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Not many gave Zimbabwe much of a chance after India swept the two-Test series but Stuart Carlisle�s team proved one-day cricket is a different ball game and they are well-versed with its nuances. India, thus, will have to keep an eye on the unforced errors and try and minimise them.
Even in the absence of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, India have a strong batting line-up led by the in-form Sourav. With Dinesh Mongia, V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid all among the runs, the hosts will feel confident about putting up a big score.
Well, batting is one department even the visitors are not too bad in. Alistair Campbell and Andy Flower have been doing well and the likes of Grant Flower, Carlisle and Dion Ebrahim are capable of making useful contributions. Add to this the batting prowess of bowlers Heath Streak and Travis Friend, and what you get is a pretty decent line-up. They even have a potent weapon at No 10 in Douglas Marillier as Faridabad discovered the other day.
In a late development, a hip injury cast a shadow of uncertainty on batsman Andy Flower�s chances of playing. If he doesn�t make it, medium pacer Douglas Hondo is likely to be included in the XI.
�Andy is doubtful. He has a hip muscle strain,� Carlisle told reporters today. The 193-match veteran suffered the injury during the Mohali one-dayer, during which he batted with a runner.
However, what should bother Zimbabwe coach Geoff Marsh most is bowling. With Streak somewhat past his prime, Zimbabwe are yet to unearth a bowler of international quality and Friend has been inconsistent, to say the least. This attack, on Indian wickets, can prove to be cheap fodder for the home-bred batsmen and that was very much the case in the first two games.
With the slower bowlers causing negligible trouble for the Indian batsmen, Zimbabwe compounded their problems by conceding a number of wides in the second game and Marsh must have asked the players to pay attention to this.
With Harbhajan Singh going great guns, India are clearly superior in bowling. Further, Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan are also around and the Zimbabwe batsmen will pray the wicket offers minimum purchase to the bowlers. Kumble, though, is uncertain for tomorrow�s game as he has a troublesome shoulder. If he doesn�t play, off-spinner Sarandeep Singh will get his second ODI cap.
There is this temptation to give Tinu Yohannan a chance in front of his home crowd but that looks a distant possibility.
What India will look forward to is a big innings from Mongia. The Punjab left-hander made 25 and 45 in the first two games before throwing away his wicket. He made up for it by taking three wickets under the lights in Mohali but he must realise that only a bigger innings can earn him a permanent slot in the team.
Among others who must perform with the bat after doing poorly in the first two games are Mohammed Kaif and Sanjay Bangar. The failure of the lower middle-order, Ajit Agarkar�s late cameo notwithstanding, prevented India from taking the match beyond Zimbabwe in Faridabad and these players must ensure it doesn�t happen again.
The toss, once again, is going to be vital. Sourav has been lucky with the coin in the first two games, though his team couldn�t capitalise fully, losing the first match in that Mariller onslaught. If India win the toss again, he will surely look at something over 300. Zimbabwe are well capable of successfully chasing anything below that.
If Carlisle wins the toss, he will probably bat first, keeping in mind India�s poor record while chasing. The spin of the coin, thus, may just prove crucial.
Tomorrow�s match is going to be the third ODI to be hosted by this �commercial capital� of Kerala. India have a good track record here, having won both matches, against Australia and South Africa, earlier.
INDIA: Sourav Ganguly (capt.), Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Dinesh Mongia, Mohammed Kaif, Sanjay Bangar, Ajay Ratra, Anil Kumble/Sarandeep Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar.
ZIMBABWE: (from) Stuart Carlisle (captain), Alistair Campbell, Douglas Marillier, Andy Flower, Travis Friend, Grant Flower, Heath Streak, Dion Ebrahim, Tatenda Taibu, Gary Brent, Craig Wishart, Mpumelelo Mbangwa, Charles Coventry, Douglas Hondo.
Umpires: Devender Sharma, Vijay Chopra (both Delhi).
Third umpire: Suresh Shastri (Mumbai).
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Then, according to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, it�s almost certain Ashish Nehra will be recalled. He has been out of favour after South Africa.
What wasn�t clear, till tonight, is whether Mannava Sri Kanth Prasad will stage a comeback after over two years or whether the other �keeper�s berth will still go to Deep Dasgupta.
Or, in order to accommodate a second (after Shiv Sundar Das) specialist opener, Connor Williams, just one �keeper (Ratra) will make it�
The selectors � Chandu Borde, Madanlal, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra and Sanjay Jagdale �meet in Kochi tomorrow evening, after the third ODI against Zimbabwe.
As of now, Deep�s chances are slim. An �improvement� will only come about if the selectors (plus captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright) begin considering him more as Shiv Sundar�s opening mate.
