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Kohli’s RCB raring to challenge Warner’s Sunrisers

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David Warner’s SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) will start their campaign in this year’s IPL with a game against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Dubai International Cricket stadium here on Monday.

While the SRH have clinched the trophy once in 2016 — besides the 2009 triumph in their earlier avatar as Deccan Chargers — the Virat Kohli-led RCB are yet to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.

For this year’s edition of the lucrative league, the Warner-led SRH have made a few changes in their squad. The ‘Orange Army’ will miss the services of ace allrounder Shakib Al Hasan, who was released by the franchise after being banned by the International Cricket Council for failing to report an approach by bookies.

With skipper Warner and Jonny Bairstow, the SRH are considered to have one of the best opening pairs and if the duo gets going, the Hyderabad franchise could pose a big threat for their opponents.

Warner is also the leading run scorer for SRH after accumulating 3,271 runs from 71 games, averaging 55.44. Bairstow, who joined SRH last year, also impressed everyone after gathering 445 runs from 10 games at a decent average of 55.62.

The pace attack will be led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who hasn’t played any professional game since
December 2019. The 30-year-old has 109 wickets from 86 games and is the leading wicket-taker for SRH. Bhuvneshwar, however, will need support from Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Basil Thampi and Siddarth Kaul.

If SRH want to replicate their 2016 show, a lot will depend on how their spinners perform in the low and
slow tracks in the UAE. The spin attack will be led by Afghanistan leggie Rashid Khan and will be supported by his compatriot Mohammad Nabi, who had a decent outing in he just concluded Caribbean
Premier League. Nabi picked 12 wickets from as many games with an economy rate of 5.10. Other than these two, SRH also have left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem in their ranks and the Jharkhand spinner is known to be very accurate with his line and length.

On the other hand, RCB is one of the three teams in the league who are yet to win the trophy.
Kohli-led RCB’s biggest strength has been their batting and the skipper is undoubtedly, one of the best in business when it comes to whiteball cricket. Alongside Kohli, the RCB also have one of the best explosive T20 batsmen in A.B. de Villiers. Also with the inclusion of Aaron Finch, the RCB’s top-order looks quite effective.

Youngster Devdutt Padikkal is likely to open the innings with Finch while Joshua Phillipe is the other
opening option for the RCB. Also, all-rounder Chris Morris has been a great addition to the side and will
play the role of the explosive finisher that the RCB always looked for.

The RCB franchise has acquired the services of Morris and Isuru Udana to overcome their weaknesses at ‘death’ bowling. In the middle-order, the RCB has some quality with the likes of Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube and Morris, who all have the ability to demolish any bowling attack.

Experienced South African pacer Dale Steyn will lead the charge of the pace bowling attack while Navdeep Saini, Isuru Udana, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav will look to hand equal support to
the lethal pacer. The spin bowling options include Yuzvendra Chahal, Pawan Negi, Adam Zampa and
Washington Sundar.

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WE WON’T PLAY FOR A DRAW AGAINST AFGHANISTAN, SAYS STIMAC

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A day before India’s last match against Afghanistan in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha, head coach Igor Stimac has dismissed apprehensions that his side may play out for a draw.

India is currently placed on six points after seven matches in comparison to Afghanistan being on five points from seven games. “I need to say that I don’t know any coach or any team who would come out playing for a draw. Even that might seem to be a situation when you are facing much better sides. Then, you need to drop and defend for your life and wait for one, two or three chances to counter-attack like against Qatar. But, we are not going out to play for a draw. Rather, we will go out to win it,” the official website of All India Football Federation (AIFF) quoted Stimac as saying. “That’s what we are aiming to do. We need to start doing it from the kick-off. I know and am very confident that all our boys are ready and fit. They need to enjoy the game,” he added.Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu added: “I think it’s important for us to stay fresh and face this new challenge against a very good side. Afghanistan has good quality players who can manipulate the ball and convert if given the chance. So, we need to make sure that as players, we stick to the plan and that we make life difficult for the other team and try to finish with a smile.”

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If any country can pull off Olympics, it’s definitely Japan: Sathiyan

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India table tennis player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran on Monday showed faith in Japan and said the country would successfully host the Tokyo Games this year. The Olympics were slated to go-ahead last year, but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it will now go ahead this year from July 23 to August 8. “I have been to Japan many times, have played in the Japan league as well. If some country can pull it off it’s definitely Japan and I know about their meticulous planning how they prepare for any event. I have full trust in Japan and IOC and they will host a very safe Olympics,” Gnanasekaran told ANI.Talking about his qualification for the Olympics, Gnanasekaran said: “For me, it’s my childhood dream, I saw Olympics on television like 17 years before, the dream has come true. I wanted to be part of the Indian team, so I had started training really really hard, especially after joining Raman sir, it has been a huge amount of hours that I have spent on training.”“It’s the most important opportunity of my life but at the same time, I would just enjoy the game as I have always done, go out there and have fun on the biggest stage,” he added.

The paddler also talked about how playing without fans in attendance would be hard and athletes will be required to find the push without the audience cheering them on. “Certainly, that’s the most difficult part I would say. Initially, I had thought it would be fine but when I played the Japan league in a huge stadium without fans, I felt a very big difference. Fans give you the push, they give you the extra energy at the very crucial juncture or when the scores are level,” said Gnanasekaran.“I think we are now kind of used to this new normal. It’s gonna be hard but I hope I can dedicate the medal to fans even though they are not with us,” he added.

Talking about his game and training, the paddler said: “Fantastic. I have been training with my coach, I have been working on my technique, footwork and I am getting match practice as well. I am doing good fitness, I have seen improvement in the last month and I will be all guns blazing for the Olympics. “For me, attack is the best defence. I was a very defensive player in my childhood days, and then when I started training with Raman sir, I shifted gears and that’s where I transformed as a player. I always prefer finding out opportunities where I can attack and score a point against my opponent.”

