Sachin century puts India firmly on top
Today, coaching is my life: Marsh
This hundred is for Mark: Sachin
EB face the ITI test
Mukesh pips Firoz in play-off
Kalinga Rally on March 15-16
RPG in final
RCTC Million/ Smart Ruler triumphs
Mumbai Multi-Million/ Free Radical may strike

 
 
SACHIN CENTURY PUTS INDIA FIRMLY ON TOP 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Nagpur, Feb. 23: 
ZIMBABWE 287
INDIA 437/5

The start of the first Test here coincided with the inauguration of an Oxygen Parlour, an absolute first for these parts. This evening, the set-up could have its most high-profile patrons till date: The Zimbabwe cricket team.

Indeed, given the state they are in, Stuart Carlisle’s men are in desperate need of some quick revival therapy. A visit to the Parlour, then, should alleviate much of their suffering. Temporary, though, it is bound to be.

While the fate of the Rajnath Singhs and Parkash Singh Badals will be known tomorrow, possible escape routes have already been sealed for Zimbabwe. More than anyone else, the peerless Sachin Tendulkar ensured this on Day III at the VCA ground.

If Shiv Sundar Das firmly put India on the road to ascendancy yesterday itself, Sachin (137 not out in 366 minutes, 275 balls, 18x4) took the Test beyond Zimbabwe. With two days remaining, India are already 150 ahead with five wickets intact.

A more dominating position can’t be easily scripted. Incidentally, Sachin’s 28th Test hundred (he is one short of Sir Donald Bradman) is his third of the season, after that fabulous 155 in Bloemfontein and 103 in Ahmedabad, against England. Now, no contemporary has more hundreds.

The last Test here, versus Zimbabwe, had seen Sachin register an unbeaten 201. Back in 1994-95, he had 179 against Courtney Walsh’s West Indians.

Of course, cricket throughout the day wasn’t exactly entertaining — the three sessions produced 65, 89 and 74 runs, respectively — with the ‘hottest’ action featuring Travis Friend, who got barred from bowling after his second beamer of the innings. Yesterday, Rahul Dravid was the recipient; this afternoon, it was Sachin.

Having been officially warned (not merely cautioned) by umpire Srinivas Venkatraghavan yesterday, Friend ought to have been aware of the consequences. He didn’t mean to hurt Sachin, but what if the maestro hadn’t ducked ? In any case, the law (on Fair and Unfair Play) is clear.

Sachin himself remarked he “picked the trajectory early and luckily ducked.”

The Indians, clearly, will be looking to bat till midway in the second hour when a declaration could be effected. Thereafter, they will be in the choke-Zimbabwe-mode. In Sachin’s opinion, “anywhere between 230-250 will be a very good lead.” The wicket is getting slower by the hour and a further lack of bounce will add to the worries of batsmen.

With negligible firepower, the Zimbabweans had to bowl a restrictive line, which was complemented with superb ground fielding. At a conservative estimate, around 25 runs were saved through sheer athleticism.

Few will care to remember any of the bowlers, but left-arm spinner Raymond Price, playing just his seventh Test, showed character. He may have limitations, but certainly isn’t the type to get overawed by reputation. Price stuck to the demanding task and, by stumps, had four for 130. His last spell was of marathon-like proportions — 23 overs.

While Sachin made the most of conditions which weren’t ideal — both the state of the wicket and the oppressive heat — Dravid and captain Sourav Ganguly, in particular, will rue not making capital after getting beautifully set.

Dravid added eight to his overnight 57 (India continued from 209 for two) before chasing a near wide from Heath Streak and dragging it onto the stumps. Sourav, who was headed for his most significant score since that unbeaten 98 in Kandy, fell for the Price bait. When the name of the game is patience, well, impatience is fatal.

In trying to send the left-armer beyond the boundary, Sourav only managed to find Zimbabwe’s best fielder (Grant Flower) in the deep. The captain’s 38 came in 146 minutes and off 99 deliveries (7x4). Later, speaking to The Telegraph, Sourav accepted he “ought to have stayed longer.”

Cricket, really, has much to do with opportunities grasped and opportunities missed. Sachin, for one, didn’t allow absolutely anything to distract. Sourav, on the other hand, was left regretting getting carried away.

Even V.V.S. Laxman (the only other Indian to be dismissed), who made the XI on the captain’s recommendation, got out in soft manner. Keeping Sachin company at stumps was Sanjay Bangar.

