Windies win opener
Spin kings may cast a spell
Cummins set to make history
Cricket fan threatens suicide
Team India’s bus breaks down
Astrologers downbeat about India’s prospects
1996 — A dream fulfilled
Paes-Damm in second round
India face Thailand today
Windies win opener
Kingston (Jamaica), March 13
The 23-year-old all-rounder smashed a quickfire 32 from 15 balls to help West Indies reach a competitive total of 241 for nine after their innings looked to be running out of momentum following the departure of Marlon Samuels for 63.
Smith was similarly menacing with the ball, taking three key Pakistan wickets for 36 runs, including their dangerous captain Inzamam-ul-Haq for 36.
Pakistan finally capitulated at 187 all out. Shoaib Malik top-scored for them and was last out for 62.
The West Indies, buoyed by supportive spectators, were certain to ensnare the curtain raising contest in the 9th World Cup after Pakistan had collapsed to 144 for seven in 41 overs in pursuit of 242 for victory. A required run rate of nearly 10 an over was, realistically, impossible to achieve.
Pakistan sorely missed an extra seamer, an option the injured Abdul Razzaq would have provided. The instability at the top of their order also persisted. Imran Nazir spectacularly spooned the first ball of his team’s reply over thirdman, but Daren Powell extracted his revenge off the very next delivery with one that deviated enough to take the outside edge. Soon, the Pakistanis were wobbling at 17 for two, with Younis Khan, one of the mainstays of their batting, paying the penalty for a hasty hook.
Mohammed Hafeez, too, exited early. He perished attempting to clear midon. At 39 for three, therefore, Mohammed Yousuf and Inzamam were enjoined to usher the decisive phase of the match. They skilfully added 60 runs. But Dwayne Smith, now, surprised Yousuf with extra bounce, which the bearded Pakistani failed to either keep down or direct safely. And Smith struck again to trap Inzy lbw. At 116 for five, which immediately became 116 for six, as Kamran Akmal came and went without disturbing the scorers, Pakistan were staring down a barrel. With only Shoaib Malik among the reputed batsmen remaining, they were highly unlikely to reach their target.
Earlier, The 9th ICC cricket World Cup got underway at Sabina Park’s stylish, new renovated facility, which, though, aesthetically retains the listed premises of the ancient Kingston Cricket Club, once the ground’s pavilion. On a hot and sultry morning, Inzamam-ul-Haq, observing the theory that it’s better to chase than defend in the Caribbean, inserted the hosts.
Gayle c Akmal b Gul 2
Chanderpaul c Akmalb Iftikhar 19
Sarwan c Younis b Iftikhar 49
Samuels c Malik b Hafeez 63
Lara c Akmal b Hafeez 37
Bravo c Naved b Iftikhar 16
Ramdin st Akmal b Kaneria 1
Smith c Inzamam b Gul 32
Taylor run out 2
Powell not out 1
Collymore not out 8
Extras (lb-2, nb-3, w-6) 11
Total (9 wkts, 50 overs) 241
Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-64, 3-77, 4-168, 5-181, 6-183, 7-223, 8-228, 9-232.
Bowling: Gul 9-1-38-2, Naved 9-1-49-0, Iftikhar 10-3-44-3, Kaneria 9-2-45-1, Hafeez 9-0-39-2, Malik 4-0-24-0.
Nazir c Ramdin b Powell 6
Hafeez c Lara b Powell 11
Younis c Ramdin b Taylor 9
Yousuf c Ramdin b Smith 37
Inzamam b Smith 36
Malik c Chanderpaul b Collymore 62
Akmal c Bravo b Smith 0
Naved b Bravo 11
Iftikhar c Lara b Bravo 11
Gul c & b Bravo 0
Danish Kaneria not out 0
Extras (lb-2, w-2) 4 Total (all out; 47.2 overs) 187
Fall of wickets:1-6, 2-17, 3-39, 4-99, 5-116, 6-116, 7-144, 8-187, 9-187. Bowling: Powell 10-1-42-2, Taylor 10-1-38-1, Collymore 8.2-3-27-1, Smith 10-0-36-3, Bravo9-0-42-3.
