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Covid-19 is a blessing in disguise for local umpires

ICC recommends the appointment of local umpires and match referees in the short-term to avoid international travel in the wake of the pandemic.

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BCCI, being the richest cricket board in the world, surprisingly does not have an umpire in the elite panel of ICC. However, formerly, there used to be two umpires in the panel — Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan and S. Ravi. While Venkat, who was formerly a Test cricketer, has retired from the umpiring, Ravi has been sacked from the panel owing to his attenuating performance.

ICC Cricket Committee, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday recommended the appointment of local match officials (umpires and match referees) in the short-term. “Where there are no Elite Panel match officials in the country, the best local International Panel match officials will be appointed,” said the ICC in a statement. With Ravi removed from the ICC elite panel of umpires, there is no Indian in the elite category from which match officials are usually picked for Tests.

However, currently the lower category — ICC international panel of umpires — has four Indians but only one of them, Nitin Menon (3 Tests, 24 ODIs, 16 T20s), has the experience in Test cricket, while the other three — C. Shamshuddin (43 ODIs, 21 T20s ), Anil Chaudhary (20 ODIs, 20 T20s) and Virender Sharma (2 ODIs and 1 T20) — lack the experience in the longest format of the game. Nevertheless, the trio is under consideration to officiate a five-day game during England’s tour of India in January.

It is a noteworthy fact that local umpires have not officiated in Tests since 2002, and it would be for the first time in 18 years if any umpire from the trio officiates the test match in January. However, it is unclear whether this would pave the opportunity for the local umpires to make into the Elite Panel. Hariharan, the former international umpire, while appreciating the ICC’s decision said that if the local umpires get the opportunity to officiate matches without spectators, it will make their work much easier, because cacophonous noise of 50 thousand spectators wouldn’t be there.

“However, In the Tests, the pressure is created by the close-in fielders making the umpires’ job tougher,” Hariharan, the former Indian umpire, added. The ICC Elite Panel currently has four umpires from England, three from Australia, one each from Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Among the lot, Pakistan`s Aleem Dar, who won the David Shepherd Trophy three years in a row from 2009 to 2011, is the most experienced umpire who has been an on-field umpire in 132 Tests, 208 ODIs and 46 T20I matches so far. The ICC Cricket committee has opened the way for a real test for Indian umpires. Now one of these four umpires will be seen umpiring in the home Test series against England in January.

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Athletes likely to use battery-powered masks

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To ensure the smooth resumption of training activities as per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Sports Ministry, the Indian Olympic Association has decided to come up with a battery-powered mask through which athletes will be able to train without worrying about COVID-19. 

This mask will be powered by a battery and it will have two fans and an N95 filter. While talking to ANI, Rajeev Mehta, the SecretaryGeneral of IOA said: “We have planned to give this mask to some of the athletes on a trial basis, if it works properly and results are satisfactory then we will give it to all Olympic-bound athletes for training.”

 Mehta also said that he was not in favour of resuming training for athletes looking at the situation of COVID-19 in India, but upon receiving requests from several federations, he finally decided to do something in order to resume training for athletes.

 “I decided to do something for athletes so that they can train. I came to know about this mask and I requested them to make some masks for athletes which can help them and I am happy that finally, they have come up with this mask. ,” said Mehta.

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Tokyo Olympic torch relay to begin from March 2021

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The Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start its journey on March 25, 2021 from the J-Village National Training Centre in Fukushima Prefecture and then traverse all 47 prefectures across Japan over a period of 121 days, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced. Originally scheduled to be held from July 24 to August 9 this year, the Tokyo Olympics was in March postponed to 2021 due to the outbreak of coronavirus. It is now set to be held from July 23 to August 8 next year. 

The torch will reach Tokyo on July 9 in time for the flame to light the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony of the Games on July 23. In principle, the route and the schedule of the relay will remain as originally planned, the IOC further said. 

Those previously confirmed as Olympic torchbearers will be given preference to run in next year’s Relay, the Tokyo 2020 organisers have said. Around 10,000 torchbearers are set to take part in the event. 

IOC also said that as 2021 will mark the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay will aim to showcase the recovery of the areas worst affected by the disaster, in line with the relay concept of ‘Hope Lights Our Way’. 

In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will additionally symbolise the light at the end of the current dark tunnel; a beacon of hope for the world in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games, themselves a symbol of the resilience, unity and solidarity of humankind, it added.

