Motivated India look to ride series high
Deep: I’ll alter stance
Wright, Leipus find big support from team seniors
Mistaking Sehwag for an autograph hunter
Double for India Blues
Soccer not on IOA list
CAB wants Sourav
State teams named
City boy triumphs
Mumbai Racing/ Crowning Moment wins

Bangalore, Dec.18: 
With fizz and sparkle having been at a premium in Motera, expectations ahead of the third and final Test, at the Chinnaswamy, have assumed different dimensions. For the Indians, even a draw will ensure the Hero Honda series is theirs.

As England have the chance of forcing a 1-1 draw, the series is very much ‘alive’. And, on the eve of what should be a humdinger-game, there’s a scramble for attention of the centrestage kind: Just how soon will Anil Kumble join the 300-club? Will the relaid wicket actually go the distance? What of John Wright and Andrew Leipus’ future?

Also, whether rain — it was overcast for much of the day — will play spoilsport...

Whether it’s Kumble, curator Kasturirangan or Wright, the focus is largely on individuals and somebody not being talked about much is the one who could author a performance to leave fans breathless and pundits embarrassed. The surprise-factor isn’t, after all, limited to ODIs.

In their own way, Nasser Hussain’s England collectively sprang a surprise in the second Test. After the inside-four-days finish in Mohali, few expected the visitors to recover in the manner they did. Yet, for over three of the five days in Motera, the Union Jack fluttered most prominently.

If not anything else, England proved that quickly learning from mistakes does pay handsome dividends.

Having been pushed into a corner (conceding a 100-plus lead), the Indian pride did take a beating in Motera. The blame, however, has to be directed within. Coach Wright did exactly that this morning: “We were lacklustre and must lift our performance. Of course, we remain motivated and look to win every match.”

It would be disastrous if Sourav Ganguly’s team took the field looking only to draw and, in the process, bagging the series thanks to the ten-wicket victory in Mohali.

The ball hardly turned in Test No.1 and Motera, contrary to expectations, was anything but a minefield. Now, till this afternoon, there were traces of green on an unusually firm wicket here. Clearly, the curators have proved to be reasonably generous hosts.

More than the firmness — not expected when much is usually made of home-advantage — what, perhaps, is significant is that the Indians don’t have an encouraging record at the Chinnaswamy. Generations (1974-75 onwards) have taken to the turf with the India cap but, overall, it’s four wins and as many losses with five draws.

Sourav, though, isn’t perturbed. “Just because we’ve lost the last two Tests (to Australia and South Africa) surely doesn’t mean we’ll lose yet again... The team is in that positive frame of mind and, really, it’s not wickets alone which influence results,” he remarked.

It’s been 26 months since Sourav posted a Test hundred — moreover, the fifties have also come at a trickle. The captain is, to put it mildly, aware he needs a big score. But, as he pointed out, “setting a specific target” only adds to pressure.

From longer workouts to tips from Mohinder Amarnath and one-to-ones with Geoffrey Boycott, Sourav has tried just about everything in recent times. What he now needs to do is simple: Not repeat mistakes. The time for a score of substance has come.

With fifties in each of the Tests, Hussain is better-placed. Then, his first innings handling of an inexperienced attack, in Motera, was acclaimed. In the ‘war of captains’, he appears to be ahead. But with Sourav intent on ending the year in exactly the way it began — with a series-victory over Australia — Hussain can’t start thinking of Christmas.

In fact, today, Hussain acknowledged India were “favourites.” And, in a mild retaliation to Sourav’s ‘attack’ (regarding England’s field placements) in the second Test, made the point about India “having missed the chance” to close the series in Motera itself.

Hussain, by the way, has recovered from the India-belly — a condition which necessitated injectons on Sunday. “I’m not quite sure where it began, but it has certainly ended in Bangalore,” the England captain quipped. A couple of his teammates also aren’t hundred percent fit — Mark Ramprakash is recovering from flu — but nobody really has an appearance-threatening problem.

Till this evening, indications were both India and England will retain the second Test XI. While England don’t have much of an option, the Indians are unlikely to exclude Tinu Yohannan thereby making way for a third spinner in Sarandeep Singh. The swap will only come about if the selectors insist on that.

