SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


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


No more time for trial and error

Even though all Sachin Tendulkar gestures during batting practice ahead of their Group B match against South Africa in Nagpur evidence suggests otherwise, South Africaís captain Graeme Smith insists that his side is not a bunch of Ďchokersí. Even though most experts aver that MS Dhoni is displaying an adamant streak in backing the wrong players, the Indian captain insists that heís got it right. And even though this one is not a knock-out game, itís the biggest test of this World Cup thatís coming up for both these captains on Saturday.
Sachin Tendulkar gestures during batting practice ahead of their Group B match against South Africa in Nagpur on Friday. ó AFP 



EARLIER STORIES


Dhoni must revert to attack
Mahendra Singh Dhoni addresses a press conference at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur One of the showpiece games of the World Cup, the India-South Africa match, will be important for quite a few reasons. It will be a classic encounter between a quality pace attack and a formidable batting line-up. Whatís more, I am told that Nagpur has been kind to South Africa in the past and that often does give a visiting side a bit of a boost.




Mahendra Singh Dhoni addresses a press conference at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur on Friday. ó AFP

Bangladesh stun England 
Chittagong, March 11
Bangladesh relied on their tail-enders to return from the dead and pull off a sensational two-wicket upset victory over England in a World Cup group B match to keep their quarter-final hopes alive here today. Chasing a modest 226, the hosts were precariously were placed at 169 for eight before Shafiul Islam (24 not out) combined with Mahmudullah (21 not out) to steer their side to a dramatic victory with six balls to spare at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. stadium.

Dope rumours an attempt to distract me, says Dilshan'
Pallekele, March 11
Tillakaratne Dilshan Reacting to allegations that he failed a dope test, Sri Lankan all-rounder Tillakaratne Dilshan today said the entire episode was an attempt to distract his game. Dilshan reacted to rumours with a brutal 144 runs off 131 balls, which included 16 boundaries and a six, against Zimbabwe during their World Cup group A match here yesterday.





 
Tillakaratne Dilshan

Pollard powers West Indies win
Mohali, March 11
West Indies batsman Kieron Pollard leaves the ground after scoring 94 in the match against Ireland in Mohali Keiron Pollard has this habit of taking his guard after every few deliveries. He spanks a boundary, clobbers a six and then promptly asks the umpire to confirm where his leg-stump is, as if making sure he is standing in the right place. He then removes one bail from the set of stumps behind him and hammers it into the ground with the handle of his bat. Now, he is ready once again to send the ball sailing into the stands. In his slam bang innings of 94 today, Pollard checked his guard about a dozen times and hoisted the ball into the stands on five occasions. He also slammed eight boundaries in his 55-ball knock.

West Indies batsman Kieron Pollard leaves the ground after scoring 94 in the match against Ireland in Mohali on Friday. West Indies won by 44 runs. ó PTI 

Akmal an embarrassment for Pak
I'm glad the ICC has sought to clarify the ambiguities about the Umpire Decision Review System, or DRS. Specifically, the 2.5m rule. The umpires needed guidance as well, and now it looks as if common sense will prevail in the scenarios like the Ian Bell incident in Bangalore. In that case, the DRS said it was out. But the rule which was already defined took precedence. It should come down to common sense and now that the ICC has clarified the rule we should be better off. DRS has helped reduce errors but the game doesn't need any more controversies.

Hockey India to send teams to Malaysia, Ireland 
New Delhi, March 11
The Supreme Court today allowed Hockey India (HI) to select and send the Indian teams to the Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Malaysia from May 5 and the Womenís Championship in Ireland from June 18.

PNB rout Signals 7-1
Ludhiana, March 11
Corps of Signals XI (Jalandhar) surrendered meekly (1-7) to Punjab National Bank (Delhi) on the third day in the inaugural All India Sahibzada Ajit Singh Hockey Championship at the Prithipal Singh Memorial Stadium here today.

Saina enters All England quarters
Birmingham, March 11
Title contender Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal stormed into the quarterfinals of the All England Badminton Championships women's single competition with a straight-set victory over her Chinese Taipei opponent here. Saina, seeded fifth in the prestigious tournament, beat unseeded Tzu Ying Tai 21-17 21-17 in a second round match that lasted 30 minutes.

