Bizarre contingency plan in a do-or-die situation
I enjoy a crisis: Youhana
ACC meeting deferred by a day
Pakistan, Lanka not taking dress rehearsal lightly
Dipendu seeks IFA�s help
SAI complete hattrick of titles
Six Speed wins third �Million�

Dhaka, June 4 
With India out of yet another tournament, this time the Pepsi Asia Cup, numerous ifs and buts are bound to surface. A few may merit consideration; most will have to be dumped into the Buriganga.

Yet, fact remains that just a few hours before yesterday�s most crucial match against Pakistan � only victory would have kept India in the reckoning � the players were involved in a bizarre �contingency plan.�

That wasn�t, of course, part of strategy. Rather, the plan revolved around player-preferences for flights out of Dhaka today, in case of one more defeat (52nd in 85 games) at Pakistan�s hands.

One can understand members of an ousted team not wanting to spend too much time at a venue where the focus, naturally, will wholly be on the sides that have made the cut. But, shouldn�t the hours immediately prior to a life-or-death match strictly be devoted to getting psyched up?

Indeed, why were thoughts of possibly not making it even encouraged � directly or indirectly? And, who authorised the �contingency plan?�

Perhaps something similar has, in the past too, been undertaken. So, what happened yesterday may not have been a �first.� The Board, though, should prohibit such self-hurting initiatives.

For the record, barring captain Sourav Ganguly and manager Samiran Chakraborty who leave for Calcutta tomorrow morning, the rest were out by this evening.

Just an hour after landing, Pakistan captain Moin Khan had announced his team was �desperate� to win the tournament. That�s been reflected in their body-language.

Similarly placed, it�s unlikely Pakistan would have been much concerned about putting a �contingency plan� in place.

Moin, incidentally, made it a point to remind the Media about the desperation-bit.

Sourav, on the other hand, was left shaking his head when someone asked if India still had something positive to show despite only one win (over Bangladesh) and two defeats (Sri Lanka, Pakistan).

For the Indians, drama definitely wasn�t at a premium in the run-in, but the exit was devoid of histrionics. May be, the Board should have listened to coach Kapil Dev and pulled out � as it did in 1986 (Colombo), citing non-cricketing reasons...

Looking back, that last-ball six by Yousuf Youhana, who lacks glamour but oozes character, was a telling statement.

�Obviously, something is wrong...� Sourav lamented, also possibly aware few will recall his having posted the Asia Cup�s highest-ever individual score � 135 not out, versus Bangladesh, bettering Arjuna Ranatunga�s unbeaten 131 against India, in the last edition (1997).

Much will continue to be made of Thiru Kumaran and debutant Amit Bhandari�s profligacy, but it�s worth recalling India couldn�t even bowl out Bangladesh (249 for six).

In fact, Bangladesh creamed off 90-plus in the last ten overs!

�Our exit shouldn�t surprise... With the attack we had, what better could have been expected? Frankly, I don�t think we�ve had a more sting-less attack in the past 20 years,� fumed a former India captain.

Kumaran, who almost conceded as many runs as his shirt number (90), and Bhandari weren�t quite �there� when Sourav kept faith with them in the slog overs as well. The captain justified not introducing either himself or Robin Singh by arguing �regular bowlers� had to do the job in the overs of death.

�I don�t think it was fair on them. At the same time, it appeared they wanted the 50 overs to end... They were just going through the motions, though I accept conditions out in the middle were unbearable,� former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram told The Telegraph.

Not surprisingly, Jawagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad�s absence puzzled him.

Really, why Srinath needs to rest every now and then is intriguing. Just as intriguing is the selectors� decision to exclude Prasad from even among the probables. One must select the top XIV/field the best XI, without being swayed by talk of exposure to rookies.

It�s significant the Pakistanis aren�t very comfortable facing Prasad. In any case, for a million reasons, this wasn�t an ordinary tournament.

Though one wouldn�t have been surprised had a quick bowler collapsed in near-murderous conditions, it�s left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi who packed up during the Sri Lanka game. It did upset whatever strategy had been worked out. It didn�t help, either, when Nikhil Chopra sprained his right ankle in the same match.

Effectively, then, Sourav had to pick from XII not XIV yesterday. And the one to miss out, young Hemang Badani, is the one who shouldn�t have been dumped after one game (Bangladesh).

Actually, few will grudge any move to now look beyond Mohammed Azharuddin and Robin.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi should get his maiden senior India call-up as allrounder, in Toronto, while Badani has the credentials to be a first-XI regular.

