Sourav�s support made a big difference: Sehwag
Thorpe looks forward to life and cricket
Badani confident after sorting out flaws
Barreto does it again
Six in lead after third round of state chess
England, CAB take pot shots before �truce�
Rajput, Verma lead charge
Mumbai Racing/ Big Blaze may come good
Mysore Racing/ King�s Common strikes
Track trials

Calcutta, Jan.16: 
The seedha-sadha Virender Sehwag took to cricket with modest ambitions, happy with a step-by-step climb instead of a risk-inviting jump.

Today, the 23-year-old Delhiite is among the most talked about cricketers of recent times. The attention, of course, has been both positive and negative.

Six weeks ago, for instance, Sehwag�s presence in the Indian XIV at Mohali threatened to scupper the India-England Test series. It was avoided, but just about.

Even now, the Sehwag-Mike Denness issue could see the ICC split.

Actually, Sehwag was hardly noticed on his last visit to the city, a shade over two years ago, for the Duleep and Deodhar engagements. Now, in Calcutta for the first of six ODIs, he is a traffic-stopper.

If that hundred on debut in the Bloemfontein Test (with most of the runs scored in idol Sachin Tendulkar�s company) ensured Sehwag would no longer be looked upon as a one-day specialist, Denness and Port Elizabeth pushed him to centrestage of a different kind.

The arc lights, in the situation Sehwag found himself, do hurt but he altered stance without any attempt to be seen as a martyr.

�Was I devastated by that one-Test ban imposed by the Match Referee (Denness)? No� Firstly, maine koi galat kaam nahin kiya tha� Then, the moral support from the team was extraordinary,� Sehwag told The Telegraph.

He spoke emotionally about the wholehearted backing, specially from captain Sourav Ganguly. �It made a big difference� That a junior player like me got so much support, even from our Board, left me overwhelmed��

One, in fact, recalls a stunned Sehwag heading for the captain�s room (506) at the Holiday Inn within minutes of word getting around that six Indians (including the allrounder himself) had been punished.

Reflecting on the dramatic fortnight when he wasn�t fielded in either Centurion or Mohali, Sehwag said: �I quickly realised it�s important to stay focussed� I kept working at nets; didn�t neglect my physical training either��

While Sehwag�s maiden India appearance was during the pre-1999 World Cup tri-series at home, he only got noticed in last year�s Bangalore ODI against Australia.

Sehwag did bag the MoM, but also broke his right thumb and missed the remainder of that series. The next comeback, then, was in Zimbabwe, though Sehwag�s return to the headlines was during the tri-series in Sri Lanka.

Specifically, Sehwag blasted New Zealand for exactly 100 � the eighth-fastest ODI hundred. Then, tidy knocks in the tri-series in South Africa saw him being rewarded with a place in the Test squad.

The rest, as they say, is history. From Bloemfontein to Port Elizabeth to�

�Well, yes, the year just-ended has certainly shaped my career� What did I learn? Largely that while the game isn�t short of players, the real performers aren�t many� Khiladi hain kafi, performers kum� I also learnt the past is history and it�s a fresh start in every match��

Having begun as a one-day specialist, was it tough adjusting to Test cricket?

�More than anything else, aap ko maloom rehna chahiye ki off-stump kahan hai. In the one-dayers, we don�t think twice about going for a ball outside off. This can�t be the approach in Tests� Personally, I�m positive in both forms.�

Incidentally, whenever back in Delhi, Sehwag returns to his school (Government Senior Secondary, Vikaspuri) for workouts. �Even now, I have sessions with my first coach in school, A.N. Sharma��

Yet another pointer, clearly, to his seedha-sadha make-up.

However, the God-fearing Sehwag is the superstitious sort and, so, don�t be surprised if the red handkerchief (which first surfaced in Colombo) is seen at the Eden too.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Graham Thorpe is trying to leave behind his personal disappointments and looking forward to getting on with life and cricket.

�It�s time to put things behind and get on with my job. I want to do what I do best,� the left-handed batsman said at the Eden this afternoon.

