Passion and pressure before Aussies’ real test
We’ll have to be consistent on all 15 days of the series: Sourav
It’s never easy when an icon goes: Sachin
World champion put to test
Sandipan loses yet again
BSF beat CCFC 3-0
Figures that speak for themselves
The best way to salute Sir Don will be to give of our best: Steve
Kochin ride Sunday goal

Mumbai, Feb. 26: 
It’s not unusual for India coach John Wright to enter team meetings with a hand-written chart, highlighting the virtues of playing with passion and setting standards to be envied. Of late, he’s been doing that pretty often.

Wright, clearly, is in no doubt that high standards and passion alone will ensure results in the high-voltage three-Test Pepsi series, against Australia, which gets underway at the Wankhede tomorrow.

[As a mark of respect to one of sport’s greatest icons, Sir Don Bradman, there will be a two minute’s silence at 9.25 am, five minutes before the scheduled start. Also, both teams will wear black arm-bands.]

Much the same, though, is also being talked about in the Australian camp. Having won a record-smashing 15 Tests in succession, Steve Waugh’s team has quite forgotten the trauma of defeats.

They do, however, realise their first real (overseas) test since this remarkable sequence began (in Harare, October of 1999) starts now. In fact, Steve candidly stated: “The team which shows more hunger, the greater will to win, will alone succeed.”

He added: “It’s going to be a very tough, close series… We’ll settle for 1-0 or even 2-1… Either of the options will be acceptable. On test, really, will be character.”

That “2-1 option” should be viewed as significant and is a pointer to the Australians’ somewhat unsettled mind, thanks to less than satisfying performances in the lead-up to the series.

Both India A, in Nagpur, and Mumbai, at home, had the upperhand in the two three-day games and Steve didn’t hide his disappointment: “If we play to the same standards, obviously, we won’t win… But, I’m confident our lads can raise their game.”

Just to dispel any notion of formally conceding a psychological point or two, Steve quickly added: “Irrespective of how we played, the two games still ended in a draw. No team won and, in cricket, there are no moral victories.”

Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain, comes from much the same school and, despite Anil Kumble’s absence (he took 23 wickets in the three Tests during the last Australian visit), insisted it’s a “50-50 series.”

That, of course, is a view not shared by many — Ian Chappell included. “India would have won had Kumble been around. Now, I don’t see how India can win a Test,” Chappell told The Telegraph.

Session No.1 tomorrow will probably have the biggest bearing on the series. Whoever gets the upperhand will gain more than a headstart, and that perhaps won’t be confined to the Wankhede only.

Incidentally, for the second day running, both teams showed more than usual interest in the wicket (basically brownish-red, with some grass).

Predictably, the Indians don’t want a single blade to remain, but curator Nadeem Memon wasn’t very obliging till the afternoon. That did crease Sourav’s head, but the “needful” was to have been done by the evening.

It’s only in India, funnily enough, that the captain has to usually plead to get a wicket of his choice.

Though the wicket is bound to turn square — winning the toss should mean winning half the battle — the Indians will field only two spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Sanghvi, who will be making his debut.

Narendra Hirwani will sit out as the powers-that-be haven’t been too enthused by his bowling in the lead-up to the Test, though they were happy in phase-II of the Chennai conditioning camp.

The new ball will be shared by Jawagal Srinath, who may have lost pace but gets the ball to do quite a few things, and Ajit Agarkar, who seems to be in peak form.

As expected , six batsmen will be fielded, and Steve pointed out his team had “plans” for all six, not just Sachin Tendulkar. At No.6, by the way, will be V.V.S.Laxman, who smashed a breathtaking 167 in the last India vs Australia Test, in Sydney last season.

The Australians are still undecided on playing the injured Mark Waugh, but it’s understood he could eventually make his 109th Test appearance here itself. Mark did have a stint at nets, today, and didn’t seem in too much discomfort.

Even if Mark plays, however, he may not stand in slips. Just in case, the Australians decide not to risk anything at all, Damien Martyn will be his replacement.

Not quite sure about how the wicket will behave, Steve and coach John Buchanan have been deliberating on whether to field three quicks (Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Damien Fleming) plus the in-form Shane Warne or play Colin Miller in place of Fleming.

Either way, it’s going to be a close call.

By vice-captain Adam Gilchrist’s own admission, the batsmen (who thrive on the cut and pull) haven’t played themselves in enough to get accustomed to the decidedly low bounce of pitches in these parts.

Now, of course, the adjustment will all have to be made in the thick of what may not be short of war.

