Toss-up on level playing pitch
Centre opts for ad hoc Governors
Curtain goes up on bahu vs bahu
Calcutta Weather

The moment is at hand.... Making and breaking of reputations. Tears of joy and despair. Performances that will either be long remembered or not at all....

Really, we should have much to choose from, between tomorrow and June 20. After all, cricket?s biggest stage is in place: from the glamour boys to the more bread-and-butter types, everyone?s going to start on equal footing.

Even South Africa and Australia, the pre-tournament favourites. Form, consistency.... That holds good to a point only and till they?ve actually begun on a winning note, both Hansie Cronje and Steve Waugh aren?t exactly going to sleep tight.

That match No. 1 means so much was best put in perspective by Arjuna Ranatunga, the Sri Lankan captain, when he told The Telegraph: ?A winning start and we may again be unstoppable. I accept we haven?t done well in recent months, but just one game ? and victory ? could make all the difference.?

The world champions are up against England, in the Cup-opener at Lord?s. In the last edition, Lanka had thrashed England in the Faisalabad quarter-finals.

Too much should not be read into the past, though, and that?s one point being repeatedly made by Mohammed Azharuddin. The Indian captain sees this tournament as a fresh chapter. But if it?s to read like a best-selling thriller, one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar will have to be on song throughout.

That?s not beyond the young master. And, that?s great news for millions back home.

There?s been speculation on the strategy the Lankans and others could adopt. There?s already been a controversy over the modified Duke?s balls.

No one is quite sure how effective pinch-hitters could be in conditions here.... Perhaps, the last 15 overs could, this time, make all the difference.

And, yes, everyone?s praying the Duckworth-Lewis formula for revising targets doesn?t come into play too often. In any case, matches will be continued on the reserve day, not begun afresh.

Irrespective of whether strategies change or not, the Cup?s seventh edition is certainly going to be different.

There?s a new format ? super-six with points being carried over ? and, unusually, no title-sponsor. Instead, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has four ?global partners? (like Pepsi) and six ?official suppliers? (Hero Honda, for instance).

It?s a bit of an Olympic touch.

Apparently, the ECB had initially planned for more global partners, but a world-wide downswing in economy made them less ambitious. Profits, of course, there still will be ? the International Cricket Council will get its share.

Format and sponsorship apart, this edition will see the blurring of geographical boundaries. Bob Woolmer has been with South Africa for some time, but consider this:

India and Lanka have roped in Australians for assistance ? Bobby Simpson and Trevor Chappell, respectively. Then, Pakistan have appointed a South African (Richard Pybus) as technical director/coach.

That?s not all.

The Lankans have also had counselling sessions with a US-based Pakistani psychologist. New Zealand have an Australian coach (Steve Rixon, appointed after the 1996 Cup) and both Bangladesh and Kenya have signed up West Indians: Gordon Greenidge and Alvin Kallicharran, respectively.

Horses-for-courses has been the bottomline.

In a different context, the same policy has ensured security of the highest order. It?s a sign of the times, across London, that whether it?s Burger King outlets or the many Boots stores, you?re warned of the presence of bomb detectors.

Indeed, all the new underground rakes have surveillance cameras on board. ?We?re not taking chances? is the message sought to be conveyed. It?s reassuring, yes, but does throw up some questions, too.

Incidentally, the ambience isn?t quite carnival-like ? and a carnival of cricket is how the tournament is being officially promoted.

But, then, this isn?t the sub-continent.

The one-time sahibs do go about things slightly differently.    

New Delhi, May 13 
President K.R. Narayanan tonight appointed acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court Shyamal Kumar Sen Governor of West Bengal and gave additional charge of Arunachal Pradesh to Assam Governor S.K. Sinha.

They will discharge their duties till ?regular? appointments are made. It implies that the two will function as Governors till elections are over.

In his brief communiqu?, Narayanan, however, made no reference to Mata Prasad, the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, who had refused to resign at the request of the home ministry and had insisted that he would quit only if asked by the President. (A late night PTI report quoted Raj Bhavan sources as saying Prasad has welcomed the presidential order and has decided to leave Itanagar on May 16.)

