Spinners rush through the last rites
Coach cracks down on lax fielding
This is just the beginning of Arjun’s journey: Lakshman
Tolly swamped 1-4
Firoz’ chance to return to form
South Point, NHS in final
Win for Nicco
Calcutta Races/ Six for Wednesday’s main event
Race Review/ ‘Ruler’ took rivals by surprise

Nagpur, Feb. 25: 
ZIMBABWE 287, 182
INDIA 570/7 decl.

The end, for Zimbabwe, came quicker than expected. Seventy-five minutes into the fifth day and this premier city received a wonderful tercentenary gift from the Indian cricketers: An innings-plus victory in the first Test of a two-match series.

Man-of-the-Match Anil Kumble added two wickets to his overnight three, while Harbhajan Singh not only opened his account, but collected the remaining four. From 152 for four, Zimbabwe were dismissed for 182 in under 22 overs.

With more than a touch of bravado, Zimbabwe captain Stuart Carlisle had been talking of putting India “under pressure” and exploiting that. At the VCA ground, though, the pressure throughout was on Zimbabwe and they cracked faster than the most delicate glassware.

The last decisive verdict here was back in 1986-87, when India whipped Sri Lanka by an almost identical margin.

Pleased with his eighth win (and a very emphatic one at that) as captain, Sourav Ganguly complimented his bowlers for their excellent Day I effort — restricting Zimbabwe to 248 for eight. In fact, Carlisle may have won the toss that first morning but, effectively, Zimbabwe lost the Test last Thursday itself.

“Overall, we played well right through and dominated from the very first session. It’s a good victory, yes, but the series hasn’t been won,” remarked Sourav, who will be joined by wife Dona and daughter Sakshi during the second Test in New Delhi, from Thursday.

Indeed, Sourav reiterated what he had said on the eve of the Test: That, with Kumble and Harbhajan around, the present team was “much stronger” than the one which beat Zimbabwe 1-0 during that country’s last visit, 15 months ago.

Looking back, at the Media conference, Carlisle picked his run out (for 77) on the first afternoon as “the turning point.” He added: “To stay competitive, we ought to have scored in the region of 400-450... What we did achieve (287) wasn’t ever going to be enough.”

The Zimbabwe captain singled out the performance of left-arm spinner Raymond Price (five for 182) and opener Trevor Gripper (60 in the second innings) as the two “positives” which didn’t get buried in the debris of such a huge defeat — innings and 101 runs.

Later, speaking to The Telegraph, Carlisle observed: “The top lesson learnt is that at least two of our first four batsmen must make hundreds. Then, it’s important to lift ourselves in the three days which remain between now and the final Test.”

Kumble, who has had an excellent return to Test cricket after being out for a year from October 2000, attributed his success (28 wickets in the four games at home this season) to “self-belief and confidence.”

Talking exclusively, Kumble grinned when it was suggested he and Muthiah Muralidharan currently featured in the sub-continent’s greatest ‘rivalry’ since the Imran Khan-Kapil Dev era. “I respect Murali and he respects me... Then, we are very different bowlers... Does his continuing success fire me even more? Well, playing for India itself is a huge motivation...”

Kumble took just five wickets in the two Tests in South Africa but, thereafter, has been on a roll: Eight (and the MoM award) in Mohali, ten in Ahmedabad, one — his 300th — in the rain-marred Bangalore Test and, then, nine wickets at the VCA ground. In 67 appearances, his tally stands at 309.

Significantly, Kumble’s five for 63 became his 19th haul of five or more wickets in an innings.

Interacting with the Media, in general, Kumble made the point about “partnerships” in bowling as well. “Just as you need a partnership while batting, pressure from bowlers at both ends makes a difference. Yesterday, in particular, Bhajji (Harbhajan) was unlucky not to have got a wicket...”

Kumble, who has been experimenting with bowling slower and generating more spin, added: “It’s always so much easier for us bowlers when the batsmen have given us a total... That we led by 283 enabled us to attack in the second innings.”

Though Kumble didn’t talk about tactics, he wasn’t averse to going round the wicket and using the crease to try and ‘score’ with different angles. He’s a thinking bowler and, over the years, that’s been reflected in the pro manner he goes about his job.

Zimbabwe’s fate was sealed well before Gripper and Price again took guard, this morning, but few expected such a capitulation. Survival was, in any case, going to be tough on a crumbling wicket.

Harbhajan sent back Price and, then, Kumble had Grant Flower (playing back) trapped leg-before. Gripper and Tatenda Taibu fell in almost similar fashion, taken close-in by substitute Virender Sehwag off Harbhajan. Next, Heath Streak got a vicious ball from Kumble.

