Top-seeded table tennis players sailed through to the next round of the National Games, securing easy wins over their opponents on Thursday.
Number 1 and number 2 seeds from Tamil Nadu, G. Sathiyan and A. Sharath Kamal, toyed with their respective opponents scoring an identical 4-0 wins to move into the pre-quarterfinals of the men’s singles in the 36th National Games at the Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya Indoor Stadium here today. But third-seed Sanil Shetty from Maharashtra had to endure UP’s Divyansh Srivastava in his Round of 32 matches, eventually joining the top seeds in the Round of 16 with a 4-3 win. Similarly, former national champion and seventh seed Soumyajit Ghosh warded off an imminent threat of elimination from Raegan Albuquerque of Maharashtra to enter the pre-quarters, winning 4-3.
Sanil, leading 3-2, and 7-5 in the sixth game, allowed Divyansh to come back and take the game to level 3-3. However, the Maharashtra left-hander, was in a lot of trouble as he trailed 0-4 in the decider. But the former national champion showed his aggressive style to relaunch himself into the match and beat the UP boy with a minimal point.
Soumyajit Ghosh, leading 2-1, let an opening for Raegan in the next two games and went 3-2 up, challenging the Haryana paddler’s existence. But the past master had some tricks up his sleeve to level the score and, despite trailing 3-6 in the decider and dropping a match point, won in the second to advance.
Manika Batra, the women’s top seed, spent as little time as possible on the show court before disposing of G. Pranitha of Telangana 4-0. But sixth-seed Prapti Sen went down 2-4 to Haryana’s Suhana Saini, a lone upset that hardly raised a stir. All other seeds moved into the next round easily.
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Shubman Gill registers maiden century in county cricket
Indian opener Shubman Gill scored a scintillating 119 to register his maiden century in the County Championship here on Tuesday.
Playing against Sussex, the 23-year-old took 123 balls to reach the three-figure mark to help Glamorgan to a healthy total in the crucial match. Glamorgan are currently eight points behind second-placed Middlesex and need a win to stay in the hunt to earn promotion to the top tier of the county championship from Division Two.
Shubman, a regular for India in red-ball cricket, played a total of 139 deliveries, and his innings at the top of the order consisted of 16 fours and two huge hits over the fence.
Gill had made his debut for the English county against Worcestershire earlier this month and scored 92.
The Punjab batter has scored a total of 3002 first-class career runs in 37 matches with the help of seven centuries and 16 fifties at an average of 52.66.
Magnus Carlsen accuses American grandmaster Hans Niemann of cheating
Under fire from the chess fraternity for allegedly cheating against Hans Niemann of the USA, World Champion Magnus Carlsen has come up with his version and accused the former of cheating, which forced him to take such unprecedented steps.
The Norwegian took to twitter to issue a statement on why he withdrew from his games against the American.
“At the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I made the unprecedented professional decision to withdraw from the tournament after my round-three game against Hans Niemann. A week later during the Champions Chess Tour, I resigned against Hans Niemann after playing only one move,” the statement from Carlsen read.
“I know that my actions have frustrated many in the chess community. I am frustrated. I want to play chess. I want to continue to play chess at the highest level in the best events,” he added.
During the third round of the game against Niemann at the Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen succumbed to a shock defeat to the American.
Following that, he withdrew from the event, and last week, he once again resigned after just one move against Niemann at Julius Baer Generation Cup. Niemann is behind Carlsen by almost 200 Elo points, a measure used to calculate the relative skill level of chess players.
Carlsen said that cheating is a big deal and poses an “existential threat” to the game.
“I also believe that chess organisers and all those who care about the sanctity of the game we love should seriously consider increasing security measures and methods of cheat detection for over-the-board chess.”
“When Niemann was invited at the last minute to the 2022 Sinquefield Cup, I strongly considered withdrawing prior to the event. I ultimately chose to play.”
“I believe that Niemann has cheated more—and more recently—than he has publicly admitted. His over-the-board progress has been unusual, and throughout our game, in the Sinquefield Cup, I had the impression that he was not tense or even fully concentrating on the game in critical positions, while outplaying me as black in a way I think only a handful of players can do. This game contributed to changing my perspective,” Carlsen alleged.
The 19-year-old grandmaster has admitted to cheating twice, as per Chess.com, when he was 12 and 16 years of age. However, he regrets that.
“We must do something about cheating, and for my part going forward, I do not want to play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past, because I do not know what they are capable of doing in the future,” added Carlsen in his statement.
