India settle for dull draw
Hussain to blame, says Ganguly
ICC team within a week
Big 2 in battle of attrition
George, BNR relegated
Tripura stay in hunt vs Bengal
Formidables, Indian Blues in summit clash
Mumbai Racing/ Snow Dew stands tall
Bangalore Racing/ Extreme Contact wins main event
Calcutta Racing/ Access All Areas shines

Ahmedabad, Dec. 15: 
Sourav Ganguly is regarded as one of the most attacking of Indian captains ever. Nasser Hussain�s astute leadership has earned accolades back home and he is deemed to be in the same class as Mike Brearley.

If the above statements are meant to be mere hypotheses after today�s show at the Motera, so be it. The two rival captains denied the crowd an enthralling finish to the second Test. Not without reason, Andy Flintoff and Mark Ramprakash engaged in shadow boxing while some others decided to try their hand at a mock soccer session on the ground after tea.

In the end, the defensive approach of the Indians dented all hopes of an exciting final day. The draw was not in keeping with the attributes of the game. It does take a lot of courage to show the determination and ruthlessness of a Steve Waugh.

It is true that the conditions did not favour stroke-making. The ball was not coming onto the bat on this slow and low wicket. India could not afford to take extra risks, lose wickets and surrender the 1-0 lead in the series. But it hardly implies that the batsmen should relinquish the positive attitude in their approach.

Just consider the following: Needing 357 more to reach the target of 374, the Indians scored 30 in the first hour, 45 in the next while the second session produced just 48. Ninety overs through the day yielded 181 runs.

It�s been a common refrain among administrators the world over that the game should be made more innovative to woo spectators in Tests. But nothing will be of significance if the players fail to cooperate.

To be fair to Hussain, he did not have the ammunition to break the heart of the Indian batting. His spinners bowled unimaginatively and the pacers lacked consistency. The England captain, too, cannot escape blame as he never showed the inclination to make things happen.

He failed to time the declaration more sportingly yesterday as he waited for their innings to end. India then might have been forced to accept the challenge rather than deciding to lose time and overs.

Sourav�s claim that �defensive fields� set by Hussain prevented the chase holds little water. Throughout the day, the Indians were content with playing out the overs, never caring for the run rate. There was no attempt to push the ball into the gaps as the batsmen relied more on the occasional boundary. There was nothing intimidating in the visitors� bowling to take such a course of action.

Shiv Sundar Das (58 off 159 balls, 7x4) and Deep Dasgupta (60 off 190 balls, 5x4) were solid in their defence. Das took the opportunity to garner some batting practice ahead of the third Test. Deep found a chance to impress the selectors after his pathetic show behind the wickets. The 119-run opening stand did place them in good stead.

The arrival of Rahul Dravid after Das� dismissal was another setback for the spectators who constantly booed the Indians. As Dravid dropped anchor at one end and even forgot the singles, the show became even more wretched.

The Indians, of late, have never shown to be good at chasing targets. But in home conditions, the advantage was that they could have reassessed their strategy at every hour � a few quick wickets and the brakes are on.

Promoting Sourav, Sachin Tendulkar or V.V.S Laxman would have provided some entertainment to the Saturday crowd. Dravid in such a case could have come in at No. 6/7. It would have given the opportunity to attack and defend, if the going got tough.

Sachin was the sole batsman who provided some enjoyment during his 81-ball stay at the wicket. But he too seemed a bit rigid. Perhaps the situation was not enough to motivate him.

The Englishmen did resort to some last-minute tactics by taking the second new ball. It was, however, enough for Man of the Match Craig White � many felt the award should have gone to Anil Kumble for his ten wickets in the match � to strike a blow on Sourav�s hand when the Indian captain tried to defend a rising delivery.

The Match Referee�s involvement was not needed in a mundane affair on the final day. The �fatherly chat� to the captains last evening had done wonders.


