Sourav lightens Chopra’s load
Mukesh tees off for Tour hattrick today
30 teams for state basketball
State juniors caught
Teams put in ‘extra’ for crucial game
Meet begins today
Calcutta Racing/ Kader’s bad day out
Calcutta Racing/ Track trials

Ahmedabad, Dec. 4: 
Nikhil Chopra continues to remain unwanted, but captain Sourav Ganguly has been doing his bit to lessen the off-spinner’s obvious discomfiture.

Neither has the Board corrected an unpleasant situation (wholly of its own doing, by the way) by actually dropping Chopra, nor has the bowler himself pulled out, perhaps citing injury. At the end of the day, nobody’s face is any less red.

“Nikhil is in the XIV and, so, part of us… It’s another matter we couldn’t accommodate him (in the XI) in Cuttack and won’t be able do so tomorrow, too,” Sourav told the Media after an unusually long workout in nearby Motera, ahead of the second one-dayer against Zimbabwe.

However, the captain ducked the more sensitive question: Had the Board specifically asked him (it has, actually) not to field Chopra?

“All I’ll say is that I was told Nikhil is available for selection, when the squad for the first three one-dayers was picked in Nagpur (eight days ago)… Anything beyond that, you’ll have to ask the Board,” was Sourav’s reply.

In the circumstances, no answer could have been better.

That Chopra’s selection — recall, really, as he had been ignored for the first four India commitments (including the Tests against Zimbabwe) this season — was a fiasco of the highest order was reported by The Telegraph last Wednesday.

Of course, the present situation wouldn’t have come about had Board secretary Jaywant Lele followed protocol and got president A.C.Muthiah’s consent before announcing the squad.

Such consent is mandatory and Muthiah, straightaway, would have advised the selectors (through Lele) to pick somebody else.

Though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) didn’t indict Chopra in its match-fixing report, the offie was far from forthcoming, on alleged links with bookies, during his deposition.

Like the Mohammed Azharuddins and Ajay Jadejas, Chopra was also subjected to raids.

It will, perhaps, be appropriate to reproduce the report on Chopra’s deposition as recorded by the CBI:

“Nikhil Chopra, member of the Indian team, stated that he had absolutely no idea of match-fixing or related malpractices. He also did not have any idea of any Indian player being involved in such malpractices. On being asked about Rajesh Kalra’s call in his cell phone printout, he stated that he knew Rajesh Kalra since both of them used the gym at Hotel Park Royal.

“On being asked about the details of his conversations over the telephone with Rajesh Kalra, he stated that he did not recollect the same. On being asked about a call received on his cell phone from Sanjiv Chawla’s mobile, he stated that he did not know Sanjiv Chawla and did not know how his number had figured in his printout.

“On being asked about a call made to Rattan Mehta from his cell phone, he stated that he did not know Rattan Mehta and did not remember whether he made such a call. He stated that he had seen Rattan Mehta just once, when he was sitting in a hotel with his brother and his brother had pointed out Rattan Mehta, telling him that he was the owner of Hotel Mini Mahal in Vasant Vihar.”

All this will be looked into “very soon” by BCCI commissioner K. Madhavan. It’s only after the commissioner’s clearance that Chopra will, in the eyes of the Establishment, be eligible to again take the field as an India player.

For now, all concerned must wait till the next selection committee meeting (in Jodhpur) for this unpleasant episode to end. Chopra will be ‘officially’ dropped.    

Calcutta, Dec. 4: 
Mukesh Kumar is all geared up to try and be the first ever golfer to complete a hattrick of wins on the Wills Sport Golf Tour when the Rs 8.5 lakh Servo Masters golf meet begins over the par-72 Digboi Club Golf Links tomorrow, according to information reaching here.

Mukesh has recorded back-to-back wins at the ONGC-NGC Open and the Surya Nepal Masters, the previous two events on the Tour this year.