Gros Islet, March 13
Last week, both England skipper Michael Vaughan and Australia captain Ricky Ponting talked up the tournament prospects of their frontline left-arm spinners Monty Panesar and Brad Hogg, respectively.
England are now in St Lucia, where they begin their World Cup campaign against fellow Group C giants New Zealand at the island’s Beausejour ground on Friday.
And according to groundsman Kent Crafton, who has been at Beausejour since the venue opened five years ago, the teams here can look forward to good one-day cricket wickets rather than slow turners.
“One thing we’ve tried to do is put more compaction into the clay (the base layer of the pitch) to increase the pace and bounce,” Crafton told AFP.
“That will aid in the ball probably coming in with some more pace, not expressly, but just a little bit more than normal, which will aid in more runs being scored.
“It will be good wicket, I would not say it will be an exceptionally fast pitch but the ball will come off nicely. We’ve had very good opening partnerships here.”
Another concern is that, with many World Cup matches set to be played on recently relaid pitches, batting will get harder as the match progresses.
However, research carried out by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper has said that most games in the Caribbean are won by the team batting second.
Crafton does not believe that the toss will be significant in St Lucia.
“The wicket will not change much from during the morning until the afternoon. I don’t believe the toss will matter so much. If it’s cloudy, maybe you'd want to bowl first.”
The average ODI score in 16 innings at Beausejour is 244, with Pakistan’s 303 for six against West Indies on May 22, 2005, the highest.
Such totals are now considered respectable in this form of cricket where advances in bat technology, shortening of boundaries and changes to field restrictions allied with batsmen more prepared than ever to play shots from the off, has led Australia opener Matthew Hayden to talk of the 500-run barrier being broken.
Caribbean pitches used to be renowned for both pace and bounce, something exploited to the full by the West Indies’ fearsome fast bowlers of the 1970s and 1980s.
One of those quicks was Andy Roberts, now a pitch consultant for the World Cup and he said talk of slow pitches being the norm during the tournament was wide of the mark.
“A lot of people will be surprised by the 22 yards on offer,” Roberts was quoted in a media report.
“We won’t get the slow pitches that people are anticipating.”
Roberts cited the West Indies being bowled out for 85 in a warm-up match last week against India at the Trelawny Stadium in Jamaica as an example of a West Indian pitch which gave the seamers plenty of help.
“What you will find is a lot of brand-new pitches,” he said.
“For the first game or so they may be slow. That will not be the case right through. At some venues it will have even bounce, some will also have a lot of carry.”
Pitch concerns are not restricted to the West Indies. There is a general feeling that, worldwide, surfaces are becoming ever slower with Australia quick Glenn McGrath commenting during the recent Ashes series: “My biggest fear in Australian cricket is we are losing the home-ground advantage because of the docile pitches being served up.” — AFP
cricket has become synonymous with tall scores, achieved through a glut of boundaries and sixes. Batsmen tend to dominate the proceedings on flat wickets and the bowlers generally go through the motions. However, I suspect that this World Cup will not subscribe to this tradition.
