Sourav returns in crucial tie
Ideal middle-order proves elusive for India, England
Complacent Indians stretched by ‘flabby’ English middle
EB desperate for victory
5-wkt victory for Tollygunge
Calcutta Races/ 7 events in Wednesday card
Hyderabad Races/ Easy win for Elusive Hero
Race Review/ Luck smiled on the Alfords

Kanpur, Jan. 27: 
Winter is about to bid goodbye to the venue for the fourth India-England match, but Kanpur is all set to warm up for some excitement as the one-day series draws to a close. On its whistle-stop journey through the country the cricket caravan halts here, and things still look open, even with the hosts edging ahead after snatching a win in Chennai.

It was as close there in the third game as were the first two. And that is what should bother the home team, up against youth and relative inexperience. While both teams are looking to try out what they may find useful in just above a year to come, India should be even more sure of what they should take to the 2003 World Cup.

Considering this, Nasser Hussain’s boys have done well by running Sourav Ganguly’s men close so far, and the proverbial ‘tigers at home’ should find that motivating and challenging enough to wrap it up as soon as possible. Their rivals wouldn’t certainly mind stretching the series further, and the teams are contemplating changes in combinations preferred henceforth.

The Indians have perhaps temporarily lost faith in V. V. S. Laxman, and have got their skipper back after a troubled hamstring, while the visitors are thinking hard on how to accommodate Graham Thorpe in their existing scheme of things. The English middle-order mainstay has so far been spared, which has also proved to be too much of a luxury.

Coach Duncan Fletcher and Hussain had some brainstorming to do and are likely to leave Nick Knight out of the XI. The one-day specialist came to India with an average of 42.91 from 65 matches, but did not survive Jawagal Srinath’s opening spell in three matches.

This necessitates a new opening combination and Michael Vaughan is the man tipped to face the new ball. A difficult move, considering the solidity provided to the middle-order by the right-hander in the last two games. Thorpe, of course, continues to be the most experienced hand in that department.

There is another, albeit surprise, option: that of pushing Andrew Flintoff up, keeping in mind his struggle deeper in the order against the slower bowlers. The thinktank believes he is more suitable to the quicker stuff and that his tendency to cut loose early on may come handy in the first 15 overs.

That will lend a more composed look to the middle-order and wouldn’t actually form a bad line-up if the lower-order all-rounders contribute. It’s not that runs have not come from that area, but things there have to be consistent to obliterate the question mark over durability.

Fletcher, however, didn’t go public with his plans. “We have 15 players fit for selection,” he said, but added that he wants the middle-order to contribute more. “The all-rounders must start getting some runs.” Skipper Hussain, still short on runs amid rave reviews on captaincy, didn’t meet the press.

India don’t seem too loaded with thoughts over whom to pick ahead of whom. With the captain returning to the top of the order, Sanjay Bangar is almost certain to be left out. This means fresh call-up Mohammed Kaif will make his one-day debut. Kaif, having earned a few Test caps, has a Calcutta connection. His father Tarif played Maidan league for Mohammedan Sporting for a couple of seasons in the mid-60s.

Skipper Sourav said he will return to partner Sachin Tendulkar up the order and Virender Sehwag will be pushed “up the order, may be at No. 3.”

Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble are once again set to provide spin after the faster variety from Srinath and Agarkar. Sarandeep Singh’s wait for his maiden ODI cap is expected to last longer.

He said he is drawing confidence from his performances here, which includes an all-round effort against Zimbabwe in the December of 2000. It was also the game after which he was suspended for a match for excessive appealing. “Even then, it continues to be a happy ground for India.”

He felt the toss tomorrow may just be more crucial than the last few matches played here. “Usually you get some early dew here at this time of the season… It looks like a good batting track but a decision on what to do after winning the toss is not wise before inspecting the wicket in the morning.”

The wicket, for that matter, is unlikely to displease batsmen. That’s what G. Kasturirangan, BCCI pitch committee chief curator, said. “There are runs on the strip, but it will start turning near the end. Batting first seems to be the safer decision,” he observed.

The rain threat

Meanwhile, Kanpur is witnessing some ‘mistimed’ rain, which, though, has yet to cast any serious shadow over the match. It drizzled mild early in the morning and also in the evening. The ground remains unaffected though it is a little damp.

However, what it may cause if it continues in the morning is that it will make things very tricky for whoever wins the toss. While making first use of a belter without the pressure of chasing is tempting, the lucky man with the coin will find it difficult to decide against inserting the opposition if it remains damp.


