Former India hockey captain and 1980 Olympic gold medallist MM Somaya is rooting for Maharashtra to emerge as champions of 36th National Games that got underway in Surat on Tuesday. “Services are no doubt defending champions but in last seven years a lot has changed,” Somaya pointed out, when asked to pick his best bet for the Games. “Maharashtra, however, has good medal prospects in several disciplines and will begin as my favourites,” he added.
The three-time Olympian (1980, 1984 and 1988), who was an elegant right half-back in his prime, however, concedes that Haryana, Punjab and Kerala, who have been dominating the medals table in recent years, cannot be ignored.
“Gujarat, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka will also get their share of the shiny metal since some very good work has been done by all of them at the grassroots level,” he pointed out, predicting an intense battle at the top.
The Mumbai-based Coorgi will keenly be following the action in hockey but doesn’t want to reveal his picks for the Men’s and Women’s gold medals. “I will be watching hockey closely. But I like football and athletics too and will be eagerly following them as well,” Somaya stated.
For someone who never got the chance to play in the National Games, the recently retired executive director of Bharat Petroleum (BPCL), is delighted that the Games are being held again. “They are the showpiece sporting event of the country and are like a virtual mini-Olympics,” he said.
Pointing out that the Games must be held impeccably, with the best facilities for the athletes, he said “The event should have the grandeur normally associated with the Olympic Games so that athletes are enthused to perform to the best of their abilities.” “I gather that the Gujarat state has put together world-class infrastructure and I am certain that they will conduct the National Games in a befitting manner,” he opined.
Lauding the “enormous effort” of the organising committee and the state government in getting the show together in three months, Somaya concluded, “I wish to compliment all those involved and wish them (and the athletes) all success in the conduct of these Games.”
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1st ODI: India lose by 9 runs, trail 0-1 in series
India lose to South Africa by 9 runs in a 40-over rain-truncated match played here at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow. With this defeat, Shikhar Dhawan led India now trailing the Proteas 0-1 in the three-match ODI series.
Chasing a massive 250-run target in 40 overs Team India got off to the worst possible start as opener Shubman Gill was cleaned up by pacer Kagiso Rabada for 3. Skipper Shikhar Dhawan was sent packing by Wayne Parnell for 4 as India lost their second wicket for 8. The Protea bowlers bowled a tight line and did not allow Indian batters to score runs freely as the hosts could only score 18 runs in eight overs of powerplay. Spinners came into the attack with Tabraiz Shamsi giving India the third blow by dismissing debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad 19 stumped by keeper Quinton de Kock. The hosts scratched their way to the 50-run mark in 18th over.
Ishan Kishan was also sent packing by Keshav Maharaj to leave his side tottering at 51/4.
With India losing wickets and the required rate consistently going higher they desperately needed a partnership and Shreyas Iyer alongwith Sanju Samson did just that. The Iyer-Samson duo hit boundaries to strike a 50-run partnership and take the team’s total beyond the 100-run mark in 22.3 overs.
Shreyas Iyer notched up his half-century in just 33 balls. The 67-run partnership was broken by Lungi Ngidi who got the prized scalp of Iyer for 50 as India lost half of their side for 118.
Shardul Thakur joined Samson and the duo batted well to take India’s total beyond 150-run mark in 31.1 overs.
Samson-Thakur duo notched up a fifty partnership off 43 balls to keep India in the hunt. Samson went on to score his half-century off 49 balls and in process India went past the 200-run mark in 36.5 overs. The 83-run partnership was broken as Shardul Thakur was dismissed by Lungi Ngidi for 33 off 31 balls as India lost their sixth wicket for 211. In the very next ball Kuldeep Yadav was dismissed giving hosts a double blow.
In the next over Avesh Khan was sent packing by Rabada for 3. With 29 runs needed off the last over. Samson tried hard and scored 20 runs of Shamsi’s over but it was too little too late for India as they could score 240/8 in 40 overs falling short of target by 9 runs. Earlier in the day put into bat openers Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock gave South Africa a slow but steady start. The partnership was broken as Shardul Thakur dismissed Janneman Malan for 22 as Proteas lost their first wicket for 49.
