Tolly rue missed chances
Bagan need victory to stay in title-hunt
I. M. Vijayan asked to show cause
IFA secy let off the hook
Ranjan Lakra nets four
Aussies to rest Warne, McGrath
Spin not to rule Eden: Prasanna

Calcutta, March 5: 
Tollygunge 0
Churchill 0

It was quite in the vein of what Tollygunge have been doing this National Football League. Having done away with their defensive shells early in the league, they have been probing deep into rival territories, but lack of goalmouth cohesion and tardy shooting has mostly denied them due victories.

Like it did today, versus Churchill Brothers. Having dominated the show from start to finish, all they had to achieve at the end was a single point.

Tollygunge are in ninth position with nine points from their full quote of 11 first phase matches. Churchill, off a similar count, are in sixth position with 15 points.

The so-called names in the Churchill line-up hardly behaved that way at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium today. Each ran his own lines and played his own game, and that they happened to be in the same team seemed only incidental. It was the quick passing game in the first half, though, that sort of caught the eye. On the smaller ground such smaller passes do help, but it could have been better utilised with the interspersion of the longer ones.

In the seventh minute Abdulateef Seriki let go a 25-yard volley which was a trifle off target and then his 30-yarder was saved by Churchill ’keeper Edward Ansah. There was a bit of trouble erupting in midfield, with the ground somewhat soggy due to the unseasonal rains in the morning.

That apart, the Churchill players did tend to get a bit physical and the match saw a slew of bookings. Seriki was quite a handful for the rival defenders, but there were two problems. The first one was in Seriki himself, hurrying too much while whooting, and then it was Bhabani Mohanty, who was today in scoring positions a number of times but failed to convert through weak shots.

In the 19th minute, Bhabani was in the box at the goalmouth, sidestepping Churchill’s Mahesh Gawli and was right in front of the goal. He should have shot straight, but instead decided on a square pass to the left from where Sasthi Duley’s weak volley went off target.

Somatai Shaiza is a veteran of the Calcutta Maidan and the way he manned the midfield and moved into rival territory showed that he has not lost much of his verve. What has gone missing in his play, though, is his ability to share the spoils.

In the 58th minute he was up the left and entered the box as Hemanta Dora charged. They collided, with Hemanta slightly injured and ball was off target.

Igor Skhvirin, standing nearby, did not quite try, but a quick pass to him could have resulted in a goal.

Igor has slipped way down in class. Compared to the time he first came to the city, on January 3, over a year back (and then ended the league with 11 goals, as top scorer), he is a pale shadow of an attacker. He was effectively bottled up today by Tollygunge’s Saliuabdul Wasu, not that Igor ever did really try to shake off his marker. He is quite a piece of furniture in the team.

So seems to be Churchill’s Brazilian recruit Edson Debastro. He shouts miles of high-decibel instructions to his team-mates, but when he gets to the ball himself, there seems to be no love lost between the two. Churchill came across their best chance in the 73rd minute. Jaspreet Singh was up the right, passing to Jose Bolaso who lobbed across the goalmouth and Igor missed. Francis Silveira was in position, but in the haste, his shot took the crosspiece.

Tollygunge’s best chance came ten minutes later when Emeka Achilefu passed to the goalmouth. Bhabani tried and failed, but Seriki was at it and his shot came of the Churchill crosspiece. The refereeing for the day, by Tamil Nadu’s S. Suersh, was good. He was always near the action and never really hesitated to take out the yellow card. Quite a refreshing change, that.


TOLLYGUNGE AGRAGAMI: Hemanta Dora; Reaz-ul Mustafa, Debashis Pal Chowdhury, Satish Bharti, Biswanath Mondal, Bhabani Mohanty (Ranjan Chowdhury, 89), Saliuabdul Wasu, Aboyemi Felix, Sasthi Duley, Emeka Achilefu, Abdulateef Seriki.

CHURCHILL BROTHERS: Edward Ansah; Rajesh Meetei, Osumanu Huseini, Mahesh Gawli, Jaspreet Singh, Roque Barreto (Ajay Singh, 73), Jose Bolaso, Somatai Shaiza, Edson Debastro (Kashmiro Palha, 80), Francis Silveira, Igor Skhvirin.

Referee: S Suresh (Tamil Nadu)


Calcutta, March 5: 
Having lost more ground in the National Football League while on the road recently, Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya knows what needs to be done.

“We have to win the next three matches if we are to stay in the title-race,” he declared after practice this morning. He will, of course, be aware that tomorrow he meets a team that knows very little about losing.

And are quite capable of causing a shock or two.

Vasco Sports Club have lost just one of there 10 matches so far. Their four wins include those over ‘big guns’ Salgaocar and Churchill Brothers.

While Mohun Bagan will be under pressure to win, the Vasco game will not make it any easier for them. Relying almost entirely on breakaways, the visitors are likely to pack the midfield and stifle the free-flowing game of the green-and-maroons. In Rogerio Ramos, they have arguably the best goalkeeper of the National League.

