Psyched up Indians set to go for the ‘kill’
Nothing amiss between Sourav and I: Dravid
Sri Lanka drop Ruchira Perera
George men beat up ref, linesman
Nandy, Sarkar in final
Calcutta Races/ Alcalde may be hard to down
Mysore tips

 
 
PSYCHED UP INDIANS SET TO GO FOR THE ‘KILL’ 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Colombo, Aug.28: 
With competition in the big league so coldly ruthless, no quarter is given nor any asked for. And the effort is to score the maximum of psychological points. Indeed, the opponents observe and scrutinise every move. Anything unusual, then, is quietly camouflaged.

The Sri Lankans, though, have openly conceded a vital point ahead of the (deciding) third and final Test, at the enchanting SSC from tomorrow.

Buoyed by thrashing India in well under four days in Galle, Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya had declared “green tops” would be prepared for the remaining two Tests. Sure enough, a green-welcome was accorded to India in Kandy. Only, as it turned out, the visitors drew level within four days.

Significantly, the Indian quicks collected 18 of the 19 wickets credited to bowlers (Jayasuriya was run out in the first innings) and that, more than anything else, encouraged a prompt rethink on Lanka’s green policy.

Of course, the SSC isn’t devoid of grass. Yet, today, it looked appreciably less green than yesterday. Moreover, the mower was still being used. It’s obvious the Lankans don’t wish to leave anything to chance and are doing their best to ensure conditions suit their No.1 matchwinner — off-spinner Muttiah Muralidharan.

Nothing wrong there, but it’s a climbdown and can’t really be seen as a positive move. Even before a ball has been bowled, then, it’s advantage India. If anything, this should help keep the momentum going. The defining moment is at hand.

However, the Lankan move has confused the Indians somewhat. Should Harbhajan Singh (who will have a big role) again be the sole spinner, or, should Sairaj Bahutule come in for Harvinder Singh? Captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright have been debating over this, but a decision may only be taken before the toss.

Traditionally, the SSC wicket helps quicks, both by way of movement and bounce. But with rain being scarce this year and a dry spell predominant, it may not behave as it usually does.

“There’s some moisture (thanks to watering) right now and, so, we will have to wait till the morning. If the wicket is damp, we will go unchanged. If it’s dry, Sairaj should play,” informed the back-in-form Sourav, during a chat with The Telegraph.

The Indian captain added: “Whatever the combination, good cricket is what we will have to produce. Once that’s done, the result will take care of itself. We will, clearly, have to be disciplined both with bat and ball, something repeatedly emphasised during the over 90 minutes team meeting this morning.”

Well, unless conditions are overcast, the moisture shouldn’t deter Sourav from having first strike (assuming he wins the toss). That will be the most positive step and will get the Lankans to think overtime. If India bat first, it will be prudent to pick two spinners. The captain, really, has to be clear about what he will do if Jayasuriya loses the toss.

Incidentally, Sourav has fond memories of the SSC, as it was there he got his first century (August 1997) after the two hundreds in England (summer of 1996). He has had four centuries since and an addition is long overdue. Sourav must make the most of having regained form with that superb unbeaten 98 in Kandy.

The SSC is special for India as well. Eight years ago, Mohammed Azharuddin’s team won by 235 runs, a result which eventually gave India that series. The other three India-specific Tests at the SSC were drawn.

While the Indians could effect one change, the Lankan XI may see two.

For one, Ruchira Perera’s surprise omission (this morning) from the XV has paved the way for veteran Dulip Liyanage’s recall. Liyanage’s last Test was as far back as January 1994, in Lucknow. He has played ODIs more recently, in the late 1990s, but has suffered hard owing to injuries.

It’s going to be the mother of all comebacks for Liyanage.

Then, there’s the distinct possibility that Lanka A captain Tilan Samaraweera will make it at the expense of the under-a-cloud Suresh Perera. In any case, Perera has largely been a passenger: Neither getting runs nor being regularly called upon to bowl. The uncapped Samaraweera’s advantage is that he can bowl off-spin.

For much of the day, there was talk left-handed Michael Vandort (the official spelling, by the way) would make his debut and bat at No.3. However, that has been put on hold. As for senior pro Hashan Tillekeratne, he will (as of now) get one more chance.

Despite being under pressure, as the home captain, Jayasuriya looked pretty relaxed during the workout. “But, I’m always so... In fact, I’ve also been telling my players to relax and treat the Test as just another game. If they don’t, they will be inviting unnecessary pressure.”

