More than just 2 points at stake for India
ACB seeks details from world body
India, Pakistan fined
Rupesh in last 4
Schools� chess
Shibpur down DKS by two wickets
2-1 win for Orissa
Last Gamble may come good
Legal Steps in elite company

Melbourne, Jan. 11 
The state of Victoria�s capital city can be both charming and intimidating. The distances can get to you. Equally, the boulevards and parks hold an appeal all their own.

Melbourne is different, too. If a boutique devoted entirely to batteries comes as a shock, wait till you run into a dog-wash parlour!

It probably doesn�t pay being strictly conventional here. And the Indians should, perhaps, remember that in their Carlton and United Series game against Australia tomorrow.

They�ve been defensive throughout this tour of Australia. They simply haven�t shown enough panache. And, now, the time to make amends is running out. At the MCG, routine stuff alone probably won�t be enough.

Plus, with both India and Australia losing to Pakistan, the race for slot No. 2 has already begun. Tomorrow�s match, therefore, has more at stake than just two points.

Australia, who lost to Pakistan Sunday, have had time to recover and re-draw strategy. For the Indians, recovery from last night�s heart-stopper is bound to be slower.

�It�s tough... It isn�t easy to lift morale when you give more than hundred per cent and still lose,� confessed coach Kapil Dev, who did the star-turn in one of the most incredible Test victories, at the MCG, back in 1980-81.

On the face of it, then, inspiration should come easy. Though the recent Test was lost in humiliating fashion, that 1980-81 win as also stunning success in the 1985 World Championship of Cricket remain highpoints of Indian cricket.

Of course, the common thread between them is the MCG. It�s an awesome ampitheatre, but even if its size is daunting, few venues are more appropriate to make headlines.

For India, batting remains a top worry. And of much concern is Rahul Dravid�s continuing poor run. Also, there�s a question mark over Hrishikesh Kanitkar�s role � late tonight, there was even talk he may make way for Devang Gandhi.

The thinktank, however, could also consider the Jacob Martin option. Should Devang, whose last game was the first Test (Adelaide) a month back, be fielded, the batting order will be reshuffled.

While Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman will open � as of now, captain Sachin Tendulkar has no plans to do so � Devang could come at No.3, pushing Dravid to No. 5. There will be no alteration if Martin is preferred.

If at all, there will only be one change. It will mean Nikhil Chopra again being omitted but, then, the wicket is unlikely to have anything for spinners.

A good enough indication is that the Australians haven�t picked a replacement for the injured Shane Warne � soon enough, though, Stuart MacGill/Brad Young is expected to be called up � and are likely to present an all-pace attack.

In fact Warne�s place will go to Shane Lee, Brett�s elder brother, a move which will script a most unusual scenario: Two sets of brothers featuring in the same XI.

With Warne out, Mark Waugh is expected to be named stand-in vice-captain.

�Our pacers reaped high dividends (in the Test series) and we intend to keep the pressure on the same way,� remarked Steve Waugh, the Australian captain.

While the world champions have much fewer worries, even though the match against Pakistan was nothing short of a disaster, their strategy may have to be reviewed if Sachin opts to open.

Steve himself said he was �surprised� by Sachin coming at No.4 yesterday, but quickly added he �understood� just why. Sachin�s move to open against Australia in the World Cup, it may be recalled, had misfired as Glenn McGrath got him with a beauty.

Getting Sachin quickly remains every captain�s top wish. As for Sachin, somebody he shouldn�t underestimate is the explosive Andrew Symonds.

One understands the Australians may also bring back Damien Fleming, who had a rich haul in the Test series, and exclude Adam Dale.

With so much at stake, a down-to-the-wire finish can�t be ruled out. Eventually, though, it�s the team with more hunger that will carry the day.

Incidentally, the Indians had an unexpected, but welcome, visitor at their evening nets: Former physio Andrew Kokinos. Now busy with a top soccer club, Kokinos� gesture of simply �dropping in� was appreciated by the team which had his services for 16 months, ending with the World Cup.    

Melbourne, Jan. 11 
The Australian Cricket Board (ACB) has asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) for details of the �procedure� by which the ban on Shoaib Akhtar was revoked.

This was announced this afternoon by ACB chairman Denis Rogers.

�I, for one, am quite delighted that Akhtar is back playing. However, I�m always concerned about precedent and would like to know the procedure followed. We (the ACB) will take this up at the ICC�s Executive Board meeting in Singapore, next month,� Rogers stated.

Speaking at a speciallly-convened media conference, at the Hilton, Rogers added: �We will, of course, do so in a conciliatory manner... The ICC is being criticised (on the Akhtar issue), but what we need to know is the procedure adopted. Perhaps, an interesting precedent has been set.�

Rogers acknowledged that Bobby Simpson, Australia�s representative on the panel on illegal deliveries, the one which booked Akhtar, was �distressed� at the ban being revoked (by ICC president Jagmohan Dalmiya and cricket committee chairman Sir Clyde Walcott) but gave �no indication� he wished to quit.

