Former natl coach is now a Neutral
Not my best, says Dravid
Bengal move into command through centuries from Devang, Arijit
AIFF puts off Natl League
Dravid, Tendulkar lead strong reply
Suspended Kotla groundsman now a peon
Parents miss Das landmark
Cristopher�s antics spoil the day
Ammeter shines

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
One isn�t suggesting John Hampshire has been biased, in any way, but the International Cricket Council (ICC) should have avoided slotting him in the on-going Zimbabwe Test at the Kotla.

Hampshire, it may be recalled, was Zimbabwe�s coach when that country last had a full India tour (early 1993). However, Hampshire himself sees �nothing unusual� about officiating here.

For the record, being an ICC appointee from the International panel, Hampshire is the �neutral� on duty.

�Just because Zimbabwe are playing, why should it be odd? At the other end, after all, is Venkat (Srinivas Venkatraghavan) who not only played for India, but was also its captain,� Hampshire told The Telegraph.

That�s not too strong an argument, as the host country will continue to nominate one umpire till such time the ICC deputes two �neutrals� for every Test.

But even if Hampshire doesn�t find this appointment �unusual,� he did decline comment on Zimbabwe�s progress on the circuit. �Shouldn�t be talking about that,� he insisted, adding: �Won�t look good...�

Not only did the ICC overlook Hampshire�s Zimbabwe past, obviously nobody in the Board of Control for Cricket in India did any homework either.

Contrast this with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which, a few years ago, objected to John Reid�s appointment as Match Referee for engagements against South Africa on grounds that the former New Zealand captain had spent quite some years in South Africa.

The high-profile Arif Ali Khan Abbasi was then PCB chief executive.

To return to Hampshire, he has a couple of firsts to his credit: As a player, the first Englishman to score a Test hundred on debut at Lord�s (versus the West Indies, 1969) and, in this avatar of his, the first third-country umpire (with compatriot John Holder) to officiate in an Indo-Pak series (in Pakistan, 1989).    

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
Elated at scoring his second century on Indian soil and first in Delhi, a relaxed Rahul Dravid felt that this was a good knock but not �the best� he has played.

�They made us field for two days and now we are getting back at them,� Dravid added.

Dravid attributed his playing more cautiously in the afternoon to two factors. �I lost some rhythm after surviving a chance and the Zimbabwe bowlers, too, maintained a better line and length.�

He admitted the flurry of fours during the morning session was achieved because of the attacking field, which allowed him to find the gaps easily.

Dravid felt that the Kotla wicket was a perfect batting track and offered no help to the bowlers. �A result is difficult on this track but we can give it a try by piling up a huge score and putting pressure on them on the last day.

�We have got the base for a good total and now have to accelerate tomorrow,� he observed.

Dravid felt that Heath Streak was the pick of the bowlers, with his consistent length and Olonga the fastest.

Still nursing a finger injury (as a result of a catch in Sharjah), Dravid was all praise for young opener Shiv Sundar Das. �Das has good temperament and has a sound defence. Hopefully, he will develop into a solid opener.�    

Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
Bolstered by sparkling centuries from skipper Devang Gandhi and debutant Arijit Bose, Bengal put themselves in a commanding position on the second day of their Ranji Trophy league tie against Tripura at Eden Gardens today.

At close, the hosts reached 333 for three, taking a valuable 163-run first innings lead. Devang was batting on 128 and wicket-keeper Saba Karim unbeaten on 11. Arijit made 101.

Resuming at their overnight score of 45 for no loss, the new opening pair of Arijit and Amitava Banerjee (48) provided the base for Bengal�s dominance by putting on 122.

The post-lunch session marked a queer change in attitude by the Bengal batsmen. The flurry of attacks early in the innings gave way to extra caution. Pushing for singles instead of hitting to the ropes became a common phenomenon. Such wariness, however, could be explained with Arijit homing in on the unique feat and skipper Devang still struggling to get a feel of the wicket.

Arijit ensured his patience did not go unrewarded when he reached the coveted target, pushing for a single to mid-wicket.