5 Questions from Gulu


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No more time for trial and error

Even though all evidence suggests otherwise, South Africaís captain Graeme Smith insists that his side is not a bunch of Ďchokersí. Even though most experts aver that MS Dhoni is displaying an adamant streak in backing the wrong players, the Indian captain insists that heís got it right. And even though this one is not a knock-out game, itís the biggest test of this World Cup thatís coming up for both these captains on Saturday.

The outcome of this needle clash in Nagpur will give us a fair idea of where the home team stands. Does it really stand high on the pedestal with a good chance of winning the trophy? Or are Dhoniís statements (and his swagger) merely sound and fury not amounting to much?

This is a match where both captains have to get their playing XI right. No minnows are involved here and experiments will have to be put on the back-burner. The best side has to be on the ground.

Smith will be tempted to include a third pace bowler in his line-up and Dhoni should finally give the nod to R Ashwin. (Ashwin might be wondering that he should start bowling leg-spin in order to grab Dhoniís attention). Although enough has been said and written about Dhoniís fixation with Piyush Chawla, one thing remains certain -- if the Indian captain includes Chawla in the team for this match as well and Chawla fails to deliver and India fail to win, then Dhoni will have nowhere to hide.

But we cannot put many things beyond Dhoni. So far he has shown an inflexible style and nothing is stopping him from continuing in that vein. But for the sake of the team, itís high time he drops Chawla and picks Ashwin.

However, thatís not the only worrying point. Pressure is mounting on Harbhajan Singh too. In four matches, Harbhajan has managed just two wickets. Even spinners like Hollandís Seelaar and Irelandís Dockrell have been more successful than Harbhajan. (Even spinner Yuvraj Singh has looked more dangerous). ĎBhajjií has been decidedly lacklustre and this is surely another cause for concern for Dhoni.

The Indian captain also needs to sort out the batting order. Does he want Pathan at three? Or Kohli? Or Gambhir? It seems strange but even after four matches in this World Cup, Dhoni is not clear about his batting order.

South Africa on the other hand must be itching to prove that the loss to England was an aberration. Smith and his players are not especially thrilled about the tag of chokers but they sure could not handle the pressure even while chasing a modest England total. So, Smith will like to bat first at Nagpur. His bowling unit is quite strong and the likes of Steyn and Morkel can handle the heat if they are given a target to defend. On the batting front, Kallis has not bothered the scorers too much till now but this is a match where Smith will be looking to his senior batsman to come good.

Group B has seen some twists and turns. Ireland beat England, England in turn beat South Africa, India failed to defend 338 against England and the match ended in a tie. A clear leader has failed to emerge from this group. The winner of Saturdayís match could well be that dominant leader.



Mahendra Singh Dhoni addresses a press conference at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur 

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Dhoni must revert to attack

One of the showpiece games of the World Cup, the India-South Africa match, will be important for quite a few reasons. It will be a classic encounter between a quality pace attack and a formidable batting line-up. Whatís more, I am told that Nagpur has been kind to South Africa in the past and that often does give a visiting side a bit of a boost.

This wicket is known to be a batsmanís paradise so itís clear that Indiaís batting will have to win the day. However, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and the spinners have been doing well so far, so this would perhaps be the sternest test for the Indian top order. The South African bowling has been looking really good, and even in the game against England, the bowlers did their job before the batting fell apart.

The other obvious reason for the onus being on the Indian batsmen has been the varying form of their bowlers. They have not been helped by the fielding either, even though they showed marked improvement against the Netherlands. The Nagpur ground looks a little larger than most others so this might test the Indians more than Delhi.

I would like M.S. Dhoni to revert to his attacking self as far as tactics go. I am not taking the games against the Netherlands and Ireland into consideration. Against England, his fields were very defensive and he was willing to bleed runs to save boundaries. I would like to see him try and take the game to the opposition a little more, and perhaps his bowlers need to win his confidence back.

The other issue confronting Dhoni is the spin quandary - does he go with Piyush Chawla or does he play two off-spinners by including R. Ashwin? I would imagine that he would stick to Chawla because the South Africans have traditionally had problems against leg-spin.

Balancing both sides, I would still say the hosts are a shade ahead. Itís being billed as a showpiece game, and I hope this one lives up to the building.

Back home, Sri Lanka cantered to a comfortable win against Zimbabwe. It was great to see Upul Tharanga and Tillakratne Dilshan in sparkling form. This will give them confidence because while Zimbabwe are no longer a Test team, they do have good cricketers.

