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India is world’s best team now, says Abbas

Nicknamed ‘Asian Bradman’, former Pakistani batsman Zaheer Abbas’s name has just been inducted in ICC’s Hall of Fame. In an interview with The Daily Guardian, he talks about his illustrious career, relationship with Sunil Gavaskar and future of India-Pakistan cricket.

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Pakistan’s legendary batsman Zaheer Abbas.

Q: Do you think the ICC was too late to recognise your name in the ‘Hall of Fame’?

A: Sunil Gavaskar was also saying this but better late than never.

Q: We have heard when you used to play, they would tell you “Ab bas” (now enough, stop). Tell us the story behind it.

A: Amul butter had put up hoardings in Mumbai as a part of their advertisement campaign in which they wrote my name as Zaheer “Ab bas” (pun intended). These ads got very popular in those days. People still talk about those ads.  

Q: You registered your name as the highest scorer in the Pakistan Test where you scored 274 runs and earned the title of ‘Asian Bradman’. How did it happen?

A: It was in 1971 in Boston. In an inaugural, I had already 111 runs. After which an English newspaper gave the headline ‘Meet the Asian Bradman from Pakistan’. I wondered why they said so because at that time I had not played any test and had not done anything. But when I scored 274 runs, I proved that the title was correct and I also proved that I was working with the same name that was given to me.

Q: You have scored 100 centuries in first class cricket — a record in itself. You were called a run machine in your time. Bowlers were scared of you and once only Sunil Gavaskar was able to get you out.

A: Gavaskar still tells this story to everyone that he was the one who took my wicket when I was close to my century. We both keep joking about this. I have known him since 1972 when both of us were selected for World 11 and went to play against Australia. We share a good friendship. Let me tell you one thing that when their team won at the Oval, I went to their dressing room to congratulate them. This is how you make friends by joining them in their sorrow and happiness. It was a happy moment for him. I congratulated him and our friendship from that time is till now.

Q: You have seen the time of Sunil Gavaskar, later Sachin Tendulkar and now is the time of Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Rohit Sharma. How do you see batting has changed over the decades?

A: Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Rohit Sharma are classic players. Rohit Sharma has already shown how a bigger batsman he is. He has played more matches and scored runs. But in Pakistan, players are told that they were big before doing anything big first. Sharma can score runs wherever his mind wants.

Q: Do you miss hitting cover drives when you see Rohit Sharma hitting good cover drives?

A: I could not hit cover drives the way Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli do in today’s time. I sincerely congratulate these two batsmen for their batting because it is the hard work of both of them behind such good shots. They seem to have worked very hard. As far as Babar is concerned, he is also slowly coming up. Whenever a Pakistani batsman does well, we start comparing him with Indian batsmen. I think India has the best batting line-up in the world today.

Q: Babar is now compared with the ‘Fab Four’ and Nasir Hussain equalled him to Root, Williamson, Smith and Kohli. What do you think?

A: Babar Azam has a lot of potential. He needs to learn a couple of things and he will learn those things over time. See, a big player is the one who makes fewer mistakes. Babar will not win the match alone. There should be at least two to three batsmen and there should be more runs in the team with Babar, then the time will start winning.

Q: It is being said that Virat Kohli will break the record of 100 centuries of Sachin Tendulkar in the coming time. Do you think it is possible?

A: See everything is possible and he is also young. He is playing very well. I think he will definitely do it.

Q:  Now it is said that Pakistan’s fast bowlers’ factory has now shifted to India. What do you think?

 A: Learning is an art. Our bowlers like Wasim Akram have taught Indian bowlers. Many have come to me as well to learn, which is very good. No doubt India has good fast bowlers. Now the combination is such that it can help the team to win matches. Apart from batting and bowling, India’s fielding has also improved.

Q: Do you think that India’s team is the best team in the world in ODIs and tests?

A: Yes, there is no doubt that India is one of the best teams in the world right now.

Q:  How do you see the T20 format?  Do you think this format has spoiled the test format?

A:  Yes, because in T20, the match gets over quickly. The spectators come more  in T20.  But the test takes 5 days to get the result. The real skills of players come out only by playing the test format.

Q: Would you like to play T20? Is there any batsman like whom you’d like to bat?

A: I would like to play like me only. I too had many strokes to play.  In the recent test series, batsmen were using T20 shorts there too. Crowd likes such shots.

Q: How to start cricket between India and Pakistan?

A: Yes, it should start right away because cricket is a game and it should be taken as a game. I feel very sad when India  and Pakistan do not play with each other for so long and I think there will come a time when India will start playing back in Pakistan, there will also be a test series.

Q: Parvez Musharraf had praised M.S. Dhoni’s hair and when Dhoni retired, there was a lot of discussion about him in Pakistan. Ganguly did something similar. What do you think about such a captain in Pakistan, seeing that India got more than one captain, on the other hand, Pakistan did not find any such captain after Imran Khan?