Significantly, the opening pair of the dashing Michael Slater and Matthew Hayden has had a somewhat nightmarish start and, for Australia, it’s imperative that they quickly settle into the Test-mode.

Steve, though, remains the top gun. Ricky Ponting, mind you, isn’t far behind.

Unlike the last India-Australia series in India (1998), the focus is on the teams rather than two individuals: Sachin and Warne. In a way, then, there’s less pressure on both and it’s going to be a collective character-test.

That’s how it should be.


INDIA: Sadagopan Ramesh, Shiv Sundar Das, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S.Laxman, Nayan Mongia, Ajit Agarkar, Jawagal Srinath, Rahul Sanghvi and Harbhajan Singh.

AUSTRALIA (likely): Michael Slater, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Damien Fleming/Colin Miller and Glenn McGrath.

Umpires: David Shepherd and Srinivas Venkatraghavan.

Match Referee: Cammie Smith.


Mumbai, Feb. 26: 
Victories in two of his first three Tests (one drawn) as captain has given Sourav Ganguly a handsome launch. But the wins came at the expense of newcomers Bangladesh and a far from competitive Zimbabwe.

The real test for Sourav, then, starts tomorrow when the three-Test series versus Australia gets underway. Barring some ‘concern’ over the wicket, Sourav looked reasonably relaxed as he spoke to The Telegraph in his Taj (heritage wing) room.

Following are excerpts

On the significance of the Australia-series

Of course, it’s a big series and there’s no bigger challenge than facing such tough opponents. It’s also a series which launches our 2001 programme: Test series’ in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, South Africa and at home (against England). For us, it’s a big year and the well-wishers should pray we get off to a confidence-boosting start.

On Australia being far from impressive in the two games leading up to the Test series

Fair enough, but Test cricket will be a different ball-game. In any case, the Australians have just come off a long season at home… Actually, instead of focussing on the Australians, we should talk about how well the India A and Mumbai boys played (in Nagpur and Mumbai, respectively).

On whether too much is being made of the Australians’ record run of 15 Test wins (11 at home) in succession

(Smiles) But it’s a fantastic record…

On just how much of a factor is the history-element (the Australians’ current run; that Australia haven’t won a series in India after 1969-70)

Don’t think it counts for much, definitely not once the series in question gets underway. How the teams perform, over the next few weeks, will determine the winner, not any past achievement. Australia didn’t have Glenn McGrath in 1998, this time, we don’t have Anil Kumble.

On his gut feeling

I never predict, for cricket can make you look silly. But, having said that, my gut feeling says it’s a 50-50 series. To beat us, Australia will still have to play very good cricket. The same applies to us. I would, obviously, have been more confident had Anil been available. Clearly, we will have to be consistent on not just the odd day, but all 15 (of the three-Test series).

On just how different will this series be tactically

Look, you can’t have strategy which won’t be flexible. For instance, you could earmark something for batsman A but, on the given day, he may play in a manner you didn’t take into account. Then, what? Generally, I’m comfortable leading by instinct.

On India’s strategy

Being positive is there right at the top. We’ve got to take the field with self-belief and, even though all 11 may not be very experienced, I’m confident everybody is mentally tough. The coach (John Wright) has certainly played a role here…

Then, while both batting and bowling, we will have to be disciplined.1

On whether the experience against Australia (1996, 1998 and 1999-2000) has taught him anything significant

Well, I like playing hard and being positive, which is just how the Australians play… So, I wouldn’t say the experience has taught me something specific. However, every single day of international cricket teaches something or the other. The Australians are bound to come hard at us, but I’m ready and prepared, so is the team.

On Australian captain Steve Waugh’s comment that he (Sourav) had given a tough edge to this Indian team

I lead in the manner I think is right. Also, I lead the natural-way.

On his impressions of Steve as captain

His record does all the talking, doesn’t it? He’s also got a wonderful team. That makes a difference.

Finally, on the ‘war’ of words between Steve and him coming to an end

(Smiles again) I only reacted to what he was supposed to have said… Indeed, we briefly spoke the other evening (during Saturday’s official dinner) and there’s no problem between us.


Mumbai, Feb. 26: 
The first reaction of the only batsman Sir Don Bradman likened to himself, to his passing away late last night, was “oh, oh…”

Some hours later, too, Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t keen to talk at length. He told The Telegraph, emotionally: “An institution has passed away… I should be paying my respects by not saying much… It’s never easy when an icon goes.”