Obviously, in a crisis, Deep can also be counted upon to wear the big gloves. The problem, though, is here: Few really wish to see him as �keeper � whatever the conditions.
Indeed, should there be a consensus on getting Williams to join Shiv Sundar at the top, with Bangar being regarded (also) as third opener, then Deep will most definitely miss his second successive tour (after the one to South Africa).
In that eventuality, even the quiet Prasad � otherwise �strongly favoured� to return � will have to keep waiting. His last India appearance was in the Sydney Test (January 2000).
If Ratra is the sole specialist �keeper, vice-captain Rahul Dravid will, in an �emergency,� take the youngster�s place.
Actually, as many as XIV select themselves straightaway: Shiv Sundar, Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Bangar, Ratra, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sarandeep, Jawagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Yohannan � besides, of course, Sourav himself.
Of the two berths that remain, one is set to go Nehra�s way � with Ajit Agarkar not earning a (Test) recall. The million Rupee question is: Who fills the one vacant slot?
Much will depend on the permutation decided during what promises to be a high-voltage selection committee meeting.
Clearly, the focus tomorrow won�t just be on the two Supreme Court judges.
Incidentally, till well past 11.00 pm, �discussions� were continuing at the Waterfront Caf� � the coffee shop at the Kochi hotel where Borde and Co. have dropped anchor.
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That this is a possibility was indicated to The Telegraph late this evening by sources in the ICC.
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In a press conference today, the company alleged that despite signing an agreement with it and a partner through a tender, the AIFF has given the commercial rights of the National Football League and other events to another agency, London-based Strata Sports.
�We were shortlisted and subsequently selected along with Mumbai-based Procam International to be the AIFF�s exclusive promoters for all advertised events for a period of six years. But soon after we were informed by Albert Colaco (AIFF secretary) that the right to marketing was being given to Strata Sports, which never took part in the bidding,� a senior LSM officialtold reporters.
Colaco, when contacted on his cell phone in Goa, however, refused to comment on LSM�s allegations. �I haven�t received any communication from LSM in this regard and so, I�m not in a position to comment,� Colaco said.
The LSM official, however, maintained that the AIFF, being a public institution, had to follow the normal selection process of calling a tender.
�We introduced Strata Sports to the AIFF and agreed to a tie-up with them to promote the game. But if they had to select the London-based agency, it should have been done by issuing another tender. What they did was nothing but backstabbing us,� the official alleged.
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He said the loss to JCT in the previous match in Ludhiana was the �starting point� of his mental preparation to concede his defence of the title. He also maintained he would now focus on finishing the League �with an honourable place�.
Meanwhile, in an addition to their woes, East Bengal will miss the services of three key players, including captain Falguni Dutta, for the rest of the League. Anit Ghosh and Jo Paul Ancheri received injuries during yesterday�s match and it was revealed today that both would not be able to recover in time to play in the rest of the meet. Ancheri is also likely to go back his home state (Kerala) inside this week for his treatment.
Indian Air Force and the Indian Army (Red) scripted wins today in the 53rd inter-services football meet, being held at 6 Wing IAF station, Barrackpore. Army (Red) beat Army (Green) 2-0, Raghu Kumar and Irudaya Raj being the scorers, while IAF defeated Indian Navy 2-1. Sanat Pawar and A.B. Victor scored for IAF and Milton Anthony pulled one back for Indian Navy.
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Having conceded the Toppo strike in 28 minutes, East Bengal sought in desperation for an equaliser. They came close to the target twice in quick succession soon after the break, but lack of imagination by East Bengal forwards in the D-circle came in the way.
As the home team went all out with time running out, Miaz Dung Dung sealed the fate for East Bengal with his 52-minute goal.
In another group A match, SAI Training Centre thrashed BSF South Bengal 5-0. Sunil Kumar (2), Sanjay Tirkey (2) and Edmond Kirkatte were the scorers.
In first division group B league, Sanjay Das, R.K. Laxman Singh and Subhas Bose struck as Wari AC defeated Behala SA 3-0, while Muslim Institute and Jagrihi settled for a 1-1 draw. Vikram Minz put Muslim Institute ahead before Chandan Das hit the equaliser for Jagrihi in the second half.
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Veterans� cricket final
Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), riding an unbeaten 61 by V.K. Nayudu, grandson of Col. C.K. Nayudu, beat Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) by seven wickets in the final of the inter-unit veterans� cricket meet, held at DKS today.
BRIEF SCORES: BPCL 127/8 (A. Dharnand 20; Jagdale 3/25, Kode 3/25). IOC 129/3 (Naidu 61 n.o., Farid Khan 33; J.B. Rane 2/2). IOC won by 7 wkts.
