COUNTDOWN: 14 DAYS TO GO...
Kapil rates India behind Aussies
Paes-Damm win title
Anand regains joint lead
Abhey: State govt ignoring players
thriller against South
Mumbai, February 26
With two frontline spinners in their squad and a couple of others good enough to share the burden jointly, India have a healthy spin mix to tie down the rival batsmen.
Among the slow bowlers is veteran Anil Kumble for whom the tournament is to be one-day swan song, having already indicated he would quit the shortened form of cricket at the end of the tournament.
Kumble, who is to play in his fourth World Cup, may have to yield the tag of the first spinner of the squad to off spinner Harbhajan Singh and could get a look-in in the playing eleven only if the team thinks of using two slow bowlers.
The stalwart would be eager to bow out of the one-day game in glory if and when he gets his chance to show his wares in which pin-point accuracy and consistent stump-line attack with subtle pace and spin variations are his major virtues.
Kumble, who was brought back into one-day reckoning during the last two home series after having been ignored for more than a year, had claimed only five wickets in three matches in the last World Cup, including a four-wicket haul against The Netherlands.
The 36-year-old Bangalore star bowled economically with a haul of 1-24 in seven overs against eventual champions Australia in the league phase and was expensive against Pakistan later when he conceded 51 runs in ten overs and did not play another match in South Africa.
After making an impressive Cup debut in the sub-continent in 1996 with a haul of 15 wickets in seven matches, Kumble was far less successful in England three years later and had only 8 wickets in 7 matches.
With his strike rate coming down even further in 2003, it remains to be seen how well he can rise up to the occasion in the West Indies when he is given a chance to play with Harbhajan, the first choice spinner going into the tournament.
The Punjab off spinner, who too struggles generally away from the sub continent in taking wickets, was also far from impressive in 2003 when he could take only five wickets in as many ties.
It will be an acid test for the 26-year-old Jalandhar-born bowler, difficult to face at home on wickets where the ball grips and turns, but in alien conditions it’s hoped that his experience of having toured West Indies last year would stand him in good stead.
He was not in the thick of wickets on that tour, with only three to his credit in five matches, but was quite economical by conceding less than four runs an over, something the Indian think tank would love him to repeat at the mega event.
Overall the duo’s vast experience of having played 417 matches and taken 504 wickets together is the best record for spinners of any team in the competition, but the important factor is how well they translate this into performance in crunch times.
To add teeth to the slow bowling mix is the duo of Sachin Tendulkar, described as a very clever bowler by West Indian legend Garfield Sobers recently, and Virender Sehwag.
The former can bowl a bewildering variety of spin - leg, off, googly and top spinners - while Sehwag’s strong point is his line and length when bowling off breaks.
With Yuvraj Singh present as another slow bowling option with his left-arm orthodox stuff, the team is easily the best served one in slow bowling along with Sri Lanka.
Strangely in the first two World Cups spin greats Erapalli Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar were felt not economical enough to be included in the Indian team.
Srinivas Venkataraghavan, who captained India in these two tournaments, and Bishen Singh Bedi were more intent on containment than in taking wickets in England in 1975 and 1979 when India were still finding their feet in the one-day game.
In 1983 too, it was the fast medium and medium fast bowlers led by Kapil Dev who delivered the goods in India’s triumphant run in seam-friendly conditions.
Things expectedly took a turn for the better at home in 1987 and spin was dominant for India till the semi finals when Ravi Shastri and Maninder Singh were swept away by England’s Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting.
In 1992, left arm Venkatapathy Raju was the lone regular slow bowler Down Under and performed below par by claiming only three wickets in five matches.
Raju and Kumble combined forces quite well when the Cup returned to the sub-continent in 1996 to share 23 wickets between them while off spinner Ashish Kapoor was used in two ties and did little of note.
Generally, it has been a mix of the good and the bad for spinners in India's World Cup history, and it’s now hoped they can play a crucial role in the success of the team in the West Indies. — PTI
COUNTDOWN: 14 DAYS TO GO...
Mohammad Yousuf is the fulcrum around which the Pakistan batting revolves. He is one of the pillars of the Pakistan batting along with skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq and vice-captain Younis Khan. The difference being that Yousuf has proved to be a shade more sturdy and enduring.
The 33-year-old Yousuf (formerly Yousuf Youhana) is more of an orthodox batsman with a wide range of strokes powerful enough to take the breath away of those watching him and demoralise the opposition.