He continued: “One can’t guarantee a victory but, yes, nobody will be found wanting in effort... We made mistakes in Kandy and, quite simply, can’t afford to repeat them. I hope the players have realised each has a responsibility.”

Coach Dav Whatmore, blunt as usual, mentioned his players will have to adopt the “all-depends-on-me” attitude. “I don’t think we lost (in Kandy) because technique-related problems cropped up, it was more because of the players’ mindset. Hopefully, they have learnt that even if they can’t win a Test in a session, they can very easily throw the game away...”

Speaking exclusively, Whatmore’s opposite number Wright iterated the team “making fewer mistakes with the basics” will do better. In his opinion, Sourav and the boys are “psyched-up” in just the right manner.

Actually, be it India or Lanka, the start will probably make the biggest difference.

Shiv Sundar Das hasn’t quite found his feet, while Sadagopan Ramesh isn’t building on the 30s and 40s. It’s time, perhaps, for one if not both to come good. Where the Lankans are concerned, Maravan Atapattu has been suffering from the same virus as Ramesh, while Jayasuriya flopped in Kandy after the stellar show in Galle.

Thus far, the Indians have followed England’s script of earlier this year. The question doing the rounds is whether Sourav’s team can also do an England at the SSC? It’s possible, yes.

TEAMS

INDIA: Shiv Sundar Das, Sadagopan Ramesh, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammed Kaif, Hemang Badani, Samir Dighe, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Venkatesh Prasad, Harvinder Singh/Sairaj Bahutule.

SRI LANKA (likely): Sanath Jayasuriya, Maravan Atapattu, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Hashan Tillekeratne, Russell Arnold, Tilan Samaraweera, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralidharan, Dulip Liyanage, Dilhara Fernando.

Umpires: Dave Orchard, Asoka De Silva.

   

 
 
NOTHING AMISS BETWEEN SOURAV AND I: DRAVID 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Colombo, Aug.28: 
Rahul Dravid began the on-going Test series with a 54-plus average and, in low-scoring engagements, has already played two stand-out innings: 61 not out in Galle and 75 in Kandy. Clearly, he remains dependable bat No.1.

Among the most articulate of cricketers around, the India vice-captain (who has the fairer sex swooning on both sides of the Palk Strait) spoke to The Telegraph over breakfast at the Taj Samudra today.

The following are excerpts

Q Your recent innings have only reinforced the ‘Mr Consistent’ label. Should be making you feel good...

A (Smiles) Consistency can only please you... After all, it’s important to be consistent in whatever you do in life.

Q But, does this label also add to pressure?

A Look, neither do I make these labels nor do I take them too seriously. As for the pressure bit, anybody who plays for India has to cope with it. I do expect to score in every game but, at the same time, I don’t have the attitude that I must not fail. That’s being negative. I prefer being positive.

Q What are your thoughts as you walk to take guard?

A Varies from situation to situation, depends on the match... Depends on the wicket, too. Frankly, you can’t have a set plan and there must be a degree of flexibility. The requirement is different if it’s one down for five as opposed to 105 for one. If needed, one has to keep reassessing the gameplan. Bottomline is one can’t score runs sitting in the pavilion, so one should spend the maximum time at the wicket.

Q Do you switch on and off out in the middle, or...

A (Interrupting) Whether one is the striker or non-striker, the process of switching on and off is very much there. It’s definitely not possible to have the same degree of concentration right through the innings. And, so, it’s important to learn when to switch on and when to switch off.

Q How do you psyche yourself?

A It’s never ever been difficult for me to either motivate or psyche myself for international cricket. In fact, at times, one gets too psyched up... That’s when the nervous energy can’t be controlled and one isn’t able to relax.

Q Were you, for example, over-psyched during our tour of Australia in 1999-2000?

A Well, I just had a bad series... I was determined to do well, but wouldn’t say I was too psyched up... Perhaps, I wasn’t sure where my off-stump was... It’s possible technical errors crept in... Basically, I wasn’t batting well. I didn’t start the tour with runs and didn’t get runs in the Tests either. Later, in the ODIs though, I did hit some form.

Q There was a 13-month and 16 innings’ phase (beginning October 1999), when you didn’t get past fifty in Tests. Were you, then, under extreme pressure?

A It’s not nice to not do well in Test cricket... So, yes, I was under some pressure. At this level, one is continuously under scrutiny and one owes it to the team to deliver. Looking back, it helped that we had a six-month break (during that period) and I went over to England for County cricket. That gave me an opportunity to learn more about my own game besides, obviously, gaining the experience of playing in different conditions.

