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England, Pakistan series will be all about pacers

While the two lead seamers in the English side have more than 500 wickets each to their credit, the Pakistani team is comparatively younger and yet to be truly tested.

Karsan Ghavri

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Pakistan bowler Shaheen Afridi after taking a wicket during a warm-up match in England.

The England-West Indies series saw fast bowlers taking most of the wickets. Likewise, the coming series between Pakistan and England will be the pacers’ show all the way. While the two lead seamers in the England side have more than 500 wickets each to their credit, the Pakistani team is comparatively younger. Pakistani pacers are quite talented and skillful, packed with capacity to perform superbly. But they will have to sustain themselves and stay fit.

 If spinners have fitness problems, say by ten percent they can still manage. But the pace bowlers cannot play Test matches if they have fitness issues even, say, by five percent. This is because long spells of bowling is the feature of the Tests.

 I have no hesitation in saying that Pakistan could not manage to retain the reputation of being a team known by its superb fast bowlers. It was in my time that the same Pakistan used to have pace bowling pairs of Imran Khan and Sarafraz Nawaz. Sikandar Bakht was also the contemporary. This was followed by the likes Wasim Akram and Waqar Yunis. Then came top bowlers like Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir. But unfortunately, Pakistani bowlers could not keep their otherwise clean image intact. Their names figured in the match fixing cases in 1990s.

The fixing was like cancer that destroyed the Pakistani cricket. In that phase, I was impressed with Waqar Yunis who was spotless and whose bowling skill was also excellent. He used to bowl with full concentration, as if by heart.

 If we analyse the Pakistani bowling attack against England, it won’t be right if we don’t analyse their batting. Bowlers won’t be able to experiment too much as long as batsmen don’t score big. At the same time, bowlers will have to have 20 dismissals to win the match. Team Pakistan has fast bowlers like Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Abbas and Mohammad Sohail. It’s not good to form any opinion about them just on the basis of their performance in a select few matches and media reports. All that I would like to say is that they should focus on accuracy and maintain line and length. The ball will get quite a movement there so they need to focus on their line. Short-pitch balls may be converted into huge pile of runs. Swings will also have to be controlled fully. If wicket is not supportive, then they should keep line and length perfect. This is the real secret of success in England. The bowling should not be according to what suits the English batsmen. Balls should not be given where they are comfortable. Pakistani pacers should maintain their line and have patience. They should also close a keep watch over English pacers, especially Anderson and Broad.

Both these bowlers have been most successful on their home soil. Saliva can’t be used to shine the bowl now, but sweat can be. Since rules have to be followed, but this is not a big issue.

Pakistani bowlers should work out their strategy keeping in view wind and weather conditions. The bowler should be able to swing the ball whether swing helps or not. Some of the Pakistani pacers have the ability to do that. They will have to force the batsmen of England to commit mistakes.

It’s disturbing and unfortunate that Pakistan cricket got affected due to some other elements. Pakistan Cricket Board has its own likes and dislikes. The retired talented cricketers there don’t get a chance to be associated with the team. Others should be given the chance like Ramiz Raza who was made commentator.

West Indies cricket has also been ruined. Cricketers like Gayle and Bravo don’t want to play Test anymore. Everyone is obsessed with T20 matches. It should be matter of pride for cricketers to play for their country. We used to get Rs 1,000 for one Test in 1974-75. But we were happy that we were playing for the country. The same feeling should be in every cricketer of the world. Like everyone else, I am also impatiently waiting for the Pakistan-England series. I hope that we will an opportunity to see a high-level cricket in this series.

 The author has been a former fast bowler of the Indian Test team.

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Fernandes becomes Player of the Year

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Midfielder Bruno Fernandes has been crowned as the winner of the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award for 2019/20, following a brilliant start to his Manchester United career.

Thousands of fans voted and they decided in favour of the Portuguese playmaker, who just edged out Anthony Martial, with Marcus Rashford finishing in third place.

Bruno succeeds Luke Shaw as the trophy’s holder and is the first player in club history to seize it after just half a season in the red shirt.

“Of course you want to win some trophies for the team, for the club, and for the fans. But, obviously, I’m happy with the individual trophies. I know you can say: ‘Oh, I don’t care’ and everything, but it’s always important for a player. You al- ways feel good when you win these kinds of awards, and I am no different. I am really happy. I want to add this to so many trophies for the club and for the fans because I think they deserve [it],” Fernandes said in a statement.

Bruno was selected as our Player of the Year by 35.5 per cent of the fans who voted, just marginally ahead of Martial with 34 per cent, while Rash- ford earned 10.4 per cent of the nominations

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FCB president Bartomeu likely to face no-confidence vote

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FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu is most likely to face a vote of no confidence from members of the club, who have gathered the necessary number of signatures to force the vote.

