High-on-morale India displaying cautious optimism
Probe begins in Sharjah
Harbhajan may not make playing XI
Shane Lee to join squad
EB scrape through after misses galore
Bangla team for Beighton Cup
Jagnani lifts grasscourt title
Mumbai Races/ Storm Again all set to win
Bangalore Races/ Ganapathy, Prakash champs
Calcutta Races/ Staffordshire impresses

Bangalore, March 24: 
However much we admire the dogged perseverance on view in the Test matches, we are more thrilled by the brilliance that robs opponents of the powers to resist in the one-dayer Internationals.

The Test series may have thrown up surprises and renewed passion in the game, but when it comes to the limited-overs variety, the show must go on. The war may be over but there�s another battle to be fought and won. The stands undoubtedly will be full to the brim, expectations will soar and, more importantly, the mega bucks will flow. Welcome to the mega show.

The Indians are not willing to let complacency creep into their game. They are not taking anything for granted against the world champions in the opening day-night game of the five-match series. �We are confident but it�s a new ball game. We will have to start from scratch,� said coach John Wright.

�We also have made good progress in one-dayers over the past six months and that should be encouragement enough for the boys,� reminded Sourav Ganguly.

Australian coach John Buchanan was also cautious in his remarks. �It�s been a tough and demanding Test series. But it will be a different game plan with the flatter wickets in these parts coming into use for this series.�

Harbhajan Singh and Vangipurappu Laxman, the jewels in the Indian crown in the resounding Test series victory in Chennai, has succeeded in instilling greater conviction into their more illustrious teammates.

The difference in the attitude of Rahul Dravid�s batsmanship is a case in point. From merely managing to cling on in the middle, his approach now exhibits a new sense of confidence and authority.

It has also managed to take the pressure off Sachin Tendulkar. For long it had seemed that India�s fortunes have rested largely on his performance. But Laxman�s elegant showing at No. 3 has worked towards reducing that. The Hyderabad batsman, in fact, has helped Sachin take guard in a more relaxed frame of mind.

Another milestone approaches the Little Big Man as he takes the field tomorrow. Sachin is only one hundred and one runs short of reaching the magical 10,000 figure in one-day Internationals. He is the first batsman on the verge of reaching that mark.

Two more wickets will also help him achieve 100 and complete a grand �double�.

The track at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, which has some dry grass rolled into it, looks good for batting. �It promises a lot of runs and will take some turn in the second half of the match,� said G. Kasturirangan of the BCCI pitches and grounds committee.

The good news for the Indians is that Jawagal Srinath is fit, as Sourav said, and will lead the attack. The Indians are thinking of playing a three-ponged pace attack with Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan completing the line-up.

Despite the success in Tests, Harbhajan�s inclusion is still not certain � the selectors want to play him while the team�s thinktank feels differently � but Sunil Joshi is sure to find a berth before his home crowd. If Harbhajan is included, Zaheer will have to go.

It will be a toss-up between Dinesh Mongia and Virender Sehwag with the former likely to make his debut. In that case, the axe will fall on Robin Singh.

The Aussies � who won all their matches back home in their last one-day engagement, the tri-series, also featuring West Indies and Zimbabwe � will be missing the services of Jason Gillespie. The fast bowler was sent home after the hierarchy felt he needed some rest before the Ashes series. Shane Lee will be unavailable here.

The Aussie coach was again tight lipped on who will open with Mark Waugh. Adam Gilchrist has not been in the best of form of late and it may well mean his coming down the order. Matthew Hayden, after his fabulous success in Tests, will then partner Mark. But if the opening combination is not changed, Hayden will come in at No. 3.

But as Buchanan stressed, the biggest test for them will be how the five new members in the squad � Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Ian Harvey, Nathan Bracken and Darren Lehmann � adjust to the conditions here. The only chance they got to have a feel of it was in the exhibition match in aid of Gujarat victims in Chennai yesterday.

