‘Selection meetings shouldn’t be a forum to score
Sourav ignored by panel of experts
EB in another dull draw
Free Kick
Janaki loses marathon match
Tolly take on BSF today
Bengal leave it to the last
Jyotirmoyee in Bengal squad
Batsmen dominate

Bangalore, March 7: 
Last evening a lady presented Sourav Ganguly with a designer candle, requesting that he himself light it in Kochi on the eve of the one-day series. “It will bring luck,” she insisted.

This morning, yet another well-wisher offered a gift-wrapped “good luck charm”. Somebody even presented a painting!

Clearly, there is no dearth of goodwill for India’s newest captain — even the team, though this may come as a surprise. But Sourav knows, only too well, only handsome performances will lead to such touching goodwill being retained.

As Sourav himself admitted, in a somewhat hurried interview with The Telegraph shortly before the team’s departure for Kochi, the players’ credibility is at stake. Actually, at stake is the credibility of Indian cricket.

On whether it has actually sunk in that he is now the captain

(Grins) It has. For some days, now, I’ve been thinking of a gameplan to counter South Africa. We need to alter our approach a bit... Perhaps, we’ve become too rigid and it’s time we looked at being flexible.

On whether he has anything specific in mind

It probably wouldn’t be proper to announce it publicly but, yes, I’m looking at going about our bowling differently (a spinner may share the new ball) and there could even be some change in the batting order... I’ll be willing to take risks.

I don’t, for instance, subscribe to the belief that you can only win by containing batsmen. Rather, I believe one can do better — the win-percentage can definitely improve — by trying to bowl out the opposition.

On his own mental preparation for the captaincy

I’ve always been an instinctive, aggressive captain. That won’t change. Restrict and restrict only won’t be my approach.

On whether he will himself open with Sachin Tendulkar

As of today, yes.

On whether he is happy with the team chosen

Indeed, yes, though I’m disappointed Sri (Jawagal Srinath) wanted to be rested... Of course, I do understand he’s no more a youngster and fast bowling does take a lot out of you.

On whether he made his ‘presence’ felt at his first selection meeting, on Sunday (Sourav had no role in team selection when he was stand-in captain in Toronto)

It went off very well... Look, I don’t think either the selectors, the coach or I will be seeking to make our presence felt. That approach won’t help... Idea is to discuss, and then pick, the best combination. Selection meetings shouldn’t be a forum to score points. Like I’ve said, the meeting went off very well.

[In a nice gesture, chief selector Chandu Borde informally sought Sourav’s views a good two days before the meeting.]

On whether he will be having the final say (along with the coach) on the playing XI during matches at home

The selectors (in a break with convention) have said I could have the combination I want. I will, however, be consulting them. They are the selectors, and I respect that.

On whether he will start with a clean slate (in Kochi, Thursday) or already feels burdened by the awful performances over the past three months (beginning with the Adelaide Test)

(After a pause) Defeats in five successive Tests, just a single one-day win in Australia... We can only move up, not do any worse... We’ve played the worst cricket of the past many years and, from here, can only improve.

On what will he be conveying at this evening’s team meeting in Kochi

Number one is that we’ve got to begin winning. If we don’t, we won’t have credibility left. Secondly, I’ll tell the players what I’ve told the selectors — that anybody picked will be given a fair run before alternatives are thought of. Thirdly, and this is purely a cricket matter, at no stage should the asking-rate climb beyond six.

There’s no point, after all, making a desperate bid when the asking rate has gone to nine or thereabouts. In any case, a defeat is a defeat — whether you lose by ten runs or a hundred.

On the yardstick he will be following as captain

Performance. Batsmen have been selected to score; bowlers to take wickets. As I told you last week itself, performance alone will count — there won’t be exceptions.

On whether his own form (2, 31, 1, 13 in the Test series) has left him worried

I would have been happy with some runs... I accept it’s been my worst Test series... I’m not very concerned as I realise everybody will have a bad patch. Forget human beings, even the most hi-tech machines can run into problems. When there’s a slump, it’s mental toughness more than cricket ability that sees you through.