My only criticism of Sri Lanka was that they played with just one spinner. This must have been because of the dew. However, itís important that the spinners get some practice bowling with a wet ball at this stage, because it will be inevitable at the knockout stage.

I am also surprised, no, staggered, that Sri Lanka are travelling to Mumbai to play against New Zealand. I will not be able to understand the logic behind that one even if I tried. I just see it as an example of the weakness of the cricket administration back home that could deny the Sri Lankans a chance of seeing their team play an important game. ó Gameplan

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Bangladesh stun England 

Chittagong, March 11
Bangladesh relied on their tail-enders to return from the dead and pull off a sensational two-wicket upset victory over England in a World Cup group B match to keep their quarter-final hopes alive here today.

Chasing a modest 226, the hosts were precariously were placed at 169 for eight before Shafiul Islam (24 not out) combined with Mahmudullah (21 not out) to steer their side to a dramatic victory with six balls to spare at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. stadium.

It was England's second upset defeat in the tournament as their experienced bowlers buckled under pressure in the thrilling final moments to make the task easier for the hosts.

England had suffered a humiliating three-wicket defeat at the hands of Ireland in an earlier league match.

Bangladesh had bowled out England for a modest 225 after electing to bowl as their bowlers, specially the spinners, did a fantastic job.

Bangladesh were staring at defeat as they were 169 for eight in the 40th over but Shafiul and Mahmudullah batted with grit under intense pressure with a match-winning 58-run unbeaten partnership for the ninth wicket.

With this win Bangladesh have moved to fifth place in the points table with four points and England are standing at third with five points.

England now must win their last encounter against the West Indies while Bangladesh have two more match to play against The Netherlands and South Africa. ó PTI

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Dope rumours an attempt to distract me, says Dilshan'

Pallekele, March 11
Reacting to allegations that he failed a dope test, Sri Lankan all-rounder Tillakaratne Dilshan today said the entire episode was an attempt to distract his game. Dilshan reacted to rumours with a brutal 144 runs off 131 balls, which included 16 boundaries and a six, against Zimbabwe during their World Cup group A match here yesterday.

To cap off a memorable day, he then took four wickets for four runs to see Sri Lanka through as the first side to qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament.

"On Wednesday, there were reports that I had failed a dope test. It is not the first time these kind of allegations have surfaced - they have done so after every recent tournament I have played in.

"I feel like there is an attempt to distract my game but I am not worried. I try to ignore the reports and concentrate on my game instead," Dilshan said responding to accusations that he had failed a random drug test carried out by the ICC on March 5.

"What actually happened is the International Cricket Council randomly selected Ajantha Mendis and Chamara Silva to give blood samples after our game against Australia. They did not even take my blood sample so I simply don't know where these reports have come from," Dilshan told the BBC. Dilshan insisted that he was not responding to his critics when he unleashed his fury against the hapless Zimbabwe.

Dilshan and Upul Tharanga starred in a record 282-run opening stand to set up Sri Lanka's 139-run victory over the African nation.

"I was not trying to reply my critics, or to those reports, in Thursday's performance against Zimbabwe. I was not under any pressure, nor was I angry, but it is not pleasant when attempts are being made to distract you, especially when you are playing in a World Cup." He said the match-winning performance was lot more special to him as it came during the World Cup. ó PTI 

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Pollard powers West Indies win
Sunil Narula
Tribune News Service

Mohali, March 11
Keiron Pollard has this habit of taking his guard after every few deliveries. He spanks a boundary, clobbers a six and then promptly asks the umpire to confirm where his leg-stump is, as if making sure he is standing in the right place. He then removes one bail from the set of stumps behind him and hammers it into the ground with the handle of his bat. Now, he is ready once again to send the ball sailing into the stands. In his slam bang innings of 94 today, Pollard checked his guard about a dozen times and hoisted the ball into the stands on five occasions. He also slammed eight boundaries in his 55-ball knock.

This dominating performance from Pollard helped the West Indies reach a total of 275 and that was enough to see off Ireland. The Windies dismissed Ireland for 231 to complete a convincing 44-run victory.

It was one power-packed innings that changed the course of the match. Up until then, the match was dull and moving at a very slow pace. After 32 overs the West Indies had put together an average score of 130 for the loss of three wickets.

But Pollardís entry infused new life into the game. His lusty hitting transformed a dreary match into a one full of muscular strokes and big sixes. He smashed the helpless Irish bowlers almost at will and in the process bettered his previous best ODI score of 62 that he had made against Australia at Brisbane in February last year.