He, however, did not last long as he was visibly wanting in concentration. He departed somewhat lackadaisically driving a Rajib Deb Barman delivery to point. He stayed at the crease for 246 minutes, faced 184 balls and hit 15 boundaries.

Rohan Gavaskar (15) was the lone Bengal batsman to fall cheaply. An rush of blood led to his premature end. Beaten by Gourpada Banik�s gentle spin in the previous delivery, he decided to punish the very next ball. But the shot went straight to Aditya Shukla at mid-off.

Devang, on the other hand, soon came into his elements. He got off to a rollicking start, reaching fifty in just 51 balls. He picked Subol Chowdhury for special treatment, hitting one four and a huge six in his second over. The Bengal skipper reached his hundred in 125 balls.

�I�m happy with my effort, but the credit should go to Arijit and Amitava. They showed exceptional maturity and established a strong base to help us put on a big score,� Devang said.

His unbeaten innings came off 176 balls and was studded with 16 fours and three overboundaries.

Saba Karim, on the other hand, survived a scare when Tripura wicketkeeper Rajib Dutta missed a stumping chance. Dutta had a terrible day conceding 13 byes, including a couple of fours.

Devang maintained later that they would accelerate and was eyeing at least a 250-run lead.    

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
The fifth edition of the National Football League has been postponed indefintely, as a consequence of the demands raised by the newly formed Indian Premier Football Association. After a second meeting with IPFA president Vijay Mallaya and its vice-president Anjan Mitra, All India Football Federation president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi stated the League, slated to kick off on Saturday, has been deferred.

He added that the format will remain the same and the same 12 teams will take part. This rules out the inclusion of Mohammedan Sporting, which had been one of the demands of the IPFA.

According to Das Munshi, the new start of the NFL will be decided at an emergency meeting of its executive committee in Delhi on November 26. This meeting will also be attended by representatives of the 12 clubs and the chairmen of the National Football League Committee, the Disciplinary Commiteee and the AIFF Referees Board.

�Hijack not possible�

The AIFF president reiterated that the authority of the national body and the state bodies cannot be undermined. He said that a Kerry Packer type hijack is not possible in football and a parallel national league is thus ruled out. He, however, added that the demands of the premier clubs for resource mobilisation, greater media exposure and revenue sharing will be fully discussed at the November 26 meeting.

About future plans, Das Munshi claimed: �This protest by the clubs will not affect the Millenium Cup, which takes place as per schedule in January 2001 and the AIFF elections at Delhi on December 16.�

He said the AIFF hopes to expand the National League by starting a third division from next season. He also stated that this year�s second division will take place at Bangalore and Goa next month.    

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
Zimbabwe 422/9 decl.
India 275/2

It was a day of toil for Zimbabwe�s stingless attack.

A majestic, unbroken 141-run third-wicket partnership between Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar put India in a position of ascendancy at close on the third day of the Pepsi Test.

On a placid wicket, India trail by 147 runs but are now in a position to seize the initiative by piling up a mammoth score and pushing the Zimbabwe batsmen on the backfoot on the final day.

With the wicket showing no signs of cracking and Zimbabwe�s attack mostly wayward, India could cross their best-ever at the Kotla, 556 for six declared against Alvin Kallicharan�s West Indies in 1979. The poser for India will be when to declare, considering the limitations of their attack and skipper Sourav Ganguly�s lack of faith in left-arm spinner Murali Karthik.

Indian batsmen revelled under the sun, in the process setting up several records today. Dravid scored his seventh Test century and only second on Indian soil. His unbeaten 118 is his highest in Delhi. The previous best was 40 versus Australia in 1996. When Dravid reached 110 he became the 13th Indian batsman to score over 3,000 Test runs. He achieved this feat in his 39th Test.

Dravid and Sachin�s unbroken partnership eclipsed the previous best of 137 against Zimbabwe for the third wicket set by Vinod Kambli and Sachin in March 1993.

It was also Sachin�s highest score at the Kotla. Recently rated the best batsman in the world by Australia�s first-class cricketers, Sachin has never scored a century in Delhi. His previous highest was 62 against Zimbabwe in 1993.

Earlier, opener Shiv Sundar Das and Dravid�s 107-run second-wicket stand equalled the highest against Zimbabwe, set by Navjyot Sidhu and Kambli in 1993.

