Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], March 2 (ANI): Former India batsman VVS Laxman has praised Ravichandran Ashwin, saying the seasoned off-spinner is reinventing himself and is always looking to improve.
Ashwin had gone past the 400 wickets milestone in the third Test against England at the Narendra Modi Stadium which India won by 10 wickets to take a 2-1 lead in the four-match series. Courtesy his performance, Ashwin is now ranked number three in the ICC Test bowler rankings.
“I think he (Ashwin) is a very intelligent person. When you are playing at the highest level, then it’s not only about your skill, it’s about your preparation, your planning and execution is so critical. So, he works out what are the weaknesses of the batsman. He plans those dismissals and that’s why I think he is reinventing himself,” Laxman said while speaking on Star Sports’ show ‘Cricket Connected’.
“We saw recently in the Australia series how he troubled, someone as great as Steve Smith, and that’s another thing that makes Ashwin or any champion player special, that he wants to be the best and compete against the best,” he added.
Ashwin was a standout performer in India’s remarkable 2-1 Test series win over Australia and his resilience was on show in the third Test in Sydney where he battled it out alongside Hanuma Vihari to help India walk away with a famous draw.
“78 Test matches for 400 Test wicket. Let the naysayers be! He’s been absolutely phenomenal with the craft that he has displayed over a period of time and as he’s growing as a bowler he’s picking a lot of wickets. So, that question mark is also getting answered quite nicely,” said former India batsman Aakash Chopra while praising Ashwin.
“I feel that he’s an absolute rockstar. He’s one of the biggest match-winner, that India has ever produced. Of course, Anil Kumble will still remain at number one,” he added.
Earlier, when Ashwin was asked about possibly going past Kumble’s tally of 619 wickets, the 34-year-old said that he just wants to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead.
“I stopped thinking about all the landmarks a long time ago. It has been about how I can get better and what more I can offer to the team. I am looking to get better as an individual and cricketer every single day. I am not looking forward to what lies ahead and probably this is the reason why I am really enjoying my game right now. I would like to be in this space,” said Ashwin during a virtual press conference last Saturday.
India currently has a 2-1 lead in the ongoing four-match series against England and if the hosts manage to win or draw the final Test, they would secure their berth in the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC) where they will be facing New Zealand at the Lord’s, London from June 18-22. (ANI)
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Padikkal, King Kohli help RCB demolish Royals
A classy ton by Devdutt Padikkal along with an unbeaten partnership with skipper Virat Kohli help RCB to chase the 178-run target against RR.
Devdutt Padikkal’s unbeaten 101 and skipper Virat Kohli’s 72 not out helped Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) registered a thumping 10-wicket win over Rajasthan Royals in their Indian Premier League (IPL) match here at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday evening.
Virat Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal of Royal Challengers Bangalore, at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday. (ANI Photo/IPL Twitter)Devdutt Padikkal plays a shot during the match against Rajasthan Royals, in Mumbai on Thursday. (ANI Photo/IPL Twitter
Chasing 178, Padikkal and Kohli displayed an amazing show with the bat as both the openers took RCB across the line in 16.3 overs.
Padikkal scored his 101 runs in just 52 balls with the help of 6 sixes and 11 fours while Kohli played the second fiddle and smashed 3 sixes and 7 fours in his 47-ball knock.
The India captain also became the first batsman to complete 6,000 runs in the IPL.
Earlier, Shivam Dube and Rahul Tewatia played knocks of 46 and 40 runs respectively to steer Rajasthan Royals to 177/9 in their allotted 20 overs.
Put in to bat first, Rajasthan didn’t have a great start as they lost both openers Jos Buttler (8) and Manan Vohra (7) within the first four overs.
The fall of wickets did not stop as David Miller too departed on a two-ball duck. Pacer Mohammed Siraj picked his second scalp of the day as he caught Miller in front of the wickets.
