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Clouds of corona crisis hover over IPL

With prominent players like Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina withdrawing their names from Indian Premier League due to the Covid-19 scare, the fate of the tournament hangs in balance.

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Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, Batsman Suresh Raina

In the last week, three important developments related to the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 have raised several questions. These questions are directly connected with Covid-19. The first is Suresh Raina’s statement in which the cricketer raised a question over bio-bubble set up, saying that he was not feeling comfortable with this set up for IPL players. The second is seven players having withdrawn from the 13th edition of IPL T20 cricket tournament due to Covid-19 scare. And the third is the UAE’s government strictness in view of a spike in Covid-19 cases in Abu Dhabi, which is leading to several problems making the situation unfavorable for the IPL.  

The BCCI directed the franchise owners to follow the government guidelines more strictly. Can the BCCI be absolved of its responsibility after asking the franchises to follow the safety norms? Can the high-profile players of the IPL expected to follow the guidelines strictly? The situation in the UAE is that Suresh Raina was seen flouting the guidelines of social distancing by not wearing a mask along with his colleagues of Chennai Super Kings. That’s not all. Fast bowler Deepak Chahar, who has tested positive for Covid-19, has tweeted saying: “All have been tested negative bro two times and we don’t wear mask with family (CSK).” Deepak has tweeted this in reply to his brother Rahul’s tweet in which the latter had asked after seeing a picture: “Where is your mask bro? Social distancing?”

Now the question arises if the teams such as Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals can go to the UAE wearing PPE kits and follow the Covid-19 norms strictly there, why can’t other teams do like that? There, of course, are no high-profile players in Rajasthan Royals, but there are high-profile players in Mumbai Indians such as Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya. CSK team members’ picture which was clicked on the plane itself speaks volumes about flouting the social distancing norms. Around 12 support staff members of this team tested positive for Covid-19 and this raises questions on how the IPL tournament is being organised. What action will the BCCI or the organisers take against the players or the teams for flouting the safety norms? Is it possible practically? Nothing has been made clear about whether the team will follow the concurrent substitute rule if a player is found to be corona positive during the match. This issue has been raised by NCA director Rahul Dravid earlier. The bigger issue is whether the BCCI should appoint such personnel who would ensure strict observance of the corona norms by the players and there should be provisions to send the players to quarantine, who do not follow the corona guidelines.

 When Wimbledon can be stopped for the first time after World War II, and ICC T-20 World Cup and Olympics can be postponed for a year, then why are league tournaments like IPL and CPL being organised where safety norms cannot be followed strictly. In fact, the England team has played series against West Indies, Ireland and Pakistan, and it is now playing matches against Australia and everything is fine there. So, in view of this, it has been presumed that everything will be okay with other tournaments also.  

Actually, all the matches that were played in England after lockdown were bilateral series, where it was possible to ensure strict observance of all the norms. But it becomes challenging to ensure the same observance of rules and norms in the tournament where eight teams are playing and where franchine owners have invested huge amounts of money.

 In a significant development, England’s pacer Chris Woakes and opening batsman Jason Roy have opted out of Delhi Capitals. Similarly, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh have withdrawn from Chennai Super Kings, and England’s pace bowler Harry Gurney has opted out of KKR. Likewise, Australia’s fast bowler Ken Richardson and Sri Lankan’s speedster Lasith Malinga have withdrawn from RCB and Mumbai Indians respectively. The number of players leaving the tournament can go up as well. In the same manner, three key West Indian players had withdrawn their names when the team had left for England. Several of Pakistan’s players had also been found to be corona positive before the team’s departure for England. The message is that the conditions are not favourable for an ideal cricket. The precaution like ban on use of saliva and closed-door matches is no longer significant now. Another reality is that local administration in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has not yet given any assurance to the BCCI that they will relax their rules for the IPL players. The Covid-19 test has been made mandatory there. The IPL fixtures could not be released on time because at one point of time the IPL Governing Council was seriously considering to call off the Abu Dhabi leg of the IPL.     

 However, this is cricket’s fight against corona. Everybody is ready to enjoy the cricket. Let’s hope that a good solution to all the problems will be there in days to come. And, the cricket-lovers will have an opportunity to see a high-level game.

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Virat Kohli takes RCB to fourth place after win against GT

Royal Challengers still need Delhi Capitals, who have a superior net run rate than them, to lose their final league fixture to Mumbai Indians, to enter into playoffs.

