Cricketers leave for Australia
Stop Indians with pace: Lawson
‘Kumble would be tough nut to crack’
Taylor fashions Windies win
Lee gives clean chit to Tait
Halhadar, Kaul share honours
Our batsmen will feast on
2008 AFC Cup
AIFF rushing observers to Kashmir
Woods ends ’07 with win
Hindustan Club in Super League
DLF golf course best in subcontinent
Mazumdar keeps Himachal at bay
Mumbai, December 17
Kumble and his men left by a morning flight to Singapore en-route to Melbourne, firm in their belief that they had the wherewithal to bring to the knees the mighty Australians on high-bouncing pitches against fiery speedsters.
"It's a tough challenge to play Australia in Australia but we are ready for the challenge. We have the potential and players to win the series in Australia," Kumble said here about the high-profile contest against Ricky Ponting's men.
"We had a very good series against Pakistan. We won the one-day as well as the Test series which is a confidence booster for doing well in Australia," proclaimed Kumble who will give way to one-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and return home at the end of the four-Test rubber.
"We have quality in the side. We have enough experience of Australian conditions to adjust to them which is a pre-requisite of international cricket. The potential in the side and the players' experience will help," he said, putting the onus on the array of quality batsmen in the team to set up the victory.
"We have people in the middle order with over 30,000 runs and I think we will be able to handle whatever comes our way. I have been saying that if we have the runs on the board, our bowlers have the ability to get the wickets," Kumble said.
"For some of the senior players, it's probably their last tour to Australia. It's important we go out there and do well," said Kumble, egging on himself and the Golden Quartet of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman to make another effort to conquer what for India is one of the two final frontiers they are yet to conquer at the Test level.
India have won rubbers in all Test playing countries barring Australia and South Africa although they have come agonisingly close to doing so in the first decade of the new millennium.
Kumble and the rest of the players, especially the Fabulous Four, know from past experience how important it is to adjust to the conditions in Australia, far different from the slow and low pitches in the Indian sub-continent.
A major handicap for the Indians is absence of enough pre-series warm-up games. They are to play only one game, against Victoria XI at Melbourne's Junction Oval prior to taking on Australia in the traditional Boxing Day (December 26) Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
That will be followed by matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground (Jan 2-6, 2008), Perth's WACA ground (Jan 16-20), after a second warm-up tie at Canberra, and Adelaide Oval (Jan 24-28).
The Indian squad, bolstered by limited overs specialists yet to be decided by the selectors, will then take on the hosts in a lone T20 International tie in Melbourne on February 1 before engaging Australia and Sri Lanka in an ODI tri-series from February 3-March 7.
"We have played lot of cricket and have 10 days before the first Test to get adjusted," Kumble said, brushing aside any thoughts of insufficient preparation time before the battle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
For the record, India visited Australia for the first time in 1947-48 to take on the all-conquering team led by Donald Bradman.
Subsequent visits for full Test tours followed in 1967-68, 1977-78, 1980-81, 1985-86, 1991-92, 1999-2000 and 2003-04.
They failed to win a single Test while losing the first two rubbers by 0-4 margins, lost the rubber in the deciding Test to lose the series 2-3 in 1977-78, drew 1-1 and 0-0 in the two three-Test rubbers played in the 1980s, lost 0-4 in a five-Test rubber in 1991 and 0-3 in the next three-match series before drawing 1-1 in their last four-match rubber played Down Under.
India also visited Australia in 1985 for the World Championship of One-Day Cricket as World Cup champions and won the crown against all expectations as well as made a second visit to play the World Cup in 1992 jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
The squad: Anil Kumble (capt), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (vice-capt, wk), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V V S Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Kaarthick, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, R P Singh, Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh.
Cricket manager: Chetan Chauhan
Administrative manager: Dr M V Sridhar.
Assistant coach: Lalchand Rajput.
The team is accompanied by other support staff, including bowling and fielding coaches, Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh, physio John Gloster and trainer Greg King.