Skipper Sanju Samson and Dube tried to pull together the innings and added some quick runs for the fourth wicket. The duo added 25 runs before Kane Richardson removed Samson (21) and broke the partnership in the eighth over.
Riyan Parag then joined Dube and the duo added 66 runs off 39 balls for the fifth wicket. Dube looked in great touch and Parag supported him nicely in the partnership. Parag’s 25-run stint was ended by Harshal Patel in the 14th over.
Rahul Tewatia came in to bat at number seven and along with Dube added 24 runs together before the latter was sent back to the pavillion by Richardson in the 16th over. He played a knock of 46 off 32 balls.
Chris Morris and Tewatia steered the side to the 150-run mark. Tewatia’s wicket was bagged by Siraj in the 19th over. He played a knock of 40 off 23 including two sixes.
In the last over, Rajasthan lost Morris (10) and Chetan Sakariya (0) but Shreyas Gopal added seven runs off four balls. For RCB, Siraj and Harshal Patel bagged three wickets each.
With the win, RCB have moved to the top of the points table with four wins in four games.
Brief Scores: Rajasthan Royals 177/9 in 20 overs (Shivam Dube 46, Rahul Tewatia 40; Siraj 3-27, Harshal Patel 3-47) vs RCB 181/0 in 16.3 overs (Devdutt Padikkal 101*, Virat Kohli 72*).
Not playing at home venues is testing the depth of squads
One of the biggest charms of the IPL in most seasons is the home advantage that teams enjoy for half the number of total league matches that they play.
Squads are structured keeping in mind the nature of the track that is typical to the home ground for each team.
But this season, with no team playing any match at their home ground, that advantage no longer holds good. Some might argue that even in the last season, no team had the home advantage since all matches were played in the UAE. The difference between last season and the current one is that the variation in the nature of surfaces being played upon is a lot more this time.
A case to point–the pitches tend to play low and slow at the MA Chidambaram Stadium and the Eden Gardens, especially as the summer progresses and the wear and tear of regular matches affects the pace and bounce of the surface. The nature of the pitch at Wankhede in Mumbai and the Chinnaswamy Stadium at Bengaluru is quite different from the ones in Chennai and Kolkata. The pitch at Bengaluru, for that matter, tends to be a batsman’s delight, while the Wankhede wicket does provide some bounce and carry for the seam bowlers and also keep the attacking batsman interested.
How often in the past have we seen teams like CSK and KKR pack the squad with quality spinners who can bowl a tight wicket to wicket line and seamers who have the ability to bowl slower deliveries and cutters and take the pace off the ball. Similarly, teams like MI and RCB tend to pack their batting lineup with players who like playing their shots on the rise and like the ball coming onto the bat.
You would expect top players across teams to adapt quickly to varying conditions, but it’s not always that easy. Which is why you need variety in the squad—players with different skill sets that give the team management the options to pick the right XI to ensure the team balance given the venue they are playing at.
Teams with options of quality spinners and genuine quicks have been able to adjust their Playing XI composition according to the venues and reaped rewards. The same applies to teams with a healthy mix of stroke-makers and players used to scoring runs on low and slow pitches as well.
Take the example of Delhi Capitals, who used Amit Mishra to great effect in Chennai where he claimed a 4 for 24 versus Mumbai Indians, while in the previous match at Wankhede they utilized the services of the left arm seamer Lukman Meriwala against Punjab Kings.
While on MI, the middle order batsmen like Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya like to have pace on the ball and like hitting their shots through the line and on the rise as well. With the team not playing any match at Wankhede and in-fact start the season by playing contests on the slower surfaces in Chennai, one can clearly see that runs aren’t flowing from their blade. Infact, as soon as the new ball loses its shine and starts getting a little softer after about 10-12 overs, scoring runs at a brisk clip has been a challenge even for set batsmen.
