Indian duo kicks off campaign in style
Nikhil, Alokendu put Bengal in command
Promoting the new with a passion
Bengal to face UP in quarters
Confusion over name of meet
Sourav issue resolved
BTTA looks to use ‘loophole’
Mumbai Racing/ Al Dente may amend failure
Mysore Racing/ Red Radior wins
Track trials

Chennai, Jan. 3: 
The hunter in Cyril Saulnier bared his claws at the Nungambakkam Stadium today and feasted on Byron Black to send another seed tumbling out of the $400,000 Gold Flake Open.

The 25-year-old French qualifier, who loves hunting and golf outside his chosen sport, overcame a tentative start to stitch together a 6-3, 6-4 win over the much-travelled fourth seed from Zimbabwe. The 70-minute triumph, the fifth in five days for Saulnier, carried the six-footer from Marseille to his maiden ATP meet quarter finals.

Much before the Centre Court upset, the fifth in three days, Czech Republic’s Michal Tabara breezed into the last eight with a 6-4, 6-0 demolition of Dutchman Edwin Kempes. The conqueror of top seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov last year, Tabara now runs into Cedric Pioline.

Third-seeded Pioline, the highest-ranked player remaining in the draw, went through a roller-coaster ride for the second time in two days before advancing. The 31-year-old Frenchman fought off some rusty edges to oust a man five years his senior, Ronald Agenor, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Keeping the flag flying for the New Balls Brigade, 18-year-old Tommy Robredo dispatched fellow-Spaniard David Sanchez 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 to earn a shot at Saulnier. Unheard of before this tournament, Robredo did well to keep his head after the high of beating local favourite Leander Paes yesterday.

Dramatic turnaround

Black, one of those rare men getting more consistent on the other side of 30, was quick to get off the blocks. He broke Saulnier in the opening game and held comfortably to cruise to 3-1. Thereafter, the 1999 champion watched the Frenchman reel off five straight games and the first set was gone. That it took Saulnier four set-points to close it out was not surprising for a man who was eyeing the biggest win of his career.

It was a combination of factors which turned the match on its head. Black, a Wimbledon quarter-finalist last year, went off cue with his bread-and-butter double-handed backhanders. More importantly, Saulnier came out of his defensive shell and packed a lot more punch in his shots.

The 25-year-old Frenchman, who took tennis seriously only at the age of 17, fired with two weapons — serve and forehand. A high percentage (61) of incisive first serves and 10 aces from Saulnier denied Black the normal rhythm on his returns. And the Frenchman’s swinging forehand did enough damage from the backcourt as well.

The two traded service-breaks early in the second set before Saulnier got the crucial one in the seventh game. A well-crafted Saulnier point, set up with a series of deep angled returns, pushed Black to 0-40. Then came a double-fault at the most unwelcome moment. It was 4-3 for Saulnier now and all he had to do was avoid dropping serve. That he did efficiently, throwing up aces at will and denying Black a single point in two games.

“My serve let me down today, specially in the second set I was missing too many first serves,” said Black who will now focus on doubles here. He and brother Wayne, the top seeds, are already in the quarter finals where they face Vadim Kutsenko (Uzbekistan) and Aisam Qureshi (Pakistan).

The Indians are disappearing fast from this year’s field. All three singles hopes (Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Syed Fazaluddin) as well as doubles wild-carders Vishal Uppal-Mustafa Ghouse had already departed. Today, last year’s surprise finalists Prahlad Srinath and Saurav Panja bowed out in Round I as well. Interestingly, the only set for a home country player has gone to Bhupathi (against Andrei Stoliarov).


SINGLES, 1st round: Michal Tabara (Czech Rep) bt Edwin Kempes (Net) 6-4, 6-0; Cyril Saunier (Fra) bt Byron Black (4, Zim) 6-3, 6-4; Tommy Robredo (Spa) bt David Sanchez (Spa) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; Cedric Pioline (3, Fra) bt Ronald Agenor (Hai) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

DOUBLES, 1st round: Eyal Ran (Isr) & Jairo Velasco Junior (Spa) bt Prahlad Srinath & Saurav Panja (Ind) 6-3, 6-4.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
BENGAL 390/3

Nikhil Haldipur and Alokendu Lahiri gave Bengal a taste of what they had been missing for some time — a solid start. The two ‘comeback men’ put on 296 for the first wicket today to fire the hosts to 390 for three by stumps on the opening day of the crucial Ranji Trophy tie against Bihar.

