Sanjay Bangar tipped to make Indian XI
Meman, the constant factor
Raman tonic for Bengal
‘Underdogs’ EB face Tolly
East Bengal, Wari in semis
Bank football
Paes-Bhupathi in quarters
Mumbai Racing/Midnight Venture likely to strike
Calcutta Racing/ Assertive Dancer shines
Calcutta Racing/Starsky was a great fighter: Vijay

Nagpur, Feb. 19: 
The in-form Sanjay Bangar is favoured to make the XI in the first Test against Zimbabwe, starting at the VCA ground on Thursday. Much-in-the-news Virender Sehwag, though, appears set to sit out.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, Bangar is “almost sure” to bat at No. 7. He will also be the third seamer, after veteran Jawagal Srinath and comeback-man Zaheer Khan. The two specialist spinners, predictably, will be Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

Thus far, Bangar has played one Test — his debut game in Mohali, versus England.

Deep Dasgupta, it is understood, will again be assigned a double-role — doing duty behind the stumps and opening with Shiv Sundar Das. Clearly, the thinktank wishes to make the most of Deep’s ability with the bat. In any case, it’s his batting which enabled him nose ahead of Ajay Ratra.

With vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and captain Sourav Ganguly occupying three of the four middle-order berths, the ‘tussle’ really can only be for slot No. 6. Unless there’s a drastic re-think, however, V.V.S. Laxman will get the berth and Sehwag will have to sit out.

Keeping Sehwag company will be Sarandeep Singh and Tinu Yohannan. That all three are tipped to not make the cut didn’t, in any way, lessen their enthusiasm during the nearly five-hour workout this morning. It also shouldn’t ‘affect’ them during the team dinner tonight.

Meanwhile, in a departure from the traditional wickets here, the one prepared for the fifth India-Zimbabwe Test in 16 months had a fair bit of grass till early this afternoon. Of course, it is to be seen just how much remains.

“There’s going to be something for everybody,” promised curator Kishore Pradhan, aware that generally it’s the batsmen who have had a ball. Incidentally, depending on how the first Test goes, the proposed re-laying of the square may either be expedited or put on hold.

Though it rained last night and drizzled this evening, inclement weather hasn’t been forecast Thursday onwards.


Nagpur, Feb. 19: 
Captains, players, coaches... So many have come and gone in the ten years of Zimbabwe’s presence in the Big League. If there has been one constant, so to say, one can only look at Mohammed ‘Babu’ Meman.

But for a 22-month period from late 1998, Meman has almost throughout been Zimbabwe’s manager. In today’s chop-and-change era, it’s quite a record.

“I suppose the players are comfortable with me... Having myself been a player, I know exactly what their requirements are... Actually, that I’ve played for the country (as an off-spinner during the 1987 World Cup) and have served as selector has, in my opinion, been of much help,” Meman told The Telegraph this evening.

But just how strict is he?

Meman was quick to respond, smiling: “You mean, whether I enforce curfew hours? Well, it’s an internal matter but, yes, whatever is decided is done so jointly by the coach (Geoff Marsh) and I...”

Though Meman is himself Zambia-born, his roots are in Gujarat (“near Surat”). His wife, Ayesha, too has ties with Gujarat. Laughing, Meman spoke of being the “unanimous choice” to especially manage the team in India and Pakistan because of the “language-factor.”

Indeed, it’s not unusual for the soft-spoken Meman to interact with officials and the hotel staff in Hindi.

As Meman is on contract with the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, he didn’t wish to talk on whether the Whites-Blacks’ “integration” has posed problems. He did, however, speak about the team’s inconsistency.

“That’s because the pool of players back home isn’t big... In other words, there’s not much competition for places. Things will improve once that does come about. In any case, if the Sri Lankan example is appreciated, then we need to be given more time,” Meman pointed out.

It’s an understandable sentiment.


Calcutta, Feb. 19: 
Not many gave Woorkeri Raman a chance once he took up the mantle of Bengal coach in September. Reaching the knockout phase of the Ranji Trophy would be a big enough achievement, they felt.

The former Test opener, however, put to shame all critics guiding a young Bengal side to the semi-finals this season. At the end of the day, he’s pretty satisfied with the way things have turned out.

“When I started off it was a question of my being able to impart something and the team being receptive as well. The team’s success means I have succeeded. But the boys deserve all the credit,” he told The Telegraph this afternoon.

“It gives you a lot of satisfaction that the boys have been able to deliver and a reward for the hard work put in. I can’t be pretending by saying that I’m not happy but the fact is the entire credit can’t be given to me nor can I be deprived of it,” he added.

