Sourav holds fire for the �big� series
England soften stance
Bagan cautious
Uberoi ends Saurav run in East India meet
Vaughan looks for redemption in one-dayers
2-wicket win for CPT
Mysore Racing/ Black Flower may score
Race Review/ Notorious camera, close finishes

Calcutta, Jan.15: 
It�s a measure, perhaps, of Sourav Ganguly�s determination to get his act right that he isn�t reacting to Andrew Caddick�s more-than-taunting remark made last evening.

Interacting with the Media, Caddick bitingly declared he wasn�t �at all� bothered about the Indian captain. Be it part of a psychological �assault� or whatever, the England quick also disagreed that Sourav and Sachin Tendulkar currently formed the hottest opening pair in ODIs.

Irrespective of Caddick�s views, though, the Indians hold two world records: Maximum century-plus partnerships (16) and the most runs by an opening pair (5,435).

Speaking to The Telegraph after a mid-afternoon workout, Sourav said: �Must I react? I would rather talk about the up-coming series...� Clearly, without actually saying so, he let it be understood the most appropriate response would be on the field.

The six-match series begins at the Eden on Saturday and, by Sourav�s own admission, is a �big� one. Well, for both India and the captain. It�s significant, of course, that India and England have been clubbed together (Pool A) in the 2003 World Cup.

�England have a strong team and it�s going to be hard� However, that the series is at home is an advantage for us. Equally, specially in one-day cricket, no opponent ought ever to be underestimated.�

Sourav added: �I personally think England had an even stronger outfit during our last game (1999 World Cup)� That XI, for instance, included Alec Stewart and Graeme Hick� Yet, we won handsomely (63 runs, at Edgbaston)��

[Incidentally, by contributing 40 and taking three for 27, Sourav was adjudged MoM.]

India, though, will be missing the highest scorer in that match � Rahul Dravid (53) � not just here, but throughout the series. Dravid is in Johannesburg, undergoing rehabilitation for a troublesome right shoulder.

�Rahul�s experience (163 ODIs) will be missed, that�s for sure. At the same time, it�s an opportunity for the less experienced players to leave a lasting impression. The World Cup is just over a year away and, now onwards, every single performance will count,� Sourav observed.

Sourav is himself aware he needs to score handsomely to deflect the heavy criticism � over the lack of runs, not style of captaincy � coming his way. While he did amass 380 (63-plus average) during the last set of ODIs, the tri-series in South Africa, the year 2001 saw him total only 813 (average of 36-plus).

Quite a fall by Sourav�s standards. Indeed, after emerging the highest run-getter in ODIs in 1997, 1999 and 2000, the captain didn�t even figure in last year�s top-10.

�To an extent, it�s disappointing� At the same time, irrespective of my performance in Tests, the (tri-series) runs in South Africa should give confidence� I�m not short on self-belief and I do realise the importance of leading from the front. If I may add, for batsmen, cricket is a one-ball game.�

Sourav continued: �To repeat what I�ve said more than once, one has to be strong in the mind��

With the Challenger having begun less than 20 days after the Test series versus England, Sourav didn�t exactly have a break. After such a demanding 2001 (three tours and two home series�), the captain could surely have done with a longer lay-off.

�To be honest, for part of the period (before the Challenger), I took a complete break� At times, it�s essential to take the mind away from cricket� But, yes, I did try a few things specific to fitness��

Asked whether he had already given more than a thought to the playing XI at the Eden, Sourav answered in the negative. �Let the coach (John Wright) arrive� Also, let everybody have a look at the wicket.� Discuss the dew-factor, too.

One learns, however, Sarandeep Singh is pushing Harbhajan Singh real hard. Also, Ajit Agarkar may pip Zaheer Khan for the second seamer�s spot.

Among batsmen, comeback men Dinesh Mongia and Hemang Badani should bat at No.3 and No.6, respectively.


Calcutta, Jan. 15: 
The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) gave permission to the England team to practise at Eden Gardens tomorrow after the visitors came up with a satisfactory explanation of their reported displeasure on practise facilities at CC&FC.

