SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI






THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S

Rousing welcome for Italian team
Rome, July 11
Romans lost themselves in festive frenzy Monday as the Italian capital threw a massive welcoming embrace around the World Cup and the men who wrenched it so dramatically from the festival of the world’s top footballing nations in Germany.
Fans celebrate the arrival of Italy’s World Cup winning squad at Circo Massimo in Rome Fans celebrate the arrival of Italy’s World Cup winning squad at Circo Massimo in Rome on Monday.
— AFP photo

France forgives Zidane
Paris, July 11
Most French forgive soccer idol Zinedine Zidane for his savage head-butt against Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final, according to a poll published today.
Zinedine Zidane waves from the balcony of the Crillon hotel in Paris on Monday as he faces a cheering crowd Editorial: Tragic headbutt

Zinedine Zidane waves from the balcony of the Crillon hotel in Paris on Monday as he faces a cheering crowd.
— AFP photo












EARLIER STORIES


I insulted Zidane, admits Materazzi
Rome, July 11
Italian defender Marco Materazzi acknowledged that he “insulted” French player Zinedine Zidane because he was super arrogant in the World Cup final, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported today.

Constant cheating leaves bitter after-taste
Berlin, July 11
For many people the abiding memory of the 2006 World Cup will be the diving, cheating and feigning of injury that has permeated the tournament and held football up to ridicule in the eyes of other contact sports.

Italian senator’s racist slur angers France
Rome, July 11
France has complained to World Cup winner Italy about a right-wing senator’s racist comments that the defeated French team was made up of “blacks, Muslims and communists”, the Italian media reported today.

Domenech gets new contract with France
Paris, July 11
France football coach Ramond Domenech has been given a new contract in charge of the team he took to within a penalty shoot-out of World Cup glory. “The federation board has unanimously agreed to propose to Raymond Domenech that he continue as coach,” said the president of the French Football Federation Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

Sachin slams 50 but Pak win
London, July 11
Sachin Tendulkar continued his return to international cricket with another stroke-filled half-century while also featuring in an enthralling partnership with Brian Lara in a charity match at the Brit Oval stadium yesterday.

Sachin Tendulkar hits a four on his way to an unbeaten 50 during a charity Twenty-20 match between International XI and Pakistan at the Oval in London on Monday. — PTI photo

Sourav to pen book on cricket
New Delhi, July 11
For him, captaincy is a thing of past and Sourav Ganguly claims he won’t be devastated either if his comeback bid fails. And the former captain also revealed that he plans to write a book on cricket, which is likely to clear the air about his rift with coach Greg Chappell.
Sachin Tendulkar hits a four on his way to an unbeaten 50 during a charity Twenty-20 match between International XI and Pakistan at the Oval in London

Inzamam regrets going on diet
London, July 11
Recalling the horrible experience of being put on diet before the 2003 World Cup, Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul Haq said the 17 kg weight loss that followed only worsened his performance, frustrating him to the point that he thought of giving up cricket.

Lara may continue after World Cup
London, July 11
Hinting that he might continue playing after the World Cup, West Indies skipper Brian Lara has urged the country’s cricket administrators and players to stop “fighting each other” and move forward in the interest of Caribbean cricket.

US golfer Brittany Lincicome poses with the trophy after winning the final against compatriot Juli Inkster in the HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship in Gladstone, New Jersey
US golfer Brittany Lincicome poses with the trophy after winning the final against compatriot Juli Inkster in the HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship in Gladstone, New Jersey, on Monday. — AFP photo

Tour Review
All’s well that ends well
When a side slides two places in the International Cricket Council one-day international rankings and one position in the Test standings (a margin bigger than 1-0 was required to maintain a status quo), they could be deemed to have failed.

Second-string hockey team for SAF Games
New Delhi, July 11
A second-string hockey team, mostly comprising youngsters, will represent India at the SAF Games to be held in Colombo from August 18 to 27.

Video
SC issues notices to I&B ministry and Prasar Bharati on the plea of Ten Sports.
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Rousing welcome for Italian team

Rome, July 11
Romans lost themselves in festive frenzy Monday as the Italian capital threw a massive welcoming embrace around the World Cup and the men who wrenched it so dramatically from the festival of the world’s top footballing nations in Germany.

Rome’s left-wing mayor, Walter Veltroni, estimated that 10 lakh had turned out to welcome home the conquering heroes as the team held a victory parade through the city.

