Paes-Bhupathi moves into semi-finals
Bihar follow on despite Dhoni defiance
CAB to treat Sourav as a‘special case’
Basudeb Mondal to lead India
Olympian dead
Shukla scenes mar Eden match
‘Handle women’s tennis professionally’
Bangalore Races/ Access All Areas may come good
Calcutta Races/ Ammeter shines

Chennai, Jan. 5: 
Michal Tabara got famous in this part of the world after toppling Yevgeny Kafelnikov last year. Not many, however, were convinced about the authenticity of that upset, unsure as they were of the enigmatic Russian’s seriousness. Today, the 21-year-old Czech silenced the Doubting Thomases with a convincing straight-set demolition of Cedric Pioline to enter the $400,000 Gold Flake Open semi-finals.

The two-time Grand Slam finalist looked a shadow of his normally elegant self, struggling all through the one-hour match to go down 4-6, 1-6. The exit of the third seed meant that for the first time in the six-year history of the ATP event in India, all four semi-finalists are unseeded.

Smelling blood in a field as open as this one, Danish qualifier Kristian Pless moved to within two matches of the title. The precocious 19-year-old, who ousted another face-of-the-future Taylor Dent yesterday, was just as impressive in outplaying experienced Romanian Adrian Voinea 6-1, 7-5.

Up next in Pless’ path is Tabara. Neither has lost a set in three matches yet.

Even as Tabara was carving a niche for himself on Centre Court early today, Spanish upstart Tommy Robredo was in a tearing hurry to finish his quarter final on Court 2. The handsome 18-year-old, who had won only two ATP matches before, finished off another qualifier — Frenchman Cyril Saulnier — 6-2, 6-1 to notch up his third victory this week.

Saulnier, who shocked fourth seed Byron Black Wednesday, was no match for an opponent playing out of his skin. The tall Frenchman simply had no answer to a barrage of winners Robredo fired from backcourt.

That the Spaniard won over 50 percent of the return points tells its own story. He converted five out of eight break-points, while Saulnier drew a blank from the two he got.

Robredo’s opponent tomorrow will be Andrei Stoliarov, who was the only one to be taken the full distance Friday. The Russian made a remarkable recovery to see off Dutch Peter Wessels 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi moved a step closer to title No. 4 at this magical venue, knocking over the Czech pair of Tabara and Tomas Zib 7-6(7-4), 6-3 in the last quarter final.

Getting back to the Pioline tragedy, it was the 31-year-old’s backhand which let him down terribly. He was off cue from the word go, dropping serve in the very opening game. And though the Frenchman broke back in Game 4, Pioline lost serve again straightaway. For a change, he drove a forehand long on break-point.

Without doing anything special, Tabara had opened up a one-set-to-love lead. A typical European claycourter who seldom ventures to the net, the Czech just kept the balls in play and let Pioline self-destruct.

Tabara, who comes from an obscure small town called Napajedia, piled on Pioline’s misery in the second set with a string of winners. After missing two break-points in Game 3, Tabara set up a third with a breathtaking running backhand pass. And he converted that with another winner — this time a wristy forehand crosscourt.

His ability to take the ball early and use the wrist to generate some deadly angles gave a different dimension to Tabara’s game. He captured Pioline’s serve a second time as the ruffled Frenchman erred twice on backhand. Tabara finished the match in style, reeling off three consecutive winners before Pioline drove a forehand long on first match-point.

“I just played a bad match, it wasn’t my day today,” was how Pioline explained his unexpected defeat.

It was too one-sided a match, surely not one to satisfy a crowd which included distinguished visitor Viswanathan Anand.

By the time Paes and Bhupathi were on court for the third match, the crowd had swelled to nearly 4,000. They got their money’s worth as their heroes hit a high, plunged to the depths, recovered in time and survived some more anxious moments before shutting out a potentially dangerous combination.

Tabara, back on court less than two hours after his remarkable singles win, looked a bit jaded. The Indians targeted him and captured both his first two service games for a comfortable 4-1 lead. Then came the slide.

First Paes and then Bhupathi dropped serve back-to-back as Zib struck some excellent returns. The Czechs reeled off four games in a row to be up (5-4) for the first time in the match. The Indians had to serve twice to stay in the match, taking the set to the tie-break.

With his younger partner not in the best of form, Paes took it upon himself to move the Indian Express up a gear. Two good service returns and a couple of typically brilliant net interceptions defeated the Czechs’ bid to bag the opening set.

