Amit Mishra, Indian spin wizard and IPL sensation, talks to The Daily Guardian about life during lockdown. Excerpts:
Q: Tell us what have you been doing during this lockdown?
A: For the last 20 years I have been working and travelling. So, for the first two weeks of the lockdown I did not know what to do, but slowly realised how this has given me more time with my family, with whom I hardly spend any time because of my hectic work schedule. I am feeling really good. A lot of positivity has come out of my time spent with my family.
Q: When you were playing cricket, home sickness was a big contention for all cricketers. Living out of a suitcase became a part and parcel of your life. Are you missing cricket now?
A: I am still playing and any sportsman misses their family when they play. But right now, it has been more than six months so I am sure every sportsman is missing playing their sport. There is a requirement to follow the rules as well. Staying at home is paramount to kill the virus. I urge everyone to stay at home.
Q: You still have a lot of cricket left in you. Have you been feeling desperation sitting at home to get back to the nets and practise?
A: It is very true, for every cricketer it is important to play at the nets and with one’s opponents. The more matches you play, the better you get. Hopefully, we get to play soon when all of this is over. No doubt, I am missing cricket. But we must keep our families safe and stay at home. Slowly we shall go back to our normal lives and I hope it happens soon. You will see us playing cricket soon.
Q: What are you doing to stay fit during this lockdown?
A: The most important part to stay fit and maintain a good body is to fix one’s food habits. Staying in this lockdown has made me realise how important it is to maintain a healthy diet. Fifty per cent of what you eat is the input that comes out. I have stopped carbs and sweets, which has helped me a lot. My body is feeling very light, and if one concentrates on eating healthy, they get better results too.
Q: You are the first cricketer in IPL history with three hat-tricks. Do you see your videos on YouTube?
A: I do watch myself on the Internet; who doesn’t? I generally watch myself before playing a match or have an interesting session of cricket. I like to see what I did right and what I did wrong. I try and reinforce the right aspects I pick up from my videos. There are so many cricketers today like Shane Warne whose videos I watch and try and learn from their style, which suits my style as well. I then practise at the nets as much as I can.
Q: The Australian cricket board has said when the Covid-19 scare dies down, Test cricket should be resumed. They have also said that when a situation such as this occurs, it’s cricket and the fans watching cricket who get out of routine and look forward to watching it as much as they can.
A: I support this statement wholeheartedly that cricket has got people together. It has united people—not now, but for a very long time. It’s a game loved by many. Right now, the problem is the virus, which is spreading rapidly. Covid does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, and can be caught by anyone. We should know enough about the virus and how to keep away and safe from it as well. The symptoms of Covid are very hard to track as well. Not that I am saying cricket should not happen, all I am saying is health is paramount and we should tackle that first. If one gets it, one can give it to 50 people, which is very scary.
Q: I have asked you enough about cricket, let us now shift our focus towards Covid. Do you think compared to the other countries in the world India has done a good job of handling the crisis and controlling the spread of Covid-19?
A: I am very proud of India. The lockdown started at the right moment and was strict. It was a very well thought of step, which worked. Because of the lockdown we have been able to contain the virus and are doing very well. Our population is huge and controlling a virus like this is hard but we managed. I would like to compliment Prime Minister Narendra Modi for doing such a good job and more than anything else I would like to thank and commend every Indian in this fight together. We will overcome this soon and things will go back to normal.
Q: On a lighter note, during the lockdown what is the new skill that you picked up?
A: I have learnt how to make tea during this lockdown, I love tea and need it in the morning. I wake up and make my own tea now. I dust the house also. I never liked reading books or even newspaper. Now I have started and I am enjoying it and give it half an hour.
Q: To keep the tradition and culture of Test cricket alive, many experiments are being done. You are playing under the light, you are playing with a pink ball. Is this necessary according to you to keep the game’s purest form alive?
A: You are right, Test cricket for me is the biggest priority as one gets tested as a cricketer. Sometimes what happens is that we try and change things at times to give it a new twist to entertain people. At the end of the day, it’s about the viewers and they too need to see changes to keep the game interesting for them. Some changes are important and what has been done until now is fine, but no more.
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Indian athletics’ high performance director resigns
Volker Hermann on Sunday announced his resignation from the position of India’s athletics High Performance director. Hermann said in a statement that he put on his Facebook page that he had resigned from the position “three weeks ago” after he was convinced that he could no longer “meet the self-imposed expectations” that came from being the Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) high performance director.
“After one and a half fruitful and inspiring years in India, the day has come when I could not any longer meet the self-imposed expectations coming along with the role of AFI’s high performance director, which is why I resigned from my position three weeks ago,” said Hermann in his statement, adding: “I believe that athletics in India has a great future ahead of it. It also needs players with a strong, confident, and independent mindset to succeed at world stage.”
