CBFS plays diplomatic card
Aussies drop bombshells
Tour over for Mark Waugh
Mohun Bagan’s chance to redeem title hopes
Customs enter fourth round
India will have it easy: Pillay
WBVA official passes away
Rohan, Ajay shine in EB win
Major changes unlikely
Mumbai Racing/ Criollo may lift main event

 
 
CBFS PLAYS DIPLOMATIC CARD 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
In a last-ditch effort to ensure India’s participation in next month’s tournament in Sharjah, the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) is understood to have firmly played the diplomatic card.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, the CBFS has involved the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, with a one-point agenda specific to the April 8-20 tournament, which originally also featured Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The UAE government (Sharjah is one of the seven Emirates), which has always extended unqualified support to the CBFS, has already got into the act. Indeed, should New Delhi eventually okay the trip, the intervention from the UAE government would have played a big hand.

Though sources both in North Block and South Block remained tight-lipped today, it is learnt that both the home and foreign ministries may take a “neutral stand” and leave it to Union sports minister Uma Bharti to decide.

Both ministries could even give the much-awaited green signal, which will then make it difficult for Bharti to say “no”.

In fact, “reading” the body language of both home and foreign, the Board is going ahead and picking the squad for Sharjah tomorrow along with the XIV for the last two ODIs against Australia. The selection will be in Indore.

It is significant that CBFS supremo Abdul Rehman Bukhatir himself met a top foreign ministry official in New Delhi, earlier this week, and the CBFS promptly dispatched “documents” which the official sought. They deal with the organisation’s background structure and mode of operation.

Meanwhile, speaking exclusively, a highly placed CBFS official said late tonight that as New Zealand (approached as a stand-by for India) have confirmed participation, the tournament could eventually be a four-nation affair with each team playing the other once and the top two qualifying for the final. This, of course, is assuming that New Delhi’s clearance does come about.

The tournament dates, as of now, are unlikely to change.

   

 
 
AUSSIES DROP BOMBSHELLS 
 
 
FROM ARUP CHATTERJEE
 
Indore, March 30: 
Australia’s amazing journey through the heat and dust of this Indian summer has seen a twist to the tale at almost every turn.

If by making light of a challenging total in Pune, Steve Waugh & Co. had provided yet another surprise, they held out a bigger one at this bustling commercial hub in Madhya Pradesh. A surprise even before a ball has been bowled in this crucial third match of the one-day International series.

Hear this out! Mark Waugh and Matthew Hayden, the two men who made it look all so simple in Pune to put the series on an even keel, will not be turning out at the Nehru Stadium tomorrow. Glenn McGrath too will not be playing. And all this in the name of “policy decision”.

While Mark will be missing because of injury and was, in fact, ruled out of the rest of the series later in the day, the Aussies emphasised that “he would have been rested anyhow”.

“It’s part of a rotational policy we’ve started some time back,” explained Adam Gilchrist after the morning practice today. The Australian vice-captain, deputising for skipper Steve Waugh at the media briefing, said the heat had hardly anything to do with the decision, though indications are that “tiredness” has played its part.

“It’s an experiment that will leave us more versatile as players, it’s part of our growth as cricketers,” Gilchrist added. He pointed out that such rotation was employed during the tri-series Down Under earlier this season, but surely there was a lot to play around with then for a team that was riding a crest and had little worry over booking a berth the finals — or, for that matter, grabbing the title.

Sourav’s doubt

Things are a lot different on Steve Waugh’s ‘final frontier’. It was, thus, not surprising to pick up that fleeting hint of doubt in even Sourav Ganguly’s voice.

“I’d love to see their XI tomorrow morning,” the Indian skipper said when his comment was sought on the Aussie decision. He was, however, quick to temper that with: “Of course, we are not too concerned about who plays and who doesn’t in the opposition. What we’ll be keen on is our own performance.”

Both Sourav and coach John Wright felt the Indians had to improve a great deal in fielding and bowling. The running between wickets has been disastrous as well, and Sourav had an explanation.