A few overs later Shardul struck again cleaning up skipper Temba Bavuma for 8 as the visitors lost their second wicket for 70. In the next over Kuldeep Yadav bowled a beautiful delivery to get rid of Aiden Markram for a duck to leave South Africa in a spot of bother at 71/3.
Heinrich Klaasen then joined wicket-keeper batter de Kock and the duo took their team’s total beyond the triple-figure mark. The 39-run partnership between the two was broken by leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi as he dismissed de Kock for 48 to leave South Africa tottering at 110/4.
David Miller joined Klaasen and these two took the team’s total beyond the 150-run mark in 28.3 overs. The Miller-Klaasen partnership continued and the duo crossed the 50-run partnership mark in 45 balls.
Southpaw Miller went on to score his half-century off 50 balls. The Proteas went past the 200-run mark in 35.5 overs. Klaasen too notched up his half-century in 52 balls as the visitors looked set for a big score.
India’s fielding was pretty average as they dropped important catches: first Mohammad Siraj dropped Miller and then in the next ball Klaasen was dropped by debutant Bishnoi of consecutive deliveries of Avesh Khan’s bowling. The Miller-Klaasen pair went past the triple-figure mark in just 84 balls and took the team’s total to 249/4 in 40 overs.
Thailand stun Pakistan in Women’s Asia Cup
Half-century from Natthakan Chantham helped Thailand women pick up a stunning four wickets upset victory over Pakistan in their Asia Cup match at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
With this win, Thailand has climbed to the fifth position in the Asia Cup points table, with two points from three matches, while Pakistan is in the second position with four points in three matches.
In the first innings, Pakistan posted 116/5 in 20 overs. Sidra Ameen scored a brilliant half-century, scoring 56 off 64 balls. Sornnarin Tippoch took 2/20 in her quota of four overs. Other bowlers also bowled economical spells putting brakes on Pakistan’s run flow. The target of 117 was chased down by Thailand with four wickets in hand, thanks to 61 by Chantham.
Chasing 117, wicketkeeper-batter Nannapat Koncharoenkai and Chantham gave a solid start to Thailand, amassing 40 runs for the first wicket. However, twin strikes from spinner (2/18) sent back Koncharoenkai (13) and Chanida Sutthiruang (0), reducing Thailand to 40/2.
Then, captain Naruemol Chaiwai joined Chantham to take the chase forward. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking for a while. Medium pacer Kainat Imtiaz broke the 42-run stand between the duo by sending back Chaiwai for 17 off 23 balls. Thailand was at 82/3. At this point, Thailand needed 35 runs in 27 balls.
Following this, Chantham brought up her half-century and kept braving the fall of wickets from the other side. She fell to spinner Nida Dar for 61 off 51 balls. Thailand was 105/6 in 18.4 overs, needing 12 runs in eight balls.
Nattaya Boochatham (3) and Rosenan Kanoh (9) took Thailand across the finishing line, with a ball to spare and four wickets in hand and help her side to register their victory over Pakistan. Tuba Hassan (2/18), Nida Dar (2/26) were the standout bowlers for Pakistan.
‘We welcome decision to include shooting but disappointed over wrestling’s exclusion’
Wrestling has been dropped out of the list of sports for the next edition of CWG Games 2026 which will be held in Victoria in Australia.
The move has not gone down well with the wrestlers, coaches and the associations but also amongst the fans in India.
Wrestling has always been a stronghold for India and their recent success at the Birmingham CWG is a testimony to the fact.
However, wrestling’s loss became shooting’s gain as the sport has made it back to the mega event after being omitted from the 2022 CWG. Shooting had been a part of the CWG programme since 1966 but was excluded from the 2022 edition in Birmingham.
Experts, ex-players and pundits have spoken exclusively to The Daily Guardian on the new development.
Here are the excerpts.
Rajeev Mehta, Hon’ Secretary General Indian Olympic Association: “I welcome the federation’s decision of including shooting in the CWG 2026 going to be held in Victoria, Australia. But at the same time we are unhappy on the exclusion of Wrestling from the event as wrestling now is one our major sports which can bring us a decent medal tally as was visible in CWG 2022 also. But we have not lost hopes and we definitely will put our requests towards federation and we are sure that something will work out.”
