Pak confident of mastering Lanka
Wrist injury ends Paes� run
I don�t let pressure grow: Whatmore
Shabbir back on fast track
Karthikeyan third in close race
8-day season from tomorrow

Dhaka, June 6 
The enthusiasm and fervour generally associated with the title-clash of a tournament is missing. The early and unexpected exit of India has proved to be a dampner. Add to it the intermittent showers that have lashed the city since this afternoon. All you get is a gloomy build-up to the Asia Cup final with no craze for tickets.

Yesterday�s seven-wicket loss to Pakistan has left the Sri Lankans with no option but to begin on a fresh note. �It�s going to be a new game. We�ve got to concentrate harder,� said Sanath Jayasuriya.

The Lankans were back to the drawing board, working on the shortcomings that led to the setback. �We got our basics wrong and can�t afford to repeat that again,� the Lankan skipper added.

It was careless strokeplay and poor running between the wickets that led to their downfall and the Lankans are taking this as a wake-up call. The batting has remained inconsistent and the bowling lacks the necessary bite.

But it does not necessarily mean that they will change strategy. In fact, they will persist with the ploy of sending Aravinda de Silva to open. A lot will depend on how he and Jayasuriya get going since a solid start does make the task of the later-order batsmen a lot easier.

Maravan Atapattu has been in good nick but the failure of Mahela Jayawardene and Russel Arnold has made the middle-order vulnerable.

The inconsistent line of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralidharan has been a matter of concern, but young Kaushalya Weeraratne�s success has been encouraging.

The absence of a quality fifth bowler has proved a major handicap for Sri Lanka. Also, the long break from the game seems to have made them a touch rusty.

The Pakistanis, on the other hand, have been in the thick of action for more than a couple of months now and that shows in their effort on the field.

�The way we�re performing, there�s no reason why we shouldn�t win the title,� felt Moin Khan, looking ahead to their maiden triumph on way to breaking the 16-year jinx.

One striking reason behind Pakistan�s unbeaten run in the tournament has been the form of their batsmen, especially Yusuf Youhana. The Lahore-born right-hander�s coming of age has proved to be a big boon.

Youhana has ensured the much-needed stability in the top and middle-order and this augurs well for the future. With 270 runs in the tournament and two consecutive Man-of-the-Match awards, he has played his role of holding the innings together to perfection.

Youhana�s sheet-anchor role gives others the scope to go on the offensive straightaway. Inzamam-ul Haq has not been among runs in the tournament thus far, but it won�t be a surprise if the big occasion inspires him.

The decision to push Shahid Afridi down the order hasn�t worked yet, but with his slam-bang tactics he can turn the tide any day in the closing overs, especially in the closing overs.

Saeed Anwar, Wasim Akram and Abdul Razzaq, who were rested yesterday, will be back for the final and the trio is sure to lend solidity to the line-up. More than the batting, it will add variety and thrust to the bowling. Akram is always a difficult customer while Razzaq, along with Azhar Mahmood, is capable of tilting the scales any moment.

A lot of credit behind Pakistan�s recent success should go to Javed Miandad. He has been successful in imbibing a new sense of responsibility and accountability in the side. More of a �big brother�, his presence is bound to inspire the players in a big-match situation.    

Calcutta, June 6 
An injured wrist has put paid to Leander Paes� hopes of picking up at least the mixed doubles crown at the French Open. And, it could also put him out of the Wimbledon championships beginning June 26.

According to information received here, Leander injured a ligament on his right wrist towards the end of his second-round mixed doubles match at Roland Garros Sunday. He and Lisa Raymond, the second seeds, went on to complete a straight-set victory over Nana Miyagi and Michael Hill, but that was the end of the road for the 1999 Wimbledon champions.

Leander�s wrist was put on plaster as a precaution that very evening. X-rays and an MRI scan followed, revealing a partial tear of the tendon. According to doctors in Paris, the Indian No. 1 will need two-three weeks to recover. Leander had lost in the first round of singles qualifiers as well as his pet event, the men�s doubles.

Even if Leander recovers in time for the grasscourt Grand Slam, there�s no chance of any miraculous �turnaround� in his partnership with Mahesh Bhupathi.

