Sourav’s boys set Indian summer ablaze
Sab uparwale ki kripa hai: Harbhajan Singh
‘This team is eager to fight’
Bagan toil to win
The Maidan loses Paltu’da
‘Greatest series win’
‘They can beat the best’
Wari win
Bangalore Races/ ‘Royal’ likely to triumph
Mumbai Races/ Eka reels off her third straight win

Chennai, March 22: 
Australia 391 & 264
India 501 & 155
MoM: Harbhajan & Hayden
MoS: Harbhajan

The clock on the main scoreboard at the Chepauk recorded it as three hours and 23 minutes past noon. Samir Dighe sank to his knees to kiss the turf as an exuberant Harbhajan Singh, fist clenched and bat waving in the air, rushed to the non-striker’s end.

It was poetic justice that Harbhajan, who finished with 32 wickets in the series, hit the winning runs — steering Glenn McGrath to deep point past the clutch of close-in fielders and running a couple. By the time Harbhajan lifted Dighe off his feet, others from the dressing-room had made it to the middle to share the moment of glory and hope.

The man from Nanachowk in central Mumbai had waited for this all his life. He did not have a confident outing behind the stumps, but contributed brilliantly (with the bat) when the circumstances demanded it most to leave his imprint on the Test.

“Play him for two more Tests in recognition for his efforts today,” quipped Ravi Shastri.

Test cricket couldn’t get bigger than this. The beating of drums, the chanting of hymns by a clergyman in a section of the crowd, the blowing of conch shells, the waving of flags and tossing of kangaroo and tiger miniatures into the air by rival supporters. The atmosphere was electrifying. The spectators deserved all the drama and excitement. They had sat through five days of intense heat and humidity in this ampitheatre, never showing any signs of cracking.

Chasing a modest 155, the Indians after cruising at 101 for two, were down to 135 for seven and it looked as if Steve Waugh’s men would have the last laugh. With Zaheer Khan for company, Dighe worked his way past the rival attack.

It was a test of character and grit as Dighe withstood all the intimidation and anxiety. The Aussies could not, for a moment, unsettle him as he remained cool under pressure, waiting for the bad balls and playing the senior pro to Zaheer and Harbhajan.

Colin Miller had scalped three victims, getting the ball to turn from the rough and threatening to run through the Indian lower order. But Dighe smashed two consecutive boundaries, one past the slip fielder and other between point and cover. The over produced 10 runs. The pressure was somewhat released but with Jason Gillespie spitting fire at one end, Steve decided to bring in McGrath.

But Dighe remained undaunted. He cut Gillespie past an outstretched Mark Waugh two overs later as India moved up to 151.

Zaheer fell to the third ball of McGrath’s next over after a 30-minute battle for survival. The young Sardar gave Dighe able support for 12 more minutes before the two-wicket victory was achieved. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy had been regained after it was lost Down Under in 1999-2000. The down-to-the-wire finish, though, couldn’t have been predicted after the kind of start India got. Shiv Sundar Das’ miscued pull notwithstanding, Sadagopan Ramesh (25) and Vangipurappu Laxman (66 off 82 balls, 12x4) batted with authority and application. The Aussies just failed to make any impact on the left-right combination.

Laxman was glorious the way he thrashed Gillespie and Shane Warne. His classy 66 took his series tally to 503.

Gillespie started the slide, getting Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in consecutive overs. The tall quickie gave it his all in a seven-over spell before tea, getting the ball to bounce and seam at an express speed. Bowling round the wicket, he bounced one at Sachin and the ball grazed his blade to second slip. Sourav’s poor run of scores continued as he again failed to keep his bat away from the away moving delivery.

Miller removed Dravid in the next over as he played a flick too early, the ball flying off the leading edge for Steve to dive forward and catch it at mid-off.

Five overs later, it was twin brother Mark’s turn to exhibit his fielding skills. Laxman’s full-blooded pull was taken inches off the ground as the batsman waited for a few seconds in disbelief. Sairaj Bahutule perished a ball later, edging to first slip.

The familiar tale of the Indians choking under pressure came to the fore but debutant Dighe’s calm attitude ensured a different tale.