The demand on No. 11 Brighton Watambwa was simply too much and, in the circumstances, he did the ‘sensible’ thing — ending a distinctly troublesome stay after nine minutes. If not anything else, it allowed Zimbabwe that much more time to try and focus on the New Delhi game.

Not surprisingly, yesterday’s centurion Sanjay Bangar made a dash to collect one of the stumps as souvenir. It will always have pride of place in the Bangar household.


Nagpur, Feb. 25: 
With captain Sourav Ganguly and senior pro Anil Kumble next to him, coach John Wright went public with an uncomfortable truth this morning.

Speaking at the customary post-match Media conference, Wright bluntly said: “It’s a fact that some of our best players are our worst fielders... I don’t think I can change that... After years in the game, players can’t be taught to dive and to throw themselves...”

Understandably, there was hushed silence for a moment or two.

Wright, in fact, didn’t stop there. The coach admitted he “admired” Zimbabwe’s fielding in the first Test (which ended 45 minutes before lunch on Day V) and that the Indians must strive to reach the same level.

Such plain-talking is rare in Indian cricket.

A question on Deep Dasgupta’s wicketkeeping is what triggered the headline-making comments. Reacting, Wright stated: “Deep has certainly improved, but standing back (only)... He needs to work harder and improve more. That he has been retained for the second Test gives him an opportunity to get it right...”

Wright added: “Once Deep improves as a ‘keeper, the balance of the team will be near-perfect. After all, he can open and Sanjay Bangar can bat at No. 7... The balance, of course, is a factor but must also be seen in relation to the quality of the ‘keeping...”

According to The Telegraph’s sources, if Deep doesn’t get his act right then Bangar could be the ‘balancing-factor’ and may open, thereby allowing an Ajay Ratra to be fielded purely as a specialist ‘keeper. Indeed, there’s this outside chance that veteran Nayan Mongia could be back in reckoning.

[Incidentally, Zimbabwe too have wicketkeeping problems. Young Tatendu Taibu was far from impressive and captain Stuart Carlisle indicated the thinktank may “re-assess” the decision to keep the big gloves away from Andy Flower. The latter is himself keen to do two jobs, but the selectors want Taibu to “gain experience.”]

Speaking generally, Wright expressed happiness at Bangar coming good in sparkling fashion, but cautioned against capping players for the sake of “trying them out.” Himself a deeply passionate operator (though he doesn’t show it), Wright insisted: “Only the most deserving must wear the India cap. It’s too valuable (to be just given around)...”

And, while Sourav lobbied hard for V.V.S. Laxman in the lead-up to the Test — a move which saw Virender Sehwag sit out — Wright today spoke up for the Eden Gardens hero. “He hasn’t been consistent, yes, but I still regard him among the top four Indian batsmen. I’m not going to change this opinion in a hurry...”

Wright added: “In any case, it’s good to have competition.” Absolutely.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
Arjun Atwal’s victory at the Singapore Masters, the first Indian to win a European Tour event, yesterday is just the beginning, and the ace golfer has the potential to repeat the feat more often on the circuit, feels former Asian Games gold medallist Lakshman Singh.

“This is just the beginning. He has the game to reach the very top. Now, it’s a question of how hungry he is. To win an event of this magnitude he has played some steady golf. He has to repeat this more often from here,” Lakshman told The Telegraph today.

“I feel he should play on the European circuit for another couple of years and at the same time try for his US card. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves over to the US circuit because his game is ideally suited for US conditions,” he added.

Lakshman describes Atwal as a “top notch pro” whom he had first seen as a 16-year-old on the RCGC greens. “The game runs in his blood — his father, uncles and cousins were keen golfers. Well-built and a strong striker of the ball, he was a regular on the amateur circuit then. It was about that time he went to the US to finish his education and also improve his golf.

“His father H. S. Atwal made sure he went to a good coach in the US. His college coach Larry Delaquella played a big role in his career and his game improved a great deal under his tutelage. He turned pro in 1995 and won a few tournaments on the Indian circuit. But he always found time to go back to his coach in the US for regular sessions.

“The greatest support he has received has been from his parents — father and mother Rupi. They have had the greatest influence in shaping his career. The mental support was most important and he always enjoyed that,” remarked Lakshman.

Lakshman was also all praise for his attitude. “He is a great champion. He never shirks away from pressure and has an excellent attitude. The last seven years has been a learning process for him and he has learnt to be patient about success. In spite of the losses he never lost heart and always had the ability to fight back. He always learnt from his mistakes.

