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BAI decides to hold domestic tournaments in April with revamped structure

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New Delhi [India], January 30 (ANI): The Badminton Association of India (BAI) on Saturday announced that the much-awaited domestic badminton action is set to begin from April this year.
BAI has decided to resume the senior ranking tournaments with the revamped structure. The decision was taken during BAI’s Executive Committee meeting on Saturday. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state unit members were connected virtually from all parts of India.
Having lost almost a year due to the pandemic, BAI, after discussing with the state units, has decided to initiate the domestic circuit with two senior ranking tournaments starting in April to announce the resumption of the sport in the country.
“It’s has been a tough time for our players as well as all the stakeholders associated with the game who had to sit out for such a long time. However, the arrival of the vaccine has brought new hope and confidence, and after deliberating and evaluating the tournament execution plans and the safety protocols, I can say, we are confident of the resumption,” BAI President Himanta Biswa Sarma said in an official release.
The revamped domestic structure promises to provide opportunities to budding shuttlers to showcase their talents. The senior ranking tournament will now be classified into three levels wherein level 3 will have 6 series tournaments in the year while level 2 will have 4 Super Series tournaments.
The Premier Super Series Tournament is bracketed as the level 1 tournament which will have two tournaments per year. The tournaments will also see lucrative prize money with level 1 being valued at 25 lakhs. Levels 2 and 3 will have 15 lakhs and 10 lakh prize money for the respective tier tournaments while 50 Lakhs for the senior nationals championships.
“While our focus was on the resumption of the sport, we ensured players’ safety remained as our top-most priority. Though the situation is getting better gradually in the country, we will not compromise on players’ health while conducting these tournaments. The new tournament structure and revised prize money will not only encourage and bring positivity in the ecosystem, but we also hope this structure will ensure more exposure to potential and new talents in the country,” BAI General Secretary Ajay Singhania said.
Both the tournaments, which will initiate the restart of badminton in the country, will be part of the level 3 tournaments and will be played with a draw of 64 in singles and 32 in doubles with hosts receiving 2 quotas in singles and 1 in doubles. There will be no restrictions in the number of qualification participation though 32 entries from singles and 16 from doubles will progress through the qualifiers.
The meeting also saw discussions about the upcoming India Open, scheduled in May, which is one of the prestigious tournaments in the badminton calendar and will also be the final qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics. To make the event a memorable one for players as well as spectators, BAI has been setting up a dazzling atmosphere at the revamped Indira Gandhi Stadium.
Alongside the resumption of tournaments, BAI has also decided to recommence all the national camps for senior and juniors shuttlers from April. The junior shuttlers, who are potential prospects for the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games and are part of the Junior Tops Scheme, will be included as part of this camp. These junior shuttlers will be training in the five BAI-SAI junior academies in Guwahati, Panchkula, Gopichand-SAI badminton Academy, PPBA-Bangalore, and Babu Banarsi Das Badminton Academy in Lucknow. The juniors’ training will be initiated in a phased manner. (ANI)

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Sevilla Sporting Director feels Messi will stay at Barcelona

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Sevilla FC Sporting Director Monchi on Friday said that he feels that Lionel Messi will “come to some sort of agreement” with Barcelona and will continue with the club.
Last year, Messi and Barcelona had a fallout after the striker had expressed his desire to leave the club. However, in the end, the Argentine stayed with the club as he did not want to settle matters in court.
But since then, there has been a lot of speculations regarding his future and he has been linked to various clubs, including Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and Manchester City.
“I think Messi is very important for the Spanish league, but I also think that the Spanish league has got the capacity to continue and be a competitive and interesting league despite the fact that Messi or other players will leave. As far as the question of whether Messi is going to stay or not, I am not 100 percent sure about that. But I think at the end of the day, this is my personal opinion, I think he will come to some sort of agreement and I think Messi will stay at Barcelona, this is my personal opinion,” Monchi said during a virtual press conference.
Sevilla suffered a 3-2 defeat against Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. Commenting on the same, Monchi said his team should forget about the first leg match and go into the second leg thinking that they need to win the game by two goals.
“I think we should forget the first leg and go to Dortmund, thinking it is just one match and we got to win it by two goals. We will consider it as a single match and it will start as 1-0 and we have to score two goals to win,” he said.
However, there is time for the second leg match and currently, Sevilla is gearing up for the match against Barcelona in the LaLiga, set to take place on Saturday.
“When you play against Barcelona, everyone is a threat because they are all very good players. If you are not playing at your 100 percent, Barcelona could win the match at any moment. We are talking about very top-level players. So, in matches like these, you have to be 100 percent in both, attacking and defending,” Monchi said.
Catch LaLiga action Live on Facebook Watch. (ANI)

