Rahul Dravid an option
Donald: India must play five specialist bowlers
Bengal struggle to reach 64/5
Doubts over England tour cleared: Dalmiya
Jahar Das not to �spot� players in Mumbai
Calcutta Racing/ Main season begins today

Bloemfontein, Nov.1: 
The Indian team�s thinktank is set to face a dilemma not many hours from now: Take to the first Test against South Africa with a 6-4 combination or field five batsmen and as many bowlers?

While most captains would favour safety-first tactics, and opt for 6-4, it shouldn�t surprise if Sourav Ganguly omits a specialist batsman to allow more strength to the team�s bowling-arm. In any case, to be successful, the opposition has to be bowled out twice.

Absolutely nobody is talking, but The Telegraph understands vice-captain Rahul Dravid (himself part of the thinktank) may be persuaded to open with Shiv Sundar Das. In that case, Baroda�s Connor Williams will have to wait for his maiden India cap.

Should Dravid open with Shiv Sundar, the rest of the line-up becomes pretty predictable: V.V.S.Laxman (who turned 27 today), Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav, Samir Dighe, Anil Kumble, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra.

Wicketkeeper Dighe, actually, is being looked upon as batsman No.6 and, so, overlooking a specialist opener won�t really send the XI�s balance for a toss. In other words, getting Dravid to open (assuming this option is exercised), won�t be a gamble. Technically, after all, the vice-captain is equipped for the job.

Only, Dravid could insist he now be treated as an allrounder � asked to keep wickets, requested to open... Not too long ago, one of the selectors (Kishan Rungta) had even hoped Dravid would spend more time on bowling off-breaks! Significantly, in the past, Dravid has opened in three Tests. As it turns out, each one of those matches was versus South Africa.

The Indians, who arrived from Durban this morning, had nets early in the afternoon and were clearly delighted at being greeted with sunshine after the frustrating washout in Chatsworth. �Just great,� remarked coach John Wright, summing up the mood.

And, in a welcome change from the usual stand of Indian captains, Sourav was sporting about the presence of grass on the Goodyear (formerly Springbok) Park wicket. �That�s not a surprise... Expected, isn�t it?�he quipped, smiling.

The wicket should bring so-me cheer to South African coach Graham Ford who, earlier in the week, went on record to say the first Test ought not to have been at a venue �which, going by experience, doesn�t have a lively wicket.� He would have preferred Kingsmead, in Durban.

Meanwhile, with the South African selectors releasing rookie quick Charl Langeveldt for provincial cricket, the home team�s XI (Langeveldt was in the XII) has been decided and Nicky Boje will get his 16th cap. Incidentally, Free State player Dewald Pretorius will do the XIIth man�s duties.


Sri Lanka�s Asoka de Silva will officiate with home umpire Dave Orchard in Test No.1. Zimbabwe�s Russell Tiffin and George Sharp of England will be the ICC-nominated umpires in Port Elizabeth and Centurion, respectively. The Match Referee, for the entire three-Test series, is former England captain Mike Denness.


Bloemfontein, Nov. 1: 
Allan Donald, persuaded not to quit Test cricket after the series in the West Indies earlier this year, is likely to do so after the home engagement against Australia, at the end of this season.

Donald, however, will continue playing ODIs till the 2003 World Cup, being hosted by South Africa. He already has 325 wickets from 69 Tests, besides 226 in 136 ODI-ppearances.

�I�m hoping to be fit in time for our team�s departure for Australia (first week of December) and, indeed, am also looking forward to playing Australia when they make the return-visit, in February. That will make it six Tests (three in each country) and, well, it will be nice to sign off then,� Donald told The Telegraph this afternoon.

South Africa�s hottest quick, though, has a good reason for wanting to play the ODIs till the next World Cup. As he put it, somewhat emotionally: �If destiny wills it, two years hence, I�ll get an opportunity to make amends for what happened in the 1999 World Cup semi-finals (versus Australia)..."

Donald, of course, continues to be haunted by cricket�s most tragic run out � involving him and Lance Klusener � which allowed Australia to make the final and, eventually, win the sport�s most cherished tournament two years ago.

The 2003 World Cup, however, is many months away and to talk of the present, the on-going season hasn�t begun well for Donald. First, an unusual flu kept him out of the trip to Zimbabwe and the initial stages of the recent tri-series. Then, a stomach muscle injury meant he wouldn�t at all play in the tri-series and, worse, would have no role in the Test engagement against India.

