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English class set to face fiery Pakistan pace attack

The series between England and Pakistan is likely to be a cliffhanger, as both teams have a fine balance of youth and experience.



(From L to R) English skipper Joe Root and Pakistani fast bowler Shaheen Afridi.

England will face Pakistan with an unchanged squad that let them vanquish West Indies and clinch the Wisden Trophy at Old Trafford even after losing the first Test match.

Englishmen had a fair share of magical moments against the Caribbean squad which will boost their morale when they will face Pakistan — the team having a decent record against England and the only side to score 500 plus in the Test against England in their home ground since 2016. Pakistan will be having a pace arsenal for which they are best known.

Joe Root had a tough time finding his opening pair since Alaister Cook retired from the game, but the phenomenal performance from Don Sibley and Rory Burns ended the quest for a panacea. Sibley and Burns were the second and third highest run-scorers respectively in the matches England played lately.

Root, at number 3, has a habit of consolidating singles into doubles and is widely regarded as someone who rises above all the big occasions. Though England skipper didn’t have an exceptional performance particularly against West Indies, the kind of status he has earned in International cricket for himself is enough to understand that he can never be underestimated and overlooked.

In the short span of two years, Ollie Pope, 22 is youngest in the squad and has impressed everyone with an average of 44 plus, having one century and four fifties in ten international Test matches. His poor performances in the first two test matches must have put pressure on him. As an old proverb says, “Champion keeps trying till it gets right,” Pope exactly did the same in the third Test, a do-or-diesituation for his team.

In the first inning, when England needed a stable partnership, Pope built up a strong partnership with Jose Buttler, ferrying the team from 122/4 to 258/4. Pope showed the phenomenal character of being a test player, and in the future, if he is given proper guidance and opportunities in the series against Pakistan, he will impress everyone.

Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler have enough experience in their kit which would provide enough depth to the team against Pakistan’s bowling-hardened team. Stokes, currently at the peak of his career, is earning a lot of paeans from critics across the globe. He has been magical with bat and bowl and has led his team to the victory time and again. Pakistan will certainly have to prepare a strategy to put reins on him.

Stokes is a top-notch allrounder, rated at number three Test batsman ahead of Pakistan’s Babar Azam. His century and fifty in first and second innings respectively, and wickets at crucial stages, earned him Man of The Match in the second Test against the Caribbeans. He is certainly going to give a tough time to the Pakistan bowlers if he continues with the kind of temperament he is.

 England’s tail-enders can never be underestimated either as they have the skill to put on a partnership. Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad have a fair share of experience of batting at critical junctures.

The series against Pakistan is going to be a cliffhanging show, as both the teams have a fine balance of experienced and newcomers.

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Footballers need a ‘sixth sense’ to score well: Bhutia

‘The best strikers in the world have that sense. Unless you don’t develop it, you won’t be a successful striker,’ Bhaichung Bhutia says.



If Bhaichung Bhutia, the first Indian footballer to play 100 international matches, is to be believed, strikers need to develop their sixth sense to score regularly.

“It’s all about that sixth sense. You need to smell it as to where it would be coming. The best strikers in the world all have that sense. You need to read situations. Unless you don’t develop your sixth sense, you won’t be a successful striker,” Bhutia explained.

“As a striker, you need to have the sense because you only get a fraction of a second to put the ball past the goalkeeper in the net. That is where strikers need to develop technically and mentally,” Bhutia said further.

Nicknamed the “Sikkimese Sniper ” due to his shooting skills, Bhaichung Bhutia has achieved the status of a legend in the field of Indian football. Referring to an anecdote where footballer Sunil Chhetri mentioned how “scoring goals was all about life and death for Bhaichung bhai”, Bhutia stressed on the importance of “making those runs every time you sense it.”

“Those runs are extremely critical for a striker. I used to keep telling Sunil that you need to anticipate and make runs from where you can score. If you go wide, you have to dribble and get past the defender, and by the time you turn and get past him, others will also rush in to block you,” he commented.

Offering advice to aspiring players, Bhutia said, “Very often strikers come to me to ask what we can do when we don’t get goals. I only tell them: no matter what, you should not stop from making those runs. If you don’t score in the first nine times and then give up, you’ll not even be near to the ball in the 10th time.” “Only once or twice out of maybe 10 situations you will get the chance to score, but you need to keep on doing it,” he explained.

Referring to other skilled footballers as examples, Bhutia said, “If you look at Ronaldo and Messi, it’s not always that they dribble past 3-4 defenders. Rather, all big strikers wait for the ball and then touch it. At the end, it’s all about developing that sense, and I repeat, unless you keep on making those runs you will never develop that sense.”

Bhaichung also mentioned Rustam Akramov shifting him from a midfielder to a striker. “I was an attacking midfielder and was used to make those runs from behind to get into the box and set myself in a position from where I could score. Those days we weren’t much tactically equipped. Not many people would teach you in which position you should play. It was all natural — that’s how I played,” he quipped.

Bhutia has been described as “God’s gift to Indian football” by another star football player, I M Vijayan, who was the three-time winner of the Indian Player of the Year title.

