BABAR AZAM MOVES TO 2ND POSITION, KOHLI FIRM AT FIFTH SPOT - The Daily Guardian
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BABAR AZAM MOVES TO 2ND POSITION, KOHLI FIRM AT FIFTH SPOT

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India skipper Virat Kohli remained firm at the fifth spot but Pakistan captain Babar Azam advanced one place to reach the second position in the ICC men’s T20I player rankings released on Wednesday.

Babar’s brilliant form had helped him replace Kohli at the top of the men’s ODI player rankings last week and this week’s T20I update sees him make a strong 47-point surge to overtake Australia’s Aaron Finch in the T20I rankings after scoring 122 in the third match. Though Babar is still 48 points adrift of top-ranked Dawid Malan of England, a three-match series against Zimbabwe from Wednesday presents the 26-year-old with another opportunity to move towards the top spot, which he had occupied till November last year.

Fakhar Zaman’s is a similar story as he follows up his progress in the ODI rankings with that in T20Is, gaining 17 slots to reach 33rd position after scores of eight not out and 60 in the last two matches.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan, who notched an unbeaten knock of 73 in the third match, has advanced eight places to reach a career-best 15th position.

Left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has attained a career best-equaling 11th spot after grabbing a wicket each in the two matches while Faheem Ashraf (up 12 places to 16th), Mohammad Nawaz (up four places to 24th) and Haris Rauf (up 43 places to 38th) have also moved up in the bowlers’ list.

For South Africa, Rassie van der Dussen has advanced three slots to the sixth position, just one shy of his career-best, after scores of 34 not out and 52.

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RAMESH POWAR APPOINTED HEAD COACH OF INDIAN WOMEN’S CRICKET TEAM

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MUMBAI: The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Thursday announced the appointment of Ramesh Powar as the head coach of the Indian women’s cricket team.

The BCCI had advertised for the post and received over 35 applications. The three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising Sulakshana Naik, Madan Lal, and Rudra Pratap Singh interviewed the applicants and unanimously agreed on Powar’s candidature, as per the BCCI release. A former international, Powar played 2 Tests and 31 ODIs for India. Post his playing career, he took up cricket coaching and is an ECB Level 2 certified coach, and has also attended BCCI-NCA Level 2 coaching course.

A former coach of the Indian Women’s team from July-November 2018, it was under him that India qualified for the semi-final of the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup in 2018 and also won 14 T20 matches in a row.

He recently coached the Mumbai senior team that won the Vijay Hazare Trophy and has worked at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) as a bowling coach.

Earlier on Thursday, ANI had reported that Powar was recommended by the Cricket Advisory Committee — led by Madan Lal — to take over the reins of the women’s team once again. He will replace WV Raman.

Speaking to ANI, sources in the know of developments in the CAC had confirmed the development. “Powar has been recommended. You will get the full details on the tenure and all from the BCCI soon,” the source had said.

On April 13, the BCCI had invited application for the position of head coach of the India women’s team for a period of two years.

In December 2018, WV Raman was appointed the head coach of the India women’s national team. Under his tenure, India managed to reach the finals of the T20 World Cup in 2020. The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side ended up losing the summit clash against Australia.

Raman had taken over from Powar as the coach. In August 2018, the BCCI had appointed Powar as the head coach of the Indian women’s team. Powar was at first asked to lead the team after the resignation of former coach Tushar Arothe and then he was handed the full-time duties till November 30, 2018.

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Never gave Tokyo Olympics much thought, but have been training for it since October 2020: Rower Arjun Lal Jat

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Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh were blissfully unaware of the Olympic Games till 2016, let alone weaving dreams around it. But last week the Indian duo won a silver medal at the Asia and Oceania Olympic and Paralympic continental qualification regatta to make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.

“We never gave it much thought (Tokyo Olympics),” Arjun told Olympics.com. “But we have been training for it since October 2020 and just wanted to give a good account of ourselves.” During the qualification event at the Sea Forest Waterway on Tokyo Bay, Arvind and Arjun were the only Indians in a 14-member squad to secure their berth for Tokyo 2020. Competing in the lightweight double sculls, the pair covered the distance of 2000m in 6:36.92 and crossed the finish line 2.22 seconds behind the Japanese team of Naoki Furuta and Mitsuo Nishimura.

Arjun and Arvind were the reserves at the 2018 Asian Games, when the team of Rohit Kumar and Bhagwan Singh clinched bronze in the lightweight double sculls for India. Their success has been silent, almost undocumented in this age of information overload.

A year later, the duo was the first choice when the team travelled to Chungju, South Korea for the Asian Championships. They won a silver as India raked in a haul of five medals after finishing with one medal in the previous two editions.

“We used to be scared of them (the bigger teams in rowing) and think, ‘By how many leagues will they beat us?’” says Arvind. “But we won a silver medal in South Korea, so that kind of helped with the confidence.”

