Much the opposite was on view at the Nehru Stadium this morning: Coach John Wright fuming over the delayed arrival of the players� kits (from the hotel); manager Chetan Chauhan making one call after another from his cell...
All this while, a good hour at that, the Sourav Gangulys were left with nothing to do. While the team bus may have the speed of a leopard � it sported that logo � it definitely doesn�t have a camel�s capacity to store. The kits, therefore, had to be transported separately.
So much for home advantage. So much for the utterly disorganised Goa Cricket Association, which needs lessons on how to conduct an ODI � that, too, a series-decider which tomorrow�s game No. 5 of the Pepsi series actually is.
[Significantly, both team managements have been �advised� by Match Referee Cammie Smith to ensure the series� last match isn�t marred by conduct unbecoming of sportsmen. Smith got into the act following a verbal complaint by Chauhan.]
Perhaps, then, everybody in these parts is more comfortable hosting footballers. This largely is soccer territory, even though one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar � who, by the way, has a beach house not far from here � has done his bit to lift cricket�s standing.
After much fretting and fuming, the Indians did get down to training in energy-draining conditions. However, no one was quite amused by the inefficiency-induced delay.
Being the pros they are, though, the Indians didn�t allow that hour-long frustration to surface during nets. In fact, that they appeared pretty relaxed during the two-hour session does augur well.
Relaxed, too, were world champions Australia who trained late in the afternoon.
They risked being shut out in the last game itself, in Vizag, but made the most of posting a huge total (338). It was built around the in-form Matthew Hayden, the back-in-form Ricky Ponting and Michael �Mr Consistent� Bevan.
Having rallied from 0-1 and 1-2, the Australians have shown the heat and dust hasn�t quite overwhelmed them to the extent quite a few anticipated it would, specially after the Test series defeat. But, as it is for India, Australia�s sternest test is on the morrow.
As Australia�s rotation policy isn�t restricted to the XI, vice-captain Adam Gilchrist spoke to the Media, not Steve Waugh. Basically, he made two points: That Australia wish to �avenge� the Test series defeat and, from the players� viewpoint, the match will offer one last chance to those not too sure about berths for England.
Clearly, the Australians have much to play for � it�s not limited to pride only.
There�s much at stake for the Indians as well. A superb victory over Australia, in the ICC KnockOut at the start of the season, helped Indian cricket take wings after the match-fixing scam. A win tomorrow and the 2000-2001 season will have a champagne finale.
The captain, however, wouldn�t like the entire season�s judgement to be based on just the 100 overs here. Specifically, Sourav told The Telegraph: �We obviously want to win but, if we can�t, the result won�t wipe out our achievements of the season.�
It will help the team�s cause appreciably if Sourav, who will open with Sachin, regains the touch which saw him emerge limited overs cricket�s No. 1 run-getter both in 1999 and 2000.
Indeed, when someone reminded Sourav that his 61 in the last game at the Nehru Stadium (versus Sri Lanka, end 1997) was the highest by an Indian in Margao, he quipped: �Sure, I�ll be happy to score at least that tomorrow.�
That 61, though, was in vain as Muttiah Muralidharan had India in knots. Incidentally, India�s only other appearance here too ended in defeat � again, against Lanka, back in late 1990. Australia won their only match, versus Lanka in the 1989 Nehru Cup.
Lanka�s 229 for five, in 1997, remains the highest total and is a pointer to the nature of the wicket. The outfield should, of course, be quicker than lightening.
As indicated in these columns today, Yuvraj Singh will replace Robin Singh, but there also is talk Sarandeep Singh could come in for a quickie.
Only, Sourav is quite firm in keeping faith with the �tried and tested� formula of three pacers.
The captain will probably have his way, but it�s in black and white that the quickies have been getting the stick. In Vizag for instance, Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan collectively went for 195 runs...
As for the Australians, till tonight, it wasn�t clear whether the rotation policy would throw up a surprise or whether Steve Waugh and John Buchanan would be guided more by ground realities and put it on hold.
However, there are whispers that either Ian Harvey and/or Andrew Symonds will figure in the line-up. It couldn�t be confirmed though.
