Full-strength India high on confidence
I’ve been passionate about captaincy: Sourav
Carlisle: No ego problem with former captains
EB end win drought
Orissa, Assam in goal spree
Amritinder in lead
8-wkt win for St Xavier’s
U-19 cricket
Race Review/ Arterial won like a true stayer
Mumbai Racing/ Mumbai tips

Nagpur, Feb. 20: 
With Zimbabwe ranked just above Bangladesh, even a most emphatic series win by India won’t actually count for too much. Yet, a convincing victory in the two Tests will surely boost confidence ahead of the more demanding engagements in the West Indies and England.

This, then, is the backdrop to a strong-on-ammunition India’s first Test series of 2002.

It’s been two years since India lost at home, but if that alone dampens the spirits of Stuart Carlisle’s men, Zimbabwe can take some comfort from two factors: Stunning India in the last Test (Harare, eight months ago) and forcing more than an honourable draw in the last encounter at the VCA ground — in late 2000.

“I’ve been asking the boys to aim big. Therefore, it’s 2-0 that we are looking at,” informed Zimbabwe’s newest coach, Geoff Marsh, during a brief chat with The Telegraph. Given the work ethic he has been instilling, Marsh can’t exactly be totally rubbished.

Equally, the (1999) World Cup-winning coach must himself be aware how tough it is to beat India in India. Incidentally, Marsh was with Australia in 1997-98 when Mark Taylor’s men lost 1-2.

Also, it’s unlikely that the visitors aren’t ‘concerned’ about political developments back in Zimbabwe. Though nobody will go on record, anxiety over their families’ well-being is bound to forever be at the back of their minds. It’s another matter that this itself could serve to inject josh.

Clearly not the sort to underestimate any opposition, Sourav Ganguly insisted “ten days of good cricket” alone will guarantee success. The Indian captain added: “It’s a fact that we are a much stronger team compared to 2000-2001... Then, Anil Kumble wasn’t available and Harbhajan Singh hadn’t made his comeback.”

Coach John Wright nodded in agreement.

Indeed, having been embarrassed by Muttiah Muralidharan in the recent series in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe have their task cut out against Harbhajan and Kumble. Carlisle, though, didn’t wish to concede psychological points.

Specifically, Carlisle (who will open with Trevor Gripper) said: “Look, Murali can bowl six different balls in every over. Also, he gets more turn than Harbhajan... We do have a gameplan for the Indian spinners and, as you would have noticed, some of our guys have been working on the reverse sweep...”

Sourav, for his part, has reservations about how effective the reverse sweep will be. In any case, India must quickly evict Andy Flower, arguably the world’s No.1 batsman against spinners. For the record, Andy totalled an awesome 540 runs — including an unbeaten 232 here — during that two-Test series in late 2000.

Andy wasn’t successful in Lanka, but he’s such a classy player that regaining form shouldn’t at all be a tall order. That the Zimbabwean selectors have taken the big gloves off Andy should, logically, help him focus that much more on batting.

Bad news, then, for bowlers.

The Indians will also have to closely watch another former captain, Alistair Campbell, who is making a comeback after being disciplined by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Campbell hasn’t scored as many runs as he should have, but the experience of 56 Tests remains invaluable.

Zimbabwe are expected to field three quicks — vice-captain Heath Streak, Travis Friend and Brighton Watambwa. Raymond Price is the sole specialist spinner, who will be supported by Grant Flower and Gripper.

Having spoken of “negative tactics” perhaps being useful on the fourth and fifth days, it will be interesting how Carlisle handles his spinners. In fact, Marsh and the captain must already have minutely studied tapes of the Ahmedabad and Bangalore Tests, where Ashley Giles had a one-point agenda: Frustrating Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin, by the way, will be playing his 90th Test and the form he strikes will set the tone for the fortnight. Much of the attention will also be on vice-captain Rahul Dravid who, having missed the ODIs versus England, returns to international cricket.

Very much in focus will, of course, be Sourav himself. With just one fifty-plus score throughout 2001 in Tests, this series is an excellent opportunity to work towards regaining a mid-40s average, instead of barely staying in the 40s, as of now.