On whether he agrees with Sachin (and coach Kapil Dev) that commitment was lacking in the Test series

We had just one problem: we never posted enough runs on the board. Here, for instance, we were shot out for 158 in the first innings. Can any team win from there? We were certainly a much better side than the per- formances indicated.

On the South African team

Good, but Allan Donald and Daryll Cullinan have gone home (as was intended) and Jonty Rhodes (his wife recently delivered their first child) won’t be around either. In the one-dayers, Jonty’s presence isn’t insignificant... I wouldn’t at all read much into the Test series result.

On the Indian team’s fitness level

Yes, we do need to get fitter. However, with so much travelling and such a packed schedule, it’s unreasonable to expect an improvement in the middle of a series. A one-month camp under Andrew Leipus, before the next season, will work wonders. I’m confident of that.

On whether he will propose the team regularly have the services of a computer data analyst

Probably something is being worked out... Obviously, it will be of benefit, or else, the other teams (New Zealand included) won’t be having either a programmer and/or analyst as part of their support system.

Finally, on his experience with the Board-assigned psychologist (B. Ganesh Kumar)

(Smiles) I’ve just spoken to him once and what he said made sense — “Focus on the game and don’t worry about the result”. A psychologist I’d met in England, back in 1995 when I was playing league cricket, had said exactly the same thing... For anything positive to emerge, Kumar will have to be around with the team for some time.    

New Delhi, March 7: 
India’s new captain for the forthcoming one-dayers, Sourav Ganguly, has been ignored for the Asia XI slated to play the Rest of the World XI at Dhaka on April 8.

The match is the grand finale for the first-ever International Cricket Conference (ICC) week, scheduled from April 2-9. The day-night match will start at 2.15 local time. The match will spill over to the next day if required.

The four Indians selected in the 12-member squad are former skipper Sachin Tendulkar, leg spinner Anil Kumble, one-day specialist Ajay Jadeja and all rounder Robin Singh. There are five from Pakistan and three from Sri Lanka in the squad.

The team was selected by a panel of five experts, Ian Chappel, Tony Greig, Sunil Gavaskar, Mike Proctor and Asif Iqbal. The president of the ICC, Jagmohan Dalmiya said that the entire proceedings were recorded and will be telecast during the cricket week. Ravi Shastri was the moderator.

Wasim Akram was unanimously chosen skipper and Sanath Jayasuriya vice-captain.

Brian Lara will skipper the Rest of the World squad with Mark Waugh as his deputy.

World champions Australia and South Africa have three players each in the squad.

The playing eleven would be chosen prior to the match, in consultation with the skipper, vice-captain and one of the selectors, Asif Iqbal.

The title sponsor for the event is cricketnext.com. The prize money for the match is $30,0000. The man of the match, best batsman, best bowler and best fielder will get $2,500 each.


ASIA XI: Wasim Akram (capt), Sanath Jayasuriya (vice capt), Moin Khan (wk), Saeed Anwar, Sachin Tendulkar, Aravinda De Silva, Ajay Jadeja, Abdul Razzaq, Robin Singh, Anil Kumble, Muthiah Muralidharan and Shoaib Akhtar.

REST OF THE WORLD XI: Brian Lara (capt), Mark Waugh (vice capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Jacques Kallis, Michael Bevan, Neil Johnson, Lance Klusener, Chris Cairns, Daniel Vettori, Curtley Ambrose, Allan Donald and Andrew Caddick.


Calcutta, March 7: 


A Subhash Bhowmick comment best summed up the mood in the East Bengal camp. “I’m surprised you people still have the patience to seek my reaction,” the coach told newsmen after watching his team play out another dreary 0-0 draw in the Coca-Cola National Football League clash against JCT.

Bhowmick’s frustration at seeing his boys produce pedestrian performances day in and day out has made him so cynical that the coach just seems to be going through the motions.