“When it comes to taking the singles, we’re looking too much at the ball and not at each other,” the skipper said. “There has to be more eye contact, only then can that understanding grow between the two batsmen out in the middle.”

The obvious question about the skipper’s own form cropped up, but Wright was ready. Jumping to Sourav’s defence, the coach pointed out that despite the bad series, “he was still the top one-day player” according to cricket ratings. “He’s earned that through good performances over a long period of time. This is only a bad patch. Everyone has them.”

The problem with Sourav’s batting is probably in its inherent fragility. Like a work of art, that can go all wrong with one careless stroke of the brush. There is no midway meadow for him, to see out a bad patch while eking out the runs. For Sourav, there’ll always be the ethereal or the pathetic — and they are always only a step away from each other. So, may be, tomorrow…

One person who could well be waking up for his big day tomorrow is Sachin Tendulkar. The Little Master is 34 runs away from becoming the first player to accumulate 10,000 runs in one-day Internationals. He is also just a couple of wickets shy of a 100.

When asked about the possible playing eleven, Sourav’s “we’re waiting for all the selectors to arrive” was another reminder of the five wise men’s growing influence in that department. It is almost sure, though, that Robin Singh and Sunil Joshi will be ignored. The last berth on the playing XI may well boil down to a fight between Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Mongia.

While it may be tempting to induct Yuvraj on a good true wicket that may lend itself nicely to his free-flowing game, dropping Mongia would be pretty hard on the Delhi youngster as well.

New openers

A part of that Aussie ‘rotational experiment’ has also involved the tampering with batting order. Tomorrow, with both Hayden and Mark Waugh missing, the crucial openers’ slots will have to filled first but they are unlikely to find this too hard.

Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Andrew Symonds and even Darren Lehmann have all opened for Australia but it is the left-right combination of Gilchrist and Symonds which is most likely to be pencilled in.

With Shane Lee also identified as those that will sit out, the Australian XI selects itself. It means another chance for Ricky Ponting to resurrect form. Shane Warne too will be back, on a wicket he may not enjoy too much. Michael Bevan will again be the mainstay in the middle and there will, of course, be the reassuring presence of skipper Steve.

For India, the best sign has, of course, been the emergence of youngsters — Hemang Badani’s hundred in Pune yet another emphatic statement from them. Team India will now have to ensure that their efforts do not go in vain.

TEAMS

INDIA (from): Sourav Ganguly (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Hemang Badani, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Vijay Dahiya, Ajit Agarkar, Sunil Joshi, Jawagal Srinath, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Robin Singh.

AUSTRALIA: Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting, Michael Bevan, Steve Waugh (captain), Darren Lehmann, Damien Martyn, Ian Harvey, Shane Warne, Damien Fleming, Nathan Bracken.

   

 
 
TOUR OVER FOR MARK WAUGH 
 
 
FROM ARUP CHATTERJEE
 
Indore, March 30: 
Mark Waugh, just beginning to show glimpses of his ominous batting prowess, will be flying back home “as soon as possible”. Man of the Match in Pune, where his classy 138-ball 133 helped Australia draw level in the series, the opener’s tour has been cut short by a knock on the little finger on the right which revealed a fracture today.

“Mark Waugh has a fracture in his right little finger and will return home as soon as possible,” an ACB press release said today. Less than an hour earlier, vice-captain Adam Gilchrist and media manager Brian Murgatroyd had identified Waugh’s problem after an X-ray today as only “a bruise”. Some rethink was obviously done once the team had returned to their hotel after morning’s practice at the Nehru Stadium.

Elaborating, the release talks of a “fracture in the base of the distal phalanx extending into the adjacent joint”. It was a fallout of a ball from Jawagal Srinath during his match-winning knock.

Waugh will fly with the tourists to Mumbai on Saturday evening after tomorrow’s match and will travel back to Australia as soon as possible. “The finger will be immobilised and Mark will see a hand specialist on his return to Sydney. The healing period is expected to be around two weeks,” the release said.

