After winning both their Group D matches in the AFC Cup 2021 campaign, ATK Mohun Bagan FC are just one point away from securing their place in the Inter Zone Semi-final of the competition.
ATK were Hero Indian Super League champions in ISL-6 while Mohun Bagan won the I-League title in 19-2020, before the two entities merged to form ATK Mohun Bagan FC. ATKMB are placed in Group D along with Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings, Maziya Sports & Recreation Club of the Maldives and AFC Cup playoff winners Bengaluru FC.
Keeping the AFC Cup campaign in mind, ATKMB’s experienced Spanish coach Antonio Lopez Habas prompted the club management to undertake major signings that added attacking flair to the side. They signed the prodigiously talented 22-year old Goan forward Liston Colaco from Hyderabad FC. But the masterstroke was to lure away two key players- Hugo Boumous and goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, from Hero ISL-7 champions & League Shield winners Mumbai City FC.
French born Boumous is an attacking midfielder with prolific goal scoring and creative ability. His presence adds more options to the forward line that includes Fiji’s Roy Krishna and Australia’s David Williams, combining with Indian talents like Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco.
They have suffered a setback in terms defensive solidity, due to the move of ace Indian defender Sandesh Jhingan who recently signed a deal with the Croatian club – HNK Sibenik. Jhingan will become the first Indian footballer to play in the Croatian top flight league – Prva HNL.
In his absence, experienced central defensive midfielder Carl McHugh and Pritam Kotal have taken on the centre back responsibilities. It also gives a chance to another young defender Sumit Rathi to get more game time.
ATKMB beat Bengaluru FC 2-0 in their opening group match of the AFC Cup at the National Stadium in Male, in the Maldives. Then after being a goal down, they came from behind to win 3-1 against Maziya Sports & Recreation Club a couple of days ago, to go top of the table with 6 points.
Their last group match is versus Bashundhara Kings and a win or even a draw will see them top the group. Bashundhara Kings have 4 points from two games, and must win the match in order to upset ATKMB’s applecart and qualify ahead of them.
Heat and humidity will be a crucial factor in this match which will be played on Tuesday at 4.30 PM IST.
The top placed team of Group D representing the South Asia Zone will advance to the inter-zone semifinals, which will be played against the top team from the Central Asia Zone.
(The writer is a Sports Broadcaster who has worked on assignments for leading sports networks in India & Abroad. He is also commentating on the AFC Cup matches for a leading Sports Network in India).
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LANNING, MCGRATH STAR AS AUSTRALIA DEFEAT ENGLAND IN 1ST T20I
Tahlia McGrath’s all-round performance and Meg Lanning’s spirited show with the bat helped Australia defeat England by nine wickets in the first T20I of the three-match series here at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday.
With this win, Australia has gained an early lead in the ongoing Women’s Ashes and the second T20I will now be played on Saturday at the same venue. McGrath first took three wickets with the ball and then she backed it up by playing a 91-knock. Chasing 170, Australia got off to a decent start as openers Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy put on 26 runs inside four overs, but this stand was cut short by Sophie Ecclestone as she dismissed Healy (7) and this brought Tahlia McGrath to the middle. Lanning and McGrath ensured that Australia does not lose momentum as they kept chipping away at runs, and the hosts needed 85 to win from the final ten overs with nine wickets in hand.
McGrath and Lanning kept on scoring runs, and as a result, England was not able to create any sort of pressure. In the end, the hosts registered a comfortable nine-wicket victory. In the end, McGrath and Lanning remained unbeaten on 91 and 64 respectively. Earlier, Danielle Wyatt played a knock of 70 runs as England posted 169/4 in the allotted twenty overs. Sent into bat, openers Danielle Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont got England off to a steady start as they put on 51 runs inside the first six overs.
The 82-run opening stand was finally broken in the 11th over as Alana King got the better of Beaumont (30). Natalie Sciver then joined Wyatt in the middle and the duo did not let the momentum drop for England. Both batters kept on scoring runs at a brisk pace and this ended up creating more pressure on Australia.
The duo put on 59 runs for the second wicket, and the stand was broken in the 17th over by Tahlia McGrath as she dismissed Sciver (32).