The second set went neck-and-neck till Zib played a poor sixth game to surrender serve. At 4-2, it seemed the Indians had the match in their kitty. But two poor volleys by Paes, followed by a couple of fine service returns by Zib and Tabara helped the Czechs break back immediately.

It didn’t hurt the Indians as Tabara was broken a third time. Serving for the match at 5-3, Bhupathi held at love, banging an ace on match-point No. 1.

RESULTS: SINGLES, quarter finals: Michal Tabara (Cze) bt Cedric Pioline (3, Fra) 6-4, 6-1; Tommy Robredo (Spa) bt Cyril Saulnier (Fra) 6-2, 6-1; Kristian Pless (Den) bt Adrian Voinea (Rom) 6-1, 7-5; Andrei Stoliarov (Rus) bt Peter Wessels (Ned) 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. DOUBLES, quarter finals: Leander Paes & Mahesh Bhupathi (1, Ind) bt Tabara & Tomas Zib (Cze) 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.


Pless vs Tabara; Robredo vs Stoliarov


Byron & Wayne Black (1, Zim) vs Ota Fukarek & Frantisek Cermak (Cze); Paes & Bhupathi vs Barry Cowan (GBR) & Mose Navarra (Ita).


Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
Bengal 608/5 Decl
Bihar 323, 16/1

Bihar wicketkeeper Mahinder Singh Dhoni provided the twist to the tale today to leave the Ranji Trophy tie at the Eden Gardens poised for an absorbing finish. Interest tomorrow, the final day of the four-day match, will as expected revolve around Bengal’s efforts to force an outright win, but if the visitors are now spoiling for a fight, they will have to thank the 19-year-old from Ranchi.

Coming in at No. 6, Dhoni defied the Bengal attack to score his maiden Ranji century and drag the Bihar first innings to 323 in reply to Bengal’s mammoth 608 for five declared. The 19-year-old’s unbeaten 114 was not enough to save Bihar from the follow-on, but has left them with a chance to save the match on a wicket that, despite the odd low bounce, holds no terror.

The visitors were 16 for one in their second innings, still 269 from avoiding an innings defeat.

Dhoni’s was the fourth century of the match — after those by Bengal’s Nikhil Haldipur, Alokendu Lahiri and Rohan Gavaskar — but surely the most impressive if one were looking for guts and gumption. Under the circumstances, the Bengal bowlers did what was best — make the wickets dissappear at the other end.

In the process, Utpal Chatterjee snared his 22nd five-wicket haul in Ranji Trophy. He now has 309 wickets, just eight short of Dilip Doshi’s record for Bengal.

There was, for a change, some fine support from the other end. Shib Sagar Singh, Shib Shankar Pal and Sourashish Lahiri were all impressive. The only exception was Laxmi Ratan Shukla, though he did hog the limelight — for the wrong reasons.

Dhoni’s innings was a one of many hues. He came in firing on all cylinders with a flurry of fours, but the fall of Tariq-ur-Rehman saw him drop anchor. The bad ball did not escape punishment even as the Bengal bowlers made their presence felt, but Dhoni was back to his bashing best when he realised he was running out of partners.

With the threat of being stranded short of his century, he found his man in No. 11 Dheeraj Kumar. Dhoni did not just get his century — by smashing Shib Sagar for a lovely six over long-off — but the two added a valuable 55 runs for the 10th wicket.

If the batting honours were cornered by a brave 19-year-old, a bowler pushing 40 gave another lesson in left-arm spin bowling.

Keeping the batsmen guessing with a judicious dose of the arm-ball, Utpal went about preying on the weaknesses in technique and temperament of the Bihar batsmen till they bowed to him.

While Utpal’s performance has now become so monotonously ‘predictable’, it was good to see the other bowlers stand up and be counted. Shib Sagar at last showed glimpses of the form that had made him such hot property when he began. It’s a shame that he had no wickets to show for it.

Shib Shankar Pal, the big medium-pacer, was able to sustain the right line and length for a change. He can be a very dangerous bowler once he learns to keep to that ‘corridor of uncertainty’ over long stretches of time and make the batsmen play.

Perhaps that will come when he starts working seriously on his fitness. Rohan Gavaskar got to bowl some medium-pace in the Bihar second innings, and he promptly bowled a bouncer — perhaps to show that he was more “lethal” than his father ever was!


Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
Sourav Ganguly is expected to get permission to participate in local cricket as a “special case”, even as the CAB tinkered with its rules on registration at an emergent working committee meeting today.

The changes specify that a cricketer “who has played for the country for the two preceding years” or a current national player who is on international or overseas playing assignments, can register for a club after the September 1-15 period by sending an application to the association within Sepetmber 10 and then intimating the CAB secretary “within 10 days of his arrival in India but not later than 10th day of January”.

Sourav was playing for Lancashire during the official registration period prior to this season.

In case of a player “who has played for Bengal”, the period for seeking registration is between April 1 and January 10.

The CAB has called a special general meeting on January 13 to get the changes approved.


New Delhi, Jan. 5: 
Mohun Bagan’s Basudeb Mondal will lead India in the forthcoming Millennium Cup football meet.

The 22-member squad announced today has six rookies — ITI’s goalkeeper Balaji Rao, East Bengal’s left back Rattan Singh, Bagan’s midfielder James Singh and winger R.C. Prakash, Churchill Brothers’ midfielder Noel Wilson and Salgaocar’s striker Alvito D’Cunha. East Bengal’s Carlton Chapman makes a comeback into the national squad after two years.

The Indian squad will leave for Kochi tomorrow.


Goalkeepers: Virender Singh (Mah), Sandip Nandy (Ben) and Balaji Rao (Kar). Defenders: M. Suresh, Deepak Mondal and Rattan Singh (all Ben), Mahesh Gawli (Goa), Jo Paul Ancheri (Ker). Midfielders: Jules Alberto (Goa), Basudeb Mondal (capt.), James Singh, Carlton Chapman and Renedy Singh (all Ben), Hardip Singh Sangha (Pun), Noel Wilson (Ker) and S. Venkatesh (Mah). Forwards: I. M. Vijayan (Ker), Bijen Singh, R.C. Prakash (both Ben), Sabir Pasha (TN), Bruno Coutinho and Alvito D’Cunha (both Goa).

Manager: O. K. Devassi (Ker). Technical Director: Krishnaji Rao (Kar). Chief Coach: Islam Ahmedov (Uzbk.). Goalkeeper’s coach: Brahmanand Shankwalkar (Goa). Physiotherapist: Dr Sameer.

Chile among strongest

Chile and Yugoslavia seem to have the strongest squads among the fancied sides.

Chile have ten players, who won the bronze in the Sydney Olympics. Central defenders Cristian Andrez Alvarez and David Henriquez and midfielders Rodrigo Tello and Claudio Maldonado are highly rated. Other Olympians are defender Rafel Olarra, midfielders Rodrigo Ortiz and Francisco Arrue, goalie Javier Gregorio and forwards Hector Tapia and Sebastian Valdes.

Yugoslavia have four players, who have represented their country in the Euro 2000. They are reserve goalkeeper Aleksander Kocic, defenders Ivan Dudic and Nenad Sakic and striker Mateja Kezman. Of this quartet, only Dukic played a full match.


Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
Raj Kumar Mehra, ace cyclist and two-time Olympian, who was inarguably the pioneer in popularising the game in the state, died at Rajpur in South 24 Parganas this morning.

West Bengal Cycling Association held a special condolence meeting today and paid rich tributes to the octogenarian cyclist, who had represented India in cycling events in London and Helsinki Olympics in 1948 and 1952 respectively.

Mehra wore many a feather in his cap and brought laurels for the country during his illustrious career as a cyclist. He won silver in cycling (team event) in the first Asian Games in 1951. He represented India in an international peace race from Prague to Warsaw. He also went to the 1964 - Tokyo Olympic Games as manager of the Indian cycling team. He also served Cycling Federation of India as its assistant secretary.

ITA Open from Monday

The AITA ranking ITA Open meet for under-14 and under-16 boys and girls will be held at SAI Eastern centre from January 8-14. The qualifiers will be held on Saturday and Sunday. The meet has attracted 180 entries.


Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
Laxmi Ratan Shukla is working overtime to finish a cricket career that had looked so full of promise only a couple of seasons ago. Having risen like a meteorite from the Bengal bench, with fiery fast bowling and a punishing bat, he was left staring today at severe sanctions after ugly on-field scenes at the Eden Gardens.

