‘I’ll be happy even if Sachin is captain’
Maiden title for Mahadevan
Date with Vijai will be fun: Atwal
IHF has no system in mind: Pargat
Bhupathi signs up with Mirnyi
Punjab Police win 1-0
Daga best in Category A
Mumbai Racing/ El Campeador best over long trip
Mumbai Racing/ Kraft triumphs
Calcutta Racing/ Track trials

Calcutta, March 30: 
With Sourav Ganguly being West Indies-bound tomorrow night, there’s a scramble among sponsors to have a quick piece of the Indian captain.

Not surprisingly, then, time has been at an absolute premium. This afternoon, however, Sourav spoke to The Telegraph before a “complete” workout at the Taj’s health club.

The following are excerpts

On the belief that the about-to-begin tour will be our best chance of winning a Test series outside the sub-continent for the first time since 1986

We do have a good chance, but I’ll be keeping fingers crossed. It’s not going to be easy and, as always, the team aspiring to win will have to play better cricket.

On whether this general belief itself will put the team under much pressure

No. The members of Team India are used to high expectations. In any case, we ourselves aim only to win. It’s just that…

On the pool of players shortlisted by the West Indies

It’s a reasonably young lot… It seems they are looking at next year’s World Cup.

On the Brian Lara-factor

Frankly, I’ve never believed that one player alone can make all the difference… Of course, Lara will be making a comeback (after an injury-forced break), will again have to find his feet. At the same time, he does have the ability to inspire a turnaround.

On ‘neutralising’ Lara

We’ve procured cassettes of his last series (in Sri Lanka) and will be studying them with the help of our computer analyst… We do know he scored as many as 688 runs (average of 114-plus) in the three Tests…

On the Indian team

Is balanced — has what is termed the right mix… I think Deep Dasgupta could have a big role… It’s going to be a big series for someone like Sanjay Bangar as well.

On whether he is looking at Deep to open with Shiv Sundar Das

Let’s see… Either way, I can’t comment right now. While the balance-factor is definitely there, much may also depend on the tour-opener versus Guyana (April 5-7), ahead of the first Test (Georgetown, from April 11).

On the selectors picking Ajay Ratra as the No.1 wicketkeeper

As I’ve said, let’s wait for the tour-opener…

On India’s trump card

(Laughs) As captain, I believe all 11 who take the field can produce something special. It’s a matter of faith.

On most present-day wickets in the West Indies being on the slower side

Not that it’s going to affect us but, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see some grass… I doubt we will encounter absolutely dry wickets.

On whether a third spinner (after Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh) could have been included

Look, when we don’t play three at home, what’s the point of having a third on tour?

On his own departure-eve thoughts

I’m confident, I’m hungry for runs… A hundred in the last Test (New Delhi, against Zimbabwe) and decent scores in the just-ended ODIs have definitely upped my confidence…

[Incidentally, owing to a change in plans, wife Dona and infant daughter Sakshi won’t be accompanying Sourav.]

On the one memory from that 1996-97 trip which stands out

The beauty of the West Indies… The fans, for one, are just out to enjoy themselves… Indeed, my own belief is that the pressure is much less in the West Indies. Compared to other overseas destinations, one can actually relax there.

On captaincy itself

(Smiles) Simply put, it has everything to do with getting the players to function as a team and, then, getting the team to consistently play to potential. One must ensure the simple things aren’t forgotten.

On being quoted as ‘complaining’ about the top job

All I said is that it’s tough. That the player who graduates to the captaincy has to constantly think of the remaining 10 or 13 or 15… It’s a very different situation and the individual in question must himself make the most of the job.

Finally, whether predecessor Sachin Tendulkar’s recent remark (the second such comment in under a year) that he hasn’t ruled out again captaining India, is making him uneasy

Sachin made a fair observation and nothing more should be read into what he said… As for the possibility of my getting uneasy, let me categorically state I’ll be happy with whoever is captain — Sachin, Rahul Dravid or Anil — as long as we win.


Calcutta, March 30: 
He came to the party determined to enjoy himself. Well, sixth seed Manoj Mahadevan had more than his fair share of fun over the last six days and, in the bargain, ended up with the biggest booty on offer at the Servo Indian Oil national grasscourt championships.

