One is only as good as his last effort: Laxman
Ratra exudes confidence
BCCI unlikely to co-operate with ICC
Sourav, Wright on �secret� CC&FC mission
Bharti among Eden invitees
Alokendu recalled for Rajasthan tie
Allround effort by Arun Sharma
Bangalore Racing/ Crown Witness likely to win
Mumbai Racing/ Amorous Warrior strikes
Calcutta Racing/ 7 for Sunday�s sprint event

Calcutta, Jan.17: 
If his doctor-parents had their way, Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman would also have taken to medicine.

As it turned out, an uncle specially encouraged Laxman to engage full-time in his first love � cricket. Today, the wristy Hyderabadi holds the record for the highest individual Test score by an Indian, 281, authored at the Eden last March.

For the 27-year-old Laxman, then, it�s an emotional return to a city which bestowed immortality. The bonding, clearly, is special � which came through during this thinking-cricketer�s chat with The Telegraph.

The following are excerpts

On that epic 281, authored in his last appearance at the Eden

Remains the high point of my career, more so as it helped India register one of the greatest victories of all time. I�ve always believed that no matter how big, an individual�s contribution is significant only if the team benefits. It happened in Calcutta� (Adds a touch emotionally) It�s a special feeling that I played a part in one of the most outstanding series ever.

On the top lesson learnt from that one knock

That nothing pays more than being positive.

On the ten months since that innings

(After a pause) It�s been a learning experience� For one, starts must be capitalised upon� I�ve also learnt that, in effect, one is only as good as his last effort� In any case, the next time, one starts from zero.

On how often has he watched a recording of that 281

Actually, just once � before leaving for South Africa. I watched my 167 in Sydney, too.

On Wisden ranking his Eden knock as the sixth greatest innings of all time

The selection came as a huge encouragement� Appreciation is always welcome� Yes, it�s fantastic finding a place in the top-10.

On very few innings of substance � just two fifty-plus scores in ten Test innings � after amassing 503 runs in that series versus Australia

It�s probably been a mental thing, not because of a technique-related problem� I accept it�s important to make the most of a good run.

On whether he has been weighed down by the pressure-factor

Oh, no� Wouldn�t say so� There hasn�t been any external pressure, though I do myself set goals.

On whether he blames himself for being inconsistent

(Laughs) Can one blame anybody else? Really, I�ve got to take the blame on my own shoulders � after all, nobody else made mistakes for me.

On whether he is envious of Matthew Hayden who, too, had a great series (549 runs) and went on to finish 2001 as the highest scorer in Tests (1391 runs)

Wouldn�t say I�m envious, but I draw inspiration from him� He�s a class player and has proved it.

On that Test series reviving his one-day career

It did, yes, and I showed my worth during the tri-series in Sri Lanka� Despite a very painful right knee, a condition which eventually necessitated surgery, I got that crucial unbeaten 87 against Sri Lanka� It�s a pity I had to miss most of the tri-series in South Africa.

On not being keen to open in Tests

Look, it�s not that I�ve never opened � in fact, I�ve done so a number of times. However, I�ve never felt comfortable and, so, it�s no point putting myself under pressure and burdening the team as well� In fact, Sourav (Ganguly) did ask me to open before that one-off Test in Dhaka, but I preferred to wait for my chance in the middleorder. Subsequently, I�m happy the selectors have always picked me as a middleorder bat. It�s only fair that I don�t accept a job where I haven�t been able to deliver.

On whether it�s unfair getting the middleorder batters to open

Generally speaking, yes.

On his knee surgery (in Australia)

Was I ever worried? No� The only question was just how soon would I recover? Surgery was done purely to avoid aggravating the problem.

On the goals he sets

(Laughs again) They are all short-term� I don�t look too far down the road and take it match-by-match, series-by-series. The World Cup is just over a year away, so the next 12-13 months are big for Indian cricket.

On being in the same XI as one of his idols � Sachin Tendulkar

It�s an education. Sachin�s attitude, manner of concentration� It�s remarkable. Indeed, despite everything he has achieved, Sachin doesn�t want to stop learning. The desire to improve continues to manifest itself.

[When young, Laxman idolised Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and fellow-Hyderabadi Mohammed Azharuddin.]

Finally, on whether life changed after that 281

No� Nobody, for instance, can say I�ve become inaccessible� I�m still the same. In fact, I remain a bachelor!


