BABAR AZAM REPLACES AZHAR ALI AS THE NEW PAKISTAN TEST SKIPPER - The Daily Guardian
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BABAR AZAM REPLACES AZHAR ALI AS THE NEW PAKISTAN TEST SKIPPER

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Pakistan on Tuesday replaced Azhar Ali with Babar Azam as Test captain. Azam, who was already leading Pakistan in ODIs and T20 Internationals, will captain Pakistan in the ICC World Test Championship fixtures against New Zealand, which will be played in Mount Maunganui and Christchurch from December 26-30 and January 3-7, respectively.

PCB chairman Ehsan Mani confirmed the appointment following a meeting with Azhar Ali on Tuesday evening. Ali had led Pakistan in the recent Tests in England where the tourists lost the three-match series 1-0.

“Babar Azam was identified at a very young age as a future leader and as part of his progression and development, he was appointed white-ball captain last year. With his consistent performance and leadership skills, he has demonstrated that he is ready to take on the additional responsibilities of a captain,” said Mani. Mani added that the decision to give captaincy to Babar had been taken keeping in the mind the future.

“As we are looking into the future, it is appropriate that we appoint him the captain now so that he continues to grow stronger with every match,” said Mani. Babar, on Tuesday, led Pakistan to a 3-0 T20I series sweep over Zimbabwe.

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ISL 7: Familiar foes Goa and Mumbai City collide in playoff curtain-raiser

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Margao (Goa) [India], March 4 (ANI): For a side that has been the most consistent team in the history of the Indian Super League (ISL) — they have secured playoff qualification a record six times — FC Goa have never managed to lift the ISL title. Besides that, they have lost the finals on two occasions.
For the Gaurs, who have come this close, the dream is now lifting their first-ever trophy. They’ll be a step closer to that dream if they can put it past League Shield winners Mumbai City FC in the first leg of their semifinals at the Fatorda Stadium on Friday.
Having qualified for the playoffs for the fourth-straight time, Goa will be confident of achieving their dream this time around. One of the most entertaining teams in the league, they are only behind Mumbai for goals scored, alongside NorthEast United.
They have form backing them too, having been unbeaten in 13 games now — a feat no other side has managed in ISL history. Facing Mumbai will not be an easy task but coach Juan Ferrando hopes his players stick to his philosophy as they aim to go all the way.
“If we enjoy the game, we will have success. Sometimes there is pressure because everybody wants to win but for me, it’s important our players to want to play (our way),” said Ferrando in an ISL release.
“I am scared when my team is not playing football (our way) because it’s difficult to help the team. But all our players want to participate and stick to our style,” he added.
However, they will have their task cut out with Ivan Gonzalez and Alberto Noguera missing out due to suspensions. While Goa top the charts for most possession (58 per cent), Mumbai (57 per cent) are not too far behind. Dominating possession has worked for Lobera’s side, who have netted a whopping 35 goals.
During the last meeting between the two sides, Ferrando had stated the pressure was on Mumbai to win the League Winners Shield. And having achieved that target, Lobera will aim to prove a lot more to his former employers.
“I love when others speak about Mumbai City as a favourite team since they are thinking we are better than them,” he said. “It’s good for us. I love this pressure but we need to prove ourselves on the pitch.”
Similar to Ferrando, Lobera too, wants his players to enjoy themselves rather than take on pressure.
“It’s a special game,” he added. “We need to be smart and ready to play 180 minutes and tomorrow is the first step. We are excited and I hope we enjoy (the challenge).
Mumbai will be without Amey Ranawade (suspended) while Hugo Boumous returns after a four-match ban. (ANI)

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Sharath Kamal loses in pre-quarters at WTT Contender Doha

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Doha [Qatar], March 4 (ANI): Indian paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal suffered a 6-11, 4-11, 8-11 defeat against World No. 7 Lin Yun-Ju of Chinese Taipei in the men’s singles pre-quarters of the World Table Tennis (WTT) Contender Doha on Thursday.
The World No. 32 Sharath, who was playing his first international tournament after a year’s break due to the coronavirus pandemic, couldn’t gain momentum despite showing good resistance in the latter part of the match against the higher-ranked Yun-Ju. With Sharath’s loss, the Indian challenge came to an end in the tournament.
Earlier, the other Indian Gnanasekaran Sathiyan, who also secured a direct entry into the main draw alongside 2006 Commonwealth Games champion Sharath, suffered 11-7, 11-4, 11-8 loss at the hands of World No. 20 Aruna Quadri in the Round-of-32.
Manika Batra and Sreeja Akula also lost their respective final qualifying round matches in the women’s singles category.
While Batra lost to World No. 69 Ganna Gaponova 5-11, 6-11, 14-12, 5-11, Akula, who had outclassed World No. 74 Vega Paulina of Chile in the earlier round, made her Russian opponent Mariia Tailkova work hard and almost got the momentum shifted in her favour with a come-from-behind 2-1 lead before losing the tie 9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 6-11, 5-11.
In the tournament, Harmeet Desai had also suffered an 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 8-11, 2-11 defeat against Russia’s Alexander Shibaev in the third-round match of the men’s singles qualifiers. Despite dominating the first two games, Desai couldn’t hold his nerves and conceded an unexpected loss. (ANI)

