Full-strength England team for Tests
Dhoni & Co sweat out, Bhajji skips nets
A unanimous decision: Flintoff
Reverse swing is probably what I do best: Amjad Khan
He came, he saw and he conquered
Chelsea face Euro fright night
Aston Villa beat Everton in a thriller
Madrid lose to Sevilla
National TT tourney postponed
Abu Dhabi, December 8
England and Wales Cricket Board's security adviser Reg Dickason, in his much-awaited report, declared India safe for the players, late last night paving the decks for the resumption of cricketing activities which had been interrupted due to Mumbai attacks.
The Kevin Pietersen-led team will fly out to Chennai in two batches ending speculation that senior players Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison were uncertain to tour India.
The England players, who were camping here to prepare for the series, were given a detailed feedback on the security arrangements that would be put in place for the series, scheduled to begin in Chennai from December 11.
After nearly two hours of discussions at the team hotel here involving players, ECB's managing director Hugh Morris and Professional Cricketers Association (EPCA) Chief Executive Sean Morris and Dickason, it was announced that the Test series would go ahead.
The players were then given some time to make up their minds on whether to travel to India.
"England will resume their tour of India and take a full-strength squad. The players were briefed on the latest security update today before confirming they would return to India and complete the tour which was halted following the terror attacks in Mumbai," said a statement issued by the ECB late last night.
"It's a brave and courageous decision that will be respected around the world," Hugh Morris said.
"We've had a lot of discussions with the players following a number of security information audits we've had from the very highest levels of government and our own security team.
"Following the meeting we have had this evening, we confirm that the England team will be travelling to Chennai in the next 24 hours to play in the first Test match against India.
"It has been a very difficult situation, a very emotional, sensitive time for everybody and it has been hard for the players to come to this decision but they all have, and we are looking forward to the challenge of playing India," Morris said.
Earlier, Dickason, Hugh and Sean Morris arrived here from Chennai and briefed the players at team hotel.
Dickason has already inspected the stadium and hotel in Chennai, the venue of the first Test, and had detailed discussions on the security arrangements with BCCI and police officials.
Hugh and Sean Morris had reached Chennai yesterday to inspect the arrangements before taking a final decision on the tour.
The BCCI and police officials have promised to put a fool-proof security set-up in place for the team and support staff during the tour.
The trio would inspect Mohali, which hosts the second Test starting December 19, this week.
In a bid to salvage the tour, the BCCI had come out with a revised itinerary choosing Chennai and Mohali as the new venues instead of Ahmedabad and terror-hit Mumbai. The three-day warm-up match against Board President's XI in Vadodara was also cancelled.
Soon after the recce in Chennai, Dickason had virtually given the green signal to the southern metropolis as the venue for the first Test, saying the organisers had addressed all his concerns.
As part of the security arrangements, central access control system will be installed at the vantage points, at the players' viewing area and also at the team hotel.
The players, upon their arrival in Chennai, will be advised to restrict themselves to the hotel area only.
The Tamil Nadu police will also provide extra security at the stadium, which will be more than the usual, and the players protection by the security staff will be watertight. — PTI
London: While Kevin Pietersen-led England team has received loads of accolades for its stand on touring India, but if reports are to be believed, it was a decision that was forced due of the financial powers associated with the BCCI and how the richest Board could help the ECB in its plans to start an England Premier League.
A report in the English daily 'The Independent' suggested that the decision to tour India despite the Mumbai killings was something that would please both England and Indian boards not only as the game continues in the terror-hit country, but would also help the ECB to seek help from India for the success of its own Twenty20 tournament in 2010.
''The Board of Control for Cricket in India, sensing how much cricket means to their people, have moved heaven and earth to make the tour possible,'' the daily said.
''But India also have other assets to protect in the form of the Indian Premier League, and England need India on their side to make a success of their own so-called England Premier League starting in 2010. There are commercial imperatives at play.
''Nobody should doubt the sincerity of the England and Wales Cricket Board in seeking to ensure their players' safety. It is the least they can do. Equally, Kevin Pietersen's cri de coeur that his team must stand shoulder to shoulder with the Indian nation was lump-in-the-throat stuff,'' the daily added.
