Jaffer looks good to come in as opener
Bagan take stranglehold on EB
In The City

Calcutta, April 29: 
India�s nine-match experiment with makeshift opening combinations is likely to end in Barbados, venue of the third Test against the West Indies, beginning Thursday.

According to a well-placed source of The Telegraph, specialist Wasim Jaffer is �almost certain� of making the XI and should then partner Shiv Sundar Das.

Jaffer is expected to take allrounder Sanjay Bangar�s place. Bangar, it may be recalled, opened in the last Test (Port-of-Spain) without success: He scored 9 and 16.

The Indians, of course, have been fielding makeshift combinations from last November�s Bloemfontein Test.

Shiv Sundar had vice-captain Rahul Dravid as his partner at Goodyear Park. Then, in the next seven matches � Port Elizabeth, Mohali, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Nagpur, Delhi and Georgetown � Deep Dasgupta was the other opener.

Shiv Sundar, who is himself struggling, had Bangar for company in Port-of-Spain.

Bangar does open for Railways on the domestic circuit, but he made the national side as a middleorder bat.

Actually, it was at the SSC in Colombo (August 2001), that India last fielded specialist openers � Shiv Sundar and Sadagopan Ramesh.

Logically, Jaffer ought to have opened from the first Test (Georgetown), but the �balance-factor� saw him bracketed with the reserves.

However, now that the Indians have to build on the 1-0 lead, it�s essential that the opening partnerships be significant. Moreover, getting a specialist to partner Shiv Sundar should take some of the pressure off our No.1 opener.

In the three Test innings thus far, the openers (Shiv Sundar, Deep and Bangar) have collectively totalled a mere 68. The scope for improvement, therefore, is immense.

Though Jaffer, who played both the home Tests versus South Africa 25 months ago, failed to score in innings No.1 against the Busta XI, he posted 62 in the second � after India followed-on.

�The wicket was on the slower side, but Jaffer looked very good. He�s a natural at the top of the order and, as of now (Monday evening), is almost certain of making the XI in Barbados,� is how a member of the thinktank put it, when contacted in St Lucia.

Jaffer may have cut a sorry figure in his debut series yet, by all accounts, has learnt from that experience. Besides being more mature, he should now have much fewer butterflies in his stomach.

Incidentally, it�s still not clear whether Harbhajan Singh will be retained or Anil Kumble will make a comeback after missing all the action in Port-of-Spain.

Both Kumble and Harbhajan picked up two Busta XI wickets but, one learns, Kumble was a victim of indifferent umpiring. He should have returned much better figures than 30-2-112-2.

The question is: Just how impressed has captain Sourav Ganguly been?

Meanwhile, the Indians will undergo a �fitness assessment� in St Lucia itself, before leaving for Barbados (a short flight away) late on Monday.

The assessment will be co-ordinated by the team�s newly-appointed physical trainer, Adrian le Roux. The last such assessment � le Roux�s first � was in Georgetown, four weeks ago.

The idea is to professionally monitor a team which isn�t the fittest around.


Calcutta, April 29: 
Mohun Bagan found themselves within sniffing distance of winning their third title of the season when they dismissed arch-rivals East Bengal for a paltry 142 on the first day of the J. C. Mukherjee Trophy final Monday. At stumps, Bagan were 70 for no loss.

East Bengal blew away the advantage of batting first as they went on losing wickets at regular intervals. The East Bengal captain Alokendu Lahiri sent Rajib Sharma, who normally bats at number 10 to open the batting with Ajoy Verma. But the move backfired as Sharma used up a number of balls before getting out for 19.

The middle-order, on which East Bengal had pinned their hopes, once again failed to deliver at crunch times. The only batsman to put up a semblance of a fight was Srikant Kalyani, who scored a patient 32.

But once he was dismissed by another veteran Utpal Chatterjee, who once again returned with the best figures of three for 33, the Bagan bowlers ran through the last three wickets for merely seven runs.

Mohun Bagan openers showed there was nothing frightening on the pitch when they batted out the last 20 odd overs of the day unseparated. At stumps, Mainak Sengupta and Goutam Chakraborty were batting on 31 and 25, respectively.

Interestingly, both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan took the field without a 12th man, as the remaining members of both teams are either out of town or indisposed.

Brief scores

East Bengal 142 (Srikant Kalyani 32; Utpal Chatterjee 3/33, Madhusudan Acharya 2/8). Mohun Bagan 70/0 (Mainak Sengupta 31 batting, Goutam Chakraborty 25 batting).



Bengal girls snatch fifth national title

Bengal girls Monday beat Haryana 3-2 (25-11, 22-15, 25-26, 20-25, 15-8) in the final of the tenth mini (under-12) national girls volleyball championship in Gwalior. According to information received here, this was the Bengal girls� fifth title. They were runners-up last year. The notable performers for Bengal were Sunanda Bag, Dolly Parui and Sangita Das.

Md. Sp. rope in Seriki

Mohammedan Sporting roped in Mohun Bagan�s Nigerian striker Abdulateef Seriki for the forthcoming season. The club officials claimed to have been given the token by the Nigerian and he is expected to sign on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Hussain Mustafi, Khemtang Paite, Nazimul Haque, and Arunava Sarkar also signed for Mohammedan Sporting Monday, while Biswarup Bisu, Soumen Mondol and Niladri Chakroborty reconfirmed their allegiance for Tollygunge Agragami.

Meanwhile, East Bengal practice for the new season got off at the home ground under coach Subhash Bhowmick. Only six players, Koustav Ghosh, Soumitra Chakraborty, Tushar Rakshit, Trijit Das, Subhash Chakraborty and Subhashish Roy Chowdhury were present on the first day of the practice.

Meanwhile, in the IFA women�s league, Income Tax beat Nabajanma Sangha 2-0, Sayanti Nandi and Shilpi Dey being the scorers, while Itika Memorial thrashed Rampur MS 3-0. Malatu Sau, Tumpa Mondal and Chaitali Roy were the scorers.

P. Sen Trophy from Friday

The P. Sen Trophy, which marks the end of local cricket season, will start from May 3 at the Deshabndhu Park, with Mohun Bagan and Eastern Railway playing the first game.

East Bengal will open their engagement on May 5 against CAB XI. If the big two win, they are slated to meet in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, the final of the tournament has been scheduled for May 10 at the Eden Gardens.

Meanwhile, the BCCI has decided to give a bowling machine to each of the five centres where the training for the NCA is going on. CAB will soon receive one such and it will also be used during a Bengal team�s practice.

In NC Kolay Memorial tournament, C4, Barasat Subhash Institute, P. Sen Memorial CCC and Shute Banerjee CCC moved into the semi-finals Monday.

E. Rly beat BNR

Eastern Railway beat BNR 2-1 in a closely-contested BHA Group A league match at Mohun Bagan ground Monday. Manoj Kujur and Sk Siraj scored for Eastern Railway while S. Barla scored the reducer. In another match, Port Trust beat BSF (South Bengal) by three goals, Mukti Toppo, Surojit Patra and Junat Bera were the scorers.

Fide-rated chess

The second HDCA FIDE rated open chess tournament organised by Howrah District Chess Association will start at the Aloysius Orphanage and Day School Auditorium on Wednesday. The eight-day meet will be an 11-round affair under Swiss League system. A total cash prize of Rs 50,000 will be on offer.    

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