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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S

Windies salvage draw
St John’s, June 7
It was, admittedly, too good a batting wicket and this was ultimately the winner. Yet, it was an amazing match in which, like Muhammad Ali, India defiantly lowered their guard and taunted the opposition to throw a punch, who merely succeeded in tapping the nose. However, when the Indians had West Indies staggering on the ropes, they failed to deliver a knockout blow.
DEJECTED: Rahul Dravid in pensive mood on the fifth day of the first Test between India and West Indies in St John’s on Tuesday. — AFP photo
Rahul Dravid in pensive mood on the fifth day of the first Test between India and West Indies in St John’s on Tuesday

Lara’s behaviour insolent 
Brian Lara must count himself lucky. He might have had his reasons to get agitated but you can’t show disrespect to the umpires in the middle. In fact, I was surprised that the drama involving Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ‘catch’ was allowed to linger for a good 15 minutes although somebody like Simon Taufel was on the field. Usually this man is spot on with his decisions.

Star players fight injuries
Berlin, June 7
Ronaldo’s blisters are healed, Claudio Reyna’s hamstring is feeling good but Michael Ballack’s calf is strained. The Brazilian star and the US captain may be ready for the beginning of the World Cup, but the status of other prominent players remains in question as the tournament’s Friday start approaches.


England soccer player Wayne Rooney is escorted from hospital in Manchester on Wednesday
England soccer player Wayne Rooney is escorted from hospital in Manchester on Wednesday. The injured striker returned from World Cup training in Germany to have a scan on his broken foot. — Reuters

EARLIER STORIES




Crucial for referees to get right angle 
Frankfurt, June 7
It’s all in the angles. That’s the view of one of the world’s top 21 referees whose job it is to eliminate the cheating that is infecting soccer at this year’s World Cup. Mark Shield, a 32-year-old Australian widely viewed as the man to pick up the mantle of the world’s top referee from Italy’s Gianluigi Collina, was getting into the nitty gritty of how to stop the cheats at the tournament, which starts Friday.

India key soccer market: Blatter
New Delhi, June 7
Football maybe a poor cousin of cricket here but buoyant FIFA President Sepp Blatter said the overwhelming interest for the World Cup underlines India’s stature as a key soccer market.

Schedule

Nadal in semis
Paris, June 7
Champion Rafael Nadal coasted into the French Open semi-finals on Wednesday when his Serbian opponent Novak Djokovic retired injured when trailing by two sets to love in their quarterfinal.

Anand, Sridhar advance
New Delhi, June 7
World No. 20 Chetan Anand and national champion Anup Sridhar survived gruelling encounters before making it to the second round of the men’s singles in the $ 170,000 Singapore Open badminton championship.

Bhopinder sets Asian record
Chandigarh, June 7
Bhopinder Banta Singh of Chandigarh emerged the fastest woman of Asia in the 75-plus category when she rewrote the Asian record in the 100-metre sprint in the 27th National Masters Athletic Championship that concluded in Pondicherry on Friday.



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Windies salvage draw
Ashis Ray

St John’s, June 7
It was, admittedly, too good a batting wicket and this was ultimately the winner. Yet, it was an amazing match in which, like Muhammad Ali, India defiantly lowered their guard and taunted the opposition to throw a punch, who merely succeeded in tapping the nose. However, when the Indians had West Indies staggering on the ropes, they failed to deliver a knockout blow.

Translated to cricketing terminology, Rahul Dravid’s team were bereft of firepower in the bowling department to exploit the home side’s inherent weakness. Thus, the West Indians, 94 runs short of the target of 392 to win, with 10 and Jack at the crease, escaped to resume battle at St Lucia on Saturday.

Akin to four years ago and in the one-day series, this is the most desultory phase in West Indian cricket history. India have only themselves to blame if they don’t triumph, as they didn’t in the shorter format. West Indies do not have the strength in either batting or bowling to eclipse the tourists. Testimony to this is their capitulation on a placid pitch against an experimental attack. Only home advantage makes them competitive.

Whether the inclusion of Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan, “rested” for the match, would have clinched it for India we will never know. What is certain is the former would have added an extra dimension to the spin department, and several in the present West Indian line up are unskilful against slow bowling, the other would have swung the ball more than any of the quicker bowlers who were selected.