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A blistering half-century by chase master Virat Kohli guided Royal Challengers Bangalore to a convincing 8 wickets win against table-toppers in their IPL 2022 match at Wankhede Stadium here on Thursday. With this victory in the must-win encounter, RCB leapfrogged Delhi Capitals for the fourth spot on the Indian Premier League 2022 table with 16 points against their name. Royal Challengers still need Delhi Capitals, who have a superior net run rate than them, to lose their final league fixture to Mumbai Indians, to enter into playoffs. Virat Kohli finally broke out of the funk, with 73 off 54 balls, his highest score this IPL.

Skipper Faf Du Plessis scored 44 off 38 balls while Glenn Maxwell finished with a quick 40 off 18 balls.

Batting first, a blistering half-century by Hardik Pandya and quick 34 by David Miller steered Gujarat Titans to a challenging 168/5 against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Pandya smashed 62 runs off 47 balls while Miller played a brilliant quick knock of 34 runs off 25 balls.

For RCB, Josh Hazlewood scalped two wickets while Wanindu Hasaranga settled for one. Chasing 169, RCB openers Virat Kohli and Faf Du Plessis enjoyed a good start as their score read 55/0 after the powerplay in the match.

The RCB duo continued with their carnage as their score read 93/0 at halfway mark in the chase. The 100-run partnership was up between Virat and Faf in the 12th over. Faf du Plessis simply rode in Kohli’s slipstream during a 115-run opening stand before holing out for 44 off 38 balls in the 15th over. Rashid also got rid of Kohli, in his next over, but the game was all but over by then.

Glenn Maxwell then came out all guns blazing and put up a show of his own as finished with 40 off 18 balls.

Earlier, opting to bat first, Gujarat Titans got off to a great start as openers Wriddhiman Saha and Shubman Gill trashed Siddarth Kaul for 14 runs in the first over of the innings. In the third over, Josh Hazlewood gave a big blow to GT as he dismissed star batter Shubman Gill when he had barely scored a run.

Glenn Maxwell gave another blow as he removed Matthew Wade with GT at 38. GT lost the third wicket at 62 as Wriddhiman Saha was sent to the pavilion.

David Miller then came to the crease and tried to anchor Gujarat’s innings with skipper Hardik Pandya.

Gujarat Titans were at 72/3 after ten overs as the Banglore bowlers kept a check on the flow of runs through tight bowling. Miller and Pandya took their team’s total beyond the 100-run mark in the 14th over as they trashed Maxwell for 18 runs.

As they hammered RCB bowlers, Siddarth Kaul came up with a tight 16th over which conceded only four runs.

The partnership between Miller and Pandya took GT to 118-3 after the 15th over. RCB heaved a sigh of relief as Wanindu Hasaranga removed Miller after he had scored 34 leaving GT at 123/4.

Rahul Tewatia then joined GT skipper to post a respectable total against RCB in the last three overs. But Tewatia could not do much as he was sent back to the pavilion by Hazlewood after scoring two runs.

Rashid Khan came to bat with the skipper. In the 19th over of the innings, Pandya brought up his half-century which came of 42 balls. In the last over, the batters thrashed Hazlewood for 17 runs to take GT’s total to 168/5 in 20 overs.

Brief scores: Gujarat Titans 168/5 (Hardik Pandya 62*, David Miller 34; Josh Hazlewood 2-39) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore 170/2 (Virat Kohli 73, Faf Du Plessis 44; Rashid Khan 2-32)

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ARCHERY WC: INDIAN MEN’S COMPOUND TEAM ENTER FINAL

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The Indian men’s compound team stunned the team from South Korea to reach the final at the Archery World Cup 2022 stage 2 in Gwangju on Wednesday.

The South Korean team looked on track for the top spot during early matchplay but their hopes were denied by the Indian trio of Abhishek Verma, Aman Saini and Rajat Chauhan in a tight semifinal decided by a tiebreak. They had already let India overcome a two-point deficit in the fourth end of regulation and then put down a 26 in the shoot-off, easily bested by India’s 29.

South Korea then returned to form for the bronze medal match, where the local heroes soundly ousted Denmark, 238-229. The Indian women’s compound team comprising Avneet Kaur, Muskan Kirar and Priya Gurjar, meanwhile, secured a bronze. Up against Turkey in the bronze medal playoff, the Indian trio overturned a late deficit to win a thriller 232-231 to claim a podium spot.

Indian men’s team will face France in Saturday’s final in what will be a replay of the gold medal match from the Stage 1 World Cup from last month. India won the contest 232-230 at the Turkey meet.

