Manager Rao wanted Prabhakar thrown out
This simply cannot be true
East Bengal keep lead
South Point emerge best
Indians go down to Danes 0-5
Form favours Classic Society

Calcutta, May 12 
Just weeks after the Salim Malik scandal broke, in early 1995, N.Venkata Rao, manager to the Centenary Quadrangular in New Zealand, was quoted as saying the Indian team had “black sheep.”

Of course, Rao issued a denial within 48 hours of that quote appearing in a multi-edition daily, but his observations regarding Manoj Prabhakar in the mandatory manager’s report, are more than just eyebrow-raising.

Significantly, the confidential report came only months after Prabhakar (and Nayan Mongia’s) suspension for inexplicable stonewalling in Kanpur, during a one-dayer versus the West Indies.

As is the convention, the report was forwarded (on March 1) to the then Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Inderjit Singh Bindra. Yet, there is no record of Bindra ever having acted on it.

Worse, today, Bindra seems to have joined hands with Prabhakar, with the top ‘target’ being current national coach Kapil Dev.

Like Prabhakar, Bindra has promised to reveal all to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). It remains to be seen whether he will talk about the Rao report.

India, it may be recalled, didn’t make the finals of that tournament. Beating Australia in an inconsequential last league game was preceded by losses to New Zealand (four wickets) and South Africa (14 runs).

Prabhakar scored two and six in the first two matches (bowling figures: 7-1-28-1 and 6-0-24-0), and while he hit 50 in the last game, as many as 61 runs were conceded in his ten overs.

Rao’s five-page report doesn’t mention match-fixing — it wasn’t exactly fashionable, then — but the Prabhakar-specific quotes raise the question: Was Prabhakar one of the ‘original’ black sheep?

The Prabhakar-specific portion reads: “My observation regarding Mr Manoj Prabhakar is that his physical fitness needs to be checked. His attitude towards the members of the team is very casual and non-cooperative.

“His conduct with the youngsters in the team caused many a hiccup. I feel his adamant behaviour speaks (sic, tells) on the attitude of the youngsters in the team and may cause a demoralising effect on the team members and, ultimately, on their performance.

“In view of the above stated things, I feel it is better if we do away with him in the larger interest of the team.”

Such strong words may not be without precedent, but certainly rare nevertheless.

Contacted by The Telegraph in Vijayawada this afternoon, Rao was somewhat taken aback, though he did acknowledge having called for Prabhakar’s ouster from the team.

But why?

Rao, secretary of the Andhra Cricket Association, answered by indicating he would “release” his report in the “next couple of days.”

Perhaps Rao should, belatedly, disown his own “black sheep” denial and also come clean on why he lambasted Prabhakar in his report.

A word or two from Bindra will be in order, too. Of late, he has been shooting his mouth off. But the question is: Why was he silent back in 1995?

Meanwhile, with allegations flying about thick and fast, moves are afoot within the BCCI to have an emergent general body meeting before the team leaves for the Asia Cup in Dhaka, later this month.    

Sometime in the early Nineties the Indian team was practising at the National Stadium in Delhi where they were to also get some medical check-ups done. Kapil Dev, being a local lad, was not staying at the hotel but reporting for the sessions from his home. On that day he had come in his car. There used to be a big crowd to watch the Indians train and after the sessions when Kapil got back to his car he found scrawled on the bonnet Kapil di Gaddi.

Furious though Kapil was, there was no way he could find the mischief-maker, the only alternative being a repair. Only those who own cars and two wheelers know the sense of anger and frustration one feels when one finds one’s car defaced. The damage can be repaired and the car can look as good as new, but what happens when one’s integrity is questioned, as is happening to Kapil today? Will any amount of repair ever undo the damage that has been caused?

