Skipper Sourav wants a disciplined effort
India ready for challenge
Top seed Xu Jun opens up full point lead
Amit Chaturvedi passes away
ACF meeting from today
Mysore Racing/ Marginal hike in stakes
Calcutta Races/ 10 for Thursday’s main event

 
 
SKIPPER SOURAV WANTS A DISCIPLINED EFFORT 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Galle, Aug. 13: 
Just over five years ago, the Lord’s Test was a make-or-break affair for Sourav Ganguly. As it turned out, he posted a record-scripting 131 on debut and quickly carved a niche in cricket’s big league.

Five years on, the Test beginning tomorrow is as significant as the one at Lord’s. Only, for much different reasons. If Wall Street was to evaluate Sourav’s worth, the process of analysing his character would commence in a few hours.

For one, Sourav has to stop some of the selectors back home from sharpening their knives — a process which, as reported by The Telegraph on August 5, had assumed ‘enthusiastic’ proportions during the last selection meeting, in Mumbai.

Then, Sourav must himself get back among the runs. His last (seventh) Test century was 22 months ago in Ahmedabad (125 versus New Zealand). In the 24 innings since, he has managed fifty-plus scores just four times, the last being nine months back in New Delhi, against Zimbabwe.

[In mid-November, Sourav’s average was a handsome 46-plus. Now, it’s a shade over 42.]

And, yes, Sourav has to steer clear of the burly Cammie Smith who made no headlines as a West Indies cricketer, but is intent on rectifying that by remaining in the news as Match Referee. Terribly inconsistent Smith is, but that is another story.

The lead-up to the first Test (and the three-match series), then, certainly can’t remind Sourav of any promenade-walk. If anything, the absence of four first XI players (Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, V.V.S. Laxman and Ashish Nehra) has made things that much more difficult.

Sourav, though, has accepted this philosophically. An approach which has ensured his shoulders don’t droop. Body-language, after all, is as essential a component of today’s game as is studying data on the opposition.

“Injuries are bound to happen... Sportspersons must simply be prepared to accept them. As captain, I must now only look to making best use of the talent at hand. It’s not going to help if I brood over the absence of certain players,” remarked Sourav, during a one-on-one at the team hotel this morning.

The fever is still there, but the captain looked somewhat more at ease than yesterday. Helping him relax has been a Sony CD (‘Mohabbat’ — melodies of love) and Hindi songs on MTV.

Nibbling at Nahoum’s fruit cake, ‘couriered’ over by a friend, Sourav added: “It’s important, both for me and the rest of the boys, to remember that only a disciplined effort will see us through. Disciplined while batting, bowling and fielding. Frankly, if you ask me, it’s how we bat which will make the biggest difference.”

But just how conscious has he been of his own poor run in Tests? “The way I see it, I’ve always given hundred per cent. So, even now, I won’t talk of facts and figures but simply say this: I’ll continue to give off my best. If I have made mistakes, well, I shouldn’t be repeating them,” Sourav replied.

He didn’t quite learn during the recent tri-series but, then, this is the time to look ahead.

Sourav, of course, himself realises public memory is short. This realisation isn’t ever pain-free, and the India captain is aware that more than the fantastic 2-1 victory over Australia, people are talking of our failure to win the (drawn) series in Zimbabwe and losses in two tri-series finals within a month — in Harare and Colombo.

“But, at different times, we’ve missed key players...” Sourav trailed off, not wishing to be seen as offering an excuse. Fact is, defeat in the last Test (Harare) will continue to torment him. On the flip side, the series in Sri Lanka provides an opportunity to quickly put the sheen back on Indian cricket.

Asked to what extent was he personally feeling the pressure, Sourav countered: “I wouldn’t say I’ve been affected... A lot of things go hand-in-glove with the India captaincy. I know I will be criticised, will be questioned... At the same time, I’m strong enough not to allow either my game or the captaincy to suffer. I’ve got to live with the criticism.”

Sourav, incidentally, accepted that even fleetingly contesting an umpire’s decision isn’t quite cricket and, in any case, no matter how wronged he has been, the umpire won’t ever be influenced to the extent of reviewing his own decision. So...

As captain, however, Sourav will continue to be aggressive. In fact, within both the laws and the spirit of the game, he must remain so. And, endorsing his approach the other evening was former Sri Lankan captain Aravinda De Silva.

Speaking exclusively, in Colombo, Aravinda had this to say: “Sourav should continue to be aggressive and look confident. He must not lose that touch of arrogance. At this level, believe me, a hint of that is required to succeed.”

Wonder how one Cammie Smith will react to Aravinda’s ‘preaching’.

   

 
 
INDIA READY FOR CHALLENGE 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Galle, Aug. 13: 
This coastal town’s USP is tourism and, so, there are sights to treasure. But for the Indians to actually enjoy the beaches or the ambience of their hotel or even explore the Dutch influence, they must first not put a foot wrong in the Test beginning tomorrow.