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Ind vs Eng, 4th Test: Hosts ‘completely’ out skilled visitors, admits Vaughan

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Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], March 4 (ANI): While Michael Vaughan had criticised the pitch in the pink-ball game, the former England skipper admitted that India outplayed the visitors on the opening day of the fourth and final Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday.
Spinners Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin spun a web over visitors as England was bundled out for 205 in the first innings. Vaughan praised the hosts and slammed a very “average” batting by England in the first innings on day one of the final Test.
“India today with the ball showed why they are so good in these conditions … Pitch did very little for 60 overs and they completely out-skilled & out-thought England … !! High class … England with the Bat were very very average,” Vaughan tweeted.
In reply to England’s 205, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara showed great application as India ended the opening day of the fourth and final Test in the driver’s seat despite losing opener Shubman Gill in the third session.
After a disappointing show with the bat, England got off to a flying start with the ball as James Anderson struck with the third ball of the innings. The pace spearhead trapped Gill (0) in front of the stumps as India lost a wicket with no run on the board.
But Rohit and Pujara ensured that was the end of the visitors’ joy on the day as they played out the remaining 11.3 overs without losing any wicket. (ANI)

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PSL postponement a loss for everyone, will fully investigate the matter: PCB CEO

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Karachi [Pakistan], March 4 (ANI): Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) CEO Wasim Khan has said the first step will be to fully investigate the matter and then to ensure that the loss occurred by the postponement of the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is minimised.
PCB on Thursday postponed the sixth season of PSL following a string of positive Covid-19 cases. Wasim said there will be talks with the Board of Governors (BoG) to understand how the inadequacy arose even when the PCB had conducted two successful series prior to PSL.
“The first step will be that we will fully investigate the matter but it’s not gonna be PCB staff who would do that. We will talk to BOG for investigation and will probably ask them what went wrong, where did we not deliver. When this situation arises everybody questions themselves so right now the time is to reflect on what went wrong. And also the time is to limit the damage as much as possible,” said Wasim in a virtual press conference.
Wasim said the PCB is looking for other dates for the showpiece event and is “hopeful” of finishing the tournament later this year. The PCB CEO also said living in a bio-bubble is all about building trust and it will take some time for the players to do that.
“We are looking for other windows and hopeful to finish the tournament later this year. Our priority is the safety of players. A biosecure bubble is all about trust and discipline,” said Wasim.
“Building trust will take some time but we will make sure this doesn’t happen again. Postponing PSL is a difficult moment for PCB and fans too but we are resilient to make PSL6 possible again,” he added.
Wasim also said the time is not right for playing the blame game as a collective effort is required to manage the situation inside the bio-bubble.
“This isn’t about blaming anybody but ultimately about Pakistan Cricket. This is a loss for everyone. This isn’t about a blame game, about who’s to blame,” said Wasim.
“This is a collective effort that we all had a responsibility to actually police and self-police that environment. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it effectively enough. Hence we find ourselves in this situation today,” he added.
The PCB, as an immediate step, will now focus on the safe and secure passage of all participants and arrange repeat PCR tests, vaccines, and isolation facilities to the six participating sides. (ANI)

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Bavuma to lead SA in limited-overs format, Elgar given charge of Test team

