This year in the FIH Pro Hockey League, India brought up the best teams in the world. I am happy that India defeated the Netherlands by a margin of three goals. If they lost one match to Belgium, they defeated them in the other. More importantly, the strong team of Australia was held to a 2-2 draw by India. From this, one can guess that the Indian hockey team is moving in the right direction. Apart from this, some encouraging results from other sports also raised expectations.
Let`s start with hockey. I have believed from the beginning that the forward line should avoid losing opportunities and the defense line should be relaxed. I am glad that, this time, both of these things were paid attention. It was a morale boosting performance by the team, but there also lies the fact that it all happened before March. Whether the team has maintained its rhythm in this way for so many months is an important question. Are the defence and attack of the team still the same? Now, coaches and team management will have to show that the team has the same firepower as before.
File photo of Amit Panghal (in blue).Bajrang Punia.File photo of players from India (blue) and Belgium (White) in action during Men’s FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 match, in Bhubaneswar. (ANI Photo)
In other sports, I have high hopes for badminton, wrestling, boxing and shooting. We can also get medals in these games. Frankly speaking, after hockey, I focus the most on these sports. Let`s talk of boxing. India finished the World Cup Boxing at Cologne at the second spot overall after claiming three gold, two silver and four bronze medals. Amit Panghal, Asian Games gold medallist, claimed the only gold among men. Simranjeet Kaur (60 kg) and Manisha Moun (57 kg) won gold in the women’s category. Indian pugilists ended this 67-day Europe training and competition successfully. I am very happy to say that nine Indian boxers have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this time. Led by stalwarts like Mary Kom and Vikas Krishan, the Indian team now also comprises medal favourites like World No. 1 Amit Panghal and some young Turks.
In wrestling, I have big hopes from Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat in the next Olympics. Both have won gold at Rome Ranking Series and also gotten medals in the world championship at Astana last year. Ravi Kumar, who won gold in the Asian Championship, is also a big hope for the Olympics. Sunil Kumar, Pinki, Sarita and Divya Kakran brought the country laurels in the Asian Championship and Anshu got silver at the World Cup recently.
In badminton, India did well in the Asia Cup Championship by winning bronze. Kidambi Srikanth went down fighting in the Denmark Open QF. I have big hopes from K. Srikanth and P.V. Sindhu in the near future.
In tennis, Sania Mirza and Nadia Kichenok won the Hobart International Tournament. This was a grand comeback to professional tennis for Sania. Apart from this, Sumit Nagal reached the second round of the US Open this year. He became the first Indian after Somdev Devvarman (2013 US Open) to win a match in the main draw of the grand slam.
In athletics, I was very impressed with the performance of Arvind Sawant, who broke a national record in the Airtel Half Marathon. Last year, during the world championship in Doha, he broke a record in heats as well as in the final.
In football, Mumbai City and ATK Mohun Bagan impressed with their performance in the Indian Super League. But in the FIFA WC qualifiers, India’s three matches out of five were drawn and India lost the remaining two.
I am also eagerly waiting for our shooters, who were previously the country’s pride, to show their game. We have 15 shooters who earned Olympic quota places for the country. The country’s shooting federation has also announced a core group of 34 shooters for nine events in the Tokyo Olympics. Let us hope for a medal in the future.
The writer is a member of the World Cup winning team of 1975 and scored a winning goal against Pakistan in the finals.
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It was a mistake to let Messi go, says Bartomeu
Former Blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu has claimed that it was a ‘mistake’ for Barcelona to let Lionel Messi leave Camp Nou in 2020. Bartomeu said that he would only have allowed the Argentine to depart Camp Nou for MLS or Asia. The stance was taken in 2020 when the six-time Ballon d’Or first made a push for the exits, with Messi informing that he would not be freed from the final year of a lucrative contract. However, that deal was eventually run down and Messi leaving for Ligue 1 heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain.
“It is a mistake to let Messi go. He represents much more than a footballer,” the Goal.com report said quoting Bartomeu. PSG was an obvious choice for Messi, given their spending power and the presence of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at Parc des Princes, but Bartomeu is still disappointed to see a Barca legend in France.
“I have always thought that Messi is very important to our club, Barca is also very important to him and it would be a serious problem if he left, as I think it has become now,” said Bartomeu. “I told him that if he wanted to go like Xavi and Iniesta, to Qatar, China or the United States, we can talk about it and we will do a tribute and a farewell. But Messi didn’t have a team yet and he wanted to be free,” he added.
There are lots of challenges in front of New Zealand, says Williamson
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson feels there are a lot of challenges in front of the Kiwis ahead of the T20 World Cup but their focus will be on getting better as a team in the showpiece event.
