Indecision over bowling options
Promotion no stop-gap move
Singapore make it easier for India
Subham, Kanchan best
Race Review/ Four-race ban stops Rutherford clear run
Calcutta Racing/ 4 for Wednesday’s Fillies Trial
Pune Racing/ ‘Possession’ wins in Pune

Worcester, Aug. 4: 
When the Indians arrived here last Tuesday, captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright had hoped the four-day match against Worcestershire would leave them better placed in deciding on the XI for Trent Bridge, venue of the second Test from Thursday.

However, with rain ruling out play on the first two days and forcing an early finish on the last, the top question — whether to omit Ashish Nehra or Ajit Agarkar if a 2-2 pace-spin attack is preferred — wasn’t any closer to being firmly answered.

It’s another matter that Agarkar’s hundred at Lord’s may eventually tilt scales in his favour.

What did become clear is Sanjay Banger won’t be in contention and that Ajay Ratra will (almost certainly) keep his place. As a member of the thinktank told The Telegraph Sunday morning, before leaving for Nottingham, the Bangars and Parthiv Patels “must grab even the smallest opportunity” with both hands.

For the record, both Bangar and Patel, who is an absolute kid, didn’t ignite the New Road stands. Of course, some can argue one innings shouldn’t have such a huge bearing. But, when on tour, the ball is in the non-regulars’ court to push their case.

Indeed, had Patel got a handsome score, he would have come into contention and kept throughout the rain-marred last day — in the only Worcestershire innings. Instead, he was replaced by Ratra after lunch, a good enough pointer towards status-quo in the second Test.

According to the member of the thinktank, the Nehra or Agarkar issue “is bound to cause” sleepless nights. Moreover, while a possible green top will ensure that neither Nehra nor Agarkar is dropped, such a surface will trigger another problem: Which of the two spinners, then, to leave out?

[There’s no debate over Zaheer Khan.]

The more experienced Anil Kumble has backers, but is recovering from a calf injury. Yet, his record overseas is hardly inspiring. Harbhajan Singh (who had a fine spell Saturday), too, has support. Only, if he does get the nod in a one-spinner scenario, will he be able to handle pressure?

Nobody is sure. Right now, nobody is willing to stick his neck out. Kumble, it may be recalled, was fielded at Lord’s and collected three wickets in each innings.

The Indians, meanwhile, will have a day off in Nottingham.


Worcester, Aug. 4: 
Promoted to the very top from the match against Hampshire last month, Virender Sehwag will be a regular opener in the on-going series. His Test ‘debut’, of course, was at Lord’s. Now, it’s confirmed Sehwag will keep that slot at Trent Bridge, Headingley and The Oval too.

Thankfully, then, his promotion isn’t a stop-gap exercise.

“Unless Sehwag hits a bad patch or gets injured, I see him as an opener in the three remaining Tests as well,” coach John Wright told The Telegraph, adding: “Sehwag himself is enjoying this role.”

Barring the odd occasion, Sehwag has been opening in the ODIs for a year. A request from captain Sourav Ganguly and Wright, during the tri-series in Sri Lanka, was promptly entertained and ever since that blazing 100 versus New Zealand — among the fastest ever — an exciting alternative to the Sachin Tendulkar-Sourav combination has been available.

Opening in Tests, though, isn’t quite the same.

Dekhiye, team ke liye main kuch bhi kar sakta hoon... In Colombo, I agreed during a crisis. England mein bhi kuch waisi hi baat rahi hai... If the team stands to gain, fine, I’m game for anything,” Sehwag remarked Sunday morning, shortly before the Indians’ departure for Nottingham.

Sehwag began with 41 and 22 against Hampshire, on an atrocious wicket in Southampton, and got 84 and 27 at Lord’s. In the only innings here, versus Worcestershire, he posted 42.

“Yes, as the coach has said, I’m enjoying opening... That I’m used to playing the new ball in the ODIs has, obviously, been a help. However, I wish I had got to hundred at Lord’s... Uska abhi tak afsos hai... Woh hundred haath se nikal gaya,” Sehwag rued, speaking exclusively.

But won’t this ‘new’ role gradually curb his natural strokeplay?