“There is more that I would like to say. Unfortunately, at this time I am limited in what I can say without explicit permission from Niemann to speak openly. So far, I have only been able to speak with my actions, and those actions have stated clearly that I am not willing to play chess with Niemann. I hope that the truth on this matter comes out, whatever it may be,” the world champion concluded.
India goes down 0-3 against Vietnam in an international friendly
India suffered a 0-3 defeat at the hands of hosts Vietnam in their second and final match of the Hung Thinh Friendly Football Tournament at the Thing Nhat Stadium here on Tuesday. The opening exchanges saw India get off on the front foot, winning the first corner of the game, one that Sunil Chhetri swung in for Anirudh Thapa, who was lurking inside the six-yard box, but the ball evaded the latter.
At the other end, Nguyen Cong Phuong of Vietnam was played into the Indian box on the left and was looking to put in a dangerous cut-back, but Blue Tigers center-back Sandesh Jhingan was on hand to avert the danger.
The hosts did not take too long to jump into the lead when a clearance from a Vietnam corner fell kindly for Phan Van Duc, who did well to volley it home with his back turned toward the goal, giving his side the lead on the 10th minute.
Despite the lead, Vietnam did not sit back, looking to score their second of the night, but that also created gaps at the back. Akash Mishra and Ashique Kuruniyan combined on the left to create a wonderful opportunity for India in the 26th minute. Mishra soared up the left and fed it through to Ashique in the box. The latter took a touch and sent in a left-footed volley, which went wide.
Sahal Abdul Samad had a great opportunity around the half-hour mark when Udanta played it to him inside the box. He stepped past his marker and tried to cross it, but the ball went straight to Vietnam goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh.
Vietnam made a couple of changes at the start of the second half, and it was second-half substitute Nguyen Van Toan who doubled their lead four minutes into the second half. Giving chase after an aerial ball, Van Toan barged past Indian center-back Anwar Ali, entered the box, and slipped it into the bottom corner.
Stimac soon introduced some fresh legs into the fray, looking to change India’s fortunes, as Brandon Fernandes, Liston Colaco, and Roshan Singh were brought on for Chhetri, Udanta, and Chinglensana, with around 25 minutes of regulation time to go.
While these substitutions did allow India to gain a bit more control of possession in the middle of the park, that also left spaces behind, which is exactly what Vietnam exploited for their third goal of the night. Bui Hoang Viet Ahn’s cross from the right was headed clear by Jhingan, but Nguyen Van Quyet got on the stray ball and smashed it home.
India threw bodies forward in the closing stages, and a cross by substitute Brandon Fernandes directed towards Sandesh Jhingan inside the Vietnam box created some excitement, but the latter’s header was straight at the keeper.
Underdogs Kerala confident of bagging 10-15 medals in athletics
Despite having brought along a largely developmental squad for the 36th National Games, Kerala is confident about winning 10-15 medals in athletics, a discipline in which the southern state is a veritable powerhouse.
Speaking just before the squad boarded the train for Gujarat from the Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station, Kerala’s chief athletics coach, C. Vinayachandran, said that they were unable to field all their top athletes for a plethora of reasons.
Nonetheless, he believes the squad has enough star power to shine on the IIT Gandhinagar track and field stadium, where athletics competition will begin on September 30.
Vinayachandran, who has mentored Kerala’s upcoming athletes for a while, offhand cited the names of CWG 2022 silver medalist Murali Sreeshankar, Nayana James, Ancy Sojan (all long jump), Arun AB, Sandra Babu (both triple jump), quarter-miler Arathi R, Angel P Devasia (high jump), Mareena George (heptathlon), both women’s relay teams, the men’s 4×100 relay team, etc. among those who could end up on the podium.
The coach, however, did not specify the colour of the medals his wards could bring back to “God’s own country.”
He also revealed that there would be some major absentees despite the athletes’ names figuring in the Kerala entry list. “There are ups and downs, but we have to take it in our stride,” he opined.
The athletes underwent a ten-day training camp at the Lakshmibai National College of Physical Education in the Kerala capital, about which the coach expressed satisfaction.
A listed elite coach in the Kerala State Sports Council who imparts training at a college in Changanassery, Vinayachandran, lamented the fact that due to official compulsions, many of Kerala’s star athletes will be competing in the colours of the Service at the National Games.
“Quite a few of our athletes have been absorbed by the services, including the two recent CWG medal-winning triple jumpers Eldhose Paul and Abdulla Aboobacker,” he pointed out.