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DJOKOVIC’S COACH FEELS VICTORY AGAINST NADAL MADE THE DIFFRENCE IN FINAL

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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s long-time coach Marian Vajda believes that the confidence attained by the Serbian in the semi-final win against Rafael Nadal made all the difference in Sunday’s French Open final against No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.Marian says that Djokovic, who won 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to claim his second Roland-Garros and 19th Grand slam title, after going two sets down against Tsitsipas was because of the belief he built up in his victory over the Spaniard. “I think Rafa’s game gave him a lot of confidence, believing in himself that he can win Roland-Garros,” Vajda was quoted as saying to the official website. “First two sets it took him [a] little bit off [guard] because maybe he was thinking too much ahead. Then he was able to be present after first two sets. Then he just prevailed [with] his tennis.”

Vajda told reporters after the final that Novak was in a much better place mentally in 2021, compared to the 2020 final, when he was obliterated by Nadal in straight sets. “I think he was much better than the last year mentally,” he said.

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EXPERIENCE OF MAGUIRE AND HENDERSON WILL BE VITAL MOVING FORWARD, SAYS ROONEY

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Former England player Wayne Rooney feels it’s vital that Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson get fit as soon as possible because they will be vital moving forward in the Euro 2020 for the Three Lions. “To win that was massive, Croatia are a good team and it will give the players a relief that they are comfortable in the group now,” Wayne Rooney told Sky Sports. “There’s a lot of quality in the squad, my only worry is a lack of experience — it’s important Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson get fit because they will be vital moving forward.”

England’s all-time record goalscorer feels the team will now be more comfortable in the next game against Scotland as they started off on a winning note at the European Championships in a “professional” manner against 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia. For the very first time in Euros, England won their opening fixture thanks to Raheem Sterling’s second-half goal against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday. Gareth Southgate’s men are now in a comfortable position ahead of fixtures against Scotland and the Czech Republic.

It would now be very interesting to see how England’s manager Gareth Southgate will navigate his starting XI for the remaining matches in the group stage as he made some very eyebrow-raising decisions against Croatia which ultimately paid off for the English side.

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NEW ZEALAND’S VARIETY OF FAST BOWLERS WILL CHALLENGE KOHLI & BOYS, SAYS PARTHIV

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Parthiv

Former Team India wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel feels Virat Kohli needs to give himself a bit of time in regards to his batting ahead of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand. “I think probably he will have to give himself a bit of time and try to think what he did in 2018 – where he got a number of hundreds. So, probably he is better equipped than he was in 2014, but there will be challenges and there will be challenges of a variety of fast bowlers. The reason being — it is not a one-dimensional fast bowling attack,” Prithvi Patel said on Star Sports show Game Plan.

Virat Kohli’s growth in English conditions has been phenomenal, especially if compared to the Indian skipper’s below-par 2014 tour to the one in 2018. In 2014, he managed only 134 runs in five Tests at a poor average of 13.40. Four years later, he hammered 593 runs in the five-Test series. Virat Kohli averaged 59.30 with two hundred in 2018. Considering this, if India wants to beat the Blackcaps in Southhampton, then they will surely need the same herculean effort from the captain.

Former India opener Virender Sehwag also feels Kohli needs to be patient and force the Kiwi bowlers to bowl at him rather than on the fourth and fifth stump outside off. “I think Kohli should show patience and he should leave a lot of balls. They must be made to pitch in the line and then he can score,” he told ANI. “He has to show patience and I am sure he knows that. I remember in 2014 when he didn’t score runs, he came back and spent time with Sachin Tendulkar and went back (in 2018) and scored a lot of runs.” Virat Kohli will lead India in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand from June 18 at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton to decide the first champion side of the longest format. The WTC final will be followed by the five-match Test series against England.

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Ishant should get a chance to play in WTC final

If the conditions are dry, then India should go with two spinners and if the weather remains cold and there is grass on the pitch, then in that case they should go with four fast bowlers.

Raj Kumar Sharma

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The most discussed point these days is about the bowling options Team India will go with against New Zealand in the WTC final. If the conditions are dry, then India should go with two spinners and if the weather remains cold and there is grass on the pitch, then in that case they can go with four fast bowlers. Who will play largely depends on the player’s current form and the skill he shows in the nets.

 Although the New Zealand team is in a better position to face the fast bowlers, they do not feel themselves in that comfortable position against spinners. In such a situation, it can be a better option for Team India to field both the spinners. Talking about the fast bowlers, it is certain that Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are certain to play while there is a choice between Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Siraj, if team management plays with three fast bowlers.

 But I will go with Ishant Sharma in both options as he has vast experience of 100 tests. That experience can prove to be very useful for Team India, but if Team India goes with four fast bowlers, then Siraj can get a place in the team. Of course, this decision lengthens India›s tail. Shardul is definitely a substitute who can bat well but I think he doesn›t find a place in the team because he is a bit slow compared to other fast bowlers.

 In the case of playing four fast bowlers, the team will have to go with only one spinner. In such a situation, R. Ashwin would be a better option as there are many left-handed batsmen on the New Zealand side and secondly, he can bat as well. Their being in form also goes in their favor but in dry conditions I believe both of them will play. If a fast bowler is unfit, the team would prefer to play Umesh Yadav instead of Shardul.

 As far as opening the innings is concerned, Shubman Gill is a better option with Rohit Sharma as the second opener. He is a constant part of the team. He has shown his rhythm in the practice match. The rest of the team management can gauge the good pace of the players in the nets.

The writer is Virat Kohli›s coach and Dronacharya Awardee.

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