Men, women and children screamed their joy as skipper Fabio Cannavaro proudly held aloft the gold trophy at the front of an open-topped bus. People scrambled atop stationary public transport buses and even Carabinieri Land Rovers to get a better vantage point as the bus turned into Piazza Venezia.

The team, some wrapped in the Italian tricolour, seemed eager to encourage even greater frenzy as the bus inched its way through the throng.

The trophy in one hand, Cannavaro cupped a palm to his ear as if to encourage an even louder response from the crowd, while Alessandro Del Piero stood precariously on a seat and pumped his arms up and down like a rock star.

“They’re passing in front of me now, and they’re beautiful, very beautiful. Bellissimi! It’s stupenda!” screamed a young girl into a cellphone, as the bus toured the historic centre of the city.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi, perhaps indulging in a childhood dream, could not resist holding the cup aloft as he hosted a victory reception for the heroes at his offices earlier.

“We here at home shared with you a tension and suffering without equal” during the month-long competition, Prodi told the 23-member squad, many of whom proudly wore their gold winners’ medals over their suits.

“Thanks for reminding the younger generation that achievement is wrought with effort, sweat and commitment,” added Prodi. “Grazie. All Italians love you!” The prime minister, whose beleaguered government is hoping to ride a wave of optimism to revive a near moribund economy after the World Cup triumph, handed each of the players a medal during the reception.

The event began more than 90 minutes behind schedule after the team bus, followed by a cacophonous posse of scooters trailing flags, was repeatedly slowed to a crawl on its way into the city.

The team’s plane had touched down at a military airbase outside Rome two hours earlier, and fans who had waited hours to welcome them finally erupted into cheers when Cannavaro emerged onto the gangway with the trophy.

Italy’s air force acrobatic team, trailing smoke, painted the sky in the green, white and red colours of the national flag during repeated fly-pasts.

But the biggest reception was yet to come, as 5,00,000 fans waited at the Circus Maximus, the venue for a giant victory party after the parade.

Pride of place at the venue was given to a black hearse wrapped in the French tricolour.

During the celebrations, one of the most ubiquitous props has been an Italian-style death notice bearing the names of the French team, which passed away “after 90 minutes of agony” at Berlin's Olympic stadium.

The Italian heroes are to be decorated with one of the state’s highest honours, the Order of Merit of the Republic, by President Giorgio Napolitano in recognition of their victory.

With banner headlines like “Champions” and “The World Belongs to Us”, the triumphant Italian press hailed the team as legends, saying their victory over France in Sunday’s final had deservedly delivered the nation and themselves proper acclaim.

“We are champions because we are Italian,” Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest-selling newspaper, said in an editorial.

From now on “everywhere on Planet Earth, the white, red and green passport of Italy will be stamped with admiration.”

The challenge for Prodi is to tap into that feel-good factor after a desperately grim period for the economy, one of the worst-performing in the European Union, and for domestic football, rocked by a match-fixing scandal.

“There’s a clear, measurable boost to business confidence, and probably to consumer spending as well, in the wake of something like this. We saw that when France won the World Cup eight years ago,” said Howard Archer, chief European economist for analysts Global Insight.

The World Cup win will also help ease the pain over a probe into a match-fixing scandal which has scarred the reputation of Italy’s top Serie A teams.

Thirteen of the new world champions play for four teams at the centre of the scandal, which are champions Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio.

Uncertainty surrounds their future with their clubs, which do not know in which division they will be playing next season.

Stiff sanctions, including relegation from the lucrative Serie A, are likely to be announced on Wednesday. — AFP

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France forgives Zidane

Paris, July 11
Most French forgive soccer idol Zinedine Zidane for his savage head-butt against Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final, according to a poll published today.

Even if the rest of the sporting world remains appalled by the move, the poll shows that in France, 61 per cent forgive the now-retired team captain for the head-butt, which earned him an expulsion in the final minutes of Sunday’s game and marked a shocking end to his illustrious career. France lost 5-3 in penalty kicks.

More than 50 per cent of the 802 respondents said they understood the star’s reaction, according to the poll conduced by telephone by CSA polling agency published in today’s Le Parisien newspaper. No margin of error was given.

Zidane has yet to explain his actions, though some observers have speculated Materazzi taunted him with a racist remark. Zidane’s agent said he would explain himself in the coming days.

The French overwhelmingly agreed with FIFA, which awarded Zidane the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player despite the brutal parting move.