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Strandja Memorial Tournament: Deepak stuns Olympic champion to enter final

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Indian boxer Deepak Kumar produced a scintillating performance to cause a major upset at the 72nd Strandja Memorial Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria as he defeated the reigning Olympic champion Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov in the men’s 52kg semi-final bout on Friday.
Showing great composure in the ring, the Asian Championship silver medallist Deepak produced one of the best performances of his career to clinch a thumping 4-1 win against the more fancied Zoirov, who had earlier clinched the 2019 World Championship title beating star Indian boxer Amit Panghal.
With this sensational victory, Deepak has secured a place in the final and will aim to clinch the gold medal.
Later on Friday, Naveen Boora will be seen in action during his 69kg last-four bout against Asian Games gold medallist Bobo-Usmon Baturov.
Earlier, Deepak had stormed into the men’s 52kg semi-finals with a dominating 5-0 win against local boy Darislav Vasilev on the fourth day in Sofia, Bulgaria.
With this win, Deepak became the second Indian after Naveen Boora (69kg) to seal a spot in the semi-finals of the on-going tournament and also assured a second medal for the country.
Meanwhile, Indian women boxers Jyoti Gulia (51kg) and Bhagyabati Kachari (75kg) suffered 5-0 defeats in their quarter-final bouts.
Gulia lost to Romanian boxer Lacramioara Perijoc, Kachari also went down against the world championship bronze medallist Naomi Graham of USA. Manjeet Singh also lost his +91kg quarter-final bout against Armenia’s Gurgen Hovhannisyan. (ANI)

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Ind vs Eng: Expected pitch to hold on a little longer than it did, says Silverwood

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Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], February 26 (ANI): England head coach Chris Silverwood on Friday said that his side expected the pitch in the third Test against India to hold on a little longer than it did at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
India had managed to defeat England within two days in the pink-ball Test. The match saw both India and England batsmen failing to shine and getting out to balls that didn’t turn and skidded through from the spinners.
“First and foremost, it’s just a follow-up from what Joe Root said yesterday, he got 5/8 yesterday but at the same time, whatever the pitch did or it didn’t do, India ultimately played better than us on that surface, probably they pushed us to the extremes which our players haven’t experienced before,” said Silverwood in a virtual press conference on Friday.
When asked about whether England would be talking to the ICC about the pitch used in the third Test, Silverwood replied: “Listen, we will be talking about certain things behind the scenes. But at the same time, we were really disappointed that we lost with three days of cricket left. We are where we are, from my point of view, it’s about heading into the next game and coming out fighting.”
“We have spoken to Javagal (match referee), but it was not about the pitch. I think Joe and I need to have discussions about it really and see where we go from there. We have to accept that we need to get better on these pitches. You look at the first innings, we had an opportunity to score runs and make the best use of the pitch,” he added.
England had opted to go in with just one spinner — Jack Leach — in the third Test. Root, who is normally a part-timer, picked his maiden fifer and Silverwood cited this performance to say that the visitors did not make a mistake in team selection.
“Joe Root got 5/8 so the second spinner did fine for us. We did expect the wicket to hold up a little longer than it did. Looking back in history in pink-ball Tests, the ball swung for us, Jimmy and all got movement during practice. With the experience we had and having two of our bowlers in the top ten in the rankings, we felt with this pink ball, it would have been an opportunity for seamers to make an impact for us.
“It’s not that we did not think about it, there was logic, we had a look at the stats and how we can use pink ball the best. Root works very hard on his bowling, I am always saying to him that he always under bowls himself. But Joe being Joe, he had to do it this time and he got 5/8,” Silverwood said.
When asked about what type of pitch he would like in the fourth Test, Silverwood said: “I would like the pitch in the fourth Test to be a fit flatter, it would suit our gameplan. Yeah, I would like it to be flatter, but we will see what the wicket looks like in the coming days and we will take it from there really.”
After both teams failed to shine in their first innings, England was bowled out for 81 in the second essay, setting India a target of just 49. The hosts chased down the total with ten wickets in hand to go 2-1 up in the series. There has been a lot of debate around the pitch once again, but India batsman Rohit Sharma clarified that he did not think the pitch had any demons.
Even skipper Virat Kohli was vocal about the dreadful batting display from the two teams. Kohli said the quality of batting was to be blamed as most of the batsmen got out to balls that didn’t turn. (ANI)

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Ind vs Eng, 3rd Test: Cook says pitch was ‘so hard’ to bat on