Bowling on the test pitch after the match finished, Harbhajan effortless turned the ball square, which gave the impression there was more to the surface than illustrated by Anil Kumble (not a great tweaker of the ball) and Virender Sehwag. A policy of horses for courses is only valid if those receiving the nod are eligible. Otherwise, your best and most experienced bowlers must play.

Of course, the tour selectors can take comfort from having almost beaten West Indies without two of their leading performers. Either Harbhajan or Pathan is bound to play the rest of the series, if not both. That they are dying to do so was exemplified by the extent of practice they have undertaken during the just concluded test.

Pathan has, in fact, had a session with Andy Roberts, one of the greats of West Indian fast bowling, who recommended he attempt a leap in the air just before his delivery stride. It will be interesting to see if this works for the talented Baroda lad.

For the record, after Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had stitched together 99 runs for the fourth wicket and remained unseparated between lunch and tea, both departed to Kumble. Following this, Sehwag dismissed the strokeful Dwayne Bravo and Denesh Ramdin. But the tail, particularly Dave Mohammed with an entertaining, maiden half century in Tests, resisted and ensured a draw.

Dravid took the second new ball, which had three advantages: it gave a tiring Kumble a break, allowed Munaf Patel and VRV Singh to repeat their short-pitched stuff and then enabled the sorcerer to return with a harder ball. It worked somewhat, but not sufficiently.

It’s a tribute to test cricket that such a tantalising and thrilling contest can unfold over five days.

It was, perhaps, fitting for West Indians that the concluding international cricket match at the Antigua Recreation Ground did not terminate in a defeat for the hosts. But this was 
not India’s concern. For them, it was an opportunity lost.

Scoreboard

India (1st innings) 241

West Indies (1st innings) 371

India (2nd innings) 521 for 6 decl.

West Indies (2nd innings)

Gayle lbw Kumble 69

Ganga c Yuvraj b Kumble 36

Sarwan c Kumble b Sreesanth 1

Lara lbw Sreesanth 0

Chanderpaul c Dravid b Kumble 62

Bravo c Dhoni b Sehwag 28

Ramdin c Dravid b Sehwag 8

Bradshaw c Dhoni b Patel 10

Mohammed b Kumble 52

Edwards not out 1

Collymore not out 1

Extras (b-5, lb-8, nb-17) 30

Total (9 wkts, 95 overs) 298

Fall of wickets: 1-67, 2-68, 3-72, 4-171, 5-202, 6-220, 7-226, 8-277, 9-297.

Bowling: Patel 20-4-55-1, Sreesanth 19-10-49-2, Kumble 34-8-107-4, VRV Singh 11-3-35-0, Sehwag 11-2-39-2.

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Lara’s behaviour insolent 
Michael Holding

Brian Lara must count himself lucky. He might have had his reasons to get agitated but you can’t show disrespect to the umpires in the middle. In fact, I was surprised that the drama involving Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ‘catch’ was allowed to linger for a good 15 minutes although somebody like Simon Taufel was on the field. Usually this man is spot on with his decisions.

Once the TV umpire is unable to make a decision because the pictures are inconclusive, it should be the job of field umpires to make a call. So, I was surprised that the matter lingered for that long.

In the days of match referees, usually such behaviour does not go unpunished. In good old days, a lot of us could get away with a lot of things but these days the match supervisors are intolerant to insolent behaviour.

As for the match, West Indies did not redeem their reputation although they did that of the Antigua Recreation Ground in a way. The flattest pitch in the Caribbean nearly produced a result and that says something about the present West Indies batting.

Nobody should have lost from the teatime position on the fifth day, not even when they had the rough end of the stick from an on field umpire.

Taufel is much respected around the world and for good reason. But on the final day, he gave Shivnarine Chanderpaul out caught in the slips when even the fieldsman Rahul Dravid had appeared only mildly interested.

Wasim Jaffer was the standout performer in the match as he first wiped out the deficit and then placed his team in a winning position. He seems to have a very good technique and is at ease while executing strokes both off the front and backfoot.

Much of whatever success India had in this decade, as it is with any successful team in any era, was because its openers were delivering the goods. Jaffer could revive the good times in the company of Virender Sehwag.

Such a combination will make life still more difficult for the threadbare West Indian bowling attack in the coming matches.