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Working well Tiger Talk may claim the 1,400m Cavalry Cup from Archery who has let down following in the past. The fortune of the later, a Elusive Pimpernel-Hieroglyphic son, may get boost with the change of equipment, the blinkers. Surprisingly, his switch to blinkers has been underplayed by the race-card printers.
Race card and selections
1. Lumination Handicap, 1,400m (Cl IV; Rt. 22-50) 1.40 pm: Classic Pursuit 60.5 Islam 3; Adeline 56.5 Connorton 4; Storm Centre 56 Upadhya 5; Midas Touch 54.5 B. Gurang 6; Finders Keepers 54 I. Chisty 8; Sencai 53.5 Gowli 2; Red Cordon 53 Kujur 1; Glass Slipper 51.5 Tamang 7.
1. Classic Pursuit (1). 2. Sencai (6) 3. Adeline (2)
2. Astounding Handicap, 1,400m (Cl III; Rt. 44-72) 2.20 pm: Khublei late Pretty Boy Floyd 60 Engineer 2; Regal Rocket 58.5 B. Gurang 9; Yukon 58.5 Upadhya 4; Sovereign Bullet 58 A. P. Singh 10; Mr Bombshell 57 Islam 1; Attune 56.5 C. Alford 6; Cool Quest 55.5 P. Alford 8; Raring To Go 55.5 Asghar 7; Ace of Spades 54.5 R. Ahmed 3; Flamebird 54 Gowli 5.
1. Attune (6). 2. Mr Bombshell (5) 3. Flamebird (10)
3. Cavalry Cup, 1,600m (Cl V; Rt 00-28) 2.50 pm: Ever So Loyal 60.5 P. Alford 1; Archery 59 C. Alford 2; Tiger Talk 58.5 Smith 4; Iron Warrior 57.5 A. P. Singh 6; Blessed Spirit 54.5 I. Chisty 3; Kyalami 52.5 Shanker 5.
1. Tiger Talk (3). 2. Archery (2) 3. Blessed Spirit (5)
4. CROS Cup, 1,100m (Cl IV; Cl V eligible, 3-y-o only; Rt 00-50) 3.20 pm: Callisto 60 Domingo 2; Sagittarian 57 Connorton 5; Royal City 54 Asghar 4; Celestial Guest 51 Rabani 1; Moon Quest 50 A. P. Singh 7; Primaticcio 49.5 S. Salam 3; Royal Command 49.5 Yasin 6.
1. Callisto (1). 2. Sagittarian (2) 3. Moon Quest (5)
5. Midnight Cowboy Cup, 1,200m (Cl II; 66-94) 3.55 pm: Thunder Struck 60 B. Gurang 10; Gold Buck 59 Shanker 2; Abashed 58.5 C. Alford 3; Anokato 57.5 Upadhya 7; Scarlet Raider 57.5 Asghar 9; Sky Command 57 Muthanna 8; Added Asset 56.5 Maseyk 5; Arctic Fancy 56.5 A. P. Singh 1; Regency Times 54.5 Connorton 11; Illustrious Reign 54 I. Chisty 6; Sanctified Star 54 Yasin 4; Lawyer�s Love 53.5 M. Reuben 12.
1. Regency Times (9). 2. Abashed (3) 3. Anokato (4)
6. Thunderbolt Handicap, 1,100m (Cl III; Rt 44-72) 4.30 pm: Calamint 61 Gajender 3; Pearl Dragon 58.5 V. Jaiswal 12; Zuhaak 58 Gowli 4; Ardon 55 Asghar 9; Declarationoflove 54.5 I. Chisty 11; Venus 53 K. Kumar 5; Grecian Prince 52 R. Ahmed 8; Jungle Cat 52 Kujur 1; Lively Project 52 Yasin 10; Wakamba Warrior 51.5 Islam 7; Calabash 51 Amil 2; Common Spirit 51 A. P. Singh 6.
1. Zuhaak (3) 2. Declarationoflove (5) 3. Calamint (1)
Day�s Best: Classic Pursuit
Double: Tiger Talk & Callisto.
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3.00pm: Over The Ocean 1. Danger Zone 2. Inspire 3.
3.30 pm: Criollo 1. Thunderlite 2. Aureus 3.
4 pm: Examination 1. Chance 2. Bliss-Leavitt 3.
4.30 pm: Monte Carlo Magic 1. Wordsworth 2. Minneapolis 3.
5 pm: Track Fury 1. Palentino 2. Star of Nature 3.
5.30 pm: Numero Uno 1. Partner Perfect 2. Betsy 3.
6 pm: Alice Charms 1. Portentous 2. Hiccups 3.
6.30 pm: Dras 1. X-Pac 2. Rodeo Romeo 3.
Day�s Best: Criollo
Double: Over The Ocean & Examination