‘I believe practice makes perfect’
Indians playing it safe
Kumble to skip one-dayers too
Bengal ready for new opening
E. Railway, Kalighat win
Record teams in fray
Rajat Minz to lead Bengal
AG School in semi-finals
Bangalore Races/ ‘Symphony’ for main event
Bangalore Races/ Golden Goal wins

 
 
‘I BELIEVE PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT’ 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
Aware that expectations will touch the sky, John Wright has taken the most prudent route: Insisting he doesn’t have a “magic formula.”

But, much as India’s first coach from overseas would like, the focus is pretty much on him and not the star players. That hasn’t made Wright terribly uncomfortable but, yes, he would be happier without so much attention.

Wright, always soft spoken, talked to The Telegraph for an hour at the Taj Palace this afternoon. Incidentally, besides the lap-top, a regular companion of this former New Zealand captain is a guitar. “Good for unwinding,” Wright quipped.

Following are excerpts

On his impressions after interacting with the team as coach, for the first time, yesterday

These, obviously, are early days but the lads came across as being eager, hungry to do well... Attitude, for me, is essential and I let that be known. Yes, ability is important, but even more so is the attitude.

On the honesty-factor in his dealings

(Smiles) It’s important for the players to be honest with me. Equally, it’s essential that I be honest with them. That, of course, is only one component in any interaction between human beings... It’s important, too, to have a proper work-ethic in place, and included there is regular practice. I do believe in the truism that practice makes perfect... Personally, I don’t like wasting time and so if it’s reporting for a workout, punctuality must be maintained... Yesterday, I dwelt on the many small things which make a big difference. For instance, moving around like a team... Being together, following a dress code.

On his top priority

Getting to know the players to a degree where they’ll be comfortable with me and I with them. Talking strictly cricket, to begin with, I would like the fielding to improve. I’m not suggesting the present Indian standard isn’t any good, but it can improve. Actually, I’ve always maintained a player should be good at any two things — that a specialist batsman be smart at fielding; ditto for a specialist bowler. In many ways, I’m old fashioned.

On whether the fact that this is a young team will make his job easier

(Smiles again) Well, good players and good results will make my job easier! But, yes, it’s fun working with youngsters.

On having played with senior pro Sachin Tendulkar, coached vice-captain Rahul Dravid (at Kent) and being on excellent terms with captain Sourav Ganguly

I accept it’s important to have the seniors on your side, if I can put it that way... Indeed, they are the ones who set the tone... The challenge, though, is that we must not be dependent on these players only... I said so in as many words, this morning. The team has a good core of seniors and some gifted youngsters. We’ve got to build on that.

On whether he followed the one-off Dhaka Test

Yes... Eventually, the team got the result it wanted. The bowling, in the first innings, wasn’t hot but you’ve got to make an allowance for not having played Test cricket since early March.

On wanting to do all the listening first before talking at length

Coming from overseas and the brief I’ve got, I must listen to as many people as possible. Former players, the selectors... A rapport with the selectors, in particular, is essential. Given an opportunity, I would love to have a one-to-one with my immediate predecessor (Aunshuman Gaekwad). It’s nice to have a detailed background as it helps in forming a perspective. In any case, let me add, I’m the type to operate from the background. The focus should be on the captain and his team.

On whether he spoke to Bobby Simpson, the coach he admires most, before arriving here

I did... I’ve always learnt speaking to him... Specifically, I spoke to him about fielding. In the past, when I was playing for Derbyshire, I learnt by interacting with Sunil Gavaskar, who was then with Somerset... Not only must a player never stop learning, that holds true for a coach as well.

On coaching players who have already made the highest grade

Look, I don’t think it does players any good going out in the middle and worrying about technical things. So, if something needs to be set right, that has to be done. However, I’m not going to change a batsman’s grip 48 hours before a Test. That’s not my style. Basically, I’m around to suggest, to get the players focussed... To ensure there’s discipline and to up their confidence level.

On the software devised, officially for the first time (with the BCCI’s consent) in these parts, to analyse the players’ performance

It should be introduced tomorrow, though it hasn’t been fully developed. The concept, however, is good... It’s going to make it simpler for the coach. I can, for example now, freeze a frame and show a batsman where his head is falling away. Once he sees that, on the video screen, he’ll probably realise his mistake that much quicker. Seeing is believing, isn’t it? In time, the software will help analyse the opposition — the better informed one is about the opponent team, the easier it should be to put it across them.

