Steep climb ahead for India
I know I can deliver in one-dayers: Laxman
Eveready A emerge best
Support for chess talents
Ashish scripts first upset
In The City
Bangalore Racing/ Weight favours Whatmore
Calcutta Racing/ Touch of Silver shines

 
 
STEEP CLIMB AHEAD FOR INDIA 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
London, July 26: 
Thereís no oxygen parlour around Lordís, or else Sourav Gangulyís team would have queued there, instead of trooping back to the hotel, at stumps Friday. Given the Day-II scenario in the opening Test, after all, India desperately need relief.

Yet, till about the last 15 minutes of an extended day, the Indians had been on quite the right track after allowing England to total nearly 500 in their first innings. Specialist Wasim Jaffer failed, but makeshift opener Virender Sehwag was proving equal to the task.

A Test centurion on debut (Bloemfontein, last November), Sehwag was on a superb 84 (150 minutes, 96 deliveries, 10x4, 1x6) when he attempted to rashly whip Ashley Giles through mid-wicket. He ended up bowled, off pad and bat.

From worrying about field placements, captain Nasser Hussain was back to smiling.

Then, in a surprising move, Ashish Nehra (and not Anil Kumble) was sent as nightwatchman. Nobody was too impressed, not even umpire Rudi Koertzen, who adjudged him leg-before to Andrew Flintoff on what became Fridayís last ball.

Vice-captain Rahul Dravid, of course, has got his eye in ó unbeaten on 33 ó but the pressure on India to stay competitive is huge. Having made his Test debut at Lordís, in the summer of 1996, Dravid at least wonít have to dig deep for inspiration. Neither Sourav. Still...

Facing a huge total, an absolute priority was to hold firm and, later, consolidate. However, Jaffer perished on the fifth delivery, from Matthew Hoggard ó again pitchforked into the lead role ó forcing Sehwag and Dravid to quickly get down to repairs.

Jaffer, who was far from spectacular in the two warm-up games, was a shade late in picking Hoggard. As a result, the ball flicked his front pad and disturbed the timber. On an unusually warm day and a flat track, Jaffer should really have been looking to improve his average.

Now, it wonít surprise if the thinktank has already begun contemplating a different opening combination for Trent Bridge, venue of the second Test.

Another wicket and England would have had India down for the count then itself. As it emerged, Sehwag batted as an opener ought to ó till he gave it all away. As for Dravid, the Mr Reliable label says it all.

Earlier, Kumble ended Englandís first innings by getting the defiant Craig White stumped by efficient Ajay Ratra, for a more-than-useful 53 (123 minutes, 75 deliveries, 4x4, 1x6), 15 minutes before the scheduled tea break.

[In Ahmedabad last winter, White had taken a century off India ó 121 in innings No.1.]

By then, though, England had gone past Hussainís stated wish of ďscoring at least 400Ē. In fact, England did all of 87 better, happily adding to Indiaís misery. First, Sourav lost the toss and, then, was a spectator as England went muscular from that utterly fragile 78 for three.

Not for the first time, the inability to drive home either the early or mid-innings advantage stood exposed. Pretty starkly at that. Perhaps, thereís something the Indians need to sort out in the mind.

Kumble finished at par with Zaheer Khan, on three wickets, but the Ďrevelationí was Ajit Agarkar. Believe it or not, the Mumbaikar was actually on a hattrick. Itís another matter that the lively Flintoff (59 in 84 minutes, 62 balls, 10x4, 1x6) was tempted by a near-wide and Hussain (155 in 458 minutes, 331 deliveries, 25x4) brilliantly taken by Ratra.

The dayís remaining England wicket (Giles) went to Nehra who, sadly, didnít have the same control as Zaheer.

Predictably, Zaheer forced the breakthrough pretty early, getting Alec Stewart with a replica of the inswinging ball, which had Michael Vaughan leg-before on Day-I. Indeed, Zaheerís ability to swing into righthanders is bound to get him more leg-before decisions.

