Australia playing a dangerous game
Ross sends Pak for a toss
Arsenal look to cross Barca hurdle
Top teams for hockey tourney
‘Get ready to play in India’
Yuvraj to lead Pune Warriors
India take on Myanmar
East Bengal play JCT today
India expect an easy outing against The Netherlands in their fourth Group B match to garner two more soft points in a day-night World Cup encounter at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground here tomorrow.
India presently top the group with five points from three matches, while England also have five points, but from four games. The Dutch will be the last easy prey for the hosts to gobble up before they take on South Africa and the West Indies at Nagpur and Chennai, respectively.
"An easy game is what we are looking for," captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said. "We want to win the game with a big margin."
There was huge media presence when Dhoni addressed the press, though there was absolutely no sign of any spectator interest in the match. Dhoni was to meet the media at 10 a.m., but cancelled the event at the last moment before he finally faced them at 4.30. p.m. The relaxed skipper said there were no fitness problems in the team, and all the players, including Ashish Nehra, were fit to play tomorrow.
“Everyone is available for selection. There is no fitness problem," he said. "We will field the best possible team." He added that he would give chance to all the players in the team at the league stage itself. But he ruled out the prospect of playing with five bowlers, at the expense of a batsman.
"We can only play 11 players. It will not be an ideal scenario to include five bowlers", he explained. He said most of the batsmen had featured in the preceding three matches, and now he would like to give a chance to the bowlers, who have not been featured. He said the team would continue to fare as before in the fielding department and he did not expect any drastic improvement in the bowling either.
Dhoni said he was happy with the fine form of Yuvraj Singh, both with the bat and the ball, and he would continue to be the fifth bowling option. "I am a great fan of Yuvraj. He can play aggressively, defensively...he's bowling well as a fifth bowler," the captain said. Yusuf Pathan is also a value addition to the team for his big hitting and bowling. "We want Yusuf to bat a bit," Dhoni explained. Overall, the skipper was happy the way the team have shaped up. "We have shown signs of improvement in all departments," he said.
If Nehra is fit, all the four Delhi players — the other three being Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli — are sure to play "as it is their home ground" and the captain had no plans to stand any of them down. Zaheer and Nehra will provide the fast stuff, while on the spinning front, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin may finally get a look-in, to partner Harbhajan Singh.
"Ashwin is a very good bowler, and not only against left-handers. We want to field the best XI," Dhoni said. In that case, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla will be cast aside, while Suresh Raina will have to bide his time before making his Cup debut. Dhoni said if Raina is included, Sehwag, Gambhir or Kohli would have to sit out. The captain also ruled out the possibility of shifting Kohli out of the No. 3 slot as he felt that the aggressive batsman had to be given that slot for him to exhibit his full potential.
Dhoni said his boys were well prepared for tomorrow's match after facing varied situations in the previous three ties. "We had a tight game, a tied game and a good game," Dhoni remarked, adding that he was not too worried about chasing. He said though captaincy was a serious job "as you have to react to what is thrown at you," he was happy at the way the team were peaking. "To peak at the right time is important, as the knockout game will be a problem area."
Dhoni was keen that the team carries forward the good form to the end of the tournament, instead of peaking early, and then crashing.
The Dutch are not in the best of spirits after losing their three previous matches, and they cannot easily wipe out the memory of the hiding they got at the hands of the West Indies at the Kotla on February 28. Yet captain Peter Borren promised that his team had some surprises in store for the hosts. But he conceded that it would be tough fight, and that, indeed is the ground reality.
Apart from the controversy surrounding the Umpire Review System - I intend on addressing this contentious system’s ambiguity in my next column - the two major news stories from the World Cup have been the departure of Kevin Pietersen and the recall of Michael Hussey. Both are ominous for England and Australia respectively.