On what he learnt in his years as Kent’s coach

Of having players with the right attitude. Of having an environment which encourages performing to potential.

On whether, when international commitments don’t come in the way, he will watch domestic cricket

I would love to... I’m also looking forward to visit the Academy (in Bangalore).

Finally, on whether he is happy that the cancellation of the Pakistan tour will allow him to be in New Zealand during Christmas

(Grins) It’s going to be a welcome break, definitely, and will allow us to focus on the big series early next year, at home versus Australia.    


 
 
INDIANS PLAYING IT SAFE 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
Sourav Ganguly wasn’t amused on approaching the Kotla wicket this morning: It seemed as green as last evening and the Indian captain’s “request” for a more brown look hadn’t been fulfilled.

Seeing former opener Chetan Chauhan, now a DDCA vice-president around, Sourav spoke to him for a few minutes, ending the conversation with a “Chetanbhai, please...”

Chauhan, who has personally overseen the preparation of the wicket (a fall-out of the CBI report) for the first of two Pepsi Tests against Zimbabwe, beginning tomorrow, nodded but maintained a “good wicket” was on offer.

With Zaheer Khan coming through well, one would have expected India to be happy with the Kotla-look but, apparently, not many ‘trust’ the strip. Misgivings remain even though, ironically, India have won the last three Tests at the Kotla.

This sequence began against Zimbabwe, in March 1993, followed by wins over Australia (October 1996) and Pakistan, in February 1999. The last Test is best remembered for Anil Kumble’s ten-wicket haul in innings No. 2.

Not wanting any grass — a sure way of boosting Heath Streak and Henry Olonga’s confidence, in particular — isn’t the only defensive move India have embarked upon.

Indeed, there’s this debate over fielding an extra batsman (V. V. S. Laxman, at No. 6) at the expense of a bowler (Zaheer).

If Laxman doesn’t play his first Test since that extraordinary 167 in Sydney, in early January, then rookie off-spinner Sarandeep Singh will. Sarandeep will be the fifth bowler, after Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Sunil Joshi and Murali Karthik.

The selectors, one understands, favour keeping to the Dhaka-balance — five batsmen and as many bowlers.

Amidst so much confusion, neither Sourav nor coach John Wright, making his own debut, may sleep too well. Not to speak of Laxman and Sarandeep.

Did someone whisper about home-advantage? The pressure, in any case, is all on India as few will be courageous to bet on Zimbabwe.

For the record, though, Zimbabwe embarrassed India (the only time in three Tests) in under four days during their last meeting, in Harare, just over two years ago.

Much has happened since — where both teams are concerned. The Indians have only five survivors, while Zimbabwe have lost the likes of Neil Johnson and Murray Goodwin, both exceptionally gifted.

Of course, it’s the present that matters and, given his generally guarded optimism, Sourav was careful not to raise expectations.

Zimbabwe, on the other hand, will accord the Indians due respect but nothing more. “Yes, they have the home advantage and deserve respect. At the same time, we’ve got a job to do,” pointed out coach Carl Rackemann, the one-time Australian quick.

Incidentally, this will be Rackemann’s debut Test in this new role.

Few teams, nowadays, have the luxury of two warm-up first-class matches (specially on short tours), and Zimbabwe have made the most of a friendly itinerary. They drew with the National Cricket Academy (Indore) and beat the Board President’s XI in Faridabad, the other day.

Acclimatisation hasn’t been a problem.

And, yes, it’s been a huge plus that frontline batsmen have got runs. In top form, in particular, has been former captain Andy Flower. Alistair Campbell, another ex-captain, also cracked a century.

Captain Streak, who joined the team late (on medical grounds), is sure to give the attack some respectability but he may be short on match practice.

The Indians won’t complain, but Zimbabwe will have a major worry if Olonga struggles with rhythm and Paul Strang and Brian Murphy end up with too much on their hands. It’s in such a scenario that Johnson, who has returned to his country of birth (South Africa), will be missed most.

Zimbabwe, by the way, have decided not to field the two uncapped players in their tour-party — Travis Friend and Douglas Marillier. In the Indian XI, the one sure debutant is local Vijay Dahiya, who was emotionally greeted by just about everybody at the Kotla.

