SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
S P O R T S

Curator promises fair pitch
Durban, December 23
Promising a fair pitch for the second India-South Africa cricket Test, the chief groundsman of the Kingsmead stadium, Wilson Ngobese, said the track prepared by him will not excessively help bowlers. The first Test was won by South Africa by an innings and 25 runs in Centurion after the Indian batting collapsed in the first innings on a track which helped pace bowling in overcast conditions. Ngobese said the pitch for the second Test starting Sunday would be a lot more balanced.

(Top) South African coach van ZylThe Kingsmead Stadium will host the second Test from December 26.

Vijender is Most Valued Player 
New Delhi, December 23
A bungling Master of Ceremonies and some missed names notwithstanding, the felicitation of the athletes who won medals at the Guangzhou Asian Games was one more step at providing incentives to the athletes who have done well for the country. The Samsung felicitation ceremony, which was attended by most of the athletes who did well in China, was also an opportunity for presenting boxer Vijender Singh the ‘Samsung Most Valued Performance Award’.


Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson bowls during a public appearance of the Australian and England cricket teams in Melbourne
Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson bowls during a public appearance of the Australian and England cricket teams in Melbourne on Thursday. — AFP


EARLIER STORIES

India looking for answers
December
23, 2010
Sachin back in ODI & T20 team
December
22, 2010
India fall flat on the face
December
21, 2010
Master BlaSTER Sachin
December
20, 2010
Strong reply by Indian openers
December
19, 2010
Proteas in cruise control
December
18, 2010
Blown Away
December
17, 2010
Top Spot up for grabs
December
16, 2010
HC breather for Royals
December
15, 2010

Australia still very vulnerable: KP
Melbourne, December 23
England batsman Kevin Pietersen thinks Australia is still "very vulnerable" despite leveling the Ashes cricket series and claims the home team's new verbal aggression shows it is "under huge amounts of pressure."

No. 1 motivational target, not an end in itself: Anand
Greater Noida, December 23
World chess Champion Viswanathan Anand is likely to lose his number one status by next month but the Indian is hardly bothered as he feels ranking is a motivational target rather than an end in itself. Anand finished joint second in the London Chess Classic last week and is likely to be toppled by winner Magnus Carlsen, in the latest ranking to be released next month. However, the major reason for Anand's slip would be Pearl Spring Chess Tournament in Nanjing where he finished second behind Carlsen.

Real rout Levante in Copa del Rey
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (L) fights for the ball with Levante's Miquel Robuste during their Spanish King's Cup match in Madrid Barcelona, December 23
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema scored hat tricks to lead Real Madrid to an 8-0 rout of Levante on Wednesday in the round of 16 in the Copa del Rey. Ronaldo has now scored 25 goals in 24 matches in all competitions for Madrid this season.





Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (L) fights for the ball with Levante's Miquel Robuste during their Spanish King's Cup match in Madrid on Wednesday. — Reuters

Inter sack Benitez
Milan, December 23
Rafael Benitez's reign as Inter Milan coach ended in ignominy on Thursday when he left the European champions after just six months in charge having dared to question club owner Massimo Moratti's authority. “Inter and Rafael Benitez announce that, mutually and with satisfaction on each side, they have reached an agreement for the early resolution of his contract,” said a statement from the Serie A club after days of talks.

Mohun Bagan beat JCT
Ludhiana, December 23
Mohun Bagan returned to winning ways when they defeated JCT 1-0 in a fifth round I-League match at the Guru Nanak Stadium here today. After both teams failed to break the deadlock in the first half, Manish Maithani scored the all-important goal in the 67 minute of the match. Maithani found the net after he made use of a pass from Subair Muritala Ali.


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Curator promises fair pitch

Durban, December 23
Promising a fair pitch for the second India-South Africa cricket Test, the chief groundsman of the Kingsmead stadium, Wilson Ngobese, said the track prepared by him will not excessively help bowlers.

The first Test was won by South Africa by an innings and 25 runs in Centurion after the Indian batting collapsed in the first innings on a track which helped pace bowling in overcast conditions. Ngobese said the pitch for the second Test starting Sunday would be a lot more balanced.

"I want to give a wicket that is fair for everybody," Ngobese said. "It must not excessively help the bowlers too, and then if you can't bat I can't help it. But we are expecting more rain till the start of the match, and I am hoping for more such sunny days. Still, it should help the bowlers with good bounce," he added.