In the final three overs, England managed to add 25 more runs to the total, taking the score past the 165-run mark.
Brief Scores: England 169/4 (Danielle Wyatt 70, Natalie Sciver 32; Tahlia McGrath 3-26); Australia 170/1 (Tahlia McGrath 91*, Meg Lanning 64*; Sophie Ecclestone 1-29).
AUSTRALIAN OPEN: ANDY MURRAY KNOCKED OUT BY WORLD NO.120 QUALIFIER TARO DANIEL
World No.120 qualifier Taro Daniel of Japan stunned three time grand slam champion Andy Murray 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the 2nd round of men’s singles here at the John Cain Arena in a match that lasted two hours and 48 minutes.
Murray was broken in the third game of the match itself by the Japanese and in no time he took a 3-1 lead. The two-time Olympic champion clawed his way back in the sixth game to break Daniel’s serve and level the match 3-3. But in the very next game the Japanese broke Murray’s service to take a 4-3 lead. He pocketed the first set 6-4. Inn the second set too the Japanese broke Murray in the third game of the match. Murray lost the second set at the same score line of 4-6.
In the third set the Scot came up with a spirited performance by holding on to his serve and breaking his opponent to take a 2-0 lead. But in the third game the Japanese broke Murray’s serve, held his and leveled the score 2-2. In the ninth game of the match Daniel once again broke Murray’s serve. In the end the third set also was won by the Japanese with the same score as first and second set. With this defeat Murray’s wait for his first Australian Open title and a grand slam title win for more than five years continues.
TEAM INDIA NEEDS MORE WICKET-TAKING BOWLERS
It will take some time for Rahul Dravid and the coaching staff to get Team India out of the current situation. In the first ODI, we should have restricted the South African batsmen within 250. The wicket was slow and the ball remained low. After that the Indian batsmen, who were looking to score well, collapsed and we lost. That is, we failed to bat well after bowling.
With this defeat it is too early to say anything about KL Rahul’s captaincy. As captain, he has captained ODIs for the first time. They should be given time. Well, he definitely needs to pay special attention to his batting. If runs are scored with his bat, then he will have confidence which will come in handy under his captaincy.
Team India needs wicket-taking bowlers at this time. South African batsmen made their job easy by playing sweep and reverse sweep against Indian spinners. Bhuvneshwar and Shardul also did not prove to be wicket-takers. Now the time has come that the bowlers who are present in the current team should be given a chance. It makes no sense to keep feeding old bowlers in the name of experience. Now it is the time to find Bumrah’s partner. In spin bowling, Ashwin and Chahal were probably playing together for the first time. It will definitely make a difference after the return of Ravindra Jadeja, who gives the team a real balance. Today, the strike rate of the bowlers should be considered more than the economy. Deepak Chahar can be given further opportunity, who can also bat well.
And there needs to be stability in the middle order. For how long the team will depend on the top order. The middle order players have to understand that they also need to fulfill their responsibility. There should be unity in the performance. The responsibility of finishing the match will also have to be taken. The truth is that the team had not yet recovered from the loss of two Tests that many problems emerged with the team in ODIs as well. I hope team India players will soon see the spirit of unity and victory.
The writer is a former wicket-keeper batsman and a selector of Team India.
Rohit, Rishabh Pant and Ashwin named in ICC Men’s Test Team of 2021
Three Indians — Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, and Ravichandran Ashwin have been named in ICC Men’s Test Team of the Year. Kane Williamson has been named as the leader of the ICC Test Team of 2021. Under Williamson, New Zealand had defeated India last year to win the World Test Championship.
Apart from three Indians, the side has two New Zealand players, three Pakistan players, one Australian, one Sri Lankan, and one player from England. Rohit Sharma came into his own as an opener in the longest format of the game. He cracked 906 runs in the calendar year at an average of 47.68 with two centuries. Both of the centuries were memorable knocks in contrasting conditions against England – one at home in Chennai and the other in overcast conditions away from home at the Oval. With key assignments coming up, Sharma will have a key role to play for India in 2022.
