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Australian battling line-up doesn’t look settled: Sachin

Meanwhile Rohit Sharma and David Warner join their respective teams ahead of the third Test in Melbourne. The four-match series is level at 1-1 right now.

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NEW DELHI: India’s cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, who has played against some of the finest Australian teams in his time, believes that their current batting line-up is “less settled” with some “playing for their spots”.

Following India’s victory in the second Test at Melbourne after the Adelaide disaster, Tendulkar was speaking to news agency PTI. “When I look at this Australian batting line-up and look at some of the earlier line-ups, I feel earlier line-ups were settled ones. Those players batted with a different kind of intent but this team doesn’t look very settled,” he said.

In three completed Australian innings in the first two Tests, the Indian bowlers bundled them out for 191, 195 and 200 respectively, something not heard of in the days of Allan Border, Mark Taylor, the Waugh brothers. Or during Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Adam Gilchrist and even Michael Clarke’s time.

“In this current Australian team, there are players who are not in good form and are unsure about their spots. In earlier teams, those batsmen batted in their slots as there was a lot of surety in their batting line-up,” Tendulkar said.

Tendulkar was all praise for Rahane’s captaincy as well as his match-changing hundred on a day when batting was difficult under overcast conditions. “I felt this was a brilliant performance by our team, the manner in which our team was able to play and the way Ajinkya led the team. Also if you look at senior cricketers and their contribution, it has been good,” he said.

Rahane’s knock of 112, according to Tendulkar, was a perfect blend of caution and aggression. “I thought Ajinkya batted brilliantly. He was calm, relaxed and composed. He had aggressive intent but aggression was rightly balanced by calmness and surety.

Tendulkar also mentioned pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah’s contribution to the victory. “In the fast bowling department, Bumrah as the leader of the attack has taken more responsibility and whenever the chips are down, he has pushed himself harder. That’s the sign of a champion bowler,” he said.

The maestro also praised Gill, who played two impressive innings of 45 and 35, and Siraj, who picked five wickets on debut. “Shubman looked confident and comfortable. He played some good shots off short pitched stuff that Australians bowled. Someone upfront who goes out and scores 45 and 35 so, it is surely a good start,” Tendulkar said of the 21-year-old.

In the meantime, the Indian squad has further been bolstered Rohit Sharma joining the team in Melbourne ahead of their third Test against Australia.

The Indian cricket board on Wednesday posted a video of the opening batsman walking into the team hotel and meeting the squad and staff after he finally finished his quarantine in Sydney.

“Look who’s joined the squad in Melbourne… A warm welcome for @ImRo45 as he joins the team,” said the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in its caption to the video.

Rohit had been ruled out of the limited overs leg of India’s tour of Australia due to a hamstring injury he sustained during this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL). He had underwent treatment at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

Rohit flew down to Australia in mid-December just days before the start of the Test series. While being quarantined in Sydney, he has not had any practice and could be rusty which is probably why India’s head coach Ravi Shastri said that the team will consider how he feels before deciding whether to play him in the third Test in Sydney.

“Rohit joins the team tomorrow. We will have a chat with him to see where he is placed physically because he has been quarantined for a couple of weeks. We will have to see now how he feels before we take the call,” said Shastri.

There’s also good news for Australia as David Warner is likely play the last two Test matches against India in the ongoing series after selectors named him in the Australia squad for the Sydney and Brisbane games and dropped out-of-form Joe Burns.

Warner was excluded from the squad that featured in the first two Tests, in Adelaide and Melbourne, following a groin injury he suffered during the second One-day International in Sydney last month.

“David has made strong progress in his recovery from injury and will be given every chance to play in Sydney with another seven days until the match,” said selector Trevor Hohns in a statement released by Cricket Australia.

Hohns said that Burns’s performance has not been up to scratch. “Unfortunately, Joe’s returns haven’t been what he or the selectors would like or what we consider he is capable of,” added Hohns.

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WE WON’T PLAY FOR A DRAW AGAINST AFGHANISTAN, SAYS STIMAC

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A day before India’s last match against Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, head coach Igor Stimac has dismissed apprehensions that his side may play out for a draw.

