A glance at the statistics and some hard facts would show that as far as their individual careers are concerned, Lionel Messi has eclipsed his legendary former Argentina coach Diego Maradona, who passed away on Wednesday.At the international level, 33-year-old Messi has 87 goals in 165 appearances, making him Argentina’s all-time highest goal scorer. Maradona scored 42 in 106 recorded appearances. Messi’s goal-scoring record at club level is off the charts — he has netted a total of 640 goals in more than 700 senior appearances for Barcelona. Maradona made 588 appearances for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys and scored 312 goals.And yet, going by most descriptions of Buenos Aires through the prism of its beloved sport of football, the endless murals and graffiti that adorn its streets show Maradona, not Messi, in different forms of divinity. The difference in the way that the two greats are perceived in their home country can perhaps be put down to two factors — their respective records at the World Cup and their off-field transgressions.Both Messi and Maradona have felt the extreme pressures that come with captaining Argentina at the World Cup. The difference, however, lay in the fact that Maradona won the tournament at his second attempt, while for Messi, it has remained an unfulfilled quest in an otherwise illustrious career.Messi, almost symbolically, trails Maradona by two goals in the World Cup goal-scoring records — Messi has scored six times in 19 matches while Maradona has eight goals in 21 appearances. Maradona, after all, scored what has to be the most famous brace of all time against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup.At the 1990 World Cup, Maradona led Argentina to the final yet again. The tournament featured a bizarre incident in which Brazil’s Branco claimed that Maradona and team mate Ricardo Giusti offered him water spiked with tranquilisers during half-time of the round of 16 fixture between the two teams. The press discredited the story at the time but Branco would be proven right many years later by Maradona himself, when the latter confessed to the episode in a TV show.Maradona then played two matches at the 1994 World Cup before being sent back home for a failed drugs test, thus bringing the curtain down on his 17-year-long international career.Anyone who has even remotely followed Messi’s career would be able to say that trying to trick an opposition player into taking tranquilisers at half-time and failing a drugs test at a World Cup are all areas that the Barcelona superstar would never come close to. And in here comes the second difference.A case of tax evasion is perhaps the most prominent of the handful of transgressions one can find on Messi at Barcelona. In the case of Maradona, however, his off-field troubles were as much a headline-maker as were the onfield acts of magic, among which were stories of his wild parties with the Naples mafia, and his dependence on cocaine and alcohol. Messi has remained apolitical throughout his life, his social commentary being limited to issues that plague Argentine football. His sudden retirement from international football after the 2016 Copa America final, in which Argentina failed to lift a major trophy for the third time in as many years, came to highlight the disjointed manner in which the sport was run in the country. It was also at this time that Argentina finally showed its love for Messi.On July 2, 2016, about a week after the Copa America final, about 50,000 people marched to the Obelisco de Buenos Aires chanting ‘No Te Vayas Leo’ (Don’t go Leo).He came back, of course, and almost single-handedly pulled a stumbling Argentina to qualification for the 2018 World Cup, where they were dumped out in the Round of 16 by eventual champions France. Messi cut a forlorn figure for much of that tournament, famously appearing to cover his face while the Argentine national anthem was being played ahead of their shock 1-1 draw against Iceland.Messi may yet win a World Cup — 2022 is not too far away and the 33-year-old player remains one of the most reliable forwards in world football, but chances of him becoming the saint-like mythical figure that Maradona became long before his death on November 25, 2020, look rather slim. “He has left us but he will never leave us because Diego is eternal,” said Messi in his tribute to Maradona. Messi’s legacy may well turn out to be eternal as well. But while it may be perilous to predict the future, it would be safe to say that it would be markedly different from Maradona’s.
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Two opponents having a word: Stokes on altercation with Siraj
Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], March 4 (ANI): Commenting on his on-field altercation with India pacer Mohammed Siraj, England all-rounder Ben Stokes on Thursday said people always look at these things thinking “it is all wrong” while suggesting that it was just two opponents having a word and going toe to toe against each other.
Tempers flared on the first day of the ongoing fourth Test between India and England as Virat Kohli and Ben Stokes clashed in the middle after Stokes exchanged words with Siraj and umpire Nitin Menon had to intervene.
The chat between Kohli and Stokes heated up at the end of the 13th over. The Indian skipper was visibly unhappy with something Stokes said to pacer Mohammed Siraj and as a result, he decided to have a lengthy chat with the swashbuckling English all-rounder.
“The thing in cricket nowadays is that it becomes a massive talking point when two opponents have a word with each other. People seem, I do not know, not lose their heads but they think it is all wrong. Look at it from a different way, guys care about what they are doing and what they are representing. Playing against each other, we are competitors and we are not going to back down to anyone, whoever it may be.
“It is nice to see two competitors going toe to toe against each other and no one is backing down. For me, that was it, two competitive guys trying to get over each other,” Stokes said in the virtual press conference after the end of day’s play.
Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara showed great application as India ended the opening day of the fourth and final Test against England in the driver’s seat despite losing opener Shubman Gill at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday. 11 wickets fell on the day as England was bundled out for 205 after skipper Joe Root won the toss and decided to bat first.
At stumps, India’s score read 24/1 with Rohit (8*) and Pujara (15*) at the crease — trailing the visitors by 181 runs in the first innings. (ANI)
Stokes was swearing at me, so Kohli intervened: Siraj
Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], March 4 (ANI): On a wicket where the Indian spinners bowled beautifully, pacer Mohammed Siraj picked the important wickets of England skipper Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow on the opening day of the fourth Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday.
While Siraj was impressive with the ball, he was also involved in a verbal duel with England all-rounder Ben Stokes which also saw skipper Virat Kohli getting involved. Speaking after the end of the day’s play, Siraj said that Stokes was swearing at him and Kohli handled it well.
“He (Stokes) was swearing at me, so Virat intervened and handled that well,” Siraj said.
Tempers flared in the first session on Day One as Kohli and Stokes clashed in the middle with umpire Nitin Menon having to intervene. The chat between Kohli and Stokes heated up at the end of the 13th over.
The Indian skipper was visibly unhappy with something Stokes said to Siraj and as a result, he decided to have a lengthy chat with the England all-rounder.
After the final ball of the 12th over, Stokes came down the wicket and he had a word with Siraj. Kohli was not happy with the turn of events and decided to take it up with Stokes. In the end, on-field official Menon had to intervene to separate Kohli and Stokes.
In the very next over, Siraj was also seen in an aggressive mood and he had a go at Stokes.
India bundled out England for 205 and then reached 24/1 at Stumps on Day One.
Commenting on his bowling effort, Siraj said: “We planned to bowl patiently and keep bowling at the same spot. Virat bhai told me that we have only two fast bowlers so we will keep rotating, and we will be well-rested. When I started bowling from the Reliance end, there was a little extra bounce and good movement from that end after I switched.”
“When I played in Australia or when I play here, I will put my effort on every ball otherwise it’ll affect the team, and it’ll release the pressure. I just want to bowl every ball giving my 100 per cent,” he added. (ANI)
Ind vs Eng, 4th Test: Rohit, Pujara hold fort after Axar, Ashwin show
Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], March 4 (ANI): Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara showed great application as India ended the opening day of the fourth and final Test against England in the driver’s seat despite losing opener Shubman Gill at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday. 11 wickets fell on the day as England was bundled out for 205 after skipper Joe Root won the toss and decided to bat first.
At stumps, India’s score read 24/1 with Rohit (8*) and Pujara (15*) at the crease — trailing the visitors by 181 runs in the first innings.
After a disappointing show with the bat, England got off to a flying start with the ball as James Anderson struck with the third ball of the innings. The pace spearhead trapped Gill (0) in front of the stumps as India lost a wicket with no run on the board.
But Rohit and Pujara ensured that was the end of the visitors’ joy on the day as they played out the remaining 11.3 overs without losing any wicket.
Earlier, Axar once again hogged the limelight with his four-wicket haul while Ravichandran Ashwin scalped three as England was bundled out for 205. While it was Mohammed Siraj who picked the all-important wicket of Root in the first session, Ashwin broke the deadlock in the third session as he dismissed Ollie Pope.
Pope’s wicket sparked a collapse from which England couldn’t really recover. The visitors went down from 166/5 to 205 all out within 14.3 overs, losing half of their side for 39 runs as Axar struck twice in one over. Ashwin dismissed Pope a few minutes into the third session. Pope got unlucky as the inside edge hit the back pad and popped to short-leg fielder Shubman Gill.
India’s senior off-spinner then dismissed Ben Foakes in the 66th over to reduce the visitors to 170/7. Minutes later Axar dismissed Daniel Lawrence and Dominic Bess to leave England reeling at 189/9. It looked as the visiting side would get bundled out soon, but Jack Leach and James Anderson took England over the 200-run mark.
Earlier, electing to bat first, England openers Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley saw off the first five overs bowled by the Indian pacers — Ishant Sharma and Siraj, who has come into the side in place of Jasprit Bumrah. However, the introduction of Axar in the sixth over brought immediate reward for the hosts as the spinner clean-bowled Sibley (2), reducing England to 10/1.
The 27-year-old struck again in his second over as he had Crawley (9) caught at mid-off. The right-handed batsman tried to go over the top to create more pressure on the bowler, but ended up mistiming the ball and handed a simple catch to Siraj. Immediately after the first drinks break, England skipper Root (5) was trapped in front by Siraj and the visitors got reduced to 30/3 in the 13th over. The visitors ended the opening session on 74/3.
Brief Scores: England 205 (Ben Stokes 55; Axar Patel 4-68, Ravichandran Ashwin 3-47); India 24/1 (Cheteshwar Pujara 15*; James Anderson 1-0) (ANI)
ECB appoints Cindy Butts as Chair of Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket
London [UK], March 4 (ANI): England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Thursday announced the appointment of Cindy Butts as the chair of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, which will examine issues relating to race and equity in the game.