A: See leadership quality is very important and India has got very sensible captains. I like Dhoni very much because he works on his own. He is a focused player and under his captaincy, India has also won the World Cup and lots of tournaments. It is true that India has got a lot of good captains while we got Imran Khan.

Q: How do you find Virat Kohli as captain?

A: Virat Kohli is a very good captain, he is also doing very well. He should control his anger a little bit. He is a very good captain.

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Nasser Hussain lashes out at England’s batsmen after collapse against New Zealand

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Former skipper Nasser Hussain lashed out on England’s batsmen for not adopting the conventional approach following a collapse on day three of the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday. England crumbled on day three before taking a slender lead of 37 runs before the end of the play. The hosts ended the day at 122/9 after losing seven wickets in the final session of the day. Nasser said England are trying to “reinvent the wheel” in the longest format of the game.

“There seems to have been a reinvention of the wheel out there with batting. Techniques out there that everyone else who has played the game before – they are all wrong and we are right,” Sky Sports quoted Nasser as saying. “We’re going to have these odd little techniques, we’re going to have the bat coming across it, we’re going to stand funny, we’re going to swing outside our off stump because everyone else in the history of the game – Viv Richards, you are wrong, and we are right,” he added.

The former skipper said England can’t even give the excuse of the pitches turning since they are playing in the home conditions.“I’m not seeing ‘we are right’ at the moment, whether it be in Sri Lanka where Joe Root carried them, whether it be in India and they don’t have the excuse of the pitches turning here,” said Nasser. Nasser wants England to adopt the old-school method and get that big first innings score when playing Test cricket. “Whether it being the seaming ball or the spinning ball, they are right and everyone else is wrong. And I don’t see a young batting line-up,” he said. “I see Sibley, Burns, Crawley, Root and Pope. There’s no one missing in that top five – then come Stokes and Buttler. They’ve got all the coaches, all the backroom staff – please, just get back to playing normally and getting a first innings score,” Nasser added. Resuming their innings from 229/3, New Zealand took the scorecard to 312/5 in the first session on Saturday. England picked up two wickets in the morning session but New Zealand managed to take the lead by 23 runs.

In the second session, New Zealand was folded for 388 but the visitors took a handy first-innings lead of 85 runs. Moreover, England lost two quick wickets before the Tea as Henry removed both openers. In the final session, England crumbled in front of New Zealand bowlers as they lost seven wickets to serve a probable win for New Zealand on Sunday. England is currently leading by 37 runs but they have only one wicket in hand.

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Christian Eriksen ‘stable’ in hospital after on-field collapse

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Danish Football Association on Sunday informed that Christian Eriksen’s condition is “stable” and the star player continues to be “hospitalised”. The Euro Cup match between Denmark and Finland had to be stopped in the first half as Eriksen collapsed on the pitch and he had to be taken off due to medical emergency. “This morning we have spoken to Christian Eriksen, who has sent his greetings to his teammates. His condition is stable, and he continues to be hospitalized for further examination,” Danish Football Association said in a statement.

“The team and staff of the national team has received crisis assistance and will continue to be there for each other after yesterday’s incident. We would like to thank everyone for the heartfelt greetings to Christian Eriksen from fans, players, the Royal Families from both Denmark and England, international associations, clubs etc,” the statement further read. “We encourage everyone to send their greetings to the Danish FA, where we will make sure they are all passed on to Christian and his family,” it added.Eriksen’s teammates had formed a ring around him as he was being attended by doctors on the field. The midfielder was carried off in a stretcher. UEFA agreed to restart the match later in the evening. Finland defeated Denmark 1-0 in the opener.

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New Zealand will have advantage of playing two Tests before WTC final, says Pujara

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India top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has said that New Zealand will have the advantage of playing two Tests ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) final. Pujara’s comments came ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand, slated to begin on June 18 at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton. Earlier this year, an injury-ravaged India had managed to defeat Australia 2-1 in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and then the side defeated England 3-1 to enter the finals of WTC. “Personally, it means a lot to be here because I just play one format, it means a lot. We have worked really hard over a period of time to reach here. I am sure all the guys are looking forward to playing in the finals. Winning the finals will mean a lot to us, but even reaching the finals, the team has worked really hard for two years. Playing in different conditions in one particular day here is the most challenging part at times for a batsman,” Pujara told bcci.tv.

“If it rains, you go off the field and suddenly, it stops raining and then you start again. There are breaks in between and that is where you need to understand the challenge. Mentally you need to be strong, concentration needs to be there. New Zealand will have the advantage of playing two Tests before the WTC final but you know, when it comes to the finals, we will give our best. We know our team has the potential to win the championship,” he added. Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane said that leading the side in place of Virat Kohli in Australia was the proudest moment for him and he also talked about the upcoming WTC final.