Most of the pitches on this tour will be slow as it always has been in the Caribbean. It is a misconception that pitches in the region have gone slow only recently. It has always taken outstanding fast or spin bowling to throw up a winner. I am not one of those who would advocate redoing the pitches only to suit mediocre bowling.

The ground (ARG) closed its innings with one of the greatest Tests ever played. Along with Brian Lara’s two world records; the great finish against Australia in 2003 when West Indies won chasing 418 runs; Viv Richards’ hundred off just 56 balls and now this match, ARG can rightly claim to be a venue of extreme historical importance in the Caribbean.

No wonder, Lara wants to keep a tuft of grass as memory for good times spent at the ARG. A matter of great cricketing irony though that his last knock at this venue was a duck.

The problems of Irfan Pathan are a malaise, which seems to be affecting the Indian pacemen of late. I guess they are not strong enough to keep going in the tough international arena.

They need to sort out if it is fitness, training or diet issues which is causing them to lose their pace dramatically. It is not a catastrophe if you miss a match or a series. — PTI 

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Star players fight injuries

Berlin, June 7
Ronaldo’s blisters are healed, Claudio Reyna’s hamstring is feeling good but Michael Ballack’s calf is strained.
The Brazilian star and the US captain may be ready for the beginning of the World Cup, but the status of other prominent players remains in question as the tournament’s Friday start approaches.

Germany captain Ballack has a strained right calf, though both he and the team’s staff are optimistic the star midfielder will play Friday against Costa Rica.

“It’s nagging, but we’ll get it under control,” Ballack said.

The absence of Ballack, who has scored 31 goals in 65 games for Germany, would be a major blow.

England, meanwhile, is holding its collective breath regarding the fate of Wayne Rooney, who is recovering from a broken foot.

A double dose of encouraging news came yesterday as the star striker trained with the team during its first session in Germany. He practiced free kicks and also put considerable pressure on his right foot.

Reyna certainly appears ready. He played Monday night in a closed-door friendly against Angola, his first game action since injuring his right hamstring against Morocco on May 23.

“Now it’s just full steam ahead,” he said yesterday.

Ronaldo was back on the practice field, too, two days after blisters on his feet caused him to miss the second half of a 4-0 win over New Zealand.

Italy defender Gianluca Zambrotta will miss his team’s opening match against Ghana on Monday with a strained right thigh. Zambrotta hopes to be back for the match against the United States next week.

The Italians are still unsure if defender Alessandro Nesta, who has an injured right thigh, will be available against Ghana.

Argentina defender Gabriel Heinze said he is still not in top shape after a seven-month layoff following a knee injury that sidelined him during the Premier League season for Manchester United.

Paraguay will have to play without veteran striker Jose Cardozo, who was pulled from the squad after tearing his calf muscle on Saturday in a warmup match against Bavaria.

Cardozo will be replaced by Dante Lopez.

The absence of Cardozo puts more pressure on young strikers Nelson Haedo Valdez and Roque Santa Cruz, who is still recovering from two knee operations in the last 18 months.

The Netherlands should have five injured players back before the tournament starts.

Defenders Kew Jaliens and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, and midfielders Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder and Philip Cocu were all still undergoing treatment for various injuries.

At least four would likely start Sunday’s Group C opener against Serbia-Montenegro. — AP

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Crucial for referees to get right angle 

Frankfurt, June 7
It’s all in the angles. That’s the view of one of the world’s top 21 referees whose job it is to eliminate the cheating that is infecting soccer at this year’s World Cup.
Mark Shield, a 32-year-old Australian widely viewed as the man to pick up the mantle of the world’s top referee from Italy’s Gianluigi Collina, was getting into the nitty gritty of how to stop the cheats at the tournament, which starts Friday.

FIFA has ordered referees at the 2006 tournament to clamp down on “simulation”, the devious art of trying to win a free kick or a penalty and get the opposing player into trouble.

Shield is the youngest referee at the tournament at 32, but this is already his second World Cup.

Simulation, or diving, was perfected on the playing fields of southern Europe and Latin America decades ago. Seen by these countries as part of the game, the rest of the world goes irate at what they see as downright cheating.

Now, with players crossing continents to play, professionals often seem to regard learning how to dive as a training ground exercise and it’s driving fans crazy. It is now a global stain on soccer’s character.