According to the ACB chairman, he was also concerned about the �status� of the different ICC panels/committees if decisions were to be overturned. All the while, though, Rogers insisted the ACB wasn�t challenging the Dalmiya-Walcott decision. But, yes, he did hint at the entire exercise being a backdoor veto of sorts.

�To question a bowler�s action certainly isn�t a criminal charge, but it still is very serious. And, so, it must be dealt with respect- fully, quietly and quickly. I do believe the player�s integrity must be protected,� Rogers pointed out, reminding everyone that the call for the procedure adopted shouldn�t be seen as being anti-Akhtar.

Rogers represents the ACB on the ICC�s Executive Board.

The ACB�s chief executive, Malcolm Speed, also spoke to the Media � revealing that the ACB�s top brass had a meeting with the Australian players this morning. And, going by what he said, it was an unusual session.

Indeed, among the things �discussed� was talk about a fall in on-field standards of behaviour. That the �Ugly Aussie� image was re-surfacing.

�The ACB doesn�t support that contention and the players are conscious of being role-models. The ACB also feels if anybody accuses someone (in the team) of racist behaviour, the person must furnish evidence. He has to be held accountable,� Speed asserted.

He added: �The players adhere to a Code where there�s a clause on religion/racism... In fact, the ACB would like the ICC to incorporate that in its own Code of Conduct. Racism probably is a part of life, everywhere, but to suggest it is there in Australian cricket is wholly incorrect.�

As the racism bit came up, The Telegraph specifically asked whether the ACB had been aware of the sensational letter signed by five Australian umpires, which was presented to Match Referee Cammie Smith during the customary pre-series meeting between match officials, the captains, coaches and managers.

Both Rogers and Speed were quick to answer in the negative. Actually, both were rather criticial. While Rogers remarked the ACB �would never have given permission� for that unprecedented step, Speed stated he was �disappointed� that the umpires had entered into a �political debate.�

Speed declared he would �speak� to Darrell Hair, who acted as the umpires� spokesman during last Friday�s meeting in Brisbane, when he returned from South Africa later this month.

The No.1 point made in the letter was that if the Indians and Pakistanis thought there was any �racist bias� in the umpires� decisions, in the recent Test series�, it should be cleared there itself in the Match Referee�s presence � before the next set of engagements (Carlton and United Series) got underway.

Meanwhile, according to Speed, well over 300,000 fans watched the just-ended India versus Australia Test series � a record for one featuring only three matches. Clearly, India�s next visit to Australia won�t be after eight years, as was the case this time.    

Melbourne, Jan. 11 
Cammie Smith, Match Referee for the Carlton and United Series, has slapped a fine (five per cent of the basic match fee) on both the Indian and Pakistani players.

Though both teams were two overs short, at the stipulated close of sessions No. 1 and 2 at the Gabba last night, Smith made an allowance of one over. Otherwise, the fine would have been more.

Meanwhile, according to a report in a Brisbane daily, Pakistani spearhead Shoaib Akhtar saved a young fan from being run over (by a taxi) just as the players were heading for the team bus after beating India in a nail-biting finish.

Already hugely popular, Akhtar�s stock should grow even more now.    

Calcutta, Jan. 11 
Top seed Rupesh Roy blanked Baibhav Das 6-0, 6-0 in the under-14 boys� section to reach the semi-finals of the Enrico Piperno Tennis Training Centre organised age group meet at Ordnance Club today.

Dhruv Kumar, top seed in boys� under-16 category, also entered the last four, with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Rijit Chatterjee.

Rural sports meet

The All India Rural Sports meet will begin at the SAI complex tomorrow. The meet will conclude Saturday. Competition will be held in athletics, archery, football, kho kho, weightlifting and kabaddi.    

Calcutta, Jan. 11 
The Millennium Inter-School chess meet, organised by V. Anand Chess Academy, will be held at Prafulla Sadan, Habra, from Thursday to Saturday. Among participating teams are South Point, Barasat Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, Santragachi Kedarnath Institution and holders Ashoknagar Boys Secondary school.    

Calcutta, Jan. 11 
Shibpur Institute, aided by 20 penalty runs, beat Dakshin Kalikata Sansad (DKS) by two wickets in a CAB senior division knockout match today.

In a match reduced to 37-overs-per-side, DKS made 184 for eight. Shibpur made 176 for eight in 35 overs but gained 20 penalty runs as DKS failed to complete the overs in time.    

Midnapore, Jan. 11 
Orissa defeated defeated Maharashtra 2-1 in the 22nd sub-junior national football (under-16) championship for the Mir Iqbal Trophy at Sri Aurobindo Stadium today. The winners led 2-0 in the first half.

