Sehwag says yes to Sourav’s open offer
County return not on Sachin agenda
Steve tips Ponting’s men for the Cup
Steve Waugh back to forge new ‘ties’
Merchants’ Cup attracts 75 teams
In The City
Favourites lived up to the billing

London, July 22: 
Exactly a year after responding to a crisis and agreeing to open in the ODIs (during the tri-series in Sri Lanka), Virender Sehwag has “consented” to do the same — if required — in the Test series against England, beginning at Lord’s Thursday.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, captain Sourav Ganguly himself spoke to Sehwag on the eve of the game versus Hampshire and, once the dasher from Delhi agreed, he was played in the three-dayer as specialist Wasim Jaffer’s partner.

As of now, then, Sehwag is “most likely” to become India’s newest Test opener.

Of course, what is confirmed is that Shiv Sundar Das will be dropped for only the first time in his 20-month career. Shiv Sundar had a poor run in the West Indies, aggregating 124 in the five Tests (top score of 35) and, to queer the pitch even more, failed against West India A last week.

Clearly worried by Shiv Sundar’s scores of 29 and 0 in that maiden first class match of the tour, the thinktank dumped him versus Hampshire and tried the Sehwag-option. He got 41 and 22. Nothing extraordinary but, then, the Rose Bowl wicket in Southampton kept playing multiple tricks.

In any case, with vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav and V.V.S. Laxman occupying the four middle-order berths, the only ‘opening’ for Sehwag is at the very top.

In recent times, the most enduring opening ‘partnership’ has been between Shiv Sundar and Deep Dasgupta — seven Tests (from Port Elizabeth to Georgetown) over a six-month period. In the West Indies itself, three combinations were attempted: Shiv Sundar-Deep, Shiv Sundar-Sanjay Bangar and, then, Shiv Sundar-Jaffer.

To return to the upcoming Test, the openers and the middle-order stalwarts will be followed by Ajay Ratra. The line-up after the wicketkeeper will see either one spinner (Anil Kumble) and three quicks (Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar) or both spinners (Kumble and Harbhajan Singh) and two quicks (Nehra and Zaheer, in all probability).

The picture, though, will be clear once the Indians arrive from Southampton tomorrow. And, well, there’s always this chance that somebody else could be thought of as Jaffer’s partner...

Gough out of first Test

Meanwhile, England’s injury-related problems don’t seem to end. Indeed, top gun Darren Gough is the latest casualty, with the recurrence of a knee injury knocking him out of Test No.1. A replacement had not been named till late this evening.


London, July 22: 
As of now, Sachin Tendulkar has no plans of returning to County cricket, a decade after a one-year stint with Yorkshire.

Though Sachin himself didn’t offer a comment, when contacted by The Telegraph in Southampton earlier on Monday, a confidant “insisted” the world’s hottest cricketer doesn’t intend to “suffer a burn-out” by committing himself to six months of County action over and above the many international commitments.

As has been reported, Hampshire is one of the Counties “keen” on Sachin for the year 2003. Hants’ current overseas pro is Neil Johnson, the one-time Zimbabwe allrounder who has gone back to South Africa.

From next year, of course, the Counties will again be allowed two overseas pros on their rolls. Given this change, it won’t surprise if the Yuvraj Singhs, too, are wooed.

The last appearance by Indians on the County circuit was in 2000, when Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble did duty for Lancashire, Kent and Leicestershire, respectively.


Calcutta, July 22: 
Steve Waugh Monday reiterated that his will was strong enough to make his way back to the Australian one-day squad.

“I am trying very hard to make my way back into the side. I am doing everything that is in my control and hopefully I’ll be back,” the Australian Test captain said on his arrival in the city for a philanthropic cause.

“I will be playing the first game for New South Wales in our domestic tournament and will give my best. I am making the optimum use of every opportunity that arrives and hope Mark (Waugh) is doing the same as well,” Steve added.

Steve did not wish to read too much into Australia’s one-day series defeat to Pakistan recently. “In one-day cricket, you play good on a particular day, while on other days you don’t. Just because Steve and Mark are not there, it doesn’t mean they haven’t got the right combination.”