The platform ‘Mes que una mocio (More than a motion)’, formed by a group of Barcelona club members, on Thursday confirmed they had col- lected 20,731 signatures, comfortably clearing the required 16,520 to trigger the vote, reports Xinhua news agency.

The signatures have to now be confirmed to be authentic by a panel made up of a representative from the club, the Catalan foot- ball federation and from the group behind the no-confidence vote. If 16,520 of the votes are valid, the rules of the club state a referendum over Bartomeu’s continuity has to be held within three months in which his opponents would need to win two thirds of the votes of the club’s 150,000 members in order to force him out.

Some have questioned the need of the motion (which was presented the same day that Lionel Messi said he wanted to abandon FC Barcelona) given that the club will hold elections for a new president in March 2021 in which Bartomeu will not be able to stand.

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Naomi Osaka pulls out of this year’s French Open

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Recently crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka has pulled out of the upcoming French Open slated to begin from September 27.

Osaka, who last week claimed her third grand slam title in New York, is struggling with a hamstring injury.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” the 22-year-old on Friday said in a statement on social media.

The world number three, who wore tape on her left hamstring as she came from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the summit clash at the Flushing Meadows, said the turnaround between tournaments was too tight for her to recover fully.

“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have time to pre pare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this time. I wish the organisers and players all the best.”Osaka joins world number one and reigning champion Ashleigh Barty in pulling out of competition at the Roland Garros.

Barty had confirmed that she will not participate at the clay court Grand Slam due to health concerns and a lack of preparation.

The French Open was originally scheduled to start in May but had to be moved back because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Lamine Diack case shows how deep the doping malaise is

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Lamine Diack, the former chief of International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), has been found guilty by a French court of corruption in covering up Russian doping cases. He was handed a four-year prison sentence on Wednesday, two of which are suspended, and fined $594,000.

During the trial, Diack denied all of the allegations, while his lawyers called the judgement “unjust and inhumane” and confirmed they would challenge the decision.

“Whilst we are disappointed this happened in our sport, we are grateful for the strong and clear decisions that have been taken against the individuals involved and charged with these crimes, and we would like to reassure everyone that the reforms our Congress approved in 2016 will ensure that similar actions by individuals can never happen again in our sport,” read a statement from World Athletics on Wednesday.

The Senegalese held one of the most influential positions in the sport and led the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), now renamed World Athletics, from 1999-2015.

Charity begins at home, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach admitted and claimed IAAF president Lamine Diack took bribes from athletes to manipulate the sporting competition. It is shocking and something utterly unimaginable.

Doping contravenes the ethics of both sport and medical science. Dr Jawahar Lal Jain, former Medical Administrator, University of Delhi, a sports medicine expert and WHO fellow in Sports Medicine (USA), advises everyone to check with his/her doctor to ensure there is no alternative medication that an individual can take that does not contain a banned substance, and let his/her national sporting organisation know.

Dr Shila Jain, former director, Dope Control Laboratory, Ministry of Sports, Government of India, said prohibited classes of substances are stimulants, anabolic androgenic steroids, narcotic analgesics, diuretics, peptide hormones, mimetics, and analogues. She also believes that doping has severely damaged the structure of the sporting movement.

The most infamous case is that of Ben Johnson. The Jamaican born Canadian sprinter, immediately after the Seoul Olympic race on 27 September 1988, tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.

It was the sensational and shocking event of the Olympics. The Canadian sprinter had just set a new world record of 9.79 seconds in the 100m final.

In 1993 again, Johnson was found to have taken banned substances and was barred from athletics for life. He officially retired on 7 March 1993 amid a lifetime ban.

No doubt the impact of doping is deep in sports.

The writer is a former Associate Professor of University of Delhi and a consultant at the Limca Book of Records.

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I love IPL, India has given me a lot: Pietersen

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Ahead of the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL), former England captain Kevin Pietersen opened up on how the Twenty-20 cricket extravaganza will be different this year due the ongoing Covid pandemic.
“It’s going to be different for sure. No fans, nothing. Everybody is in bubble and the team that copes with its bubble life the best is the team that’s going to win. This is a new territory for everyone,” Pietersen told IANS.

KP, as he is fondly known tennis in the cricketing circuit, is currently a part of the commentary panel for IPL 2020, which is set to start on September 19 in the UAE.

During his playing days, Pietersen represented the Delhi Daredevils team (now rechristened Delhi Capitals) in the IPL, besides Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rising Pune Supergiant. He roots for Delhi team to lift the trophy this time.

“I can’t predict anything as of now, but my heart really wants Delhi Capitals to win because I love the team. However, I can’t predict right now. It’s totally a new and different season for everybody. So, I have to closely observe the teams for the first two weeks, and only then will I be able to put my professional brain on,” Pietersen said, adding: “I love young players. I love exciting players. I love all sorts of players. I love players who take risks.”