England will surely miss Pietersen, purely because of what he brings to the table. However, they stand to benefit much more from having Eoin Morgan back in the lower middle-order. That is because their top-order has been doing well, and Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott have been scoring lots of runs. The middle-order, though, has been a mess and Morgan’s return is just what England need. They need a player who can bat through the batting Powerplay, and Morgan is the perfect man for the job.
England have a few options gap created by Pietersen, and I believe the best option is Ian Bell. He’s in form and is a proper batsman with a good technique. He can play shots during the Powerplay at the top, and I believe he is better suited at the top than in the middle. I would not move Ravi Bopara from the middle-order. He’s very valuable where he is. Matt Prior is another option but he’s not in form. Putting him up the order would be a major liability.
What the Australian selectors are banking on by not taking the conservative route and choosing a bowler to replace Doug Bollinger is that none of their three fast bowlers breaks down during the World Cup. In calling up Hussey, they are hoping he can lift the middle-order and that Bollinger won’t be missed. But what happens if one of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait or Mitchell Johnson gets injured? That will be a massive loss and John Hastings is not a fast bowler. So it’s a bold decision, one that could backfire.
Also, slotting Hussey back into the line-up isn’t going to be easy. Cameron White could make way, given his lack of form and the fact that he hasn’t bowled for some 18 months, but do you want to drop someone of his ability? White can make the difference to a total and is very handy to have as a hitter. It will come down to the demands of the respective game. Australia have three fast bowlers, Shane Watson who can bowl some useful medium-pace, and spinners in Steven Smith and Jason Krejza. Changing that combination would depend on the match situation. There’s also David Hussey, who could be sacrificed but it won’t be an easy choice. Australia have welcomed back a very good one-day batsman but it will be interesting to see how he fits into the scheme of things.
Another team which may have to look at their personnel is South Africa. I can’t say I was surprised at their dramatic collapse against England on Sunday because this has happened many times before. They should have won, but didn’t. Yet again, they proceeded to collapse under pressure in a low-scoring match. I think you will always find critics who will pick on the lack of grit and character in South African teams. Their batsmen left too much for the lower-order to do, and that’s an area that needs to be addressed.
Overall, I think Group A has panned out pretty much as you would have expected. The top four Test-playing teams will proceed without much fuss. Group B has been tougher and has thrown up a few surprises, Ireland’s win over England being the biggest. That win has thrown up a few ifs and buts as to possible scenarios and what will happen. England will like to beat the West Indies by a significant margin and South Africa’s game against India now becomes very interesting. — PMG
Pallekele, March 8
Set to chase 303 to win, Pakistan were never really in the hunt as they kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were ultimately shot out for 192 in 41.4 overs. Tim Southee picked up three wickets for the Kiwis, while Nathan McCullum picked up two. For Pakistan, Abdul Razzaq was the highest scorer with 62.
Earlier, Pakistan paid heavily for butterfingered Kamran Akmal's mistakes as birthday boy Ross Taylor smashed a whirlwind unbeaten century to power New Zealand to an impressive 302 for seven. Handed a life when he was on zero by wicket-keeper Kamran, Taylor toyed with the Pakistani bowlers towards the end and in Jacob Oram's company piled up a mammoth 114 runs in the final six overs.
Adopting a cautious approach in the beginning, Taylor exploded in the final stages of the innings and remained unbeaten on 131 runs that came off just 124 balls. — PTI
Barcelona, March 8
Arsenal take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of the tie at the Nou Camp and Van Persie was expected to miss the game with a knee injury sustained in last week's League Cup final that Wenger said wuld rule him out for at least three weeks.
However, he trained on Monday before the squad flew to the Catalan capital and was included in a 19-man squad, which will be trimmed to 18 before the match.
He will be assessed by medical staff on Tuesday morning, Wenger told a news conference at Barcelona's Nou Camp stadium, although he stressed that he was not prepared to risk playing the Dutch striker if he was not properly fit.