Already handicapped by the absence of four first XI players (Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, V.V.S. Laxman and Ashish Nehra), it’s going to be a true test of character for Sourav Ganguly’s team. Coming good in the three-match series should provide satisfaction which won’t easily be surpassed. Failure will more than haunt.

Thankfully, despite the hiccups, the Indians are in the positive-mode. The lead has been taken by Sourav himself, who didn’t skip the afternoon workout even though he remains under the weather. Just as important, while interacting with the Media, Sourav insisted his team was game to the challenge of a greentop.

In fact, while opposite number Sanath Jayasuriya remarked he had not expected so much grass, Sourav coolly said he hasn’t exactly been taken aback as the Sri Lankans packed their XVI with five quicks. He even stated: “The wicket may turn out to be good for Test cricket...” If the greentop was to double-up as a psychological weapon, the required effect doesn’t seem to have been created. Not today, at least.

Till yesterday, the Indians did have misgivings but, this afternoon, there was absolutely no moisture and part of the grass had indeed been trimmed overnight. And, because of a brownish patch at both ends, Sourav is even toying with the idea of batting first — provided he is in a position to choose — as continuous sunshine could eventually cause menacing cracks. In other words, batting fourth may not be a picnic.

Being an aggressive captain, Sourav could gamble, but he will do well to remember Lanka’s experience (on a wicket which was much less green) 14 months ago. Jayasuriya opted to bat and Pakistan emerged winners by all of an innings and 163 runs. Lanka managed 181 in their first innings and Pakistan responded with 600 for eight declared (four centurions). It was all over then itself.

Of course, since, Lanka have won both Tests at the International Stadium — thrashing South Africa and England by an innings and more. The wickets, though, were anything but green.

Aware of the wicket-specific debate, curator Jayananda Warnaweera told The Telegraph: “The ball will certainly seam, for quite some time, but only intelligent/disciplined bowlers may reap dividends. This Test, I feel, will be won by the side which is mentally stronger. The captain winning the toss must bat.” For good measure, he added: “Frankly, I don’t see why players should be too concerned about any wicket. They are picked for a particular job; they should do that.”

The pressure, however, is more on India and much of it has to do with inexperience. Probably never in recent memory has the playing XI been so short on experience. That, too, when overseas. Of the six specialist batsmen, two (Mohammed Kaif and Hemang Badani) have played just one Test each, while openers Sadagopan Ramesh and Shiv Sundar Das have had 16 and eight caps, respectively. Only Sourav (43) and vice-captain Rahul Dravid (45) provide experience. Class as well.

Among bowlers, Jawagal Srinath has 52 caps and comeback man Venkatesh Prasad 30. Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, between themselves, have only 18 Test appearances. Lankan spearheads Muttiah Muralidharan and Chaminda Vaas, with the collective experience of 110, alone outstrip the entire Indian attack.

In batting, too, the Lankans have a wealth of experience. Jayasuriya (59), Maravan Atapattu (44)... Hashan Tillekaratne, making a Test-return after well over two years, has 56 solid appearances. The least experienced bat will be Kumar Sangakkara (nine caps).

Yet, experience alone never carries the day, forget a series. More important, surely, is self-belief. It’s this that Indian coach John Wright has been telling his boys over and over again. Speaking exclusively, Wright said: “This isn’t the time to find faults. Rather, one has to keep reminding players that self-belief alone can work wonders... One must lift their confidence.”

Significantly, the absence of Sachin and Laxman has forced Wright to spend more time than usual on getting the slips-gully cordon right. On a seaming wicket, after all, there are bound to be numerous edges and butterfingers will spell disaster.

Whether India bat first or second, the Shiv Sundar-Ramesh partnership will be crucial. Man of the Series in the last set of engagements (in Zimbabwe), Shiv Sundar is keyed-up, while Ramesh should draw inspiration in that the first of his two centuries was in the last India-Lanka Test (Asian Championship, early 1999), in Lanka.

While the Indian XI is on expected lines, the Lankans are debating over one spot: Whether Romesh Kaluwitharana should play or Suresh Perera be picked as an allrounder-fourth quick. If the former sits out, Sangakkara will keep wickets. Ruchira Perera, one learns, will be the third quick (after Vaas and Dilhara Fernando).

For all their home-prowess, by the way, the Lankans haven’t won a series in their backyard after stunning Australia almost two years ago. India’s last series win, outside home, was in Lanka (July-August 1993). Srinath is a survivor, as are Jayasuriya, Tillekaratne, Muralidharan, Kaluwitharana and Liyanage.

