I don’t have a soft corner for anybody: Sourav
Bagan struggle again
Bowling holds the key, says Sourav
Bangalore Races/ Snow Dew may be hard to beat
Bangalore Races/ Averoff strikes

Calcutta, July 14: 
Come Monday afternoon and the Indian cricketers will leave for the demanding tour of Sri Lanka. With barely hours to go, then, a somewhat tired but optimistic captain, Sourav Ganguly, spoke to The Telegraph this morning.

The following are excerpts

Q Just a week after returning from one tour, the boys will be off for another set of engagements. Have you, personally, recovered?

A Not really... Though the time difference (Zimbabwe vis-a-vis India) is just three-and-half hours, I’ve had problems adjusting... For instance, somehow, I haven’t been able to sleep well. Actually, a mere seven days at home between tours is tough... If there’s some relief it’s that our first game (versus New Zealand) is next Friday, not within a day or two of landing in Colombo.

Q Essentially, what have been the lessons from Zimbabwe?

A A post-mortem will reveal we didn’t win the Test series largely because of one poor session (Day IV in Harare) and, in the ODIs, just lost the final... Perhaps, we were so focussed on winning the final (against the West Indies) that, in doing so, didn’t pay attention to some of the basics. The final, after all, still was another match... One top lesson, therefore, has been that the basics can’t be compromised.

Q We’ve made a string of finals (in tournaments featuring a minimum of three teams), ever since the last win in November 1998, yet have choked. Like the South Africans, we’ll end up with a none-too-flattering label...

A (Laughs) All the more reason to quickly learn to succeed in the finals, too... All 11 of us have to hold nerves, all 11 need to apply ourselves at the right time. Also, we could do with some luck... In any case, what’s gone is gone, there’s nothing to be gained by brooding. Instead, we should look to the future as that script is in our hands. I’m optimistic.

Q Sachin Tendulkar is out through injury for much of the tri-series. Shouldn’t he have been rested for all the ODIs and picked only for the three Tests?

A But he’s suffered a bruise, not a fracture or a tear... Sachin has himself said he will be fit for the last league game (versus New Zealand, August 2). (Adds after a pause) With so much cricket, injuries are bound to occur and we should soon be looking (as a policy) to rotate players from among the best 14/15.

Q Talking of Sachin, he made a captaincy-specific comment (“I don’t rule it out in the future...”) while in Zimbabwe, and the timing encouraged ‘theories’ in some quarters. As it was on tour, did that upset you?

A Frankly, I haven’t read first-hand what Sachin said nor, for that matter, did I speak to him about it. However, from what I’ve been told, Sachin made a fair remark... He tackled the question well. I don’t see his response as being controversial. Sachin is entitled to have an opinion on how he sees captaincy.

Q As captain, what did you gain from the Zimbabwe trip?

A Experience of captaining on seaming tracks — it’s very different from leading on either flat or turning wickets.

Q Will you again be writing personal notes to each player?

A (Laughs again) For the ones who weren’t there in Zimbabwe... A repeat for the rest could lead to them getting fed up! Seriously, it’s good for the players to formally know what’s expected of them.

Q To what extent were you guided by instinct in asking for Amay Khurasia as Sachin’s replacement?

A Having already played in Sri Lanka quite a few times, I know what the conditions will be like and, so, have a gameplan in mind. Amay is a shot-maker and, to put it simply, he does know how to bat. He fits into the plans drawn up. Amay, though, will probably have to work on his fielding and fitness. There’s been a marked change in both in the 22 months that he has been out.

Q Even though Ajit Agarkar hardly delivers, you appear to be backing him blindly. Why?

A Because we need Ajit in the ODIs, specially in places like Sri Lanka, where the ball will reverse swing. Please don’t forget he bowls in the toughest periods — first 10-15 overs and the last 8-10... He can also be relied upon for useful runs. Indeed, he’s a good package for one-day cricket... I don’t know why Ajit doesn’t realise his potential in Tests. Perhaps, he lacks confidence. While he has the pace and swing, he needs to work on his line, though.

Q But someone like Harvinder Singh, who recently made a fine comeback, won’t be too amused with the confidence you and the others have in Agarkar?

A All I’ll say, at the moment, is that Harvinder will be a strong contender for the Tests. If he had to be picked for the tri-series, then Debu (Debashish Mohanty) would have lost out. Surely, that wouldn’t have been fair.

Q One impression which continues to gain ground is that you have a soft corner for Yuvraj Singh...