INDIA (likely): Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Dinesh Mongia, Mohammed Kaif, Hemang Badani, Virender Sehwag, Ajay Ratra, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Jawagal Srinath

ENGLAND: Nasser Hussain, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan, Paul Collingwood, Ben Hollioake, Graham Thorpe/Nick Knight, Jeremy Snape, James Foster, Andrew Flintoff, Mathew Hoggard, Darren Gough.

UMPIRES: I. Sivaram (Hyderabad) and G. R. Mohite (Baroda).


Kanpur, Jan. 27: 
With the one-day series already past the halfway mark, India and England are still finding it difficult to strike the right batting combination. In the middle-order, to be precise. People who matter more in both camps sounded worried about this aspect, which went a long way in determining the outcome of all matches so far.

England coach Duncan Fletcher clearly identified this as the area for concern and so did Sourav Ganguly. “The three games so far have been very tough and demanding and inexperience deeper down the order is certainly a concern for us,” said Fletcher today.

Clearly, the failure of the allrounders with the bat, specially Andrew Flintoff, is causing most of it. “He has bowled well, slowed down the game but is yet to come good with the bat. It happens with allrounders sometimes, when the runs dry up. He has to get over it.”

“At the end of the day, however, I am looking forward to contributions from the allrounders. They are capable, as James Foster showed in the Tests and Jeremy Snape did in the last two games. A little more from everyone else would do us no harm,” Fletcher said.

Sourav also blamed it on inexperience. “Dinesh Mongia is new, so is Mohammed Kaif and Hemang Badani has played just 20-odd games. True our middle-order didn’t click in the last two games but you have to give these players time to settle down.”

On the brighter side, the Indian skipper cited Virender Sehwag’s return among the runs as encouraging. “It’s a team game and good to have everybody in touch.”

Sourav avoided a direct answer on whether V.V.S. Laxman’s exclusion was a warning to others who are not delivering. “It’s a bit sad that Laxman is out… He is a class player… But I’m sure he’ll come back. I think he knows that too. It’s just a question of time.”

The Indian captain can’t avoid queries about his own form these days and it was no different here. Refuting suggestions that his own lean patch may affect his captaincy, Sourav said: “As far as I’m concerned, I have not done too bad in this series and if you look at records, you’ll find that I have never failed in a one-day series over the last few years.

“It doesn’t put me under pressure. Obviously, you try to score big in every game but that doesn’t always happen. You’ve got to take every game as it comes and play to potential. I have done that in the past and don’t see any reason why it should not happen again. I don’t see a bad form in one-dayers at least,” said Sourav emphatically.

The England coach, meanwhile, played down skipper Nasser Hussain’s ‘tiff’ with the umpires in the last game in Chennai. “It happens in the game. He was not protesting or arguing. He was just trying to make his point. He has a right to do that,” Fletcher said.

No floodlights

The Greenpark Stadium here will have to wait to let things happen under its newly-installed floodlights. Match Referee Dennis Lindsay said the lights won’t be used even if it gets dark.“This match will not see the use of lights and overs will be reduced if situation so demands,” he said. The other option, of course, is to truncate the lunch break if the match starts late.


There is something about the M. A.Chidambaram stadium that makes just about every game, be it a Test match or a one-day International, a thriller, forcing spectators to chew on their nails. The one-day game between India and England was no different, though on paper the Indian victory looks a comfortable one. Those at the ground knew that it was real close.

Right from the second Tied Test in history in 1986 there have been tense and close finishes at the MAC. There was the opening game of the Reliance World Cup in 1987 when Australia beat India by a run, then there was that agonising defeat for India to Pakistan by only 12 runs in a Test and there was that close finish last year when India beat Australia by just two wickets.

So, when India dismissed England for 217 and got off to a rollicking start with a century opening partnership, the spectators must have felt that at last they were going to be able to watch an Indian victory without their hearts beating faster. But that was not to be as India played some poor cricket to give England hopes of snatching what would have been a victory that would also have destroyed the Indian morale for the rest of the series.

It took the calm, cool yet gutsy temperament of two youngsters — Ajay Ratra and Ajit Agarkar — to ensure that India went one-up in the series. Agarkar should have been the Man of the Match for he had also captured four wickets earlier, but there have been innumerable occasions in the past that the popularity of a player sometimes overshadows the lesser known player and pips him to the award.

England once again made a mess of the fine, brisk start given by their openers. Many sides have lost the match by trying to score too many in the first 15 overs when the field restrictions are in place. They have lost wickets doing that and so the middle order has had to do a repair job and thus valuable overs are lost. England’s middle order is flabby and so far has looked good only on paper. They should look seriously at Jeremy Snape coming higher up the order ahead of his more fancied teammates because he is an uncomplicated player and is high on confidence with the contribution he has made with bat and ball and his fielding.

