Sachin fails to compensate for team’s pathetic bat
I never look too far down the road: Jayasuriya
Pak desperate to win: Moin
Cricket fails to set Bangladesh ablaze
Team Paes unseeded
FCI beat Port Trust 1-0 to emerge cluster champion
SAI storm into final with 6-0 win

Dhaka, June 1 
There are no good ways to lose a match but there are different degrees of bad. India today suffered one of the worst as the inconsistency in their batting lay bare on one more occasion.

It is widely believed that more than individual skill, it is the attitude and temperament that separates teams at the highest level. The Sri Lankans’ professional and hungry-for-success approach was enough in taming the ragged-looking Indians at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.

India’s chances were alive as long as Sachin Tendulkar (93 off 95 balls, 10x4) stayed put. But once he fell to a well-laid-out Lankan plan in the 37th over, it virtually signalled curtains for the Indians.

Kaushalya Weeraratne (three for 46), playing only his second match, prayed on Sachin’s penchant for going for the pull against short-pitched balls. The medium-pacer had positioned Mahela Jaywardene at deep square leg and as the Master Blaster executed the shot it went straight to him.

The 19-year-old Weeraratne made amends at the right moment for having floored a simple caught-and-bowled chance off Sachin, when the batsman was on 29.

The Lankans joy knew no bounds as Jayasuriya and his men realised India could no longer stay in the fight. The shock was hard to absorb as India lost two more wickets at the same score.

The Lankan skipper acknowledged that Sachin’s departure was a big relief and made them sure of victory. “Till Sachin was there it was real tough,” Jayasuriya said later.

The 71-run loss showed the Indian middle-order in poor light. Sanity was missing from their batting as Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh failed to reach even double figures.

Azhar seemed to have forgotten the basic of running between the wickets as he pushed forward and went down the crease without even caring to look at the non-striker. Jadeja and Robin needlessly snicked behind.

Once Sourav left, almost in a similar manner, Joshi — promoted as a pinchhitter — fell victim to a top edge and Dravid drove early at Muttiah Muralidharan. The others followed suit.

Earlier, the Lankans were obviously playing to a strategy of staying at the wicket in the beginning and launching into the offensive in the later stages. The loss of four quick wickets midway through the innings did affect the flow of runs, but Romesh Kaluwitharana and Chaminda Vaas ensured they reached an imposing total.

But it was Sanath Jayasuriya’s eighth one-day hundred which once more exposed the inadequacies of the Indian attack on this placid track. The Indian bowling has always been easy fodder for the Lankan captain and today was no different. Jayasuriya (105 off 116 balls, 12x4) was harsh on anything pitched up as he executed the lofted shot over the infield with consummate ease.

The bowling was juvenile with Anil Kumble, Nikhil Chopra and Sunil Joshi struggling to find the right length. The fielding, too, never lived upto the expectations. The ground fielding was pathetic and the fitness of the players seemed to be far from international standards.

Boundaries were conceded often and the conditioning camp in Pune seemed to have done little to improve the players’ physical state. The soaring mercury compounded matters for the Indians as Jayasuriya cut loose.

Kumble was picked out for special treatment as he went for 25 runs in his first five-over spell. Despite being in the thick of action in the English county circuit, the leg spinner has looked completely out of sorts in the tournament so far. Much like yesterday, full tosses and half-volleys were delivered at will making the task of the batsmen easy.

Once Sourav realised the spinners were not going to keep the Lankans in check, he had to fall back on Sachin. The former skipper responded with his cocktail of deliveries, dismissing the dangerous looking Maravan Atapattu and Russel Arnold in quick succession.

He came very close to picking up his third, but Sourav dropped Kaluwitharana to his left at first slip. Ajit Agarkar and Thiru Kumaran did have a tidy opening spell, but once they came back for the slog overs, their figures went haywire.    

Dhaka, June 1 
Sanath Jayasuriya, the ‘Silent Assassin’, has never been the gregarious sort but, today, he is quieter than usual. Thanks probably both to the captaincy and the string of recent controversies.