Ahmedabad, Dec. 15: 
Sourav Ganguly today squarely blamed Nasser Hussain for India�s extra-cautious batting on the final day at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium today. Chasing 374, India finished at 198 for three to draw the second Test here today. �The wicket was obviously very slow. But if you watched Nasser, the moment runs were scored he set defensive fields. As a result the run-rate came down,� the Indian captain said. �Getting 250 in two sessions was difficult with a defensive field set.�

Hussain was also forthcoming. �The tactics had nothing to do with our fear of losing the series. It was mainly due to the wicket and inexperienced bowling. We were also having some fitness problems, some players are down with stomach bugs,� the England captain said. He considered the timing of his declaration as �fair on a flat wicket�.

Sourav, however, defended Nasser�s tactics. �I don�t blame Nasser. We were in an almost similar situation against Australia at the Eden. The only difference was we got them out in the final session to win the game. I believe Nasser gave the bowlers fair amount of time,� he said.

The topic, quite naturally, shifted to India�s poor fielding, which led to England piling up 407 in the first innings. Deep Dasgupta�s role behind the stumps also came under the scanner. �Fielding is an area we are working on. We�ve got a young wicketkeeper with a good temperament who will serve us in the long run. He�s spilled some chances but can keep a lot better,� remarked coach John Wright.

Sourav, too, was sympathetic towards Deep. �It�s been tough for the young boy. He has had a poor game but he�s also scored 60 runs. Give him some time and don�t jump to conclusions,� the captain said.

The Indian skipper hoped for a result-oriented pitch in Bangalore. �I don�t want a wicket as flat as the one here. The main thing is it should produce a result � grass or whatever.�

Hussain was elated at his team�s improved showing in the second Test. �I wasn�t too annoyed after Mohali. We�ve an inexperienced side. They have to work hard and try and adapt to the conditions. Let�s not get high about Dawson or low about someone else. ,� he said

The England captain felt �self-belief, having a plan and putting it to practice� was the basis of this recovery. �We still have to work our way at getting 20 wickets,� he cautioned. �But I think we can do it�.


Calcutta, Dec.15: 
Two �neutral� former cricketers and a legal expert are expected to be named on the International Cricket Council (ICC)-instituted Referees� Commission, which (among other things) will review Englishman Mike Denness� disciplinary action in Port Elizabeth.

According to The Telegraph�s sources in the ICC, an announcement will be made �within a week,� more than a fortnight after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the ICC reached agreement over Virender Sehwag.

Going by the agreement, the BCCI is to be �consulted� before the Commission is instituted. Till this afternoon, though, that had not been done.

�The names should come in a few days,� remarked BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, not worried over a possible �breach� of agreement by the ICC.

Predictably, the Commission won�t have a representative either from India (the aggrieved party) or England. And, now that the ICC has an in-house lawyer (Urvasi Naidoo), it won�t surprise if she finds a seat.

Apparently, the BCCI hasn�t been forcing the issue as Dalmiya wished to first meet all six disciplined players � captain Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Sundar Das, Deep Dasgupta and Sehwag � to get their �version� of what happened (on and off the field) during that controversial Test.

As the on-going Test series against England began just over 72 hours after the team�s return from South Africa, Dalmiya didn�t get the opportunity to straightaway interact with the players. One understands he will now meet them in Bangalore, after the series ends (December 23).

That may actually coincide with the start of the Commission�s work.

Directly interacting with the players, instead of merely relying on manager Dr M.K. Bhargava�s report, will �help� ensure the BCCI�s own presentation � which could, incidentally, be vetted by a legal expert � before the Commission is �solid.�

Meanwhile, while everybody has been talking of the Denness affair featuring in a big way at the ICC�s Executive Board meeting in March, the fall-out should first be discussed at the Cricket Committee (Management) session in Christchurch, a month before that Colombo meet.

The trend within the ICC, then, will be known sooner than widely expected.


Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
It�s that time of the year when the sound of willow smacking leather replaces the chorus of fans heading for the football grounds in the Maidan. It�s also the time of the season when the topic of discussion among Maidan folks shifts from football to cricket. But with the inception of the National League, soccer here has also become an all-weather activity, just as its more glamorous rival has.

And so be the sixth edition of the meet still without a sponsor, another scene of Indian football�s most famous traditional rivalry is going to be enacted at the Salt Lake Stadium tomorrow. Response is lukewarm but those directly involved with an East Bengal-Mohun Bagan clash can never let that dictate terms and they are not doing so.

Having played and won just one match each in the 12-team, double-leg marathon, the rival camps know the result of this Derby will not have a monumental effect on the outcome of the League.

What they do know, however, is that the losers in tomorrow�s battle will have to lift their morale by several notches to recover fast and get their focus back on track. Not an easy task, the rival coaches know, and that�s why they want to play safe. At least, as of tomorrow.

Having won one apiece and drawn the other of their three encounters this season, Mohun Bagan find themselves superior in terms of the silverware collected this season. And that�s why their coach feels their eternal rivals will be high on motivation. �Psychologically, East Bengal are better placed, because they have extra motivation,� said Subrata Bhattacharya, adding that the players at his disposal are not so high on experience.

His East Bengal counterpart Manoranjan Bhattacharya was also cautious, informing that he won�t deviate from the ploy of using two defensive mid-fielders in the starting line-up. �There is always this emotional element involving a match between these two, one can�t get overtly aggressive so easily, unless driven by desperation,� he said.

Manoranjan hinted things would be no different tomorrow, considering there is nothing to be �desperate� so early in the competition.

Subrata almost echoed his feelings. �We won�t go all out. At the same time, we can�t take the field in an overtly defensive frame of mind because it may backfire.� Both felt it is going to be a battle of attrition, where tactics and quickly adapting to the trend of the day are going to be important.

Well, it means there would be sufficient emphasis on the drawing boards, if that�s at all an important part of football in India, but when it comes to things between the two goalposts, at least one ingredient promises to be more interesting.

One, there is this Brazilian in the Mohun Bagan ranks called Jose Ramirez Barreto � the man who is going to be remembered in these parts for bringing samba to India at a time when it was threatening to swing out of tune in the land of its origin. Two, there is this wizard from Kerala called I.M. Vijayan � who looks increasingly keen to prove he is not a spent force. Those braving the trip to Salt Lake may just be in for an intriguing duel between these two.

As far as other resources are concerned, more earthly when compared to the two just talked about, the teams seem to be evenly matched.

If Mohun Bagan have chinks in their defence, they have a crafty midfield and agile strike force to make up for it. And if East Bengal look solid in defence, they seem to be struggling in finding the right path to the rival goal � something that troubled them in their maiden victorious campaign last year � and yet to be sorted out completely even this season.

These are the pros and cons concerning the two title aspirants who have won the League thrice between themselves in five years.


Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
The Super Division League at last came to an end today with George Telegraph and BNR being relegated to first division group A.

SAIL beat George Telegraph 1-0 with Kuntal Mukherjee striking in the 27th minute, while FCI pipped BNR 5-4 in tie-breaker after a 0-0 draw in today�s second-leg relegation play-off matches.

Eastern Railway and Ever-Ready will replace those relegated in the Super Division next season.

Bagan-Tolly tussle

With the National Football League off the blocks most teams are trying to strengthen their roster with foreign recruits. Though there is nothing unusual about that, what is unprecedented is that both Mohun Bagan and Tollygunge Agragami are claiming that one Abdul Saliu from Nigeria has committed to play for them.

According to IFA officials, the defender, who played for Tollygunge without distinction last season, has signed the necessary documents with both teams this year.

This, a top IFA official said, could land the player in a similar kind of predicament, which had led to the suspension of East Bengal�s Omolaja Olalekan two seasons back.