After a while, though, Sachin did speak for a few minutes. About the esteem in which he held Sir Don, the icon’s own fondness for him and memories of a fascinating interaction at Sir Don’s Kensington Park Adelaide home on his 90th birthday (August 27, 1998).

Significantly, Sachin was the only overseas cricketer invited by the icon for an hour-long audience on a day of celebration in Australia. He was, of course, warmly welcomed: “I’m delighted that you’ve come all the way just to wish me.”

The sole Australian representative at the exclusive gathering was Shane Warne. Greg Chappell, apparently, couldn’t make it.

“For all his achievements, Sir Don remained very humble and I remember he did most of the talking that afternoon. Meeting him was a dream come true and I’m not saying this because of the comparison he made…” Sachin observed.

In a TV interview as part of a fund-raising exercise, in the summer of 1996, the icon had said: “I feel Tendulkar plays much the same (way) as I played. I can’t explain what it is in detail… Just his compactness, his stroke production and technique.”

Sachin, for his part, has always maintained nobody can be compared with someone who averaged just a shade under 100.

Sadly, that 1998 meeting was Sachin’s only one with Sir Don. He made two attempts to at least speak to the icon (in Adelaide itself and from Perth) during last season’s India tour of Australia, but Sir Don’s ill-health came in the way.

Still, Sachin has enough memories. “He presented me an autographed bat, as also a framed autographed photograph. Very few anywhere have had the honour of receiving such a presentation from the icon himself…”

Sachin, too, had taken along a couple of gifts: A designer handicraft item and a copy of his biography, authored by elder brother (and mentor) Ajit.

Asked whether he would be sending personal condolences, Sachin answered: “Indeed, yes… I’ll mail a card to Sir Don’s son (John, who took the Bradsen surname to deflect some of the pressure associated with being the icon’s son).”

John, as much a recluse as his father, was present during Sachin’s meeting with Sir Don over cookies and coffee.


Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
Taking on Alexei Shirov in the world championship finals was probably easy for Viswanathan Anand. At Alekhine Chess Club, today, he struggled matching his wits against the young chess players of the club, who gave him a hard time.

Twenty young players along with 20 readers of The Telegraph were pitted against the world champion in The Telegraph-sponsored simultaneous chess exhibition at Gorky Sadan. “Some of the boys were really good,” Anand said. “I was about to offer Deep Sengupta a draw,” he added. Deep is the current world U-12 boys’ champion. Most of the games had to be adjudicated as the games stretched beyond the scheduled time.

Supriya Majhi of Alekhine Chess Club was the only player to force a draw against Anand.

For 11 year-old Mary Ann Gomes, this was the second opportunity to play against a world champion. Last year she had played against former world champion Garri Kasparov on the Internet in a simultaneous display. “Against Kasparov I couldn’t get going, but I think I had an equal game against Anand today,” said Mary Ann, a former Asian girls’ U-10 champion.

For most players it was an opportunity of a lifetime to play against the living legend. “It was a gratifying experience to play against a world champion,” said Justice Ajay Nath Ray of Calcutta High Court.

After the games, Anand obliged all with autographs and posed for a photograph with the students of Alekhine Chess Club. He unveiled the photograph of Alexander Alekhine in the club premises and released the logo of Asian men’s championship, which is slated to be held in the city from July 20 to 30.


Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
It was a bad day for Indians in the eighth round of the United Insurance GMs chess meet in Dhaka today.

IM Sandipan Chanda (2) lost to local IM Ziaur Rahman (3) with black pieces in 67 moves. GM elect G.B. Prakash (3.5) had white but lost to Estonian GM Jan Ehlvest (4.5) in 46 moves. Prakash meets Chanda tomorrow.

Russian GM Alexander Volzhyn (6) stayed on top following a draw with Uzbek GM Alexie Barsov (4.5).


Calcutta, Feb. 26: 
BSF, South Bengal, beat CCFC 3-0 in the first division group A match of the BHA league today. Jagdev Singh, Mansukh Tete and A. Purti scored the goals.

In a first division group B clash, Sporting Union defeated Belgachia United 3-0 with goals from Skakti Singh (2) and Subrata Patra.

Women’s league

In the women’s football league, NPC Sport Academy beat Rampur MS 3-0. Monika Ghosh, Mamoni Mondal and Shanti Aich Mallik were the scorers. The other match between Itika Memorial and Jubak Sangha ended goalless.

Gurgaon golf

The Wills Indian Open golf championship will be played at the Classic Golf Resort in Gurgaon from March 15-18.

