“The next round of engagements (ODIs versus England and the series against Zimbabwe) are at home and, so, we are looking at an April launch,” revealed BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya.
Speaking to The Telegraph this afternoon, Dalmiya added: “By then, contracts/graded payments will also be in place…”
That, of course, is significant: Once players are on contract — thereby assured of a retainership — there should be no grumbling over the rotation bit.
The policy will (as of now) be operational till the February-March 2003 World Cup. However, if it works, the possibility of an ‘extension’ remains.
Though an exception can always be made, the policy will cover 20-22 players only — obviously, all will be on contract.
Asked whether he would prefer a smaller or bigger pool, chief selector Chandu Borde remarked: “My opinion is that we should be guided by merit… The deserving should all be accommodated… Frankly, it’s the BCCI which must take a policy decision on the exact number.”
Talking exclusively from Pune, Borde added: “I suppose we will all be better placed after the (January 10-13) Challenger, in Bangalore…”
In the lead-up, the final word will probably be Dalmiya’s, who has (thankfully) realised the calender is just too heavy and disaster-inviting. With rotation, wear-and-tear induced injuries will clearly reduce. More important, the jaded-factor will be tackled.
While it hasn’t been spelt out as yet, the captain and coach should have the biggest say once the policy comes into effect.
Dalmiya, who announced the BCCI move just over a week ago, informed he would have a “dialogue” with the players after the ODIs versus England (last on February 3) and before the Zimbabwe series (first Test from February 21).
The dialogue will be specific to contracts/graded payments and, logically, Dalmiya must talk to the Top Five — captain Sourav Ganguly, vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Jawagal Srinath — who were first sounded out by the BCCI last May.
Incidentally, after that first meeting (initiated by Dalmiya’s predecessor, Dr A.C.Muthiah), the seniors had left it to Kumble, who was then out of the game, to “liaise” with the BCCI.
For his part, Dalmiya indicated he may invite one or two “junior” players as well, largely because some within the BCCI have spoken of the “disparity” between seniors and juniors in what has been proposed on the graded payments front.
Dalmiya could also seek the views of former players.
Unless there is a drastic re-think, Kumble’s presentation to the BCCI (on behalf of the players) will form the basis of graded payments.
Security, it may be recalled, forms the core of Kumble’s presentation — published in these columns on October 14. At the same time, a handsome purse awaits the top guns.
India A captaincy
Meanwhile, with India A captain Rahul Dravid pulling out of the Challenger (as also the ODIs against England), V.V.S.Laxman could be “withdrawn” from India Seniors and asked to lead India A. Otherwise, the captaincy may go to Ajit Agarkar — the seniormost among the A players.
A decision is expected within a couple of days.
As already announced, Sourav and Kumble will captain India Seniors and India B, respectively. Kumble, in fact, could be the unofficial vice-captain during the ODIs versus England.
Needing 353 for an outright victory, the hosts were struggling at 116 for five at close on the penultimate day.
The hosts are still 237 short of their target and it will take a lot of effort from their batsmen to prevent Bengal from registering their third outright victory in as many matches this season.
But for the three dropped catches, the Bihar innings could well have got over today itself. The lack of application and determination on part of the Bihar batsmen put the home team in a spot.
At stumps, Sunil Kumar and Manish Kumar were at the crease.
Earlier, resuming at their overnight 118 for four, Bengal reached 242 for five before Rohan Gavaskar declared the innings 43 minutes after lunch. Rohan (overnight 45) played steadily to reach his second Ranji hundred this season.
The Bengal captain along with Subhamoy Das (79 off 189 balls, 11x4) kept the scorecard moving mainly through drives and nudges.
Rohan, who made 166 in the last match against Tripura, reached his hundred with a push off Sujit. He remained unbeaten on 101 (239 balls, 14x4).
Starting their second innings after Bengal declared at 242, Bihar batsmen were all at sea against Laxmi Ratan Shukla. The pacer soon removed openers Sumeet Panda and Nikhilesh Ranjan, the former caught by a diving Subhamoy Das at short mid-wicket while Manish drove straight into the hands of Utpal Chatterjee at gully.
With two wickets down for 14, the onus to steady the boat lay on the shoulders of skipper Rajiv Kumar (30 off 44 balls, 5x4) and Tariq-ur Rehman.
Tariq-ur was lucky to be dropped twice by Utpal Chatterjee before he had opened his account.
The left-arm spinner dropped a sitter at gully off Ranadeb Bose and in the following over floored the offer at short mid-wicket, Shukla being the unlucky bowler this time.
