Anjali apart, two more Indians fell by the wayside on the first day. Aparna Popat slipped from a rather advantageous position against British shuttler Kelly Morgan and then slipped into anonymity. She lost 11-5, 7-11, 2-11. Thandava Murthy Muthu�s effort in men�s 56kg lifting was never go enough for any competition at this level.
Paddler Chetan Baboor and his doubles partner Raman Subramanyan too could not take the heat from the Netherlands pair and lost their first venture. They do have another chance yet to redeem some pride.
For Aparna it was as close as it comes. She was virtually on top of Kelly Morgan, and then suddenly gave in to Kelly�s tactic of pulling the Indian champion into her vortex of rallies and more tiring rallies. It was probably also the feeling of awe that one can feel if one is about to upset a top opponent in the first round of the Olympic Games.
It was a good and torrid start at Pavilion III of the Sydney Olympic Park. Aparna was smashing and using her power to unsettle the highly rated English girl. She led throughout and won comfortably at 11-5. There was no doubt as to who was the boss in the first set.
The second set, though, opened Aparna�s eyes vis-a-vis strategy. She ran off to a 2-0 lead, and kept up at 2-1, 3-1, and even 4-1 before allowing Kelly a point. At 5-2, Aparna was still cruising, smashing and power-serving and using her best weapons to good effect.
At five, Aparna stopped a while as Kelly picked and moved into 5-4. At 7-4, the match turned. Kelly was not being able to handle Aparna�s power and wanted the Indian to be in her own rally-and-endurance game. Aparna gave in to this, moving into rally and run.
Thereafter, it was Kelly in charge. She started throwing the passes and Aparna was chasing. Aparna stayed put at seven as Kelly picked up her 11 points. The third set was a washout, Aparna losing 2-11 and not knowing what hit her.
Later, Aparna conceded it was her lack of confidence and sudden giving in to Kelly�s tactic that was her nemesis. �I should have stayed on my own, kept to myself and my tactic, instead of trying to get the better of Kelly in her own game.�
She probably was a bit nervous as well. But she blamed her forced hiatus from competitive badminton to this loss. �Three months I have not been able to get proper match practice at any decent level,� she said. �This was not good for me today and it showed.� The doping case has done a good deal of harm to her confidence as well, it seemed.
Anjali finished a creditable eighth in a strong field where the Olympic record was equalled in qualifying. India�s record in international shooting has been dismal and Anjali�s showing was the best by an Indian in the Olympics.
Though Nancy Johnson of the US was best for gold with a total of 497.7 in the final in which Anjali took part, Nancy�s qualifying total was just 395, well short of Korean Cho-Hyun Kang�s 397. That 397 equalled the qualifying record of P. Horneber of Germany, set at the last Olympic Games in Atlanta.
In qualifying this morning, Anjali hit a fine 394, staying within reach of a possible podium show. In the final, though, she could not keep up her form and bagged 493.1 with the Korean winning silver at 497.5.
It could have been seventh for the 31-year-old Indian, having finished on the same score as another Korean, Dae-Young Choi. Anjali, though, lost 9.8-10.4 in the shoot-off. Interestingly, the overall gap in the final round score of Anjali and that of Kang was just 1.4. It was the nerves that got the better of her.
The loss has, therefore, been anything but a letdown on Anjali.
Muthu goes lightly
India�s 56kg aspirations in weightlifting also came to an end. Muthu�s 245 kg total (110 kg in snatch and 135 kg in clean and jerk) was good enough for only an 17th spot. The champion in this category was Halil Mutlu of Turkey, with a total of 302.5 kg, followed by Ivan Ivanov of Bulgaria (295kg) and Shin-Yuan Wang of Chinese Taipei (285). Muthu started the snatch with 105 kg and cleared. He went up to 110kg and cleared, but then failed at 112.5 kg. In clean and jerk, he cleared 130kg, then cleared 135kg after one �no lift�, but, having stayed cautious and well within his own reach, he was never really in contention for any top spot.