In fact, when The Telegraph met the Sri Lankan captain at The Sheraton, his opening words were: “I know nothing of any scandal, wouldn’t like to comment and, please, don’t talk of any controversy.”

The ground rules, then, were made clear at the earliest. Jayasuriya, however, didn’t duck any cricket-specific question.

Following are excerpts

On the captaincy

At the moment, I’m enjoying it... We’ve done pretty well since last August and, more important, the players have extended full support.

On being one of the few current captains to be actually enjoying being in the ‘hot seat’

(Smiles) I know some have quit in recent months but, really, cricket is a team game and it’s important for everybody to rally around the captain. Captains need the support of all players.

On his equation with senior pros Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva, both former captains

I asked them to back me and, whenever they’ve played, their support has very much been there.

On whether he felt uncomfortable having former captains around

No. I always give the seniors the respect that’s due. In turn, the seniors have realised they’ve got to support the captain of the day.

On his message to the team at his first team meeting as full-fledged captain, last August

I talked of two things: That we can’t always win; that I wouldn’t mind losing if the effort was hundred per cent. Of course, I’ll be disappointed, but consolation will come by way of the effort.

On what has made the difference in the past nine-ten months

Our performance in last summer’s World Cup was an eye-opener. Because we did so badly (despite being reigning champions, not even qualifying for the Super-Six), the players realised they’ve got to do well. That, somewhere down the line, we’ve got to start winning. That we began selecting separate Test and one-day teams has also made a difference — fielding youngsters hungry for success, in the ODIs, has worked.

On captaincy itself

Obviously, it isn’t an easy job because you’ve got to constantly interact with 14/15 individuals. As no two players have the same make-up, your man-management skills are put to test.

On his style of captaincy

I’m not that experienced... Frankly, I’m learning... I don’t lead entirely by instinct, as we always have a basic plan in place. Generally, it helps to keep things simple.

On whether, given the turmoil Lankan cricket was in then, he thought twice before accepting the captaincy

(Laughs) Didn’t get the chance to think about it... They didn’t seek my consent... I was just appointed and, suddenly, realised I had a lot more responsibility.

On the future of Ranatunga and Aravinda

Aravinda is only being picked occasionally in ODIs, but both have cricket left in them and should certainly play Test cricket. The youngsters, after all, can learn so much by sharing the dressing room with such experienced cricketers.

On whether he has learnt from Ranatunga the captain

Difficult to pinpoint but, yes, I would always closely watch his field settings... I know Arjuna is talked about as an aggressive captain, but I prefer adapting to the situation.

On his favourite captain

No favourites.

On whether captaincy can become a burden

(After a pause) Depends. But, if the team wins, then...

On what remains more satisfying — beating Australia at home or Pakistan in Pakistan (both Test series’)

Australia, for sure... Never before had we beaten them... It’s such a professional team. Everyone knows what his job is. Everyone also delivers.

On Dav Whatmore’s second innings as Lanka coach

We’re comfortable with each other... He keeps reminding us of the basics; keeps motivating us. This time around, he’s probably spending more time in one-to-one sessions with players.

Finally, what of the future

Today, I’m only looking to the next match and, then, the next series/tournament. I never look too far down the road. That’s not me.    

Dhaka, June 1 
Left to him, Pakistan captain Moin Khan would ensure players put country before County.

Responding to a query from The Telegraph at a Media conference, an hour after arriving after nearly three days of travelling (Antigua-London-Delhi-Dhaka), Moin said: “Yes, the country should come first but, if our Board’s Code of Conduct allows for County-headed players to be released, there’s nothing I can do.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has released Saqlain Mushtaq (Surrey) and Shoaib Akhtar (Nottinghamshire) and, so, Moin will be without their services as Pakistan seek to win the Asia Cup for the first time. Moin, though, added Shoaib is still “unfit.”

Had the stunning finish to the Test series in the West Indies — a one-wicket decision in favour of the Windies — taken a lot out of his players?

Moin answered: “On the contrary, they would like to carry on with the good form... That close finish hasn’t demoralised us one bit. In fact, as we haven’t ever won this tournament, you could say we are desperate.”