“What can I say? It’s the same story every day. They are creating chances but not scoring... Maybe I’ve failed to teach them on how to concentrate and focus,” Bhowmick lamented.

It wasn’t just the pathetic finishing which stuck out like a sore thumb in the East Bengal approach today. The body-language of the entire team suggested that the players were reconciled to finishing in the bottom half of the 12-team competition.

After today’s draw, East Bengal have 26 points with two tough matches to play (Mohun Bagan and FC Kochin). Three points this afternoon would surely have kept them in the running for a top-six finish, but now...

JCT, aspiring for the third spot, were no better in terms of quality. The 1-3 defeat the other day against Mohun Bagan has transformed them from a smooth-functioning unit to an ultra-cautious team. On a day when Prasanta Dora was extremely shaky, JCT just didn’t put any pressure on him.

Dora, usually a reliable customer under the bar, twice let innocuous balls slip out of his grip. He also cleared a Jackson back-pass straight into the path of Sukhjit Singh. To his relief, the JCT striker pushed the off target.

With the East Bengal medios in no mood to work as a cohesive unit in the first session, most of their forays were unplanned and accidental. Only twice, in the closing minutes, did East Bengal threaten the rival citadel with some combination play.

Carlton Chapman, a pale shadow of his enterprising self two years ago, set up Bijen Singh with a nice forward pass. With just goalkeeper Baljit Singh to beat, the little Manipuri stabbed the ball straight to him. Bijen’s attempt to volley home the ricochet, off Baljit’s hands, sailed wide.

Emmanuel Opoku then sent Sheik Sanjib on his way down the right. The striker, who had just replaced Bijen, cut in unchallenged but directed his angular right-footed drive just past the target.

East Bengal showed more urgency in the second half. A Chapman half-volley didn’t miss miss by much, while Opoku blasted a right-footer way over the crosspiece when the need of the hour was to control the ball and shoot it in the right direction.

Ossius Luis Ferreira, who did little today to endorse his Brazilian origin, saw his best moment in the 52nd minute. As Rennedy Singh floated one from the left, Ossius cleverly headed the ball square to a better-placed Chapman. Instead of aiming straightaway, Chapman went wide and the angle got too acute for him.

Three minutes from the final whistle, East Bengal had another good chance. Sanjib, in the clear top of the box, stroked the ball too weakly for the custodian to palm it away. Substitute Willie Brown collected the rebound and fired a 25-yard bullet which got deflected over the goalline off a JCT defender.


EAST BENGAL: Prasanta Dora, Falguni Datta, Jackson Egygopong, Chanchal Bhattacharya, Ratan Singh, Carlton Chapman, Tushar Rakshit, Emmanuel Opoku, Rennedy Singh (Dipankar Biswas, 57), Bijen Singh (Sheik Sanjib, 42), Ossius Luis Ferreira (Willie Brown, 78).

JCT: Baljit Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Dipak Mondal, Ranjit Singh, Daljit Singh, Hardip Saini, Harinder Singh, Rampal (Hardip Sangha, 81), Jaswant Singh (Harjinder Singh, 54), Sukhjit Singh (Surjit Singh, 62), Hardip Gill.

Referee: S.M. Balu.    


Dependance on foreigners here to stay

Fans often ask me why Calcutta teams are not performing consistently any more. Why teams like JCT, Salgaocar and Churchill Brothers are frequently overpowering them in premier tournaments including the National League?

Well, by saying Calcutta teams I’m not including the current Mohun Bagan side. They are in a hot streak and looking good for a second National League title. What I mean is, the kind of dominance Calcutta teams used enjoyed is on the decline.

Right from the inception of the National League, the first five years of which are to be treated as a ‘trial period’ as stipulated by Fifa and AFC, the Calcutta teams discovered that it wouldn’t be a cakewalk for them anymore.