"He has made quick progress in the last few days," Wenger said. "He had a test this morning and it was quite positive. We'll see how he responds to that and I'll make my decision tomorrow.
"Of course we'll not take a gamble in a game of that importance. He'll really have to be fit. "It's no mind game. The medical staff will assess him. I would like him to play if possible but we will only play him if he is 100 percent fit. "I will consider 99.5," he added with a smile.
Captain Fabregas has been fighting to overcome a hamstring injury but Wenger said he expected his captain to recover. "It is vital for us because he is important in the transition between attacking and defending," Wenger told the club's website (www.arsenal.com) earlier on Monday.
Appearing at the news conference with Wenger in Barcelona, where he was a youth player before joining Arsenal, Fabregas said he and his team mates had been surprised Van Persie had joined them on the flight.
"Robin is a very, very important player for us because he is the complete striker," he said. "He gives you all the options that you need."
On his own physical state, Fabregas said: "My fitness is good. For the last six days I haven't felt anything. I prefer to be safe and I know that I am good if selected to play and that's it. That's the reality."
Fabregas and Van Persie missed the Nou Camp second leg of the team's quarter-final last season when the Spaniards triumphed 4-1 to go through 6-3 on aggregate.
Wenger said midfielder Jack Wilshere, who turned an ankle in Saturday's goalless draw with Sunderland, would be able to play but Alex Song had been ruled out with a knee injury.
Winger Theo Walcott will also miss the game with an ankle injury. "Everybody else who played on Saturday should be available," said Wenger. — Reuters
Top teams for hockey tourney
Chandigarh, March 8
The winners in men’s section will get a cash prize of Rs two lakh and the runners-up of Rs one lakh. Winners in the women’s section will get a cash prize of Rs 75,000 while second placed team wil get Rs 50,000. The women champions will also get Professor Nripjit Kaur Gill Memorial Trophy donated by the Gill family.
Talking to newsmen here this afternoon, Olympian Rajinder Singh said that five members of the Indian team that won a silver medal in the 2010 Commonwealth games in New Delhi will also be felicitated and given a gold medal of 15 gm each on the last day of the tournament. The tournament will also honour five best players - goalkeeper, fullback, half back, forward and top scorer - of the tournament.
Prithipal Singh Batala, Chairman of the Sports Council of Ludhiana, said that Air India (Mumbai), ONGC, Punjab National Bank, Punjab and Sind Bank, Chandigarh XI, Namdhari XI, Indian Air Force and Indian Army are the teams that will participate in the league-cum-knock out tournament.
A book on hockey stalwarts of Sudhar village written by an NRI, Principal Balkar Singh Bajwa, would also be released during the tournament.
Kulwant Singh, organising Secretary of the tournament, said that semi-finals and finals of the tournament would be telecast live. Ther organisers have also decided to give cash prize to man of the match after each game.
Karachi, March 8
"I don't agree that we should be voicing our views publicly on what our preferences are as far as playing the quarterfinals and semifinals are concerned," Imran told Geo Super. Afridi had recently said that his team would try to win all its matches in group A and finish at the top of the table in order to avoid playing the quarterfinals in India.
Afridi added that his team would prefer to play its knockout games in either Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. But Imran felt that if the arch-rivals face each other in the quarterfinal or the semifinal stage on the Indian soil, it would be good for Pakistan.
"Remember India would be under greater pressure playing Pakistan any knockout match at home. They know well the expectations of their people when they normally play Pakistan and this is the World Cup," said Imran.
The three nations jointly hosting the 2011 World Cup — Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh — will get to play their knockout matches, if they make it that far, at home venues irrespective of where they finish in their groups.
The 1992 World Cup winning captain said if he was in Afridi's place or that of the team management, he would have started a psychological battle by proclaiming his team would want to play India in India during the knockout stage.