Pollardís firepower overshadowed opener Devon Smithís sedate hundred (107 off 133 balls) and helped the Windies recover from a slow start.

Dashing opener Chris Gayle was rested following an abdominal strain this morning. Shivnarine Chanderpaul opened with Smith and the start was extremely slow. After six overs the West Indies were 18 without loss and Gayle was being sorely missed. Three wickets along the way did not help the scoring rate. In such a scenario it was imperative for Pollard to provide the impetus. And he did just that.

His luck was in as well when Gary Wilson failed to hold on to a skier at long-on. The big West Indian had scored 19 at that stage. That perhaps was also the turning point of the match. If Pollard had fallen then, Ireland may have restricted West Indies to around 230. But Pollard made the Irish pay heavily for that lapse.

Ed Joyce clicked for Ireland and Gary Wilson was also amongst the runs. But Kevin OíBrien fell when quick runs were needed and the run chase came unstuck. Skipper Darren Sammy bowled a tight spell to claim three wickets and spinner Sulieman Benn picked up four as Ireland folded up.

But it was man-of-the-match Pollardís knock that was the big difference between the two sides today. 

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Akmal an embarrassment for Pak

I'm glad the ICC has sought to clarify the ambiguities about the Umpire Decision Review System, or DRS. Specifically, the 2.5m rule. The umpires needed guidance as well, and now it looks as if common sense will prevail in the scenarios like the Ian Bell incident in Bangalore. In that case, the DRS said it was out. But the rule which was already defined took precedence. It should come down to common sense and now that the ICC has clarified the rule we should be better off. DRS has helped reduce errors but the game doesn't need any more controversies.

Pakistan have some serious issues to address. First, it was their fielding and the openersí form, but now they have an embarrassment staring them in the face in the form of Kamran Akmal. Their fast bowling also lacks some bite. There has a lot of noise that Akmal should be dropped, but do Pakistan have any options? They don't have a wicketkeeper-batsman good enough to replace him. They can't afford to lose a decent batsman considering how poorly their openers have performed. I think they will persist with Akmal. What they cannot afford to do is persist with him and Shoaib Akhtar.

Shoaib looks horribly out of shape and I was not surprised that Ross Taylor carted him around. Shoaib probably has the IPL on his mind and wants to prove he's fit, but bowling just four overs is a different matter. He may be OK for Twenty20, but looks woefully out of depth in one-day cricket. Umar Gul has been OK, not fantastic, but he gives Pakistan 100 per cent. He's been economical too, though a bit wayward down the leg-side. I think Gul will improve as the tournament goes on, and as long as he's charging in, Pakistan will be a dangerous side.

I cannot stress enough on how important good bowling is in this tournament, on sub-continental tracks. South Africa have the best attack, and it will be interesting to see how they fare with the injury to Imran Tahir. They have sheer pace in Dale Steyn, a hustler in Morne Morkel, a capable medium-pacer in Jacques Kallis, and three wicket-taking spinners.

The tracks are flat and not conducive to swing and seam, so fast bowlers have got to look for variety. Genuine pace helps, but you need variety too. I'm not saying you need to make drastic changes. It's about subtlety and control. Fast bowlers will succeed here if they have control. You cannot bowl four or five good balls and then slip in one or two boundary balls. That is criminal and you will pay on these tracks.

So, teams like the West Indies and England will struggle. West Indies only have Kemar Roach as a strike fast bowler, who has managed two very good performances but against Netherlands and Bangladesh. He has been supported by Suleiman Benn, but they need a bit more than two strike bowlers if they are going to progress. I've not seen much of Andre Russell but I gather he has some pace. They donít have choice in their squad because of the injured players left behind. If they had Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards, that would make them a potent bowling attack. England have been hurt by Stuart Broad's injury.

India too have a limited attack. I think on a wicket like the one in Chennai you can say that luck will come into the equation, but given that there are no quarter-finals or semis there, teams are left to cope with flat tracks. Thus, you need a very good bowling attack to succeed in this World Cup. ó PMG

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Hockey India to send teams to Malaysia, Ireland 
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 11
The Supreme Court today allowed Hockey India (HI) to select and send the Indian teams to the Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Malaysia from May 5 and the Womenís Championship in Ireland from June 18.

A Bench comprising JM Panchal and HL Gokhale clarified that HI would continue to field the national teams in all tournaments until further orders.

