Sourav guides India to win
Saba goes to Chennai for treatment
The 2 am call from Lele shocked me: Mongia
CCFC win big
Indian bowlers need to get act right vs Lanka
County will put Sourav on top: Whatmore
Tournament in trouble

Dhaka, May 31 
BANGLADESH 249/6 (50 ovs) INDIA 252/2 (48.1 ovs) MoM: Sourav

For all the hype about its glorious uncertainties, sport for the most part is highly predictable. More often than not, there is a certain inevitability to the twists and turns of the soap opera.

Whatever heroics the Bangladesh batsmen may have come up with in recording their highest-ever total against India this afternoon, turned out to be too inadequate in the wake of the Sourav Ganguly onslaught in the evening. The eight-wicket victory came as welcome relief for a side that has been embroiled in what looked like an insurmountable crisis till the other day.

Sourav showed the way in recording his 13th one-day hundred, while others did have useful contributions to make. In fact, with the rain threat looming large, Sourav (135 not out off 124 balls, 6x4, 7x6) and Sachin Tendulkar (36 not out off 25 balls, 4x4, 2x6) were at it right from the outset as they went about their task in a calculated fashion.

Sourav slammed two sixes off Mohammed Rafique in the second over, once the hosts decided to open with a spinner. Sachin was not to be left behind, taking 18 off Mushfiqur Rehman’s over a little later.

The Bangla bowling can, at best, be compared to that of a Calcutta first division league side and the pair made mincemeat of it.

Such was Sourav’s domination that there were moments when it seemed that he would have cleared the ground even with a toothpick. The confidence of a big knock is sure to put him in a good frame of mind against the tougher opponents later in the tournament.

Hemang Badani showed no signs of nerves and did look impressive in his 51-ball stay at the wicket, though it was his fielding that impressed the skipper most.

Once Badani left, it was left to Mohammed Azharuddin and Sourav to take India home. Their unbroken stand produced 100 runs in 93 balls with Azhar content with playing second fiddle.

If the batsmen played true to form, the bowlers disappointed in the beginning. Resuming at 98 for two, Bangla lost two early wickets but Akram Khan (66 off 52 balls, 8x4, 1x6) and Naimur Rehman toyed with the Indian attack.

Ajit Agarkar and Thiru Kumaran seemed lost, and even the experienced Anil Kumble struggled. The leg-spinner was even more guilty as he offered the batsmen a barrage of full tosses and half-volleys.

“There is still scope for improvement and a few lessons to learn,” Sourav said later.

Akram made the most of such lapses, hitting all over the place. The former Bangla skipper was not averse to using his feet even against the quickies as lofted hits over the infield came aplenty.

His aggression inspired the men to follow with Rafique hitting a straight six off Kumaran. Ninetyseven runs came off the last 10 overs, Akram scoring the bulk of them.

There was some confusion at the start with word having spread around that the match would start afresh. The Bangla team was informed likewise and even the Indian administrative manager Samiran Chakraborty and Sourav were aware of such a move.

Though there was no official confirmation from the Match Referee, it was believed that the ICC had ruled for a replay. The plan, though, was shelved later.    

Calcutta, May 31 
Injured Indian wicketkeeper Syed Saba Karim left for Chennai this evening to get his eye treated at the Sankara Netralaya.

Saba, who was struck on his right eye by one Anil Kumble-delivery during the Asia Cup match against Bangladesh in Dhaka yesterday, returned this morning. He was received at the airport by family members and former international Arun Lal.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Saba said there has been some internal bleeding and the specialsists in Calcutta have advised him to go to Chennai as a “precautionary measure”.

“The Kumble delivery came between the bat and pad of the batsman and perhaps brushed the flap of the left pad,” he said.

Though both his eyes were banadaged last night, the left eye seems to be unaffected. But Saba said his vision on the right eye is still a little blurred.    

Dhaka, May 31 
For the second time in six months, Nayan Mongia found an SOS coming his way after being initially overlooked. Only, this time, as the team management’s first choice.

Six months ago, after all, the situation was quite different when the Board rushed him to Australia, on the eve of the Test series: Then, the team management’s first choice (a ‘cover’ for the injured M.S.K. Prasad) had been Samir Dighe.

Responding to that call, however, turned out to be a nightmare. Even though Prasad probably wasn’t hundred per cent fit, he was still fielded in the first Test (Adelaide) and, eventually, Mongia returned home crushed. He was, clearly, made to feel unwanted.