People have asked me what do I make of this whole imbroglio. I can only say that having played together, travelled together, been in triumphs and defeats together, my heart and my eyes feel that this simply cannot be true. Very early in my life I learnt to believe in my eyes more than in my ears. And from what I saw during the time, I felt privileged. Yes, that is the only apt word, to be in the same side with Kapil. He was a player who always tried to hold the country’s flag high. There may have been differences in our attitude and approach to the game, but there were no personal differences ever, and I have nothing but the pleasantest of memories.

One can understand ego, anger and frustration coming in the way of playing at one’s best. That is only a failure of temperament and not a failure of character, and every cricketer goes through this at some stage of his career.

It was heartrending to see him on TV, asking us all: “Is this what one gets after playing for the country for 20 years?” Does anyone have an answer to Kapil’s anguished query?

If you accuse someone of ‘treason’ — and that is what my book says for selling one’s country — that accusation must be backed by solid, incontrovertible proof. Let us not spoil a reputation that has taken years and years of toil to build, on mere hearsay.

Over to more pleasant topics, and nothing is more pleasant than talking about youngsters who are keen and eager to make their presence felt at the international level. The BCCI, after a lot of dilly-dallying, has finally started a cricket academy in Bangalore. Not surprisingly, there was criticism from some quarters about the selection of the players for the academy. We, in India, will never learn to have a national outlook and see only how we can look great in our provinces and those few who try to have a national view will be pulled down by these petty ones who want to consolidate their own power base in their states.

After these teething problems the academy was formally opened by one of India’s greatest cricketers, G.R. Viswanath, and with the director of the Australian Cricket Academy, Rod Marsh, also present, it has begun in right earnest.

This is being written after my first day at the academy and the enthusiasm and eagerness of the players is heartening and augurs well for the future. This game is where one is always learning, even after one’s playing days are over and so nobody can be a master but always a student of this game of glorious uncertainties.

Even after coming out of a busy season the youngsters are looking energetic and keen. The batsmen look well organised in their technique and their are a couple of really promising fast bowlers. The Karnataka State Cricket Association has provided good practice pitches so far and with the ball coming nicely onto the bat, the contest is looking good.

Of course, nets and matches are totally different and this is where temperament comes in. Self-belief and confidence are the main ingredients for success in any field and if the players are prepared to work hard and learn from mistakes then this academy should produce really top cricketers. They may not all play for the country but they will still be able to raise standards by the competition they will give to the others.

Professional Management Group    

Calcutta, May 12 
In what has turned out to be a three-horse race for the BHA league title, East Bengal today retained their slender lead as CESC and SAI Training Centre ended a top-of-the-table tussle in a 2-2 stalemate.

The red-and-gold brigade will have to live in uncertainty because they have come to the homestretch having played a match more than the other two.

East Bengal have 17 points from from 11 games, while both CESC and SAI have 16 from 10.

Today, East Bengal beat Calcutta Customs 2-0, but only after a barren first half and mounting pressure. It was left to Promod Kumar to again carry the team forward, the wily striker scoring in the 50th and 67th minutes.

In another first division group A match, BNR tamed Howrah Union 3-1. Mohammad Arif, Anmol Aind and Saul Ekka scored for BNR while Kaushik Dey got the Howrah goal.

The CESC-SAI showdown was an edge-of-the-seat affair. In a coast-to-coast battle, there was both excitement and top quality hockey.

Christopher Thomas gave CESC the lead when he trapped a Lalit Singh pass in the 17th to slam home. Atal Tirkey levelled for SAI when his shot from top of the circle had everyone just watching.

SAI surged ahead seven minutes after the breather when Manoj Kumar converted a penaly corner. CESC made it 2-2 when, in the 55th, Thomas found Sunil Soren after a bout of passing with Raju Rajbhar. Soren made no mistake.

Telecom hockey

Bihar and Karnataka set up a clash for the title at the all-India Telecom hockey tournament at the SAI Eastern Centre today.

