Sourav set to stay captain
Sourav return to boost Bengal
Sabyasachi, Rupesh kill seeds
Army XI, BSF make quarter final league
Firoz for Dhaka golf

Calcutta, Feb.4: 
Sourav Ganguly is set to keep the India captaincy. His reappointment, though, is expected to be for the forthcoming home series versus Zimbabwe only and not the tour to the West Indies as well.

An announcement is expected on February 14, once Board secretary Niranjan Shah returns from Christchurch (after an ICC session) and convenes the selection committee meeting. Significantly, Sourav is a month away from completing two very eventful years as full-time captain.

Chief selector Chandu Borde’s Sourav-specific remarks at the end of the Tests against England, six weeks ago, did fuel much speculation, but The Telegraph learns Sourav’s reappointment “seems a formality.” He deserves to keep the job.

Of course, equations could have been different had Sourav himself not been among runs in the just-concluded ODIs versus England. A hamstring injury kept the captain out of the Chennai one-dayer, but he had scores of 42 (Calcutta), 14 (Cuttack), 26 (Kanpur), 74 (Delhi) and 80 (Mumbai).

Sourav was particularly brilliant at the Wankhede last evening and that one innings alone “should shut up” his detractors — for the time being, at least. It’s another matter India still lost the match, though the bottomline which really counts is that two defeats in-a-row notwithstanding, the series ended 3-3.

Borde, it may be recalled, had stunned the fraternity by revealing he and his colleagues (Madanlal, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra and Sanjay Jagdale) “could have reviewed” the India captaincy had Sourav not been appointed for both the Tests and ODIs against England.

The remarks came moments after the Test series had ended 1-0 in India’s favour. And, one understands, a few days after one of the selectors “floated” the idea of sounding out Sachin Tendulkar. His colleagues promptly said “no,” but “concern” over Sourav’s own lack of form in Test cricket was (understandably) shared by everybody.

[By the way, what is termed as the Sachin-factor does remain ‘present’, but the maestro isn’t inclined towards the captaincy. Not at the moment, certainly.]

In 23 Test innings in 2001, the captain had only one fifty-plus score: The Man of the Match-award winning unbeaten 98 in Kandy. It’s for this reason, more than anything else, that the selectors may not reappoint Sourav beyond the Zimbabwe series.

In a sense, then, Sourav will yet again be on trial — hardly hugely comforting for any captain. At the same time, the ball will be in Sourav’s half to try and force the selectors shift to the longer-appointment-mode.

The February 21-March 19 series will feature two Tests (Nagpur and Delhi) and five ODIs (Faridabad, Mohali, Kochi, Hyderabad and Guwahati). The Indians leave for the West Indies soon after that.


Calcutta, Feb. 4: 
Eight seasons ago, Bengal last made the quarter finals of the Ranji Trophy outplaying Hyderabad on way to the title-round. Success has eluded the side since 1993-94, but the arrival of a ‘foreign’ coach seems to have worked wonders with them this season.

There seemed to be a quiet confidence in their ranks as they prepared to lock horns with Gujarat at the Eden from tomorrow. This will be the first meeting between the two sides in the championship’s history.

Sourav Ganguly’s availability for this crucial game will lend solidity and flexibility to the Bengal middle-order. His presence is sure to be an important factor in deciding the course of the game. The Indian skipper, who returned to the city this morning, could not be present at the match-eve nets.

There was no sense of awe, no feeling of complacency at Bengal practice today. Rather, there was this determination of having to make it to the final hurdle.

Coach Woorkeri Raman is, though, not willing to look that far. At least, not for the moment. “We’ll take one match at a time,” he said.

As the Bengal coach concedes, being able to perform as a unit has contributed to their recent success and development of a new-found team spirit.

“Unlike other seasons, we did put in a lot of effort in the months leading to the start of the season. The boys put in long hours and that is showing in their performance,” explained Rohan Gavaskar.

Bengal have won four of their five matches outright leading to the quarters. Moreover, they have performed creditably under pressure at away games. In fact, this tie will only be their second match at home this season.

“It definitely has an advantage when the boys are used to the conditions,” felt Raman.

The innings victory over Rajasthan in the pre-quarters has done enough to boost the conviction of the youngsters in the team. The success of Subhomoy Das and Shabbir Ali has come at the right time and goes to prove the team’s potential.

“Our strength lies in all three departments of the game — batting, bowling and fielding. The biggest gain has been that all the players have chipped in some way or the other,” said Rohan.

The bowling options are sure to widen with the presence of Sourav. Shabir Ali has impressed with his six-wicket haul in Jaipur and should get some assistance from the Eden wicket along with Laxmi Ratan Shukla, specially with the early morning dew sure to assist seamers.

Utpal Chatterjee and Sourashish Lahiri should also get a chance to play their part in the later stages.

The batting will revolve around Deep Dasgupta, Devang Gandhi, Alokendu Lahiri and, of course, Sourav. It is likely that Amitava Chakraborty will open with Deep.

Gujarat will be no pushovers having reached this stage with three outright victories, including one against defending champions Baroda in the zonal phase. They overcame Andhra Pradesh by virtue of the first innings lead in the pre-quarters.

A good mix of youth and experience is their forte with the likes of Bhavin Mehta and Niraj Patel likely to put up a strong resistance.

Raman was not reading much into his opponents’ strengths. “I am more concerned about how we play. If we can play to our potential we should have it easy.”

But he is not underestimating them either. “They are in a sense unknown because they have not qualified to this stage very often like other well known teams. That in a way makes one wary of their capabilities,” the Bengal coach observed.

