Indians put mind to the game
No excesses, warns John Reid
Give BCCI pitches committee a free hand
George in cluster semis
New format promises excitement

Dhaka, May 29 
Four years on, few have forgotten Sourav Ganguly�s gesture of kissing the India crest after his maiden Test hundred, at Lord�s. At a time when even small gestures won�t go unnoticed, Sourav has decided to start a fresh campaign with brand new gloves.

The custom-made SS (Sunridges) ones to be used in the Pepsi Asia Cup, though, will be different from those worn in the past: They have the national colours � saffron, white and green.

Sourav didn�t wish to make a statement (�I just wanted the national colours,� he explained) but, in the present context, it can only be seen as reminding everyone it�s the country first and last.

As an Aamer Sohail would put it, that would be a way of even reminding oneself about the trust placed not just by the selectors each time one more international appearance is made.

For Indian cricket, of course, these are difficult times.

Sourav acknowledged as much when, at his first team meeting as captain in cricket�s most turbulent period, this morning, he announced: �I don�t believe in the allegations... Just play the way you normally would.�

Though coach Kapil Dev and senior pros Mohammed Azharuddin (apparently, he wanted to pull out) and Ajay Jadeja have been sucked into controversies, Sourav avoided a direct reference to match-fixing. Equally, he didn�t speak exclusively to either Azhar or Jadeja. A general statement, he feels, is enough.

However, Sourav and Kapil have had a one-to-one: Both, in fact, sat next to each other on the New Delhi-Dhaka flight yesterday. Both remain convinced it is best not to talk about match-fixing related allegations.

It is another matter that while the players themselves have adopted a firm �no comments� stand, nothing prevents them from going through the Tehelka website. Last night, for instance, this correspondent saw two team members log-in at The Sheraton�s business centre.

Even after such wide coverage, many obviously still can�t have enough of what is on offer.

To return to Sourav and Kapil, both perhaps also believe the latest controversy may well be a blessing in disguise. That everybody will, of his own accord, give in excess of hundred per cent. After all, victory here will, at one stroke, cause a dramatic turnaround in multiple equations.

Yet, the allegations are bound to follow the Indians as a poodle would his master.

And, so, at the team�s formal introduction to the Media this morning, the Bangladesh Cricket Board-appointed coordinator declared �only� Cup-specific queries would be answered.

That didn�t deter local scribes from lobbing an uncomfortable question each at Kapil and Sourav.

�Why did you say it�s not the right time for India to be playing international cricket?� someone asked Kapil. Not exactly flustered, he replied: �When I said that, I did so in my capacity as an individual, not the national coach.�

Sourav, in turn, was asked whether he really believed the controversies wouldn�t affect his team. The captain offered a straight bat: �I�m not going to answer that.�

His already-high popularity may not have grown a few notches but, then, Sourav�s priorities today are different.

India�s opening match, tomorrow, is against Bangladesh.

Badani to play

Incidentally, early in the day, there was talk Azhar could be rested in India�s opening match, against Bangladesh, tomorrow � his place going to the rookie Hemang Badani.

Owing to the peculiar circumstances, the Azhar business would have had to be delicately handled but, as it turned out, Jadeja is very much under the weather and so Badani will debut in any case.

Azhar, it may be recalled, had agreed to be rested in Nagpur (last match versus South Africa, in March). This time, as he is coming off a lay-off, the former cap- tain could well have been less accommodating.

Jadeja�s indisposition � hit rather quickly by the Dhaka-belly � therefore resolved a potentially tricky situation.

There�s some debate over whether to field Thiru Kumaran or (also) cap Amit Bhandari, but it appears the former will be preferred.

For about the only time, probably, the Indians will be taking to a tournament without nets. This evening, they could only manage fielding practice during the Cup-opener�s interval.    

Dhaka, May 29 
John Reid, former New Zealand and Rest of World captain, sure is a Match Referee with a difference. While the other 19 International Cricket Council (ICC)-appointed Referees just draw the captains� attention to the Code of Conduct (incorporated in the ICC�s �Little Book�), Reid actually hands over a list of dos and don�ts.

�I just wish to make things absolutely clear,� Reid, 71, told The Telegraph.

