International Football allows you time to recover, yet somewhere down the line you feel maybe it isn’t enough. It was only the other day that India played against Oman in the first of the two International Friendlies where it ended 1-1.
It was then—a kind of a match where it was a tale of two halves. A dominant Oman, and a holding India in the first half while a confident India came out of their shells to take the fight back to “physical and a tactical” Oman in the second half.
The second International Friendly against the UAE at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai is on Monday (29 March), the kick-off of which is at IST 8.30 pm (local time 7 pm).
“In the second half, we showed that there is nothing to fear. These are better sides. When you play against teams in the top 100, the difference in 25 to 30 spots in rankings means a lot. There is still a big difference between the UAE and us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t achieve the result,” mentioned Head Coach Igor Stimac.
The rankings suggest that while India is currently at 104, UAE stays strong at 74 while Oman is at 81. The last time India played UAE was in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 where the Blue Tigers went down 0-2.
“The match against the UAE will be a different game. I need to give chances to the other players. We have important games coming up in June and need to assess all the players,” stated Igor hinting there will be quite some changes in the starting XI. India had fielded 10 debutants in the match against Oman. Despite it is the last week in March, Dubai has been surprisingly pleasant. There’s always a cool breeze blowing across post the sunset, keeping the mercury in check. “There have been storms nearby, even rain in some nearby areas,” a local at the team hotel informs.
Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, who kept off a penalty in the first match, is quick to point out that “great things are happening in Indian football.”
“So many youngsters coming is such a healthy sign. Where else do you have 10 debutants playing an International Friendly? These are signs of transition that define the sport in the country. And if you look back, all of them faced Oman in their first International match. That’s very meticulous planning. The experience will only make them better players,” he narrated.
“At the International level against any team, we need to be physically and mentally fit. UAE is a physical team too. The lesser mistakes we make, the higher chances we have to win it. The team making lesser mistakes will eventually go on to win,” added Amrinder.
Striker Manvir Singh, who scored India’s equaliser against Oman stated, “It was tough to break Oman as they were extremely compact.”
“I knew that as a striker I wouldn’t be getting many chances. Hence, when Bipin looked up, I sprinted like anything to be in the position to meet the ball. He kept it perfectly, and I managed to head it home,” Manvir smiled referring to his goal.
“We are high on confidence after drawing against Oman. UAE is very comfortable with the ball. We are aware that despite the crowd not being there, the UAE will enjoy a psychological advantage as they will be playing at home. But the game is not over till it is over,” he stressed.
The practice sessions at Dubai Sports City have been intense ones. Igor has been very demanding from his players, running from one end to the other to explain, demonstrate, and correct their positioning. The next moment he blows his whistle, and his wards are on it for another time, and then again for another time. The process is continuous.
Central defender Chinglensana Singh, one of the debutants against Oman, maintained, “We created chances in the second half but we need to physically improve as a team.”
“Sandesh is so aggressive yet calm on the field. I have been following him closely and it was quite an experience to be pairing up with him. Against UAE, we will play to win. We are confident as a group. We need to play our game and that can make a difference,” stated Chinglensana.
As the team returns from training, Dubai glows brightly. The infra is majestic and one fails to keep track of the numerous turns on the street, cars speeding at an average of 120 kmph. The chauffeur points out, “There was nothing around this junction some two years back—all were vacant. You need time to build, and look at it now—new swanky buildings, malls, complexes, and so green.” The 10 debutants have just started their international career. Witness some more from them on Monday.
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ZIMBABWE’S HEATH STREAK BANNED FOR EIGHT YEARS UNDER ICC ANTI-CORRUPTION CODE
Former Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak on Wednesday was banned from all cricket for eight years after he accepted five charges of breaching the ICC Anti-Corruption Code.
Streak was charged as a participant under the Code by virtue of his status as the coach of Zimbabwe from 2016 to 2018 and as the coach of various domestic teams. The charges are as follows: 2.3.2 – disclosing inside information under both the ICC Code and various domestic Codes, in circumstances where he knew or should have known that such information may be used for betting purposes. In particular, he disclosed inside information in relation to matches in the 2018 Tri-Series involving Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, the Zimbabwe versus Afghanistan series in 2018, the IPL 2018, and the APL 2018.
2.3.3 – directly or indirectly soliciting, inducing, enticing, persuading, encouraging, or intentionally facilitating any participant to breach the Code. In particular, he facilitated or attempted to facilitate the introduction of four different players, including a national captain, to someone he knew, or should have known, may have wanted to approach them to provide inside information for betting purposes.