India began the chase as if they were looking to catch a flight. Both Tendulkar and Sehwag played some glorious shots through the covers. But, then, complacency has been the middle name of Indian cricket, and it soon reared its head. The ball after he got his half century, Sehwag played a careless shot and was caught in the deep.

It was as if now that he had secured his place after his earlier failures, he couldn’t care less about the team. The little champion too played a horrific shot: when the ball wasn’t there for the sweep, it looked an ugly way to get out for a batsman of his calibre. Laxman heaved, and with that not only lost his off-stump but his place in the squad. Badani was lucky the team was already selected by the time he was out for he was once again unable to capitalise on the dropped chance that he gives every innings before being dismissed.

Ratra it was, who ensured that there was no embarrassment for India by not only playing some fine bold shots but running superbly between the wickets. Agarkar once again showed a cool head like in Cuttack and it is good to see him play sensibly, rather than the cross-batted swipes he is unsuccessful with and which belie the potential he has.

It was an important victory for the next two games are going to be played in wintry conditions at Kanpur and Delhi which may well suit England more than India who are unused to them. Hopefully Laxman’s dropping will send the right signals to those who take their places in the side for granted.


Calcutta, Jan. 27: 
Not that FC Kochin have been able to recall any of its classy past this season. They have, in fact, been pretty sorrowfully plumbing new depths in ineptitude, their last calamity having been at the hands of a none-too-impressive Tollygunge Agragami who went in with new coach Aloke Mukherjee. However, for East Bengal, the reigning champions, this National Football League has been rather difficult. Tomorrow, they too will be meeting FC Kochin with a new coach, Subhas Bhowmick, after Manoranjan Bhattacharya was asked to put in his papers Friday. And all fingers in the red-gold camp will remain crossed.

There is no overstatement. With a dubious record of four defeats in-a-row under their belt, East Bengal can only pray for a reversal of fortunes, at least a draw. FC Kochin fits the ‘whipping boy’ prescription, but the Kerala outfit has been known to react on a rather uncharacteristically higher scale versus Calcutta clubs. Moreover, there will be this problem of the players having to readjust to Bhowmick, who is returning to the team after some time.

That will be over and above the effort needed to put the team morale back in place, especially after the humiliating 0-4 loss to Salgaocar of Goa in their last NFL outing. It will also be the club officials’ effort to put in that extra bit to see to it that next year’s funds, from their sponsors UB Group are not in any way hindered through poor performance.

Bhowmick’s top priority, of course, will be tomorrow’s match, and he made this amply clear today. “I am focusing only on tomorrow’s match now,” he said. “I am not thinking even a day further, just tomorrow. The morale of the team, after these losses is rock bottom. That is a big problem. However, fitness-wise, I will give the team, say, 75 per cent.”

Perhaps, with this new focus, he will be making changes. If the day’s practice session is anything to go by, one could see Omolaja Olalekan and even I.M. Vijayan in the attackers’ slots. Vijayan, the Kerala superstar, has of late disappointed, remaining no more than a passenger in the team. Maybe Bhowmick feels he will be able to better utilise Vijayan as an attacker.

It could end up in a strange combination. Suley Musah just might move up from his usual defensive position into a minor defensive screen that should come ahead of three defenders. The usually overlap-prone Musah, in that case could lose some mobility, but East Bengal could gain in defensive solidity. By keeping a loose five-man midfield (so to say), the attack and defence could be helped out. As Bhowmick pointed out: “Winning tomorrow is my only aim. I have to make these players believe, again, that they can win.”

That is easier said than done. Whatever the pedigree of the Calcutta giants, the fact is that the team has managed only ten points so far, from nine matches, and Kochin are just a point adrift from as many matches logged. It will only be to Kochin’s benefit if they can make a match of it tomorrow and move as far away as possible from relegation zone.

The only positive aspect of East Bengal tomorrow will be a home ground match. That could have the club’s raucous supporters airing their lungs to shoo away any Kerala spectre.

The East Bengal defence, probably showing three tomorrow, will rely heavily on Jackson Egygpong. That will be added responsibility for Egygpong. After all, one has to take into consideration that Kochin too does have a forward line that can score goals on its day.


Calcutta, Jan. 27: 
Tollygunge Agragami today beat BNR by five wickets on the first day of their CAB league match. With Moinak Roy and Kunal Bajpayee picking up five and three wickets, respectively, BNR folded up just for 97 in 18.3 overs. The chase was easy for Tollygunge.