Sehwag’s answer was quicker than one of his rasping drives through cover: “I’m not going to be reckless, but if a ball deserves to be hit, I’ll give it that treatment. Bas yeh hai ki off-stump ke bahar nahin khelna chahiye... In fact, on the eve of the Lord’s Test, I kept telling myself off-stump ke bahar ched-chaad nahin karna hai...”

As long as Sehwag remembers there shouldn’t be any “ched-chaad”, the going should be sans major hiccups. At heart, though, he remains a middle-orderwallah. Sehwag himself acknowledged that when asked if he admired any one opener more than the others.

“Frankly, I’ve never really looked at them... Till now, my favourites (Sachin included) have all been middle-order batsmen,” Sehwag responded, grinning. The answer could be different a few weeks on, by when he will himself be a more experienced (Test) opener.


Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
Though a draw was not exactly satisfactory for the Indian team in the opening match of the LG Cup in Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore made their task easier by beating the Vietnam under-23 team 2-1 Sunday.

Having shared four goals with Singapore Friday, all India need now to qualify for the semi-finals is a draw against Vietnam in the last match of the group Tuesday. Two from the group will make the cut.

The Indians watched the Vietnam team in action Sunday and sounded confident of making it to the last-four stage. “We watched them play and they do not look too tough,” the AIFF Project Director Santo Mitra said over telephone.

“But they will have the home advantage and we will have to be just a bit cautious about that,” he added.

There are other worries as well. Dependable medio Rennedy Singh, who missed Friday’s match with a troubled hamstring, will be on the bench again. “He needs rest. If we qualify for the semi-final, then we might just play him,” Mitra told The Telegraph.

The team thinktank is also planning a change at the last line of defence. Naseem Akhtar of Mahindra United made his international debut against Singapore, but for this match, East Bengal’s Sangram Mukherjee looks set to get the nod.

“Basically, our new coach (Stephen Constantine) wants to have a look at all the goalies. So, it’s likely that he will have a look at Sangram against Vietnam,” the official said.

Mohun Bagan’s Rajat Ghosh Dastidar is the other goalkeeper in the contingent.

It was learnt that the Indians are adjusting well to the conditions. “The grass here is a bit longer. It was difficult for the boys in the first game, but they are coming to terms with it,” Mitra said. He added that the ground and the practice facilities are quite up to the mark.

Commenting on India’s match against Singapore, he said that the performance of Samir Nayak was most notable. “It was also great to see Bhaichung Bhutia and Jo Paul Ancheri operating in tandem upfront. In spite of being out of the game for some time, they played really well.

“They are back at competitive soccer after a gap. This shows how much of an improvement the team has made physically.”

It was also learnt that the thinktank was against too many changes in the XI. “The defence manned by Dipak Mondal, Debjit Ghosh and Mahesh Gawli made a few mistakes, but still, we are not keen on changing the combination.”


Calcutta, Aug 4: 
Subham Chowdhury won the men’s singles crown of the Kalyan Jayant Memorial table tennis championships being held at the Khudiram Anushilan Kendra Sunday. Chowdhury came back from a game down to beat veteran Arup Basak 6-11, 11-9, 11-5, 13-11, 11-6 in the final.

Kanchan Basak came back strongly after losing the first two games 6-11, 9-11 to Sinjini Mitra in the women’s final. In the next four games, Basak outplatyed Mitra 11-7, 11-6, 11-8, 11-3.

Pritam Bose won the cadet boys’ title whipping Tapas Sarkar 11-5, 11-7, 11-2. The cadet girls’ final was a more closely- fought affair with Barnali Jati beating Mita Basak 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9. Priyabrata Das beat Sourav Saha 13-11, 7-11, 12-10 to win the nursery boys’ singles title.

The nursery girls’ singles crown went to Priya Saha who outclassed Ankita Das 11-3, 11-8.


Aug. 4: 
The last day of July will remain affixed in memory of apprentice Rutherford Alford. The young rider not only completed his apprenticeship but also went on to score his first ever treble.

However, the apprentice is peeved with a blot on his effort. He was implicated in the fracas involving the unseating of veteran jockey Naresh Engineer from Adeline and was suspended for four race meetings for a crime he vouches he did not commit.

Those who watched proceedings on the race track and also on the close circuit TV, failed to understand what it was that they missed out which only the ageing set of stewards, well past their retirement years, were the privileged witnesses to.