“In the past, I’ve posted some good scores at the VCA and, hopefully, this Test will see my return to form... It’s not that I’ve not been trying but, yes, there have been occasions when I’ve thrown my wicket away,” Sourav remarked.

Sourav will bat at No. 5, after Shiv Sundar Das, Deep Dasgupta, Dravid and Sachin. Following a late-night development, the captain will probably be followed by Virender Sehwag and not V.V.S. Laxman. The selectors, it is learnt, are “strongly” in favour of dropping the latter. The question to be asked is: Why, then, was Laxman picked in the XIV?

As reported in these columns today, slot No. 7 will go to Sanjay Bangar and the four specialist bowlers will be Kumble, Harbhajan, Jawagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan. Unless the captain and coach have their way, Laxman will join Sarandeep Singh and Tinu Yohannan on the reserves bench.

“Really, this is the best possible XIV,” was Sourav’s opinion, talking generally. Here, certainly, one can’t disagree.

Predictably, the captain winning the toss won’t hesitate to bat and Carlisle did make a point about the wicket having “much less grass” this morning. He added: “Should we get first strike, a total of around 400 is what we will be aiming at.”

Though Sourav didn’t go public with his thoughts, his target is bound to be appreciably higher. Significantly, the last Test produced no less than 1,494 runs with Man of the Match (and Series) Andy alone getting 287.


INDIA: Shiv Sundar Das, Deep Dasgupta, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag/ V.V.S.Laxman, Sanjay Bangar, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan.

ZIMBABWE: Stuart Carlisle, Trevor Gripper, Gavin Rennie, Andy Flower, Alistair Campbell, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu, Raymond Price, Brighton Watambwa.

Umpires: Srinivas Venkatraghavan and David Shepherd.

Match Referee: John Reid.


Nagpur, Feb. 20: 
“It’s a big year for cricket, a huge challenge for us, players,” is how Sourav Ganguly, the Indian captain, opened our conversation. What he didn’t exactly say in as many words is that the year ahead — leading to the 2003 World Cup — will also make a heavy demand on captains.

Sourav, otherwise, was typically candid during the 30-minute interview with The Telegraph at the team hotel (Pride, just off the airport here) this afternoon.

Following are excerpts

On being a fortnight away from completing two years as full-time India captain

It’s been a period of ups and downs... Barring the recent trip to South Africa, where we didn’t at all get our act right, the team hasn’t done too badly. At the same time, I accept we haven’t been outstanding either — except during the Test series at home, against Australia.

On this period having been so eventful: The match-fixing controversy, injuries to key players, the Mike Denness episode...

Yes, I took charge at a difficult time... There was considerable dirt around in Indian cricket then... The team struggled with injuries... It’s been challenging and a process of learning. Overall, there are more pluses than minuses.

On whether he is under pressure now that chief selector Chandu Borde has revealed Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, too, were “considered” before he was himself re-appointed captain last week

Not at all. After all, the selectors are within their rights to discuss candidates... The announcement didn’t upset me. I’m aware that nobody is above accountability and that it’s the performance which matters.

On vice-captain Dravid publicly supporting him the other day

A nice gesture... Just shows the respect teammates have for the Indian captain. Personally, nothing matters more than the respect of the players I share the dressing room with.

On whether, with the benefit of two years’ experience, he will be approaching the job any differently

Well, just about everybody in the country knows more than the captain himself... Look, I’ve always done what I’ve myself thought is right. At times, the moves have clicked. At times, they haven’t. What is important is to back decisions. More important, to back the players.

On what he has himself learnt as captain

(Smiles) I’ve turned wiser... Yes, I have... The ups and downs do teach you quite a few things... Then, I’ve learnt to be patient. Captaining India is a tough job, yet I’ve been passionate about it.

On the toughest decision taken as captain

Difficult to answer... Honestly, straightaway, I can’t think of one instance... Let me put it this way: It was tough accepting the dropping of V.V.S. Laxman after the first three ODIs versus England.

On the most satisfying moments

In the Tests, it’s got to be beating Australia; in the ODIs, our excellent run till the ICC KnockOut final in Nairobi (October 2000).