Ngobese said the weather would also be a major factor along with the sea breeze. "I don't want to show cracks on the pitch," said Ngobese as he ruled out getting rid of the entire grass cover on the track.

Smith plays mind games

An upbeat South African captain Graeme Smith has already started playing mindgames before they take on India in the second Test which starts here on Boxing Day.

"I still believe that we could have handled that situation better. I would like to insist that wicket was helping bowlers when we batted for first 40-odd overs," the South African captain stated in reference to India's 136 all-out in the first innings. "Then wicket flattened out on 2nd day after tea and then on to 3rd day. But certainly we would done better on that wicket," Smith today took a dig at the much vaunted Indian batting line-up when asked how his team would have approached if put into bat.

"I think that the scoring rate we achieved done the trick for us as we were left with lot more time to get India out twice," the Proteas skipper added. The skipper insisted that by inflicting a humiliating defeat on the opposition, his team will be riding high before they take on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men for the second time in the series.

"Look we have won last Test match by innings and 25 runs. So we have lot of positives to take from that match. We are certainly going to take that confidence with us in the second Test match. On the other side doubts will certainly creep into the Indian team. But we aren't thinking too far ahead. We are focussing on the process and preparing well for this match," he said. The southpaw however expects a better fightback from Dhoni's men in the coming Test match.

"I expect much more fight back from the India team. They have loads of experience. They will come out fighting in this Test match especially in the batting department. Don't forget this if fight between top two teams in Test cricket." Smith is confident that his bowlers can sort out Virender Sehwag who showed glimpses of his devastating ability with the willow during the second innings.

"That's the way Sehwag plays. He backs his ability and if he gets going then he takes the game away from the opposition. But like in the first innings at Centurion, if we can knock Sehwag out early on, then things change for us. "If we can make early inroads, then we can test lower order on relatively new ball. That is going to be a huge challenge for us to restrict Sehwag from giving flying start for his team."

Smith is however aware that South Africa's record at Kingsmead of late has been poor as they have the last two Test matches played here.

SA open to foreign coach

Johannesburg: With incumbent Corrie van Zyl all set to step down after the 2011 World Cup, Cricket South Africa today said it has started searching "far and wide" and was also open to the idea of a foreign coach for the Proteas.

CSA chief executive Gerald Majola said they were looking for an able candidate to replace interim coach Van Zyl who will return to his permanent post as head of CSA's High Performance Centre.

"CSA is casting its net far and wide to find the right person to replace caretaker Proteas' coach Corrie van Zyl and take the team to even higher levels of performance," Majola said.

"We thank and applaud Corrie for stepping into the breach at such short notice after the resignation of Mickey Arthur as national coach last season," he added.

During 49-year-old Van Zyl's association with the national team, South Africa defeated the West Indies and drew the away Test series against India and Pakistan earlier this year. Under Van Zyl's guidance, the Proteas have already taken a 1-0 lead in the ongoing home series against India, which has been billed as the fight for Test supremacy. — PTI

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Vijender is Most Valued Player 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 23
A bungling Master of Ceremonies and some missed names notwithstanding, the felicitation of the athletes who won medals at the Guangzhou Asian Games was one more step at providing incentives to the athletes who have done well for the country. The Samsung felicitation ceremony, which was attended by most of the athletes who did well in China, was also an opportunity for presenting boxer Vijender Singh the ‘Samsung Most Valued Performance Award’.

The MVP award presents Rs. 2.5 lakh worth of products from the company’s range. Vijender was nominated for the award by a jury of sports journalists who took into account the fact that he had broken his finger early on during the Asian Games but still managed to beat the reigning world champion to win gold at Guangzhou.

While many of the awardees were present on the occasion, conspicuous by their absence were Pankaj Advani, who had won the first gold at Guangzhou, Sudha Singh, who had begun the Indian golden run on the track, Ronjan Sodhi, the only shooter to win gold, Somdev Devvarman, who won two gold medals, his partner Sanam Singh, Preeja Shreedharan, winner of the 10,000m race, and men’s 400m hurdler Joseph Abraham.

Medal winners were felicitated for individual and team performances. All Individual gold winners were conferred with a 40 inch LCD TV, while the silver winners received a 32-inch television. The bronze medallists got 22 inch televisions. The winning teams were presented with mobiles phones.