The dropping from Australia’s one-day squad for the tri-series in Nairobi and the A tour of South Africa has only enhanced his resolve to stage a comeback. “There are a lot of young guys in the squad. They mentioned to me they know what Mark and I can do and want to have a look at some other players. I don’t see anything negative about it. I have been concentrating on my own game and will keep doing that,” he remarked.

The former one-day captain’s eyes are firmly focussed on next year’s World Cup and he regards Ricky Ponting’s team as the favourites. “The Australians are a fine team and they will surely start favourites. But South Africans have an advantage playing at home and will be tough opponents. Pakistan, of late, have been playing well too.

“The World Cup is still seven months away and it will all depend on how teams perform then. In fact, any side can win the Cup. Even India have done well against England in the one-day series,” Australia’s last World Cup winning captain said.

Steve did not wish to reveal his choice for Wisden’s Indian Cricketer of the Century. “I have already cast my vote as for my choice. You’ll know that Tuesday,” he quipped.


Calcutta, July 22: 
Steve Waugh is back in the city on his philanthropic mission and, quite unlike Ricky Martin, under the full glare of the media.

As news cameramen jostled for better angles at the airport and at Taj Bengal, the Australian Test captain was his usual cool self, basking in the limelight and never letting things slip beyond his control. A pair of faded denims and a white polo T-shirt may have contributed to the rugged look, but Steve seemed fit and trim as ever.

His sojourn will last a shade over 24 hours this time and has been aimed at “gathering corporate support for some more projects” in the Udayan mould. No fund raising ventures this outing, unlike in the past.

The latest, a home for 200 girls “with depressed background” and whose parents have been leprosy victims, will aim to “bring about an awareness” about the disease among masses.

Monday evening was meant for only a private dinner, but Tuesday will be hectic. He is slated to visit The Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church in Nepalgunj (South 24 Parganas) and the Ramkrishna Vivekananda Mission at Rajgarhia House (North 24 Parganas). A couple of other institutions have also been shortlisted for his visit.

After making a first-hand assessment of facilities at these places, Steve and the eventual sponsors will decide on the venue for the project.

“This is just a small amount of work. I’m sort of a figurehead and making things a little easier for the others,” said Steve.

Steve’s efforts have already drawn a lot of praise and co-operation back home, prompting people to offer help. “An 87-year-old grandmother in Australia recently contributed $ 5,000 (Australian) to the cause. It must have been her lifetime savings,” revealed Steve.

His last stop — before leaving for Chennai as brand ambassador for AMP Sanmar, an insurance company — will be Udayan in Barrackpore. “The visit will be a sort of renewing ties for him, a way of staying in touch with the children there.

“It is here that he took his first steps, played cricket with the boys and is himself sponsoring the daughter (Lakhi Kumari, a polio victim) of a leprosy sufferer,” said Ms Shamlu Dudeja, chairperson of the Calcutta Foundation and the one behind it all.


Calcutta, July 22: 
Monsoon is back and so is The Telegraph Merchants’ Cup, which tees off at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club Tuesday. Seventy-five teams will take part in the three-day meet.

Speaking at a press conference, RCGC golf captain V.K. Singh said: “Generally, golf is played in the winter. But this tournament is traditionally a monsoon meet. I’m sure, it will be fun playing.”

Earlier, the meet was open only to houses with at least four executive golfers based in the eastern region. But since last year, an individual competition called The Telegraph Challenge Cup has been incorporated.

“Players like title-holder Arjun Singh, Sanjeev Mehra, Ranjit Singh will take part in the Challenge Cup,” it was informed. It was also learnt that former Asian Games gold medallist Laxman Singh and corporate leaders like B.M. Khaitan will take part in the Merchants’ Cup.

Some leading companies to have signed in are Eveready Industries, Tata Tea Ltd, Tisco, The Tinplate Company of India, RPG, Pepsi, CESC, Bata India Ltd, BOC India Ltd, Standard Chartered Bank and Goodricke Group Ltd.

“The scoring format in the Merchants’ Cup is four rounds of open stroke-play, while the Challenge Cup has a more generous format wherein three out of the four scores of an abridged stableford format will count,” it was announced.


July 23: 

Habeeb to decide on third match

The IFA XI coach, Mohammed Habeeb will decide whether his wards will play a third match in their tour of South Africa, against an all-Black side, which ranks quite high in the South African league. However, with the time available, the decision on whether the team will play three matches has been left to Habeeb.

