Trough of low pressure brings rain in several parts of TN

The formation of a trough of low pressure in the southern parts of the south-west bay over the Sri Lanka coast brought good rains in several parts of Tamil Nadu last night, bringing respite to people who were reeling under intense heat wave conditions.

Weather office sources said though the monsoon rains had withdrawn, the fresh spell of showers were due to the formation of the trough over the Lankan coast.

Under its influence rain or thundershowers were likely to occur at a few places over Tamil Nadu and Puducherry during the next 48 hours.

In Chennai, the sky would be partly cloudy with rain or thundershowers in some areas during this period.

Thanks to the rains, the day and night temperatures have come down to a great extent in several districts.

The present situation was likely to continue for the next couple of days, the sources added.


Sri Lankan govt denies visa to VCK leader, sends him back

The Sri Lankan government denied a visa to Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader and MP Thol Thirumavalavan, who had gone to the country to pay homage to Parvathi Ammal the mother of slain LTTE leader V Prabhakaran, early this morning and sent him back.

Mr Thirumavalavan left for Colombo by a JetLite flight around 0130 hrs but the Lankan Immigration officials denied him permission to leave the airport and enter the country.

The VCK leader, who has been championing the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils, wanted to visit Valvettithurai in Jaffna where the body of Parvathi Ammal is kept for public homage.

However, on arrival at the Colombo airport, the Sri Lankan authorities refused him a visa and sent him back on the return flight to Chennai.

Mr Thirumavalavan, who returned here around 0545 hrs, told newspersons at the airport that the denial of permission to him was a great insult to India.

He, being an MP, the Sri Lankan government had not only insulted him as an individual but the country as a whole, he said. He said he would raise the issue in Parliament.


Legendary make-up artist Pitambaram passes away

Celebrated make-up artist in Tamil and Telugu cinema, Pitambaram, who had excelled in his art, died at his residence here this evening, following a prolonged kidney ailment.

He was 90. He is survived by three sons and three daughters. One of his sons P Vasu is the acclaimed Tamil, Telugu and Kannada film director, known for box office hits like "Chandramukhi".

Pitambaram , who was born into a family that does make-up for stars, started his career in 1947 and was with the legendary N T Rama Rao from 1948 till NTR became Chief Minister and had to give up acting.

He was also the make up man for two other legends M G Ramachandran (MGR) for 40 years and for Sivaji Ganesan in some films, Mr Vasu told


Mr Pitambaram had also produed 12 films between 1967 and 1984, that included hits like "Matrudevata", "Koduku Kodalu" ,"Madeivam" and "Yugandhar"- a remake of Bollywodd hit "Don" of Amitabh Bachchan in Telugu an "Walter Vetrivel" in Tamil.

Pitambaam was with NTR since 1948 when Vauhini studios opened. One of its founders producer B Nagi Reddy appointed him as NTR's chief make up man and continued for 40 years. He also did make up for NTR's actor son Balakrishna.

"Sahasame Jeevitham" that introduced Balakrishna was the last film Pitambaram had produced.

Many other well known Telugu and Tamil actors like S V Ranga Rao, Nagabhushanam and Savitri also went to him for make-up.

"He was a highly respected man in the industry in his heydays and even after he retired," Mr Vasu recalled.

The funeral will take place here tomorrow.


CBI raids residences of ex-OSD to Dr Anbumani Ramadoss

A four-member Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team from Delhi today raided the residences of former Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to former Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss in connection with alleged irregularities in granting permission to a self- financing medical college in Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

After raiding the Chetpet and Anna Nagar residences of Mr D S Murthy, the former OSD to Dr Ramadoss, the CBI team was believed to have asked him to visit the CBI office in Delhi for questioning during this week.

The CBI team launched the raid in the morning and continued it till late in the afternoon, before flying back to Delhi. Though there was no official word about the raids, the CBI team was believed to have seized some documents.

The searches were carried out in connection with granting permission to Index Medical College, a private medical college in Indore, though it did not have the necessary infrastructure facilities.

The permission was given to the college by the Health Ministry, when Dr Ramadoss was the Union Health Minister during 2004-09.

The CBI team had visited last month also, but found Mr Murthy's house locked. After sealing the house, it went back to Delhi and returned this morning on learning that Mr Murthy, who had gone to the US, was returning.

The CBI officials, who were waiting at the airport, "received" Mr Murthy and took him straight to his house to conduct the searches.

When the search was going on, the former Union Minister called on Chief Minister M Karunanidhi with his wife and family members to invite the Chief Minister to the wedding of his nephew.


Tamil playback singer "Malaysia" Vasudevan passes away

Veteran playback singer and film actor "Malaysia" Vasudevan died here today after a brief illness. He was 67.

The singer, who won the State Government's prestigious Kalaimamani Award, is survived by his son, Yugendran, a singer and television actor, and daughter Prashanthini, a playback singer.

He was undergoing treatment at a private hospital for the past few days following some cardiac problems and had been moved to the Intensive Care Unit after his condition became critical. He died of cardiac arrest this afternoon.

The Tamil singer, who was born in Malaysia, had moved to Tamil Nadu in the late 1970s and took to a career as a singer and actor in plays.