Reid handed over his list (labelled �Referee�s Policy Statement�) to the Sri Lankan and Bangladesh captains yesterday. Today, he did a repeat with Sourav Ganguly. Come Thursday and Moin Khan will be similarly welcomed.

Incidentally, Reid doesn�t specifically talk of match-fixing. As he put it: �That, in any case, is there in black-and-white in the Code of Conduct (Code 9)...�

Reid�s list of dos and don�ts is as follows:


My recent ICC Referee appointments have highlighted various consistent breaches of the ICC Code of Conduct which have needed action by the Referee � some are minor, some major.

To avoid the suggestion of inconsistency with my interpretation and application of the ICC Code of Conduct, I have set out some breaches, which I do not want repeated:

(a) Gesturing to a dismissed batsman

(b) Excessive appealing or charging an umpire for a decision

(c) Using advertising/sponsors products on arm-guards, wristlets, head-bands etc.

(d) Excessive anything � bad language, intimidation or abuse. And, of course, sledging.

I have said, on other occasions, that I understand a few words in the heat of the moment, but it must not be prolonged. Remember, out in the middle, you are on trial by television with eight-plus cameras.

The list of past breaches is a long one which I do not want added to in this series.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the fines� system is not having the desired effect in discouraging transgressions. So, the sterner measures as set out in the Code of Conduct will have to be considered � suspension.

I expect the respective captains to control their players on the field and to act or react immediately when the umpire asks for assistance to control the situation.

The umpires are in control of this game of cricket � but, if the umpires or captain cannot control the players on the field, please remember that Referees are in place with authority and muscle within the ICC Code of Conduct to act decisively in penalising any act which brings the game into disrepute.

The Referee is not here on holiday, he has a job to do. It is spelt out in the ICC �Little Book�. You have to have a copy and I expect players of all sides to have been made aware of what the ICC Code of Conduct is all about. This series will be watched by millions of cricket followers: You are held up as role models for all those youngsters coming on. I would like to think you will not let them down.

Best wishes for a good series.    

The Board of Control for Cricket in India had two crucial meetings last week. One was of the working committee where lot of heated discussions took place about whether Mr Bindra had done the right thing by going public with his information about who he felt was involved in betting and match-fixing.

Quite clearly, giving him a show-cause notice to explain why he went public may have been the most interesting item on the agenda for most. Simultaneously, while there is no doubt that the issue which has created doubts about the involvement of those connected with Indian cricket needs to be settled once and for all, it is also important to take decisions on how to improve Indian cricket.

The technical committee had made some recommendations on changing domestic cricket to make it more competitive thus giving the selectors a better idea of the talent available rather than go by the odd performance they are going by presently.

The technical committee recommended that the Ranji Super League be scrapped and instead only two teams that top the zone make it to the knockout stage. Here too, the draw should ensure that two groups of five teams are made and they play a league and the top two from each group proceed to the semi-finals.

What is equally important is that the Duleep Trophy should be a league and not a knockout event. Often a team has just one bad day but they lose on account of that and their players have to wait for one full year before they get to play the Duleep Trophy again. By making it a league the players get an equal opportunity to show their skills instead of just one match.

Along with these changes, the board has to give a free hand to the pitches committee to prepare wickets that provide a good contest. What we have seen is either the pitch is so flat the bowlers may as well as not turn up for the game or the pitch is so bad the batsmen would be better off taking their chances walking a minefield.

A good balance is not easy to achieve and the state association will have to put aside their own interests and think about Indian cricket while preparing pitches. This is extremely difficult to do for invariably there are elections in the state committees round the corner and so Indian cricket goes to the cleaners while self preservation becomes paramount.

But as the saying goes, while there is life there is hope, and so let us hope that the pitches provided for all grades of cricket are those that give both batsmen and bowlers an equal chance and prepares players for the sterner tests ahead at the international level.

Vinod Kambli�s omission from the Indian team to participate in Dhaka has brought forth a protest from the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA). However aggrieved an association might be about what it perceives to be injustice done to its players, the proper forum to air them is the meeting of the board.

The MCA might well be asked what its reaction is when its players � who may not be deserving a place in the Indian team � are picked? Do they then criticise the selectors too? Take the case of Samir Dighe who was a surprise inclusion in the India A team and then the senior team at an age when most Ranji cricketers are planning how to get a benefit on their retirement rather than how to get an India cap.

