No contract with PCB yet: Boycott
Tolly, Mahindra in goalless tie
2nd seed Kannan falls to Bopanna
Race Review

Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
A Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) functionary has already announced Geoffrey Boycott will begin his Academy-assignment on February 5, but the former England captain is yet to sign a contract.

“To be frank, I’m still not clear about the job profile and I haven’t signed a contract with the PCB,” Boycott told The Telegraph when contacted in the UK.

He is expected to be designated consultant.

Speaking this afternoon, Boycott added: “My lawyer is in touch with the PCB and, hopefully, things will be clear by Wednesday. Till then, I cannot discuss anything specific.”

Boycott can’t be blamed for treading carefully: Not too long ago, after all, there was much talk about his being appointed Pakistan coach, not just consultant. A move of sorts (in mid-1998) was even initiated by Majid Khan, the then PCB chief executive.

“Yeah, I’m aware of that... In fact, there have also been instances when my name has cropped up without anybody speaking to me. And, so, I’m not going into details till a contract is in place.”

Boycott informed, though, he hasn’t been in direct contact with the PCB chairman, Lt General Tauqir Zia, an administrator with a refreshingly open mind.

“All discussions have been through a third-party and I’m being represented by my lawyer...”

Asked to comment on the Media in Pakistan making an issue of his reported fee of Ł 2,000 per day, Boycott appeared more amused than irritated.

“I’m a freelancer who has been approached by the authorities. What anybody outside the PCB says, doesn’t bother me. In any case, I’ve been given to understand McDonald’s will be my sponsor. So, nothing will go out of the PCB’s coffers.”

Boycott added: “Actually, I would have loved to work in India but, then, nobody ever approached me... I personally know most of your Board officials and, just as important, get along so well with the Prince (captain Sourav Ganguly). But...”

Earlier this season, the Board did have options (when the hunt for Kapil Dev’s successor was on), but nobody quite thought of Boycott, who may have had his share of controversies, yet knows cricket better than the acclaimed pundits.

While New Zealand’s John Wright is Kapil’s full-time successor, the Board has also roped-in Australian Geoff Marsh as general consultant.

Predictably, Boycott endorsed the move by many countries to look outwards and appoint either a coach or consultant from overseas.

“It’s not a question of doing something which is in fashion... Somebody from overseas won’t be influenced by local politics, won’t have likes and dislikes... Instead, he will have clarity of vision as he has no axe to grind. Therefore, there are benefits in getting a consultant/coach from overseas.”

Boycott added: “Nobody should have reservations if the appointee is straightforward and tackles matters dispassionately.”

Nobody can argue with that.

Whether or not Boycott leaves for Pakistan at the weekend, he will certainly head for Sri Lanka in the second-half of February as a Talk Radio commetator during the England series.

The first Test, in Galle, begins February 22.


Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Having missed many a chance, Tollygunge Agragami settled for what it had deserved in the end — a goalless tie with Mahindra United in the National Football League encounter at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium today.

Tollygunge, however, kicked off in style, having come close to the target in as early as the third minute of the match. Sasthi Duley chanced upon a ball inside the penalty box when a Bhabani Mohanty shot had deflected off a rival player. The diminutive striker could not catch India’s current numero uno custodian Virender Singh on the wrong foot.

Duley’s failure was just a precursor to what had greeted the local outfit in the match — lots of misses and no cheer of success. The Mumbai league champions, missing five of their key players through injuries, might feel relieved to split points.

The verdict of the match helped Tollygunge earn their first points after back-to-back defeats in the League, while Mahindra have two from three matches.

Desperate to log full points, coach Amal Dutta started his line-up in an unconventional 3-1-4-2 formation, with Abdul Wastu Saliu linking the space between defence and middle-third.

Such peculiarity in the players’ positions on the field gave Tollygunge space and cohesion as the supply line to their attack could easily be taken care of. Through a much higher percentage of ball possession, a flurry of sorties from the half-line was thus built up. But what Dutta’s team lacked in translating such moves into fertile forays was a rudder in the middle who could control these developments.