Much of the focus, of course, will be on Kumble. An absolute rage in these parts, he is one short of 300 wickets. “Yes, a bit of excitement is definitely there... Only, I wouldn’t like to say anything else till I’ve got that wicket on home turf,” Kumble told The Telegraph, grinning.

Kumble, who was struck on the chest by a Sachin Tendulkar hit at nets, was much better by the evening. Fortunately, it’s a “bruise” and not anything serious.

Far from any milestone is Deep Dasgupta. While the Eden and the Kotla surely mean more to India’s newest wicketkeeper, the Chinnaswmany is where he made a good impression during the pre-season probables’ camp. Having got the captain and coach’s backing, Deep is now hoping the familiar turf here will help erase memories of shoddy ‘keeping in Motera.

Incidentally, not least because the wicket has been relaid, the captain winning the toss should opt for first strike. If the batsmen don’t trip, half the battle will straight-away be won.

TEAMS (likely)

INDIA: Shiv Sundar Das, Deep Dasgupta, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath and Tinu Yohannan.

ENGLAND: Mark Butcher, Marcus Trescothick, Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan, Mark Ramprakash, Andrew Flintoff, Craig White, James Foster, Ashley Giles, Richard Dawson and Matthew Hoggard.

Umpires: A.V.Jayaprakash and Asoka de Silva.

Thorpe issue

Meanwhile, according to Hussain, the hugely experienced Graham Thorpe’s return to the England side depends on the batsman himself and chief selector David Graveney.

“At this point in time, he just can’t handle the demands of international cricket,” Hussain pointed out. Thorpe, it may be recalled, left for home (owing to marital hassles) after a late pull-out from the Motera Test. It’s now confirmed the Thorpes are divorcing.


Bangalore, Dec. 18: 
At the time of his maiden India call-up, in September, Deep Dasgupta made it a point to “thank” Syed Kirmani for tips earlier in the year. And, having had a poor game (with the big gloves) in Motera, Deep did the most sensible thing: A lengthy chat with the local icon within hours of arriving here Sunday.

“I spent about an hour with Kiribhai... Basically, he didn’t have anything critical to say about my technique, but still did suggest one or two things. Now, I’ll be modifying my stance a little as it appears I’m rising slowly,” Deep told The Telegraph this afternoon.

Deep added he had also spoken to another former India ‘keeper, Kiran More, during the second Test. “More, too, had much the same views as Kiribhai... I suppose I should keep things simple...”

Incidentally, on India colts coach Balwinder Singh Sandhu’s suggestion, Deep got himself videotaped at the NCA facility here. “Contrary to what some people had been saying, the exercise has shown I haven’t exactly been getting up quickly. So, as I’ve said, that’s one area I’m going to pay more attention to," Deep remarked.

Sandhu, by the way, was NCA head coach during Deep’s stint in the 2001 session.

Looking back somewhat emotionally, Deep himself said: “I spent over four months in Bangalore and, really, it had become like a second home... I found the inspiration to do well (both in the pre-season probables’ camp and at the NCA) then. Hopefully, I’ll be right on the ball over the next few days...”

One wishes him luck.


Bangalore, Dec. 18: 
Their body language has never been a give-away, but both John Wright and Andrew Leipus have been under pressure ever since Jagmohan Dalmiya took the unprecedented step of “writing” to them (in South Africa) within days of taking charge as Board president.

Of course, their ‘anxiety’ should end before the year is out — by when Dalmiya’s much -publicised “review” will be complete — but, even now, both professionals can take comfort from the support extended by the players, specially the seniors.

If not anything else, that has helped both Wright and Leipus present a business-as-usual front without much effort.

Indeed, according to The Telegraph’s sources within the Indian team, “everybody” is in favour of the coach and physio getting a fresh contract. Technically, Wright’s one-year term ended on November 15, while Leipus has been around for 26 months.

Captain Sourav Ganguly’s wholehearted support for Wright (“...there is no question of changing him...”) predictably made bold headlines yesterday, but no less significant was Anil Kumble’s endorsement of Leipus, moments after the Mohali Test.

In fact, Kumble’s very public “thank you” to Leipus actually came on the eve of the coach and physio’s meeting with Dalmiya, in New Delhi. Kumble’s comments didn’t quite make headlines as just about everybody was more taken in by the leg-spinner’s Man-of-the-Match-winning feat (eight for 133).

