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01:17:36 am

Finance And Pakistan Pose Twin Challenges For Zimbabwe

This morning they were on the brink of being part of the first forfeited Test series, with the Zimbabwe players considering a boycott over unpaid salaries. Fortunately, the worst-case scenario has been avoided : Zimbabwe confirmed on Monday afternoon that they will take the field in Harare, with Zimbabwe Cricket saying it is working on clearing its dues before the second Test, which begins in Bulawayo on September 10. If the money is not transferred before then and the players stand their ground in Bulawayo, there will be a bonus of sorts: Zimbabwe will qualify for the ICC's Test rankings after the Harare Test, having finally played the requisite number of games for the first time since their return to Test cricket in August 2011 after more than five years of self-imposed exile. And, irrespective of the series scoreline, they'll return in some style, straightaway leapfrogging Bangladesh to No. 9. That said, Zimbabwe's troubles are likely to spill over onto the field. In Pakistan they face an opponent whose batsmen are best suited to the gentle pace of the long format and bowlers include potent pacers and arguably the best spinner in world cricket today. The hosts, on the other hand, come into the series with - in their coach's words - a concern about "how are we going to get 20 wickets" and an unsettled opening combination.

RELATED NEW DELHI: There seems to be no let up in the show of BJP's sympathy for President Pranab Mukherjee in view of the suggestion from certain quarters that some of the decisions he took as finance minister between 2009 and 20011 contributed to the worsening of the fiscal deficit. BJP leaders on Friday expressed solidarity with the President in view of what they called "unfair insinuation" that his decisions worsened the fiscal deficit, when they called upon him in connection with their demand for early polls. Sources in the BJP said the expression of support led Mukherjee to say that the fiscal expansion being ascribed to him, in fact, predated his tenure in the finance ministry, adding that former finance minister Yashwant Sinha would bear him out. The BJP delegation, comprising party veteran L K Advani, leaders of opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and former party chief M Venkaiah Naidu, Sinha and others, broached the topic soon after the principal opposition had taken up cudgels for the President in Rajya Sabha. Coming out in support of the President, Jaitley had objected to the blame for the jump in fiscal deficit being heaped upon those "who are not here to defend themselves", stressing that the gap between government's spending and income started widening in 2007 when the government launched schemes as part of Congress's preparations for 2009 polls. On Friday, former finance minister Sinha strongly supported the President's purported contention that the expansion of fiscal deficit was a reality before he took charge of the finance ministry. Recalling that Mukherjee moved into the finance ministry on January 24, 2009, Sinha stressed that the two supplementary demands - in October and January 2008 had resulted in a net cash outgo of Rs 147,000 crore.

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