Besides the captain himself, England were exceedingly well served not just by Flintoff (still regarded by many as Ian Bothamís successor) and White, but debutant Simon Jones. Known to be a tearaway, he caused a flutter by unleashing a hurricane 44 (45 minutes, 43 deliveries, 7x4, 1x6).

It was a top-bracket cameo and, had the 23-year-old scored three more, he would have improved on his first class best for Glamorgan. Incidentally, Agarkar must have been most relieved: Two balls earlier, he hadnít quite judged a Jones skier.

For much of the day, by the way, Sourav had the field as spread as a Food Festival buffet. But, then, he didnít have a choice.

Lordís turf

Meanwhile, a fast-draining outfield will be in place at Lordís before the next season. The £ 1 million-plus project, interestingly, will be funded by the sale of the existing surface. Towards that end, the MCC has invited its 18,000 members to ďregisterĒ their interest in buying portions of the present outfield.

Unless the membersí demand outstrips supply, parts of the surface will also be on sale for the public. This decision was taken Friday. Much of the existing surface has its roots in the MCCís original ground ó Dorset Square.

   

 
 
I KNOW I CAN DELIVER IN ONE-DAYERS: LAXMAN 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
London, July 26: 
Articulate and straightforward. That, simply put, is Indiaís highest run-getter (281) in a Test innings ó V.V.S.Laxman. And, while he is dashing on the field, off it he is more happy being somewhat reticent. Laxman, however, spoke to The Telegraph for about half an hour on the eve of this Test series which began Thursday.

Following are excerpts

On having been dropped for the last Test at home (Delhi, versus Zimbabwe) and, then, totalling 474 in the very next series (in the West Indies)

Yes, I was disappointed but, at the same time, wanted to be consistent in that five-Test series in the West Indies which (then) wasnít many weeks ago. I did get over 500 in the three Tests at home against Australia last year, but wanted to prove to myself that I could be consistent over a full series.

On how difficult it is for a performer like him to be on the sidelines

(Smiles) Itís definitely disappointing... But, then, itís also an opportunity to sit back and analyse your own game... Look at the mistakes, appreciate why the selectors and the team management have looked elsewhere... Basically, youíve got to keep yourself motivated. If I may add, Iím the positive sort, so...

On whether that exclusion made him more determined in the West Indies

The entire team was determined... Personally speaking, having toured the West Indies in 1996-97, I knew what to expect. I learnt quite a bit by opening on that trip.

On his preparations before a series

I try and visualise the wickets, I study the bowlers. For example, I knew we would be up against Mervyn Dillon and Cameron Cuffy in the West Indies... In the mind, the picture must be clear.

On having been so consistent in the West Indies

As Iíve said, my motivation didnít suffer because I was dropped in Delhi and, then, I was confident about drawing on my 1996-97 experience to good effect... Looking back over the past year or so, I didnít have a good tour of Zimbabwe, but did have a very useful contribution in the Port Elizabeth Test (89 in the first innings). However, the home series versus England was disappointing.

On the Test series in England

Though this is my first trip with the India side, I did play league cricket in Yorkshire for two summers (1995, 1996), so conditions havenít been alien to me. The weather, in the build-up, has been fine and, generally, the wickets have been reasonably good too. Then, except for Simon Jones, we do know quite a bit about the other bowlers. Hopefully, Iíll be able to continue from where I left off in the West Indies.

On just one appearance in the NatWest Trophy

I shouldnít be commenting on the team managementís decision...

On being labelled a Test specialist despite his strokemaking credentials

Iím not sure who has given the label... A year ago, I had to stay back during the tri-series in Sri Lanka, even though I needed to undergo knee surgery. Then, I was sent to South Africa for the last two ODIs in the tri-series there... Surely, my (one-day) game couldnít have undergone such a drastic change in the past few months... While Iíve got to be patient, I know I can deliver in the ODIs.

On his own assessment as a one-day cricketer

Initially, perhaps, I wasnít very comfortable... That had much to do with inexperience. In more recent times, Iíve been totally at ease. Iíve improved. Then, as youíve yourself said, Iím a natural strokemaker. Actually, itís a myth that youíve got to bat in an unorthodox manner to succeed. I mean, just look at Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly... They play conventionally, yet have such a superb strike-rate.