So disappointing was the Indian performance, collectively, that many here repeatedly ask why the U-19 World Cup-winning boys don�t find representation. It�s a good question.

The colts may not help author a fantastic run � at least not straightaway � but they won�t be short on enthusiasm. Moreover, they are the ones who will learn from setbacks, not those in the 30-plus bracket.

How shortcomings in bowling will be met, however, is anybody�s guess. That�s if somebody is courageous enough to hazard one.    

Dhaka, June 4 
The glittering Man-of-the-Match trophy has been packed carefully in his kit bag. The cheques, though, are still lying in one corner of the table in his room at the Sheraton. For Yousuf Youhana, June 3 will forever remain �very special.� Not because he scored his maiden hundred versus India or since it was his �best one-day innings,� but for being able to play a crucial role in Pakistan�s victory.

�I don�t go after centuries or records. For me, my team is most important. If Pakistan don�t win, all personal feats become invaluable. I always try to do whatever suits the team best,� Youhana told The Telegraph this morning.

Youhana, the youngster from Lahore who is the fourth Christian to play for Pakistan, has learnt the nuances of excelling in critical situations from Javed Miandad, his idol. �I used to admire the way Javedbhai used to fight against all odds. I can�t copy him and, in fact, nobody can bat like him. At the most, I try to bat with the same approach within my limitations,� Youhana explained.

Yesterday, coming in at No. 3, he took charge when Pakistan were reduced to 103 for four, and batted with the right mix of caution and aggression. He had earlier scored hundreds against the West Indies and Australia under similar circumstances in Toronto and Lahore, respectively. But how does all this come so easy to him?

�I try and enjoy excelling in such crisis situations. Taking responsibility has always come very naturally to me. I�ve learnt how to first consolidate and then attack,� said Youhana.

�That Javedbhai is the coach has helped a lot. He�s always working on my weaker points. Even Anwarbhai, Moinbhai and Inzamanbhai are ready to lend support,� he added.

Youhana recalled the recent tour of the West Indies when he was not consistent. �The captain and the coach were patient and kept full faith in my abilities. That gave me the confidence to score the hundred in the third Test, my best innings so far.�

Doesn�t pressure affect him? �Pressure is always bound to be there. If you can�t withstand it, you can�t play cricket. The game is all about handling pressures. I enjoy playing with it and bailing the team out of difficulties,� the Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit fan remarked.

Youhana believes his promotion in the batting order has also helped him mature since his debut in 1998. �Earlier, batting at No. 5, I used to get fewer balls to face. Now, at No. 3, it�s different and I�m happy that I�ve fulfilled expectations.�

But what does he feel is the reason behind Pakistan�s recent string of success against India? �It�s difficult for me to assess Indians. As for us, we all play for the team and remain focussed till the end. We�re better placed mentally and the Indians get psyched out easily.�

That, in fact, did make a huge difference in Pakistan�s 44-run win yesterday.    

Dhaka, June 4 
The Asia Foundation-specific Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting, billed for this afternoon, has been deferred till tomorrow morning. Thanks entirely to Biman�s disrupted flight schedule which forced Foundation chairman-designate Jagmohan Dalmiya to spend seven hours at Calcutta airport.

Dalmiya, the International Cricket Council (ICC) president, was to have arrived early in the day, but eventually turned up late in the afternoon.

The meeting, called by ACC president Lt General Tauqir Zia, is to �discuss the parameters of the Foundation,� focussing on garnering funds and developing infrastructure.

It�s another matter, however, that the ACC itself should have been doing both jobs without actually looking to establishing a Foundation.

According to The Telegraph�s sources, a special invitee is Ehsan Mani, who heads the ICC�s finance and marketing committee. Mani, it is gathered, will largely provide inputs on awarding TV rights.

As of now, the committee overseeing the formal coming into being of the Foundation comprises: Dalmiya, Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, Asif Iqbal, Ashraf-ul Haq and General Zia.    

Dhaka, June 4 
This was not how the Asia Cup was supposed to progress. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) had hoped for an India-Pakistan finale. The exit of Sourav Ganguly�s men crushed their dream.

As the Indian skipper was left to rue and explain his side�s inept showing to the local media this afternoon, the BCB seemed to have lost enthusiasm for the rest of the Asia Cup. A near full-house yesterday for the India versus Pakistan clash had signalled renewed hopes for the organisers. Now the spectre of empty stands is haunting them.

