Visitors bow to Sehwag, Sachin fury
‘I enjoyed hitting them all’
Hussain hits out at umpiring
Little Master overshadowed
East Bengal manage draw
Tollygunge wary vs JCT
Full field expected at RCGC

 
 
VISITORS BOW TO SEHWAG, SACHIN FURY 
 
 
FROM ATREYO MUKHOPADHYAY
 
Kanpur, Jan. 28: 
If the beginning of the day was murky, the end was electrifying enough to brighten up things in the Indian ranks. For, a sensational assault on the England bowlers by Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag mauled the visitors in the truncated fourth match of the one-day series at the Green Park Stadium today.

And as things unfolded, the adage ‘morning shows the day’ was pushed to the backseat, almost relegated to something old and obsolete, as the hosts took a unbeatable 3-1 lead in the six-match series.

There was little or no indication of what was to come in the morning as play started over two hours after the scheduled 9 am start following overnight rain, which left the outfield soggy and visibility below-par.

With the game being reduced to a 39-over-a-side affair, Nasser Hussain won the toss and Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight almost fulfilled the skipper’s hopes by smashing 71 in just over ten overs. Field restrictions were reduced to the first 12 overs but things continued to go England’s way as they raced to 100 by the 15th.

However, the visitors threw away the early advantage with some injudicious batting and shocking shot-selection to plunge to 166 for six in the 29th over after having reached a commanding 138 for two by the 22nd.

The Indians didn’t let things drift after this and made full use of the pulsating opening stand (134 in 17.2 overs) to gallop home in just 29.4 overs.

Man-of-the-Match Sehwag paid back his senior partner’s decision to let him enjoy most of the strike while the fielding prohibitions were on and blasted 82 from 62 balls (14 fours) to lay a more than solid foundation to India’s bid for victory. That the Delhi youngster was allowed most of the strike is evident from the fact that Sachin faced just 42 balls till Sehwag fell in the 18th over.

However, the Little Master wasn’t all blocking and pushing when he got the chance to get going as India hammered hundred in 11.2 overs and pulverised England with 20 fours in the first 12 overs. The flow of runs didn’t subside at all after Sehwag’s departure as Sourav Ganguly and Dinesh Mongia scored quickly. Of course, there was Sachin on song to ensure there was no dearth of entertainment for the capacity crowd of about 38,000.

The England bowlers and their captain were at their wits end as Sehwag and Sachin started pummelling the bowling with a bold mix of textbook and unorthodox shots.

If Sehwag’s assault was more brutal, Sachin provided aesthetic relief with some neat deflections off the pads and trademarks punches through covers and stayed calm to see India home. He also became the first man on earth to cross 11,000 ODI runs while on 48 and went on to register his 55th half-century in this version of the game.

For Sehwag, a second ODI hundred was very much on the cards when he holed out to mid-on off Paul Collingwood but skipper Sourav also caressed some classy fours to make sure England didn’t fight back.

Sachin cut loose at this stage and made most of too many fielders inside the ring to register a few fours with characteristic ease and finesse. Quite fittingly, he ended the contest, which was quite over by then, by lifting Jeremy Snape for a four and a six off successive deliveries. His unbeaten 87 came off 67 balls with 14 fours and a six.

Earlier, England seemed determined to post a big total and looked well on course with Knight and Trescothick throwing their bats to almost everything. It wasn’t elegant always, but effective nonetheless.

Knight, spared the axe following James Foster’s sudden illness which forced Trescothick to keep wickets, was clearly the more enterprising and rocked Ajit Agarkar with a queer blend of unorthodox slogging and some beautifully timed drives on the off-side.

Knight ended his poor run on tour with his 18th ODI fifty (74 off 82 balls, 9 fours) but paid the price for living dangerously soon after. It took some disciplined bowling by skipper Sourav and the rest to check the flow of runs as England managed just 40 between over Nos. 22 and 32 for the loss of four wickets.

A promising start was thus blown away and it was up to the recalled Graham Thorpe to take the team to a challenging total. Indiscreet shots from the other end, however, minimized his good work and after that, there was no escaping the fury of Sachin and Sehwag.

   

 
 
‘I ENJOYED HITTING THEM ALL’ 
 
 
FROM ATREYO MUKHOPADHYAY
 
Kanpur, Jan, 28: 
The capacity crowd at the Green Park Stadium might not have witnessed a slaughter of the English bowling had Indian captain Sourav Ganguly not been asked by the umpires to spend 23 minutes in the dressing room.

The Indian skipper suffered another hamstring injury, this time on the left, which forced him to quit bowling after 5.1 overs of very disciplined stuff that fetched him two wickets at a crucial stage of England’s innings in today’s fourth one-dayer.