“He is a strong boy. In the last two years he has emerged the most accurate striker of the ball on the Asian circuit. He has improved his short game — his putting and chipping have improved tremendously.”


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
A deluge of goals in the first session helped Salgaocar overcome Tollygunge Agragami in a Round XII match of the Tata National League today. The 4-1 scoreline, though, isn’t a proper reflection of Salgaocar’s degree of dominance at the Salt Lake Stadium.

The Goan outfit converted four of the seven scoring opportunities that came their way. Tollygunge Agragami, on the other hand, failed to use any of their four chances in the first 45 minutes. And they dominated almost the entire second session but managed to score just once. Salgaocar now have 20 points, while Tollygunge stay on 12.

Of course, the man under the Salgaocar bar did have a major role in stopping Tollygunge’s goal-count at one. Juje Siddi pulled of four fine saves, two of them being quite brilliant. The man to be denied, on both occasions, was Moses Owira.

The defence, at the other end of the ground, was anything but solid. And with Salgaocar going on the rampage from the 13th minute, Tollygunge Agragami were fully exposed.

Alex Ambrose, Denis Cabral, Sunday Seah and Eugene Gray harassed the Tollygunge defence with accurate one-touch passes, capping the delicate build-ups by cleverly using the width of the field. Left-back Amitava Chanda was all at sea coping with the sudden speed bursts of Seah and Ambrose.

Twice within the opening 12 minutes, Tollygunge came very close to scoring. Moses failed to control an inviting Satish Bharti centre and Akim Abolanle shot straight into Siddi’s body. Thereafter, Salgaocar took charge.

Seah set up goal No. 1 as he toyed with Srikrishna Ghosh and Reazul Mustafa before squaring the ball for Ambrose to push home.

Ambrose returned the compliment in the 32nd minute, feeding Seah on the right. The energetic striker shook off Chanda, went wide and managed to beat Sandip Nandy with a weak grounder from an acute angle. Three minutes later, it was Cabral’s turn to slip past Chanda. His goalmouth centre was pushed in by an unmarked Seah.

A minute into stoppage time, the Tollygunge custodian misjudged a Cabral free-kick. Olubiyi, the sole Nigerian in the Salgaocar ranks, had all the time in the world to nod home the fourth goal.

Tollygunge started the second half with a new resolve and got an early goal. Siddi, who seemed to have been disturbed by a wandering dog, failed to grip a Chanda floater. Akim beat the ‘keeper to the ball and got enough head to roll it over the goalline.


SALGAOCAR: Juje Siddi, Roberto Fernandes, Franky Barreto, Coven Lawrence, Jos Esteves (Ryan D’Souza, 84), Denis Cabral (V.K. Harish, 71), Eugene Gray, Olubiyi, Alvito D’Cunha, Alex Ambrose (Glador Zaire, 77), Sunday Seah.

TOLLYGUNGE AGRAGAMI: Sandip Nandy, Srikrishna Ghosh (Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, 32), Reazul Mustafa, Satish Bharti, Amitava Chanda (Biswanath Mondal, 82), Mehtab Hossain, Sashthi Duley, Sandip Das, Khemtang Paite, Moses Owira, Akim Abolanle.

Referee: P.K. Bose.

Biswajit to coach Port

Meanwhile, former India captain Biswajit Bhattacharya will coach Calcutta Port Trust. His first assignment will be the NFL second division in Chandigarh. The team leaves Thursday.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
Following in the footsteps of The Telegraph Open, quality golf returns to the Royal Calcutta Golf Club with the Rs 8 lakh third leg of the Royal Challenge Grand Prix, to be held over 54 holes from tomorrow to Tuesday.

Though the first two legs have put Vijay Kumar and Mukesh Kumar in the lead overall in this short ‘circuit’, the Calcutta leg could find local hero Firoz Ali putting up a great fight on home turf. Though Firoz did not quite manage to keep to his form in the full strokeplay (72-hole) Telegraph Open, an in-depth knowledge of the fairways and greens here will still keep him among the favourites here, not to mention that he has been in form on the Indian Tour.

The Royal Challenge circuit will culminate in the $ 300,000 Royal Challenge Indian Open, to be held over the Delhi Golf Club course from March 14 to 17.

However, the big draw for this event will be the race for the top finishers. Vijay won the first of the three Grand Prix events, in Noida, which Firoz had given the skip. The Calcutta star had finished fifth in Mumbai where Mukesh won. That keeps Firoz still somewhat in contention for a two-man Indian team to play the top two on the Asian circuit in a match-up prior to the Indian Open. The winners of the match will get Rs 2 lakh each while the losers get Rs 1 lakh. The format of that match-up is yet to be decided.

