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England prepare pace battery to test West Indies

The English bowling lineup looks quite intimidating, with the likes of Anderson, Archer, Broad and Woakes gearing up to test the visitors

Raman Bhanot

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File photo of England’s Ben Stokes in action during a match between Australia and England in Birmingham, last year.

The country that introduced the world to the gentleman’s game is now well on its way to show us how to go about hosting cricket action in the Covid era!

The West Indies series in July and the Pakistan series that follows in August will be the litmus test for England that not long ago was high up on the list of nations with its population affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The successful conduct of both series may provide a roadmap to other cricket boards of how to go about the logistics of hosting forthcoming series, given the new challenges posed by the virus.

England named a final squad of 13 players for the first Test, from a pre-series shortlist of 30, after their three-day practice game ended on 3 July. Nine more players will be staying at the venue as reserves.

 Joe Root will miss the opening Test of the series as he returned to Sheffield, to be with his family at the birth of his second child. Ben Stokes will lead the side in his place and the Durham all-rounder is set to become the 81st England men’s Test captain.

Pace seems to be the name of the game, and the England bowling lineup looks quite intimidating, with the likes of James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes aiming to make the most of the English conditions along with Stokes.

The selectors have backed the batting talent of Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly and Zak Crawley which was to be expected, given the absence of Joe Root in the top four. Though the odd eyebrow might have been raised about the omission of all-rounder Sam Curran from the 13, it has more to do with him being unwell and missing two days of action during the practice match, rather than an issue of form.

Curran has tested negative for Covid-19 and has been included in the Test reserves along with Ben Foakes, Jack Leach and Craig Overton.

Dom Bess has been given the nod in the spin department, which means the experience of Moeen Ali has been overlooked. The other seasoned campaigner, who doesn’t find a place in the squad or the reserves, is keeper bat Jonny Bairstow.

The series will also see the Interim Regulation Changes that have been approved by the ICC, being put into action.

Due to international travel restrictions, locally-based match officials from the ICC Elite Panel and the ICC International Panel will be appointed for the matches. An additional unsuccessful DRS review for each team in each innings of a match will be added, which means that the number of unsuccessful appeals available per innings for each team will go up to three in Test matches and two for the white-ball formats.

Teams will be allowed to replace players displaying symptoms of Covid-19 during the Test match. Just like it is with concussion replacements, the match referee will approve the nearest like-forlike replacement from the pool of reserve players.

Most importantly for bowlers, during the match players will not be permitted to use saliva to shine the ball. If a player does apply saliva to the ball, the umpires are allowed to initially show some leniency and allow players to get accustomed to the new rule, but subsequent instances will result in the team receiving a warning.

 After two warnings per innings if there is still repeated use of saliva on the ball, it will result in a 5-run penalty in favour of the batting side. Whenever saliva is applied to the ball and is noticed by the umpires, it will have to be cleaned off the ball before play recommences.

Just to highlight how seriously some players are preparing to play in these modified conditions, take the example of Stuart Broad.

 Broad has spoken at length to the team’s sports psychologist about how to maintain intensity levels and sustain optimum performance despite playing in empty stadiums, during England’s bio-secure Test series with West Indies.

The first Test between England and West Indies starts at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on 8 July 2020.

The writer is a sports broadcaster and cricket commentator who has worked on assignments for leading sports networks in India and abroad.

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Archery will get a medal in Tokyo, says Atanu Das

Atanu Das, India’s ace archer, speaks to The Daily Guardian about the sport, its chances in the 2021 Olympics in Japan, and how Covid-19 has struck it.

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Q. Archery is not a contact sport and yet it is facing Covid-related issues. What’s your take on this?

 A. Archery may not be a contact sport but Covid-19 risks remain when one goes outside. The pandemic has severely affected our lives. It’s risky to go outside. So, we remain in our complex. Ground situations are risky as a lot of people roam about there.

 Q. How are you practicing these days?

 A. We have made a makeshift range of 10 metres at our residence. With bow and arrow, we give a fair touch to our daily practice. It also helps us in maintaining our focus and stamina.

Q. Who is your present coach and how are you seeking his guidance?

A. Our coach is Neil Bahadur Gurung. He is from the Army. I and my coach maintain a good degree of contact via phone and other social media platforms. At least twice a week, he provides us valuable inputs.

Q. Considering the fact you have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, how do you come to terms with its postponement?

A. I am fit mentally. However, I am desperate to upgrade my practice from 10 metres to 70 metres in the ground. When you move to greens, the ambience is altogether different. I also want to add that before any major competition, I need at least 12 months of hardcore training.