Most importantly, he has the ability to adjust himself according to the needs of the team. A good runner between the wickets, he can graft the innings by rotating the strike.
Unlike some other batsmen, it is hard to find Yousuf getting bogged down at the wicket at any point of time. The ability to shift gears effortlessly and score at a fast clip makes him difficult to pin down.
There never was any doubt about the talent or the cricketing acumen of Yousuf. Having made his debut nearly a decade back, he took time to find his feet at the international stage. Though he had been playing match-winning knocks for Pakistan earlier also, it is now that Yousuf has matured tremendously as a batsman. Pakistan has benefited from the purple patch that Yousuf struck last year.
The genial Lahore-born middle order batsman converted to Islam in the middle of 2005.
The year 2006 completely belonged to Yousuf. It was the year when he took his batting to a different level altogether. Irrespective of the opposition, he plundered runs at will. In the midst of this dream run, he surpassed Sir Vivian Richards record of scoring the maximum Test runs in a calendar year. During this period, he scored nine centuries, another world record. Though he achieved the twin feats in Tests, these clearly reflect his capabilities as a batsman.
It was this year which saw Yousuf score five successive Test centuries. The avalanche of runs scored by him has ensured that Yousuf will, henceforth, be spoken of in the same way as Tendulkar, Lara or Ponting.
Yousuf’s ODI record is impeccable. He averages 40 plus after playing 233 one-day matches and is just 150 runs away from completing 8,000 runs.
With Yousuf at the peak of his powers, he looks set to take Pakistan a long way in the World Cup. — TNS
New Delhi, February 26
The 21-year-old batsman said he had now matured as a player and was smart enough to come to terms with difficult situations.
“I have the ability to adjust quickly to pitches and bowlers I have never faced before. It’s been the case with me whether I have toured Australia or England,” he told PTI in an interview.
Uthappa, who made the cut for Caribbean with just eight one-day internationals under his belt, said although he was a naturally aggressive batsman certain situations could force him to be patient and more selective in his shots.
“There are moments when you feel you can do anything and get away with it. At times, you have to be smart to come to terms with difficult conditions.
“If you are willing to back yourself and spend time at the crease, you are bound to succeed in the end,” he added.
He dispelled the perception that he was found wanting against fast and rising deliveries on his chest. Referring to his two cheap dismissals against West Indies and Sri Lanka in recent weeks when he was dismissed for 28 and 7 runs, Uthappa said “on both the occasions, it was special deliveries which climbed on to me and while fending the catch went to slips. It isn't as if my back-foot play is not up to scratch”.
Uthappa, who went off the radar after just three one-dayers last year, said he used the time to practice for longer durations.
“I used the period to improve my cricket. I realised I needed to bat for longer period and started setting goals for myself. Essentially, I looked to bat all 50 overs,” said the Bangalore-based batsman. — PTI
Jaipur, February 26
“I am no fortune teller. But as an Indian my heart says that India should win but the mind is not convinced. I hope the Indian team overcomes hiccups like injuries and gets into proper rhythm,” he said.
“They should soon get into the act and they should keep up the intensity through out the tournament. India should keep up the intensity to lift the World Cup in the West Indies,” he said.
Asked what was special in his 1983 champion team and its difference between the present team, Kapil said: “The 1983 team had the intensity and passion, while the present team misses it sometime. Regarding the difference, it is bound to be there, aap me aur aapke baap main koi to fark hoga (there has to have difference between your father and you),” he said.
On Sourav Ganguly’s comeback to the Indian team, he said, “He (Ganguly) has proved himself but I still believe that the way he was humiliated and haunted, he should have quit the game at that point of time. I would have said good-bye to cricket, had I been treated in that manner. It was wrong to treat such a senior player of his stature in such a shabby manner,” Kapil added.
Kapil denied that he criticised Sachin Tendulkar being made the vice-captain of the Indian team. “I still feel Ganguly was very successful captain and was pushed out. Since he is back with a bang why he should not be granted the vice captainship, and especially when Sachin has never shown his inclination for the post.
“But, we should not talk about such controversial matters now because it would confuse the boys,” he added. — PTI
Paes-Damm win title
New Delhi, February 26 Paes and Damm scraped the past their rivals 6-3, 6-7 (5), 10-7 to lift the title in the 34th edition of the event, according to information received here today. Paes and Damm seized early initiative by grabbing the first set but their rivals refused to give in as Pavel and Waske raised their game by a few notches to stretch the second set to tie-breaker and then clinch it to stay afloat. Paes and Damm responded well to the situation and dug deep into their vast reserve to slam the door on their rivals. “It was a great week here in Rotterdam,” said Paes. Paes and Damm had beaten the Mahesh Bhupathi-Nenad Zimonjic pair 6-7, 7-6, 12-10 in the semifinals.