The hard-earned 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win over the precocious Sunil Kumar gave the 20-year-old Chennai lad his maiden men’s singles crown at this level and a cheque for Rs 39,000.

That marked a remarkable Chennai sweep, for third seed Sai Jayalakshmi had earlier wallopped Radhika Tulpule 6-0, 6-4 in the ladies’ final. Sai went on to complete a personal double when she and Radhika dismissed Sheetal Goutham and Liza Pereira 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles final.

There was some cheer for local fans late on the final day when Saurav Panja and Nitin Kirtane fought back from the brink to topple top seeds Rohan Bopanna and Vijay Kannan 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 for the men’s doubles title. It was the Calcutta-Pune duo’s fourth national crown.

Crisp serve-and-volley

The men’s final was a typical grasscourt match, quick points being the order of the day. Mahadevan was particularly impressive with his crisp serves and sharp volleys. But for the sixth game, when he faced a break-point, the six-foot-one Mahadevan gave very little away in the opening set.

Mahadevan — whose only previous final appearance in a major meet was in the National Games last November — mixed up his serves cleverly, sacrificing on speed to get the angles right. Sunil had no clue to the ones which went wide to his backhand side.

Sunil, bidding to clinch his second national title — after the 1999 hardcourt triumph — served well too. His swinging forehand found its destination more often than not but his net-play left a lot to be desired.

Not a natural serve-and-volleyer, the 18-year-old Sunil charged the net more often than usual today to neutralise Mahadevan’s chip-and-charge intentions. It was a sound theory, but the execution was often faulty.

One poor service game cost Sunil the first set. Two of the mistakes happened at the net — a misjudgment of an ordinary lob followed by a scrambled volley into the net. There was also an uncharacteristic forehand error, giving Mahadevan the only break — in game 9 — and the set.

Two more errors — on a backhand volley and a double-fault — gave Mahadevan an early break in the second set. With his service hardly under threat, Mahadevan raced to a 4-2 lead.

Just when it seemed Sunil would be wiped out in straight sets, the Chandigarh teenager turned things around dramatically — with a bit of luck. On break-point in game 8, Mahadevan saw a mis-hit service return sail over his head and drop on the baseline. In game 10, Sunil produced a pair of fine returns to again capture Mahadevan’s service.

Sunil had erturned a 2-4 deficit to run away with the second set 6-4. The decider was all about mental strength and it was Mahadevan who had the last laugh. With Sunil serving at 5-5, the sixth seed hustled him into submission, making a couple of aggressive net-approaches on deep, backhand slices.

Mahadevan closed out the two-hour match with two booming down-the-middle serves. “This is my biggest moment,” the handsome Mahadevan said later. “My goal now will be to improve my world ranking from the 900s to the 500s.”

One-way traffic

The women’s final was one-way traffic till Sai got a trifle stiff and struggled to close out the match.

Hitting the ball deep with supreme confidence and consistency, the 25-year-old Sai rattled Radhika from the very first point. The opening set was a breeze, as Sai pocketed it conceding no more than nine points in six games.

The second set looked headed for a similar finish as Sai — who had never beaten the 20-year-old Radhika in four previous meetings — jumped to a 5-1 lead. It was then that Radhika played her best tennis, taking advantage of a nervous Sai over-keen to wrap up the title.

Radhika pulled back one break but Sai woke up in time to finish it off with style and authority. “It was my best match on grass… she was a bit nervous, that helped me,” Sai said later.

RESULTS (All finals)

MEN’S SINGLES: Manoj Mahadevan (6) bt Sunil Kumar 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

WOMEN’S SINGLES: Sai Jayalakshmi (3) bt Radhika Tulpule (1) 6-0, 6-4.

MEN’S DOUBLES: Saurav Panja & Nitin Kirtane (2) bt Manoj Mahadevan & Vijay Kannan (1) 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

WOMEN’S DOUBLES: Jayalakshmi & Tulpule (1) bt Sheetal Goutham & Liza Pereira 6-2, 6-3.


Calcutta, March 30: 
Arjun Atwal, who will “taking up the golf clubs after quite a while,” when he plays in the SRF matchplay event in New Delhi from Monday, says his ‘skins’ date with majors winner Fijian Vijai Singh will be “real fun”.

Atwal, who arrived in his hometown this morning, will be back in Delhi tomorrow.

