Match Ref issue likely to hot up
Talking Tactics/ Victory for bold US tactics
In The City
Udhagamandalam Races/ Signal Tap wins

Calcutta, June 5: 
For starters, the International Cricket Council (ICC) took over two months to call the first meeting of its Disputes Resolution Committee. Then, suddenly, that June 6-7 session got deferred.

The ICC�s explanation, of course, is that �principal witness� Mike Denness won�t be available as he is to undergo (heart) surgery. And, so, the meeting has been put on hold �for at least three months.�

While absolutely no one would like somebody who isn�t well to run the risk of falling even more ill, a couple of questions do arise.

For instance, since when has the controversial Denness been having a heart problem? And, more significantly, was he physically (and mentally) fit while officiating as Match Referee during last November�s Port Elizabeth Test?

The answers are bound to more than just interest the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and its hawkish president, Jagmohan Dalmiya.

After all, if Denness has a heart-ailment history, it�s possible he simply wasn�t fit to discharge his responsibilities in Port Elizabeth.

If he actually wasn�t, then Denness� November 19 actions must be erased from the ICC�s files.

Indeed, according to The Telegraph�s sources, the BCCI may �insist� that Denness� medical records be placed before the Committee when it does meet.

Denness, it may be recalled, banned Virender Sehwag for one Test and, in an unprecedented move, slapped suspended sentences on five other Indians: Captain Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Sundar Das and Deep Dasgupta.

What specially hurt the BCCI (as also much of the cricket fraternity elsewhere), was the ball-tampering slur on Sachin. More than anything else, then, the BCCI wants this �grave miscarriage of justice� to be belatedly set right.

The Committee (Referees� Commission in its earlier avatar) is headed by Michael Beloff, QC, and his colleagues are three of the ICC�s directors � Wesley Hall (West Indies), Bob Merriman (Australia) and Peter Chingoka (Zimbabwe).

As was reported in these columns on May 29, any or all six of the cricketers could be required to depose before the Committee. The Souravs have the status of a �witness.�

Only, with the Indian cricketers slated to be busy in England till September 9 and the mini-World Cup in Colombo just days after that, it won�t surprise if the Committee � constituted in March � continues to remain a body on paper for quite some time.


June 5: 
The US recreated history after 52 years and crushed Portuguese dreams of an encore of the epic they had scripted 36 years ago. The 3-2 stunner over Portugal brought back memories of the Americans� 1-0 upset of England in 1950 but there were moments when Portugal were harbouring hopes of overcoming a 0-3 deficit as they had against North Korea in 1966. To their dismay, they discovered there is no room for such romanticism in 21st century football where the slightest of mistake may lead to catastrophe.

Even lesser teams channel their attention towards minimising errors when they come to the World Cup but Portugal committed too many of them and must wonder what helped them escape bigger embarrassment. Their defence was clumsy and goalkeeper Vitor Baia�s early nervousness compounded their woes. It�s another matter that the US found it too good to be real and failed to pump in at least two more than what they eventually did. But it was a brave tactical decision that helped them record their biggest win in modern football.

While playing against stronger sides, the usual strategy of any team is to crowd their own half and play the waiting game as was done by Senegal against France or by Turkey against Brazil in the first half. But the US realised that focus on defence for 90 minutes would be inviting too much pressure on the defence.

They stuck to an �open� game for a greater period of the match, with adequate emphasis on defence, and resisted the temptation to divert from the ploy even after taking a 3-0 lead. It was a courageous decision against Luis Figo and friends who are known to make optimum use of space offered in the rival half.

No inferiority complex was evident in the US approach and they advanced whenever the chance came. Undoubtedly, the many defensive lapses helped their cause but the Portuguese erred only because their defenders came under pressure. The Americans were fit and athletic and almost always, outpaced Portugal in one-to-one sprints. Their covering was spot-on and they used the flanks well, which fetched them two goals.

There were too many errors in the Portuguese performance, on each end of the pitch. Lax marking, clumsy clearing, lack of understanding in the defence resulted in the goals and the slew of false passes undid them when they reached the American half. The deep defenders failed to tackle in time, which resulted in the first goal, and the failure to clear a harmless ball led to the second. Goalkeeper Baia and two defenders allowed the solitary attacker a free header just outside the six-yard box before the third and a few more lapses went unpunished.