It�s not difficult to perceive the general lack of interest in tomorrow�s Pakistan versus Sri Lanka clash � a dress rehearsal for Wednesday�s final.

Neither Pakistan nor Sri Lanka, though, are taking things lightly. Both believe a win tomorrow will put them in a better frame of mind for the title clash.

�We have the home series coming up against the Pakistanis after this tournament. Victories here will be of immense help,� said Sanath Jayasuriya, before taking the plunge at the Sheraton pool after morning practice.

The Pakistanis are definitely not basking in last evening�s �team effort� and are focussed on winning their maiden Asia Cup. They had planned evening nets at the Bangabandhu Stadium, but a power failure put paid to their hopes. They had to be satisfied with a workout at the hotel gym.

Despite a tight schedule in sweltering conditions here, Pakistan have hardly looked jaded. Their batsmen have been in superb form and the bowling � despite the absence of Waqar Younis, Saqlain Mushtaq and Shoaib Akhtar � still has variety. As Moin Khan had stressed on arrival here, they are desperate for success.

The Indians may have failed to take advantage of loopholes in the Pakistani bowling, but the absence of an effective fifth bowler will surely be capitalised by the aggressive Sri Lankans. The Lankans, coming from a long lay-off, have looked lethargic on field at times but they are getting better.

Jayasuriya announced his form with a century against India after Aravinda de Silva had shown against Bangladesh that he was quite comfortable opening the innings. Of course, he will be tested by Wasim Akram and Co.

Moin will aim to bat first, considering �the strength in our bowling.� Their batsmen have been in fine form and the opening pair of Saeed Anwar and Imran Nazir has been quite awesome. Yousuf Youhana and Inzamam-ul Haq are capable of holding the innings together in times of crisis and then accelerating towards the close. They do bat deep, with Azhar Mahmood coming in at No. 9, and this gives them an added advantage.

The Lankan bowling may not always be consistent but in Muttiah Muralidharan they have a winner. The off-spinner had almost singlehandedly scripted their series win in Pakistan.

But it will not be easy for Lanka and it will require all of their professionalism to convert potential into reality.


PAKISTAN (likely): Imran Nazir, Saeed Anwar, Yousuf Youhana, Inzamam-ul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Moin Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Wasim Akram, Azhar Mahmood, Mohammed Akram, Arshad Khan.

SRI LANKA (likely): Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Maravan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene, Russel Arnold, Romesh Kaluwitharana, T. Dilshan, Chaminda Vaas, K. Weeraratne, Nuwan Zoysa, Muttiah Muralidharan.    

Calcutta, June 4 
Disappointed by the indifference of the UB Group chief Vijay Mallya, striker Dipendu Biswas has now decided to refer his case to the IFA.

The India striker, who decided to leave Mohun Bagan and signed a deal with East Bengal in early April, finds himself in no man�s land following an agreement between the red-and-gold brigade and their arch rivals that they will not take each other�s players.

Biswas has not been registered by East Bengal and two letters seeking intervention from Mallya has fallen on deaf ears. �I will explain my situation to IFA tomorrow. I hope the parent body will do something,� Dipendu said.

Title for CSC

Calcutta Swimming Club emerged champions in the 27th K.K. Dutta Memorial age-group waterpolo meet, beating hosts Calcutta Sports Association A 6-2.

Prahlad Shau (3), Nandalal Shau (2) and Goutam Pal were on target for the winners while Hafiz Ali and Ramaprasad Naskar did the scoring for Calcutta Sports.


Best player: Goutam Pal (CSC); Best goalkeeper: Abhinandan Samaddar (ILSS); Fair play trophy: CSA B.

Shute Banerjee CC best

Shute Banerjee CC edged Chandranath Chatterjee Memorial CC by six runs to win the Shyamaprasad Mukherjee junior cricket title.

BRIEF SCORES: Shute Banerjee CC 251/7 in 30 ovs (Rakesh Krishnan 91). Chandranath Chatterjee Memorial CC 245/9 in 30 (Aniruddha Roy 72). Shute Banerjee CC won by 6 runs. Man of the Match: Rakesh Krishnan. Man of the Series: Aniruddha Roy.    

Calcutta, June 4 
A majority of players in the Bengal hockey teams, in recent years, has been coming from the Sports Authority of India�s (SAI) Training Centre.

It took the SAI team nine long years to win the apex tier of the Bengal Hockey Association (BHA) League, but once that hurdle was crossed this year, they seemed invincible.

