‘Keep Sourav till Cup’
‘We’re no team of individuals’
Parmar unlikely to return
We can host India without Pak: Bukhatir
Subrata: My greatest achievement
Luck kept eluding me: Subhas Bhowmick
Suspension on Nagpals may be revoked soon
Maneka assures fair deal in future

Sharjah, April 16: 
Sourav Ganguly’s aggressive captaincy has often drawn a parallel with Arjuna Ranatunga’s style. And, speaking on captaincy Tuesday morning, Ranatunga himself called for Sourav to be retained till the (February-March) 2003 World Cup.

Ranatunga said: “Planning suffers when captains are appointed series-by-series. Today, all teams are looking to the World Cup and the Indian selectors should give Sourav the job till then.”

Ranatunga, best remembered for captaining Sri Lanka to victory in the 1996 World Cup, added: “While Sourav may not have done a great job, as captain, he hasn’t been bad either. Moreover, with the World Cup just ten months away, you shouldn’t even think of a change. Therefore, give Sourav a fixed term and, believe me, he will overnight become a much better captain.”

According to Ranatunga, the selectors and the captain must forever take a “larger view” instead of being trapped in that series-by-series mindframe.

One of the principal beneficiaries at the on-going (CBFS-organised) Sharjah Cup 2002, Ranatunga felt Sourav will “always” be credited with having put the Australians in place on their 2000-2001 tour of India. “The so-called First World teams wish to dominate us Asians. Where I’m concerned, Sourav gave the Australians what they deserved. Full marks, then...”

Speaking generally, Ranatunga opined “most” Indian cricketers probably suffer from “insecurity”. As he put it: “When even the captain is effectively on trial, how secure will ordinary players feel? There must be channels of communication between the selectors and players and the idea should always be to make the players more secure. A team packed with players who aren’t sure about the future is never going to succeed...”

Is Chandu Borde listening?


Sharjah, April 16: 
Always regarded as a top-bracket batsman, Nathan Astle is also now a world record-holder: Last month, he took a Test double hundred off England in just 153 balls, an incredible 59 less than what was required by the then record-holder, Adam Gilchrist. The affable New Zealander, who is now real hot ‘property’, spoke to The Telegraph early Tuesday afternoon.


On his early years

I took to cricket at a young age but, really, was probably better at soccer... I played as a medio... It’s only around the age of 17-18 that I began to concentrate on cricket. Soccer, after all, wouldn’t have been a lucrative career option in New Zealand and, well, here I am. I don’t regret that decision.

On his idols

Viv Richards and Ian Botham.

On having emerged New Zealand’s principal batsman

(Laughs) I’m not No. 1... There’s Stephen Fleming... Craig McMillan’s around and Chris Cairns, when he is fit... We’ve got a core of three-four top batsmen. And, yes, while we don’t have a Sachin Tendulkar or a Brian Lara, we aren’t a team of individuals either.

On the pressure he himself faces

It’s there and, quite simply, I can’t get away from it. At the same time, the responsibility factor is there and you’ve got to back yourself. Basically, I’m aware just how important it is for me to get going — be it in Test cricket or the ODIs.

On handling pressure

It’s essential to be level headed, to accept the highs and lows in pretty much the same manner. Of course, experience does help because maturity comes with it. Bottomline is being mentally tough.

On New Zealand always having to do all the running

There’s more pressure on the guys who play rugby, which is our No. 1 sport... To talk of cricket, I don’t think we’ve been doing badly over the past couple of years. Yet, that’s not to say we’ve got to where we should really be. Generally, the best emerges when one is between 29 and 32 years old. So, we remain optimistic.

On New Zealand almost always being labelled the underdogs

(Laughs again) Not our doing is it? We don’t necessarily look at it that way, yet, aren’t terribly displeased. Actually, labels don’t matter, performance does.

On Fleming receiving universal acclaim for his leadership

Stephen is a hands-on captain and, personally, I believe he has learnt much from Steve Waugh. He’s honest, up-front... Likes responsibility and likes things to be done his way. In the last couple of years, specially, his captaincy has come on enormously.