Moreover, Tollygunge upfront, manned by two foreign recruits — Emeka Achilefu and Abdulateef Seriki — concentrated more on pushing and shoving than being penetrative. The result was obvious — both were cautioned and felt lucky not to be given marching orders.

Referee Rizwan-ul Haq from Delhi had a tough time in controlling the situation and his leniency on many a occasion could well have led to more serious developments on the field.

Mahindra made their absence of Raman Vijayan, Barnard, Nazib, Abbas Ali Rizvi and Tapan Ghosh insignificant in the 30th minute when skipper Aqeel Ansari bulged a shot, only to see goalkeeper Hemanta Dora diving to his left to clear the danger.

The change of side saw Duley and Bhabani Mohanty make good use of the flanks to develop more attacks inside the rivals territory. At least on three occasions, Seriki failed to materialise goalmouth moves into success with only the Mahindra goalie to beat.

Duley, using his short stature, continued to pierce the goal area but the rival defence guarded by Nigerian Christopher and Habib Adekunle foiled most of the attempts.

Three minutes from time, Duley again became the origin of the local outfit’s most talked-about chance. He crossed a centre to Seriki, whose miscued header fortuitously landed in front of an upcoming Mohanty inside the dreaded area. He wisely moved forward to close gap between him and the man under the bar, but foolishly shot the ball well over.


TOLYYGUNGE AGRAGAMI: Hemanta Dora; Riazul Mustafa, Debashish Pal Chowdhury, Satish Bharti, Partha Sarathi Dey, Abdul Wasiu Saliu, Felix Abayomi, Bhabani Mohanty (Ranjan Chowdhury, 71m), Sasthi Duley, Abdulateef Seriki, Emeka Achilefu.

MAHINDRA UNITED: Virender Singh; Anthony Pereira, Christopher I, Habib Adekunle, Sanjay Dayal; Satish Minz (Abhay Kumar, 68m), Aqeel Ansari, Davoud Hosseini, Khalid Siddique (Samsi Reza, 76m); S. Venkatesh, Manjit Singh.

Referee: Rizwan-ul Haq.


Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Unfancied Rohan Bopanna of Maharashtra showed second seed Vijay Kannan of Tamil Nadu the door with a 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1) win as the Indian Oil Servo senior national grasscourt tennis championships got underway at the South Club today. In another upset, eighth seed Vijayendra Laad of Maharashtra was beaten 6-7 (4/7), 3-6 by S.K. Shivshankar of Karnataka in one hour and 40 minutes.

Local qualifier Abhishek Jagnani was thrashed 4-6, 0-6 by seventh seed Mustafa Ghouse of Maharashtra but another city lad Anand Radhakrishnan came back nicely to beat Anant Sitaram of Andhra Pradesh 6-7 (7/5), 6-3, 6-1.

Kannan and Bopanna went neck and neck in the first set, holding services till it went into tie-break. In the tie-break, Bopanna pushed up the quality of his serves a notch or two, and his returns too were too good for the pre-match favourite.

The second also dragged on in similar fashion, till Kannan got a break-point in the seventh game. However, Bopanna survived the scare and won three points in a row to retain his serve. In the tie-break, Bopanna got off to a 2-0 lead and maintained his supremacy all through to win 7-1.

He will meet Delhite Shivang Mishra, a 6-4, 6-4 victor over C.D. Ajoy, in the next round .