India is currently placed on six points after seven matches in comparison to Afghanistan being on five points from seven games. “I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw. Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar. But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it,” the official website of All India Football Federation (AIFF) quoted Stimac as saying. “That’s what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from the kick-off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game,” he added.Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu added: “I think it’s important for us to stay fresh and face this new challenge against a very good side. Afghanistan has good quality players who can manipulate the ball and convert if given the chance. So, we need to make sure that as players, we stick to the plan and that we make life difficult for the other team and try to finish with a smile.”

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If any country can pull off Olympics, it’s definitely Japan: Sathiyan

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India table tennis player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran on Monday showed faith in Japan and said the country would successfully host the Tokyo Games this year. The Olympics were slated to go-ahead last year, but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it will now go ahead this year from July 23 to August 8. “I have been to Japan many times, have played in the Japan league as well. If some country can pull it off it’s definitely Japan and I know about their meticulous planning how they prepare for any event. I have full trust in Japan and IOC and they will host a very safe Olympics,” Gnanasekaran told ANI.Talking about his qualification for the Olympics, Gnanasekaran said: “For me, it’s my childhood dream, I saw Olympics on television like 17 years before, the dream has come true. I wanted to be part of the Indian team, so I had started training really really hard, especially after joining Raman sir, it has been a huge amount of hours that I have spent on training.”“It’s the most important opportunity of my life but at the same time, I would just enjoy the game as I have always done, go out there and have fun on the biggest stage,” he added.

The paddler also talked about how playing without fans in attendance would be hard and athletes will be required to find the push without the audience cheering them on. “Certainly, that’s the most difficult part I would say. Initially, I had thought it would be fine but when I played the Japan league in a huge stadium without fans, I felt a very big difference. Fans give you the push, they give you the extra energy at the very crucial juncture or when the scores are level,” said Gnanasekaran.“I think we are now kind of used to this new normal. It’s gonna be hard but I hope I can dedicate the medal to fans even though they are not with us,” he added.

Talking about his game and training, the paddler said: “Fantastic. I have been training with my coach, I have been working on my technique, footwork and I am getting match practice as well. I am doing good fitness, I have seen improvement in the last month and I will be all guns blazing for the Olympics. “For me, attack is the best defence. I was a very defensive player in my childhood days, and then when I started training with Raman sir, I shifted gears and that’s where I transformed as a player. I always prefer finding out opportunities where I can attack and score a point against my opponent.”

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DJOKOVIC’S COACH FEELS VICTORY AGAINST NADAL MADE THE DIFFRENCE IN FINAL

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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s long-time coach Marian Vajda believes that the confidence attained by the Serbian in the semi-final win against Rafael Nadal made all the difference in Sunday’s French Open final against No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.Marian says that Djokovic, who won 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to claim his second Roland-Garros and 19th Grand slam title, after going two sets down against Tsitsipas was because of the belief he built up in his victory over the Spaniard. “I think Rafa’s game gave him a lot of confidence, believing in himself that he can win Roland-Garros,” Vajda was quoted as saying to the official website. “First two sets it took him [a] little bit off [guard] because maybe he was thinking too much ahead. Then he was able to be present after first two sets. Then he just prevailed [with] his tennis.”

Vajda told reporters after the final that Novak was in a much better place mentally in 2021, compared to the 2020 final, when he was obliterated by Nadal in straight sets. “I think he was much better than the last year mentally,” he said.

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EXPERIENCE OF MAGUIRE AND HENDERSON WILL BE VITAL MOVING FORWARD, SAYS ROONEY

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Former England player Wayne Rooney feels it’s vital that Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson get fit as soon as possible because they will be vital moving forward in the Euro 2020 for the Three Lions. “To win that was massive, Croatia are a good team and it will give the players a relief that they are comfortable in the group now,” Wayne Rooney told Sky Sports. “There’s a lot of quality in the squad, my only worry is a lack of experience — it’s important Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson get fit because they will be vital moving forward.”