Skipper Heath Streak was the pick of the Zimbabwe attack. His sharp inswingers and nagging length often put the batsmen in trouble. With the second new ball he was the only bowler to curb the well-set Dravid and Sachin.

Henry Olonga was quick but wayward, and as a result, often ruthlessly punished. Left-arm medium-pacer Brian Strang got little movement and rarely troubled the batsmen. Leg spinner Brian Murphy lacks bite. Paul Strang was somewhat effective, with his variations and the occasional straighter delivery. With an attack more limited than India�s, run outs and lapse in concentration were Zimbabwe�s best hopes for a wicket.

To add to Zimbabwe�s woes, Alistair Campbell floored a regulation slip catch off Dravid, just after lunch. Dravid was then on 44 as he played casually to a rising delivery from Streak. The ball flew low to second slip and Campbell spilled the chance despite getting both hands to the ball.

Realising that this could be his day, Dravid shed his cavalier pre-lunch approach and buckled down to play a sedate knock. Dame luck smiled on him again. At 196 for two and Dravid on 74, he responded to Sachin�s call for a sharp single and almost struggled to beat Grant Flower�s sharp throw to brother Andy. Several TV replays were uncertain and finally after prolonged scrutiny third umpire Vijay Chopra gave him the benefit of doubt.

Dravid�s exquisite cover drives and daring pulls and Sachin�s well-timed straight drives and flicks through mid-wicket were a delight to watch.

In the morning, 24-year-old Orissa opener Das showed good concentration and judgement against the new ball. He played correctly in the arc between mid-off and mid-on and placed the ball to vacant gaps for singles. This youngster could be India�s answer to their troublesome opening combination.

Das batted for 211 minutes and struck six well-timed boundaries to reach his maiden half-century. He missed a faster one from Olonga in his third spell and was trapped leg before for a compact 58.

Southpaw Sadagopan Ramesh missed out on a big score when he tried to turn a Streak delivery which swung in and wrapped him on the pads.

If Sachin and Dravid can successfully negotiate the early morning spell against the Zimbabwe medium-pacers tomorrow, India can hope to unleash the fireworks when Zimbabwe bat on the fifth day.    

New Delhi, Nov. 20: 
The Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) has, according to well-placed sources, �rehabilitated� suspended senior groundsman Ram Adhar Choudhary.

Choudhary, it may be recalled, featured in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report into match-fixing. The �rehabilitation�, in the form of his being shifted to the DDCA office as peon, has been quietly done.

The report quoted former India player and Delhi captain Ajay Sharma as saying he paid Choudhury Rs 50,000 for having �prepared the desired wicket� during the one-off Australia Test at the Kotla, in October 1996.

India won in under four days � inflicting a rare defeat on Mark Taylor�s team � in what was Sachin Tendulkar�s debut Test as captain.

According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, while the DDCA was prompt in suspending Choudhury, a move aimed at discouraging more adverse publicity ahead of the Zimbabwe Test, which began Saturday, there was an equally quick re-think.

�Keeping Choudhury away from the DDCA would have encouraged the Media to constantly hound him (Choudhury, predictably, has firmly denied involvement). By bringing him back, and making him feel secure, the DDCA ensured Choudhury himself wouldn�t look to the Media for justice,� remarked one well-placed source.

Another pointed out that as the team management itself wanted an �underprepared wicket,� in keeping with tradition, where�s the question of Choudhury obliging any bookie?

Significantly Madanlal, the then coach and now selector, has always been a Delhi man.

Choudhury, of course, had nothing to do with the preparation of the wicket for the on-going Test � a committee, with DDCA vice-president Chetan Chauhan calling the shots � has overseen preparations.

The CBI, in its report, stated: �...Ajay Sharma further stated that during the Australia tour of India in 1996, (bookie) M.K.Gupta had approached him and asked if he could have a pitch prepared at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground in Delhi which would lead to a certain result and, for which, MK promised to reward him and the groundsman suitably.