As luck would have it, Sourav and the rest of the Indian thinktank decided to chase the challenging total with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag spearheading the ‘attack’. And what an attack it turned out to be!

The Delhi powerhouse missed out on a hundred but led his team to an eight-wicket cruise with a remarkable assault that had the Englishmen scurrying for cover. “It was not planned, I just decided to go ball by ball in the beginning,” said Sehwag, who likes to express himself in Hindi apart from his dashing strokeplay.

“The idea was to keep the asking rate within manageable limits, to pull it below five an over,” said Sehwag. “I was trying to treat the ball by merit, that’s what Sachin told me in the earlier phase of the innings.

“There was no pressure as such, just the goal to keep the run-rate going. The wicket was low and slow but I decided to go for my shots. Sachin did tell me to go for 50 more after I reached my half-century but I had to keep playing my shots.”

Sehwag said he was a bit disappointed at missing out on a second ODI hundred but still rated that three-figure mark versus New Zealand in Sri Lanka as his best yet.

“I was instructed to start afresh and going accordingly but don’t regret the shot, which led to my dismissal,” Sehwag said.

“It would have gone for four had it cleared mid-on. I was focused on playing my shots, out ho gaya to kya… I enjoyed hitting them all,” said the diminutive belter.

His skipper was obviously full of praise. “He was outstanding and has been quite impressive in his short career so far. It will depend on the situation whether to send him up the order more often,” said Sourav.

Sourav’s England counterpart was also quite astonished. “A carefree player who likes to hit the ball and thinks he can hit everything.

“Clearly, he looks full of confidence. We got him early in the first two games but he has come good after that,” said Nasser Hussain.

Honest confession, no doubt, but some concern as well, taking into account two games still remaining in the six-match series with the next coming up at Sehwag’s hometown of Delhi on Friday.

Sourav fit

Meanwhile Sourav said that there was no concern over his fitness for the rest of the series.

“I felt no pain while running during batting,” Sourav said later.

Sourav had missed the third ODI in Chennai because of a hamstring injury. Anil Kumble had led in his absence.

The Indians today wore black arm bands as a token of respect to Mark Mascarenhas who died in a road accident near Nagpur yesterday.

   

 
 
HUSSAIN HITS OUT AT UMPIRING 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kanpur, Jan. 28: 
England skipper Nasser Hussain didn’t disagree that it was the failure of the middle-order that kept his team from posting a total which could have pushed the issue beyond India.

But more than blaming his batsmen for playing some suicidal shots after reaching a position of strength, he condemned the slow surface. “It was never easy out there. The ball was stopping and coming.

“With the ball getting softer and the slower bowlers operating, it was always going to be difficult for batsmen. Unfortunately, we had people with more pace on the ball,” Hussain said.

However, he again appeared displeased with the umpiring. “We were pretty convinced we had Sachin and Sehwag out early on. Whether they were out or not is not for me to decide but I think it (the match) would have been a closer game had we got those decisions.”

Asked whether the middle-order collapse had more to do with their own inablility than the Indian bowlers, Hussain said: “Bit of both, really. But it wasn’t easy to play shots with the ball getting soft and Indians bowling wicket to wicket.

“This is no excuse,” the England skipper said but added this was a reason behind their submission, nonetheless. “A bit of inexperience showed up in our batting and we have to be careful in shot selection and do a bit of risk assessment when we sit back and analyse.”

He ruled out losing heart and said his team’s aim now will be to concentrate and get the basics right. “If we get the basice right we will be competitive in the next two games and that’s what matters.” Sourav Ganguly, also, refused to accept the series was India’s. “We have to take it game by game. That’s how one-day cricket is. But today’s win does give us some psychological advantage.”

White to join squad

Craig White, after being included in the 16-man one-day squad failed to make the trip following a knee surgery. Howver, his recovery has been faster than expected and he will join the team in Delhi tomorrow for the last two games.

His chances of playing, according to team officials, are slim. He will, of course, go to New Zealand — England’s next stop after India, for a five-match one-day series.

   

 
 
LITTLE MASTER OVERSHADOWED 
 
 
BY SUNIL GAVASKAR
 
 
Virender Sehwag’s blistering batting ensured yet another victory and with it Indians are now certain not to lose the series having taken a 3-1 lead in the series with two matches to go. He even overshadowed Sachin Tendulkar during their partnership which is never an easy thing to do.

The little champion did look a bit more pensive than usual and with the accidental death of his close friend, Mark Mascarenhas that was understandable. Those who know him would have also known that he would produce something special for his departed mate. But it was Sehwag, who stole the show with an array of shots that took one’s breath away as much for the power of the shots as also for the simplicity of their execution.