The CAB had sought an official clarification from the England team management on the issue. The letter, signed by CAB joint secretary Bablu Kolay, was delivered to the visiting team this evening.

In his reply, England�s operations manager Phil Neale said reports on their criticism of training wickets at CC&FC were �untrue�. Incidentally, coach Duncan Fletcher was livid about his views on the facilities at the CC&FC at a press conference.

According to sources, the CAB would have decided against granting the visitors permission to practise at the Eden tomorrow had the reply from them been unsatisfactory.

The team�s media manager Andrew Walpole did not wish to go into the details of their reply but maintained that they had �informed the BCCI top brass officially all along that they were not happy with CC&FC facilities.� �All that matters now is that we are practising at Eden tomorrow,� Walpole said.

The visitors, scheduled to return to CC&FC tomorrow, sought permission to train at Eden after having their first taste of the amphitheatre under lights today. They were very pleased with the conditions and the practice wickets and the outfield was also to their satisfaction.

�They knew about their practice facilities leading up to the first one-dayer well in advance. It�s no point talking about it now. The facilities at CC&FC cannot match Eden Gardens but it is untrue that the CAB was not allowing them to practise here on purpose,� CAB president Jagmohan Dalmiya said.

�We cannot risk any damage to the central pitch before the commencement of the opening game of the six-match one-day series. The organising committee met today and agreed that no leniency should be shown on matters relating to security,� he said.

�The committee is concerned about the way they are trying to undertake certain matters pertaining to security on their own.�

At the Eden, the English fast bowlers did not face any problem bowling at full pace and the batsmen could play their shots, which they had struggled with during nets at CC&FC. The players, though, were not allowed a look at the wicket. Only the captain, vice captain and the coach had a close look at the pitch.

Tickets for the public

Meanwhile, the CAB has decided to release 4000 tickets of Rs 400 and 500 for sale among the public through a lottery to be done by the state government. Details will be announced through advertisements in newspapers.


Calcutta, Jan. 15: 
Any other season, one could have visualised Mohun Bagan having Punjab Police for breakfast before reaching for a second helping. This National Football League season, however, has been rather topsy-turvy, and there is reason for caution, something Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya anyway possesses in plenty. Tomorrow, a naturally one-sided match could start off at a tentative pace.

Mohun Bagan came back to winning ways with their 2-0 win over JCT in the city recently, but they are still fourth on the league table (12 points from seven matches, but down through goal difference) and that�s not a very happy situation.

Not that Punjab Police have anything to be cheerful about from this. They have been able to collect only three points from their seven outings so far and are on the fringe. Their last loss to Tollygunge Agragami did not help either. Only JCT, with two points, are below the policemen.

There is little to mush over the Bagan side today. It looks pretty much set, even the defence seems to be working lately. Morning practice was loose, with even star striker Jose Ramirez Barreto going over to the East Bengal tent to meet compatriot Carlos. Not that it shows any lack of seriousness on coach Bhattacharya�s part, especially with Barreto going through a lean phase, but Bhattacharya again would not part with any degree of information.

Dulal Biswas� injury makes him a trifle doubtful for tomorrow, and the defence will then need a bit of pampering when one overlapping wingback goes out. It would also be necessary to keep a look out for opportunist forwards like Parveen Kumar in the Police ranks (who scored against Tollygunge Agragami).

The Police teeth was something Bhattacharya had �no comment� about, but he maintained that it �was necessary to stay on the winning track and not falter any more.�


Calcutta, Jan. 15: 
Bikram Uberoi ended Saurav Ghoshal�s winning run in the East India Open squash championship at Calcutta Racket club today.

The Maharashtra player beat the city boy 9-5, 9-2, 9-6 in the semi-final. Uberoi will meet Dhiraj Singh of Rajasthan in the final. Singh beat G. Rathore of Madhya Pradesh 9-4, 9-6, 10-9.