It has all but ensured Bengal a berth in the knockout stage. Bihar, who need an outright win to make the next stage, are now faced with the ‘impossible’.

Nothing went right for them once Devang Gandhi won a good toss this morning, and Nikhil and Alokendu, both playing their first Ranji ties this season, went about justifying the decision to bat in rather ruthless fashion with big centuries.

Nikhil got 153, and Alokendu 130. Devang and Rohan Gavaskar are at the crease, and their is promise of a huge total.

All this in sharp contrast to their plight against Orissa, to whom they lost for the first time in Ranji history only a few days ago.

Both Nikhil and Alokendu did have their moments of doubt, especially early in their innings — when the ball was doing a few things and the bowlers bowling a good line and length — but it is to their credit that they hung around to reap the harvest later.

Nikhil is always such a delight to watch, and it is a shame that so much talent has not blossomed into something big yet. There was that streaky cut over the slip cordon, and the uppish drive that almost stuck in the silly-point’s hand but today, by and large, he curbed that streak of adventure that has so often taken him out even when he was dominating an attack. Instead, he grew into the innings till he had the bowlers at his mercy — and the strokes flowed.

There were those trademark cover-drives. And the square-cut. And, when the rare long-hop came along, he took full toll.

Alokendu, embarrassed on a couple of occasions outside his off-stump by Aunshuman Raj, signalled his ‘arrival’ with a cover-drive off young Mihir Diwakar, easily the most impressive of the Bihar bowlers. He was then particularly severe on anything pitched near his pads, despatching them to the mid-wicket fence with panache.

He raced ahead and was the first to his fifty (74 balls, 9 fours). Nikhil followed (85 balls, 10 fours). The two then seemed to switch roles as Nikhil found his full range of shots.

The southpaw reached his hundred, his fourth in Ranji Trophy, off 138 deliveries and with 17 boundaries, and Alokendu follwed (137 balls, 14 fours and a six).

The partnership ended when Nikhil, having hit two sixes to mid-wicket, went for the third one to be caught a couple of yards from the rope. His 153 had come in a stay of 255 minutes, off 199 balls.

Alokendu followed four runs later, driving back into the bowlers hand soon after wicketkeeper Mahender Singh Dhoni had failed to snap up a snick.

Srikant Kalyani and Devang seemed to be building up a good partnership when the former fell to a dubious decision. Kalyani seemed to have played Diwakar into the ground before the ball flew to Nikhilesh Ranjan at second slip. Umpire N. Muralidharan upheld the appeal.

This Bihar team may be a shadow of those that fought for the top berth in the zone with Bengal not too long ago. But it is still about going out and getting those runs, and full marks to Devang and his men for doing what had to be done.

They have not just laid the foundation for an imposing total but have done so in quick time to raise hopes of an outright win.


Chennai, Jan. 3: 
New balls please. Sounds familiar? Of course it will, to regular tennis watchers used to hearing the chair umpire ask for a fresh set of balls after seven games in every competitive match.

But hang on, there’s a brand new connotation attached to those three simple words these days. Yes, New Balls Please happens to be ATP’s latest passion, aimed at promoting a new breed of young players posing a serious threat to the old guard.

The quartet of Gustavo ‘Guga’ Kuerten, Marat Safin, Magnus Norman and Lleyton Hewitt leads a pack of challengers, in their teens or early twenties, who are ready to terminate the dominance enjoyed by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi for most of the last decade.

The Generation Next performed exceptionally well last season, winning 36 of the 70 Tour championships. And 21 of those were claimed by the Magnificent Four. Safin won seven titles, Kuerten and Norman five each, Hewitt four.