Recalling his IPL journey, he expressed his gratitude to India. “I love the IPL. I love what India has given to me. I love everything about the journey that I have had since 2002 — the first time I came to India. I am so lucky that I got to experience Indian culture, friendships. I have been benefited financially, I have been benefited emotionally in India. I owe a lot to India,” he said, while promoting the National Geographic’s documentary, “Save This Rhino”, which he called his “greatest gift to India”.

Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen had earlier also revealed that it was an email from former India captain Rahul Dravid that helped him master the art of playing spin. Pietersen was one of the better players of spin in England and is rated as one of their finest of all time.

“Dravid wrote me the most beautiful email, explaining the art of playing spin and ever since then it was a whole new world,” Pietersen was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

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Fast bowlers could be this IPL’s dark horses

Despite conditions favouring spinners due to high temperature and dry pitches, likes of Rabada, Bumrah and Steyn will have high expectations from their fans and franchises

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The most dynamic and vibrant battle between bat and bowl is all set to kick off with the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on 19 September in UAE. The best of cricket will finally take to the field, though the absence of spectators will certainly have a hitch on the game.

Despite conditions favouring spinners due to high temperature and dry pitches, likes of Ben Stokes, Jasprit Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins, Dale Steyn, Deepak Chahar and Trent Boult will have high expectations from their fans as well as respective franchises.

As the opening match is scheduled a night ahead, the defending champions Mumbai Indians seem to have one of the most lethal squads of fast bowlers combining Boult with Jasprit Bumrah, regarded as the most prolific pacer in world cricket and had the best season last year as he fetched 19 wickets. Also,bowlers like Mitchel McClenaghan and Hardik Pandya have experience and energy to boost the team’s chances.

Chennai Super Kings, with Deepak Chahar in their squad, will surely expect to give nightmares to mighty MI in the first match of this season. Chahar was amongst the top-notch bowlers of IPL 2019, and was shy of four wickets from winning the purple cap. He is expected to get decent support from Shardul Thakur who has been leading the attack for CSK, including Bravo and Shane Watson. CSK will try its best to restrict the opposing team at the low scores.

The runner up of last season, Delhi Capitals, has come a long way from settling at the bottom of the table to be- ing the top contenders, but it would have never been possible without the likes of Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Mohit Sharma, Harshal Patel, and debutant Lalit Yadav. The team will heavily depend on Sharma, who has enough experience to be counted. Patel’s last year’s performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament draws eyes towards him as he clinched 19 wickets and scored more than 350 runs.

Bhubneshwar Kumar along with Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmad, and Siddharth Kaul will have a huge responsibility to rise above all and take the team to the end of the game. Kumar has been phenomenal for the team with his stunning Yorkers and economy but recently he has struggled a lot for his fitness and with his consistency. This season could be a game-changer for Bhubneshwar, as T20 World Cups are scheduled next year and if he performs well his prospect in the team could be considered.

The KKR’s franchise is riding on high notes with its vic- tory in the Caribbean Premier League but its poor consistency in the last three seasons of IPL will keep things on serious notes in the dugout.

Bowlers like Pat Cummins, Andre Russel, and Lockie Fergusen will have to bring their character in the ground. From providing breakthroughs to the team to be the guiding force for the talented and promising youngsters like Prasidh Krishna, Sandeep Warrier, and Sivam Manvi.

Russel and Pat Cummins, being foreigners and having enough game played will be key for the team, and the franchise will expect them to frequently adapt to the new environment in the UAE.

Kings X1 Punjab is the most underperformed team of the IPL, as they always looked good on paper but unfortunately, they failed to perform on the ground which led to their exclusion. Mohammad Shami will be leading the attack for the team with Sheldon Cortell, who can contribute with bat and ball both, James Neesham, Ravi Bishnoi, and Murugan Ashwin whose mystery is yet unsolved.

Might Ben Stokes along with Jofra Archer and Varun Aaron will lead the attack for Rajasthan Royals in the leadership of Steve Smith. The team’s pace bowling attack looks fierce with more pacers like Jayadev Unadkat, Mayank Markande, Oshane Thomas, Andrew Tye.

The team looks impressive with the set of bowlers they have in their kit but without a team effort and consistent effort from each player, it won’t matter a lot.

Inconsistent, no luck, and team crumbles in a pressure game, three terms to define the overall career of Royal Challengers Bangalore. The team is studded with star players in every department and at times they outperform their opposition in every department but as they reach close to finals or trophy they collapse like a pack of cards.

Bowlers like Chris Morris, Umesh Yadav, Dale Steyn, Md. Siraj will raise hopes for skippers and if they perform with consistency and as per the requirement they hold the capability to knock off any world-class batsmen in the world. These bowlers have pulled off games for the team and proved their worth but the team is yet to take a victory lap and hopefully, this could be the end of the drought for the franchise.

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