Starting point only: Wright
BSF upset PSB to reach final
Saini blames it on surface
Bagan in final
Medha in final
Mumbai Races/ Lady Moura gets first call
Mumbai Races/ The Pelican wins ‘Mile’ in Mumbai
Calcutta Races/ Silver Toy impresses

Mumbai, April 7: 
At the Chepauk last month, John Wright didn’t want to hold the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, claimed so spectacularly by his wards.

In fact, India’s first overseas cricket coach even had to be persuaded to stand beside the players at the prize distribution that afternoon.

“It’s their (the players’) moment... They’ve done it, not me,” Wright pointed out more than once. A response typical to quintessential low-profile strategists.

His tone, during a chat with The Telegraph in Margao this morning, was on similar lines.

“It would, of course, have been great had we also won the one-day series, but the boys will still be a much more confident lot in the next set of engagements,” Wright said.

He added: “Our performance against Australia (winning the Tests 2-1 and losing the one-dayers 2-3), is just the starting point... We’ve got to build on the confidence and, at the same time, iron out the shortcomings which still remain.

“Specifically, we need to get more out of the new ball (in Tests) and need to finish the one-dayers better. Therefore, we’ve got to be tight both bowling and fielding, in the first 15 and last ten overs, besides scoring more in the final ten.”

The drawbacks surfaced in the one-dayers which ended yesterday and Wright has been quick to note them.

According to the coach, much is linked to fitness and, when it came to the crunch, the Australians scored a perfect 10. As he put it: “That Glenn McGrath could last all three Tests and five one-dayers is testimony to their high fitness level... We need to up ours appreciably.”

Incidentally, before the team dispersed from Margao this afternoon, Wright called a meeting where the agenda was two-fold: To “thank” players for making India proud of their performance and, secondly, to list the fitness-level expected of each one of them when the re-assembling is done five-six weeks from now.

That should be during the conditioning camp ahead of the tour of Zimbabwe, which begins end-May. Wright would prefer the camp to be of six (“intense”) days’ duration only.

The underlying message at this final team meeting basically was: Use this long break wisely.

Wright, who assumed charge last November, will himself be off to New Zealand in a couple of days, and will probably return in the first week of May.

In keeping with his low-key approach, the coach was a bit reluctant to reflect on his own role during the last six-seven weeks which produced exceptional cricket, but did eventually say a few words.

“You know, I see myself as a facilitator only... I’ve tried to inject a work culture which is demanding but, then, is also likely to get the desired results... And, to the extent I can influence, I’ve been asking selectors to pick players with attitude...”

Wright singled out Samir Dighe and Virender Sehwag.

“Dighe had a tough time behind the wickets (in Chennai) yet, when the odds were high, stayed put to author a great Test innings... Then, in Bangalore (first one-dayer), Sehwag bowled with a broken thumb and was keen to play the next game, too. That’s an excellent attitude.”

However, the coach declined to rate his players on a scale of ten (speaking exclusively last evening, captain Sourav Ganguly gave them eight).

“Suffice to say the players did everyone proud. They played with passion, played with commitment. And, as I’ve said, can only gain in confidence...”

For the record, Wright masterminded the one move — promoting V.V.S. Laxman to No. 3 in the second innings at Eden — which transformed the Indian challenge in the series just ended.

In time to come, that may be viewed as a move which changed the face of Indian cricket. Only, at the moment, Wright would like others to comment on it.

Grinning, he merely stated: “Laxman showed he can bat, not only in Tests but the one-dayers as well... His coming good has given our line-up the solidity required to counter top-bracket attacks.”

[Laxman totalled a whopping 503 in the Test series, and 291 in the one-dayers.]

Like Sourav, Wright will soon begin focussing on the series in Zimbabwe, the first of three tours this year. The others will be to Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Zimbabwe have shown, more than once, they shouldn’t be underestimated. So much so, India lost the one-off Test there, in October 1998.

Signing off, Wright made a mention of manager Chetan Chauhan’s support. “He was a calming influence... A great help, really.”

The Board has done well to appoint a full-time physio, the hundred per cent pro Andrew Leipus, and would do well in doing an Australia by appointing a long-term manager.

Actually, for Team India to flourish, ad-hoc arrangements won’t do. Certainly not where the captaincy is concerned and, more so, when Sourav deserves to keep the job.