The series, though, will be remembered for Harbhajan and Laxman, who have given hope for a new dawn in Indian cricket. The ability to fight and the will to succeed.

If Laxman’s epic 281 restored confidence and blunted the myth about the Aussie bowlers, Harbhajan exposed chinks in their batting armoury. He took 66 minutes this morning to finish off the Aussie second innings. He took all three wickets to take eight in the innings and 15 for 217 in the match.

The off-spinner’s final figures for the series read an amazing 178.3-44-545-32. His 32 victims makes him the highest wicket-taker for India in a series against Australia, eclipsing Bishan Singh Bedi’s haul of 31 in a five-match series in 1977-78. That Sachin and Zaheer were joint second highest wicket-takers with three apiece, speaks volumes of the Harbhajan magic.

No one else deserved the Man of the Series award, not even Matthew Hayden whose 549 runs earned him a berth in the one-day squad.


Chennai, March 22: 
Today, Harbhajan Singh could even ask for the moon and there will be many willing to oblige.

This evening, after bagging a double (Man of the Series and Man of the Match, though jointly), he didn’t even ask for a chair. Yet, the moment he entered the Media conference room, coach John Wright and manager Chetan Chauhan promptly offered their seat.

Embarrassed, Harbhajan waited for the chair which ought to already have been there for him.

A small, but significant, example of just how high the off-spinner’s current stock is. From being a tainted bowler (late 1998) to an expelled National Cricket Academy trainee (mid 2000) to, well, India’s highest wicket-taker in a three-Test series. Life has already come full circle for this 20-year-old.

Last evening, while speaking to The Telegraph, Harbhajan insisted “jeet to 150 per cent ho gi.” Today, he contributed with the bat, too, to ensure all the mesmerising he did with the ball wasn’t, in the end, a wasted effort. Thirty-two wickets at a fantastic average of just over 17. That, too, against the No.1 team.

Almost seems unbelievable.

Sab uparwale ki kripa hai... Plus the support from family and teammates, both in the Indian and Punjab side. The coach (Wright), too...” Harbhajan remarked. And, like it was after his hattrick at the Eden, last week, dedicated his golden haul to his late father (Sardar Sardev Singh).

Where the thinktank is concerned, captain Sourav Ganguly said he always had “faith” in Harbhajan, while Wright was more effusive: “Harbhajan just had to get the line right, be disciplined — and he did. He is a natural off-spinner, who generates both much turn and bounce.”

As for Harbhajan, he himself added: “As I hadn’t played for well over a year, this series was a challenge for me... I quickly wanted to regain confidence and then...” Quickly wanted to forget the trauma of the recent past as well.

Incidentally, Wright and Chauhan offering their chair to Harbhajan wasn’t the only gesture of the evening: Chauhan declared the biggest hand was played by the coach (for instance, V. V. S. Laxman’s promotion in the second Test); Wright announced the manager’s pep-talk, on the third morning at the Eden, had proved inspiring.

Specifically, Chauhan talked about the huge (150-plus) partnership between him and Sunil Gavaskar in Lahore, against heavy odds, in that 1978-79 Revival Series.

“This time, we were on the verge of following-on and I talked about our Lahore fightback... I suppose that had some effect for, even though the follow-on wasn’t avoided, Laxman and Rahul Dravid dropped anchor to produce a classic (376-run) partnership,” Chauhan explained, speaking exclusively.

A fightback of sorts was witnessed this afternoon, too — from Samir Dighe, who was tardy behind wickets but produced a gem of an innings. Had the debutant not stood rock-firm, it’s possible champagne and beer would have flooded the Australian, not the Indian, dressing room.

Overwhelmed by the moment and his own role, Dighe struggled to say: “Half-an-hour before the toss is when I was told I would be playing... I just didn’t have time to prepare mentally... As for today, I knew the runs would come if we played sensibly. That’s what I told Zaheer (Khan) and Harbhajan... I kept saying don’t, for God’s sake, get run out...”

