365 days to Cape Town
Bengal book Delhi date with Railways
Wright praises Sehwag
Somdev bags a thriller
Must-win game for East Bengal
Firoz Ali best in Dhaka
Mohun Bagan fight back
Shankar mali remembered
Calcutta Racing/ Romantic Notes wins thriller
Mumbai Racing/ Palazzio appeals most

Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
The actual countdown to cricket�s most ambitious event, the 2003 World Cup, has begun today: Exactly a year from now, Cape Town will stage the inaugural game, between principal hosts South Africa and the West Indies.

[Zimbabwe and Kenya are �minor� hosts of the tournament which will end on March 23.]

As the World Cup�s upbeat executive director, Dr Ali Bacher, remarked during a telephonic interview with The Telegraph: �We are now in the home stretch��

For the moment, Dr Bacher and his team are into the fine-tuning act. Be it security (the budget got more than doubled, to Rands 17 million, after September 11) or the playing conditions, where recommendations have been placed before the International Cricket Council.

Dr Bacher, for example, has suggested that though only Cape Town (Newlands) and Durban (Kingsmead) will host day-night matches, umpires at a ll the other centres in South Africa should have the option of asking for floodlights at 4.00 p.m.

[Johannesburg and Potchefstroom would also have staged day-night games, but the dew-factor forced a sensible rethink. Even the final, at the Wanderers (Jo�burg) will be an all-day affair]

�Idea is that the light shouldn�t ever be a factor in pushing any match into the second (reserve) day. It�s one-day cricket and, really, should remain that way,� Dr Bacher pointed out.

According to Dr Bacher, while floodlights at the remaining centres may not be of �truly international standards,� there still won�t be a problem.

Meanwhile, the principal hosts have authored a Mission Statement which, at the very least, does make for interesting reading. It also reflects the changing face of South Africa.

Mission Statement

We aim to unite all the people of the country behind the event, by following it, supporting it and participating in it.

We will use the opportunity to raise the profile of cricket in South Africa and throughout Africa and to develop the sport on the continent like never before.

We will make the most of a unique opportunity to make money for South African cricket and to ensure the sport�s financial viability and security in the future.

It is our intention to have the support and involvement of the Government at all levels � local, provincial and national.

We aim to give added value to the global sponsors and suppliers and ensure they have a good commercial return on their investment.

The management team that organises the competition will reflect the demographics of South Africa.

South African companies that are given commercial opportunities through the World Cup must have a satisfactory Black empowerment element.

All grounds will host an acceptable number of Black spectators.

We intend to contribute significantly to the lasting enhancement of the image of South Africa abroad as a commercial, sporting and tourism destination.

We will fulfill the objectives of the International Cricket Council in awarding the 2003 World Cup to South Africa.

The 2003 World Cup is also about (1) Developing people; (2) Spreading ownership of the World Cup; (3) The transfer of skills; (4) Broadening the cricket market � Blacks, youth, women and girls; (5) Facilitating a mentoring process for Black South Africans.

We want all South Africans to be proud of the event.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
Bengal 353 & 483
Gujarat 321 & 69/5

It�s official now � Bengal will play their first Ranji Trophy semi-final since 1993-94 against Railways in Delhi.

Bengal very nearly notched up an outright victory over Gujarat on the final day of their quarter final tie. In the end, though, they had to settle for a draw, the first-innings lead taking them through.

The visitors seemed overawed facing a target of 515 runs. The gentle pace of Rohan Gavaskar and the cocktail spin of Amitava Chakraborty proved quite a handful for Gujarat as the Bengal skipper rested bowling spearheads Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Utpal Chatterjee.

Gujarat were struggling at 69 for five when both captains decided on an early close.

Once more Subhomoy Das (107 off 196 balls, 12x4) and Sanjib Sanyal (92 off 132 balls, 11x4) � the men of the match along with Sourashish Lahiri � pushed their more illustrious colleagues to the background with a superb 162-run fifth-wicket partnership in only 162 minutes and 263 balls.