New Delhi, February 26
Paes and Damm scraped the past their rivals 6-3, 6-7 (5), 10-7 to lift the title in the 34th edition of the event, according to information received here today.
Paes and Damm seized early initiative by grabbing the first set but their rivals refused to give in as Pavel and Waske raised their game by a few notches to stretch the second set to tie-breaker and then clinch it to stay afloat.
Paes and Damm responded well to the situation and dug deep into their vast reserve to slam the door on their rivals.
“It was a great week here in Rotterdam,” said Paes.
Paes and Damm had beaten the Mahesh Bhupathi-Nenad Zimonjic pair 6-7, 7-6, 12-10 in the semifinals. — UNI
Morelia (Mexico), February 26
With the next half slated to be held at Linares in Spain from Friday, Anand now shares the lead with 16-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway who played out an easy draw with Russian Peter Svidler.
The four-draws in the sixth round between the eight participants was probably a lull before the storm as the day produced as many as three decisive games and Carlsen’s game was also well contested.
Ending on the winning side for the first time in the tournament was top seed Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria who gave a just indication of being fired up for the second half. On the receiving end was tail-ender Alexander Morozevich who is now firmly in the cellar in this category-20 event.
Another winner was Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine who dampened the high-spirits of defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia.
With seven rounds still to come in the Linares leg, both Carlsen and Anand have 4.5 points apiece while Ivanchuk is in sole third spot a half point adrift.
Aronian shares the fourth spot along side Svidler who is now the only undefeated player in the tournament, having drawn all his games. Topalov and Leko are on three points each and next in line while Morozevich with just two points in his kitty, is at the bottom of the standings.
Anand’s victory against Leko was all the more satisfying as it came with black pieces. For the Indian ace, this was already the second such victory in the event and he now starts the final leg as firm favourite for the title having four white games remaining.
Playing the Queen’s Indian defense, Anand got a typical middle game which was dynamically balanced and wasted little time in nurturing his position to slightly better after the queens got traded.
Leko fell for a well-timed exchange sacrifice on the 32nd move and realised soon after that he had a clearly inferior position despite a slight lead in material. The Hungarian decided against prolonging the agony and resigned on the 42nd move.
Ivanchuk played simple and effective chess to beat Aronian. The Queen pawn opening gave a miniscule advantage to the Ukrainian as white and even as the pieces got traded at regular intervals, Ivanchuk maintained better prospects. — PTI
London, February 26
The Swiss eclipsed Jimmy Connors’s 30-year-old milestone after extending a streak that began on February 2, 2004.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day to come and I’m very excited. That is definitely one of the biggest records I’ve broken so far in my career,” Federer told reporters in Dubai.
American Connors enjoyed 160 weeks as the world’s top-ranked player between July 1974 and August 1977.
The Swiss master is guaranteed to leave that benchmark far behind as his closest rival, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, trails the 25-year-old by more than 3,000 points in the ATP entry system.
Such is his dominance in the sport, Federer made sure he would overtake Connors by winning the season-ending Masters Cup in November.
The only tournament he has played since then was last month’s Australian Open, where he became the first man in 27 years to win a grand slam title without dropping a set.
“I guess I'm the best tennis player in the world. If I were another player, I would be amazed a little bit to see always the same guy winning,” Federer said in Melbourne. Federer’s triumph at Melbourne Park gave him a 10th grand slam title. — Reuters
Abhey: State govt ignoring players
Chandigarh, February 26 The performance of these players invite significance as the state sports is suffering a big blow because of controversy over the control of the HOA. The Chautala-led HOA is affiliated to the Indian Olympic Association under whose banner the state contingent participated in the National Games. But the state government supports the faction led by Jindal. It was the prime reason that the state government refrained from funding the contingent, which represented the state in National Games under Chautala banner. But the worst sufferers are the sportspersons whose achievements are hardly being recognised by the state government. They are being deprived of their due honour. As per the state government’s sports policy, cash prizes of Rs 50,000, Rs 31000 and Rs 21,000 are awarded to gold, silver and bronze medallists of National Games. “But the state government has not even honoured the medal winners of Doha Asian Games yet, who brought laurels to the country in general and state in particular. It is a matter of great concern,” rued Chautala. Criticising the dictatorial attitude of the state government, Chautala said the government neither provided any training nor any coaches or umpires for these games. “In spite of my repeated reminders to the Chief Minister, no grant was released for the games,” he added. “The participation of Mr Navin Jindal in shooting event under the ‘legitimate’ banner is the testimony to the fact that the parallel body floated by him lose all significance,” said Chautala.