The numbers bear this out. Generally one expects that the batting team to score more in the latter half of the innings in a T20 game, if they get a solid start and have wickets in hand for the last 10. But in the four matches that MI have played at Chennai, despite having always batted first in all contests and getting the best use of the surface at Chennai, they have scored more runs in the first 10 overs of the innings as compared to the last 10. The only exception was the game against SRH, where they scored 75 in the first 10 overs and an equal number of runs in the last 10 as well.
But Pollard and Pandya are irreplaceable players, and one would expect them to adapt soon and definitely expect a different performance with the bat from them when MI play at Bengaluru later in the season.
Another team to have struggled with getting the composition of their Playing XI right in the initial stages of the tournament is SRH, but more on that in another article.
The writer is a cricket commentator and sports broadcaster who has worked on assignments for leading sports networks in India and abroad.
AIBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: EIGHT INDIAN BOXERS SAIL INTO FINALS
Indian pugilists posted a historic performance at AIBA Youth Men’s and Women’s World Boxing Championships as 8 boxers, including seven women and 1 male boxer sailed into final on eighth day in Kielce, Poland.
All the 7 Indian women boxers had put up a flawless performance as the pugilists had won their bouts as they progressed into the finals and will be aiming to add the yellow metal to their name. In the first bout of the day, Gitika (48kg) set the tone for the Indian contingent with a resounding 5-0 win over Italy’s Erika Prisciandaro. She will take on Poland’s Natalia Dominika in the final. In another bout, 2019 Asian Youth Champion Babyrojisana Chanu (51 kg) made light work of Italy’s Elen Ayari and won the match comfortably.
The Manipuri Boxer attacked with a lot of intensity and earned a unanimous 5-0 verdict in her favour. She will square off against Russia’s Valeria Linkova in finals on Thursday. Poonam continued her unbeaten international record as she blanked Uzbekistan’s Sitora Turdibekova 5-0 to set up the summit clash with France’s Sthelyne Grosy.
Vinka (60kg) put up an equally impressive show to secure a 4-1 win over Veronika Gajdova of The Czech Republic. She will be up against Kazakhstan’s Zhuldyz Shayakhmetova in the gold medal bout. Rajasthan’s Arundhati Choudhary (69kg) too outpunched her opponent from Uzbekistan, Khadichabonu Abdullaeva to register an easy 5-0 victory in the semis. She will take on Poland’s Barbara Marcinkowska in the final clash.
In the 75 kg middleweight semi-final clash, Sanamcha Chanu endured some early resistance from local girl Daria Parada of Poland but Chanu came back strongly in the last two rounds to win the bout with a split verdict (4-1). She will take on Kazakhstan’s Dana Diya in the gold medal match. Alfiya Pathan faced tough competition from Poland’s Oliwia Toborek as she couldn’t find her rhythm in the initial round. In second round, she went all-out attack and continued her onslaught in the next round as well and in the process, landed more punches than her opponent to prevail in a 3-2 split verdict in a busy and intense bout. WITH ANI INPUTS
TOKYO OLYMPICS: BRAZIL, GERMANY IN SAME GROUP IN MEN’S FOOTBALL
The 28 teams that have qualified for the Olympic football tournaments discovered their group opponents after the official draw was conducted in Zurich on Wednesday. 16 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams have been drawn into seven groups.
In the men’s event, Brazil and Germany, who faced off in the Rio 2016 final, were sent into Group D also comprising Cote d’Ivoire, Saudi Arabia. Egypt, Spain, Argentina, and Australia have been placed in Group C Japan was first out of the pot and drawn in Group A. They will face South Africa, Mexico, and France. In what will be the opening match of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Japan will take on South Africa in Tokyo Stadium.
Group G in the women’s tournament not only features the two co-hosts of the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, Australia and New Zealand, but it also gives the USA the chance for Olympic revenge over a Sweden side that eliminated them from Rio 2016 on penalties.
