God kept something aside for me, says Sourav
Kumble all praise for Harbhajan
India set to pressure Aussies with spin trio
We will make this Test special, promises Steve
EB held, still stay on top
Jaidee sole leader after Round III
Grasscourt meet
Bagan beaten
Mumbai Races/ Wild Eagle, Astor Place may score
Bangalore Races/ �Comet� strikes

Chennai, March 17: 
Listening to Asha Bhosle and Adnan Sami�s chart-busting Kabhi To Nazar Milao; ironing his India shirt for the tied Test dinner; fending calls from admirers (the Yasmins and Mansis); getting the suite tidy for wife Dona�s arrival late tonight. And, yes, psyching himself for a �big knock� at the Chepauk.

All this before the strategy fine-tuning team meeting.

Clearly, Sourav Ganguly has his hands full. Yet the Indian captain, who has entered the record books, took some time off to speak to The Telegraph early this evening.

Following are excerpts

Q You�re a firm believer in what is past being history. But, surely, the Eden Test won�t be forgotten in a hurry and, clearly, should have some effect on the final Test?

A It�s not that we won, but the manner in which we made such a comeback. We should draw inspiration but, then, tomorrow will mark the start of a fresh game... The Australians are bound to come hard at us and we�ll ourselves have to play good cricket... Looking back, at least I haven�t played in a more spectacular Test... Plus, that sentimental value will always be there: Having led India to victory in my first Test, as captain, at the Eden.

Q How does it feel, 48 hours later?

A (Grins) Great... Yeah, feels great... After a long time, I really slept well that Thursday night. Hopefully, I�ll be able to sleep well after this Test, too.

Q When did you realise you had done a Mike Brearley � leading a team, which had followed-on, to a most incredible win?

A Much after the event... I�ve always tried to be my own captain and, while I haven�t specifically admired any one, it�s a very nice feeling I�ve emulated one of the most outstanding captains of all time. Of course, I�m myself not claiming credit, as all of it must only go to our team.

[In almost 125 years of Test cricket, only two teams and three captains have featured in the most incredible of comebacks (after following-on): England�s Andrew Stoddart and Brearley and, now, Sourav.]

Q The victory apart, is there still a sense of personal disappointment? After all, you failed in the first innings and fell for 48 in the second when looking good...

A Not really... As captain, you have to be concerned with the collective performance, not just your own.

Q What did the five days in general and the last few hours, in particular, teach you?

A So much, not least being that no game is over till the last ball � or, almost the last ball � is bowled. Also, that no matter how tough the odds, no matter how steep the climb, somebody can still get you there. Laxman and Dravid certainly taught me this.

Q Frankly, having been made to follow-on, did you even dream of the eventual result?

A Absolutely not. In fact, by stumps on the third evening, both the coach (John Wright) and I were pretty down... (A shade emotionally) God, though, has always been kind and, this week, he did keep something aside for me.

Q It seems you�re turning more grey...

A (Laughs) The process began a year ago, didn�t it?

Q What were your thoughts when Australia�s second innings began?

A That a couple of wickets and we would straightaway be in business... Yes, Langer did find the gaps (after Michael Slater�s exit) but I was confident if we could get one batsman, we could get a couple of more. This confidence largely stemmed from Harbhajan�s bowling. He kept a superb line, forcing the batsmen to make mistakes.

Q Your interaction with Harbhajan was pretty frequent. What would you tell him?

A Bowl in the desired area and keep bowling balls which couldn�t be put away. I think it becomes difficult once you start looking for wickets on each ball without bothering about related matters. Sure, that obviously is the aim, but you�ve first got to bowl good balls only.

Q Wright suggested Laxman be promoted to No.3 and Sachin Tendulkar himself proposed you bring him on (around tea) that final afternoon. Open to suggestions aren�t you?

A That�s because no captain knows everything. Equally, no captain is perfect... Even when Sachin was captain, we would propose option A or B and he, too, was open to ideas. A captain should be flexible and consider options. However, bottomline is that he is captain and, so, the final decision must be taken by him only.