On the New Zealanders’ work ethic

Oh, we are extremely hard working... Lots of physical activity, yes, but we don’t ignore the mental side either... Given the way the cricket calendar is now structured, you can’t afford to remain unfit. Neither physically, nor in the mind.

On whether being a regular in both forms takes its toll

Now, that’s a fact of life... There will be Test cricket and there will be the many ODIs... Switching on and switching off is harder in the initial years. However, experience makes the difference. Speaking of my own batting, I’ve never found the switch demanding as there’s no appreciable shift in my approach to the two forms. Frankly, quite a bit of the one-day game has made ‘inroads’ into Test cricket. Results, for one, are quickly achieved as the frame of mind is more attacking.

On preparing for a Test match

(Grins) The more relaxed I am, the better the flow. I’m not the type to get all hyped up and... That’s pretty much it.

On who qualifies to be a complete batsman

A Tendulkar... Somebody who plays well off both feet, somebody who has the shots and, most important, somebody with good temperament. If you ask me, 95 per cent of cricket is mental. Unless you are strong in the mind, you just can’t compete with the Wasim Akrams and Glenn McGraths.

On interests outside cricket

Do I find time? I’m fond of golf — I play off seven and admire Ernie Els — but can’t put in enough time... In fact, when my wife (Kelly) is around, the non-cricket hours are spent with her.

On that world record-smashing double hundred in Christchurch

(Grins again) When did it sink in? Surely not immediately, after about a week or so... To be honest, even now, I often wonder whether it was me that day... I’ll be happy to repeat that innings but, I suppose, such knocks can only be played once in your career... I can’t explain how I got those runs, all I can say is that I enjoyed every minute. I didn’t sky any, didn’t nick any... Even I find it amazing.

On when exactly did he become conscious about being on the threshold of rewriting that record

Hmmm... When I was about 185 and Cairns, I think, said I could hammer Gilchrist’s record... Will I be under more pressure now? Well, I think the expectation-level has already risen.

On dedicating that record to somebody

My parents, John and Lee. While father does make it a point to watch the matches in person, mother doesn’t. As it turned out, she did that day... Overall, though, my own feelings were pretty mixed as we lost that Test...

Finally, on whether he will now be conscious of records

(Smiles) Never... I’m not somebody driven by records... I don’t even know what my Test and ODI averages are... I’m in the game because I enjoy it. The day that enjoyment ceases, I’ll go elsewhere.


Calcutta, April 16: 
While CAB’s director of coaching, M. P. Parmar is unlikely to be back, the body has more or less decided to retain Woorkeri Raman for the forthcoming season as coach of the senior Bengal team.

CAB sources informed that the authorities are not too keen on keeping Parmar. However, a top CAB official said that Parmar’s failing health has forced the 68-year-old to make himself unavailable.

Raman is likely to be back and take charge in August, when practice for the team begins.

The CAB has also decided to send some of the junior players who have performed creditably this season (in Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments) to the MRF Pace Foundation for pre-season practice in June.

The seniors like Devang Gandhi and Utpal Chatterjee will not be sent.

The CAB has also given an ultimatum to England-bound players to be back by August to join the Ranji practice.


Sharjah, April 16: 
India’s last appearance in any Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS)-organised tournament was 18 months ago. It’s been a big (New Delhi-induced) break but, despite the financial setback, cricket is here to stay.

“I’ve specifically been asked by the Ruling Family (Sharjah is one of seven Emirates comprising the UAE) to continue with our programme. Cricket has given this Emirate an identity and, while the Indian team’s participation remains very important for us, India’s absence won’t stop cricketing activities,” informed CBFS chairman Abdul Rehman Bukhatir.

In fact, the on going Sharjah Cup 2002 is the third tournament on-the-trot with India not playing. And, unless the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government has a rethink, Sourav Ganguly and Co. will have to keep staying away.