Thorpe says he has been through trouble before and is confident of settling down this time too. �I�ve been through something like this before. It�s obviously been an unsettling period in my life but one has to get over it. Although difficult things may happen in life, one has to basically move on and find something positive. Hopefully I�ll find that in cricket.�

England�s middle-order mainstay said he did not play any cricket after pulling out on the eve of the second Test to return home. �I�m getting my body back to playing cricket� not quite a rehab. I�m enjoying the game again.�

Thrope is trying to �focus� himself after getting separated from his wife. �There�s nothing much you can do about it. You can have as much support from the outside world as you like but at the end of the day, it still comes down to how you deal and get over it.

�I�ve been on at least two tours where my mind was not completely focussed on what had been going on in the cricket field. There was very little that could have been achieved at home. Coming back here, pretty much everything was sorted out in my mind,� he explained.

�It�s a case of my drowning myself into cricket now,� he emphasised.

Thorpe has a good record in the sub-continent. �I always enjoyed playing cricket in the sub-continent. Prior to the 1996 World Cup I hadn�t played much here but then went to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. I am looking forward to a good showing in the one-day series. Time will only tell how I am going to come through this time. All I can say is that I am working hard on my game and play as well as I can.�

Thorpe feels the series will be highly competitive. �India are a good side and it will be a hard series for England. This series will test how far England cam go in the one-dayers.�

He has no regrets for not being considered for captaincy after Nasser Hussain. �There are a lot of young guys, Marcus (Trescothick) for instance. Appointing me would have been a step backwards.�

Thorpe thinks that with the management taking a tough stand, it is becoming difficult for the players to take a break from the game. �It depends on each individual. Nowadays the management wants to know the reason for taking a break. I don�t think players can now pick and choose according to their wish.�

Having played Muttiah Muralidharan, Saqlain Mushtaq and Harbhajan Singh in their own backyard, he does not wish to compare them. �I have played against all the spinners on different surfaces. They�re all very good, I would rank them all in the same bracket.�

Collingwood indisposed

Paul Collingwood is down with a stomach bug and had to skip practice today.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Hemang Badani, on a comeback mission, after missing the tour of South Africa is determined to cement his place in the Indian team during the forthcoming one-day series versus England.

�It�s good to be back. It was tough sitting home and watching them play in South Africa. I am hoping to do well,� he said after nets at Eden Gardens this evening.

The Indians trained under lights for more than three hours after arriving in the city in batches this morning. Only Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh came in the afternoon following a delayed flight from New Delhi.

Incidentally, Badani did not make the South Africa trip after a terrible tour of Sri Lanka. A back injury also sidelined him for a few weeks.

Once fit Badani, however, did not waste time in working on his shortcomings.

�I have always believed that cricket is all about the mind. I watched videos of my batting in Sri Lanka and the ones before going there. A few flaws did crop up and it was basically going back to the nets and setting right,� the lefthander said.

The flaws, he felt, were nothing major but needed attention. �I was trying too many shots too early in my innings. There was also this tendency to play across the line.

�Once you don�t get runs you�re not your usual self. It�s a desperate sort of situation which you try to overcome by any means,� he explained.

�I had a poor series in Lanka but have a good overall record. I hope to set things right.� He rates the hundred against Australia at Pune as his best.

Badani feels Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick will prove to be the toughest of the English bowlers. �They have a decent one-day side and this should be an interesting series.�

The absence of Rahul Dravid is sure to add pressure on Badani but he remains unfazed.

�I don�t see it as anything of that sort. I believe in playing according to the situation. I am used to coping with such pressures,� he said confidently.

The confidence was also echoed by Sarandeep Singh. The off spinner made the squad after a good showing in the Challenger Trophy.

�It�s a good challenge. I have to be consistent with my performance to seal my place. I�ll try and give it my best shot,� said Sarandeep.

He is not worried about making the playing XI with Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in the squad.

�It all depends on the wicket. I am just keeping myself focussed. Moreover it�s an honour playing alongside them.�

Asked whether he considered himself a defensive or an attacking bowler in the one-dayers, the off spinner said: �It depends on the situation. The situation in the middle generally determines how a bowler should bowl.�

Sarandeep felt that the dew at the Eden Gardens should not be a problem. �We are used to playing under such conditions,� he added.