On six years of international cricket

It has increased my confidence and self-belief. There are times when some choose to question your ability. Itís on those occasions that self-belief proves a big help... Mentally, Iíve become tougher and, generally, even more positive. Of course, one keeps learning and self-criticism is important. I canít, after all, blame anybody else for my mistakes.

On whether those 503 runs against Australia put him under more pressure

No. In fact, itís nice that people realised what I could achieve and, thereby, raised their expectations. Bottomline is giving that hundred per cent... That done, one can only hope for the best result.

On whether he still envies Matthew Hayden

(Laughs) I do.

On whether he sets goals series-by-series

It does help to aim for something specific... Having said that, what matters is that the team should win. I could have set out with X number of runs in mind. Yet, Iíll be happy if I fall short, personally, but still contribute in a useful manner. At times, even a 50 or 60 is worth a 150 or 160. Just how many had I been aiming for versus Australia? Well, let me confess, I wasnít looking at 503!

On his Ďtargetí for this four-Test series

Iíd rather not go public with that...

On just how much of the game today is mental

A great deal, really... Indeed, with experience, I plan my innings better... Talent brings players to this the highest level. But, once this stage is reached, itís the mental ability which separates the mediocre from the good players. The oppositon will always have a plan. A counter, therefore, is a must.

On whether he has ever sought the help of a pro motivator

I havenít, but do read the biography/autobiography of achievers. At the moment, Iím reading the latest about Shane Warne. My favourite, though, remains Phil Jacksonís Sacred Hoops.

Finally, on the future

I take it series by series. For me, now, nothing is more important than the four Tests in England. I know I can do well; Iíve just got to translate that into runs out in the middle.

   

 
 
EVEREADY A EMERGE BEST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
Eveready A reaffirmed their supremacy at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club Friday by annexing The Telegraph Merchantsí Cup held in association with Royal Sundaram. This was Evereadyís third triumph in as many years.

Riding the good start given by former Asian Games gold medallist Lakshman Singh, well-known single handicap Aditya Khaitan made no mistake in taking the Eveready team to victory on the final day. The other members of the team were Ghanshyam Singh and J. Gohainb. The champions bettered their last yearís tally by 317 points.

There was a tussle for the second place between Madhya Bharat, J. Thomas and Tisco A. Madhya Bharat pushed the other contenders behind.

The best round of the day was carded by Sanjeev Mehra of the Apeejay Surrendra Group. He posted a score of 72, while the best net performance came from J. Chahal of Tata Tea A.

In Division II, the fourth player for overnight leaders Bata succumbed to the deadly heat and could not complete the round. Caritt Moranís L. Jinghan hit an 81 to take his teamís tally to 353, thus edging out Tinplate B. Shock was in store in Division III where ITC came from behind to clinch the crown. Amit Tibrewal stroked an 88 in a team total of 384, well ahead of the overnight leaders ó Tata Tea F, who had to settle for the second place at 402.

UMC Engineers, represented by M. Khattry, S. Khattry, Ashish Jhunjhunwala and Manish Kanoi, emerged best in the Challenge Cup with an eventual tally of plus 22. Eagle Eye Security finished runners-up, while Marino Exports came third. Arjun Singh had the best gross score in this category.

The Wooden Spoon award for the most sporting team went to Tisco F.

   

 
 
SUPPORT FOR CHESS TALENTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
Information Technology major and the countryís leading PC manufacturer Wipro has made five more significant investments in the field of chess. Having already promoted Indiaís youngest Grandmaster P. Harikrishna from an early age, and having then sponsored IWM Aarthie Ramaswamy, the company has now spotted and focussed on more raw material.

At a press conference in the city Friday Vijay Gupta, vice-president brand and communication of Wipro, said it was with the idea of ď25 Indian GrandmastersĒ that Wipro is making its move.

