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Chelsea’s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid to take place in Bucharest

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London [UK], February 10 (ANI): The venue for Chelsea’s Champions League game against Atletico Madrid has been changed and now the match will take place at Arena Nationala in Bucharest, UEFA announced on Wednesday.
Earlier, the match was scheduled to be played at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.
“UEFA is able to officially confirm that the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Chelsea FC will now be played at the Arena Nationala in Bucharest. The date of the match (23 February 2021) and the kick-off time (21:00 CET) will remain the same,” UEFA said in a statement.
“UEFA would like to express its gratitude to Club Atletico de Madrid and Chelsea FC for their support and close cooperation, as well as the Romanian Football Federation for their assistance and agreeing to stage the match,” it added.
Atletico Madrid also made an announcement regarding the development and added that the venue was changed due to the Spanish Government’s restrictions on entry into Spain, which currently do not allow the arrival of flights from the United Kingdom with non-resident and non-national passengers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our Champions League last 16 first leg fixture against Chelsea FC, which was originally scheduled to be played at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 9pm CET, will finally take place at the Arena Nationala stadium in Bucharest. Our club has agreed the change of venue – date and time remained unchanged – with UEFA, forced by the Spanish Government’s restrictions on entry into Spain, which currently do not allow the arrival of flights from the United Kingdom with non-resident and non-national passengers,” the club said in a statement.
“Given the impossibility for the English team to travel to Spain, Atletico de Madrid has been looking for alternatives during the last few days, taking into account factors such as access to the country, availability of facilities, stadiums and the situation of the pandemic. It has been agreed with UEFA that the venue for the Champions League Last 16 first leg will be the Arena Nationala in Bucharest,” the statement added. (ANI)

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Pitch debate: Rank turner the issue or inability of modern batsmen to play on spinning tracks

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By Vishesh Roy
New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): When the four-match series between India and England started, cricket fans were expecting to be enthralled by the quality of cricket on display. While the contests have been entertaining, the pitches on offer have also hogged quite a bit of limelight.
If comments were made by critics during the second Test in Chennai, things have taken an altogether different turn after the third Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad ended in two days.
The Virat Kohli-led side defeated England comprehensively — by ten wickets — in the third Test which was played with the pink ball. However, many cricket pundits have questioned the quality of pitch on the show. Former India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh went on to say that if these types of wickets were created when Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were playing, they would have finished with 1000 and 800 wickets respectively.
But one cannot forget the spell from Australia batsman Michael Clarke when he picked six wickets while giving away just nine runs at the Mumbai Test in 2004. Murali Kartik and Harbhajan returned the favour as they picked 8 wickets to see Australia bundle out for 93. So are these type of wickets really new?
Most of the former English cricketers like Alistair Cook, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss have questioned India’s need to produce such rank turners. But again the question remains if rank turners really reduce the contest between bat and ball or is it the batsmen who are losing their ability to play the turning ball and making spinning tracks look unplayable?
If green tops require a certain skill set, then the rank-turners also require the same. Which ball turns and which one goes straight is a simple question in cricketing books and all the batters prepare for it from the very start when they go to coaching schools or academies. But it is about putting those hours of training into play at the crease.
When playing on turning tracks, batters are required to be confident about their footwork. But looking at all the dismissals in the third Test, most of them saw batters in two minds on whether they should stay on the frontfoot or go back to the balls which mostly skidded through after pitching.
This is a fact that even Sunil Gavaskar spoke about during his commentary stint. Most of the English batsmen were caught pressing forward and as a result, they were either bowled or caught plumb in front of the wicket.
When one looks at the third Test once again, they will notice that only a handful of the deliveries were turning sharply and there was nothing that kicked up at an alarming rate. The pitch also did not offer invariable bounce and the batters were able to leave the ball on length.
If anything, the pink-ball has extra lacquer on it, and that may have made the ball skid on more. And this is a point which was highlighted by Rohit Sharma and Joe Root after the third Test came to an end.
These types of challenging wickets do require batters to think on their feet and as former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin suggested, the batsmen can look to play with rubber soles on dry-turning wickets rather than wearing spikes.
One needs to ask why does it seem like the world comes to an end when there is a little bit of assistance for the spinners from day one of a Test match? Nothing in the rule book restricts the degree of turn that a pitch is allowed to take. But no sooner does a sub-continent wicket take a bit of turn, eyebrows are raised — mostly unnecessary.
England skipper Joe Root did not openly criticise the pitch, but he did say: “If I am getting a fifer, it pretty much sums up the pitch.”
One doesn’t need to be a genius to read between the lines and understand what Root truly opines about the pitch. But credit to the current England management that none have come out openly to use the pitch as an excuse for the loss.
Kohli suggested that the batting from both sides was not up to the mark in the third Test and he went on to give a clean chit to the 22 yards on offer. It is safe to say that Kohli is not entirely wrong.
Even, Rohit Sharma suggested that the pitch was good to bat on and there were no demons. The right-handed opener hit 66 runs in the first innings and he did not look in any sort of trouble in the second as he smashed boundaries at will to take India home in style while chasing 49.
In fact, England opening batsman Zak Crawley also scored a fifty in the first innings and he looked quite comfortable at the crease. Man of the Match Axar Patel has made it clear that he wouldn’t mind the same wicket for the fourth Test.
Now, it would be interesting to see what type of pitch is on offer in the fourth Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium. The ICC rule book clearly states that a pitch can be deemed ‘poor’ if the match referee decides that the pitch is offering excessive turn from day one of a Test and the contest between bat and ball is not fair. But as Virat Kohli pointed out, 21 of the 30 wickets fell to straight deliveries in the day-night Test. (ANI)