The toss is expected to play a significant role and Sourav is sure to set a target, assuming he has that option. For public consumption, Sourav had this to say: �The toss shouldn�t decide the outcome, it�s how well the team plays...�
There was light rain early yesterday and the Met bureau apparently hasn�t given a hundred per cent all-clear for tomorrow. It would be a pity if a (potentially) cracker of a decider is ruined by the elements.
Not for the first time, the team making fewer unforced errors will take the trophy. And, yes, should they bowl first, India will need to quickly sort out the overrate worries.
TEAMSINDIA: Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S.Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Hemang Badani, Yuvraj Singh, Vijay Dahiya, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Jawagal Srinath and Harbhajan Singh.
AUSTRALIA (from): Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Bevan, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Steve Waugh, Andrew Symonds, Ian Harvey, Shane Warne, Damien Fleming, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath and Shane Lee.
Umpires: Subroto Porel and Francis Gomes.
In the short run, of course, the Indian captain�s moment of reckoning is at hand. His own build-up to tomorrow�s decider has been cool: Three hours of gup-shup with teammates on the beach, off Taj Exotica last evening, a very focussed workout at the Nehru Stadium this morning.
Sourav, though, kept himself free of other commitments. He did, however, speak to The Telegraph, ending the interview with: �Now, I would like some time to myself... Not so much to put thoughts together (for tomorrow), but just relax...�
Well, Sourav can�t be grudged that.
The following are excerpts
On his thoughts on the eve of yet another big game
We�ve had quite a few big matches in recent months... Having taken the world champions the distance, we have nothing to lose. Frankly, I don�t think we are under pressure at all. Barring a few bad overs (in Pune and Vizag), we�ve played good cricket and, so, it�s a question of being consistent over the 100 overs tomorrow. Both the team and I are used to the situation we are in and there�s no question of nerves.
On just how much hinges on the final ODI
Nothing more than this one-day series. We obviously want to win but, if we can�t, the result won�t wipe out our achievements of the season. In some ways, then, it�s just another game. We should give that hundred per cent, play freely and leave the rest to...
On whether his team will draw inspiration from that superb victory over Australia, at the start of the season in Nairobi, one which turned the tide for India
Only to an extent because, really, the past is history. Where this series is concerned, we�ll be judged by how we perform tomorrow. But, yes, I accept that ICC KnockOut win was more than a statistical achievement.
On whether there�s a lesson from the Bangalore and Indore victories (where India set a target)
(Smiles) Perhaps, yes.
On the best bet against Australia
Getting the basics right... We�ll need to be disciplined, both with bat and ball, and set the agenda from the start itself. The Australians, after all, are world champions.
On whether his own lack of form (19 in four matches) is weighing him down
Like I�ve said before, no batsman can avoid a bad patch... It�s not that I�m not trying to overcome it, but... I would probably have been worried had my form coincided with the team, too, not doing well. Besides working harder at nets, I�ve been replaying my dismissals in the mind... I haven�t lost faith in my own ability and, hopefully, I�ll be able to contribute tomorrow. Yes, I accept I�m most comfortable leading from the front � in fact, barring the tri-series in Sharjah (March 2000), and now, I�ve always done so.
On what will he be telling himself as he takes guard
Play the normal way. I�ve accepted it�s a bad phase, therefore it won�t help if I just keep thinking of the failures. I doubt if you�ve ever found me with that over-the-moon look when I�ve done well. Equally, today, I�m not devastated.
On what will he be telling the team at this evening�s meeting
Just the same: Play normally... Right through this series, I�ve been reminding players their only concern should be to give that hundred per cent. No captain can ask for more... Once that (hundred per cent) effort is there, the result will automatically be taken care of.
On the Australians� off-the-field bid to distract him, in particular
I wasn�t, am not, and won�t be bothered. My team doesn�t require a (good conduct) certificate from the Australians... I�ve been brought up to play hard and fair and that�s what I�ve been doing. I haven�t gone about creating bad blood (between the teams). To repeat what I said at this morning�s (media) conference: Anything they do is gamesmanship but, if we do the same, it�s misbehaviour. Why double-standards?
On the off-the-field interaction between Steve Waugh and himself
I don�t wish to comment.