The others in contention also have had itgood on the Tour. Yusuf Ali, new star Zai Kipgen, Indrajit Bhalotia, Rahil Gangjee, Shiv Prakash, Uttam Singh Mundy as well as Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia of the RCGC.

Rishi Narain, director golf business of IMG, the event managers, said Mukesh now leads the race with a win and a fourth place. He has won Rs 1,57,000. The second place is now with Vijay Kumar, having won Rs 1,10,000. In third and fourth place are Jyoti Randhawa and Arjun Singh, but the two are abroad and will not play here. Firoz has earned Rs 32,800 from his fifth place in Mumbai, but if he wins here he will add Rs 1,29,000 and has a chance of upsetting the Mukesh-Vijay applecart.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
South Point HS and National HS squeezed into the final of the under-19 district school cricket meet today. While South Point beat Jadavpur HS by four wickets, National edged out Central Model by six runs in a high-scoring match.


Jadavpur HS 117 (Subhankar Roy Chowdhury 3/26, Sambit Dey 2/13). South Point 119/6 (Dipanjan Mustafi 35 not out). South Point won by 4 wkts.

National HS 244/4 (Subhojit Pal 93, Abhishek Datta 78). Central Model 238 (Abhra Guha Thakurta 85, Khushwant Singh 42; Soumya Roy 4/33, Vikas Singh 3/43). National won by 6 runs.

Coaching camp meet

East Calcutta District Sports Council (ECDSC) beat BNR School of Coaching (Morning) by 16 runs, while Chandranath Chatterjee MCC defeated Ashok Malhotra CA by 42 runs in the Milo under-19 inter-coaching centre tournament today.


Chandranath Chatterjee MCC 204/3 (Masidur Rahman 87 not out). Ashok Malhotra CA 162/3 (Amarpreet Singh 51 not out). Chandranath Chatterjee MCC won by 42 runs.

ECDSC 147/8 (Ranjit Naskar 37, Dilip Biswas 34; Sk Toumim 3/12). BNR School of Coaching (Morning) 131 (Sourav Shukla 36; Arka Bhowmick 3/32). ECDSC won by 16 runs.

Pratiyaman for Adelaide

Bengal under-16 leg-spinner Pratiyaman Sanyal leaves for the cricket academy in Adelaide in April for a month and a half. ISS Infoway, who will be financing his trip, has released a sum of $6,000 for the first phase.Pratiyaman, who was one of the local bowlers chosen to help out the visiting Australians before last year’s Eden Gardens Test, impressed quite a few.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
Nicco got off to a fine start in The Telegraph Merchants’ Cup badminton meet at the Saturday Club today, beating Rediffusion 21-4, 21-0.

ITC A got the better of Citibank 21-11, 21-9 while The Telegraph overcame Berger 21-11, 21-8.

In the longest match of the evening, Topsel Toyota edged past M.N. Dastur 8-21, 21-8, 21-14. PricewaterhouseCoopers beat Eveready 21-13, 21-18.

Later Blowplast beat Hindustan Times 6-21, 21-10, 21-11.


Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
There are six horses in the line-up for the 2,000m Eastern Command Cup on Wednesday. First race starts at 1.40 pm.


1. Red Flannel Handicap, 1,100m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 1.40 pm: Auctioneer 60.5 Schumacher 60.5; Declaration-oflove 60; Adeline 56; New Fortune 55.5; Rheinheart 55; Beau Bruno 54.5; Global Harmony 49.5; Ever So Loyal 48.

2. Upguards Handicap, 1,100m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72). 2.20 pm: Pearl Dragon 60; On The Bit 58.5; Zuhaak 57.5; Andrada 55; Rare Gold 54; Common Spirit 53; Wakamba Warrior 53; Magnifico 52.5; Sergeant Slipper 52; Starina 52.

3. Lt. Gen.Jameel Mahmood Mem-orial Trophy 1,200m (Cl IV; Rt. 22-50) 2.50 pm: Secret Adversary 60; Rich Dominion 58; Grecian Prince 56; Aklovic 48; Lady Shirley 47.5.

4. Eastern Command Cup 2,000m (Cl II, Cl III eligible; Rt. 44-94) 3.20 pm: Set Aside 60; Discomatic 59.5; Alkido 57.5; Among Men 57.5; Illustrious Reign 55.5; Yukon 53.5.

