Business as usual for John Wright
Bhupathi not keen on playing singles
Bhaichung ready for return
EB juniors down Vasco
No request made: Dalmiya
East Bengal want Derby postponed
North, South Calcutta share honours
Assam Police complete last 8 line-up

Calcutta, Oct. 9: 
Last week, Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya formally asked John Wright (via a faxed letter) to �list� his reasons for the team�s dip in performance.

The unprecedented step, though, hasn�t rattled India�s first cricket coach from overseas. Hasn�t proved a distraction from the job at hand: Getting the team to be more than just competitive, in South Africa.

�Actually, Mr Dalmiya�s letter has given an opportunity to place my thoughts on record. It�s something I welcome and, really, won�t make any difference to what I�m doing � helping the team prepare to the best of my ability,� Wright told The Telegraph this morning.

Speaking fromJohannesburg, before the Indians� afternoon-workout ahead of tomorrow�s tri-series match against South Africa, Wright added: �While my formal reply will follow in due course, I�ve already had a telephonic talk with Mr Dalmiya��

He continued: �I accept both the Board and I have a responsibility towards the Indian public� Moreover, we have the same desire: To see India among the top-three nations. Quite frankly, I see nothing wrong in Mr Dalmiya wanting me to put my views in black-and-white.�

Wright took charge (from stand-in coach Aunshuman Gaekwad) last November, days before the home series versus Zimbabwe, and has quickly grown to be respected as an absolute pro.

The former New Zealand captain�s mature response to the president�s move is yet another pointer to the professional manner in which he conducts himself � in the dressing room and outside.

Incidentally, with Wright wearing the coach�s hat, India have won five of the ten Tests (one drawn) and 13 of the 23 ODIs. The bottomline could of course have been better, but still makes for very decent reading.

In any case, as is often argued in captain Sourav Ganguly�s favour, Wright has never ever had the full complement of first-choice players. Be it in the assignment-starting series against Zimbabwe or the current tri-series.

Technically, Wright�s contract ends November 15, on the eve of the second Test versus South Africa, in Port Elizabeth. His re-appointment (as also physio Andrew Leipus�) came up during the Board�s recent AGM in Chennai and the House simply said �to continue.� There was no debate.

[As was reported in these columns Sunday, Leipus too has been asked to revert to the president.]

Indeed, till relations between Dalmiya and his predecessor, Dr A.C.Muthiah, soured to the extent it did, there was every likelihood of Wright (appointed by Muthiah) being retained till the 2003 World Cup.

He could, even now, but Dalmiya � whose priority No.1 is to ensure the team is consistent with a capital C � wishes to �clear� a few things.

Not that Wright is looking for signals of comfort, but Dalmiya (himself a seasoned pro) is understood to have told a confidant he has �nothing� against the coach. Also, that Wright�s response will be used �constructively.�


Calcutta, Oct. 9: 
Ramesh Krishnan will probably have to do without Mahesh Bhupathi�s services in singles at this weekend�s Davis Cup tie against the US.

According to his coach Enrico Piperno, Bhupathi is not keen on playing singles in the World Group play-off tie beginning Friday at Winston-Salem. The Bangalorean, who was on the losing side of Sunday�s Kremlin Cup doubles final in Moscow, joined the Indian team in North Carolina today.

It was in December last year that Bhupathi had revealed to The Telegraph he had decided against playing Davis Cup singles on principle. He stuck to his guns in the February tie versus China, but was coaxed into changing his mind by captain Ramesh Krishnan two months later for the clash against Japan.

It turned out to be a disastrous decision as Takao Suzuki hammered Bhupathi 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 to level the tie 1-1 in Tokyo. That dismal scoreline notwithstanding, it didn�t come as a big surprise for those who have been following the Indian�s career closely.

But for the first four years since turning pro, the Bangalorean has been concentrating more on doubles. And after his shoulder surgery in November 1999, his singles activity almost came to a near halt.