Finally, on Sunil Gavaskar�s observation, in a signed article yesterday, that as the Indian captain he �doesn�t owe anybody an explanation,� least of all the (hostile) Australian media
Actually, Sunny is right and I intend thanking him for supporting us throughout the series... His backing meant a lot... That (thank-you) opportunity should come about when we (vice-captain Rahul Dravid and coach John Wright, too) meet him at the Board�s technical committee meeting.. (Adds after a pause) It�s nice that the Board has invited the entire thinktank.
�Who authorised the Indian manager to speak on my behalf? Well, he has opened a can of worms and it�s for him to close it,� remarked a furious Smith when The Telegraph sought his comments, late this evening.
Earlier in the day, Chauhan informed that the Match Referee�s attention had been drawn to �the efforts aimed at putting the Indian players under pressure.� Also, that taking note, Smith had convened a meeting.
Chauhan obviously had the best intentions in mind, but the Match Referee had no plans going public about a very private meeting. It�s possible he made his displeasure known to Chauhan, during this evening�s session.
That Smith wanted to keep things under wraps is understandable. After all, the Indians� verbal complaint would appear to be an indirect indictment of his own lack of action.
It is understood the Indians complained about both the language repeatedly used by the Australians and the gestures made in full public view. Not entirely unrelated (though outside the Match Referee�s purview) is the Australian Media�s biased attack on captain Sourav Ganguly.
Some, of course, see the latter bit as part of the larger Australian strategy.
With Smith fuming, though, no one quite wanted to go on record over what transpired, but the Australians are unlikely to have been quiet. For his part, manager Stephen Bernard merely said: �We had a very good meeting. Period.�
It is learnt the Match Referee has �advised� both team managements to ensure the series� last engagement (tomorrow) isn�t marred by conduct unbecoming of international sportsmen.
In another match at the Mohun Bagan ground, CESC got past SAI Training Centre by the odd goal in three. A draw in their concluding group tie, against Bangladesh XI tomorrow, will ensure CESC a semi-final berth.
In the other pool, Army XI and CISF are both placed on top with four points from two games each.
Punjab and Sind Bank rode roughshod over their opponents in the first half, going ahead by a brace at the breather. In the second session, they relied more on counter-attacks as the Bangladesh side tried to make some forays into the rival territory.
Baljit Singh Saini put the bankmen into the lead in the fourth minute, scoring off a melee. Thirteen minutes later, Saini added another goal to his kitty, off a Parminder Singh pass.
The young Bangladesh squad � consisting 14 players from the national side which took part in the Prime Minister�s Gold Cup in Dhaka last month �struggled to find their foothold on the natural turf against their more fancied rivals. As their German coach York Schumacher admitted after the match, this tournament was more of an exposure trip.
Saini again had a part to play in the final goal, which came in the 50th minute of the match. His hit from the right was superbly flicked into the goal by Parminder near the far post.
Four minutes before the close, Baljit Singh Chandi�s goal off a penalty corner was disallowed by the umpire ruling it a �high ball�.
At the Mohun Bagan ground, Anil Ekka put CESC in the lead with a direct hit from a penalty corner in the 11th minute. Sunil Soren made it 2-0 early in the second session.
Atal Tirkey pulled one back for SAI in the 48th minute. The SAI boys� lack of finishing near the goalmouth robbed them of a number of chances.
East Bengal are careful to prevent any sense of overconfidence creeping into the side. �We have not forgotten the fate of Churchill Brothers,� coach Manoranjan Bhattacharya said, referring to the inaugural edition of the tournament when the Goa club frittered away their top position in the home stretch to finish second best to JCT, Phagwara.
East Bengal are leading the pool with 38 points from 17 outings while Mohun Bagan are at second spot with 35 points from 18 matches.
The forwards� inability to score in the last few games has been a matter of concern for the East Bengal coach and he hopes to set things right tomorrow.
The match, originally scheduled for today, was deferred on account of Muharram.
The police was even reluctant to give permission for the match tomorrow in view of former US President Bill Clinton�s visit to the city saturday, but agreed after it was decided that no tickets would be sold. Only club members will be allowed entry.
Tollygunge coach Amal Dutta is apprehending security problems.
�Twice I was attacked earlier at Salt Lake. I�d have even liked my club not to play tomorrow as my players� security cannot be guaranteed�.
He will be present at the ground only if adequate security is provided.