Chandigarh, February 26
The performance of these players invite significance as the state sports is suffering a big blow because of controversy over the control of the HOA.
The Chautala-led HOA is affiliated to the Indian Olympic Association under whose banner the state contingent participated in the National Games. But the state government supports the faction led by Jindal.
It was the prime reason that the state government refrained from funding the contingent, which represented the state in National Games under Chautala banner. But the worst sufferers are the sportspersons whose achievements are hardly being recognised by the state government. They are being deprived of their due honour.
As per the state government’s sports policy, cash prizes of Rs 50,000, Rs 31000 and Rs 21,000 are awarded to gold, silver and bronze medallists of National Games.
“But the state government has not even honoured the medal winners of Doha Asian Games yet, who brought laurels to the country in general and state in particular. It is a matter of great concern,” rued Chautala.
Criticising the dictatorial attitude of the state government, Chautala said the government neither provided any training nor any coaches or umpires for these games. “In spite of my repeated reminders to the Chief Minister, no grant was released for the games,” he added.
“The participation of Mr Navin Jindal in shooting event under the ‘legitimate’ banner is the testimony to the fact that the parallel body floated by him lose all significance,” said Chautala.
East win thriller against South
Ahmedabad, February 26
Earlier, powered by Swapnil Asnodkar’s ton, South Zone set up a tough target for East Zone. Swapnil’s knock of 107 runs in equal number of balls was well supported by skipper V.V.S Laxman (35). Swapnil and Laxman made valuable 89 runs for the second wicket in 15.4 overs.
East Zone skipper Deep DasGupta won the toss and elected to field. But his decision proved wrong as South Zone openers Swapnil and Barrington Rowland made an electric start with powerful hittings. Another good partnership of 73 runs between Swapnil and Venugopal Rao in 14 overs set the South Zone on way to a big score.
However, when the total was 194 runs, Venugopal Rao gave a simple return catch to S. Singh with his individual score reading 30.
South Zone received another jolt when Swapnil ballooned a sweepshot off Abhishek Jhunjhunwala delivery at square leg which was gladly accepted by Divakar. In his 107-run knock, Swapnil had 14 hits to the fence.
At this point, South Zone, eyeing the magical figure of 300 runs, lost some quick wickets to finally end up at 270 runs for the loss of eight wickets in 50 overs.
For East zone, Ranadeb Bose and S. Singh took two wickets each while S S Paul, M Diwakar and Jhunjhunwala took one wicket each. — Agencies
Orissa Steelers toy with Veerans
Chandigarh, February 26
The win also maintained the dominance of the Steelers on the points table with 28 points. Behind them is Sher-e-Jalandhar with 23 points while Veerans remained at 13 points.
Taking full advantage of the gaps in the defence line of Veerans, Steelers drew the first blood in the ninth minute. Roshan Minz collected a long pass in the ‘D’ area and sent it home. Just two minutes before the goal, the Veerans earned a penalty corner but their drag flickers squandered the chance.
In the 13th minute, Sameer Dad latched on the cross off Bimal Lakra to sound the post. Conceding two goals in the gap of just four minutes was a big blow for Veerans, who could not dare to attack the rival’s post again. The body language of the Veerans also showed their lack of confidence.
Challenging the defence line of Veerans, the Steelers forced a penalty corner in 25th minute, which was successfully converted by captain Dilip Tirkey.
Till half time, the Steelers were leading by 4-0 as the fourth goal (30th minute) came through Dad, who provided finishing touch to a beautiful move made by Pakistani import Adnan Zakir.
However, in the second half, the Veerans came back in the game as they started making some attacking moves. In the process, they earned four penalty corners in a gap of just six minutes (40th, 44th, 45th and 46th minutes). The team could only converted single goal out of these chances. It was Vikram Kanth, who scored the goal in 45th minute for Veerans.
Taking the advantage of lethargic approach of the rival’s defence, Steelers’ Brunoh Adrian completed the formalities of sealing the 5-1 victory for the team through his goal in the 60th minute.
Ghosal bows out