Fitness concern over Ramesh
East Bengal champions
Protest by India U-16
Pension for Olympians
Thais in final

Calcutta, Oct. 16: 
Till the other day, it was widely believed Sourav Ganguly will finally have his full first-choice team during the forthcoming Test series in South Africa. Now, it appears, the Indian captain may still be one short.

The question mark this time is over opener Sadagopan Ramesh — an absolute certainty, if fit and available. At the moment, however, Ramesh isn’t hundred percent fit.

Indeed, while everybody has been focussing on the Zaheer Khans and Ashish Nehras, Ramesh has also been in discomfort. No one quite thought of him as he isn’t considered for the ODIs and, so, wasn’t in the news when the tri-series contingent was picked.

“I’ll be having a fresh scan tomorrow and, only then, will my availability be more clear,” Ramesh told The Telegraph this afternoon, when contacted in Chennai.

Ramesh is suffering from a ‘disc bulge,’ a condition which often is very painful owing to the disc touching a nerve.

Though reluctant to go into details — “I must first inform the Board” — Ramesh did indicate the back injury could have surfaced in Zimbabwe, where he missed the Harare Test. His ailment then was diagnosed as a ‘muscle spasm’.

According to Ramesh, the injury flared up during his last India appearance — the third and final Test in Colombo (August 29-September 2). “I took pain-killers and, as advised by the physio, underwent a scan as soon as I returned home. I’ve been on medication since,” Ramesh, who scored 223 at a healthy average of 37-plus in the Tests in Sri Lanka, informed. [In the Colombo Test, specifically, Ramesh had knocks of 46 and 55. Commendable innings both.]

In fact, in that series, Ramesh cut out his customary flamboyance and consistently made an effort to build innings. This injury, therefore, has come at the wrong time.

Ramesh, of course, insisted he is “much better” and that besides regular workouts at the gym, he has resumed practising. Any South Africa tour, however, is highly demanding and Ramesh is himself aware of this.

Incidentally, Ramesh missed the last series against South Africa — early last year, when the Proteas toured India. Clearly, in almost three years of international cricket, Ramesh hasn’t exactly been free of injuries.

Should Ramesh not be available for selection, Baroda’s in-form Connor Williams and Mumbai’s Vinayak Mane will come into the frame (to partner Shiv Sundar Das) in a big way. Other options may also be considered.

The Test line-up for South Africa will be known next week: the three-Test series begins November 3 in Bloemfontein.


Calcutta, Oct. 16: 
East Bengal juniors emerged champions in the inaugural under-19 National Football League today. In the final at Howrah Stadium today, they scraped past India Sub-juniors (under-16) 3-2. It was a controversial penalty that gave East Bengal the title after India Sub-juniors had struck for the second time in the dying minutes of the game.

East Bengal, however, dominated the proceedings and could have won by a bigger margin. Twice the ball hit the post and on other occasions the forwards failed to convert half-chances into goals. It was an inspired display by the players who, before the tournament, hadn’t even practised together. The team, barring three members, consists of players taken on lien from various Maidan clubs.

The U-16 boys took the lead in the 21st minute when Rocus Lamare’s corner was headed home by Gourmangi Singh. East Bengal restored parity eight minutes later when Abdul Rauf Khan, who impressed in the midfield, scored with a powerful volley off a Dulal Patra minus.

K. Lalvulluaia plotted East Bengal’s second goal 17 minutes after the breather. The wily forward from Mizoram played a quick one-two with Patra inside the penalty box and lobbed it over the advancing ‘keeper.

A little later, Rauf Khan, in his attempt to get past Jery Zira Sangha inside the box, failed to keep his balance. There was no case of pushing or tripping. The referee pointed to the dreaded spot and Anupam Sarkar converted it with ease.

India Sub-juniors reduced the margin a minute before close when a free kick hit the human wall and ricocheted back into play. Marlanki Suting, lurking nearby, slotted home with goalie Shibram Dey out of sight.


EAST BENGAL: Shibram Dey, Aosta Karar, Anupam Sarkar, Sanjay Dhara, Rajiv Ahmed, Jiten Raj (Sk Hidayatullah), Lakhan Singh, Abdul Rauf Khan, Laltu Mondal, K. Lalvulluaia, Dulal Patra.

INDIA SUB-JR: Subrata Pal (Lakhan Das, 63), Habibur R. Mondal, Debabrata Roy, Gourmangi Singh, Rocus Lamare, Chitra Sen, Ashish Pandey (Jery Zira Sanga, 38), Francis, Mouna, Bhola Prasad, (Sankar Seal, 78), Marlanki Suting.

Referee: Rathin Mukherjee.


Calcutta, Oct. 16: 
East Bengal’s under-19 National League triumph wasn’t without controversy.

The India Sub-junior team today lodged a protest with Match Commissioner Dipak Das, that East Bengal’s Rajiv Ahmed had a double booking, and his participation today was against the law.

East Bengal officials, however, said they had not received any intimation to this effect from organisers IFA or the AIFF.

The Match Commissioner said there was no provision for referees’ reports in the tournament and thus, cards were not recorded.

His version was strongly rejected by IFA joint-secretary Ranjit Gupta. “He is lying and shirking responsibility,” said Gupta.

Another aspect, which needs to be addressed to in such tournaments, is the introduction of medical tests to verify age. Many from either side looked overage.


Calcutta, Oct. 16: 
The state government today granted monthly honorarium of Rs 2000 each to 12 former Olympians at the Writers’ Buildings. The cheques were handed over by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Those to receive the grant were Anil Kumar Nandi, Gora Chand Seal, Ajoy Kumar Chatterjee, Suhas Chatterjee, Netai Chand Bysack, Byomkesh Bose, Samir Kumar Roy, Supravat Chakravarty, Tarit Kumar Sett, Samar Banerjee, Krishna Chandra Pal and Nikhil Nandy.

South Calcutta champions

South Calcutta beat North 24 Parganas 12-0 to emerge state schools’ champion today. Hardip Singh (3), Bappa Koyal (3), Dipendu Das (2), Somnath Sarkar (2), Jagat Singh and Pawan Paswan were the scorers.    

Guwahati, Oct. 16: 
Rajpracha Sports Club of Bangkok moved into the final of the Bordoloi Trophy with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over TFA at the Nehru Stadium this morning.

The Thai outfit will meet the winners of Mohun Bagan and FC Kochin in the final.

Piyapong Haneing scored the goal in the 70th minute. TFA had two chances to equalise but failed to convert.


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