Deepali Deshpande, Arjun awardee, an olympian and former National Coach for entire Rifle session: “Dropping out any sport is not good for that sport, these are the games which every athlete looks forward to, it’s one of bench marks in their career. It’s one of the stepping stones, be it Asian Games, Olympics or CWG. I am happy that this time shooting is included but at the same time unhappy for my Indian Wrestlers just like I was unhappy when shooting didn’t get the fair chance in CWG 2022. Although, last time shooting brought 16 medals for the country alone.”
Samaresh Jung, Arjun awardee, the ace Indian shooter and national coach for air pistol: “I am very happy for the Indian shooters as shooting is included, but I would have been happier, if all the events of shooting were included. As for CWG 2026 in shooting there are only three events included air rifle, air pistol and trap.”
On exclusion of wrestling from the next edition he exclaimed “It’s the same case which happened with the shooting event in CWG 2022, according to me it has a simple logic which is visible and is actually very unfair, the host nation gets the advantage of picking and dropping a sport based on their own strengths in respective sports. When they see that particular sport event will not get them any chance of winning medals, they drop it. Basically, it’s a debatable topic”.
Deepak Punia, the Indian Wrestler who clinched Gold Medal at CWG 2022 said, “I am happy for the Indian shooters but at the same time I am very sad for Indian wrestlers as wrestling is not included in CWG 2026. All top Indian wrestlers have reached this level after putting in lots of sweat and blood. And CWG is an event which one always look forward to attend and perform as it is one of its kind of International competition. It’s a kind of reality and quality check for everyone. It’s very disheartening.”
Sajan Prakash wins gold medal in 200m butterfly swimming
Sajan Prakash overcame an abdominal strain to win the gold medal in the men’s 200m butterfly with a new meet record at the National Games 2022 in Gujarat on Wednesday.
Olympian Sajan Prakash, representing Kerala, clocked 1:59.56 in the final to win the gold, beating his own National Games record set at the previous edition in Kerala. This is Sajan Prakash’s second gold medal at the National Games 2022 after the men’s 100m butterfly.
Meanwhile, Hashika Ramachandra anchored the Karnataka 4x200m freestyle relay team to triumph to climb the podium at the Sardar Patel Aquatics Complex here for the fourth time in this edition but it was her incredible victory in the 200m butterfly final that set the venue alight.
Ramachandra dug deep into the reserves of her energy to slip past Astha Choudhury and touch the wall in 2 minutes 19.12 seconds for her third National Games record, including one as part of the relay team, in four days.
Hrutika Shriram stayed on course to repeat the golden hat-trick by winning the women’s 10m platform event. Though she was self-admittedly not at her best, she did her dives well enough to pick up her second gold in three days and her 10th crown in four editions of the National Games.
For a while, it looked like there would be a surprise gold for Gujarat in the swimming pool. Their gambit of fielding Aryan Nehra and Anshul Kothari in the first two legs of the 4x200m Freestyle worked well, giving rise to hopes in the hearts of the home fans. Karnataka’s S Siva and Aneesh S Gowda, however, packed too much power in the next two to win by a comfortable margin.
There was delight for Gujarat at the Riverfront Sports Development complex in Ahmedabad where rising Gujarat tennis player Zeel Desai helped the state retain the women’s singles gold in defending champion Ankita Raina’s absence. The third-seeded Zeel Desai led Karnataka’s Sharmada Balu 6-2, 3-2 when the latter retired with an ankle injury.
Tamil Nadu’s Manish Sureshkumar also benefited from the physical discomfort and rib pain Maharashtra’s Arjun Kadhe faced after winning the opening set. He could not maintain the same tempo after taking a medical time-out in the second set and Manish Sureshkumar pounced on the opportunity to win 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Tamil Nadu’s Sunayna Kuruvilla staged a dramatic comeback to win the women’s singles gold. Urvashi Joshi of Maharashtra won the first two games 11-9 and 11-7 but Sunayna found her rhythm to turn the final on its head. She conceded just 13 points in winning three games to romp home the winner.