“The boys are very focussed and upbeat. Hopefully, things will go well for us as in the last game,” Raman said.

There was some confusion over the pitch to be used with the host association preferring to keep it a secret till the evening. As has been the norm, a first innings lead may tilt things for one team in the end.


BENGAL (likely): Deep Dasgupta, Amitava Chakraborty, Devang Gandhi, Sourav Ganguly, Rohan Gavaskar, Alokendu Lahiri, Subhomoy Das, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Utpal Chatterjee, Sourashish Lahiri, Shabbir Ali.

GUJARAT (from): Mukund Parmar (captain), Nilesh Modi, M. Joshi Bora, Tejesh Varsani, Bhavin Mehta, Niraj Patel, Kirat Damani, Shyamal Bhatt, Lalit Patel, Kalpesh Patel, Pallav Vora, Salil Yadav, Vivek Pareek, Hitesh Majumder, Vijay Patel.

Umpires: S. Dendapani (Kochi), S.V. Ramani (Chennai).

Match Referee: Surendranath Sharma (Punjab).


Calcutta, Feb. 4: 
Local challengers Sabyasachi Bose and Rupesh Roy were the news-makers on the opening day of the Bharat Petroleum ITF junior meet at DKS today.

Qualifier Bose stunned fourth-seeded Indonesian Al Imron 6-3, 6-4 in a boys’ singles, first round match, while wild card Roy accounted for No. 7 and another Indonesian, Imanuel Prawobo 6-1, 6-2.

The script went according to seedings in remaining first round contests with top seeds Amanjot Singh and Megha Vakharia notching up comfortable victories. Singh, the junior world No. 55, ousted Israeli wild card Miki Laser 6-0, 6-2. Megha had it even easier, against local qualifier Karina Ahuja 6-0, 6-0.


BOYS: Amanjot Singh (Ind, 1) bt Miki Laser (Isr) 6-0, 6-2; Jaco Matthew (Ind, 2) bt Harris Emanda Tedjokusumo (Ina) 6-2, 6-2; Rishi Behl (Ind, 3) bt Rewanath Datta (Ind) 6-4, 6-0; Somdev Dev Varman (Ind, 5) bt M. Kripakar (Ind) 6-1, 6-0; Divij Sharan (Ind, 6) bt Saurabh Kohli (Ind) 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4; Tushar Liberhan (Ind, 8) bt Arka Mondal (Ind) 6-2, 6-3; Gou Jie (Chn) bt Vikas Punna (Ind) 2-6, 6-2, 6-3; Amit Inbar (Ina) bt Ajai Selvaraj (Ind) 6-1, 6-4; Dor Wertiemer (Isr) bt Abhay Prakash (Ind) 6-3, 6-3); Chatwinder Singh (Ind) bt Manoj Sewa (Ind) 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-1; V.M. Ranjit (Ind) bt Vikram Aditya menon (Ind) 7-5, 6-0; Imanuel Prakoso (Ind) bt Lior Barbash (Isr) 6-4, 6-0; Dhrub Kumar (Ind) bt Aziz Abdurazakov (Uzb) 7-5, 7-6 (7-3); Boris Kurtovic (Cro) bt Nihal Advani (Ind) 6-2, 6-2.

GIRLS: Megha Vakharia (Ind, 1) bt Karina Ahuja (Ind) 6-0, 6-0; Sana Bhambri (Ind, 3) bt Punam Reddy (Ind) 6-3, 4-6, 6-1; Priyanka Parekh (Ind) bt Sanjukta Baruah (Ind) 6-2, 6-1; Reenu Jaykumar (Ind) bt Sharmishtha Chowdhury (Ind) 6-2, 6-0; Rui Du (Chn, 8) bt Nivedita Venkatesh (Ind) 6-3, 6-1; Shivika Burman (Ind) bt Taslima Akhtar (Ban) 6-1, 6-1; Ragini Vimal (Ind) bt Devanshi Rajgharia (Ind) 6-3, 6-3; Hsuan Hwang (Chn Tpe, 7) bt Varsha Datta (Ind) 6-1, 6-0.


New Delhi, Feb. 4: 
Fancied Army XI and seven-time champions Border Security Force (BSF) entered the quarter final league phase of the 114th Durand Cup football tournament here today. BSF trounced Karim’s City Club 3-0, while Army XI pipped Indian Nationals 1-0.

BSF and Army XI topped their respective groups with six points and an all-win record.

BSF now join seeded Mahindra United and FC Kochin in group C of the quarter final league. Army XI are in group D along with Churchill and AIFF under-19.

After a day’s rest, the Durand quarter final league kicks off on Wednesday, with two quarter final league matches. Former champions JCT, Salgaocar and Zee Churchill have already arrived in the capital. JCT are without three key players — defenders Pawan Kumar and Taranjit Singh and midfielder Harinder Singh. Both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are expected on Thursday.

Indian Nationals’ forwards failed to be on target even once. Army XI scored the match winner in the 70th minute through Lal Sangliana.


Calcutta, Feb. 4: 
Current Indian Tour leader Mukesh Kumar and second placed Firoz Ali is sure to lend plenty of thrills to the second Dutch Bangla Bank Open, to be played at the Kurmitola Golf Club in Dhaka from tomorrow.

The tournament, the only professional meet in Bangladesh, boasts a prize money of 15 lakh taka, and is part of the Hero Honda Indian Tour.

The main tournament, offering a winner’s cheque of 2,43,000 taka, will start Wednesday and the total field is expected to comprise of 80 professionals and 20amateurs.


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