By Sachin’s own admission, today’s wasn’t his most outstanding hundred. Yet, there again was a lesson for not just upcoming cricketers, but teammates too: Basically, that you’ve got to sweat it out. In fact, the numero uno pro that he is, Sachin was running as hard towards the close as he had in the morning.

It’s extraordinary. And, worth noting is that Sachin didn’t take the aerial route. “I didn’t have to, didn’t have to take a risk,” he explained, with that millionaire-grin.

The number of times Sachin was beaten will be in low single digits, though he twice did have a close call. On 76, he almost chopped Streak onto the stumps and, then, on 102, resorted to a bit of soccer to prevent that Price delivery from rolling towards the timber.

But the 18,000-odd fans who came through the turnstiles won’t recall those two incidents. Rather, they will cherish the many drives — the most regal being the one straight off Streak — which were worth paying a fortune to watch. Sachin was outstanding, both on the front foot and back. Moreover, he would be perfectly balanced on toes when smashing square and in total control when on one knee and firing a scorcher.

For variety, the pulls were there and the paddle-sweep couldn’t be missed. A true class act. Asked whether concentrating actually came so easy, Sachin answered smiling: “When out in the middle, that’s the only thing you’ve got to do... You know what your job is, so...”

With Sachin unbeaten, thousands more should throng the VCA ground tomorrow.

Same squad likely

The national selectors, who meet on Day IV, are expected to retain the XIV for the second (and final) Test, in New Delhi from February 28.

   

 
 
TODAY, COACHING IS MY LIFE: MARSH 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Nagpur, Feb. 23: 
Back in early 1996, the Australian Cricket Board surprised everybody by replacing coach Bobby Simpson with Geoff Marsh. Late last year, it was Marsh’s turn to surprise the world: He chose to succeed compatriot Carl Rackemaan as Zimbabwe’s coach.

Four years ago, Marsh was in India wearing Australia’s colours. This time, of course, he is Zimbabwe’s coach. Just how successful Marsh is with Stuart Carlisle and Co. remains to be seen, but what isn’t in doubt is that he has had a fantastic association with cricket in Australia: As player, coach and selector.

Marsh, soft-spoken and as focussed as ever, spoke to The Telegraph last evening — exclusively on his present role.

The following are excerpts

On what prompted him to coach Zimbabwe

Well, this assignment provided an opportunity to get back to full-time coaching. The calender suited me and, moreover, there’s a challenge in working with a team placed towards the bottom end of the ladder... When I quit as Australia’s coach, in September 1999, I’d said I wanted a break. I did have one for two years.

On still being away from his Perth-based family

(Grins) But, then, don’t forget I spent two full years at home. For somebody connected with cricket, that’s a long, long time... Actually, we had a family-meeting on this offer and everybody felt I should return to coaching, if I was myself interested. Today, coaching is my life and, frankly, a few years down the line, this opportunity may not have come... My contract with Zimbabwe is till the (2003) World Cup.

On whether, having coached Australia, this assignment is a ‘comedown’

I don’t see it that way... After three-four years with Australia, the boys there probably needed somebody else and, as the results have shown, my successor (John Buchanan) has done a terrific job... The Zimbabwe boys do want to be competitive and, so, I’m doing my bit. World cricket itself will gain if teams are strong.

On what remains for him to prove as coach, having already been part of Australia’s 1999 World Cup success

(Smiles) To now mould Zimbabwe into a World Cup-winning team.

On the biggest difference (vis-a-vis Australia) in coaching Zimbabwe

The inexperience of the boys, the inexperience of the system... In Australia, you’ve just got to switch on the TV and you will hear the Ian Chappells and Richie Benauds and... That’s not so in Zimbabwe. The wealth of knowledge, for one, is simply not there. After all, Test status only came ten years ago...

On just how much of what he learnt as Australia’s coach is being put to use now

The idea isn’t to change anybody’s natural style — no coach should do that... It’s all about working on the basics: Batting techniques, bowling techniques... Fielding, too, has emerged such a priority area. Zimbabwe simply have to be a top fielding side.

On one-time star Kevin Curran being assistant coach

He’s very enthusiastic, very good and is focussing on the bowlers... Of course, I must add my predecessor did a terrific job with them. (Adds smiling) When running net sessions, one does need eyes at the back of the head!

On how he sees a coach’s role

Not just working on the technical side, but helping players cope with the mental pressure. It’s not an easy world and, really, no player should be worried about things he needn’t at all be worried about. But, yes, one has to work very hard — that’s something I learnt from Bob Simpson. A coach expects everything to be perfect, but we are involved in a game played by individuals and things won’t always fall into place the ideal way.