Seventy-eight per cent of respondents said Zidane, who became a national hero for leading France to its only World Cup victory in 1998, on its home turf, deserved the award. More than 60 per cent of those polled said they were satisfied with the national team’s performance, in spite of Sunday’s defeat.

FIFA to open disciplinary probe

Zurich: FIFA will open a disciplinary investigation into Zinedine Zidane’s conduct in the World Cup final, when he was sent off for head-butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi.

World soccer’s governing body said on Tuesday the incident had been spotted by the fourth official without using a monitor, who then alerted referee Horacio Elizondo through their communications system.

“FIFA will open a disciplinary investigation into Zidane’s conduct to enable it to clarify the circumstances surrounding the incident as exactly as possible” FIFA said in a statement. — AP

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I insulted Zidane, admits Materazzi

Rome, July 11
Italian defender Marco Materazzi acknowledged that he “insulted” French player Zinedine Zidane because he was super arrogant in the World Cup final, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported today.

Zidane, 34, floored Materazzi with a headbutt to the chest in the second half of extra-time in Sunday’s final and was sent off, missing a penalty shoot-out in which he would have been expected to take one of France’s spot-kicks.

“I held his shirt.. for only a few seconds, he turned toward me and scoffed at me, looking at me with super arrogance, up and down: ‘if you really want my shirt, you can have it later.’ (Zidane said) It’s true, I shot back with an insult,” the paper quoted Materazzi as saying.

Asked whether he had insulted Zidane’s sister or mother, Materazzi said, it was an “insult of the kind you will hear dozens of times and that just slips out on the ground.” “I certainly didn’t call him a terrorist; I am ignorant, I don’t even know what an Islamic terrorist is; my only terrorist is her,” he said pointing to his 10-month-old daughter who was sleeping next to him on the plane that took the Italian team back to Italy.

“I certainly did not mention Zidane’s mother; for me a mother is sacred.” In recalling the incident in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, the newspaper Corriere della Sera said that Materazzi lost his mother when he was 14 and that he would certainly not have insulted Zidane’s.

The French player’s agent had said Monday that Zidane’s World Cup final assault on Materazzi was provoked by a “very serious” comment made by the Italian defender.

The former Real Madrid star’s moment of madness in his last match before retiring may have been provoked by Materazzi calling his sister a prostitute, according to a report on Brazilian television channel Globo.

Fantastico, a programme on Globo, employed lip-reading experts who said footage of the incident showed the Italian twice insulted Zidane’s sister.

The programme claimed Materazzi made the same comment twice before then using a “coarse word” at the French player.

Zidane has not given his account of the incident. — AFP

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Constant cheating leaves bitter after-taste

Berlin, July 11
For many people the abiding memory of the 2006 World Cup will be the diving, cheating and feigning of injury that has permeated the tournament and held football up to ridicule in the eyes of other contact sports.

FIFA calls it “simulation” but although it is despised by millions of fans the world over, soccer’s governing body has shown precious little will to eradicate it.

In fact a pre-tournament edict telling referees to make doubly sure a player had dived before booking him seemed to swing the balance in favour of the cheats.

When FIFA President Sepp Blatter spoke on the penultimate day saying that he was happy to dive in his playing days the message that it was ok became unequivocal.

There was a fair amount of diving during the tournament and referees did show cards on a number of occasions.

The bigger problem, however, was the feigning and exaggeration of injury, which reached ludicrous proportions in some games, often those involving Portugal.

The Portuguese were not the only miscreants but they were undoubtedly the worst and it was surely no coincidence that more players got booked against them than playing any other team.

Captain Luis Figo must have spent 10 minutes of every match on the ground while winger Cristiano Ronaldo seemed to believe his flash ball skills made him immune from being tackled and looked at the referee amazed if an opponent was not penalised.

Germany’s Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot as top scorer but could also have collected a Golden Globe for being able to produce six complete body revolutions on the ground after a foul.

Others clutched their faces in apparent agony following the merest contact, comically checking their hands for blood to justify their feeble antics.

Even the final was littered with phony grimaces of anguish as players dived for fouls and repeatedly feigned injury.

Although Italy’s Marco Materazzi had some justification in going down after France captain Zinedine Zidane head butted him in the chest, the showpiece match suffered from the spoilers.

As well as causing unjust red and yellow cards, the injury pretence now leads to endless stops in the game as players feel obliged to kick to ball out of play to allow for treatment.