As it was with the Indians’ first formal Media conference, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB)-appointed Media coordinator laid down the groundrules: Only Asia Cup-specific questions. But, as it was with the Indians again, enforcing that isn’t quite as easy as probably fixing a game.

Even before the pleasantries were over, then, came the bouncer: Was the last Pakistan versus Bangladesh match (1999 World Cup) rigged?

Moin, not totally taken aback, replied: “I’m not aware of that... In any case, our Board has specifically asked us to just focus on cricket.” Seizing the moment, manager Brig. (retd) Khwaja Mohammed Nasir added: “Why take credit away from Bangladesh? They beat Pakistan fair and square.”

Brig. Nasir, who doubles up as diplomat as well had, in his introductory remarks, pointed out: “The Pakistan team is very happy to be back among brothers and sisters. We’ve brought with us greetings from all in Pakistan.”

Actually, he did a Shahryar Khan.

Asked whether the Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum report had ‘affected’ players, Brig. Nasir shot back: “Aap kya bol rahe hain? Wasim Akram bowled his heart out, emerging Man of the Match (in Antigua)... Then, Inzamam-ul-Haq was in tremendous nick... Mushtaq Ahmed, too, did so well... All may have figured in the report, but their performances do all the talking.”

Javed Miandad, who was captain when Bangladesh last hosted the Asia Cup (1988) and is now the coach, went along with Moin’s thoughts on Pakistan’s morale. “Having won in Sharjah and the West Indies (one-day series), we’re looking to making it a hattrick before leaving for Sri Lanka.”

Incidentally, included in the squad is quick Shabbir Ahmed, whose action was deemed suspect by the ICC late last year. Since then, of course, he has worked with Michael Holding and, apparently, all is clear.

The Asia Cup’s seventh edition, significantly, will see the return of former captain Saeed Anwar. Having had a long injury/surgery-induced lay-off, you can bet he’ll be hungry for runs. Anwar arrived from Lahore earlier in the day.

Pakistan open against Bangladesh tomorrow, less than 24 hours after landing here.    

Dhaka, June 1 
The stars are in town but the craze has hardly been inspiring.

Cricket may occupy the front pages in all leading dailies but the fervour for the Asia Cup has lacked the usual zeal and warmth. Empty stands, even in matches involving the hosts, have been a regular feature.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has been banking on the game’s immense popularity here as one of the reasons for being granted Test status but the general mood, quite unlike previous tournaments, has been far from encouraging.

Incidentally, New Zealand also decided to extend their support to the BCB’s Test bid at the ICC meeting in London later this month. This was informed by Christopher Doig, chief executive officer of NZ board, to BCB president Saber Hussain Chowdhury in a faxed message. It means all full-members, except England, have supported Bangladesh.

“The rain has proved to be a dampner. The uncertainty over the matches going the full distance kept people away from the stadium this time,” said a BCB member. “Moreover tickets for the hospitality boxes and the special blocks have been clubbed together. But daily ticket sales for the general public have now picked up,” he informed.

The organisers, who are still certain of making profit, hope the situation will improve with the arrival of Pakistan. “The India-Pakistan match will be a sellout,” he said confidently.

It is learnt that the blackmarketeers had picked up huge blocks of tickets in advance but are now finding it hard to sell.

Has the match-fixing controversy got to do anything with the lack of interest? “The public has been following the sequence of events but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have become cynical,” the BCB member said.

The Sheraton, where the teams have put up, also does not have the usual frenzied gathering of fans waiting to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars. But that does not mean there is a lax in security.

“The arrangements are full proof, though, we have no special orders from the organisers or the government,” said Hossain, the security-in-charge at the hotel.

A teenaged girl had yesterday blocked the Indian team bus on way to the stadium demanding Sachin Tendulkar marry her. The police were quick to act and whisk her away. She returned at night when the players were back after the match but was denied entry into the premises once the police recognised her.    

Calcutta, June 1 
The defending French Open doubles champions have chosen to be foes, not friends on the tennis court. Twelve months after the Dream Team earned India its first indigenous Grand Slam title, Leander Paes and Bhupathi are going into the 2000 Roland Garros championship with varying fortunes.