The court issued the directive even as the government pleaded for a three-week adjournment of the hearing as efforts were on to resolve the dispute involving HI, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), besides the Ministry of Sports. IHF also supported the governmentís plea for deferring the hearing.

The problem has arisen due to the fact that IHF has been recognized by the government, while HI is the sole body authorized by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). Just a couple of days ago, FIH had written to the IHF, making it clear that HI alone could send the Indian team to the tournaments held under the aegis of FIH. The apex court has fixed the next hearing for June 18.

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PNB rout Signals 7-1
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 11
Corps of Signals XI (Jalandhar) surrendered meekly (1-7) to Punjab National Bank (Delhi) on the third day in the inaugural All India Sahibzada Ajit Singh Hockey Championship at the Prithipal Singh Memorial Stadium here today.

Jalwinder Singh Toni scored a hat-trick as PNB registered an emphatic victory. He put his side ahead in the seventh minute through a penalty-corner and increased the lead three minutes later in a similar fashion. Jalwinder made it 3-0 in the 27th minute while Damandeep Singh added another immediately after. Jalwinder scored his fourth goal and Jatinder Singh (61st) and captain, Navdeep Singh (68th) contributed goals to complete the tally. Piyush of Signals struck towards the end of the encounter to reduce the margin.

In the second match, Indian Air Force (Delhi) outwitted Delhi XI 4-0 after leading by one goal at half- time. Lovepreet scored a brace while Rajinder Dewan and Pardeep Singh accounted for one goal each for the winners.

The third match between ONGC (Dehradun) and Namdhari XI of Bhaini Sahib turned out to be a keen tussle in which the former triumphed 3-2. It was ONGC XI who earned the lead in the 8th minute through a penalty corner and again in the 16th minute. The third goal came in the 22nd minute.

However, Namdhari did not give up easily as they bounced back into the match with Karamjit Singh and Ramanjeet finding the target in quick succession to make it 2-3. They exerted pressure on the rival's but the much-needed equalizer eluded them.

No Chandigarh XI

Chandigarh: The Secretary of Chandigarh Hockey Association, Yash Vohra, today clarified that neither his association has been extended any invitation nor any affiliate unit of the association was authorised to use the name of Chandigarh XI in the inaugural Sahibzada Ajit Singh Hockey Tournament being played at Ludhiana. Team and players participating in the tournament had done so at their own level and risk, he added.

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Saina enters All England quarters

Birmingham, March 11
Title contender Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal stormed into the quarterfinals of the All England Badminton Championships women's single competition with a straight-set victory over her Chinese Taipei opponent here. Saina, seeded fifth in the prestigious tournament, beat unseeded Tzu Ying Tai 21-17 21-17 in a second round match that lasted 30 minutes.

In the quarterfinals, she will meet Eriko Hirose of Japan who beat Salakjit Ponsana of Thailand 21-13 18-21 21-13 in another round two match last night.

The first set saw neck-on-neck tussle between the two as they were 8-8 and then 14-14. But after that, Saina won five consecutive points to race to 19-14 before taking the set. In the second set also, there was a stiff fight from the Chinese Taipei player and the two were locked 17-17 before Saina took four points to wrap up the match. ó PTI 

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5 Questions from Gulu

1. Which was the last World Cup to carry the sponsorís name?

2. What was the unique match that immediately preceded the 1996 World Cup?

3. What was the hosting structure introduced for the first time in the 1996 World Cup?

4. Why did Australia and the West Indies boycott their group matches in Colombo in 1996?

5. In which city did Kenya pull off their shock victory over the West Indies?

yesterdayís Answers:

1. Mark Greatbatch against England at Wellington; 2. New Zealandís Lance and Chris Cairns; 3. Ajay Jadeja against Sri Lanka at Mackay in 1992; 4. Six; 5. Pakistan captain Imran Khan. ó GE Feature

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 BRIEFLY

Umar suffers finger injury
Pallekele:
A finger injury kept Pakistan middle-order batsman Umar Akmal out of practice today, a development which could affect his chances of replacing his brother Kamran behind the stumps against Zimbabwe in the World Cup league match here on Monday. Umar, who is being tipped to replace Kamran behind the stumps for the Group A clash here, took a blow to his right index finger at the fielding practice yesterday. Team manager Intikhab Alam, however, said Umar's injury is not a serious one and the scans show there is no fracture. He said Umar was rested from the team practice as a precautionary measure. ó PTI

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