Incidentally, attention over the next three weeks won’t just be on the Souravs and Jayasuriyas — a superstar off-spinner and one in-the-making will be avidly followed, too. Harbhajan has always been an unabashed Muralidharan admirer. Now, he has the opportunity to make Muralidharan admire him.

TEAMS

INDIA: Shiv Sundar Das, Sadagopan Ramesh, Mohammed Kaif, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Hemang Badani, Samir Dighe, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Venkatesh Prasad.

SRI LANKA: Sanath Jayasuriya, Maravan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Russell Arnold, Hashan Tillekeratne, Romesh Kaluwitharana/ Suresh Perera, Muttiah Muralidharan, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando and Ruchira Perera.

Umpires: Steve Bucknor, Asoka De Silva.

Match Referee: Cammie Smith.

   

 
 
TOP SEED XU JUN OPENS UP FULL POINT LEAD 
 
 
BY BIPIN SHENOY
 
Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
After a quick draw yesterday, top seed Xu Jun returned to winning ways and scored full points in the sixth and seventh rounds of the third Asian men’s chess championship at Gorky Sadan today.

The Chinese GM has now extended his lead by a full point and tops the table with 6.5 points. Saidali Iuldachev is in the second spot with 5.5. Iuldachev got the better of Eshan Ghaem Maghami of Iran in 32 moves of a Sicilian Defence.

Indian IM P. Harikrishna remained in contention for a top-ten finish after a quick draw against Uzbek GM Alexie Barsov in the seventh round. He is now joint third at five points. He had beaten Bangladesh IM Ziaur Rahman in the sixth.

After setbacks in the earlier rounds, IM Surya Sekhar Ganguly took his tally to a respectable 4.5. After drawing his sixth-round game in the morning, Surya beat IM Vladimir Magai of Kazakhstan in the seventh.

GM Dibyendu Barua was upset by IM Tahir Vakhidov of Uzbekistan.

Vakhidov had a central passed pawn which Barua was unable to stop despite valiant efforts.

GM Praveen Thipsay drew both his games today to take his tally to 4.5 points. Thipsay and Harikrishna are the Indian players yet to taste defeat.

In a Queen’s pawn opening against Mohammad Al-Modiahki of Qatar, Jun was a rook ahead in the ending, but the former had some compensation in the form of two pawns in the centre. Jun blocked the pawns after which his extra rook decided the game.

Earlier, in the third round, Jun won at ease against the lowly-rated Iranian Mahjoob Morteza who succumbed in 29 moves in a Sicilian Najdorf. Morteza sacrificed a piece for hardly any compensation in the middlegame and Jun grabbed the piece to prompt Morteza’s resignation.

GM Nguyen Anh Dung of Vietnam handed Mahjoob Mortaza of Iran his second defeat of the day in 25 moves. In the Alapin variation of the Siclian Defence, Dung, playing white, sacrificed a rook on g7 to open up the g file after which Morteza was forced to give up his queen.

Harikrishna opted for the sharp Botvinnik variation of the Slav Defence against Zia.

After the middlegame exchanges a rook and pawn ending arose where Zia clearly had a better chance.

But Zia allowed Harikrishna to penetrate his second rank which cost him the full point. Barua, known for his ‘Houdini’ acts, produced glimpses of it in the sixth round to escape from a certain defeat against Chinese GM Wu Wenjin.

Despite being two pawns down in a clearly inferior position, Barua forced his opponent into a mating net with his rook and knight.

SEVENTH ROUND RESULTS

TOP BOARDS: Xu Jun (6.5) bt Mohammad Al Modiahki (4.5); Alexei Barsov (5) drew P. Harikrishna (5); Saidali Iuldachev (5.5) bt Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (4.5); Zhang Peng Xiang (4.5) drew Wang Zili(4.5); Nguyen Anh Dung (5) bt Mahjoob Morteza(4); Praveen Thipsay (4.5) drew Shukhrat Safin (4.5); Tahir Vakhidov (5) bt Dibyendu Barua (4); Marat Dzhumaev (4.5) drew Li Wenliang(4.5); Evgeny Vladimirov (4.5) bt Abdulla Al- Rakib (4); Odeev Handszar (4) drew Peng Xiaomin (4); Liang Jingrong (4) drew Krishnan Sasikiran (4); Darmen Sadvakasov (4) drew Ziaur Rahman (4); Liang Chong (4) drew With Wang Yue (4); Sergey Zagrebelny (4.5) bt Abhijit Kunte (3.5).

OTHER INDIANS: Vladimir Magai (3.5) lost to Surya Sekhar Ganguly (4.5); D.V. Prasad (3.5) lost to Yu Shaoteng(4.5); Lanka Ravi (3) lost to Eugene Torre (4); Sriram Jha (3.5) drew Antonio Rogelio Jr (3.5); P Konguvel (3.5) drew Reefat Bin Sattar (3.5); Barlo A. Nadera (1.5) lost to Sandipan Chanda (2.5); Neeraj Mishra (2) got a bye.