As Tariq-ur gained in confidence, the two added 53 for the third wicket.
Tariq-ur (23), who hit three boundaries during his 88-minute stay at the wicket, edged Sourashish Lahiri to Nikhil Haldipur at slip.
Sourashish had Sunil Kumar in all sorts of trouble with his bounce and turn. Sunil was lucky to survive the day as he was dropped by Shukla at short mid wicket off Lahiri. Sunil was on 25 then.
Sourav Shukla came and went back soon.
Leander Paes has lost in straight sets before, but rarely has his performance been as embarrassing as the one this evening. Russian Andrei Stoliarov didn’t do anything special and still found himself on the right side of a 6-3, 6-1 scoreline. The Tata Open first-round duel was over in 45 minutes flat!
That made it two out of two on the one-sided matches’ count at the Centre Court on New Year’s Eve. Earlier, sixth seed Dominik Hrbaty had packed off unpretentious German Axel Pretzsch 6-1, 6-4 in 50 minutes.
The monotony was broken on Court 2 where Alex Calatrava, a precocious Spaniard, squeezed out a 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4 win over Czech Ota Fukarek.
Late tonight, second seed Thomas Johansson dodged gritty Swiss Ivo Heuberger to earn a 6-4, 6-4 verdict. The tall Heuberger, better known in tennis circles for his one-time affair with Swiss Miss Martina Hingis, did well to stretch the Swede to tight sets.
Lucky loser Juan Antonio Marin, who replaced ‘no-show’ wild card Olivier Marach, managed only five games against No. 4 Andrei Pavel.
To say Paes was erratic would be making an understatement. He was sloppy with his approach shots, the chip-and-charge never worked, the volleys and overheads missed the target too regularly. Only the serves had some fizz, but five aces and a decent first-serve percentage were poor compensation for the other missing links.
Four break-points out of five converted by Stoliarov, none earned by Paes — that statistic tells its own story.
A real pity that, considering actress-girlfriend Mahima Chowdhury was present to watch Leander in action at the venue for the first time .
Minutes after his quickfire exit, a terribly downcast Paes explained his sub-par tennis to the lack of singles match practice. “I played nine singles all of last season and that showed today. I just had no rhythm. There was no potency in my shots.”
If an energetic opening service game from the Indian raised big hopes, they were quickly dispelled. Two aces and a forehand winner gave Paes a love game to start with. Stoliarov, runner-up in the 2001 edition, held easily for 1-1 before watching the Indian embark on the path of self-destruction.
Paes opened the third game with a miscued high volley, followed it up with a forehand error and added a double-fault to slip to 0-40. Stoliarov pounced on the first break point, passing Paes who had charged the net impulsively on second serve.
A few more aces and some more solid serving kept Paes alive, but just about. Came the ninth game, and Stoliarov upped the tempo for the first time in the match. A forehand service return winner left Paes stranded, a great lob from a defensive position made it 0-30. And, on first set-point at 15-40, Stoliarov sprinted around the back of the court to pull off a breathtaking forehand pass.
The second set was on an even keel for just three games. Two more basic mistakes by the Indian handed Stoliarov his first service break in game 4. At 1-4, with Paes sinking faster than the Titanic, the Russian added salt to injury by cracking a pair of double-handed backhand winners.
Serving for the match in next to no time, Stoliarov sealed it up with his sixth ace. Having been stretched to the hilt by Mahesh Bhupathi in the first round here last year, Stoliarov couldn’t have dreamt of an easier passage to the round of 16.
A ruthless exhibition of precision power-hitting had earlier seen Hrbaty sail past Pretzsch on the Centre Court opener. Nicknamed the ‘Dominator’, Hrbaty did dominate from the word go. Despite a stiff southerly breeze blowing across the stadium, the 23-year-old Slovak sprayed the court with a series of dazzling winners.
His control over the two-fisted backhand was just amazing. Anything remotely short was dispatched effortlessly to the crosscourt side. For variation, there were a couple of wristy down-the-line passes as well.
RESULTS (First round)
SINGLES: Dominik Hrbaty (Svk, 6) bt Axel Pretzsch (Ger) 6-1, 6-4; Alex Calatrava (Spa) bt Ota Fukarek (Cze) 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-4; Andrei Stoliarov (Rus) bt Leander Paes (Ind) 6-3, 6-1; Oliver Rochus (Bel) bt Martin Lee (GBR) 6-4, 6-3; Thomas Johansson (Swe, 2) bt Ivo Heuberger (Swi) 6-4, 6-4; Andrei Pavel (Rom) bt Juan Antonio Marin (Costa Rica) 6-3, 6-2.