Mahesh Bhupathi, back from a five-month surgery lay-off, seems to be the luckier of the two. He and German partner David Prinosil have been seeded ninth in the 64-team draw and face Australian duo Michael Tebbutt and Wayne Arthurs in the first round.

Leander Paes, in tandem with Dutchman Jan Siemerink, finds himself relegated from the status of top seed last year to a non-seed this time around. He may have been the No. 1 player in the world till just the other day, but his partner is hardly a big-shot in doubles. And, the French Open seedings committee has gone by record, not reputation.

Paes and Siemerink have a tough draw. They get off the blocks against wily French pair Guy Forget and Guillaoume Raoux. And, if they manage to cross that hurdle, Team Paes is likely to cross swords with 10th seeds Martin Damm and Dominik Hrbaty. No world-beaters are Czech Republic’s Damm and Slovak Hrbaty, but the two have caused enough problems for the two Indians this year.

A ‘confrontation’ between the two erstwhile friends seems almost impossible. The two pairs are in different halves of the draw, which means the earliest their paths can cross is in the championship round. Nothing’s beyond them, especially Paes, but at this point of time, chances of any of the two Indians featuring in next weekend’s doubles final is not too bright.    

Calcutta, June 1 
Food Corporation of India (FCI) tamed Calcutta Port Trust to emerge cluster champions of the McDowell Cup football tournament. According to information reaching here from Narayanpur near Kankinara, the only goal of the match was scored in the first half by Sujoy Dutta.

Both teams had qualified for the final phase of the tournament, beginning in the city on June 29, but the result of today’s cluster final decided who plays in which group.

FCI will now play in the group that has East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting, while Port joins National League champions Mohun Bagan and Tollygunge in the other group.

Yesterday, Mohun Bagan bolstered their roster by signing up 22 players. Eight of those registered are from last year’s squad, while among the new recruits were four from Tollygunge Agragami. Arjan Ali switched over from Mohammedan Sporting.

Bivash Ghosh, Jayanta Sen, Kajal Bhattacharya and Rajat Ghosh Dastidar formed the Tollygunge quartet.

Four more players — Brazilians Joao Dos Santos and Jose Ramirez Barreto, goalkeeper Sandip Naskar and medio Gunabir Singh will be registered later, club officials said.

According to an official, Barreto’s international clearance has reached the AIFF office in Guwahati though it did not land in the IFA office till late in the evening. He said first goalkeeper Sandip Nandy and medio R.P. Singh will sign soon.

Mohun Bagan’s claims that Bijen Singh may join them suffered a blow when East Bengal striker practised at the latter’s ground this morning.

Debjit Ghosh, Basudeb Mondal, Amitava Chanda, James Singh, Shibshankar Santra, Dulal Biswas, Hossain Mustafi and Lolendra Singh are the players that have stayed back at Mohun Bagan.    

Calcutta, June 1 
SAI Training Centre stormed into the final of the Lagden Shield hockey tournament today with a 6-0 drubbing of Police AC.

Pintu Haldar scored three goals, while Manoj Kujur, Somnath Sarkar and Edmund Karketta struck once each.

Amandeep Singh struck a hattrick as CCFC crushed Students AC 6-0 in a semi-final of the Lakshmibilas Cup. Hardeep Gill slipped in two goals, while G. Rao scored the other.

Interestingly, SAI and CCFC will clash in the final of both tournaments, the Lakshmibilas Cup showdown coming up on Saturday and the one for the Lagden Shield the next day.

The final of the Cricket Association of Bengal’s inter-district college tournament will now be played next Wednesday. The match, between Howrah’s Narasingha Dutta College and Berhampur College, had to be postponed a couple of days ago after several Berhampur players fell ill.

Central Swimming Club drubbed Kidderpore Swimming Club 10-5 in a group-league clash of the Calcutta Sports Association-organised waterpolo tournament at the Rabindra Sarobar today. In another match, the hosts tamed YMCA 5-4.

Central SC have topped group B. The Super League begins tomorrow.    


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