Q In the closing stages, you were pretty worked-up. What did you tell Shane Warne?

A The Australians wanted to waste time so that only the miminum overs (75) were bowled. I spoke to the umpire (S.K.Bansal) and then to Warne... I said the momentum of the game shouldn�t be broken.

Q But were you so polite to Warne?

A (Laughs again) I was... I mean, these things happen.

Q Well, where does Indian cricket go from here?

A Let me put it this way: There have been so many positives that one can, in a general manner, only be optimistic... Right through, I�ve been emphasising on one thing: It�s not important whether or not we break the Australians� winning run. Rather, what�s important is how we play. Where I�m concerned, we only play to win and not once did the Australians� record overwhelm me.

Q How did the team celebrate?

A As there was no time in Calcutta, we did it here. First came the cake-cutting in the manager�s suite and, then, the customary team dinner.

Q You�ve introduced team dinners before each series/tournamnent and after every victory. What prompted you?

A Nothing, except that all of us are in a team game and that the camaraderie ought not to be limited to the field only.

Q The final question: What did Ian Chappell and you tell each other (at the Chepauk) this morning?

A (Grins again) He said �hello� and I responded... After that, he talked about our win in the �terrific� Test... We also discussed the wicket here... Look, I won�t react if there�s a comment about Sourav Ganguly only. But, if the team/ team spirit is drawn into it, I�m definitely going to respond.


Chennai, March 17: 
In his moment of glory at the Eden, Harbhajan Singh didn�t forget to acknowledge Anil Kumble�s �inspirational role� in his own progress.

Today, back from South Africa after his first post-surgery check-up, Kumble himself had much praise for the 20-year-old off-spinner.

�Harbhajan has always had the talent... He just needed to have the confidence. Clearly, he got that in abundance in Calcutta... You didn�t have to guess it�s Harbhajan who would have to make the difference on the last day, and the way he handled pressure was remarkable,� Kumble told The Telegraph.

Kumble watched just about every ball on the first three days of that incredible second Test, while in Johannesburg, but had to miss much of the phenomenal 376-run partnership between V.V.S.Laxman and Rahul Dravid. He did watch every moment of the final day�s play, though.

�Day-IV coincided with my return to India and, so, I watched live till lunch and followed the partnership till tea on the Internet (at Jo�Burg airport). After that, I was on the flight (South African Airways�, to Mumbai)... It�s a pity I couldn�t see each run.�

Kumble felt assured of an Indian victory once the lead (after wiping off the 274 runs first innings deficit) crossed 250. �You must always take the field believing you can do it. We did and, once Harbhajan got into rhythm, it was a matter of time only...�

Of course, Kumble had something to say about Laxman and Dravid, too.

�Laxman has been a consistently huge run-getter in domestic cricket (two triple hundreds, for instance). And, in any case, has always been a positive free-flowing batsman. Then, Rahul is also a long innings player... Once they drop anchor, you�re bound to get a big score from both.�

Asked why Shane Warne, a fellow leg-spinner, struggled in India (ten wickets in three Tests on the 1998 visit; eight wickets thus far this time), Kumble had a simple answer: �Because Indian batsmen mature on a diet of spinners... It shouldn�t, then, be unusual for spinners from overseas to find it tough.�

Kumble, meanwhile, revealed a comeback on the tour of Zimbabwe (end-May onwards) is now ruled out. �Dr Mark Fergusson has been satisfied with my progress; I�m myself happy. But, it seems I can only resume bowling in May and, therefore, won�t rush my big-league return.�

Dr Fergusson, who �assessed� Kumble during his eight-day trip, has prescribed a fresh set of rehab exercises which Kumble will religiously follow after a one-to-one with the Indian team�s physio, Andrew Leipus.

Kumble�s next trip, for another check-up, should be four weeks from now.

