Indian woman passes drugs test
Indian duo may run into Woodies in second round
Big Two in battle of equals
Greater Mumbai lift crown
Selectors’ appointment should be for 6 months
Intel may land Chakori Trophy
Track trials

Sydney, Sept. 15: 
One Indian has been tested for drugs so far at the Sydney Olympics, Indian Chef-de-Mission Ashok Mattoo confirmed this today, but would not reveal the name of the athlete. He, however, said that the “athlete was a woman and the result has been negative”.

These are precautionary tests that the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) in association with the medical commission of the IOC, are carrying out in these Games.

This is no indicator as to who has been tested, but the only athlete in this Indian contingent who has been under a drug cloud is shuttler Aparna Popat. In Aparna’s case, it was truly a mistake, when she took an over-the-counter patented drug for a cold. She has been pardoned of her ‘crime’, and starts off her campaign here in the women’s singles versus Morgan Kelly of the UK tomorrow.

Popat did not take part in the opening ceremony marchpast today.

The organisers will do more than 2,000 off-competition tests on the 10,400-odd athletes gathered here for the XXVII Games. Mattoo said there is no chance of any Indian failing test. “The morale of the Indians here are very high at the moment,” he added. “There is total dedication in evidence, and we are all ready to give our best.”

Today, excessive security for the opening ceremony closed the Athletes’ Village to any manner of approach. All buses to and from the Village, not carrying athletes or officials were banned, and even the media was not allowed in.

Security has been stepped up at every check point with every vehicle at some point undergoing checks and the identification of their occupants, too, being checked.

This is a new atmosphere for the generally laid-back Aussies, though they are taking it in their strides. The Indians had prepared to take this day as sort of an off-day, concentrating on putting their best foot forward for the Games proper.

Many of the athletes, who have events tomorrow and the day after, stayed away from the marchpast, the event being, thus, overwhelmed by portly officials.

Hockey campaign

India’s chief hockey coach Vasudevan Baskaran is feeling better these days. He says his boys are getting down to really coming to terms with the penalty corner conversation lacuna and are trying hard to get this rectified as far as possible before their first match, versus bogey team Argentina on Sunday.

“I am pleased with the way the conversions are shaping up,” he said. He refused to put a percentage to the improvement, saying that he treated this as a “subjective” thing and did not want to judge by cold statistics.

Subjective is the key, it seems, for Baskaran. His team has played a few warm-up matches here, but he is totally “dissatisfied” with them. India gave a good performance in all, but “the quality of the opposition left much to be desired and we were not really tested,” he lamented. “Also, we did not quite bother to go all out, keeping back a lot. That leaves me with that incomplete feeling.”

The coach is not satisfied with the hockey stadium pitch, where the team practised. “We were here, a few months back, playing in a good four-nation meet which we won. Thereafter, though, the pitch has been relaid, and I feel a portion of the field seems a bit uneven.”

The match itself will show whether this is a mental thing or a reality. The fact is that Baskaran does not feel India will be playing on the same turf that they won on in that tourney specially designed to test out this astroturf for the Olympic Games.

There was no practice today because of the opening ceremony.

Shooters take aim

In the men’s trap shooting qualifiers, India’s Anwar Sultan starts off in the third bunch of qualification contenders. Anwar qualified late for the Olympics, but could make it from the seven squads that are vying for qualification slots.

In women’s 10m air rifle, Anjali Ved Pathak will be in action.

In the ring

India’s 48 kg entrant Soubam Suresh Singh’s first round will be versus Kim Ki-Suk of Korea on the afternoon on Sunday, while Nagangom Dingko Singh faces off the Ukrainian Sergiy Danylchenko September 21.

Poulami starts Sunday

Bengal’s Poulami Ghatak opens her campaign in the women’s singles Sunday, with a match versus Veronika Pavlovich of Belarus. It might just be the right first match for Poulami, because the best Pavlovich has reached is a 63 world ranking and was fifth in women’ doubles in the ITTF pro tour at Fort Lauderdale this year.