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Jose Ramirez Barreto�s sublime skill and sharp vision combined to create a moment of magic at the Salt Lake Stadium this afternoon. And, not for the first time, that was all Mohun Bagan could produce en route to a pedestrian victory over National League stragglers Punjab Police.

Half an hour into the match, with Mohun Bagan having done precious little other than set up a couple of promising openings, James Singh floated a corner kick into the striking zone. Abdulateef Seriki�s chest-trap, off a partial clearance, took the ball towards Barreto who was facing the sideline. The Brazilian flicked the low ball two feet higher, twisted 90 degrees and launched into a back-volley which rocketed into the net past a bewildered custodian.

The goal triggered off a debate whether this one was better than the one he rocked East Bengal with a month ago.

The unanimous verdict � today�s �creation� was more special for the greater degree of difficulty. From the position where the Brazilian received the ball today, he couldn�t have gone for a back-volley without playing it into a more comfortable zone. He did that himself and finished it off as if it was the simplest of things.

There were some more typically delicate Barreto touches. In the 20th minute, a Seriki cross saw him tap the ball up and go for a header, which had power but lacked punch. Then, in the closing stages, a flicked forward pass saw substitute R.C. Prakash reacting a trifle late.

With 35th-minute substitute Basudeb Mondal on song, Barreto had a free run. The wily Brazilian started off as a roving medio-cum-striker but then moved up to the attacking third without having to worry about the supply-line.

Mohun Bagan�s dominance against the hard-running policemen was not in doubt, but the jittery defence continued to give the coach and fans some tense moments. They could have breathed easier had one or two of the half-dozen chances been converted.

Seriki was involved in the easiest of misses. His header off a James corner bounced back off the crosspiece in the 32nd minute. Ten minutes into the second session, an accurate Dulal Biswas centre beat the �keeper and found Seriki�s head eight yards from the goal. Only, the ball went well wide of the target.

Amauri da Silva came closing to gifting Punjab Police the equaliser twice in the second half. His back-header, meant for Rajat, was ill-directed and rolled dangerously past the far post. Six minutes from full time, his clearance from the goalline went straight to Bachittar Singh whose hasty shot went miles over the bar Mohun Bagan�s fourth win in eight matches may have taken their tally to 15 points, but it hardly satisfied their supporters.


MOHUN BAGAN: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, Dulal Biswas, Amauri da Silva, Debjit Ghosh, Rishi Kapoor, James Singh, Jayanto Sen (Bhabani Mohanty, 46; R.C. Prakash 78), Abdul Saliu, Rennedy Singh (Basudeb Mondal, 35), Jose Ramirez Barreto, Abdulateef Seriki.

PUNJAB POLICE: Satish Kumar, Naresh Kumar, Balwinder Singh, Rajesh Kumar, Gurjit Singh, Gurinder Pal Singh, Kuldip Singh, Harnek Singh (Sher Singh, 73), Harish Sharma (Bachittar Singh, 72), Manjinder Singh (Vijaypal, 70), Parveen Kumar.

Referee: K. Chauhan (Delhi).


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
A group of six � Subhrajit Saha, Shanker Roy, Roktim Bandopadhyay, Somak Palit, Swapan Mitra and Laltu Chatterjee � leads the 37-player state chess field with full points after three rounds.

In today�s action at Khudiram Anushilan Kendra, Saha beat M. Faruque, Roy pipped K.G.K. Swami and Bandopadhyay overcame Anjan Basu.

Palit defeated Dipankar Burman, while Chatterjee got the better of Soumya Mukherjee.

Ranking badminton

Moharmala Mukherjee cruised into the mini girls� final of the Lalit Mitra Memorial state ranking badminton meet with a 7-1, 7-1, 7-1 shutout of Tamali Bagchi.

In the sub-junior girls� quarter final, though, Moharmala lost 8-6, 3-7, 3-7, 1-7 to Sunanda Bhowmick. In men�s singles, Bijoy Dey beat Supratim Guha Roy in a second-round match.


Men�s singles, 2nd round: Bijoy Dey bt Supratim Guha Roy 7-2, 7-3, 5-7, 7-3; Debanjan Majumdar bt Amit Kar 7-2, 7-3, 5-7, 7-3; sub-junior boys� (quarter finals): Jishnu Sanyal bt Diptiman Choudhury 8-6, 7-1, 7-2.