Grinning, Donald said: �Till not too long ago, it was widely believed the one-day game would take a lot out of me. Now, honestly, it�s the longer version which is becoming a problem. I�m already 35 and do need to work much harder (on fitness) than the younger guys. The cookie is crumbling this way...�

Back in early 1997, it may be recalled, the United Cricket Board of South Africa for-mally decided to limit Donald�s ODI-appearances. Incidentally, the initiative was taken by Dr Ali Bacher, now executive director of the next World Cup.

Meanwhile, looking to the series beginning here Saturday, Donald opined India �will be very competitive,� but South Africa definitely start favourites. �Playing at home is a big factor,� he reminded.

Donald, though, is �unsure� over how the Goodyear (formerly Springbok) Park wicket will behave. It�s interesting that, this season, no match has been staged on the wicket assigned for the first Test.

�A �new� surface has its own mystery... Only, this one has grass and appears firm, unlike the traditional wickets in these parts. So, there surely will be more bounce and carry... The wicket could just make for a fascinating contest,� Donald remarked, adding he would favour bowling first.

Bloemfontein is Donald�s home turf and he is familiar with every blade of grass at the Park. By the way, he suggested India must field five specialist bowlers: Three quicks and both spinners.    

Calcutta, Nov. 1: 
A woeful batting display by Bengal threw up their under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy tie versus Bihar into an open affair on Day I itself at Eden Gardens today.

Having dismissed Bihar for 142 after the visitors elected to bat, Bengal were struggling at 64 for five at close. Spinners Sujit Roy and K.I. Rao were the chief wreckers.

Avishek Chakraborty and Ajay Garai put up 29 runs in the opening stand before the former departed on 15. A brilliant catch by skipper Manish Bardhan at cover off K.I. Rao resulted in Garai�s dismissal.

This triggered off a middle-order collapse as three batsmen fell within 12 runs.

Subhojit Pal and Avik Chowdhury survived some anxious moments to remain at the crease with eight and four, respectively.

BRIEF SCORES: Bihar 142 in 60.2 ovs (Hiranmoy Das 26 n.o., I.H. Khan 22, Ajit Singh 21; Chanchal Sarkar 3/6, Samrat Guha 3/41, Sudip Palit 2/40). Bengal 64/5 in 29 ovs (Ajay Garai 19, Avishek Chakraborty 15; Sujit Roy 3/28, K.I. Rao 2/12). Match to continue.

Assam make 279

Half centuries by Chandan Rout and Dinesh Mahant helped Assam pile up 279 runs in their first innings against Orissa today, adds PTI from Cuttack. Both Rout and Mahant contributed 50 runs each.

For the home team, off-spinner Purna Maharana bagged five wickets conceding 69 runs while Niranjan Behera picked up two for 31.


Calcutta, Nov. 1: 
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Jagmohan Dalmiya today said that his meeting with England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) officials here has resulted in doubts over the English tour to India (beginning November 14) being cleared.

Dalmiya refused to be drawn into any debate over what a source said was a charter of demands (regarding security arrangements) that the Englishmen may have presented to the BCCI chief. However, Dalmiya later said that he had clarified to the Englishmen, how security in this country is not a private affair, being looked after by the Union government instead. �We�ve got the green signal from the government and to me that�s the final word so far as the tour�s safety is concerned,� he said. The BCCI president said there would be no change in venues, but one or two days could be altered in the itinerary. The January 25 one-dayer in Calcutta could be changed, he hinted.

�The meeting with ECB officials was quite satisfying and there is no question mark on the tour, according to me,� Dalmiya told reporters later this evening.

John Carr, ECB director of cricket operation, Tim O�Gorman, representative of Professional Cricketers� Association and Peter Holland, first secretary at the British high commission, called on Dalmiya at the latter�s office in the afternoon and had a three-hour closed-door meeting.

The first face-to-face communication between the two Boards follows growing concerns over the visitors� security in India with regard to the US strikes in Afghanistan. The ECB officials left for Delhi to have a meeting with the Union sports ministry tomorrow.

�The ECB officials� visit was not aimed at putting a question mark on the tour, but to clear certain apprehensions that could have surfaced following the US military action in Afghanistan�, Dalmiya told newsmen. He did not specify the exact nature of these �apprehensions�.

�They (ECB) did have some genuine concerns particularly in view of what is happening in the sub-continent. And they have seen for themselves whether India is a safe place,� Dalmiya said. �But neither quality or quantity of security arrangements nor things like personal attacks on players have come up for discussion in the meeting�, he added.


Calcutta, Nov. 1: 
While the Bengal Santosh Trophy campers remain the straggling lot at the Mohammedan Sporting ground, Bengal National Games chief coach Jahar Das has now decided not to go to to Mumbai to �spot� players.

�There is little point in my travelling, when I have no time. I am waiting for the Santosh Trophy team to leave and I will start my camp thereafter, with the nine not included for the national meet and with other players from the Super Division and even from the first division Group A,� he said.