Portugal took just three minutes to pull one back after conceding the third goal in the 36th minute and they did manage a few more looks at the goal out of desperation. But the scoring finesse, which made them a major force to reckon with in Euro 2000, was missing. There is an abundance of talent in the offensive wing of the Portuguese repertoire but they took too long to orchestrate their preparatory moves.

Figo, Rui Costa, Sergio Conceicao, Joao Pinto all possess skill but apart from the odd good through or the rare clever flick, there wasn�t much to talk about on Wednesday. They delayed in releasing after wresting possession inside the rival half, which helped the US regroup in time. Most shocking was their inability to play correct passes, even short ones. Figo didn�t look fully fit and perhaps, wasn�t very sure of himself. A few quicksilver touches and a delightful through apart, he failed to live up to what is expected from the Fifa Player of the Year.

Wednesday�s match throws group D wide open after South Korea�s win over Poland and Portugal are certainly capable of beating these two in order to salvage a second-round berth. What they will have to remember is error is the name of the game and the ones who commit less of them will be the winners.


June 5: 

East Zone NCA lose

The East Zone NCA team lost to the West Zone team in their first match of the inter-NCA tournament in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Batting first, East Zone notched up 187 for six in 50 overs. Bengal wicketkeeper-batsman Shubhojit Paul scored 56 while captain Subit Biswas made 50.

The West Zone team overhauled this total for the loss of six wickets. Bengal�s Sourav Sarkar scalped three for 62.

Jeev qualifies for US Open

Jeev Milkha Singh became the first Indian professional golfer to qualify for the prestigious US Open, one of the four Majors in world golf, when he tied for the fourth place at the Sectional Qualifier at Purchase, New York.

According to information received here, Jeev shot rounds of two-under 69 at the Century Country Club and a level-par 72 at the Brae Burn Country Club to aggregate two-under 141. Both the rounds were played on Tuesday. That gave him a tied fourth place along with five others. There were 22 spots up for grabs from Purchase.


FOOTBALL: IFA women�s league final: East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan (Howrah Stadium, 3:30 pm) n IFA league fifth division matches (4 pm)    

Udhagamandalam, June 5: 
Ridden by C. Murugan and trained by Robert Foley Signal Tap won the Amaravathi Plate at the Udhagamandalam races on Wednesday.


(With inter-state dividends)

1st race: Octogonal (Abraham) 1; Phantom Quest 2; Majestic Style 3. Tote: Win Rs 69; Place: 39; 51; 64; Quinella: 228; Shp: 134; Tanala: 2,801. Fav: Octogonal (9).

2nd race: Glittering (Shahjahan) 1; Kasmira 2; Priceless Ally 3. Tote: Win Rs 133; Place: 27; 24; 14; Quinella: 232; Shp: 42; Tanala: 6,360 (C.o). Fav: Bourbon Boy (10).

3rd race: Signal Tap (Murugan) 1; El Cid 2; Star of Gaiety 3. Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 11; 28; 29; Quinella: 216; Shp: 105; Tanala: 2,824. Fav: Signal Tap (8).

4th race: Supreme Challenger (Milan) 1; Amazing Crown 2; Unaproachable 3. Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 14; 48; 22; Quinella: 245; Shp: 154; Tanala: 842. Fav: Supreme Challenger (3).

5th race: Royal Delight (Prem) 1; Prodigious 2; Dressed For Dinner 3. Tote: Win Rs 524; Place: 118; 25; 40; Quinella: 1,037; Shp: 76; Tanala: 15,020 (Carried over). Fav: Our Ambition (5).

6th race: Splendid Pride (Ross) 1; Super Value 2; Fighting Brave 3. Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 14; 15; 23; Quinella: 188; Shp: 72; Tanala: 1,061. Fav: Splendid Pride (12).

7th race: Different Crown (Rajendra S.) 1; Alminstar 2; On My Own 3. Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 14; 11; 27; Quinella: 91; Shp: 33; Tanala: 486. Fav: Different Crown (1).

8th race: Royal Emperor (Abraham) 1; Secret Melody 2; Great Aswaraaj 3. Tote: Win Rs 14; Place: 15; 281; 33; Quinella: 438; Shp: 472; Tanala: 2,301. Fav: Royal Emperor (2).

9th race: Running Royal ( Senthil) 1; Oracle King 2; Passionate Queen 3. Tote: Win Rs 17; Place: 10; 41; 33; Quinella: 90; Shp: 63; Tanala: 783. Fav: Running Royal (6).

Jackpot: Rs 4,670 (Carried over).

Treble: (i) Rs 3,530 (C.o); (ii) Rs 10,925.

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