�In this connection, he spoke to groundsman Choudhury at Feroze Shah Kotla and also arranged his meeting with M.K.Gupta near Rajghat. Choudhury accordingly prepared the desired wicket and a result was obtained in the Test match in three-and-half days.

�After that match, Ajay Sharma told M.K.Gupta that he be paid at least Rs 4-5 lakhs for getting the wicket prepared as per his instructions, but M.K.Gupta paid him only Rs 3 lakhs of which he gave Rs 50,000 to the groundsman, Choudhury...�

Choudhury is silent for now, though he did earlier claim the CBI used third-degree methods while interrogating him (rubbished, by the way, by the agency). But the final word probably hasn�t been said on Sharma�s sensational allegation.    

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 20: 
When Shiv Sundar Das went out to open India�s innings against Zimbabwe in the Kotla Test today, he carried with him the blessings of a number of gods as well as his mother. But Kanchanbala, who had lighted lamps all over the place, did not get to see her son crack a half-century in only his second Test.

She was too nervous to watch.

Shiv Sundar�s father, Uttam, missed it too, but for very different reasons from that of his wife.

�I was busy cooking when Budha (Shiv Sundar�s nickname) went out to bat. I did not have the nerve to see him play. I just caught a glimpse of him.

�It was my daughter, Sucheta, who sat before the television throughout,� a happy Mrs Das told The Telegraph at their Tankapani Road residence in Old Bhubaneswar.

She didn�t, of course, forget to ask for a little divine intervention.

�This morning I prayed to the gods for my son�s success. I also lighted a akhand diya (lamp) before Akshyababa at Raghunathpur Ashram,� she informed.

And, like a true Oriya housewife, she had also visited the Jagannath temple in Puri a few days.

Shiv Sundar�s elder sister Sucheta was glued to the television since morning at their Tankapani Road residence in Old Bhubaneswar.

�I was pretty confident Budha would score a half-century,� she said. �Usually he is very fickle. We have told him so often not to be in a hurry while playing. Today he didn�t show any of that fickleness. He looked very confident and seemed set for a big score.�

When Shiv Sundar reached the half-century of his career at 1.15 pm, the joy and pride on his sister�s face was there for everyone to savour.

As if she was making up for their parents� missing their son�s moment of glory.

�He did not want to go anywhere this morning, but had to leave for his village in Jagatsinghpur following an urgent message,� Mrs Das explained her husband�s absence.

She added that, when their son calls up his family from Delhi later tonight, �he�ll probably be back to share the joy�.    

Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
Jockey B. Gurang�s luxurious handling of Stately Don spoiled the bookmakers� party last week. It was left to Cristopher Alford to do a Gurang on Wednesday. The champion jockey has been summoned by the stewards following his derring-dos on Sterling Prospect in the Ute Handicap.

It was a diabolic case of going easy on a ride which could have overhauled the firm favourite, Harry The Horse. Cristopher remained motionless in the entire stretch run while the rest in the field were sweating it out.

Cristopher�s case, thanks to track II diplomacy, will come up for hearing on Wednesday while Gurang�s ordeal was sorted out on the same day itself.

It is difficult to say if the jockey rates the observance power of the RCTC stewards at a very low on a scale of one to 10, but his confidence in his godfathers to pull him through the crisis is known to be very high.

A couple of years ago, he was pulled out of a mess following an equally blatant effort on Kaizen. A sympathetic �appeal board� on that occasion had cut down his long suspension, slapped on by the stewards, to a mere weeks.

Cristopher�s near-unblemished track-record since the Kaizen affair speaks loudly for him. But the champion jockey is sure to lose many admirers following this blot on his career.

Nevertheless, Harry The Horse made every post of the 1,600m race a winning one. The Twist And Turn-Knightsbridge three-year-old from trainer John Stephens� yard is bound to improve. His next start is likely to be the Bengal Area Cup.

Mr Bombshell�s victory was on the cards following his inspired show in his last start. The Daniel David-trainee won the Blue Light Handicap the way he desired.

Cristopher was naughty earlier in the day, as well. Partnering Anntari in the Kalied Cup, he interfered with the winning chances of The Stud and Ballard Lady too. However, the strong finishing prowess of The Stud saved the day for the 7-10 hot-favourite.