Did the MCA react then to Dighe�s selection by asking the selectors how come he was in the team? If they did not, then they should accept that injustice has been done to Kambli but that is how the selection goes.

By the way, when Dighe was picked for India, Sachin Tendulkar was blamed for picking his Mumbai teammate, so how come nobody is pointing a finger at Sourav Ganguly for picking Bengal colleague Syed Saba Karim as soon as he became captain? Sachin was even blamed when on his return as India captain last year. Kambli was named in the Indian squad.

It was unfair to allege that the left-hander was picked because he was a school chum of the Indian captain. Whether it is the honeymoon period for Ganguly or maturity in not blaming him for selections and omissions, it is a welcome sign, for no captain is silly enough to pick friends or statemates for at the end of the day if these players are inferior then it is his captaincy that will be at stake if the team loses. So no captain picks players unless he is convinced about the player�s potential.

Whether the same can be said of the selections is another matter. Selectors know that the way the board works, if they want to continue as selectors then their state associations or zones have to be kept happy. So if they are hoping to get elected or re-elected on their state association�s executive committee then they can always influence the voters by showing them how many players are there from their state.

That is why it is important that nobody who is in the state association and who is connected with any coaching academy should be appointed a selector for the temptation to strengthen their own positions there by including players from their state or academies will be hard to resist. This is an aspect that the board will hopefully look at carefully when the next appointments are done.


Calcutta, May 29 
George Telegraph squeezed into the semi-finals of the McDowell Cup cluster competition, edging out Kalighat 1-0 at Batanagar today.

After 120 minutes of goalless action, Farooq Ahmed sealed Kalighat�s fate with a fifth-minute strike in sudden-death. George Telegraph will take on Port Trust who had already qualified for the last-four stage.

Tomorrow�s other semi-final will pit FCI against Salkia Friends. Both made the grade with the narrowest of victories today.

At Sodepur, FCI got past SAIL courtesy a Sanjay Dutta goal.

Salkia Friends brought off an upset of sorts at Narayanpur, ousting Eastern Railway. Jayanta Jana netted the lone goal.

The cluster final will be held Thursday at Narayanpur. Both finalists will qualify for the tournament proper beginning in the city Saturday.

Satyabrata for Tolly

Central defender Satyabrata Bhowmick and midfielder Soumitra Chakraborty signed in favour of Tollygunge Agragami today. Both were on the Mohun Bagan roster last season.

Prosenjit Pal switched from East Bengal to SAIL, while Swarup Das stayed with FCI.

Md. Sp. teams win

Mohammedan Sporting under-17 and under-14 teams registered thumping victories over Sambaran Banerjee Cricket Academy in the Brijesh Patel Cricket Academy-organised meet in Bangalore today.

According to information received here, Ritesh Jaiswal�s 125, Naved Ahmed�s unbeaten 105 and Akhilesh Kuswaha�s hattrick helped the U-17 team win by 135 runs. The U-14 team rode S. Das� unbeaten 106 to a seven-wicket victory.    

Calcutta, May 29 
The Worldwide Bridge Contest is back for the 14th edition in an exciting new format. On Friday and Saturday, over 1,00,000 players from all over the world will play the same hands in a contest unique to bridge � now recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee.

Over here, games will be played from 6 pm on Friday and from 5 pm on Saturday at the Calcutta Club Sports Complex. Participants can play either session or both sessions with same or different partners. Many of the competitors will be rubber-bridge buffs drawn to this event by the thrill of taking part in a game where they can hold the same hands as some of the best known names in business.

Entries will be received at the WBBA office, 19 R. N. Mukherjee Road (3 to 6 pm), upto Thursday.

The new feature of this contest is that the earlier method of instant scoring will make way for actual match-pointing across the field, which is across the world, with the top on each board being several thousands match-points.

For this the World Bridge Federation has mailed to each centre a CD diskette containing a scoring programme that enables the centre to score the event locally and then send the actual table scores to UK through internet for worldwide match-pointing. The worldwide rankings should be available on the Internet by Monday.

In the city, the participants can see on the internet on Monday not only how they have fared but also how some top players of the world have fared with their hands.    


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