Of the 11 one-dayers played here since 1982, the teams batting second have been successful on six occasions. In the last one-dayer in April 1999, India had lost to Pakistan by 123 runs.

Moisture is unlikely to be a major impediment for the side batting second during this time of the year.

India had defeated Australia by 20 runs, the last time the two teams met, in Nairobi during the ICC KnockOut Trophy in October. Yuvraj Singh, who did the star turn there with a brilliant 84 and was considered an asset till recently, though, does not find a place in the current team.

Strange are the ways of Indian cricket!


INDIA (likely): Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Hemang Badani, Dinesh Mongia/Virender Sehwag, Vijay Dahiya, Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan/Harbhajan Singh, Sunil Joshi.

AUSTRALIA (from): Mark Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Andrew Symonds, Darren Lehmann, Damien Martyn, Michael Bevan, Nathan Bracken, Shane Warne, Damien Fleming, Ian Harvey, Glenn McGrath.

Umpires: S.K. Sharma and Devendra Sharma

Match Referee: Cammie Smith.

Match timings: 2.30 to 6 pm and 6.45 to 10.15 pm on DD Sports


Calcutta, March 24: 
Even as fingers keep getting pointed at Sharjah, which has hosted the maximum ODIs (167), the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series� (CBFS�) own inquiry into �the many allegations� has already begun.

The Sharjah-based CBFS, which has been organising ODIs since April 1984 was, according to The Telegraph�s sources, largely influenced by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) interim report into launching a probe of its own.

The CBFS inquiry is being conducted by George Staple, a Queen�s Counsel associated with the well-known firm of Clifford Chance, a top security official of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the legendary Clive Lloyd.

Sharjah is one of the seven Emirates comprising the UAE, and its biggest claim to fame is being the most �experienced� ODI venue.

The many whispers over the years apart, Sharjah figures more than once in the CBI report, made public early last November.

Perhaps, the most damning bit is about CBFS coordinator Asif Iqbal�s �links� with Mumbai-based bookie Anil Steel, an acquaintance of the infamous Mukesh Kumar Gupta.

As the CBI probe itself isn�t over, and the International Cricket Council anti-corruption unit chief Sir Paul Condon is also �looking into things,� it�s possible something more may crop up.

The portion specific to Asif, a former Pakistan captain, and Steel, in the CBI report (page 31) reads: �Anil Steel also stated that he was introduced to Asif Iqbal by one D.P. Javeri, who is a jeweller in Bombay. This introduction took place some time in 1995.

�At present, he and Asif Iqbal are on very friendly terms and whenever Asif Iqbal visits Bombay, he calls on Anil Steel and has on some occasions visited his residence along with his family.

�Asif Iqbal provides Anil Steel information about the pitch, weather, probable results etc. in cricket matches throughout the world and Anil Steel has given some gifts of jewellery items etc. to Asif Iqbal and his family, in return for this information.

�Anil Steel introduced Mukesh Kumar Gupta to Asif Iqbal in 1996, in Calcutta, during the World Cup inaugural ceremony.�

According to a top CBFS functionary, the three-member inquiry team �will definitely probe� the Asif-Steel link mentioned in the CBI report. �The gentlemen have been given a free hand and, clearly, if something is amiss there won�t be a cover-up,� the functionary insisted.

Apparently, the inquiry was to have presented an interim report by March 31, but that seems unlikely. It would, however, be in the CBFS� interest to quickly allay misgivings in the best way it can.

After all, while Sharjah has been linked to match-fixing, the CBFS deserves credit for initiating a scheme which has eased the post-retirement woes of so many cricketers, specially from India and Pakistan.

At today�s rate, a sum of $ 35,000, which is given to each of the three Indian beneficiaries every time India plays in Sharjah, is more than just handsome. The distribution, among Pakistani cricketers, is handled differently.

Meanwhile, should New Delhi�s diktat keep India out of the April 8-20 triangular (also featuring Pakistan and Sri Lanka), the CBFS will either go ahead with a two-team tournament or scrap it altogether.