Orissa have bagged four points in three matches while Maharashtra are yet to open their account.

The latter will take on Manipur in the last quarter final tie tomorrow.

The fourth entrant into the semi-finals will depend on the result of tomorrow�s match.

Bengal, Bihar and Assam have already made in to the semi-finals.

Orissa dominated their rivals in the first half and opened their account in the ninth minute through Hemanta Das. Das sent home an angular shot from close to the goal line off a Niranjan Das centre.

In the 17th minute, Ajit Das� spectacular header beat Maharashtra �keeper Ansar Ahmed Khan.

Maharashtra tried to fight back in the second half and after a couple of abortive attempts, their right half, Floyd Braganza, found a reducer when he dribbled down the middle and managed to beat Orissa custodian and skipper Singhu Marandi.    

Last Gamble is fancied to win the Bird Sanctuary Plate for, horses rated 3o-45, the main attraction the six-event Mysore race card on Wednesday. Trained by S. Inayathulla, Faisal Ismail partners the five-year-old gelding by Kristal Rock out of Hemo.


2.45 pm: Swiss Knife 1. Matchless Marvel 2. Dynamic Chief 3.

3.15 pm: Family Honour 1. Expensive Search 2. Basic Red 3.

3.45 pm: Last Gamble 1. Crore-Scorer 2. Scotscraig 3.

4.15 pm: Frontier Hero 1. Class Clariet 2. Treasure Island 3.

4.45 pm: Smokester 1. Spanish Armada 2. Selkirk 3.

5.15 pm: Gino 1. Sniper Shot 2. Arabian Beauty 3.

Day�s Best: Swiss Knife Double: Frontier Hero & Gino    

The Wills Calcutta Derby Stakes triumph of Legal Steps last Sunday puts the Vijay Singh trainee in the elite group of horses with a classic-double � the Guineas and the Derby. However, too much must not be read in his near-course-record-breaking effort, 2 minutes 30.3 seconds of the Deepak Khaitan-property as the track is unusually fast this season. A glance at the timings recorded during the opening meets of the season may confirm the fact.

The Razeen-Prima Facie chestnut gelding, nevertheless, left no doubts that his victory was authoritative and it remains a debatable issue if his ownermate, Alameda, could have reversed the verdict had he made the line-up. Alameda was withdrawn with saddle sores being detected on the Derby eve.

Legal Steps� victory also brought into the light that it was only him in whom his connections� classic faith was bestowed and not Alternator who lost the Guineas in a close tussle, to the former, following a tardy start. �We had targeted the Derby (for Legal Steps) three months earlier,� Khaitan had made a public revelation after the prize distribution ceremony of the classic. Alternator, who was not entered for the prized event, is likely to contest a tougher but more glamorous Indian Derby in Mumbai on February 6.

It may be too early to talk about the Calcutta St. Leger but Legal Steps hardly stands a chance to win the Indian Turf Invitation Cup against the best in the country. It is RCTC�s turn to host the Nationals for the Indian thoroughbred, billed for the last week-end of February.

Derby apart, Vijay saddled two more winners and at liberal odds. His first winner was Magnifico in the baby race, the Aspirant Trophy. The Treasure Leaf-Alilisa came with a late run to spoil the Daniel David-party whose Ashbury looked to be a winner until the last stride.

Alyssum provided Vijay with the treble in the concluding event, the Aphroze Handicap in which Remember Me found tons of support only to be outclassed by the maiden four-year-old who, despite shifting out in the stretch handed the Javed Khan-trained even-money favourite the beating in excess of four lengths.

Javed had, however, pulled off a smart gamble on Arlington only 35 minutes earlier in the Oakmead Cup. The seven-year-old, despite the incompetent handling by his jockey Md. Amil delivered the goods, thanks to an alarmingly veering out Schillaci, nearing the distance-post, in the hands of Richard Hughes.

Hughes had lost the baby race on Rock Falcon in a similar way after the visiting jockey had won many a heart for his brilliant handling of Light Reflections in the Astounding Handicap. Well nursed in the rear after missing the kick, Hughes brought the odds-on favourite, with a late run to win with authority.

Partnering Athletico, Cristopher was the other one who had lost a certain race, the Robin Hood Cup. Going for the stick when travelling so well abreast of Air Command, Cristopher only helped the favourite lose his rhythm and the race by half-a-length.

Earlier on Wednesday, Comeback Kid in the INS Hooghly Cup and Celtic Blue in the Easter Parade Handicap were simply smashing winners. The afternoon, otherwise witnessed a close contest and an accident resulting in the fall of Coalbrookdale and of the favourite, Aldebro, in Beresford Cup which was eventually won by a lesser fancied Acadameus.    


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