 Q. You prefer team competitions or the individual ones?

A. Well, I enjoy both.

Q. How are you assessing your chances for a medal from the archery ground of the Japanese capital?

 A. I am looking forward to it. In the past 2-3 years, many people have witnessed excellent support from the government. It is the best in recent memory. I am sure that I and the whole archery family will return with at least a medal. I am also sure that we will touch the best overall medals tally.

 Q. Tell us something about your competitors who could obstacle your dream of an Olympic medal?

A. Well, archery is a very difficult game. Just one miss and you are out. It could be anyone’s day. Korea and archery have become synonyms. Germans and Dutch are excellent too. However, I rate Brady Ellison of the United States as the best archer at the moment.

Q. Can you shed some light on why you felt a penchant for archery?

 A. Yes. There are three reasons. First, you can follow this game for many years. Second, it’s almost injuryfree. Third, it connects you with your tradition—for instance, Mahabharata.

Q. You were at the top when you clinched 3 bronzes in Asian Archery Championship in November 2019 in Bangkok. Suddenly, this gloomy situation arrived. How are you preparing yourself?

 A. Yoga and meditation are part of the daily routine. It helps me remain cool and calm. I also expect that a positive scenario is not far away.

Q. We are going through the trying circumstances; do you want to put out a few words of motivation for the people?

A. It is important to remain physically and mentally healthy. Keep patience. Try continuously for good prospects. Never go for unfair means. I believe family always provides the best support. So, pass the maximum time with members of your family.

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BCCI’s zero-tolerance for age fraud: Confess or face 2-year ban

Aishvarya Jain

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The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday has announced a new disclosure scheme to take strict measures against age fraud. As per the new measures, if players declare that they have manipulated their date of birth, they will not be suspended. Instead, they would then be allowed to participate in the appropriate age-group level tournaments.

  The BCCI has provided the time-period of up to 15 September 2020, for the players to voluntarily declare if they committed age-fraud in the past. The apex board for cricket has also started a dedicated 24×7 helpline for anyone to report his/her age fraud.

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said, “We are committed to providing a levelplaying field across all age groups. The BCCI has been taking steps to counter age fraud and is now introducing even stricter measures from the upcoming domestic season. Those who do not voluntarily disclose their misdemeanor will be punished heavily and will be banned for two years.”

 Former Indian captain and Head of Cricket at the NCA Rahul Dravid said, “Age fraud is a serious matter and is detrimental to the health of the sport. Many youngsters who are supposed to be playing in a particular age group fail to make it owing to age fraud. With the BCCI taking stern actions to curb this, it is only advisable for the players to come forward and abide by the directives issued by the Board.”

The BCCI announced, “If registered players do not disclose the facts and are found to have submitted fake/tampered DOB proof documents by BCCI, then they will be severely punished.”

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I had turned down a county contract for Kargil war: Akhtar

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Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar on Monday claimed that he had turned down a 175,000-pound county contract with Nottinghamshire to fight the 1999 war against India in Kargil.

“People hardly know about this story. I had a 175,000-pound contract with Nottingham. Then in 2002, I had another big contract. I left both when Kargil happened,” Akhtar said in an interview to Pakistan’s ARY News.

“I stood on the outskirts of Lahore. A general asked me what I’m doing there. I said war is about to start and we’ll die together. I left county (cricket) twice like this and the counties were shocked. I wasn’t concerned about that. I called up my friends in Kashmir and told them I am ready to fight,” he added.

Akhtar, however, has time and again spoken about how sports and politics should be kept on different pedestals .

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Talent is not the problem in our country, says Chhetri

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Sunil Chhetri.

Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri on Monday said talent is not the problem in the country and all stakeholders need to ensure that the next crop of players are well looked after.

“Talent is not the problem here. We could have plenty of Olympic gold medals. I know how hard the AIFF works to get a bigger pool of players. It is very important to give the young talented players the right food, training and so on. When all this is done, it can be a monumental growth,” Chhetri, who turned 36 on Monday, said during the EDelhi summit organised by Football Delhi to celebrate the occasion of his birthday.

All India Football Federation (AIFF) President Praful Patel lauded the Government of Odisha for setting an example of how a state government can help sports thrive in a particular region.

“I think states like Odisha need to be commended. They have actively supported every sport. That is something that other state governments should follow too,” Patel said.

 Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, AFC General Secretary Dato Windsor John, Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategic Officer, Tech Mahindra, Football Delhi President Shaji Prabhakaran were also present in the virtual meet, as was talismanic captain Chhetri.

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BCCI issues SOP to state units for resuming domestic cricket

Aishvarya Jain

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The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has issued a 100-page detailed guideline, prepared by the board’s medical team, which advised that coaches, as well as members of the support and ground staff above 60 years of age, be discouraged from participating in the training sessions.

“Individuals who are over the age of 60, viz support staff, umpires, ground staff, and those individuals with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, weakened immunity, should be considered vulnerable and are believed to have a higher risk of severe Covid-19,” read the guidelines.

According to its Standard Operating Procedure guidelines, the players will have to sign the form acknowledging the risks involved with the resumption of training amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Two tests one day apart (Day 1 & Day 3) should be done to account for false negatives. If both the test results are negative, only then they should be included in the camp,” according to the SOPs guidelines.

The participants will have to wear an N95 mask and teyewear in public places as well as during training.

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Manipur’s soccer family making India proud

Jeakson Singh and Amarjit Singh have shown their class in FIFA U-17 World Cups. Now their sister, Kritina Devi, is likely to represent the country in FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup next year.

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Time stood still as Jeakson Singh Thounaojam leaped higher than all in the sultry Delhi air to head the ball into the back of the Colombian net — becoming India’s first-ever goal-scorer at a FIFA World Cup in 2017.

As he ran to celebrate much to the joy of the delirious home fans, joining the celebrations was the man with the armband — Amarjit Singh Kiyam — Jeakson’s fellow midfield general as well as cousin — with the two having made the journey from Thoubal to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 together.

The unforgettable goal has inspired a new generation of players across the length and breadth of the country to dream big and soar high.

Among those is another member of the Manipuri duo’s family itself — Kritina Devi Thounaojam — two years younger to her elder cousins, and currently a probable member of the Indian team for the upcoming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.

 “I remember watching Jeakson’s goal in the World Cup live on television. It was a unique feeling. It was such a powerful moment for the country, and also our family,” 17-year-old Devi said.

“I was inspired to play football seeing my brothers. Amarjit and Jeakson taught me so much. We trained together whenever they would come back to our village. Practising with them always made me very happy. It was amazing when I saw them playing in the World Cup.”

Amarjit, who made to the senior team last year at the age of 18, took a walk down memory lane and mentioned how all of them took their first lessons from the same coach where Kritina would sometimes be the only girl.

“All of us used to train together under Jeakson’s father (Deben Singh). He was our first coach. There were other players with us but the first girl to have joined was Kritina,” Amarjit mentioned.

Jeakson, who made 13 appearances for Kerala Blasters in the Hero ISL last season, shared an interesting anecdote, recalling how Kritina’s speed made her stand out from the rest, and even outpace boys older than her.

“I distinctly remember that she would run very fast as a kid. My father convinced her family to put her into football. He would coach her, and whenever we would come home, we would teach her new drills and exercises,” Jeakson said.

 “Once when we had come home, we organised a small tournament where Kritina played and was up against boys her age, and some even older than her. She was brilliant and played very well. She was faster than the boys — that is a special memory,” he added.

 Kritina was 13 years old when she took up the game and in 2016-17 she was selected to represent Manipur at the National Championships. She broke through into the national team ranks quickly, representing the country at age-group level SAFF competition.

 In 2018, she was a member of the Indian outfit at the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2019 qualifiers in Mongolia. Recently, she joined the U-17 National team that performed in Sweden and Thailand in the U-17 Women’s Football Tournament last year. She scored the only goal in India’s solitary goal victory against Thailand.

The three, with their houses at walking distance from each other, have been training together while in lockdown and the eldest of them — Amarjit spoke about how “proud” it makes him see his cousin in the Indian colours.

“We (Jeakson and myself) know the feeling of playing for our country. Seeing Kritina do the same makes us so proud. She has already played at U-16 level and has even scored. I am very happy to see the effort and hard work put in by her every day — and how motivated she is. She is an example to follow for so many girls and I hope she keeps growing and moving forward,” he quipped.

 “The World Cup is the most important tournament in football. You are representing your country in front of the whole world. It’s an incredible experience that is different from anything else,” Jeakson opined.

 “We have all seen the impact that the first World Cup had on Indian football and I am sure the upcoming one will provide a massive boost, especially for the women’s game,” he added.

“Should Kritina be selected for the final squad next year, it would be a truly unbelievable feat for the whole family, especially my father,” Jeakson concluded.

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