EB-Tolly no-gain battle
Punjab Police take on CRPF in final
Mukesh wants foreign coach
Mervyn not upset over loss
E. Railway reach 124/5
Sabyasachi in Round II
Calcutta Racing/ Cup of Life shines

Calcutta, April 2: 
The race to defending the crown has long come to a disappointing halt for East Bengal and what is more agonising is that their arch-rivals have been fast homing in on the coveted title.

Doubtless, this is the time to look back and ruminate on how things have gone awry. This is also a problem time for the red-gold outfit, when motivation to stay afloat is, at best, akin to going through the motion.

Tomorrow’s tie versus Tollygunge Agragami in the National Football League is set against such painful consciousness in the East Bengal camp, which coach Subhas Bhowmick has described as “an inconsequential battle between two teams, placed at seventh and ninth positions, respectively, in the League table”.

There was match-eve practice at the club ground as usual, so was some supporters’ familiar presence to cheer the team up, but distinctly enough, the team was lacking in motivation. Sadly, the team’s stock of pride of being the defending champions is awfully over.

Bhowmick knows this all and has, therefore, left no stones unturned to get the players’ motivation back on track. “Now you go and show your supporters through a better performance that you, too, could have won the League… though, unfortunately, you didn’t have the proverbial champions’ luck,” Bhowmick told his wards after practice this morning.

“I have nothing to lose now. I’ll go for three points in all the matches to come since a loss will make no difference in our existence,” Bhowmick later said in a chat with reporters.

For Tollygunge Agragami, who surprised title-contenders Churchill Brothers by holding them at home, there is hardly any such predicament and they are preparing to play another spoilsport. Beating the defending champions is big enough motivation for Aloke Mukherjee’s team but the coach appeared circumspect and realistic in his approach to the situation.

Akeem Abulanle is not available due to double booking while Mehtab Hossain and Sandip Das are preoccupied with office league. This means the Tollygunge midfield looks rickety and captain Shasthi Duley may have to toil more to keep the supply line of attacks alive.

Mukherjee, for the record, was candid in his plans. “I will put Moses Owira up front and a midfield to be protected by five men” — a clear indication that the former Indian side-back wants to treat things cautiously.

What, however, lurked unsaid was this secret wish to teach current leaders Mohun Bagan ‘a lesson’. “Following our draw with Churchill, which actually has helped Mohun Bagan in their title-race, their coach unnecessarily brushed aside our effort, let alone giving us credit. Come Saturday (when Tollygunge face Mohun Bagan), we’ll see to it,” said a player.

The contrast in motivation for East Bengal and Tollygunge became obvious.


Calcutta, April 2: 
Golden goals propelled Punjab Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to the final of the Indian Oil-Servo Beighton Cup.

Baljit Singh Bhuller slammed the ball home from a penalty corner variation in the 12th minute of extra-time to take Punjab Police past Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB). That wasn’t an unexpected result.

The second semi-final was a big shocker. Tanveer Jabbar’s goal, seven minutes into extra-time, sent the star-studded Indian Airlines off orbit. The national champions had done well to fight back from a 0-2 first-half deficit, but couldn’t hold off CRPF in the end.

Airlines, playing their third match in as many days, got off to an energetic start. Ravinder Singh and India veteran Mukesh Kumar set up Sameer Dad twice in the early minutes only for the striker to mess up with the finishing.

As the minutes ticked by, the star-studded Airlines — fielding nine India internationals including two current World Cuppers — slowed down appreciably. The fit and quick CRPF team pressed hard and got rewarded twice.

Off their first penalty corner, in the 21st minute, Julian Topno drove the ball home after the first attempt by S.K. Vashisht had been padded away by Ashish Ballal.

Six minutes later, the skilful Topno was at it again, piercing through the Airlines defence — manned by none other than India full-backs Dilip Tirkey and Lazarus Barla — before being stick-checked by a desperate Shakeel Ahmed. CRPF’s Mukesh Kumar easily converted the resultant penalty stroke.

Airlines pressed forward in droves after the changeover, with even Barla leaving his defensive position. The aggression paid off in the 58th minute when a Vinayak Kumar deflection went in off a defender’s stick.

The equaliser came two minutes later. Tirkey’s penalty corner hit came back to him off the goalie’s palm and this time, he made no mistake.

CRPF’s late surge fetched them three penalty corners in the final five minutes. All proved abortive, but the Delhi team couldn’t be denied their moment of glory in extra-time.

PSB draw first blood

In the all-Jalandhar clash earlier this afternoon, PSB forged ahead through Gurmit Singh Johny in the 20th minute.

Stung by the goal Punjab Police came out of their shell and began calling the shots. It wasn’t easy in the hot weather and tempers did go out of control a couple of times.