On whether, in the past two years, he has specifically discussed the captaincy-bit with any of the former stars

With Mr Sunil Gavaskar, a couple of times... Then, I’ve interacted with Geoffrey Boycott and Barry Richards... At the end of the day, though, captaincy is largely about how you react to a particular situation. To a large extent, a captain is only as good as his team.

On the one captain who has always impressed him

Steve Waugh... Forever positive and aggressive... Always delivering under pressure... Steve’s the sort to command respect and, frankly, it’s still difficult to accept he has been removed as Australia’s one-day captain... I’ve also liked Stephen Fleming... New Zealand don’t have superstars but, even in tough situations, the captain himself remains cool and composed.

On criticism

It’s fine if it’s logical, otherwise... Actually, I wouldn’t like to give importance to people who don’t deserve even one bit of attention... Indeed, when there’s a motive behind the criticism, I’m sure even the people can see through that.

On the batsman in Sourav not delivering in Tests during the past two years

(After a pause) I’ve struggled in the past year, specially... I haven’t capitalised on the many starts... It’s been a bad phase and I’m looking to come out of it. At least, I’ve been regularly contributing in one form of the game.

On whether too many ‘well-wishers’ have been advising him on what to do

Wouldn’t say so... Bottomline is nobody knows my own game better than myself and, so, I’ll myself have to come out of this phase. Nobody else can get the runs for me.

On whether fatherhood has changed him

It has… No longer, for instance, do I get worked up over criticism which isn’t at all called for… I’ve changed, yes.

Finally, just how hot is the ‘hot seat’

(Laughs) Don’t think it’s as hot anywhere else in the world.


Nagpur, Feb. 20: 
Though Mohammed Azharuddin had four former captains in the side which toured Australia in 1991-92, generally, it’s the Pakistan XI which is packed with ex-’hot seat’ occupants. Now, the present Zimbabwe side has four former captains.

Clearly, Stuart Carlisle does have a ‘job’ on his hands. Zimbabwe’s newest ‘hot seat’ occupant, though, views this “positively.”

“The only way I look at it is that I can fall back on the experience of the ex-captains (Andy Flower, Alistair Campbell, Heath Streak and Grant Flower)... That’s a positive thing and, really, there’s no ego problem between us,” he remarked, interacting with the Media.

Carlisle continued: “Actually, I’m quite enjoying the captaincy... One keeps learning...” Incidentally, his deputy is his one-time captain — Streak.

After a pause, though, Carlisle did acknowledge it “wasn’t nice” to keep changing captains and that it was important for the team to get its “rhythm” going.

Later, speaking to The Telegraph, Carlisle picked Steve Waugh (now only Australia’s Test captain) as his role-model. “Steve’s aggression, his body-language... It’s quite remarkable.”

Smiling, he added: “At one time, I even rated Hansie Cronje very highly, but...”

Of course, at one time, many others had the Carlisle-views on Cronje.


Calcutta, Feb. 20: 

A goal seconds into the match, a bizarre equaliser barely two minutes after that and a strong left-footed finish by Jo Paul Ancheri 25 minutes later marked the resumption of the National Football League in the city.

Today’s 11th-round clash between East Bengal and Tollygunge Agragami at Salt Lake Stadium saw the former returning to winnings ways after a five-match slump, which included four defeats, and the 2-1 verdict took their tally to 14 points. Tollygunge stayed on 12.

There was a sense of purpose in East Bengal’s approach and it must be said the red-and-gold brigade looked refreshingly different from what they did before new coach Subhas Bhowmick took charge last month.

Following a 3-6-1 format for most part of the match, East Bengal slipped back to 4-5-1 when the situation demanded and showed an urge to make things happen rather than waiting for them as they did in the Manoranjan Bhattacharya regime.

However, the old disease of slumping into a stupor with things under control came back in the second half and coach Bhowmick’s analysis — “it was brilliant at times and horrible as well” — rang true at the end of the day.

The match got off to a dramatic start as East Bengal fished out a goal right after the kick off. Omolaja Olalekan and Jose Carlos touched the ball a couple of times before passing back to Ancheri whose lob found Suley Musah charging down the right.