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
Having graduated to the big league, India�s new wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra is determined not to let this opportunity go.

The occasion is big and there is intense pressure to perform. Two days away from making his international debut, Ratra said he has a �strong self-belief� to see him through any situation.

�The pressure is there, of course. But I�ll try to do my job� I must perform. I�ve faith in myself, a strong self-belief that keeps me going,� Ratra told reporters this evening after the team�s practice at Eden Gardens.

He also revealed a streak of aggression and boldness. �Wicketkeper is the central point of the team and my job is to keep encouraging other players� But if I think a batsman is out, I�m not afraid of appealing,� Ratra observed, obviously not having been bogged down by the Mike Denness episode.

The Haryana glovesman, who has replaced Bengal�s Deep Dasgupta in the national team, acknowledged receiving words of encouragement from Sourav Ganguly. �The captain has given me some batting tips and also explained my role in the team. He�s quite helpful,� Ratra said.

He said keeping to Anil Kumble and Harbhajan is a �challenging task� and quickly admitted it was the leggie who is troubling him more in the nets.

Ratra referred to his stint with the National Cricket Academy (NCA) as �a crucial point in my career. NCA has helped me get enough experience. It was there that I got some valuable tips from Rodney Marsh. Syed Kirmani and Kiran More also gave me a lot of tips,� Ratra said.

But he picked Australia�s Ian Healy as his idol (�I love his basics and foot movement�).

Ratra also brushed aside any problem of �keeping under light. �I had a fair share of such experience twice in the Challenger Trophy (in Ahmedabad and Bangalore), so keeping under light will not be a problem.�

Of the man he�s replaced behind the wicket, Ratra said: �Deep was my roommate in the NCA and we enjoy quite a friendship. In fact, we used to have a healthy competition between us in the NCA�.

Meanwhile, Sanjay Bangar fancies his role as a containment bowler. �I haven�t got indication from the team management about my chances Saturday. But if I do play, I see myself as a containment bowler,� Bangar said.

But he refused to see himself as a solution to India�s quest for a genuine allrounder. �I am new to the job. Let me gain a bit of experience first� it�s too early to say anything on this,� Bangar said.

He said the team�s morale is high and everybody looks determined to win the series.


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
As expected, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has refused to reconstitute the Referees� Commission, set up as a consequence of Mike Denness� extraordinary conduct in Port Elizabeth last November.

Now, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is expected (as was reported by The Telegraph earlier this week) to formally inform the ICC about not co-operating with the Commission as it exists.

For the record, though, BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya declined to comment on today�s development at Lord�s.

Speaking to the Media this evening, he said: �Let me first get to hear from the ICC� Also, let me talk to my colleagues in the BCCI.�

PTI adds from London: �Despite objections from the BCCI, the ICC has, after due consideration, decided to move forward with its original nominations,� ICC president Malcolm Gray said in a statement. There is a growing urgency for this commission to meet to discuss the detailed and complex issues involved and to produce its report in time for the ICC executive board meeting in mid-March,� he said, adding that the panel would meet in Johannesburg on February 23.

India had taken exception to constitution of the panel with Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa as chairman and Majid Khan of Pakistan and Andrew Hilditch as the two members, saying it was not consulted in the appointments.

Objecting to the appointment of the panel members, the Indian cricket board had said that the commission should have been an independent one with no involvement from India, South Africa or England. The BCCI said Hilditch, a former Australian vice-captain, was no longer actively involved with the game while Majid Khan, though �a perfect gentleman�, had created some controversy with his recent remarks on match-fixing.

India had instead proposed the name of Justice Ahmed Ebrahim of Zimbabwe � �a rare combination of an ICC Match Referee and a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of his country� � to head the panel with Imran Khan of and Richie Benaud as members. The objections raised by BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya have been carefully considered but we retain every confidence in the ability of this panel to complete its task in a thoroughly professional fashion,� Gray said.

�The ICC believes that the issue should be viewed in the wider context of the international game rather than as a point of contention between the world governing body and the BCCI,� the statement said.

�While the events of Port Elizabeth were prompted by the reaction of the BCCI, the issue of Match Referees is relevant to all member boards.�

The ICC is close to appointing a full time panel of five referees and the commission�s report will be of direct interest to the individuals selected for that elite group and may well influence the way in which it operates in future,� it said.


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
The battle of wits and guiles has begun. The Englishmen are not willing to display all their cards and are taking things cautiously, while the Indians are only too eager for a sneak preview.