Calcutta, April 7: 

Sushil Kujur dealt a body blow to Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) this afternoon. One which crushed the fancied bankmen’s hopes of a hattrick of Beighton Cup titles and carried Border Security Force (BSF) to the final after a gap of two years.

Just before the biggest upset of the tournament at the Mohun Bagan ground, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) had cruised to the title round with a 2-0 verdict over surprise semi-finalists Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC).

The CISF-CESC clash failed to produce hockey befitting a Beighton Cup semi-final. The players could hardly be faulted as they were made to sweat it out under murderous conditions at 1.15 pm.

If CISF came through comfortably in the end, it was because of their superior fitness under trying circumstances and CESC’s lack of experience on a big stage such as this.

The Chandigarh team, having wasted a couple of goal-scoring opportunities in the opening session, broke the deadlock 10 minutes after breather. It was a clever penalty corner conversion — the scheduled striker selling a dummy, the man next to him pushing it square for third-man Sushil Kumar to stroke the ball home.

Gregory Valeria Xaxa, the most prolific scorer of the meet, scooped high over the CESC goal from inside the ‘dee’ soon after. But the 33-year-old forward from Rourkela couldn’t be denied for long.

Remarkably swift and agile for a man of his age, Xaxa latched on to a long ball, waltzed into the striking zone and powered a grounder past ’keeper Richard Fanthome. Xaxa’s goal No. 7 in five matches sealed CISF’s maiden Beighton Cup final entry.

PSB rue missed chances

Two-time defending champions PSB had only themselves to blame for their early exit. Up against a spirited BSF known for their ability to give any team a run for their money, PSB were made to rue four missed chances in the opening 20 minutes.

The first one, initiated by India star Baljit Singh Saini, saw the ball being relayed to Parminder Singh via Sandeep Singh Seep and Baljit Singh Chandi. Parminder, with all the time in the world, directed his shot well wide of the desired target.

Chandi and Parminder were involved in the next three PSB forays. Parminder first hit the ball straight at BSF custodian Jasjit Singh. Three minutes later, Chandi’s first-timer from the top of dee brought the best out of Jasjit — the ’keeper doing well to palm away the ball full stretch to his right.

In the 20th minute, Chandi’s dazzling stickwork took him past three BSF men. Seeing Parminder move up parallel on his left, Chandi released the ball only to find his teammate half-a-step slower. Had Parminder managed to trap that pass, Jasjit would have been at his mercy.

BSF weathered the early storm with some luck before venturing upfield to stretch the PSB defence. Two inviting crosses from the right — from Devinder Kumar and Iqbaljit Singh — travelled harmlessly across the goalmouth with none to touch them in.

PSB looked strangely subdued after the initial thrust. Saini was not in his elements, while the fleet-footed trio of Chandi, Seep and Parminder suddenly developed cold feet. There were mispasses galore. The crowding-out tactic of the BSF defence didn’t help the PSB cause either.

PSB clearly missed Sanjeev Kumar, who had to sit out following an attack of food poisoning. The experienced Olympian played only the first match but today was one occasion when he could have made a difference.

With the pace slowing down considerably, BSF took control. A typically quick counter-attack brought them the matchwinner in the 52nd minute.

Marinus Lakra got past Saini and set up a Harbhajan Singh run down the right wing. The resultant low, accurate cross beat the PSB full-backs and all that an unmarked Kujur had to do was change the course of the ball goalwards. That he did with precision, signalling death-knell for the champs.


Calcutta, April 7: 
The oppressive heat and humidity had taken its toll. To rub it in, BSF inflicted a 1-0 defeat to throw two-time defending champions Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB) out of the Beighton Cup. Gundeep Kumar’s team was a devastated lot at the Mohun Bagan ground this afternoon.

“They (BSF) didn’t play well, we played badly,” said Baljit Singh Saini, trying to explain the shock defeat.

A superstar in PSB ranks, the Bhowanipur lad felt his team should have taken the chances that came in the first half. “If you can’t take your chances, you are inviting trouble. They got an opening and converted it. It was easy for them to hold on to the lead as it’s easy defending on grass,” said Saini, who had an off day out in the middle.

A permanent fixture in the India midfield, Saini suggested the uneven surface at the Mohun Bagan ground could have been a factor for PSB’s poor showing. “We played our first two matches at CC&FC where the surface is so smooth and even. Yesterday we played SAI at Mohun Bagan ground but that was an inconsequential game. We couldn’t adjust well.”