Musah sent it to an advancing Omolaja near the top of the box and the latter relayed it back to the Ghanaian who had cut in. The Tollygunge defenders were completely taken aback by the early burst and could barely react as Musah slotted the ball in from close. The match was just 21-second old then.

East Bengal were still in the party mode when the equaliser came, which brought back haunting memories of their plight in the last line of defence. It was a gentle back pass by Isiaka Awoyemi from outside the box and new recruit Sudip Sarkar attempted to kick it back towards the midfield. To everyone’s horror, he failed to connect and the ball rolled in.

Sudip, on lien from SAIL in place of an out-of-form Sangram Mukherjee, said later there was an awkward bounce which sounded like a hollow excuse but did a reasonable job after the blunder and effected a couple of vital saves.

Unlike the East Bengal in the early part of the League, when they would smart under pressure after conceding a goal, they regrouped fast and showed a lot of enterprise in order to restore the lead.

Brazilian Carlos, playing as a midfielder behind lone striker Omolaja, was the man whom midfield activities centred around and Musah was there to add power down the right. Ancheri was playing mostly from the deep but moved up in time to hit the second.

It was Musah again from the right who floated one towards the far post and Jiten Rai headed it down for Omolaja to take a first-timer at the goal. Goalkeeper Sandip Nandy showed sharp reflexes to parry the ball but the rebound went to Ancheri who pounded a left-footer home.

Tollygunge got close once in the second half but Akim Abulalnle’s fierce drive hit the upright and before that, Sudip rose to the occasion by blocking Ashim Biswas’ header and Sandip Das’ shot. Both were close-range tries but lacked power.


EAST BENGAL: Sudip Sarkar; Suley Musah, Dipak Mondal, Anit Ghosh, Falguni Dutta; Isiaka Awoyemi, Chandan Das (Dipankar Roy, 80), Jo Paul Ancheri, Jiten Rai (Tushar Rakshit, 29; Bijen Singh, 58), Jose Carlos; Omolaja Olalekan.

TOLLYGUNGE: Sandip Nandy; Srikrishna Ghosh (Adeola Adeyeri, 74), Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Satish Bharti, Amitava Chanda; Sashthi Duley, Sandip Das, Khemtang Paite (Prahlad Rawat, 85), Moses Owira; Ashim Biswas (Reaz-ul Mustafa, 46), Akim Abolanle.

Referee: Kishan Avtar.


Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
Orissa destroyed Karnataka 11-0 in a group A match on the opening day of the 10th national women’s football championship at SAI Eastern Centre today.

The other big win of the day was registered in Malda where Assam blanked Rajasthan 7-0 in a group D match.

In group B games in Bongaon, Haryana beat Madhya Pradesh 1-0 and Kerala tamed Goa by a similar margin. In a group C clash in Siliguri, Tripura defeated Uttar Pradesh 4-1.

Defending champions Manipur, runners-up Bengal, Bihar and Maharashtra have been seeded into the quarter finals.


Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
Amritinder Singh was leading with five-under 67 after Round I of the 20th leg of the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour in Noida today.

According to information received here, Firoz Ali and S.S.P. Chowrasia were tied for third with three-under. Sanjay Kumar was second at four-under 68.

BHA league

The BHA first division group A league competition will get underway on March 5. Two matches are slated for the opening day — Eastern Railway SA versus Khalsa Blues and FCI versus Howrah Union. In third division league yies today, St James’ routed Shining Club 6-1 while La Martiniere beat Islamia HS 4-0.


Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
St Xavier’s beat Saifee Hall by eight wickets while Sir Nripendranath Institute notched up a nine-wicket win over Loyola HS in the Pepsi CAB under-19 school meet today.

The day’s other winners were Tollygunge Ashokenagar, Jadavpur Vidyapith, Bhawanipur Education Society and Taki Boys.


Saifee Hall 220 (Huzafa Rabanawala 37; Arshad Hassan 4/32, Banender Singh 3/36). St Xavier’s 222/2 (Arshad Hassan 76 not out, Nilaso Chatterjee 70 not out). St Xavier’s won by 8 wkts.