�At this stage, it would be impossible to arrange for a substitute team. To be honest, we don�t really have an alternative to fall back on as we didn�t anticipate problems,� confessed a top CBFS functionary.

That there could be major problems, though, was reported in these columns in early February.

Still, one question doing the rounds is: If Sharjah is so very tainted, then why was India allowed to play there last October, months after the match-fixing scandal broke and days before the CBI report was made public?

Somebody will have to offer an acceptable answer.


Bangalore, March 24: 
Sourav Ganguly�s �Bhajju� may not get a chance to exhibit his skills in the Garden City

There is uncertainty over Harbhajan Singh�s playing in the opening day-night one-day International here tomorrow. The team�s thinktank is unwilling to risk him against the mighty Australians. They feel it might curb his natural attacking ability which helped prove a matchwinner and earn 32 wickets in the Test series.

The selectors, though, are in favour of including him in the team. According to a selector, his exclusion will send the wrong signals to the rival camp. It will also help the Aussies gain the psychological edge against the Indian attack.

With Test series� coming up against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England this season, the thinktank is planning to preserve his skills and not let the slam-bang approach of one-dayers restrict his effectiveness.

�We�ll play him in a calculative manner,� said a source.

But the selectors are unwilling to pay heed to such logic. �If he is capable, he will maintain his attacking skills despite being fielded in one-dayers. Look at Shane Warne� He�s had a bad series but still the Aussies are playing him just to keep the mental pressure on the Indians,� said a selector.

According to sources, the team�s thinktank had raised their unwillingness during the selection committee meeting in Chennai but the selectors had prevailed in their decision to include the Punjab off spinner.

Sourav was non-committal at the press conference today. �We stuck to a certain gameplan for him during the Tests and that paid off. Now since he is in the one-day squad we will have to consider him and think about how to use him,� the India skipper said.

John Buchanan was also looking at things in a different perspective.

�Playing Harbhajan in a one-dayer in going to be different. He had bowled a different line during the Tests. There will be no close-in fielders for the bat-pad catch in a one-day game. This means that the bowler can�t experiment,� the Aussie coach said. �But you can�t take him lightly, he is always a threat,� Buchanan added.


Bangalore, March 24: 
New South Wales allrounder Shane Lee will join the Australian squad for the one-day series against India, an ACB release said today.

Lee, 27, flew out of Sydney this afternoon and will arrive in Mumbai Sunday evening.

He is expected to link up with the rest of the squad in Pune, ahead of the second match of the five-game one-day series, replacing Michael Kasprowicz, who will fly back home with Colin Miller, Justin Langer, Michael Slater and Jason Gillespie.

Kasprowicz was set to stay with the tour party when it was decided yesterday evening that Gillespie should return home to rest ahead of the Ashes tour.

However, following further discussions, the Queensland fast bowler did not travel to Bangalore and Lee was called up instead.

Lee, the elder brother of fast bowler Brett, last played for Australia in the ICC KnockOut meet.

It is learnt that though Gillespie was not injured, he was sent home to prevent any chances of damaging his hamstring. He had missed their last tri-series at home because of a hamstring tear.


Calcutta, March 24: 
East Bengal 1

East Bengal made heavy weather of beating ITI 1-0 in the National Football League at the Salt Lake Stadium this afternoon. The solitary goal came off burly Nigerian Omolaja Olalekan�s boot nine minutes into the second session, much to the relief of 10,000-odd fans who were bored stiff watching Sheik Sanjib and Dipendu Biswas squander chances galore.

Omolaja�s swerving right-footer, taken on the turn from 20 yards out, had Balaji stretching out to his right. But the ball had too much power and went in off the goalkeeper�s finger.

But for that extra spark Omolaja found to beat the in-form Balaji, the East Bengal frontliners struggled to get the ball into the ITI net. Even after seeing the opposition being reduced to 10 men for the final half-hour (skipper K.V. Dhanesh was sent off for two yellow-card bookings). Even after being awarded a penalty a minute before the final whistle (Dipendu shot wide).