It all began in his first over with the second new ball which went for 16 runs as Bihar’s centurion Mahinder Singh Dhoni cut loose with three boundaries. Shukla, who bowled a beamer, gave Dhoni a mouthful and the 19-year-old was seen drawing the umpire’s attention after the over.

When Bengal’s stand-in skipper Srikant Kalyani (a knee problem has prevented Devang from taking the field since the Bihar innings began yesterday) tried to change Shukla’s fileding position, the young medium-pacer said something that saw Kalyani step out of character and charge at him.

After tea, taken 30 minutes after schedule because nine wickets were down, Shukla was told by team manager Biswarup Dey that the coaches (M.P. Parmer and Palash Nandy) didn’t want him on the field. Later, CAB assistant-secretary Usha Nath Banerjee threw him out of the dressing room as well.

“Whether he’ll be allowed to take the field tomorrow is the prerogative of the coaches and skipper. I have been informed verbally and have taken note, but we’ll act on it only after we get the manager’s (written) report on the incident,” CAB joint-secretary Debdas Banerjee said.

Shukla’s father rushed to soothe the ruffled feathers at the CAB, but his son had not apologised to anyone by then.

Shukla, who played three ODIs in 1998-99 and made the Test squad, came into national reckoning earlier that season with a very good outing in the Wills Trophy — getting 136 in quick-time as Bengal defeated Delhi in Jamshedpur and bowling well throughout the meet.

His international career didn’t quite take off, and then he just went down and disintegrated during a miserable 2000 that saw him leave the National Cricket Academy in a cloud.

2001 has surely begun on the wrong note for the 20-year-old. For Shukla, suffering from an Achilles tendon injury, this was the Ranji match of the season.

It may well be his last.


Chennai, Jan. 5: 
It has come as a surprise, yes, but Enrico Piperno is not sure whether to term it a pleasant one.

“I wasn’t expecting it, so it’s a surprise. But till I know what exactly the AITA’s plans are, I can’t make any comment,” was the newly-appointed Indian Fed Cup coach’s preliminary reaction as the news filtered through from New Delhi.

For a man who trained the Davis Cup team for close to a decade and has been travelling coach of doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi for over four years, this is totally alien territory. And somewhat of a demotion, too, since he has been ‘transferred’ from the men’s to the less glamorous women’s team.

Piperno, though, does not agree. “To me, the Davis Cup coach has a very low-profile job,” he told The Telegraph.

“He slogs during the whole week and at the end of the day it’s the captain who takes away all the credit. It’s a thankless task, really.”

It’s no different with Fed Cup either, though the coach doubles up as the captain there, says Piperno. “Anyone can do it in Fed Cup as it’s just a one-week affair in the year. To do anything meaningful, I would like to be more involved with women’s tennis and help in its development.”

Piperno wants to meet AITA secretary Anil Khanna in Delhi next week to discuss the Fed Cup matter. “I’ll see if a two-year contract can be worked out whereby I work with the top girls for a certain period in the year. I would also propose a separate budget to be earmarked for the development of women’s tennis.”

That’s optimism of the highest order. Expecting the AITA to be serious about promoting women’s tennis is like asking for the moon. If they were a professional body, wouldn’t they have sought Piperno’s consent and worked out the terms and conditions before appointing him?

“I’ll just put forward my suggestions, the decision will be AITA’s. If they are looking at growth in women’s tennis, they have to do things professionally,” said Rico, a six-time national championship finalist who never got into the Davis Cup team.

“Women’s tennis is looking up with Nirupama (Vaidyanathan) showing the way. There’s some potential there, it’s got to be tapped and nurtured,” Piperno observed, adding that he has called an informal meeting with the girls tomorrow. “Nirupama, Manisha (Malhotra), Sai (Jayalakshmi) and Rushmi (Chakravarthi) are all here, so I thought of checking out on their basic views and schedules.”

India No. 1 Nirupama, ranked in the 180s in singles and inside the top 150 in doubles on the WTA computer, is looking forward to working with a new coach though, ideally, she would have preferred continuity.

“Nandan (Bal) was with us for three-four years and we gelled well. Now there will be a change in style and system. Maybe, we’ll be able to pick up something new from Rico who has had great experience in coaching,” said the petite Nirupama who is a part of the television commentary team.

Life in tennis has been one roller-coaster ride for Piperno. Only time will tell whether he will be successful in his new assignment.