Incidentally, though Kumble was at the Chepauk for a couple of hours this morning, he avoided looking at the (Syed Kirmani-like pate) wicket. �Never do, when I�m not playing,� he quipped. But is the pressure more on Australia now?

�On both teams... It�s going to be the ultimate test of character...� Kumble signed off.


Chennai, March 17: 
A boom in the stock market is always followed by a spectacular crash. The current indices at Nasdaq and Bombay Stock Exchange justify this most accepted economic theory.

A parallel can be drawn in the context of the current Australian side. Sixteen Test wins on the trot, a champion side boasting a varied and awesome attack comparable to Clive Lloyd�s fearsome foursome and an equally formidable batting line-up. Success came all very easy for Steve Waugh�s men until one Harbhajan Singh and Vangipurappu Laxman burst the bubble at Eden Gardens.

The 171-run defeat left the visitors clueless, the manner of their disintegration in the second innings comparable to the unmitigated disaster in some of the IT stocks. Still, it is only a battle within the bigger and real war that has been won by India. It has, however, dented the Aussie confidence and aggression � traits that have unnerved many an opposition. That they are not adept at tackling the spinners on a turner has been exposed in no uncertain terms.

The Indians will obviously be hoping for an Eden encore, on almost a similar sort of surface at the Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk. The brown colour and a slightly scruffy look of the pitch for this series-deciding Test suggest that spinners will again share a bulk of the spoils. It is already very dry on the eve of the game, but chances are, it will have a little more pace and bounce than the one at Eden. But, it will also get trickier as it wears.

�It�s a good wicket� looks barren,� was Sourav Ganguly�s observation.

Steve Waugh was more forthcoming. �It�s going to turn, I�m definite about that,� the Australian skipper said, not too pleased by the look of the surface.

India will go into the Test with a three-pronged spin attack � off-spinner Harbhajan, left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni and leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule. For Kulkarni, it will be a comeback while Bahutule will be making his debut. Jawagal Srinath has been ruled out on grounds of �overall fitness.� This means Zaheer Khan will be the lone specialist medium-pacer in the XI. Sharing the new ball with the Baroda quickie will be Sourav. Srinath�s place in the XIV goes to Debashish Mohanty.

Nayan Mongia�s fitness, though, is not clear and the thinktank will wait till the morning before taking a decision.

The success of Harbhajan is a big boon for the Indians. He has showed a lot of determination and courage in scripting the Australians� doom in Calcutta. His match figures of 13 for 196, including a hattrick, has helped a lot in restoring some of the psychological advantage.

The Aussies are still in the process of recovering from the Eden mauling, with Steve complaining about the cramped itinerary.

�Whether we are winning or losing, we should have at least three days of rest between Tests,� the skipper remarked. �Particularly in this heat, the intense battle that has taken place over the last five days and the amount of travelling we�ve had to do, I feel two days are unfair to both sides.�

The Indians, though, are not complaining. They have, at last, found their rhythm and matchwinners in Harbhajan and Laxman. The Hyderabad batsman�s 281, the highest by an Indian, was a true and timely reminder of his technique and unwavering concentration. There was never a dull moment in his 633-minute essay and the way he passed the stern test was a source of inspiration for others. Rahul Dravid was back in his elements and this should also take a lot of the load off Sachin Tendulkar. The Master Blaster was not successful with the bat in the second Test but the stage seems to be set for a big innings.

This has always been a happy hunting ground for Sachin � he got 155 not out against Mark Taylor�s team in 1998, and 136 against Pakistan the next year. Amid the euphoria, John Wright sounded a note of caution. �We�ve got to start all over again. The Aussies are going to come back hard,� the coach warned.

The visitors are, indeed, preparing for a desperate lunge at winning the series. But they have a lot to think about. All the confidence gained after winning the Mumbai Test inside three days have evaporated into thin air. The middle-order (read: Justin Langer, Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting) has struggled. The Calcutta loss has also exposed limitations in their bowling under prevailing conditions.