Baboor and Raman were beaten easily in their doubles first-round first match. They lost 17-21, 14-21 to the Netherlands� Trinko Keen and Danny Heister. Baboor tomorrow takes on Peter Jackson of New Zealand in his first-round singles match. The left-handed Jackson is the 1996 Oceania champion, and champion in the Oceania Olympic Qualifiers last year.
Indian chief coach Vasudevan Baskaran was clear in his mind today about what he and his team should do tomorrow when they meet Argentina again. Last time, the 0-1 loss set the Indian ball tumbling down the hill.
This year, says Baskaran, it should not happen. �I believe there was a bit of complacency playing in our minds in Atlanta before we took on Argentina. That was a bad start.� Incidentally, Baskaran was replaced as coach after that.
�The boys are motivated here and the big plus point is that there is no injury worry whatsoever,� he said. �We will be ready tomorrow.�
The idea, as Baskaran put it, is to not to rush things. �Argentina is a very defensive team and we must take advantage of that. We must wait for them to come to us before we make our moves, possibly through counterattacks,� he explained. The intricacies of strategy, for obvious reasons, remain in his head, but the basic idea is to not let the Argentines make the first move anyway, without planning contingencies. Extensive wing-play is expected.
Baskaran is a bit troubled with the relaxed nature that he might have seen in his players in Australia. �Look, we cannot complain about acclimatisation,� he pointed out. �We have been in Brisbane and here for the last three weeks, and we have got used to the weather.�
That means the scope for excuses really narrows down. There is even less to worry on the weather and temperature front (it is still chilly in the evenings), because the match tomorrow is in the morning. That hour is pleasant.
Jude Menezes has been doing well under that bar here (though Baskaran does shoot away these practice matches as �none-too-useful�) and should start tomorrow.
The defence should be good for Dilip Kumar Tirkey and Dinesh Naik, while the medios should include Baljit Singh Saini and skipper Ramandeep Singh, with the forwards being led by Mukesh Kumar, Dhanraj Pillay and Baljit Singh Dhillon. Looks a team as solid as any and there is more beef to block the gaps.
Today, the team and the coach saw Spain and South Korea draw 1-1 in the first match. That is good news for India, if they win tomorrow they will start with an advantage in pool B.
This is a chance that Baskaran wants to take. Spain went ahead in the second minute through Pablo Amat Pol and Seuntg-tae Sing equalised in the 28th. There were several penalty corner attempts that went abegging.
In pool A, Pakistan were held by Canada, a rather surprising start for the sub-continental giants whose every action will be watched by India, in another pool or not.
Well, sure, but what about it? �I was absolutely not aware of what the Olympic Games really were,� she said. �I was selected for pre-Olympics and that was the day I had my class X exams for the Madhyamik. I said I want to study, and that I will not study with those a class below me. It was a torment.
�Then my friends said �hey, it�s okay, you�re are going for the Olympics and my school principal (Nava Nalanda) said, �it�s fine.� I thought this must be big, I mean very big. So I practised. I returned to Calcutta and practised a lot, for three days,� she added. Just three days? �You see, I was in match practice, all the time, and that does keep you on your toes.�
The only adjustment that Poulami made was to abandon her racket for just one day. �I was getting too stifled with just table tennis and practice and more of that. I spent a whole day at home, talking to my parents (I miss them here) and just about doing nothing, I am a homely and a homesick type of person, I need my own people around.�
That rejuvenated her, she said. Thereafter she has not looked back. But once here, she was just overwhelmed. �It was here that I realised what the Olympics was all about. So much involvement of so many people, with so much energy and it�s so, so big. I mean I was in the marchpast yesterday, I was watching the opening ceremony, it was just too much.�
Her eyes said it all, the wonder, the awe that makes your jaw fall and your eyes wide open and the mind so unbelieving. �Now I know why my friends and why even my principal said �go� when they heard about the Olympics�. But how is she preparing herself for the matches? Tomorrow, in her group L match, she takes on Veronica Pavlovic of Belarus. �I don�t know anything about this player,� she confides. �I am sure I don�t want to know now anyway. It could have helped had I seen her play before, but since that will not be possible, I would rather not know too much.�
Incidentally, Pavlovic, a 22-year-old, is ranked 65, against Poulami�s current world ranking of 246. �I asked Chetanda (Baboor) and he told me to expect an attacking player and a both-side plain rubber racket. I am supposed to hit out to avoid damage.�
At this point, Poulami has shown a bit of flair with her forehand. �Yes, my backhands are still a bit weak, and my forehands often carry me through. I like the attacking style. It suits me.� That is good news. Good news too, is that she thinks the floor suits her, the tables suit her, and of course, the ambience suits her. �Overall, I now understand what the Olympics is all about. This is better than the best.�
Then she explains how she really has no wild dreams. �I have learned my game well, and I wish to learn more, and I will be trying to at least beat a couple of high-ranked players. I am not going for any colour of medal, I am going in with the idea of giving my best and not letting go till the last.�
The last-mentioned attribute is what has brought her where she is now. She has a longer way to go yet.