He has more than 8,000 songs in Tamil and over 4,000 songs in other South Indian languages to his credit. He also acted in nearly 85 films.

His first song was for the film "Delhi to Madras" and he shot into fame after he joined Bharathiraja-Ilaiyaraja combine to sing in the film "16 Vayathinile", a box office hit in the late 1970s.


AIADMK holds seat-sharing talks with CPI, MMK ahead of TN Assembly polls

The three-member poll panel of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) today held seat sharing talks with the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK).

After the preliminary round of talks last week, CPI leaders, led by state unit Secretary D Pandian, held a second round of discussions with the AIADMK panel, led by former Minister O Panneerselvam today at the AIADMK headquarters.

Emerging out from the meeting, Mr Pandian said they had made considerable progress in the talks and the deal would be finalised in a couple of days.

AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalithaa would announce the final deal, the CPI leader said while parrying questions on the number of seats, the party staked claim to and the number of seats it would be allotted.

The CPI(M) had completed the second round of talks yesterday and state unit secretary G Ramakrishnan expressed satisfaction over the progress of talks.

Both the Left parties were part of the DMK-led alliance in the 2006 assembly elections. They walked out of the alliance, protesting against the presence of the Congress in the front, after the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre signed the nuclear pact with the United States.

While the CPI(M) contested 13 seats and won nine, the CPI had contested ten seats and won six seats in alliance with the DMK in the 2006 assembly elections.


Kalaignar TV given enough time before CBI raid: Jaya

A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Opposition All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary J Jayalalithaa today alleged that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had raided Kalaignar TV, owned by the family members of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, in connection with the 2G spectrum scam after giving enough time for the channel to work out "escape strategies".

In a statement here, she said the investigating agency ought to have raided Kalaignar TV and secured all the records before making their suspicions public.

"When the CBI disclosed in court the details about a Rs 206 crore payoff by the Dynamix Balwa Group to Kalaignar TV, they were making a major mistake," she said.

By following the practices set for normal criminals, they gave enough time for the evil brain to work out escape strategies, she further alleged.

Overnight, a high-level meeting reportedly took place at DMK headquarters Anna Arivalayam, the head quarters of the DMK party, which also houses the office and studios of Kalaignar TV, and those present at the meeting worked out the escape strategy.

On February 13, all critical documents relating to Kalaignar TV were taken away in gunny sacks to the Perungudi dump yard and burnt, she alleged.

Later on February 15, all bills and money documents, cash vouchers and transaction challans relating to the channel were shredded and dumped in the Corporation bins in different parts of the city, she alleged.

Having destroyed every conceivable bit of evidence and virtually sanitizing the place of all incriminating evidence, the channel's Managing Director Sharad Kumar released a statement, saying "There is no connection between the transaction and the 2G spectrum issue and the amount had been returned with interest."

He went a step further, saying "if either the CBI or the Income Tax Department has any suspicion in this regard, Kalaignar TV has no objection to its accounts and documents being verified by the agencies."

"As if in response to this invitation, the CBI has raided the offices of Kalaignar TV. They would have been able to unearth more if they had bothered to dig up the various garbage dumps in Chennai city," she added sarcatiscally.


Kiwis' victory over Kenya second fastest win in World Cup

New Zealand's crushing ten wicket victory over minnows Kenya in a Group A World Cup Match here today was the second fastest win in the history of the tournament.

The match was over in two hours and 24 minutes and lasted 193 balls (including one no ball in each innings), thus becoming the second fastest match in the tournament.

Both the innings put together lasted a mere 31.5 overs, which was about one-third of the total match overs.

Kenya, batting first, were bowled out for 69 in 23.5 overs and the Black Caps, powered by some lusty hitting by openers Martin Guptill (39 not out) and Brendon McCullum (26 not out), took just 49 balls to overhaul the target, recording the second fastest win in the World Cup.

The fastest ever win was recorded by Sri Lanka against Canada in the 2003 edition at Paarl in South Afica. The Lankans, after bundling out Canada for 36 in 112 balls, romped home in just 18 minutes. They scored 37 for one in 28 balls to record the fastest win both in terms of time and overs.

The match lasted just 140 balls, the shortest match in terms of balls bowled in World Cup history.

The fact that there were just four boundaries in the brief Kenyan innings, again was a dubious record when compared to five boundaries in Canada's score of 36.

At the M A Chidambaram Stadium also, which had seen several records tumble, it was the shortest match ever played at the venue.


Most of our batsmen played across: Kenyan skipper Kammande

The captain of the Kenyan World Cup team, Jimmy Kammande, today said the ten wicket-loss in their first Group A outing against New Zealand here offered lessons to learn for the side's subsequent matches.

"Most of our batsmen played across the line. We didn't play straight. Many of our batsmen fell leg before wicket," he said at the post- match press conference.

Kammande said that, this being their first outing in the Cup matches, his team was a bit nervous. "We were a bit nervous. But the first game is out of the way," he remarked.

Kammande, who himself could not stay at the crease for more than 16 balls and scored 3 in the Kenyan innings, said, "But we need to put up some score hereafter to do better."

The Kenyan skipper also observed that he chose to bat first after winning the toss as he thought that the "pitch was looking solid for batting."