Bhaichung Bhutia too has received several honours, including the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri. Among international honours, he has won the Nehru Cup, LG Cup, SAFF Championship and AFC Challenge Cup.

He began his career with the East Bengal Club and made his international debut at the age of 19. In 1999, when he joined the English club Bury F.C., he also became the first Indian footballer to sign a contract with a European club and the second to play professionally in Europe, after Mohammed Salim. He has also played for Perak FA in Malaysia, and JCT Mills and Mohan Bagan in India.

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Bajrang tips Indian wrestlers to win 3-4 medals in Tokyo



Asian Games gold medalist Bajrang Punia is confident of Indian wrestlers performing well and winning medals at the Tokyo Olympics next year. “I think we will win three to four medals from wrestling in the Tokyo Olympics. The World Championship is a tougher tournament than the Olympics but we performed well there. So I think Indian wrestlers are in top form which makes them strong contenders for a medal haul in Tokyo,” Punia said during the 17th episode of budding international paddler Mudit Dani’s online live chat show ‘In The Sportlight’ on Saturday night.

The Olympic Games, which were initially scheduled to take place in 2020, have been postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with Punia (bronze, 65kg), Deepak Punia (silver, 86kg), Vinesh Phogat (bronze, 53kg) and Ravi Kumar Dahiya (bronze, 57kg) also won medals at the 2019 World Wrestling Championship in Kazakhstan and secured an Olympic berth in the process.

During a freewheeling chat with Dani, 26-year-old Punia said he would have lived a normal village life if he had not pursued wrestling. He also rated his first World Championship medal as the most memorable accolade of his career so far. The Haryana boy had an impressive outing at the 2013 World Championship where he won bronze at the age of 19.

The online live Instagram chat series ‘In The Sportlight’, that 21-year-old Dani has begun with the sole purpose of delivering inspiration to other young athletes and fans, has seen champion athletes like Abhinav Bindra, Leander Paes, PV Sindhu, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju participate, among others.

Talking about the competition in his current weight category 65kg, Punia said: “I feel 65kg is the toughest category in the world. There is no wrestler who has successively won world championship titles or Olympic gold medals. There is always a new champion in every edition. There are strong wrestlers in this category who can beat anyone on their day.”

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Man City’s best chance to win UCL, feels Rooney



Former England captain Wayne Rooney feels this is Manchester City’s best chance to win the UEFA Champions League which resumes on Friday.

Man City, coached by Pep Guardiola, lead Real after they won the away leg of their last-16 tie 2-1 in March, before the Champions League was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Manchester City may never have a better chance to win the Champions League,” Rooney wrote in a column.

“Liverpool are out. In my opinion, Bayern Munich are not quite as good as in previous years, and City are 2-1 up against Real Madrid in the round of 16, going into a second leg at home.

 “The Champions League is the competition that Pep Guardiola most wants to win and for City to take that next step as a club, this is the trophy they need.

“Friday’s second leg at the Etihad is massive. Sergio Ramos is suspended, which is a huge loss to the Real defence, and I think City will score. Whether they are solid enough at the back themselves is my only question about Guardiola’s side,” said Rooney who won the competition with Manchester United in 2008.

Meanwhile, City manager Guardiola recently lavished praise on playmaker David Silva ahead of their last Premier League game against Norwich City last month.

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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



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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Had retirement thoughts after axed for first test, says Broad



England pacer Stuart Broad has said he did think about calling it a day after being axed for last month’s opening Test against West Indies. “Were there thoughts of retirement going round my head? 100%. Because I was so down,” Broad told Daily Mail on Sunday.

Broad finished the third Test between England and West Indies with a match haul of 10 for 67 during which he touched the milestone of 500 Test wickets. Broad is just the seventh bowler — and second Englishman after James Anderson — to go past 500 Test wickets. He is also one among four fast-bowlers to achieve this impressive feat.

 “I was expecting to play, which is always a bit of a dangerous thing in sport but I felt I deserved to play. When Stokesy (Ben Stokes) told me I wasn’t playing, I felt my body go into shakes. I could barely speak.”

Broad, who is now targeting 600 Test wickets, also revealed that Stokes, who was captaining in England in the first Test in the absence of Joe Root, then played a key role. “Stokesy knocked on my door on the Thursday night and stayed in the corridor to talk to me. He said: ‘This isn’t about cricket, but how are you, mate?’ That was very impressive for him to do.”

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Broad proved his point by getting 500th wicket: Chappell



Former Australia captain Ian Chappell was impressed by England fast-bowler Stuart Broad as the manner in which he handled himself after being dropped from the squad for the first Test against West Indies in Southampton last month. England lost the first Test but captured the series following back-to-back wins in Manchester. Broad played pivotal roles in both wins and was duly named as the man of the series.

“In an era of stringent media training Broad was refreshingly honest in an interview following his omission from England’s side for the first Test against West Indies,” Chappell wrote in his column for ESPNCricinfo. “He didn’t lambast the selectors he just expressed his disappointment and then proceeded in the next two Tests to display why they were wrong. Any selector worth the title should be delighted at such a positive player reaction to an omission,” he added.

In the third Test in Manchester, Broad became the second Englishman after James Anderson to complete 500 Test wickets.

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