On Monday Poulami meets Anne Boileau of France. The 25-year-old was English Open runner-up last year, champion in women�s doubles in the Brazil Open last year and was named ITTF Player of the Month in July last year. Poulami may not need the information for personal reasons and nobody is matching anything. But she repeats her dream here: �I want to beat a couple of highly-rated players here. That�s all.� Maybe Anne�s name is on that list...
The decision will, formally, be taken during the Board�s September 29-30 AGM in Chennai.
Though Borde�s recall to the selection committee last year (after over a decade) was endorsed by all within the ruling group, the past 12 months have seen loss of support.
According to The Telegraph�s sources, a clutch of past and present officials, belonging to the ruling group, are �firm� on effecting a change.
Their preferred choice is Aunshuman Gaekwad, a former selector and the current stop-gap national coach. Of course, no national selector or coach has worn two hats� albeit for a brief period � but the ruling group shouldn�t have problems if it decides to set a precedent.
But even if Gaekwad makes it, the chief selector�s chair isn�t assured. There�s bound to be a keen tussle with North�s Madanlal, who made his India debut before Gaekwad. In fact, Madanlal also �beat� Gaekwad to wearing the national coach�s hat.
If Borde, who represents West, does stay for another year (a maximum of four, at one go, is permissible), it will probably largely be due to the Ajit Wadekar-factor.
It is, after all, �feared� that Wadekar, who was dumped last year, may begin plotting a return should word get around Borde will be retired. The ruling group isn�t comfortable with that.
Incidentally, Wadekar is tipped to succeed Union minister Manohar Joshi as Mumbai Cricket Association president. Joshi, by the way, is a Board vice-president (from West).
By all accounts, outgoing there as well.
Even if there�s uncertainty over Borde, it�s almost certain Central will have a new face on the committee: Anil Deshpandem, who has completed two years, is intent on stepping down.
�For personal reasons,� as sources put it.
Unless Deshpande is persuaded to change his mind, chances are Madhya Pradesh�s Sanjay Jagdale, closely associated with Narendra Hirwani, could sit on the committee.
East�s Ashok Malhotra and South�s T.A. Sekar will move into their third and second year, respectively, as selectors. Like Malhotra, Madanlal will enter year No.3.
So much for the selectors. As for the office-bearers, the only change should be among the vice-presidents. Unless, there are dramatic developments specifically with regard to one top official.
It is understood Kamal Morarka (Central), C.K. Khanna (North) and K.M. Ram Prasad (South) will remain, but West�s Joshi and East�s Jamshedpur-based A.N.Singh won�t.
By rotation, somebody from Orissa should take Singh�s place � obviously, Jagmohan Dalmiya will have a say. Otherwise, Assam may find representation. As for West, Maharashtra�s D.C.Agashe and Gujarat�s Narhari Amin are reported to have begun lobbying.
Amin, a former deputy chief minister of Gujarat, seems to have the edge today.
Amar Ganguly has had to live in the shadows of Mohun Bagan�s star strikers this season. Today, he squandered his chance for a place in the sun.
Banished to the bench on most occasions, Ganguly, a second-half substitute at today�s IFA Shield final, was tantalisingly close to what would have been the the �golden goal� when he faltered. As he sat clutching his head in disbelief, the scene somehow summed up Mohun Bagan�s story at the Salt Lake Stadium.