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New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): Former England skipper Alastair Cook said that the pitch for the third Test between India and England was hard to bat on and while many balls went straight, others were “turning miles”.
The third Test between India and England finished within two days as the hosts registered a 10-wicket win. Many former players had criticised the pitch, but Virat Kohli had stressed that the quality of batting was to be blamed for as both teams failed to score big runs.
However, Cook begged to differ from the Indian skipper. “We saw a stat that says this pitch has spun more than any other pitch in India. There’s been so many other balls that have gone straight on as well. So that means when it is turning, it is turning miles. When you see the highlights and the ball skidding on you, we don’t see the build-up: when the exact same ball is spinning miles,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Cook as saying on Channel 4.
“Virat Kohli’s come out and defended the wicket almost as if it’s a BCCI thing — it cannot possibly be the wicket. Yet it was so hard to bat on that today. So hard. Take the wicket out and blame the batsmen? We’ve got Virat Kohli, Joe Root, we have some great players of spin. Yes, we’ve got some people who have got to learn to play spin better, but we have got great players of spin also struggling. To me, it’d be great to have that game with the red ball to see the difference when the ball is skidding on. Today trying to play properly, it was nigh-on impossible,” he added.
Agreeing with Cook, former skipper Andrew Strauss said Kohli was looking after the groundsmen to a certain degree.
“Look at Joe Root for a moment. We know he is a great player of spin. He is in great form as well. What did he get — 19 today? Might have been out two or three times en route to getting that score. And by the way, that’s day two of a Test match. To say the pitch has no fault to play, I totally agree with Cooky. Kohli’s looking after the groundsmen there to a certain degree,” he said.
Both Strauss and Cook are experts for Channel 4 — the India-England series broadcaster in the UK.
During the third Test, spinners dominated the game. Axar Patel finished with 11 wickets in the game (six in the first innings and five in the second). Senior partner R Ashwin wasn’t to be left too far behind as he picked four wickets to finish with 7 in the game.
Moreover, during India’s first innings, James Anderson and Stuart Broad failed to scalp even a single wicket, whereas, skipper Joe Root picked five wickets in the innings. (ANI)

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Europa League: Manchester United to clash against AC Mila in round-of-16

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Zurich [Switzerland], February 26 (ANI): Manchester United will be clashing against AC Milan in the round-of-16 tie of the UEFA Europa League, the organisers confirmed on Friday.
The draw for round-of-16 fixtures of the Europa League was revealed on Friday. Olympiacos will clash against Arsenal while Tottenham Hotspur will square off against Dinamo Zagreb.
Granada and Molde will take on each other while Slavia Praha will face off against the Rangers in the round-of-16 fixtures. Ajax will square off against Young Boys while Dynamo Kyiv will take on Villarreal.
Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk will take on each other in the round-of-16 fixture.
The first legs are scheduled for Thursday, March 11, with the second legs set to be played on Thursday, March 18.
If ties are level after 180 minutes they are decided on away goals, first and foremost. If teams still can’t be separated, it will go into extra time.
If both teams score the same number of goals during the 30 additional minutes, away goals count double. If there are no further goals in extra time, the tie goes to a penalty shoot-out (alternate takers). (ANI)

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ISL 7: East Bengal, Odisha look to bow out on a high

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Panaji (Goa) [India], February 26 (ANI): Both SC East Bengal and Odisha FC will look to end their Indian Super League (ISL) season on a high when they face each other at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim, here on Saturday.
Neither team has had campaigns to write home about. While Odisha lies at the very bottom of the table, East Bengal hasn’t fared much better and is ninth. However, ending the season with a convincing win could give some relief to both sets of long-suffering supporters.
Robbie Fowler’s side was always pegged down by the inability of their forwards to convert possession into goals. Bright Enobakhare remains the only one of their strikers to have netted this season and SCEB lies at the very bottom of the goals scored list. The club was also let down by the failure of their Indian forwards. Despite boasting big names like Jeje Lalpekhlua, CK Vineeth, and Balwant Singh, Fowler managed to get zero shots on target from the trio.
Odisha has had similar woes throughout the season. Except for Diego Mauricio, no other player stepped up in the goalscoring department. Mauricio was responsible for 57 percent of the goals that his team scored all season. Odisha coach Steven Dias though believes that his team will learn from their mistakes and come back stronger in the next season.
“When you have a bad season there is always good to learn so many things out of this bad season. That’s what we are all doing. This season isn’t that good for us but there are so many things to learn from this season so we can get better next season,” he said.
Odisha’s winless run now stands at ten games and they have also lost the most games and kept the least clean sheets. But despite the match featuring two teams who have nothing to play for but pride, Dias feels that both sets of players will not be short of motivation.
“They also didn’t have a good season like us,” Dias said. “I think they will also come to win this match, we also want to win this match so we can end on a better note. I am trying to keep the boys motivated in training sessions, in the meetings. They look ready, we are ready. Hopefully, it’s going to be a very good match because both teams will look for a win to end on a good note. We will give our best.” (ANI)

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