Q Did you feel sorry for Sourav, who went 13 innings without a Test fifty?

A But, surely, every cricketer encounters such a phase. It’s more difficult for the guys who themselves set high standards: Even an average performance is viewed as a failure. Of course, I did feel for Sourav and the entire team backed him. He’s a class player and, really, it was a matter of time before he returned among the runs. I guess all of us have to keep learning and, when such a phase surfaces, it’s best to quickly get out of it.

Q was just a week’s gap between the end of the Zimbabwe tour and the start of this one. Did you, then, get time to prepare for this trip?

A I largely utilised that week’s break to re-charge the mental batteries... It was important to do so... Indeed, one must take to a tour revitalised and not feel stale. It helps when a tour begins with ODIs because, then, there are opportunities to get set. One also gets to know the new bowlers from close quarters.

Q Do you set targets for each series?

A (Smiles again) I do write down something, but I wouldn’t like to go public with the figures. I set pretty high standards for myself and do study my own progress... Have I achieved what I set out to, or have I fallen short?

Q What were your thoughts that third evening in Galle, when you and Venkatesh Prasad were batting, and an innings defeat loomed large?

A It was very disappointing to have been in that position... We did, eventually, avoid an innings defeat and I knew this team had character and, so, could bounce back. That’s what we did in Kandy. We held our nerve and both batted and bowled with discipline. The difference that made is there for all to see.

Q While Sourav scored that MoM-award winning unbeaten 98, your 75 was just as invaluable. What were your own thoughts during that 264 chase?

A That it was important not to lose wickets when we began Day-IV (on 55 for one)... I thought the Test, then, was in the balance and that opening session would make the difference. It actually did. One had to do two things: Play better cricket than the Sri Lankans and, just as important, hold the nerves.

Q For such an inexperienced side, what does that Kandy win mean?

A Means a lot and, hopefully, the younger guys will draw much confidence from the result. It’s always more satisfying to win away from home and we’ve done that thrice in less than a year, even though one victory was in Dhaka... This series, though, isn’t over as yet and we’ve got this big game from tomorrow.

Q I’m sure the vice-captain, too, has a role in the scheme of things and not just the captain and coach...

A Everybody has a role... Everybody has a responsibility to play tough cricket and, at the same time, to enjoy a tour. The approach, clearly, should only be positive.

Q Towards the end of the recent tri-series there were reports about so-called differences between you and Sourav. Did that upset you?

A If anything, five years of international cricket has taught me not to react to these things... Some people simply have to do some stories... What matters is that the two individuals are on the same wavelength and that, within them, they know nothing is amiss. I told Sourav that one has to be prepared for such situations... One can’t please everybody and, in any case, we don’t have to go out and prove a point. It’s fine as long as there isn’t any problem between us and the team, too, is aware of that. The team spirit is good and shouldn’t be harmed.

Q The final question: Could there come a time when you may be impatient for the India captaincy?

A No... I’ve quite been enjoying playing under Sourav, I’ve quite enjoyed the vice-captain’s role... If I could add, I’m impatient to be part of a consistently successful Indian team... Gradually, we are getting there.

   

 
 
SRI LANKA DROP RUCHIRA PERERA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Colombo, Aug. 28: 
Late last evening, the Sri Lankan selectors dropped Romesh Kaluwitharana, thereby trimming the XVI-man squad by one. This morning, very surprisingly, they dropped Ruchira Perera as well.

So unexpected was the selectors’ decision that even captain Sanath Jayasuriya was caught off guard. “Well, yes, we will be picking the team (for the third and final Test, beginning tomorrow) from XIV... Kalu is out for sure, and even...” Jayasuriya paused while speaking to the Media at the SSC.

Smiling, the captain then asked the assembled Mediapersons: “Who else has been excluded?” Somebody not quite sure of things blurted: “Avishka Gunawardene”. Not sure himself, Jayasuriya smiled again and said: “Ah, yes... Also out is Gunawardene.”

It’s only later that everybody — including the Lankan captain — realised that the axe had fallen on the ‘clean’ Perera.

Though the ensuing Test is most crucial for Lanka, The Telegraph could only spot three selectors during the home team’s workout. Chairman T.B. Kehalgamuwa was there, as were K.M. Nelson and Kapila Wijegunawardene. However, Brendon Kuruppu and Amal Silva were absent.