A story of missed opportunities.
East Bengal escaped to victory, winning the tie-breaker hands down to complete a �triple crown� of local titles after triumphs in the McDowell Cup and Super Division League.
In a fascinating match of fluctuating fortunes, it was East Bengal who drew first blood, Chandan Das finding the mark from a 26th-minute breakaway. Jose Barreto brought parity for the green-and maroon brigade with a classy strike 38 minutes into the second session.
And then, after more misses, the game spilled into the penalty shootout that went all wrong for Mohun Bagan � from the first kick.
The result will be a real heartbreak for Mohun Bagan, for they have rarely dominated their arch-rivals in the manner they did today. They will, of course, have been rudely reminded that, in the end, it�s not just about creating opportunities but scoring from them.
The midfield was always going to be the key area, and Mohun bagan took control from the onset. However, even as they pressed forward, East Bengal always seemed to catch them on the wrong foot with quick breakways. One of these produced the first goal, though Amitava Chanda could take a great deal of blame for some clumsy defending.
When the ball ran loose towards Chanda and Suley Musah in a 50-50 situation, the Mohun Bagan left-back, the last defender on this occasion, made the cardinal mistake of going for an all out tackle. Once he failed, Musah was left with all the space he needed.His cross found Chandan, whose prompt shot at goal went in off the left post. Bagan turned the heat on from there, but were thwarted time and again by goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee.
The 20-year-old TFA blue had a dream day, rising every time his team faced danger. It looked as if nothing could beat the boy from Kanchrapara, till the brilliance of Barreto bailed Mohun Bagan out yet again.
The crafty Brazilian, who found very little support upfront, showed his class when R.C. Prakash sent in a cross. Barreto shut out Sur Kumar Singh with his body even as he sent his side-volley past the hapless goalkeeper.
Sur Kumar, after getting into a few elbow-pushing bouts with the Brazilian, had to leave the pitch six minutes before the end after his second booking of the day.
Barreto did little wrong, though he did mess up a chance to get the �golden goal�. Prakash was to find the crosspiece minutes later.
East Bengal too got their chances, most of them from breakaways down right, but they may well want to dedicate this victory to their spirit. The ability to hang on, and deliver the knockout punch.
TEAMSEAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee; Sur Kumar Singh, Dipak Mondal, Jackson Egygpong, Ratan Singh; Suley Musah, Carlton Chapman (Tushar Rakshit 51st, Ranjan Dey 103rd), Chandan Das, Dipankar Roy (Anit Ghosh 88th); Dipendu Biswas, Bijen Singh.
MOHUN BAGAN: Sandip Nandy; Dulal Biswas, Sammy Omollo, M. Suresh (Joao Santos 36th, Amar Ganguly 82nd), Amitava Chanda; Debjit Ghosh; Basudeb Mondal, R.P. Singh (Hussain Mustafi 71st), Satyajit Chatterjee; Jose Ramirez Barreto, R.C. Prakash.
Referee: S. M. Balu (Karnataka)
East Bengal opens with Chandan Das sending the goalkeeper the wrong way on the left. (1-0)
Sammy Omollo�s push along the carpet to the goalkeeper�s left is saved by the diving Sangram. (1-0)
Musah beats a diving Sandip on his right. (2-0)
Dulal Biswas tries to blast his shot in but it comes to grief on the crosspiece. Mohun Bagan is now in real trouble. (2-0)
Ratan Singh, the �left-footer�, fools Sandip with a right-footer that goes past the goalie�s right. (3-0)
Satyajit Chatterjee, the �pro� shows his mates how it�s done by coolly slotting to the left of Sangram. (3-1)
Sandip needs to save this one to keep Mohun Bagan afloat, but Dipendu gives him no chance with a nice placement. (4-1)
MAM, it was learnt, had threatened to walk out of the city racing if such a move succeeded. Stewards, too, put their foot down on the issue thus forcing the syndicate to accept the existing ratings. The syndicate was also caught on a wrong foot when MAM offered a sell off such horses for a moderate Rs 3 lakh apiece.