"But the wicket was a little bit up and down. But the New Zealand bowling was good. Jacob Oram had extra bounce," he said.

Asked about ICC's decision to have only the elite members playing the World Cup in the next edition, he said "They have the power to take a decision, but we like to play. The more you play these guys, the better you get."

"There is lot to be done done for our next match" he added.


Debutant Bennett bags four as Kiwis crush Kenya by 10 wkts

Medium-pacer Hamish Bennett claimed four wickets in his World Cup debut as New Zealand inflicted a crushing ten-wicket defeat on minnows Kenya in a Group A match at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here today.

After bundling out Kenya for a paltry 69 in 23.5 overs, the Kiwi openers Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill knocked off the target in double quick time as the match, which in all lasted just 31.5 overs, ended even before the scheduled lunch break.

Martin Guptill (39, 32 balls, 5x4, 2x6) and McCullum (26, 17 balls, 4x4) sent the Kenyan bowlers scurrying for cover as they overhauled the measly target in just eight overs to provide an early end to the contest.

The Black caps finished at 72 for no loss, knocking off the target in just 37 minutes.

It was one of the lowest totals at Chepauk and the shortest game ever played at the venue. The entire match itself lasted just two hours and 24 minutes.

Earlier, Bennett, in a hostile spell of pace bowling, claimed four wickets off ten balls to break the back of the Kenyan batting to finish with the flattering figures of four for 16 in five overs to have a dream World Cup debut.

Playing in his ninth ODI after he made a good debut against Bangladesh at Dhaka in October 2010, Bennett was later adjudged the Man of the Match for his career best figures.

Bennett, who will turn 24 on Tuesday, pushed the Kenyans to the brink reducing them from 40 for one to 49 for five as he got rid of Seren Waters (16), Steve Tikolo (2), Collins Obuya (14) and Morris Ouma (1) to make it a no-contest.

Medium-pacer Jacob Oram, who replaced Bennett, became the sixth Kiwi bowler to claim 150 wickets as he claimed three wickets for two runs in 16 balls to polish off the tail, before Tim Southee, who started the slide by getting rid of opener Alex Obanda (6), picked two wickets off two balls in the first over of his second spell.

It was a morale boosting win for the Black Caps, who had lost 16 of their last 18 ODIs in recent months against Bangaldesh and India.



Alex Obanda lbw Tim Southee 6

Seren Waters lbw Hamish Bennett 16

Collins Obuya lbw Hamish Bennett 14

Steve Tikolo b Hamish Bennett 2

Morris Ouma lbw Hamish Bennett 1

Rakep Patel (not out) 16

James Kamande c Brendon McCullum b Jacob Oram 2

Thomas Odoyo c Jesse Ryder b Jacob Oram 2

Nehemiah Odhiambo b Tim Southee 0

Shem Ngoche lbw Tim Southee 0

Elijah Otieno c Styris b Jacob Oram 0

Extras: (nb-1, w-2, lb-3, b-4) 10

Total: 69 all out in 23.5 overs.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-40, 3-42, 4-44, 5-49, 6-59, 7-63, 8-68,

9-68, 10-69.


Tim Southee 6-0-13-3

Nathan McCullum 4-0-15-0

Hamish Bennett 5-0-16-4

Daniel Vettori 6-1-16-0

Jacob Oram 2.5-1-2-3.

New Zealand;

Martin Guptill (not out) 39

Brendon Mc Cullum (not out) 26

Extras; (nb-1, w-3, lb-1, b-2) 7

Total: 72 for no loss in eight overs.


Thoms Odoyo 3-0-25-0

Elijah Otieno 2-0-18-0

James Kamande 2-0-21-0

Nehemiah Odhiambo 1-0-05-0


Cricket: Kenya win toss, bat first in World Cup

Kenya won the toss and decided to bat first in their first Group A 2011 World Cup preliminary league match against New Zealand at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here today.

The Kiwis took the field with Captain Daniel Vettori recovering from his minor groin injury and off-spinner Nathan McCullum, who was discharged from a private hospital here yesterday following indisposition.

The teams:

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Capt), Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, James Franklin, S Styris, Nathan McCullum, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Hamish Bennet, and 12th: K Williamson.

Kenya: James Kamande (Capt), Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Morris Ouma, R Patel, Thomas Odoyo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Shem Ngoche, Elijah Otieno, and 12th James Ngoche.

It was a very unfamiliar sight at the historic Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, that too on a Sunday, with virtually empty galleries greeted the Kenyan and New Zealand cricketers who trooped in to play their first 2011 World Cup match in Group A.

Though the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) were claiming that the sale of tickets has been encouraging even for the matches in which India does not figure, it turned out to be otherwise.

Chepauk normally has a full house or nearly so whichever team turns up for a Test or ODI. It is slated to stage three more World Cup games with only one in which India will figure.

The previous three World Cup matches, two in 1987 and one in 1996, had drawn a full house. In fact, it was New Zealand who took on their traditional rival Australia in 1996 here.