School football

Free India HS beat Mohammed Jan HS 1-0 to enter the semi-final of the Muslim Institute Centenary inter-school football tournament at Park Circus Maidan today. Sheikh Zafar scored.

Anjuman Garibul Muslemin HS beat Saifee SJ School 4-0 in another quarter-final match. Sarwar Nadeem (2), Akhtar Ali and Nehal Ahmed scored.

Islamia HS meet Rishra Anjuman HS while AGM Titagarh take on Beniapukur HM tomorrow.


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
Both the CAB and the English team management today �closed� the ongoing controversy over the practice facilities at CC&FC.

However, it was done only after both sides took potshots at each other.

The England team management maintained that �it has not softened its stand in relation to the standard of practice facilities at CC&FC. We do not believe the facilities are adequate for an international cricket team and made our views clear through the proper channels to both CAB and BCCI officials at the weekend�.

In a press release, the CAB said this evening: �The CAB wishes to reiterate that the practice facilities provided to the England team at CC&FC were quite adequate.

�The problem is that the England team is insisting on comparing the practice facilities at CC&FC with that of an international centre like the Eden Gardens.

�The CAB is extremely disappointed that the England team chose to go to the media in order to address the problem. The CAB has taken strong exception to the England team management resorting to such methods.

�It appears that they were not able to comprehend the problems of security and logistics that a stadium with 100,000 spectators have to contend with because there is no ground back home with such huge capacity.�


Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Kamlesh Singh Rajput�s seven-wicket haul helped Wari dismiss Aikya Sammilani for 212 on the first day of their CAB league match today. By stumps, Wari had moved to 65 for two.

Aryan�s Chandra Prakash Verma scalped six for 91 to bowl out Milan Samity for 237. Aryan were 47 for one in reply.

The day�s two centurions were Eastern Railway�s Asif Murtaza (102) and George Telegraph�s Abhishek Guha (112).


City AC 171 (Swagat Roy 36, Achudananda Das 34; Harvinder Singh 3/20, Prabir Acharya 3/36, Sudipta Mukherjee 3/41). Barisha 101/1 (Abhishek Chowdhury 42 batting, Dibyendu Chakraborty 30 batting).

Eastern Railway 299 (Asif Murtaza 102, Anand Kumar 73; Gaurav Sharma 3/51). Rajasthan 16/0.

Calcutta Customs 348/9 (Samrat Guha 69, Avik Chowdhury 61, Shankar Pal 54, Prosenjit Ganguly 42; Manoj Singh 3/77, Kushal Dey 3/103) vs Ballygunge United.

Town 257/9 (Suman Chatterjee 87, Avijoy Roy 50, Sudip Mitra 32; Shyamal Saha 4/72).

Shibpur Institute 339 (Anirban Gupta 87, Samir Majhi 67, Naresh Chowhan 55). Kalighat 0/0.

Milan Samity 237 (Siddhartha Lahiri 72, Arghya Maitra 48, Sourav Basu 44, Abhijit Chatterjee 37; Chandra Prakash Verma 6/91). Aryan 47/1.

Aikya Sammilani 212 (Mazhar Ali 46; Kamlesh Singh Rajput 7/74). Wari 65/2 (Pulak Das 42 batting).

George Telegraph 383 (Abhishek Guha 112, Aga Shahid Khan 71 not out, Subhranil Som 46, Sheikh Sowel 37; Ajay Kurmi 4/58, Saptarshi Ghosh 3/74) vs Mohanlal Club.


Mumbai, Jan. 16: 
A good fourth in his previous start, the Zadmal Singh-trained Big Blaze is fancied to win the P. A. D�Avione Trophy at the Mumbai races on Thursday. N. McCullagh partners the four-year-old.