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
Tendulkar’s 98 against Pakistan in 2003 WC one of his best: Inzamam
Former Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq believes Sachin Tendulkar’s 98-run knock against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup was one of the “best innings” played by the former Indian batsman during his stellar career.
In the group-stage match played on March 1, 2003 at Centurion in South Africa, the Pakistan team failed to defend a target of 274. India rode on Tendulkar’s 98 to chase down the target with more than four overs to spare.
“I have seen Sachin play a lot but the way he batted in that match; I have never seen him play like that before. The way he played against our fast bowlers in those conditions was superb. I think he scored 98 before getting out to Shoaib Akhtar,” Inzamam told India off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on his YouTube show ‘DRS with Ash’.
“I feel that innings of Sachin was one of his best. He broke all the pressure that existed. He played a top-quality innings against genuine quality fast bowlers like ours. The way he hit those boundaries, the pressure got released on the batsmen who came after him. If someone were to ask Sachin, he too would absolutely love that innings of his,” he added.
Inzamam also said Pakistan were confident about winning that game after scoring 273 as they had a very good bowling line-up consisting of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Akhtar.
“Our bowling line-up consisted of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar and the conditions were favouring the fast bowlers. The match was being played at Centurion in South Africa. So, we felt that we had put up a pretty good score,” said Inzamam.
Earlier, Akhtar had said that the 2003 World Cup loss against India was the “most disappointing match” of his entire career. “The most disappointing match for me in my entire career was the 2003 World Cup match against India at Centurion. We had failed to defend a target of 274 despite having a very good bowling line-up,” Akhtar had said.
Medvedev to face Thiem for the title of ATP Finals
Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev will be facing Austrian third seed Dominic Thiem in the summit clash of the ATP Finals on Sunday evening.
On Saturday, Medvedev came from one set down to beat world number two Rafael Nadal 3-6, 7-6(7-4), 6-3, reaching the final at the ATP Finals for the first time.
Nadal looked to be cruising after the first set, but was quickly down 0-3 in the second set. The 34-year-old showed great determination to come from behind to lead 5-4, but the Russian refused to give up with powerful serves and strong forehands.
In the deciding set, the Spaniard couldn’t find a way to hold his soaring opponent, ending his season still await for a trophy of the season finale.
Medvedev can become the fourth player to triumph at the year-end championships at the O2 Arena following a winless debut.
Earlier, in the other semi-final, Thiem had edged world number one Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(12-10), 7-6(7-5) to reach the final of the year-ending tournament for the second consecutive year.
Thiem broke serve at 5-5 in the first set and sealed it with an ace. Djokovic, however, grinded his way to victory in the second set, denying Thiem the win despite the Austrian getting four chances to seal the game.
The third game was also pushed to a tiebreaker, which was started by Thiem but he went on to lose the next three points. He, however, roared back to win the next six points and while Djokovic saved a fifth match point, Thiem got the job done at the next opportunity.
Knew Gilchrist was vulnerable on the ball pitched up, recalls Praveen Kumar
Former India fast bowler Praveen Kumar, who helped India clinch the second Tri-series final in 2008 at Brisbane with an early three-wicket burst, says he used to catch the batsmen by watching their feet and body language.
India, having won the first of the best-of-three finals, had needed to win the second to seal the Tri-series for the first time in history.
They had set a target of 258, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s 91, and with the batting line-up that Australia had, it could have been insufficient.
But Praveen lopped off Australia’s cream – Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke to leave Aussies tottering at 32/3. They could never recover from there and India won the match by nine runs.
“Let me tell you, I could catch a batsman by watching his feet and body language. That moment (Brisbane, 2008) I was just putting on display the art that I have,” Praveen Kumar told IANS about his four for 46 haul that earned him the man of the match award and India a historic win that got them the Tri-series in Australia for the first time in history.
“You see most things about bowling are simple. I was not thinking about anything. My bowling style dictated the areas I have to pitch and I was watching the wicket and bowling,” he added.
Praveen says he had done his homework with the help of the support staff, having studied the batsmen.
“’Gilchrist paidal tha upar waali ball par’ (Gilchrist was vulnerable to the ball that used to be pitched up),” he explains the thought behind plotting the former Australian wicket-keeper who was playing his last and 287th ODI. Gilchrist poked at a delivery that moved away. Aussies were one down for two.
“Ponting, they used to say, he pulls the ball well. So I said, ‘isko pull par hi nikaalna hai’ (let us catch him on the pull),” he says before explaining the simple logic.