Incidentally, the generally reticent Leipus was then pretty embarrassed by Kumble’s gesture. And, this morning, Wright said this of Sourav: “It’s been nice of the captain, he’s been kind.” Typically restrained that.

So, first came Kumble’s support for Leipus and, then, Sourav’s Wright-endorsement. Clearly, there’s a message for Dalmiya who, to be fair, has announced he will “consult” the players before “deciding” on the duo’s future.

As of now, Dalmiya will interact with the players immediately after the Test here versus England. Again, as of now, the players will be making just one point: Keep the professionals on board. Really, to enable everybody give off their best, both should (at least) be around till the February-March 2003 World Cup.

While Wright, a former New Zealand captain, is India’s first overseas coach, Leipus succeeded another Australian (Andrew Kokinos) to become the team’s second videshi physio. Kokinos, it may be recalled, was recommended by the-then consultant — Bobby Simpson.

Finding fault isn’t too big a deal, but if the coach alone is to pay for the team’s inconsistency, then Dalmiya must begin reviewing a host of other things as well. It’s no secret, after all, that no predecessor of Wright has put in the effort he has. Moreover, the work ethic he has tried to instil wasn’t exactly attempted before. Actually, just as passionate about his work has been Leipus.

To focus specifically on Wright, it’s with good reason that the players are unanimous about who (at this point in time, at least) should be telling them what to do. No coach willingly backs a player with little potential and, worse, even less of an attitude. Equally, players won’t willingly back a coach who has nothing to offer.

Sourav’s remarks could have, in the immediate context, put Dalmiya in an awkward position. Yet, looking ahead, the captain has probably made the Board chief’s task easier. Purely statistically, Wright’s record reads: six wins and five losses in 14 Tests; 16 victories and 13 defeats in 29 ODIs.

Not outstanding, yes, but given the circumstances (Sachin Tendulkar, for example, missing the entire trip to Sri Lanka), it’s distinctly reasonable.


Bangalore, Dec. 18: 
Virender Sehwag has probably been the season’s most talked-about cricketer anywhere, but security personnel here aren’t too sure about his looks. Quite amazing, really, at a time of supposedly “high security.”

Believe it or not, last evening, Sehwag was stopped by security personnel (on duty at the team hotel) when he was hopping across to meet captain Sourav Ganguly. Casually dressed, Sehwag was mistaken for an autograph-seeker. As it turned out, he had to identify himself!

“It appears we are only recognised when we wear the India colours,” Sehwag quipped, narrating the rather unusual incident to The Telegraph.

Incidentally, given the “need” of the times, Sourav has been assigned a ‘shadow’. Former captain Sachin Tendulkar, too.


Calcutta, Dec. 18: 
Ashok Ruia’s India Blues’ dream run in the ongoing winter national bridge championship continues. Having clinched the Ruia Gold Cup for team championship a couple of days back, they lifted the BAM event this evening.

They claimed the double in the same year for the second time while they won the BAM event four times in a row. J.M. Shah, K.V. Krishnamurthy, Debashish Roy, Prakash Paranjpe and Vivek Bhand are the other members of the India Blues.

Indian Railways A (represented by Sujit Bhattacharya, Pritish Kushari, Manas Mukherjee, A.K. Mukherjee, S. Roy and Rana Roy) and Dhampur Sugar (of Ashok Goel, Kamal Mukherjee, Sudhir Ganguly, Alok Sandhu, Ratan Lal and Prakash Kejriwal) finished second and third respectively in the BAM event.

Meanwhile, a Nalco pair of J. Pratihari and A. Rount lead the list of 34 qualifies who will contest the finals of the Pairs event for the Holkar Trophy with a score of 1221.50. They are closely followed by the Bengal pairs of Jagadish Biswas and Tapan Roy (1221) and Asit Kundu and Debashish Bose (1214.75).

Earlier, Dr. Usha Kothari and Ranjit Das won the mixed category of the categorised pairs event.


New Delhi, Dec. 18: 
Football again finds itself out of the preferred disciplines in the IOA recommendations of the 25 disciplines the country should participate at the Pusan Asian Games from September 29 to October 14 next. The IOA has also decided on ten disciplines for the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

This was disclosed by minsiter of state for sports Uma Bharati today, after the first meeting of the National Monitoring Committee here today.