At the stroke of half-time, a scuffle broke out in the middle of the park and some of the reserve-benchers rushed in too. Pargat Singh’s calming influence helped douse the fire quickly, but Daljit Singh (Punjab Police) and Sanjeev Dang (PSB) were given temporary suspensions.

Dominating the second half from the word go, Punjab Police restored parity in the 44th minute. Kanwalpreet Singh’s stinging penalty corner hit sounded the board loud and clear.

Pargat’s team earned three more penalty corners but the winning goal remained elusive. It was left for Bhuller to capitalise on the team’s eighth penalty corner to provide the policemen a golden moment.


Calcutta, April 2: 
His receding hairline is a clear giveaway to the advancing years. The battered limbs are giving way, the body is no longer responding to the brain. Mukesh Kumar will be 32 in a fortnight’s time and it’s showing in his game.

The recent Kuala Lumpur World Cup was the first major tournament Mukesh missed since making his senior India debut in January 1989. A niggling injury on his right shin bone has been bothering him for the last seven-eight months and he’s clearly irritated.

No operation has been advised, doctors have just asked him to take prolonged rest. But that is a luxury Mukesh Kumar can’t afford right now. He may not be fit for national duty, but Indian Airlines still needs his services.

“I have no doubts about regaining my fitness but this pain just doesn’t go… and I can’t take a long enough rest to give it a chance to heal,” Mukesh told The Telegraph this evening, shortly after walking back to his hotel room from the Mohun Bagan ground where his team was shocked 2-3 by CRPF in the Beighton Cup semis.

Talking of India’s disastrous World Cup campaign, Mukesh said he wasn’t expecting anything big but had thought the team would do reasonably well. “From what I saw on TV, there was only individual skill on display, not much teamwork. Too much experimentation by the coach (Cedric D’Souza) also didn’t help. Those used to playing in certain positions were tried out in different roles.”

For an ‘insider’ who has been with the team to three Olympics and two World Cups, how does he explain the endless below-par performances? “Luck went against us at least in two Olympics and denied us a place in the semis — in Atlanta we let in a late equaliser against Germany which proved costly and in Sydney, another very late goal by Poland from an acute angle killed our chances,” reminisced the skillful right-winger.

The luck factor, the Hyderabad man concedes, is only one part of the story. The main problem, Mukesh feels, lies in the lack of hockey education among coaches and players. “Hockey on astroturf hinges on receiving the ball and then wrong-footing the opponent. That is hardly emphasised at our camps. The basics of most of our players are not strong simply because Indian coaches don’t teach the right things.”

The Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), Mukesh says, should try out a foreign coach. “It’s time we should get a foreign coach. Give him charge for two years and see what happens. Don’t sack him after just one or two failures. “I have interacted with coaches like Terry Walsh and Paul Lissek, and both feel they can guide the Indian team to the medal round if given a fair run,” Mukesh was quick to add.

Asked about Cedric’s style of functioning, Mukesh echoed some other players’ view that he had some favourites who got picked not on merit. “He was someone who did the administration part of his job well… but couldn’t encourage his players to give off their best.”

Having been a member of the team in Cedric’s first tenure (in the mid-nineties), Mukesh obviously knows what he’s talking about. “He would get panicky seeing the big teams and instil a sense of fear into the players at team meetings.”

Of course, Mukesh does not agree with IHF’s shocking dismissal of Cedric midway through the World Cup. “Such things will only help in dissuading anyone from taking up the job,” said the 1995 Arjuna Awardee.

What about his future? Any chance of adding to his 270 international caps? “I’ve heard IHF will call all seniors to the next camp. If my leg permits, I’ll give it a shot and see if I am good enough for some more matches.”

And, yes, he definitely wants to give back something to the game which has made him Mukesh Kumar. “I have plans of setting up an academy in Hyderabad. Both Gopichand and I have asked for three acres of land from the state government. Let’s see what happens…”


Calcutta, April 2: 
The 2-3 shock defeat against CRPF didn’t rattle Mervyn Fernandez. In fact, the Indian Airlines coach was all praise for his team which fought big odds.

“This is our third game in three days… in these hot and humid conditions, that’s asking a lot from the players,” said the former India captain. “Virender (Singh) had a heat stroke but still took the field and Sameer Dad played with a hamstring injury I don’t know how. Under the circumstances, I think the boys did quite well.”

CRPF coach Satinder Singh was not surprised by the result. “We have met Indian Airlines quite a few times in the past and beaten them too. We knew how they play and planned accordingly.”

The fact that they won two tournaments on grass recently (K.D. Singh Babu meet in Lucknow and Nehru Gold Cup in Raipur) had helped CRPF here. “We have no stars in our ranks but all hard workers who are equally talented,” said Satinder.