After Rohan left with the addition of only four runs to his overnight score, the two youngsters rode roughshod over the rival attack. Sanjib, in particular, was menacing this morning. As he stepped up the scoring rate racing to his fifty in 55 balls, Subhomoy gave adequate support.

They ran the sharp singles well and the lusty hitting left the Gujarat skipper searching for clues to restrict the onslaught. It was very unfortunate for Sanjib to have missed out on his second century of the game following a misunderstanding with Subhomoy. Had Sanjib achieved the feat, he would have become the first player since Arun Lal to have reached the mark for Bengal.

It was also to Subhomoy�s credit that he did not allow Sanjib�s dismissal affect his concentration. He carried on coolly to reach his second century of the season.

In fact, these youngsters� performances and their ability to strike it rich in crunch situations have been coach Woorkeri Raman�s biggest gain this time. This has helped the team click and will also be their main strength in the run-up to the semi-finals.

Rohan hopeful

Rohan did not wish to pay more importance to the semi-final. �All games are real big ones,� the Bengal skipper said after the match. �You cannot regard Gujarat as a weak side. It all matters on how we play on that day. We�ve had a successful season and if we play upto our potential we can do well.

Subhomoy and Sanjib were overwhelmed at the achievement. �We didn�t plan our innings and played according to the situation. That did not exert any extra pressure,� said Sanjib.

Subhomoy regarded his century against Rajasthan as his �best� while Sanjib felt the �123 in the first innings as special�.

Meanwhile, Bengal retained the same squad for the semi-final. The team leaves Monday with Sourav Ganguly expected to join the following day.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
Indian coach John Wright today regarded Virender Sehwag as one of the best batsman in the world along with Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar.

�We have three of the best batsmen in the world � Sourav, Sachin and Sehwag. We have to get the middle-order right in order to learn from our mistakes and succeed,� Wright said after a two-hour meeting with Jagmohan Dalmiya in keeping with the BCCI�s accountability policy.

Sourav, who is down with fever and did not make it to the Eden for the second consecutive day in the Ranji Trophy quarter final tie, was not present at the meeting. Wright was accompanied by the team�s computer analyst from Bangalore.

Wright said that the Indians had to learn to cope with pressure in crunch situations. He said there was a lot of inexperience in the middle order which allowed the pressure to mount in the recently concluded one-day series. �(Dinesh) Mongia, (Hemang) Badani and (Mohammed) Kaif have not played too many one-dayers. They should learn to relieve the pressure by taking singles and rotating the strike. We should use the 15-45 overs more intelligently.�

Disappointed at having drawn the one-day series against England, Wright said: �A 4-2 result would have been acceptable, 5-1 a fair reflection on the team�s capability but a draw is disappointing.�

On the wicketkeeper�s berth for the forthcoming Test series versus Zimbabwe, Wright said: �Deep (Dasgupta) showed a lot of character in South Africa and scored a century against England. His form behind the stumps is well documented.

�(Ajay) Ratra has also done well in the one-dayers. But ultimately it will boil down to one of them.�

Wright said he was not concerned about Sachin not delivering in important matches. �He is a class player but there is a lot more pressure on him in these big matches. It�s not a case of his not delivering and I�m sure he�ll make his mark in the lead up to the World Cup.�


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
A thrilling boys� singles final and an anti-climactic end to the girls� competition marked the final day of the ITF junior meet at DKS today.

Both titles went to Indians, but while second seed Isha Lakhani got a walkover from Rui Du of China, Somdev Dev Varman saved match point before beating Amit Inbar of Israel.

The Chinese girl was down with high fever, which handed Isha her fourth ITF junior title.

In a clash of two first-time finalists, fifth-seeded Varman won 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5). The BAT trainee was down 2-5 in the decider and the Israeli left-hander missed a regulation forehand drive on 40-30 at this stage. The match witnessed plenty of long rallies and lasted 150 minutes.