The evidence gathered during the warm-up matches suggests that spinners will play a significant role in the competition, on wickets that will be “slow and low”. From the Australian point of view, it is vital that Brad Hogg bowls well, and is ably supported by Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds. The latter’s injury has been a huge concern, but I have heard that his recovery is “ahead of schedule”. There is of course the danger of trying to do too much too soon, but I guess they are targeting the encounter against South Africa - their last one of the league stage - as far as Symonds is concerned. Scotland and the Netherlands have some good players, but Ricky Ponting’s team has superior firepower, and that is putting it mildly. They may have slipped off the No. 1 spot in the rankings, but I would still anoint Australia as the No. 1 contender for the title. They are the side other teams would not want to play. The opening combination of Adam Gilchrist and Shane Watson may have clicked in the warm-up game against England, but I expect to see Matthew Hayden in his trademark position. It is not too long since he scored the small matter of 181 runs in a one-day international, and he should definitely open in the first few games at least. Watson is an effective striker of the ball, and he has the ability to adapt to the middle and final stages of the innings. Symonds’ return will restore the balance of the side. His presence lends an impregnable look to a batting line-up that begins with Gilchrist, Hayden and Ponting. The bowling has been a cause for concern in recent times, and I expect to see Shaun Tait and Nathan Bracken share the new ball and take the lead in ensuring that the horrors of the New Zealand tour aren’t repeated. McGrath will be the third quickie, Watson the fourth and Hogg the solitary specialist spinner, with Clarke and Symonds chipping in. This may sound strange, but I believe that Stuart Clark will pose a stiff challenge to McGrath. ‘Pigeon’s experience will ensure his presence in the first few games, but not subsequently. Performance will be the key. What holds true for the third paceman’s slot holds true for the competition itself. Australia apart, I must admit to having a soft corner for the subcontinental teams. The wickets and conditions will be to their liking. India look good, and as for the Pakistanis, you can never presume anything, can you? The Sri Lankans have excelled in such conditions before, and while I don’t foresee Bangladesh going all the way, they are certainly capable of giving their opponents a tough time. South Africa are a quality side, but they rely far too much on Shaun Pollock and the other seamers, and the conditions may not suit them. New Zealand are the “dark horses”, in that they bat deep and have this cluster of seamers who can exploit the “slow and low” wickets splendidly. The “host-nation curse” might just afflict the West Indies, although you can never say what might happen if one or two stalwarts get going. The same applies to England. They have had their moments of glory in the recent past, but I can’t see them making an impact unless two or three players carry the side on their shoulders. I don’t recall the last time a World Cup was as “open” as this one. We will have to wait and see who copes best with the pressure and thereby “closes” it!
The evidence gathered during the warm-up matches suggests that spinners will play a significant role in the competition, on wickets that will be “slow and low”. From the Australian point of view, it is vital that Brad Hogg bowls well, and is ably supported by Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds. The latter’s injury has been a huge concern, but I have heard that his recovery is “ahead of schedule”.
There is of course the danger of trying to do too much too soon, but I guess they are targeting the encounter against South Africa - their last one of the league stage - as far as Symonds is concerned. Scotland and the Netherlands have some good players, but Ricky Ponting’s team has superior firepower, and that is putting it mildly.
They may have slipped off the No. 1 spot in the rankings, but I would still anoint Australia as the No. 1 contender for the title. They are the side other teams would not want to play. The opening combination of Adam Gilchrist and Shane Watson may have clicked in the warm-up game against England, but I expect to see Matthew Hayden in his trademark position. It is not too long since he scored the small matter of 181 runs in a one-day international, and he should definitely open in the first few games at least. Watson is an effective striker of the ball, and he has the ability to adapt to the middle and final stages of the innings.
Symonds’ return will restore the balance of the side. His presence lends an impregnable look to a batting line-up that begins with Gilchrist, Hayden and Ponting. The bowling has been a cause for concern in recent times, and I expect to see Shaun Tait and Nathan Bracken share the new ball and take the lead in ensuring that the horrors of the New Zealand tour aren’t repeated. McGrath will be the third quickie, Watson the fourth and Hogg the solitary specialist spinner, with Clarke and Symonds chipping in.
This may sound strange, but I believe that Stuart Clark will pose a stiff challenge to McGrath. ‘Pigeon’s experience will ensure his presence in the first few games, but not subsequently. Performance will be the key.
What holds true for the third paceman’s slot holds true for the competition itself.
Australia apart, I must admit to having a soft corner for the subcontinental teams. The wickets and conditions will be to their liking. India look good, and as for the Pakistanis, you can never presume anything, can you? The Sri Lankans have excelled in such conditions before, and while I don’t foresee Bangladesh going all the way, they are certainly capable of giving their opponents a tough time.
South Africa are a quality side, but they rely far too much on Shaun Pollock and the other seamers, and the conditions may not suit them. New Zealand are the “dark horses”, in that they bat deep and have this cluster of seamers who can exploit the “slow and low” wickets splendidly. The “host-nation curse” might just afflict the West Indies, although you can never say what might happen if one or two stalwarts get going. The same applies to England. They have had their moments of glory in the recent past, but I can’t see them making an impact unless two or three players carry the side on their shoulders.