5. Courageous Cup 1,200m (Cl II; Rt. 66-94) 3.55 pm: Silver Patriarch 60; Added Asset 57.5; Anokato 57.5; Scarlet Raider 57; Arctic Fancy 56.5; Sky Command 56.5; Sadaf 56; Abashed 55.5 Reine Beau 54; Excellent Striker 53.5; Angeles 53; Lawyer’s Love 53; Raaz 53.

6. Partisan Handicap 1.200m (Cl V; Rt 18 and below) 4.30pm: Heaven’s Blessing 60; Wild Is The Wind 60; Flinders 59.5; Kyalami 58; Sce-nic Song 57.5; Piece of Cake 56.5; Jeypore 56; Don Vittorio 55.5; Keep The Faith 55.5; Gul 54.5.

Jackpot: 2;3;4;5; & 6.

Treble: (i) 1; 2 & 3; (ii) 4; 5 & 6.

Tuesday’s Mumbai selections

3 pm: Arctic Star 1. Pure Cream 2. Tactful 3.
3.30 pm: Lucky Strike 1. Aureus 2. Fortune’s Wheel 3.
4 pm: Tio Pepe 1. Silver Line 2. Rosehill Gardens 3.
4.30 pm: Memories of You 1. Destiny Calling 2. Centenary 3.
5 pm: Cut Time 1. Aldeburgh 2. Fairy Goddess 3.
5.30 pm: Twinkling Star 1. Sea Nymph 2. Saving Faith 3.
6 pm: Most Attractive 1. Royal Divine 2. Applause 3.

Day’s Best: Lucky Strike

Double: Arctic Star & Memories of You.

Calcutta, Feb. 25: 
Although Daniel David-trainee Smart Ruler’s victory in the 1,600m RCTC Million, last Saturday, was a commendable effort, equally impressive was the performance of his stable-mate Assertive Dancer. The two Razeen-progenies were separated by a mere half-a-length at the wire. In the stretch-run, the winner displayed brilliant turn of foot when Prakash Bhonsle brought the Regal Star-colt from way back to take the Roccobarocco-filly by a surprise. Assertive Dancer was in full control of the race until beaten 75m from home.

However, the rate of improvement the Dancer has been showing over the weeks, she could be expected to turn the tables on her conqueror if pitted against him again. Incidentally, with Star Selection finishing third, the first three paying slots were claimed by Daniel’s wards.

Much was expected from Saladin, the third Razeen-son in the field of eight runners. Adopting waiting tactics and in sixth with Smart Ruler till the home-turn, the Naseem El Fajr-colt did raise hopes of victory when apprentice Rutherford Alford brought the John Stephens-trainee the shortest way home. In fact, Saladin was seen breathing down the quarters of the Dancer in the last furlong. But the bay colt chickened out refusing to pass the leader through the narrow passage along the rails. Heading for the International apprentice jockeys’ meet in the month of May, Rutherford opined that the colt needs more racing experience. In the last 100m of the race, Saladin weakened to place fifth behind Anatolia, a Vijay Singh-trainee.

Vijay, though, lying low for some time, was back in news with a well earned double through Ancheta in the Cooch Behar Cup and Midnight Escape in the Veritas Handicap. His decision to seek services of a relatively new apprentice Gajender Singh on his topweight filly Ancheta was a courageous one. Gajender did not make a mistake on the speedy filly. Allowing the Tecorno-Goldilocks daughter to shoot upfront with a controlled aggression, Gajender literally toyed with Ballet Master to frustrate efforts of his jockey Jacob Abraham.

The support of blinkers changed the fortunes of two horses — Midnight Escape and Si Senora. Both of them had shown brilliance in their runs early in the season only to disappoint latter thus leaving their trainers to experiment through the equipment. If the former was brought by Cristopher Alford with a late run to down Red Trident in the closing stages of the race, Si Senora made her own running and triumphed in the hands of apprentice Amar Preet Singh.

Helped by Earnest Smith, trainer Deepak Karki, too, made his presence felt with a brace of winners through Val Rogue and Revolution. Making her debut on the local track, the Mumbai-migrant Val Rouge established a long lead from the start to his advantage while Revolution was ridden in a check to account for a combined efforts of the Daniel-duo of Ardon and Lively Project. Incidentally, the winner bolted after passing the winning post. He also dropped his jockey and jumped into the public gallery thus injuring himself badly. Revolution’s was not the lone incident in the race. It was all started with Carbon Copy feeling his shoulder and collapsing before the home-turn thus causing the fall of two more runners — Schumacher and Altiama — who were in close proximity. In the Si Senora’s race, a fancied At My Command burst blood vessels when in a good position to issue his challenge.


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