The Indian was made to pay for his weak service but made amends by returning almost everything from the baseline. His rival tried to pin him down to the backhand corner but Varman�s double-fisted sliced shots pulled him out of trouble on most occasions.

There were also some tense moments at the net, where the Israeli fared better, but he succumbed under pressure in the home stretch when Varman managed to minimise errors.

Varman broke Inbar in the first game of the final set but dropped serve immediately. Inbar broke him again in the fourth and looked set to clinch it at 5-2. However, Varman fought back to force a tie-break in which he once again came back from 2-4 to snatch the crown.

City youngster Rupesh Roy, who got a wild card and reached the quarter final, was adjudged most promising youngster.


New Delhi, Feb. 9: 
Holders Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are facing problems in finalising their playing XIs on the eve of their crucial Durand Cup league ties.

East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick intends keeping both I.M. Vijayan and Isiaka Awoyemi on the bench, due to indifferent form. Subrata Bhattacharya�s worry is stopper-back Hussain Mustafi�s poor form.

East Bengal, of course, have their task cut out as they face a must-win situation against Salgaocar to progress from group B.

Mohun Bagan are better placed in group A, needing a draw against ITI to qualify for the semis. The good news for Subrata is goalkeeper Prasanta Dora has joined the team after completing office duty in Jammu.

Debjit Ghosh will be fielded in the back four. Tomorrow will be a crucial test for Thai Jatvpong Thongsukh.

Mahindra beat BSF 4-1

Mahindra United were suspect in defence but still managed to beat BSF 4-1 in their opening group C game. In the other match, Army XI surrendered a 2-1 half-time lead to go down 3-5 to India Under-19.

Jules Alberto (2nd) and Bala Usman (44th) capitalised on BSF defensive mistakes. Raman Vijayan scored with a deft placement in the 29th minute. Seven minutes before full time, substitute midfielder S. Venkatesh completed the tally. BSF had reduced the margin in the 30th through midfielder Santosh Kujur.

The U-19 team was lively in attack but suspect in defence. Syed Rahim Nabi and Joiful Houzel scored before Thirunavakarsu converted a penalty for Army XI. In the second half, the armymen scored through Anish Sharma, Joney Gangmei, Saroj Gurung and Lal Sangiana.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
Firoz Ali beat Mukesh Kumar by a solitary stroke to win the Dutch-Bangla Bank Bangladesh Open in Dhaka today.

The city-based player carded a par-72 final round for a tally of nine-under 279, which fetched him his fourth title of the season, according to information received here. This was the 19th leg of the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour.

Mukesh paid for a series of bogies at the start of his round to settle for second spot at eight-under 280. His final round score was two-under.

Rafiq Ali and Sanjay Kumar were tied for third spot at four-under 284 with Ranjit Singh taking fifth place at three-under 285. Digvijay Singh, placed second overnight, had a bad last round of seven-over to finish joint 12th.

�I knew I would win,� said Firoz. �There was no doubt in my mind. In fact, on my final hole, I went for an eagle with my approach shot.� This was his fourth win in last seven outings.

Atwal shares lead

In Yangon, Arjun Atwal was sharing the lead with American Edward Loar after Round III in the Myanmar Open Asian PGA Tour event. According to information received here, Atwal fired a two-under 70 to finish the day at ten-under 206.

The leaders were a stroke ahead of Aung Win. Thailand�s Boonchu Ruangkit and Thongchai Jaidee were joint fourth.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
Mohun Bagan fought back after being bowled out for 231 on the opening day of a CAB league match against Kalighat today. Kalighat were 47 for three, needing 185 more to win.


Mohun Bagan 231 (Goutam Chakraborty 108 n.o., Murtaza Lodhgar 5/68, Sudip Chanda 3/83). Kalighat 47/3.

East Bengal 292 (Shib Sagar Singh 69, Manoj Shau 53 n.o., Anup Das 5/104, Samrat Guha 4/80) vs Customs.