Ghoshal, however, reacehd the under-19 final with a 9-5, 9-6, 9-5 win over Delhi�s Imran Khan. His opponent now will be Amjad Khan of Delhi, who beat local challenger A. Rampuria 9-3, 9-2, 9-2.

State volleyball

Defending champions Calcutta Port Trust, Tollygunge Subhas Sangha, Naihati AC, Chhatra Samity, Milan Samity, West Bengal Police, Rajasthan Club and Eastern Railway will compete in the quarter finals of the 50th state senior volleyball championship in Naihati from January 17 to 20. The previous rounds have been completed here. The meet is a part of the Naihati club�s golden jubilee celebrations. The women�s meet, also from the quarters, will be held at the Barasat Academy later this month.

Dipika, Mukta in semis

Dipika Haldar and Mukta Bindu Basu entered the sub-junior girls� semi-finals of the Lalit Mitra Memorial Kohinoor Cup state ranking badminton championships at the Anusilan Samity.

In the quarter finals today Dipika beat Ruma Ghosh 3-7, 7-5, 7-1, 7-4 and Mukta got a walkover.


U-11 boys�/girls� round II: Arijit saha bt Oindrila Bose 7-0, 7-0, 7-0; Nilanjan Guha Roy bt Tamali bagchi 7-0, 7-2, 7-3.

Mini Boys� singles round II: Pusan Roy bt Prasenjit Ghosh 7-3, 7-5, 7-5; Avik Biswas bt Arijit Saha 7-3, 7-2, 7-3.

Men�s singles round I: Jayanta Ghosh bt Manas Bhattacharya 7-4, 7-2, 7-0; Sarbajit Bhowmick bt Somnath Ghosh 7-0, 7-2, 7-0.


Calcutta, Jan. 15: 
Michael Vaughan hit the headlines after he was given out handling the ball for 64 in the third Test in Bangalore last month. But he does not wish to look back and wants to forget it as a bad dream. �It was obviously very frustrating. I let the team down since we had a chance to get back into the series at that stage. I regret doing such a thing,� said Vaughan today.

Vaughan is determined to establish himself in the one-day side. �I don�t have a great record in the one-dayers. But now that I have got an opportunity, I want to improve that.�

Vaughan, who has an average of seven in six ODIs, said the one-dayers were a totally different ball game and orthodox players had to make certain alterations to be successful. �I have not played too many one-day matches in my career, but I want to try and redeem my good form from here,� he said.

It will be his third appearance at the Eden following two previous tours with the England junior side.

Asked if the dew factor could prove important in determining the course of the game he said it �was something new� to him and, thus, he could not comment.

Rohan to lead

Rohan Gavaskar will lead the CAB XI in the warm-up game against the visiting England side at CC&FC on Thursday.

The team does not include Deep Dasgupta. Apparently, Deep had wanted to play the match but was given a �break�. The England team had sought permission to try out all their batsmen during the course of the game and CAB has agreed to their request.

THE SQUAD: Rohan Gavaskar, Alokendu Lahiri, Subhradeep Ganguly, Devang Gandhi, Subhamoy Das, Sanjib Sanyal, Abhishek Ghosh, Murtaza Lodhgar, Aniruddha Roy, Shib Shankar Pal, Shabbir Ali, Soumen Singh, Amitava Chakraborty, Soujan Biswas.

Show of charity

England�s Professional Cricketers� Association (PCA) will support a welfare home for the poor in the city. The PCA will contribute � 240 each year to help finance 10 children of the SOS village. Nasser Hussain and five of his teammates visited the home in Salt Lake today.

Badani in city

Hemang Badani landed in the city today for Saturday�s one-day International against England. The rest of the squad and coach John Wright are expected tomorrow morning. Match Referee Denis Lindsay of South Africa also arrived here this evening.


Calcutta, Jan. 15: 
Calcutta Port Trust today beat Suburban by two wickets in their CAB senior knockout meet.