He once again gifted his wicket away unnecessarily and missed out on a certain century. Though he may not feel too badly about it now, when he is 60 years old and reclining in his chair he may well rue that he missed out on what could have been another one-day century in his career.

There was no pressure of a high asking rate and there was nothing remotely threatening about the English bowling and with the runs coming almost at will the shot that he got out to wasn’t really required at all. It was an unforgettable innings, which deserved to be crowned with a century.

Tendulkar is far too experienced to get carried away or to feel insecure if the batsman at the other end is outscoring him and he played yet another capital knock. He got to 11,000 one-day runs quietly with a single but did not miss out on the scoreable balls and he finished the game in style with a boundary and sixer to score yet another emphatic victory for India.

Such margins of victories are important from the morale point of view for it not only gives the winning team the belief that they are that much better but it demoralises the opposition. The previous two victories have been by close margins, which have given England the hope that they can compete but this victory showed that India were much the superior side.

For a change the Indian fielding also was top class and though not outstanding as the South African team it was one of their better efforts and what is expected in limited overs cricket. Their fielders didn’t hang around with the ball but had it on its way quickly which made the batsman think again about going for the extra run and the catching too was sure.

Sourav Ganguly showed he was back to fitness after missing out in the Chennai game and though he didn’t complete his overs and had to go back to the dressing room he did come in to bat and ran smartly between the wickets. He too missed out on the chance to score some runs and get some confidence. More importantly with the calls for his head being louder it was important for him to have a good score under his belt. Instead he threw his wicket away to an ungainly shot and with that has almost shown a death wish.

Captaincy of the Indian team is never an easy job with ten million others thinking they know better, but it becomes even more difficult when the captain shows that the comments and speculations are affecting him. The shot he got out to was a no-no and it has only made life more difficult for the captain. The Indian team may well be a little more relaxed after this win but one is not too sure about the captain !

   

 
 
EAST BENGAL MANAGE DRAW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 28: 
There must be something basically wrong with East Bengal. Probably it is a confidence trick that time has played with its players. Seems today they just do not believe they can win. It came out so horribly stark today, in their National Football League match at the Salt Lake Stadium. So tempting it is to use the word ‘decadence’, it’s scary. It almost mirrors what their rivals, FC Kochin, are today.

FC Kochin are a bits-and-pieces team that plays in the National League today partly because the AIFF’s bosses couldn’t care less if class went to the dogs, and partly because once they had seen glory. And East Bengal are the reigning champions. The local giants did move ahead through a goal by Dipendu Biswas, but some unexplained complacency found their defence sleeping as Kulothungan equalised and L. Muhamed even pushed the Kerala team ahead. The blame for the latter, of course, has to be borne by ‘keeper Sangram Mukherjee.

It was sheer luck that Jiten Rai managed a 74th minute equaliser and the reigning champions have gathered their first point in five matches, having lost the last four. That makes the champions’ tally to 11 points from ten matches and they stay on at eighth spot.

The morning rains had rendered the field rather soggy, and the quick strong sun thereafter did not help as the drying process was unequal. If one expected the Bengal team to make better use of such conditions, such expectations were belied. Play was slow, and that was expected.

Play was unattractive, and that was expected too. But play also was sans any level of game-plan. One only saw Omolaja Olalekan fail to take the field through a later injury, and a Dipendu-I.M. Vijayan attack line as a ‘surprise’ element as shocking as good made little green apples. And the punchline is that Vijayan and soccer have not been friends for long now.

Dipendu did what he was supposed to. In the 15th minute he dived from just inside the box to head in a Tushar Rakshit free-kick from the left. That was when East Bengal were dominating in pygmyland. There were wayward midfield movements, but later in the match the juniors realised there was much to be had from the local bosses and Gulliver was soon tied down to that elusive midfield.

Then FC Kochin noticed how lazy the home defence was. And, in the fifth minute of the second half, thrust a counter-attack. What resulted was a mele at the East Bengal goalmouth and everybody was showing off to the vacant galleries. That was when this youngster Kulothungan decided to try a high volley. Goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee probably though it would take the roof of the netting, but he thought wrong, as the ball dipped sharply. And there was the East Bengal defence looking dazes at the equaliser.

What is pathetic is that there wasn’t even anger left. So spent looked the East Bengal side, devoid of the gusto that makes soccer a power sport and not a leisure activity like some other disciplines. In the 16th minute of the second session East Bengal managed a few upfront attacks, but a quick counter-attack, and there was L. Muhamad taking a tentative 25-yard grounder. It was a slowish shot, roling in full view of the goalkeeper and Mukherjee missed! Somewhat difficult to believe, but that is what East Bengal soccer is today, that is where their confidence level lies.