Randhawa set for titleJyoti Randhawa stayed on course for his third title in four tournaments on the Indian golf tour this season when he essayed a brilliant birdie-birdie finish to stay ahead of a marauding Arjun Singh at the end of the third day of the Rs 8.5 lakh SRF Open being played at the Delhi Golf Club course here today.
According to reports reaching here, Arjun shot a four-under 68 to aggregate nine-under 207 for 54 holes, just two strokes behind Randhawa, who added a one-under 71 to tally 11-under 205.
Last 8 identifiedSantasabuj Chakraborty, Saugata Sarkar, Debdyut Mukherjee, Tapas Sarkar, Shiladitya Nag, Sushovan Das, Krishna Dey and Kuntal Basak moved into the boys quarter finals of the Calcutta table tennis championships today.
Race card with Selections1. Espoir Handicap 1,200m (Cl IV; Cl; V, eligible, 3-y-o only Rt. 00-50) 1.50 pm: Andrada 60 Shanker 5; Automatic 57.5 A. P. Singh 3; Aherlow 56 C. Alford 8; Anokato 53.5 A. Imran 7; Albright 49.5 Amil 1; Alvernia 48.5 Islam 6; Lightning Speed 47.5 Yasin 4; Maltayar 47 Saran 2.
Aherlow 1. Alvernia 2. Andrada 3.
2. Soultline Handicap 1,100m (Cl V, 00-28) 2.30 pm: Lovely Duchess 61 Yadav 8; Glass Slipper 60 M. Reuben 9; Stately Honour 58.5 Amil 5; Rule With Honour 58 Salam 1; Floral Path 57 A. P. Singh 4; Flying Power 57 Amjad 3; Go With The Wind 56.5 Rutherford 7; Piece Of Cake 52.5 P. Kumar 10; Go India Go 47 Kujur 6; Fibonacci 47 Saran 2.
Stately Honour 1. Go India Go 2. Glass Slipper 3.
3. Eastern Air Command Cup 1,100m (Cl III, 5-y-o & over Rt. 44-72) 3.05 pm: Addab 60 Upadhya 10; Cup Of Life 60 C. Alford 13; Key Witness 59.5 Surender 8; Winning Hand 58.5 Manohar 3; Crimson King 58 A. Imran 4; Mr. Bombshell 56.5 Som 5; Double Bull 55.5 Tamang 1; High Life 55.5 M. Reuben 6; Spanish Drum�s 55.5 B. Gurang 2; Kargil Soldier 54.5 Gowli 12; Red Trident 53 Kujur 9; Starina 51.5 Rutherford 11; Beau Bruno 51 P. Kumar 7.
Crimson King 1. Red Trident 2. Spanish Drum�s 3.
4. Predator Cup 1,200m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 3.40 pm: All Jade 60.5 Locke 3; Double Dancer 58.5 Manohar 5; Animator 56 A. P. Singh 6; Armila 56 Engineer 7; Appyness 54.5 C. Alford 1; Jayaashva 54 E. Smith 4; Pistol Star 52 Amil 2.
Appyness 1. Armila 2. All Jade 3.
5. Delhi Race Club Cup 1,400m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 4.15 pm: Arco Europa 60 A. P. Singh 4; Black Mane 58 Kujur 6; Alembic 57.5 C. Alford 9; Iron Warrior 56.5 Upadhya 10; Scavenger�s Son 55 Engineer 3; Pneumatic Power 54.5 A. Imran 2; Supreme Desire 54.5 P. Kumar 7; Tsaynen Blue 53.5 Gowli 11; Rheinheart 52.5 Shanker 12; Ballard Lady 52 Tamang 8; Tequila Shot 52 Haroon 1; Special Sovereign 48 Amil 5.
Arco Europa 1. Tsaynen Blue 2. alembic 3.
6. Wansfell Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 4.50 pm: Constantine 60.5 Amjad 7; Peace Envoy 59 Som 3; Ardon 58.5 A. Imran 1; On The Bit 58 F. A. Khan 8; Pure Energy 57.5 K. Gurang 2; Reactor 55.5 Shanker 5; Storm Centre 55 P. Kumar 6; Aileron 53 Islam 4; Pure Passion 51.5 Rutherford 9.
Peace Envoy 1.Pure Passion2. On The Bit3.
Day�s Best: Appyness.