I don’t recall the last time a World Cup was as “open” as this one. We will have to wait and see who copes best with the pressure and thereby “closes” it! — PMG
Gros Islet (St Lucia), March 13
The 40-year-old Barbadian-born fast bowler featured for the West Indies in the 1992 tournament and thought his chances of appearing in another World Cup had long gone.
But after moving to Canada in 1996, he became involved in local cricket there and worked his way on to the national team for this year’s showpiece, allowing him to return to the Caribbean where he is hoping to spring some surprises.
“We recognise that playing to our potential can get us a place in the second round,” he said last week.
Kepler Wessels played for Australia in the 1983 tournament before captaining his native South Africa in the 1992 event after they were readmitted to international sport following the end of apartheid.
Graeme Hick, who played for England in the 1992 edition, was in the Zimbabwe squad for the 1983 Cup but was not picked for any matches.
Cummins is also one of only five players to feature in a squad at the 1992 and 2007 World Cups. He joins the illustrious company of Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya and Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Fast bowler Cummins played five Tests for the West Indies between 1993 and 1994 and had 63 one-day caps, the last of which came in a day/night match against Australia in Melbourne in 1995.
However, he is probably best remembered for a game he was not selected for.
In the Barbados Test against South Africa in 1992, the Proteas’ first back in the international arena, West Indies picked Kenny Benjamin ahead of him leading to uproar among his native Kensington Oval crowd.
Many boycotted the match and a sign reading “No Cummins, No Goings” has entered Caribbean cricket folklore. Cummins, two months from his 41st birthday, is a long way from the player he was in 1992 but he is eager to prove he deserves his place in history. — Reuters
Jamshedpur, March 13
Sarun Kumar Sharma, a resident of Mango area here, is ready to end his life if he fails to make to the Caribbean islands to cheer the Men in Blue.
A salesman by profession, Sharma told UNI today that he wanted to sell his kidney to collect money for the trip to the West Indies but no one was responding.
“I have already made my passport from Ranchi much ahead of the World Cup. Since I don’t have enough money for the tour, I have decided to sell off my kidney. But I haven’t received any positive response from people so far,” Sharma lamented.
He also threatened that he would jump into the Subarnarekha river if he failed to gather the money for a trip to the West Indies before India’s first match against Bangladesh on March 17.
Sharma, who hails from a poor family, is a die-hard cricket fan since his childhood. He has shaved his head to form a map of India. — UNI
They still may be counted among the minnows, but take Bangladesh lightly at your own peril! Though they do not look like a team reaching anywhere near the top of the table, Bangladesh have a couple of players in their ranks who can spoil the party of fancied teams.
Even after they inflicted a famous defeat on Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup and the subsequent ambush of the West Indies and Australia, they have not set the world of cricket on fire. But, they are gaining in experience and exposure.
Bangladesh have not set an unrealistic target for themselves to achieve. Even if they scalp a big gun or two by the end of the tournament, they will be more than satisfied. And that’s exactly what they are looking for.
In the warm-up games, they served notice to all. The high-flying Kiwis were brought to earth with a thud. It was the type of ambush nobody expected, particularly after the Black Caps’ 3-0 whitewash of the mighty Australians. Though Stephen Fleming sought to deflect the blame on one pretext or the other, the damage had been done. For Bangladesh, nothing can be a more motivating than starting the campaign with an upset win.
Skipper Habibul Bashar’s statement that his team was plotting victories in the group stage should be enough to put India and Sri Lanka, other teams in Group B (along with Bermuda), on guard.
Bangladesh will bank heavily on a couple of seasoned performers as well as rookies. Though he may look languid and laidback while not on the field, Bashar is the batsman they will be looking for to drop anchor and provide solidity to their innings. The most experienced as well as the most successful batsman in the side, Bashar is expected to lead from the front. The match against Scotland in which he was the highest scorer from the side proves that he is in form. Having most number of ODI caps under his belt after Mohammad Rafique, Bashar is the only batsman in the side to have scored 2,000 runs. His occasional off-spin will be handy.