Close on Mukesh’s heels are, among others, defending champion Rohtas Singh Shiv Prakash, Firoz Ali, Harmeet Kahlon, Ali Sher, S. S. P. Chowrasia, Rahul Ganapathy, Rafiq Ali and Basad Ali.

Shiv Prakash poses the biggest threat to Mukesh’s aspirations. The Kanpur-based golfer has extended his form into the new season, with victories at the TSM Open, Faridabad and the Wills Northern Open, Lucknow.

Rohtas, too, has been feeling good and Firoz, back from the Johnnie Walker Classic, is brimming with confidence. “I had the opportunity to share a dressing room with Tiger Woods at the Classic and my levels of inspiration and motivation are extremely high right no,”said the Calcuttan.    

Calcutta, Dec. 4: 
Thirty teams — including 12 women’s teams — will take part in the 20th state senior basketball meet to be held on the West Bengal Basketball Association (WBBA) courts from Wednesday to December 11.

New WBBA secretary Asim Banerjee said at a press meet today that this meet will select probables for the state team to take part in the 51st nationals in Bangalore from January 5 to 12. He also informed that the new four-quarters system, an NBA-induced change, will also be introduced here.

Calcutta Port Trust men have been the champions for the last two years, so have the Eastern Railway women. There will be 14 district teams for the meet.

The WBBA is gearing up for nest year’s platinum jubilee celebrations.

Schools meet

Don Bosco Park Circus (DBPC) and Assembly of God Church (AGC) today won their respective matches in the inter-school basketball meet at the DBPC courts. DBPC beat St James 33-23, while AGC beat Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 45-23.

Merchants’ tennis

IBP-BL today entered the semi-final of the IBP Merchants’ Cup tennis championships, beating the Aditya Birla Group team in their last group match at the Calcutta South Club.

The first semi-final tomorrow will be btween IBP-BL and M.N. Dastur, while the second semis will be between CESC A and CESC B.

RESULTS: Tejbir Singh Bhandari & Saurav Panja (IBP-BL) bt Ajit Lall & Giri Chaturvedi (AB Group) 6-0, 6-1; Enrico Piperno & Dinesh Varma (IBP-BL) bt UG Lokre & P Pathak (AB Group) 6-0, 6-0.    

Calcutta, Dec. 4: 
The power struggle between the Bengal Table Tennis Association (BTTA) and the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) has reached a flashpoint, and as a result, several little table tennis stars are in the firing line.

The BTTA bosses today held a press conference, ostensibly to anounce the state team for the 62nd sub-junior and cadet national championships to be held in Chennai from December 9 to 15.

However, it turned out to be yet another TTFI-bashing, with all officials passing the buck on the fact that some players were asked to show cause by the national body as to why they deserted the national camp at SAI, Eastern Centre, and attended a BTTA camp in Haldia instead.

The incident has exposed the total apathy of the state body as well as the national body regarding the future of the players themselves.

The kids — Subhadeep Saha, Sourav Pradhan, Runa Roy, Munmun Basak, Kankojit Mondal, Amarnath Das, Jayanta Sirkar, Niloy Basak, Soumi Mpondal etc. — were attending a TTFI-organised (in association with SAI) camp with North Korean coach Kim Chang Ho, when the BTTA decided that it wanted to give its kids some special training because they were taking part in the nationals.

Nothing wrong with that, except that the state body did not bother to advise its players to take prior permission from the national federation to be absent from this camp.

The short note of “information” (dated November 27) that the BTTA sent to the regional director, SAI, made no effort to seek premission of absence on behalf of the players.

The BTTA’s 10-day Haldia camp started on November 24.

Fully aware of the “stepmotherly attitude” of the TTFI towards the state body, the state body officials, and coach Jayanta Pushilal, asked the kids to write letters and submit them at a late stage when those letters were not acceptable.

The TTFI, in turn, has thrown all care for junior players to the wind and has asked the said players to show cause why they were absent.