“Whatever is the strength of someone, can also be his weakness. I bowled short, he pulled and was caught at short mid-on (by Yuvraj). I have got Ponting out thrice, once in Nagpur – there before he could realise the ball had hit the pad and he was out. It is about catching the batsman, a person. You catch a batsman by how he is playing. You need brains for that. In Ponting’s case, I thought let me try a short one.”
Praveen was, however, a tad lucky with the third one ï¿½ of Clarke.
“’Maine ball dabaai aur wo baith gayee’ (I pushed the ball on the pitch and it didn’t rise and went on at a very low trajectory). I got a bit lucky there. The pitch helped me on that one. But I am proud of the way I got Gilchrist. When a bowler uses his hands (art) and brain, he can bowl even if he has just gotten up from sleep. You will naturally catch the good length if you have it in you. By God’s grace, I had practiced so much that even if I could get up from my sleep, I could step out and bowl.”
That night at the Gabba, Praveen helped create history for India with his art and skills.
‘India without Kohli will be like Aussies without Smith, Warner’
While former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson says that ‘Indian cricketers will be expecting the unexpected’, ex-skipper Ian Chappell explains how Virat Kohli’s absence will create a big hole in Indian batting order.
India without captain Virat Kohli in Tests will be akin to Australia without Steve Smith and David Warner, said former Australia fast bowler Geoff Lawson on the prospects of Team India Down Under.
Kohli will be returning to India after the first Test against Australia—a day-night fixture currently slated to be played at the Adelaide Oval from 17 December—to be with his wife Anushka Sharma for the delivery of their first child. However, he will be part of the limited-overs leg of the tour—three ODIs and three T20Is—beginning 27 November.
“India without Virat Kohli will be like Australia without Smith and Warner. It’s not just the runs he makes, but the way he lifts the psyche of the whole group,” Lawson wrote in his column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell too believes Kohli’s absence for the final three Test of the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy will “create a big hole” in the Indian batting order.
“India also face a selection dilemma when skipper Virat Kohli departs for home for the birth of his first child following the opening Test. This creates both a big hole in the Indian batting order and an opportunity for one of their talented young players to make a name for himself,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Chappell as saying.
“What was already shaping up as an exciting tussle now has the added stimulus of crucial selection decisions. The result could well come down to who is the bravest set of selectors,” he added.
Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, however, believes missing the last three Tests will not take motivation away from Kohli.
“Don’t worry about Virat. He is up for every single game he is playing. Maybe, there will be extra motivation. I am sure he will be ready to go. As I said he is getting home for the birth of his child which is the right decision, so I am sure he will be extra motivated,” Stoinis said on Saturday.
With 7,240 runs at an average of 53.62, Kohli is the highest run scorer in the Indian squad for the Tests and is ranked in the ICC rankings for the longest format of the game behind Steve Smith.
As for Geoff Lawson’s statement, it gains relevance because India had won the previous Test series they played in Australia with the hosts missing Smith and Warner and still reeling from the aftermath of the 2018 ball tampering scandal. Since the duo came back, however, Australia have experienced a reversal in fortune culminating in them pipping India at the top of the ICC Test Championship earlier this month.
Lawson also added that Australia’s biggest strength now compared to what they had before the 2018-19 Test series against India is that they have options. “Australia have risen on the back of drawing away with England and then beating a well-below-strength New Zealand and thumping a classic Pakistan at home last summer. And as the international season looms, No.1 Test nation Australia finds itself in an unusual situation: There are options for batting spots,” said Lawson.
“Indian cricketers will be expecting the unexpected. They will be a handful, given they are defending the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, won on Australian soil for the first time two years ago, and their fast bowling group continues to grow in stature,” he said.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
Nadal defeats Tsitsipas to reach semis, to meet Medvedev
World number two Rafael Nadal has entered the semi- finals of the ongoing ATP Fi- nals after defeating defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.
On Thursday, Nadal defeated Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in two hours and five minutes to make it to his sixth semi-final appearance at the event and continued his pursuit of a maiden title at the year-end championships. The Spaniard tallied a 2-1 record to claim second place in Group London 2020 behind Dominic Thiem.
He will next play Daniil Medvedev in a rematch of the 2019 US Open final.
“(To) be in the semi-finals here, in the last tournament of the year, is an important thing,” Nadal said in his on-court interview as per the official ATP Tour website. “(I am) happy for that and I am looking forward to the semi-finals against Daniil (Medvedev).”
Last year, Nadal had defeated Tsitsipas in the final round- robin match, but the lefty was still ousted from the tourna- ment. This time, he only needed a win to move on, and despite a slip at the end of the second set, he emerged victorious to extend his head to head lead against the Greek to 6-1.
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