Honours were even on the Grand Slam count, Sampras and Agassi pocketing Wimbledon and Australian Open, Kuerten and Safin bagging the French and US Open. Guga got his ‘team’ the ‘winning goal’ in typically Brazilian style, beating principal foes Sampras and Agassi back-to-back to lift the season-ending Masters Cup crown in Lisbon.

The induction of raw power changed the face of men’s tennis well over a decade ago. Big-serving giants popped out of nowhere to make the sport lesser of a spectacle for those relishing the genius and artistry of the McEnroes and Edbergs. There was awesome depth in talent and yet, very few managed to sustain a high level of quality performance.

A quick glance at the Grand Slam winners’ list from 1995 will help in establishing the point. The six-year period in question saw the two great Americans winning 12 of the 24 major titles, while nine others shared the remaining 50 percent.

The odd players have put their hands up from time to time, promising to challenge the Big Two, but they have all flattered to deceive. Carlos Moya looked very good at a time only to fizzle out, ditto for Patrick Rafter who was on a high after back-to-back US Open titles in 1997-98. Yevgeny Kafelnikov has turned out to be an enigma, while Richard Krajicek looks set to be dubbed the ‘one-Slam wonder’.

Sampras’ greatness — an unprecedented 13 Grand Slam crowns — and Agassi’s versatility — first man after Rod Laver to win all four Slams — notwithstanding, men’s tennis had indeed become monotonous. The game was in dire need of fresh blood and new names. Fortunately, the Safins and Hewitts arrived at the right time. And ATP has been quick to recognise it.

The most encouraging sign is the emergence of a huge bunch of youngsters who sound different and look capable of taking on the mantle. Hewitt, for example, is not even 20 but his level of maturity belies that. Take American Taylor Dent, one of four precocious teenagers emebellishing the Gold Flake Open field.

“I didn’t feel any pressure even when I was down 0-3 in the second set, I’ve been taught to play positively always,” the tall and well-structured Dent said after his huge first-round upset of top seed Norman last night. What about the pressure now of living up to the expectations? “There will be no pressure. I’ll just play my natural game.”

It may be easily misconstrued, but it’s not arrogance. Rather, it was self-belief and self-confidence which came through in Dent’s post-match conference. Very similar in approach and body language are the likes of Russian Mikhail Youzhny, Swede Andreas Vinciguerra and Spaniard Tommy Robredo.

There’s no doubt ATP has a sound base to invest on. The New Balls Please campaign, launched at the Toronto Masters Series meet last July, covers print and visual media, and outdoors rockstar-like autograph sessions. The strategy is to increase awareness in the next generation of top players, as an official explained.

Not all in the older-generation are enthused by this biased approach. “I don’t understand why the ATP should be ignoring one set of players and promoting another,” quipped 36-year-old Haitian Ronald Agenor, the oldest man in the Gold Flake Open draw.

“If some of the older players are capable of playing good tennis and providing excitement to fans, why should they be discouraged?”

Rather than this “strange” strategy, Agenor suggested an alternative which would work much better. “They (ATP) should work towards bringing in black players to tennis. That’ll ensure a revival in interest. You look at any other sport and you’ll find it’s the black people who are dominating. Only in tennis are black players missing.”

The Samprases and Agassis will hardly be bothered by ATP’s actions or Agenor’s views. They are convinced there are still some years of good tennis left in them and that’s what they’ll strive for this season.

Well, the battlelines are drawn and the warcry is loud and clear. No wonder Norman said the other day he was looking forward to a very interesting season.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
Bengal are through to the quarter finals of the Vijay Merchant Trophy. Delhi, too, are into the quarters.

In their match versus Tamil Nadu at the Narendrapur Ramkrishna Mission ground today, Bengal, who were 278 for no loss yesterday, declared at 440 for four.

Overnight centurions Ajoy Garai and Mayukh Biswas scored 172 and 143, respectively. Tamil Nadu, in reply, could manage only 98 for three in the remaining overs.

The lead put Bengal face to face with Uttar Pradesh. The match begins Friday.