What was once a sporting gesture used only for head injuries and compound fractures is now completely abused.

There was, though, one powerful voice of reason — former World Cup-winning player and coach and head of Germany’s 2006 organising committee Franz Beckenbauer.

“I get really annoyed at all the acting, the way players simulate injuries in an attempt to provoke a yellow card or red card,” Beckenbauer said in the final week of the tournament.

“The players make it harder for referees by simulating, and by staying lying on the ground to interrupt play.

“And I would give the players who come charging up to a referee demanding a yellow card their wish — he should get the card himself.

“Perhaps everyone — players, referees and administrators — can get around a table after this to come up with a solution to put an end to these kind of unfortunate incidents.” However, Beckenbauer says he has no intention of standing for the FIFA presidency if 70-year-old Sepp Blatter ever stands down so there is no immediate prospect of a change of direction from the top. — Reuters

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Italian senator’s racist slur angers France

Rome, July 11
France has complained to World Cup winner Italy about a right-wing senator’s racist comments that the defeated French team was made up of “blacks, Muslims and communists”, the Italian media reported today.

Racism has already threatened to cloud Italy’s victory, with reports that Italian defender Marco Materazzi provoked French star Zinedine Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, by calling him a “terrorist”. Materazzi denies making such comments.

There was no such denial from Roberto Calderoli of the Northern League, who lost a ministerial post in a centre-right government earlier this year for wearing a T-shirt with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad offensive to Muslims.

As the victorious Azzurri returned to a heroes’ welcome in Rome yesterday, Calderoli celebrated it as a “political victory” over a mixed-race French team.

Italy had “beaten a team which, in the quest for results, sacrificed its own identity by selecting blacks, Muslims and communists”, the senator said, in comments that were rejected by members of Italy’s new centre-left coalition government. — Reuters

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Domenech gets new contract with France

Paris, July 11
France football coach Ramond Domenech has been given a new contract in charge of the team he took to within a penalty shoot-out of World Cup glory.

“The federation board has unanimously agreed to propose to Raymond Domenech that he continue as coach,” said the president of the French Football Federation (FFF) Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

He said the finer details of the new contract including its length would be decided at a later meeting of the federation board in August.

Domenech, a former coach of the French under-21 side, took over as national coach after Euro 2004 in Portugal when France crashed out in the quarterfinals.

He succeeded Jacques Santini and immediately allowed top players such as Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Claude Makelele to retire from international play.

But his refashioned French side struggled through their early World Cup qualifiers and Domenech came in for heavy criticism.

Eventually he had to relent and agree to the return of the retired players who promptly made certain that France would play in the finals in Germany. — AFP

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Sachin slams 50 but Pak win

London, July 11
Sachin Tendulkar continued his return to international cricket with another stroke-filled half-century while also featuring in an enthralling partnership with Brian Lara in a charity match at the Brit Oval stadium yesterday.

Facing bowlers of international standards for the first time in more than three months after a shoulder surgery, Tendulkar cracked an unbeaten 50 for an International XI but could not prevent touring Pakistan from scoring a six-wicket victory.

Rain and a lack of floodlights meant that the Twenty-20 match, in aid of the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan last October, was reduced to 10 overs a side.

But there was no dearth of entertainment for the 20,000-odd crowd as Tendulkar and the other batting stars studded the evening with boundaries and sixes.

The Indian maestro hit eight fours and a six in his 26-ball knock and added 72 runs for the opening stand with Lara as International XI made 123 for one. Pakistan, however, overhauled the target in the final over.

Shahid Afridi hammered 41 off just 12 balls with fives sixes and two fours.

Afridi blasted 22 runs off the first four balls and hit two more sixes before Inzamam’s 36 off 17 saw them home off the last ball. Watched by a crowd of over 20,000 the match raised 250,000 pounds for the charity.

Tendulkar delighted his fans with a huge six over mid-wicket off the seventh ball he faced.

More fireworks followed when Mahendra Singh Dhoni succeeded Lara who made 32 off 21 deliveries.

The India wicketkeeper cracked Abdul Razzaq for six over long-off and four a little straighter in making 35 off 13 balls.

Tendulkar showed no sign of discomfort as he thundered three powerful pull shots — two assertive fours against Shahid Nazir and one disdainful six against the largely unthreatening Waqar Younis.