Tollygunge Ashokenagar 239 (Anujit Kundu 81, Mithun Ghosh 53; Ayush Drolia 3/26, Ananyo Sen 3/37). Don Bosco 183 (Anant Kajaria 53; Anirban Bhattacharya 3/54). Tollygunge Ashokenagar won by 56 runs.

Loyola HS 142 (Arnab Saha 41; Deep Sarkar 4/29). Sir Nripendranath Institute 145/1 (Rajat Datta 56 not out, Salil Banerjee 55 not out). Nripendranath won by 9 wkts.

La Martiniere 142 (Ankit Agarwal 30; Debjyoti Dev 2/9). Jadavpur Vidyapith 145/2 (Subhas Mitra 43). Jadavpur Vidyapith won by 8 wkts.

Bhawanipur Education Society 327 (Amit Pandey 69, Rohit Jain 60, Sourav Modi 40; Rajbeer Singh 3/66). St Joseph & Mary’s 268 (Arpan Mukherjee 66, Rajesh Gupta 64; Santosh Singh 3/62, Chandan Pradhan 3/61). Bhawanipur won by 59 runs.

Calcutta Boys 174 (Aritra Saha 57; Angel Nandy 3/24). Taki Boys 176/3 (Angel andy 51 not out, Avik Ghosh 43 not out). Taki Boys won by 7 wkts.


Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
P. Sen Memorial CCC beat Rajdanga Samanway CC by four wickets and Calcutta CCC overcame Pankaj Gupta CCC by five wickets in the Milo under-19 coaching centre tournament today.


Rajdanga Samanway CC 146/6 (Dipankar Pradhan 53; Amit Ghosh 2/12). P. Sen Memorial CCC 148/5 (Anub Chouba 23; Dhrubojib Boro 3/22). P. Sen CCC won by 5 wkts.

Pankaj Gupta CCC 136/6 (Kalyan Bose 25; Dibyendu Das 2/17). Calcutta CCC 139/6 (Soumik Mukherjee 44; Supratik Sinha 3/25). Calcutta CCC won by 4 wkts.

School football

Sukantanagar Vidyaniketan and Shyambazar AV will meet in the final of the Britannia-Anandabazar Cup football meet Friday. In today’s semis, Sukantanagar beat Chowbaga HS 3-0 with goals from Debdas Biswas, Joydeep Debnath and Sukanta Sinha Roy. Shyambazar AV beat Tollygunge Ashokenagar 2-1.


Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
Mills grinding stories about Arterial’s sore shin and suspicion about his potential to negotiate the gruelling 2,800m Queen’s Cup trip, over mile and three-quarter, turned out to be a mere wishful thinking only. The Arjun Mangalorkar-trained gelding not only took the arduous journey in his strides, he also won like a true stayer. In his winning effort, the horse also paid rich compliments to his jockey Mark Gallagher who sensed the urgency after the first six furlongs of the race, that was a virtual crawl, to accelerate the pace shooting upfront.

The four-year-old did the rest, though, the established lead of three lengths was cut down to a shade over a length as the even-money favourite son of Green Forest-Fiddlin Fanny went on to touch the wire ahead of his strongly fancied rival Calorescence, a filly.

The fact that Calorescence had brought his jockey Cristopher Alford nearly down as she sat down on her haunches the moment starting gates flicked opened, yet she performed well and it speaks highly about efforts of the courageous Metal Precieux -Pot of Gold daughter.

She was as quick to collect herself as his jockey who managed to put his acts together, thus recovering the lost ground that was no less than 10 lengths. Allodium, though a six-year-old, still displayed his known penchant for the staying trip by finishing a good third, only short-head behind Calorescence.

Unfancied in the 1,100m Rising Star Cup, Dancing Dreams recorded a back to back win. It was on February 9 that the Mumbai jockey Aadesh Kumar had partnered the filly to victory and opined that the Gold Discovery-Gold Standard daughter had reached her mark on the handicap. But, given a choice to ride a winner for father Richard Alford’s heavyweight-owner, Sol Noah, the apprentice picked up the five-year-old mare, thus challenging those doubting the ability of the filly to score an encore. Dancing Dream, though shifting out of a straight course, returned a far more easier winner.