Japan will kick off the women’s finals against Canada, with Great Britain and Chile making up the section, while China PR, Brazil, Zambia and Netherlands comprise the other pool.
The women’s finalists will fight for the gold medal at Tokyo’s iconic new Olympic Stadium, which will also be the setting for the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies. Sapporo, Miyagi, Kashima, Saitama, and Yokohama (Men’s Final) will contribute to the Olympic passion by hosting exciting games until August 7, 2021.
“The draws were conducted by Jaime Yarza, FIFA Director of Tournaments, and Sarai Bareman, FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer. They were assisted by two FIFA Legends: Lindsay Tarpley, member of the USA women’s national team and two-time Olympic gold medallist, and Ryan Nelsen, captain of the New Zealand Olympic squad in 2008 and London 2012,” a FIFA statement read.
BABAR AZAM MOVES TO 2ND POSITION, KOHLI FIRM AT FIFTH SPOT
India skipper Virat Kohli remained firm at the fifth spot but Pakistan captain Babar Azam advanced one place to reach the second position in the ICC men’s T20I player rankings released on Wednesday.
Babar’s brilliant form had helped him replace Kohli at the top of the men’s ODI player rankings last week and this week’s T20I update sees him make a strong 47-point surge to overtake Australia’s Aaron Finch in the T20I rankings after scoring 122 in the third match. Though Babar is still 48 points adrift of top-ranked Dawid Malan of England, a three-match series against Zimbabwe from Wednesday presents the 26-year-old with another opportunity to move towards the top spot, which he had occupied till November last year.
Fakhar Zaman’s is a similar story as he follows up his progress in the ODI rankings with that in T20Is, gaining 17 slots to reach 33rd position after scores of eight not out and 60 in the last two matches.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan, who notched an unbeaten knock of 73 in the third match, has advanced eight places to reach a career-best 15th position.
Left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has attained a career best-equaling 11th spot after grabbing a wicket each in the two matches while Faheem Ashraf (up 12 places to 16th), Mohammad Nawaz (up four places to 24th) and Haris Rauf (up 43 places to 38th) have also moved up in the bowlers’ list.
For South Africa, Rassie van der Dussen has advanced three slots to the sixth position, just one shy of his career-best, after scores of 34 not out and 52.
INTER MILAN, ATLETICO MADRID WITHDRAW FROM EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE
Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid have announced that they will be no longer part of the proposed European Super League project. On Sunday, 12 of Europe’s elite clubs were named as founding members of the breakaway project, designed to rival the UEFA Champions League. “FC Internazionale Milano confirm that the Club is no longer part of the Super League project. We are always committed to giving fans the best football experience; innovation and inclusion are part of our DNA since our foundation. Our engagement with all stakeholders to improve the football industry will never change,” Inter said in a statement.
“Inter believes that football, like every sector of activity, must have an interest in constantly improving its competitions, to keep on exciting fans of all ages around the world, within a framework of financial sustainability. With this vision we look forward to carry on working together with institutions and all stakeholders for the future of the sport we all love,” it added.
Atletico Madrid said: “Atletico de Madrid’s Board of Directors, which met on Wednesday morning, has decided to formally communicate to the Super League and the rest of the founding clubs its decision not to finally formalise its adhesion to the project. Atletico de Madrid took the decision on Monday to join the project due to circumstances that no longer exist today. For the club, harmony between all the groups that make up the Red & White family, especially our fans, is essential. The first team squad and the coach have expressed their satisfaction with the club’s decision, as they understand that sporting merits must prevail over any other criteria.”
Earlier, all six Premier League clubs—Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur involved in proposed European Super League withdrew from competition. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and AC Milan are still part of European Super League but Barcelona’s participation is in doubt as the club could withdraw if their members vote against participation.
On Monday, FIFA had also expressed its disapproval for the proposed league. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president Aleksander Ceferin has also said that players will be banned from the World Cup and Euros if they participate in the European Super League.
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