In Shahriar Nafees and Aftab Ahmad, they have two exciting openers having the ability to use the long handle. The emergence of Nafees is perhaps the best thing to have happened to Bangladesh cricket. Just two years into the team, the 21-year-old left-handed batsman is already the vice-captain. His batting average (40 plus in 40 ODIs) matches with the best in the business. His scintillating batting adds value to his performance.
The 23-year-old Mushrafee Murtaza is an exciting prospect. Besides being the best new-ball bowler in the side, he has the reputation for hitting huge sixes. It was Murtaza who plundered successive sixes off seamer James Franklin and played a 14-ball 30 cameo that sealed victory in the warm-up game.
In veteran Mohammad Rafique and Abdul Razzak, the ninth-ranked team has a talented spinning pair. Both left-armers, they would be tough to get away if the pitches are slow. Coach Dave Whatmore said recently that the spinning wickets in the Caribbean would suit both.
“We are improving all the time and I just feel it’s becoming more of a reality that the Bangladesh team may cause one or two upsets,” Whatmore said. Coming from someone associated with the team for a long time, the fancied team should better be on guard. In the Champions Trophy match in October last year, Bangladesh proved what they are capable of. Chasing Sri Lanka’s total of 302 for victory, Bangladesh fell short by just 37 runs. — TNS
New Delhi, March 13
The former India captain justified describing the Australian team’s behaviour as “awful” and said it would be difficult for players who use such language to get away from a bar without being physically hurt.
“Some day, some other hot-headed guy might actually get down and you know whack somebody who abuses him,” Gavaskar said.
Citing the example of former Aussie cricketer David Hookes, who had been fatally beaten up outside a bar, Gavaskar said the behaviour of current players could land them in trouble.
“There’s the example of the late Hookes. Would the Australians who use that kind of language on the field, and not all of them do, in a bar and would they get away with it? “Would they have a fist coming at their face or not?” Gavaskar said on sports channel ESPN’s breakfast show Taking Guard.
Defending his decision to walk out of the Melbourne Cricket Ground in protest against an lbw decision in 1981, Gavaskar said, “the reason the walk-off took place was simply because I was abused by the Australians.”
Gavaskar said it was the on-field behaviour of a side which mattered the most in cricket.
“Let me also come back to what he (Ponting) said about, the way I played my cricket and I do not know what he’s looking at.
“When he talks about the Indian team not having won matches, we are not talking about winning matches here, we are talking about behaviour on the field,” he said.
In an unusually personal attack on Monday, Ponting had questioned the sportsmanship of Gavaskar and ridiculed the Indian team’s performance in recent years.
Provoked by Gavaskar’s comment that Australia were an “unpopular team” because of their on-field behaviour, Ponting had said, “we all know the way he played his cricket, don’t we? If he is talking about us, what about the way India have played their cricket over the last few years?”
Gavaskar drew a comparison between the Australians and the West Indies side of the 1970s and 1980s, saying that the Caribbeans were popular when they were at the peak.
“The West Indians were popular winners, there was an affection about the West Indians players in spite of the fact that they were beating you in three days.”
“They (West Indies) did not abuse the opponents. They did not have anything to say to the opponents.
“When they were dominating world cricket the West Indians did not resort to personal abuse on the field, they just played the game hard, they were very tough competitors but there was nothing untoward in their behaviour towards their opponents.
“West Indian players always had a smile on their face when they came in at the end of day’s play to talk with you and to commiserate when you lost, you could see that there was no arrogance there,” he said.
Gavaskar said for their down-to-earth nature, the Caribbean cricketers were adored by fans all over the world.
“Cricket lovers all over the world wanted the West Indies teams of the last decade to get back on their feet and start winning again,” he said. — PTI
Port of Spain, March 13
As the team arrived here last evening, the bus carrying them from airport to the team hotel broke down on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway in the vicinity of El Socorro Junction.
The procession of police vehicles escorting three buses — two with members of the India team and an empty contingency bus — from Piarco International Airport drove along the highway with sirens blaring, trying to clear the traffic to allow them free passage.
Upon passing the El Socorro traffic lights, one of the buses, carrying a few of the visiting Indians, broke down, forcing police to stop the convoy and block off the area, surrounding the buses long enough for them to be offloaded and relocated to the back-up bus.
