The new king leads rag-tag army to battle
Fazal survives a scare
I lead by instinct: Sourav
ERSA beat Police
Lover may be hard to toss
Table Dancing strikes it rich
Acadameus, Acceptor shine

Kochi, March 8 
To reach the unreachable stars, to fight the unbeatable foe... The theme song from the Man from La Mancha was adopted by the Australian cricketers as their team theme and was played in their dressing rooms till very recently.

The verse is somewhat apt in the context of the Indian team now. Going by their current form, it would probably require to call up all their courage and skill to be able to grapple with the South Africans.

The mode of Sachin Tendulkar�s dismissal in the second innings of the Bangalore Test was a true picture of the Indians� current state of affairs � down on its knees. While the batsmen struggle, the bowlers find the conditions too alien. The false sense of security that breeds complacency for the hosts every time a home series arrives, has been laid to rest by the visitors in the two Tests.

Going by the performance of both sides, the five-match one-day series certainly does not hold much hope, though, the presence of Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh is sure to add a competitive edge. The South Africans have come here with wins in Kenya and the tri-series at home while the Indians are yet to overcome the 1-7 drubbing at the hands of Australia and Pakistan Down Under.

As Sourav Ganguly takes charge at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium tomorrow, more than arresting the slide he will have to do enough to lift the morale of his beleaguered teammates. The more one looks at the series opener, the more one gets the feeling that the Indians need the spirit to tilt the scale in their favour. It was not always like this. Just last season the Indians were near �unbeatables� at home. They have lacked the inspiration to put on the massive scores their talent makes possible.

And the one man who could help Sourav in this direction is Sachin Tendulkar. Free from the shackles of captaincy and out to enjoy his game, Sachin seemed relaxed at nets today. In his fight to redeem some lost pride and prestige, he could be the perfect architect in staging India�s turnaround.

If his record in 1998, after being removed from the hot seat by the board, is any indication (1894 runs from 34 matches), it does suggest hope for Indian cricket. A bright start by Sachin and Sourav may be the right dose for the run drought.

�There was lot of misunderstanding going on. This controversy, that controversy... People wanted Sachin to be relieved of the captaincy. Now he himself has quit. We have a new captain and a new beginning has to be made. Lets look at the brighter side of things from now on,� Kapil Dev, who joined the team late in the afternoon following a family wedding in New Delhi, said.

While the return of the vastly experienced Mohammed Azharuddin has possibly lent solidity to the middle-order, the indifferent form of Rahul Dravid is a matter of concern. Mohammed Kaif�s positive attitude has come as a big boon but the thinktank is likely to keep him out of the playing XI. Medium-pacer Amit Bhandari, the best bowler in the recently concluded Challenger Trophy, is also unlikely to earn his maiden cap. The toss-up will be between Nikhil Chopra and Sunil Joshi. The left-arm spinner missed practice following a late arrival from Calcutta but indications till late tonight favour Joshi.

Since the World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston when a moment of madness in the middle shattered Hansie Cronje�s dreams, the South Africans are out to prove their supremacy. The side has undergone restructuring and rebuilding and Cronje emphasised, �the events in the next five games will help us to gain confidence.� The absence of Allan Donald was sure to have a big effect, though, Cronje tried to put a brave front saying they have been successful without him as well.

Their consistency was never in doubt (a 7-3 win record since the World Cup), but what consistently came under the scanner was their ability to prevail in tight situations. But if their record in the past couple of weeks is any indication, this side has certainly shown a more positive and matured approach in their abilities. They are super-fit athletes who will do their best to defy the weather conditions � it gets extremely hot and humid here during midday with the temperatures hovering around 38 degrees.

The heat did force Kapil and team physio Andrew Leipus to take off their shirts during the customary fielding practice session. Cronje admitted this series was a different proposition.

�In one-day cricket, one or two players can always affect the course of a game. In the Tests, what India lacked was that only one or two of their batsmen got the runs. But in ODIs, these one or two innings can make a huge difference.�

The visitors were undecided on their combination as the dryness in the wicket was their matter of concern. Incidentally, Sachin had a five-wicket haul the last time the Indians played here.

The ankle injury to Lance Klusener may prevent him from bowling in the match. They were also undecided on whether to promote him to take the advantage of the first 15 overs. The pyrotechnics, however, has hardly been effective vs India. And Sourav hopes it doesn�t have to happen here.

