NEW DELHI: The dreaded 2020 is finally coming to an end. If the global effect of the coronavirus pandemic weren’t bad enough, the sporting world also lost some of its favourite sons this year. From the legendary Diego Maradona to former India football captain P.K. Banerjee, from Dean Jones to Kobe Bryant…the losses will be hard to fill. As we take baby steps into 2021, a look at the sporting icons who left for heavenly abode.
(OCT 1960 – NOV 2020)
One of the greatest footballers of all time, the Argentina star was born in Lanus, a town near Buenos Aires, on October 30, 1960. He started playing football in the streets around his neighbourhood and at the age of twelve, he was part of the children’s team Los Cebollitas.
The World Cup-winning footballer represented Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, and Newell’s Old Boys as a player. Diego was considered solely responsible for taking Argentina to their second World Cup title in 1986.
With the Argentine team, he won the World Cup at Mexico 86, a tournament in which he stood out, above all, in a match against England. He scored two goals, including one with his hand which went down in history as ‘the hand of God,’ and another exceptional strike that is considered one of the best in the history of the competition.
Maradona was hospitalised after he complained of being fatigued regularly. His tests at the La Plata clinic revealed a blood clot in the brain, which doctors later revealed was operated on successfully. He passed away on November 25 after suffering a heart attack.
(AUG 1978 – JAN 2020)
American basketball legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The 41-year-old Bryant had won five National Basketball Association (NBA) championships in his 20-year-long career while playing for Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant became one of NBA’s most popular players and the face of the Lakers during his career. Winning a record four NBA All-Star Game MVP awards, he was the overall league MVP in 2008, a two-time NBA scoring champion, and 12 All-Defensive selections.
He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist with the dominant U.S. team, Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. In December 2017, the Lakers hung banners retiring his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys in the Staples Center rafters in an unprecedented double honor.
(JUNE 1936 – MAR 2020)
The former India football captain passed away at the age of 83 after a prolonged illness in March. The legendary Indian footballer was an integral part of India’s gold medal-winning team in the 1962 Asian Games and even scored in the final against South Korea as India fought against all odds to script a historic 2-1 triumph in Jakarta.
Banerjee, who was the first footballer to receive the Arjuna Award (in 1961), represented India in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and played a pivotal role in the 4-2 victory against Australia in the quarter-finals where India eventually finished fourth.
Banerjee was also bestowed with the FIFA Fairplay Award (in 1990), and the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit in 2004.
BALBIR SINGH SR
(DEC 1923 – MAY 2020)
Three times Olympic medal-winning hockey legend, Balbir Singh Sr. passed away on May 25 due to multiple health issues at the age of 96.
The iconic center-forward was one of India’s most accomplished athletes and was the only Indian among the 16 legends chosen by the International Olympic Committee across the modern Olympic history. He won three gold medals — in 1948 in London, in 1952 in Helsinki, and in 1956 in Melbourne. Balbir Singh is still remembered for scoring five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the Helsinki Games in 1952. In 1957, he was conferred with Padma Shri Award for his contributions and achievements in the field of hockey.
(MAR 1961 – SEPT 2020)
Former Australia cricketer Dean Jones passed away due to a cardiac arrest at the age of 59 on September 24 during the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). A gritty, attacking player, the Victorian made 3631 runs at an average of 46.55 in Tests, while in ODIs he made 6068 runs, at 44.61, with seven hundreds and 46 fifties. He also remains No.5 on the all-time ICC Batting Rankings in the format.
His most memorable Test innings came in 1986 when in the heat and humidity of Chennai, he battled exhaustion and illness to make a heroic 210 in what would be only the second tied Test ever.
Jones went on to make 10 more hundreds, with a career-best 216 against West Indies in Adelaide in 1989. He retired from international cricket in 1994—much too early, according to his supporters, but went on to play first-class cricket till the 1997/98 season.
With ANI inputs
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Ngidi, Nortje put Proteas in command against West Indies
GROS ISLET [ST LUCIA]: South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje stole show with the ball before West Indies’ Jayden Seales picked three on debut as 14 wickets fell on opening day of first Test between West Indies and South Africa at Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St Lucia.
The visitors were clearly on top at the end of the first day as Ngidi (5/19) and Nortje (4/35) combined to dismiss the home team for just 97. Coming out to bat, the Proteas ended the day on 128/4 — a lead of 31 runs with six wickets in the bag.The home team had something to cheer about as debutant Seales bagged three wickets to keep hosts in the game.