The skins meet (on April 20) will be a fight for the holes between Vijai, Atwal, Harmeet Kahlon and Kapil Dev. It will be a real arm-stretcher, feels Atwal. The players will be going for a total prize purse of $ 45,000, though Vijai will surely be paid an extra ‘appearance fee’ of anything between $ 1,00,000 to $ 1,50,000, it is learnt.

“You see, each hole is first assigned an amount, like, say $ 1,000,” explained Atwal. “If I have scored the lowest on that hole (a birdie, say), I grab that $ 1,000. If we all, say, par it, then the next hole’s purse goes to $ 2,000 and so on. In the end, of course it is the lowest scorer for this one-day meet.”

He said he has played with Vijai earlier. “Last year, during the third round of the Thai Open we were together… he is pretty laid back, you see, a good deal of fun, not like Tiger (Woods), who is so charged up and sooo serious.” So is there much of any Fijian trait left in the man? “Oh, yes,” said Atwal. “He (Vijai) believes he is half Indian and half Fijian (which he is) and speaks good Hindi, too. The skins will surely be fun.”

Atwal, though, keeps a rather serious effort handy for his physique. He uses the great Indian yoga to stay ahead of the rest. “During this trip I will be in Munger, Bihar, for two days to be with my yoga guru Swamy Niranjan,” he said. “He had helped my father come back from a bad accident and back into work and even the golf course. You wouldn’t believe how good he is and how much I have gained from him…”

Good luck to the new golfing superstar of the country.


Calcutta, March 30: 
Former Indian international, skipper and superstar Pargat Singh today blamed the Indian Hockey Federation’s (IHF) total apathy towards developing the basic infrastructure and talent pool for the debacles that the country has produced in the international hockey arena. He was speaking in the context of India’s disastrous finishing in the recently concluded World Cup.

While saying that it was sad that coach Cedric D’Souza’s tenure was terminated midway the tournament — “that is certainly not the way to treat a coach” — Pargat also insisted that the coach should be involved from the beginning in the selection process.

“Look, there is no system in place to generate any level of quantity that can sieve out quality,” he said. “There must be a properly laid out format and at least a two-year calendar that can allow the players to peak at the desired time and not off it. There must be a concerted effort at marketing the sport…”

The basic problem, as it came out, though was probably a bit of lack of communication between coach and some players “who probably thought they were too big for the game and for any level of understanding with the coach,” said Pargat. He refused to name any player.

When asked if the IHF is anything more than its president K.P.S. Gill, or if the federation has even any minute will of its own as a democratic setup should, Pargat decided to avoid a direct confrontation by just saying that the federation should consider “setting up an expert panel to select coaches instead of just nominating them.”

That has been the newest and possibly the best suggestion to date after the World Cup disaster. “Look, there has to be administrators who are semi or non technical,” said Pargat. But these people can be at least restricted to 50 per cent of the total office bearers. I think we need people who have solid technical knowledge to run the ground level show.”

He also said the IHF better come out in the open in deciding national policies. “What is the secret? This is the national team, and it will only be in the interest of the nation if there is any constructive criticism. Get to the grassroots, that is where lies the key to the turnaround.”

Regarding the present crop of players, especially in his team, Punjab Police, which is here to take part in the Beighton Cup (the team has three World Cuppers in Kanwalpreet Singh, Jugraj Singh and Daljit Singh), he feels that there is little by way of incentive. “Not the police team, but all these nameless faceless juniors who take up hockey… It all looks like a big circus where the kids are just clowns… Where do they go from here, where and what is their future? Is there anybody in the federation worried about this? Why should the sponsors come, why should anybody put in any money in hockey?

“And we expect India to win internationally on such a lean ticket?”


Calcutta, March 30: 
Even though the season is one-fourths through, recently split Indian doubles pair Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes have made good progress in ‘acquiring’ steady partners for 2002.

Bhupathi, in fact, has already ‘signed up’ with Max Mirnyi for the rest of the year. The new ‘firm’ will take shape from the Estoril meet in ten days time.

“Mahesh will start with Mirnyi in Estoril before playing with Jeff Tarango in Monte Carlo and Todd Woodbridge in Barcelona. From Hamburg onwards, it will be Mahesh and Mirnyi through the season, including the three Grand Slams,” informed Enrico Piperno, who will be travelling with Bhupathi from April to November.

