The Paes� ruined my career: Piperno
The scent of sabotage

Calcutta, May 11 
Caught in the eye of a storm, Enrico Piperno today hit out strongly against allegations that he was responsible for the break-up of the Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi partnership.

�Problems between the two families have led to this but I�ve been made the scapegoat,� Piperno claimed. Leander refused to continue his professional association with Mahesh if Piperno remained the latter�s coach.

�The Paes� have ruined my career... They first got me removed from the Davis Cup team (as coach) and now they are harming my relationship with Mahesh. I can�t understand what I�ve done to them to deserve this,� Piperno said.

But it was the AITA which didn�t renew his contract as Indian coach at the beginning of this year. How�s he then blaming Paes? �The number one player can influence such decisions. I know very well that was the case.�

Not just the Paes�, even Mahesh�s father didn�t have many good words for Piperno (�he is not a coach, more like a manager and a court-jester,� C.G.K. Bhupathi has said). �I don�t know why everyone�s firing from my shoulder. I know I�ve worked hard with Mahesh for four years and helped him reach world No. 1. Mahesh will vouch for that,� Piperno said.

Bhupathi-Knowles out

Meanwhile, Bhupathi and Mark Knowles lost their first-round match at the Italian Open yesterday. According to information received here, the eighth seeds went down 6-7 (2-7), 5-7 to Martin Damm and Dominik Hrbaty.

The match, lasting an hour and 40 minutes, saw both teams creating opportunities galore. While Damm and Hrbaty converted two out of 19 break-points, Bhupathi and Knowles converted one out of 17.    

Calcutta, May 11 
Officials at the Bengal Hockey Association (BHA) are beginning to believe the broken goalpost that had the Kaivan Cup final falling through yesterday is an act of sabotage.

�The break is at the base of one of the uprights, and the way it has come apart suggests that pressure was applied to achieve it. It surely couldn�t have happened had a football had struck,� a BHA official, speaking under conditions of anonymity, told The Telegraph this evening.

�Also, the Police ground has a very good record as far as ground preparations are concerned, and that�s one of the reason we schedule (first division) group B ties there,� he said, pointing out that �one was played the previous day itself�.

He then went on to point the finger at Sporting Union, one of the finalists.

�They surely had a lot to gain from a postponement, because the final clashed with matches at the all-India Telecom tournament and the inter-office league,� the official said. �We were expecting trouble, but not something like this.�

Basu Bhattacharya, a former umpire with the BHA who now looks after hockey at Sporting Union, refuted the charge.

�It�s rubbish! It�s the effort of a section of BHA officials who are jealous that our team is doing so well this season,� he said, adding: �Yes, we did have two players playing for AG Bengal (in an office league play-off semi-final) and one in the (West Bengal) Telecom team, but that�s nothing new. In the past too, we�ve played without several players and still won.�

Bhattacharya denied having approached the Office Sports Federation for a postponement, though BSF hockey secretary Samir Bose told this correspondent he did. �I told him it was not possible,� said Bose this evening.

The BHA, which may ask the police to probe the incident, is now in a fix over the replay of the final.

�BSF, North Bengal is an outstation para-military team, and their players have already received headquarter instructions to return quickly,� the official said. �They are in the running for the second division league title (with Sporting Union, Aikya Sammilani and Calcutta Rangers) and already have matches on May 15, 18 and 19.�    


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