Bukhatir, however, made the point about India being allowed to play in tournaments where Pakistan isn’t an invitee. “There could be reservations about playing Pakistan. Well, in that case, we can have tournaments without Pakistan...”

Despite talk about suspected mafia links, something which wasn’t substantiated, New Delhi’s “official” reason for disallowing permission (last April) only spoke of Sharjah “not being a regular venue.” Having hosted the most number of ODIs anywhere, that “official” reason did hurt the CBFS.

Incidentally, while Bukhatir didn’t say so in as many words, it appears the Ruling Family is ‘helping’ the CBFS overcome the Indian-absence-inflicted losses. Ever since the first tournament, 1984 Asia Cup, India and Pakistan have remained top crowd-pullers.

The loss, of course, isn’t just the CBFS’. After all, former Indian cricketers, who would otherwise be beneficiaries (with each of the three in every India tournament being presented $ 35,000), are also losing out. Sadly, this Sharjah aspect continues to be over-looked.

Talking to The Telegraph, Bukhatir confirmed there will also be beneficiaries (on the lines of Sharjah) in Morocco, when the CBFS’ Tangiers venture takes off. “As is done here, we will have beneficiaries from the sub-continent... Where the other teams are concerned, we will contribute to the development fund of their respective Boards.”

Subject to the ICC approving the infrastructure, tournament No.1 in Tangiers will either feature Pakistan and South Africa or the two teams plus a third. The scheduled dates are August 12-21.

[Besides Mohinder and Surinder Amarnath, former Baroda player Narayan Satham is associated with the project.]

Bukhatir, of course, insisted this latest CBFS venture shouldn’t be painted as a “commercial” venture. As he put it: “Morocco is already an Affiliate Member of the ICC. So, we aren’t helping somebody who isn’t part of the ICC family. Now, when Morocco is promoted to Associate-status, the ICC can take over the promotion bit.”

As of now, the CBFS intends having two tournaments annually both in Sharjah and Morocco.


Calcutta, April 16: 
Subrata Bhattacharya feels this National League triumph is the greatest achievement of his coaching career.

“It was a long, hard battle and victory at the end was really satisfying,” said the Mohun Bagan coach who returned to the city Tuesday evening along with Amar Ganguly and Bivash Ghosh, and were greeted by a hundred-odd fans at the airport.

Despite the resounding success, his second as coach for Mohun Bagan, Subrata did not sound keen to take charge of the national team. “I have stopped thinking about it.”

Thanking his players for a stupendous performance, Subrata said: “They really played as a unit and gave their hearts out.” He didn’t single out any player for special mention.

Talking of his ‘masterstroke’ of fielding Abdul Saliu in Monday’s needle match against Churchill Brothers, Subrata said: “He was assigned a job and I am happy he did it to perfection.”

Former Mohun Bagan great Sailen Manna paid Subrata’s team a rich compliment, saying that by clinching their third National League title, the team had emulated its previous mega achievement — that of winning the 1911 IFA Shield as the first Indian team. “That victory against East York holds special significance for its nationalistic sentiments. But this victory is not far behind,” Manna told The Telegraph.

He added the way Mohun Bagan clinched the issue in the must-win match in Goa only added to the significance.

Chuni Goswami, very much an integral part of everything Mohun Bagan, rates this triumph as one of three greatest victories.

“Other than the glory of 1911, another towering achievement of the team was our hattrick in the Durand Cup in the 1950-60s. This National League title can easily be rated along with these two,” the champion forward of yesteryears opined.

Chuni also feels that the coach has been a great influence to the team. “Subrata produced the masterstroke of the League when he started using Debjit Ghosh in defence and brought Amauri up to the midfield.”

According to him, this helped Mohun Bagan strengthen their defence co-ordination, which had otherwise been the only weak link.

Manna refused to rate problems in defence as too serious. “I have observed the defensive co-ordination of a team with such a strong forward line is always a little weak,” he added. “Anyway, by winning the championship they have dispelled all doubts.”