Mirnyi, a six-foot-five-inch Belarussian, has enjoyed good success in doubles. He won the 2000 US Open in Lleyton Hewitt’s company and did well with Sandon Stolle too. This year, he didn’t have a long-term partner as he was concentrating a little more on singles.

As for Leander, he is “close to” fixing up a partner for 2002, according to father Vece Paes. “Leander’s more or less decided on somebody but is waiting for that guy to sort things out with his old partner,” informed Dr Paes.

Since their separation early this month, Paes and Bhupathi have played with different partners at two different events. While Paes has won a solitary match, Bhupathi has won three.

Davis Cup squad leaves in batches

Meanwhile, the Davis Cup squad is heading for Wellington in small batches. Captain Ramesh Krishnan and Prahlad Srinath left from Chennai, Rohan Bopanna took the flight alone from the city tonight, while Dr Paes will leave tomorrow.

Paes, Bhupathi and Harsh Mankad are expected to reach Wellington from the US by Monday.


Calcutta, March 30: 
Punjab Police today dominated the proceedings throughout, but could manage only one goal versus CISF in winning their Beighton Cup match at Mohun Bagan ground. The policemen now have four points from two ties (a win and a draw) and are on way to the semi-finals.

At the CC&FC, Punjab and Sind Bank blanked out IHF Juniors 5-2. The bankmen also have four points. Saranjit Singh scored a hattrick.

Punjab Police used their flanks well and Prabhdeep Singh, Sarabjit Singh and Jagbir Singh were the livewires. They made several forays into rival territory but fumbled once into the striking D zone. They earned three penalty corners in the first half and two in the second, of which only one led to the goal, that too through a resultant penalty stroke.

In the 34th minute, following a penalty corner, Kanwalpreet Singh’s shot was foot-stopped by CISF’s Irfan Ahmed. That resulted in the penalty stroke which Kanwalpreet converted. CISF had two penalty corners in the first half and one in the second.

At the CC&FC ground Parminder Singh put the bankmen ahead in the fourth minute and Mustafa returned the compliment off a penalty corner in the in the 18th. Sandip put the juniors ahead in the 40th, but the bankmen consolidated and Saranjit sounded the boards in the 49th, 52nd and 55th minutes.


Calcutta, March 30: 
Amit Daga (handicap 9) today scored 42 stableford points to win the category A (0-15 handicap) title in the second Mercedes Trophy golf meet at the Tollygunge Club. Harmeet Sahney (handicap 10) also scored 42 stableford points but was runner-up on count pack.

Vishal Agarwal won category B with 45 stableford points, followed by Ravi Goenka.

Category C was won by Aveek Sarkar, who also hit the only hole-in-one in the tournament, on the par 3, 152-yard second hole. He had 44 stableford points. The runner-up in this category was K. Kayumi, with 43 stableford points.

There were 64 invitees to the meet.

The final will be held in Delhi on April 27, at the DLF Golf and Country Club. Over 500 will take part in this meet. That will be after the Chandigarh and the Mumbai legs.

The three winners at the finals will be flown by Lufthansa to be special guests of Daimler Chrysler at the Mercedes Trophy world finals in Stuttgart.


Closest to the Pin: Ashok Malhotra (2 feet off pin at hole 8).

Longest Drive: Vandana Agarwal (320 yards at hole 9).

Hole-in-one: Aveek Sarkar (on hole 2, par 3).


Mumbai, March 30: 
Longer the trip the better Vinayak’s ward goes. Therefore, the Serious Spender-Abid’ance son is strongly fancied to lift the 2,800m McDowell Indian St Leger in Mumbai on Sunday. Mark Gallagher partners the gelding.


2.30 pm: Resist 1. Rewarding King 2. Menorca 3.

3 pm: Rhythm Divine 1. Reaching Out 2. Speedster 3.

3.30 pm: Sky Rocket 1. Sonic Symphony 2. Castle Beauty 3.

4 pm: Good Thinking 1. Rosetta 2. Star Guest 3.

4.30 pm: Iceberg 1. Star Wish 2. Safarando 3.

5 pm: El Campeador 1. The Pelican 2. Elusive Hero 3.

5.30 pm: Bryce Canyon 1. Big Bertha 2. Angara 3.

