Talking Tactics/ Ronaldo looks sharp, Italy promise more
Dravid move wasn�t a gamble: Sourav
In The City

June 3: 
Defensive discipline and defensive frailties were on display as World Cup heavyweights Italy and Brazil launched their campaign with contrasting wins. And yet, while the teams overcame different odds, there were flashes of class to suggest that both are capable of performing like the champions they once were.

Brazil made things difficult for themselves before regrouping in time and it was the edge in their gifted attack that helped them make amends for the rearguard lapse. The Turkish ploy to relax vigil and build on their first-half lead right after the restart proved premature and helped Brazil.

The match was impaired with inept supervision, but fortunately, proceedings didn�t turn nasty.

The Italians, on the other hand, were calmness personified and gradually tightened their grip after taking an early lead. The debutants from Ecuador were not devastated by the setback but got a lesson in big-stage realities when they realised that all roads to fight back were closed out. It was a smooth start for Italy after years and the neatness in operation suggested there is depth in their combination.

The four-time champions also looked composed in the beginning but faced resistance from the fiercely determined Turks.

Brazil started with the celebrated R trio looking fresh and there was thrust from the wings, thanks to the side-backs. Turkey, however, ruthlessly blunted Brazil�s early edge and applied power to stop them from advancing to the danger zone.

Turkey made room scarce for the opponents by blocking and jostling effectively from the centre-line and were rewarded for the hard work following a momentary lapse of reason in the Brazil defence.

Right-back Cafu was so engrossed in overlapping that the sole aggressor ran in unchallenged to meet and redirect a deep lob into the back of the net. This must have brought back memories of similar nightmares to the Brazilian camp during the break.

Brazil were lucky to find Turkey a different lot in the second half. Instead of sticking to the ploy of pushing and irritating the superstars further, Turkey tried to double the lead and the combination of Ronaldo and Rivaldo came down too heavy on the less-populated defence.

Ronaldo grew in confidence as the match went on and his goal bore the signature of a deadly striker, who is eager to score at the slightest of an opportunity.

Turkey collapsed under the deluge of attacks that followed and Brazil should have found the net on more occasions than they did. There is flair in their attack but what they lack is muscle in the midfield. They need players who can fight power with power even in attack and that is where they will miss somebody like Dunga.

Emerson was expected to fit into that �bulldog� role and though some of the midfielders can add bite to the attack, there doesn�t seem to be anybody to soak pressure.

Luiz Felipe Scolari deserves praise for taking off Ronaldo when he was threatening to launch a solo assault in search of the lead.

But the coach was quick to realise that his most precious weapon might also invite injury and left it on the others to finish the job. Scolari knows what awaits him in case of even moderate success and also, who can lift him out of trouble.

Italy produced a fresh blend of the kind of organised football they have come to master over the years. There was no hint of indiscretion as Italy slowly but surely rubbed Ecuador out of the match. Like they often do, Italy brought the ball back to their own half quite frequently, and rotated it around the park as they pleased.

It took Ecuador almost 90 minutes to sneak past the defensive combination as the Italians were sublime in their use of the off-side trap. They look flexible in the midfield and also possess the ammunition to put serious contenders under pressure.

All Italy needed was a good start and since they have a relatively safe draw, the Azzurris look good for more.


Calcutta, June 3: 
Generally, Sourav Ganguly can reel off both his own and the team�s statistics without much prompting. Early Monday, though, he was �stumped�.

�When did I last get the Man of the Series (MoS) award? Frankly, off-hand, I just can�t remember,� the Indian captain remarked, laughing.

That the last occasion was all of 18 months ago, against Zimbabwe in the ODIs at home, is probably why Sourav couldn�t immediately connect. The wait-factor, after all, did play its part.

The captain, however, insisted he wouldn�t be reading too much into his sixth MoS award (in ODIs).

Speaking from the Trinidad Hilton, shortly after leading India to their first overseas (one-day) win in almost three years, Sourav told The Telegraph: �The team�s success means a great deal more than being adjudged Man of the Series� We didn�t make it in the Tests but, at least, won�t return empty-handed�

�Am I dedicating this victory to somebody? Well, if I have to, I�ll choose my seven-month old daughter (Sakshi)��

[Incidentally, Sourav�s priority No.1 on returning home, early Wednesday, will be to oversee preparations for the up-coming annaprasan.]