The Indian captain and coach spent some time at the CC&FC this morning trying to get a first-hand experience of the visitors during their warm-up tie against the CAB XI.

Sourav Ganguly and John Wright�s arrival in the top tier of the CC&FC�s main pavilion was kept a closely guarded secret. Even the home players were unaware of the duo�s plans.

England, however, did not take any chances and used the tie only to get some match practice after the Christmas and New Year break.

They used nine bowlers during the CAB XI innings with Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick, Andrew Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles limiting themselves to a five overs each.

That sufficed as the local side was bundled out for 150 in 42.3 overs with Rohan Gavaskar emerging top-scorer at 27.

The batsmen just did not show the temperament to hang around and threw away their wickets after settling down. Even Gavaskar could not escape blame.

Devang Gandhi gifted his wicket after making five, popping the ball back to Collingwood.

England reached the target in 25.1 overs but stayed put till the 34th to get some batting practice. Two wickets were lost in the process and three batsmen retired.

The atmosphere was all the more diluted with the England team turning up in coloured clothing while the CAB side donned the whites.

England coach Duncan Fletcher felt that his side was �pretty underprepared� going into the opening game of the six-match series at Eden Gardens on Saturday. He blamed �lack of practice� for this but predicted a �strong series�.

The warm-up game was �of some value in some way� according to the coach, but felt it would not affect the selection.

England are aiming to �bring in some balance into their bowling� and this in turn is affecting the combination.

They are thinking of playing two pacers. Darren Gough is a certainty because of all his allround abilities but the toss-up will be between Andrew Caddick and Matthew Hoggard.

Ashley Giles, Phil Collingwood and Andrew Flintoff are likely to complete the attack.

BRIEF SCORES: CAB XI 150 in 42.3 (Amitava Chakraborty 21, Alokendu Lahiri 25, Rohan Gavaskar 27; Phil Collingwood 3/18, Darren Gough 2/11). England 219/2 in 34 (M. Vaughan 34 retd, Nick Knight 49 retd, O. Shah 40 retd, Graham Thorpe 29, Flintoff 36; Soujan Biswas 1/55, Abhishek Ghosh 1/13).


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
Union sports minister Uma Bharti will be among a host of invitees from the political arena watching Saturday�s one-dayer between India and England at Eden Gardens.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will not be able to make it to the stadium because of preoccupations, but his predecessor, Jyoti Basu, will be present along with sports minister Subhas Chakraborty and other members of the state cabinet.

Apart from Bharti, other Union ministers expected to be present are Pramod Mahajan (parliamentary affairs), Arun Jaitley (law) and Shahnawaz Hussain (civil aviation).

Transport facilities

To facilitate spectators� return on Saturday night, Metro Railway and Eastern Railway have decided to extend their services. While the Metro will run its last train at 10.30 pm, suburban train services of both Howrah and Sealdah divisions of Eastern Railway have been extended till 12.15 am.

The first session of the match will be from 2.30-6 pm while the second from 6.45-10.15 pm.


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
Bengal have recalled Alokendu Lahiri and Amitava Chakraborty in the 14-man squad for the Ranji Trophy Super League tie versus Rajasthan to be played at Jaipur from January 23.

Arindam Das and Saikat Mukherjee were dropped from the team that last played Orissa.

THE SQUAD: Rohan Gavaskar (captain), Devang Gandhi, Deep Dasgupta, Alokendu Lahiri, Nikhil Haldipur, Subhomoy Das, Subhradeep Ganguly, Utpal Chatterjee, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Sourashish Lahiri, Ranadeb Bose, Amitava Chakraborty, Shabbir Ali, Sanjib Sanyal.


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
Riding a fine allround performance by Arun Sharma, High Court Club defeated East Bengal by six wickets in the two-day CAB senior division league today. Having bowled out East Bengal for 262, High Court comfortably romped home to victory, thanks to Sharma�s unbeaten 119. Sharma also was the most successful bowler for his team, taking four for 58.

BRIEF SCORES: East Bengal 262 (Srikant Kalyani 113; Arun Sharma 4/58). High Court 263/4 (Sharma 119 n.o., Prasant Khare 88 n.o.). High Court won by 6 wkts.


Bangalore, Jan. 17: 
An easy winner in her last start, S. Ganapathy�s ward Crown Witness, in the hands of Shakti Singh may repeat the winning performance again the 2,000m Nilgiris Cup, tomorrow.