Steve wants Warne

As Steve hinted today, the visitors are toying with the idea of playing two spinners � Shane Warne and Colin Miller. A split skin on the middle finger of his right hand had put a question mark over Warne�s availability. Coach John Buchanan had hinted as much yesterday, but the skipper is keen to field his premier spinner. For Miller to play, Michael Kasprowicz will have to make way. In the extremely sultry conditions here, it will only be logical to omit the third pacer. The seasoned pro in Steve cannot also risk bowling last on this turner with one specialist spinner. A further slide in the team�s graph will then be hard to arrest.


INDIA (likely): Sadagopan Ramesh, Shiv Sundar Das, V.V.S. Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Nayan Mongia/Samir Dighe, Sairaj Bahutule, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Nilesh Kulkarni.

AUSTRALIA (likely): Matthew Hayden, Michael Slater, Justin Langer, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Jason Gillespie, Shane Warne, Colin Miller, Glenn McGrath.

Umpires: Rudi Koertzen, A.V. Jayaprakash.

Match Referee: Cammie Smith.


Chennai, March 17: 
The Australians are trying hard to cope with the 171-run rout suffered in Calcutta.

Steve Waugh may have tried to put up a brave front at the Media conference and at practice today, but the fact remains that Harbhajan Singh has left them confused. The visitors are trying to work out new strategies to tackle the spinners in the slow and low wickets in these parts.

Even the normally affable John Buchanan was a little reserved. �Just looking forward to it,� he said on the eve of the deciding Test of this series, declining to go into any further details.

His post-mortem of the loss in the second Test still seemed to continue as he told The Telegraph: �I wouldn�t say our bowlers bowled badly or the batsmen failed to apply themselves. It was just that (V.V.S.) Laxman was outstanding. It was a once-in-a-lifetime innings that took the match away.�

The defeat has also been harsh on Steve after 16 wins on-the-trot. But he accepted the fact quite sportingly. �My stint as a captain hasn�t really been a dream run as is being made out to be. Most people have forgotten the Test series loss in Sri Lanka or the loss in the West Indies as one-day captain.

�As captain, my first priority is to get the best out of my players and to be equally fair to all of them. But, as a player, my priority is to make sure I�m worthy as a player,� the Aussie skipper explained.

Steve insisted that the �mood within the team was fine� and the players were looking ahead optimistically. �We lost the Test since we didn�t play well on the last day. India were excellent. If we can recognise that, we can try and learn from our mistakes. I think we are good enough to do that.

�That we�re going to lose a Test was always going to happen at some stage or the other.�

The absence of runs from some their frontline middle-order batsmen have come into focus but Steve felt, too much is being made out of it. �We have full faith in our players. We�ve lost only one of the last 18 Tests. The batting is pretty good, though we made a couple of mistakes which are only human.�

On concerns about twin brother Mark�s lack of form, Steve said: �The wicket is going to turn quite a bit against a pretty good spin attack. If he gets an opportunity, I would like him to be as well prepared as he can since he hasn�t had a lot of batting to do.�

Steve hoped their strategy would click this time. �We didn�t play to potential in the last Test. But that�s what Test cricket is all about. We did have a strategy but maybe it wasn�t good enough. Maybe, it will not be the same this time.

�The guys are raring to go. This will be our last Test in four months. We�re going to make it a special one,� Steve promised.


Calcutta, March 17: 
East Bengal�s march towards their maiden National Football League title received a minor blow today as they were held goalless by Salgaocar in a match which hardly showcased soccer at its coveted height.

East Bengal appeared wanting in focus and survived a few scares at Salt Lake Stadium, tipped as their lucky ground.

East Bengal (now on 31 points from 14 outings), however, escaped losing the top slot in the league table after today�s match, thanks to ITI�s surprise 3-1 win over FC Kochin in Bangalore.

Salgaocar, who lost their last four matches on the trot, are still in fourth position with 20 points from 14 matches.

It was Salgaocar who made the first threatening move, somewhat against the run of play. In the 16th minute, Christian Okoye got a ball in open space just outside the box and the entire East Bengal defence reacted late but the Nigerian acted in haste and his shot wheezed past over the bar.