Suburban�s Saikat Sett hit 93 and Robi Pradhan made 59 to help the team reach 221 for four in 41 overs, but CPT, riding average contributions like Sanjib Pandey�s 43 and Uday Srivastava 39, rode to the victory target in 40 overs with two wickets in hand.

Brief scores: Suburban 221/4 in 41 ovs (Saikat Sett 93, Robi Pradhan 59). Calcutta Port Trust 222/8 in 40 ovs (Sanjib Pandey 43, Uday Srivastava 39; Santa Bhattacharya 3/49).


Mysore, Jan. 15: 
The G. Surender-trained Black Flower, with Lloyd Marshall in saddle, may win the January Plate at the Mysore races on Wednesday.


2.45 pm: Golden Days 1. Portalino 2. High Zoom 3.
3.15 pm: Grey Bull 1. Anjaam 2. Jersey Lightning 3.
3.45 pm: Tattoo 1. Savage Heart 2. Cassini 3.
4.15 pm: Surf Rider 1. Bolshvik 2. 2. Emmenbrucke 3.
4.45 pm: Bramha Bull 1. Chuck Berry 2. Fly To The Stars 3.
5.15 pm: Black Flower 1. Abyssinian Cat 2. Lady Scarlet 3.

Day�s Best: Grey Bull

Double: Tattoo & Black Flower

Calcutta, Jan. 15: 
The close contests that were witnessed on the January 1 and the Derby Day races continued into the following week. Some of the verdicts in last Saturday�s race �card were so breathtakingly close that even the grand stand experts found it hard to pit their judgement against the camera decisions.

For instance, the victories of Blushing Brave, Allaying and Raaz, in their respective events, offered very little room for the naked eye to separate winners from losers. In most cases, even jockeys involved in such photo ordeals looked nonplussed rather than jubilant.

It was Blushing Brave in the Little Bob Handicap who set the pattern for the afternoon�s exciting fare. With jockey Brij Shaw on Kyalami meaning business out in front, the Richard Alford-trainee looked to be kicking on until Kujur on the Deepak Karki winner closed on to the leader in the final 100m. Kyalami came on again but the Brave never allowed him beyond his �neck�. However, it was Lady Shirley who added the element of excitement as the top-weight covered some ground with amazing acceleration on the far-side of the track prompting many to predict that the notorious RCTC camera may have played its trick again.

But the Asfand-trainee failed, settling for the third slot, only a short-head behind. In photo-prints. Horses closer to the camera, normally find their images enlarged compared to those on the rails� side. For punters it is, however, an optical illusion and an age-old myth for those believing in advantages. The camera is totally synchronised with a reflective mirror, it does not favour anyone and it never lies.

Allaying was the next to win in a sizzling finish with short-heads separating her from from Peace Envoy and Soviet Port. The Excalibur�s Lake-Amalita mare could have have won far more easily had she not lost nearly six lengths at the start. Nevertheless, S. Shanker was quick to regain control as he hustled her up to settle in fourth behind leaders before shooting into the lead. However, the tiring Bharath Singh-ward in the final 100m allowed Peace Envoy and Soviet Port to come as close as that. Si Senora, the favourite,a troubled passage midway through the mile trip.

Revolution, another of Karki�s new acquisitions from the west, tried to cash in on his barrier trial form as he took over the running within a furlong and half of the 1,200m Pilot Handicap, Div-II. But it was in the last 100m of the race that the 5-4 favourite failed to come to terms with his tiring limbs thus allowing virtually the entire field to pile on to him. It was a five-way camera-finish that saw Naresh Engineer on Raaz bearing fruits for his well-calculated move from far back.

In the 1,400m Police Commissioner�s Cup, if Acceptor (C. Alford) was going a furlong short, it was the other way round for Soviet Ride (J. Abraham) known to relish the 1,200m sprint. Soviet Ride came alongside Acceptor nearing the distance-post, but the Daniel David-trainee failed to pass him thus making the outcome of the race was quite evident from then on as the 1,200m specialist was unlikely to have produced anything extra in the last furlong.


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