The National Games is a whole new meet to me: Srihari Natraj
Five days before the start of the National Games swimming competition in the Sardar Patel Swimming Complex in Rajkot, India’s best swimmer Srihari Nataraj insists that competing in the National Games already feels different since it will be a bigger and better experience, even though the same set of swimmers who compete regularly at the national level will be vying for honours.
“The National Games is a whole new meet to me,” said Srihari Natraj, who will be competing in his first-ever National Games.
“I am glad Gujarat stepped in to host the National Games after seven years. It has been a long wait for all of us,” said Srihari Natraj, who finished fifth and seventh in the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke events in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham recently.
Srihari Natraj, however, doesn’t have happy memories of Rajkot, where he last competed 10 years ago, but is confident that things are different this time around. “I do not remember much from the National Sub-Junior Championships in 2012. But it was the only national championship in my life that I did not medal in. That’s not going to be the case this time, for sure. It will seem like a new city for me.”
Though Srihari Natraj did not participate in the 2015 National Games, he remembers Sajan Prakash dominating the pool with six gold medals then. He has also read about the time when Virdhawal Khade won eight golds, including in the 50m and 100m backstroke events, at the 2011 Ranchi National Games.
Srihari Natraj is also aware that the Best Athlete of the National Games has almost always emerged from the swimming pool. Though, he is not conceding a walk-over to Sajan Prakash, the 21-year-old thinks the senior swimmer may edge him out in the race.
I draw lessons from my mistakes and make amendments: Harmeet Desai
Harmeet Desai has emerged as the young “Golden Boy” of Indian Table Tennis, clinching gold for his state of Gujarat for the first time in National Games history. He was the one who won two consecutive gold medals at the CWG 2022 and has recently captured the attention of nations with his scintillating performance at the National Games 2022 in Gujarat.
He spoke exclusively to The Daily Guardian. Here are the excerpts.
Q. Since when do you play table tennis? Ever since you started playing, did you even have an idea that you would brighten the name of Gujarat and the country?
A. So I started playing at the age of 6, and I never thought that I would be able to play so well or reach this level. I enjoyed the sport, and I started at a very, very young age, and I even couldn’t reach the height of the table at that time. So it became my passion very soon after I started playing table tennis, and I just wanted to enjoy the sport and give my best shot every time I entered the court. And somehow, with a lot of hard work, dedication, patience, and also a little bit of luck, I managed to reach this landmark.
Q. What thoughts come to your mind when you have a match?
A. Yeah, so actually, before the match, there are many thoughts coming to my head, and it always happens to players around the world, and I get nervous. But I’ve been used to it, as I’ve been handling it for so many years. I like the pressure, and I’ve been able to play well when there is more and more pressure on me. So, I enjoy playing during those times, and also before the match, I try to plan my strategy, which is how I’m going to approach the match, and also I try to read my opponent’s game through some videos or past meetings. I draw lessons from my mistakes and make amendments accordingly. So these are the kind of things I try to think about before the match.
Q. What do you do to keep your morale strong before a match? Do you have a game plan already set, or do you prepare a game plan based on the game of the opposing player?
A. Yeah, so it’s really important to keep yourself positive during difficult situations and especially before a match. So I tend to be very positive, keep my body in an energetic mode, and I’m always looking forward to playing good matches, so whenever I have tough opponents, I try to strategize against them. I try to learn their weaknesses and strengths. And accordingly, I created my game plan. And like I said previously, I also watch some of their games. Always, I’m trying to keep my body language really good, even if I’m nervous. I never try to show my opponent, so I practise these small techniques before a match to always achieve a win-win situation.
Q. We have come to know that you love to eat sweets. But when you play in a big tournament, how do you control the urge to eat the same thing?
A. Yeah, I like to eat a lot of sweets, but it’s really important that I keep myself fit, and before tournaments or important matches I tend to keep myself away from eating sweets because it slows you down. And this is one of the reasons that I refrain from eating sweets or sugary items, and that has been working well for me in the past few years. Also, as I’m growing older, I need to keep my body fit and lean so that I’m able to move well and compete with the younger opponents and also extend my career as long as possible.
Q. What kind of encouragement is given by the Gujarat government to table tennis games?
A. The support from the Gujarat government has been encouraging, and since 2009 they have been supporting me through the Shaktidoot scheme. And then they started the Khel Pratibha Puraskar and many such initiatives, which have been helping all the table tennis players and other sportspersons in the state. And Gujarat has come a long way in the last eight to ten years, with Gujarati athletes proving themselves on major stages such as the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and Olympics, where we had a very small number of participants. But Gujarat has been doing quite well in the recent past. So also, now that the national games have been organised in a great way, I feel that Gujarat will improve.
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