The matter has been referred to the All India Football Federation and a decision is awaited.


Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
The Vijay Merchant Trophy (under-16) tie between Bengal and Tripura being played in Agartala is evenly poised, according to information received here.

At the end of Day 2, Tripura reached 126 for five in their second innings after bowling Bengal out for 161. Tripura managed just 96 in the first innings, which means they are ahead by 61 with five wickets intact.

CAB league

Netaji Subhas Institute (NSI) made 405 for five against Rajasthan in a CAB first division league match today. Mayanka Chakraborty and Biswanath Bose smashed centuries.


NSI 405/5 (M. Chakraborty 188 n.o., B. Bose 137, S. Dey 3/77) vs Rajasthan.

Aryan 361/6 (Goutam Shome 78, Hansmukh Patel 77, Suman Chakraborty 51 n.o.; Suman Chatterjee 3/60) vs Town Club.

Kumartuli 324 (Stabak Bhowmik 106, Biswajit Singh 92, Anirban Chatterjee 4/78) vs Shyambazar.

University soccer

Calicut whipped BRA (Bihar) 11-0 in the university football meet at SAI Eastern Centre.

OTHER RESULTS: Delhi bt LNIPE (Gwalior) 1-0; Rabindra Bharati bt Patiala 4-1; Madras bt Jabalpur 2-1; Kerala bt Goa 4-0; Burdwan bt M.D. Rohtak 1-0.


Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Indian Blues and Formidables qualified for final of the Ruia Gold Cup team event of the winter national bridge championships.

In the four-segment semis today, Indian Blues (represented by Ashok Ruia, J.M. Shah, Vivek Dhand, Prakash Paranjape, K.V. Krishnamurthy and Debashish Roy) survived a strong challenge from C.V. Rao �A� team (represented by Badal Das, Shibnath De Sarkar, Sumit Mukherjee, C.V. Rao, Krishna Kumar and Kiribukaru Moorthy) before winning 43-26 IMPs. C.V. Rao�s team was, in fact, leading by four IMPs after third segment.

Indian Railways �B� were no match for Formidables who won by 43 IMPs.

Formidables (represented by Kiran Nadar, Subhas Gupta, Sumit Choksi, KR Venkatraman and B. Satyanarain) were never in trouble, clinching the final berth in the third segment itself by opening up a lead of 34 IMPs.

Meanwhile, the tournament is shifting back to Netaji Indoor Stadium. The meet will run till Wednesday to decide the winners of Holkar Trophy Open pairs and Board A match.


Mumbai, Dec. 15: 
The multi-classic winner Snow Dew stands tall in the field of 13 vying for the 1,600m Kingfisher 1000 Guineas, the first classic of the season, on Sunday. The Ganapathy-trained ward is expected to go as a firm favourite for the whopping stakes of Rs 15 Lakh, thanks to the sponsors, the UB Group. B. Prakash partners the Razeen-Snow daughter.

With Snow Dew virtually cut above the rest, the Guineas� contest may turn out to be a fight for the minor slots for which Queenscliff, Iceberg, Rage and Pleasure Hunt are the main contenders.


1 pm: Star Status 1. Tasmac 2. Comment Allez Vous 3.

1.30 pm: Knighted 1.

2 pm: Snow Fields 1. Sun Line 2. Shamaal 3.

2.30 pm: Nautilus 1. Chiliandrina 2. Resist 3.

3 pm: Zeta Jones 1. Divine Protocol 2. Bud Royale 3.

3.30 pm: Sharpman 1. Star of Peace 2. Bongoni 3.

4 pm: Snow Dew 1. Queenscliff 2. Rage 3.

4.30 pm: Speculative 1. Stellar Angel 2. Crown Affair 3.

5 pm: Vivienne 1. Wordsworth 2. Romantic Indian 3.