DMK to hold seat-sharing talks with Congress on Sunday

More than two-weeks after cementing the alliance, a five-member Congress panel will commence seat-sharing talks with the ruling Dravida Munneta Kazhagam (DMK) tomorrow for the ensuing Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

Talking to reporters here today, Tamil Nadu Congress chief K V Thangkabalu said the panel would hold talks with the DMK's five-member seat-sharing committee at the DMK headquarters "Anna Arivalayam".

Apart from Mr Thangkabalu, the other members of the panel are Union ministers P Chidambaram and G K Vasan, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan and the party's MLA "Namakkal" Jayakumar.

The DMK committee is headed by Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin and comprise state ministers Arcot N Veerasamy, Duraimurugan, K Ponmudy and DMK Parliamentary Party leader T R Baalu.

Ahead of the talks in which the number of seats to be contested by the Congress would be discussed, the Tamil Nadu had completed a two-day exercise of ascertaining the views of the party MPs and MLAs, both present and past, party district unit office-bearers and various units of the party and the local bodies.

With a majority of Congressmen in Tamil Nadu unanimous in their demand that the party should contest more than 70 seats and seek a share in power in the event of the DMK-Congress combine winning the assembly polls, it's going to be a hard bargain with the DMK.

The DMK has already clinched a deal with another major ally, the PMK, by allotting 31 seats to it yesterday.

Of the remaining 203 seats in the 234-member Assembly, the DMK would be contesting a significant number, and has to allot some to Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), a key Dalit party, and other fringe outfits.

The Congress workers said theirs was a just and genuine demand considering that the party had extended unstinted and unconditional support to the DMK, which did not have the numbers in the Assembly to rule on its own, for the last five years.

The Congress, which had contested 48 seats in the 2006 Assembly polls, had won 35 of them.


Injury-hit Kiwis looking for first win, Kenya confident too

Drawing inspiration from their new coach, John Wright, New Zealand are looking to kick off their World Cup campaign in Group A with a big win over minnows Kenya at the renovated M A Chidambaram stadium here tomorrow.

Low on confidence after their 117-run thrashing at the hands of favourites, India in their warm-up game here on February 16, the Kiwis may be further handicapped if their injured skipper strike left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori and off-spinner Nathan McCullum, who was hospitalised due to fever, are not fit enough to play.

The Kiwis would be looking to do better than their performance of making it to the semi-finals three times in the last five editions of the World Cup.

But this appears unlikely going by the Kiwis' poor show of having lost 14 of their last 17 ODIs, including a 0-4 whitewash against Bangladesh and 0-5 drubbing against India last year in their away series.

However, at a media conference yesterday, their opening batsman Martin Guptill said he had no information about his captain on this matter.

"We have to face upto the fact that we aren't performing well under pressure," he observed.

The flightless Kiwis would have to really rise up against seasoned teams including their traditional rivals and reigning champions Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, if they are to make any headway in this edition. Zimbabwe and Canada are the other two teams in this Group.

The Kiwis can draw comfort from the fact that they had defeated Kenya in their league outing in the 2007 edition of the Cup.

However, Kenya's veteran Steve Tikolo, the 39-year-old batsman, called out of retirement, does not think that the new-look team led by Jimmy Kamande can rise to the occasion.

Kenya had surprised everyone by entering the semis in the 2003 Cup edition in South Africa.

"Our strength has been our batting. But of late, the bowling has also been doing well," Tikolo said. "The team hopes that it can carry on with that."

The team with a sprinkling of youngsters and a majority of them unknown to the cricketing world, would give a good account of themselves, feels Tikolo, playing a record fifth World Cup.

Tikolo also felt that considering the conditions they would be up against in the sub-continent, the team has prepared well training in Dubai and India, after a preparatory camp in South Africa.

According to Tikolo, minnows or not, the young Kenyans are raring to go, and if they pull off a "rabbit out of the hat" act, they would only be the happiest.

The present scenario of the team emerges from the fact that the team was plunged into a lot of controversies including a match fixing scandal in 2003.


New Zealand (from):- Daniel Vettori (captain), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.

Kenya (from): Jimmy Kamande (captain), Seren Waters, Alex Obanda, David Obuya, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Tanmay Mishra, Rakep Patel, Maurice Ouma, Thomas Odoyo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Peter Ongondo, Shem Ngoche, James Ngoche.

Umpires: Rod Tucker(Aus) and Marais Erasmus(S Africa), Third umpire: Aleem Dar(Pak), Fourth umpire: Sudhir Asnani (India), Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama(Sri Lanka).


DMK allots 31 seats to PMK plus an RS seat for Tamil Nadu assembly polls

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Karunanidhi today allotted 31 seats to the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) for the coming elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

The announcement came a day after the meeting of Anbumani Ramadoss, the former Union Health Minister and son of PMK founder-president S Ramadoss, with Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi put the PMK back in the DMK-Congress led aliance in the state.

The allocation of seats to the PMK, besides a Rajya Sabha seat, came swiftly at a meeting between Dr Ramadoss and Mr Karunanidhi at the latter's Gopalapuram residence this morning, as part of the agreement. The discussions lasted more than an hour.

Talking to newspersons, Dr Ramadoss said, "We are satisfied with the allotment of seats though the number is the same that the DMK had given us in the 2006 Assembly elections."

Dr Ramadoss also predicted that the DMK-Congress-PMK-VCK combine would "definitely emerge victorious" in the Assembly elections.