Bengal have stopped producing players of outstanding quality and all teams, including those doing well in the National League, have discovered a common recipe for success — recruit four to five mediocre big-bodied foreigners. There’s no guarantee that they will be immensely gifted but they will make the difference with their physique which is generally better than the average Indian.

There are just three exceptions to this rule in this year’s National League — JCT, State Bank of Travancore and BSF. The first two, in fact, deserve kudos for doing fairly well with home-bred players.

Mohun Bagan are obviously the team to have gained most from this ‘foreign policy’. They were not impressive earlier in the season and even in the first few matches of the National League. They were a transformed lot following the inclusion of Igor Shkvirin, Stephen Abarowei, Jose Ramirez Barreto and Dushit Chalersman, and are looking invincible in their march to the title. They were fortunate that they got some foreigners who had the skill to carry the team on their shoulders.

These players are difficult to contain as the kind of moves they create are not anticipated by our defenders. Also, their standard of passing is very high which was shown by Barreto in the game against BSF where Igor scored. This Uzbek, though past his prime, possesses deadly striking skills. The best thing about Stephen, who doesn’t look as good as he had in his earlier stint in India, is his menacing ability to switch flanks.

Barreto covers a lot of ground and his dribbles are fast and swift. With one or two touches he can move into a dangerous position and is quite fast. Dushit’s biggest plus is his ability to essay long-distance passes with surprising accuracy. No wonder he was picked to represent the Asian All Star XI.

Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya should be complimented for staying uncharacteristically patient and composed when his team was not doing well. But his East Bengal counterpart Subhas Bhowmick paid for being too frank and outspoken at times. A number of injuries to key players compounded his problems.

Other teams to have done well like Churchill Brothers, Salgaocar and FC Kochin have also relied on their foreign recruits. Foreigners were not so indispensible in the earlier editions of the National League. Of course, one must add that the quality of foreigners has been better this time.

On the flip side, the flux of foreigners has created a sense of dependance and not many teams could think of doing well without them. Tollygunge Agragami’s 1-3 ‘home’ defeat against FC Kochin is an example. Tollygunge were without Awoyemi Isiaka and Abayomi Felix that day, but in the ‘away’ match when both Nigerians played, Tollygunge drew with FC Kochin.

The fact that teams can’t think beyond foreigners was proved in East Bengal’s hiring Brazilian Ossius Luis Fereira after completing their first-leg engagements. It’s been a sad season for them as players they depended on let them down at a crucial phase. Ghanain powerhouse Suley Musah didn’t recover from an injury suffered earlier and playmaker Emmanuel Opoku was nowhere near the form he showed last season.

Playing with and against quality foreign players can lift the standard of football in any country as is evident from the progress made by Japan since the origin of J-League. In India, it has not worked out that way as our players have failed to learn from what they are seeing. Rather it has led to a sense of dependance.

This trend is is likely to gain momentum in the coming season as most top players will be busy with pre-World Cup and Afro-Asian Games camps. The clubs will certainly put pressure on the federation to increase the quota of foreign players. Indian football will suffer if the overall quality of these imports deteriorates.    

Calcutta, March 7: 
Janaki Krishnamurthy, veteran of many a battle on the domestic tennis circuit, came out second-best in a marathon three-setter against third seed Archana Venkatraman in the Indian Oil-Servo senior national grasscourt championships at CC&FC today.

The unseeded Janaki battled for three hours and five minutes before finally bowing 6-7 (8-10), 6-3, 5-7 in the first round.

Twice in the tense final set, Janaki broke Archana only to drop serve straightaway. The Karnataka girl then got the decisive break in the 11th game and he- ld serve to close out the long match.

In men’s action, top seed Syed Fazaluddin broke little sweat in dismissing Peter Vijaykumar 6-2, 6-3.

Fourth seed Mustafa Ghouse and fifth seed Vishal Uppal also advanced to the second round untroubled, overcoming S.B. Keerthi and Punna Vishal, respectively.

Local boy Abhishek Jagnani, a qualifier, notched up a creditable 6-3, 6-0 win over UP’s Anjan Viplav. Fellow-qualifier Ramnath Roy, though, fell in straight sets to Anup Minda.