Newly appointed national team coach Gary Kirsten is expected to join the team after the second Test as a consultant for an unspecified period of time till he assumes office as full-time coach on March 1, 2008. — PTI
Sydney, December 17
Lawson said the Indians were charged up after their Test and ODI series victories over his boys and he expected the Indians to come hard on the Australians.
He dismissed the need for spinner Brad Hogg unless outrageous turn is expected from the Melbourne pitch.
''They (Indians) play tough. They won't be taking a backward step, verbally or physically. They will stand up to whatever is thrown at them.
''It depends on how the pitches are looking, of course, but India doesn't have a problem playing spin. Hogg has been great in one-day cricket but I think Australia should use four quicks,'' Lawson was quoted as saying by Sydney Morning Herald.
''Michael Clarke can bowl a few overs, and with Andrew Symonds in the team, you can use your part-time spin effectively -- so Australia might be better off with four quicks, and don't pick a spinner.''
Brad Hogg is favoured to earn a call-up for the Boxing Day Test (Dec 26-30), but could yet be displaced by a fourth paceman if form and conditions warrant.
The MCG and the SCG offer the opportunity for turn on the fourth and fifth days, so if Hogg is overlooked for the first two Tests, he will be running uphill to get into the side for the remaining two Tests in Perth and Adelaide.
Lawson's argument would also allow for the development of Clarke, whose spin stocks have been steadily rising.
But Hogg, who has not played a Test for four years, also has the backing of captain Ricky Ponting.
The Pakistan coach also believes that the famed Indian batting line up will have more confidence against a new- look Aussie bowling attack sans Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
''India has got to try and bat Australia out of games.
Kumble is a very good thinking captain, and he has been getting out of them whatever they've got,'' Lawson said.
''It all goes back to the batting; they've got a quality batting line-up, and they will be able to get into games and save games.
''If the wickets are good batting wickets and quite flat - which they have been in Australia in recent times - India have a good chance.
''Their big opportunity is to make big runs, as they did on the last tour. (Rahul) Dravid was able to make runs against an Australian team with McGrath and Warne.'' India's fast bowlers must improve rapidly on recent displays if they are to limit the damage of Australia's batting line-up, Lawson added.
''The challenge for any side is penetrating Australia's top and middle-order, because they are so strong and relentless.'' — UNI
Melbourne, December 17
Both Wright, a former India coach, and Buchanan, who guided Ricky Ponting's men till the other day, were of the view that India's captaincy reins were in firm hands and the hosts would find Kumble a tough nut to crack during the four-match Test series.
"I think he's a good choice as skipper," said Wright, who coached India from 2000-2005 with distinction.
"He's fiercely determined ... I wouldn't like to fight him, put it that way," the former Kiwi captain was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press.
Wright said Kumble, a veteran of 121 Tests, had the experience and the tactical acumen to play positively against the redoubtable hosts.
"He doesn't back down and I like his attitude because he looks to attack with the way he captains.
"The one game he did with me (a one-day win over England in 2002), I was very impressed with his outlook, which was very positive," Wright reminisced.
Australia have always targeted visiting captains like Jimmy Adams, Nasser Hussain, Graeme Smith and Andrew Flintoff and the ploy worked well in the past.
Like Wright, Buchanan also felt that the strategy might not work against a hard-boiled customer like Kumble.
Kumble also came in for rich praise from the former Australia coach, who said the seasoned leggie could think on his feet.
"He's their best choice, no doubt about that. He's a very humble sort of person, but he's a man who's quite determined.
"He presents as the right captain of this side, I think he has the respect of the older group - Ganguly, Tendulkar and Dravid - but the younger players also think he's the right person at the helm," Buchanan said.
"He will find it a testing time of his captaincy capabilities but my view is he's a pretty astute sort of person, a resilient guy and pretty impervious to outside distractions," he added.
Wright, meanwhile, offered an advice to the Indian side - avoid trying to match Australia's on-field aggression and fall into the trap.
"It's about what you do and not what you say," he said.