Pakistan’s fast bowling attack has been so depleted by injuries on their visit to England that when Waqar Younis, the 34-year-old veteran of 87 Tests, opened the bowling and conceded only five runs from his first over, there were suggestions that he could make a return to the Test.

Tendulkar and Lara put an end to that fantasy in Waqar’s second over, hitting him for three fours as well as that monstrous six.

Meanwhile, Indian captain Rahul Dravid hailed Tendulkar’s return to the game.

“He was striking the ball so well, but we never had any doubts or so ever about his coming back to the game,” said Dravid who led the international side.

“He never had any real problems with batting, only throwing was a concern.” Tendulkar missed the one-day series at home against England and did not play the entire tour of the West Indies.

Dravid was confident the Mumbaikar would be back in the team sooner than later.

“I am sure Sachin, in consultation with his doctor, will make the decision that is best for both himself and the Indian team.” — PTI

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Sourav to pen book on cricket

New Delhi, July 11
For him, captaincy is a thing of past and Sourav Ganguly claims he won’t be devastated either if his comeback bid fails. And the former captain also revealed that he plans to write a book on cricket, which is likely to clear the air about his rift with coach Greg Chappell.

Talking to BBC World’s Hardtalk extra, Ganguly poured his heart out and talked at length about his career, possibility of a comeback to international cricket and the book.

On the controversy surrounding his sacking as the captain and eventually his ouster from the team, Ganguly thinks he would definitely give his version of the story at some point of time.

“There will be some time when I will correct this — I’m too lazy to write a 600 page book — maybe when I finish or at some stage when I feel it’s the right time I will clear it up.” “It will be all about cricket, on the field and some things off the field,” added the southpaw.

Asked specifically if he would shed light on his rift with Chappell in the book, Ganguly was elusive.

“Well, when you read the book you’ll find out,” he said. The former skipper seems to have retired to the fact that he won’t be leading the side again.

“You don’t have captains every six months, if you have captains every six months it’s wrong. I am looking forward to playing as a player,” he said.

And if his comeback bid fails? Ganguly said he won’t be totally devastated.

“I have played 390 internationals for India, captained 200. I must be one of the lucky few.” But the fight is not over yet and he has a lot of cricket left in him, asserted Ganguly, who is having a county stint with Northamptonshire.

“It’s not just the World Cup. It’s even further beyond. I am going to be 33 so I don’t think it’s an age to make a decision yet about cricket. I’ll keep on performing,” he argued.

Ruling out the prospect of hanging up his boots, Ganguly said, “I’ve not even thought about anything at this stage except playing the game. I just want to keep on playing, keep on performing, do what is in my hands, that is, playing the game, batting and bowling and fielding, and not worry about the rest. I just want to keep on playing and I still feel that I can be part of a successful side in terms of my contribution.” So far India’s most successful captain, Ganguly said he was not worried with his selection, for that’s something the selectors have to decide.

“I’ll do what’s in my hands, perform, because at the end of the day you can only be judged by your performances. If I don't perform I don’t get back”. — UNI

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Inzamam regrets going on diet

London, July 11
Recalling the horrible experience of being put on diet before the 2003 World Cup, Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul Haq said the 17 kg weight loss that followed only worsened his performance, frustrating him to the point that he thought of giving up cricket.

“I will never do that again. Just before the World Cup I worked harder than I ever did and lost 17 kilograms!,” Inzamam told ‘The Guardian’.

“Can you believe it? It was too much. I didn’t score any runs without those 17 kilograms. And that’s when I got dropped from the Test team. It hurt me so much that I said I’m not willing to play again,” he added.

He said the ridicule he faced for being overweight and lethargic, and jokes on his slow running between the wickets hurt him immensely earlier but not anymore as he has become a calmer person now.

“Those jokes hurt me — especially in the past. It is not easy when people laugh at you. I don’t mind positive criticism, but when it is negative and personal it is quite hard. But I feel more relaxed now,” the Pakistan skipper said.

Inzamam, who once attacked a spectator for calling him an ‘aloo’ during a match, said he has matured with age and has stopped letting any criticism — either personal or professional — affect his peace of mind.

“It is difficult because we have 15 crore critics in Pakistan and whenever we play a series there are maybe five TV channels that cover the cricket. And each channel has five big experts telling us where we are going wrong. I try to ignore them,” he said.

Happy that new coach Bob Woolmer has put no such restriction on his diet and the strictness with the food is limited only to the playing season.