This year, Bhupathi has played just two singles matches � at the Mumbai Challenger in February (he lost first round) and the one against Suzuki in April. And though his shoulder is fine now, he doesn�t want to take a chance.

�It doesn�t make sense for him to play singles, at least on the first day. He�s had almost no practice at all,� said Piperno.

If the scores are 2-2, though, Bhupathi may play the decisive rubber Sunday � provided, of course, Ramesh wants him and he�s physically up to it.

With Bhupathi unavailable, the second singles berth is up for grabs � the two contenders being Syed Fazaluddin and Harsh Mankad. Though Krishnan won�t announce his choice before the draw (Thursday morning) , he�s likely to opt for Harsh.

Harsh, a University of Minnesota sophomore, has had a good season so far. He clinched his first Futures title in Canada and has also been winning regularly on the NCAA circuit.

Fazaluddin, who did well to qualify for a $50,000 Challenger last month, hasn�t made much of an impression in Davis Cup play so far despite getting quite a few chances. In his last �outing�, he lost both his matches to unheralded Chinese players earlier this year.


Calcutta, Oct. 9: 
Bhaichung Bhutia is recovering well from a knee surgery and hopes to return to action in Saturday�s English second division league match versus Cambridge.

He got injured during a league match against Queen�s Park Rovers on August 18. He skipped Bury FC�s next two matches but continued to feel the pain on return. The Indian skipper underwent surgery in England on September 8.

He came to India for a short trip soon after and has not played since. Things, however, look better now.

�I have not set myself a comeback date as such, but I think I�ll be able to be back soon,� the Bury FC website quoted him as saying and added he was eyeing this Saturday�s match.

�Since my return from India, I have been undergoing physiotherapy and that is helping my recovery. I�m desperate to get back and help the team,� said the striker.

The club, for the record, isn�t doing too well and is languishing right at the bottom of the league table with five points after 11 matches. Four teams will be relegated to Division 3 and Bhutia�s team is very much in the zone of uncertainty.

These are early days but, with 35 matches still to go in the 24-team, home-and-away league. They had finished 15th last season.

Bury FC got off to a good start with a 2-1 away win against Tranmere Rovers but lost the next eight matches before salvaging a 1-1 draw at Reading. They managed another 1-1 draw against Wycombe Wanderers at home on October 2. So far, they have conceded 21 goals and scored just seven.

Brentford lead the table with 22 points from 11 matches. Oldham and Brighton also have 22 points but have played 12 games each.

�The Shakers�, as Bury FC is called, have been hit hard by injuries and apart from Bhutia, others on the casualty list are Michael Nelson and Mat Barrass. Along with Bhutia, these two were first XI players and Nelson is also expected to return soon. Barrass, however, seems to be out for the season.

The club has recently recruited Leeds United reserve Harpal Singh on loan. This left-half is of Indian origin and Bhutia is looking forward to form a combination with him.

�I think we�ll play well together. Harpal is the type of player who will put good balls into the box for strikers,� Bhutia observed. �I�m convinced we�re a better team than our current league position suggests. We have to start scoring,� he said.


Calcutta, Oct. 9: 
East Bengal beat Vasco 2-0 in the under-19 National League at Howrah Stadium today.

Tollygunge Agragami lost 0-3 to India Sub-juniors, while India Juniors beat Salgaocar 1-0 in other matches.

The Tollygunge match was scheduled for yesterday but fell through due to rain.

Elliot Shield

The Elliot Shield inter-college football meet has been revived and will be played in Kalyani from tomorrow to Monday. The meet is organised by IFA and conducted by Kalyani University.

Sixteen teams have come through the qualifiers and will now take part in the knockout final round. The meet was not held in the last few years.

Manoj Kothari beaten

Shakil Ahmed entered the semi-finals of the state snooker champiomnship at Bengal Rowing Club today. He beat Sourav Kothari 4-0 to set up a clash with Mohammed Asim.