About 90 foreigners and 50 Indian professionals are expected to take part. The meet offers $ 300,000 in total prize money. Jeev Milkha Singh will not be around as he will be playing a tournament in Japan.


Mumbai, Feb. 26: 
Born on August 27,1908 at Cootamundra (in New South Wales) but grew up in Bowral, a place near Sydney. Made his debut for Australia against Percy Chapman’s English side at Brisbane in 1928-29. Upon his failure in the Test, he was relegated to the role of 12th man in the next Test in Sydney — the only time he did such duty in his life. In the third Test, he scored 79 and 112. Thereafter he remained a permanent member of the Australian side for the next 20 years.

In 1929-30 and compiled an unbeaten 452 against Queensland in Sydney, the then-record individual score in first-class cricket which stood for almost 30 years before Hanif Mohammed outscored him by putting on 499 in Pakistan.

On his memorable first tour of England in 1930, he made 974 runs in five Tests of the summer including three double hundreds which are both records yet. In scoring his highest-ever 334 at Headingley, he made a century before lunch on the first day, scored the fastest Test double century in only 214 minutes and by the end of the first day had made 309 runs, a feat yet unsurpassed.

At the end of that tour, he had scored 2960 runs — the highest aggregate by any touring player ever. In each of his next three tours of England in 1934, 1938 and 1948, he topped the 2000 run mark. In 1938, apart from scoring the maximum (13) centuries for any touring player-ever, he also repeated his feat of reaching 1000 runs before the end of May and remains the only player to accomplish the feat twice.

In Tests, he scored 6996 runs in 52 games at an astounding average of 99.94. He is only one to hit 12 double hundreds (including two triple hundreds). He is also the only one to score more than 5000 Test runs against a single country (England).

In first-class cricket, he made 28,067 runs at an average. of 95.14 with a world record 37 double hundreds. He is one amongst only three to hit six consecutive hundreds, others being C.B. Fry and Mike Procter. He is only the second to score 10 consecutive fifties apart from G.E. Tyldesley. He holds the record of being the only player to score seven centuries in nine innings on four different occasions.

In the 1947-48 series Down Under, Indian bowlers under Lala Amarnath had a taste of his powerful blade when he took six hundreds off them including four in Tests. His eight centuries in that Australian summer is still a record.

He plundered well over 50,000 runs in all grades of cricket. Very few people know that he once scored a century in three overs (off only 22 balls faced — his partner faced two balls) — but alas it was only minor cricket match.

He had already scored 29 Test centuries by the time he arrived at The Oval in his final Test in 1948 and was given a standing ovation when he strode to the wicket to play his last innings. But fate had other ideas and he was bowled without scoring by Eric Hollies off the second ball he faced. So within minutes he was being given a standing ovation again.

In 1949 he became the first cricketer to be knighted.


Mumbai, Feb. 26: 
Steve Waugh, the Australian captain, echoed a fairly universal sentiment Monday morning when he saluted Sir Don Bradman by saying: “The Bradman legend, now, is only going to grow bigger.”

Speaking after the team’s last workout ahead of the Test series, Steve said: “Strictly one-to-one, I met Sir Don last year (before the tour to New Zealand) and he came across as being so humble. I got the impression he just wanted to be the average guy but, then, that wasn’t possible.”

Steve was informed of Sir Don’s demise by a (Sunday) late night call from wife Lynette. “I wouldn’t say I was shocked, but it still took some time to register that an icon had departed…”

Recalling that one-to-one, at Sir Don’s Adelaide home, Steve remarked: “Sir Don was all for one-day cricket and the modern game, only he didn’t want anybody to lose sight of the traditional values.”

Steve added: “Sir Don had that desire to excel and had the hunger for runs. We draw inspiration from that and the best way of remembering him would be to go out and play excellent cricket.”

The other reactions are:

MARK TAYLOR: He is certainly the greatest Australian I have met. He was the true symbol of fine sportsmanship, the benchmark that all young cricketers aspired to...his legacy will forever live on in the hearts of millions of Australians.

RICHIE BENAUD: [Led Australia in the 1960s when Bradman was chairman of the selection panel] We had a very successful time on the field because of the knowledge and awareness of those three (selectors) and particularly The Don who was very, very good. He was always a couple of overs ahead of the play, as I suspect he was on the field as well.

MIKE GATTING: We all owe him a great deal. He continued to do a great deal for the game after he finished his career. I can comfortably say he was the best of his time and certainly the averages suggest he was the best of all time. I don’t think we’ll ever see his like again.