Jo Paul Ancheri, who has never been able to decide whether he is finally fit to play football, was brought in. It could have been done a trifle earlier, it seemed, as he at least managed to throw his weight into the rival defence zone.

And in came Jose Carlos Da Silva. Talent, they say, from Brazil. He flits around a bit, has not shown too much football so far, though. And off a defensive lapse, after Carlos’ shot had come off the post, Jiten Rai shot home the equaliser from close.

TEAMS

FC KOCHIN: Ali Abubaker, T Roopesh, L Suresh, Obinna Winners, Shafeeq, Sushanth Mathew (Jamsheed Khan, 85), L Muhammed, K Noushad, Kulothungan, Niaz Rehman (Dinesh Nair, 90), Dileep Kumar.

EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee, Suley Musah, Falguni Dutta, Anit Kumar Ghosh, Jackson Egygpong, Ratan Singh, Amit Das, Tushar Rakshit (Srikanta Dutta, 78), Jiten Rai, Dipendu Bsiwas (Jose Carlos da Silva, 72), I M Vijayan (Jo Paul Ancheri, 62).

Referee: Walter Pereira (Maharashtra).

   

 
 
TOLLYGUNGE WARY VS JCT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 28: 
Tollygunge Agragami are slowly planning their move away from relegation zone in the National Football League. There is a satisfaction level evident after their win over FC Kochin recently, and new coach Aloke Mukherjee wishes to keep it that way when they meet JCT here tomorrow.

Mukherjee is wary, though. Whatever the position of JCT today, versus Bengal teams, Punjab teams have always shone. “I have just about taken over,” he said, “and am not too sure of the team yet.” He feels, though his team is settling down well, the Hardeep Sangas and the Hardip Gills in the JCT team can create trouble.

So what does Mukherjee have up his sleeve versus Sukhwinder Singh’s boys? Akeem, a frequent matchwinner for Tollygunge could be the answer, though the new coach is not too sure it will be so. He plans to try him out, but has yet to decide who to drop for that.

Veterans’ table tennis

In the veterans’ table tennis nationals held in Mahabaleswar recently, Bengal’s Sadhan Dutta secured silver among above 50 men, and the men’s above 40 team won bronze. The team comprised Subroto Dey, Tapan Das Chowdhury and Subhasish Gupta. The women’s above 40 team won bronze.

   

 
 
FULL FIELD EXPECTED AT RCGC 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 28: 
Indian Golf Tour Order of Merit leader, 36-year-old Mukesh Kumar of Mhow and local star and former Indian Open winner Firoz Ali Mollah will be among the top draw for the Rs 10 lakh Telegraph Open to be held over the Royal Calcutta Golf Club course from Wednesday to February 2.

The Hero Honda Tour conductors Tiger Sports Management expects a full field of 100 professionals for the winner’s cheque of Rs 1.62 lakh. The runner-up will get Rs 1.12 lakh.

Apart from the above, in the race for top honours are thrice Order of Merit winner Vijay Kumar, twice Honda-Siel PGA champion Uttam Singh Mundy, twice Indian Open winner Ali Sher, Indrajit Bhalotia, Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (another local star), Rahil Gangjee and more. The cut after the first two rounds will see how many can make it to the money-making rounds.

The Tour has been slowly opening up to foreigners as well and in this Open there are four Bangladeshi entrants and one each from Pakistan and Nepal.

Mukesh and Firoz, of course, have set up a very close rivalry, and this Open could make or break that for the Tour topper’s bonus of Rs 10 lakh. Mukesh’s earnings this season approach Rs 13 lakh, while Firoz’ is nearabouts of Rs 9 lakh. Firoz, of course, knows the RCGC like few other, having won his Indian Open title here in 1998.

Course chief Neeraj Bhalla said the rains today should provide a soft and pleasant touch to the fairways and “it could be classic golf all the way.” The course, itself hasn’t changed much with only a few cosmetic departures along the 72-par walk.

Meanwhile, Firoz said that he has settled down to the Indian tour, though the Asian Tour remains an on-off affair because of a lack of sponsorship. “But the way golf is growing in the country and with the good money coming in, one can expect in the next five years that players like me can do the extensive Asian Tour.” It has been a big growth of prize money in the last five years — from Rs 50 lakh overall to Rs 2.5 crore, even with the top sponsor ITC pulling out.

A new idea has also come to the fore, in which either the Tour or the Indian Gold Union (or the two together) could hire a set of pros to act as coaches for the current pros. That would allow the Tour players to come back to their coaches with the videos and correct whatever swing defects there may have been.

   
 

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