On whether, given that the expectations aren’t that high, his present assignment is somewhat easy

We have set our own goals. To first be competitive and, then, be consistently competitive. Honestly, the structure back in Zimbabwe must change and all players should regularly be exposed to lots of three-day and four-day cricket. The way forward has to begin there and I’ve already conveyed this to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.

On coaching a team with one superstar — Andy Flower

Look, Heath Streak is a quality performer and so, too, is Alistair Campbell... Grant Flower as well... The way I see it, this team has a lot of players with a lot of talent. The biggest challenge for me, then, is to use the available talent in the best manner possible.

On the pressure-factor on coaches

The pressure is that the coach always has high expectations... He wants his players to do well... A coach’s day is made when his players smile. Was it frustrating that we didn’t do well in Sharjah and Sri Lanka? No. The moving-ahead-process will take time and we all realise Zimbabwe must work very, very hard.

On whether the captain and coach should be denied a selection role on tours

(Grins again) The coach should definitely have an input and the captain must be spoken to.

On his consultancy tie-up with the BCCI which created a controversy

I was assigned something and I did prepare a report. After that, certain things were discussed, but nothing materialised. I wouldn’t like to say more.

[At one time, incidentally, Marsh was a candidate to coach India.]

Finally, whether he would have dropped Steve Waugh had he still been an Australian selector

(After a pause) As Zimbabwe’s coach, I don’t have to answer that. I’m not obliged to say whether I agree or disagree with the decision already taken...

   

 
 
THIS HUNDRED IS FOR MARK: SACHIN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Nagpur, Feb. 23: 

Having authored his third century here, Sachin Tendulkar today described the VCA ground as being “lucky.”

“Yes, I’ve scored a few runs,” he remarked grinning, while interacting with the Media. And, when someone asked if he wished to match his performance (201 not out) in the last Test here, 15 months ago, he quietly replied: “But, that’s quite some way off...”

Sachin, at the moment, is unbeaten on 137.

Talking about the wicket, Sachin pointed out it had become “very slow” and was progressively getting lower. “Batting isn’t easy and one has to be patient...”

Commenting on the Zimbabwe attack, Sachin said: “At this level, no bowling line-up should ever be underestimated. Indeed, nothing comes easy and I’ve never taken any attack lightly.”

Later, speaking to The Telegraph, Sachin dedicated the hundred (his 28th) to the late Mark Mascarenhas, his business manager and confidant, who died tragically last month. “It’s my first hundred since Mark’s death and, so, it’s for him...”

Incidentally, Sachin had also dedicated his Man of the Series award in the ODIs against England to Mascarenhas.

   

 
 
EB FACE THE ITI TEST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23: 
East Bengal open their second-phase campaign in the National League against ITI in Bangalore tomorrow and they know, it’s going to be a tough away match. They will also have a point to prove, considering the 1-2 defeat against the same team here in the first leg, which started a slide, they are yet to arrest completely.

The defending champions went on to lose three more on the trot, which led to the removal of coach Manoranjan Bhattacharya and new recruit Subhas Bhowmick is playing the defensive card. Can’t blame him.

“They are favourites, we the underdogs,” he said before leaving. It is true because ITI are placed third after 11 matches with 19 points against East Bengal’s 14 from as many games. The win over Tollygunge Agragami at home Wednesday gave Bhowmick some breathing space but he knows he can hardly afford a false move and is leaving nothing to chance.

To strengthen the midfield, Bhowmick has decided to do away with Nigerian striker Omolaja Olalekan, at least for this match. Instead, he has picked the long-forgotten Soumitra Chakraborty, who may fill in for injured regular choice Dipankar Roy.

Whatever combination Bhowmick picks, it’s going to be a tough match tomorrow and ITI will have to be careful. With the midfield looking a lot better than what it was about a month back, East Bengal can be dangerous on their day. ITI, relying heavily on their Liberian imports, have performed beyond expectation, but they must be feeling the pressure of being frontliners now, which may work in East Bengal’s favour.

Churchill take on FCK

With two foreign recruits absent, FC Kochin will find the going tough when they take on Churchill Brothers in Margao tomorrow, adds PTI. At the halfway stage, Mahindra United are leading the table with 22 points. Churchill are second with 19 and FC Kochin tenth with ten.

Churchill, having scored 22 goals so far, look favourites to garner full points. With their new Iranian recruit Mousavi Seyed Amin, along with Ghanaian Yusuf Yakubu, Churchill look sharp in attack. The midfield manned by Noel Wilson, Aqueel Ansari and Ratan Singh also looks formidable.

