Aravinda must be in: Arjuna
India likely to retain Kandy XI at SSC
Pillay to be felicitated
Peerless ride Laltu hattrick
Madhumita, Anindita in final
Reputed rivals fail to faze Bengal
Expedition runs into fund crunch
Jayawardhan champion

Colombo, Aug. 27: 
The Sri Lankan selectors currently don�t think much of Aravinda de Silva, but former captain Arjuna Ranatunga believes he still is the country�s �best batsman.�

Speaking to The Telegraph at his plush Barnes Place office this afternoon, Ranatunga said: �I don�t know the reasons behind Aravinda�s continued exclusion or, for that matter, just how much of it has to do with politics... Aravinda, though, remains our No. 1 batsman and must be in the playing XI.�

Besides enriching the middle-order (which didn�t quite impress both in the Galle and Kandy Tests), Aravinda�s inclusion, as the former captain put it, would raise the team�s profile and add to the opposition�s headache. A veteran of 89 Tests, Aravinda has close to 6,000 runs at a 41-plus average.

�I personally don�t think the selectors are going about their job in the right manner. Some, in fact, played years back � with possibly Lenin or Hitler � and, so, aren�t in touch with reality,� Ranatunga added, typically not mincing words.

Looking ahead to what has become the decider, the former captain gave Lanka a slight edge, but pointed out: �At the same time, the Indian comeback (in Kandy) has made many sit up and take notice. Therefore, it�s not exactly out of India�s reach to put it across our team...�

He continued: �The side which handles pressure better will come out on top. Obviously, experience will count for much and, in this regard, the Indians aren�t very strong. However, Sourav Ganguly�s team still posted a phenomenal comeback in Kandy. So...�

According to Ranatunga, the Indians have quickly learnt cricket�s most important lesson: Not allowing one defeat to shatter morale and, just as important, bouncing back in a big way. �Teams which lack character can�t do so... Full marks, then, to this depleted Indian side.�

The former captain, though, was critical of the Indian approach in Galle (first Test). �I saw the match on TV and was amazed by the negative approach of the batsmen. The body language was poor... Even the bowlers... It�s unbelievable they kept bowling to Sanath Jayasuriya�s strength. If I�m not wrong, around 70 of his 111 runs came through square cuts and square drives.�

He added: �Also, I don�t think it was wise to send Mohammed Kaif at No. 3. With Sachin Tendulkar not around, Rahul Dravid and the captain must follow the openers. They, not the others, have the biggest role to play. I mean, look at the Kandy scorecard, it�s Sourav and Dravid who contributed most in that 264-chase.�

Expressing happiness at the coming good of speedster Dilhara Fernando, Ranatunga remarked: �He is bound to do well, because he hasn�t been rushed into big-time cricket. He has come through the ranks. In other words, he has been prepared for the pressures of the international stage. Now, Dilhara can only gain in confidence and experience.�

The former captain was �sorry� for senior pro Hashan Tillekeratne. �I don�t think he is in bad form. It�s just that Hashan has been under tremendous pressure. How can he succeed if he is forever worried about keeping his place? Had I been captain, I�d have asked him to relax and give off his best without worrying about the next game. Indeed, I would have raised his confidence by saying he would be there for the full series...�

[Tillekeratne made a comeback in Galle, after a 29-month Test exile.]

Our conversation ended with Tillekeratne as it was time for Ranatunga to attend a meeting over a mini-hydroelectric project, with which he is associated. Besides, Lanka�s only World Cup-winning captain remains the chairman-cum-managing director of an insurance brokers� firm.


Colombo, Aug. 27: 
Though indications are that India will retain the Kandy Test-winning XI in the third and final game (at the SSC) beginning Wednesday, leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule may come into reckoning.

The three-Test series is tied 1-1.

According to The Telegraph�s sources, if Bahutule does make the playing XI, it will be at Harvinder Singh�s expense. Harvinder played his first Test in 41 months last week, but didn�t make use of the opportunity. Should he be omitted, the move will also have much to do with the horses-for-courses policy.

While the SSC wicket has grass, it is less green than Galle or Kandy. Plus, this morning at least, it was bone dry. In other words, thanks to an unrelenting sun, it won�t surprise if the wicket cracks and, in the late stages, affords appreciable turn.

In such a situation, Sourav Ganguly could do with a spin option in the form of Bahutule. In any case, a third seamer (after Zaheer Khan and Venkatesh Prasad) will not exactly be missed as the captain himself can do the job.

Traditionally, of course, the SSC wicket is lively and (early on) there is much carry. Which is why the thinktank may eventually retain the Kandy XI, with Harbhajan Singh (again) being the sole spinner. Still, Harvinder is under some pressure.

Meanwhile, the Indians had an �optional workout� this morning. Except for Sourav, Rahul Dravid, Prasad and Samir Dighe, the others trained for around an hour-and-half. Nets proper will be tomorrow afternoon.

�It�s awfully hot here and three back-to-back Tests take a lot out of the boys. Therefore, the workout was kept light...,� explained Wright, who is smiling more than he usually does. Only, as he reminded, the job �isn�t quite over�.

Kaluwitharana axed from XVI

The Lanka selectors, who met late this evening, have pruned the 16-man squad by leaving out Romesh Kaluwitharana. Hashan Tillekeratne stays on.    

Calcutta, Aug. 27: 
Dhanraj Pillay, Aslam Sher Khan and M.K. Kaushik will be felicitated by the West Bengal Hockey Umpires� Association (WBHUA) Wednesday, the 97th birthday of Dhyanchand.