"In the 1992 World Cup before the semifinals I told the media that I have asked Wasim Akram to bowl as fast as he can and forget about the wides or no-balls. Wasim came to me on the morning of the match asking me: 'Skipper what is this'? and I told him this is only for the opposing team. You bowl with discipline. Mind games have a big role to play in cricket," said Imran. — PTI
Lucknow, March 8
The new entrant in the hugely successful league also announced its 30-member squad that includes, among others, Graeme Smith, Nathan McCullum, Wayne Parnell, Tim Paine, Jesse Ryder and Agnelo Mathews.
Besides Yuvraj, Ashish Nehra, Robin Uthappa and Murali Karthik are the other capped players from India. Callum Ferguson, Mitchelle Marsh, Jerome Taylor and Alfonso Thomas are also part of the squad.
"Sahara's Pune Warriors squad has been constituted with an intention to strike a balance between experience, exuberance, international expertise and promising talent of present and future.
We are confident of making a mark on the league," said Abhijit Sarkar, Sahara's head of Corporate Communications.
"The enviable support and guidance from chief coach Geoff Marsh and assistant coaches Dermot Reeve and Praveen Amre together leverage their vast and complementing experience in international cricket to make the team a force to reckon with," he added.
Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Dheeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Ganesh Gaikwad, Harpreet Singh, Harshad Khadiwale, Imtiyaz Ahmad, Kamran Khan, Manish Pandey, Mithun Minhas, Mohnish Mishra, Rahul Sharma, Sachin Rana, Shreekant Wagh and Shrikant Mundhe complete the young brigade. — PTI
India take on Myanmar
New Delhi, March 8
Desmond Bulpin's Under 23 boys dominated their home leg match in Pune on February 23 and they now need a draw or a win for an outright second round berth.
Jeje Lalpekhlua and Malswamfela found the back of the net for the Indian team in Pune and without a doubt both the talented strikers will play a vital role in India's chances tomorrow as well.
Midfielders Sheikh Jewel Raja and Shilton D'Silva will remain the backbone of the Indian team and the duo will look to continue their excellent form once again.
India will look to count on long balls and set-piece as it fetched both the goals for them in the last match. The Indian defence led by captain Raju Gaekwad gave an impressive performance in the home leg. — PTI
Kolkata, March 8
Having suffered two losses and a draw in their recent outings, East Bengal's campaign in the league has been derailed but coach Trevor James Morgan will be at ease with the trio of Mehtab Hussain, Orji Penn and Uga Okpara making a comeback.
Even as their midfield and defence will get a boost after the return of the trio, Morgan will have a tough time mobilising their strike force that has been weakened after the absence of Australian Tolgay Ozbey and Delhi lad Robin Singh. — PTI
1. Who is the only wicket-keeper to score a century on ODI debut? 2. Who captained Pakistan for the first and only time in the World Cup in 1992 when Imran Khan was injured? 3. What was Brian Lara’s score in his maiden World Cup match in 1992? 3. What was unique about the 1992 World Cup? 4. Who took two wickets in two deliveries in the 1992 World Cup final? 5. When and where did India and Pakistan first meet in a World Cup encounter? yesterday’s Answers: 1. K. Srikkanth; 2. None. They won by 10 wickets; 3. 88 (retired hurt) v. Pakistan at Melbourne; 4. South Africa won by nine wickets; 5. David Boon
1. Who is the only wicket-keeper to score a century on ODI debut?
2. Who captained Pakistan for the first and only time in the World Cup in 1992 when Imran Khan was injured?
3. What was Brian Lara’s score in his maiden World Cup match in 1992?
3. What was unique about the 1992 World Cup?
4. Who took two wickets in two deliveries in the 1992 World Cup final?
5. When and where did India and Pakistan first meet in a World Cup encounter?
1. K. Srikkanth; 2. None. They won by 10 wickets; 3. 88 (retired hurt) v. Pakistan at Melbourne; 4. South Africa won by nine wickets; 5. David Boon— GE Feature
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