   

 
 
MUKESH PIPS FIROZ IN PLAY-OFF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23: 
Mukesh Kumar beat Firoz Ali in a thrilling play-off to win his fifth title of the year at the Rs 6 lakh Sir Padampat Singhania Open in Noida today.

Mukesh and overnight leader Firoz were tied at six-under 282 after four rounds as the latter returned a final round of two-over 74. Mukesh caught up with him with a level-par 72, according to information received here.

Veteran Rohtas Singh came third at one-over 289 and Sanjay Kumar fourth at four-over 292. Firoz’ younger brother Rafiq Ali finished tied for the fifth spot with Amritinder Singh at 293.

Zai Kipgen and 20-year-old Ashok Kumar, finished tied for the eighth spot at 294. Last year’s winner S.S.P. Chowrasia was tied for 16th with 298.

The victory helped Mukesh take a big lead over Mukesh in the race for the Mahindra Golfer of the Year award.

The play-off began with Mukesh dissecting the par-five first with his three-wood tee shot. Firoz’ drive landed in a corner of the bunker on the second fairway. Firoz then chipped his lob wedge too hard to find himself 20 feet beyond the pin. His birdie putt missed the hole by an inch and Mukesh, on the green with his second shot, two-putted to birdie the hole and wrap up the title.

   

 
 
KALINGA RALLY ON MARCH 15-16 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23: 
The Bengal Motor Sports Club’s 700km two-leg Kalinga Rally will be held on March 15 and 16. The rally is part of the FMSCI’s new Eastern Regional Rally Championship.

The rally, in its run, will traverse Badipada, Dhenkenal and Bhubaneswar with the Mayurbhanj district taking up a large chunk of the route.

The other two rallies on the eastern circuit are the Calcutta-Jamshedpur and the Kaviguru Rallies.

Merchants’ bowling

Siemens Information Systems C today beat Cognizant Technology Solutions B 313-227 to win the Merchants’ Cup bowling title at the Nicco Super Bowl bowling alley. The winners were represented by Amitava Ghosh and Dipayan Sarkar. The Losers’ Plate final was won by ITC Info D, who beat Tata Tele G.

   

 
 
RPG IN FINAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23: 
RPG Enterprises will meet HDFC Bank in the final of the Mercantile basketball meet. In the semi-finals, RPG Enterprises defeated PriceWaterhouseCoopers 55-28 while HDFC Bank scraped past Williamson Magor 31-30.

   

 
 
RCTC MILLION/ SMART RULER TRIUMPHS 
 
 
BY STAR RACER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 23: 
Justifying his classy bloodlines and diplaying good turn of foot, the Razeen-Regal Star colt Smart Ruler carried the public-purse to victory in the 1,600m RCTC Million today. Prakash Bhonsle partnered the Daniel David-trained three-year-old to half-a-length victory over his stable-mates Assertive Dancer and Star Selection. Ridden by apprentice Gajender Singh, the sporting event, the Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur of Cooch Behar Memorial Cup was also bagged by a public fancy, Ancheta.

RESULTS

1. Golden Can Handicap 1,100m: (4-7-2-3) Val Rouge (E. Smith) 1; Lady Shirley (A. P. Singh) 2; Bay Dragon (B. Gurang) 3; Aklovic (Gajender) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; 2-1/4; SH; (1-6.4). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 14; 12; 25; Quinella: 30; Tanala: 284. Fav: Lady Shirley (7). Winner trained by D. Karki.

2. Birthday Book Handicap 1,200m: (6-8-5-3) Revolution (E. Smith) 1; Lively Project (Abraham) 2; Ardon (Prakash) 3; Winning Hand (Gowli) 4. Won by: 3/4; 1/2; 1-1/4; (1-13.4). Tote: Win Rs 53; Place: 17; 26; 15; Quinella: 255; Tanala: 2,554. Fav: Affliction (4). Winner trained by D. Karki.

3. Supernova Cup 1,600m: (4-7-5-9) Si Senora (A. P. Singh) 1; Giorgio (Upadhya) 2; Mr. Bombshell (Rabani) 3; Tajik (Shanker) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; Nk; SH; (1-39.4). Tote: Win Rs 79; Place: 24; 316; 27; Quinella: 5,033; Tanala:19,534. Fav: Aiberni (10). Winner trained by D. Byramji.