P. Ravishankar, a qualifier from Tamil Nadu, did well to oust Andhra Pradesh’s Kamala Kannan in three close sets.


Men’s singles, first round: Syed Fazaluddin bt Peter Vijaykumar 6-2, 6-3; Mustafa Ghouse bt S.B. Keerthi 6-3, 6-3; Anup Minda bt Ramnath Roy 6-4, 6-3; Vishal Uppal bt P. Vishal 6-3, 6-2; P. Ravishankar bt Kamala Kannan 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4; Abhishek Jagnani bt Anjan Viplav 6-3, 6-0.

Women’s singles, first round: Sonal Phadke bt Krushmi Chheda 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; Archana Venkatraman bt Janaki Krishnamurthy 7-6 (10-8), 3-6, 7-5; Ragini Vimal bt M.V. Preetham 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Second round: S.K. Tara bt Pragya Yadav 6-0, 6-1.    

Calcutta, March 7: 
Amal Dutta says his target in the National League is to finish with 28 points. That’s three short of what Tollygunge Agragami already have. And with the BSF match coming up at home, Dutta could well realise that target tomorrow itself.

Purely on strength and class, Tollygunge are the clear favourites for tomorrow’s game. But having seen his team go through a few ordinary patches in the long-drawn league, Dutta is taking nothing for granted.

The injury-induced absence of Kajal Bhattacharya and Isiaka is another reason why Dutta is cautious even against the No. 11 team. While Kajal has been a tower of strength in defence, Isiaka’s threatening overlaps have given that extra thrust to the Tollygunge forays.

BSF, buoyed by the 1-0 away win over Dempo Friday, will go all out to pick up a point or three as it will help them in the quest to avoid the final two spots.    

Calcutta, March 7: 

BENGAL 316 & 264/9 decl.

KARNATAKA 268 & 52/1

The big push for victory didn’t come in the end as Bengal, hamstrung by injury to their key bowler, settled for less in the crucial Ranji Trophy Super League tie against Karnataka today. Their fight for a berth in the knockout stage was thus carried to the final set of Super League matches beginning Monday.

Bengal grabbed the first innings lead yesterday to raise hopes that they would go for the maximum of eight on the final day to confirm passage from the tough Group A but, with Utpal Chatterjee’s injured hand showing no signs of improvement, the hosts had to down shutters.

So Bengal settled for some good batting practice in preparation for their tough tie against Mumbai, and they got to 264 before the ninth wicket fell some 17 minutes before the scheduled tea-break. Karnataka had made 52 for one when the match was called off after 18 of the scheduled 25 overs had been bowled.

Utpal did not take the field today. The Bengal skipper, who yesterday regained his state record for the highest number of wickets in a Ranji season, cracked a finger on his non-bowling hand while trying to take a hot caught-and-bowled chance from Dodda Ganesh.

The hosts came away with five points they gained by virtue of the first innings lead, while the reigning champions carried home three.

It will leave Bengal a trifle uneasy in the knowledge that Karnataka, despite coming out second-best here, are still left with a very good chance of beating them to the berth in the knockout stage.

If Bengal get three points from the Mumbai match, beginning at the Eden next Monday, and Karnataka manage five from the Delhi tie, to be played in Bangalore, the two teams will be left tied on points. Karnataka will then progress on the tie-break rule because they have an outright win (against Rajasthan) while Bengal have none.

The match may have been reduced to a meaningless joust for the better part of the final day, but several players got an opportunity to make a mark.

Devang Gandhi, out of the Indian team after the tour Down Under, used the time to score 88 before a top-edge from a sweep ended his hopes of getting to the three-figure mark.

Syed Saba Karim strengthed his claims to a recall to the wicketkeeper’s slot in the national team by following up the fine 129 not out he had in the first innings with an unbeaten 55 today.