Those chosen have been given one-year renewable contracts that amount to Rs 4 lakh, including tour expenses for tournaments, coaching and incidentals.

That apart, the company has also given the five laptops to work out the problems with Fritz and such other software (the software will have to be acquired by the player through the coach or organisation he is associated with).

The players selected are 14-year-old Rahul Sangma of Chhapra, Bihar (now Calcutta-based, Elo rating 2220), Deepan Chakkravarthy of Tamil Nadu (2310), D. Harika of Andhra Pradesh (2234), M. Priyadarshini of Tamil Nadu (2193) and Eesha Karvade of Maharashtra (2161).

These contracts are ďperformance relatedĒ, said Gupta, with the performance of the players being reviewed more than once a year, ďmostly on how he/she has moved with the Elo rating, a fair indication of the playerís standard.Ē

The selection was made at a Bangalore camp with Kazakh GM Evgeny Vladimirov making the choices.

Sangma is a case in point of really pushing the limits of a search. His father, a Chhapra school teacher, said he wasnít particularly interested in his sonís chess inclinations, ďbut my wife, who knows chess, found out that my son indeed had talent.Ē

   

 
 
ASHISH SCRIPTS FIRST UPSET 
 
 
FROM A CORRESPONDENT
 
Jamshedpur, July 26: 
Ashish Kumar pulled off the lone upset on the opening day of The Telegraph Schools Chess Championshipís Jamshedpur leg.

The ADL Society boy got the better of 23rd seed Kumar Shanu of Delhi Public School, Dhanbad, with the black pieces.

Top seed Priya Ratnam of Saran Central School, Muzaffarpur, had an easy outing against Karishma Arora of Carmel Junior College, Jamshedpur.

Bireswar Bala of Rajasthan Vidya Mandir, Chakradharpur ó the youngest boy in the meet ó won his duel against Shilpika Ghosh of DBMS English Medium School, Jamshedpur. The youngest girl of the meet, Manaswini S. Chanda of Carmel Junior College, got a walkover as Parag Honey of Braj Kishore Kindergarten, Chapra, did not turn up.

Earlier in the afternoon, the third edition of this popular tournament in the Steel City was inaugurated by Ms Nidhi Khare, DC, East Singhbhum. Padmashree Bachendri Pal was the guest of honour. There was a huge turnout at the Residential Wing Hall of the JRD Tata Sports Complex as parents and friends of participating children braved the Jharkhand bandh.

The meet, to be played in the 11-round Swiss League format, has attracted 260 participants from over 40 schools of Jharkhandand Bihar.

   

 
 
IN THE CITY 
 
 
 
 

One expelled in 1-1 draw

Rajasthanís Bimal Roy was shown the red card by referee Pradip Mukherjee in their first division Group A match against City AC. The match ended 1-1, Bimal Roy scored for Rajasthan and Shankar Chowdhury for City AC. Lalenpuiaís brace was not enough to ensure victory for CFC against Sonali Shibir. The match ended 2-2 with Robi Debnath and Imraj Ahmed scoring for Sonali. A couple by Tapan Das earned Milan Bithee a 2-1 victory against Howrah Union. Sailen Pan got the reducer. The Kidderpore-BNR and the ECLSA-Mohammedan AC matches ended goalless.

State badminton

S. Bhowmick, Amandeep Sekhri, Jishnu Sanyal and Harsih Chandok moved into the semi-finals in the menís section of the 65th state badminton championships Friday.

Amrita Mukherjee, Mukta Bindu Bose, Sudipta Roy and Payel Banerjee made the cut in the womenís section.

Waterpolo

Indian Life Saving Society and Paddapukur Young Menís Association have reached the final of the South-West Rotary waterpolo meet at Kidderpore Swimming Club. ILSS beat College Square Swimming Club 5-2. The Paddapukur team thrashed Calcutta Sports 12-6 in the other semi-final.

Expedition of courage

A 40-member team from the Set Up organisation including 29 physically disabled scaled the Gulap and Stok Kangri peaks in Ladakh in June. Among the handicapped, nine were sightless, four amputees, three mentally retarded, eight post-polio patients and three suffering from congenital deformities. The team included two doctors and four escorts.