New Zealand begin their T20 World Cup 2021 campaign against Pakistan in their Super 12s match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on October 26 and will play India three days later at the Dubai International Stadium. “I mean there’s a lot of challenges in front of us. I mean any tournament, any World Cup is always tough, particularly the T20 World Cup. There are match-winners in every team and anybody can truly beat anybody and for us, we want to continue the path of growth and improve as a side and make those adjustments,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Williamson as saying.
“There are very little promises in this game, but we want to continue to get better as a side and hope that holds us in good stead. That’ll be our focus and that will be important for us in this tournament,” he added.
Williamson said Kiwis focus will shift towards India and the side will try to adjust to the UAE conditions to be in the groove for the match.“And then the focus will change, it will be on India and [we will] try and get a bit of clarity around what we might expect in some of those conditions, which can also vary quite a lot,” said Williamson.
“Be nice and clear how we want to operate there. As a side, it’s always a challenge [when] you have a number of different world events, but ultimately in terms of the bigger picture, you want to keep evolving and moving forward as a team and that’s where you try and put your energy,” he added. Apart from former champions India and Pakistan, New Zealand also have to contend with Afghanistan and two qualifiers from Round 1 in Group 2 of the Super 12 stage.
TIM PAINE ‘SHATTERED’ AFTER FINDING OUT ABOUT PUCOVSKI’S CONCUSSION EPISODE
Australia Test skipper Tim Paine said he was “shattered” after he found out that opening batsman Will Pucovski received a knock to his head and is recovering from concussion symptoms.
The 23-year-old has suffered from nine concussions and is currently managing his recovery in consultation with Cricket Victoria’s medical staff. Paine said Pucovski is still hoping to recover at some stage during the Australian summer. “He’s still hoping to be ready at some stage this summer. He’s got plenty of support around him, and we know how good he is, so there’s no need to rush him at the moment. He’s 22-23 years of age, he’s got a lot of time in the game if we can get it right,” Paine told SEN Hobart as reported by Sydney Morning Herald.
“[It was] shattering when I found out. I’ve spoken to him a bit the last few days. He is improving slowly,” he added. The Australian skipper feels Pucovski need to be careful in the future with the number of concussions he has had in his short career. “I don’t think it’s as bad as some of the others he’s had before, but with his history we have to be very careful. I was devastated to hear it’s happened again,” said Paine. Pucovski had earlier suffered a shoulder subluxation injury in the Sydney Test against India in January and was eventually ruled out of the fourth and final Test.
NEPAL FIGHT AS A TEAM, WE’VE TO BE AT OUR BEST, SAYS CHHETRI
Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri has admitted the SAFF Championship final against Nepal is not “going to be easy” for the Blue Tigers on Saturday.
India on Wednesday defeated Maldives 3-1 to book their spot in the summit clash here in Male, Maldives. Chhetri said the “job is not yet done” and has exuded confidence ahead of the clash. “They may not have an extraordinary player like an Ali Ashfaq in their ranks. But as far as attacking and defending are concerned, they do it as a team. They have been the best team that plays as a team in this Championship — they fight as a team,” AIFF quoted Chhetri as saying.
“We have played them thrice since September and they are extremely compact as a team and it’s not going to be easy. But we have become better and better as games have gone by, and in the final we have to be at our best.“We pulled our socks up after the first two games and now it is time to finish the job. But the job is not yet done,” he added.
The Indian captain also talked about how seniors are taking the lead to lift up the mood in the camp ahead of the summit clash. “Generally, the senior ones make sure that they calm the whole situation. When you have a team with a lot of youngsters, and if the mood and tempo go down, they may not be able to perform to the best of their abilities,” said Chhetri.
“The manner in which we lost two points in the first two matches wasn’t an ideal start. What was good was that the likes of Gurpreet, Kotal, Bheke, Subhashish started talking and mixing with the juniors to make sure the mood didn’t deteriorate.
“After all, it was easy to get into that vicious circle where you could have started to doubt each other. They made sure that there was a bit of banter, plenty of good vibes, some leg-pulling and the mood changed,” he added.Subhashish Bose will miss the final of the showpiece event but the Indian captain is hopeful of getting a like to like replacement.
“I hope whoever replaces him can do a good job. Bose and Bheke have been brilliant at the back. Predominantly they play as full-backs at their respective clubs, but the duo has done a fantastic job so far,” said Chhetri. “They have been vocal and charged up during this tournament, leading this team at the back. They were so charged up — they inspired the youngsters. Among the seniors, they have been the best performers so far,” he added.