Former England captain Tony Greig, who is a commentator with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), also endorsed the suggestions and noted his own understandings of game in the sub-continent.
''The Indian authorities are painfully aware of what could happen to their business plan if they don't get England back there now,'' Greig said.
''If England don't go then there is a distinct probability that many of the foreign players won't turn up for the IPL in the spring, and that would have a dramatic effect.
''England need India as a friend, which they haven't been lately because of their own Twenty20 Premier League plans, and by going back they'll have leverage. But having said that, atrocities in India and Pakistan and Sri Lanka have become part of everyday living. I've been going there for years and people just accept it and get on with things,'' said Greig who led England to series victory in India 31 years ago.
The Independent further added that by going to India now, England's players will be doing themselves a favour when new multi-million-dollar IPL contracts are handed out in February.
However, Greig fears that the desperation to get England to India as rapidly as possible may start to bring to a head another related issue.
Players, despite the apparent acquiescence of England's last week, will soon be in revolt.
''It could have ramifications that are quite astronomical,'' he said adding, ''Players are beginning to think seriously about lifestyle. There are dollar millionaires who are wondering why they have to perform so much. The time is arriving, and soon, when players will be quite happy to end their Test career at say 50 matches, then play for a few weeks a year in a Twenty20 League. — UNI
Chennai, December 8
Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma were late by about 15 minutes in joining their teammates at the 150-minute practice session that started at 1400 hrs this afternoon. They first had light exercises including running a lap of the ground around the boundary before hitting the nets.
Tamil Nadu stars S Badrinath and M Vijay were the first to pad up for batting practice at the nets, followed by Rahul Dravid, Dhoni, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. All the players had hits at the fast track and the spin strip for about 1o minutes each.
Dhoni was also seen behind the stumps at the spin track, while Laxman was seen getting batting practice with a soft ball threw at him by coach Gary Kirsten.
Meanwhile, the security at the ground was kept watertight and even the electronic and print media journalists were not allowed entry inside the ground. They were asked to station at the gallery on the opposite side of the pavilion.
TNCA Secretary Kasi Viswanathan told PTI that the ticket sales, despite the doubt about the match happening, was encouraging. "Spectators need not have any undue worry about security and arrangement of food stalls and water facility for them.
Police have made elaborate security arrangements at each of the stands at the stadium for them," he said.
For security reasons the press conferences by the two captains on practice days have been done away with though they will hold their customary match eve press conference. — PTI
Overcoming the terror scare, the England cricket team returned to Chennai tonight in two batches to resume their Indian tour which was interrupted by the Mumbai carnage.
The full-strength 16-member team led by Kevin Pietersen landed here from the UAE, the first batch reached here from Abu Dhabi followed by another from neighbouring Dubai within 20 minutes of each other. The contingent consists of 28 people, including support staff.
The team, which had left India on November 28 after abandoning the last two of the seven-match ODI series in the wake of the terror attacks, will play the first Test here from Thursday at the M A Chidambaram stadium which replaced Mumbai as the venue.
The second Test is scheduled to be held at Mohali from December 19 although England has to formally confirm it.
Tight security arrangements had been made at the airport for the arrival of the team which got the final go-ahead to tour India late last night following the security clearance from the England and Wales Cricket Board's security advisor Reg Dickason.
Immediately upon arrival, the team was taken out of the airport from a separate gate and driven straight to the hotel where fool-proof security cover had been provided.
The English players are scheduled to have a practice session tomorrow and will get just two days to get acclimatised to the conditions before the first Test gets underway.
The England players were training in Abu Dhabi pending the security clearance. Dickason's report had found India to be safe, paving the decks for the resumption of cricketing activities.