East Bengal�s first good chance came in the 30th minute when Chandan Das� powerful right-footer from the edge of the box was cleared by Juje Siddi.

A few minutes later, Isiaka Awoyemi, fed on Ratan Singh�s deft touch, forged ahead along the left flank. His shot on the run from close range, however, found shelter in Siddi�s hands.

East Bengal coach Manoranjan Bhattacharjee�s tactics of stretching the wings in the second half, however, received a jolt when an injured and otherwise off-colour Dipendu Biswas had to be replaced by Srikanta Dutta in the 56th minute.

In the dying minutes of the match, East Bengal got an opportunity to break the deadlock. Omolaja Olalekan chested down a centre by Dipankar Roy from the right flank for Sheikh Sanjib near the far post. The latter showed he had neither control nor vision in transforming it into a matchwinner.


EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee; Suley Musah, Jackson Egygpong (Sur Kumar Singh, 39), Dipak Mondal, Ratan Singh; Carlton Chapman (Sheikh Sanjib, 25), Isiaka Awoyemi, Chandan Das, Dipankar Roy; Dipendu Biswas (Srikanta Dutta, 56), Omolaja Olalekan.

SALGAOCAR: Juje Siddi; Covan Lawrence, Roberto Fernandes, Franky Barreto, Venancio Gonsalves, Jules Alberto; Climax Lawrence, Dharamjit Singh (Denis Cabral, 90), Christian Okoye, Bruno Coutinho (Tijani Ahmed, 21), Alvito D�Cunha (Roque Pereira, 88).

Referee: S.M. Balu.


Calcutta, March 17: 
Thailand�s Thongchai Jaidee shot a three-under 69 in the third and penultimate round to emerge sole leader with a total of 11-under par 205 in the $ 300,000 Wills Indian Open golf today.

Ross Bain of Scotland carded a four-under-68 to move in to second place with ten-under 206.

Holder Jyoti Randhawa is tied with three others at eight-under for third place. Randhawa had a mixed day, neutralising his four birdies with four bogeys, finishing at par for the day and remaining at eight-under.

Arjun Atwal, the 1999 champion, moved into contention for his fourth APGA title with a 68, moving from two-under after two rounds to finish up at six-under-par. He had a chance to move closer to the leaders, but dropped two shots, one on the par-three fifth and another on the par-four, 13th, failing to recover from the sand on both occasions.

Birdies on the 14th and 15th for Jaidee helped him finish on top.

Bain, who was in joint second place yesterday, made a spectacular charge, burying five birdies with just a solitary bogey. He shot four birdies on the front nine, the best being a chip-in on the par-three fifth, and a 25-feet putt on the par-four eighth.

Overnight co-leader Chris Williams of South Africa also shot a par round, with five birdies, three bogies and a double bogey on the par-four 13th, to remain at eight-under.


Calcutta, March 17: 
Abhishek Jagnani and Reedhina Parekh will be top seeds in the grasscourt meet to be held at High Court Club from Monday through Saturday. The Central Excise Athletic Club and High Court Club-organised tourney offers prize-money of Rs 30,000.

Tennis coaches� course

Sixteen coaches attended the Paes En Sport-organised Level I coaches� course which ended at DKS today. Gary O�Brien and Pune-based Hemant Bendre conducted the six-day course, with Sayandev Chakraborty assisting them.    

Calcutta, March 17: 
Hamza Ferozie�s unbeaten knock of 80 helped Kalighat beat Mohun Bagan in the A.N. Ghosh Trophy today.

BRIEF SCORES: Mohun Bagan 135 in 35.4 ovs (Arun Agarwal 4/24, Timir Chandra 3/30). Kalighat 139/3 in 17.4 ovs (Hamza Ferozie 80 n.o., Safi Ahmed 30). Kalighat won by 7 wkts.

