did justice to Gurdhyan’s measured through. Bara then scored with a stinging angular hit to make it 4-0.

Though Bengal dominated play, it wasn’t one-way traffic. The hard-running Mizoram boys broke through from time to time, relying mainly on the speed and enterprise of Lalbiakmia. They forced as many as eight penalty corners (one less than Bengal).

Mizoram got into the scoresheet five minutes from the final whistle. Lalbiakmanis’ cross was neatly deflected into the goal by Lallmawiliana.    

Calcutta, April 27 
Tollygunge Agragami entered the semi-finals of the P. Sen cricket meet with a five-wicket win over CAB President’s XI in a rain-curtailed match at the Eden Gardens today.

Batting first, CAB XI scored 143 for six in 41.2 overs when rain stopped play. Tirtha Roy top-scored with 57 while Nilashish Ghosh made 51.

In reply, Tollygunge Agragani were given a revised target of 103 runs in 25 overs. Tollygunge scored 106 for five in 23.3 overs. Srikanth Kalyani remained unbeaten on 51 off 60 balls.

Tollygunge meet East Bengal in the semi-finals.    

Calcutta, April 27 
Leander Paes and Jan Siemerink are in the semi-finals of the $100,000 Bermuda Challenger.

According to information received here, the Indo-Dutch duo rallied to beat Tuomas Ketola and G. Williams 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. In the quarter finals, the top seeds saw off Karsten Braasch and Dirk Dier 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.    


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