The fact that the team did not do well for the last few seasons did put extra pressure on him, Raman admitted. “Not only were the boys under pressure, there was pressure on me too. It’s bound to happen when you are nurturing a team that has been doing badly, there are quite a few youngsters in their maiden season and overall a new captain”.

Making it happen was not an easy task. “I tried to establish the belief in the boys that they have to perform as a team to get the results. Everyone should contribute to the team’s cause. It’s all right if you have one or two brilliant players but I don’t think it’s the only criteria for success. The key lies in the belief that the team can win and every member feeling important in the side,” said Raman.

“I knew I was almost trying to bring in something they weren’t aware of. A lot of guys were highly inexperienced. Firstly, you had to make them feel they belonged to the team and then try and not only hone their game but also mentally make them believe that they are capable of performing at first class level.

“One should remember that you are dealing with humans and then trying to make cricketers out of them. Somewhere down the line, the cricketer starts dominating the human and that’s a better formula than the cricketer being dominated by the human.

“You have to try and know the mindset of a human before getting the cricketer out of him. That’s the key to try and communicate. I can’t tell the same thing to everybody. Different people have to be told in different ways and that forms a vital element,” said Raman of the psychological aspect.

Did this alone do the trick in making the youngsters perform? “In the overall national scenario I feel the youngsters lack guidance. It was an opportunity for me to try and get them in the right way of going about the task. There is magic wand. You have to get them to do the right thing in the way it should be done.

“I also struck a balance among the players staying focussed and also being relaxed at the same time,” Raman explained.

There have already been fears of these youngsters losing way if Raman is not available next season (he hasn’t made up his mind yet). “When I do an overall report I will try and tell these guys as to what they should be doing during the off season,” the coach said of his plans.

This apart, Raman will also suggest the players go through Buchi Babu and Moin-ud Dowla meets before the season.

The local structure also needs to be overhauled, Raman feels. “The lack of practice of being on the edge at all times is a major handicap. The local league is a quantity-oriented affair rather than a quality-oriented one. It would be very hard to convince me that a first division format of 36 teams will involve good standard, especially, when you are talking of close to 400 quality cricketers. I don’t think these numbers are right.

“I’m just drawing a parallel where you have a highly competitive league in Chennai and the first division has about 12 sides. Around 120 or 125 good club cricketers is possible when you assume that 10 percent will represent the state. So, that’s where the problem lies. Because the number of teams is more, these guys get used to more easy games. They are not on the edge every game because the competition is less.”

He thinks it’s time Bengal looked for Utpal Chatterjee’s replacement. “Utpal has done tremendously well for Bengal. But now is the time when a youngster should be brought into play. If people are going to be lulled by this false belief that Utpal will carry on for another three/four years then you could get into a situation where whenever he finishes, which might not be long away, that void will be too difficult to fill up. The team will also have to suffer in such a case.

“If a guy is ready it would not be a bad idea playing him in the XI in the easy zonal games and having Utpal for the big games. But the fact remains that no one is ready at this point. In that case, try and get one guy into the XIV. Let Utpal guide him and maybe he will be ready by that time. Sourashish Lahiri by that time should be more mature and maybe will be able to take more pressure.”


Calcutta, Feb. 19: 
The second phase of the sixth National Football League gets underway tomorrow and there is more than just a twist in what was expected to be the tale as far as the defending champions’ run in the competition is concerned.

East Bengal couldn’t perhaps imagine they would be banished to the ninth spot with 11 points after ten matches in this 22-round grind, but they have woken up to this reality that bites, and embark on a salvage-pride operation against Tollygunge Agragami tomorrow.

It will not be easy going, considering Tollygunge are placed a point and notch above their more illustrious rivals and have always done well against them in the premier tournament of the country.

East Bengal’s new coach knows that well. After replacing Manoranjan Bhattacharya after a string of dismal outings, Subhas Bhowmick did reasonably well by guiding the team to the Durand Cup semi-final with a morale-boosting win over Salgaocar, but faces a team which made life difficult for him during his previous stint as East Bengal coach a couple of seasons ago.

“We are underdogs and Tollygunge the favourites,” said Bhowmick. Quite a change, considering what used to be his opinion about the same team when he was in charge last time. But people do learn and Bhowmick says he has grown in experience.

Tollygunge also have a new coach, Aloke Mukherjee having taken over from Amal Dutta, and the team got ample time to get set under the new man during the Durand Cup-break, unlike their tomorrow’s opponents.