Today in Sport

SOCCER: 1st Div Group A: Calcutta Customs vs WB Police SC (Howrah Stadium). Group B: Barisha SC vs Milan Samity (Rabindra Sarobar), Bally Protiva vs Garalgacha SC (Md Sporting), Aryan vs Salkia Friends (East Bengal), Calcutta Police vs Victoria SC (Mohun Bagan) Matches from 3:30 pm BADMINTON: 65th state meet semis at Milan Sangha.    

 
 
BANGALORE RACING/ WEIGHT FAVOURS WHATMORE 
 
 
FROM WILLIAM TELL
 
Bangalore, July 26: 
It is Iflookscouldkill versus Whatmore for the 1,600m J. B. Mallaradhya Memorial Cup, the main event here on Saturday.

On their current form these two stand way above their eight rivals. When they clashed during the winter season, the former just about made it over a similar trip receiving four killos. Met again during the current season, it was whatmore who finished just over a length in front of the Maharajaís Cup winner at almost equal weights. Now, with Whatmore better off by five kilos, the Z. Darashah-ward with K. P. Appu in the saddle may have the final say.

The 1,400m Col. Rajkumar C. Desraj Urs Memorial Cup, the sporting event of the afternoon, has been split into two competitive divisions. While the Darashah-Appu-duo hold advantage with their ward Milan, who is working very well, and may account for Eau De Vie and Amber Regent, in the upper division of the trophy, the Rashid Byramji-trainee Cool Jazz, to be ridden by Pesi Shroff, may be hard to toss in the lower set. The well-bred three-year-old filly by Placerville out of Miss X O Lence had placed an eye-catching third in her only start here early in the season and she looks to be much improved.

SELECTIONS

2 pm: Wikhed Idea 1. Pelf 2. Peg of Rum 3.

2.30 pm: Cool Jazz 1. Crow Wood 2. My Star Girl 3.

3 pm: Asoleado 1. Argentum Blue 2. Adventurous World 3.

3.30 pm: Secret Silver 1. Dancing Clear 2. Slovania 3.

4 pm: Whatmore 1. Iflookscouldkill 2. Refresher 3.

4.30 pm: Milan 1. Eau De Vie 2. Amber Regent 3.

5 pm: Crepusculaire 1. Name of Love 2. Suratha 3.

5.30 pm: Ideal Cut 1. Red Zeppelin 2. Gisele 3.

Dayís Best: Cool Jazz

Double: Crepusculaire & Ideal Cut

   

 
 
CALCUTTA RACING/ TOUCH OF SILVER SHINES 
 
 
BY OUR TURF CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 26: 
Touch of Silver, Smart Ruler, River Melody and Social Girl were impressive from among the following horses seen working on Friday morning:

Outer sand track

1,000m: Arbello (Amil), Anolini (Shanker) and Acklins (Domingo) in 1-17s; (400m) 32s. They finished in the order named with each separated by 2 ls. All three were, however, easy. SocialGirl (Yasin) and River Melody (A. P. Singh) in 1-18s; (400m) 29s. They were level and they moved attractively.

800m: Sariano (G. Singh) and Positive Thinker (Upadhya) in 1-4s; (400m) 29s. They were level and were easy. Touch of Silver (Yasin) and Smart Ruler (Asghar) in 59s; (400m) 28s. They were level and they are a fit pair.

600m: Adams Thunder (Upadhya) in 48s; (400m) 31s.

Sand track

1,000m: Ballet Master (Gurang) in 1-24s; (400m) 32s. Impressive Prince (A. P. Singh) in 1-21s; (400m) 29s.

800m: Arctic Fancy (Gurang) in 58s; (400m) 27s. Moon Mission (Yasin) and Midaís Touch (A. P. Singh) in 57s; (400m) 26s. They were level. Ace of Spades (Gurang) in 59s; (400m) 27s.

600m: April Ace (Yasin) in 47; (400m) 29s.

   
 

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