FOR manchester : (men & women unless specified): Athletics, badminton, boxing (men), hockey (women; men’s team has not qualified), judo, shooting, squash, table tennis, weightlifting, wrestling (men).

FOR PUSAN: Athletics, archery, badminton, billiards, bodybuilding, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, golf, gymnastics, hockey, judo, kabaddi, rowing, shooting, squash, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling, yachting and taekwondo.


Calcutta, Dec. 18: 
The CAB wants Sourav Ganguly to play the Ranji Trophy tie versus Orissa in Cuttack from January 5. The final Test against England gets over Monday. CAB officials said Sourav will not be asked to play the Bihar match (starting December 29 in Jamshedpur), assuming the schedule would get too taxing for him.

CAB officials were hopeful that Deep Dasgupta would be available for both games — against Bihar and Orissa.

Meanwhile, injured batsman Devang Gandhi, out for the Tripura tie in Agartala from Friday, resumed training today. and hopes to back for the Bihar game.

Sohom fashions win

Sohom Chowdhury’s unbeaten 116 helped Town Club beat YMCA (College) by eight wickets in their CAB senior division knockout match today.


YMCA (College) 249/9 (Anirban Chatterjee 58, Sumit Banerjee 4/51). Town 252/2 (Sohom Chowdhury 116 n.o., Pritam Ghosh 51). Town won by 8 wkts.

George Telegraph 248/7 (Krishnendu Pal 55). Kumartuli 194 (B.K. Majumdar 3/31, Subhranil Shome 3/45). George won by 54 runs.

Shibpur Institute 220/9. City AC 224/6 (Dalbag Singh 78 n.o., Prashant Kamdar 52). City won by 4 wkts.

Ballygunge United 183 (Samrat Sengupta 80, Nayan Sur 4/8, Rathin Dutta 3/47). Netaji Subhas Institute (NSI) 184/1 (Amiya Bhattacharya 74 n.o., Jayanta Das Chowdhury 64). NSI won by 9 wkts.

Customs 225/6 (Anik Chowdhury 81). BNR 210 (Asesh Dey 46, Anup Das 4/30, Jyotish Das 3/26). Customs won by 15 runs.

Six for Sajjad

Fakruddin Sajjad took six for 48 as Bengal skittled out Tripura for 215 on Day I of the three-day under-22 tie at Eden Gardens.


Tripura 215 in 83 ovs (Sandip Banerjee 62, Rajib Saha 45, Fakruddin Sajjad 6/48, Soujan Biswas 3/41). Bengal 4/1.    

Calcutta, Dec. 18: 
The CAB today announced the Bengal under-16 and under-14 teams for matches against Orissa and Assam, respectively. Both matches are at the Eden, the under-16 tie from Friday and the under-14 game from December 28.


UNDER-16: Anirban Gupta (captain), Bhairab Guha, Abdul Wali Khan, Sumit Nunia, Tomojit Ghosh, Prinan Dutta, Hirak Sengupta, Sougata Dutta, Soham Ghosh, Kirti Sarkar, Debabrata Pal, Sourav Dutta, Manoj Tewari, Samik Mukherjee.

UNDER-14: Rohan Banerjee (captain), Srivats Goswami, Writam Porel, Sujoy Das, Abhishek Bhowmik, Apirva Bhatt, Aadit Osatwal, Bablu Goswami, Saradindu Pal, Sitabrata Biswas, Sumanta Sinha, B. Amit, Raja Rajak, Tarak Mistry.

Ambar Roy meet

The Ambar Roy Memorial sub-junior meet got underway at the FD Block ground yesterday with holders Durgapur CCC beating Tapan Memorial by ten wickets.


Siliguri CCC (205, Abhijit Dasgupta 62) beat Dukhiram CCC (95) by 110 runs.

Maniktala CC (96) lost to Durgapur CC (72/1) by 9 wkts.

Agragami CC (148/4) beat United Club (113/9, Subhasish Dhar 4/17, Biplab saha 3/21) by 35 runs.