That break, Aloke felt, did more damage than help since the team went off action at a time when it was winning home matches. The break in rhythm apart, there is no other worry barring the unavailability of midfielder Mehtab Hossain who is out with two bookings.

Aloke said Tollygunge will not play the ultra-defensive game which had been the talking point of almost every clash involving these two in the past. “We have the players who can win, they may not be famous.”

However, he sounded a bit cautious as well, saying East Bengal need just one match to turn the tide and can be dangerous when they do that. “A big team afterall… Unwise to read too much into their present bad form,” Aloke said.

So far, East Bengal failed to make any substantial headway in their defence to the title. There was no cohesion and mobility in the midfield with a blunt forward line adding frustration to proceedings. The malice was quite widespread and grasped the defence mechanism as well, which made things worse.

With a mobile midfield manned by the workaholic Sashthi Duley and Khemtang Paite, striker Akim Abulanle can prove quite a handful and East Bengal will have to cope with this before launching into the offensive.

“Confidence and fitness was the problem when I took over,” Bhowmick diagnosed, and feels things are looking slightly better now, though he is not satisfied. “It’s a question of taking one match at a time and we know we have to work very hard.”

There are going to be a few changes in the line-up too. Goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee has been given a break, after a prolonged bad patch, and SAIL custodian Sudip Sarkar has been borrowed to run the show. But there are some injury worries concerning several players in all positions. The coach, however, is happy with the replacements at his disposal.

“This lot I have is better than the one I had earlier. There are quite a few who can replace anyone, anywhere,” Bhowmick said. He is also depending somewhat on new Brazilian recruit Jose Carlos, who he thinks is a “sharp mover even under pressure” though not an out and out scorer.

The inability to score has tormented East Bengal throughout the season but Bhowmick said it’s been sorted out. What’s bugging him now is the failure to defend and that’s what he is working on.

He will miss Dipankar Roy, Amit Das, Tushar Rakshit and I.M. Vijayan tomorrow. Jackson Egygpong is a doubtful starter.


Calcutta, Feb. 19: 
East Bengal, Wari AC and Netaji Subhas Institute reached the semi-finals of the CAB knockout meet today.

While Aurijit Basu and Avishek Jhunjhunwala shaped Wari’s nine-wicket win over Port Trust, bowlers Shib Sagar Singh and Amit Mitra did well for East Bengal and Netaji Subhas Institute, respectively.


Port Trust 235/5 in 45 ovs (Shib Shankar Banerjee 63, Uday Srivatsava 53, Prabir Mukherjee 2/29, Pradipta Majumdar 2/33). Wari 240/1 in 39.5 ovs (Aurijit Basu 113 n.o., Avishek Jhunjhunwala 95 n.o.). Wari won by 9 wkts.

East Bengal 208/9 in 45 ovs (Ajoy Verma 77, Naushad Akhtar 51, Abhijit Ganguly 35; Sanjib Sanyal 2/21, Sabir Ali 2/49, Sourav Seal 2/36). Kalighat 180 in 43.4 ovs (Mohammed Ziauddin 42, Sourav Seal 33; Shib Sagar Singh 4/37, Ajoy Verma 3/36, Dharmendra Singh 2/25). East Bengal won by 28 runs.

Shyambazar 156 in 39.4 ovs (Aniruddha Roy 50; Amit Mitra 4/18, N.V. Prakash 3/16). Netaji Subhas Institute 158/6 in 43.5 ovs (Biswanath Bose 60, Mayanka Chakraborty 40). Netaji Subhas Institute won by 4 wkts.

South Point post victory

South Point and Shyambazar AV School posted victories in the CAB inter-school (under-19) tournament today. While South Point trounced Albani Hall by 197 runs, the Shyambazar school thrashed W.W.A. Cossipore School by 152 runs.


South Point 403/3 in 40 ovs (Abhishek Banerjee 135, Abhishek Chakraborty 75, Satyabrata Gupta 57). Albani Hall 206 in 37.1 ovs (Hyder Ali 55, Abhishek Chakraborty 2/20, Sambit Dey 2/30). South Point won by 197 runs.

Shyambazar AV 312/3 in 40 ovs (Arpan Hazra 145, Pallav Dutta 54). W.W.A. Cossipore 160 in 32.5 ovs (Debashish Dutta 49; Amit Saha 3/40, Sujay Das 3/35). Shyambazar AV won by 152 runs.

Under-19 meet from today

The Milo inter-coaching camp under-19 cricket tournament will be held from tomorrow to March 2. Twenty-four teams will take part in the meet with the first round being a knockout one.

The remaining 12 teams will be divided into four groups with one from each making the semi-finals. The final will be played under floodlights at Deshapriya Park.