2G spectrum case: CBI conducts raids on Kalaignar TV

Officials of the CBI, probing the money trail in the alleged multi-crore 2G spectrum allocation scam conducted raids on Friday at the Tamil television channel "Kalaignar TV", owned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s family.
A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the money trail in the alleged multi-crore 2G spectrum allocation scam involving former Communications Minister A Raja, today conducted raids at the Tamil television channel "Kalaignar TV", owned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s family.

Reports said a five-member CBI team raided the premises, a day after tainted Mr Raja, arrested for his alleged involvement in the scam, was remanded to judicial custody and lodged in Tihar Jail after extensive questioning by the agency.

The CBI officials descended on the premises of the Kalaignar TV at around midnight last night. The raids continued till 0530 hrs. The officials left the premises just before the break of dawn.

The raids were reportedly conducted following reports that money to the tune of Rs 200 crore, allegedly part of the kickbacks received in the spectrum scam, was funded to the Kalaignar TV for its operations.

The channel had admitted that it had received close to Rs 200 crore as loan and that it had been repaid with interest.

The raids came two days after the channel had issued a statement, reiterating it had no links whatsoever with the spectrum scam and that the CBI was free to inspect its account books.

Senior officials of the TV channel, in which Mr Karunanidhi’s wife Rajathi Ammal and their daughter Kanimozhi, a member of Rajya Sabha were part of the Board of Directors, were said to be present during the more than five-hour long raids.

Kalaignar TV Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director Sharath Kumar, who had a couple of days ago said that the company's loan agreement with Cineyug Films had nothing to do with the 2G spectrum allocation, was also said to be present during the raids.

However, CBI sources in Chennai could not confirm the raids, saying they were not aware of any such operation.

They told UNI, "We are not aware of any such raids. We have no reports about such an operation. Perhaps a team from Delhi might have conducted the raids. We have no information."

On February 16, Mr Karunanidhi issued a clarification that the Cineyug Films had nothing to do with the alleged scam.

The Chief Minister had said the CBI and Income Tax authorities were free to verify the accounts and records, if they had any doubt over the transaction.

Reacting to CBI informing the Supreme Court about the transaction even after the channel clarified that it could not be linked to the 2G spectrum scam, Mr Kumar had said that if the CBI and the Income Tax Departments had any doubts, they were free to visit the office of the TV channel and check the records.

"The officials can verify the records and cross check the accounts. We have absolutely no problem," Mr Kumar had said.


IPL Season to begin Apr 8 with CSK-KKR encounter at Chennai

The 2011 DLF Indian Premier League (IPL) season will get under way on April 8 with reigning champions Chennai Super Kings playing Kolkata Knight Riders at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here.

The full 2011 league schedule was released today. The ten teams will play a total of 74 matches at 13 venues over 51 days.

In announcing the schedule, IPL Chairman Chirayu Amin emphasised that it was subject to final approval.

"We are aware that State Assembly Elections are planned in a number of the host cities. We are consulting the authorities and will confirm the schedule as soon as we are able to do so. In the meantime, we have decided to release the provisional schedule to satisfy the massive level of interest in IPL across the country," he said.

To qualify for the final, the top four teams in the league will have to negotiate a new play-off system that has been introduced for the 2011 season.

In the new format, the teams finishing first and second in the league stage will compete in the first play-off game, Qualifier 1. The winner will progress directly to the final, whilst the loser will have a second chance of reaching the final via the Qualifier 2 play-off match.

The teams finishing third and fourth in the league stage will compete in the Eliminator. The winner will go forward to Qualifier 2 (where they will meet the losing team from Qualifier 1). The loser will play no further part in IPL 2011 and will finish in fourth position.

The winner of Qualifier 2 will progress to the final, where it will play the winner of Qualifier 1.

This new format lends more significance to each of the four IPL play-off matches. There is a clear advantage for the teams finishing in the top two league positions, giving an added impetus for the

teams to fight for the top positions in the league. Overall, the new format will provide fans of IPL with even greater enjoyment and excitement.

The dates and venues for the play-fff matches are:

Tuesday 24 May, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai - Qualifier 1 (1st vs 2nd).

Wednesday 25 May, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai - Eliminator (3rd vs 4th).

Friday 27 May, M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai - Qualifier 2 (winner of Eliminator vs loser of Qualifier 1)

Saturday 28 May, M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai - Final (winner of Qualifier 1 vs winner of Qualifier 2)

Qualification for 2011 CLT20 will go to the two Finalists along with the losing team from Qualifier 2.

As reigning champions, Chennai Super Kings have the right to host the opening match of the season, and to provide the venue for the final.


Cricket: India win second warm up: spinners do star turn

India put themselves in the right frame of mind for the 2011 World Cup cricket opener against Bangladesh at Dhaka on Feburary 19 with a thumping 117-run win against a struggling New Zealand before a near full house at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here tonight.

Chasing a stiff 361-run target, after Dhoni's sledgehammer hitting in an unbeaten 108-run knock and no. 3 left hander Gautam Gambhir's 89 powered India to 360 for 5 in 50 overs, the Kiwis seemed to be on the right course with opener Brendon Mc Cullum hitting the ball around powerfully against Aashish Nehra, S Sreesant and Munaf Patel.