2 pm: Amber Regent 1. Siberean 2. Royal Tarlair 3.

2.30 pm: I Me And Mine 1. Vertigo 2. Rusticana 3.

3 pm: Cape Martin 1. Accede 2. Red Mamma 3.

3.30 pm: Firecrest 1. Anchor 2. South Cove 3.

4 pm: Crown Witness 1. Rio Tinto 2. Ma Baker 3.

4.30 pm: Shining Conquest 1. Rising Wings 2. Crown Ice 3.

5 pm: Carnival Craze 1. Saturn Star 2. So Thrilled 3.

5.30 pm: Fly Past 1. Silver Falcon 2. Royal Satsuma 3.

Day�s Best: Crown Witness

Double: Firecrest & Shining Conquest


Mumbai, Jan 17: 
Lemaire astride S. S. Shah�s Amo-rous Warrior won the P. A. D�Avio-ne Trophy in Mumbai on Thursday.

Young jockey S. S. Bhati died after a fall during the track works on Wednesday morning.


(With inter-state dividends)

1. Unforgettable Plate 1,400m: (9-8-1) Uprising (Kamlesh) 1; Rodeo Romeo 2; Mystic Lady 3. Won by: 1; 3/4; (1-29.9). Tote: Win Rs 58; Place: 18; 18; 13; Quinella: 140; Tanala: 473. Fav: Mystic Lady (1).

2. Same Again Plate 1,200m: (3-5-2) Classy Devil (Lemaire) 1; Madamoiselle 2; Star Dusk 3. Won by: Nk; 6-1/2; (1-14.5). Tote: Win Rs 50; Place: 26; 21; Quinella: 111; Tanala: 639. Fav: Combat Way (1).

3. Feelings Plate, Div-II 1,200m: (6-3-2) High Voltage (Aadesh) 1; Dancing Gold 2; Magical Beauty 3. Won by: 3; 6-1/2; (1-14.9). Tote: Win Rs 47; Place: 17; 16; 16; Quinella: 94; Tanala: 454. Fav: Dancing Gold (3).

4. Greek Baron Plate 1,000m: (5-10-1) Tasmac (Chauhan) 1; Arabian Commander 2; Inspire 3. Not run: Heart Beat (3) & Crimson Rage (7). Won by: 3-3/4; 1; (1-1). Tote: Win Rs 82; Place: 22; 20; 13; Quinella: 304; Tanala: 1,766. Fav: Inspire (1).

5. P. A. D�Avione Trophy 1,400m: (1-8-6) Amorous Warrior (Lemaire) 1; Monte Carlo Magic 2; Thundering Grey 3. Not run: Chili Lady (7) & Berliet (10). Won by: 1-3/4; 2-3/4; (1-28.1). Tote: Win Rs 93; Place: 20; 13; 30; Quinella: 110; Tanala: 1,688. Fav: Big Blaze (4).

6. Feelings Plate, Div-I 1,200m: (2-3-8) Scamster (M. Narredu) 1; Dras 2; Proud Moment 3. Not run: Milestone (6). Won by: 1-3/4; 1-1/2; (1-15.6). Tote: Win Rs 27; Place: 14; 33; 28; Quinella: 148; Tanala: 1,789. Fav: Scamster (2).

7. Implacable Plate 1,200m: (1-8-6) Abbeydoran (Prakash) 1; Zeta Jones 2; Helianthus 3. Not run: Dillinger (4). Won by: 1/2; 2-1/4; (1-13.9). Tote: Win Rs 26; Place: 15; 17; 24; Quinella: 57; Tanala: 458. Fav: Abbeydoran (1).

Jackpot: Rs 78,586; (C) Rs 13,868.

Treble: (i) Rs 2,949; (ii) Rs 1,082.


Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
The HSBC Cup, Sunday�s main sprint, has 7 horses in the running. First race at 12.05 pm.

1. First Flier Handicap 1,600m (Cl V, Rt. 00-28) 12.05 pm: Darth Vader 60; Bay Dragon 59.5; Archery 59; Tuscaloosa 59; Odyssey 58.5; Touch of Elegance 56.5; Rare Orchid 52.5; Calculus 49.

2. Sheridan Handicap 1,200m (Cl IV, Rt. 22-50) 1.240 pm: At My Command 60; Crowned Prince 59; Asprey 57; Grecian Prince 56.5; Freedom Warrior 54; Iron Warrior 52; Rich Dominion 51; Constantine 50.5.