Both were quick to add that the influence of Jose Ramirez Barreto was paramount. While Manna thinks Barreto is the best foreigner to have played in India, for his goal-getting spree and touch, Chuni clubs him with two others. “Majid Baskar and Emeka Ezeugo were great and Barreto is almost at par.”


Calcutta, April 16: 
Subhas Bhowmick took charge of East Bengal when the defending champions were down to the ninth spot and steered the team to a creditable fifth place in the National Football League .

But the coach did not wish to take any credit for the team’s performance. “The boys were really hungry to do well and I only helped them,” the coach said. He feels his achievement has been to make the players enjoy the game. “When I took charge, they were demoralised, but I made them enjoy the game once again,” Bhowmick added.

He, however, remarked this was undoubtedly the toughest assignment of his coaching career. “Life is a challenge, and football is nothing else but a part of life,” the coach said. According to him, to be a successful coach, one needs 90 per cent technical knowledge and 10 per cent luck. “This 10 per cent was never with me throughout the league,” he commented.

Bhowmick regretted his team’s loss against Churchill Brothers inspite of having a complete sway over the match. “Even the Goa newspapers wrote that god saved Churchill on that day,” he said.

He also felt that his team was not given two sure penalties against Mohun Bagan which could have made all the difference. “Moreover, a coach needs a couple of years to understand his team properly. Even Sir Alex Fergusson was not successful in the first two years of his stint with Manchester United, but the club authorities persisted with him and the results are obvious.” However, to Bhowmick’s liking, he has been retained for the forthcoming season by the East Bengal authorities. “I have also given a list of players to the officials, but do not want to divulge it to the press,” the coach said.

Bhowmick has given a fresh lease of life to some of the players like Bijen Singh, Surya Chakraborty, Shankarlal Chakraborty and Soumitra Chakraborty. “Yes, they were sidelined, but were keen to perform. I only helped them out,” he said.


Calcutta, April 16: 
The western India horseowners, Nagpals, were virtually cleared of all charges on Tuesday by Maneka Gandhi, Union minister of state for statistics and programme implementations. A high-powered Turf Authorities of India (TAI) delegation that met Maneka in New Delhi was all praise for the minister following an exhaustive four-hour meeting. “The minster was very accommodative and understanding while dealing with the matter,” said Vineet Verma, ceo and secretary RCTC.

The meeting was convened at the insistence of TAI after Geoffrey Nagpal and his three family members were suspended — pending inquiry — from owning horses. The registration of all performing animals with the ministry has become mandatory following a union government notification two years ago.

On March 17, it was reported by ministry observer Varsha Thakker that Shamaal, a filly owned by Nagpals, was subjected to merciless whipping by jockey Malesh Narredu during the race. Although the RWITC stewards had cautioned the jockey and had also slapped a fine of Rs 3000 for the offence, the ministry’s attention was drawn.

The TAI delegates highlighted the fact that the hostility between Thakker, a former RWITC Committee member, and the management was an open secret. Delegates also argued that it was Thakker’s personal vendetta against the present committee that was misleading the minister in the name of animal welfare. “The minister was quick to seek explanation from Miss Thakker,” said a delegate who did not want to be identified. In a few words, Maneka also had a message for all observers that they were appointed with a mission and should not settle personal scores.

Nagpals, on their part, are required to reply to the ministry’s April 2 show-cause notice before the suspension order is revoked.


Calcutta, April 16: 
The Indian horse-owners’ fraternity that was shaken following Nagpals’ ordeal may breath in peace now. Maneka Gandhi, union minister of state for statistics and programme implementations, also has a message for them. She assured the TAI delegates visiting her on Tuesday that utter restraint will be exercised in future before a horseowner is linked to a jockey’s misadventure with the whip. “In future I am going to think a million times before taking an action against a horseowner,” Maneka is understood to have informed the delegates.

Whip-related laws, however, will be further tightened and the observers appointed by the ministry will be given added responsibilities — details of which are still not available. Maneka has also approved a shock absorbing whip from among many samples she was shown.


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