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Nadal, Serena kick off bids for Roland Garros title

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Defending champion Rafael Nadal and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams advanced to the second round of the ongoing Roland Garros with straight-sets wins in their respective opening round matches.

 On Monday, Nadal defeated Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the second round where he will face Mackenzie McDonald.

 “It is a different Roland Garros. Totally different than we are used to… But for me this year is as special as every one at Roland Garros,” Nadal said on court as per the ATP Tour website.

 “I am going to keep trying my best. I am happy to be in the second round (after) a good start and now is the moment to go back to the hotel, have a good practice tomorrow and try to be ready for the second round,” he added.

 In the women’s singles, Williams began her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title, surviving a topsy-turvy opening set to ultimately ease past fellow American Kristie Ahn 7-6(2), 6-0. Up next for Williams is US Open quarterfinalist Tsvetana Pironkova. 

Meanwhile, newly crowned US Open winner Dominic Thiem also claimed straightforward victory as he defeated Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. However, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev was unable to clinch his first win at the Roland Garros after suffering a shocking 6-4, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-1 defeat against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. It was the fourth successive first-round-exit for Medvedev at the Roland Garros.

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Rajasthan on hat-trick of wins, KKR out to stop their run

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In-form Rajasthan Royals (RR) will aim for a hat-trick of wins when they square-off against two-time IPL winners Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the Dubai International Cricket stadium here on Wednesday evening. 

After defeating Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in their campaign opener, the Steve Smith-led RR overhauled the highest tournament total of 224 against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in their previous match. They are high on confidence as they take another step towards qualifying for the playoffs, though that is a bit far at the moment. 

RR opener Sanju Samson and skipper Smith smashed halfcenturies in the game against KXIP. However, with the match slipping away from their hands, Haryana all-rounder Rahul Tewatia’s blitzkrieg bought them back in the contest. Once again, all eyes will be on Samson, who has two half-centuries from as many games, and Tewatia, who smashed 53 off 31 balls against Kings XI Punjab.

 Jos Buttler, who joined the team just before the previous game, managed only four runs against KXIP while Robin Uthappa departed after contributing just nine runs. The RR team management would not tinker much with the winning combination. However, a slight change in the batting-order might be possible. 

In the bowling department, Ankit Rajpoot, who was expensive against KXIP, might be replaced while Jofra Archer will once again lead the pace attack along with Tom Curran and Jaydev Unadkat. Leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal, who has been amongst the runs so far, will look to overcome as the spin department will heavily rely on his shoulders. 

On the other hand, KKR have a win and a loss so far. After going down to the Mumbai Indians in their first game, the Dinesh Karthikled KKR made a fine comeback as they ticked all the boxes against SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) and came out victorious.

 Pat Cummins, who had a disastrous outing against Mumbai, roared back against SRH as the pacer conceded just 19 runs from his quota of four overs besides bagging a wicket. The Aussie quick will look to continue from where he left and will seek support from Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti.

 In their last game, KKR hit the ground with an extra bowler in Varun Chakravarthy and it remains to be seen whether they opt to continue with the strategy or make any changes. 

Meanwhile, skipper Dinesh Karthik and Eoin Morgan will have to handle the batting in the middleorder before Andre Russell, from whom fireworks are expected down the order Looking at the spin favourable track in Dubai, Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav would definitely be a part of the KKR playing XI on Wednesday.Narine will also have an added responsibility of handing flying start to KKR while opening as the Caribbean’s willow has remained silent so far. 

As Dubai has been host to both the Super Over matches so far in the tournament, another juicy contest is on the cards

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Virat’s RCB wins match, MI’s Ishan Kishan hearts

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After Sanju Samson, Ishan Kishan has emerged as another power-hitter in the IPL. He gave a spellbinding performance with a 58-ball 99. His excellent batting performance in partnership with Kieron Pollard brought the team back in the game. The defeat was almost staring at Mumbai Indians at one point of time but their superb batting performance equalled RCB’s score of 201, pushing the match into the Super Over. Despite that Mumbai Indians could not win the match for some other reasons. Ishan also missed his century by one run. But he proved to be a future star with his splendid innings. What made his innings so special was the fact that he performed like this facing star bowlers of international level like Adam Zampa, Yuzvendra Chahal and Navdeep Saini.