The Aussies are not calling for a replacement at this late stage of the tour. Australian team physiotherapist Patrick Farhart said: “We’re confident it’s not a serious injury and at a push he could continue to play. However, we are taking a safety-first approach in the best interests of both Mark and Australian cricket. It would serve no purpose for Mark to remain with the tour party without playing so it is sensible in this instance that he goes home to allow the injury to heal.”

Waugh expressed his disappointment at missing the last three matches on the tour, “especially as I feel I’ve been in good form over the past few weeks”.

“Personally, I feel I’ve been batting pretty well without always getting the results in terms of runs on the board in the Test series. It was disappointing to lose the Test series although the matches were enjoyable to play in. Now though, I can take this opportunity to have an extra break ahead of an intense period of cricket for the Australian team, starting with the tour of the UK in late May, if selected,” he added.

Memories of 1997 fiasco

Samandar Singh Chouhan will never forget Christmas Day of 1997. On that day what happened at the Nehru Stadium here is a nightmare that all curators dread — a match was called off because the pitch they had prepared was not upto international standard. Chouhan doesn’t even want to talk about it.

Chodiyen un bato kon (let’s forget those things). The big match is coming up tomorrow, and things will be just like they were before that…,” he trails off, hurrying off to guide groundsmen as they provide the finishing touches to the wicket on the eve of tomorrow’s crucial match between India and Australia, to end Indore’s wait for another International.

Chouhan gets round to telling you that things had got wrong because of a women’s international match (‘I think it was a World Cup game’) that had been played “four or five days before” the India-Sri Lanka match.

“There were a lot of footmarks on the main pitch, and we had repaired them with loose soil. Unfortunately some of it came off, and caused the problem,” Chouhan says, but is quick to add: “I still feel though that the decision to call off play was a hasty one.”

Chouhan is happy with what he has produced for tomorrow’s game. “I can see a team getting close to 300 on it,” he says, adding that the ball will come on nicely and the bounce will be even. Chouhan has been preparing the pitch since the beginning of January.

Incidentally, both camps were of the opinion that “it’s a good wicket”, but India skipper Sourav Ganguly was a trifle apprehensive about the outfield. “It may be a little bouncy,” he said.

A fire to fight

Even as the pitch was getting its due attention, a minor disaster struck elsewhere. Giving way in the strong westerly breeze, a huge shamiana that covered half the eastern block fell on the electric lines beyond the tin fences and caught fire in the short-circuit it had led to.

In the absence of adequate fire-fighting facilities at the ground, authorities could initially only watch as the shamiana was licked up by the flames before a group plucked it down by pulling the poles attached to it. It prevented the fire from spreading, but part of the tin fence has come down with it.

The fire brigade arrived, sirens blazing, after it was all but over. How familiar!

   

 
 
MOHUN BAGAN’S CHANCE TO REDEEM TITLE HOPES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
In a long and tricky league, nothing should be taken for granted till the end. The leading team midway in the league may end up grabbing the wrong end of the stick and it’s left for one of the persevering chasers to call the shots in the end.

For holders Mohun Bagan, it’s now time for coming to terms with such finer points.

The points difference between current leaders East Bengal and their arch rivals has now come down to four, courtesy the former’s lucky escape against JCT Wednesday. With another contender in the fray, FC Kochin having receded farther (six points behind East Bengal) following three consecutive defeats, the chase for title has once again been confined between the two city giants.

Even a draw now means nothing less than disaster. And nobody will be more aware of this than Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya, whose team takes on JCT at Salt Lake Stadium tomorrow.

Going by the points tally, the clash may be tipped as one between favourites and minnows. While Mohun Bagan are on 31 after the 16th round, JCT, who won the inaugural year of the league, are struggling to avoid relegation with just 11 points.

“We may have come back into contention. But there’s no question of taking things lightly. I’ve no regard for complacency,” Bhattacharya said today.

His plans, however, are certain to suffer a few jolts as the team will undergo a few changes. Three regulars — R.P. Singh, Rennedy Singh, and R. C. Prakash — are attending the pre-World Cup camp. Making things worse will be out of action Jose Ramirez Barreto, the team’s saviour on numerous occasions, with two bookings. Defender Hossain Mustafi is out with leg injuries.