At the East Calcutta District Sports Council ground Delhi, 280 for six overnight, moved to 430 today, Avinash Nag hitting 86 and Abinabha Bali scoring 69.

Orissa, in their second innings were 131 or one, Debashish Priyadarshan and Rakesh Mohanty scoring unbeaten 50 and 62, respectively. Delhi face Mumbai in the quarter finals.


At Narendrapur: Tamil Nadu 270 & 98/3. Bengal 440/4 (Ajoy Garai 172, Mayukh Biswas 143).

At ECDSC: Orissa 231 & 131/1 (Debashish Priyadarshan 50 n.o., Rakesh Mohanty 62 n.o.). Delhi 430 (Avinash Nag 76, Abinabha Bali 69; Bignes Mohanty 4/77, Goutam Sahu 3/106).

EB in trouble

East Bengal were tottering at a precarious 82 for six in their CAB senior division league match versus Young Bengal today.

Rajesh Chakraborty picked up four East Bengal wickets for 34 runs to cause the collapse after Young Bengal scored 143.

In all six centuries were scored today, with Manoj Roy of Kalighat hitting an unbeaten 186.


BNR 270/9 in 85 ovs (Mithun Dutta 47, Ashes De 41; Chandra Prakash Verma 6/103) vs Customs.

Aryan 387/3 in 73.4 ovs (Hasmukh Patel 117, Ajoy Das 104 n.o., Dipak Singh 86, Sovan Misra 54). Excelsiors 28/0.

Kalighat 391/5 in 77.5 ovs (Manoj Roy 186 n.o., Humza Firozie 68, Safi Ahmed 47; Santosh Roy 3/136). Burnpur Club 18/1.

Suburban 317 in 84 ovs (Snehasish Paul 140, Sanjay Raja 66, Sandip Haldar 40; Sagnik Banerjee 4/63, Nasim Ali 4/138) vs Belgachia United.

Young Bengal 143 (Moloy Roy 32; Ajoy Verma 5/36). East Bengal 82/6 (Rajesh Chakraborty 4/34).

Tollygunge Agragami 372 (Abhijit Sikdar 105, Moinak Sengupta 120, Amaresh Mohanty 49; Sanjoy Srivastava 6/79). Dakshin Kalikata Samsad 18/0.

Rohini on a roll

Rohini Das, who toppled the second seed yesterday, was at it again today, ousting fourth seed Karina Ahuja 6-4, 6-2 from the girls’ under-16 semi-final of the Ad-Out junior tennis tournament at the Calcutta South Club.


Boys & girls mixed U-10 semis: Ranveer Srivastava bt Ayush Dharewal 6-1, 6-1; Md Imran bt Ayush Bajoria 6-3, 6-2.

Boys U-12: Dharamver Biswakarma bt Chandam Shaolin 7-5, 6-1; Sk Asgar bt Archisman Mitra 6-3, 6-1; Ranjan Prasad bt Anoorag Biswas 6-0, 6-; Tayyab Alam bt Soumit Dey 6-3, 7-5.

Boys U-14: Farid Alam bt Chandam Shaolin 9-3, Arpit Sharma bt Md Aquib 9-8 (9-7).

Boys U-16: Farid Alam bt Biplab Das 9-7.

Girls U-12 semis: Shivika Burman bt Mokshada jain 6-0, 6-0.

Bengal runners-up

Bengal women finished runners-up in the 23rd senior national throwball meet which concluded in Bangalore recently, says a Wet bengal Throwball Association release today.

In the final Karnataka beat Bengal 15-12, 15-9. Karnataka won the men’s title, beating Orissa 15-12, 12-15, 16-14 in the final.


New Delhi, Jan. 3: 
Just a week prior to the Millennium Cup, confusion prevails about the official name and logo of the tournament. A spokeswoman for the tournament promoters, Studio 2100, today said that Sahara India Parivar is now the title sponsor.

She added that the tournament is now being called the Sahara Cup. The AIFF president, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, has tacitly agreed to this change. There was vociferous protest from the assembled media, as the entire build-up for the tournament has been in the name of Millennium Cup.