 In fact, as the IPL is moving forward, India continues to get so many power-hitters. It is clear that India’s future is bright in T-20. Several contenders have come up together who can fill up the vacuum created after the retirement of wicketkeeperbatsman M.S. Dhoni, and this is a good indication for the team as well. Now, if Rishabh Pant does not perform well, then there are other contenders to replace him. At the same time, however, the team management will have to shun the obsession of attaching too much importance to Rishabh Pant. 

Ishan played the high-level bowlers such as Navdeep Saini, Adam Zampa and Yuzvendra Chahal easily and comfortably. He has a skill to accelerate run rate comfortably. He was considered to be a rival of Rishabh Pant in the last few years but his claim was always rejected as he was far behind Pant in terms of strike rate. But in this innings, by scoring at strike rate of 170, he demonstrated that he has developed himself as a power-hitter. From now on, he needs to focus more on his game. He is still inferior to Pant and Sanju in terms of playing shots all around the wicket. Most of his favourite shots were on the leg side against RCB. Though he has been seen cutting the ball on earlier occasions, his favourite area was midwicket in this inning.

 In fact, Ishan Kishan’s name emerged at the national level when he played in Under-19 World Cup in 2016 and when he hit double century three years ago against Delhi in Ranji Trophy. It was the highest score (273) of any Jharkhand player in Ranji Trophy. He had displayed immense potential by making centuries in two consecutive matches in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, but that time he was ignored on the ground that his centuries came against J&K and Manipur which were considered to be weak teams. But he finally silenced his critics by playing an innings of 71 runs not out on behalf of India A against New Zealand A in a match at Christchurch during New Zealand tour.

 His strike rate is 132.52 in 77 T-20 matches at the national level. The strike rate was a bit over 100 before this match of IPL. Obviously, he needs to improve in that direction and he has started off with his explosive innings against RCB. In fact, he was the highest scorer on behalf of Jharkhand in Vijay Hazare Tournament. If Dhoni’s successor comes from his own state, then it will be another feather in Jharkhand’s cap.

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SunRises in Abu Dhabi as Warner’s men defeat DC

After scoring 162/4 in 20 overs, spinner Rashid Khan led the way with figures
of 3/14 as SunRisers Hyderabad restricted Delhi Capitals to 147/7 in 20 overs.

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SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) on Tuesday recorded their first win of the IPL season as they beat Delhi Capitals by 15 runs at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium here.

 After scoring 162/4 in 20 overs, spinner Rashid Khan led the way with figures of 3/14 as SRH restricted DC to 147/7 in 20 overs. Rashid was adjudged the Man of the Match.

 Fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck early for SRH, dismissing DC opener Prithvi Shaw (2) in the first over of the innings. DC captain Shreyas Iyer joined Shikhar Dhawan in the middle and while the pair ensured that the team didn’t lose any more wickets in the powerplay, they could not take the attack to the opposition. Shreyas Iyer eventually fell on 17 off 21 balls to become Rashid’s first wicket. 

Rishabh Pant struggled to get the run rate up, taking 27 balls to get to his 32. Shimron Hetmyer (21) also struggled to get going before hitting a couple of sixes off Khaleel Ahmed in the 15th over. He tried to keep up the pace and ended up falling to Bhuvneshwar off the very first ball of the next over. Pant eventually fell to Rashid and in the next over, Marcus Stoinis was out LBW to T Natarajan.

 Khaleel bowled the last over with 27 to defend and he rarely gave the batsmen a chance to get going. He dismissed Axar Patel off the third ball and Kagiso Rabada ended the match with a six. 

Earlier, Kane Williamson, playing his first match of the season, helped SRH to 162/4 with a quickfire 41 off 26 balls. Jonny Bairstow played the role of anchor, scoring 53 off 48 while his opening partner and SRH captain David Warner made 45 off 33.

 After Shreyas Iyer opted to bowl first, his team restricted SRH 162/4 after 20 overs. Jonny Bairstow (53), David Warner (45), and Kane Williamson (41) pitched in with the runs for Hyderabad, while Kagiso Rabada and Amit Mishra picked two wickets each for Delhi. During DC’s chase, Shikhar Dhawan top-scored with a 34-run knock in a slow, disjointed performance by the batsmen. 

Rashid Khan (3/14) came up with a match-winning performance, helping his team stop Delhi on 147/7 at the end of 20 overs. 

Brief scores: SRH 162/4 in 20 overs (J Bairstow 53, D Warner 45; K Rabada 2/21) beat DC 147/7 in 20 overs (S Dhawan 34, R Pant 28; Rashid Khan 3/14) by 15 runs

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