“He takes it well, because he’s a very good human being. He understands us and so he does not try to change us in one day. He does make us think about our diet. We now know that during a series we cannot eat any curry because if you eat heavy curries it’s not so easy to perform,” Inzamam revealed.

The Multan player said he always enjoyed playing under pressure especially in front of his home crowd.

“The pressure on me is always there. But I always do quite well when the pressure is big,” he said.

Enjoying his stint as captain of the side, Inzamam said leading the team gave him immense pleasure as he has faith in the ability of each and every member of the squad.

“I get more confidence and happiness leading this team.” Inzamam, who has a career spanning 109 Tests at an imposing average of 51.34, admitted that he doesn’t spend much time in the nets and likes to keep things slow and simple.

“I only do it for a short time, nice and slow,” Inzamam said.

“He loves batting and I have to do a lot of bowling. He is a very good left-hander. I bat right-handed but bowl left-handed to him. So he scores many runs against me,” he revealed. — UNI

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Lara may continue after World Cup

London, July 11
Hinting that he might continue playing after the World Cup, West Indies skipper Brian Lara has urged the country’s cricket administrators and players to stop “fighting each other” and move forward in the interest of Caribbean cricket.

“There’s the World Cup and then a tour to England — that’s so tempting,” Lara told BBC Sport.

“But let’s take one step at a time. We’ve got the ICC (Champions Trophy), we’ve got a 37-year-old body, we’ve got a Pakistan tour and the World Cup,” he added.

Lara, who threatened to quit captaincy after the series against India said he wanted to be a part of the resurgence of cricket in the Caribbean.

“I want to see us get back to the top. It’s so important everyone involved — the selectors, the public, the administrators, the cricketers — have all got to be moving in the same direction,” he said. — UNI

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Tour Review
All’s well that ends well
Ashis Ray

When a side slides two places in the International Cricket Council (ICC) one-day international rankings and one position in the Test standings (a margin bigger than 1-0 was required to maintain a status quo), they could be deemed to have failed. The truth is, India, with their performance in the four Tests in general and series-winning one in the final encounter in particular, significantly redeemed themselves and can be proud of their achievement in the West Indies, which they ought to have delivered four years ago.

It would have been a travesty if India had even drawn the Test series, let alone lost it. Other than being frustrated by the weather in Australia in 1985-86, India have rarely, if ever, endured such ill-fortune. In short, what could have been a crushing triumph was ultimately on paper a slender glory. This, though, was an inaccurate reflection of India’s dominance. So much so, that a 3-0 result would not have been misleading.

The one-dayers, after the exhilarating winter sprint against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and England, were, admittedly, a disappointment. The hosts were of limited ability and ought to have been cut down to size. Indeed, wafer-thin margins divided the two teams in the first three matches and all of these could have concluded in India’s favour instead of merely the first, which, ironically, from the standpoint of a run chase, was the toughest assignment of all.

The touring batsmen made heavy weather of the modest West Indian attack in the second and third ODIs, losing wickets at regular intervals in the former and losing their way after a decent start in the other. However, in the fourth and fifth meetings — at Trinidad, India’s happy hunting ground in the past — the visitors were irrefutably outplayed.

Mohammed Kaif, with three half centuries, Virender Sehwag with two 90-plus scores, Yuvraj Singh with two fifties and Rahul Dravid with a hundred had their periods in the sun, but by and large India struggled as a batting unit. In bowling, the linchpin was clearly Ajit Agarkar, surprisingly dropped for the Tests thereafter, and to a certain extent Harbhajan Singh. However, they lacked support, which contributed to the 1-4 defeat.

What caused the setback was the Indian batsmen’s inability to contend with the cocktail of bounce without pace. With their inclination to play on the up, they executed drives too early, thus either mistiming the ball or spooning it into the air. The silver lining, if any, was that the lesson was handed down at a juncture before next year’s World Cup in the Caribbean, which could enable the Indians to learn from it. Although, with ICC consultant Andy Atkinson’s involvement in the pitch preparation for the apex one-day event, the wickets eight months hence could be a little faster than the recent experience.

The fact that the visitors had got attuned to the tricky playing conditions by the time the five-day format arrived is amply testified by their showing. They bravely — and rightly — batted first on a grassy pitch in the opening Test at Antigua, could have done better, but for VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh losing their concentration when the track had eased, thus denying support to the lonely ploughman, Dravid.