In the end, of course, only the scoreline mattered. And it was the right one for the National League front-runners, who had drawn their previous three matches and lost to ITI in Bangalore earlier.

With seven rounds to go, East Bengal (34 points) are now five points clear of second-placed FC Kochin and six ahead of arch rivals Mohun Bagan.

Having pledged to win their maiden title as a tribute to Paltu Das, East Bengal got off to a scintillating start as the match got underway after a minute�s silence in the late club secretary�s memory.

Sur Kumar Singh�s sprints down the right, Chandan Das� intelligent distribution, Isiaka Awoyemi and Bijen Singh�s speed made for a delicious mix as East Bengal stormed the ITI territory time and again. The problem was, Sanjib and Dipendu appeared to have left their scoring shoes behind.

Sanjib first stroked the ball straight to Balaji with the custodian rooted to his position. Sometime later, a three-men finely-crafted move found Sanjib in a scoring position. But instead of aiming for the goal, he squared it to Bijen and the ball got cleared in the ensuing scramble.

Dipendu got dispossessed twice for taking his own sweet time to have a crack. He signed off a dismal day with a nightmarish penalty shot which neither had the punch nor direction.

Mohammed Habib�s boys never looked the team which has scalped both East Bengal and FC Kochin in this championship. It was George Ekka who came close to scoring twice. A well-connected header was gripped nicely by Sangram Mukherjee. Then, a cheeky chip just went over the crosspiece.


EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee, Sur Kumar Singh, Dipak Mondal, Suley Musah, Falguni Datta, Chandan Das (Zahir Abbas, 32), Isiaka Awoyemi, Omolaja Olalekan, Sk Sanjib (Carlton Chapman, 68), Dipendu Biswas, Bijen Singh (Tushar Rakshit, 77).

ITI: Balaji, Jamal, Kenneth Ugwo, Firoz, Rishi Kapoor, Shafiq (P. Rawat, 46), Hamid, K.V. Dhanesh, Santosh (Peter, 56), George Ekka, Yusuf (Karunakaran, 83).

Referee: B.K. Singh.


Calcutta, March 24: 
Punjab & Sind Bank (PSB), holders of the title for the last two seasons, is among 30 teams that will vie for honours at the Servo 106th Beighton Cup hockey tournament beginning Monday.

A Bangladesh XI is among the 16 outstation teams. The oldest hockey tournament in the world will also feature top outfits like Army XI, Uttar Pradesh XI, BSF (Jalandhar), Indo-Tibetan Border Police, CISF (New Delhi), Sikh Regimental Centre, South Central Railway (Secunderabad), ONGC, Bombay Customs and Tata Steel.

The tournament begins with a knockout, from which four teams qualify for a quarter-final league. They will be joined by the four top seeds � PSB, Bangladesh XI, BSF and Army XI � with the first two in one group and BSF and Army XI in the other.

The top two of each group make the semi-finals, to be played on April 7. The final is slated for April 9.

Bengal Hockey Association (BHA) secretary Gurbux Singh told a media conference here that the participation of a team from Bangladesh, who are training under a German coach for the last three years, would also help establish a regular link with the state association. �We are sure it will lead to reciprocal visits by our state team,� he said.

It will also add an international flavour to the meet. �We always look for a team or two from neighbouring countries,� Gurbux said. �Pakistan Customs had approached us, but there is little hope of a team from Pakistan taking part in the meet these days,� he added.

The local challenge in this �blue riband of Indian hockey� would be spearheaded by Customs, CESC, BNR, ERSA and last year�s BHA league champions SAI Training Centre.

The semi-finals and final would be played on the Mohun Bagan ground on April 7 and April 9 respectively. The winners would be richer by Rs 1 lakh, while the runners-up pick up Rs 50,000. The losing semi-finalists receive Rs 15,000 each and the best player Rs 10,000.