The players were given a detailed feedback on the security arrangements that would be put in place for the series. — PTI
A unanimous decision: Flintoff
Abu Dhabi, December 8 Himself one of those who initially was reluctant to tour India following the recent Mumbai terror attacks, Flintoff said all his teammates made their point before they unanimously decided to go ahead with the tour. "It's been a difficult last three days. Throughout, everyone has voiced their opinion, whether they be junior or senior players. Everyone has decided to go, so to say it was just about the senior players would be wrong. We have decided to go as a team," the former captain said. Flintoff said the team was quite intense in the nets but admitted the fate of the tour was back on their mind whenever they were left to themselves. "When we have been practising out on the field, batting and bowling, the intensity has been fine. But when people are on their own, and with time to think, the mood has been different," he said. Apart from Flintoff, pacer Steve Harmison and off-spinner Graeme Swann had made public their reluctance to tour India on security grounds. Flintoff seemed to have already focussed himself for the two-match Test series starting in Chennai on December 11 and said doing well against an in-form India would be a challenge for the squad. "If you win anything in India I think you are doing well," said Flintoff. "Particularly with the way they played in the one-dayers, and the way they played against Australia. We have now got two Tests to show what we can do," Flintoff
Abu Dhabi, December 8
Himself one of those who initially was reluctant to tour India following the recent Mumbai terror attacks, Flintoff said all his teammates made their point before they unanimously decided to go ahead with the tour.
"It's been a difficult last three days. Throughout, everyone has voiced their opinion, whether they be junior or senior players. Everyone has decided to go, so to say it was just about the senior players would be wrong. We have decided to go as a team," the former captain said.
Flintoff said the team was quite intense in the nets but admitted the fate of the tour was back on their mind whenever they were left to themselves.
"When we have been practising out on the field, batting and bowling, the intensity has been fine. But when people are on their own, and with time to think, the mood has been different," he said.
Apart from Flintoff, pacer Steve Harmison and off-spinner Graeme Swann had made public their reluctance to tour India on security grounds.
Flintoff seemed to have already focussed himself for the two-match Test series starting in Chennai on December 11 and said doing well against an in-form India would be a challenge for the squad. "If you win anything in India I think you are doing well," said Flintoff.
"Particularly with the way they played in the one-dayers, and the way they played against Australia. We have now got two Tests to show what we can do," Flintoff said.— PTI
London, December 8
''India are probably the best team in the world,'' Amjad said and added, ''It's a tough place to tour, but for me it's an opportunity. If I can do well there I can do well anywhere, so I'm looking forward to it.'' The Denmark-born Amjad was yesterday drafted into the England team for the two-Test series against India in place of injured Ryan Sidebottom.
''I have reached 92-93mph but we've been messing around with reverse swing here and that's probably what I do best,'' Amjad was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph today.
''If I can get some of that in India it would be ideal and could set me apart from some of the other guys.
''Since 2003-04, after being successful at Kent, playing for England was something I started dreaming about. When I got word that I was pretty close I got injured, so to overcome that by being picked now is something I'm pretty emotional about.
''I don't really have any concerns about travelling to India. We've been here in Abu Dhabi a few days but it's not really been a topic of conversation. People have been talking about other things. With quite a lot of practice being crammed into a couple of days, people have been focused on that,'' Amjad added.
Amjad's call-up came as a surprise given that he was up against Sajid Mahmood and Liam Plunkett, two bowlers with a fair amount experience at the Test level.
However, a clue might have been his recent inclusion, along with Mahmood, in the one-day squad, a hint that the Kent paceman has been on the selectors' radar for a while.
Born in Denmark of Pakistani parents, 28-year-old Amjad is a fast bowler with a knack for reverse swing.
He probably sealed his chance after impressing his coaches and peers over the past few days in the nets at Abu Dhabi cricket club.
In Indian conditions, one needs to do something out of the ordinary with the ball to succeed against the likes of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar Rahul Dravid.
Team-mates at Kent speak of an ambitious fast bowler with a slingy action whose aggression comes more from pitching it up than bowling short, which makes sense for a swinger.
For that reason, Amjad is more likely suited to strike bowling than keeping it tight, which makes it a risk/reward decision for the captain. — UNI
Kolkata, December 8
The bid dinner which followed, open exclusively to partners of Maradona’s India trip, fetched an overwhelming response, with his four jerseys - three Argentine, one Boca Juniors and another Barcelona - alone fetching Rs 6,91,000.
With mediamen and his die-hard fans giving their sleep a miss and preferring to wait outside the hotel on Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, Maradona and his entourage left around 1.30 am to catch his Lufthansa LH-751 flight to Frankfurt at 2.45 early today.
Maradona, who was on two-day trip of Kolkata, left the gathering, which included prominent city and NRI entrepreneurs coming all the way from Los Angeles, mesmerised.