Santosh Trophy coach Shabbir Ali has been worried about the frontline which he feels is a trifle weak. Today Subhasis Chakraborty joined from BNR, and with the likes of Babun Kar, Md Rafiq, Amar Pyne and Pradip Indu, it seems to be showing a few milk teeth. There are 29 campers now, with tomorrow being the last day of practice, after which the two coaches will name the 20 for the trip.

Das says he will start his camp the day after, with 26-27 campers and �I will then have eight-nine days with them. I will make a final selection of 18.�

Das said it was all this �trouble� over the Santosh Trophy camp that has put him off, sort of. The National Games in Punjab start on November 19 and the Bengal soccer team plays �on the opening day or the day after,� said Das, who is not aware of the schedule.

Incidentally, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Tollygunge Agragami players will all be absent here too.


Calcutta, Nov. 1: 
The local cold weather racing beginning tomorrow looks more like an extension of the just concluded monsoon season. Fields continue to be small and hot-favourites will be aplenty in the six-event card. The trend is likely to continue until different outstation forces arrive to challenge the monopoly of the Singh brothers and Daniel David serving interests of the ruling majors. It may, therefore, take few weeks before the excitement builds up.

Some amount of excitement is, however, expected in tomorrow�s five-horse strong feature event, the 1,400m Delhi Race Club Cup for horses in the highest class. Heading the scales in the race is Bold Chieftan and going by his upcountry form, the Daniel�s ward does give the impression of being a better class horse. But the 12-week-plus lay off of the four-year-old makes it a touch and go affair for the four-year-old. Nic Connorton guides the Placerville-Shamirana son.

Race card and selections

1. Cally Handicap 1,100m (Cl V, Rt. 18 & below) 1.15 pm: Tsaynen Blue 60 Gowli 1; Lady Shirley 56 Shanker 7; Keep The Faith 54.5 V. Jaiswal 4; Victoria Rose 51 Rabani 3; Rich Dominion 50 Kujur 6; Breakfast At Tiffany 49.5 Amil 5; Magic Ring 49 Brij S. 2.

1. Lady Shirley (2) 2. Rich Dominion (5) 3. Tsaynen Blue (1)

2. Sea Spray Handicap 1,200m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 1.55 pm: Blessed Spirit 60 V. Jaiswal 2; Glass Slipper 60 P. Alford 3; Touch of Elegance 60 E. Smith 5; Grecian Prince 59.5 Yasin 1; Pneumatic Power 59 Connorton 7; Calabash 57.5 C. Alford 4; Gul 55.5 S. Salam 6.

1. Glass Slipper (2) 2. Calabash (6) 3. Gul (7)

3. Beauregard Cup 1,200m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 2.25 pm: Peace Envoy 61 Asghar 5; Crowned Prince 60.5 Kujur 4; On The Bit 60.5 F. Khan 6; Alegria 59.5 C. Alford 2; Tequila Shot 55.5 G. Singh 1; Bay Dragon 52 Yasin 3.

1. Alegria (4) 2. On The Bit (3) 3. Peace Envoy (1)

4. Gold Span Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV, 5-y-o & over Rt. 22-50) 2.55 pm: Red Cordon 60 B. Gurang 3; Rheinheart 59.5 Shanker 5; Simply Dashing 58 R. Ahmed 2; Super Smile 57.5 Rabani 7; Brave Show 56 M. Maseyk 1; Common Spirit 55 Kujur 4; Crest Star 55 Yasin 6.

1. Common Spirit (6) 2. Rheinheart (2) 3. Crest Star (7)

5. Delhi Race Club Cup 1,400m (Cl I, Rt. 88 & over) 3.25 pm: Bold Chieftan 60 Connorton 4; Anolini 59.5 C. Alford 1; Arendal 57 Amil 2; Reine Beau 56.5 B. Gurang 5; Beneficent 53.5 Yasin 3.

1. Bold Chieftan (1) 2. Arendal (3) 3. Anolini (2)

6. Leonidas Handicap 1,400m (Cl III, Rt.44-72) 3.55 pm: Raaz 60 E. Smith 1; Simply Monarch 60 B. Gurang 2; Aherlow 59.5 C. Alford 7; Ace of Spades 59 Yasin 3; Mr. Bombshell 58.5 Asghar 5; Discomatic 58 Kujur 6; Regency Times 56 Connorton 8; Soviet Dance 56 R. Ahmed 4.

1. Regency Times (7) 2. Aherlow (3) 3. Raaz (1)

Day�s Best: Alegria

Double: Lady Shirley & Regency Times


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