I am aghast after listening to the recent statements you made in the media. I do not feel this is the Shoaib Akhtar I know. You have suddenly changed gears. We have known you as a happy-go-lucky guy, but now you are talking like a hawk and a merchant of death.
You have been quite vocal about issues in Pakistan — both on cricketing and non-cricketing terms. You recently said that you want the Pakistan Army Chief to sit with you and make decisions. You also claimed with pride that you would make sure that the budget of the Pakistani Army is raised.
I remember you said, “If Allah ever gives me the authority, I will eat grass myself but I will increase the budget of the Army.” You also said that if the budget is 20 percent, you would make sure to raise it to 60.
Like millions of Indian cricket fans, I too enjoyed your salad days as an express fast bowler. When you were called as Rawalpindi Express, I felt good as I too have Rawalpindi links. My forefathers had migrated to the garrison city in the year 1895 from Uttar Pradesh. They had gelled with a new culture like fish to water. They had established Mohalla Purbiya too near Raja Bazar. I can speak Pothwari Punjabi like you even though I was born and raised in Delhi. We even met briefly at a party hosted by Rajeev Shukla in Delhi when the first IPL was on.
You spoke about the Kargil war and told that you have left many lucrative contracts with county sides to be available for military service. You said that you were “ready to die” for your country when the Kargil war broke in 1999.
After more than 20 years of the Kargil war, you are proudly declaring you are ready to fight for your county. You should be proud of your country. I am also proud of India. Fair enough. But don’t romanticise war. Perhaps you do not know the destruction war brings. Give peace its due. After less than one decade of Kargil, you came to India to play in IPL for big money. You played for Kolkata Knight Riders and you came to India numerous times for cricket commentary as well as TV endorsements. We never understood the difference between ourselves and strangers. Even in one of our news channels, you used to come as an expert. The cricket-loving public of India honoured you like their own.
On one hand, you talk about the resumption of cricket matches between India and Pakistan. You also said that this will help both cricket boards to earn a substantial amount, which will be spent on the cricket infrastructure of both countries. But now I know that Kapil Dev had rightly told you that your cricket board may need money in Pakistan but we do not. Everything from our cricket grassroots level to team India is running top class.
Shoaib, you should remember sportspersons are world citizens. They transcend the boundaries of nations. That is why the likes of Mohammad Ali, Pele, Roger Federer, Dhyan Chand, Usain Bolt are adored and loved by their fans across the globe. Alas, you lost an opportunity to be a sportsperson.
You should leave acrimonious and hawkish talks to political leaders. They are the same across the border, exceptions are always there.
The writer has an experience of more than three decades in journalism and has contributed in different leading journals.
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Indian Trap Mixed team campaign over in ISSF world Championship
The Indian Trap Mixed Team fizzled out of the ISSF World Championship Shotgun in Osijek, Croatia, as both the teams in contention could not make it to the medal matches from the qualification round.
The pair of Vivaan Kapoor and Shreyasi Singh finished 15th with a score of 140 out of 150 while Prithviraj Tondaiman and Manisha Keer were further back with 138 for a 24th place finish. The top six pairs out of 56 would make it to the medal matches with the top two making it to the gold medal match.
The Italian pair of Mauro Di Filippis and Giulia Grassia topped the table with a score of 144. They were tied with Great Britain and China on the same score before winning a shoot-out to claim top billing. Great Britain followed them into the gold medal match.
India is still searching for a second medal in the Shotgun World Championships.
Earlier in this tournament Bhowneesh Mendiratta claimed India’s first Paris Olympics quota spot in shooting on debut at the ISSF Shotgun World Championships. Mendiratta claimed 4th place overall in the men’s Trap final.
Mendiratta won his ranking round with an almost perfect score of 24/25, which enabled him to qualify for the medal match and ultimately a spot in the Paris 2024 team.
This first competition of the World Championship can win them quota for the Olympics: Samaresh Jung
Samaresh Jung has been one of the torch-bearers for shooting in India. In a storied career that lasted for over a decade, Samaresh has won many a laurel for India including a whopping seven medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Nicknamed ‘Goldfinger’ for his tremendous achievement in the sport of shooting, Samaresh has moved on to coaching now in his attempt to give it back to the sport that has given so much fame and adulation in life.
We had an opportunity to catch up in an exclusive chat during the National Games 2022, where he spoke at length about various topics on Indian shooting.