A I don’t have a soft corner for anybody. I back players on ability and performance — nothing else comes into play. As for Yuvraj, I’m not the only one who feels he should be in our one-day line-up. You could speak to the coach (John Wright), Sachin, Rahul Dravid... He’s the best fielder and, generally, has immense potential. In fact, when he was first picked (for the ICC KnockOut, last October), the suggestion didn’t come from me.

Q The final question: You’ve spoken about ability and performance and potential. Is there a formula for success?

A One absolutely essential ingredient is temperament. Talent helps, but big-league temperament makes all the difference. Can temperament be fine-tuned? Yes, one way being to constantly practise under pressure, in simulated match conditions... Our emerging players shouldn’t just aspire for an India cap, but aim for the world’s best tag.


Calcutta, July 14: 
Bagan 2
Bhratri 1

Mohun Bagan today dished out another insipid display in their Calcutta Football League Super Division engagement versus Bhratri Sangha. Like in their first outing, Bagan were in the red before pulling two back to scrape through with two points.

With this win Bagan have won both their matches but have already conceded two goals, while Bhratri Sangha have now a win and a loss to account for.

The stands were, for the first time in many seasons, choc-a-bloc, a Saturday crowd expecting some good soccer from their Rs 1.3 crore (and more for development!) team. That was not to be. A pedestrian fare, to be modest, and added to that was the sheer disgrace that the ground is. The slush had dried up, and there had clearly been no proper rolling, and grass is only in patches.

Club authorities are too busy espousing obtuse theories for “the benefit of national soccer” to notice this muck at home.

Mohun Bagan had the upper hand because Bhratri were rather defensive from the start. An early James Singh shot was saved by Bhratri goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal and one foul-up at the Bhratri goalmouth had Barreto down, but the penalty demand was overruled by referee Kalidas Mukherjee.

The defensive nature of Bhratri’s approach was clear even in the 42nd minute when their goalkeeper was booked for time wasting.

The drudgery continued into the second session and there seemed to be neither urgency nor direction in either team. It was way into the 22nd minute when Mohun Bagan got their first opening in the second session — Rishi Kapoor’s prompt to the goalmouth had no takers.

Eleven minutes later a Barreto header was collected by Mondal before Bhratri suddenly started a counterattack. Christian Okolonko pushed up and forwarded charge to Abdul Khalique off the mid-third and Khalique had a cool, solo run ending in a feint at goalkeeper Prasanta Dora and a fine goal.

That sort of charged up the home team and five minutes later, off a James Singh floater from the left, substitute Sumit Sengupta headed in sharply off a goalmouth melee.

The crowd was restive by then and there was a short stoppage because of minor missile throwing. It was also a culmination of some rather inept handling by referee Kalidas Mukherjee who was rarely in near the action.

Abdulateef Seriki had missed one header from close a minute after the equaliser but made amends a minute later when he quickly headed home another James floater from the left.

It was a close call for Bagan.


MOHUN BAGAN: Prasanta Dora, Dulal Biswas, Hussein Mustafi, Amouri D’Silva, Rishi Kapoor, RC Prakash (Uday Konar, 46; Sumit Sengupta, 65), Debjit Ghosh, Basudeb Mondal (Amar Ganguly, 67), James Singh, Ramirez Barreto, Abdulateef Seriki.

BHRATRI SANGHA: Abhijit Mondal, Babun Kar, Soumen Sarkar, Niranjan Guha, Arun Malhotra, Mamocha Singh, Nripen Das (Dipankar Roy, 80), Ifiani, Abdul Sadiq (Laltu Sarkar, 46), Christian Okolonko (Mohammed Kaiser, 78), Abdul Khalique.

Referee: Kalidas Mukherjee.

Ever Ready win

In first division Group A Ever Ready Club beat Howrah Union 2-0 at Kishore Bharati statium and Kalighat and Customs drew 1-1 at Rabindra Sarovar stadium. At the East Bengal ground Eastern Coalfields and Eastern Railway failed to score, while at the Mohammedan Sporting ground, play between Kalighat and Customs could not start because of “unplayable conditions” at the ground.


Calcutta, July 14: 
“Bowling according to the conditions,” more than anything else, holds the key to success in Sri Lanka.

Stating this here today, Indian captain Sourav Ganguly added: “Sri Lanka will be formidable, both in the ODIs and Tests, but our failure to win the Test and tri-series, in Zimbabwe, shouldn’t affect our confidence.”

Speaking to The Telegraph, the captain continued: “Actually, it’s good that we’ll first finish off the ODIs and, then, get into the three-Test series...”

[The second-half of India’s just-ended Zimbabwe tour, incidentally, featured ODIs.]

Talking specifically about the tri-series (India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand), Sourav said: “In international cricket, no team can ever be written off. And, so, people shouldn’t in any way treat New Zealand as pushovers.”