Twelve months down the line, Canas is in the big league and enjoying every moment of fame and glory. He had quite a fulfilling year, so much so that he is beginning the 2002 season as No. 1 seed here at the Tata Open.
“This is quite a change… last year on New Year’s Eve, I was very downcast after losing in the qualifying rounds at the Adelaide meet,” the boyish-looking Canas said during a tête-à-tête with newsmen this afternoon.
“Must say I’m feeling a bit nervous, but I’m also confident about my game.”
Down and out for six months in 2000 with a serious ankle injury, a frustrated Canas had started thinking of quitting the sport. “Thankfully, I recovered and did well in 2001,” said the Buenos Aires resident.
In his breakthrough year, which saw him jumping from world No. 130 to 14, Canas won his maiden crown in Casablanca — that, too, as a qualifier.
He didn’t win any more title, but qualified for three more finals, besides making the pre-quarter finals at both French Open and Wimbledon.
The most remarkable feature of Canas’ dream run was his success on all three surfaces — clay, grass and hardcourts. “The new generation of players from our country all play well on clay and hardcourts, I was the only one who did well on grass too. I just hope I can keep it up.”
Canas has a modest ambition in life: to play his best tennis and enjoy himself. “Of course, everyone wants to be the No. 1 in his sport, but I realise only one person can reach the top,” he said, clearly revealing that he doesn’t have dreams unlimited.
The best among seven Argentines to have finished 2001 in the top 10, Canas also revealed that the national federation has got nothing to do with the recent upsurge in tennis standards. “They haven’t done anything to help us, we have done it all ourselves.” Very similar to the story of the Leanders and the Bhupathis.
A Guillermo Vilas admirer, Canas believes the former French and US Open champion has done wonders for Argentine tennis. “He gave the sport an identity in our country. We all grew up reading of his exploits and dreaming of emulating him one day,” Canas remarked. “I hope I’ll be as famous as him one day.”
His real sporting hero, however, is Diego Maradona. “Maradona is not just the finest footballer of all time, he’s the greatest sportsperson that ever lived,” Canas announced, like a true patriot.
Aware of the acute political crisis back home, Canas is worried about the well-being of his family and friends. “But I have to take it out of my mind and concentrate on tennis as this is my job.”
What about goals for 2002? “There are two. First, to break into the top 10 and secondly, to do well for Argentina in Davis Cup,” Canas revealed.
With Argentina hosting Australia on a slow claycourt in Buenos Aires next month, Canas & Co. have a more than even chance of advancing to the quarter finals of World Group competition.
If Canas’ tennis is as smooth as his English, there is no reason why he can’t realise both his goals for the new year.
In the girls under-16 category, eighth seed Shivika Burman beat Sharmistha Chaudhuri 6-1, 6-2, while Treta Bhattacharya overcame Sumedha Dasgupta 6-0, 6-3.
Ambar Roy meet
Simla Byayam Samity beat East Calcutta District Sport Centre (ECDSC) by six wickets in an Ambar Roy sub-junior cricket tie today. Batting first, ECDSC scored 86 with the loss of eight wickets. In reply, Simla Byayam Samity reached the target in the 20th over with six wickets to spare.
Bimalendu Smriti CCC 160/3 (Subhajit Samaddar 67, Indrajit Sarkar 33). Sursoonah Sporting Union 76 (Pradip Kirtania 4/7, Avijit Sarkar 3/7). Bimalendu Smriti won by 84 runs.
n Pankaj Gupta CCC 160/5. Putu Chowdhury CCC 160. Match tied.
ECDSC 86/8 (S. Nandy 4/25). Simla Byayam Samity 90/4. Simla Byayam Samity won by 6 wkts.
The competition is even in four-horse line-up for the Evererady Alakline Sprinters’ Trophy, the chief event. It is going to be sportingly tough as there is little to choose between the Deepak Khaitan duo of Alcalde and Ancheta — both from Vijay Singh’s yard. Each of the two is a top sprinter in the making. However, the terms of the race favours Alcalde, a Rebounding Thrill-Nimble colt. The Vijay Singh-trainee is a winner Class I race against Ancheta’s win in a lower set. Jockey Cristopher Alford partners the colt.
Read as: Horse number, last four runs, horse name, trainer, jockey, weight & draw:
1st Race at 11.35 pm
2nd Race at 12.05 pm
3rd Race at 12.35 pm
4th Race at 1.05 pm
5th Race at 1.45 pm
6th Race at 2.20 pm
7th Race at 2.50 pm
8th Race at 3.25 pm
9th Race at 4.00 pm