3. Beresford Cup 1,600m (Cl III; Cl IV, Rt. 22-72) 1.10 pm: Yukon 60; Raring To Go 57.5; Discomatic 56; Giorgio 55; Accrete 54.5; Laurels 54; Charlene 52.5.

4. In Excelsis Handicap, Div-I 1,200m (Cl III, 44-72) 1.50 pm: On The Bit 60; Crimson King 57.5; Sadaf 56.5; Sovereign Bullet 54; Ace of Spades 52; Alegria 52; Bul Bul 51; Secret Adversary 50.

5. Voluntary Plate 1,100m (Terms, 3-y-o only) 2.25 pm: Annotate 55; Approval 55; Ardency 55; Arian 55; Moon Quest 55; Musician 55; Secret Way 55; Gryffindor 53.5; Mahika�s Pet 53.5; Social Girl 53.5; Software Classic 53.5; Star of Ring 53.5.

6. HSBC Cup 1,200m (Terms, 4-y-o & over) 2.55 pm: Bold Chieftan 60; Soviet Song 57; Beneficent 55.5; Annatto 53.5; Alcalde 52.5; Amber Dancer 49; Ancheta 49.

7. In Excelsis Handicap, Div-II 1,200m (Cl III, Rt. 44-72) 3.30 pm: Illustrious Reign 60; Kargil Soldier 58; Winning Hand 57; Bird�s Empire 54; Starina 53.5; Calamint 52.5; Lively Project 50.5; Santillana 49.5.

8. Theogundi Handicap 1,100m (Cl IV, 5-y-o & over Rt. 22-50) 4.05 pm: Fargo 60.5; Montjeu Star 60.5; Soviet Dance 58.5; Simply Monarch 58; Rheinheart 56.5; Tequila Shot 56.5; Zuhaak 56.5; Bold Apparel 55.5; Fly By Alibi 55.5; Simply Dashing 55.5; Beau Bruno 53.5; Storm Centre 53.5; Dictate 52.5; Ever So Loyal 52; Floral Path 48.

Jackpot: 4; 5; 6; 7 & 8..

Treble: (i) 1; 2 & 3; (ii) 3; 4 & 5; (iii) 6; 7 & 8.


Outer sand track

1,600m: Fame Star (Shanker) in 2-1s; (400m) 31s. Easy. Access All Areas (C. Alford) in 2-1s; (400m) 29. Cool Quest (Gowli) in1-55s; (400m) 28s. Note.

1,400m: Flamebird (Gowli) in 1-53s; (400m) 30s. Calculate (Amil) in 1-50s; (400m) 31s. Easy.

1,200m: Rich Dominion (A. P. Singh) and Own Legacy (Gurang) in 1-31s; (400m) 29s. Level. Actuate (Amil) in 1-32s; (400m) 31s. Fit. Set Aside (Gowli) in1-29s; (400m) 31. Fit.

1,000m: Yukon (Som S.) in 1-9s; (400m) 26. Pushed.

800m: Silver Victress (Gowli) and Leading Conquest (Rb) in 56s; (400m) 27s. Former too good. Annatto (Shanker) and Accrete (C. Alford) in 1-8s; (400m) 28s. Former 2 ls better. Archery (C. Alford) and Freedom Warrior (Doming) in 53s; (400m) 27s. Former 4 ls better. Comedy of Errors (Gowli) in 54s; (400m) 27s. Fit. Arches of Gold (Amil) and Scenic Song (Gajender) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Former too good. Sencai (Rb) and Winning Hand (Engineer) in 56s; (400m) 29s. Former 4 ls better. Amusing (A. P. Singh) in 57s; (400m) 28s. Easy. Calamint (Gajender) and Alegria (C. Alford) in 53s; (400m) 28s. Former 2 ls better.

600m: Soviet Ride (Yasin) and Secret Blessing�s (Asghar) in 39s; (400m) 26s. Level. Reine Beau (R. Ahmed) in 41s; (400m) 26s. Good.

Sand track

1,600m: Silver Toy (Gowli) in 1-46s; (400m) 27s. Impresed.

1,400m: Sagittarian (Rutherford) in 1-27s; (400m) 25s. Good.

1,000m: Bold Chieftan (Yasin) in 1-1s; (400m) 23s. Impressed.

800m: Peppy Mistree (Gowli) in 49s/25s. Note.


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