The most disgusting part of the entire episode is that while the state body refuses to own up and accept responsibility, the national body does not even care to meet the press or offer any manner of explanation otherwise.

The state team for the nationals leaves station tomorrow.

The team was today supplied playing kit by Bata India Ltd’s Power division.

It was also stated at the meetintg today that Niloy, Subhadeep, Sourav Pradhan, Snehasis, Amarnath, Munmun, Sarabi and Runa will not be allowed to take part in the cadet section since a new rule of the TTFI has restricted participation to two years for each player in each junior age group.

The following have been finally selected: Sub-junior boys: Niloy Basak, Sourav Pradhan, Subhadeep das, Amarnath Das. Reserve: Snehasis Bhattacharya. Girls: Munmun Basak, Runa Roy, Sarabi Mondal, Anushree Saha. Reserve: Sayantika Kundu. Cadet boys: Sourav Ghosh, Kankojit Mondal, Sudipta Ghosh, Anirban Roy Chowdhury. Girls: Sukanya Basu, Nabanita Bose, Soumi Mondal, Pallavi Kundu.

Coaches: Jayanta Pushilal and Avijit Kundu. Managers: Dipak K. Ghosh and Sadhan Dutta.    

Ahmedabad, Dec. 4: 
The workouts of both India and Zimbabwe stretched well past 1.00 pm when, normally, the pack-up time is a good 30-45 minutes before the last ‘coffin’ was actually put back into the dressing room at the Gujarat Stadium in nearby Motera.

But, then, this keeness is understandable: India would like to win Pepsi one-dayer No.2 as well, to take a near-invincible 2-0 lead in the five-match series. Zimbabwe would like to reverse the Cuttack verdict and, thereby, stay in the hunt.

“Obviously, if we lose tomorrow it’s going to be very difficult to pull things back. So, we’re banking on self-belief to see us through. If we didn’t believe we could be competitive, we wouldn’t be here,” remarked Heath Streak, the Zimbabwe captain.

Makes sense, but Zimbabwe have this habit of choking, specially against India. In fact, but for ‘inexperience”, as Streak put it, Zimbabwe could have halted Hemang Badani and India’s march at the Barabati.

As it turned out, with young Badani showing the temperament of a Steve Waugh, and Vijay Dahiya and Ajit Agarkar contributing intelligently, India ensured a hattrick of one-day wins against Zimbabwe. The sequence began in Sharjah, in end-October.

Having done the star-turn Saturday, Badani came in for much well-deserved praise that evening. And, in a nice gesture, captain Sourav Ganguly added to that while interacting with the Media today: “Hemang didn’t get flustered and that shows he’s there to stay… He’s done well in every game though, obviously, emerging MoM is different.”

When someone focussed on the run out which ended the Rahul Dravid-Badani partnership, and the sacrifice-bit, Sourav replied in his matter-of-fact manner: “I don’t think the senior-junior thing works out in the middle. If I happen to be on one and Hemang on 99, I’ll be the one to sacrifice…

“Indeed, it’s to the youngster’s credit that he didn’t allow that run out to unsettle him. Rather, he realised he now had more responsibility and saw us through (58 not out in 69 deliveries)…”

Victory, however, wasn’t achieved without missed heartbeats and putting down as many as six catches made both Sourav and coach John Wright fume. This afternoon, Sourav labelled that as a “shame” and added: “At times, I do wonder how we win despite such…”

The team management had planned a fielding-only session in Cuttack yesterday morning, before flying to New Delhi en route to Ahmedabad, but that was scrapped as the ground “wasn’t available”.

Anyhow, today, an extensive catching-and-throwing session preceded formal nets at the handsome facility professionally developed by the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), just outside the Stadium proper.

This session, though, saw Sridharan Sriram being struck on the left cheekbone by a Nikhil Chopra throw. That prompted Chopra-specific light hearted remarks and, an hour or so later, Sriram was cleared to play.