For the Indians, the search for an Olympic identity begins tomorrow.    

Sydney, Sept. 15: 
Today, the Indians were getting ready for the ‘gruelling seven-hour big show event of the Sydney Olympic Games — the opening ceremony marchpast. Those who will be in action tomorrow were spared the ‘horror’ and they ‘rested’. Of course, Leander Paes carried the Indian flag, and he did not mind that extra workload.

Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, unseeded that they are here, have been lucky to draw the Romanian pair of Gabriel Trifu and Andrei Pavel.

Against Bhupathi’s 58th rank and Paes’ 113, Pavel and Trifu are 160 and 197 respectively, with the former having had the distinction of reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open last year.

He was the 1992 French Open junior champion. This year Pavel became the first Romanian to reach the semi-finals in Hamburg since Ille Nastase in 1970.

That does not make this pair formidable in any way. But even if Paes and Bhupathi successfully negotiate this hurdle, they run straight into the top-seeded Australian pair of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. The Woodies got a bye in the first round in this upper half of the draw.

Wild card holder Paes’ singles first round, too, will be pretty tough, picking up Sweden’s Mikael Tillstrom. Paes is now ranked 152 in singles, while Tillstrom in 61st. Tillstrom’s initial entry was for doubles only, being able to move into the singles list as well, as an alternative.

That is just the beginning of the climb. If Paes does get the better of Tillstrom by whichever manner Paes knows better, he may run into Michael Chang of the US, the 16th seed.

Chang is up against wildcard Sebastien Lareau of Canada, and though that will definitely be a tough call, Chang should at least be in the second round.

The tennis championship this year has been shorn of a bit of glamour with the withdrawal of Andre Agassi and of Anna Kournikova and more, but the men’s draw overall can keep heads turning.

Marat Safin of Russia, the new US Open champion and world No. 2 and the second hottest pin-up boy after swimmer Ian Thorpe, heads the seedings’ list, followed by Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil.

Safin faces Fabrice Santoro of France (ranked 35th), while Kuerten heads off with unknown Christophe Pongon, a wild card holder.

Third seed, Magnus Norman of Sweden, ranked fourth on the ATP computer, will have a first round face-off with Pavel, while fourth seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia takes on Max Mirnyi of Belarus.

Women’s top seed Lindsay Davenport of the US takes on Paola Suarez of Argentina, while second seed Venus Williams, also of the US, meets Slovak Henrieta Nagyoya.    

Calcutta, Sept. 15: 
The IFA Shield may have long lost its sheen but, with East Bengal and Mohun Bagan setting up another summit showdown, it’s not about a devalued tournament any more.

The familiar face of the famous rivalry is back in the open.

While the cacophony of one-upmanship formed the essential backdrop in the build-up to tomorrow’s big clash at the Salt Lake Stadium, the two rival coaches were at least speaking the same language.

Both Syed Nayeemuddin and Subrata Bhattacharya identified “extra effort” as being the most important ingredient for the edge in this battle between equals. And both were trying to drum it into their wards.

But, then, what’s new?

Well, for one, Mohun Bagan’s letter to match commissioner Pradip Nag that players be tested tomorrow for performance-enhancing drugs.

“We’re willing to bear the expenses if the samples have to be sent to Delhi,” club secretary Anjan Mitra told reporters, though it’s hardly a mystery as to why he waited till this morning to make such a suggestion.

While East Bengal officials did have a thing or two to say about it, Nayeem steered well clear. He already had a great deal else on his mind.

The East Bengal coach will, no doubt, be wracking his brains to hit upon the right mix in midfield, where his rivals have a daunting presence.

An injured Isiaka will be missing and Dipankar Roy returning from a bout of jaundice. Suley Musah is back from a long lay-off, but he has had just half-an-hour of match-practice since then. He is likely to begin on the bench.