Asked how he had felt about winning gold at the Asian Games, Bajrang Lal Takhar, who won the men’s single scull gold, said: “I knew I had to win, for my people and my country and it moved me to tears. Since I have been Asian champion for the past three years, I was confident that I’d be able to win.”

Vijender was candid about his performances earlier. “I always used to win bronze medals in big events,” the boxer said. “I was looking forward to gold at the Commonwealth Games at home but the loss there really crushed me. So it was a great thing to win gold at Guangzhou. China turned out to be lucky for me.” Speaking on the occasion, Olympic Council of Asia Secretary-General Randhir Singh congratulated all the athletes as well as the company, which has been associated with the Indian contingents since the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998. 

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Australia still very vulnerable: KP

Melbourne, December 23
England batsman Kevin Pietersen thinks Australia is still "very vulnerable" despite leveling the Ashes cricket series and claims the home team's new verbal aggression shows it is "under huge amounts of pressure."

In an interview with English media, Pietersen escalated vocal sparring between the teams, describing England's 267-run third test loss at Perth as a "hiccup" and saying it was still confident of an historic series win. Australia has credited its third test win to its return to a more aggressive approach, shelved after its 2008 Sydney test against India sparked a public and official backlash against "sledging", the slang for verbal assaults on an opposing team.

In recent days, Paul Marsh, head of the Australian Cricketers' Association, said fear of the consequences of sledging had affected Australia's form and opponents had been quick to exploit its "weakness." Marsh said Australia's win over England in Perth, which followed its innings and 71 run loss in the second test at Adelaide, had resulted from a return to its "natural instincts."

Verbal sparring between the teams has noticeably increased. England wicketkeeper Matt Prior criticized Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle for giving him a verbal "send-off" after his dismissal in the third test. Siddle responded by saying England only complained because it lost. "We won the game. That's why they're making such a big deal of it," he said. More

Pietersen increased the ante on Thursday. "When you're under extreme amounts of pressure, you talk a lot more," he said. "And the good thing about our team is, we're on a plateau. We do what we do.

"We made a hiccup last week. Yes, we were constructive in the criticism that we chucked around the team meeting about preparation and whatever. But we haven't come out and made any bold, huge statements about this and about that." Pietersen said the English squad is aware of Australia's vulnerabilities.

"There are a lot of areas in their team that are very vulnerable and we just need to do what we do and wipe the slate clean and forget Perth," he said. "Think about Adelaide, think about how well we did there, and how well we did in (the drawn first test in) Brisbane. We're absolutely fine." — AP

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No. 1 motivational target, not an end in itself: Anand

Greater Noida, December 23
World chess Champion Viswanathan Anand is likely to lose his number one status by next month but the Indian is hardly bothered as he feels ranking is a motivational target rather than an end in itself. Anand finished joint second in the London Chess Classic last week and is likely to be toppled by winner Magnus Carlsen, in the latest ranking to be released next month. However, the major reason for Anand's slip would be Pearl Spring Chess Tournament in Nanjing where he finished second behind Carlsen.

"It is not because of London that I am no more the world number one, it is because of Nanjing. Nanjing gets carried over, it is a bit confusing. I overtook him in Bilbao and he overtook me in Nanjing and the status quo is maintained," Anand told PTI after launching NIIT Mind Champions Academy at the Ryan International School here.

"Obviously, I would want to be the world number one but I think the main thing is to see the number one ranking as a motivational target rather than an end. "As long as I am aiming to be number one and I am nearby, I am happy. I'm gaining rating points and that is positive. In fact, I'm currently at my career-high ELO rating. I have never been a 2808 or 2809. My earlier best was 2803, so I feel that the direction is up," he added.

Anand said it is a three-way race for the top spot between Carlsen, Levon Aronian and himself and though he wants to regain his ranking, he is not too worried about it.

"That (ranking) is a function of the margin. Right now, the margin between me and Carlsen is very narrow and one should not forget that Levon Aronian is also there. He is not that far either. We can say it is a three-way race.

"There is a bigger margin between him and Vladimir Kramnik. So including him, you can say it is a four-way race. I don't think one should worry about rankings. If I play well I will be there again," said the iconic GM, who will leave for Ahmedabad tonight to be a part of the Swarnim Chess Mahotsav, which is set to create a new world record with 20,000 players playing simultaneously at the Gujarat University Grounds.