Tequila Shot was a medium of big gamble in the Treasure Island Handicap. Brought down from the middle of Class IV to Class V, the Bath-trained horse delivered the goods without any anxiety.

With a brace of winning brackets apiece tucked under their belts, Annalee and Endless Surprise put Ispahan � winner of one race yet at a big weight disadvantage � to shame in the Tom Pip Handicap.

Annalee led almost from the start and had a comfortable three parts of a length to spare to Endless Surprise as the field touched the wire. Ispahan was third nearly nine lengths behind.

Despite his weight constraints, Alternator produced a dazzling run in the stretch and beat the 1,400m Mayfowl Cup field hallow. He has set his eyes for bigger honours in a near future.    

Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
The second RCTC Breeze-up sales will be held on November 26. After the Mumbai inter- venue (restricted) betting.

Six lots will come under hammer. The horses will be breezed-up after the last Calcutta race on November 22.    

Calcutta, Nov. 20: 
Ammeter, Altimara and Baffin Bay were impressive during the work outs today.

Outer sand track

1,400m: Ammeter (C. Alford) and Cool Quest (Kader) in 1-40s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Former far better. Altimara (Kader) and Silver Toy (C. Alford) in 1-41s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Former better.

1,200m: Baffin Bay (C. Alford) and Andestine (Kader) in 1-26 1/5s; (400m) 27s. Former better.

1,000m: Appeaer (Kader) and Wandering Warrior (C. Alford) in 1-12 1/5s; (400m) 29s. Former a length better.

800m: South Cove (C. Alford) and Think Of Us (Kader) in 58 1/5s; (400m) 29 3/5s. Former a length better. Highland Flame (Kader) in 55 2/5s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Easy.

On Sunday, outer sand track

1,600m: Premier League (Upadhya) in 2-4s; (400m) 29 1/5s. Easy.

1,400m: Code Word (A. Imran) in 1-42s; (400m) 29s. Alembic (C. Alford) and Alsheim (A. P. Singh) in 1-411/5s; (400m) 311/5s. Former 2 ls better. Fame Star (C. Alford) and Allosaki (A. P. Singh) in 1-45s; (400m) 28s. Former far better.

800m: Santillana (Upadhya) and Bird�s Empire (A. Imran) in 53s; (400m) 26s. Former a head better. Annatto (C. Alford) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Natural Mover (A. Imran) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Fit. Alygator (C. Alford) and Amarante (A. P. Singh) in 54s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Former 2 ls better. Gambino (Upadhya) and Abstone Queen (A. Imran) in 56 2/5s; (400m) 28 2/5s.Easy. Aloritz (A. P. Singh) and Arezzo (C. Alford) in 55s; (400m) 28s. Both level. Best In Show (Rb) in 56 2/5s; (400m) 28 2/5s. Easy.

Sand track

1,000m: Altimara (C. Alford) and Appeaer (Rb) in 1-14 3/5s; (400m) 30 3/5s. Both level.

800m: Sadaf (Rb) in 450s; (400m) 24s. Impressed. Ministerian (A. Imran) in 56s; (400m) 25 2/5s. Astronomer (A. Imran) and Ballet Master (Upadhya) in 51s; (400m) 25s. Former a length better. Sovereign Bullet (Upadhya) in 51s; (400m) 25 3/5s. Fit.

On Saturday, gate practice

From 2,000m to 1,000m: Astride (C.Alford), 2yo Alnasr Alwasheek/ Pass The Secret (Surender) and Arbello (A. P.Singh) in 1-9 4/5s. First two jumped out well. Calculate (Amil), Albright (C. Alford), 2yo Sizzling Melody/Sanzzeenee (Surender) and Alrborne (A. P. Singh) in 1-9 4/5s. First two jumped out well. Ascoril (Surender), Victoria Rose (C. Alford) and Angeles (Amil) in 1-11s. First two jumped out well. 2yo Serious Spender/Arctic Theme (Amil), Calorescence (C. Alford) , Gold Discovery/Rose Of Sharon (Surender. Singh) and Gold Discovery Tamarisca (A. P. Singh) in 1-9s. All jumped out well.    


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