In the Sprightly Handicap, Darth Vader, Rutherford atop, did shift in to scare Amyn Merchant (on Social Girl) for a possible squeeze-like situation — between Adeline and Darth Vader — but in no way did he touch the ill-fated, heavily bandaged horse who was anyway leaning on to the rails before unseating Engineer. Sources close to Engineer also opined that the senior jockey was not very sure of what hit Adeline.

The stewards had to choose between disqualifying the horse or suspending the apprentice for careless riding. Darth Vader’s superiority over his rivals was, however, so authoritative that the stewards did not dare take the race away from him.

Thus, the axe had to fall on an honest jockey like Rutherford, who has huge following in local racing circles. Unlike most at the RCTC, he is always a trier and is unlikely to be influenced by rogues in the sport.

While one does not condone careless riding, the stewards could have sent across the message with a two-day suspension and a warning.

Coming to the day’s fare, when Prince of Fashion won the Almanac Cup, the Richard Alford-trainee also helped his master to his first treble of the season. Unlike Price Of Fashion’s last effort, when he virtually won from the start carrying a lightweight, Rutherford nursed his topweighted ride in the mid-bunch before making a determined effort, up in the stretch.

The duo had started off the day with with the victory of Mahika’s Pet on whom Rutherford displayed the patience of a seasoned jockey. Galloping off the pace on the three-year-old, Rutherford timed his challenge to perfection to have a narrow measure of Primaticcio, a rank-outsider, and his stable-mate Moon Quest. Mahika’s Pet also helped Rutherford complete his 40 winners and the apprenticeship. Equally praiseworthy were the victories of the other two topweights – Brave Venture and Cup of Life.

The two horses were ridden, more or less, in the same way as Rutherford had ridden Prince of Fashion. While Amyn Merchant booted Brave Venture, S. Shanker drove Cup of Life to a fine victory.

Kargil Soldier, in the concluding event, was the only spoilsport on an afternoon that was otherwise ruled by favourites and second chances. The John Stephens-trainee came with his customary late run to spoil Lucifer-Farley Rodrigues party.


Calcutta, Aug. 4: 
All four horses in the fray for Wednesday’s Fillies Trial Stakes hail from the yard of D. David who makes a come back after serving drug related suspension. First race stars at 1.30 pm.


1. Camballo Handicap 1,100m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 1.30 pm: Lady Shirley 60; Kainat 59; Calcuttan 58; Castle Moon 57; April Ace 54; Flying Power 51.

2. Calcutta Fillies Trial Stakes 1,400m (Terms, 3-y-o only) 2 pm: Moon Mission 54.5; River Melody 54.5; Star Selection 54.5; Social Girl 51.

3. Wind Song Cup 1,400m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72) 2.40 pm: Soviet Port 60.5; Regency Times 57; Alkido 55.5; Calamint 55.5; Rescue Act 52.5; Star Music 51.5; Sencai 49.5.

4. Finalist Handicap 1,400m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 3.10 pm: Mr. Bombshell 60; Regal Rocket 59.5; Aib-erni 59; Giorgio 59; Grand Lodge 59; Royal City 59; Flying Scot 55.5.

5. Commuter Cup 1,200m (Terms, 4-y-o & over) 3.40 pm: Alcalde 60; Beneficent 59.5; Allodium 57.5; Amber Dancer 56.5; Dancing Dreams 56; The Archer 56.

6. Gold Kale Handicap 1,200m (Cl V; 5-y-o & over Rt. 00-28) 4.10 pm: Adeline 60; Simply Dashing 59.5; Tiger Talk 57.5; Uprising 56.5; Blushing Brave 52.5; Kyalami 50.5.

7. Nightjar Handicap 1,000m (Cl IV; 5-y-o & over Rt. 22-50) 4.40 pm: Magnifico 60; Brave Venture 59; Classic Pursuit 58.5; Wandering Warrior 55.5; Storm Centre 54.5

Jackpot: 3; 4; 5; 6; & 7.

Treble: (i) 2; 3 & 4; (ii) 5; 6 & 7.

Sunday’s track trials

Sand track

1,400m: Argolis (Gurang) in 1-51s; (400m) 29s. Easy.

1,000m: Social Girl (A. P. Singh) and Star Selection (Yasin) in 1-14s; (400m) 26s. They were level. Royal City (Gurang) and Amber Dancer (Asghar) in 1-16s; (400m) 26s. They were Level.