While Arjun hails from Nayabas village in Rajasthan, Arvind is from a small village of Khabra in Uttar Pradesh. But both of them grew up helping their parents tend to their modest farms. Like a lot of youngsters from rural India, both joined the Army as a means of job security. Both of them were introduced to rowing during their time there.

“To be honest, I didn’t know much about the sport before I joined the Army,” says 24-year-old Arvind, who finished his mandatory training in April 2016. “Back in the village people used to play a little bit of cricket or participate in some athletic events but that was it. After my Army training, I joined the rowing camp and slowly started getting interested in sport.”

“I had absolutely no interest in the sport before I joined the Army,” says Arjun, 25, who was introduced to rowing by former Indian Olympian Bajrang Lal, who is also from Rajasthan. “In 2016 when I started rowing, that’s when I heard that rowers go to the Olympics.”

Rowing consists of leagues upon leagues of monotonous movement, which can be hypnotic if you look closely. You need strong legs and arms and big heart, literally, to power through. “Yes, there were times in the beginning when I used to get very tired,” says Arjun. “But I knew I had to keep doing it.”

It was in 2017 that Arjun and Arvind decided to join forces. Both of them weighed around 72.5 kgs, which is the maximum an individual rower can weigh in the lightweight double sculls category. But the team average cannot exceed 70kgs.

“Since we were both around 72.5, we realized it wouldn’t take too much effort to drop those extra 2-3 kgs. That’s how we started rowing together in the event.”

The Asian qualifying event took place at the same venue that will host the rowing event at the Tokyo Olympics. But with the world still coping with the pandemic, there was no fanfare or excitement. “We would go from the club to the hotel and back,” said Arjun.

On May 18 they will be back in training at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, working on their newly-acquired dream.

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CALENDARS INCREDIBLY PACKED, RESUMING IPL WILL BE REAL CHALLENGE, SAYS RAJASTHAN ROYALS OWNER

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Rajasthan Royals owner Manoj Badale on Thursday said that rescheduling the postponed Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 will be a real challenge as most teams have already locked in their international calendars.

The IPL 2021 season was suspended on May 4 due to a rising number of Covid-19 cases. Before the suspension, Rajasthan Royals was positioned at the fifth spot with 6 points from 7 games. “I think the challenge is just finding space and calendar. The players are already playing too much cricket. The calendars are incredibly packed, and particularly this year after COVID-19, boards from around the world are trying to get as many competitions and as many Test matches in as possible,” said Badale in a webinar organised by Rajasthan Royals.

“I think it’s going to be a real challenge. There’s a possibility. I think it’s a small possibility of something in September in the UK or possibly something in the Middle East, either side of the T20 World Cup, but I think it’s going to be a real challenge,” he added.

Earlier, Ashley Giles, the managing director of the England men’s team, had hinted that Three Lions’ players might not be available for the remainder of this edition of the IPL if it gets rescheduled for some time later this year.

“We’ve got a full FTP schedule. So if those tours to Pakistan and Bangladesh [in September and October] are going ahead, I’d expect the players to be there,” ESPNcricinfo had quoted Giles as saying.

“The New Zealand scenario was very different. Those Test matches were formalised at the end of January, by which time all those contracts and NOCs [no objection certificates] were signed for full involvement in the IPL,” he further said.

Giles said England’s schedule for the summer is “incredibly busy” and the management wants to look after their players. Moreover, India and England are slated to lock horns in the five-match Test series in the UK this year. The series would commence in August.

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INDIA RETAIN TOP SPOT IN ICC TEST TEAM RANKINGS, NEW ZEALAND AT SECOND POSITION

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The ICC World Test Championship (WTC) finalists India and New Zealand are the top two teams respectively in the ICC Men’s Test team rankings after the annual update carried out on Thursday.

India have gained one rating point for an aggregate of 121 and New Zealand are only one point behind after gaining two points in Thursday’s update, which eliminates results from 2017-18. India’s 2-1 win over Australia and 3-1 win over England over the past year and New Zealand’s 2-0 series wins over the West Indies and Pakistan have helped them keep ahead of the pack.

The latest update, which rates all matches played since May 2020 at 100 per cent and those of the previous two years at 50 per cent, sees England overtake Australia to the third position as England’s 4-0 defeat to Australia in 2017-18 has dropped from the rankings.

Pakistan have gained three points but remain in the fifth position while the West Indies, who beat Bangladesh 2-0 and drew 0-0 with Sri Lanka in series played this year, have moved from eighth to sixth, their best position since 2013.