“The Board of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has taken a significant step toward ensuring cricket is a game for everyone with the appointment of Cindy Butts to establish and chair the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, which will examine issues relating to race and equity in the game,” ECB said in a statement.
ECB said Butts has “extensive experience” in senior roles spanning governance, inclusion and equity across the justice/policing sectors and Government. Her current roles include serving as a lay member of the House of Lords Conduct Committee, a lay member of the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and as Panel Chair for the Judicial Appointments Commission.
She is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Kick It Out, the organisation for equality and inclusion in English football. Previously, she held roles as the Deputy Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and as a Commissioner at the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
As Chair, Butts will work with the ECB Board to finalise the terms of reference for the Commission. She will lead the process to appoint a number of independent Commissioners who will bring further diversity of thought, background and experience to the Commission, providing constructive input and challenge to the ECB and the wider game.
The Commission, whose formation was announced in November 2020, will independently gather and assess the evidence of inequalities and discrimination of all forms within cricket and identify the actions the ECB will need to take to tackle these issues. It is known as the Commission for Equity in Cricket, in recognition that different groups of people face different access issues or barriers. The Commission will act with complete independence, examining any evidence it deems relevant and making the recommendations it considers necessary.
The Board’s engagement with the Commission will be led by the ECB’s Senior Independent Director, Brenda Trenowden, who is driving the Board’s work in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Ian Watmore, Chair of the ECB, in a statement, said: “The creation of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket is an important step in our ambition to make cricket a game for everyone. Cindy is extremely well-qualified to lead this work and will bring empathy, rigour and practical experience to the deliberations and recommendations of the Commission.”
Butts said: “I’m excited to be bringing together my lifelong love of cricket with my passion for equity and inclusion, to lead this work for the ECB. Over the coming months we will be looking to hear from a wide range of people who share a love of cricket, whether as spectators, players, coaches or administrators both present and past… I am committed to ensuring that cricket has a bright future in this country.” (ANI)
Champions League: Liverpool, RB Leipzig to play second-leg tie in Budapest
Liverpool [UK], March 4 (ANI): Liverpool on Thursday announced that the club’s Champions League last-16 second-leg match against RB Leipzig will be played in Budapest.
Puskas Arena in the Hungarian capital will host the fixture, the same venue where the teams contested the first-leg on February 17.
“Liverpool can confirm the Champions League last-16, second-leg tie with RB Leipzig will be played in Budapest,” Liverpool said in a statement.
The Premier League side said that the COVID-19 regulations in Germany have prevented Leipzig from traveling to the United Kingdom to play the match at Anfield as planned. The Reds, who hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, will be classed as the ‘home’ club for the game.
RB Leipzig also made an announcement in this regard. “The second leg of our @ChampionsLeague last 16 tie against @LFC will also take place at the Puskas Arena in Budapest,” the German club tweeted.
The match between Liverpool and RB Leipzig will be played on March 11 (local time). (ANI)
Ind vs Eng, 4th Test: Axar, Ashwin shine to bundle out visitors for 205
Ahmedabad (Gujarat) [India], March 4 (ANI): All-rounder Axar Patel once again hogged the limelight with his four-wicket haul while Ravichandran Ashwin scalped three as England were bundled out for 205 on the first day of the fourth and final Test against India at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday.
While it was Mohammed Siraj who picked the all-important wicket of Joe Root in the first session, Ravichandran Ashwin broke the deadlock in the third session as he dismissed Ollie Pope. Pope’s wicket sparked a collapse from which England couldn’t really recover. The visitors went down from 166/5 to 205 all out within 14.3 overs, losing half of their side for 39 runs as Axar struck twice in one over.
Ashwin dismissed Pope a few minutes into the third session. Pope got unlucky as the inside edge hit the back pad and popped to short-leg fielder Shubman Gill.
India’s senior off-spinner then dismissed Ben Foakes in the 66th over to reduce the visitors to 170/7. Minutes later Axar dismissed Daniel Lawrence and Dominic Bess to leave England reeling at 189/9.
It looked as the visiting side would get bundled out soon, but Jack Leach and James Anderson took England over the 200-run mark for the first time since their marathon total of 578 in the opening Test in Chennai. But Ashwin ended Leach’s stint shortly after England went past the 200-run mark to pick his third scalp of the innings.
In the second session, Pope and Dan Lawrence took England to tea at 144/5. The English batsmen showed grit and determination but the hosts managed to take two wickets post-lunch to stay on top. The likes of Bairstow and Stokes showed fight and did not succumb to the constant pressure from the Indian bowlers. But Bairstow and Stokes both fell against the run of play and the duo of Pope and Lawrence then showed that they are here to compete and make the hosts bowling attack earn their wickets. Earlier, in the first session, the hosts made a quick start, reducing England to 30/3.
Brief Scores: England 205 (Ben Stokes 55; Axar Patel 4-68, Ravichandran Ashwin 3-47) vs India (ANI)
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