Dighe’s inclusion may have been marked by controversy but, after authoring “the best runs” of his career, as Sourav put it, there shouldn’t be a repeat of his not getting time to “prepare mentally.”

The beauty of a team sport is that it still allows individuals, at different times, to hold centrestage. Late in the afternoon, it was the unsung Dighe’s turn to take a thick slice of the honours’ cake. He did, with aplomb.

Now, for excerpts of what the captains — Sourav and Steve Waugh — said:

SOURAV: We’re a group of 17 (players plus Wright, Chauhan and physio Andrew Leipus) and each one of us has to back the other. By God’s grace, things worked out fine, but it also shows the boys have talent... Of course, from the position we were in (around an hour after lunch), we shouldn’t have made it so close... We played some bad shots and, in any case, ups and downs can’t ever be discounted on a final day...

Yes, you could say we were (in the end) a bit lucky... Basically, our job is to play good cricket. Once that is done, the results will take care of themselves... I agree I’ve had a bad run, personally... Now, I can only try and get runs in the next series...

Dighe, I thought, got the best runs of his career this afternoon... As for Laxman, his one innings (281) did change quite a few things...

Our bowling strategy? Obviously, we attacked when Harbhajan would bowl and had less attacking fields for the others. We tried to attack from one end and tie down batsmen at the other. All credit, then, to the bowlers who didn’t get many wickets but still either bowled maidens or conceded few runs.

STEVE: We’ve just had three great Tests and I’m not terribly disappointed. Where I’m concerned, the guys gave 100 per cent and that is what matters most. Yes, I did say earlier in the match that a target of 150 should be difficult... Add 20-30 more and it would really have been...

Why didn’t Shane Warne deliver today? But, he can’t in every game. Also, I’m not going to put any of our guys down... Just look at this afternoon: We pushed India hard, didn’t we? I feel Jason Gillespie was our No. 1 bowler and, no, we weren’t soft on Ricky Ponting (17 runs in five innings)... You don’t drop quality players after just a couple of failures. But, yes, much was left for Matthew Hayden to do...

Laxman? That one innings (at the Eden) not only did wonders for him, but allowed the Dravids to play freely. Laxman, in fact, showed the rest of the team that they’ve got to back their own talent... We did (at the start of the series) expect Harbhajan to play, of course, but certainly didn’t expect him to get 32 wickets...

There are lessons to learn, definitely... Just how great a side are we? I leave it to you all to judge.


Chennai, March 22: 
Success always brings fresh hope and optimism. It means a new beginning.

Sourav Ganguly and his team have ushered Indian fans into a new dawn with the series win over the mighty Australians. The Last Frontier remains unconquered for Steve Waugh.

The victory will also certainly establish faith on the players in the minds of the common man. It will go a long way in serving as a big boost to the side ahead of the packed itinerary.

“It’s one home victory that we should be proud of. It’s a tremendous achievement,” Sanjay Manjrekar told The Telegraph, shortly after the win at the Chepauk.

The former players, too, seemed to bask in the glory inside the dressing room. Ravi Shastri watched in delight as supporters made a mad rush to get a sight of Harbhajan Singh. “He deserves all this. He’s just been unbelievable,” said the former India captain.

“It’s a reward for individual brilliance at the right time,” said Shastri. He was also quick to laud Samir Dighe’s role in the closing stages, terming it as “fabulous”.

“The most important thing is the way they managed to bounce back after the thrashing they received in the opening Test in Mumbai. This side has the eagerness to fight out of difficult situations. It reflects highly on the attitude of these young guys,” Manjrekar explained.

“They have performed reasonably above expectations against the mighty Australians. And remember, the visitors were on a roll. To stop a 16-Test winning streak and then dump them to win a series is no mean task.

“They have to win overseas to prove their potential. I believe this side has the ability to do it,” Manjrekar remarked.

Former Test spinner Maninder Singh had this lingering hunch that Harbhajan Singh would prove to be a tough customer for the visitors to handle. “I always had this feeling he was eager to be successful this time. I could sense the hunger in his belly and the fire in his eyes,” the former left-arm spinner said. “He was rewarded for his willingness to stick to the virtues of line and length.” He rated the series win as “one of the best ever achieved on home soil”.