For referees, it’s all a question of being there when the simulated foul takes place, and in just the right position to be able to see if there is any contact at all between the players.

As the game has got faster and dirtier, referees have needed to be fitter and to get closer to the action to catch the miscreants, who have progressively become more and more talented at theatrical displays of injury.

A few year ago, FIFA advised referees that they needed to be within 10 or 15 meters (yards) of the action rather than running the diagonal and now the trend has been even further refined, with a referee needing to know exactly what angle he needs to be at to get the clearest view of a challenge.

“It’s one of the most difficult things in the world to sport. If you’re not in exactly the right position then it’s almost impossible to tell whether it’s a foul or a dive,” Shield said. “You give a foul and then later on you look at a replay and you see you’ve been fooled.” FIFA has instructed referees to award yellow cards for cheating at this year’s tournament in an effort to cut it out.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in Munich that referees were better prepared for this tournament than they had ever been before.

“There are more people there with the referees to prepare them and to test them than there are referees, and they have been tested at all levels,” Blatter said.

Blatter said he had delivered only one message to referees to stop players elbowing each other. — AP

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India key soccer market: Blatter

New Delhi, June 7
Football maybe a poor cousin of cricket here but buoyant FIFA President Sepp Blatter said the overwhelming interest for the World Cup underlines India’s stature as a key soccer market.

“India are among the biggest viewers of the FIFA World Cup,” said Mr Blatter barely a couple of days ahead of the soccer extravaganza in Germany, which is expected to reach out to 325 crore people world wide.

According to the FIFA chief, India a key market with regards to soccer viewership and following.

“I am very pleasantly surprised with the huge interest in soccer in a cricket crazy nation like India. It is the glory of the soccer world cup, which has transcended, like in other countries, over the language and sports barriers,” he said.

“In addition, ESPN STAR Sports’ programming initiatives and the special effort to telecast the 2006 FIFA World Cup in the national language, Hindi, will further increase the viewer-ship,” he said.

“I congratulate ESPN STAR Sports on all its plans to grow the popularity of soccer in India,” he added.

The FIFA President expected to overshoot the reach of 288 crore globally in World Cup.

R C Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India Pvt Ltd said, “A phenomenal awareness has already been created around the FIFA World Cup in Germany. ESPN STAR Sports continues to make efforts to excite and involve consumers for the FIFA World Cup. — UNI

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Schedule



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Nadal in semis

Paris, June 7
Champion Rafael Nadal coasted into the French Open semi-finals on Wednesday when his Serbian opponent Novak Djokovic retired injured when trailing by two sets to love in their quarterfinal.

Djokovic, 19, needed treatment for a thigh problem during the match and quit at 15-30 in the first game of the third set having lost the first two 6-4, 6-4.

“At the beginning of the second set I had the feeling he was injured,” said Nadal, who has now gone 58 consecutive matches unbeaten on clay.

“I think it is a very tough tournament with a lot of long matches, but I’m not tired. I feel good and now I have to concentrate on the semi-final.” Nadal is only a year older than Djokovic but physically it was man against boy as the heavily muscled Mallorcan asserted his authority on a sunny centre court.

Djokovic had never been beyond the third round of a Grand Slam before and ousted three seeds on his way to the last eight but he lost his opening two service games against Nadal and never recovered. — Reuters

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Anand, Sridhar advance

New Delhi, June 7
World No. 20 Chetan Anand and national champion Anup Sridhar survived gruelling encounters before making it to the second round of the men’s singles in the $ 170,000 Singapore Open badminton championship.

Anand, seeded 13th, rallied after being one game down against Sheng-Shium Liao of Chinese Taipei to post a 23-25, 21-9, 21-13 win in 47 minutes.

Sridhar was stretched as far as 30-28 in the first game by Dicky Palyama of Netherlands but the Indian regrouped to take the second game 21-17 in the 42-minute thriller. — PTI

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Bhopinder sets Asian record
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 7
Bhopinder Banta Singh of Chandigarh emerged the fastest woman of Asia in the 75-plus category when she rewrote the Asian record in the 100-metre sprint in the 27th National Masters Athletic Championship that concluded in Pondicherry on Friday.

Bhopinder clocked 19.77 seconds to break the record of 20.67 seconds set by Morita Mitsu of Japan at Okinawa (Japan) in the 75-80 age-group in 1998.

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