Rishabh Pant further established himself as India’s first-choice wicketkeeper-batter in all three formats, with his continuous development especially coming to the fore in the Test arena. He scored 748 runs in 12 matches at an average of 39.36 with one memorable ton against England at Ahmedabad. He also accounted for 39 dismissals in 23 innings, with his glovework continuing to improve.
The off-spinner Ashwin bamboozled many batters with his sheer wizardry. Ashwin scalped up 54 wickets in 9 matches at an average of 16.64 making a big impact in the home series against England and New Zealand. He also chipped in with 355 runs at an average of 25.35, which included a vital century against England in Chennai.
ICC Men’s Test Team of 2021: Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka), Rohit Sharma (India), Kane Williamson (c, New Zealand), Marnus Labuschagne (Australia), Joe Root (England), Fawad Alam (Pakistan), Rishabh Pant (India), Ravichandran Ashwin (India), Kyle Jamieson (New Zealand), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Pakistan), and Hasan Ali (Pakistan).
K.L. Rahul-led India look to level ODI series against South Africa
Team India will look to bounce back in the ODI series on Friday after suffering a defeat in the first match against South Africa. Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen’s centuries were backed by a spirited bowling performance as South Africa defeated India by 31 runs in the first ODI of the three-match series here at Boland Park, Paarl on Wednesday. As India gear up for the second ODI, the visitors will look for a win to level the series. After the defeat in the first ODI, batter Shikhar Dhawan has said losing wickets in a cluster cost his side the game.
While amends in batting are needed, it was also a dismal bowling performance from the visitors and the bowling attack will have to be at top of their game in the second ODI.
“We advise the young guys to play according to the situation and one must keep the team ahead. Partnerships are important and I am sure the guys will keep learning with experience. We had a good start, the wicket was slow and it was offering a bit of turn,” Dhawan had said during a virtual press conference.
Also, Venkatesh Iyer, who made his ODI debut on Wednesday, didn’t bowl in the match and Team India will look to use the all-rounder in the second game. Dhawan explained why Iyer didn’t bowl but the visitors need to explore the sixth bowling option.
“Venkatesh Iyer was not brought on as there was turn on the wicket and the spinners were doing well. Fast bowlers were not used much in the middle, and the spinners were employed,” said Dhawan. For South Africa, it was a perfect game as each and every player contributed towards the win. However, batter Rassie van der Dussen, who was adjudged as the Player of The Match, wants South Africa to be more vigilant in the last 10 overs of the game.
“Not the ideal last 10 overs, hopefully, we can be more clinical in the future. We’ve been on a long journey with this team. We’ve put a lot of hard work in and had a lot of good chats. I think it’s coming through,” Van der Dussen said after the win on Wednesday.
India ODI squad: KL Rahul (captain), Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Yuzvendra Chahal, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur, Md. Siraj, Jayant Yadav, Navdeep Saini
South Africa ODI squad: Temba Bavuma (captain), Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Zubayr Hamza, Marco Jansen, Janneman Malan, Sisanda Magala, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne.
BOPANNA CRASHES OUT IN DOUBLES OPENER, NADAL CRUISES INTO ROUND 3 IN AUSTRALIAN OPEN
India’s Rohan Bopanna alongside Edouard Roger-Vasselin suffered an opening-round loss in the men’s doubles event of the ongoing Australian Open on Wednesday. Playing at Court 5, the wild card entries, Treat Huey of the Philippines and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia defeated the duo of Bopanna and Frenchman Edouard by 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-2. The doubles match lasted for one hour and 48 minutes.
Bopanna and Edouard started the match at a rapid pace as they broke their opponents early in game 4 and easily captured the first set. The pair from the Philippines and Indonesia then pegged back in the tiebreak game in the second set. And in decider Huey and Rungkat continued their momentum to seal the victory.
At Rod Laver Arena, Rafael Nadal defeated the Yannick Hanfmann of Germany to cruise into round 3 at Melbourne Park. 2009 AO champion defeated German qualifier 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that lasted for two hours and 42 minutes.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, playing just his second tournament since mid-August, did not need to move into top gear to get the job done against the world number 126, who did use his heavy groundstrokes to win some skirmishes, without ever looking likely to win the larger battle. Spaniard will next match against Olympic silver medallist Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi.
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