With his opening partner M Guptill, he added 94 runs for the first wicket in the first 15 overs.

But Dhoni who employed a double off-spin attack and added cutting edge to his team's spin attack including leg spinner Piyush Chawla and pushed the Kiwis to the brink by bringing on off spinner R Ashwin.

The Kiwi slump appeared imminent as Aswhin had Guptill edging a sharply turning and awkwardly bouncing off-break to Dhoni.

Then McCullum himself fell run out as the regular offie Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl. Once McCullum fell for 58, after reaching his 50 off 43 balls with seven fours, the Indian spinners had the Kiwis by the scruff of their necks, as it were.

Earlier, India's innings was bolstered by the addition of 193 runs in the last 15 overs when skipper Dhoni and Suresh Raina(50) went full blast after the 100 run stand off 115 balls for the third wicket between Virat Kohli(59) and Gambhir.

New Zealand vice-captain Ross Taylor fell to Harbhajan Singh for a measly 5 off 14 balls caught by Kohli(3-140), then left-handed all-rounder James Franklin fell for a duck to leggie Chawla padding up an incoming leg-break.

He faced just three balls and the Kiwis were reduced to 141 for 4. Then it was Ryder's scalp at 147 off the fourth ball of the 25th over. Yuvraj Singh gobbled him up off Harbhajan Singh. Ryder fell even as he was looking promising, for 32 off 36 balls(three fours).

This reduced the Kiwis to 147 for 5 off 25.4 overs. Then make shift left-arm spinner Yuraj treated himself to the wicket of Jamie How when the batsman hoisted him to Munaf Patel' safe hands in the outfield. He scored 15 off 22 balls with the help of one four. The Kiwis were truly down on the mat now at 173 for 6 off 31.4 overs with Jacob Oram joining Scott Styris at the wicket.

The pair held on for 6.1 overs. But Yuraj helped himself to his second wicket. Turning one away from Oram, who drew away from the line of the ball, he got him stumped by Dhoni.

The Kiwis were now seven down for 197 off 37.3 overs and then 8-202 as Chawla castled Scott Styris who was deceived by the flight and played a square drive to the leg break coming in after pitching, to be castled.

Dhoni made another lethal bowling change bringing back Aashish Nehra for Yuraj. Off the last ball of the 40th over Nehra yorked Woodcock for 9 off the same number of deliveries. He hit one four.

Ten overs remaining, the Kiwis were 213 for 9, 147 runs behind India's score. Their last pair Nathan McCullum and Kyle Mills expectedly swelled the score to 243 with forcing shots typical at that stage.

However, it all ended when Nehra castled Mills off the first ball of the 44th over. McCullum was not out on 29 off 18 balls with three fours and two sixes.

Off spinners Harbhajan Singh (2-17) and R Ashwin (130-), leg spinner Piyush Chawla (2-39), Yuvraj Singh (2-33) and Aashish Nehra (2-55) shared the spoils for India. Only Munaf Patel and Sreeshant, the other two medium-pacers went wicketless.


Cricket: Buoyant India take on resurgent Kiwis in warm-up match

Indian Captain M S Dhoni and batsman Sachin Tendulkar during the practice session at the M A Chidambaram Stadium ahead of India's World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand, in Chennai on February 15, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Indian Captain M S Dhoni and batsman Sachin Tendulkar during the practice session at the M A Chidambaram Stadium ahead of India's World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand, in Chennai on February 15, 2011. UNI PHOTO

After their 38-run win over reigning champions Australia at Bangalore, India will have New Zealand under pressure in their second warm-up game ahead of the 2011 World Cup at the M A Chidambaram stadium here tomorrow.

Team India, as captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni put it at the press conference after the nets, would be addressing the failure of the middle order in the Bangalore game.

"We have to be more intense on the field tomorrow," the Indian captain said emphatically.

However, asked how he looked at the resurgent Kiwis under their new coach John Wright, he said, "New Zealand have been a contributory team. They are a very good fielding side. They don't depend on any particular player, but on the team as a whole."

Dhoni said another area of focus in this practice game before India kick off their Cup campaign on February 19, by taking on Bangladesh at Dhaka, would be the failure of the middle-order against Australia.

"In the warm-up games, you can try out your batting or bowling options and work out your best XI based on the availability of slots," the Indian captain added.

New Zealand coach John Wright, who is also former coach of the Indian team, admitted that the heat would be on his team.

"India are a good side. They would be going into this match stronger following their big win against the Aussies in the Bangalore game," the former Kiwi captain observed at the press conference before his team embarked on another stint at the nets.

Wright said tomorrow's game would be very important for New Zealand if they are to do well in the Cup matches.

New Zealand's first task in the Cup competition this time is to get through their matches in the group phase and break the poor run in ODIs. They had lost 14 of their 17 ODI matches in the run-up to the 2011 World Cup.

An upset win against India tomorrow would really be a great start for them.

India's batting strength will double for the game tomorrow what with Sachin Tendulkar to play. Dhoni confirmed that Tendulkar would be playing on the morrow while left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan would be rested this time also.