Immaculate was equally impressive in his victory. The Daniel David-trainee was given a businesslike run by Jacob Abraham — keeping the six-year-old in fourth till the turn before shooting into a two-length lead that was never disputed in the Ardiles Cup.

Ridden in an identical manner earlier in the afternoon, the even-money-favourite Excellent Striker had galloped to an easy victory for Abraham in the Azhar Cup. However, the visiting jockey failed to guide the topweight Moon Mission to her third straight victory as her long lay off from the track apart, the Always A Rainbow-Moccasin daughter was also set to concede all round chunks of weight to each of her five rivals. She led comfortably till 150m from home before feeling constraints of the heavy-impost thus shortening strides. It was left to a friendless Phunney Phellow to challenge the favourite and the little known jockey Brij Shaw did not make a mistake while making his move along rails.

Barring Dalpat Singh’s dare devilry on Sovereign Bullet in the Right Ahead Handicap, and Som Singh’s listless effort on Sencai in the Port Desire Handicap, that obviously raised a storm in the Right Ahead Handicap, it was a routine business in the February 13 race-card. Nevertheless, the two jockeys were taken to task BUT the punishment awarded to Dalpat could have been a little more severe.


Mumbai, Feb. 20: 
Auchinblae may win the Rocklie Trophy in Mumbai on Thursday.


3.30 pm: Sunchyme 1. Positive Thinker 2. Mambo King 3.
4 pm: Aide de Memoire 1. Northern Frontier 2. Quick Decision 3.
4.30 pm: Auchinblae 1. Reconquista 2. Sunstreak 3.
5 pm: Overtures 1. Meim Kampf 2.Academia 3.
5.30 pm: Clear Title 1. Akiydath 2. C’Est Egal 3.
6 pm: Bearer Bond 1. Rhythm Divine 2. Connoisseur 3.

Day’s Best: Auchinblae

Double: Aide de Memoire & Clear Title.

Wednesday’s Mumbai results

(With inter-state dividends)

1. Erin Dust Plate: Saranyu (J. Chinoy) 1; Prince of Fashion 2; I’m Honoured 3. Won by: 4-1/4; 1-1/2; (1-27.5). (W) Rs 41; (P) 24; 20; (Q) 98; (T) 892. Fav: Sarena Pride.

2. Court of Arms Plate: Tarascon (Kharadi) 1; Dancing Gold 2; Prima Ballerina 3. Not run: Rodeo Romeo Won by: 1-3/4; 4-1/4; (1-28.2). (W) Rs 52; (P) 21; 10; 20; (Q) 54; (T) 427. Fav: Dancing Gold.

3. M. D. Metha Trophy: Jebel Ali (M. Narredu) 1; On The Ride 2; Island Pearl 3. Won by: 3/4; Hd; (1-14.7). (W) Rs 151; (P) 32; 15; 32; (Q) 168; (T) 5,577. Fav: Midnight Venture.

4. K. M. Munshi Trophy: Meringue (Rajendra) 1; Heartbreaker 2; Royal Secret 3. Won by: 1; 4-3/4; (1-0.2). (W) Rs 21; (P) 11; 17; 28; (Q) 33; (T) 356. Fav: Meringue.

5. Par Avion Plate: Arabian Commander (Gallagher) 1; Infuriate 2; Scamster 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 1-3/4; (1-14.4). (W) Rs 181; (P) 29; 43; 38; (Q) 604; (T) 70,544. Fav: Opener.

6. Moment To Moment Plate: Running Regal (Rupesh) 1; Dras 2; High Valtage 3. Won by: 6; 1-1/4; (1-15.2). (W) Rs 285; (P) 78; 20; 30; (Q) 788; (T) 41,077. Fav: Swift And Silent.

Jackpot: Rs 1,02,137 (Carried over); (C) Rs 13,132.

Treble: (i) Rs 2,977; (ii) Rs 5,790.

Maintained by Web Development Company