"(In October) they probably played into Australia's hands and if you do say anything, you've got to back it up with performances," Buchanan said. — PTI
Port Elizabeth, December 17
Fast bowler Taylor took three wickets for six runs against the home side, which floundered to a total of 58 for eight after being put in to bat in a match reduced to 13 overs a side by rain. The West Indies replied with 60 for five to win with 3.1 overs to spare.
Taylor did all of his damage in the second over. He trapped Morne van Wyk lbw for one before bowling JP Duminy without scoring and inducing AB de Villiers, who was also out for nought, to chop the ball on to his stumps.
A recovery of sorts was followed by the dismissals of Shaun Pollock and Albie Morkel, who were run out for two and one, respectively, and Vernon Philander, lbw to fast bowler Fidel Edwards for four as South Africa lurched to 22 for seven.
Number nine Johan Botha top-scored with an unbeaten 28.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn threatened to bowl the South Africans back into the match when he took four for nine from three overs.
But, anchored by Runako Morton’s 20 and an unbroken stand of 19 between Shivnarine Chanderpaul (8 not out) and Denesh Ramdin (12 not out) the visitors reached their target in 9.5 overs. — Reuters
Van Wyk lbw Taylor 1
Gibbs c Chanderpaul
b Powell 0
Duminy b Taylor 0
De Villiers b Taylor 0
Bodi b Sammy 8
Pollock run out 2
A Morkel run out 1
Philander lbw Edwards 4
Botha not out 28
Steyn not out 1
Extras (lb-7, nb-1, w-5) 13
Total (8 wkts, 13 overs) 58
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-5, 3-5, 4-5, 5-10, 6-12, 7-22, 8-37.
Bowling: Powell 3-0-6-1, Taylor 3-1-6-3, Bravo 2-0-16-0, Edwards 3-0-14-1, Sammy 2-0-9-1.
Parchment c Duminy b Pollock 10
Smith b Steyn 7
Morton b Steyn 20
Chanderpaul not out 8
Samuels b Steyn 1
Bravo b Steyn 0
Ramdin not out 12
Extras (lb-1, w-1) 2
Total (5 wkts, 9.5 overs) 60
Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-32, 3-39, 4-41, 5-41.
Bowling: Pollock 2-0-19-1, Ntini 3-0-16-0, Steyn 3-0-9-4, Morkel 1-0-5-0, Philander 0.5-0-10-0.
Melbourne, December 17
Tait’s action was questioned by the New Zealand team during the ongoing Chappell-Hadlee series but Lee rubbished the allegations and gave a clean chit to the fellow pacer.
“I’ve bowled alongside him a few times now and watched him, and I haven’t seen anything that’s wrong with his action,” Lee was quoted as saying by The Age.
Lee said it was but natural for people to question an express bowler like tait and promised support to him.
“I know with Tait, with people coming out and saying he might have a problem with his action, it’s always going to be tough for him. But he has not got a problem with his action. He’s got the perfect bowling action, I think.”— PTI
Halhadar, Kaul share honours
Mohali, December 17
On a day when Punjab made the most of the opportunity after electing to field first, it was young Das when kept the Punjab seam attack at bay. He notched up a fine century as Orissa finished the first day of the four-day match at 273 for 8.
The 21-year-old Das was well supported by veteran middle-order batsman Rashmi Ranjan Parida, who came up with a timely half-century (52), saving the visitors from a rout.
The 17-year-old seamer Siddarth Kaul, playing his first Ranji Trophy match, was a revelation. He came out with flying colours, bagging a four-wicket haul, the best effort among the hosts’ bowlers.
Gagandeep Singh was the other most successful bowler. Taking three crucial wickets, he went a long way in hastening the Orissa collapse.
Lanky seamer VRV Singh, overlooked for the Australia tour, had an off-day. Though he went on tirelessly and bowled 15 overs, he failed to be among the wickets.
Das, who made his Ranji debut last season, was in control for the most part of the innings. He hit nine fours and two sixes in his 151-ball stay at the wicket before edging a Kaul delivery behind the stumps to be caught by Uday Kaul.
Former India opener and Orissa skipper SS Das made a cautious 19 before becoming Kaul’s first victim.