South Africa are in the seventh position, equaling their lowest in Test ranking history, while Sri Lanka are next on the list. Bangladesh have lost five points but remain in the ninth position while Zimbabwe have gained eight points but are still nine points behind Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, the WTC final gets underway on June 18 and will continue till June 22 with June 23 kept as a reserve day. While it was initially set to be played at the Lord’s, the ICC decided to move it to Southampton with an eye on the COVID-19 situation across the globe.

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Australia got distracted by India’s ‘sideshows’: Paine on Test series loss

Australia Test skipper backs Steve Smith for Test captaincy, feels the batsman deserves another chance to lead the team.

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Australia Test skipper Tim Paine has indicated that his side was distracted by Team India during the tour which eventually saw the hosts losing the Test series in January this year. India defeated Australia by three wickets against all odds in the final Test of the four-match series at The Gabba in January to take the series 2-1.

Paine claimed that the Ajinkya Rahane-led side created “sideshows” by saying that the visitors were not going to the Gabba (venue of the fourth Test). “Part of the challenge of playing against India is they’re very good at niggling you and trying to distract you with stuff that doesn’t really matter and there were times in that series where we fell for that,” news.com.au quoted Paine as saying at a function for the Chappell Foundation at the SCG on Wednesday night.“The classic example was when they said they weren’t going to the Gabba so we didn’t know where we were going. They’re very good at creating these sideshows and we took our eye off the ball,” he added. The last time a visiting team came out triumphant from the Brisbane Cricket Ground was back in November 1988 when the mighty West Indian outfit under the leadership of Viv Richards thrashed Allan Border’s team by nine wickets.What made the feat even more commendable is how Team India fought multiple injuries and mental fatigue – due to the bio-bubble restrictions — to register a historic win. In the first Test against Australia, India was bundled out for 36 and there were many pundits who said the visiting team would face a 4-0 drubbing. But proving every critic wrong, the Rahane-led side registered famous victories at Melbourne and Brisbane. The side also recorded a draw at Sydney and at every step of the way, the team overcame adversity.

Tim Paine also came out in support of Steve Smith as he felt the right-handed batsman deserved another chance to lead the team from Down Under. In March this year, Smith for the first time had openly talked about wanting to lead Australia again. The 31-year-old cricketer was removed as the skipper following his involvement in the Sandpaper Gate fiasco in the Cape Town Test against South Africa in March 2018. Smith’s captaincy ban expired last year, however, he was not handed back the leadership post as Paine continued to lead the side in the longest format of the game. “I think so. Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent.

Certainly tactically he is as good as you get,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Paine as saying at a dinner for the Chappell Foundation. “He’s probably a bit like me when I was at the start of my captaincy journey in Tasmania — he was thrown into a very big role at a very, very young age and he probably wasn’t quite ready for it. “But by the time I came in he was growing into that role and getting better and better. Then obviously [in] South Africa events happened and he’s not doing it anymore. But yeah I would support him getting that job again,” Paine added.

Australia is slated to play a one-off Test against Afghanistan this year before they take on England in the Ashes. When asked about any plans to retire, the Australian skipper said he had “at least another six Tests” in him. “If I feel like the time is right and we’ve beaten the Poms 5-0, what a way to go out. But it might be a tight series and we might be chasing 300 on the last day and I’m 100 not out and hit the winning runs — and then I might go again,” Paine said. In 2019, the fifth and final match of the 2019 Ashes was won by England by 135 runs to level the series 2-2. However, Australia retained the urn as they had previously won the Ashes in the 2017/18 season. This was the first time in 47 years that the Ashes ended as a draw. The last series which ended as a draw between England and Australia was in 1972.

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UEFA to probe into Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus’ involvement

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UEFA on Wednesday announced that it has opened a disciplinary investigation into Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus’ involvement in the controversial and breakaway European Super League.

Nine of the 12 founding clubs of the European Super League have taken a step back and they have confirmed their commitment to UEFA.

The three remaining clubs — Real Madrid, Juventus, and Barcelona — had refused to get reintegrated into UEFA and as a result, they face further punishment. “In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspectors have today been appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding a potential violation of UEFA’s legal framework by Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona and Juventus FC in connection with the so-called ‘Super League’ project,” UEFA said in an official statement, as reported by Goal.com.

“Further information regarding this matter will be made available in due course,” it added.

Earlier, Gabriele Gravina, President of the Italian Football Association (FIGC) had said that Juventus will be banned from Serie A next season if they still choose to remain a part of the breakaway and rebel European Super League.

“The rules are clear. If Juventus is still part of the Super League when it enters next season, it can’t participate in Serie A,” Gabriele Gravina told Radio Kiss Kiss, as reported by Goal.com.

“I would be sorry for the fans but rules are rules and they apply to everyone. I hope this holdout ends soon,” he added.

The announcement to form a breakaway European Super League made by 12 founding clubs including Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur, was met with widespread criticism.

As a result, all the six Premier League clubs, involved in the proposed European Super League, withdrew from the competition.

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