Announcing this, WBHUA secretary Basu Bhattacharya added that former players and other eminent personalities will take part in a walk from Rabindra Sadan to the West Bengal Kabaddi Association tent at the Maidan.

Apart from the current international players, a number of former internationals like Gurbux Singh, Vece Paes, Bir Bahadur Chhetri and Ashok Kumar will also be felicitated. A blood donation camp will also be organised.


Calcutta, Aug. 27: 
Peerless and Eastern Railway crushed Wari and Aryan, respectively, by identical 3-0 margins in CFL first division group A action today.

The highlight of Peerless� win was a hattrick by Laltu Mondal. Prasanta Ghosh (2) and Subhranil Dutta scored for the railway team.

In another group A tie, Rajasthan edged past Howrah Union 2-1. S. Bhattacharjee found the target twice and Pallab Guha reduced the margin.

Relegation leg from today

Mohammedan Sporting will meet George Telegraph while BNR take on SAIL as the relegation leg of the Super Division kicks off tomorrow. George Telegraph finished the first leg with 13 points. Mohammedan Sporting, BNR and FCI tallied nine, five and four points, respectively, while SAIL failed to to earn a point.

Milan Samity�s protest

Milan Samity, who lost to Bagha Shome FI 0-2 in the Nursery League semi-final, accused their opponents of fielding three overaged players.

According to the IFA rule, once a player is registered with a club in the nursery division, he can play for three years. But Milan Samity alleged that the three players had already played for Bagha Shome for a couple of years and were registered in the club afresh.

The IFA will take a decision Friday. Bagha Shome are to take on Howrah Friends in the title round.

Tollygunge sign two

Tollygunge Agragami today signed Akeem Awoyemi and Basudeb Das. Awoyemi had a brief stint with a lower division French club.    

Calcutta, Aug. 27: 
Madhumita Guin defeated Ria Dasgupta 7-11, 15-13, 11-9, 11-6, 11-7 while Anindita Chakraborty shrugged off Swapna Mitra 11-9, 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 in the women�s singles semi-finals of the Ballygunge Institute table tennis meet at Ballygunge Institute hall today.

Sayantika Kundu prevailed over Soumi Mondal in a thrilling semi-final clash to set up a title clash with Runa Roy in the girls� singles. Sayantika beat Soumi 11-9, 13-15, 4-11, 11-7, 11-9, 12-14, 11-3 while Runa beat Ria Dasgupta 11-7, 11-3, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9.

Meanwhile, the Central Calcutta table tennis championships will be held at the Calcutta University Institute hall from September 10 to 15.

RESULTS (semi-finals)

Women�s singles � Madhumita Guin bt Ria Dasgupta 7-11, 15-13, 11-9, 11-6, 11-7; Anindita Chakraborty bt Swapna Mitra 11-9, 11-4, 11-5, 11-6.

Girls� singles � Runa Roy bt Ria Dasgupta 11-7, 11-3, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9; Sayantika Kundu bt Soumi Mondal 11-9, 13-15, 4-11, 11-7, 11-9, 12-14, 11-3.


Calcutta, Aug. 27: 
A confident Bengal take on the formidable New Zealand A in the Buchi Babu Trophy final beginning tomorrow. The visitors have a string of internationals in their ranks, but Rohan Gavaskar is not bothered by reputation.

The skipper said his team is not treating the final as a special match. �We are taking it as just another game. They may have quite a few who have made the international grade, but we have many who want to do exactly the same,� Rohan said from Chennai today.

New Zealand A, who beat Railways in the semi-final, have players like Matthew Horne, Matthew Bell, Mark Richardson, Lou Vincent, Jacob Oram, Paul Wiseman, Chris Drum and Scott Styris in their ranks.

Bengal, fielding a number of youngsters yet to play Ranji Trophy, have fared creditably so far and beaten teams with several reputed players. �It�s been a fantastic performance so far, with so many inexperienced players, and the best part is that most of us have contributed at crucial times,� Rohan said.

�There has been pressure throughout but we have handled it because everybody has chipped in.�

Off-spinner Sourashish Lahiri has been in good form and allrounder Sanjib Sanyal, included in the Ranji squad last year, scored vital runs in the semi-final against Jolly Rovers.

Bengal have also gained significantly from the presence of the experienced Utpal Chatterjee. The veteran hasn�t taken too many wickets in this meet, but has been defiant with the bat. His two fifties, in fact, hauled Bengal out of trouble in the tight semi-final.

Rohan came good with the bat in the first two games � including a 188 against Karnataka in the quarters, but failed in the semi-final. He said the pitch for that match was under-prepared and maintained he was happy with his form.


Calcutta, Aug. 27: 
A group of disabled boys and girls, dreaming of a unique expedition, is finding it difficult to muster enough funds.

Step Up � a Hooghly-based establishment � has organised an expedition to the 20,680 feet Guan-Nelda I peak in Himachal Pradesh with a 16-member team, including mountaineering experts and doctors.

�We�ve approached 600 corporate houses and 400 NGOs for financial help, but are yet to get any positive response,� Step Up course director Nirmal Ghosh said.

The month-long expedition, planned from September 5, requires Rs 5 lakh. So far all they have managed is Rs 5,185 from IMF and a promise of Rs 20,000 from the sports minister.


Calcutta, Aug. 27: 
M. Jayawardhan Mehta of Maharashtra emerged the champion in the world�s longest distance swimming competition on the river Ganges, held yesterday. He clocked 10 hours 44 minutes for the 81 km distance from Jangipur�s Ahiron Ghat to Bahrampur Krishnanath College ghat. Bahrampur boy Subir Sarkar and Mohammed Salim Ahmed of Bangladesh finished second and third respectively.    

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