Day�s Best: Snow Dew

Double: Nautilus & Speculative


Bangalore, Dec. 15: 
The Rahid Byramji-trained three-year-old Extreme Contact claimed the Rohini Cup, the main event at the Bangalore races on Saturday. Harish partnered the Conquering Hero-Our Marie daughter to victory.


(With inter-state dividends)

1.Topmost Cup 1,200m: (4-2-1) Noble Nancy (Prakash) 1; Ching Mai 2; Ithica 3. Won by: 1; Dist; (1-14.8). Tote: Win Rs 13; Place: 10; 15; Quinella: 12; Tanala: 15. Fav: Noble Nancy (4).

2. Kanchanaganga Plate 1,100m: (8-1-10) Cool Camp (Shafiq) 1; Juarra 2; Hello Handsome 3. Won by: 5-3/4; 2; (1-10.2). Tote: Win Rs 29; Place: 14; 17; 47; Quinella: 63; Tanala: 1,347. Fav: Cool Camp (8).

3. J. Tyrrell Memorial Plate 1,400m: (7-4-2) Furia Rossa (Ramesh) 1; Saturn Star 2; Renzino 3. Won by: 3/4; 1-1/2; (1-28). Tote: Win Rs 41; Place: 16; 13; 26; Quinella: 46; Tanala: 578. Fav: Saturn Star (4).

4. P. Anthony Memorial Plate 1,600m: (7-5-2) Astrid (Harish) 1; Caressing 2; Forest Rose 3. Won by: SH; 3-1/4; (1-40.7). Tote: Win Rs 26; Place: 14; 14; 42; Quinella: 39; Tanala: 623. Fav: Astrid (7).

5. Rohini Cup 1,200m: (9-8-3) Extreme Contact (Harish) 1; Go Honey Go 2; Magic Stride 3. Won by: 3-3/4; SH; (1-14). Tote: Win Rs 92; Place: 23; 17; 16; Quinella: 197; Tanala: 1,039. Fav: Magic Stride (3).

6. Sivaganga Plate 1,400m: (4-3-10) Chanel (Abhay) 1; Crown Dancer 2; Nimitz 3. Won by: 2-1/4; 2-3/4; (1-28.9). Tote: Win Rs 380; Place: 65; 12; 36; Quinella: 344; Tanala: 19,541. Fav: Crown Dancer (3).

7. Premium Spirit Plate 1,200m: (7-5-4) Rock Party (S. Narredu) 1; Good Win 2; Narvar 3. Won by: 4; 1-3/4; (1-16). Tote: Win Rs 21; Place: 12; 30; 39; Quinella: 127; Tanala: 1,034. Fav: Rock Party (7).

Jackpot: Rs 2,01,780 (Carried over).

Treble: (i) Rs 513; (ii) Rs 22,862.


Calcutta, Dec. 15: 
Access All Areas and Network worked well today morning:

Outer sand track

1,400m: Access All Areas (C. Alford) in 1-38s; (400m) 31s. Good.

1,200m: Network (C. Alford) and Inside Story (Amil) in 1-30s; (400m) 32s. Former was a head better. Both moved well.

800m: Abandoned (V. Jaiswal) in 57s; (400m) 30s. Jaypore (Shanker) in 58s; (400m) 29s.

Sand track

1,400m: Added Asset (Rabani) in 1-40s; (400m) 33s. Among Men (Gowli) in 1-40s; (400m) 28s.

1,200m: Ballet Master (Connorton) in 1-22s; (400m) 28s. Moved well.

1,000m: Emerald Eyes (P. Alford) and Delicate Doll (Tamang) in 1-12s; (400m) 27s. They were level. Kyalami (Rutherford) in 1-15s; (400m) 31s.

800m: Mystic Hill (Yasin) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Calculus (Rb) in 53s; (400m) 25s. Moved well. Wandering Warrior (Rb) in 57; (400m) 29s.


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