Rohit hits second successive ton, India crush Lanka by 7 wickets


BULAWAYO: Rohit Sharma hammered his second successive ODI century as India crushed Sri Lanka by seven wickets in their second match to put their campaign back on track in the tri-series on Sunday.


Chasing 243, India made a rather slow start and lost both their openers inside 10 overs before one-down Virat Kohli (82) and Rohit (101 not out) resurrected the innings to help India romp home with 6.3 overs to spare at the Queens Sports Club.

Earlier, the tidy Indian bowlers produced a disciplined effort to bundle out Sri Lanka for 242 after captain Suresh Raina had opted to field.

Sunday's win also marked Raina's first victory as captain. Coming together in the 10th over, Kohli and Rohit added 154 runs from 168 balls for the third wicket to take the game away from Sri Lanka.

Rohit, who hit 114 against Zimbabwe in India's first match though for a lost cause, hit six fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 100-ball inning, his second ODI century in his 44th match.

He got a superb support from Kohli whose 82 came from 92 balls with the help of four boundaries.

After opening bowler Nuwan Kulasekara and Ajantha Mendis achieved early success by removing Murali Vijay (14) and Dinesh Karthik (18) respectively, the Sri Lankan bowlers were left high and dry with Kohli and Rohit stamping authority.

The duo initially dealt mostly in singles with occasional boundaries before opening up later on. They also did not allow the asking rate to jump over five.

Rohit took 60 balls to reach his fifty which came of a single off Ajantha Mendis in the 28th over and Kohli reached his seventh half-century an over later with a single off Dilhara Fernando.

Kohli, however, perished in the 38th over while trying to finish the game early. He came down the track to play a lofted shot off a Suraj Randiv delivery only to hole out to long-on fielder Dilhara Fernando.

When Kohli fell, India needed just 42 runs from more than 12 overs and Rohit ensured that they wrapped up the match without any hiccup.

Rohit took a four off Mendis in the 43rd over to reach his second successive ODI century while Raina hit the winning runs in the next over.

India, who lost their opening match against Zimbabwe on Friday, play the hosts again in their next match on Thursday at Harare Sports Club.

Earlier, save for Angelo Mathews (75) and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan (61), the Lankan batsmen struggled for runs under tight Indian bowling after they were put into bat.

The Lankan innings eventually folded for 242 in 49.5 overs with three of their batsmen running themselves out.

Except for rookie Umesh Yadav (1/61), all the Indian bowlers bowled tight spells with Ashok Dinda (2/44), Pragyan Ojha (2/44) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/49) taking two wickets apiece.

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra was also economical, conceding 40 runs from his 10 overs though without taking a wicket.

The Lankans were dealt an early blow when Upul Tharanga (1) became the first to get run out.

After hitting an Ashok Dinda delivery to the covers, Tharanga was left stranded when Virat Kohli, who initially fumbled in collecting the ball, threw it accurately at the Lankan's end while he was attempting a third run.

Thilan Samaraweera (19) didn't last long either and was stumped by Dinesh Karthik while trying to charge at a Pragyan Ojha delivery.

Dilshan and Mathews then steadied the ship and put on 58 runs for the third wicket before the Sri Lankan skipper became the second Lankan batsmen to be run out.

Dilshan, whose 81-ball knock comprised four boundaries and a six, took off for a single after hitting Mishra to the square leg but rushed back after a couple of strides only to find himself short of ground as the bowler had dislodged the bails by then.

But Mathews held one end together with a gritty knock that included a couple of sixes and an equal number of fours. His prized wicket ultimately went to Umesh Yadav, who bowled him.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja bagged two late wickets in Chamara Kapugedera (20) and Chamara Silva (5) to make sure that the Lankan innings never took off.

Thissara Perera's late 32-run cameo down the order did, however, help the Lankan to go past the 200 mark.

Train tragedy toll 138, all bodies extricated


The death toll in Friday's train accident in this West Bengal town shot up to 138 late Saturday as the extrication of dead bodies from the wreckage of the Gyaneshwari Express was completed after 44 gruelling hours of rescue operations.
"The toll is 138. The job of extricating dead bodies from the derailed coaches is complete," a South Eastern Railway spokesman said.
The last body was brought out from the devastated second class sleeper coach S 5 at 9.45 pm, ending almost two days of search operations, a large part of which was conducted amidst the putrefying stench of decaying corpses.
In Kolkata, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the train disaster, terming it her political rivals' conspiracy ahead of Sunday's civic polls in West Bengal.
The number of the injured stood at 146, of whom 38 were said to be in a serious condition.
The wounded were under treatment in hospitals in the nearest towns of Kharagpur and Midnapore - the headquarters of the West Midnapore district. Twenty-three of them are admitted in various hospitals in Kolkata.