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ISL 7: The players work very hard, deserve to be in playoffs, says NEUFC coach Jamil

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Vasco (Goa) [India], February 27 (ANI): NorthEast United FC interim head coach Khalid Jamil heaped praise on his players after the Highlanders sealed the playoff berth in the Indian Super League (ISL). NorthEast United FC qualified for the ISL playoffs after a 2-0 win against Kerala Blasters FC at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco on Friday.
NorthEast United has been unbeaten in the last eight games and Jamil credited his players for the team’s success in the ongoing seventh season of ISL.
“The players deserve to be [in the playoffs]. They worked very hard and because of the players, we have got this result, that’s 100 per cent sure,” said Khalid at the post-match press conference
“I don’t have to tell them anything, they are just playing according to some plan that we put [in place] but inside the ground, they are there [making things happen], which is the main thing to do,” he added.
Needing just a point to qualify for their second-ever playoffs, the Highlanders came out all guns blazing. They gained an advantage in the first half through goals from Suhair Vadakkepeedika (34′) and Lalengmawia (45′) and then kept the Kerala Blasters at bay.
Jamil showered praises on both the goal scorers and termed Lalengmawia as one of the best footballers India has ever produced.
“Very outstanding goal. On Lalengmawia, we don’t have to say anything on him, he’s one of the best players that we have in India and I feel very happy to see his goal, he scored a wonderful goal and is a talented player, no doubt,” Jamil said.
“If I had one word for Suhair, it is that he’s a team-man and always works for the team. That’s why he’s always in the starting XI because he works for the team. Defensively he helps, in attack he’s there and in set-pieces also. He’s a very nice and humble man, I know him from earlier, he has that quality,” he added.
The interim NorthEast United FC head coach also provided an update on Federico Gallego’s fitness who came off the bench in the second half.
“He wasn’t fit and practised just one day before the match. So, we thought we could use him for maybe for a half or for the last 30 minutes because he wasn’t 100 per cent fit. Now I’m really happy to see him, he’s back so it’s good for us,” Jamil said. (ANI)

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Europe tour will enable us to plan our months leading up to the Olympics: Sreejesh

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Krefeld [Germany], February 27 (ANI): Indian men’s hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh feels the four-match tour to Europe scheduled to begin on Sunday will help the side to chalk out the plans for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. The Indian team, ranked No. 4 in the world, will play their first competitive match after a gap of one year when they lock horns with Germany.
“These matches against Germany and Great Britain are super important for our preparations. It is an opportunity to test ourselves tactically, physically and mentally. We are very lucky to be able to play against quality teams, despite the ongoing pandemic. This outing will help us set the parameter and enable us to plan our months leading up to the Olympics,” said Sreejesh in a Hockey India release.
Ahead of the game, the ace Indian goalkeeper expressed excitement to take the field as the team gets into the groove for the upcoming challenge.
“The entire team is very excited and eager to get on with the first match. It’s been more than a year since we played a competitive match, and we are prepared for the challenge,” said Sreejesh, who is also the skipper for the tour.
“It’s been about five days since we arrived in Krefeld and the weather too has not been too cold. It was about 16-18 degrees when we practiced yesterday, and we are quite comfortable playing in this weather,” he added.
India last played in the FIH Hockey Pro League held in January and February last year where the team took on the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia on home ground in Bhubaneswar.
“Not playing competitive matches in over a year has been very difficult, mostly mentally than physically. But the coaching staff ensured the sessions during the national camp were planned in such a way that it would excite us players and they tried to create an environment of competition in the group. Though we played a lot of matches internally over the past few months in SAI, the next few weeks in Europe will show exactly where we are at in terms of performance,” Sreejesh said.
In the context of playing Germany, Sreejesh said, “We have watched this team closely, analyzed their game and replicated how we must play against them during the past few weeks in camp. They play man-to-man and our style of play will be slightly tweaked in order to succeed against them. The whole idea is to implement what we have been doing in camp these past few months and the focus will be on ourselves.”
Speaking about the challenges of playing in a bio-bubble, Sreejesh said, “There are no challenges in this regard. We are very used to being in a bio-bubble and also understand very well that the pandemic is still not over, and we need to be responsible.”
The team will kickstart proceedings on Sunday at 1730hrs IST. (ANI)