FRED TRUEMAN: He was possibly the greatest batsman who ever lived. I would have loved to have had the great honour of bowling against him. He was the best.

SUNIL GAVASKAR: The cricketing world assumed that like with his batting, he would score a century in life as well. To Indians, for most of whom cricket is a religion, he was god and there will be immense sadness all over the cricketing world at his passing away.

VIJAY HAZARE: I have been fortunate to play against him and it is a personal loss to me. He was the first person to congratulate me after I completed my hundred against his team in Australia.

ALEC BEDSER: I played 10 Tests against The Don. I got him out six times in seven Test innings. He was the best. He played cricket as it should be played. He will never be surpassed. He was just extraordinary. I am proud that he considered me one of his greatest friends in England.

TOM GRAVENEY: He was a wonderful man and had a fantastic record. He looked to me as if he could score off practically every ball and they used to say that if he could read the bowler’s intention and if it was where he thought it would be, he would hit the ball for four and if it wasn’t he would push it for a single.

GRAEME POLLOCK: Bradman was unique. He was the greatest batsman that’s ever played. People become sceptical whenever a sportsman is hailed as ‘the greatest’, but his stature has never been doubted or queried.

JAGMOHAN DALMIYA: His passing away has left a great void in international cricket. Bradman was a great soul and a great cricketer. His death has created a void which will be difficult to fill up in another century. He was a king among all batsmen.

HANIF MOHAMMED: Cricket at this critical juncture couldn’t afford to lose Bradman. After hearing all the depressing news of corruption, it was Bradman upon whom people used to look for the brighter side of the game. I think the greatest success of any post World War II batsman could be to become the shadow of Bradman. No one can match him because he was, is and will be the ultimate.

ZAHEER ABBAS: There are thousands of cricketers but Bradman will remain the greatest. He is not only the best because of his fascinating records, but because of the person he was.

TAUQIR ZIA (PCB chief): The cricket fraternity has become orphaned. Bradman was the father, inspiration and role model for all the cricketers. It is the saddest day for cricket.


Calcutta, Feb. 26: 

FC Kochin’s Liberian goalkeeper Sunday Seah lived up to his reputation of scoring goals as the Kerala outfit smuggled three points from under Tollygunge Agragami’s nose in a National League match today.

It was one of those matches where scorelines speak little of how things went and FC Kochin were distinctly lucky to keep their unbeaten tag intact.

Seah’s 67th-minute strike took his team’s tally to 22 after nine matches, just one behind leaders East Bengal. Tollygunge stayed on seven, ruing what might have been, not for the first time. Seah followed a lob from Aaron Cole placed between the deep defenders and the ’keeper wrested possession in a flash before scoring with a delicate left-footed stroke. The ‘allrounder’ excelled in his other role in the first half and dived to his right to keep away Emeka Achilefu’s header.

Tollygunge started with vigour and contrary to expectations, did not employ the ultra-defensive strategy. All their efforts were undone by the inablity to put the ball in, even after at least half-a-dozen chances.

Objection to Vijayan

Tollygunge Agragami have questioned the legality of I.M. Vijayan’s participation in the National League. According to club officials, the FC Kochin striker sought an international transfer to play for Bangaladesh’s Muktijoddha Sansad last August but did not obtain it again while returning to India. The Calcutta club has lodged a protest with the National League committee, today’s match commissioner and the IFA.

The player said his deal was for “just a few matches” and he did not require another international transfer to resume playing in India. “His deal was for three weeks and a fresh transfer isn’t needed in case of such short stints,” said team manager P.V. Paul.

Albert Colaco, the chairman of the National League, said the Kerala football association will be contacted in the regard since all players for the tournament are registered with the respective state bodies.


FC KOCHIN: Sunday Seah; L. Suresh, Patrick Nuku, Jo Paul Ancheri, C.K. Jithesh; V.B. Santosh (Rajesh Kumar, 35), Rasheedi Williams, T.S. Anoj (Sushanth Mathew, 85); C.V. Hemanathan (Shibu Shanmugam, 45).

TOLLYGUNGE AGRAGAMI: Hemanta Dora; Reazul Mustafa, Debashish Pal Chowdhury (Satyabrata Bhowmick, 70), Satish Bharti, Partha Sarathi Dey; Ranjan Chowdhury (Sumit Sur, 80), Abayomi Felix, Abdul Saliu, Sashthi Duley; Emeka Achilefu, Seriki Abdulateef (Mohammed Qaizer, 70).

Referee: M. Pasha (Karnataka).


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