Coach Gundeep, himself a former Olympian, didn’t offer any excuse. “The whole team just didn’t play well today apart from the early phase. They were very slow on their feet and it was only after conceding the goal that they showed some urgency.”


Calcutta, April 7: 
Mohun Bagan whipped Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) by 66 runs today to earn a date with Kalighat in the final of the CAB knockout championship.

Put into bat at Eden Gardens, Mohun Bagan tallied 260 for six. Only Ajit Singh crossed the 50-mark while four others made thirties. CPT were then restricted to 194 for seven in 45 overs.

BRIEF SCORES: Mohun Bagan 260/6 (Ajit Singh 57, Devang Gandhi 38, Amitava Banerjee 37, Sanjib Goel 35, Laxmi Ratan Shukla 33). CPT 194/7 (Uday Srivastav 51, Soumen Singh 40, Shib Sankar Banerjee 33; Abdul Monayem 2/26, Vishal Yadav 2/28). Mohun Bagan won by 66 runs.


Calcutta, April 7: 
Medha Moitra will clash with Gargi Nag in the nursery girls’ singles final of the Calcutta table tennis championships. The nursery boys’ final will pit Souvik Kar against Indrajit Mondal.


NURSERY BOYS, QUARTER FINALS: Pronoy Mitra bt Saswata Roy 18-21, 21-14, 21-11; Souvik Kar bt Priyabrata Das 21-12, 21-13; Sourav Saha bt Sayandipta Chatterjee 21-12, 21-7; Indrajit Mondal bt Tapas Sarkar 21-17, 21-13. SEMI-FINALS: Souvik bt Pronoy 21-13, 21-16; Indrajit bt Tapas 21-19, 21-16.

NURSERY GIRLS, QUARTER FINALS: Shreya Ghosh bt Poulami Raha 21-12, 21-19; Medha Moitra bt Sramana Dutta 21-12, 21-14; Gargi Nag bt Priya Saha 21-19, 21-12; Madhurima Das bt Subarna Das 21-1, 21-4. SEMI-FINALS: Medha bt Shreya 25-23, 21-18; Gargi bt Madhurima 21-19, 22-24, 21-14.


Mumbai, April 7: 
Arunaway winner in her last start, after she lost the Indian 1,000 Guineas narrowly to Six Speed, the Cooji Katrak-trained Lady Moura may be hard to down in the 1,800m Maharaja Jiwajirao Scindia Trophy in Mumbai on Sunday. C. Ruzaan partners the Cristofori-Ile Des Soeurs filly.


2.30 pm: Timeless Elegance 1. Land Lady 2. Blusheon 3.
3 pm: Kazakh 1. Magic Arrow 2. Prima Ballerina 3.
3.30 pm: Idaho 1. Senor Pele 2. Dipika 3.
4 pm: Nothern Frontier 1. Great Alliance 2. Diplomat Rose 3.
4.30 pm: Tout de Suite 1. Power Surge 2. Lion Of Judah 3.
5 pm: Lady Moura 1. Desert Pride 2. Zephyr Bay 3.
5.30 pm: Maestro 1. Nothing Better 2. Son Of Spartacus 3.
6 pm: Tasha Beat 1. Persian Lord 2. History 3.
Day’s Best: Lady Moura
Double: Northern Frontier & Tout de Suite

Mumbai, April 7: 
Trained by M. K Jadhav and ridden by B. Prakash, the Placerville-Natural Craze three-year-old The Pelican walked away with the 1,600m Martell Mile in Mumbai on Saturday.