The list of items which went under the hammer included three Mardona photographs with official emblem, which fetched Rs 3,30,000 with one of the three photos auctioned for Rs 2,00,000.
One of Maradona’s three Argentine No 10 jerseys fetched Rs 2,50,000, while four of his footballs were auctioned for Rs 2,15,000 in total. The 1986 World Cup hero’s two-day visit to Kolkata received an overwhelming response and such was the extent of madness that the Argentine legend preferred to cut short his formal function on the last day yesterday.
‘Hand of God’ for Indian football
Overwhelmed by the adulation of the fans here, Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona says he might consider helping Indian football by becoming its brand ambassador.
“In terms of football, there are so many things to do here in India. I hope this can take India to a next level with good infrastructure and commitment. I am willing to help India by becoming a brand ambassador,” the Spanish-speaking Maradona told PTI through his PR firm head Sebastian De Monte.
Touched by the rapturous reception that he got here, Maradona, currently the national coach of Argentine team, said the trip to India has given him some of the best moments of his life.
“The India tour is a complete success. It was full of complete joy, complete happiness. Really excellent. The trip is fulfilling and I hope to come here again with my family,” he said.
Over one lakh people turned up to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic star at the Salt Lake Stadium and he was mobbed wherever he went during his 48-hour trip.
“First of all, on the personal front, meeting so many people which I never dreamt of. All the way, the feeling was as if I was at home. That is one thing which is incredible.
"The reception really surprised me. I never thought that I would be received like this. That was one of the best moments in my life," Maradona said.
Asked whether the Argentine was hesitant to come to India after the deadly terror strikes in Mumbai, De Monte said, "There were concern before coming to India. But after seeing the arrangement, we were very satisfied.” — PTI
Barasat, December 8
Both the teams have so far earned four points from two matches though the Mumbai outfit is having a better goal average.
The Mumbai team combined well and displayed better passing than their rivals, who preferred to play with long passes which failed to create much danger on the rival fort most of the time.
Mahindra forged into the lead in the 12th minute when Nigerian striker Edeh Chidi, collecting the ball in the rival area, passed the ball to compatriot Sushil Kumar singh who placed it home over the Churchill keeper.
Stung by the reverse, Churchill forced an all out attack and their striker Odafe Okolie gave a backpass to onrushing Dinesh Balan who shot home to bring the equaliser.
Inspired with the leveller, Churchill kept up their pressure and came near scoring again around the midway of first half but Mahindra custodian Subhashish Roy Chowdhury brought up a nice save.
After surviving two Mumbai raids in a couple minutes, Churchill went into attack a minute before the half time and forged ahead through a penalty, which was awarded when Sushant Mathew tripped a goal-bound Odafa inside the box.
Odafa neatly converted the spot kick to take the lead 2-1 which was, however, short-lived as Steven Dias drew level 2-2 soon. — PTI
Paris, December 8
Roma top Group A with nine points ahead of their final group match at home to French side Bordeaux, who are two points behind and still in contention for a place in the last 16.
Chelsea, last year's runners-up and second behind Roma on eight points, tackle Romanian minnows Cluj and should progress although they go into the Stamford Bridge game with rumours of splits in the squad.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari failed to appear for the post-match news conference after Saturday's 2-0 win at Bolton leaving assistant Ray Wilkins to deny that senior players like skipper John Terry and Frank Lampard were unhappy with the Brazilian's training methods.
Scolari refuses to believe Chelsea will slip up against the Romanians who have no chance of progressing. A victory will ensure Chelsea qualify, although they would still make the knockout round if they do not win and Bordeaux fail to pick up three points in Rome.
“Is it unthinkable that Chelsea go out? Well, I don't think any people in the world are thinking about this, but it is possible because we have given this opportunity to other teams,” Scolari said.
Home defeats to Arsenal, Liverpool and Burnley, as well as lacklustre displays away in Europe have raised questions and their task on Tuesday isn't helped by Lampard's absence through suspension. Roma are 13th in Serie A while their unpredictable form has also affected their European campaign where they have won three games but lost two, including an embarrassing home defeat to Cluj.