While he started with the wicket of Keegan Peterson in his very first over, he had the prized wicket of Aiden Markram (60) and Kyle Verreyne (6) by the end of the day. The start was just what the doctor ordered for the Windies after the poor show with the bat as Kemar Roach sent back skipper Dean Elgar (0) off the fifth ball of the innings.But Markram and Rassie Van Der Dussen (34*) did the hard yards before the Windies debutant sent back opener Markram. At stumps, Quinton de Kock (4*) was at the crease giving Dussen company.While South Africa got off to a poor start with the bat, it was a decent start from the Windies side as skipper Kraigg Braithwaite and Shai Hope played out the first 11 overs and just when it looked they would start to add to the scoring rate as well, Nortje sent both of them back and hit Nkrumah Bonner on the helmet off the very first ball.
KREJCIKOVA STORMS INTO WOMEN’S FINALS, SETS UP SUMMIT CLASH AGAINST PAVLYUCHENKOVA
Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova on Thursday progressed to the finals of the ongoing French Open.The 25-year-old Krejcikova defeated Greece’s Maria Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 to gain a hard-fought victory in the semi-final match here at Court Philippe-Chatrier. Now, Krejcikova will lock horns against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the women’s finals of the French Open.
The first set between Krejcikova and Sakkari saw back and forth action and at one stage, it stood level at 5-5. In the end, Krejcikova managed to hold her nerve and she took the first set 7-5.Greece’s Sakkari staged a comeback in the second set and she managed to win it 6-4, and as a result, the match progressed into the third and deciding set.
The third set saw back and forth action between both the opponents and at one stage, it was level at 7-7. However, going for the kill, Krejcikova raised her game and she progressed to the finals of the tournament.
Earlier on Thursday, 29-year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova stormed into the finals of the ongoing French Open.
Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3 in the semi-finals of the ongoing Grand Slam here at the Court Philippe-Chatrier.
On Friday, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will lock horns in the men’s semi-final while Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas will square off in the other semi-final.
SPAIN GOOD ENOUGH TO REACH QUARTERS, SAYS LUIS GARCIA
NEW DELHI: Former Spain winger Luis Garcia feels the team will have a good chance to spring a surprise in the upcoming European Championships. Spain is placed alongside Sweden, Poland, and Slovakia in Group E and the side will lock horns against Sweden in their first match of the tournament.The build-up to Spain’s tournament has not been great as captain Sergio Busquets has already been ruled out of the first game against Sweden due to a positive Covid-19 result and some of the other players are also isolating.However, on Thursday, defender Diego Llorente returned a negative test and now he needs to return two more negative results to be able to join the squad.“Yeah, it is going to be tough. We have to wait until we see the latest news. Two players tested positive for Covid-19, we need to see the next couple of days. We have players from the U-21 squad that we can bring into the national squad and I am not afraid of that. I can tell you that they are ready to play, they are going to be hungry to play in Euros with the senior side. They have enough experience, most of them to try the fill the gaps of the players who will miss out,” said Garcia while replying to an ANI query during a virtual press conference.“If we pull out more players, but it is going to be difficult to have a good tournament, still I am saying, this is a long tournament, you can have ups and downs, but if you can maintain 14-15 good players and you can maintain rotation among them, then it would be good. Hopefully, there are not many injuries,” added Garcia who will be a panelist on Sony Ten 2 studio show Football Extraaa for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2020.
IOC chief Bach to arrive in Japan to see preparations of Olympics in July
The International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach will arrive in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics in July, the CEO of the Tokyo organising body said on Thursday.
Toshiro Muto told reporters that John Coates, who heads the IOC Coordination Commission overseeing the games’ preparations, will arrive on Tuesday along with other senior officials, as per reports in Kyodo News.
Meanwhile, with the Tokyo Olympics round the corner, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is looking at redistributing the slots that were held for North Korea.
An IOC official speaking at a press conference explained the need to finalize the allocation of slots to ensure fairness as there are athletes waiting for information about participating in the games.
Even though North Korea’s Olympic committee is yet to make any official communication to the IOC on the decision to miss the Games, North Korea’s sports ministry had said in April that Pyongyang would not participate in the Summer Games to protect its athletes from the novel coronavirus. The last time they skipped the Olympics was in 1988.
Overseas media personnel will be strictly monitored after entering Japan for the Olympic Games to ensure they have no contact with the public, Tokyo Olympic chief Seiko Hashimoto has said.