On Monday, all 18 members practised under Mohidul Islam at the Mohammedan Sporting ground in the absence of Habeeb. The team leaves on Tuesday.

Md. Sp. replay

Mohammedan Sporting will resume their Super League campaign at Salt Lake Stadium on August 1, with a replay of their abandoned tie versus Ever Ready.

Mohammedan Sporting will next meet SAIL athome on August 3. They will also play the season’s first exhibition match, against Tollygunge Agragami.

Match off

The saga of abandonments in the Calcutta Football League continued when a Group B match between United Students and Calcutta Police AC was called off at the Belghoria AC ground. However, the CRA authorities did not clarify why the match was cancelled especially, on a day when all the other games were completed.

In the day’s Group A action, Milan Bithee came back from 0-2 down against ECLSA after an Amit Koley brace gave ECLSA the lead. S. Hembram and S. Ali were the Milan Bithee scorers.

Rohan to lead

Rohan Gavaskar will lead the CAB team on its forthcoming trip to Karnataka for the KSCA tournament. Gavaskar will join the team from Bangalore NCA.

However, veteran Utpal Chatterjee, will not make the trip because of CAB’s decision to send a junior team. Devang Gandhi and Nikhil Haldipur, who are currently in England, are thus, automatically ruled out.

Inter-school TT

The Patterson memorial inter-school table tennis championships will take place at the Khudiram Anushilan Kendra from August 8 to 12. The last date of entry for the tournament is July 30.


SOCCER: CFL Group A :Rajasthan vs Customs (Belghoria AC), Bata vs Peerless (Rabindra Sarobar), George Telegraph vs Kalighat (Md Sporting), WB Police vs Wari AC (EB),Howrah Union vs Mohammedan AC (SAP I), City AC vs BNR Recreation Club (Mohun Bagan) All matches from 3:30 pm

GOLF: The Telegraph Merchants’ Cup Golf (RCGC, 7:30 am)


July 22: 
It had been a long wait. The normal gap between RCTC racing seasons — the all-important cold weather and the monsoon — is about two months but the lesser season that was to be kicked off from July 5 was pushed back further by 12 days and for no fault of the RCTC. The syces’ strike and the heat wave that followed were the real cause for the delayed start.

Nevertheless, the hoof beats returned to the racetrack last Wednesday and it turned out to be a great day for punters who were wary of taking a serious plunge in betting owing to reports about sufferance of horses due to excessive heat and humidity.

There were seven events on offer and five favourites coolly walked away with the prize to the sheer discomfiture of bookmakers. In fact, some of the hot favourites found no takers, leaving the layer of odds with no choice but to expand the price of such runners beyond the permitted limits in their ledgers.

One such winner was Social Girl in the Adelina Cup. The filly trained by Farley Rodrigues, who went on to saddle four winners on the day, opened at 7-10 favourite but closed as a 7-4 fancy. She was first of the three winners partnered by the visiting jockey Amyn Merchant.

Something common among the Merchant winners was the copybook style in which he guided his winners — allowing someone to lead till the top of the turn before shooting into a winning lead. Social Girl apart, the formula also worked on Ballet Master and Star Selection leaving him to gain in numbers. But he missed the all-important event of the afternoon, the Midnight Cowboy Cup, as he stuck to the same strategy on Benediction against a smart and young sprinter like Alcalde from Bharath Singh’s yard.

Cristopher Alford doing duty on the Rebounding Thrill-Nimble half-money favourite colt enticed Merchant to gallop in close attendance only to skate clear into the home stretch. Alcalde won by widening distance to raise hopes of another victory soon.

Acting as a virtual caretaker for the suspended Daniel David, trainer Rodrigues also had something to pull off on his own through his ward Sovereign Bullet. Although Assertive Dancer — another of temporary transfer from Daniel to Ridrigues — was rage in the betting, the three-year-old frontline classic filly looked quite jaded during her paddock parade. The well-bred daughter of Razeen-Roccabarocco went on to justify her looks in the race right from the start as she literally trailed the field throughout the 1,100m scurry. Agreed, the slated trip was too short to her liking but a classic horse has to show some kind of form, irrespective of the distance. She may be left alone for sometime.


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