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Contact sports will have issues post Covid: Azhar

Vineet Malhotra

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Azhar
Contact sports will have issues post Covid: Azhar

Former Team India captain Mohammad Azharuddin spoke to The Daily Guardian on battling coronavirus and if the pandemic will change the nature of sports.

Q: How has lockdown been for you?

A: We have to help ourselves and each other. Humanity comes into play at this time.

Q: How are you still so fit?

A: Health is of prime importance. That’s why there is a lockdown now. Fitness is a lifelong activity. The body requires exercise; it behaves the way you want it to. It depends on the kind of way you want to run your body.

Q: What are your thoughts on the efficiency of the lockdown that is being observed throughout India?

A: India has done well. We implemented lockdown in time. If we do well as citizens and follow the guidelines led down by the government, I believe we will get through. The vaccine has not come yet, and we need to take these precautions as of now. In older times, our elders would always say “jeete raho”, because health is very important. If we are healthy we can serve humanity.

Q: We lost two eminent Bollywood personalities this week, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor. How do you feel about the news of their demise?

A: Both were the pivotal figures in the history of Indian cinema. I knew both of them quite well. Irrfan came in my support during my first rally in Moradabad as MP. Very sad they are not with us anymore. When we were in Mumbai, Rishiji used to come to the same gym and we used to interact with each other. He was fond of my son Abbas. May almighty bless them.

Q: How difficult is this a time for people in power and position?

A: The most important thing is to work in tandem. Nobody should have an ego problem. Our sole and common cause right now is to defeat the virus. The more we can help the country in defeating the virus, the better.

Q: What’s your message to sports fans not being able to watch matches?

A: Depends on how you spend time. Varies from different individuals. Fitness people should take up.

Q: Fitness on the field will be missed. Is that a problem when sportsmen are back in action?

A: No matter how talented the player is, you can do all the fitness you want at home but nothing matches up to match practices. Need expert advice on whether or not matches can be played in months to come.

Q: Can we expect some sort of resumption in cricketing/sporting activity?

A: At the end of the day, testing of only players won’t matter, interaction with people at the hotel needs to be taken into profound consideration. When the plan is put into action, that is when you realize how efficacious it is.

Q: What kind of systematic initiation should cricketing go through if it is to be resumed?

A: Difficult to say anything right now. We need expert advice. We can’t start the game if the problem persists. We need to be 100% sure before kicking off anything.

Q: What’s your advice to sportsmen who are frustrated because they are right now not being able to play?

A: Nobody can help the situation right now; we need to train our mind to understand that. It’s a good time to recover from injuries. Stay positive, assess the situation, and then move forward. Moreover, this is not the problem faced by cricketers alone, entire humanity is on the guards.

Q: Any new skills you’ve picked up…

A: A lot of things are on my plate. I have injuries, so I am avoiding them, for now, I’m doing weight training. Trying different types of fitness.

Q: How did you manage to keep sixpack abs even?

A: If you want to achieve something, you have to go for it. Have a strict exercise and diet regime. I have been happy and fortunate that I have access to things and thankful for health and happiness. Hard work is the key.

Q: How will Covid-9 change the way we function?

A: Unless the vaccine comes out, there’s going to be the maintenance of social distancing, washing hands, etc. In offices, changes will have to be made concerning social distancing.

Q: Will this harm the sports industry’s future?

A: Contact sports will be dicey with regard to social distancing. For example, tennis won’t have that problem, tennis players play a couple of feet apart.

Q. Any message to your fans?

A: People need to be patient. And people need to realize that life and health are more important.

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Favourites RCB to take on ‘upset’ KXIP in a cliffhanger

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Kings XI Punjab will hope to put behind the infamous “short-run” decision in their IPL opener and start afresh against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai on Thursday. During the 19th over of KXIP’s innings when Mayank Agarwal and Chris Jordan were batting, in a match against Delhi Capitals, the square leg umpire adjudged that a second run taken by England’s Jordan was not complete. Replays showed Jordan’s bat had crossed the line, however the erroneous decision cost KXIP the closely fought game.

On the contrary, RCB opened their campaign with confidence defeating Sunrisers Hyderabad and raising hopes that things might finally fall into place for Kohli’s 11 this season. Debutant Devdutt Padikkal also embarked upon his IPL career on a flamboyant note hitting a much needed half-century.

Speaking about IPL’s Mr. 360, AB de Villiers, all the eyes, with furtive acuity, are focused on
him, as the veteran South African hard-hitter is in a classy touch. 

Besides, Aaron Finch, the Aussie-in-form would be eyeing score some quick runs for his team, leaving the space for the robust middle order to ferry the ship forward. Although RCB’s bowling department— which includes ace bowlers Dale Steyn and the talismanic leggie Yuzavendra Chahal— looks in a decent rhythm, the hole-in-the-boat is the striker Umesh Yadav, who continues to leak runs in the IPL and
might probably be replaced by Mohammad Siraj.