The bus carrying the majority of the Indian team continued on its way to the Hilton Hotel in St Ann’s, where the four visiting teams — India, Sri Lanka, Bermuda and Bangladesh — will stay while they are in Trinidad for group matches. — PTI
New Delhi, March 13
“Though India will manage to save their face, prestige and esteem with individual sterling performances, stars do not favour India in the final, especially under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy,” said Agra’s renowned astrologer Pramod Gautam.
After analysing the “kundli” of the Indian team announced on February 12, Gautam rules out India’s chances of winning the World Cup.
Astrologer Richa Shukla of New Delhi agrees with Gautam.
“India’s prospects of winning the World Cup are very complex. Though India is going to perform well at the warm-up level, their fate will depend on reaching the Super Eight stage. If they perform well in that, they can reach the final also. But winning the Cup is doubtful,” Shukla told IANS.
There are high chances of the team making it to the final, is what astrologer Suresh Kumar has forecast.
Based on the “prasna” method, which has nothing to do with individual horoscopes of the players or the coach, Suresh says that although India’s performance in the early matches will be good, the overall showing may not be so.
“There is a 50 per cent chance that India will reach the final. Indiscipline, confrontation with the management, lack of confidence and politics may affect the spirit of the team,” he said.
Astrologer Ajai Bhambi of New Delhi, however, said things didn’t look so bad and if India could win the semifinals, then there are good chances of winning the Cup as well.
“It’s a World Cup-winning team. There is just one hurdle, the semifinals, which if they can cross, will mark victory for them,” he said.
Talking about the players’ performances, most astrologers said Virender Sehwag would fail to give an excellent performance because of “loss of self-belief”. But Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan are bound to do well, because their stars are in the ascendancy and looking down favourably on them.
Sachin Tendulkar, they said, will show some unpredictability but nevertheless sign off with grace and dignity.
And on the question about captaincy, there was mixed reaction, with most astrologers saying that Sourav Ganguly would have been a more able captain.
“Rahul’s stars come in the way of India’s march to glory. Sourav, who has been having a favourable run thanks to his stars, would have been a better choice,” Gautam said.
Shukla said: “Rahul’s current year number matches with this year’s number, but his name does not suggest victory. For the captain, the second half of the year is going to be a better time”.
Bhambi differs on this issue.
“Looking at Dravid’s ‘kundli’, there are five planets in the 10th house, which signifies action. This means he will give an excellent performance and show good leadership skills. He will make some mistakes but overall he will be good.” — IANS
1996 — A dream fulfilled
What was a distant dream when we became a Test-playing nation in 1981-82 became reality on March 17, 1996. It is difficult to describe our elation at winning the World Cup. Our tour of Australia prior to the World Cup definitely helped, as it fostered bonding among the boys. There was tremendous tension and acrimony, with Muttiah Muralitharan being no-balled on several occasions, but we managed to keep ourselves afloat and tried to make the most of our opportunities.
The decision to open with Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana was taken on that tour. “Kalu” was a gutsy strokemaker, but he was getting a chance to bat only in the slog overs, and his cleanly-struck hits were being caught by fielders in the deep. We felt that he had it in him to exploit the gaping holes in the deep in the initial overs. Sanath and he were to be followed in the batting order by as many as five quality batsmen — Asanka Gurusinha, myself, Arjuna Ranatunga, Hashan Tillekaratne and Roshan Mahanama. They were thus able to play their natural game, knowing that the five of us were capable of batting out the fifty overs. The Sanath-Kalu blitzkrieg in the early overs gave us more overs to settle down. Thus, we complemented each other. We had the batting and most importantly, the experience to take on any attack and deliver in any situation. That also helped us prefer chasing to defending.
There was more controversy when the tournament began, with Australia and the West Indies refusing to play in Colombo for “security reasons”. A lot of things were said, but honestly, I can’t blame the teams for feeling insecure. They must have had their reasons for being apprehensive. But there is no secret that their reluctance further boosted our determination. We were looking forward to get on with the cricket.