The Italians warmed up for the visit of Bordeaux with a 1-0 win over Chievo on Saturday for their fourth win in a row. “Tuesday will be vital, a game that has captured the public's imagination,” said Roma coach Luciano Spalletti.
But he could be without highly-rated Montenegran striker Mirko Vucinic, the scorer of three goals in the competition, who has a knee injury. Roma won the first match with Bordeaux 3-1.
The only other spot in the last 16 still up for grabs is in Group B. Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, who have already qualified, travel to rock-bottom Werder Bremen while unfashionable Anorthosis Famagusta aim to make history by becoming the first Cypriot side in the knockout round.
Elsewhere, Group C winners Barcelona, with 13 points from five games, welcome Shakhtar Donetsk who have already wrapped up the UEFA Cup place awarded to the third place finishers. Second-placed Sporting Lisbon go to Basel in Switzerland.
Liverpool travel to PSV Eindhoven having already qualified from Group D but looking to finish in top spot. — AFP
London, December 8
The drama began early at Goodison Park where Steve Sidwell scored for the visitors after 31 seconds -- the quickest Premier League goal of the season. Everton equalised when Joleon Lescott scored off his knee after 30 minutes before Villa went back in front in the 54th when Ashley Young capitalised on a terrible back-pass from Phil Jagielka to fire past Tim Howard.
Everton then laid siege to Villa's goal and thought they had saved a point when Lescott scored with an acrobatic effort three minutes into stoppage time. But Villa came roaring back and won the game when Young held off a challenge from the Everton defence to score the winner one minute later with virtually the last kick of the game.
“It was a world class performance from Ashley,” Villa boss Martin O’Neill told Sky Sports News. “It was a fantastic match and we deserved it after scoring three goals at Goodison.” Everton manager David Moyes said: “It feels like a kick in the teeth. I am disappointed as we thought we had done enough for a point.”
West Brom went ahead six minutes before halftime when Jonathan Greening pounced on a ball that rebounded back off the bar, but Portsmouth equalised when Peter Crouch crashed home a superb shot from 25 metres in the 58th minute.
The home side, who last won two months ago, also lost striker Ishmael Miller for at least six weeks with a medial knee ligament injury. Villa’s victory meant that the teams in the top six positions all won over the weekend.
Leaders Liverpool won 3-1 at Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 away, Manchester United overcame Sunderland 1-0 and Arsenal defeated Wigan Athletic 1-0. Hull City completed a clean sweep for the top six with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough.
Liverpool lead the standings with 37 points from 16 matches, followed by Chelsea on 36, Manchester United 31 from 15 games, Arsenal 29, Aston Villa 28 and Hull 26. West Brom are bottom on 12 points, one less than Blackburn. — Reuters
Madrid lose to Sevilla
Madrid, December 8 Renato rose over Fabio Cannavaro in the 85th minute to head in Frederic Kanoute's low cross after Madrid had hit back from 3-1 down to draw level at 3-3. Madrid coach Bernd Schuster all but conceded the title afterward with his team traveling to Barcelona next Saturday for the
"classico". “At the Camp Nou now, it's not possible to win," Schuster said. "They (Barcelona) are playing really well there and it's their year.
Madrid, December 8
Renato rose over Fabio Cannavaro in the 85th minute to head in Frederic Kanoute's low cross after Madrid had hit back from 3-1 down to draw level at 3-3. Madrid coach Bernd Schuster all but conceded the title afterward with his team traveling to Barcelona next Saturday for the "classico".
“At the Camp Nou now, it's not possible to win," Schuster said. "They (Barcelona) are playing really well there and it's their year. — AP
National TT tourney postponed
New Delhi, December 8
The fate of the event will be decided next month. Table Tennis Federation of India secretary-general M.C.Chouhan confirmed the championship had been cancelled.
In another tournament over 500 players from all over the country will participate in the National Ranking Table Tennis Championship (North) in the sub-junior, youth, men and women’s singles, to be organised by the Haryana Table Tennis Association, at the Punjabi Bagh Club here from 11 to 15 December.
Olympian Neha Aggarwal and Soumi Mondal, accompanied by NIS coach Bhawani Mukherjee, have left for Madrid (Spain) to participate in the World Junior Championship.
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