4. H. H. Maharaja Jagaddipendra Narayan Bhup Bahadur of Cooch Behar Memorial Cup 1,200m: (1-7-4-3) Ancheta (Gajender) 1; Ballet Master (Abraham) 2; Secret Blessing’s (S. Salam) 3; Acute (Rabani) 4. Won by: 4-3/4; 3; 3/4; (1-11.8). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 12; 13; 45; Quinella: 22; Tanala: 348. Fav: Ancheta (1). Winner trained by Vijay S.

5. RCTC Million 1,600m: (4-6-8-5) Smart Ruler (Prakash) 1; Assertive Dancer (Abraham) 2; Star Selection (Connorton) 3; Anatolia (C. Alford) 4. Won by: 1/2; 1-1/4; 1-1/4; (1-39.4).Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 12; 29; 22; Quinella: 127; Tanala: 1,273. Fav: Smart Ruler (4). Winner trained by Daniel D.

6. Veritas Handicap 1,200m: (2-6-10-11) Midnight Escape (C. Alford) 1; Red Trident (Shanker) 2; Constantine (E. Smith) 3; Simply Dashing (Prakash) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; 3-1/4; 2-1/4; (1-13.5). Tote: Win Rs 36; Place: 20; 18; 36; Quinella: 95; Tanala: 1,087. Fav: Simply Dashing (11). Winner trained by Vijay S.

7. Turf Hawk Handicap 1,400m: (11-4-8-3) Lucifer (Domingo) 1; Classic Pursuit (Rabani) 2; Alborada (Prakash) 3; Leading Conquest (A. P. Singh) 4. Won by: 4-1/4; 2-3/4; 3-3/4; (1-26.7). Tote: Win Rs 134; Place: 27; 22; 13; Quinella: 559; Tanala: 2,030. Fav: Alborada (8). Winner trained by Rodrigues.

Jackpot: Rs 11,381; (C) Rs 200.

Treble: (i) Rs 715; (ii) Rs 970.
   

 
 
MUMBAI MULTI-MILLION/ FREE RADICAL MAY STRIKE 
 
 
BY HONKY DORY
 
Mumbai, Feb. 23: 
Ridden by Pesi Shroff, trainer Michael Eshwer’s Free Radical may win the Poonawalla Breeders’ Multi-Million in Mumbai on Sunday.

SELECTIONS

1 pm: Ambition 1. Don Alejandro 2. White Lie 3.
1.30 pm: Radical Force 1.
2 pm: Affability 1. Rambus 2.
2.30 pm: River Rainbow 1. Mandalay Bay 2. Flames 3.
3.15 pm: The Avenger 1. Singita 2. Dancing Eve 3.
4 pm: Free Radical 1. Priceless 2. Romantic Heights 3.
4.45 pm: Lek 1. Over The Ocean 2. Twist Afleet 3.
5.15 pm: Divine Protocol 1. Zeta Jones 2. Al Humair 3.
6 pm: Venire 1. Danger Zone 2. Snow Star 3.

Day’s Best: Radical Force

Double: Affability & Lek.

Saturday’s Bangalore results

1st race: Obligado (M. Narredu) 1; Gem 2; Pelf 3. Win Rs 26; (P) 13; 75; 14; (F) 525; (Q) 234; (T) 617 & 125.

2nd race: Plain Truth (A. Imran) 1; Diamonds Galore 2; Solar Power 3. Win Rs 78; (P) 17; 12; 48; (F) 111; (Q) 30; (T) 606 & 530.

3rd race: Our Ambition (A. Mani) 1; Royal Debut 2; Tresorie 3. Win Rs 32; (P) 15; 22; 88; (F) 144; (Q) 94; (T) 3,133 & 1,595.

4th race: Bold Bird (Woods) 1; Society Dream 2; Spark of Love 3. Win Rs 26; (P)18; 14; (F) 45; (Q) 18; (T) 324 & 259.

5th race: Affined (Harish) 1; Augill Castle 2; Psychedelic 3. Win Rs 16; (P) 12; 21; (F) 35; (Q) 25; (T) 62 & 35.

6th race: Pink Squirrel (A. Imran) 1; Atomic Fusion 2; Free World 3. Win Rs 61; (P) 19; 20; 121; (F) 241; (Q) 106; (T) 2,811 & 2,610.

7th race: Golden Fellowship (Shakti) 1; Silver Touch 2; Abhimanyu 3. Win Rs 100; (P) 36; 31; 19; (F) 832; (Q) 427; (T) 1,567 & 321.

Jackpot: Rs 5,101; (C) Rs 268. Mini

Jackpot: Rs 4,157. Treble: Rs 269.
   
 

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