Mayank Agarwal, who looked in imperious touch but was gutted to not be able to get his team over the
line with just one run required to win, would be under the broad spotlight. Rahul, Glenn Maxwell and Nicholas Pooran will be expected to do a fine hitting, and Mohammed Shami, who proved his high worth in the team’s opener, would step forward and defend the score. Young leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, having impressed against Delhi Capitals, would likely dart on the pitch with uncanny confidence.

In bowling department, in-form pacer Mohammed Shami will once again try to replicate his previous performances where he had returned with impressive figures of 3/15.

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French Open: Ankita enters 2nd round, Andreescu pulls out

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World number seven Bianca Andreescu has pulled out of the upcoming French Open Grand Slam and will take the rest of the season off to focus on her health and training.

“I have come to the difficult decision to skip the clay court swing this year and will be taking the remainder of the season off to focus on my health and training,” the Canadian said in a statement on Tuesday.

India’s Ankita Raina earned a hard-fought win against Jovana Jovic of Serbia to progress to the second round of the French Open qualifiers.

On Tuesday, Ankita defeated Jovana 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in match that lasted two hours and 47 minutes. The 27-year-old will next take on Japan’s Kurumi Nara, seeded 22nd.

Ankita, who is India’s top- ranked woman tennis player, has not gone beyond the second round at the Grand Slam qualifiers and she would need to win two more matches to make it to the main draw of the clay court grand slam.

Earlier on Monday, Prajnesh Gunneswaran had gone past Turkey’s Cem Ilkel to advance to the second round of the men’s singles qualifying event. Prajnesh had defeated Ilkel 6-3, 6-1 after losing his service early in his opening round of the qualifier.

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Brazilian govt approves return of fans to stadiums

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Amid the pandemic, the entire sporting world came to an unprecedented halt. However, sporting activities were resumed behind the closed doors, without audiences, Football fans in Brazil could soon return to stadiums on a limited basis, the South American country’s health ministry has said.

In a statement, the ministry on Tuesday said it approved a proposal allowing stadiums to operate at up to 30 per cent of their capacity, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The opening must occur through protocols to be established with the main objective of ensuring the health and well-being of all,” it said.

Stadium operators and local authorities would decide which protocols to adopt for their respective venues, the statement added.

No time frame was given for stadiums to reopen their doors but media reports said the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) would discuss the decision with clubs before going ahead with the plan.

The move also requires the approval of respective state and municipal authorities. Some clubs and local governments have already expressed their opposition to the proposal, citing the continued high coronavirus infection rate.

Brazil has the world’s second-highest Covid-19 death toll behind US. Fans have been barred from entering stadiums in Brazil since mid-March, when all football competitions in the country were suspended amid the escalating health crisis.

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Sanju Samson now deserves a Team India break

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Some players are quite lucky. They continue to get the benefit of just a couple of good performances for a long time. But there are some who remain marginalised and unnoticed despite giving good performances for a long time. Rishabh Pant belongs to the first category, while Sanju Samson falls in the second one. Sanju deserves the chance in Team India by virtue of having tremendous potential and capabilities.

Sharjah is remembered either for India-Pakistan cricket clashes of 1980s or for two stormy innings of Sachin Tendulkar in Coca-Cola Cup. Sanju Samson performed such a stormy batting that M.S. Dhoni’s CSK got demolished at Sharjah stadium in his first match of IPL’s 13th season. He played an innings of 74 runs off 34 balls which included one four and nine sixes. Samson smashed Piyush Chawla, the same leg-spinner, who had scripted the victory of CSK against Mumbai Indians by virtue of his superb bowling performance. He smashed leg-spinner Piyush Chawla for three sixes in one over and another in the other over. Similarly, Sanju Samson hit three sixes off Ravindra Jadeja, and one each off Sam Curran and Deepak Chahar.

They are all international level players whom Sanju played easily through powerhits. He partnered with skipper Steve Smith at the rate of over 200 and paved the way for Rajasthan Royals’ victory. His outstanding speciality was clean hitting with full timing. His sixes with pull, straight and over the cover shots were delight to see. That is not all, Sanju took two catches and stumped two players and became a hero of the match. Seeing this performance, Rishabh Pant was trolled on Twitter. “The BCCI put Rishabh Pant over Sanju while the latter is more talented than the former!”In other words, Sanju is the youngest player to have completed 1,000 runs in IPL. Whether it is the captaincy of Kerala Ranji team or hitting century in IPL and Champions League, he has been the youngest player to have done so. He was the first keeper-batsman to have made a double century in Vijay Hazare Trophy (One Day). Even the fastest double century of List A cricket goes to his credit.

