Proud Basu salutes skipper Sourav
Doubles will be crucial, says Korean coach
Flurry of goals and drama on opening day
IFA asks Bijen, Reazul to explain absence

Calcutta, April 3 
It was an occasion to remember at the Netaji Indoor Stadium today where the leaders of the state gathered to express their delight at the achievements of Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly.

Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, who was the chief guest for the felicitation ceremony, started off by mentioning that he and Sourav have a number of things in common. �Both of us share the same birthday (July 8) and both of us studied in the same school.�� The difference, he said, was that the cricketer was born nearly six decades after him.

Basu, after handing over the gifts which included a memento in gold and silver, said: �The focus in our state has shifted from football to cricket over the years. However, it had always saddened me that after Pankaj Roy, no state-based cricketer had actually touched the peak in the game. Now that Sourav has changed all that, the followers of cricket have something to be proud of.�

It is not often that Basu has as many words of praise for a person as he did today. He admitted that since Sourav stormed into the international cricket arena, he has been taking an active interest in the game. �He is the country�s pride and every cricket-playing nation respects him,�� he said. Wishing Sourav a prosperous future, Basu hoped the Indian cricketer would win many more laurels for the country.

The emotional atmosphere clearly affected Sourav. �Today reminds me of the day four years ago when I was felicitated at the Kshudiram Anushilan Kendra,�� he embarked on one of his rare speeches in Bengali. �I never knew so many people liked me,�� he continued as the hundred-odd children, wearing T-shirts with Sourav�s face prominently printed on them, swayed with every word.

They had occupied an entire stand and for the Indian captain, it was a moment to relish all his life. �I hope this support stays with us even when we lose,�� he said with obvious reference to the criticism from the media that the team has to take after every loss. �This is cricket. It is not possible to win every time.�

He welcomed constructive criticism, but pleaded for understanding at the times when the team did not perform too well.

Sourav appeared particularly moved by the song coined in his praise at the opening of the function. Amid cheers in the packed hall, Sourav informed that having achieved one dream of captaining the country, he now has another of leading Bengal to the Ranji Trophy title.

Pankaj Roy congratulated Sourav for being appointed the captain of India and remarked that not everyone has the capability to lead his side. �After Sachin, I can�t think of anyone other Sourav as the captain.�

Sambaran Banerjee, who was the selector when Sourav made his Test debut in England, called for a proper �supply line� for more Souravs in the future. �We have to strengthen our under-16 and under-19 squads,� he said. State sports minister Subhash Chakraborty agreed, adding that Sourav showed the way for the likes of Devang Gandhi and Lakshmi Ratan Shukla, but more has to be done to produce quality cricketers in the state.    

New Delhi, April 3 
South Korea�s coach Kim Bong-Soo feels that the doubles will be crucial in the Asia-Oceania group 1 tie with India on the grasscourts of R.K. Khanna tennis stadium, from April 7-9. Kim said that the Koreans will focus on winning both singles matches against Syed Fazaluddin.

The seven-member Korean squad, including four players, arrived here early this morning.

The Korean non-playing captain Hong-Joo Won feels that the absence of Mahesh Bhupathi could tilt the tie in favour of the visitors. �Beating India on grass at home would have been tough with both Leander and Bhupathi playing,� he admitted.

The Koreans feel that Leander will probably win both his singles ties. Won said that Delhi�s heat will not be a major factor and that his players will adapt to it within four days. The current Korean skipper was a member of the squad which trounced India 4-1 at Bharuch in 1989, with Zeeshan Ali and S. Vasudevan losing both the opening singles.

He recalled that temperature at Bharuch was over 40 degrees celsius but the Korean had adjusted to it.

Like hosts India, the South Koreans will rely on two players � 24-year-old Hyung Taik Lee, ranked 210, and 27-year-old Yong Ill Yoon, ranked 310. The others in the team are Seun Hoon Lee and Hae Sung Chung.

Yong Ill Yoon had twice beaten Leander � in the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games singles semi-finals, and also in a Challenger tournament last year.

Yong wore a protective bandage on his knee during practice at the National Sports Club of India�s lush green grass courts, as a precaution against an earlier injury.

To get adjusted to grass, the Korean squad had practised for a week on a grass court in Malaysia, before flying to Delhi.

The coach admitted that playing on grass may be a problem for both his players, whose forte is powerful ground strokes from the back court.

India�s non-playing captain Ramesh Krishnan is banking on Leander Paes for a victory. �Leander has to win both his singles and play a major role in doubles too,� he said.

Leander, who trained briefly this morning, before departing for some advertising work, is confident.

Ramesh added that Syed Fazaluddin will certainly play as the second singles player. The doubles duo will be named on the morning of the match. Leander, however, is a certainty. As of now, Fazaluddin is favoured to partner him.    

Calcutta, April 3 
The 105th Beighton Cup hockey championship saw an eventful start at the East Bengal ground today.

After BNR whipped Aryan 5-2 in the meet-opener, the Eastern Railway SA versus Chittaranjan Locomotive Works tie was deadlocked at 8-8 when insufficient light forced the umpires to halt the marathon tie-breaker. The regulation 70 minutes and 15 minutes of extra-time didn�t produce any goal. In the shootout, both sides converted all but one of their strokes.

Well before the tie-breaker began, Eastern Railway�s Davinder Singh was flashed the red card for giving umpire Arup Goswami a piece of his mind. Having been cautioned early in the match, Davinder was shown the yellow card for arguing with Goswami in the seventh minute of extra-time.

An angry Davinder dragged Goswami by his shirt collar. The red card was inevitable, once the umpire managed to free himself from Davinder�s clutches.

With the CLW team reluctant to return tomorrow for the completion of the penalty shootout, the tournament committee decided to reschedule the unfinished match Wednesday afternoon.

�The tie-breaker will be completed first thing Wednesday afternoon and then the winning team will play its second-round match (versus the CESC-SAI Training Centre winners),� informed BHA secretary Gurbux Singh tonight.

In the BNR-Aryan duel, the railwaymen led 3-1 at half-time. Rajat Minz, Anmol Aind, Basil Kullu, Pritpal Singh and Julian Khalko scored for BNR, while Satish Kumar and Francis Joseph reduced the margin for Aryan.    

Calcutta, April 3 
The IFA has asked Bijen Singh and Reazul Mustafa to explain why they haven�t joined the Bengal Santosh Trophy camp which started last week. The duo will have to give their explanation within two days.

Meanwhile, Peerless and Tollygunge Agragami have intimated the IFA that they have suspended four and one of their players, respectively, for misdemeanour. The Peerless quartet comprises Ranjit Sen, Gautam Mani, Anupam Das and Mohammed Rizwan, while Debashish Pal Chowdhury has been punished by Tollygunge.

Coaches� workshop

A three-day residential workshop for youth soccer coaches from the districts, organised jointly by the IFA and SAI Eastern Centre, got underway at the SAI complex today. The workshop, part of the Asian Football Confederation�s youth development programme, is being conducted by Uzbek coach Islam Akmadov. He will be assisted by Bengal under-16 coach Ananta Ghosh.

Two coaches each from 18 districts are taking part.    


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