Under the provisions of the Code, Streak chose to admit the charges and agreed with the sanction with the ICC in lieu of an Anti-Corruption Tribunal hearing. He will be free to resume his involvement in the game on March 28, 2029.
BABAR AZAM ENDS KING KOHLI’S REIGN AT TOP OF ODI BATTING CHART
Pakistan captain Babar Azam has ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain the number one position in the latest update released on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old’s player of the match effort of an 82-ball 94 in the last match of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League series against South Africa in Centurion has helped him gain 13 rating points to reach 865 points and he now leads the Indian captain by eight points. Babar, a star of the ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cups in 2010 and 2012 and who has been playing ODIs since 2015, had started the series against South Africa at 837 rating points but moved up to 858 (ahead of Kohli) after his score of 103 in the first match. He dropped to 852 by the time of the last weekly rankings update with a score of 32 in the second ODI.
By ending Kohli’s 1,258 day-supremacy, Babar has emulated compatriots Zaheer Abbas (1983-84), Javed Miandad (1988-89), and Mohammad Yousuf (2003) as the number one ODI batsman. In Tests, Babar has attained a best of fifth position and is currently ranked sixth while in T20Is he is third but has been number one in the past.
Left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman is another Pakistan batsman to move up the ODI batting charts, gaining five slots to reach a career-best seventh position after his knock of 101 while left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi gained four places to a career-best 11th place and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz moved up 29 places to 96th, have progressed thanks to their three-wicket hauls in the match.
For South Africa, all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo has gained 11 slots to reach 83rd position after notching a half-century while captain Temba Bavuma has progressed from 88th to 86th place.
In the ICC Men’s T20I Player Rankings, Mohammad Rizwan’s unbeaten 74 in the first match of their series against South Africa has helped him jump 24 places to 23rd position while Nawaz (up 36 places to 28), Hasan Ali (up 22 places to 62nd) and Usman Qadir (up 24 places to 68th) have moved up in the bowlers’ list.
BABAR, RIZWAN SCRIPT PAK’S HIGHEST SUCCESSFUL T20I RUN CHASE
CENTURION : Babar Azam’s stunning century and Mohammad Rizwan’s classy fifty helped Pakistan complete their highest successful T20I run-chase with 12 balls to spare against South Africa in the third game here on Wednesday.
Pakistan defeated South Africa by nine wickets to take a 2-1 lead in the four-match T20I series. The visiting captain struck 122 off just 59 balls (15 fours, 4 sixes) and shared a record 197-run opening partnership with vice-captain Rizwan, who ended unbeaten on 73 off 47 balls (5 fours, 2 sixes), as the tourists chased down 204 with two overs to spare.
Earlier, half-centuries by the in-form Aiden Markram (63 off 31 balls, 6 fours, 4 sixes) and Janneman Malan (55 off 40 balls, 5 fours, 2 sixes) provided South Africa with a strong start that put them on course for well beyond 200, before they tailed off slightly at the end.
And Pakistan then made merry at a venue they have not lost at so far on their tour, securing a key win that meant they now cannot lose the series with just one match to come on Friday.
The Asian side won the toss and opted to field first, but that looked a wrong call as Markram and Malan both flew out of the blocks.
Rajasthan eye to revive their form against DC
While South African pace bowling duo Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje will return to fuel Delhi Capitals’ (DC) bowling attack their opponents for Thursday’s Indian Premier League (IPL) match, Rajasthan Royals (RR), are struggling to field their top overseas players.
Jofra Archer’s chances of recovering from his shoulder injury and joining RR in the league phase this season is highly unlikely and on Tuesday, ace all-rounder Ben Stokes was ruled out for the season with a broken finger.
Stokes will stay with the team to provide support from the outside but will not be able to play, leaving a gap in the RR playing XI.
The Jaipur franchise put up a stiff fight in their first match against Punjab Kings with Sanju Samson’s century taking them to within four runs of Punjab Kings’ 221-run total.
RR may field either Liam Livingstone or David Miller in place of Stokes in the match against DC.
The Delhi Capitals, however, will be a buoyant lot. Not only are they coming back from a resounding win over Chennai Super Kings in the first match but they also have their frontline pacers Rabada and Nortje back. Both the Proteas fast bowlers had caused a lot of damage to opposition batting lineups in the last season.
Even with a pace attack that could be described as second string, DC managed to restrict CSK to below 200 on a very good batting surface. Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan then went after the bowling, helping new captain Rishabh Pant start the season with a resounding victory.
