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Since 1st March, 1999
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China to join Asian family

Karachi: China could be playing international cricket within two decades after being cleared to join the Asian cricket family later in November, the Asian Cricket Council announced on Tuesday. “We are all set to give China associate membership later this month,” the council's chief executive Ashraful Huq said. “I am amazed at the level of cricket interest in common people and seriousness of the officials in China.”

Huq, who visited Hong Kong for the recent Super Sixes tournament, said Chinese officials approached him and said they were applying for membership of the Asian Cricket Council. They were also seeking affiliate membership of the International Cricket Council.

Huq visited China in September and met China’s director of sports Lu Zai Hua, paving the way for China’s entry into the Asian Cricket Council.

Hewitt slips to Aussie No.2

Sydney: Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt will be Australia’s second player behind Mark Philippoussis in this month’s Davis Cup tennis final against Spain in Melbourne, according to the latest tennis rankings. Hewitt, who slipped to 18 in the latest world rankings after a low-key year, has fallen behind Philippoussis, now ranked ninth in the world.

Australian Davis Cup coach Wally Masur believes Hewitt’s ranking slide and quiet season on the ATP tour will ensure he prospers in the long term. “I reckon this will be a great move for him — he will come back with a vengeance,” Masur said on Tuesday. “He’s chased the No.1, played the Masters and Davis Cup finals —this has been a great time for him to do the consistent hard work on and off the court — he hasn’t had the time to do that for two-and-a-half years. “He finished two years at the top at a very young age and it has taken a lot out of him.”

Zidane uncertain of retirement

Paris: France midfielder Zinedine Zidane says it is not certain he will retire when his Real Madrid contract ends in 2005. “I put forward 2005 because it’s the end of my contract with Real. But that’s simply a landmark and nothing has been definitely decided,” he told Onze magazine.

“It all depends on how I feel at the time and also my physical state.” He will be 33 in June 2005. “I have spoken about stopping after Euro 2004 because at the World Cup in Germany in 2006 I will be 34. I don't know whether, in three seasons, I will be playing as well as I have done until now. “I don’t want to play for a year after the European championship, play during the start of the World Cup qualifiers and then retire.”

Marathon ranking

New York: A ranking system to discover the world’s No. 1 marathon runner was unveiled on Monday with organisers offering a $1 million top prize.

Male and female athletes will compete for top spot over a two-year period culminating in the 2005 New York City marathon.

The company behind the move says an athlete’s points total will be calculated on the basis of his or her performances in their three best marathons during the two years. “When athletes hear about this, they may be surprised but I think they will be very happy with the idea,” Haile Gebrselassie said.

Olympic budget

Paris: Paris will have a budget of 24 million euros ($27.47 m) to cover the costs of its bid for the 2012 Olympics.

A bid committee meeting on Monday agreed this budget would be built on equal contributions from the city, the French government, the Paris region and corporate donations. The budget covering 2003-5 will be carved up as following — 6.9 million euros for the bid document, 4.4 million for communication, 4.6 million for international relations, 7.2 million for administration and the rest for miscellaneous expenses.

n Cricket, West Indies vs Zimbabwe — First Test Day II live from 1.25 pm on ESPN n Rugby, World Cup — from 9 pm on STAR Sports n Soccer, Champions League — live from 1 am (Thursday) on STAR Sports and ESPN

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