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No dearth of Dhoni fans in Chennai football club

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s skill of cricket was as much as that of football. He was the goalkeeper of the school team. After that wherever Dhoni played football, his talent was appreciated by everyone. Even stalwarts from the Indian national football team, Jeje Lalpekhula to Anirudh Thapa, praised his talent.

Not many people know that he also practised several times with the national football players. Even in the Chennaiyin FC squad, a football club based in Chennai, there is no dearth of Dhoni’s fans. Whenever Chennai Super Kings had a practice session a lot of football players of this team used to come to see him. Dhoni had friendly relations with them. Indian national team striker Jeje Lalpekhula, who has been an integral part of Chennaiyin FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), remembers Dhoni as “being quite good at football.”

A day after ‘Captain Cool’ announced his retirement from international cricket, Lalpekhula took a trip down memory lane to speak about the training sessions where ‘Thala’ Dhoni would join them for a training session. “He just loves to play football. If he is around, whenever we’re playing a small-sided game during training, he’d always try to join us,” said Lalpekhula with a smile.

“Dhoni has played football as a kid and you can gauge how much he still enjoys playing even now,” he said while adding, “He was always so good with the ball at his feet.”

“Dhoni may have been a goalkeeper back in school. But when he’s playing, it has been evident that his skills with his feet have not left him. He’s quite good at football,” Lalpekhula continued.

The 39-year-old has been so helpful that he even offered tips to players, whenever around, to heal with injuries. “In one of the Hero ISL matches I suffered a cramp and had to limp out. After the match, he came down to see me and mentioned some of his teammates in the cricket team who also suffered from cramps and how they dealt with it.”

Midfield general Anirudh Thapa, another Chennaiyin FC player, highlighted Dhoni’s talks where “he always shared his experiences”.

“MSD used to come whenever we had a team lunch. He stayed back to talk to the boys and share about his learnings. He’s a very down to earth guy,” Thapa maintained. “There were others who also asked him to come and sit with them but instead he always preferred to sit with the footballers,” he continued.

“He’d say, ‘Let me sit with the boys and share some experiences’,” said Thapa. MSD told them about the struggles he has had to face in his life and about his journey in cricket. “He’s had such an amazing career over the years. I’d like to wish him a happy retirement,” he exclaimed.

Another latest addition to the Chennaiyin FC squad, who is a huge fan of Dhoni is local boy Edwin Sydney Vanspaul. The 27-year-old described how the city lives and breathes every moment that Dhoni is in Chennai.

“People here are just crazy about him. They may have jobs and other responsibilities with their family but if MSD is in town and Chennai Super Kings is have a training session, they would all head to the stadium, just to watch them practice,” laughed Vanspaul. “And when MSD comes out to bat in the nets, these guys just go bonkers. It’s like when Cristiano Ronaldo goes for a training session in Portugal or Spain.”

Although Dhoni hails from Ranchi, the city of Chennai was very quick to adopt the star cricketer and make him one of their own. They even gave him the title of “Thala” (Head), something that does not come so easily for a sportsperson. “Generally these titles are given to film stars. Ajith Kumar is also called ‘Thala’ here. But for Dhoni, it did not take him long to earn that title,” explained Vanspaul.

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Two big decisions in boxing raises questions on organizers

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Two big decisions in boxing raises questions on organizers

Two major decisions became the subject of debate in the boxing event of the 36th National Games here. One is the headgear and the other one is on referee’s decision. In spite of getting the green signal from AIBA regarding headgear, it was made optional here.

Boxing’s international body AIBA has given green signal to the use of head-gears due to increased number of head injuries in the recent past. Headgear was worn only in the first bout and it was not mandatory here. In the first bout of the day, Ankit of Haryana and Sai Kumar of SSCB wore headgear. In this way history was created because after Rio Olympics headgear has not been used in any of the men’s tournaments. Here after the first bout no one wore headgear in any of the next bouts. The decision which the organizers took became a subject of ridicule because the use of headgear was not mandatory here as directed by AIBA.

The second controversy was seen in the men’s flyweight category when referee took decision of RSC (Referee stop contest) in a bout between Ajay Pendor of Maharashtra and Javed of Uttar Pradesh, when Javed’s upper part of the eye started bleeding. 

The rule states that atleast four minutes should be spent on this issue. If the bleeding does not stop, the affected boxer may be taken out due to injury but in such cases the referee has no right to declare RSC.

It is a good sign that after weightlifting many prominent boxers are taking part in these games. Olympic medallist Lovlina Borgohain, World Championship medalists Simranjit Kaur, Jamuna Boro, Sweety Bura and former World Youth Champion Anushita Boro are also taking part. In the men’s category, Shiva Thapa, CWG medalist Hasamuddin, World Youth Champion Sachin Siwach, Asian Champion Sanjeet and Thailand Open Champions are the main attraction of this event. On the first day of this competition, Olympic medalist Lovlina won her bout against Nishi Bhardwaj of Bihar and big bout star Mohammad Hasamuddin defeated Satish from Uttar Pradesh convincingly.