   

 
 
AMIT CHATURVEDI PASSES AWAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
Former state tennis champion Amit Chaturvedi passed away at a city nursing home Saturday night. He was 33 and suffering from kidney disorder.

A genial man full of enthusiasm and warmth, Chaturvedi honed his tennis skills at the South Club under Akhtar Ali and Jaidip Mukerjea. A top-ranked Bengal player at both junior and senior categories, Chaturvedi won several titles at the state and national level. He represented Bengal at the National Games as well as the inter-state meet.

While at his peak, Chaturvedi’s career was cut short by renal failure resulting in a kidney transplant about five years ago. His playing days were over, but Chaturvedi kept himself associated with the sport in other capacities. He formed a sports promotion firm with his brother and friends, which has so far conducted eight meets at the state and national level.

   

 
 
ACF MEETING FROM TODAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
The three-day meeting of the Asian Cricket Foundation (ACF), beginning here tomorrow, will deliberate on issues pertaining to the development of the game in Asia.

The high-profile meeting may also discuss the organisational problems related to the forthcoming Asian Test Championship, keeping in mind the Indian government’s reservations over granting permission to the Indian team to play in Pakistan.

The committee, chaired by former Sri Lankan captain Duleep Mendis, comprises Mazhar Khan of United Arab Emirates, Anil Kalavar of Singapore, J. Jaykumar Shah of Nepal and T. Krishnaswamy of Malaysia. ACF chairman Jagmohan Dalmiya will be present as special invitee. The meeting was earlier scheduled to be held here on July 31 and August 1.

   

 
 
MYSORE RACING/ MARGINAL HIKE IN STAKES 
 
 
FROM WILLIAM TELL
 
Mysore, Aug. 13: 
The Mysore 2001 regular Mysore race meet which kicks off on Thursday and concludes of October 20 will see approximately 700 horses under 60 schoolers vying for stakes to the tune of Rs 1.88 crores. This is an increase of approximately 10 percent on what was paid out last year despite lukewarm response from sponsors.

The highlight of the season are the three classics Karnataka Race Horse Owners Association 1000 Guineas on September 7, Mysore 2000 Guineas September 20 and the blue riband of the season the Kingfisher Derby on October 20.

The other important events are the Nanoli Stud Million to be held on August 24, A. V. Thomas Trophy (August 30) and the Hindu Gold Trophy (October 5).

Horses who deserve a following during the season are: Air Strike, Artwork, Hello Brother, Acrobat, Royal Triumph, Tabreeze, Almond , Vivid Dreams, Al Habib, Augill Castle, Donna Mia, Hope And Faith, Patriotic, Red Quartz, Resist The Force, Royal Liberator, Taipan, Touch of Silver and Wovoka.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA RACES/ 10 FOR THURSDAY’S MAIN EVENT 
 
 
BY OUR TURF CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
There is strong line-up of 10 horses vying for the 1,400m Independence Cup to be held on Thursday. The card also includes two more trophy events — the class IGamble for Love Cup and the La Gitana Cup for horses in class II. First race starts at 1.40 pm.

ACCEPTANCES

1. Kipling Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 1.40 pm: Countach 60; Storm Trooper 58; Alegria 56; Pneumatic Power 56; Floral Path 52.5.

2. Esmon Handicap 1,400m (Cl IV, 5-y-o & over Rt. 22-50) 2.20 pm: Flying Scot 60.5; Double Bull 59.5; Just Kidding 56; Blessed Spirit 53.5; Crest Star 53.5; Rheinheart 53.5; Nearco Prince 50.

3. La Gitana Cup 1,800m (Cl II; Cl III eligible Rt. 44-94) 2.50 pm: Illustrious Reign 61; Lockers Park 54.5; No Regrets 52; Aldebro 51.5.

4. Gamble For Love Cup 1,200m (Cl I, Rt. 88 & over) 3.20 pm: Alyssum 60; Anolini 52; Clarice Cliff 51.5; Merano 48.5; Gold Buck 47.5.

5. Independence Cup 1,400m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72) 3.55 pm: Cool Quest 60; Actress 58.5; Peace Envoy 58; Grand Lodge 56; Tajik 55.5; Mr. Bombshell 55; Spanish Drum’s 55; Ballet Master 52; Bold Apparel 52; Solo Act 51.

6. Mount Everest Handicap 1,200m (3-y-o only in Cl IV; Cl V eligible Rt. 00-50) 4.25 pm: Alcalde 60; Alamito 56; Regency Times 52; Secret Adversary 51; Alvernia 47; Lady Shirley 47.

Jackpot: 2; 3; 4; 5 & 6.

Treble: (i) 1; 2 & 3; (ii) 4; 5 & 6.
   
 

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