Krishnamachari Srikkanth was also effusive in his praise. “A heavy weather was made of what should have been easily achieved. But I always believed that we would make it. It’s a memorable moment for Indian cricket,” he said.

The former India captain also felt that the team was “developing into a fighting unit who will never surrender meekly”. “They have the potential to put it across any side. It should not be a problem for them to maintain this consistency,” added Srikkanth.


Calcutta, March 22: 

On a day when all attention was on Chennai, Mohun Bagan came through with a hard-earned win over Tollygunge Agragami in a 15th-round National League Football tie.

With the Salt Lake Stadium scoreboard flashing India’s run-by-run progress, the message saying the Test series against Australia had indeed been won by India created a roar that was clearly louder than the one signalling R.C. Prakash’ 59th-minute goal — the only one in today’s match.

It took Bagan’s tally to 28 points and dealt a serious blow to Tollygunge’s survival chances. With just 14 points and five away matches to go, retaining their berth in the elite division now becomes an uphill task.

Tollygunge can only blame themselves as they played to a plan that suits them best and did everything right apart from what matters most in the game: score.

That is something Prakash has been doing consistently this season and today’s goal once again showcased the Karnataka striker’s ability to finish from tight positions, without too many touches on the ball.

It seemed as if Prakash was covered by Abdul Saliu when Basudeb Mondal slipped one into the box but the striker lunged sideways and got enough boot on the ball to send it home from an awkward angle.

Mohun Bagan were the dominant side but Tollygunge played the waiting game to near perfection and forced two chances which should have been converted. First, Emeka Achilefu’s header off Sashthi Duley’s free-kick hit the upright in the 35th minute and with seconds remaining, the Nigerian headed over from close after Reazul Mustafa had floated one in from the right.

Mohun Bagan created a few more chances but goalkeeper Prasanta Dora and defender Satish Bharti — who may be ‘targeted’ by the ‘bigger’ clubs next season — rose to the occasion to thwart James Singh and Jose Ramirez Barreto. Bharti showed good anticipation and a clean pair of legs while tackling, apart from playing with courage.


Calcutta, March 22: 
The secretary of East Bengal club, Dipak Das, died at a city nursing home today. He was 61 and is survived by wife and a daughter.

Das was admitted to the nursing home late last month following a cerebral attack. He had recovered and was kept under observation but succumbed after another stroke in the afternoon.

As a mark of respect, tomorrow’s National League match between East Bengal and ITI has been posponed by a day.

Widely known as Paltu’da, this North Calcutta-based official formed a major part of Maidan lores along with long-time aide Jiban Chakraborty.

After serving the club in several capacities, Das was elected club secretary for the first time last month but was taken ill soon after. He was admitted to the nursing home on February 22.

The club flag will be flown at half mast for seven days and his body will be taken to the club’s Maidan tent tomorrow morning, after a brief halt at the CAB, IFAand the BHA, his body will be taken to the Nimtala Ghat crematorium.

Among those to pay tribute to the departed soul at the nursing home were state sports minister Subhas Chakraborty, state congress leader Somen Mitra, Mohun Bagan officials Tutu Bose and Anjan Mitra apart from a host of officials from other clubs and players.


Calcutta, March 22: 
Steve Waugh’s all-conquering Aussies have finally been brought down to earth. Not many, perhaps none, believed that India would be the team to do that, more so after the three-day demolition in the first Test in Mumbai.

But once it has actually happened, there was little doubt among some of the city-based cricketers, former and those still playing, that this was India’s greatest Test series win. Numerically speaking, coming back from 0-1 to win a three-Test series is a rarity in itself. Still, those contacted by The Telegraph had little doubt that this victory rises above all statistics. Following is what they had to say.

GOPAL BOSE: This was India’s greatest Test series win ever. I never thought we could win the series after the first Test. It was only yesterday, that I thought we may clinch it. Even a draw, I thought, would be decent enough as that would have kept the series level. Sourav Ganguly was brilliant as captain because he got the boys to rally around him. That’s creditable because a lot of them are young and raw. His poor form may just be a bad patch which every batsman, barring Don Bradman, has gone through.