The promoters then hastily agreed that there will be a re-think on the name of the event. However, Vandana Bhargava, deputy director Sahara India Parivar, insisted that Sahara’s name will be associated with the tournament. The amount of sponsorship has not been decided. The official response is that they will support the event and see that there is no financial trouble.

It was finally decided that the official name of the tournament will be finally released in Goa, on January 6. The logo will also be altered to include Sahara’s presence. Though it was not officially announced, it does seem the tournament will now be called the Sahara Millennium Cup.

The South American teams, Chile and Uruguay, are participating without any of their glamour names. Chile’s squad does not include Marcelo Salas or Ivan Zamorano. AIFF sources claim one more player is to be announced and it could be Zamorano.

Among the 19, are striker Hector Tapia (Perugia, Italy), defender Eros Perez (Colo de Santa FC, Argentina) and defender David Henriquez, Marcos Villaseca and striker Sebastian Gonzales from Chile’s leading club Colo Colo. It was claimed that several players are from the Sydney Olympics bronze winning side.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
CAB joint-secretary Debdas Banerjee, who had raised the spectre of disciplinary action against Sourav Ganguly, today said the matter was resolved “after the president (Jagmohan Dalmiya) had spoken to him”.

Sourav had opted out of the Ranji tie against Bihar, but Banerjee pointed out yesterday that “the association had not been informed”. The India skipper had faxed a letter to CAB later in the evening, but Banerjee said he still hasn’t received it. “Today Sourav has told the president that he wished to rest his back, and the president has agreed to his request. Sourav has, however, been asked to submit a letter to this effect to the CAB,” Banerjee said.

Intriguingly, Sourav denied having discussed this with the CAB president. “My not playing this match did not feature during our discussions today,” he said.

Sourav voted best

Sourav has been adjudged ‘Cricketer of the Year 2000’ by the Officer’s Choice Cricket Year Book. The panel of judges included former cricketers Gopal Bose and Palash Nandy and senior sports scribes. Australia skipper Steve Waugh had won the award last year. The book, published in Bengali by Overall Communication, is priced at Rs 40.    

Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
The BTTA is looking to use a loophole in the TTFI constitution to see if banned player Arup Basak can still play in the nationals in Cuttack from Friday to January 12.

The related clause in the TTFI constitution says that any ban (Basak was banned for the year yesterday) should allow the player at least 14 days to appeal, informed a BTTA official. Basak is yet to get his suspension letter which could allow him to play in the nationals which ends within the stipulated 14-day period. Interestingly, he has been seeded second, reports UNI.

Basak told The Telegraph that he was unaware of such development. “But I’ve been told by my employers (PSCB) that I should not play any tournament during my suspension.”


Mumbai, Jan. 3: 
Al Dente is fancied to win the 1,600m Maharaja Sir Harisinghji Trophy at the Mumbai races on Thursday. The race was postponed to the day last Sunday owing to rains. Aslam Kader partners the Darius Byramji-trained five-year-old mare by Razeen out of Ideas And Trends.


1.30 pm: Persian Lord 1. Color Me Good 2. Wings Of Fire 3.
2 pm: Texas King 1. Budapest 2. Dalsinghar 3.
2.30 pm: Cristina 1. Soviet Ride 2. Midnight Charm 3.
3 pm: Super Sword 1. Stilleto Xpress 2. Zidane 3.
3.30 pm:Adam’s Blessings 1. Rapallo 2. Arvana 3.
4 pm: Al Dente 1. Great Investment 2. Star Fortune 3.
4.30 pm: Mariazella 1. Anthology 2. Adam’s Touch 3.
5 pm: Soviet Fire 1. Great Alliance 2. Jonty’s Pal 3.
5.30 pm: Act Of Trust 1. Valid Appeal 2. Flossy 3.

Day’s Best: Mariazella

Double: Persian Lord & Cristina

Mysore, Jan. 3: 
The Britto-trained three-year-old Red Radior score a runaway win in the Victory Zone Cup in Mysore on Wednesday. Sathish Narredu partnered the Locked Away-Lay Clout son.


