Vajpayee fields 18 in one team
Sourav?s 97 not enough for India
SA remote control yanked off
Calcutta Weather

 
 
VAJPAYEE FIELDS 18 IN ONE TEAM 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 15 
With an eye on the post-poll scenario, the BJP today formalised its alliance with junior partners by christening the front National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will be the chairman of the 18-party front and lead its election campaign.

To buttress its image as a consolidated pre-poll coalition, the alliance will adopt a joint manifesto, which is expected to be an updated version of the national agenda for governance, the document ratified by the Vajpayee-led coalition after the 1998 elections.

The baptism of the BJP-led front with a new name and a common manifesto is seen by observers as a tactical move to strengthen its claim for the first invitation from Rashtrapati Bhavan to form a government in case the elections throw up a divided House yet again.

BJP sources argued that if the Congress emerged as the single largest party and the alliance as the larger block, the latter?s claim would be stronger because it contested the polls as a united front and campaigned jointly under a specific leader and on a common programme.

Although the decisions to rename the coalition and go in for a common manifesto would dilute the BJP?s identity, party sources said a ?progressive? sounding nomenclature like the NDA may also attract other ?secular? parties to the front.

The alliance proposed to set up an office here immediately as the United Front had done in the run-up to the 1998 election. The BJP and its allies plan to hold a two-day meeting on July 10 and 11 to give final touches to their manifesto and chalk out the campaign themes and modalities.

The decision were taken at a coordination committee meeting at Vajpayee?s house this morning.

The committee?s convener and Samata Party leader George Fernandes claimed that all parties which supported the confidence motion in April were present, except the Telugu Desam, Trinamul Congress and Mizoram chief minister Zoramthonga, who, he said, nonetheless supported the decisions taken in the meeting. The Trinamul Congress is reportedly preoccupied with the West Bengal municipal polls.

The National Conference (NC) was absent. Fernandes told reporters that NC leader and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah was out of India and other members could not be ?contacted?. But the NC, which split during the confidence vote when its MP Saifuddin Soz opposed the motion and was expelled, seems unclear whether to remain a BJP ally or not.

Fernandes was cagey on the Desam?s position because like Abdullah, Desam chief N. Chandrababu Naidu has also been playing hookey with the BJP. ?I have not taken cognisance of who all will be formal members of the NDA,? he said. ?I consider them (Naidu and the others) part of the alliance.? However, the Desam said it was not ?bound by any direction of the front?.

If the Desam and the NC were evasive, the BJP?s newest ally, the DMK, has been unstinting in its support, and leader of DMK parliamentary party Murasoli Maran was present in today?s meeting. Maran has been suitably rewarded by being inducted in the manifesto-drafting committee chaired by home minister and BJP?s key strategist L.K. Advani. The committee also includes Jaswant Singh and Fernandes.    


 
 
SOURAV?S 97 NOT ENOUGH FOR INDIA 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Hove, May 15 
Sunil Gavaskar is going to grab the first lottery ticket he sets eyes on. May be that will bring him, at least, some luck.

It?s like this: This morning, pigeon?s droppings greeted him bang in the centre of his head as he walked into the County ground. Gavaskar didn?t brush it off.

??It?s supposed to bring luck... And, just in case we don?t win, I?ll certainly buy a lottery ticket,?? he?d told The Telegraph.

So, while Gavaskar will head for a lottery outlet this evening itself, the gentleman who put all of ?10,000 on South Africa pocketing the World Cup, with bookmakers William Hill last evening, will park himself in the nearest pub.

South Africa, after all, have begun their campaign on the note they wished: Full points vs India. As for the Indians, they had their chance, specially with South Africa 68 for three, but possible victory was turned into defeat.

It didn?t help that Jawagal Srinath, after an incisive first spell, eventually went for 69 in ten overs. It didn?t help that Man of the Match Jacques Kallis produced another fantastic performance (96 off 128 deliveries) in a pressure cooker-like situation.