Initially, it was felt Sriram would require a couple of stitches but, later, Sriram himself insisted he was “fine”. Sriram better be as Sourav is considering fielding him in place of Reetinder Singh Sodhi, who made his (senior) India debut at the Barabati.

Should this come about, it will wholly be on account of a horses-for-courses policy. Sourav feels the wicket may not be a featherbed but, instead, provide bite to the spinners.

With Chopra out of contention, thanks to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s interest in him, Sourav can only fall back on Sriram for his variety of left-arm spin to complement Sunil Joshi and Sachin Tendulkar’s efforts.

Predictably, the Chopra issue has amused Zimbabwe even as it continues to embarrass the Indians.

“Yes, it probably helps our cause that India can’t field a specialist spinner even though he is in the squad… Still, we haven’t played your spinners badly, have we?” asked Streak, grinning slightly, during a chat with The Telegraph.

But for the Sriram-for-Sodhi option, the Indians aren’t considering effecting any other change. Only, this shouldn’t send the wrong signals to Yuvraj Singh, for instance, who hasn’t delivered after a fantastic debut in Nairobi.

It’s time he got some runs and, who knows, tomorrow may well be Yuvraj’s day.

For India, whether bat ting first or second, much will again depend on the Sachin-Sourav launch. The pair, the hottest in years, added 100-plus just the other day and their form doesn’t augur well for Streak’s men.

In any case, Streak acknowledged his attack, with an accent on swing bowling, “wasn’t suited” for conditions in India.

Zimbabwe, though, are keen to learn and know they’ll be at the receiving end of quite a few knocks before getting to where they aspire: To be counted upon as being more than competitive in all conditions.

Ideally, Streak would prefer setting a target. The question is: Will he have the luxury to choose?

Zimbabwe, by the way, will retain the XI which did duty on Saturday. “There won’t be any change,” informed Streak, after a lengthy team meeting, late this evening.

Meanwhile, unusually, all tickets for the 55,000-capacity Stadium hadn’t been sold till this afternoon. “The lower and highest-priced seats have gone, but not all tickets in the middle category have been picked up,” informed GCA president (also Board vice-president) Narhari Amin.

Zimbabwe aren’t seen as a big draw and, apparently, there is some disillusionment owing to the match-fixing scandal. Still, it will be one big surprise should the terraces actually remain untenanted.

The Gujarat Stadium has already hosted eight ODIs, with India featuring in six of them (a 3-3 record). But the last ODI involving India was way back in 1993, when the West Indies won with ease, though centrestage was then taken by the ill-behaved crowd.


INDIA: Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Hemang Badani, Reetinder Sodhi/Sridharan Sriram, Vijay Dahiya, Sunil Joshi, Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad, Zaheer Khan.

ZIMBABWE: Alistair Campbell, Douglas Marillier, Stuart Carlisle, Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Guy Whittall, Heath Streak, Dirk Viljoen, Travis Friend, Brian Murphy, Henry Olonga.

Umpires: S. Venkatraghavan and K. Hariharan.

Match Referee: Barry Jarman.    

Calcutta, Dec. 4: 
The 39th Ladies East India Amateur Open golf tournament will be held at the Tollygunge Club from tomorrow to Friday.

Seventy-two players, including Irina Brar, Vandana Agarwal, Parnita (not Parneeta) Garewal, Shruti Khanna and Anjali Chopra will take part in the meet. Parnita is the defending champion.

Ten-year-old Vaishnavi Sinha of Noida is the youngest player of the meet.

This is the fourth of the eight category-A tournaments on the annual calendar.    

Calcutta, Dec. 4: 
Jockey Aslam Kader would like to quickly forget his visit Friday to the city. From his five rides that day the champion had nothing to offer to his scores of followers. More importantly, all his mounts being hot-favourites, it was a painful experience for the punters and rider alike.