Having seen, during their semi-final against Tollygunge Agragami, a streak of vulnerability in what was being considered a rock-solid defence, Nayeem may want to bring back Ranjan Dey as the ‘screen’ in midfield. Or, will he leave this duty to Anit Ghosh?

One aspect Nayeem will spend less time worrying about is the ‘supplyline’ from the right.

Right-back Sur Kumar Singh’s runs down that flank, capped by an uncanny ability to end up in scoring positions himself, has added a new dimension to the East Bengal attack. With striker Dipendu Biswas both lean and hungry these days, the Mohun Bagan defenders have a job on their hands.

The return of Sammy Omollo from a short stint in Kenya has not just calmed things in the green-and-maroon defence, but has freed Debjit Ghosh for his roving role in front of it.

The match tomorrow could well be won and lost here. If the Mohun Bagan defence can soak up the pressure, they have the material in midfield and upfront to deliver the punch. Subrata will, however, have to do without Rennedy Singh, who has been playing the last few matches with a hamstring injury that he didn’t inform the coach about. Lolendra Singh, who has lost his left-back berth to Amitava Chanda, may well slip into the midfield now. To him, then, will go the task of exploiting the holes left behind by Sur Kumar’s surges.

But it’s the brilliance of Brazilian Jose Ramirez Barreto that the green-and-maroon ranks will bank on the most. To create, and to score.

But, then, what’s new?


EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee; Sur Kumar Singh, Dipak Mondal, Jackson, Ratan Singh; Ranjan Dey; Tushar Rakshit, Chandan Das, Carlton Chapman; Dipendu Biswas, Bijen Singh.

MOHUN BAGAN: Sandip Nandy; Dulal Biswas, Sammy Omollo, M. Suresh, Amitava Chanda; Debjit Ghosh, Satyajit Chatterjee, R.P. Singh, Basudeb Mondal; R.C. Prakash, Jose Ramirez Barreto.    

Calcutta, Sept. 15: 
Greater Mumbai Police lifted the seven-a-side one-day rugby tournament, beating CFC 14-12 in the final at CCFC today. The winners led 14-7 at the breather. CFC had beaten Calcutta Police, while GMP got past Future Hope in the semis.

FCI lose to E. Rly

FCI slipped further into deep waters when they lost to Eastern Railway in the return leg for Super Division’s last five teams. Nanda Pradhan scored the only goal of the match nine minutes from the final whistle. BNR and SAIL ended goalless in the other match of the day.    

Indian cricket has had the good fortune to have some of its most distinguished cricketers to be the selectors and some have even gone on to become the chairman of the selection committee. In earlier times, certainly before the electronic media started to make impossible demands on the committee, the selected teams would just be released to the media and that was it.

Any comment critical or otherwise was entirely left to the journalists, who according to whether their favourites were in or not, wrote either in favour of the selection or against it. It was pretty simple and everyone expected it that way. Then somewhere in the 80s the Board decided in its infinite wisdom that the chairman of the committee should meet the media and explain to them the reasons for selecting ‘A’ and dropping ‘B’.

On the face of it, it was a good move — for the basis of speculative stories lay only in ‘reliable sources’, ‘on conditions of anonymity’ and ‘insiders’ — as it made sense for the media to be told the reasons and the policy, if any, of the selection committee. It worked well, too, for serious seasoned journalists who, though they may not have agreed with the selections, at least had an idea of what transpired at the meetings and what the committee was thinking about.

The problems started whenkids fresh out of college started to be sent to cover the conferences and who having little regard and knowledge of the game and the achievements of the selectors began to fire questions which not only exposed their lack of knowledge but also distinctly showed lack of manners and respect towards the chairman.

Not every player who plays for India is articulate nor were those who played in the past, so a lot of the chairmen, who were great players during their time, found the questioning too difficult to handle and came out the poorer for it.