The early matches will come off at the CCFC and Mohun Bagan grounds, and it is a pity that a tournament so steeped in tradition still does not get to be played on astro-turf. BHA�s efforts to have one laid on the Maidan is yet to get the Army nod.

Meanwhile, the BHA has decided to present its 20 second division and 27 third division clubs with five hockey sticks each on the occasion. The benefit will also be extended to teams that have participated in BHA�s inter-coaching camp tournament.


Calcutta, March 24: 
Abhishek Jagnani justified his top seeding at the Central Excise Athletic Club-organised Open grasscourt meet, winning the men�s singles title today. Jagnani was taken the full distance, though, by his much younger opponent Dhruv Kumar. The top seed eventually won 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to bag a trophy and a cheque for Rs 5000.

CAB League relegation final

Taltala notched up 369 for seven on the first day of the CAB League relegation play-off final against Excelsiors. Sandip Moitra struck 104 and Samrat Sen 78 at the Eden today to put Taltala on top.

BRIEF SCORES: Taltala 367/7 (S. Moitra 104, S. Sen 78) vs Excelsiors.

Nikhil Haldipur for Dhaka match

Nikhil Haldipur will join five other Indians on a trip to Dhaka for an exhibition match to commemorate Independence Day. Haldipur got the message via a telephone call from BCCI executive secretary Sharad Diwadkar last night. The others who have already been invited by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) for Tuesday�s limited overs game are Sadagopan Ramesh, Shiv Sundar Das, Yuvraj Singh, Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Hrishikesh Kanitkar.    

Mumbai, March 24: 
The Jaggy Dhariwal-trained Storm Again, an easy winner of the Indian Derby and Turf Invitation Cup, may be hard to toss in the 2,800m McDowell Indian St Leger in Mumbai on Sunday. Pesi Shroff partners the Alnasr Alwasheek-Perchance To Dream four-year-old colt.


1.30 pm: Fly By Alibi 1. Marion Jones 2. Steve Tyler 3.
2 pm: Quick Decision 1. Ever So Loyal 2. Essesspemess 3.
2.30 pm: Cats Concert 1. Mariazella 2. Blazing Flame 3.
3 pm: Nuclear Power 1. Universal Star 2. High Voltage 3.
3.30 pm: Majestic Crown 1. Magic Honey 2. Laurels 3.
4 pm: Viking 1. Cymbidium 2. Columbus 3.
4.30 pm: Idolize 1. Salt Lake 2. Sizzling Symphony 3.
5 pm: Storm Again 1. Perceived Value 2. Mosaic 3.
5.30 pm: Machrihanish 1. Cristina 2. Twist Afleet 3.
6 pm: Alice Charms 1. Heroic 2. Persian Lord 3.
Day�s Best: Fly By Alibi
Double: Cats Concert & Idolize

Bangalore, March 24: 
Retained by MAM Ramaswamy, Ganapathy, with 44 winners, emerged as the champion trainer during the Bangalore winter season which concluded on Saturday. Jockey Prakash Bhonsle claimed the top-spot with 31 winners.