Meanwhile, the host Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) said it could be a full house for the day-night practice game with the tickets being sold out.


Team has to pick up intensity, dew factor crucial in Dhaka: Dhoni

Indian Captain M S Dhoni and batsman Sachin Tendulkar during the practice session at the M A Chidambaram Stadium ahead of India's World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand, in Chennai on February 15, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Indian Captain M S Dhoni and batsman Sachin Tendulkar during the practice session at the M A Chidambaram Stadium ahead of India's World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand, in Chennai on February 15, 2011. UNI PHOTO

"We have to pick up a bit of intensity and this will be evident on the field in the warm-up game against New Zealand tomorrow," Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said here today.

He also made it clear that the selection of the team for the World Cup opener in Dhaka on February 19 will depend on the dew factor.

"The last time when we were in Bangladesh, there was a lot of dew," he said at a press conference at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here before the team embarked on a workout at the nets.

"The selection of the playing eleven will always depend on the it will behave," he said.

When reminded about his earlier statement that there were still one or two spots up for grabs in the squad, Dhoni said "Yes, most of them are doing well. We have the contenders to grab the one or two slots I have been talking about."

"This means that we have options. But the selection will depend on the condition of the wicket," he added.

Asked about the middle order not coming up to expectations in the first warm-up match against Australia, Dhoni said, "We needed a good partnership in the middle. But that did not happen. However, the lower order clicked. The score of 215 was not big. But our spinners bowled very well and we won in the end by 38 runs."

About the seriousness of left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan's injury, Dhoni said, "Zaheer only has a mild groin strain. Nothing to worry about. We will feature him in the opening game in Dhaka on February 19."

Dhoni also confirmed that star batsman Sachin Tendulkar would be played in the warm-up game tomorrow.

Asked about South African captain Graeme Smith's comment that the Chidambaram Stadium wicket was underprepared, Dhoni said he had taken a look at the pitch this morning. "It is damp. We have to see before the game tomorrow how it will be."

He also clarified that Aussie Captain Ricky Ponting did not criticise the wicket at the Chinnasamy Stadium in Bangalore. "Turn is natural to pitches in India," he remarked.


2 catering students from HP killed in road accident in Tamil Nadu

Two catering college students, hailing from Himachal Pradesh, were killed and two of their friends injured in a road accident at Sadurangapattinam near Kalpakkam in this district of Tamil Nadu early today.

Police said the deceased were identified as Saagan Dhanavarsha (20) and Niranjan Kumar Sha (20).

Both of them were students of a catering college and were residing at Indira Nagar area in Chennai city.

They were proceeding to Puducherry from Chennai along with two of their friends on two motorcycles when the mishap occurred.

The accident took place when the victims, while crossing a road overbridge, swerved to the left in a bid to avoid colliding with a vehicle coming in the opposite direction, and rammed into the parapet wall. All the four were thrown off the vehicle.

In the impact, Saagan Dhanavarsha and Niranjan Kumar Sha died on the way to Chengalpattu Government Hospital, where two of their friends, Hameed (20) and Milan (20), were admitted for injuries, police added.


Stalin off to London, DMK-Congress seat sharing talks may be delayed

The seat-sharing talks between the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Congress are likely to suffer a delay as Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin left for London this morning on a personal visit.

Mr Stalin, accompanied by his wife Durga Stalin and friend Raja Shankar, left for London today.

Mr Stalin, who is heading the party’s poll panel and assigned to hold seat-sharing talks with the Congress and other allies, is likely to return either on February 19 or 21 after a health check-up, party sources said.

The DMK leader’s foreign trip is likely to delay the seat-sharing talks as the party may prefer not to hold talks with the Congress in his absence, The panel comprises, among others, senior leaders Arcot N Veerasamy, M K Azhagiri and Duraimurugan.

Initially, the DMK formed a five-member panel, headed by Mr Stalin and later expanded it and included Mr Azhagiri, the party’s South Zone Organising Secretary, and Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran.

Meanwhile, the five-member poll panel constituted by the Congress to hold talks with the DMK, held deliberations for two days, eliciting views of party MPs, MLAs, district presidents and other office- bearers regarding number of seats and choice of constituencies.

While Union Minister P Chidambaram, who took part in the deliberations on the first day, left for Delhi on Sunday evening, other members - TNCC President K V Thangkabalu, Union Minister G K Vasan, Ms Jayanthi Natarajan and party legislator Jayakumar wound up the exercise yesterday and left for the capital to brief the high-command on the deliberations.

During their stay in Delhi, the panel members are likely to meet party president Sonia Gandhi and brief her on the two-day deliberations held at various levels in the party.

A majority of partymen, during the two-day meeting, expressed the view that the Congress should seek at least two seats per Lok Sabha constituency, which works out to be 78 seats, besides seeking share in power, sources said.

The second day of the meeting yesterday was marred by walk-outs by at least ten district presidents, supporters of former Union Minister E V K S Elangovan, protesting against his non-inclusion in the poll panel.

Mr Elangovan, who is seen as a firebrand leader in the party, had been open in his views and demanding that the party be given 110 seats on the lines of seat-sharing between the DMK and the Congress in the 1980 Assembly elections. He has also been demanding that the Congress should stake its claim for share in power, in the event of the DMK-Congress combine winning the assembly elections.