But Narayanan said he was naming Sen and Sinha as those who would ?discharge the duties? of the Governor and that their appointment would take effect as soon as they assume office.

The slipshod manner in which the home ministry has dealt with the issue has come in for criticism. Home minister L.K. Advani has been at the receiving end of these charges because the terms of both Prasad and Kidwai were over in August and October last year. The BJP-led ruling coalition ? then under pressure from its allies and from the Sangh parivar ? dithered over making new appointments.

Earlier today, both Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Advani went over to Rashtrapati Bhavan to further discuss the issue. They made it clear that they would act in a restrained manner and refrain from making fresh gubernatorial appointments.

Four days after Kidwai had put in his papers, Advani called West Bengal acting chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya this afternoon and told him that Sen was the choice till a new government was in place.

Bhattacharya said: ?I personally know Justice Sen and the state government will extend its full cooperation.? Bhattacharya, however, told reporters that he had made it clear to Advani that the state administration had not liked the way in which Kidwai was made to leave.

Advani wanted to know whether the state administration was satisfied with the choice of Sen. Bhattacharya apparently told Advani to get in touch with Jyoti Basu in London for the administration?s view. The acting chief minister said Advani had contacted Basu. ?He said Advani had got in touch with him and that he was happy with the appointment,? Bhattacharya added.    

New Delhi, May 13 
The battle between Gandhi family Bahu I and Bahu II has begun. The first to fire the shot is the junior bahu, Maneka Gandhi, who the BJP is trying to pit against Sonia Gandhi.

In an interview to Panchjanya, a pro-BJP weekly, Maneka has said the Prime Minister?s post is like a ?toy? to Sonia, just another way of enriching her ?luxurious lifestyle?.

The fusillade from the outcast Gandhi family member reinforces recent speculation that the BJP, her ally, will use her to combat Sonia and the Congress in what has all the makings of being one of the most bitterly fought elections ever.

Entering politics the same way as Sonia, by virtue of marrying into the family, Maneka, in her interview, denigrated the right to lead and rule by inheritance. She accused Sonia of acting as an ?agent? of the Nehru-Gandhi family, saying: ?She only cashes in on the name of the family. She has the misconception that we (the Gandhi family) have been born to rule.?

Minister of state for social justice and empowerment in the caretaker Vajpayee government, Maneka fell out with the family not too long after Sanjay Gandhi?s death, leaving the dynastic mantle to be carried by the other branch ? first Rajiv and now Sonia.

Maneka said: ?The office of the Prime Minister for her is like a toy, a doll. She is not aware that difficult responsibilities go with this job.?

Maneka?s salvo adds a third prong to the strategy the BJP is using against Sonia, the other two being that she is a foreigner and that she unjustifiably pulled down the government.

In the BJP?s eyes, Maneka versus Sonia also represents swadeshi bahu against videshi bahu, apart from telling the people that it, too, has a Gandhi family member on its side.

For the record, the Congress is not even acknowledging the existence of Maneka, let alone consider countering the strategy being adopted by the BJP.

Describing herself as an ?old-style Gandhi? who does not believe the family has a hereditary right, Maneka put Sonia?s entry into politics down to ?lust for power?.

?As long as there is no opportunity, people remain behind the screen but at the first opportunity they take a leap,? she said, citing the instance of Rajiv Gandhi.

Maneka described the Congress as an empty bottle with a beautiful cap. ?It needs a ?hero?, an ?image? to go to the people. Hence, Congressmen keep going back to the Nehru-Gandhi family,? she said.

The first act of this soap opera has begun. ?Dynasty?, episode II, should not be too far off.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of development of thunderclouds towards afternoon or evening. Not much change in day temperature.
Temperature: Maximum 35.4 (1?C below normal)
Minimum 25.9?C (Normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 92% Minimum 47%
Rainfall: Nil
Sunset: 6.05 pm Sunrise: 5 am    

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