Shahnawaz Ahmed beat Manoj Kothari 3-1 in a pre-quarter final. He meets Prakash Mehortra for a place in the semis.

Joginder Singh also reached the semis, with a 4-3 win over Sonam Bhutia.

Hardcourt tennis

Priyanka Parekh, Tanya Ahuja, Shivika Burman and Hina Valecha reached the semi-finals in the under-16 girls� section of the Calcutta Hardcourt tennis meet at South Club. Priyanka blanked Mansi Panjani 6-0, 6-0, Tanya beat Rohini Das 7-5, 6-3 and Hina tounced Kanupriya Kajaria 6-0, 6-1. Shivika got a walkover from Karina Ahuja.

In the under-16 boys� section, Rupesh Roy conceded his match to Shakeb Hasan despite leading 6-0, 5-1.


U-16 boys, 2nd round: Shakeb Hasan bt Rupesh Roy 0-6, 1-5 (conceded); A. Bandopadhyay bt Udit Todi 6-4, 1-6, 7-5; Chirag Shah bt Rohan Shaw 5-3 (conceded); Farid Alam bt Rohit Srivatsava 6-3, 7-5; Nirvick Mohinta bt Bharat Ladsaria 6-0, 6-3; Sabyasachi Bose bt Shoaib Hussain 6-0, 6-2; Arpit Sharma bt Samridh Burman 6-1, 6-4; Arup Mullick bt Rohit Kumar 6-0, 6-1.

Inter-school badminton

Ashok Hall beat G.D. Birla in the junior section (team event) on Day I of the inter-school invitation badminton tournament at Mahadevi Birla Girls� School. Individual competiton also got underway today.


Team event: Junior: MBGHSS bt Lakshmipat Singhania Academy; Ashok Hall bt G.D. Birla; Middle: Calcutta Girls bt M.B. Shishu Vihar; Senior: G.D. Birla bt Sri Shikshayatan; Queen of the Missions bt Lakshmipat Singhania Academy; Birla HS bt M.B. Shishu Vihar.

Women�s basketball

The Women�s Basketball Association of West Bengal�s annual calendar for the year 2001-2002 kicked off with the Kwick Knockout meet late last month. The junior division inter-club knockout meet begins next month.

THE CALENDAR: From October 6: Junior inter-club league. November: Junior inter-club knockout. December: Senior inter-club league and knockout. January-February: Mercantile Mixed meet. April: Inter-school meet. May: Coaching camp. June: Mixed invitation medley.


Calcutta, Oct. 9: 
Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya today ended the kite-flying episode over Zaheer Khan by clarifying that �no request� had been made to send the quick as an additional player for the ongoing tri-series in South Africa.

�I don�t know how the reports emanated, but neither captain Sourav Ganguly nor anybody else ever made a request for Zaheer, who is recovering from an injury. The question, therefore, of sending him doesn�t arise,� Dalmiya told The Telegraph this evening.

The Board president added: �In fact, I have checked with the secretary (Niranjan Shah) and even he hasn�t received any request from anybody in South Africa.�

Meanwhile, Dalmiya maintained that the events in Afghanistan will not affect India�s ongoing tour of South Africa. Not now, at least.


Calcutta, Oct. 9: 
East Bengal today made a rather optimistic appeal to the IFA and requested the state body to defer Thursday�s Super Division Derby.

In a letter to the IFA, the club urged that the match be postponed by a week as several of their players got injured in the scuffle which broke out during Sunday�s IFA Shield final against Palmeiras.

The IFA has called an emergency league sub-committee meeting tomorrow morning but is unlikely to entertain East Bengal�s plea.

The club has asked for some kind of reciprocation, arguing it had agreed to play the IFA Shield final and semi-final on consecutive days. �Many of our key players are injured and we can�t field at least four of them if the match is played Thursday,� said a club official.

Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, have said they will not play if the match is deferred. They are scheduled to leave for Assam Friday for the Bordoloi Trophy.

One reason why the IFA can�t defer the match is the league will plunge into fresh crisis if they do so. Super and other division matches have spilled way beyond schedule and more delay will only multiply the IFA�s problem.

The Super Division is interestingly placed, with East Bengal needing two wins (the other match is against Tollygunge Agragami) to force a championship play-off. Mohun Bagan need a draw to win the league after three years.

According to the East Bengal official, those on the injury list are Jo Paul Ancheri, Jackson Egygpong, Falguni Dutta, Tushar Rakshit, Dipankar Roy and Anit Ghosh. The first four, important players all, are unlikely to be fit before Thursday, he added.

Ancheri, the official informed, is not in very good shape and the doctor�s observation is also not encouraging. Ancheri, who got both East Bengal goals in the Shield semi-final against Mohun Bagan, may be out for some time.

The only casualty in the Mohun Bagan camp is Basudeb Mondal � who got injured in the Shield clash. He is unlikely for Thursday�s game. Jose Ramirez Barreto, Mohun Bagan�s trump-card, has an ankle injury and didn�t practise today.


Calcutta, Oct. 9: 
Favourites North Calcutta and South Calcutta annexed the men�s and women�s crowns, respectively, in the 67th state and inter-district table tennis championships at Khudiram Anushilan Kendra today.

In the men�s final, North made short work of South, notching up a 3-0 win, while the South Calcutta women took a match more to prevail over Siliguri.

Upcoming left-hander Sourav Chakraborty routed the experienced Arjun Dutta 11-8, 12-10, 11-6 to launch the North onslaught before veteran Arup Basak accounted for the younger of the Dutta brothers � Shibaji. Basak won 11-6, 10-12, 12-12, 11-9, 11-8. Subham Chowdhury ensured a clean sweep with a 11-3, 11-6, 11-9 win over Indibar Chatterjee.

The women�s final witnessed a closer contest as Sushmita Roy lost the second match 8-11, 11-4, 11-8, 10-12, 9-11 to Kasturi Chakraborty. National champion Poulami Ghatak had earlier got South to a good start with a 3-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8 win over Nandita Saha.

Sushmita and Poulami beat Nandita and Mithu Pal 11-5, 12-12, 11-6 in doubles before Poulami settled the issue, beating Kasturi 9-11, 1-6, 12-10, 11-13, 11-7.


Men: North Calcutta bt South Calcutta 3-0 (Sourav Chakraborty bt Arjun Dutta 11-8, 12-10, 11-6; Arup Basak bt Shibaji Dutta 11-6, 10-12, 12-12, 11-9, 11-8; Subham Chowdhury bt Indibar Chatterjee 11-3, 11-6, 11-9).

Women: South Calcutta bt Siliguri 3-1 (Poulami Ghatak bt Nandita Saha 3-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8; Sushmita Ray lost to Kasturi Chakraborty 8-11, 11-4, 11-8, 10-12, 9-11; Sushmita/Poulami bt Nandita/Mithu Pal 11-5, 12-12, 11-6; Poulami bt Kasturi 9-11, 1-6, 12-10, 11-13, 11-7).


Guwahati, Oct. 9: 
Assam Police today stormed into the quarter finals of the Bordoloi Trophy with a 3-0 victory over arch-rivals Oil India Limited at Sualkuchi.

Debojit Saikia scored the first goal in the 15th minute while substitutes Kullen Basumatary and Uttam Ray increased the margin in the 67th and 83rd minutes respectively.

With this win, Assam Police completes the quarter final line-up, which includes Assam Regimental Centre, FC Kochin, Tata Football Academy, Rajpracha Sports Club and Mohun Bagan.

In the first quarter final encounter, to be played under floodlights for the first time, Assam RC will take on FC Kochin at the Nehru Stadium.

All matches will start at 5 pm.


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