Nikhil Haldipur got 43, falling to a good reflex catch at forward short leg by Ramesh as he tried to pull Joshi to the mid-wicket fence. Laxmi Ratan Shukla chipped in with a 28-ball 37 that had six boundaries and a six.

For Karnataka, debutant Santosh Vadeyeraja underlined his worth as a left-arm spinner by picking up four wickets for 59. Sunil Joshi, recalled to the Indian squad for the one-dayers against South Africa, knocked back three.

The Karnataka skipper rushed to catch the flight to Bangalore, from where he will go to Kochi for the first one-dayer to be played on Thursday.

While Bengal will feel pretty satisfied with the way they played in this match, there are flaws that need to be ironed out quickly. Mumbai, with three wins under their belt, are sure to be a handful.

Even though they won the batting points against Karnataka, there were several wickets thatb were gifted away. The fielding picked up a notch or two, but the bowlers will have to do better.

So much cannot be left to just one bowler to achieve. Utpal Chatterjee has been delivering match after match, and he indicated he will play despite the injury, but it’s time for the others to stand up and be counted.


Calcutta, March 7: 
Jyotirmoyee Sikdar is among 20 picked by the Amateur Athletic Association, West Bengal (AAAWB) for the 6th Federation Cup championships in Lucknow from March 15-17.


MEN: Tarit Singha Roy, Arup Chatterjee, Rafiqul Islam, Sheik Shamser, Amit Saha, Sanjay Rai. Women: Saraswati Dey, Soma Biswas, Debi Bose, Aruna Debi, K. Jebeswari Debi, Y. Bala Debi, Banani Biswas, Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, Manisha Mondal, Kalpana Das, Mukti Saha, Rina Das, Lucy Deshmukh, Manisha Dey.

Indian rugby team

The Indian Rugby Football Union has chosen a 10-member team to pariticipate in the Malaysian Sevens meet to be held in Selangon from March 17-19.


Emil Vartazarian, Hovik Avanesian, Ganik Zadoorian, H. Terchonian (all Calcutta), Chaitanya Singh, Kunal Bhansali, Nassar Hussain, Faisal Siddiqui, Matthew Spacie, Rahul Bose.

Lightweight wrestling

A lightweight wrestling championship, to commemorate the 108th birth anniversary of the Late Gobar Goho, will be held at the Gobar Goho Gymnasium from Saturday to Monday.    

Calcutta, March 7: 
Batsmen ruled on the opening day of the second-round relegation play-off matches of the CAB senior division league.

Meanwhile, in a quarter-final clash of the second division championship play-off, High Court ran up a record 599 for six in the allotted 85 overs against Calcutta Parsee Club today. N.P. Singh (134), Nayeem Khan (112) and Hanish Aurora (96) did the bulk of the scoring in the match at the Rajdanga ground.


At Rajasthan: Tapan Memorial 359 for 9 (85 overs) (Abhijit Sengupta 100, Kalyan Saha 54, Chandan Hela 52; Abhijit Chatterjee 5/93) vs DKS

At Bhowanipore: YMCA, College 359 for 9 (85 overs) (Santanu Dutta 107, Siddhartha Das 55, Sampad Pattanayak 41, Sudip Mitra 41; Prosenjit banerjee 5/120) vs Kumartuli.

At Taltala: Mohunlal Club 349 (83 overs) (Sourav Bhalla 145 n.o., Avdesh Srivastav 71; Manoj Biswal 4/106, Samrat Guha 3/96). Calcutta Gymkhana 5 for 0.

Matches to continue.

CPT win

Calcutta Port Trust quelled Naihati Athletic Club 25-12, 26-28, 25-12, 25-21 in a men’s first division match of the Calcutta Volleyball League today.

Dutta for veterans’ meet

Former state table tennis skipper Sadhan Dutta has been selected for the world veterans’ championships, to be held in Vancouver, Canada from May 21 to 27. Dutta is now running from pillar to post trying to get sponsorsship for the trip, which will cost him an estimated Rs 1,12,000.    


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