He added: “Actually, the weather will take a lot out of us... It’s going to be hot and humid, much in contrast to conditions in Zimbabwe...”

Sourav and wife Dona leave for Chennai tomorrow evening, en route to Colombo (departure Monday afternoon).


Bangalore, July 14: 
Snow Dew, a sparkling winner of the Fillies Trial Stakes last month, is strongly fancied to win the 2,000m Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, the star event of the season, tomorrow. The Ganapathy-trained filly, who will be partnered by B. Prakash, may easily beat Royal Gladiator and Royal Liberator, who had occupied the top two spots in the Colts.


1.30 pm: Priceless Coral 1. Think of Us 2. Dance At Nine 3.
2 pm: Furia Rossa 1. Adelante 2. Paranjyothy 3.
2.30 pm: Elusive Emperor 1. Hong Kong Boy 2.
3 pm: If Looks Could Kill 1. Gnostic Eyes 2. Dover 3.
3.30 pm: Startrix 1. Stamford 2. Rio Tinto 3.
4 pm: Snow Dew 1. Royal Liberator 2. Royal Gladiator 3.
4.30 pm: Royal Contender 1. Soul of Gold 2. Aryawun 3.
5 pm: Magic Stride 1. Magic Mantra 2. Alphabetic 3.
5.30 pm: Rich Crown 1. Midnight Star 2. Genuine Article 3.
6 pm: Ancheta 1. Quorum 2. Peter Pepper 3.
Day’s Best: Snow Dew
Double: Magic Stride & Rich Crown.

Bangalore, July 14: 
Ridden by Aslam Kader, the Darius Byramji-trained mare Averoff claimed the B.T.C. Anniversary Cup at the Bangalore races on Saturday.


(With inter-state dividends)
1. Sir Bruce Plate, Div-II 1,200m (1-2-4) Air Strike (Shroff) 1; Steroid 2; Fugleman 3. Won by: 3/4; 6; (1-16.1). Tote: Win Rs 11; Place: 10; 14; 16; Quinella: 19; Tanala: 50. Fav: Air Strike (1). (Note: The winner survived objection).
2. Skyline Plate 1,100m (3-7-4) Ace of Pace (Shafiq) 1; Catch Word 2; Blushing Star 3. Won by: 2-3/4; 3-1/2; (1-10). Tote: Win Rs 54; Place: 18; 17; 36; Quinella: 91; Tanala: 1,145. Fav: Ace of Pace (3).
3. Sir Bruce Plate, Div-I 1,200m (5-4-7) Pettalumma (Harish) 1; Tal 2; Little Genny 3. Not run: Ashleen (6). Won by: Hd; 3; (1-15.7). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 11; 10; 22; Quinella: 25; Tanala: 151. Fav: Tal (4).
4. R. M.Puttanna Memorial Cup 1,400m: (3-9-11) Butter Sponge (Rajesh S.) 1; Silvanus 2; Always Dancing 3. Won by: 3; 1-1/4; (1-28.2). Tote: Win Rs 49; Place: 22; 35; 32; Quinella: 411; Tanala: 4,906. Fav: Butter Sponge (3).
5. B.T.C. Anniversary Cup 1,400m: (5-6-1) Averoff (Kader) 1; Adamile 2; Acrobat 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 1/2; (1-26.2). Tote: Win Rs 18; Place: 13; 31; 55; Quinella: 197; Tanala: 3,175. Fav: Averoff (5).
6. Manjri Stud Plate 1,600m: (6-9-7) Torres (Rajinder) 1; The Archer 2; Star Beauty 3. Won by: 5-1/2; 3/4; (1-40.7). Tote: Win Rs 42; Place: 17; 17; 41; Quinella: 70; Tanala: 1,781. Fav: The Archer (9).
7. Summer Trial Stakes 1,400m: (1-2-3) Hope And Faith (Appu) 1; Flying Scotsman 2; Great Occasion 3. Won by: 3/4; 4; (1-27.4). Tote: Win Rs 22; Place: 12; 15; 19; Quinella: 39; Tanala: 129. Fav: Hope And Faith (1).
8. Confucious Plate 1,200m: (9-4-8) Count My Stride (Prakash) 1; Tina’s Turn 2; Royal Caribbean 3. Won by: 4-1/2; 3-3/4; (1-16.1). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 12; 30; 14; Quinella: 100; Tanala: 303. Fav: Count My Stride (9).
Jackpot: Rs 1,372; (C) Rs 290.
Treble: (i) Rs 117; (ii) Rs 355; (iii) Rs 161.

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