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Anderson, Broad back as England announce Test squad against NZ

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England have announced a 13-member squad for the first two Tests of their upcoming ICC World Test Championship assignment at home against New Zealand, starting June 2.

Yorkshire batter Harry Brook and Durham seamer Matthew Potts have been called up for the first time. Brook has been the standout batsman in Division one of the County Championship. The 23-year-old, who made his England T20 debut in January in the Caribbean, has scored 758 runs at an average of 151.60, including three centuries and four half-centuries for the white rose county during the summer campaign.

Twenty-three-year-old Potts has been in impressive form in the County Championship. He is the season’s leading bowler, with 35 wickets and four five-wicket hauls, including his most recent return of seven for 40 in Durham’s win over Glamorgan.

The veteran pace duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who had been left out of the previous squad travelling to West Indies, made a return to England’s Test side for the three-match series against the reigning World Test Championship winners.

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PAULO DYBALA GIVES HEARTFELT FAREWELL MESSAGE TO JUVENTUS FANS

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Paulo Dybala on Tuesday night gave a heartfelt farewell message to Juventus supporters in an emotional video on his social media accounts.

Dybala played his last match for Juve against Lazio on Monday. At 77 minutes in the match, after seven seasons for the Bianconeri, Paulo Dybala waved the Allianz Stadium goodbye. The number 10 made his way around the ground as he received the lap of honour. “I came here at 21, as the number I was carrying on my shoulders at that time. In these years, I have grown up as a footballer and as a man,” he said in a video posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

“They were wonderful years, full of joy, of work, goals and wins. Not always has it gone as we hoped or as we deserved. But we never gave up. Thanks to this team I have really figured out important goals. Here I found special team-mates and I always felt loved by fans, by people, by children and I will never forget this.”

“During this period, my responsibilities have grown and I have always tried to face them in the best way. We were together for seven years. Seven years of beautiful moments. And even some tough moments.”

“Our paths are parting today but I will always carry all of you with me in my heart. Because you gave me so much love, so much respect. I hope to have given you some ‘joya’. Thank you all,” he added.

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HEARTBREAK FOR KKR AS DE KOCK, MOHSIN SEAL LAST-BALL THRILLER FOR LSG

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A blistering century by Quinton de Kock and an attacking half-century by KL Rahul saw Lucknow Super Giants defeat Kolkata Knight Riders in a nerve-wracking IPL 2022 match by 2 runs at the Dr DY Patil Stadium here on Wednesday.

With this loss, KKR are out of IPL 2022 playoffs contention with 12 points against their name after all 14 league matches played. Lucknow climbed to the second spot with 18 points with its victory in the high-scoring match that had spectators on the edge of their seats. Lucknow Super Giants’ opening pair smashed several records as they remained unbeaten at the end of 20 overs with 210 runs on board. The duo scored the highest opening stand in IPL history. Quinton de Kock remained unbeaten with a swashbuckling 140.

KKR showed a lot of heart and courage in their chase as they clocked 208 runs after the 20 overs, just 3 runs short of the target. Shreyas Iyer smashed 50 while Nitish Rana and Rinku Singh played quick knocks of 42 and 40 respectively. For LSG, Moshin Khan and Marcus Stoinis scalped three wickets each.

Chasing 211, KKR had a decent start as their batters played aggressively to post 60 runs after the powerplay with the loss of two wickets.

Opener Venkatesh Iyer was the first to go back to the pavilion after Quinton De Kock took an absolute blinder of a catch off Mohsin Khan in the first over of the KKR’s innings.

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EPL: LIVERPOOL BEAT SOUTHAMPTON

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Liverpool made sure this thrilling Premier League title race will go to the final day after the Reds came from behind to seal a crucial 2-1 victory at Southampton on Tuesday night.

Knowing that defeat at St. Mary’s would lead to Manchester City being crowned 2021/22 champions, a Liverpool side showing nine changes from the team that won the FA Cup final on Saturday, went behind to a stunning Nathan Redmond goal. But they responded with goals from Takumi Minamino and Joel Matip to set up a grandstand finale to the season.

The race for the title is out of Liverpool’s hands, however, as City are one point ahead going into their last match at home to Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa.

If City match Liverpool’s result against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Anfield, they will become Premier League champions for the sixth time. But should City draw or lose and Liverpool win, the Reds will take the title for the second time in three years.

If City lose and Liverpool draw and both sides end up on the same number of points, the only way the title will return to Anfield is if there is a massive swing in goal difference.

The focus in the Premier League now turns to Thursday.

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