On paper, especially with RR’s injury woes, DC look the outright favourites. However, as Sanju Samson showed the other day, in T20 cricket even one good knock can turn a match. Samson will be hoping to perform again with the bat and will also hope that Chris Morris, for whom RR shelled out a huge Rs 16.25 crore, comes good.
DC also benefited from some poor fielding from CSK players, many of who were rusty. It is unlikely they will get that kind of luxury against RR. However, they remain the favourites due to the depth in bowling and batting.
• Many power-hitters in the side: Samson, Buttler and Tewatia
• Riyan Parag is a new IPL sensation
• Stokes injured, unavailable
• Expensive bowlers
• Shaw and Dhawan in form.
• Aavesh and Chris Woakes
• R. Ashwin & Amit Mishra proved to be expensive in the first match
• Anrich Nortje out of the tournament owing to Covid-19.
VACCINATION PROCESS FOR OLYMPIC-BOUND ATHLETES TO START SOON: RAJEEV MEHTA
Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Secretary General Rajeev Mehta on Wednesday informed that the vaccination process for the Olympic-bound athletes will start soon in the country.
“We will start the vaccination process soon so that our athletes are safe. A lot is invested in them and we want to be sure that they are safe,” said Mehta during an online seminar organised by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and IOA on the occasion of 100 days to the Olympics. Tokyo Olympics will go ahead from July 23-August 8 this year. The Games were slated to be held last year, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
India has reported the highest-ever single-day spike in COVID-19 cases with over 1.84 lakh new cases and more than 1,000 deaths in the last 24 hours. And with the ever-rising COVID-19 cases, vaccination of Olympic-bound athletes has become the talk of the town.
Union Youth Affair and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju is confident of the athletes bringing laurels for the country in the upcoming mega event.
“India must cross double digits. Our athletes are fully prepared and I think this will be India’s best Olympic so far,” said Rijiju.
Meanwhile, SAI has issued a new SOP in view of the Covid-19 situation in the country. The SOP includes regular RT-PCR tests of athletes on a weekly basis to monitor their health.
Those contracting Covid-19 are immediately being moved to hospitals to ensure the best treatment and their complete safety and to isolate them from athletes who are negative.
Shahbaz, Maxwell shine as RCB clinch a close win over Sunrisers
Chasing 150, SRH collapsed from 96/1 to 123/6 within 4.4 overs and was pulverised to 143/9 in their allotted 20 overs. Shahbaz picked three key wickets and delivered when Captain Kohli needed him the most.
David Warner’s half-century had put Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) on course of a victory but Shahbaz Ahmed ran through their middle order to help Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) register a thrilling win in their Indian Premier League (IPL) game at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Wednesday evening.
Shahbaz Ahmed of Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrates a scalp.RCB’s Glenn Maxwell scores his first IPL half-century in 5 years.
Earlier, Glenn Maxwell had scored a gutsy half-century to ensure that RCB, despite losing a flurry of wickets in the second half of their innings, set up a 150-run target. In response, SRH fell seven runs short of the target, thanks to some brilliant bowling in the second half by RCB. SRH was right on track for a win with Warner and Manish Pandey stitching a 83-run stand for the second wicket but the side lost the plot in the middle overs. SRH collapsed from 96/1 to 123/6 within 4.4 overs and was managed 143/9 in their allotted 20 overs. Shahbaz picked three key wickets and delivered when RCB needed him the most.
SRH had a bad start to their chase as opening batsman Wriddhiman Saha was sent back in the hut in the third over by Mohammed Siraj.
But skipper Warner and Manish carried the innings and ensured SRH didn’t lose a wicket as the duo took their side to 50/1 at the end of the powerplay.
While Manish played a run-a-ball knock, Warner was in his prime best as he took on the RCB bowlers and completed his fifty in just 31 balls.
RCB finally took a sigh of relief when Kyle Jamieson dismissed Warner in the 14th over. Warner’s wicket triggered a major collapse as SRH lost five batsmen in 4.4 overs.
In the end, Rashid Khan tried to get SRH over the line but was run out in an attempt to take a double.
Earlier put in to bat, RCB had a decent start before Devdutt Padikkal departed in the third over.
Shahbaz, who was promoted up the order, had his fair share of chances where he smoked a four but Shahbaz Nadeem got the better of him as RCB lost the second wicket just after the completion of powerplay. In the death overs, Maxwell kept slogging the ball to complete his gutsy fifty (his first since 2016 in IPL) as RCB went past the 140-run mark.
Brief Scores: RCB 149/8 (Virat Kohli 33, Glenn Maxwell 59; Jason Holder 3-30); SRH 143/9 (David Warner 54, Manish Pandey 38; Shahbaz Ahmed 3-7)
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