“Over the last two years, we have played consistent cricket as a team. Reaching the finals of the World Test Championship is a result of that. It was not easy as Test cricket requires you to give your best at every stage. We started the WTC cycle against West Indies, and ever since then, we have done well as a unit. We will think of the WTC final as just another game, we have gotten good preparation time here in Southampton. I am excited and as a team, we are really excited, we will look to give our best in the finals,” said Rahane.

“As a batsman, you always say that you love challenging conditions, and England is such a place. If you get set, it is a very nice place to bat. As a batsman, I always believe that when you play the ball late, it will be better. As a batsman, you are never set here. One ball and you can lose your wicket. When I led the country in Australia, that was the proudest moment for me. Winning the series after losing the first match, it was really special and it is a very big thing for all of us,” he added.On Sunday, New Zealand defeated England by eight wickets in the second Test to clinch the two-match series 1-0.The Indian cricket team had landed in Southampton on June 3 and after that, every member of the touring contingent underwent three-day mandatory hard quarantine. At the Hampshire Bowl, the players were tested again before commencing a period of managed isolation. Regular tests will be conducted during the period of isolation.

Prior to departing for England, India head coach Ravi Shastri said, International Cricket Council (ICC) should look to make the final of the WTC a best-of-three contest and it could be played like a three-match series.

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DJOKOVIC CREATES HISTORY IN FRENCH OPEN, KREJCIKOVA WINS WOMEN’S SINGLES TITLE

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Novak Djokovic won his 19th Grand Slam title after coming back from 2 sets down against 5th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open 2021 men’s singles final at Roland Garros in Paris on Sunday. Djokovic clinched glory after downing the spirited Grand Slam final debutant 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic, who played 18 sets since his fourth-round match, became the first man in the Open Era to win all 4 Grand Slams at least twice. He is only the third man to do so after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

“It was an electric atmosphere. I want to thank my coach and my physio, everyone who has been with me on this journey,” Djokovic said post the win.

Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova along with her partner Katerina Siniakova on Sunday won the women’s double title here at the ongoing French Open. This comes a day after Krejcikova won the women’s singles title on Saturday. In the doubles event, Krejcikova and Siniakova defeated the pair of Iga Swiatek and Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4 6-2. With this victory, Krejcikova has become the first player to win both the women’s singles and doubles event at the French Open since Mary Pierce achieved the feat way back in 2000.

Krejcikova has also become the first woman to win both the singles and doubles events at a Grand Slam since Serena Williams in 2016. On Saturday, Krejcikova fought an intense battle to become the first woman from her country to clinch the French Open singles title since Hana Mandlikova in 1981. Krejcikova defeated Russian tennis star Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 to lift her maiden singles major trophy.

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Why Virat Kohli should bowl a few overs in ODIs

Virat Kohli was very confident about his bowling in the domestic matches. He felt that he had wicket-taking ability. In the initial years, he even bowled in IPL. So, why has he stopped bowling now?

Raj Kumar Sharma

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When batsmen like Sachin Tendulkat, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Sourav Ganguly used to bowl, it helped the main bowlers to have a break. All these part-time bowlers sometimes bowled very well and took one or two wickets as well. At that time, the team management decided for a four-bowler formula in which they included one extra batsman.

Even though Indian captain Virat Kohli is known for his batting, he was seen bowling during the match. A moment came on Day 2 of the intra-squad practice match when Kohli was seen bowling to his opposition captain K.L. Rahul. I was pleased to see that scene on twitter.

The BCCI uploaded a video of the moment in slow-motion and asked fans to explain what would happen next. “Captain vs Captain at the intra-squad match simulation. What do you reckon happened next?” the BCCI post read. Three options were also given in the post—Straight-drive (OR) Defense (OR) LBW. I can only say that Virat was very confident about his bowling in the domestic matches. He broke valuable partnerships. He felt that he had wicket taking ability. In the initial years, he even started bowling in IPL. But when Albee Morkel hit 4 sixes on his four balls, this broke his confidence in bowling.

Virat has taken four wickets in ODI and the same number of wickets in T20I. In ODI, he has taken the wicket of Alastair Cook, Quinton de kock, Brendon McCullum and Craig Kieswetter. In T20I, he got the wicket of Kevin Pieterson and it was very much talked about. Summit Patel, Mohd. Hafeez and Jason Charles were the other victims of Virat.

Virat has wrong foot action and still feels that he can bowl a few overs in the middle. He is keen to bowl for the simple reason to maintain his fitness, to give breaks to bowlers and for the fact that bowling is his passion. I think there is no harm if he bowls two to three overs in an ODI. Dhoni also used his ability from time to time. He can surprise anyone even in this format. He can be a useful change bowler.

(The writer is the Virat Kohli`s coach and Dronacharya Awardee)

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Ngidi, Nortje put Proteas in command against West Indies

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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.

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