The 41-year-old Indian said he needs to sort out some areas of concern before the next season which starts with the Tata Steel Open in Wijk aan Zee in January. "I think there are some problem areas. Magnus has been able to win a lot more games than me, he is able to win four games in a tournament and I am a still a bit low in that. In Nanjing I won three, which is probably better.

"But I am happy that I was undefeated and I was able to beat him in my individual encounter but I think it is inevitable there are areas which I have it keep in mind before I start at the TATA Open next month," he said

Asked about the challenges next year, Anand said he is currently focusing on the first two tournaments which are "ridiculously" tough. "As always, the tournaments are ridiculously strong. The TATA Steel event Wijk Aan Wee will have a majority of the players from top 10 and a very strong field on top of that and all the groups are interesting, so it will be amazing," he said.

"It is in January and the Monaco event will also be tough. It is in March. No real thoughts, there are huge variations in play of strength, so every round I will meet a very tough guy, so I would look at one round at a time," he added. Anand said it is very important to first recover emotionally and then technically after each defeat.

"If you lose a game where you genuinely feel that your opponent played much better than you respect that. Although there is a saying in chess that 'nobody ever beat a perfectly healthy opponent'. Everyone has an excuse. But when you lose a game it is important to recover emotionally and then technically," he said.

"You got to put that defeat behind you and later you can sort out the problem and nothing can help you more than good sound sleep. I know it sounds terribly boring," he added. Asked if he had problems switching on to the football-style scoring at the London Classics, Anand said it is part of the game but admitted that it takes time to get used to the new pattern.

"They wanted to try the football scoring system. We knew that before we played so can't really complain. we need to adjust your thinking, it will take some time to adjust because all your life you have been playing in a particular scoring system. So, certainly difficult to switch. But it is not a big deal," he said.

During his preparation for the World Chess Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria during April-May, Anand had worked with Carlsen and Kramnik. Asked if it is risky to prepare for a tournament along with rivals, Anand conceded it can be a bit awkward. We actually shared some useful information with each other during my preparation for Sofia, it was a bit awkward but then my immediate priority was to win my match in Sofia.” — PTI 

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Real rout Levante in Copa del Rey

Barcelona, December 23
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema scored hat tricks to lead Real Madrid to an 8-0 rout of Levante on Wednesday in the round of 16 in the Copa del Rey. Ronaldo has now scored 25 goals in 24 matches in all competitions for Madrid this season.

Mesut Oezil and Pedro Leon also scored Wednesday as Jose Mourinho's team dominated the first leg at Santiago Bernebeu stadium from the start, shrugging off its indifferent form in the 1-0 win against Sevilla at the weekend.

Benzema scored the sixth-minute opener by slaloming through the defense and beating goalkeeper Gustavo Munua with a low strike. Oezil doubled Madrid's advantage four minutes later after Ronaldo had recovered the ball near the halfway line and raced forward to set up the Germany playmaker near the penalty spot. Benzema added Madrid's third in the 32nd, charging into the area to finished off a pass from Angel Di Maria.

The France striker set up Ronaldo inside the six-yard box for the fourth right on halftime. Benzema chipped Munua from a great pass by Di Maria in the 70th, before Ronaldo scored in the 72nd and 74th minutes.

Pedro Leon capped the demolition in the 90th. Simao Sabrosa's first-half penalty gave Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win over Espanyol with both teams having a player sent off. Simao converted the 33rd-minute spot kick after Espanyol defender Jordi Amat was ruled to have handled in the area. Atletico winger Jose Antonio Reyes was sent off in the 42nd minute for head-butting Espanyol forward Jesus Datolo, and the visitors went a man down when Victor Ruiz was sent off in the 68th.

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo recently said Simao will soon be transferred to Besiktas in Turkey, and the Portugal winger received a standing ovation from the crowd at Vicente Calderon stadium when he was substituted late.

“I want to thank Simao like the fans have,'' Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores said. ``He is a brilliant player and it has been an honor to coach him.'' Koffi Romaric scored twice in Sevilla's 5-3 win over Malaga, Jose Ulloa hit a hat trick to give Almeria a 4-3 win over Mallorca, and Getafe beat second-division team Real Betis 2-1. — AP

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Inter sack Benitez

Milan, December 23
Rafael Benitez's reign as Inter Milan coach ended in ignominy on Thursday when he left the European champions after just six months in charge having dared to question club owner Massimo Moratti's authority. “Inter and Rafael Benitez announce that, mutually and with satisfaction on each side, they have reached an agreement for the early resolution of his contract,” said a statement from the Serie A club after days of talks.