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Exciting times for us, eager to perform for our country: Indian men’s hockey skipper Manpreet

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Exciting times for us, eager to perform for our country: Indian men’s hockey skipper Manpreet

With exactly 100 days to go for the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, the hockey fever is slowly starting to rise in the country. The best of the best hockey players will make their way to India to fight it out for the coveted World Cup trophy.

The Indian Men’s Hockey Team, who won the Silver medal at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, is eager to continue their great form and finish the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela as Champions. The Indian Men’s Hockey Team Captain Manpreet Singh said, “This is a very exciting time for us. There are only 100 days to go for the World Cup. We have been working very hard for this tournament and we are eager to perform for our country. Hopefully, we can go on and win the biggest hockey tournament in the world. We have performed consistently since the Olympics and we will look to continue our form in the World Cup.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team Vice-Captain Harmanpreet Singh expressed, “We cannot wait for the World Cup to begin. Our team has grown manifold in the last few years and it’s time to play to our full potential and win the FIH Hockey World Cup for India. We have been working on all the aspects of our game that we need to improve and I feel we will put up an even better performance in this edition of the World Cup.”

The FIH CEO Thierry Weil also expressed his excitement for the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023, “It really is exciting that the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela is only 100 days away! We are looking forward to outstanding matches in the iconic Kalinga Stadium of Bhubaneswar and the brand-new Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela, which will be a fantastic legacy for hockey, not only for India but for the world. On behalf of FIH, I would like to renew our thanks to Hockey India for putting together what will for sure be a memorable event, our best wishes to all teams and our invitation to fans to come to the stadium in numbers or watch the matches on TV or on Watch. Hockey.”

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India head coach announces 21-member squad for FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022

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India head coach announces 21-member squad for FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022

India U-17 National Women’s team head coach Thomas Dennerby on Wednesday announced 21 players squad for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2022 scheduled to begin next week.

India have been drawn into Group A alongside USA, Morocco and Brazil. They will face the USA on October 11, followed by Morocco and Brazil on October 14 and October 17, respectively, at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. The other two venues for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup India 2022 are Goa and Navi Mumbai. “It’s a new situation for everyone. India have never played in the World Cup before. This is a different ball game altogether. It’s a unique chance to show everyone that we have prepared well and will not allow anyone to run over us. Everyone wants to play the World Cup, but I can only select the best 21 in the squad,” Coach Dennerby said.

“When you are on the field, everything is held back behind and you just have to focus on the game. That’s what the girls need to do. We are not going into the tournament as the favourites. I believe the pressure then is on the opponents,” said the India coach said.

India squad for FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022: Monalisha Devi Moirangthem, Melody Chanu Keisham, Anjali Munda, Astam Oraon, Kajal, Naketa, Purnima Kumari, Varshika, Shilky Devi Hemam, Babina Devi Lisham, Nitu Linda, Shailja, Shubhangi Singh, Anita Kumari, Lynda Kom Serto, Neha, Rejiya Devi Laishram, Shelia Devi Loktongbam, Kajol Hubert Dsouza, Lavanya Upadhyay and Sudha Ankita Tirkey. 

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ITTF World Team Championships Finals 2022: India women knocked out in round of 16

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ITTF World Team Championships Finals 2022: India women knocked out in round of 16

The Indian women’s table tennis team lost against Chinese Taipei 3-0 on Wednesday in Chengdu, China, and was eliminated from the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Team Championships Finals 2022 in the round of 16.

Manika Batra, rated first in India, was defeated by Chen Szu-Yu, ranked 22nd in the world, 3-0 (11-7, 11-9, 11-3) in the opening match. Then, Cheng I-Cheng defeated national champion and gold medalist Sreeja Akula 3-1 (8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 9-11).

Diya Chitale, a teen, gave Liu Hsing-Yin a tough time in the third match, losing 3-2 (6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 7-11) despite her best efforts.

The Indian women’s table tennis had qualified for the knockouts after finishing second behind Germany in Group 5.

Singapore will now play Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals.

The men’s team, meanwhile, face top seeds China in the round of 16 on Thursday after they escaped elimination from the ITTF World Championships Finals by the skin of their teeth after losing against France but still entering the main draw courtesy of Hong Kong and their world rankings today.

Earlier as a change of strategy, India opened with Manav Thakkar against Alexis Lebrun, ranked No. 30 in the world, and the 0-3 (6-11, 8-11, 8-11) loss straightaway pushed them on the back foot. G. Sathiyan, ranked No. 37, took on brother Felix Lebrun in the second tie. But the 86th- ranked Frenchman punched way above his weight to pummel the Indian in straight games, to win 11-4, 11-2, 11-6 and put his side 2-0 up.