An old hand under such circumstances, Bhattacharya observed: “The pressure has always been there and now we have to win all matches to defend the title.”

In the changed perspective, the Mohun Bagan coach is relying heavily on the new recruit from Bangladesh, Alfaz. Whether he can make light of Barreto and RC’s absence upfront through his “exceptional ball control and sense of positioning,” as Bhattacharya put it, remains to be seen.

The coach hinted the team will go all out from the beginning, looking for an early goal against JCT — who came from behind to hold the Calcutta outfit 1-1 in the first match of the league.

Though buoyed by the performance in the previous match against East Bengal, JCT have also been battered by injury problems. Jaswinder Singh is their latest casualty and coach Parminder Singh will have to bank on Ram Pal and Jaswant Singh in the midfield. Their strategy, a la typical Punjab style, is going to be lobbing the ball inside the rival box from long range, hoping either Sukhjit Singh or Hardeep Singh upfront to cash in on.

   

 
 
CUSTOMS ENTER FOURTH ROUND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Calcutta Customs beat Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) 6-4, via the tie-breaker to enter the fourth round of the 106th Beighton Cup hockey championship at Mohun Bagan ground today. The teams were locked 1-1 after the scheduled time of play.

Rajinder Singh scored from a penalty corner to give Customs the lead in the 17th minute. Undeterred by the setback, CLW kept consistent pressure on the rivals defence and found the equaliser through Binoy Lakra in the 32nd.

In a closely-fought encounter, both teams created several chances, but the finish wasn’t just there. In the tie-breaker, Gurinder Singh, Ram Pal Singh Rajwa, A. Ali, Satinder Singh and Ayaz Ahmed struck for the winners. CLW’s Petras Toppo, Anmol Topno and Binoy Lakra hit the target while Amar Bhangraj’s shot was saved by the Customs custodian.

In another match played at CC&FC, CESC routed Bhilai Steel Plant 3-0. The local outfit was leading 2-0 at the break. Albert Teto, Sunil Soren and Anil Ekka scored for CESC.

The match was played under tight security cover following yesterday’s incident in which some club supporters had uprooted the goalposts. The supporters were reacting to the police’s decision not to allow club footballers to practise in their home ground because of the hockey matches.

Earlier, BSF (North Bengal) got a walk-over against SAG Ranchi, who failed to turn up at Mohun Bagan ground.

BHA league

Khalsa Blues beat Sporting Union 6-0 in a BHA first division group-B match. Harbinder Singh (2), B. Kujur, Amrik Singh, Jagdip Singh and Jagdish Singh scored.    

 
 
INDIA WILL HAVE IT EASY: PILLAY 
 
 
FROM A CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 30: 
Ace hockey striker Dhanraj Pillay feels that India should cruise through the World Cup qualifying meet in Edinburgh later this year.

The ideal pre-World Cup (July 17-29) preparation would be to play more matches against European teams, Pillay added while speaking at the Nehru Hockey Tournament Society-organised function to felicitate him.

Five of the 16 teams from the Edinburgh meet will qualify for the Kuala Lumpur World Cup (March 4-16). India are in group A with Egypt, the USA and Wales. India’s major rivals will be Spain, Russia, Canada and Argentina.

Pillay said the national team showed exemplary consistency at the PM’s Gold Cup in Dhaka where India beat Pakistan in the final. He said that under coach Cedric D’Souza, the tactical flexibility of the team had improved.

   

 
 
WBVA OFFICIAL PASSES AWAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Former volleyball coach and WBVA’s joint secretary Provat Kamal Moulik died of cancer at a city nursing home yesterday. He was 67 and is survived by his wife and son.

Popularly known as Dulal, he was also a national volleyball referee.

All matches of the Calcutta Volleyball League will remain suspended till tomorrow as a mark of respect to him, a WBVA release said.

Umpires’ felicitation

Calcutta Parsee Club will felicitate BHA umpires at the club tent on Sunday. A discussion on hockey’s future in the state and umpires’ role will also be held on the occasion.    