�I have already taken a decision and have committed to playing with Jan (Siemerink) for the rest of the year,� Leander told The Telegraph. �Mahesh and I can now only work towards renewing our partnership on the Tour in 2001.�

According to Dr Vece Paes, the core issue remains Enrico Piperno. �As we have made very clear, he (Leander) won�t think of playing with Mahesh as long as Piperno is his coach,� Dr Paes said, adding that the only way the two players can resolve the crisis is by talking face-to-face. �Mediation via the coaches won�t help. They have to solve it themselves, directly.�

Bhupathi, in a TV interview yesterday, had said that an effort was being made by them and the coaches to put the Indian Express back on track soon.    

Dhaka, June 6 
Dav Whatmore is back to his roots � he spent his first eight years in Sri Lanka � and, this time, it appears he will have a long innings on the Emerald Isle. That Whatmore does make a difference is already evident, but the coach himself isn�t merely looking at short-term gains.

Whatmore, who played seven Tests for Australia and was wooed by England to succeed David Lloyd (last year), is regarded as �hot property� on the circuit. With good reasons � it was under his guidance that Lanka won the 1996 World Cup.

Cool as usual, Whatmore spoke to The Telegraph on innings No. 2 as Lanka�s coach and about coaching itself. He is clear about where he stands; clear about where the side stands as well.

Following are excerpts

On his second innings as Lanka�s coach

I�m comfortable with the Board; very comfortable with the players. Also, the adjustment from my family (wife Katherine and children Dav (Jr) and Alexandra) has been much better this time... Actually, it�s a good base to be happy at the job.

On whether the early end to his first innings (after the 1996 World Cup) made him think a multiple times before returning

I did but, basically, it was a family decision � jointly by my wife and I. Today, I�m glad we took that decision though I accept coaching any international team is a high-pressure job.

On again turning things around for Lanka

(Grins) There�s not been any magical touch... It�s somewhat easy to take charge when things aren�t going right. I mean, in that situation, there�s only one way to go: Up. Of course, I took over at a sensitive time (last August)... The selectors decided to infuse fresh blood and the early successes gave everybody loads of confidence � the public, selectors and obviously the team. We�re continuing from there.

On what he spelt out at his first meeting with the boys

Without going into boring details, I talked about the goals every international side sets out to achieve and, simultaneously, said that commitment was more important than winning or losing... That the process of getting to where we aspire was important... Also, that we need to focus on the little, little things I was working on during innings No.1.

On the team�s response

Very positive... The willingness to combine as a group and give it a go was evident straightaway. The vibes, so to say, were good.

On his assessment of Sanath Jayasuriya as captain

He�s improving with each series... Today, captains probably have to face more questions on off-the-field activities, but Sanath has been handling himself well. In any case, it needs time to �grow� into any job... Some may, however, say Sanath�s own performance hasn�t been that consistent but, if the side wins, I really wouldn�t mind Sanath failing! Seriously, though, Sanath realises he has a contribution to make and works towards it.

On the future of senior pros Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda De Silva

Both still have a bit to offer... In Aravinda�s case, the selectors feel he has something to contribute in the one-dayers, too, and I quite agree. After all, Aravinda�s record (over 8,000 runs) can�t be dismissed lightly. As for Arjuna, he has perhaps himself now realised he has a role in Tests only. The innings he played in Rawalpindi earlier this year, with a fractured thumb... Don�t think there are many around who can match that... Arjuna has recovered from surgery and will be available for the series against Pakistan.

On the role of a coach

He has to create the right environment, ensuring that players are able to give off their best. Helping shape the future of an individual requires a little more thought than what otherwise might have been the case. As I�ve said in the past, coaching is one big jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces must fall into place.

To simplify things, a good coach essentially is a good man-manager. Having said that, let me add there will be cross-references into a number of areas... Basic knowledge of, well, so many things...

On whether his approach in innings No.2 is any different from his first stint

(Grins again) Essentially not, because the principles are the same. Yet, I�m probably offering more of a feedback to players, this time... That should get even better when we have a support-system (comprising, among others, a data analyst) fully in place. Hopefully, that day isn�t far off.