I remember the match against Kenya, in which we achieved the then world record for the highest-ever score — 398. We felt invincible that day, and that is putting it mildly. Our comprehensive win over India at New Delhi earlier in the tournament contributed to that feeling.
The semifinal against India at Kolkata was a day-night affair, and we had made up our minds to continue with our strategy of fielding first if we won the toss. Our bowling attack was spin-oriented, and we were keen not to expose our “slow men” to the dew factor. But one look at the wicket convinced us that it would crumble as the match went on. As it turned out, India won the toss and asked us to bat first.
I had been unwell before the game and missed the practice sessions. The heat was debilitating, and I remember feeling dehydrated and lying down in the dressing-room, and I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to bat after fielding for 50 overs. Hence, India’s decision suited me. I visited the toilet moments after Sanath and Kalu went in. Then there was a sudden knock on the door, and I was informed that we had lost two wickets in the very first over! I was in my “blues”, and a team-mate helped me get my gear on. I just walked in, took my guard and got on with the job. I do not know whether I would have batted as freely as I did had I seen the wickets fall.
We won that game, and found ourselves in the final. It was then that the enormity of the occasion sunk in. It was a particularly significant occasion for Arjuna and myself, who had experienced many a humiliating defeat in the 1980s and early 1990s. We now had a wonderful opportunity to show the world what Sri Lankan cricketers were capable of.
Australia started well in the final at Lahore, but we came back into the match with tight bowling and good catching. The target was only 242, and I remember telling myself as I walked in to bat that we would win if I lasted for fifty overs. My approach from ball one was to be there till the end of the innings. Everything proceeded as per plan. Asanka played superbly, as did Arjuna. It was appropriate that he got the opportunity to make the winning hit.
The memories of that day are still vivid, and will remain so. I believe that Mahela Jayawardene and his players have the potential to do an encore in 2007. Their recent record says it all. My best wishes are with them. — PMG
Indian Wells (USA), March 13
The Indo-Czech pair of Paes and Damm outplayed Belgian Oliver Rochus and Jim Thomas of the USA 6-3, 6-2.
However, Paes’ former partner Bhupathi, teaming up with another Czech player, Stepanek, lost to the French pair of Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3.
Paes and Damm put up a terrific display and unsettled their lower-ranked opponents, who got no chance to mount a serious challenge right from the beginning in the Tier I tournament.
The fifth seeded Indo-Czech pair will next meet the unseeded Polish pair Maroin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg.
The Polish pair set up a clash with Paes-Damm after defeating Argentine duo of David Nalbandian and Guillermo Canas. — UNI
Gurgaon, March 13
Several stars, including the likes of European Tour stars Kiran Matharu and Anna Rawson, top-ranked Asian Golf Tour player Libby Smith, besides India’s own Ladies PGA Tour star Smriti Mehra and Irina Brar, will look to master the challenging course which is peppered with strategically placed bunkers and water-bodies in the three-day event.
Australian Anna Rawson, who has been voted among the 10 most beautiful sportswomen in the world, is also one of the biggest names on the Ladies European Tour and posted one top-10 and two top-20 finishes in only 11 events.
But the emerging talent of Britain Kiran Matharu, who is being touted as the answer to Michelle Wei, will not lack in motivation as she will get plenty of support from the audience. Her grandparents belong to Nawanshahr (Punjab) and the her cousins from Jalandhar will be cheering her on from the sidelines.
Matharu, who is only 14 years old, is the youngest European on the Ladies European Tour to have represented England right from the under-14 level.
The par-72 Arnold Palmer designed golf course will also witness some of the best names in junior women’s golf like Tanya Wadhwa and Yushira Budhram. Besides, Irina, another name that has dominated Indian women’s golf over the years, will also be looking to get her club swinging nicely for her.
The winner will pocket $15,000, the runner-up $10,000, while the third-placed professional will benefit by $7500. — UNI
Chennai, March 13
Colin Toal, chief coach of the Indian team, said he had worked on the strengths of the hosts rather than on the shortcomings.
“We went down to Iraq in the earlier match 0-3 but our performance was good. My players are not short of skills but lose out to rivals on better physique,” Toal said. — PTI