Lele, Borde arrive

Meanwhile, Board secretary Jaywant Lele and chief selector Chandu Borde arrived here this evening. They will be around for two days and Lele, in particular, will seek the views of captain Sourav Ganguly, coach John Wright and physio Andrew Leipus on the modalities of a conditioning camp ahead of the South Africa tour, from late September.

Lele and Borde will also “clear the air” over the Board’s refusal to send Ajit Agarkar. as a replacement for Jawagal Srinath. It’s even possible that Lele will have a one-on-one with Sourav. The question to be asked is: Why at this point in time when, obviously, the captain has other things to take care of?

   

 
 
GEORGE MEN BEAT UP REF, LINESMAN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
The first day of the CFL Super Division’s relegation leg was marred by violence as a linesman and the referee were beaten up in the Mohammedan Sporting-George Telegraph match at the formers’ ground today. In protest the city referees have decided to boycott all matches till Friday.

For the record, Mohammedan Sporting won 1-0 via the disputed 57th-minute goal of Mohammed Rafique. In the other match, bottom-rankers BNR and SAIL shared two goals. That was not before SAIL’s Sarajit Ghosh was marched out in the 40th minute. SAIL went ahead via a Supriyo Das Gupta goal, Moin-ul Haq restored parity.

Tardy display

The match at the Mohammedan Sporting ground was generally dominated by the home team, but organised play was sporadic and moves tardy.

In the chaos, which escalated in the second half, Arunava Sarkar from the rear pushed one to Nigerian Lawrence Enyilord, who was allegedly in an off-side position. The linesman (Dilip Samanta) didn’t raise his flag, so the pass was taken to Rafique who shot home an angled grounder.

When a protest by the ’keeper was turned down, George’s Gautam Naha, Supratik Aind and Biman Mondal went over to referee Partha Rout Roy and pushed him around.

Not satisfied, they then — now assisted by the entire George bench sans jerseys — went over to linesman Samanta, pushed him to the ground and beat him up mercilessly.

Things could have been worse had the police not stepped in. The match was stopped for about four minutes, but referee Rout Roy didn’t even bring out his yellow card. It is learnt, though, he will mention the three players to charge up first, in his report.

George coach Raghu Nandy — not one generally known in the Maidan for his adherence to sporting etiquette — later said even a George goal in the first half, by Ashis Das, was overruled for off-side when this “clear” off-side was overlooked. Not that all this can justify his team’s behaviour.

Things did not stop there. After the match, George players and officials, accompanied by coach Nandy, charged to the Calcutta Referees’ Association (CRA) tent. CRA secretary Kamal Sarkar said the crowd of 50-odd created a ruckus, breaking things and beating up trainee referee Subir Guha Thakurta who had to get medical attention.

CRA boycott till Friday

The CRA, at an emergent executive council meeting today, has decided to boycott all games till Friday. Sarkar said another meeting on that day will discuss the IFA’s action on this and review the referees’ stand. “Referee Rout Roy is now in no position to give a report and so we have given him till tomorrow evening to submit his report,” Sarkar said.

Interestingly, George’s president is Biswanath Dutta, a name revered in the Maidan, and secretary is IFA finance committee chief Jayanta Dutta.

IFA joint secretary Ranjit Gupta said: “An attack of any sort is deplorable, whichever team be involved. I’m waiting for the referee’s report, before the IFA league sub-committee sits to decide.”

In first division group B, Behala Youth and Barisha failed to score.

   

 
 
NANDY, SARKAR IN FINAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
Soumya Nandy takes on Soumyajit Sarkar in the sub-junior boys’ final of the Ballygunge Institute table tennis championships. In the semi-finals today Soumya beat Abhisek Mukherjee while Soumyajit defeated Jayanta Sarkar. The cadet boys’ final will be between Kuntal Basak and Santa Sabuj Chakraborty.

RESULTS — Cadet boys’ semis: Soumya Nandy bt Abhisek Mukherjee 11-4, 8-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-8; Soumyajit sarkar bt Jayanta Sarkar 11-2, 11-9, 13-11, 11-9.

Cadet boys’ semis: Kuntal basak bt Debdut Mukherjee 11-5, 11-8, 11-8; Santa Sabuj Chakraborty bt Shiladitya Nag 11-6, 11-4, 11-6.

Saba Karim’s academy

Former India stumper Syed Saba Karim has approached the Bihar government for land to set up a cricket academy in Patna. Saba, whose playing career was cut short by an eye problem, spoke to former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav in Patna recently on the issue and had received “positive response”. Saba was born and brought up in Patna.