Victoria in final

Victoria SC entered the final of the CAB junior knockout meet beating Batra SC by 10 wickets today. They�ll take on the winners of the High Court versus Bhukailash match in the final.


Mumbai, March 17: 
Wild Eagle and Astor Place are expected to win the Juvenile Colts and the Juvenile Fillies Championship � their respective events in Mumbai on Sunday.


1.30 pm: Tap On Power 1. Seychelles 2. Victory March 3.

2 pm: Altazano 1. Storm Dancer 2. Count Dracula 3.

2.30 pm: Nuclear Power 1. Multi Millionaire 2. Golden Star 3.

3 pm: Tulsa Time 1. Betsy 2. Smokey Joe 3.

3.30 pm: Altimara 1. Desert Pride 2. San Marino Star 3.

4 pm: Wild Eagle 1. Dazzling Gold 2. Starsky 3.

4.30 pm: Style Counsel 1. Potential Force 2. Great Alliance 3.

5 pm: Astor Place 1. Queenscliff 2. Memories Of You 3.

5.30 pm: Charismatic 1. Sunchyme 2. Colonel�s Dream 3.

6 pm: Cotopaxi 1. Midnight Escape 2. Wolf Mountain 3.

Day�s Best: Altimara

Double: Altazano & Astor Place.


Bangalore, March 17: 
Ridden by K. P. Appu, the Darius Byramji-trained Comet Star scored a comfortable victory in the Hemavathi Cup in Bangalore on Saturday.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Bhatkal Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (8-2-11) Rainbow Fantasy (Prakash) 1; Campanero 2; Parisien Belle 3. Won by: 7; 2-1/2; (1-15.7). Tote: Win Rs 21; Place: 10; 13; 36; Quinella: 18; Tanala: 166. Fav: Rainbow Fantasy (8).

2. Manipal Plate 1,200m: (9-2-3) Bacardi Star (Shobhan) 1; River Bed 2; Inxss 3. Notr run: Worldly Pick (6). Won by: 1/2; 2-1/4; (1-17). Tote: Win Rs 84; Place: 15; 30; 11; Quinella: 420; Tanala: 2,971. Fav: Inxss (3).

3. Panchavati Cup 1,200m: (8-2-6) Allabreva (Surjeet) 1; Kass 2; Ornate Crown 3. Not run: Brave Tern (3). Won by: 3/4; Nk; (1-15). Tote: Win Rs 99; Place: 24; 15; 18; Quinella: 154; Tanala: 1,033. Fav: Kass (2).

4. Hemavathi Cup 1,400m: (8-9-1) Comet Star (Appu) 1; Cruden Bay 2; Acute 3. Won by: 2-1/2; 1-1/2; (1-28.1). Tote: Win Rs 31; Place: 14; 94; 25; Quinella: 677; Tanala: 6,765. Fav: Comet Star (8).

5. Summer Dust Plate 1,200m: (5-4-7) Gracious Rohit (Rakesh) 1; Decision Maker 2; Classic Invitee 3. Not run: Dad�s Joy (16). Won by: 1/2; 3/4; (1-17.5). Tote: Win Rs 167; Place: 35; 83; 12; Quinella: 1,085; Tanala: 31,141. Fav: Classic Invitee (7).

6. Devarayanadurga Plate 1,600m: (8-1-5) Golden Estate (S. Narredu) 1; Comedy Of Errors 2; Alassio 3. Won by: 2-1/2; 3-3/4; (1-40.7). Tote: Win Rs 48; Place: 18; 20; 15; Quinella: 120; Tanala: 577. Fav: Alassio (5).

7. Bhatkal Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (1-8-9) Hero Worship (Kader) 1; Trillenniium 2; Amazon Gold 3. Won by: 6; 1-3/4; (1-15.6). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 12; 14; 41; Quinella: 24; Tanala: 227. Fav: Hero Worship (1).

Jackpot: Rs 33,819; (C) Rs 10,146.

Treble: (i) Rs 2,008; (ii) Rs 1,440.


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