�Lance has been very effective coming in at the later stages and we�ll decide after having a look at the wicket in the morning,� said Cronje. A �blinder� from Klusener early on may end the match there itself.    

Calcutta, March 8 
Syed Fazaluddin and Saurav Panja survived tight three-setters to advance to the quarter finals of the Indian Oil-Servo senior national grasscourt tennis championships at CC&FC today.

Top seed Fazal was tested by veteran Asif Ismail who is more of a coach than an active player these days. Battling cramps and some spirited serving by Ismail, Fazal eked out a 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 6-3 verdict after nearly two and a half hours� struggle under a hot and humid sun.

Panja, the eighth seed, also dropped the first set before seeing off Maharashtra�s Rohan Bopanna 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

All the other seeded men, barring No. 3 Vinod Sridhar, enjoyed a smooth landing into the last eight. Sridhar bowed in straight sets to fellow-Chennaite Rishi Sridhar.

All but one of the women�s second-round matches were one-sided affairs. Karishma Patel did well to turn around a one-set deficit against Sonal Phadke and win in three.

Ragini Vimal, Oindrilla Majumdar and Priyanka Parekh � the three local girls in action today � were no match for their seeded opponents. It�s been ages since a Bengal woman has featured in the quarters or semis of the national championship. Chances of a change in that trend don�t seem imminent.

Fazal was a model of inconsistency against Ismail today. He dropped serve once to often and didn�t return well either.

After dropping the first set tie-break, Fazal took a medical break early in the second as he felt weak and sensed an attack of cramps. Soon after, he lost serve and raised visions of a tame exit.

But the 25-year-old, who has a crucial Davis Cup engagement coming up in a month�s time, broke right back and got into the winning groove thereafter.    

Kochi, March 8 
There is hope in his heart, spring in his steps, rage in his eyes and belief in his mind. Indian cricket may be in the doldrums but Sourav Ganguly is hoping for a new dawn at the beginning of his new innings.

�We�ve had a tough time for the last three months. Today, all 14 of us have our credibility on the line and we�ve got to make sure we make things happen,� Sourav said. That, in a nutshell, has also been his message to the team.

This small but bustling town has the privilege of unfolding the various facets of the Bengal allrounder�s versatility. During the India-Australia one-dayer in 1998, Sourav made his debut as a TV commentator here, following a one-match ban imposed by Match Referee Peter van der Merwe.

Come tomorrow, he will take over the mantle of captaincy from Sachin Tendulkar in the opening match of the five-match one-day series against South Africa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

It is a childhood dream coming true but certainly not the most opportune of moments to be thrust into the hot seat. He will face the enormous load of uplifting a team�s morale battered, bruised and thrown into the dust by the thoroughly professional Australians and the South Africans. He has to command the respect and support of a bunch which has clearly forgotten what it means to play as a team.

�It�s not that we haven�t been trying. But the important thing is doing the right thing at the right time and picking the right player for the right position. We�re a much better side than what our performance suggests,� Sourav remarked.

The new captain has already spoken to each member of the squad individually and sought their views and suggestions in a bid to inject fresh ideas. More importantly, he is trying to bring back the self-belief among his players. �Look at Ajit Agarkar�s strike-rate. He�s one of the best bowlers in the slog overs,� he said with conviction. �I�m glad Azhar is back among runs. It shows his commitment and dedication,� he added.

Sourav, who doesn�t have a role model as captain, confessed he leads by instinct. But that has not prevented him from chalking out moves in consultation with coach Kapil Dev. He is already working at using Rahul Dravid as the fifth bowler along with Sachin, Ajay Jadeja, Robin Singh and himself.

Kapil was also effusive in support of Sourav. �Keeping away the disappointment, we have to begin on a fresh note somewhere, sometime. We will all be there to help the new captain.�

South African skipper Hansie Cronje, who hasn�t seen much of Sourav�s leadership, was guarded in his approach. �He�s a free-stroking batsman and is always a big danger to any opposition. But strictly from a captain�s point of view, we�ll have to wait and see him in his new role.�

Sourav has an even � two-win, two-loss � record in the four matches he has led India as stand-in captain. His qualities as a leader were favourably assessed in Toronto not very long ago.

Since he wants his team to speak through performance, he wishes to keep his immediate ambition secret. When he guided the boys at nets in the absence of Kapil, (he arrived late from Delhi) he may have been very timid and considerate in his approach. But he has already indicated to the boys that he is ready to wield the whip, if needed.