Five-a-side soccer

Nabarun Sangha won the Dakshin Kalikata Krira O Sanskriti Parishad’s five-a-side meet Sunday, beating Sanghashree 1-0 via Man of the Match Pritam Sarkar. The organisers gave a cheque of Rs 35,000, collected from different donors, to Prabir Karmakar, to enable him to go to the world junior powerlifting championships.    

 
 
CALCUTTA RACES/ ALCALDE MAY BE HARD TO DOWN 
 
 
BY STAR RACER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 28: 
Trainer Bharath Singh holds the key to the 1,400m Calcutta Colts Trial Stakes, which has just two runners — Alcalde and Alamito. However, going by their last encounter, it is hard to look beyond the Rebounding Thrill-Nimble colt Alcalde who will be partnered by Cristopher Alford.

Race card & selections

1. Prince Blossom Cup 1,400m (Terms, 4-y-o & over) 1.35 pm: Alyssum 60 C. Alford 1; Clarice Cliff 58 Rabani 3; Treasurer 58 Amil 2.
1. Alyssum (1) 2. Treasurer (3)

2 Subianca Handicap 1,100m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 2.15 pm: Flying Power 61 Amjad 3; Lively Project 57.5 F. Khan 7; Armila 55.5 Engineer 6; Don Vittorio 55 Shanker 2; Lady Shirley 54.5 Rutherford 1; Alumnus 51 Som S. 5; Rich Dominion 50.5 Saran 4.

1. Alumnus (6) 2. Flying Power (1) 3. Lively Project (2)

3. Calcutta Colts Trial Stakes 1,400m (Terms, 3-y-o colts and gelding only) 2.45 pm: Alcalde 56 C. Alford 1; Alamito 52.5 Rabani 2.

1. Alcalde (1)

4. Rontgen Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 3.15 pm: Constantine 60.5 Amjad 2; Storm Trooper 55 A. P. Singh 4; Regency Times 54 Connorton 5; The Stud 54 Upadhya 1; Crest Star 53 Yasin 6; Tequila Shot 51.5 Shanker 3; Reactor 49.5 Islam 7.

1. Regency Times (3) 2. Tequila Shot (6) 3. Reactor (7)

5. Mica Empress Cup 1,100 (Cl II, Rt. 66-94) 3.50 pm: Illustrious Reign 60 Asghar 2; Gold Buck 58.5 Shanker 11; Desert Force 57 Kujur 6; Sky Command 55 Rutherford 1; Arctic Fancy 54 B. Gurang 3; Added Asset 53 Connorton 10; Staffordshire 53 M. Reuben 5; Annella 52.5 C. Alford 4; Ispahan 52 F. Khan 9; Giorgio 50 Dalpat S. 12; Winning Hand 49.5 Som S. 8; Carbon Copy 49 Amil 7.

1. Added Asset (6) 2. Annella (8) 3. Ispahan (9)

6. Buchanan Handicap 1,400m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 3.25 pm: Double Bull 61 Dalpat S. 7; Alborada 60.5 Locke 2; Beau Bruno 60.5 K. Kumar 8; Adeline 54.5 Connorton 4; Iron Warrior 54.5 Upadhya 1; Black Mane 54 M. Reuben 6; Pneumatic Power 52.5 Yasin 3; Freedom Warrior 48 C. Alford 5.

1. Freedom Warrior (8) 2. Black Mane (6) 3. Adeline (4)

Day’s Best: Alyssum.

Double: Alcalde & Regency Times.
   

 
 
MYSORE TIPS 
 
 
FROM WILLIAM TELL
 
Mysore, Aug. 28: 
2 pm: Amazing Force 1. Dynamic Chief 2. Carnival Crown 3.
2.30 pm: Star of The future 1. Skylight 2. Radical 3.
3 pm: Deep Blue 1. Ride With Pride 2. Star Pride 3.
3.30 pm: Splendid View 1. Luxor 2. Barassie 3.
4 pm: Comedy of Errors 1. Almost Heaven 2. Royal Triumph 3.
4.30 pm: Travel Around 1. Sandy’s Choice 2. Forest Pegasus 3.
5 pm: Anjaam 1. Owen 2. Sound Profit 3.
5.30 pm: King’s Common 1. Saujas 2. Fighting Brave 3.

Day’s Best: Splendid View

Double: Deep Blue & Travel Around .
   
 

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