Kader tried his best, but his rides refused to respond. Frankly speaking, none of his rides merited to be the short-priced favourites that they were made out to be by bookmakers. Aracruz, in the opener, for instance: the Redbay Handicap went to the start as a 3-10 favourite, while an equally talented Alsheim was a 5-1 chance. Alsheim, ridden by Cristopher Alford, beat Aracruz by a short-head.

Now switch the jockeys of the two horses and ask bookies to lay odds. They would promptly switch the odds favouring Alsheim.

In the juvenile race, the Breeders Cup, Kader found himself in trouble atop the 6-10 hot Deepak Khaitan property Alamito, from the top of the home-turn. It was another matter that Angeles, the owner-mate of the favourite, won the race in an amazing manner. Kader was accused of going easy for the second-favourite.

If Kader foresaw Angeles striking it rich after the filly took a tardy start and badly trailed the field, he must be a magician. More importantly, it was a 15-1 unfancied Andrada — sporting colours of a different owner — who looked like a winner until Angeles jumped on to the scene with her devastating run.

In the Manasseh Memorial Cup, Acrosto was a 3-10 favourite for reasons best known to those who manage the ‘money’ ring. The Darius Byramji-trainee, though a better up-country class horse compared to the four in the opposition, had been very unimpressive in his workouts.

In the race, the Khaitan-property performed as miserably as he had been doing in the morning trials. It was an irony of fate that his ownermate, Anolini, entered the winner’s enclosure. The Placerville-Above four-year-old was seen racing in the rear and in close proximity of the favourite until the home-turn. Yes, Cristopher was lucky to be presented with a wide opening along the rails, by the front-runners, and the wily jockey made no mistake in availing of the opportunity.

Alyssum, Kader’s next ride in the feature, the 1,400m Hilliard Cup, went to the start as a 13-10 favourite. It was in spite of his belaboured effort, in previou start, to keep at bay the likes of Illustrious Reign and Freedom Dancer who was running after ages. On the day he was taking on the likes of So Royal, Artwork, Allodium and Starry Flag — all champions in their own right. The fact that Starry Flag, who won the race, was one of the highest rated horse last season. The performance of Alyssum — placed third behind the six-in-a-row-winner, Allodium — was thus very commendable.

So Royal is the horse that merits special mention. Although the Tiajuana-Naughty Miner four-year-old finished fifth, he would definitely do better in his next start. In spite of his heavy impost of 62-kg, the Darius-gelding was always up with the leaders and also headed the field briefly in the last furlong. The big made horse may have been kept one-spurt-short in view of his main target — the HSBC sprint next month. It was also nice to see Mr S. Rangarajan’s colours on the local track, once again..

Coming back to Kader, the disgusted jockey opted out of the last favourite, Ammeter, in the Good Hope Handicap and, perhaps, regretted doing so. Ammeter won like a champion.    

Calcutta, Dec. 4: 
The following horses worked this morning:

Outer sand track

1,400m: Adorer (Rb) in 1-47s; (800m) 1-3s; (400m) 32s. Easy.

1,200m: Flinders (Gowli) in 1-28s; (800m) 59s; (400m) 30s. Fit.

1,000m: Acaress (Rb) in 1-18s; (400m) 31s. Soviet Song (Khalander) in 1-8s; (400m) 28s. Good.

800m: Alygator (Amil) in 57s; (400m) 29s. Moved well. Sixteen Sixtyfour (A. P. Singh) in 55s; (400m) 27s. Fit. Lovely Prospect (Rb) in 1-1s; (400m) 31s. Wandering Warrior (Khalander) in 58s; (400m) 27s. Moved well. Abashed (A. P. Singh) in 42s; (400m) 28s. Easy.

Sand track

1,000m: Crimson King (Rb) in 1-7s; (400m) 29s. Easy.

800m: Scarlet Raider (Tamang) in 56s; (400m) 28s. Double Cross (Haroon) in 54s; (400m) 26s. Eau Savage (Shanker) in 51s; (400m) 24s. Moved well. Relative Shade (Brij) in 57s; (400m) 26s. Easy.    


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