Getting the basics right is step No. 1: Procter
India denied practice by elements, facilities
Cullinan game for ODIs again
Jeev qualifies for final stage
3 Bengal schools in fray
Bengal girls lose in final

East London, Nov. 10: 
Reasons other than cricket ensured Mike Procter, one of the greatest all-rounders of any era, could only play seven Tests. Yet, exactly ten years ago, when South Africa returned to big-time cricket (and played the first ODI), it was Procter who was coach.

The Durban-based Procter, currently a national selector, spoke to The Telegraph (on his cellphone) this morning. He looked back (a shade nostalgically) and ahead. The following are excerpts

On his thoughts today, a special day for South African cricket come a long way since taking the field at Eden Gardens ten years ago... More than our performance on that hastily arranged trip,what continues to stand out is the emotional welcome we received everywhere in India. Believe me, it meant so much to us. Cricket-wise, other departments apart, our fielding has improved the most. It does make a difference.

On the pressure factor then

The very fact that we had been out of the international circuit for two decades meant expectations weren.t high. In that period,we knew we had some great players, but couldn.t measure our strength against other teams... The pressure, really, has come in recent years after it�s become known we can beat the very best.

On his own thoughts when he was appointed South Africa�s first coach

(After a pause) I knew it would be a long road to travel... That we would have to take it step-by-step... Frankly, that initial stage was a learning period for everybody . the coach included.

On the highpoint of his tenure as coach (1991-1994)

Without doubt, making the World Cup semi-finals in 1992... It was our maiden appearance and, with some luck, we could have won the tournament.

On his tenure as coach

To be honest, I don.t look back with a great deal of satisfaction... In any case, the coach�s job then wasn.t as big as it is now. I wouldn.t say Peter van der Merwe was dismissive but, as the then convener of selectors,he saw the coach as being secondary to the captain and team...

On his approach as coach

I.m a firm believer you should enjoy your cricket... At the same time nets, for instance, must be taken seriously. That, during workouts, you should be doing exactly what you will be out in the middle. Therefore, it should be quality nets and, because of the huge amount of cricket being played, quality rest is essential as well. If I may add, one constant throughout has been that the basics must be clear. Getting the basics right is step No. 1.

On having been unceremoniously removed (while in hospital), at the start of the 199495 season

Did I feel let down? To a certain extent, yes, because cricket had been everything for me and, suddenly, I didn.t quite know what to do... Fortunately, I got some TV work (with Sky) and, so, remained in close touch with the game. Later, I got the selectorship.

On why his contract wasn.t renewed

Frankly, I never did ask Ali (Dr Ali Bacher)... It�s possible there was some feedback from the players... Perhaps, they wanted somebody who would be more of a hands-on coach...Really, I never did ask and still don.t know why.

On Bob Woolmer, his successor

Initially, I wasn.t at all impressed that a non-South African had got my job... Then, I did think we needed a South African because our country isn.t small and, in any case, isn.t a one-culture nation either... Having said that, Bob did very well... He was innovative, had fresh ideas... But, speaking to the players towards the end of his tenure (1999 World Cup), one got the impression his time was up...

On a critical assessment of Woolmer

(Again, after a pause) Well, can only be done by somebody actually coached by the person in question.

On whether he is opposed to coaches from overseas

Depends on the country, its culture... South Africa, I thought, required somebody from within.

On Graham Ford, Woolmer�s successor

He�s so much like Duncan Fletcher (of England)... Doesn.t talk much and keeps a very low profile. Graham got the job when Hansie (Cronje) was still captain and, really, that was a good move as Hansie was the type to be wanting to be in control... Having been associated with Graham,when I was director of cricket in Natal, I know he enjoys working on a man-toman basis. He�s done really well.

On how he sees a coach�s role

It�s certainly not about teaching batters to bat and bowlers to bowl... The captain is the one always in charge, while the coach works with individuals to improve the team�s performance. Experience, of course, helps everybody... I.m not in favour of a coach trying to change the way either a batter bats or a bowler bowls. Indeed, those selected must remember made it on the strength of performances driven by a certain style/approach. That shouldn.t change... Something new must not be attempted just for the sake of trying to be different.

On having a specialist bowling coach as part of the support team

Bottomline is how the main coach and captain react... Also depends on the team�s requirement. Bangladesh and Kenya can certainly do with specialist coaches in addition to the main guy.

On where South Africa needs to improve

We need quality spinners. Could be because of the wickets or, there may be other reasons, but we aren.t producing them. So, that�s one definite area for improvement... Actually, the improvement can be in all departments.No team can say it doesn.t need to improve.

Finally, on the years ahead

We have a good base, but it�s important to be consistent. Consistency, both at home and overseas, will determine how much stronger South Africa gets.


East London, Nov. 10: 
During England�s last visit to South Africa, in 19992000, one of the leading English writers dubbed East London a .one-horse town.. Well, he wasn.t too far off the mark.

Worse, from cricket�s point of view, Buffalo Park (HQ of the Border Cricket Board) doesn.t even have a super-sopper. Had one been at hand, there would surely have been some play today, Day-I of the India-South Africa A match.

As it turned out, after three inspections (and with the consent of captains Sourav Ganguly and Dale Benkenstein), umpires Ian Howell and Craig Schoof decided there wouldn.t be any play at all. Ironically, the decision was taken at 1.00 pm (local time) with the sun at its brightest.