Bihar beat Orissa 2-0 with goals from Lalit Kumar and Gabriel Topno. Karnataka rode goals from J.J. Bopanna (two) and Praful Kujur to get past MNTL of Delhi. Amrit Topno and Rajinder Kumar got the goals for the Delhi outfit.    

Calcutta, May 12 
South Point lifted the Parle-G CAB under-19 title with an emphatic victory over St James in the final today.

Straddling their opponents with a huge 263 for six at the Rajdanga ground on the Kasba connector, thanks to innings of substance from Dipanjan Bose (86), Satyabrata Gupta (53) and Subhojit Paul (32), South Point then choked the St James batsmen with some tight bowling.

St James managed just 170 for nine in the allotted 40 overs. Subhankar Roy Chowdhury picked up two wickets for 13 and Subhojit Paul produced another allround performance by knocking down a couple of wickets.

He was later adjudged Man of the Series.

For South Point, one of the four teams given a bye into the quarter finals, it has been a rather smooth passage to the title. They crushed Jadavpur High School by 63 runs before outclassing Ballygunge Government by 74 runs.

South Point picked up a winners’ purse of Rs 16,000 while St James had to settle for Rs 9,600.    

Kuala Lumpur, May 12 
National badminton champion Pullela Gopichand went down with out a fight to top ranked world singles player, Peter Gade Christensen of Denmark in the Thomas Cup here today.

Gopichand lost 1-15, 6-15 in only 26 minutes, the first game being wrapped up by the Danish shuttler in precisely 10 minutes. Denmark went on to win 5-0.

India lost the first doubles in 34 minutes when Martin Lundgaard and Lard Paaske beat Vijay Deep Singh and Marcose Bristow 15-6, 15-4. The Danish supremacy continued as Nikhil Kanetkar found the 34-year-old reigning Olympic champion Poul Erik Hoyer Larsen far too crafty and experienced and lost 6-15, 7-15 in 29 minutes.

The Indians caved in easily in the second doubles, too. The only saving grace in a way was Siddhartha Jain, who stretched Kenneth Jonasson in the first game before succumbing to a 16-17, 9-15 defeat.

Gopichand, who suffered from typhoid during the senior nationals in Kochi immediately after his Thomas Cup qualifiers in Delhi, was today beaten in every department of the game. Gopichand, however, did not ascribe his loss to any after-effects of his illness.

“I just could not get going today. I have played Peter once before and that match was far better, even though I lost in two games then, too. But nothing worked for me tonight.”

National coach Arif said: “Gopichand served short all the time. His tosses never came deep enough to pose any problems to Christensen. He could not settle down.”

The Indian was lacking in both speed and control. Another factor responsible for his poor performance was that the national champion, ranked 34th in the world currently, has not played in any international event since the Thomas Cup qualifiers in Delhi and was short on top level match practice.

The singles coach for the Danish team, Thomas Lund, said later, “We had a definite game plan before we went in. We had decided in a team meeting not to allow the Indians to play near the net and keep them at the back court as much as possible and we succeeded.”    

A fairly good second to Imperial Scholar in her last week start over 1,800m, form favours the Robert Foley-trained Classic Society to win the 2,000m Hill Stamina Cup at the Ootacamund (Udhagamandalam) races on Saturday. Amyn Merchant partners the four-year-old filly by Classic Sport out of Poly Liah.


11.30 am: Beau Bruno 1. Come True 2.

12 noon: Classic Society 1. Great Momento 2. Endless Quest 3.

12.30 pm: Lovely Prospect 1. Arctic Charmer 2. Bold Enough 3.

1 pm: Athos 1. Knight Vale 2. Trojan Hero 3.

1.30 pm: Prismatic 1. Donna Bella 2. Italian Prince 3.

2 pm: Transom 1.Calypso Run 2. Regal Dancer 3.

2.30 pm: Make A Million 1. Phantom Gold 2. Kasmira 3.

Day’s Best: Beau Bruno Double: Lovely Prospect & Prismatic.    


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