Ananda Bazar Patrika Sports Club 328 (Sukomal Ganguly 75, Himadri Dutta 51, Jayjit Bose 3/45, Murali Narayan Nath 3/75) vs YMCA (College).

City AC 273 (Santadeep Pal 97, Prashant Singh 4/83) vs Belgachia United.

Barisha 314 (S. Banerjee 114, Chandra Prakash Verma 3/87). Aryan 5/0.

Netaji Subhas Institute 247 (Nayan Shur 92, Biswanath Bose 70, Aranyadeb Sarkar 50, Kanchan Maity 5/96, Pronab Prasad 3/68) vs Eastern Railway.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
Not often does one witness a condolence meeting for a groundsman of a football club. But when it comes to Shankar Pillai � widely known as Shankar mali � and East Bengal, it�s a lot different.

Emotions and fond memories took centrestage at the club lawn this afternoon as a number of stalwarts � including Nikhil Nandy, Prasanta Sinha, Sukumar Samajpati, Surojit Sengupta, Byomkesh Bose and Sudip Chatterjee � recounted their association with the man who died last Sunday at the age of 78 after devoting his life to East Bengal.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
In a desperately close finish, the Vijay Singh-trained filly Romantic Notes had the measure of the 6-10 hot-favourite topweight Star Selection to lift the 1,400m Acorn Stakes today. Vying for her second straight win and the �Triple Tiara,� the Daniel Davi-trainee was forced to surrender her slender lead when Cristopher Alford worked his way up in the last 200m.


1. Picnic Handicap 1,100m: (7-3-5-6) Jayaashva (Dalpat S.) 1; Lady Shirley (A. P. Singh) 2; Heaven�s Blessing (Shanker) 3; Wild Is The Wind (Amil) 4. Won by: 2-1/2; 4; 1-3/4; (1-8). Tote: Win Rs 35; Place: 14; 15; 26; Quinella: 61; Tanala: 1,147. Fav: Jayaashva (7). Winner trained by Jaiswal.

2. Baqlava Cup 2,000m: (2-4-5-1) Argolis (Saran S.) 1; Laurels (Gowli) 2; Flying Scot (Som S.) 3; Regal Rocket (B. Gurang) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; 3-3/4; 4-3/4; (2-11.7). Tote: Win Rs 67; Place: 23; 14; Quinella: 65; Tanala: 540. Fav: Ace of Spades (3). Winner trained by Daniel D.

3. Philosopher Handicap 1,400m: (8-7-10-4) Brave Show (Rabani) 1; Odyssey (Aadesh K.) 2; Lucifer (Dalpat S.) 3; Tequila Shot (Shanker) 4. Won by: 1/2; 2; 1-3/4; (1-28.5). Tote: Win Rs 67; Place: 21; 13; 18; Quinella: 48; Tanala: 603. Fav: Odyssey (7). Winner trained by Bharath S.

4. Madras Race Club Cup 1,600m: (7-9-6-3) Earl Grey (Rutherford) 1; Estocade (Brij S.) 2; Lockers Park (Islam) 3; Clarice Cliff (Rabani) 4. Won by: 3/4; 2; Nk; (1-40.1). Tote: Win Rs 31; Place: 14; 30; 17; Quinella: 273; Tanala: 1,208. Fav: Acceptor (1). Winner trained by J. Stephens.

5. Acorn Stakes 1,400m: (5-1-3-6) Romantic Notes (C. Alford) 1; Star Selection (Connorton) 2; Assertive Dancer (Asghar) 3; Sweet Paintedlady (Upadhya) 4. Won by: SH; 1-3/4; 4-1/4; (1-30.5). Tote: Win Rs 23; Place: 13; 14; Quinella: 16; Tanala: 88. Fav: Star Selection (1). Winner trained by Vijay S.

6. Mossy Bear Cup 1,100m: (9-8-7-6) Dancing Dreams (Aadesh K.) 1; Endless Surprise (C. Alford) 2; Sky Command (Rabani) 3; Arctic Fancy (Connorton) 4. Not run: Scarlet Raider (5). Won by: NK; 1-1/4; SH; (1-7). Tote: Win Rs 30; Place: 14; 15; 23; Quinella: 36; Tanala: 376. Fav: Dancing Dreams (9). Winner trained by R. Alford.