 
 
ROHAN, AJAY SHINE IN EB WIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Propelled by Rohan Gavaskar’s 156 and Ajay Verma’s seven for 61, East Bengal romped to a comfortable 178-run victory against Tapan Memorial in the CAB two-day league championship play-off quarter final at Eden Gardens today.

In reply to East Bengal’s 440 for six, Tapan Memorial were bundled out for 262 in 61 overs. Wrichik Majumder (three for 19) helped Verma in demolishing Tapan Memorial.

In another quarter final clash at Taltala Institute ground, Barisha Sporting amassed 365 for seven against Mohun Bagan in allotted 85 overs on Day I. The Barisha innings was built on a fine unbeaten 174 by Subhradeep Ganguly. He hit 20 boundaries and five over-boundaries. Utpal Chatterjee (four for 120) was the pick of Mohun Bagan bowlers.

In a pre-quarter final match, Eastern Railway bowled out Kalighat Club for 274 to record a 123-run win. A century each by Asif Murtaza (166) and Souvik Mukherjee (121) helped Eastern Railway make 397. Later, Pranob Prasad (five for 66) destroyed Kalighat.

SUMMARISED SCORES

Quarter finals

East Bengal 440/6 (Rohan Gavaskar 156, Srikant Kalyani 81, Alokendu Lahiri 60). Tapan Memorial 262 (Debopam Sarkar 78, Arup Bhattacharya 50; Ajay Verma 7/61, Wrichik Majumder 3/19). East Bengal won by 178 runs.

Barisha Sporting 365/7 (Subhradeep Ganguly 174 n.o., Some Kapoor 71; Utpal Chatterjee 4/120) vs Mohun Bagan. Match to continue.

Pre-quarters

E. Rly 397 (Asif Murtaza 166, Souvik Mukherjee 121). Kalighat Club 274 (Safi Ahmed 72, Charanjit Singh 61; Pranob Prasad 5/66). E. Rly won by 123 runs.

Women’s cricket

Western Railway beat South Central Railway by 65 runs in the all India inter-city women cricket meet today. In reply to Western Railway’s 223 for eight, South Central Railway were skittled out for 158.

BRIEF SCORES: W. Rly 223/8 in 50 ovs (Hemanta Kala 52, Sangeeta Kamat 56; Rajashri Venugopal 3/52). S.C. Rly 158 in 43.5 ovs (Mithali Raj 54; Reema Malhotra 5/29). W. Rly won by 65 runs.

   

 
 
MAJOR CHANGES UNLIKELY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Indore, March 30: 
No major changes are likely to the Indian squad when national selectors sit here tomorrow to pick the XIV for the last couple of matches.

The only man who may be dropped is Robin Singh and he may be replaced by Punjab allrounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi.

If that happens, it will be another case of a player being dumped without getting a chance to perform.

   

 
 
MUMBAI RACING/ CRIOLLO MAY LIFT MAIN EVENT 
 
 
BY HONKY DORY
 
Mumbai, March 30: 
A runaway winner in his last start, Criollo is expected to carry the statutary penalty to another victory when the Alnasr Alwasheek-All Hat colt takes on his three rivals in the 1,400m Exhilaration Trophy at the Mumbai races on Saturday. N. G. McCullagh partners the Altaf Hussain-trained three-year-old colt.

SELECTIONS

3 pm: Criollo 1. Aureus 2.
3.30 pm: Foolish Pursuit 1. Pink Floyd 2. Epic Queen 3.
4 pm: That’s Momentum 1. Exhilarating 2. Software 3.
4.30 pm: Millenium Star 1. Foreign Connection 2. Rosehill Gardens 3.
5 pm: Zehera 1. Moira 2. Alnazir 3.
5.30 pm: Blues Clues 1. River God 2. Reaching Out 3.
6 pm: Rich Babe 1. Snow Star 2. Musical Melody 3.

Day’s Best: Millenium Star

Double: Criollo & That’s Momentum
   
 

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