Finally, it didn?t help that Ajit Agarkar was punished for 17 in the 47th over. With Jonty Rhodes taking the lead, whatever pressure there then was, went for a six.

In time to come, Mohammed Azharuddin may regret not inviting South Africa to bat but, really, few could have envisaged that conditions (for batting) would improve dramatically in the afternoon. Only, that?s how the cookie crumbled and it?s the South Africans who left for neighbouring Brighton amid cheers.

The jeers were all reserved for the Indians. In fact, a sour note was struck when the players were coming off as an inebriated Indian ?fan? lunged at Azhar and Rahul Dravid. The Indians didn?t press charges, but there?s concern over security. The ?fan? was let off.

Even otherwise, it was a quite dramatic day with the South Africans carrying the use of technology a little too far.

Indeed, the very first Indian innings in this World Cup saw just about everything: Heroism and tragedy, with Sourav Ganguly featuring in both, and controversy in the shape of earphones used by Hansie Cronje and Allan Donald to stay linked with coach Bob Woolmer.

The Indian innings was built around two handsome partnerships: Sixty-seven between Sachin Tendulkar (a soft-dismissal victim) and Sourav; 130 for the second-wicket between Sourav and Rahul Dravid (54 from 75 deliveries).

Playing their first World Cup, Sourav and Dravid did much to promise an Indian summer. They certainly made the morning for thousands of tricolour-waving fans who either drove from London and other parts or packed the Connex South Central railway service from London to Brighton and here.

Incidentally, tennis? hottest doubles pair, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, was in the cheering party. They arrived in London last night (from Rome), hired a car and made possibly their first appearance at a one-dayer featuring India.

?It?s been terrific, good fun... Hope we win,? Paes remarked, adding Bhupathi and he would leave for Paris tomorrow. Sadly, he would have to return disappointed.

For a while, it seemed India would touch 275, but the 42nd over broke the momentum. Dravid got out, playing across, and not much later Sourav was run out after a typically brilliant stop from Jonty.

Early on, Sourav was hit at an embarrassing spot by Kallis, but he made the South Africans pay. Sourav got runs on both sides of the square as also behind and in front.

Still, being run out three short of a World Cup hundred will haunt. Clearly, even momentarily, you can?t have second thoughts. Not with Jonty around.

Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja did their bit to get beyond 250, but the 275-mark couldn?t be touched. With conditions mostly overcast and the ball doing quite a bit, batting definitely wasn?t the most welcome option.

As it turned out, India fell 20-odd runs short. Game number two for India is in Leicester, versus Zimbabwe, on Wednesday.    


 
 
SA REMOTE CONTROL YANKED OFF 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hove, May 15 
The South Africans have always been for increased use of technology, but getting the coach to relay instructions ?live?, without official sanction, isn?t really on.

Skipper Hansie Cronje had taken the field wearing an earpiece to receive instructions from coach Bob Woolmer.

?As soon as it was discovered that Cronje was wearing an earpiece, he was asked by the match referee to remove it. He had not sought permission and the World Cup is not the event to experiment with new devices without prior permission,? said a statement by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Maybe, Woolmer would have got away with it had an alert match referee, Talat Ali, not noticed the earphones on Cronje and Allan Donald.

One learns the South Africans told Ali there was nothing in the laws to bar them acting thus. Ali, however, wasn?t impressed.

Whether the ICC will, for now at least, amend the law to forbid such contact between the dressing room and the middle remains to be seen, but the usually public relations conscious United Cricket Board of South Africa has slipped up.

Woolmer later apologised and confessed it was probably wrong not to have taken permission.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. One or two spells of shower or thundershower in some parts. Slight rise in day temperature.
Temperature:Maximum 33.8 (2?C below normal)
Minimum 21.7?C (3?C below normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 96% Minimum 56%
Rainfall: 18.1 mm
Sunset: 6.06 pm Sunrise: 4.59 am    
 

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