Over the years, Delhi’s representation in the national side has dwindled and, so, the sense of euphoria is understandable. More so after the CBI report indicted two former Delhi captains, Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma.

Dahiya himself is thrilled, but will do well not to get carried away. After all, the longevity of Indian wicketkeepers, in recent times, hasn’t been encouraging.

“I couldn’t have hoped for a better moment to make my debut,” Dahiya told The Telegraph, smiling all the time. The past 12 months, however, have seen numerous wicketkeepers: M.S.K. Prasad, Samir Dighe, Nayan Mongia, Syed Saba Karim besides Dahiya himself.

Having been dumped after Nairobi and Sharjah, Dahiya should know keeping fingers crossed is the order of the season.

To talk of current form, India routed Bangladesh in their last Test engagement, earlier this week, while Zimbabwe lost to New Zealand, on home turf, in their last series.

For both, there have been lessons to learn, a common thread being line-and-length consistency.

With even the home team not too convinced how long the Kotla wicket will last, it goes without saying that Sourav will bat should he win the toss. No stranger to the sub-continent, Streak is bound to do the same.

This morning, though, the Zimbabwe captain made a brave comment: “Whether you win or lose the toss, you still have to play well. The toss, then, isn’t that big a factor.”

Streak’s reaction should be interesting if India get the first-strike option and the big guns boom even louder than the most deafening cannons ever fired from the nearby Red Fort.

TEAMS

INDIA: Sadagopan Ramesh, Shiv Sundar Das, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman/Sarandeep Singh, Vijay Dahiya, Sunil Joshi, Ajit Agarkar, Murali Karthik, Jawagal Srinath.

ZIMBABWE: Grant Flower, Gavin Rennie, Alistair Campbell, Andy Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Guy Whittal, Bryan Strang, Paul Strang, Heath Streak, Brian Murphy, Henry Olonga.

Umpires: Srinivas Venkatraghavan, John Hampshire.

Match Referee: Barry Jarman.
   

 
 
KUMBLE TO SKIP ONE-DAYERS TOO 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 17: 
Toeing physio-cum-physical trainer Andrew Leipus’ line, captain Sourav Ganguly today indicated that injured leg-spinner Anil Kumble may not even be considered for the one-dayers against Zimbabwe.

“I think it’ll be better to rest Kumble for the big series, next February-March, versus Australia. In any case, the Pakistan tour is off, so he doesn’t have to make a rushed comeback,” Sourav told newsmen at the National Stadium, after the team’s workout this morning.

Kumble has been out of action for almost a month owing to an extremely painful right shoulder.    


 
 
BENGAL READY FOR NEW OPENING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Bengal kick off their venture in the Ranji Trophy against Tripura Sunday at the Eden Gardens with options open to experimentation.

According to sources close to the team, Bengal are likely to go in with a brand new pair of openers — Amitava Banerjee and Arijit Bose. Although Amitava has played for the state, he has never been tried as an opener. Arijit will make his debut. Captain Devang Gandhi will bat at No. 3.

Tripura, who arrive here tomorrow morning, will have to battle it out on a hard track. Bengal coach Palash Nandy said today the wicket has been made to assist his fast bowlers led by Laxmi Ratan Shukla. Nandy also hinted that the team will wear a new look.

With Saba Karim set to don the big gloves, it remains to be seen whether Deep Dasgupta will be included in the team as a specialist batsman.

Jaiswal misses century

Ritesh Jaiswal missed a deserving century as Bengal put themselves in a commanding position against Bihar in the Cooch Behar Trophy (under-19) tie, in Jamshedpur today. Jaiswal stopped short of 12 runs from his first century of the meet. Sourashish Lahiri (31) led the tail-enders’ contribution to the Bengal innings.

In reply, Bihar made 197 for five wickets at stumps. Gourav Sharma took 2 wickets.

BRIEF SCORES: Bengal 433 (Amitabha Chakraborty 148, Ritesh Jaiswal 88, Sourashish Lahiri 31). Bihar 197/5.    


 
 
E. RAILWAY, KALIGHAT WIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Eastern Railway rode a fine all-round performance by Asif Murtaza to a four-wicket victory over Tollygunge Agragami in the A.N. Ghosh Memorial knockout championship at Eden Gardens today.