Q. Tell us about the preparation of the Air Pistol shooters for the National Games and Paris 2024.
A. Firstly, National games were not in the plan. It just popped up. Of course, it will be a stepping stone for the shooters and also a kind of performance check for them. India collected 15 medals in shooting- five gold, six silver and four bronze to top the medals tally at the shooting World Cup held recently. I believe this has been truly a more than decent performance by the Indian shooting team. Now, the real goal is the World Championship and Paris Olympics. Also, the National Games 2022 is a good platform and will boost up their confidence. There is excitement amongst the sports stars as well, as this event is happening after seven years.
Q. What are your expectations from the shooters at the National Games?
A. Air Pistol squad comprises Shiva Narwal (Haryana) Naveen (Services) and Sagar Dangi (UP). In girls we have Manu Bhaker (Haryana), Palak Ghulia (Haryana), Rhythm Sangwan (Haryana) and Yuvika Tomar (UP) and other top performers. So, the squad consists of 16 men and 16 women shooters and they have all their guns ready in real sense. They are just waiting to blaze when the time comes.
Needless to say, after the National Games, the first competition of the World Championship can win them a quota for the Olympics too. They just need to perform well consistently.
Q. What’s the strategy this time if you want to open up a bit?
A. Strategy, basically is that we have young shooters, some experienced and some not so experienced. We are training them hard. They have great ability and they just need to focus on becoming good competitors and performers too. As I say, the mantra is “Do not concentrate on the concentration, concentrate on the work you are doing at that particular point of time.”
Siki Reddy & Rohan enter semis of Vietnam Open
Indian mixed doubles team duo of Siki Reddy and Rohan Kapoor registered a stunning victory over Chan Peng Soon and Cheah Yee See of Malaysia to cruise into the semifinals of the Vietnam Open Super 1000 tournament here on Friday.
The Indian pair were at their imperious best and beat the third seed Malaysian duo in 21-19, 21-17 in just 39 minutes to inch a step closer to glory in Vietnam.
They will face the top seed team of Rehan Naufal and Kusharjanto and Lisa Kusumawati of Indonesia in the last four.
Starting the match, they did not have the best of the starts and trailed 3-6. But they maintained their calm and stayed hot on their opponent’s heel. After some back-and-forth action, Siki and Rohan picked up four consecutive points to race ahead and eventually seal the opening game.
They picked up from where they left in the opening game and despite facing stiff challenges, they held on and raced towards victory.
Harmanpreet backs out of form Shefali to come good in Asia Cup
India opener Shafali Verma received the backing of skipper Harmanpreet Kaur ahead of the T20 women’s Asia Cup 2022, as she looks to turn around her poor form.
In a recently concluded England tour, Shefali was unable to score a half-century across formats. As a matter of fact, in six innings, she was dismissed under 10 four times.
However, Harmanpreet feels Shefali it is only a matter of time before she hits form and expects the opener to get enough matches under her belt at the Asia Cup.
“From the practice sessions we’ve had, I can say she is doing really well. It’s part of life – sometimes you play well, sometimes you can’t continue your good form. But she’s looking good and it’s just a matter of spending some time in the middle for her to get out of her [rough] patch. She is working hard every day. This is a platform where you can express yourself and play free cricket. We will try to give her enough match time so that she can get her confidence back,” Harmanpreet said in a pre-match virtual press conference.
The squad features many new names, such as S Meghana, Dayalan Hemalatha and Kiran Navgire – all heavy run-hitters in domestic cricket and on the fringes of the national team.
“Our first target will be to give enough chances to other players who haven’t got [opportunities] so far. Definitely, there are a lot of areas where we want to work on as a team, especially how we are going to use the first six overs [while batting],” Harmanpreet said.
“We will try to shuffle our middle order so that others can also get some time. In the last overs also, we have some hard hitters, so if we can give them enough chances… In our bowling, we will try different combinations. This tournament is important for us, it’s a great platform where players who haven’t got chances can come and perform. If they perform here, they can get a lot of confidence going into the World Cup,” she added.
Team India is riding a massive wave of confidence as they recently won an ODI series 3-0 against England. The in-form batter Harmanpreet is also confident as she played a whirlwind 143 not-out knock in the second ODI in England.
“I think I have felt that responsibility right from when I started. It’s something I’ve enjoyed. Since the time I’ve been a full-time captain, I am enjoying it a lot. My teammates, support staff, selectors, the BCCI – everyone has been appreciative. You just need support, and the only thing left after that is performance and we are all focused on performances. We all talk only about having each other’s back and needing to go out and express ourselves,” the India captain said.
India’s Asia Cup campaign begins on the opening day against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Seven teams, including India, will first fight it out in a round-robin format group stage with the top four qualifying for the semi-finals. The winners from the semis will face off in the final on October 15.
