BCCI foot-down on players’ SA shoot
Talking Tactics/ Spiked on a rough defence
In The City

Calcutta, June 6: 
For much of Thursday, Indian cricket appeared headed for its latest crisis. Late in the day, however, confirmation came that the BCCI’s business-as-usual ambience wouldn’t be disturbed.

Specifically, there wouldn’t be a throwback to the days of the Establishment-cricketers’ confrontation in 1989.

The ‘problem’ arose with a move by four cricketers (plus Anil Kumble and Jawagal Srinath) to head for a commercial shoot in South Africa, just 48 hours after returning from the West Indies.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Ajay Ratra, Kumble and Srinath were even “cautioned” they ran the risk of not being considered for the June 27-July 13 tri-series in England if they went ahead with the trip.

Late on Thursday, the six got the ‘message’, though questions may still be asked over whether the BCCI can actually “interfere” with endorsement deals.

The shoot, for a high-profile South Korean-based company, was being coordinated by a sports marketing firm which has roped in one-time Karnataka and Mumbai cricketers.

Significantly, it’s because of the ‘problem’ that Saturday’s selection committee meeting, originally slated for Mumbai, was shifted to Calcutta. Had it come to that, BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya could have “directed” Chandu Borde and Co. to ‘rest’ any or all six of the cricketers.

Of course, to avoid what would have been a big controversy, the BCCI may simply have announced that the much-talked-about rotation policy was being implemented.

Dalmiya, incidentally, wasn’t available for comment.

What irked the BCCI is that, generally, the cricketers keep complaining about playing too much and, at the same time, keep calling for adequate rest. Yet, when the opportunity arises, they don’t think twice about “tiring themselves” at shoots.

It’s another matter that the cricketers could have a different viewpoint.

“Late last year, when it was known there would be a break before the start of the ODIs against England, in January, quite a few cricketers let it be known they wouldn’t be available for a one-day series in Bangladesh. Accordingly, India opted out as, quite rightly, the cricketers needed to rest.

“This time, too, they should have been taking a complete break instead of going to another continent for purely personal reasons. In any case, they aren’t world-beaters yet and, so, should stay focussed on cricket,” argued a senior member of the BCCI.

[When one of the six cricketers was contacted, he declined to say anything. “I have absolutely nothing to comment…”]

The BCCI may have ignored the South Africa affair had there been a reasonable gap between the cricketers’ return from the West Indies and their departure for England — scheduled for the early hours of June 18.

Apparently, the cricketers were only due to return on the eve of the team’s departure for England. However, a move had been initiated whereby they would have got back after “four-five” and not “nine-ten” days.

While the BCCI, at this point in time, doesn’t have legal grounds to prohibit such a trip, it can definitely intervene on account of being the sport’s governing body in the country.

Learning from this experience, the BCCI will surely incorporate a clause on commercial shoots (overseas) when the contracts are eventually introduced.

Kumble, by the way, has been the cricketers’ representative during negotiations with the BCCI, specially on graded payments.


June 6: 
Even contests have been the feature of the 17th World Cup so far and the ones to have felt the pinch most are the defending champions. The first goalless draw of the tournament leaves France staring at a huge void and they need a set of combinations working their way to escape one of the most unceremonious exits in the history of the tournament.

France fought a grim battle despite being a man down for more than a third of the game, and showed restraint when Uruguay tried to provoke them by their discrete use of tricks forbidden by law. What France achieved in the end was creditable considering the handicap but there were those shortcomings unbecoming of title contenders.

France looked determined to turn the tide after the opening setback and wasted no time in putting Uruguay under pressure. They started with three forwards, moved up more at every possible chance and there was purpose in the midfield build-ups. But Uruguay were quick to sense danger and responded by getting almost everyone behind the ball.