BS Pati b Gagandeep 13
SS Das b S Kaul 19
N Behera lbw Gagandeep 13
RR Parida c Sohal b Goel 52
RR Das c U Kaul b S Kaul 0
P Jayachandra b S Kaul 36
H Das c U Kaul b S Kaul 100
DS Mohanty lbw b Gagandeep 12
SV Sehgal not out 1
Extras (b-10, lb-5, nb-12) 27
Total (8 wkts; 86 overs) 273
Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-48, 3-50, 4-50, 5-121, 6-189, 7-267, 8-273.
Bowling: Gagandeep Singh 18-2-37-3, VRV Singh 15-1-68-0, S Kaul 20-6-58-4, Ravi Inder 5-1-11-0, A Kakkar 13-2-40-0, Charanjit Singh 12-2-28-0, Karan Goel 3-0-16-1.
Melbourne, December 17
The Punjab bowler declared Hogg was not close to the illustrious tweakers that had represented Australia at Test level in recent times.
“Without Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, there are no quality spinners in Australia,” Harbhajan told the Herald newspaper.
“Let’s see how Hogg would go against the best players of spin in the world. It would be a big test for him,” he said. — PTI
2008 AFC Cup
Kuala Lumpur, December 17
Dempo were drawn in Group A with Oman outfit Sur, Al Ansar of Lebanon and 2006 AFC Cup runners-up Al Muharraq of Bahrain.
East Bengal were pooled in Group B with Ahli Sana’a of Yemen, Lebanon’s Safa and Jordan’s Al Wihdat in the AFC’s second tier club competition.
In Group C were holders Shabab Al Ordun of Jordan in the company of Oman champions Al Nahda, Al Najma of Bahrain and Shaab Hadramaout of Yemen.
In the east half of the draw, Singapore’s Home United, semifinalists in the inaugural AFC Cup, have been pooled in Group D with Hong Kong’s South China, Malaysian champions Kedah and Victory, who were denied a hat-trick of Maldives league titles by New Radiant.
New Radiant, who reached the last four of the 2005 AFC Cup, face Singapore Armed Forces, Kitchee from Hong Kong and Malaysia’s other representatives Perak in Group E.
India was the first country drawn and Dempo were the first club out of the hat in the draw.
West: Group A: Dempo (India); Sur (Oman), Al Ansar (Lebanon), Al Muharraq (Bahrain); Group B: East Bengal (India), Al Ahli Sana’a (Yemen), Safa (Lebanon), Al Wihdat (Jordan); Group C: Shabab Al Ordun (Jordan), Al Nahda (Oman), Al Najma (Bahrain), Shaab Hadramaout (Yemen).
East: Group D: Home United (Singapore), South China (Hong Kong), Kedah (Malaysia),Victory (Maldives); Group E: New Radiant (Maldives), Singapore Armed Forces (Singapore), Kitchee (Hong Kong), Perak (Malaysia) — UNI
Srinagar, December 17
The visit is considered crucial as the two observers would submit their report on the condition of grounds and other required infrastructure put in place for hosting the event in Srinagar to the AIFF, which was expected to take a final decision on the 62nd edition of the national football tournament on December 23.
Jammu and Kashmir Football Association (JKFA) president Zamir Ahmad Thakur told UNI that AIFF vice-president Subrotta Dutta and member Nasir Ali would arrive tomorrow to inspect the infrastructure put in place so far for hosting such a big national event.
He expressed the hope that the AIFF would grant the 62nd edition of Santosh Trophy to Jammu and Kashmir.
Thakur said two venues - Bakshi Stadium and Polo Ground — have been earmarked for hosting the national football tournament in the Kashmir valley. GGM Science College in Jammu is the venue for the trophy in the winter capital.
The JKFA president said the TRC Ground has been kept ready as an alternative venue while Amar Singh College and S P College grounds made available for practice purposes.
During their last visit in November, the AIFF observers announced that only 50 per cent work had been completed till then, he added.