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Johannesburg [South Africa], March 4 (ANI): Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Thursday announced the appointments of Temba Bavuma and Dean Elgar as captains of the Proteas men’s team in the limited-overs and Test format respectively.
CSA said Bavuma will lead the Proteas in the 2021 and 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cups as well as the ICC Men’s World Cup in 2023. Elgar will take over the reins into the next cycle of the ICC World Test Championship.
CSA’s Director of Cricket (DoC), Graeme Smith, in a statement, said: “We are grateful to Quinton for the work he has put in as captain of the team in the limited-overs formats and are indebted to him for stepping up while the National Selection Panel continued its search for the Test captain. We expect him to still play an integral role in the team’s leadership group.
“We as CSA are pleased with the appointments of Temba and Dean and believe that we have the men who will lead the Proteas back to their winning ways of old. The pair bring the required stability in both leadership and form to turn the ship in the direction that will eventually bring trophies back to the cabinets.”
Praising Bavuma, Smith said the player has shown consistency on the field in all formats, solidifying his place as a leader. Smith is also confident that Elgar will bring the same grit and determination to his captaincy as he has brought to his many performances on the field over many years.
“Temba has been a strong and influential voice in the team in recent times and has shown consistency on the field in all formats, solidifying his place as a leader. He also has the trust and backing of the players and coaches around him. We are excited to have him lead the Proteas in the upcoming T20 World Cups as well as the 2023 World Cup in India. He will also be the Test team’s vice-captain, working closely with Dean to ensure continuity and stability in the squad,” Smith said.
“Dean has made no secret of his Test captaincy ambitions over the years and we are pleased to have a leader who is ready, willing and able to step up to the massive task of turning our Test cricket fortunes around. His role as a leader in the Test team has never been in doubt and I know that he relishes the prospect of captaining the Test team. We are confident that he will bring the same grit and determination to his captaincy as he has brought to his many performances on the field over many years,” he added.
Bavuma is honoured and delighted to lead the Proteas for the first time. He said: “Captaining the Proteas has been a dream of mine for many years as those closest to me would know. This is one of the greatest honours of my life so far and I am looking forward to picking up where Quinny (de Kock) has left off in leading the team into the new culture that we have developed and continue to work on.
“The responsibility of captaining one’s country is not one I take lightly, and I am looking forward to this new challenge and journey with Dean in the Test cricket format, as well as leading the team to not just one, but three ICC World Cups in the very near future.”
Elgar echoed Bavuma’s words in his statement, saying: “I’ve always said that to captain your country in any form of the game is the biggest honour that a player can be fortunate to receive. To captain my country’s Test team, which I believe to be the pinnacle of the game, is the biggest highlight of my career and I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent my country in such an important way.
“Temba and I know more than most the challenge that we have ahead of us in returning the Test squad back to its winning ways, but I know that we’re both more than ready for the task at hand. I’m looking forward to bringing stability back into the team and laying a solid foundation for us to be able to accomplish the ambitions we all have to see the Proteas go back to the world’s number one spot in all three formats.” (ANI)

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ISL 7: Our mentality has been our strength, says Mumbai City skipper Amrinder Singh

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Panaji (Goa) [India], March 4 (ANI): Mumbai City FC clinched the ISL League Winners Shield last week by topping the points table and Islanders’ skipper Amrinder Singh feels playing the tournament in the bio-secure bubble wasn’t easy but the mental strength of the players made it possible for the side to perform with utmost perfection.
Amrinder, who is also the goalkeeper, finished the league stage with as many as nine clean sheets and played a pivotal role in Mumbai City’s excellent performances this season.
Under Sergio Lobera, Amrinder and boys set a number of records on their way to the League Winners Shield, most notably registering the quickest-ever qualification to the playoffs in ISL history.
“Our mentality has been our strength this season. It hasn’t been easy living in the bio-secure bubble here, away from our families and playing without our fans. There were many tough moments in the season where we have had to fight together and show what we as a family are all about,” said Amrinder in a statement.
“We have plenty of leaders in this group, like Rowllin, Mandar, Bart, and many more. Having such figures alongside you in the dressing room really helps keep the focus where it should be. A lot of the younger boys in the team have also stepped up and shown their calibre and while they have looked up to the senior players in the squad, the seniors have also learnt a lot from them,” he added.
Mumbai City FC have also qualified for the group stages of the 2022 AFC Champions League, becoming only the second Indian club to achieve the feat.
Mumbai City also went on a 12-match unbeaten run, setting an all-time ISL record for the longest streak without defeat in a single campaign before the record was bettered later in the season by the Islanders’ next and semi-final opponents, FC Goa.
Having bagged the League Winners Shield and qualifying for the AFC Champions League, the Islanders’ custodian Amrinder said, “It’s a proud moment for every single person associated with Mumbai City, be it the squad, the staff or our incredible fans who have backed us in this difficult season from back home in Mumbai and across India.”
“Bringing home the first silverware in the club’s history and an opportunity to represent India in Asia is special and we’re delighted that our hard work throughout the season has shown,” he further said.
“I have been at Mumbai City for five seasons now and to be a part of this success with the club that is close to my heart is and always will be a special highlight of my life,” added an elated Amrinder.
The 27-year-old was quick to credit head coach Sergio Lobera, who Amrinder believes has been the key reason behind Mumbai City’s huge success this season.
“The coach Sergio Lobera laid down the marker right at the start of the season itself and told us we need to be ambitious. He’s an incredible coach and a guide to have and his success in India speaks for itself,” said Amrinder.
“With a short pre-season, it was a little challenging to adapt to a new philosophy with more than a few new players in the team but full credit to the coach to get us playing his style and his brand of beautiful football and you can see the results it has gotten us,” he added.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola recently congratulated Mumbai City for their success in the ISL this year.
Commenting on Guardiola’s praise, the Indian international ‘keeper expressed, “It’s special when someone as successful as Pep Guardiola takes notice and speaks about us. His words will only motivate us to go on and work harder and hopefully achieve more success together as a group. Now, our sights are firmly set on the semi-finals and the challenge it brings. We’re ready to put our best foot forward and hopefully, bring home our first ISL trophy.”
The ISL League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC will play their two-legged semi-finals against FC Goa on Friday and on March 8, at the Fatorda Stadium and at GMC Bambolim respectively. (ANI)

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