6 pm: Angelic Warrior 1. Highland Mist 2. Pique 3.

Day’s Best: Rhythm Divine

Double: El Campeador & Bryce Canyon


Mumbai, March 30: 
Trained by S. S. Shah, Kraft claimed the 1,400m Tosca Trophy in Mumbai on Saturday. K. P. Appu partnered the four-year-old colt by Procida out of Anusha.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. V. R. Menon Plate 1,100m: (7-1-13) Betsy (N. Jodha) 1; Spur of The Moment 2; Chittor 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 1-1/4; (1-8.5). Tote: Win Rs 126; Place: 29; 25; 45; Quinella: 436; Tanala: 8,222. Fav: California Gold (6).

2. Snow Plate 1,200m: (3-5-7) Frantic (Appu) 1; Star Dusk 2; Gisele 3. Won by: 2; 1-3/4; (1-14.1). Tote: Win Rs 196; Place: 22; 18; 10; Quinella: 309; Tanala: 2,542. Fav: Gisele (7).

3. Tosca Trophy 1,400m: (10-1-7) Kraft (Appu) 1; Astor Place 2; Prabhuti 3. Not run: Eau De Vie (9). Won by: 1-3/4; 1-1/4; (1-26). Tote: Win Rs 39; Place: 17; 23; 55; Quinella: 102; Tanala: 2,604. Fav: Idaho (3).

4. Vallabhdas H. Adwalia Trophy 1,200m: (2-10-11) Latest News (Yogender) 1; Infuriate 2; Fast One 3. Won by: 1; SH; (1-14.4). Tote: Win Rs 21; Place: 15; 18; 27; Quinella: 46; Tanala: 432. Fav: Latest News (2).

5. Sea Jade Plate 1,000m: (8-1-6) Flasher (Appu) 1; Dazzling Gold 2; Heartbreaker 3. Won by: 2-1/4; SH; (59.8). Tote: Win Rs 38; Place: 18; 19; 29; Quinella: 78; Tanala: 975. Fav: Flasher (8).

6. Meherjee J. Dhunjishaw Plate 1,400m: (3-14-15) Twist Afleet (Sandeep) 1; Soi Dissant 2; Condor 3. Won by: 3/4; Hd; (1-27.2). Tote: Win Rs 351; Place: 55; 63; 16; Quinella: 1,972; Tanala: 27,373. Fav: Condor (15).

Jackpot: Rs 37,411; (C) Rs 2,314.

Treble: (i) Rs 2,665; (ii) Rs 4,448.


Calcutta, March 30: 
The following track work was noted today:

Outer sand track

1,000m: Cup of Life (C. Alford) in 1-8s; (400m) 26. Handy. Declarationoflove (Rb) and Prince of Fashion (Rutherford) in 1-9s; (400m) 25s. Level.

800m: Amaryllis (Domingo) and Freedom Warrior (Amil) in 52s; (400m) 26s. Level. Asprey (Upadhya) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Easy. Anacott (C. Alford) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Fit. Floral Path (G. Singh) in 56s; (400m) 28s. Ueged. Dancing Rhythm (Shanker) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Easy. Software Classic (K. Kumar) and Kargil Soldier (P. Alford) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Level. Giorgio (Upadhya) and Iron Warrior (Engineer) in 58s; (400m) 28s. Level.

600m: Lucifer (Upadhya) 40s: (400m) 27s. Fit.

400m: Abandoned (Brij S.) in 28s.

Sand track

1,000m: Cupola (P. Alford) in 1-15s; (400m) 29s.

800m: Wakamba Warrior (Gajender) in 50s; (400m) 24s. Good. No Regrets (Rb) in 48s; (400m) 24s. Impressed. Sky Command (Amil) in 1-0s; (400m) 29s. Don Vittorio (Shanker) in 52s; (400m) 26s. Fit. Beau Bruno (K. Kumar) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Easy. Lawyer’s Love (Rutherford) in 52s; (400m) 23s. Good. Arian (Rutherford) and Darth Vader (Rb) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Former 4 ls better. Cupid’s Arrow (K. Kumar) in 51s; (400m) 24s. Fit.

600m: Crest Star (Yasin) in 41s; (400m) 26s. Glass Slipper (P. Alford) in 40s; (400m) 26s. Easy.


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