Bangalore, Jan. 5: 
The nine-horse of the 2,400m The Hindu Bangalore Oaks, tomorrow, looks to be very open affair. However, going by the results of runners who have won over a mile-and-a-half, the Mumbai challenger Access All Areas, in the hands of Aslam Kader, may land the Ladies’ Derby for trainer Padmanabhan.


2 pm: Great Occasion 1. Amazon Gold 2. Black Ocean 3.
2.30 pm: Royal Satsuma 1. Speedy Idea 2. Gordon’s Pet 3.
3 pm: Recapitulation 1. Good Win 2. Scandal Sheet 3.
3.30 pm: Deset Gold 1. Alphabetic 2. Celestial Gold 3.
4 pm: Access All Areas 1. Mosaic 2. Adamile 3.
4.30 pm: The Music Man 1. Crystal Moment 2. Averoff 3.
5 pm: Super Premium 1. Winning Charm 2. Spectacular Style 3.
5.30 pm: Ronson 1. Saujas 2. Facsimile 3.
Day’s Best: The Music Man
Double: Great Occasion & Recapitulation

Calcutta, Jan. 5: 
Ammeter, Allodium, Classic Pursuit, Daggers Drawn and Tajik were impressive from amonf the following horses seen exercising today.

Outer sand track

1,600m: Ammeter (Khalander) in 1-55s; (400m) 30s. Moved well. Allodium (Rabani) and Classic Pursuit (Islam) in 1-56s; (400m) 32s. Both level.
1,200m: Soviet Ace (Kasbekar) in 1-21s; (400m) 27s. Fit. Wandering Warrior (Rb) in 1-34s; (400m) 31s. Arterial (C. Alford) and Cristofuri/Fluid Drive (Rb) in 1-31s; (400m) 32s. Both level.
1,000m: Daggers Drawn (Rabani) and Andreyev (Islam) in 1-6s; (400m) 28s. Former 4 ls better. Both moved attractively. Private Lives (Rabani) and Aflicker (Islam) in 1-9s; (400m) 28s. Both were level and handy.
800m: Tajik (Khalander) in 52s; (400m) 27s. Stretched out well. Beau Bruno (A. Imran) in 1-1s; (400m) 31s. Calorescence (C. Alford) in 56s; (400m) 28s. Moved well. Abstract (Brij) in 55s; 27s. Easy. The Stud (Gowli) and Swash Buckler (Upadhya) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Former far better.

Sand track

1,200m: Adorer (Khalander) in 1-18s; (800m) 50s; (400m) 24s. Impressed.
1,000m: Aragrove (Connorton) in 1-8s; (400m) 25s. Easy.
800m: Double Bull (A. Imran) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Sadaf (A. Imran) and Bird’s Empire (Rb) in 51s; (400m) 24s. Former better.

On Thursday, outer sand track

1,600m: Soviet Ace (Kasbekar) in 2-0s; (400m) 31s. Easy.
1,400m: Annatto (C. Alford) and Crucible (A. P. Singh) in 1-40s; (400m) 29s. Former far better.
1,200m: The Stud (Upadhya) in 1-28s; (400m) 31s. Easy. Andestine (C. Alford) in 1-25s; (400m) 28s. Moved well. Desert Force (Kujur) in 1-26s; (400m) 29s. Good. Analyzer (Som S.) and Appeaer (C. Alford) in 1-25s; (400m) 30s. Former better. Tsavo (Khalander) in 1-36s; (400m) 30s. Calamint (Amil) and Aherlow (C. Alford) in 1-28s; (400m) 30s. Former far better.
1,000m: Andrada (C. Alford) and Albright (A. P. Singh) in 1-13s; (400m) 29s. Former better. Andreyev (Yadav) in 1-18s; (400m) 31s. Adeline (C. Alford) and Supreme Desire (Som S.) in 1-15s; (400m) 29s. Former better. Aloritz (C. Alford) and Anolini (Amil) in 1-10s; (400m) 27s. Former far better. Ashbury (C. Alford) and Iron Warrior (Som S.) in 1-13s; (400m) 27s. Former better. Alicyclic (C. Alford), Ancheta (Amil) and Calculate (A. P. Singh) in 1-10s; (400m) 28s. Joe The Pro (Yadav) and Earl Grey (Connorton) in 1-9s; (400m) 27s. Level.
800m: Acaress (Khalander) in 55s; (400m) 29s. Fit. Tsaynen Blue (Gowli) in 56s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Easy.

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