(With inter-state dividends)
1. Jehan Numa Plate 1,600m: (2-1-6) Weathering (Prakash) 1; Seville Star 2; Platinum Girl 3. Won by: 3; 4-1/2; (1-42.8). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 11; 32; Quinella: 45; Tanala: 224. Fav: Weathering (2).
2. Martell Trophy 1,200m: (8-1-2) Double Up (Appu) 1; Boldwin 2; Mambo King 3. Won by: 4-3/4; 1-3/4; (1-15.2). Tote: Win Rs 65; Place: 22; 20; 21; Quinella: 313; Tanala: 2,711. Fav: Silver Nova (4).
3. Bejan Bharucha Trophy 1,000m: (6-8-9) Pecan Pie (Kamlesh) 1; Stay With Me 2; Draculla 3. Won by: 3/4; 1/2; (1-2.3). Tote: Win Rs 31; Place: 15; 18; 21; Quinella: 94; Tanala: 445. Fav: Pecan Pie (6).
4. Martell Mile 1,600m: (2-1) The Pelican (Prakash) 1; Fantasy Star 2. Won by: Dist; (1-39.8). Tote: Win Rs 14. Fav: The Pelican (2).
5. Aintree Racecourse Sprint Trophy 1,200m: (7-1-3) Gironde (M. Narredu) 1; Zeisha 2; Sunglow 3. Won by: 1/2; 1-1/2; (1-13.7). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 13; 35; 20; Quinella: 126; Tanala: 920. Fav: Gironde (7).
6. Nawabzada Rashiduzzaffar Khan Trophy 2,000m: (3-4-2) Anagram (Kader) 1; Ocean Breeze 2; Noble One 3. Won by: 3/4; 3; (2-8.9). Tote: Win Rs 25; Place: 13; 18; 24; Quinella: 58; Tanala: 356. Fav: Anagram (3).
7. Tiger Lily Plate 1,000m: (3-11-8) Eminent Leader (Prakash) 1; Mystic Lady 2; Rewarding King 3. Not run: Once A Thief (7) & Swift Silver (13). Won by: 3-1/4; 3-1/4; (1-2.2). Tote: Win Rs 29; Place: 14; 17; 28; Quinella: 73; Tanala: 675. Fav: Eminent Leader (3).
Jackpot: Rs 1,092; (C) Rs 146.
Treble: (i) Rs 199; (ii) Rs 125.

Calcutta, April 7: 
Silver Toy was impressive in today’s work outs:

Outer sand track

1,400m: Wandering Warrior (Khalander) in 1-51s; (400m) 31s. Silver Toy (Khalander) in 1-36s; (400m) 27s. Fit.
1,200m: Calculus (Khalander) in 1-25s; (400m) 28s. Moved easy. No Regrets (M. Reuben) and Raaz (Rb) in 1-34s; (400m) 30s. They were level.
1,000m: Just Kidding (P. Alford) and Royal Ruler (Rutherford) in 1-16s; (400m) 31s. They finished level. Crucible (C. Alford) and Aldebro (A. P. Singh) in 1-7s; (400m) 27s. Note the former who was a length better. Eau Savage (Shanker) in 1-15s; (400m) 30s. Andestine (C. Alford) and Alkido (Rabani) in 1-9s; (400m) 26s. Former was 3 ls better. Both were pushed.
Classic Pursuit (C. Alford) and Lockers Park (Rabani) in 1-8s; (400m) 27s. Former was 4 ls better.
800m: Queens Logic (C. Alford) in 54s; (400m) 28s. Moved well. Giorgio (Upadhya) in 58s; (400m) 30s. Quickdraw McGraw (Amjad) 58s; (400m) 29s. Russian Czar (Rutherford) in 57s; (400m) 30s. Master Bold (Rb) and Magnifico (C. Alford) in 53s; (400m) 27s. They were level.
600m: Aflicker (Islam) and Nearco Prince (Rabani) in 39s; (400m) 26s. They latter was pushed to level.

Sand track

800m: Ghunghat (Nasruddin) in 56s; (400m) 26s. Crest Star (Amjad) in 53s; (400m) 27s. Fit. Software (Shanker) in 1-3s; (400m) 30s. Falconaire (Rb) in 1-1s; (400m) 29s. Solo Act (Locke) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Was extended. Blessed Spirit (P. Kumar) in 1-1s; (400m) 29s. Fencai (M. Reuben) in 1-0s; (400m) 30s.
Gate Practice, 2,000m: Freedom Warrior (C. Alford) and Athletico (A. P. Singh) in 2-32s; (400m) 33s. Former too good. Both jumped out well.

Aloritz for Malaysia

The Calcutta 2,000 Guineas winner Aloritz and the Mumbai-sprinter, Simply Noble have left yesterday for Malaysia which will be their new play ground. The two horses will be trained by Phillip Corner, the champion trainer in RCTC for nearly two decades before he migrated to England for family reasons. Corner, who took up training license last year in Malaysia, was not available for comments.    

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