A fighter to the core, he has promised to lead by setting examples. �Whenever there has been a rough time on a tour or series, I have always come back on a high,� he says with pride.

His exploits in England during his debut series, when he was seen as excess baggage, had left many red-faced. Four years on, he is being considered as one who can help India overcome this critical phase in its cricketing history. It is now for him to translate that belief into reality.    

Calcutta, March 8 
Eastern Railway SA struck twice late against West Bengal Police to notch up full points in their BHA League first division group A opener today.

The scoresheet remained barren for 62 minutes before Sheik Siraj sounded the boards following a penalty corner. Three minutes later, P.B. Thapa�s solo destroyed any hopes the policemen may have had of salvaging a point.

Group B kicked off with a barren draw between Jagrihi and Baranagore SC. The Muslim Institute versus Police AC match was a non-starter as markings weren�t there at the Mohun Bagan ground.

E.Bengal 334/8

Rohan Gavaskar hit 11 and Shiv Sagar Singh chipped in with 79 as East Bengal piled up 334 for eight in their CAB League quarter final play-off match against Calcutta Customs today.

BRIEF SCORES: East Bengal 334/8 (R. Gavaskar 111, S.S. Singh 79; Soumen Karmakar 3/96) vs Calcutta Customs.

Sourav CSJC�s best

India skipper Sourav Ganguly has been adjudged best sportsperson of the year by the Calcutta Sports� Journalists Club. Ladies� senior national table tennis champion Mouma Das is the best junior sportsperson.

Following are the award winners in different disciplines in the state: Football: Chandan Das; cricket: Utpal Chatterjee; hockey: Christopher Thomas; athletics (male): Sheikh Shamsher; athletics (female): Mukti Saha; chess: Atanu Lahiri; table tenis: Ranabir Das; tennis: Syed Fazaluddin; gymnastics: Tumpa Debnath; kabaddi: Purabi Das; volleyball: Ranjana Ghosh; basketball: Bikash Agarwal.

CSJC soccer meet

Twelve teams will vie for the CSJC-Servo media football meet title beginning tomorrow. Seven matches are on the opening day cards. The tournament is being played on a league-cum-knockout basis, with the final scheduled for Tuesday.    

Legendary Lover is strongly fancied to win the 1,600m Amazing Bay Trophy in Mumbai on Thursday. The last run of the Dallas Todywalla-trainee is best ignored as the Cristofori- Countess Of Poland colt was running after nearly two month lay off. With Mark Gallagher to guide he may be hard to toss.


3 pm: Victory Tune 1. Neptune�s Girl 2. Luni Junction 3.

3.30 pm: Fortune Cookie 1. Star Music 1. Moonlight Venture 3.

4 pm: Bolt Of Lightning 1. Stellar Love 2. Time To Gamble 3.

4.30 pm: Legendary Lover 1. Noble One 2. Run For Glory 3.

5 pm: Moment Of Truth 1. Great Escape 2. Flensburg 3.

5.30 pm: Draculla 1. Rebel Countess 2. Ajinkya Tara 3.

6 pm: Leit Motif1. Backburn Rocket 2. Deux Amours 3.

Day�s Best: Moment Of Truth

Double: Victory Tune & Draculla.    

The Dallas Todywalla-trained less fancied Table Dancing posted a runaway victory in the K. M. Munshi Cup in Mumbai on Wednesday. Rupesh partnered the Tecorno-Goldilocks daughter to five and half a length victory over the course-favourite, Cafe Noire.


(With inter-state dividends)

1, Thurendot Plate 2,000m: (1-2-3) Sampagio (Shroff) 1; Lunar Mist 2; Baggering 3. Won by: 3/4; 6 1/2; (1-41.6). Tote: win Rs 18; Place: 15; 10; Quinella: 18; Tanala: 53. Fav: Sampagio (1).

2. Replay Stakes 1,800m: (1-2-3) Forest Fire (Gallagher) 1; Tall Boy 2; Rebounding Ray 3. Won by: Nk; Dist; (1-55.1). Tote: Win Rs 18; Place: 12; 18; Quinella: 26; Tan ala: 64. Fav: Forest Fire (1).

3. Penpipes Plate 1,400m: (6-3-7) Charging Bullet (B. Prakash) 1; Vitali 2; Kibriya 3. Not run: Mister Money (2). Won by: 2-1/2; Nk; (1-29.8). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 13; 51; Quinella: 105; Tanala: 495. Fav: Charging Bullet (6).