Batting first, Tollygunge were dismissed for 145 in 31.1 overs. Captain Manish Jalan top scored with 33. Amal Das took four for 32 and Murtaza scalped three for 44.

In reply, Eastern Railway reached the target in 38.4 overs. Anan Kumar remained not out on 34 while Murtaza Lodhgar made 33.

In another match, Kalighat scripted an emphatic 123-run win over Barisha Sporting.

SUMMARISED SCORES

Tollygunge Agragami 145 in 31.1 ovs (Manish Jalan 33, Amaresh Mohanty 24; Amal Das 4/32, Asif Murtaza 3/44, Pranob Prasad 2/21). Eastern Railway 147/6 in 38.4 ovs (Anan Kumar 34 n.o., Asif Murtaza 33, Arun Chatterjee 26; Anup Das 2/14, Satyaranjan Satpati 2/39). E. Rly won by 4 wickets.

Kalighat 253/8 in 45 ovs (Safi Ahmed 91, Sandipan Sanyal 83; Soumen Karmakar 2/52). Barisha Sporting 130/9 in 45 ovs (Dipendu Chakraborty 31, Sujoy Paroi 30 n.o.; Murtaza Lodkar 5/21). Kalighat won by 123 runs.    


 
 
RECORD TEAMS IN FRAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
The fourth inter-school tennis meet, organised by Indian Tennis Academy, will kick off at SAI Eastern Centre from Monday next.

A record number of 22 schools, including reigning champions St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, will take part in the seven-day long meet. Previously, the tournament registered highest participation of 19 teams in its inaugural year of 1997.

Ten schools, including St. Xavier’s, last year’s runners-up La Martiniere for Boys school, Don Bosco (Park Circus), St. James and Calcutta Boys’ School, have reached the pre-quarter final stage, after getting byes in the first round.

St. Xavier’s will defend their title with the same winning combination of Sourav Sukul, Samrat Ghosh and Varun Swarup. They will face tough opponents, Don Bosco, in the second round.

ITC Limited is the sponsor of the meet.

‘Inter-district’ table tennis

South Calcutta Zone (SCZ) have entered the knockout rounds of both the men’s and women’s championships at the state and inter-district table tennis championships in Haldia today. The meet is being organised by the County Sports Confederation of Haldia.

Along with champions Calcutta South the other teams in the women’s team super league are runners-up Hooghly and Siliguri, according to information reaching here.

On their way South Calcutta beat North 24 Parganas 3-1, Howrah 3-0 and Darjeelng 3-0 in group A. Hooghly beat Chandannagore 3-0 and lost to Central Calcutta Zone 1-3 in group B. Siliguri beat North Calcutta 3-2, Bardhaman 3-0 and Midnapur 3-0.

In the men’s team semi-final tomorrow South Calcutta will take on North Calcutta, while Hooghly meet Central Calcutta.

Hooghly beat Siliguri 3-0, Midnapur 3-0 and South 24 Parganas 3-0 in group A , while Central Calcutta beat Howrah 3-0 and Purulia 3-0 in group D. South Calcutta beat North 24 Parganas 3-0, Bardhaman 3-0 and Darjeeling 3-0 in group B.    


 
 
RAJAT MINZ TO LEAD BENGAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Rajat Minz will lead an 18-member Bengal hockey contingent in the national meet starting in Imphal from November 24. Dibnain Singh has been appointed as coach. Bengal face tough opponents Orissa in their opening match on November 25.

THE TEAM

Vikrant Tete, S. Soreng, Kishore Kujur, Manoj Kujur, Rakesh Mondal, Gurmit Singh, B. Minz, Christopher Thomas, Niral Bhengra, Ather Immam, Prakash Toppo, Kumar Bharat, Rajat Minz (capt), Atal Tirkey, Palash Soy, Jonas Bara, Stephen Kujur and Nissar Ahmed.Coach: Dibnain Singh.

Inter-district football

A senior inter-district knockout football tournament, organised by Indian Football Association, will be held at Serampore from November 20.

Eighteen teams, to be equally divided into two groups, will take part in the fortnight-long meet. The final will be played at Makardah stadium on December 3. Chandannagar is the last-year’s champions.

Meanwhile, Central Card Club emerged victorious in the Chandannagar local football league.    