2.30 pm: Uprising 1. Mystic Lady 2. Rodeo Romeo 3.
3 pm: Combat Way 1. Star Dusk 2. Madamoiselle 3.
3.30 pm: Right Track 1. High Voltage 2. Land Lady 3.
4 pm: Khim 1. Valencia 2. Inspire 3.
4.30 pm: Big Blaze 1. Monte Carlo Magic 2. Chili Lady 3.
5 pm: Scamster 1. Rosetta 2. Proud Moment 3.
5.30 pm: Shahandeh 1. Abbeydoran 2. Zeta Jones 3.

Day�s Best: Big Blaze

Double: Uprising & Shahandeh

Mysore, Jan 16: 
Trained by V. Chawla and ridden by Bhagwat, King�s Common won the January Plate at the Mysore races held on Wednesday.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Nelamangala Plate 1,100m: (8-10-5) Skipping Away (N. Babu) 1; Golden Days 2; Formal Gold 3. Won by: 1-1/2; 1/1-4; (1-9.8). Tote: Win Rs 247; Place: 59; 16; 17; Quinella: 432; Tanala: 6,193. Fav: Golden Days (10).

2. Skyline Plate 1,400m: (6-2-1) Anjaam (S. Narredu) 1; Grey Bull 2; Jersey Lightning 3. Won by: SH; 3; (1-29). Tote: Win Rs 64; Place: 14; 12; 13; Quinella: 36; Tanala: 253. Fav: Grey Bull (2).

3. Mangalore Plate 1,600m: (4-3-1) Spanish Armada (Harish) 1; Savage Heart 2; Cyclades 3. Won by: 4; Nk; (1-42.5). Tote: Win Rs 58; Place: 18; 20; 19; Quinella: 89; Tanala: 807. Fav: Cyclades (1).

4. Solitaire Cup 1,400m: (6-4-8) Surf Rider (Bhagwat) 1; Emmenbrucke 2; Bolshvik 3. Not run: Silver Eyes (10). Won by: 1-3/4; 1-3/4; (1-30.5). Tote: Win Rs 27; Place: 14; 29; 14; Quinella: 119; Tanala: 525. Fav: Surf Ride (6).

5. Mauritius Pearl Plate 1,200m: (2-3-10) Chuck Berry (A. Imran) 1; Bramha Bull 2; Russian Art 3. Not run: Martinez (12). Won by: 4-1/2; 1/2; (1-16). Tote: Win Rs 35; Place: 16; 17; 58; Quinella: 72; Tanala: 1,814. Fav: Bramha Bull (3).

6. January Plate 1,400m: (6-7-2) King�s Common (Bhagwat) 1; Prince Zorro 2; Abyssinian Cat 3. Won by: Nk; 1-1/4; (1-28.3). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 13; 19; 12; Quinella: 50; Tanala: 142. Fav: King�s Common (6).

Jackpot: Rs 2,475; (C) Rs 234.

Treble: (i) Rs 2,827; (ii) Rs 85.

Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Bold Chieftan and Silver Toy were impressive in the workouts yesterday evening:

Outer sand track

1,600m: Flamebird (Som S.) in 2-6s; (400m) 30s. Easy. Among Men (Som S.) in 2-5s; (400m) 30s. Easy. Colonial (Som S.) in 2-3s; (400m) 32s.

1,200m: Yukon (Rb) in 1-29s; (400m) 29s. Good.

800m: Saladin (Rutherford) and Carbon Steel (Tamang) in 1-1s; (400m) 31s. Level. Smart Ruler (Asghar) and Assertive Dancer (Yasin) in 1-2s; (400m) 30s. Level.

600m: Comedy of Errors (Rb) in 40s; (400m) 26s. Moved well. Silver Toy (Rb) in 40s; (400m) 27s. Good.

Sand track

1,400m: Spanish Drum�s (R. Ahmed) in 1-42s; (400m) 28s. Easy.

1,000m: Clarice Cliff (Rabani) in 1-18s; (400m) 31s.

800m: Royal City (Asghar) and At My Command (Saran) in 55s; (400m) 25s. Level. Bold Chieftan (Yasin) in 53s; (400m) 24s. Note.

600m: Bird�s Empire (B. Gurang) in 44s; (400m) 29s. Social Girl (Asghar) and Star of Ring (A. P. Singh) in 44s; (400m) 27s. Level.

400m: Bold Apparel (Rb) and Amusing (A. P. Singh) in 27s.    


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