The third Test at St Kitts was an exception, in that the honours here were even. But the aberration was eventually rectified when Dravid almost single-handedly, on a poorly prepared surface at the dreaded Sabina Park, reversed history by clinching the Test.

It’s highly creditable India that accomplished their task without Sachin Tendulkar. This was largely due to Dravid, man of the decisive Test and the series after his amazing consistency (including a three-figure knock) and, arguably, the most complete batsman in contemporary cricket, and the wizardry and will power of Kumble. Jaffer is unarguably the discovery of the season.

As for Harbhajan Singh, he wrought havoc in the West Indian first innings at Sabina Park — undoubtedly as significant a rendering as any — but belied expectations in the second, when Kumble provided the much-needed killer blow, with the admirable assistance of Sreesanth and Munaf.

Finally, it’s time to stop playing the swadeshi card when the cupboard is bare. Greg Chappell should be allowed to discharge his brief. He is the finest combination of an outstanding player and a dedicated and qualified modern-day coach. Give him the tools, so that he can finish the job.

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Second-string hockey team for SAF Games

New Delhi, July 11
A second-string hockey team, mostly comprising youngsters, will represent India at the SAF Games to be held in Colombo from August 18 to 27.

Both India and Pakistan, the heavyweights in the Games, have decided to rest their senior players as they prepare for the prestigious hockey World Cup to be played in Monchengladbach, Germany, from September 6.

A host of 32 probables, from among which the Indian team for SAF Games would be selected, are attending a training camp in Patiala from July 5 under junior coach Clarence Lobo.

Indian Hockey Federation secretary K. Jothikumaran said the senior players could not be spared for the Colombo meet because of the packed schedule.

“Our engagement in the SAF Games will come to an end on August 25 and the team for the World Cup would leave on August 24. So it is not possible to spare the senior players at all,” Jothikumaran told PTI today.

He said the Indian team for the August engagement would mainly consist of the junior players who performed well to win the title at the six-nation tournament held in Poland last month.

Jothikumaran said the final team for the SAF Games would be declared in a few days.

“The camp in Patiala is going on in full flow. It will take a while for us to announce the team. Later, the players will be given a break before uniting for the final phase of the camp,” he said. — PTI

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 BRIEFLY

Nadal escapes unhurt in mishap
MADRID:
French Open champion Rafael Nadal escaped unhurt after the car in which he was travelling hit an electricity pylon in Manacor, Mallorca, Spanish media reported on Tuesday. The 20-year-old world No. 2 returned to his hometown on the island on Monday after losing to Roger Federer in the men’s singles final at Wimbledon. Local radio station IB3 reported the accident had caused power cuts in the Portocristo area of the island. — Reuters

Rosa in for Montoya
PARIS:
Pedro de la Rosa will replace Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya driving for the McLaren-Mercedes Formula One team, it was announced on Tuesday. The Spaniard will compete for McLaren at this Sunday’s French Grand Prix, the team said. The team has decided that Pedro de la Rosa will join Kimi Raikkonen. De la Rosa had previously been the third driver at McLaren-Mercedes. — AFP

Mukherjee dead
Kolkata:
Soccer star of the 1960s, Kajal Mukherjee, died at a private hospital here after a nine-month battle with lung cancer. Mukherjee, 64, died last night leaving behind a son, family sources said. Rated as one of the best midfielders ever produced by the country, Mukherjee gained popularity for his silken skills and precision passing, and was adept in both defence and attack. He represented India in a pre-Olympic match in 1964 besides turning out in the national colours at the Bangkok Asian Games (1966). — PTI

India win bronze
NEW DELHI:
India took the bronze medal, finishing behind Chinese Taipei and Australia in the seventh Asian-Oceanian Korfball Championship held in Hong Kong from July 4 to 9, which ensured them a berth in the World Championship, slated for next year in the Czech Republic. President of the Korfball Association of India MC Gupta said at a media briefing here on Tuesday that the Indian players performed beyond expectation to fetch the bronze medal. He said India would be bidding to host the Asian Championship in 2008. — OSR

Poborsky retires
PRAGUE:
Czech veteran midfielder Karel Poborsky has announced his retirement from international soccer. “I’m grateful for what I experienced in the national team but I’ve decided to quit” Poborsky told Czech public television late on Monday. The 34-year-old played a record 118 times and scored eight goals for his country. — AP
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