It should be a lot different this time.

Mongia arrived here late this afternoon, taking the rather circuitous Vadodara-New Delhi-Dhaka route. The trip to Delhi became necessary for the visa — the whole exercise, of course, being necessitated by Syed Saba Karim’s unfortunate injury yesterday.

“While I’m happy at getting one more chance to give my best shot, I do feel bad for Baba (Saba Karim)... I hope he makes a quick recovery,” Mongia told The Telegraph moments after checking into The Sheraton.

Late last night/early this morning, though, Mongia was in a state of shock when Board secretary Jaywant Lele (also Vadodara-based) called.

“It was 2 am, and I initially went blank on recognising Lele’s voice. With so much going on, nowadays... On recovering, my first thought was: Why a call at that hour? In fact, till Lele conveyed news about Baba’s injury, I didn’t even know he was badly hurt.

“For, during the day, I was at my dad’s surgical outlet and didn’t watch the Bangladesh match. I only knew the game would continue (today). For my part, I won’t forget to wear the helmet to Anil (Kimble)... I’ve already been hit thrice off his bowling,” Mongia said.

Packing, obviously, came easy but if Mongia and wife Tanu had that feeling of deja vu, it’s understandable. All the while, however, they must have hoped the end-result is different from what it was at the turn of the millennium.

Today, Mongia can even afford to look back somewhat light-heartedly. He quipped: “This time, I hope I get to play and am not sent home!” [Incidentally, Mongia isn’t a certainty for tomorrow’s match against Asia Cup holders Sri Lanka.]

Mongia, pipped by Saba Karim when the selectors met in Pune, added: “I suppose it’s all destiny’s doing — somebody’s bad luck now working to my benefit.”

Significantly, the ongoing tournament is Mongia’s first limited overs outing since the World Cup last summer. In the interregnum, he has only played the two home Tests against South Africa.

“I would be there, and would just miss out... A year is a long break... Like I’ve said, ek chance aur mila hai.

Again, as I’ve said, I’ll give it my best shot. After that, I’ll leave things to those who matter and God,” Mongia signed off.

In 139 ODIs thus far, Mongia has totalled 1268 runs, taken 109 catches and effected 44 stumpings.    

Calcutta, May 31 
CC & FC hammered Police AC 9-0 in a quarter-final match of the Laxmibilas Cup at the SAI astroturf today. They will face Students AC tomorrow for a place in the final.

Hardeep Singh led the CC & FC charge, scoring three goals with Harminder Singh and Rupam Adhikari netting two each. Pritam Mistry and Pintu Debnath completed the tally.

The Indian Life Saving Society (ILSS) topped group C with a 7-4 win against College Square SC in the 27th K.K. Dutta Memorial age-group waterpolo meet at the Calcutta Sports Association.    

Dhaka, May 31 
His hotel room littered with cricket gear, Sourav Ganguly stood in one corner having a good feel of the four new bats he has brought along for the Asia Cup. Trying to separate the heavier Sunridges willows from the lighter ones — the grips will soon have the tri-colour embossed on them — the Indian skipper seemed more concerned about the weather holding true today than focus on Thursday’s game versus Sri Lanka.

“Full points will help us start on an even keel tomorrow,” Sourav told The Telegraph as he prepared to leave The Sheraton for the Bangabandhu Stadium.

The weather did bring the smile back on his face, but the performance of his bowlers was hardly inspiring. In the absence of Jawagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad, the attack turned out to be easy meat even for the inexperienced Bangladesh batsmen. The way Ajit Agarkar and Thiru Kumaran were carted around the park didn’t make a decent sight.

Unless there is a dramatic improvement overnight, the Lankans are sure to relish the occasion. Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva have always been India’s nemesis and if the latter’s form in the opening tie is any indication, the Indians are surely in for a hard time.

Sourav, though, put up a brave front. “Anyone might have a bad day in office. Our attack is definitely better than the Lankans,” he said.

Aravinda’s opening the innings, the skipper pointed out, is hardly a cause for worry. “It also means he will be susceptible to the new ball,” Sourav countered.

Sanath Jaysuriya, though, is happy that the experiment has clicked and confident of Aravinda continuing with the good work. “The unbeaten 96 against Bangladesh was a very satisfying performance. He showed his class yet again and proved that he can bat anywhere in the order,” the Lankan captain said.