The lawn bowls competition drew to a close at the Kensville Golf and Country Club near Ahmedabad with Assam’s Sunil Bahadur beating Soumen Banerjee (Jharkhand) 16-9 in the men’s singles final. Navneet Singh, Ayush Bharadwaj, Apurv Ashutosh Sharma and Abhishek Chug teamed up to beat West Bengal by the skin of their teeth, 15-14, in the Fours final.
The Assam Pair of Tania Choudhary and Nayanmoni Saikia beat Lovely Choubey and Rupa Rani Tirkey of Jharkhand 17-10 while Manu Kumari Pal, Jaya and Pinki surprised Jharkhand’s Sarita Tirkey, Anamika Lakra and Kavita Kumari 18-9 to win the Triples gold.
The National games final was a cakewalk for me: Antim Panghal
Antim Panghal fought well with all her opponents and won with a 10-0 margin to declare a clash with World under-20 bronze medallist Priyanshi Prajapati who represented MP. Antim defeated her 9-0 in the final at the National Games in Gujarat.
We spoke to her exclusively, excerpts:
Q. Antim, so how do you take this win of your at National Games?
A. I am overjoyed, feeling proud and feel more prepared for the U 23 World Championships than before. I consider it as a warm up match and good moral boosting match for World Championship. Even Asian Games trial are approaching and I now feel confident enough that I will compete efficiently and will win medal again. Also, would like to thank my coaches Vikas Bhardwaj, Lily Pehelwan, Bhagat Sihag and Jeetendra Kumar.
Q. What are the preparations going on for Asian Games, any change in techniques taught by your coaches or any changes in your diet and regime?
A. No, not as such as I have just landed in Delhi, they have suggested me to take rest for a day or two. May be after that they are planning to train me rigorously for the U 23 World Championships and also onwards for the Asian Games trials.
Yes, they of course have asked me to take certain diet precautions before the training commences which I have already taken into consideration.
Q. Who is your inspiration amongst the wrestlers? What is your dream?
A. My inspiration is Pehelwan Neelam and my dream is to qualify the trials for Asian games and Paris Olympics.
Q. You defeated Priyanshi Prajapati of MP with a good margin indeed, was it challenging or was it just a cakewalk for you?
A. To be honest, it was just a cakewalk for me, because she belonged to the 50kl category, but on paper she was fighting for category of 53kls. So, my coach told me before the fight that you have to gain as many points as you can because you have all the advantage. There was no question of losing this fight against her. So, I was already into that positive frame of mind that this belongs to me. And also, I gave my 100 percent because I didn’t want to take a single chance of giving her a single point. Don’t think about the win, think about giving your best.
Q. How did you find Gujarat and Gujaratis?
A. Oh! They are just too sweet. They love simplicity and are very humble too. They talk so politely and softly that it comes as an extreme culture contrast to the place from where I come. Haryana (giggles). We are so hard hitting, straight forward in speech. But yeah I love my state too, for its simplicity and generosity. In Gujarat, I observed that whenever I ask for any support, no one ever denied, they were so warm and welcoming. Full of humanity.
ICC T20 World Cup: Rohit Sharma led Indian team departs for Australia
The India men’s cricket team, led by Rohit Sharma, left for Australia on Thursday morning for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, starting from October 16.
After failing to get past the quarterfinals in 2017, the 2007 champions will try to claim the trophy this time around. Team India was able to generate some momentum before the World Cup winning the bilateral series against Australia and South Africa. The social media accounts of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) posted a picture of the entire Team India contingent departing for the T20 World Cup.
“Picture perfect, let’s do this #TeamIndia. @cricketworldcup here we come,” BCCI tweeted.
The T20I series between India and Australia and South Africa may have ended in victories for India on home soil, but there are some serious issues as the team prepares to compete in the T20 World Cup in Australia.
Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out of the four-week tournament on Monday with a back injury and will stay home in India while his teammates travel Down Under for the showcase event.
Bumrah was initially named to spearhead India’s attempt at winning a second T20 World Cup crown and his absence is expected to hamper their chances of adding to the title they won in 2007.
The BCCI are yet to name a replacement for the right-arm, although fellow seamers Mohammed Shami and Deepak Chahar are among the players already on standby for the tournament.
Before starting their World Cup campaign India will play a couple of warm-up fixtures against Australia and New Zealand.
They will begin their T20 World Cup campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on October 23 in Melbourne.
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