On having helped perfect the art of going full blast in the first 15 overs

(Laughs) Many have, in recent times, tried that and failed miserably... Frankly, it can�t be attempted in every situation. For instance, it would be silly to do so in England... It�s no good hoping it will work if the percentages just don�t appear to be in your favour. However, in the sub-continent, that can be attempted. Only, you must have the luxury of hundred-getters, down the order. We did, in 1996.

Talking of the first 15 overs, I must confess the idea was the product of a brain-storming session between Duleep Mendis (the then manager) and I, on that 1995-96 tour of Australia. Indeed, the seed was sown by Duleep... We decided to promote Kalu (Romesh Kaluwitharana), getting him to open with Sanath, and the rest is history. Kalu remains one of the sweetest hitters. Sanath, in any case, has always been dynamite.

On whether he again has something up his sleeve

Oh, this is a different team... There are quite a few youngsters who are still learning... Of course, I�m happy with the pace of their picking up things. Generally, the principle I follow is horses-for-courses. But, whatever the combination, I tell the boys they�ve got to assert themselves. That, too, in all the games. It�s important to be competitive; important to get into that habit.

On whether, as coach, he learnt in the two-and-half seasons (1997 onwards) at Lancashire

Absolutely. Man-management was at its peak... There was so much interaction, so much communication.

On whether being a World Cup-winning coach puts him under more pressure

The pressure-bit is all created in the mind. I, for one, don�t let pressure grow.

Finally, whether he is relieved Lankan names haven�t exactly surfaced in the match-fixing allegations

(After a pause) Relieved, yes. I won�t say a word more.    

Dhaka, June 6 
He has gone through hell but now he is determined to prove his mettle. While Shoaib Akhtar recuperates in England, Shabbir Ahmed is on the road back to the mainstream of international cricket.

Not long ago, when he rocked the circuit with raw pace against the West Indies in Toronto, many were left bewildered. But he soon struggled to find soil beneath his feet as he was labelled a �chucker�.

But a series of corrective measures with fast bowling greats likes Jeff Thomson, Michael Holding and Colin Croft have helped him get back into the right mould. �I used to work very hard at the nets, and with help from seniors of the team like Wasim (Akram) bhai

I�m back,� Shabbir said.

�I was absolutely shattered when aspersions were cast over my action. I didn�t know what to do, what went wrong and where. I always wanted to bowl fast but was not allowed to,� recalled the youngster from Multan.

But he is indebted to his teammates for standing by him in times of crisis.

�I was lucky that they all encouraged and supported me. They told me not to worry and believe in my abilities. All that assistance along with the help of Allah did the trick.�

Shabbir played a four-day game in the West Indies and it was then that he realised that things were falling into place. He bowled against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup in his �comeback� match yesterday and believes he will face no further problems. �I haven�t lost out on my pace with the new action. I�m waiting to prove myself,� he remarked confidently.

From now on, it�s a different struggle for him � a battle to cement his place in the team.    

Calcutta, June 6 
India�s Narain Karthikeyan narrowly lost out on the second place to Takuma Sato of Carlin Motorsport in a hard-fought race at the Brands Hatch circuit in the British Formula Three championship.

Driving for the highly-rated Stewart team, severe handling problems and a lack of grip dogged the Indian over the race weekend.

According to information received here, defending champion Karthikeyanqualified in third place on the grid. After a neck-and-neck fight with the Japanese, Karthikeyan finished just 0.492 seconds behind Sato.

Karthikeyan�s teammate Tomas Scheckter finished 6.6 seconds behind Karthikeyan. Antonio Pizzonia of Brazil came first.

Karthikeyan, lying third overall in the championship at present, is sponsored by Kingfisher, Ford, JK Tyres, Mobil, Satyam Online and Tata. He is looking to mount a mid-season challenge for a good showing by the end of the season which could elevate him into the Formula One circuit.    

Mysore, June 6 
Rupees 34.5 lakh has been marked for the eight-Day Mysore summer season set to start from Thursday. The bulk of the prize money for the 48 races framed will go to three-year-olds. The Racing will be held on Thursdays � June 8, June 13 and July 13 � while rest of the fixtures will be on Wednesdays � June 21, June 28 and on July 5, 19 and 26.

The new addition to the trophy-a-day racing will be the Hyderabad Race Club Cup and the Royal Western India Turf Club Cup.    


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