The Spaniard, appointed in June after treble-winner Jose Mourinho left for Real Madrid, was already on shaky ground with his team slumping to seventh in Serie A and spluttering through the Champions League group stages. He had appeared to secure his job with Saturday's World Club Cup triumph, only to explode in the post-match news conference and threaten to discuss his future with his agent if signings did not materialise in the January transfer window.

Benitez directly criticised Moratti, saying he was promised buys in the close-season which did not arrive and pointing out that the club recruited five first-teamers last term under Mourinho and yet did not bring any player in for him. His ultimatum was too much for Moratti, a man not known for his patience, especially as it came when the president thought his side should be celebrating a fifth trophy of a great year rather than pondering his outburst. — Reuters

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Mohun Bagan beat JCT

Ludhiana, December 23
Mohun Bagan returned to winning ways when they defeated JCT 1-0 in a fifth round I-League match at the Guru Nanak Stadium here today. After both teams failed to break the deadlock in the first half, Manish Maithani scored the all-important goal in the 67 minute of the match. Maithani found the net after he made use of a pass from Subair Muritala Ali.

Even as Subhas Bhowmick's Mohun Bagan finally gave their fans something to cheer about after a jittery start to their campaign that included a 0-2 defeat to Churchill Brothers, things only got worse for JCT who are now struggling at the bottom of the table. — PTI

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 BRIEFLY

ICC rejects Butt's application
Dubai:
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has rejected suspended Pakistan cricketer Salman Butt's application to delay the hearing into the spot-fixing allegations against him and two other cricketers from his country. Thus, the hearing will take place as scheduled from January 6-11 in Doha. Butt along with pace duo of Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Aamer were suspended by the ICC when allegation of spot-fixing surfaced against them during the Lord's Test against England in September. Michael Beloff, Chairman of the ICC Anti-Corruption Tribunal, heard the plea Butt's legal representation and ruled against the adjournment, last night. — PTI

Mortaza doubtful for World Cup
Dhaka:
Bangladesh pace spearhead Mashrafe Mortaza sustained an injury to his right knee during a domestic match, the country's cricket board said, putting his World Cup appearance in doubt. Tests confirmed Mortaza sustained a near-complete tear of his reconstructed anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the Bangladesh Cricket Board said in a statement yesterday. After consulting a number of physicians, including Australia's David Young, the board declined to make any predictions on whether the injury would affect Mortaza's chances of playing in the World Cup starting in February. — PTI

Ponting likely for fourth Test
Melbourne:
Ricky Ponting said his chances of leading Australia in Sunday's fourth Ashes Test against England were "very high" after completing training without mishap. Ponting fractured the little finger on his left hand while attempting a slip catch during the third Test win in Perth last weekend. The Australian skipper told the Network Ten television station he rated his chances of playing in Melbourne as "very high" and said his injury had shown even greater improvement than he had expected. Ponting's determination to play in Sunday's crucial Ashes Test despite a broken finger will provide great inspiration to the Australia team, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said. — AFP

NRAI to elect new president
New Delhi:
The National Rifle Association of India is all set to elect a full-time president during its governing body meeting on December 29. Vice-president Avtar Singh Sethi has been serving as interim chief of NRAI since late Digvijay Singh had stepped down following a Supreme Court directive just before the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in February. Following the Supreme Court's directive to the NRAI to go back to the Delhi High Court on the issue of its office-bearers holding more than two terms in office, the federation had named Sethi as the interim president. — PTI

Sharma is throwball body prez
Chandigarh:
The Punjab Throwball Association has unanimously elected A K Sharma as President of the Association at a meeting of its general house on Thursday. Sharma, who has a rich experience in sports management besides being an officer in the Excise and Taxation department, said he was committed to promote the sport in Punjab as well as the Northern region. — TNS

Liberals hockey: EME win
Patiala:
EME Jalandhar defeated CRPF New Delhi 3-1 on 5th day of the 35th Liberals All India Hockey Tournament in progress at Punjab Public School Hockey Stadium, Nabha. The teams would enter the quarter final round from Friday and would face each other to make it to the semis. In the other matches of the day BSF Jalandhar outplayed Core of Signals 3-1 while Punjab & Sindh Bank Jalandhar defeated Northern Railway New Delhi 6-0 and in the last match of the day Western Railway Mumbai defeated Airforce New Delhi 3-0. — TNS

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