(With inter-state dividends)
1. Mekedaatu Plate 1,400m: (4-1-3) Waves Of Emotion (Prithviraj) 1; Winning Streak 2; Storm On The Run 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 2-3/4; (1-28.2). Tote: Win Rs 38; Place: 17; 38; 19; Quinella: 167; Tanala: 864. Fav: Sword Of Justice (2).

2. Taj Mahal Plate 1,200m: (4-6-3) Portalino (Hesnain) 1; Dad’s Prize 2; Swiss Knife 3. Won by: 3/4; 4-1/2; (1-14.9). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 15; 35; 25; Quinella: 207; Tanala: 2,461. Fav: Portalino (4).

3. January Plate, Div-II 1,100m: (1-6-3) Chuck Berry (Krishnan) 1; Deion 2; Random Hearts 3. Won by: 3; 1-1/2; (1-7.3). Tote: Win Rs 56; Place: 21; 16; Quinella: 106; Tanala: 393. Fav: Random Hearts (3).

4. Victory Zone Cup 1,100m: (1-4-6) Red Radior (S. Narredu) 1; Solar Spirit 2; On The Post 3. Won by: 9-1/2; 2-1/2; (1-7.7). Tote: Win Rs 13; Place: 11; 17; Quinella: 19; Tanala: 71. Fav: Red Radior (1).

5. January Plate, Div-I 1,100m: (6-4-2) Prestigious Baby (Shobhan) 1; Red Malibu 2; Radical 3. Won by: 1/2; 1; (1-7.4). Tote: Win Rs 24; Place: 16; 37; Quinella: 66; Tanala: 411. Fav: Prestigious Baby (6).

6. Rajendravilas Plate 1,200m: (6-2-10) Bromption Road (Appu) 1; Sunspirit 2; Red Red Wine 3. Won by: 3/4; 2-3/4; (1-13.7). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 17; 20; 45; Quinella: 89; Tanala: 1,350. Fav: Tabreez (1).

Jackpot: Rs 1,191; (C) Rs 137.

Treble: (i) Rs 1,494; (ii) Rs 63.

Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
Acrosto and Lockers Park impressed in today’s work outs.

Outer sand track

2,200m: Aloritz (C. Alford) and Deep Star (Surender) in 3-0s; (400m) 30s. Former 4 ls better. Easy.

1,200m:Acrosto (Khalander) in 1-25s; (400m) 28s. Good.

1,000m: Metal Precieux/Leprechaun Act (Engineer) in 1-17s; (400m) 28s.

800m: Tequila Shot (Shanker) and Floral Path (Haroon) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Both were level. Kargil Soldier (Yadav) and Mac The Kanif (Connorton) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Both level.

600m: Astride (Rb), Arterial (A. P. Singh) and Cristofuri/Fluid Drive (Amil) in 47s; (400m) 32s. They were separated by a head and 2 ls. Lockers Park (Islam) and Soviet Port (Rabani) in 41s; (400m) 27s. Both were level. Consul’s Secret (Rb) in 42s; (400m) 27s. Moved well. Googy Gangster (Bird) and Storm Centre (Rb) in 44s; (400m) 30s. Both were level.

Sand track

1,400m: Alterezza (Surender) and Alvarada (A. P. Singh ) in 1-51s; (400m) 32s. Former 2 ls better.

1,200m: Diplomatic Gesture (G. Singh) in 1-28s; (400m) 29s.

800m: Red Trident (Rutherford) in 51s; (400m) 24s. Note. Lovely Prospect (Som S.) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Moved well. Analyzer (Som S.) in 57s; (400m) 29s. Easy. Spanish Drum’s (Saran S.) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Gambino (Gowli) and Double Bull (Rb) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Both level.

600m: Added Asset (A. Imran) in 36s; (400m) 24s. Impressed.

Gate practice

From 2,000 to 1,400m: All Jade (Yasin), Aiberni (Rabani) and a 2-y-o by Metal Precieux/ Leprechaun Act (Engineer) in 44s. First two jumped out well.    

Maintained by Web Development Company