(men’s singles first round)

Gurmeher Singh (Del) bt Ramnath Roy (Ben) 6-2, 6-3; Sangram Chapekar (Mah) bt Dhruv Kumar (Ben) 6-1, 7-5; Kamlesh Shukla (UP) bt Avinash Arun (TN) 6-1, 6-7 (6/7), 6-3; Mustafa Ghouse (Mah) bt Abhishek Jagnani (Ben) 6-4, 6-0; S.K. Shivshankar (Kar) bt Vijayendra Laad (Mah) 7-6 (6/4), 6-3; Anand Radhakrishnan (Ben) bt Anant Sitaram (AP) 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-1; Vasudev Reddy (AP) bt Anjan Viplav (Del) 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (5/7); Vishal Uppal (Del) bt Md Yasser Arafat (AP) 7-5, 6-3; Manoj Mahadevan (TN) bt Punna Vishal (AP) 6-2, 6-1; Kamala Kannan (TN) bt Kedar Tembe (Mah) 6-3, 6-3; Shivang Mishra (Del) bt C.D. Ajay (Kar) 6-4, 6-4; Rohan Bopanna (Mah) bt Vijay Kannan (TN) 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/1).    

Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Fame Star’s story has been a slow climb up and the Gaswar-Dancing Flame daughter had to satisfy her critics at every step of her near 14-month career.

First, it was her bloodlines which came under microscopic scrutiny, then questions were raised about the class of the temperamental filly. When she beat Alternator, albeit at 10-kg weight advantage in the 1,600m Gold Cup, her critics thought that the Vijay Singh-trainee had reached the end of her tether as the mile circuit was the maximum concession she could get out of the self appointed judges.

On Saturday, Fame Star beat Alternator again and with further reduction of 4-1/2 kg at the weights in a 2,000m race — the Eveready Indian Champion Cup. Though the stakes are poor, the more than half-a-century old Champion Cup is rich in heritage and prestige. She was equally convincing in her victory — her seventh in-a-row — and it was Alternator who failed as he lost even the second slot to Allodium.

Vijay was not clear about her staying prowess when asked about Fame Star’s prospects over the staying trips after she won the Gold Cup. But which trainer for that matter would let such a secret out? He was well within his right to protect the interest of the horse owners. More importantly, in Fame Star’s case, the property happened to be his wife’s, Sharon’s — a half-owner with Ms. Anne Wright.

Nevertheless, Fame Star won the Champion Cup the way a stayer is expected to win. Vijay need not be probed further if she is going to last the additional two furlongs or even more. She is getting matured with every run. And as to why she was not entered in classics, it is another story.

Equally convincing was Annalee who notched up her sixth straight victory when she lifted the Republic Cup over 1,200m. The Gold Discovery-Precocity daughter was nursed tenderly by Cristopher Alford behind leaders — Mystic Hill and Clarice Cliff — until 300m from home. Cristopher had precisely little to do thereafter. Pushing the 7-10 favourite with hands and heels Annalee looked a winner long way from home. Tsavo did come with a late run but he could only manage to edge out Clarice Cliff by a whisker.

It was The Archer who took all by surprise when he made his seven rivals look a bunch of novices in the mini classics for the juveniles, the Indian Champagne Stakes over 1,400m. His start-to-finish effort yielded in little short of eight-length victory for the John Stephens-trainee. The extended course was relished by the Broto-Wanderland colt who beat a number of good winners after an average performance in his previous start.

Orbital Star had a comfortable measure of Melodeon in the 1,100m Amrit Bhushan Gujral Memorial Cup. In her last outing, the Daniel David-trainee was an eye-catching fifth despite losing a good ground at the start.

The near six-month lay off from the track and the 1,100m sharp sprint may have brought about the down fall of Melodeon who may repay losses over a slightly extended trip.

A runaway winner in his last outing, Ashbury placed nowhere in the lower division of the Phoenecian Cup. A close third or fourth till 300m from home, the Daniel-ward started going backwards soon after. So much so, in the final 250m, Cristopher had the 8-10 hot-favourite engaged in a bump-for-bump contest with Raaz, thus losing whatever little chances he had of winning. An enquiry has been opened into the poor performance of the horse. Another point worth pondering could be Cristopher’s strike-rate on the Daniel-trainees.

With Ashbury out of the way, the stage was clear for Soviet Port to cash in on his present form.

Daniel had, however, bagged the upper division of the Phoenecian Handicap through a smart placement of his Lovely Prospect. Although the age was against the seven-year-old, the handicap advantage was squarely in favour of the Lingot d’Or gelding.


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