It was not his first flamboyant and fiery innings in IPL. Last year, he had hit his second century off just 55 balls in IPL. In the same match, Sanju had scored 24 runs in one over of Bhuvaneshwar, hitting four fours, one six and two runs. If a batsman has the capacity to blast Team India’s bowlers like this, then his every innings matters. Last year, he got the reputation of being the youngest cricketer to have completed 2,000 runs in IPL. How can we forget the Champion League match that took place a few years ago when Sanju after catching Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard behind the stumps also performed superbly before the stumps too and hit a fifty. Similarly, his innings of 60 runs off 33 balls in the final of Champions Leagues against Mumbai Indians is a memorable one.

Listing the achievements of Sanju does not mean that it is in any manner an attempt to show Rishabh Pant in poor light. Rishabh is also a talented player but now nobody will make a mistake of blindly considering him as a successor of Dhoni. The problem with Rishabh is that of his psychological condition. His performance in IPL was worthy of attention. But at the international level, his two Test centuries against England and Australia had presented a picture of his being a big player. That was also the reason why he got too many opportunities. He also impressed in some of the innings. But his consistency level was low. Now, Sanju will have to give a good performance consistently taking advantage of Pant’s weaknesses.

Obviously, it is a good indication for the future to develop healthy competition at the national level. Though the keeping of both the players is average, both of them are improving it. Let’s hope that whosoever is given a chance after this healthy competition at international level, he will improve his consistency level and will, in turn, be a successor of Dhoni in real sense.

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Rohit’s blistering innings take MI home against KKR

Chasing a target of 196 runs, KKR were restricted to 146/9 by a clinical MI bowling attack at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

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Reigning champions Mumbai Indians on Wednesday strolled to a 49-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders to record their first ever win in the United Arab Emirates. Chasing a target of 196, KKR were restricted to 146/9 by a clinical MI bowling attack at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

KKR looked to have an outside chance until the 16th over of the match in which Jasprit Bumrah (2/32) dismissed dangermen Andre Russell (11) and Eoin Morgan (16). KKR needed as many as 96 runs from 30 balls at the start of the over, but Russell and Morgan’s reputation for big hits kept the two-time champions’ hopes alive. Bumrah knocked off Russell’s leg stump with the very first ball of the over and then got Morgan to edge the fourth ball to the wicket-keeper.

Bumrah’s number were spoilt by Pat Cummins (33), who hit four sixes in the 18th over that he bowled. He ended with figures of 2/32 while Trent Boult (2/30), James Pattinson (2/25) and Rahul Chahar (2/26) all took two wickets each.

Earlier, Rohit Sharma’s (80) masterful innings and some lacklustre work with the ball and in the field from KKR helped MI post 195/5. Rohit nearly played through the innings for his side, falling to Shivam Mavi (2/32) only in the 18th over. KKR managed to restrict MI in the last two overs after Rohit’s dis- missal, with the four-time champions otherwise looking set to score more than 200 runs for much of the innings.

Rohit’s innings was punctuated by three fours and six sixes as he nearly played through the innings. Like most players in the IPL, he has hardly played any cricket this year due to Covid pandemic. He is, however, coming into the tournament with a longer break than most of his Indian team mates. He has been away from the sport as a calf injury forced him to abandon India’s tour of New Zealand in February.

The UAE had hosted the first half of the IPL 2014, when general elections were held in India, and MI had failed to register a win at the time.

Brief scores: MI 195/5 in 20 overs (Rohit Sharma 80, Suryakumar Yadav 47; Shivam Mavi 2/32) beat KKR 146/9 in 20 overs (Pat Cummins 33, Dinesh Karthik 30; James Pattin- son 2/25) by 39 runs.

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Arsenal confirms signing of goalkeeper Alex Runarsson

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English club Arsenal has confirmed the signing of goalkeeper Alex Runarsson on a four-year contract from French club Dijon. 

The 25-year-old Iceland international had joined the Ligue 1 club in July 2018 and made 13 appearances for them in all competitions last season.

 Alex started his career with KR Reykjavik in his home country. He went on to join FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark, where he made 62 appearances during a three year spell, before moving to Dijon.

 “We’re very pleased to welcome Alex to our squad. We have been monitoring him for some time and from the analysis, he has strong attributes that we look for in a goalkeeper and as a person,” Arsenal’s Technical director said in an official statement.

 “We want to create healthy competition for places and we look forward to seeing Alex bring further depth to the goalkeeping position,” Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta said.

Alex will wear the number 13 shirt which is available here from Arsenal Direct. The transfer is subject to the completion of regulatory processes.

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