The arrival of Nayan Mongia, as replacement for Syed Saba Karim, does not necessarily mean that the Baroda wicketkeeper will be in the playing XI tomorrow. It is learnt that the Indian thinktank will continue utilising Rahul Dravid’s services behind the stumps and play an extra allrounder.

A fit Ajay Jadeja will walk into the team while Nikhil Chopra is likely to come in for Hemang Badani.

The Indians may opt to chase than set a target keeping in mind the rain interruption that could alter equations. The team management is also toying with the idea of opening the innings with Robin Singh, in case some quick runs are needed at the beginning during the chase.

With the wicket playing true and fair, it is likely to be a battle of the batsmen. Three hundred-plus scores may be the order of the day.    

Dhaka, May 31 
Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore agrees with his Lancashire successor Bobby Simpson that Sourav Ganguly’s exposure to County cricket will help realise his ambition of emerging the world’s No. 1 batsman.

“If you’re successful in first-class cricket in England, over a period of five months or thereabouts, you’re bound to continue with the good habits. Sourav only has to apply himself even more to get where every batsman aspires to,” Whatmore told The Telegraph.

Whatmore, who quit Lancashire midway last season to return to Lanka — in late 1996, incidentally, the Lanka and Lancashire roles were reversed — added Sourav couldn’t have chosen a better County.

“Lancashire has it all: It’s deep in tradition, has produced so many England greats... Inculcates that culture of wanting to excel. In recent years, of course, it has been very successful in the shorter version but, with Sourav and the legendary Simmo around, this could be Lancashire’s summer where the Championship is concerned.”

Whatmore, by the way, felt Wasim Akram had a big influence in Lancashire’s one-day success. “It’s not that Akram isn’t a great Test cricketer, but his impact on the shorter version has been so pronounced that many Lancashire players sought to emulate the one-day cricketer in him...

“It’s important for a County’s cabinet to be lined with trophies. Akram ensured that during the many years he spent at Old Trafford.” Akram quit in 1998.

But, how exactly will Sourav gain?

“Because the calendar is tight, whatever you do, you do in plenty. That, in my book, accelerates the learning. Actually, the truism that practice makes perfect holds true.

Lots of batting, fielding and if you’re a bowler, bowling... Sourav can only profit from such sustained exposure.”

Whatmore added: “It’s not that Sourav will gain only personally. Throughout the season, there are bound to be the little, little things that he’ll pick up and remember when placed in a similar situation while playing for India. So, it will be a plus for India as well.”

And, what about the burn-out factor?

“I accept it can get tough, physically, but England is a great place to play and earn some money... Also, many have come off demanding summers and done well in internatonal cricket. One example that quickly comes to mind is Courtney Walsh... He probably still has two years left.

“Bottomline where burn-out and fatigue can come into play is one’s state of mind. What’s important is what you want achieved.”

Did Whatmore himself learn in the two-and-half seasons at Lancashire (from 1997)?

“Absolutely. I reckon man-management is at its peak (in County cricket)... I mean, you’re at it all the time... There’s so much communication that’s needed — and, not only with the players. One keeps interacting with the selectors, the committee... I did learn.”

As the Lankans were leaving for nets, there was time for just one question: How amicable was the ‘break’ with Lancashire?

Whatmore smiled, and answered: “I suppose the feelings were the same in Lanka, when I left them for Lancashire...”    

Calcutta, May 31 
Just three days before the scheduled start, the local season-opening McDowell Cup has run into troubled waters. As things stand now, the meet can’t be held before June 29.

In a letter to the Indian Football Association (IFA), the Inspector General, Law and Order, today informed that it will not be possible to deploy adequate security personnel due to election duties.

The letter said no policemen could be posted at the Salt Lake Stadium from June 2 to 9 and from June 20 to 28 due to assignments for the Parliamentary bye-election at Pashkura on June 5 and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation elections on June 25.

The meet can’t be held in between as two of the contesting teams — Mohun Bagan and Tollygunge Agragami — are supposed to leave for Pondicherry for the Millennium Cup immediately after the McDowell Cup final, which was slated for June 12.

The letter from the Inspector General, Law and Order, also blamed the IFA for not consulting them while drawing up the schedule. The IFA joint secretaries were not available for comment on this.    


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