What was saddening was that just because the questioner was not satisfied with the answer the chairman became an object of ridicule which was totally unfair for it wasn’t he alone but the entire committee which had taken the decisions and done the selection.

More often than not, the chairman had to do the explaining for what his fellow selectors had done. This is never easy especially if the chairman himself is in the minority of one. So a lot of good and great players have had the misfortune of being looked upon as villains by a competitive media which is always looking for its heroes only to make them villains with just a stroke of a pen or more likely today with a few taps of the keyboard of their computers or a soundbyte on their microphone.

Of course, as always with nothing really concrete but according to reliable sources, insiders and the ubiquitous official speaking on condition of anonymity.

And, of course, there is no apology or word of regret if they are all wrong for then it is not they but their so called reliable sources, insiders and anonymous official who had fed them the wrong and false information, so why should they be sorry even if they have destroyed a person’s hard-earned name and reputation?

The selectors can be taken to task and questioned as to why they should continue in their position of judgement and selection of some players. Since 1998-99 the selectors have chosen some players and then discarded them which by itself is not a bad thing for a player might have a purple patch and be impressive in a first-class game or a domestic one-day game but may be found wanting in the international arena.

To have a player out is ensuring that a mistake is not repeated but what about players who have done well and who have been taken on more than one international assignment and then dumped? What does that show? It does not reflect as badly on the player as it does on the selection committee’s judgement and assessment of the players and if that is bad, then do the selectors deserve to be appointed again?

Gagan Khoda, Rahul Sanghvi, Amay Khurasia, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Vijay Bharadwaj, M.S.K. Prasad are names that spring to mind who have done well in the few opportunities they got and, in fact, most of them have won Man of the Match awards sometime. Hence they cannot be bad players but they do not find a place in the probables list for the ICC Knockout tournament to be held in Nairobi.

Yet, there are some in the list who have been exposed most recently in the Asia Cup in Dhaka and still find a place in the probables. Apart from these others players like Robin Singh Jr, Jatin Paranjpe, Devang Gandhi, Sameer Dighe are those who have been selected and then not considered again.

Just total up these names and you will find that it is quite a number and then compare it with the number of players they have selected and who have succeeded. You will find that the failures outnumber the successes and if that is the case then it is a sorry statement on the ability of the selection committee to judge talent. Following up on that if they are not able to judge talent then what are they doing there and why should they be appointed selectors again?

It does not matter whether they have served a full term or not if they are not good selectors, and that can be seen by the performances of those whom they have selected, then they should be replaced.

After all aren’t they ruthless when they are dropping players after just one failure so by the same token why should they continue when they are making erroneous judgements about players’ capabilities?

In fact, there is some merit in the thinking that the selection committee should be appointed for only six months with a review of their performance every two months. This way if they play mischief they can be replaced. One year does seem too long a time and selectors can play havoc with Indian cricket in that time. Not all but certainly from past experience one or two have done so.    

The Dallas Todywalla-trained Intel is fancied to win the Chakori Trophy at the Pune races on Saturday. Pesi Shroff partners the four-year-old colt.


12.45 pm: Sergeant Slipper 1. Running Power 2. Mulan 3.

1.15 pm: Hiccups 1. Foreign Connection 2. Piabo 3.

1.45 pm: Sparkling Champagne 1. Seville Star 2. Fiery Angel 3.

2.15 pm: Ally McBeal 1. Royal Secret 2. Kilmore Quay 3.

2.45 pm: Silver Nova 1. Shooting Mercury 2. Proper Pride 3.

3.15 pm: Intel 1. Specialist 2. Prince Nicholas 3.

3.45 pm: Current Bay 1. Zeta Jones 2. Zeisha 3.

4.15 pm: Very Beautiful 1. Gold Buck 2. Stolichnaya 3.

4.45 pm: Soviet Ride 1. Aylesfield 2. Krishnapriya 3.