With many of the bodies mutilated beyond recognition, the authorities have decided to conduct DNA tests for identification before handing them over to their relatives. 
West Bengal Civil Defence Minister Srikumar Mukherjee said blood samples of the bodies will be collected Saturday at the Midnapore Medical College and Hospital and sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Kolkata by Sunday. 
The minister appealed to those looking for their missing relatives to give their blood samples at the CFSL - one of the premier forensic labs in the country - by Sunday. 
A relief train carrying the survivors of the train reached Mumbai at 9 p.m. Special barricaded sections were made on the platform number 5 of Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Kurla where the train arrived. 
Family members surrounded their kin as they got down from the train. The atmosphere became emotional as many broke down in tears while some thanked god for saving their kin.
Meanwhile, the driver of the train filed a police complaint saying he heard a "blasting sound" and felt a jerk before the derailment.
BK Das, who lodged the complaint against "unidentified miscreants" at the Jhargram Government Railway Police (GRP) station, claimed that he saw smoke billowing out before applying the emergency brakes. 
The complaint was filed under sections 150 (maliciously wrecking or attempting to wreck a train) and 151 (damage to or destruction of certain railway properties) of the Railways Act. 
The train went off the track between Sardiha and Khemasuli railway stations, after suspected Maoists removed 1.5 feet of rail track, at 1.30 am Friday, rudely shaking the hundreds of sleeping passengers. Five coaches fell on a parallel track. 
Even before the trapped passengers could realise what had happened, a speeding goods train coming from the opposite direction rammed into the five coaches, crushing some of them. 
Police found two posters put out by the Maoist-backed People's Committee Against Police Atrocities at the accident site, claiming responsibility for the sabotage. 
It was the third worst train accident this year blamed on Maoist guerrillas and the worst bout of killings by the rebels since they massacred 76 security personnel in Chhattisgarh April 6. 

Obama to attend Krishna reception to make a point


It's a question that is posed at every preview and review of current US-India relations in Washington DC: Is President Obama – and his administration – sidelining/downgrading/undermining ties with New Delhi?

No, not at all, not true, say US officials and their Indian counterparts. The perception is wrong, the premise is faulty, the analyses are flawed, they insist. But doubts and inquiries continue to float around the commentariat.

This week, in background conversations and on-record briefings on the eve of the first so-called "Strategic Dialogue" between the two sides from June 1-4, officials, particularly Americans, made strenuous efforts to counter the perception of the slideback, and set the stage for an autumn visit to India by President Obama that is all but penciled into the diplomatic calendar.

"The Obama administration attaches great importance to our relations with India, and as President Obama himself has said, this will be one of our signature partnerships in the 21st century," the US pointman for region Robert Blake said on Friday.

Not convinced? Well, in that case, Obama himself will make the point again.

Dispensing with the previous rite of very senior Indian cabinet ministers getting a Presidential drop-in during White House meetings or a walk-through the Oval office for brief chats with the President, Obama, in a rare gesture, will drive down to State Department in Foggy Bottom on Thursday to attend a reception Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be hosting for External Affairs Minister S M Krishna. He will also speak on the occasion.

"On Thursday, the President will attend and deliver remarks at the Secretary of State's reception in honour of the Indian delegation to the United States-India Strategic Dialogue, which will meet at the state department earlier that day," the White House said in its scheduling note for the media next week.

"The President's strong support of the Strategic Dialogue and of this inaugural meeting reflects his commitment to furthering a strategic partnership with India as we seek to address global challenges," it added in an unusual addendum.

Obama also telephoned Singh on Friday to discuss the upcoming dialogue, the White House said separately.

"The two leaders agreed that the Dialogue is an important milestone in the development of the US-India strategic partnership and looked forward to its results. President Obama and Prime Minister Singh also expressed their hope that the Dialogue will initiate a regular exchange of ideas and discussion between their governments and both pledged their support toward that end," a White House readout on the call said.

US officials are almost peeved at the nagging doubts many commentators seem to harbor about Obama's India outreach, and appalled that they don't recognize the importance he gives to New Delhi, including by way of hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the first state guest of his term in the White House.

Some Indian analysts see this as merely a sop that lacks policy substance, but White House officials say the President is deeply committed to the India relationship, and pundits should not read too much into his cool style compared to the bonhomie exhibited by his predecessor when it came to New Delhi.

One senior official spoke of the enormous admiration and respect Obama had for Prime Minister Singh, "not that our foreign policy is personality-based." There are a lot of countries President Obama has said he has to work on, but India is a country he wants to work on, he said.

Ahead of the strategic dialogue, US officials made a series of statements to reflect the President's view of India's growing regional and global relevance.

Among them was a suggestion that Pakistan and India can put the Kashmir issue on the backburner and first address confidence-building measures, including advancing trade and commerce, an approach favored by India.

Asked about the Kashmir issue at a briefing in the Foreign Press Center, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake said: "I think that's not going to be an issue that's going to be addressed right away. What's most important is first to get these talks going again and to focus on – once they've gotten beyond the immediate counterterrorism issues, to focus on some of the important opportunities like trade that exist between these two countries."