The final will be a 30-overs-per-side affair and the teams will play 25 overs each in all other games. The champions will take home Rs 5,000 and the runners-up Rs 3,500.


Calcutta, Feb. 19: 
Defending champions Allahabad Bank will meet Union Bank in the final of the East Zone inter-bank football championship final in Durgapur Thursday.

According to information received here, Allahabad Bank was held 1-1 by Central Bank in their last group league match. Basudeb Mondal scored for Allahabad Bank and Ramen Banik for Central. Union Bank beat Canara Bank 2-0 with goals from Dulal Patra and Bidesh Pal. In the inconsequential last match, UBI beat Punjab National Bank 2-0. Sishir Ghosh and T. Bose scored.


Calcutta, Feb. 19: 
Top seeds Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi battled their way into the quarter finals of the $725,000 Memphis ATP meet yesterday.

According to information received here, the Indian duo beat Jonas Bjorkman and Justin Gimelstob 7-6 (8-6), 2-6, (11-9). Having played a poor second set, Paes and Bhupathi did well to clinch the super tie-break. They next face Americans Andy Roddick and Jan Michael Gambill, two top singles players.


Mumbai, Feb. 19: 
Working well during her morning tryouts, the S. Mody-trained three-year-old filly Midnight Venture is expected to make a winning debut in the 1,200m M. D. Mehta Trophy, the main event at the Mumbai races on Wednesday. C. Rajendra partners the Don’t Forget Me-Fast ‘N’ Tricky daughter.


3.30 pm: Serena Pride 1. Saranyo 2. Prince of Fashion 3.

3.30 pm: Dancing Gold 1. Magical Beauty 2. Zaraius 3.

3.30 pm: Midnight Venture 1. On The Ridge 2. Jebel Ali 3.

3.30 pm: Meringue 1. Speed of Light 2. Master Honey 3.

3.30 pm: Romanza 1. Alice Charms 2. Mia Senora 3.

3.30 pm: Loyal Rebel 1. Dras 2. Big Bang 3.

Day’s Best: Dancing Gold

Double: Serena Pride & Meringue


Calcutta, Feb. 19: 
Assertive Dancer, Mack The Knife and Saladin were impressive when the following horses were exercised today.

Outer sand track

1,400m: Assertive Dancer (A. P. Singh) and Star Selection (Connorton) in 1-51s; (400m) 30s. Former was 4 ls better. Was impressive.

1,200m: Archery (Domingo) and Midnight Express (Rb) in 1-31s; (400m) 28s. Former 6 ls better.

1,000m: Lucifer (Rb) in 1-17s; (400m) 30s. Mack The Knife (K. Kumar) and Saladin (Rutherford) in 1-11s; (400m) 27s. They were level. Carbon Steel (Rutherford) and Glass Slipper (K. Kumar) in 1-12s; (400m) 28s. Former far better. Simply Dashing (R. Ahmed) and Adeline (Rb) in 1-12s; (400m) 29s. They were level.

800m: Sweet Painted Lady (Upadhya) in 57s; (400m) 29s. Easy.

600m: A 3-y-o by Procida/Your Royal Highness (Rb) in 43s; (400m) 28s.

Sand track

1,600m: Simply Monarch (Jaiswal) in 2-3s; (400m) 31s.

1,400m: Crystal Moon (Tamang) in 1-36s; (400m) 30s. Easying up.

800m: Cupala (Upadhya) in 54s; (400m) 26s.

600m: A 3-y-o by Forest Fair/Gold Souk (Tamang) in 15; 42 2/5s; (400m) 27s.


Calcutta, Feb. 19: 
The competition in the Turf Invitation Cup will be poorer in the absence of Starsky. A firm favourite for the mega turf event, scheduled to be held in Bangalore on March 3, the Dallas Todywalla-trained horse died of cardiac arrest following his track work yesterday. morning. Trainer Vijay Singh said: “He was a great fighter. it is a very unfortunate news.” He also added that the competition in the Invitation Cup does not become any easier. Vijay’s Ansbach had lost to Starsky by a proverbial whisker in the McDowell Indian Derby (Mumbai) on February 3. “Snow Dew is coming right. In fact, the filly had done everything right until she failed in the Indian Oaks, said Vijay. “She has also done well in a recent mock-race and the home turf will be her biggest advantage;” continued the champion trainer.

Incidentally, Ansbach will be bidding good bye to the Indian turf after his engagement in the Invitation Cup. The Singapore Derby in the month of May is the next stop of the prized Khaitans’ property.


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