The biggest gain from this series was V.V.S. Laxman at No. 3, the emergence of Harbhajan Singh as matchwinner and Zaheer Khan. An opening bowler has to be quick and Zaheer has got the pace. He should be persisted with.

RAJU MUKHERJEE: By upsetting the Aussie applecart, Sourav joined the league of great captains like Bradman and Mike Brearley. Numerically, there may be more instances of a team coming from behind and winning a series, but given the kind of opposition, Sourav’s feat is comparable only to those of Bradman (1936-37) and Brearley (1981).

Sourav’s credit lies in the fact that he handled the boys without any regional bias and won matches with a weak bowling attack. Weak because Harbhajan was not a matchwinner but went on to become one. My Man of the Series is Laxman because he lifted the team out of the dumps.

SYED SABA KARIM: An historic win which should be a shot in the arm for Indian cricket. The way the youngsters took up the challenge was the most satisfying feature. Harbhajan’s ability to extract bounce from what were not overly spin-friendly tracks made a huge difference.


Calcutta, March 22: 
Thursday’s win in Chennai completed one of the greatest turnarounds in Test cricket, and accolades have started pouring in for Sourav and his men. We present a few of them.

AUNSHUMAN GAEKWAD (former India coach): Sourav Ganguly and his boys have proved they have the potential to beat the best. Harbhajan Singh played the crucial role but V. V. S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar deserved all praise for exemplary performances.

DESH PREM AZAD (Dronacharya awardee): I am proud that Harbhajan, another of my wards, had brought honour to the country by his magnificient performance. His winning the Man of the Series award and jointly sharing the Man of the Match award with Matthew Hayden was just great. I have no words to express how I feel.

The three Test series was also a victory for the game of cricket, which was overshadowed by alleged match fixing.

VIJAY HAZARE (former India captain): I congratulate the Indian team for its tremendous feat. I was very happy over the performance of Harbhajan Singh and Laxman.

JAYWANT LELE (BCCI secretary): I have spoken to Ganguly over phone and expressed the Board’s happiness over the performance of the Indian boys. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and Laxman have stregthened the team and helped India wrap up the series. I expected the same sort of performance from the team in the one day Internationals.

ARUN JAITLEY (DDCA president): The way the players defied the fearsome Australian attack in the last innings of the third Test to pull off the victory was really commendable.

Lt-GEN (retd) J. F. R. Jacob (Punjab governor): The heart of every Indian was stirred by the scintillating performance of the Indian team.

The excellent performance by Harbhajan Singh in taking 32 wickets in the series and being awarded Man of the Series sets an example for our Punjabi youth. Every sport loving Indian was proud of the performance.


Calcutta, March 22: 
Minaksha Mondal’s unbeaten 109 helped Wari AC beat Paikpara SC with nine wickets and 20.2 overs to spare in the A.N. Ghosh Trophy today.

BRIEF SCORES: Paikpara 187/7 in 45 ovs (P. Majumdar 2/16). Wari 188/1 in 24.2 ovs (M. Mondal 109 n.o.). Wari won by 9 wkts.

East Bengal held 2-2

BSF, South Bengal, held East Bengal 2-2 in a BHA first division group A league. G. Minz and I. Hussain scored for East Bengal. A. Purti got both for BSF. CCFC beat Aryan 2-0 with goals from Pritam Mistry and Supriya Jana.

Parekh sisters in final

Ridhina Parekh will meet sister Priyanka in the women’s final of the Open Grasscourt tennis meet at High Court Club tomorrow. In today’s semi-finals, Ridhina beat Karina Ahuja 6-1, 6-1. Priyanka overcame Ragini Vimal 6-2, 6-3.    

Bangalore, March 22: 
The 1,400m Rohini Cup, tomorrow’s feature, for runners rated 30 to 45, looks a hard nut to crack with four of the ten in the line-up — Royal Triumph, One So Wonderful, Priceless Ally and Winning Glory all having an equal chance of coming out victorious. However, on his sheer class the Puttanna-ward Royal Triumph is expected to come out tops. Working well, the Ilheus-Archangle gelding appears to have regained her Mysore form and may score in the hands of K. P. Appu.