For Bagan, Barreto is back after a one-match ban and he is again expected to play a big role. What needs to be seen is whether he gets the nescessary support from his teammates. That strike-partner R.C. Prakash got a hattrick the other day n Barreto’s absence will have given hope to the Bagan heart.

Side-back Dulal Biswas will, however, have to sit out because of two bookings.

There was a flutter among fans this morning when Chima Okeri turned up. He is expected to join the Mohun Bagan practice in the next few days.

His comeback from retirement will, of course, depend on IFA’s stand on a ban he is still serving.

Deryk Pereira, the Vasco coach, is only too aware of the biggest threat from the opposition. “We’ll put a marker on Barreto,” he said, even though it have his team stepping out of their usual ploy of zonal-marking. Pereira singles out the Brazilian as “the best player of the League so far”.

Though he places East Bengal higher, Pereira feels Mohun Bagan are a “very dangerous” team. “Even in the Churchill Brothers match, when they lost two-nill, they could have scored four or five goals and won easily. They missed so many chances. I’ll be happy to take back one point from tomorrow’s match,” he said.

Apart from Barreto, the Vasco coach is worried about his own team’s inability to convert scoring chances. “That’s something we haven’t been able to solve,” he says.


Calcutta, March 5: 
The National Football League (NFL) committee has issued a show-cause notice to I.M. Vijayan following allegations that his international transfer documents are not in order.

The striker was accused first by Tollygunge Agragami of not obtaining an international transfer certificate on his return from playing a few matches for a Bangladesh club last August.

Albert Colaco, the NFL chairman, today told The Telegraph from Goa that Vijayan has to reply by Saturday. His club, FC Kochin, have also been issued a similar notice and have to reply by the same day.

The striker, however, has not been barred from playing National League matches and is expected to take the field against East Bengal in Kochi tomorrow.

The Calcutta club, meanwhile, are also expected to lodge a similar protest against Vijayan as was done by Tollygunge Agragami and Mahindra United.

Vijayan played a few matches for Muktijoddha last year and has admitted that he returned to India without an international transfer certificate. “It’s not required in case of such a small period,” he had said.

According to Colaco, Vijayan’s case will be referred either to the NFL disciplinary committee or the AIFF executive committee after getting his reply.


Calcutta, March 5: 
IFA joint secretary Ranjit Gupta was let off the hook today by the seven-member committee constituted by the association to look into an allegation that a Barisha-Victoria match held on August 24 last year was ‘fixed.’ The committee, said there was “no proof” that Gupta, the then secretary of Victoria, was into any “fixing” attempt.

The committee was set up to try and find truth into an allegation by a senior Mohun Bagan official who had been at the East Bengal ground that day. For whatever reason, he thought the match was “fixed” and had probably thought that lodging a protest would be a smart thing to do.

For want of better things to do, the IFA too went into it hammer and tongs, to come out with a result that anything but impresses. The committee, which also had in its ranks three retired judges, however, maintained that match fixing “does occur” in the Calcutta Maidan.

The committee has also made a very interesting suggestion in its 27-page report that was submitted yesterday. It said that in future, if there is apprehension that a match is being “fixed”, an “observer” should be deputed and if possible, the match should be recorded on video.

The committee also suggested that the league should leave scope for draws and that the knockout system was the best.

The governing body decided that the number of women’s soccer teams be increased to around 15 (from the present 12) and that from next season a knockout tourney will also be added to the league.

A Malaysian women’s team will play five matches in Calcutta and nearabouts, versus a state team and possibly Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. This will be held late April.

With the India Cup shelved (due to intervention of the Millennium Cup), the IFA has decided to invite some foreign teams like Sao Paulo and Bochum for a meet also involving Mohun Bagan and East Bengal between July 3 and 10. Details are to be worked out, but the IFA wants to appoint an event manager (like the beleaguered Studio 2100 in the Millennium Cup) and have no financial commitment.

The IFA has also decided to wash its hands of financial commitment from the AIFF’s second division National League final stage, to be held in Malda.


Calcutta, March 5: 
Ranjan Lakra came away with four goals including a hattrick as FCI crushed Howrah Union in a first division (group A) match of the BHA League today. Sudhir Minz scored the other goal.

In another group A match, Satish Kumar struck twice to help Aryan tame Mohammedan Sporting 2-1. Saroj Dung Dung got the Mohammedan Sporting goal.

The match between BNR and Chittaranjan Locomotive Works fell though because the rain had left a soggy pitch at the East Bengal ground.

CAB Trustee Board

Former state chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray and chairman of state human rights commission Justice Mukul Gopal Mukherjee were today unanimously elected to the Board of Trustees of the Cricket Association of Bengal at a special general body meeting.

The posts had become vacant after the death of former secretary and vice-president Naranarayan Chatterjee and former Test opener Pankaj Roy.

While Ray is a former president of the association, Mukherjee has served on its several sub-committees.


New Delhi, March 5: 
Some India hopefuls displayed little sense of dedication and seriousness on the eve of the Board President’s XI-Australia three-day tie at the Ferozeshah Kotla today.