Hashimoto told an executive board meeting in the opening remarks that Japan is still in a “very difficult situation,” and “to make sure that people don’t go to places other than the places where they are registered to go, we will use GPS to strictly manage their behavior.”
Media arriving from abroad need to submit pre-determined destinations during the games and with the use of GPS, they can be tracked by organisers to ensure they are isolated during the first 14 days after arrival.
“If any violations are found, measures like suspension or deprivation of accreditation or deportation proceedings will be applied,” Toshiro Muto, the Tokyo 2020 CEO, told reporters after the executive board meeting.“After 14 days, they can engage in normal media coverage,” Muto said. “Considering the current situation, that is tolerable.”
HUMBLED BY THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEAD INDIA: SHIKHAR DHAWAN
India opener Shikhar Dhawan who has being named as captain of the squad slated to tour Sri Lanka for the limited-overs series on Friday said he is humbled by the opportunity.
India and Sri Lanka will lock horns in the three-match ODI series and as many T20Is from July 13. The three ODIs will be played on July 13, 16, and 18. While the T20I series will commence on July 21, and the next two matches will be played on July 23 and 25. The All-India Senior Selection Committee on Thursday picked the squad for the Sri Lanka tour. Dhawan was appointed as the skipper with Bhuvneshwar Kumar being picked as the vice-captain.
Dhawan on Friday said he is humbled to get the opportunity to lead India in the white ball series against Sri Lanka. “Humbled by the opportunity to lead my country. Thank you for all your wishes,” Dhawan tweeted. All matches will be played at the R Premadasa International Cricket Stadium, Colombo. Prithvi Shaw has earned a call-up into the white-ball squad. Opening batters Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad have also been named in the squad.
Meanwhile, Varun Chakravarthy, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, K Gowtham have been chosen as the spinners while the young speedster, Chetan Sakariya who impressed everyone in IPL has also earned a place in the squad.
I try to learn from calm minds like Sunil Chhetri, Roy Krishna: Manvir Singh
Striker Manvir Singh opens up about the forthcoming match against Afghanistan and talks at length about him playing as a striker and also as a winger.
Striker Manvir Singh who headed to the National team after a successful domestic season maintains that nothing is constant as a striker. In a candid interview, Manvir opens up about learning from Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna, his maturity, the forthcoming match against Afghanistan and talks at length about him playing as a striker and also as a winger. Excerpts
Q. How much have you matured as a striker in recent years?
A. A striker is all about confidence and that only comes through the game time he gets. The more you get to play, the more mature you become. It’s all about your intuition, the movements inside the box, sniffing it, and eventually the finishing. I reiterate, you can only get all of that when you get to play. Otherwise, your talent and determination will always be on the bench.
Q. What is the biggest takeaway for a striker?
A. I have learnt that nothing is constant. There will be days when you will score and there will be misses too. A striker needs to move on and stay focused.
Q. Can you elaborate?
A. My job becomes easier when I play alongside top strikers. I just watch Sunil-bhai and try to imitate his calm in front of the goal. At the end of the day, that ice-cool head makes all the difference. That’s education for me. In a match a striker won’t get a million chances.
There will be days when you will get just one chance, or maybe a half chance. If you are able to make it count, you have done your job. I also need to mention that I look up to Roy Krishna’s calm in front ofthe goal. They are my heroes.
Q. How would you describe yourself as a player – a winger, or as a striker?
A. At the outset, I was an out and out striker. But a player needs to be flexible. Modern-day football is not just about sticking to one position and role. I have been playing on the wings – both on the right-wing and left-wing in recent times. I feel that has helped me understand the dynamics of a team’s attacking philosophy. It is a plus point for any player.
Q. Sunil has been there for so long. How do you describe his longevity?
A. My dad Kuldip Singh who played for PSEB as a striker and scored quite a few goals in the Federation Cup, Durand Cup and the IFA Shield besides a host of other tournaments always mentions to me to learn fromSunil-bhai the art of his longevity. In fact, he had played against him, and always tells me: “When you are seeing him from close, learn as much as you can. Sunil’s speciality is that he has been there for so long. And that is extremely hard work.” Being around him I have already taken my baby steps. The rest is forme to sustain, and improve.
What can we expect from the next match against Afghanistan?
We need to sustain the momentum gathered in the match against Bangladesh and even in the 0-1 loss against Qatar. But everyone is aware that all of that is past. The match on 15th is a fresh canvas. We need to paint it in the right manner. The coach has been constantly working with us. We need to pay him back.
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