Mohd. Siraj replaces Jasprit Bumrah for remainder of T20 Series against South Africa
The All-India Senior Selection Committee named Mohammed Siraj as replacement for injured Jasprit Bumrah for the remainder of the T20I series against South Africa.
Bumrah has sustained a back injury and is currently under the supervision of the BCCI Medical Team.
India are leading the three-match T20I series against South Africa 1-0. The Rohit Sharma led side will next face Proteas in the second T20I in Guwahati on Sunday followed by third T20I in Indore on Tuesday.
India’s star pacer Jasprit Bumrah is also likely to be ruled out of the upcoming T20 World Cup, starting October 16. Bumrah, who was also ruled out of the Asia Cup 2022 due to his back problem, and was training at the National Cricket Academy, played the last two T20Is against Australia.
India squad for South Africa T20Is: Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Umesh Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Shahbaz Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj.
National Games: Gujarat women’s tennis team starts with win
Gujarat began their defence of the National Games women’s team tennis title with a commanding win over Telangana while West Bengal’s women’s Lawn Bowls team registered a stunning 12-11 victory over Assam to maintain their winning momentum in the 36th National Games on Thursday.
Tennis action began at the picturesque Sabarmati Riverfront Sports Complex on Thursday. Gujarat women dropped just four games in securing a 2-0 verdict against Telangana. They will now meet Karnataka for a place in the final. Karnataka ran out 2-0 winners against Uttar Pradesh. In the other semifinal, Maharashtra will lock horns with Tamil Nadu, who wriggled out of a tight spot against Haryana. Maharashtra had defeated Delhi 2-0.
At the Kensville Golf and Country Club where Lawn Balls action is taking place, the West Bengal team held their nerves to quell Assam’s fightback to register their second win in the Group and virtually assure themselves of a semifinal berth.
The Assam Fours team, led by Birmingham Commonwealth Games participant Tania Choudhary, and comprising Bangita Hazarika, Adinita Kakoty and Ananya Saikia, were trailing 1-5 after the first two ends, but clawed back to level 7-7.
Bengal, which fielded Renu Mohfa, Manisha Srivastava, Reema Pawa and Anchor Malhotra, held their nerves to regain a slender 11-10 lead in the penultimate 11th end and kept their noses ahead at the finish.
“As expected, it was a close match between teams who have experienced campaigners. It is a setback, especially because we made our way to the semifinals. But every loss teaches you something, and we will try to pick the positives and beat Gujarat on Friday. We hope to get back stronger against the home side,” Tania Choudhary said after the loss.
In other Lawn Bowls matches, hosts Gujarat dominated the proceedings against Manipur to register a 12-10 win while Lawn Bowls powerhouse Jharkhand made light work of Odisha to record a 33-3 win. In another contest, Delhi got the better of Bihar by a 20-9 margin.
At the shooting range, 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Vijay Kumar (Himachal Pradesh) soaked in the pressure well to be lying second behind Ankur Goel (Uttarakhand) and ahead of the in-form Anish Bhanwala (Haryana) after the first stage of the men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol competition.
Sri Karthik Sabari Raj (Tamil Nadu) topped the men’s 10m Air Rifle qualification charts with 632.2 points, leaving the likes of Aishwary PS Tomar (Madhya Pradesh) Rudranksh B Patil (Maharashtra), Divyansh Singh Panwar (Rajasthan), Hriday Hazarika (Assam) and Arjun Babuta (Punjab) in his wake.
In the women’s 10m Air Rifle qualification, Tilottama Sen (Karnataka) finished on top with 633.6 points. Sriyanka Sadangi (Odisha), Yukthi Rajendra (Karnataka) 629.3 and Nancy (Haryana) placed above Elavenil Valarivan (Gujarat) and Mehuli Ghosh (West Bengal) but the final will come with its own set of challenges.
At the EKA Trans Stadia Arena, Delhi’s women’s team stunned West Bengal 36-0 to book a Rugby 7s semifinal berth against Maharashtra while the West Bengal men’s team showed Services the exit with a 24-12 win in the quarterfinals.
In the men’s Netball semifinals in Bhavnagar, Gujarat stretched Telangana to the limit, losing by a wafer-thin margin after opening up a 30-28 lead at the half-time. Telangana turned the tables on the home side by pressing hard in the third quarter for a 45-42 advantage. Gujarat fought lion-heartedly and held the upper-hand in the final quarter but lost 53-55.
Kabaddi action will restart after a day’s break on Friday with Services facing Uttar Pradesh and Haryana taking on Maharashtra in the men’s semifinals on Friday. The fight for places in the women’s final will pit Maharashtra against Tamil Nadu and Haryana against Himachal Pradesh.
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