Uruguay’s initial resistance was strong, but France did manage two half-chances, which would have been better dealt with by strikers with the class of Ronaldo or Batistuta, but there is no such edge in the French attack. Henry or Trezeguet failed to produce the extra bit that separates the best from the rest and this should go down as their principal weakness if France stop at the first round.

Uruguay’s defensive organisation was clinical at this stage and they used a sweeper behind the three central defenders. He went on to play a pivotal role in keeping Uruguay in the match and skipper Paolo Montero’s calmness stood out when things were threatening to turn berserk in the closing stage of the first half.

Uruguay blunted France’s early edge by reducing their forays largely to some short floaters and allowed little room to head or volley. France could hardly break in with low passes and Uruguay started asserting themselves with Alvaro Recoba’s crafty left foot designing the counterattacks.

Chances of what would have been Uruguay’s most notable international success in many years started looking bright after Henry’s expulsion and the South Americans showed they are well versed with the technique of concealed use of nasty tricks. Henry’s punishment looked harsh but even if causing harm was not his intention, he should have known showing spikes on the tackle isn’t permitted, especially since he has to contend with them so often.

France were not rattled by Henry’s dismissal. There were moments before the half-time when they looked as if they would play into the Uruguayan trap and lose their cool but showed sound tactical composure and maturity in the second half. Vieira, Petit and Desailly shouldered enormous load and the Uruguayan defence was under sustained pressure for a major part of the second half.

France wisely understood the importance of keeping possession and released the ball inside the opponent half only when they were sure of making it count. This is difficult to execute in numerical disadvantage but France showed the patience. They succeeded in breaching the defence but Trezeguet drove it at a favourable height for the goalkeeper from close and quite a few headers flew off target.

Uruguay were bound to break away on the odd run into the French half but Fabien Barthez effected some valuable saves to keep French hopes alive, however thin they may be. They needed somebody as imposing as Barthez in midfield to convert their superiority into success and no marks for guessing who they missed. This unveils another shortcoming title-contenders can’t afford.

Zinedine Zidane is one who can make the difference between teams but a side can’t nurture hopes of winning the World Cup if its performance dips so much in the absence of an individual. Champions deliver under adversity and that’s what France will have to do in the last match against Denmark.


June 6: 

Mohun Bagan eves lift title

Mohun Bagan won the women’s league title Thursday beating arch-rivals East Bengal 4-3 in the tie-breaker at the Howrah Stadium. The match was locked 1-1 after the regulation time.

East Bengal went into the lead in the first half through Swapna Kumari, but Bagan restored parity in the second session, courtesy a Chauba Devi strike.

In the tie-breaker, Shanta Dhara, Chauba Devi and Shradhanjali Samanta Roy scored for the winners while Sujata Kar and Sharmila Sapui scored for East Bengal. Madhu Kumari of East Bengal missed the final penalty that gave Bagan the title. The other East Bengal players to miss the penalties were Gita Devi and Rina Gupta, while for Bagan, Rinku Ghosh and N. Alam failed to find the target.

Aryan for nursery meet

Aryan will take part in the forthcoming nursery league scheduled to start in the middle of June. Aryan is one of the two new entrants this year, the other being Friends of the Stadium. East Bengal have decided to stay away.

Inter-school regatta

The 30th all India Servo national inter-school regatta championship will begin at the Lake Club premises from June 9. The seven day meet will continue till June 15.

Meanwhile, the 75th Merchant Cup regatta organised by the Calcutta rowing Club got off at the Rabindra Sarovar Thursday. The final of the tournament will be held on June 8.

Book on World Cup released

A book on the 2002 World Cup was released by state chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at the Writers’ Building Thursday. The book has been edited by former Indian captain P.K. Banerjee and Fifa president Joseph Blatter has forewarded it.

Khalsa winners

Khalsa English Hockey Coaching Centre won the inter-coaching centre hockey tournament Wednesday at the B.H.A. ground. In the final, they beat Student Hockey Training Centre 4-2.    

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