YMCA (Coll.) 389/8 (Vikash Mansatta 121, Sk Abbas Ali 50, Jayanta Roy 47, Amit Sharma 56; Surajit Chowdhury 4/113). Match vs Belgachia United.

BNR 97 in 18.3 ovs (Moinak Roy 5/34, Kunal Bajpayee 3/20). Tollygunge Agragami 102/5 in 31.5 ovs (Kausik Barman 33; Arindam Bhattacharya 3/15). Tollygunge won by 5 wkts.

Mohammedan Sporting 324/8 in 85 ovs (Sudhir Singh 103, Upendra Datta 56; S Hussain 52; Prasenjit Banerjee 5/85). Match vs Kumartuli.

Title for Saurav Panja

Saurav Panja today won the men’s title in the Calcutta Gymkhana tennis championship with a 7-5, 7-6 (7-1) victory over Vinod K. Sewa. The women’s title went to Ragini Vimal who beat Soma Banerjee 6-1, 6-2. The men’s doubles title went to Panja and Ram Kumar, who beat Vinod and Manoj Sewa 6-3, 6-4.


Calcutta, Jan. 27: 
There are seven events in Wednesday’s race-card and the first race starts at 12.35 pm:


1. Atreas Handicap 1,400m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 12.35 pm: Iron Warrior 60.5; Bay Dragon 60; Brave Show 58.5; Tsaynen Blue 57.5; Tuscaloosa 57; Touch of Elegance 56.5; Kyalami 52.5; Calculus 51; Keep The Faith 47.5.

2. Lightning Sketch Handicap 1,400m (Cl IV, 6-y-o over Rt. 22-50) 1.10 pm: Brave Venture 61; Flying Scot 60; Simply Monarch 60; Classic Pursuit 59; Rheinheart 56.5; Black Mane 55.5; Spanish Drum’s 55; Beau Bruno 54.5; Royal Philosopher 54.5; Simply Dashing 54.5; Royal Ruler 52.5.

3. Pearson Surita Memorial Cup 2,000m (Cl II; Cl III eligible Rt. 44-94) 1.50 pm: Harry The Horse 60; Set Aside 59; Alamito 55; Among Men 55; Arristo 54; Illustrious Reign 54; Argolis 53; Accrete 51.

4. Galstaun Cup 1,400m (Terms, 3-y-o only) 2.25 pm: Afflutter 50; Approval 50; Arian 50; Pehlvan 50; Royal City 50; Saladin 50; Mahika’s Pet 48.5; Social Girl 48.5.

5. Eastern Air Command Cup, Div-I 1,400m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72) 3 pm: Immaculate 60.5; Si Senora 59; Yukon 59; Raring To Go 55.5; Giorgio 54; Ornate Crown 54; Venus 53; Aberdan 51; Charlene 51; Excellent Striker 49.5; New Fortune 48.

6. Eastern Air Command Cup, Div-II 1,400m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72) 3.35 pm: Pretty Boy Floyd 60; Peace Envoy 59; Raaz 57.5; Revolution 54.5; Cool Quest 54; Tajik 53.5; Wakamba Warrior 51.5; Calculate 51; Mr. Bombshell 51; Midas Touch 48.5; Santillana 47.

7. Ramkirpal Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 4.10 pm: Montjeu Star 60.5; Magnifico 59; Soviet Dance 58.5; Crowned Prince 58; Storm Centre 57.5; Zuhaak 56.5; Fly By Alibi 55; Tequila Shot 55; Sencai 53.5; Ever So Loyal 52; Global Harmony 51.5; Finders Keepers 48.5.

Jackpot: 3; 4; 5; 6 & 7.

Treble: (i) 2; 3 & 4; (ii) 5; 6 & 7.

Hyderabad, Jan. 27: 
Ridden by Aslam Kader and trained by Rashid Byramji, Elusive Hero easily won The Hindu Golconda Derby Stakes at the Hyderabad races held on on Sunday.


(with inter-state dividends)

1st race: Satin Gold 1; Singh 2; Royal Carnival 3. (W) Rs 30; (P) 14; 21; 41; (Q) 189; (T) 4,421.

2nd race: Scott 1; Green Sapphire 2; First Crush 3. (W) Rs 153; (P) 20; 16; 39; (Q) 172; (T) 3,240.

3rd race: Pop Corn 1; Sea Melody 2; Strathmore 3. (W) Rs 18; (P) 14; 16; 29; (Q) 83; (T) 669.