5.15 pm: Sugar Daddy 1. Forever Sparky 2. Asprilla 3.

5.45 pm: Millennium King 1. Shanillo 2.Anchors Aweigh 3.

Day’s Best: Ally McBeal

Double: Current Bay & Very Beautiful.

friday’S MYSORE RESULTS (With inter-state dividends)

1. Delage Plate 1,600m: (1-3-10) Dynamic Gamble (Warren) 1; Brave Edge 2; Sizzling Stamper 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 1/2; (1-42.6). Tote: Win Rs 79; Place: 22; 13; 79; Quinella: 43; Tanala: 7,812. Fav: Brave Edge (3).

2. Madras Race Club Cup, Div-II 1,200m: (1-2-11) Elegant Rainbow (Prakash) 1; Semoran 2; Paranjyothy 3. Won by: 6-3/4; 1-3/4; (1-14.7). Tote: Win Rs 24; Place: 11; 13; 69; Quinella: 16; Tanala: 306. Fav: Semoran (2).

3. Sidapur Plate 1,400m: (6-5-11) Chevalier (Shroff) 1; Belief 2; High Clarity 3. Not run: Turf Rythm (10). Won by: 9-1/4; 1-1/4; (1-26.8). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 10; 20; 22; Quinella: 40; Tanala: 140. Fav: Chevalier (6).

4. Chettinad Stud Gold Cup 1,200m: (2-13-3) Chity Bang (Hesnain) 1; Tajik 2; Alisa 3. Won by: 1; 1/2; (1-14.9). Tote: Win Rs 148; Place: 39; 14; 23; Quinella: 201; Tanala: 2,768. Fav: Tajik (13).

5. Maharaja’s Gold Cup 1,600m: (3-10-1) Native Tactics (Kader) 1; Sun Reality 2; Carnival Flair 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 2; (1-39.1). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 12; 114; 19; Quinella: 647; Tanala: 6,805. Fav:Native Tactics (3).

6. A. C. Somanna Memorial Trophy 1,200m: (12-8-7) Alylady (I. Chisty) 1; Pretty Boy Floyd 2; Kass 3. Won by: 3/4; 3/4; (1-13.9). Tote:Win Rs 29; Place: 13; 13; 60; Quinella: 35; Tanala: 846. Fav: Spirito (11).

7. Secunderabad Plate 1,100m: (2-10-4) Days Of Glory (Arun) 1; Time Of War 2; Alminstar 3. Won by: Dist; 1-3/4; (1-5.7—Record). Tote:Win Rs 17; Place: 13; 18; 19; Quinella: 45; Tanala: 342. Fav: Days Of Glory (2).

Jackpot: Rs 1,021; (C) Rs 248.

Treble:(i) Rs 420; (ii) Rs 53. Track trials Calcutta, Sept.15: The following track-work was noted today:

Outer sand track

800m: Iron Warrior (Upadhya) and Adeline (K. Kumar) in 59s; (400m) 27s. Level.

Sand track

800m: Exclusive Girl (Salim) in 1-1s; (400m) 29s. Ring Dancer (Yadav) in 59s; (400m) 26s. Bird’s Empire (Salim) and Oriental Star (Rutherford) in 59s; (400m) 26 3/5s. Both level.

600m: Almond Rock (Yadav) in 45s; (400m) 26s.    

Calcutta, Sept.15: 
The following track-work was noted today:

Outer sand track

800m: Iron Warrior (Upadhya) and Adeline (K. Kumar) in 59s; (400m) 27s. Level.

Sand track

800m: Exclusive Girl (Salim) in 1-1s; (400m) 29s. Ring Dancer (Yadav) in 59s; (400m) 26s. Bird’s Empire (Salim) and Oriental Star (Rutherford) in 59s; (400m) 26 3/5s. Both level.

600m: Almond Rock (Yadav) in 45s; (400m) 26s.    


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