England’s all-time record goalscorer feels the team will now be more comfortable in the next game against Scotland as they started off on a winning note at the European Championships in a “professional” manner against 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia. For the very first time in Euros, England won their opening fixture thanks to Raheem Sterling’s second-half goal against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday. Gareth Southgate’s men are now in a comfortable position ahead of fixtures against Scotland and the Czech Republic.

It would now be very interesting to see how England’s manager Gareth Southgate will navigate his starting XI for the remaining matches in the group stage as he made some very eyebrow-raising decisions against Croatia which ultimately paid off for the English side.

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NEW ZEALAND’S VARIETY OF FAST BOWLERS WILL CHALLENGE KOHLI & BOYS, SAYS PARTHIV

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Parthiv

Former Team India wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel feels Virat Kohli needs to give himself a bit of time in regards to his batting ahead of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand. “I think probably he will have to give himself a bit of time and try to think what he did in 2018 – where he got a number of hundreds. So, probably he is better equipped than he was in 2014, but there will be challenges and there will be challenges of a variety of fast bowlers. The reason being — it is not a one-dimensional fast bowling attack,” Prithvi Patel said on Star Sports show Game Plan.

Virat Kohli’s growth in English conditions has been phenomenal, especially if compared to the Indian skipper’s below-par 2014 tour to the one in 2018. In 2014, he managed only 134 runs in five Tests at a poor average of 13.40. Four years later, he hammered 593 runs in the five-Test series. Virat Kohli averaged 59.30 with two hundred in 2018. Considering this, if India wants to beat the Blackcaps in Southhampton, then they will surely need the same herculean effort from the captain.

Former India opener Virender Sehwag also feels Kohli needs to be patient and force the Kiwi bowlers to bowl at him rather than on the fourth and fifth stump outside off. “I think Kohli should show patience and he should leave a lot of balls. They must be made to pitch in the line and then he can score,” he told ANI. “He has to show patience and I am sure he knows that. I remember in 2014 when he didn’t score runs, he came back and spent time with Sachin Tendulkar and went back (in 2018) and scored a lot of runs.” Virat Kohli will lead India in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand from June 18 at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton to decide the first champion side of the longest format. The WTC final will be followed by the five-match Test series against England.

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Ishant should get a chance to play in WTC final

If the conditions are dry, then India should go with two spinners and if the weather remains cold and there is grass on the pitch, then in that case they should go with four fast bowlers.

Raj Kumar Sharma

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The most discussed point these days is about the bowling options Team India will go with against New Zealand in the WTC final. If the conditions are dry, then India should go with two spinners and if the weather remains cold and there is grass on the pitch, then in that case they can go with four fast bowlers. Who will play largely depends on the player’s current form and the skill he shows in the nets.

 Although the New Zealand team is in a better position to face the fast bowlers, they do not feel themselves in that comfortable position against spinners. In such a situation, it can be a better option for Team India to field both the spinners. Talking about the fast bowlers, it is certain that Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are certain to play while there is a choice between Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Siraj, if team management plays with three fast bowlers.

 But I will go with Ishant Sharma in both options as he has vast experience of 100 tests. That experience can prove to be very useful for Team India, but if Team India goes with four fast bowlers, then Siraj can get a place in the team. Of course, this decision lengthens India›s tail. Shardul is definitely a substitute who can bat well but I think he doesn›t find a place in the team because he is a bit slow compared to other fast bowlers.

 In the case of playing four fast bowlers, the team will have to go with only one spinner. In such a situation, R. Ashwin would be a better option as there are many left-handed batsmen on the New Zealand side and secondly, he can bat as well. Their being in form also goes in their favor but in dry conditions I believe both of them will play. If a fast bowler is unfit, the team would prefer to play Umesh Yadav instead of Shardul.

 As far as opening the innings is concerned, Shubman Gill is a better option with Rohit Sharma as the second opener. He is a constant part of the team. He has shown his rhythm in the practice match. The rest of the team management can gauge the good pace of the players in the nets.

The writer is Virat Kohli›s coach and Dronacharya Awardee.

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