7. Victo Handicap 1,200m: (3-7-11-2) Excellent Striker (A. P. Singh) 1; Red Trident (Aadesh K.) 2; Global Harmony (Yacoob) 3; Declarationoflove (P. Alford) 4. Won by: 3/4; 3/4; SH; (1-15.7). Tote: Win Rs 22; Place: 13; 22; 36; Quinella: 70; Tanala: 1,909. Fav: Excellent Striker (3). Winner trained by Daniel D.

Jackpot: Rs 4,732; (C) Rs 430.

Treble: (i) Rs 1,542; (ii) Rs 290.


Mumbai, Feb. 9: 
Bezan Chenoy�s Palazzio appeals most to win the Dr. S. C. Jain Sp-rinters� Trophy in Mumbai on Sunday.


2 pm: Baba�s Gift 1. Sea Nymph 2.

2.30 pm: Kraft 1. Tactful 2. Aide de Memoire 3.

3 pm: Amazing Dream 1. Self Styled 2. Bookie�s Delight 3.

3.30 pm: Frontier Flame 1. Silver Line 2. Venire 3.

4 pm: Noble Eagle 1. Karazzano 2. Energizer 3.

4.30 pm: Palazzio 1. Strength To Strength 2. Rambus 3.

5 pm: Reconquista 1. Dhanadal 2. Al Humair 3.

5.30 pm: Winning Melody 1. Most Attractive 2. Numero Uno 3.

6 pm: Lisianski 1. X-Pac 2. Whispering Rock 3.

Day�s Best: Palazzio

Double: Baba�s Gift & Winning Melody.

Saturday�s Bangalore results

1. Savadatti Plate 1,200m: (11-8-10) Classic Ballet (Prakash) 1; Cape Martin 2; Another Time 3. Won by: 1-1/4; Dist; (1-17.1). Win Rs 50; (P) 14; 12; 315; (F) 70 (Q) 23; (T) 2,893 & 3,565. Fav: Cape Martin (8).

2. H. Devereux Memorial Plate 1,200m: (6-2-1) Ambermatic (A. Imran) 1; Triple King 2; Maltese Falcon 3. Won by: 1-1/4; 3-3/4; (1-17.4). Win Rs 149; (P) 31; 54; 16; (F) 1,325; (Q) 598; (T) 9,031 & 1,594. Fav: Patriotic (3).

3. Chief Minister�s Trophy 2,400m: (1-4-5) Alchemy (Srinath) 1; Elusive Emperor 2; Ma Baker 3. Won by: 3-3/4; 2-1/2; (2-39.2). Win Rs 98; (P) 36; 18; (F) 158; (Q) 70; (T) 507 & 387. Fav: Alameda (2).

4. Saptharishi Cup 1,400m: (9-10-5) Saujas (Ramesh) 1; Psychedelic 2; Strides of Fire 3. Won by: 1/2; 1-1/4; (1-29.3). Win Rs 229; (P) 39; 34; 19; (F) 851; (Q) 556; (T) 6,837 & 2,014. Fav: Indian Rocket (4).

5.Bellary Plate 1,200m: (4-9-1) Royal Caribbean (Khalander) 1; Shining Conquest 2; Old Meldrum 3. Won by: 5; 3; (1-17.3). Win Rs 122; (P) 27; 14; 22; (F) 255; (Q) 91; (T) 1,014 & 584. Fav: Shining Conquest (9).

6.Jayanagar Plate 1,400m: (4-2-6) King of Mohra (Srinath) 1; Beautiful Bird 2; Asoleado 3. Won by: 6-1/4; 4-1/2; (1-32.7). Win Rs 19; (P) 13; 25; 80; (F) 69; (Q) 48; (T) 642 & 280. Fav: King of Mohra (4).

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