India�s last success overseas, by the way, was also under Sourav (September 1999, Toronto). And, as it turns out, versus the West Indies. Moreover, Sourav was MoS then too.

In the low-scoring Cable & Wireless Series, Sourav was consistent in all three matches � 41, 39 and 56 � to average 45-plus. Earlier, in the Tests, the captain aggregated over 300 for a handsome 50-plus average.

Clearly, the many Sourav-baiters have been rendered unemployed.

�It�s not that I�ve proved a point � really, I don�t have to� I�ve been around for six years and except the year 2001, when I had a real rough patch, I�ve always proved myself equal to the task� Today, then, I�m looking at the challenges ahead � the tour of England and, later, the World Cup� I�m not looking back,� is what Sourav himself had to say.

Asked whether he was relieved his (and coach John Wright�s) gamble of fielding vice-captain Rahul Dravid as wicketkeeper had paid off, the captain quickly responded: �I wouldn�t at all call it a gamble. Rather, I would say it was a calculated move. Indeed, if you want my honest opinion, we ought to have given the big gloves to Rahul quite some time ago��

Fair enough, but was it difficult omitting the in-form V.V.S.Laxman (474 runs in the Test series) from the first-choice XI in the ODIs?

�On this tour, no� I have the highest regard for Laxman, who is an outstanding batsman in Test cricket. At this point, though, we have better batsmen in the ODIs� Earlier this year, it was tough being a party to Laxman�s exclusion in the second half of the ODIs against England. In the West Indies, the decision to pick (Mohammed) Kaif ahead of him wasn�t difficult,� Sourav answered.

He added: �In any case, as I�ve talked about in the past, all decisions are always in the interests of the team. Nothing more, nothing less.�

The captain is passionate about winning, yes, and absolutely on his terms only.


June 3: 

NCA coaches favour old programme

The coaches at the National Cricket Academy�s East Zone centre are unhappy with the shortening of the two-month-long programme by two weeks.

In their report, signed by Syed Saba Karim, Jeemut Mohanty and Barun Burman, the coaches have asked for the restoration of the programme to its original duration, as it allows a proper assessment of the players. According to sources, the coaches have also asked for the videotapes of the players in practice.

Another demand reportedly raised by the coaches is the re-introduction of endurance programmes for the trainees. They have asked the authorities to include long-distance running as part of the NCA curriculum. Meanwhile, the coaches feel that the reduction of the number of players for the inter-NCA meet from 18 to 14 gives less scope to the boys and have suggested an increase in numbers.

EB eves in final

The East Bengal women�s team moved into the finals of the Calcutta league on Tuesday thrashing Nabajanma 8-0 at home. Sujata Kar scored four goals while Ceena C.V., Gita Devi, Sharmila Sapui and Rina Gupta netted one each. They will play Mohun Bagan on June 6.

East Zone TT

The East Zone table tennis tournament, scheduled from July 2 has been postponed. The meet will now be held from August 14 to 18.The Bengal Table Tennis Association authorities said the postponement was necessitated because the dates were clashing with Commonwealth Games training camp.

The CLT age-group table tennis tournament will take place from June 17 to 20, the last date of entry being June 11.

Aquatics meet

Aviroop Mazumdar of College Square and Amrapali Das Gupta of Bowbazar became the boys II and girls II champions, respectively, scoring 25 points in the recently-concluded Calcutta district state age-group swimming championship.

Other winners

Boys: Kaustav Chakroborty (ILSS), Ajit Dhali (ILSS), Dinesh Prosad (Kidderpore).

Girls: Puspa Banik (Calcutta Sports), Swarnali Marik (College Square), Silpa Ghosh (Calcutta Sports)

Alvito cleared

The inter-state transfer of Alvito de Cunha was cleared by the AIFF, which on Tuesday, cleared its first list of more than 300 inter-state transfers. The Salgaocar player had sought a transfer to play for Calcutta�s East Bengal.

Schools� meet

Sikkim�s Namchi Public School will host the Eveready inter-school football tournament at the Namchi�s Bhaichung Bhutia stadium from June 10. Three hundred schools from Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Sikkim will participate. The final is scheduled for June 23.    

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