(With inter-state dividends)
1. Leading Tipster Trophy 1,400m: (2-4-9) Roman Flame (Shafiq) 1; Guide 2; Beautiful Bird 3. Not run: Treat (3). Won by: Nk; 1-1/4; (1-31.3). Tote: Win Rs 117; Place: 34; 17; 57; Quinella: 100; Tanala: 4,437. Fav: Guide (4).
2. Champion Trainer Trophy 1,200m: (1-5-4) Brora (Appu) 1; Mera Ladlaa 2; Common Wealth 3. Won by: Nk; 1-1/4; (1-15.4). Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 12; 20; 24; Quinella: 63; Tanala: 356.Fav: Brora (1).
3. Leading Bookmaker Trophy, Div-I 1,400m: (11-9-6) Be In Style (Krishnan) 1; Squeeze 2; Aryawun 3. Won by: Nk; 1-3/4; (1-31.2). Tote: Win Rs 546; Place: 210; 23; 16; Quinella: 1,700; Tanala: 10,146. Fav: Aryawun (6).
4. Racing Patrons Trophy 2,200m: (5-1-3) Hong Kong Boy (Appu) 1; Aerobee 2; Sun Reality 3. Won by: SH; 3/4; (2-23.3). Tote: Win Rs 19; Place: 14; 20; Quinella: 28; Tanala: 94. Fav: Hong Kong Boy (5).
5. Leading Stud Trophy 1,200m: (6-3-5) Flash First (Prakash) 1; Axe 2; Ornate Crown 3. Won by: Nk; 2-1/4; (1-15.4). Tote: Win Rs 22; Place: 13; 15; 25; Quinella: 48; Tanala: 508. Fav: Flash First (6).
6. Champion Jockey Trophy 1,100m: (2-1-3) Empress Of India (Warren) 1; Triple King 2; Another Crown 3. Won by: 3-3/4;; 1/2; (1-9.8). Tote: Win Rs 127; Place: 30; 12; 11; Quinella: 151; Tanala: 808. Fav: Another Crown (3).
7. Leading Bookmaker Trophy, Div-II 1,400m: (11-2-6) Emerald Forest (Harish) 1; Careless Beauty 2; Exstream 3. Won by: 2; 3; (1-30). Tote: Win Rs 89; Place: 25; 21; 19; Quinella: 147; Tanala: 1,425. Fav: Exstream (6).
Jackpot: Rs 88,145; (C) Rs 6,959.
Treble: (i) Rs 1,827; (ii) Rs 1,601.

Calcutta, March 24: 
Staffordshire was impressive in today�s work outs.

Outer sand track

1,400m: Iron Warrior (Upadhya) and Chivalrous (Rb) in 1-43s; (400m) 28s. Former was 6 ls better. Actress (C. Alford) and Master Bold (A. P. Singh) in 1-39s; (400m) 30s. Former too good.
1,200m: No Regrets (M. Reuben) and Tsaynen Blue (Gowli) in 1-24s; (400m) 28s. Former was a length superior. Reactor (Shanker) in 1-34s; (400m) 31s. The Stud (Gowli) and Flying Scot (M. Reuben) in (400m) 29s. Former was far better.
1,000m: Stately Honour (P. Kumar) and Global Harmony (Manohar) in 1-9s; (400m) 28s. Former was 6 ls better. Both were pushed
800m: Staffordshire (Gowli) in 52s; (400m) 27s. Moved well. Winning Hand (Manohar) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Easy. Ascoril (Amil) in 58s; (400m) 28s. Double Dancer (Manohar) in 27s. Moved easy. On The Bit (Yadav) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Fit. Remember Me (Manohar) 55s; (400m) 29s. Easy. Rule With Honour (M. Reuben) in 55s; (400m) 29s.
600m: Key Witness (Surender) in 45; (400m) 31s.

Sand track

800m: Gul (Yadav) in 57s; (400m) 29s. Added Asset (Som S.) in 53s; (400m) 26s. Fit .Addab (Saran S.) in 51s; (400m) 24s. Was easy. Double Cross (Yacoob) in 56s; (400m) 27s. Falconaire (Rb) in 1-1s; (400m) 31s. Grecian Prince (B. Gurang) and Angel Venture (Som S.) in 55s; (400m) 27s. Endless Surprise (P. Kumar) in 53s; (400m) 26s. Moved well.Bold Apparel (A. Imran) in 57s; (400m) 26s. Easy. Highland Flame (Som S.) in 52s; (400m) 25s. Handy. Sadaf (A. Imran) in 54s; (400m) 24s. Note. Almond Rock (B. Gurang) in 52s; (400m) 25s. Fit. Illustrious Reign (Tamang) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Easy.

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