''Later, we along with the AIFF observers met Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who assured us that the pending work would be completed well in time to host the event. — UNI
Thousand Oaks, California, December 17
The world number one, six ahead of the pack overnight, fired a four-under-par 68 at Sherwood Country Club to claim his fourth title in the elite 16-man tournament he hosts.
Woods stretched his lead to seven strokes over the first two holes before it was trimmed to just two by playing partner Furyk over a cut-and-thrust outward nine.
Furyk's faint victory hopes were extinguished by a double-bogey at the par-three 15th, where he found water off the tee for the second day in a row, and Woods eagled the par-five 16th on his way to a winning total of 22-under 266. — Reuters
Hindustan Club in Super League
New Delhi, December 17 Anila Bara headed in a corner kick in the second minute to open the account. Nathan consolidated the lead before interval and Gopal Thapa struck the third goal immediately after resumption. Former champions Simla Youngs downed Bangadarshan 2-0 to record their first victory in five matches. Monu Chaudhary and Nigerian Jonathan Kingesley scored once in each half to help Simla Youngs not only earn full points but also keep alive their hopes for a berth in the Super League.
New Delhi, December 17
Anila Bara headed in a corner kick in the second minute to open the account. Nathan consolidated the lead before interval and Gopal Thapa struck the third goal immediately after resumption.
Former champions Simla Youngs downed Bangadarshan 2-0 to record their first victory in five matches. Monu Chaudhary and Nigerian Jonathan Kingesley scored once in each half to help Simla Youngs not only earn full points but also keep alive their hopes for a berth in the Super League.
DLF golf course best in subcontinent
New Delhi, December 17 The award announced by the magazine is widely regarded as the Oscar of the Asian golf course. It was presented in Singapore recently. “It is a honour to have received this prestigious award. It is a great feeling to be recognised among the best golf courses in Asia,” said Aakash Ohri, senior general manager of the exclusive 18-hole, par-72 course with the country’s first night golfing facility. —
New Delhi, December 17
The award announced by the magazine is widely regarded as the Oscar of the Asian golf course. It was presented in Singapore recently.
“It is a honour to have received this prestigious award. It is a great feeling to be recognised among the best golf courses in Asia,” said Aakash Ohri, senior general manager of the exclusive 18-hole, par-72 course with the country’s first night golfing facility. — PTI
Dharamsala, December 17
AK Thakur, who captured four wickets, was the most impressive among the HP bowlers. He removed Mazumdar, trapping him lbw for 90. Mumbai, who elected to bat, suffered an early jolt when S Kukreja was dismissed by V Malik with just five runs on the board.
Brief scores: Mumbai (1st innings): 324 for 9 (A Mazumdar 90, A Rahane 37, V Indulkar 37, V Samant 31 n.o.; A Thakur 4-99, Sarandeep Singh 2-68. — UNI
Manmohan hails Narain’s feat Karthikeyan’s driving skills helped India achieve their first-ever podium finish in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsports. India thus became the 14th nation to win in the A1GP. —
TNS India rise to 143rd
in FIFA ranking India, who began this year at 157th, improved 13 places this year largely due to the Nehru Cup win, defeating higher-ranked Syria in the final in August. Among the Asians, India are in the 26th spot, while Japan still lead the pack, followed by Iran and South Korea. Argentina will end the year as the world’s best-ranked team, followed by Brazil and Italy. — UNI Hoggard in squad
for final Test Sri Lanka lead the series 1-0 after winning the first Test in Kandy by 88 runs. Squad: Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison —
Karthikeyan’s driving skills helped India achieve their first-ever podium finish in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsports. India thus became the 14th nation to win in the A1GP. — TNS
India rise to 143rd
in FIFA ranking
India, who began this year at 157th, improved 13 places this year largely due to the Nehru Cup win, defeating higher-ranked Syria in the final in August. Among the Asians, India are in the 26th spot, while Japan still lead the pack, followed by Iran and South Korea.
Argentina will end the year as the world’s best-ranked team, followed by Brazil and Italy. — UNI
Hoggard in squad
for final Test
Sri Lanka lead the series 1-0 after winning the first Test in Kandy by 88 runs.
Squad: Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison — Reuters