800m: Sergeant Slipper (A. P. Singh) Scarlet Raider (Yasin) in 57s; (400m) 26s. They were level and moved well.Wandering Warrior (Koch) in 52s; (400m) 25s. Further improved. Regency Times (Yasin) and Ballet Master (Gurang) in 55s; (400m) 26s. Former was a length better.River Melody (Asghar) and Moon Mission (A. P. Singh) in 52s; (400m) 24s. Both were level.

600m: Adeline (A. P. Singh) 40s; (400m) 25s. Beneficent (Asghar) in 39s; (400m) 25s. Easy.

400m: Lively Project (Yasin) in 26s.


Pune, Aug. 4: 
Ridden by C. Rajendra and trained by Imtiaz Sait, Premier Possession scored a neck victory over Friendly Gift in the August Handicap in Pune on Sunday


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Freeway Plate, Div-II 1,000m: (2-3-4) Silver Line (Nirmal) 1; Fire Dancer 2; Adams Light 3. Won by: Nk; 5; (1-1.8). Tote: Win Rs 47; Place: 16; 10; 57; Quinella: 49; Shp: 51; Tanala: 2,013. Fav: Fire Dancer (3).

2. Jaandaar Plate, Div-II 1,100m: (3-1-7) Crown Affair (T. Jodha) 1; Tasmac 2; Dhanasri 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 1/2; (1-8). Tote: Win Rs 112; Place: 23; 20; 18; Quinella: 401; Shp: 48; Tanala: 5,240. Fav: Dark Victor (4).

3. Jaandaar Plate, Div-I 1,100m: (4-3-8) Fluency (C. Alford) 1; Aries Rocket 2; Snow Star 3. Won by: 1-3/4; SH; (1-7.7). Tote: Win Rs 58; Place: 20; 52; 22; Quinella: 573; Shp: 180; Tanala: 6,098. Fav: Think of Us (5).

4. Frisky Royale Plate 1,800m: (1-8-10) Accademia (Sandeep) 1; Route To Gold 2; Resist 3. Won by: 6-1/2; 3/4; (1-54.9). Tote: Win Rs 55; Place: 17; 18; 147; Quinella: 90; Shp: 39; Tanala: 6,916. Fav: Dancing Eve (7).

5. August Handicap 1,400m: (11-9-3) Premier Possession (Rajendra) 1; Friendly Gift 2; Tarragona 3. Won by: Nk; 3/4; (1-27.8). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 12; 132; 53; Quinella: 1,215; Shp: 806; Tanala: 15,150. Fav: Premier Possession (11).

6.Akkasaheb Maharaj Trophy 1,200m: (3-4-8) Rambus (Kader) 1; Palazzio 2; Kazakh 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 9; (1-9.6–record). Tote: Win Rs 24; Place: 13; 12; 33; Quinella: 20; Shp: 30; Tanala: 180. Fav: Rambus (3).

7. Classic Jewel Plate 1,200m: (8-10-6) Divine Elegance (D. Naik) 1; Premier Collection 2; Signor Escobar 3. Not run: Revitalize (2). Won by: 2-3/4; 1; (1-12.2). Tote: Win Rs 46; Place: 15; 16; 41; Quinella: 68; Shp: 57; Tanala: 1,390. Fav: Punta Quilla (1).

8. Freeway Plate, Div-I 1,000m: (6-8-9) Karishma (Shelar) 1; Cape Marino 2; Connoisseur 3. Not run: Sky Bound (5). Won by: 3-1/4; SH; (1-2.9). Tote: Win Rs 360; Place: 65; 20; 66; Quinella: 684; Shp: 54; Tanala: 19,642. Fav: Sakshi (2).

9. Corrente De Ouro Plate 1,200m: (11-9-10) Raziya (Kamlesh) 1; Reaching Out 2; Romanza 3. Won by: 7-1/2; 3-1/4; (1-11.5). Tote: Win Rs 16; Place: 15; 53; 34; Quinella: 181; Shp: 179; Tanala: 1,644. Fav: Raziya (11). (Note: There was a stewards’ inquiries in the 7th, 8th and 9th race)

Jackpot: Rs 1,56,268 (Carriedover); (C) Rs 20,092.

Treble: (i) Rs 3,593; (ii) Rs 400; (iii) Rs 5,850.


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