 
 
AG SCHOOL IN SEMI-FINALS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 17: 
Assembly of God Church (NOS) boys today entered the semi-finals of the inter-school basketball meet, trouncing St. Joseph’s 56-13. In amother boys’ quarter final match, Assembly of God Church School brushed aside Ling Liang HS 48-17.

In the only girls’ match played today, Loretto School (Eliott Road) crushed St. Teresa 32-7.

In tomorrow’s boys’ semi-finals, AG Church (NOS) will meet Calcutta International School while AG Church School will fight it out with Grace Ling Liang.    


 
 
BANGALORE RACES/ ‘SYMPHONY’ FOR MAIN EVENT 
 
 
FROM WILLIAM TELL
 
Bangalore, Nov. 17: 
Symphony Of Fire, two-time winner during the summer, looks home and dry in the 1,200m Hyderabad Silver Vase, tomorrow’s feature event here. Trained by Darashah, the Bold Russian- Something Fabulous filly will be partnered by K. P. Appu.

SELECTIONS

2 pm: Bacardi Star 1. Golden Collection 2. Fighter’s World 3.
2.30 pm: Purple Princess 1. Ace Of Pace 2. Crystal Ocean 3.
3 pm: Far Excellence 1. Strides Of Fire 2. Desert Gold 3.
3.30 pm: Hello Brother 1. Sans Egale 2. Andreyev 3.
4 pm: Symphony Of Fire 1. Admiral 2. Silver Patriarch 3.
4.30 pm: Furia Rossa 1. Dragon Fire 2. Chantenay 3.
5 pm: Ratn 1. Skylight 2. Scandal Sheet 3.

Day’s Best: Symphony Of Fire

Double: Purple Princess & Ratn
   

 
 
BANGALORE RACES/ GOLDEN GOAL WINS 
 
 
BANGALORE, NOV. 17:
 
BY TITAN BOY 
The Mangalorkar-trained four-year-old Golden Goal claimed the Stewards Cup, the main event at the Bangalore races on Friday. Rakesh partnered the winner.

RESULTS

(With inter-state dividends)

1. Planetarium Plate 1,200m: (1-10-9) Whitehall (Appu) 1; Be My Star 2; Starry Dream 3. Won by: 4-1/4; 1-1/4; (1-18.4). Tote: Win Rs 13; Place: 10; 18; 86; Quinella: 32; Tanala: 371. Fav: Whitehall (1).

2. Sirsi Cup 1,400m: (7-2-1) Fingers Crossed (S. Narredu) 1; Anandini 2; Adelante 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 1/2; (1-30.7) Tote: Win Rs 52; Place: 21; 16; 20; Quinella: 55; Tanala: 568. Fav: Anandini (2).

3. Taj Stud Plate 1,200m: (1-6-4) Scenic Star (Prakash) 1; Chity Bang 2; Kass 3. Won by: 4; 3/4; (1-15.9). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 12; 33; 22; Quinella: 152; Tanala: 1,258. Fav: Scenic Star (1).

4. B. T. Kesava Iyenger Memorial Plate 1,600m: (5-1-8) At My Command (Appu) 1; Sendawar 2; Melodeon 3. Won by: 2-1/2; 3-3/4; (1-41). Tote: Win Rs 89; Place: 20; 12; 13; Quinella: 130; Tanala: 732. Fav: Melodeon (8).

5. Stewards Cup 1,800m: (2-1-5) Golden Goal (Rakesh) 1; Elusive Emperor 2; Astronautics 3. Won by: 5; Hd; (1-53.9). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 13; 17; Quinella: 21; Tanala: 51. Fav: Golden Goal (2).

6. Huthari Festival Plate 1,200m: (1-4-6) Accelerating Star (Prakash) 1; Forest Pegasus 2; Tina’s Tune 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 2-1/4; (1-15.8). Tote: Win Rs 24; Place: 14; 19; 23; Quinella: 57; Tanala: 449. Fav: Accelerating Star (1).

7. Beloved Prince Plate 1,600m: (2-7-1) Sinister Minister (Marshall) 1; Optical Illusion 2; Kylin 3. Won by: 5; 1-3/4; (1-42.3). Tote: Win Rs 56; Place: 22; 28; 31; Quinella: 305; Tanala: 2,045. Fav: Poise (3).

Jackpot: Rs 2,732; (C) Rs 238.

Treble: (i) Rs 865; (ii) Rs 185.
   
 

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