Vineet Verma, CEO & secretary RCTC said: �In the interest of the city racing and the depleting horse-strength here, the club�s intention in this matter was absolutely bonafide.�
SELECTIONS12.15 pm: Venus 1. Crowning Moment 2
12.45 pm: Accentuate 1. Balancita 2.
1.15 pm: Phalaenopsis 1. Monogram 2.
1.45 pm: Fantasy 1. Anna Pavlova 2. Cloud Nine 3.2.15 pm:Attia In Sunlight 1. Mohican 2. Express Lane 3. 2.45 pm: Dhama Dham 1. Doctor No 2. Daniel�s Pet 3. 3.15 pm: Sedona 1. Tout de Suite 2.3.45 pm: Alchemy 1. Alameda 2. Signal Tap 3. 4.15 pm: Amazing Dream 1. Storm Again 2. Flying Home 3. 4.45 pm: Betsy 1. Queensland 2. Clever Talk 3. Day�s Best: Accentuate Double:Venus & Sedona.
SATURDAY�S PUNE RESULTS
(With inter-state dividends)1st race: Sariano (D. Shanker) 1; Sergeant Slipper 2; Running Power 3. Won by: 1-3/4; 4-3/4; (1-2.9). (W) Rs 532; (P)65; 12; 51; (Q) 327; (T) 35,990 (C.o).
2nd race: Park Royal (Rathore) 1; Minneapolis 2; Foreign Connection 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 1-3/4; (1-14.4). (W) Rs 525; (P) 48; 28; 15; (Q) 1,035; (T) 19,112.
3rd race: Sparkling Champagne (Rajendra) 1; Candescent 2; Winning Girl 3. Won by: SH; 1-1/4; (1-27.7). (W) Rs 47; (P) 18; 21; 28; (Q) 156; (T) 1,434.
4th race: Ally McBeal (M. Narredu) 1; Countach 2; Maximus 3. Won by: Dist; 1-3/4; (1-13.2). (W) Rs 12; (P)10; 30; 88; (Q) 62; (T) 1,031.
5th race: Shooting Mercury (M. Narredu) 1; Proper Pride 2; Round Trip 3.Won by: 2-3/4; 1-1/4; (1-42.5). (W) Rs 19; (P) 12; 17; 126; (Q) 44; (T) 1,567.
6th race: Secret Blessing�s (Bernard) 1; Table Dancing 2; Intel 3. Won by: 1/2; Nk; (1-12.9). (W) Rs 424; (P) 51; 29; 16; (Q) 891; (T) 7,853.
7th race: Current Bay (Shroff) 1; Star Music 2; Zeta Jones 3. Won by: 1/2; 1-1/4; (1-12.5). (W) Rs 18; (P) 12; 45; 11; (Q) 170; (T) 749.
8th race: Stolichnaya (Gallagher) 1; Gold Buck 2; Very Beautiful 3. Not run: Future Arrives (5). Won by: 2; 1; (1-13.3). (W) Rs 25; (P) 11; 16; 12; (Q) 62; (T) 227.
9th race: Soviet Pride (Ruzaan) 1; Fiercly Loyal 2; Aylesfield 3. Won by: 6; 2-3/4; (1-0.7). (W) Rs 40; (P)18; 23; 44; (Q) 78; (T) 1,181.
10th race: Forever Sparky (Deora) 1; Asprilla 2; Sacred Fire 3. Won by: 3/4; 2-3/4; (1-28.1). (W) Rs 93; (P) 25; 11; 21; (Q) 78; (T) 1,286.
11th race: Polish Nobility (Kadam) 1; Tasha Beat 2; Chocolate Chip 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 1-3/4; (1-2). (W) Rs 64; (P) 22; 11; 40; (Q) 82; (T) 696.
Jackpot: (i) Rs 10,984; (C) Rs 2,247; (ii) Rs 7,835; (C) Rs 345.
Treble: (i) Rs 2,176; (ii) Rs 1,876; (iii) Rs 3,742.