Calcutta, April 2: 
Eastern Railway SA made 124 for five against Rajasthan Club on a rain-shortened Day I of their CAB senior division championship play-off semi-final at Eden Gardens today.

BRIEF SCORES: ERSA 124/5 in 34.5 overs (Sanjay Bhattacharjee 42) vs Rajasthan. Match to continue.

Soujan, Aranya likely

Five under-19 players from Bengal — Soujan Biswas, Aranya Deb Sarkar, Avik Choudhury, Subhajit Pal and Sourav Sarkar — are all set to be picked up for the new session of the BCCI-East Zone cricket academy, starting April 15. Meanwhile, Dilip Vengsarkar will reach the city Thursday to oversee the progress at the academy.

Inter-school cricket

Jagaddal Wooma Charan High School beat BD Memorial HS by nine wickets while Kamrabad High School whipped Sarisha RK Mission Siksha Mandir by 116 runs in the Milo Challenge Trophy for inter-school cricket meet today.


Calcutta, April 2: 
Top seed Sabyasachi Bose moved into the second round of the Cosmo sub-junior tennis meet making short work of Archisman Mitra 6-0, 6-1 at the Calcutta Cosmopolitan Club today. However, seventh seed Suman Debnath of Assam went down fighting to local lad Dharamveer Biswakarma 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 0-6.

OTHER RESULTS: Boys’ under-16— Akshay Bajoria bt Samriddh Barman 6-2, 6-1; Biplab Das by Shrey Deb 6-2, 6-1; Kaushik Das bt Anoorag Biswas 6-0, 6-0; Nirvick Mahanta bt Ranjan Prasad 6-1, 6-2; Arko Pravo Rakshit w/o Saurav Choudhary; Anirban Hazarika bt Soumya Sur 6-1, 6-1; Dharamveer Biswakarma bt Suman Kumar Debnath 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-0; Karan Dhillon bt Arup Mallik 6-3, 6-3; Mohammed Aaquib bt Satya Prakash 6-4, 6-4; Arpit Sharma bt Manish Shaw 6-1, 6-2; Farid Alam bt Vaibhav Das 6-1, 6-2; Anshuman Dutta bt Raghavendra Yadav 6-1, 6-2; Murshid Alam bt Rohit Kumar 6-3, 6-3; Tohid Alam bt Mohammad Imran 7-5, 3-6, 6-2; Rupesh Roy beat Sheikh Asghar 6-0, 6-0. Girls’ under-14— Sneha Sinha bt Bipula Kanoria 6-0, 6-0; Mokshada Jain bt Sivangi Saraf 6-4, 7-5; Snigdha Tyagi bt Sumedha Das Gupta 5-7, 6-0, 6-2; Danielle Jones bt Rashmi Somani 6-3, 6-4.

Kalyan Parishad best

Kalyan Parishad beat Santoshpur Unnayan Samity 25-22, 25-23 and 25-20 to emerge champions in the women’s first division state volleyball league (group A) today. Tuli Das, Chaitali Das and Suhrita Paul came up with outstanding performances for the winners.


Calcutta, April 2: 
Cup of Life, Giorgio and Lucifer were impressive when the following horses worked today.

Outer sand track

800m: No Regrets (M. Reuben) and Tsaynen Blue (Som S.) in 1-3s; (400m) 30s. Former was a head better. Both were easy.

600m: Giorgio (Khalander) and Asprey (Upadhya) in 41s; (400m) 27s. Former was a distance better. Lucifer (Upadhya) in 41s; (400m) 28s. Moved well.

Sand track

1,000m: Floral Path (G. Singh) in 1-13s; (400m) 27s.

800m: Crest Star (Yasin) in 53s; (400m) 26s. Wandering Warrior (Khalander) in 54s; (400m) 24s. Was handy. Sovereign Bullet (Rb) in 52s; (400m) 24s. Fit. Don Vittorio (Shanker) in 57s; (400m) 28s.

600m: Mahika’s Pet (I. Chisty) and Royal Ruler (Rb) in 40s; (400m) 25s. Former was a head better, both were easy. Ever So Loyal (Khalander) in 44s; (400m) 26s. Note. Revolution (Tamang) in 44; (400m) 29s. Cup of Life (C. Alford) in 35s; (400m) 22s. Note.

400m: Global Harmony (Yacoob) in 28s.

On Sunday, sand track

600m: Finders Keepers (Khalander) and Keep The Faith (Brij S.) in 36s; (400m) 23s. Former was half-a-length better. Both moved well. Royal Command (A. P. Singh) and Primaticcio (Asghar) in 40s; (400m) 25s. Former was a head better. Both were easy. Regency Times (Salam) in 43s; (400m) 27s.

400m: Immaculate (B. Gurang) and Discomatic (Yasin) in 29s. They were level. Raring To Go (Asghar) in 28s.


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