Besides the Congress, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), led by Thol Thirumavalavan, is part of the DMK-led alliance at present and the PMK is likely to join the front.

The DMK would prefer to hold seat-sharing talks with the VCK and the PMK, in the event of the party coming back to the DMK fold after completing the exercise and alloting seats to the Congress.

The PMK had been demanding around 35 seats for coming back to the DMK-led alliance, four seats more than the 31 it had contested in alliance with the DMK in the 2006 assembly elections, but the DMK is willing to offer only around 25, party sources said.

The PMK, which presently has a strength of 18 MLAs in the assembly, broke ties with the DMK and joined the AIADMK in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. It contested seven seats and drew a blank.


Kenyan Ndungu wins Chennai Marathon with timing of 2:15:04

Mugu Antony Ndungu of Kenya won the annual Chennai Marathon event, covering the 42.2 km distance with a time of 2 hrs 15 min 04 secs here today.

It turned out to be a one-horse race as the Kenyan, showing remarkbale endurance, started on a slow note, picked up pace midway and won by a comprehensive distance to bag the gold.

Ram Singh of the Army, hailing from Hyderbad, pipped Kiplangatmi Teivice of Kenya to bag the silver in a close finish.

In a close race for the second place, the armyman gathered speed in the home stretch to win the silver with a timing of 2 hrs 22 min.03 secs, pushing Teivice, who clocked 2 hrs 23 min.01 secs to the third spot.

In the 21.1 km half marathon, Erappa Dik of Karnataka won the gold clocking 1 hr 6 min.02 secs, followed by Bahadur Singh Dhoni of Army (1 hr 08 min.06 secs) and Alex Kirwa of Kenya (1 hr 09 min.04 secs).

In the half marathon for women (21.1 km), V S Suganya of Kerala clocked 1 hr 26 min.43 secs to win the gold. She pushed favourite Margarate Kiplagat of Kenya to the second place.

The Kenyan clocked 1 hr 31 min.51 secs, while Chiai Uraguch of Japan settled for bronze, finishing a distant third at 1 hr 50 min.55 secs.


Self-styled godman Premananda hospitalised in Chennai

Self-styled godman Premananda, serving two life terms on charges of rape and murder, has been admitted to a hospital in the city following allergy and symptoms of jaundice.

Premananda, who was lodged in Cuddalore Central Prison, was shifted to the Government Stanley Medical College Hospital, where he was being treated by a team of doctors.

The godman, who had a bout of jaundice, was treated three months back at the Government General hospital here and shifted back to Cuddalore prison.

But the jaundice had relapsed. He was admitted to Cuddalore Government Hospital two days back, from where he was shifted to

Stanley Medical College Hospital in the city late last night. His condition is being monitored by a team of doctors.

Premananda, who has been suffering from various ailments, including opthalmic problems, was granted three months' parole during which he had underwent treatment at private hospitals recently.


CBI DySP, 4 others in CBI net for customs duty evasion

A deputy superintendent of police (DySP) of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and four others were arresed by the Anti-Corruption Branch of the CBI and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) at the international airport here in the wee hours of today.

They were charged with clearing dutiable goods brought from the United States by some passengers without payment of the customs duty.

A CBI press release said the DySP, K A A Salim, attached to the CBI, ACB Nagpur Division, was arrested for misusing his official position and clearing dutiable goods through the greeen channel.

The goods were brought by the passengers from the US by a Jet Airways flight.

Acting on specific information, officers of the CBI and the DRI conducted a joint surprise check at the airport and found Mr Salim facilitating clearance of some goods brought by Vinod Kumar, Vatsa Varadhan, Sadique and Girish.


Cricket: S Africa pip Zimbabwe by 8 wkts in warm-up match

South Africa, favourites alongside India to lift the 2011 ICC World Cup, kicked off their preparation for the tournament with a thumping 8-wicket win over Zimbabwe in their first warm-up game at the M A Chidambaram stadium here this evening.

Chasing an easy 153-run target, the Proteas made light of Zimbabwe's bowling to make 153 losing just two wickets in 23.3 overs, scoring at 6.51 runs per over.

Earlier, making things easy for themselves, the Proteas dismissed Zimbabwe for 152 in 41.5 overs as their rivals could not bat out the full quota of 50 overs.

South African opener and captain Grame Smith, playing his last ODI series as well as the World Cup, scored 41 off 54 balls with three fours and one six. His opening partner scored 45 off 33 balls with the help of seven fours.

Amla was the first batsman to fall, after which their star all rounder Jack Kallis steered the team to victory scoring an unbeaten 49 off 39 balls with three fours and three sixes, proving his fitness for the main event. He returned to the squad after recovering from an injury sustained during the home Test series against India. A B de Vilieres, the Proteas wicket keeper, remained not out on 12 off 15 balls. He hit one four.

The onus was on Kallis after Smith became the second Proteas wicket to fall, stumped by Taibu off Price.

Brief Scores: Zimbabwe 152 in 41.5 overs

    S Africa 153-2 in 23.3 overs (G Smith 41, H Amla 45, J H Kallis 49 n.o)


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