NO CLEAR FAVOURITES, SPINNERS ARE GOING TO HAVE A HUGE ROLE, SAYS MURALIDARAN
Sri Lanka spin icon Muttiah Muralidaran stated there are no clear favourites for ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 which starts from Sunday. The T20 World Cup will begin with the Round 1 Group B encounter between hosts Oman and Papua New Guinea on Sunday, with Scotland and Bangladesh, the other teams in Group B, clashing in the evening match. “The most exciting thing about the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 is that there are no clear favourites. Coming into the competition in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, it feels like there is no standout side and as a result, any one of a large number of teams could end up lifting the trophy,” Muralidaran said in an ICC column. “I’m obviously delighted to see the importance that spinners have taken on in T20 cricket. It is a fast game and is meant to be a batter’s game, but the bowlers have adapted in the 18 years since the format first started in England. Fast bowlers are bowling slow balls and cutters and different balls. Those are the skills you have to develop.”
Muralidaran also shared his experience of T20 cricket as a player and coach/mentor and said one has to approach the shortest format of the game with a ‘defensive mindset’.
“My experience, both as a player and a coach or mentor in T20 cricket, was that you have to approach it with a defensive mindset, whereas in ODIs or Tests, the aim is to take wickets. Defending is attacking in T20 in my mind, you need to aim to go for 6 or 6.5 runs an over and if you can manage that, you will probably take a couple of wickets as well,” he said.
“I have been out in the UAE for the IPL and looking at the wickets, it is clear that the spinners are going to have a huge role to play in the World Cup. It will depend a lot on how the curators have prepared the wickets, but it looks like the spinners will be key as the batters were finding it hard to connect and it made for some low scoring,” the Sri Lankan pointed.
Sri Lanka is placed with Ireland, Netherlands, and Namibia in Group A. The Round 1 matches will run till October 22. The top two teams in each group will proceed to the Super 12 stage of the tournament, beginning on October 23.
Faf du Plessis, Shardul, Jadeja shine as CSK defeat KKR to lift 4th IPL title
Faf du Plessis’ 86-run knock backed up by a spirited bowling performance helped Chennai Super Kings (CSK) defeat Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) by 27 runs in the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 here at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday.
With this, MS Dhoni’s lineup won the IPL trophy for the fourth time, having previously won the tournament in 2010, 2011, and 2018. Chasing 193, KKR got off to a rollicking start as the opening duo of Venkatesh Iyer and Shubman Gill put on 55 runs inside the first six overs. Iyer continued with his form and he brought up his half-century off just 31 balls in the 10th over of the innings. It seemed like the opening stand was finally broken by Ravindra Jadeja as he had Gill caught, but the replays showed the ball hit the ‘spider-cam’, and hence it was deemed as ‘dead ball’ and the batter got a reprieve. At the halfway mark, KKR’s score read 88/0.
However, Iyer (50) was finally sent back to the pavilion in the 11th over by Shardul Thakur and the 91-run opening stand came to an end. In the very same over, Nitish Rana was dismissed for a duck, and KKR was reduced to 93/2, still needing 100 runs for the win from 54 balls.
The next to fall for KKR were Sunil Narine (2), Shubman Gill (51), Dinesh Karthik (9), and Shakib Al Hasan (0) and the innings quickly derailed with Eoin Morgan’s side left at 120/6 in the 15th over, still needing 73 runs for the win. In the end, the task proved too much for KKR, and CSK ended up winning the IPL 2021 title.
Earlier, Faf du Plessis brought his A-game to play a knock of 86 runs and help CSK post a total of 192/3 against KKR. Sent into bat, CSK got off to a steady start as openers Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis put on 50 runs inside the first six overs. During this course, Gaikwad went on to leapfrog KL Rahul to become the leading run-scorer in this year’s IPL. The much-needed breakthrough to KKR was provided by Sunil Narine as he dismissed Gaikwad (32) in the 9th over, ending the 61-run opening stand.
Faf du Plessis continued on his merry way and he completed his half-century in the 11th over of the innings with CSK nicely poised at 97/1. Robin Uthappa scored 31 off 15 balls and he proved a perfect foil to Faf and the duo put on 63 runs for the second wicket. However, Narine once again got among the action as he dismissed Uthappa in the 14th over, reducing CSK to 124/2.
Moeen Ali next came out to bat and he also played the very same way and KKR bowlers were left searching for answers. In the final three overs, CSK managed to add 39 more runs, taking the score past the 190-run mark. For Dhoni’s side, Moeen remained unbeaten 37.
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