After clinching the league, they won the Lakshmibilas Cup yesterday and followed it up with a 4-0 win over CCFC in the Lagden Shield final today to complete a hattrick of titles in the local circuit.

Till today, Mohun Bagan was the only team to have won all three local titles. In 1962, they won the league and emerged joint-winners with East Bengal and BNR in Lakshmibilas Cup and Lagden Shield, respectively.

Today�s match, a replay of the Lakshmibilas Cup final, saw the SAI team dominate proceedings on the astroturf they are so familiar with and though it took them 24 minutes to get the first goal, there was no stopping them in the second half.

Prakash Toppo got the first before Bifal Baro, Yakub Sanga and Pintu Haldar gave the scoreline the one-sided look. The second goal came from a penalty stroke though they were unable to convert any of three penalty corners they forced.

According to coach S.K. Mohanti, success in the last two meets was because of their familiarity with the astroturf. The league triumph was all the more creditable as it�s still played on grass.

�All our boys are ten-to-20 year olds and picked from teams finishing first or second in the sub-junior, junior and school nationals,� said the coach.

Right now, they have 26 trainees with three from Orissa, five from Bengal, two form Manipur with the rest coming form different parts of Bihar. A majority are tribals.

The Bengal squad that won the Eveready East Zone meet recently, had seven players from SAI and the Bengal junior team which finished third in the junior nationals last year had as many as nine.

�We didn�t quite think of winning the league and the surface we played on made our task difficult. We are confident of beating any city team on the astroturf,� the coach said.

The poor condition of the astroturf, however, drew disgust from former international goalkeeper Anand Mandapaka who said it may just be a little bit difficult to make further progress if no attention is paid to this.    

Bangalore, June 4 
The Byramjis, Darius and Rashid, served notice of things to follow in the forthcoming classics. At the Bangalore races on Sunday, son Darius� Six Speed, an already winner of two millions in Mumbai, won the third � the Knock Out Million � with ridiculous ease, while father�s trainee Allocated trounced the Class II K. N. Guruswamy Memorial Cup-field.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Fire Haven Plate 1,100m: (2-1-6) Brave Russian (Faisal Ismail) 1; Major Attraction 2; Lali 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 1/2; (1-13.3). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 10; 13; 12; Quinella: 24; Tanala: 74. Fav: Brave Russian (2).

2. Melbourne Plate 1,200m: (6-2-8) Emmenbrucke (Hanumant) 1; Formal Gold 2; Dunhill Star 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 2-3/4; (1-20.6). Tote: Win Rs 128; Place: 35; 18; 17; Quinella: 187; Tanala: 3,055. Fav: Formal Gold (2).

3. Mamma�s Mink Plate 1,600m: (3-2-1) London Bells (Prakash) 1; Renzino 2; Nobody�s Angel 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 1/2; (1-47). Tote: Win Rs 25; Place: 14; 21; 17; Quinella: 87; Tanala: 379. Fav: London Bells (3). (Note: The winner survived objection lodged by the rider of the second placed horse).

4. Knock Out Million 1,400m: (2-9-14) Six Speed (Shroff) 1; Axe 2; Daggers Drawn 3. Won by: 9; 5; (1-29.7). Tote: Win Rs 12; Place: 11; 26; 156; Quinella: 58; Tanala: 4,262. Fav: Six Speed (2).

5. Patrons Cup 1,600m: (8-1-2) Sans Egale (Ruzaan) 1; Strides Of Fire 2; Assertive Allies 3. Won by: 7; 1/2; (1-45). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 10; 14; 35; Quinella: 23; Tanala: 204. Fav: Sans Egale (8).

6. K. N. Guruswamy Memorial Cup 1,400m: (12-10-13) Allocated (Ruzaan) 1; Austria 2; Pas De Memories 3. Won by: 3; 1-1/2; (1-30.5). Tote: Win Rs 28; Place: 13; 15; 15; Quinella: 49; Tanala: 138. Fav: Pas De Memories (13).

7. Baraloy Plate 1,400m: (3-8-4) Fly Past (Shafiq) 1; Zouk 2; X-Pac 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 1-1/2; (1-33.9). Tote: Win Rs 102; Place: 28; 49; 12; Quinella: 859; Tanala: 3,780. Fav: Resplendent Star (2).

Jackpot: Rs 1,429; (C) Rs 33.

Treble: (i) Rs 396; (ii) Rs 455.    


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