"And once they have developed a degree of confidence, they might then be able to take up some of these more sensitive territorial issues," he added.

Other US officials said there was no US pressure on India to talk to Pakistan; Prime Minister Singh was ahead of the curve when it came to dialogue with Pakistan. If anything, there was pressure on Pakistan to eliminate its home-grown terror groups in response to India's initiative, they said.

Many Indian analysts had second-guessed that Obama will change Washington's policy on Kashmir on the basis of his remarks before he assumed office and had projected "pressure" on India to make concessions. There were also apprehensions that Washington will ask New Delhi to downsize its initiatives in Afghanistan in deference to Pakistani sensitivities, which US officials now suggest are overblown.

Officials also once again endorsed New Delhi's role in Afghanistan and privately rubbished Pakistani allegations of a subversive Indian role in Afghanistan and its overheated rhetoric on water issues.

On Friday, William Burns, the third-ranking official in the State Department noted in a diplomatic blog that the "rise of India is important and positive for American interests," and said his wide-ranging conversation with Indian interlocutors "reminded me a lot of conversations with some of our closest allies."

"The planeload of "Blue Beret" Indian peacekeepers I saw waiting to embark at the airport when we arrived (in New Delhi recently) reminded me of India's growing military reach and its role as a provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond," he noted.

Unified command in Naxal-hit states


Discussions in the home ministry in the wake of the Maoist attack on the Howrah-Mumbai train in Jhargram in West Bengal may see the setting up of a unified command in every Naxal-affected state to improve coordination between central and state police forces.

The command being envisaged may also see an Army officer being attached as an adviser to ensure that maximum expertise is brought to bear against Maoists in operations that the Centre now hopes to step up. In the changes being considered, the role of a single officer like special DG Vijay Raman will be shared by officers deputed to the unified commands.

The home ministry does not envisage the role of Army in anti-Naxal operations though government may use its expertise in training counter-insurgency units. To this end, possibility of a national counter-insurgency training centre being set up with Army help could be on the table. The Army may also consider raising dedicated battalions for counter-insurgency, but that would be at a later date.

The Army has been reluctant to involve itself in anti-Naxal ops as this would put an additional strain on it besides it being brought into the centre of some very dirty fighting.

The possibility of collateral damage in an Army operation is high given their training which is intended to deliver a blunt and heavy blow.

The possibility of a long-drawn battle may end up sapping morale and denting Army's record. 

VIP flights force 3 jets to land with no fuel to spare


Three days after the Mangalore aircrash, three planes that had been diverted from Delhi airport on account of VIP movement, had a narrow shave when they all but ran out of fuel above Jaipur airport. The three flights had more than 450 passengers on board at the time.

Wednesday's Jetlite flight JLL 108 from Mumbai landed with just enough fuel to remain airborne for three minutes. The Mumbai-Delhi Kingfisher flight IT 300 landed just 10 minutes before its fuel tank ran dry. Jet Airways 9W 2357 from Chennai made it onto the runway with fuel for just 13 minutes of flying time. Both Jet planes were Boeing 737s and carried 192 and 174 people each.

The Kingfisher plane was an Airbus 330 and had 158 people on board. Wednesday saw 11 flights diverted to Jaipur, Chandigarh and Lucknow, even as 20 others were forced to circle Delhi airport for an hour starting 9am. The airport was closed because of President Pratibha Patil's flight to China and Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdimunha-medov's flight to Agra.

The tension built up for planes queuing to land at Jaipur as challenging weather - gusts of wind and a duststorm - worsened conditions already difficult because of the absence of approach radar to monitor flight movement.

Planes are supposed to carry enough fuel to fly to a nearby airport in case of an emergency but the uncertainty over the VIP planes' take-off had them circling in the air till they got to Jaipur with little fuel left. The pilots have filed 'flight safety reports' detailing the emergency situation to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

VIP movement nearly caused an aviation disaster when three planes, with more than 450 passengers, nearly ran out of fuel when they were diverted from Delhi to Jaipur airport. The pilots of Jetlite flight JLL 108, Kingfisher flight IT 300 and Jet Airways 9W 2357 were caught unawares as there was no Notam (notice to airmen) about the closure of airspace until they reached Delhi.

Airports Authority of India authorities said the practice of issuing Notam during VIP movements has been stopped due to security reasons and Wednesday's flap was unforeseen. "Usually there is only a three-minute shutdown of airspace during VIP movement. But on Wednesday, the Turkmenistan president's flight got delayed because of bad weather in Agra, resulting in diversions and go-arounds," PK Mishra, AAI general manager, air traffic maintenance, told TOI.

The three flights were using up the final reserve fuel when they declared emergency. "The Kingfisher flight which first declared fuel emergency was allowed to land. The Jet Airlines flight, which had only 10 minutes of fuel left, declared emergency next, but it gave way to a Jetlite flight which radioed an emergency declaration," said a source. 

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