4th race: Cambridge Blue 1; Magical Legend 2; Veni 3. (W) Rs 30; (P) 17; 19; 32; (Q) 64; (T) 469.

5th race: Sher-Babbar 1; Classic Singer 2; Cartridge 3. Not run: Randomness (W) Rs 13; (P) 11; 135; 13; (Q) 414; (T) 1,361.

6th race: Ingenuity 1; Entropy 2; Marvel Shire 3. (W) Rs 121; (P) 30; 15; 18; (Q) 99; (T) 1,884.

7th race: Royal Classico 1; Jamboo 2; Akarita 3. (W) Rs 60; (P) 20; 16; 20; (Q) 81; (T) 572.

8th race: Speed Racer 1; Mohican Chief 2; Southern Minstrel 3. (W) Rs 161; (P) 43; 22; 36; (Q) 617; (T) 64,760 (C.o).

9th race: The Hindu Golconda Derby Stakes: Elusive Hero (Kader) 1; Judge Jules 2; Royal Gladiator 3. Won by: 3-1/2; Nk; (2-34.6). (W) Rs 66; (P) 21; 15; 13; (Q) 126; (T) 477. Fav: Sanquirico.

10th race: Sugar Zone 1; Rose Garden 2; Chief Commissioner 3. (W) Rs 52; (P) 16; 22; 13; (Q) 209; (T) 1,292.

11th race: Bonzsingh 1; Swindler 2; Miami Vice 3. (W) Rs 36; (P) 16; 39; 29; (Q) 251; (T) 1,498.

Jackpot: Rs 1,42,350 (Carried over); (C) Rs 36,604.

Treble: (i) Rs 1,240; (ii) Rs 21,810 (C.o); (iii) Rs 2,305.

Saturday’s Bangalore winners

1st race: Flowington 1; Cool Jazz 2; Goldsmith 3.
2nd race: Golden Fortune 1; Great Splendour 2; Dance At Nine 3.
3rd race: Moonlight Rays 1; Kilkemny 2; Decision Maker 3.
4th race: Antwerp 1; Acrobat 2; Hope And Faith 3.
5th race: Magic Stride 1; Magic Mantra 2; Ride With Pride 3.
6th race: Silvertre 1; Star of Heaven 2; Star Alone 3.
7th race: Pride Fisher 1; Special Request 2; Trap A Spy 3.

Jackpot: Rs 283; (C) Rs Rs 62.

Treble: (i) Rs 92; (ii) Rs 56.

Calcutta, Jan. 27: 
While punters were left with big holes in their pockets, Dame Luck showered blessings on the Alford cousins — Rutherford and Cristopher — who booted home a double apiece in the January 23 seven-event card. But again, Cristopher was somewhat lucky in his effort compared to his apprentice cousin who was a delightful sight in the saddle.

The class XI youngster seems to be utilising each race meeting to enrich his experience and his boundless confidence in the ability of his first two rides on the day — Lawyer’s Love and Leading Conquest — helped him produce desired results. Had it not been for Revolution’s interference, Lawyer’s Love would have been a winner in his last outing. That’s what Rutherford had confided in his father, Richard. The apprentice proved his point with a flawless victory in the Rising Bell Handicap. A chance workout after Leading Conquest’s poor third on Derby Day had given the apprentice the feeling that the horse was a winner. Thus, promptly book the next ride.

The Darius Byramji-trainee, too, confirmed his shrewd judgement in the Nautical Pride Handicap. Again, it was his patient handling and the mature head that he carried that helped him score where peers failed. Rutherford timed his challenge to the necessity leaving Shanker on Scavenger’s Son a disappointed jockey. Scavenger’s Son had build up a sizeable lead inside the last furlong.

It was no fault of Cristopher if the opposition went kindly for the champion jockey to present him two of the four trophy events on the cards, including the all-important event, the Eveready Indian Champion Cup. If It was the hot-favourite Soviet Ride, in the Revelation Cup, who surrendered the advantage, to Bountiful Gesture, because of his burst blood vessels, Aslam Kader’s faulty planning on the favourite Altenburg made it easy for Cristopher on Alternator to wrap up main event.

Kader seeking non-existing passage between the weakening leader Access All Areas and the winner marred his chances of winning.

Smart Ruler rightly lived upto his name as the Daniel David-trainee lost about six-lengths at the gates yet he triumphed, thanks to a patient handling of the juvenile by Nic Connorton and also to the favourite Network who hung out badly when in a commanding lead up in the stretch.

On January 20, Bold Chieftan, despite his topweight, had demonstrated his superior class when treating the HSBC field with no regards.


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