2 pm: Superbe Asset 1. Incarnation 2. Smart Challenger 3.
2.30 pm: My Goodness 1. Royal Glare 2. Solo Spirit 3.
3 pm: Architect 1. Minstrel Star 2. Shathabisha 3.
3.30 pm: Soldier Of Fortune 1. Anzac 2. Jungle Cat 3.
4 pm: Royal Triumph 1. One So Wonderful 2. Winning Glory 3.
4.30 pm: Ratn 1. Lady Chesterford 2. Amazing Choice 3.
5 pm: Renzino 1. Mayfair 2. Atomic Fusion 3.
5.30 pm: Barassie 1. X-Pac 2. Silver Falcon 3.

Day’s Best: Barassie

Double: Royal Triumph & Ratn

Mumbai, March 22: 
In irresistible form, the Subhag Singh-trained five-year-old mare, Eka, posted her third straight victory in the 2,400m Radha Sigtia Trophy, the main event at the Mumbai races held on Thursday. Aslam Kader partnered the No Louder-Clairvoyance daughter to three-length victory.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Humour Plate 1,000m:(4-7-1) Texas King (Rajendra) 1; Blazing Flame 2; Tasha Beat 3. Won by: 2-3/4; 1-1/4; (1-1.7). Tote: Win Rs 32; Place: 13; 23; 13; Quinella: 74; Tanala: 309. Fav: Tasha Beat (1).

2. Kilshanning Plate 1,200m: (6-7-1) Criterion (Prakash) 1; Dipika 2; Super Sword 3. Won by: Dist; 1-1/4; (1-13.8). Tote: Win Rs 26; Place: 13; 43; 13; Quinella: 405; Tanala: 1,443. Fav: Criterion (6).

3. Ich Dien Plate 1,400m: (4-6-11) Shanillo (Merchant) 1; Candescent 2; Furiously 3. Not run: Mein Kampf (10). Won by: 1-1/4; 1/2; (1-28). Tote: Win Rs 116; Place: 38; 24; 17; Quinella: 609; Tanala: 4,833. Fav: Summer Of Fortytwo (2).

4. Ballerina Plate 1,400m: (4-1-9) Bachelor (Prakash) 1; Nothing Better 2; Jodhpur Lad 3. Won by: Hd; 8; (1-27.8). Tote: Win Rs 56; Place: 31; 31; 18; Quinella: 387; Tanala: 1,981. Fav: Bachelor (4).

5. Prime Time Plate 1,000m: (2-4-3) Tasmac (Chauhan) 1; Change The Attitude 2; Blue Butterfly 3. Won by: 1/2; Hd; (1-1.9). Tote: Win Rs 21; Place: 12; 23; 55; Quinella: 96; Tanala: 1,138. Fav: Tasmac (2).

6. Radha Sigtia Trophy 2,400m: (6-5-4) Eka (Kader) 1; Great Emperor 2; Inimitable 3. Won by: 3; 3-1/4; (2-34.8). Tote: Win Rs 33; Place: 16; 23; 12; Quinella: 143; Tanala: 565. Fav: Eka (6).

7. Rao Saheb D. K. Parkar Stakes 1,200m: (6-4-9) Speculative (Prakash) 1; Maltese Falcon 2; Natural Grace 3. Won by: 3-1/2; 1; (1-13.1). Tote: Win Rs 68; Place: 19; 16; 43; Quinella: 134; Tanala: 2,449. Fav: Right Moment (8).

8. Star Prince Plate 2,000m: (3-10-2) Abish (Aadesh) 1; Wagga Wagga 2; Crown Dream 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 1; (2-10-1). Tote: Win Rs 63; Place: 22; 39; 16; Quinella: 348; Tanala: 1,044. Fav: Crown Dream (2).

Jackpot: Rs 9,173; (C) Rs 518.

Treble: (i) Rs 1,572; (ii) Rs 1,378.

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