Harmeet failed to withstand the pressure despite putting up a fight, but Jules Rolland (141), ranked a few places below the Indian (124), won 11-13, 13-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-7 in the gripping third rubber to give France the top-of-the-table position in their group, despite a three-way tie.

With three teams France, Germany and India finishing on the same points (7) with three wins and one loss each, France pitchforked itself to the top position on a head-to-head win over India. However, India’s 0-3 loss enabled Germany, who beat France 3-1 yesterday, to take the second spot in the group.

Yet, a question mark was hanging before the Indians as their entry into the main draw depended on two teams as only two higher-ranked teams that finished third in their groups could have filled the two vacant slots in the top 16-team knockout. No. 12 Hong Kong sealed the second slot in Group 3 despite their 2-3 loss to Romania.

The clincher for India was Hong Kong occupying second place in the group. In another three-way tie, Romania got elbowed to the third spot, and their world ranking was four slots below India’s! The last of the 16 team positions went to No. 8 England when they beat Australia 3-0 in their only win in Group 5.

Though the Indian men have captured their knockout place, they will have to accept the unkindest cut in the main draw, despite toppling Germany, the No. 2 team in the world, in their group matches. At the No. 2 slot, they will face top-seed China first up in the pre-quarterfinals. 

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Lovlina, Jaismine, Shiva, Hussamuddin all set for boxing at National Games

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Lovlina, Jaismine, Shiva, Hussamuddin all set for boxing at National Games

T

okyo Olympic Games bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain’s last-minute entry into the 36th National Games will spice up competition in the boxing ring at the Mahatma Mandir here from Wednesday.

Lovlina, who suffered a minor injury on her nose during the selection trials for the Asian Championships, had earlier indicated that she would not be able to compete in the Games. A poor outing at the World Championships earlier this year, followed by a pre-quarterfinal exit from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, did not do justice to the lanky Assamese boxer’s potential.

Thus, the National Games could provide the two-time World Championship 69kg bronze medallist a perfect platform to assess herself ahead of the continental meet, starting on October 30 in Amman, Jordan.

Boxing Federation of India Secretary-General Hemanta Kumar Kalita said the Federation had requested the organising committee to allow the change of entry.

“Accordingly, the Assam Amateur Boxing Association requested for Lovlina to be restored in place of her replacement Bhagyabati Kachari,” he said. “We hope Lovlina makes full use of the opportunity and gets back to shape before the Asian Championships,” Kalita said.

Along with Lovlina (75kg), all eyes will be on 21-year-old Jaismine Lamboria from the boxing nursery of Bhiwani in Haryana. Jaismine recently created history by becoming the first-ever female boxer to join the Indian Army on Sports quota after her recent 60kg bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games. Jasmine is expected to face a stiff fight from Punjab’s Simranjit Kaur Baatth, the 2018 World Championship bronze medallist.

Haryana’s former World Championships medallist Saweety Boora (75kg) and Poonam (57kg) and Assam pugilists Jamuna Boro (57kg) and ex-World Youth champion Ankushita Boro (66kg) will also be among the leading women boxers expected to set the ring alight. Delhi’s Anjali Tushir and Lalita (Rajasthan) can use the platform to make waves.

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Bumrah is a big miss: Rohit Sharma

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Rohit Sharma

India played their last T20I match before the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia. India’s captain Rohit Sharma is leaving no stone unturned to win the showpiece event and also realizes that the absence of pacer Jasprit Bumrah is a big blow to the team.

“Lot of the guys haven’t been to Australia, which is why we wanted to go early. Play on some bouncy pitches in Perth and see what we can do there. Out of the 15, only 7-8 have been there before, so wanted to make an effort to go there early. We’ve organised a couple of practice games. Bumrah is a big miss, but there are a few guys in the reckoning. We’ll make the call once we reach Australia,” said skipper Rohit Sharma in the post-match presentation ceremony. The Indian bowlers conceded over 200 runs in both the second and third T20I against South Africa raising concerns over India’s bowling.

“As a team, we said it at the beginning no matter what happens about the result, there’s always room for improvement. Even if we do well in all three departments, want to keep getting better. Areas of concerns, we have to look at our bowling, what more options we can find in the powerplay, middle and death,” said Rohit Sharma.

The Rohit Sharma-led India registered consecutive bilateral series wins beating both Australia and South Africa 2-1.

“We were playing two quality sides, have to go back and see what better we can do. It will be challenging and we need to find answers, still working towards that. Guys need lot more clarity in terms of what they want to achieve and it’s my job to make sure it happens. We want to continue to keep doing that,” said Rohit Sharma.

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