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ISL 7: NorthEast United defended really well, says Kerala Blasters coach

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Vasco (Goa) [India], February 27 (ANI): Kerala Blasters FC interim head coach Ishfaq Ahmed didn’t shy away from praising the strong defence of NorthEast United FC after his side ended the season with a defeat.
NorthEast United sealed their playoff berth following their 2-0 win over Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Tilak Maidan, on Friday.
Though NorthEast was clearly the better side in the first session, Kerala Blasters did have their chances. But the Highlanders’ defense stood strong.
Ishfaq praised Highlanders’ midfielder Khassa Camara and expressed disappointment on ending the season on a losing note.
“The players wanted to sign off with a good feeling. But we have to give credit to NorthEast also, they defended really well, I thought their defensive midfielder Khassa Camara was amazing,” said Ishfaq at the post-match press conference.
The interim coach also pointed out how Kerala Blasters have been conceding goals right after the water breaks. Ishfaq said the lack of concentration during the match is one of the reasons the Kerala-based club has not been able to win games.
“We conceded immediately after the water break but that has been our story [this season]. Not just water breaks but even when we’ve been playing good football, one [moment of] lack of concentration or not paying attention to small details and we concede,” said Ishfaq.
“We were dominating in the [first half] and we created two good chances from set-pieces. [Bakary] Kone missed a clear goal and then the water break happened and we switched off for a second and conceded the goal,” he added. (ANI)

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Sports Ministry restores recognition of Gymnastics Federation of India

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New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has decided to restore the recognition of the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) as a National Sports Federation (NSF).
In a letter to the GFI president, the Sports Ministry mentioned that the elections of two office bearers — Sudhir Mittal (President) and Kaushik Bidiwala (Treasurer) — for the term 2019- 2023 have been taken on record of the Ministry.
The letter also mentioned that the decision on the acceptance of the election of S Shanti Kumar Singh as general secretary will be taken after Manipur High Court’s judgment in the writ petition filed by S Shanti Kumar Singh. Further, the election of Parmeshwar Prajapat as executive Member will be accepted by the Department subject to verification of NOC and other facts from his employer.
“Upon consideration of the entire matter. it has also been decided to restore the recognition of GFI with immediate effect, upto 31.12.2021,” the letter read in order to promote and development of sports of gymnastics in the country.
“It has been noticed that constitution, MoA of the GFI needs to be aligned with the provisions of the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011 (Sports Code) Accordingly, the Federation is required to make categorical affirmation of the provisions of the Sports Code in its constitution withal 6 months so as to bring the same fully in line with the Sports Code,” it added.
The Sports Ministry said the office bearers of the federation shall invariably be appointed by election as per the Model Election Guidelines issued by the Ministry.
The GFI shall also give at least two months advance notice to the Government for any change in its constitution and a copy of the proposed changes should be sent along with the notice.
The Sports Ministry also warned that the recognition may be withdrawn if any of the terms and conditions of the recognitions are violated or its own constitution is violated. (ANI)

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Ind vs Eng: Chris Woakes flies home from Test tour

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Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], February 27 (ANI): All-rounder Chris Woakes will not be available for selection in the playing XI for the fourth and final Test between England and India as he has left the tour for his pre-planned break.
According to a report in ESPNcricinfo, Woakes left England’s bio-secure bubble on Thursday to fly back home.
The 31-year-old cricketer named in England squad for South Africa, Sri Lanka, and India series but wasn’t picked in the playing XI in any of the tours.
Jos Buttler played the first Test and then he was back home while all-rounder Moeen Ali did the same after playing the second game.
Earlier Jonny Bairstow was rested for the first two Tests while premier pacer James Anderson missed the second game even after England emerged victorious in the opening game.
This is all a part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) rotation policy. And now Woakes has returned home to be with his wife two young daughters.
In the third Test, India defeated England within two days to seal the pink-ball game quite comprehensively. 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.
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.
“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.
Meanwhile, England, who are now 2-1 down in the four-match series, are out of the race for a place in the final of the ICC World Test Championship.
England has dropped to 64.1 percentage points on the points table, which is now led by India with 71 percentage points. New Zealand is assured of a place in the final with 70 percentage points.
India needs to either win or draw the last Test to stay ahead of Australia, who are in third place with 69.2 percentage points. (ANI)

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