Sourav Ganguly, who will lead the side, and the Madhya Pradesh duo of leg spinner Narendra Hirwani and allrounder J. P. Yadav were not present at nets. Sourav was due to arrive this morning. He finally arrived late in the evening.

The nets were postponed till the afternoon. In Sourav’s absence, the practice session was conducted in a desultory manner.

The Board President’s playing XI will be decided tomorrow morning. Manager Rakesh Shukla expressed dismay at the lackadaisical attitude of the players.

“The approach of veteran Hirwani and youngster Yadav is not right. They are part of the squad and should have been here for nets to get a feel of the conditions. They got an opportunity to display their talent before the crucial second Test match in Calcutta. Their casual manner makes me wonder if they are really serious to stake their claim to the Test squad.”

Yadav, however, arrived from Bhopal and checked in at the hotel late in the evening. There was no news of Hirwani. Shukla was also clueless if the ace leg-spinner would play or not.

Madan Lal, the only selector present, said if Hirwani does not turn up the possible playing XI will have to be revamped. Off spinner Sarandeep Singh and Hirwani were originally slated to make the team as the two spinners. If Hirwani is unavailable, either off spinner Ramesh Powar or medium pacer Rakesh Patel will get a look-in.

In case the selectors and skipper Sourav want to evaluate both young medium pacers, Patel and Surinder Singh Baggal (rated to be the fastest in North Zone), then Vijay Dahiya may be promoted to open. The middle-order will comprise Sourav, Mohammed Kaif, Jacob Martin, Dinesh Mongia and Hrishikesh Kanitkar.

The Indian skipper is looking at some much needed match practice before the second Test. A good innings here will boost his confidence immensely after the Mumbai disaster.

The Aussies chose to relax, some visted Taj Mahal at Agra while others savoured the sights of Delhi.

The Aussies will rest Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. A decision on Justin Langer, who is nursing an injured shoulder, will be taken tomorrow morning. If he is not fit, then Damien Martyn will take his place. If Langer passes the fitness test, he will play in order to get some batting practice. Martyn may also get a look in but then either in-form opener Matthew Hayden or skipper Steve Waugh may be rested.

Manager Shukla said the Kotla pitch is a typical placid batting wicket. He feels the bowlers will have to toil hard to get wickets and a feast of runs is on the cards.

Public response has also been lukewarm with very few tickets having been sold for the match.


BOARD PRESIDENT’S XI (likely): Sridharan Sriram, Vinayak Mane/J.P. Yadav, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammed Kaif, Jacob Martin, Dinesh Mongia, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Vijay Dahiya, Surinder Singh Bagal, Sarandeep Singh, Narendra Hirwani/Ramesh Powar.

AUSTRALIA (from): Michael Slater, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Damien Martyn, Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Brad Haddin, Michael Kasprowicz, Colin Miller, Damien Fleming, Jason Gillespie.

Umpires: Sanjeev Rao (Indore), Subrato Banerjee (Calcutta).


Calcutta, March 5: 
If India are looking for the ‘right’ pitch as they set out to bring parity in the Test series with the Aussies, they are unlikely to find it at the Eden Gardens.

Well, even Erapalli Prasanna feels so.

“It is surely not going to spin and jump on this track,” the great off-spinner told The Telegraph soon after he had had a look at the strip this morning. “It’ll be best for India to ensure that they don’t lose the series here, for Chennai may again give them the sort of pitch that will suit them better,” he added.

He was of the opinion that the track is likely to hold good over four days.

The Eden track has been a slow turner in recent times, but the groundsmen have been able to produce good ‘carry’ for Tests. With adequate time (over a month) to prepare the wicket this time as well, there is reason to believe we’ll get another wicket on which the ball will come on to the bat and there will be something in it for the seamers.

Prasanna actually feels India’s best chance, if one were talking of wickets, was at the Wankhede.

“Why blame Sourav (Ganguly)?” he said about India’s loss in the Mumbai Test, though he did not give him full marks for the field he set for Harbhajan Singh.

Wickets in these parts are so challenging for their sort of art that Prasanna actually feels Calcutta would be the best location for a spinners’ academy.

“If bowlers can get bounce and turn on pitches here, they would be able to do so in most other places,” he says. “It’ll be the best place to find out which youngster has it in him and which doesn’t.”

Asked if there was a dearth of quality spinners in India, Prasanna pointed out that the priority had changed.

“We must first ask ourselves whether they are needed at all in the scheme of things, and how much of a role they will be allowed,” he said, before answering the questions himself.

“If you’ve noticed, we don’t have medium-pacers who can bowl with the old ball, and you’re allowed a second new ball only after 80 overs,” he pointed out, adding: “So, there is a need to have the spinners filling up all those overs.”

He stressed that there was a need to pick up talented spinners and nurture them. “I’m willing to take up such a role if the offer comes. Spinners, like wine, mature with years, and they need to be guided — by people who know what spin bowling is all about.”


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