Baguihati CCC (123/3, Manoj Burman 49 n.o.) beat Dum Dum Pathik Sangha (116/6) by 7 runs.

Murshidabad DSDA (145/9) lost to Paikpara CCC (146/8) by 2 wkts.


Calcutta, Dec. 18: 
Eleven-year old city boy Ashray Butta (astride Morocco), totalled 181 points to clinch the dressage national II crown, for children between 8 and 12, on the opening day of the junior national equestrian championship at the Tollygunge Club today.

He edged out Maryk Sahney (179), a nine-year-old from Bangalore. Raunak Banerjee came third with a tally of 177.

The Eastern India equestrian championship, also clubbed with the junior national meet, is expected to turn equally exciting with the arrival of more than 150 outstation horses and teams.

It was BSF Gwalior’s Naresh Tehlan on Mohit who, earlier in the day, led the senior riders’ campaign, winning the open dressage from Maj. Jagat Singh (ASC Gaya) and S.I. Shiv Singh (BSF). Tollygunge Club’s Dr. Darius Anklesaria (Supreme Choice) was, as usual, at his best in the confined dressage.

No polo this season

There will be no polo in town this winter. A release from the Calcutta Polo Club says that lack of sponsorship forced the decision.

It is learnt that the withdrawal of major financiers ITC and Williamson Magor has led to the decision. Every winter, the polo season in the city used to warm up with events like the Darbhanga Cup, Carmichael Cup, IPA Championship among others.


Mumbai, Dec. 18: 
The Narendra Lagad-trained four-year-old Crowning Moment recorded an upset win in the Maharaja Sir Pratapsingh Gaekwad Trophy in Mumbai on Tuesday. Mark Gallagher partnered the Tecorno-Save The Future son to victory.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Pavielle Plate 1,600m: (2-3-7) Bryce Canyon (Shroff) 1; Al Humair 2; Saranyu 3. Won by: 2-1/2; 6-1/2; (1-41.1). Tote: Win Rs 37; Place: 11; 10; 16; Quinella: 16; Tanala: 119. Fav: Al Humair (3).

2. Little Giant Plate, Div-II 1,000m: (1-9-6) Khim (Rajendra) 1; Skip Out Front 2; Scamster 3. Won by: 3/4; Nk; (1-2.6). Tote: Win Rs 44; Place: 16; 18; 17; Quinella: 122; Tanala: 813. Fav: Spring Time (2).

3. Sangria Plate 1,000m: (5-1-3) Calpurnia (McCullagh) 1; Inspire 2; Valencia 3. Won by: 6-1/2; Nk; (1-1.2). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 13; 29; 28; Quinella: 184; Tanala: 1,345. Fav: Calpurnia (5).

4. Maharaja Sir Pratapsingh Gaekwad Trophy 1,400m: (3-7-2) Crowning Moment (Gallagher) 1; Idaho 2; Seychelles 3. Won by: 3/4; Dist; (1-25.9). Tote: Win Rs 62; Place: 25; 23; Quinella: 158; Tanala: 857. Fav: Seychelles (2).

5. Little Giant Plate, Div-I 1,000m: (3-9-4) Arabian Commander (Bajrang) 1; Tio Pepe 2; Triple Charm 3. Not run: King’s Crest (2). Won by: 1-1/4; 2-3/4; (1-02). Tote: Win Rs 50; Place: 20; 12; 18; Quinella: 79; Tanala: 566. Fav: Spearmint Rhino (7).

6. Shocking Plate 1,200m: (7-4-9) Thundering Grey (Deora) 1; Portentous 2; Loyal Rebel 3. Won by: 1/2; 5-1/2; (1-14.9). Tote: Win Rs 265; Place: 60; 13; 32; Quinella: 313; Tanala: 13,076. Fav: Duke of Albany (1).

7. Exaggerator Plate 1,400m: (4-2-5) Safari Girl (J. Chinoy) 1; Most Attractive 2; Idolize 3. Won by: 3-3/4; 2-3/4; (1-28.1). Tote: Win Rs 74; Place: 25; 14; 16; Quinella: 95; Tanala: 733. Fav: Idolize (5).

Jackpot: Rs 1,08,017 (Carried over); (C) Rs 5,555.

Treble: (i) Rs 875; (ii) Rs 5,186.

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