The problem wasn.t with the wicket or even much of the run-up. The big worry, really, was the outfield. Parts of it were dank and, shockingly, there was little interest on the part of the hosts to deploy more people to get things going.

Indeed, the most primitive methods were used and, at no time, did the groundstaff exceed six. All this at a regular venue for ODIs and, more to the point, one of the 2003 World Cup centres. Though the sky was clear this morning, it had been raining for the past two days and, so, the Border authoritites ought to have been prepared.

Significantly, India�s three-dayer in Chatsworth, ahead of the first Test, was rained-off entirely. And, now, one of the four days has already been lost here. .It�s very frustrating,. remarked Sourav.

Speaking to The Telegraph, opposite number Benkenstein echoed similar sentiments, adding the game .meant so much. to a clutch of hopefuls. Included in that list is the captain himself.

While nobody wished to be quoted, many in the Indian team did talk about the criticism . at times, largely unwarranted . which staging associations have to face back home (from touring sides). As a senior pro put it: .God, the lack of a super-sopper would have been made into a big issue had this happened in India....

To make good some lost time, the match will start 15 minutes early and end 15 minutes late on each of the three days that remain. Neither captain objected to this.

Meanwhile, Sourav is fit and would have played had the game got underway today itself. Ashish Nehra, though,wouldn.t have taken the field. He will, tomorrow, only if pain caused by blisters on his right feet is negligible. Otherwise, Zaheer Khan will play.

Certainties for a break are Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Jawagal Srinath.


East London, Nov. 10: 
Daryll Cullinan, among the most accomplished of South African batsmen, has made himself available for ODIs. Last year, Cullinan decided to stay away from cricket�s shorter version but, now, has had a re-think.

I.m available both for Tests and ODIs... I think every South African should make a contribution towards the 2003 World Cup and,my way of doing so, has been to make myself available for the one-day game,. the 31-year-old told The Telegraph this afternoon.

Cullinan�s last ODI was just over a year ago, versus New Zealand in Cape Town. In 138 appearances, he has scored 3,860 runs (average of 32-plus).

Significantly, now that Cullinan is game for a return, the South African selectors will .discuss. this development. Speaking exclusively, convenor of selectors Rushdi Magiet said: .Cullinan is among the most experienced of our players and, more important, is now fit. Therefore, the possibility of picking him will surely be talked about..

Cullinan, incidentally, hasn.t played international cricket since the end of the Test series in the West Indies, back in April. For the record, Cullinan underlined his class by amassing 459 runs in the five matches, five behind the No. 1 run-getter . Herschelle Gibbs. Overall, in 70 appearances, Cullinan has totalled 4,555 runs (average of nearly 45).

In fact, with 14 Test hundreds, Cullinan remains the country�s No. 1 century-maker. His highest, of course, is the South African record of 275 not out. Gary Kirsten, too, has a 275, only he was dismissed on that score.

Had things gone according to script, Cullinan would have spent the entire (conventional) summer in England, playing for Kent. As it turned out, Cullinan was troubled by a bad right knee and released by the County. Then, in early September, he underwent surgery at home.

Going by Magiet�s body-language, Cullinan�s comeback in Tests probably isn.t far off. It�s to assess his present form in person that Magiet and his colleagues summoned him as a replacement in the South Africa A line-up.

Cullinan wasn.t in the original XII . announced a fortnight back . as he hadn.t yet played first-class cricket after surgery. He did, subsequently, and got runs as well for Highveld Strikers (as the Gauteng provincial side is now called).

For his part, the soft-spoken Cullinan is keeping fingers crossed. .My job is to be available and be among the runs. The rest depends on the selectors,. he pointed out, disappointed no doubt that no play was possible on Day I of the India-South Africa A game.


Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
Ace Indian golfer Jeev Milkha Singh took a giant step towards realising his ambition of playing on the US PGA Tour yesterday when he made it to the final stage of the Qualifying School with a solid performance at Black Horse course.

According to information reaching here from Seaside, California, Jeev shot a one-over 73 on the final day and finished tied for the seventh place along with to others at four-under 284.

The occasion will mark the first time that an Indian golfer will feature in the final stage of the PGA Tour Q-School.

Calcutta�s Arjun Atwal had a disappointing tied 30th.


New Delhi, Nov. 10: 
There are three Bengal schools in this year�s Subroto Mukherjee Cup football meet, slated here from November 17 to December 13. They are holders Rangadih High School, Purulia, the Dr B. C. Roy champions Gayeshpur Netaji Vidya Mandir, Nadia and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) School, Salt Lake.

These three are among the 34 schools taking part in the under17 meet. There is no entry from Bengal in the sub-junior (under 14 years) Subroto Cup in which there are 24 participants.

The revamped Cup has managed to procure sponsorship worth Rs 25 lakh. Canara Bank, State Bank of India, Global Trust Bank and Pepsi are the sponsors.

Invitations have been extended to foreign teams as well. Elite Co-Ed school, Nepal (for the junior meet) and Gyanodaya Bal Batika HSS, Nepal (for the sub-juniors) have confirmed their entries.


Bardhaman, Nov. 10: 
Bengal girls went down fighting to Haryana 2-3 in the final of the 24th national sub-junior volleyball meet today.

In a see-saw battle, Bengal conceded the first set 19-25, but levelled the score winning the second 25-14.

In the men�s section, Uttar Pradesh recovered early setbacks to emerge champions, beating Chandigarh 18-25, 25-13, 25-18 and 25-14.


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