4. K. M. Munshi Trophy 1,000m: (2-3-4) Table Dancing (Rupesh) 1; Cape Noire 2; Special Recruit 3. Won by: 5-1/2; 3/4; (1-0.2). Tote: Win Rs 65; Place: 24; 14; 16; Quinella: 91; Tanala: 664. Fav: Cape Noire (3),

5. Roman Dancer Plate 1,000m: (8-7-6) Right Moment (McCullagh) 1; Midnight Escape 2; Krishna Priya 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 3/4; (1-1.5). Tote: Win Rs 22; Place: 11; 16; 13; Quinella: 45; Tanala: 117. Fav: Right Moment (8).

6. Beandaz Plate 1,200m: (3-1-6) Josh King (Pillay) 1; Grand Vazir 2; Pussy Cat 3. Won by: 1/2; Nk; (1-15). Tote: Win Rs 29; Place: 13; 26; 23; Quinella: 85; Tanala: 533. Fav: Josh King (3).

7, Orion Plate 1,200m: (2-1-4) Yukazon (Kadam) 1; Flirtatious 2; Zaka 3. Won by: 3/4; 2- 1/2; (1-15.1). Tote: win Rs 36; Place: 18; 21; 19; Quinella: 79; Tanala: 537. Fav: Zaka (4).

Jackpot: Rs 2,599; (C) Rs 233.

Treble: (i) Rs 318; (ii) 296.    

Calcutta, March 8 
Acadameus, Acceptor, Eau Savage, Soviet Port and On The Bit were impressive during the track work today: Outer sand track 1,400m: Desert Force (Gowli) in 1-46 3/5s. (400m) 29 4/5s. Easy. 1,000m: Acadameus (Amil) and Acceptor (C. Alford) in 1-10s; (400m) 29s. Former was a length better. 800m: Head Hunter (Gowli) in 1-0s; (400m) 30s. Easy. Quickdraw McGraw (Gowli) in 57s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Unextended. Ballot Lady (P. Alford), Time Of Times (K, Kumar) and Bird Empire (Salim) in 1-3 3/5s; (400m) 32 2/5s. Heads separating them. Track no. 103 (Rabani) and Gentle Priest (Dalpat) in 57s; (400m) 27s. Both moved well and were level. Single Dawn (Gowli) and Dominate (P. Alford) in 1-2s; (400m) 29s. Both level. Eau Savage (Shanker) in 55 1/5s; (400m) 26s. Good. Super Sunrise (C. Alford) in 59s; (400m) 29s. Kaizer Sozey (Gowli) and Classic Leader (K. KUmar) in 1-0 3/5s; (400m) 30s. Both easy. Friendly Knight (Rb) in 56s; (400m) 28s. Moved well. Soviet Port (Islam) and Aracruz (Rabani) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Former 4 ls better. Bul Bul (Yacoob) in 59s; (400m) 29s. Swingtime (Rb) 1-1 2/5s; (400m) 29s. Sand track 1,200m: Tequila Shot (Shanker) and Infierno (Akhtar) in 1-29s; (400m) 31 1/5s. Both were level and easy. 1,000m: Floral Path (Rb) in 1-6 2/5s; (400m) 25s. Moved well. Ashbury (Rb) and Scavenger�s Son (Rb) in 1-6155s; (400m) 27s. Golden Heart (Rb) in 53s; (400m) 24s. Note. Software (Rb) in 54s; (400m) 25s. Strickly Royal (Rb) in 57s; (400m) 25s. Classic Twist (Rb) in 1-0s; (400m) 29s. Diplomatic Gesture (Rb) in 55 2/5s; (400m) 24s. Handy. Aznavour (Connorton) 55s; (400m) 25 3/5s. Heraven�s Blessing (Rb) in 58s; (400m) 25s. Imperial Choice (Afzal K.) 51 1/5s; (400m) 24s. Fit. Aleste (Rb) and Arroway (Rb) in 59s; (400m) 31a. Zingari (Som) in 50s; (400m) 24s. On The Bit (Connorton) in 50s; (400m) 24s. Good. Noted on Tuesday Outer sand track 2,000m: Super Sunrise (C. Alford) in 2- 3/7s; (400m) 29s. Good. 1,200m: Jayaashva (Razzak) in 1-29 2/5s; (400m) 30s. Fit. 600m: Bul Bul (Yacoob) in 43s; (400m) 28s. Friendly Knight (Rb) in 41s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Fit. Ironstone (Locke) in 43s; (400m) 28 2/5s.    

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