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PANDYA SHOULD LEAD INDIA AT T20 WORLD CUP

Two of the finest captains of IPL 2022 could well drive India’s fortunes at the T20 World Cup. But, will they get the top jobs?

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Two months before the start of IPL 2022, at the grand auction in Bengaluru, Gujarat Titans didn’t necessarily catch the eye of the cricketing purist with their bidding strategy. Their top 5 bids, apart from the three significant retentions, had names that were considered unpredictable, at best. Yet, what many purists, including yours truly, didn’t account for is the factor of cohesiveness, which so often is the intangible hero in team sport. Under Hardik Pandya, right through the IPL 2022, the Titans showcased themselves as a ‘unit’ marshalled by a completely transformed captain. Yes, I am using the word ‘transformed’ because before the start of the IPL, not even the most die-hard fan of Pandya would have seen the outcome the way it unfolded on May 29.

FORGETTABLE 2021

There was a reason for the heightened pessimism prior to the start of IPL 2022. Barely twelve months ago, Hardik endured one of the most forgettable IPL seasons of his career. Playing for Mumbai Indians, he managed to score just 127 runs in 12 matches at an average of just 14 and a strike rate of 113. To top it all, he decided against bowling to avoid risking his recurring back injury. No wonder then, Mumbai Indians decided against retention as they felt his value was dipping after seven long years at the franchise.

HORROR WORLD CUP

Despite the horror show in last year’s IPL, Pandya managed to sneak into the Indian team for the T20 World Cup played in the UAE. Unfortunately, that was another miserable outing not just for India, but for Pandya himself. As India failed to make it to the semi-finals, questions and eyebrows were raisedeverywhere. Why Pandya was picked ahead of other names was a talking point. Not a single Indian player made it to the ‘ICC Team of the Tournament’,a blot on India’s T20 riches. Personally, for Pandya, the cricketing world had passed its verdict – We have seen the peak of Pandya and his comeback would be a miracle, if anything. Against this backdrop, his retention by Gujarat Titans came as a shocker. Rs 15 crore for a player at the lowest point of his career didn’t seem a wise move at all. That move wasn’t met with enthusiasm even by the fans of the Titans.

FALLING APART WITH MI

Things got worse shortly afterwards when Pandya fell apart with Mumbai Indians and his ‘souring’ relationship with Rohit Sharma meant he would publicly ‘unfollow’ MI on their Instagram page. Even though neutrals argued that Pandya had moved on to a new franchise and therefore unfollowed the old one, the tension building between him and his old franchise, where he spent 7 years of his illustrious career, was palpable.

Despite his new contract, Pandya was clearly encircled by troubles, uncertainties, wounds, loneliness, and self-doubt. In just two months however, these five words gave way to renewed confidence, leadership, resolve, resilience and self-assurance. Welcome to Pandya II and quite dramatically.

There was scepticism even before the final of IPL 2022. That Pandya had scored only 29 runs and taken no wicket in 4 IPL finals prior to this edition, has been more than emphasised. However, it took just 4 overs of bowling and 40 minutes of batting to change it all. ‘Player of the match’ in the final and ‘Captain of the tournament’ (although there wasn’t an official award for this) were the outcomes of a ‘home’ journey that began a few months ago.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN AND QUITE DRAMATICALLY?

Going by what Pandya said in the post-match chat after the IPL 2022 title, the answer lies in the family. “I live and feed on love, which I keep getting from my family.” And that was evident when his better half, Natasha Stankovic gave the all-rounder hubby a long, emotional hug soon after the gigantic feat at Ahmedabad. The transformation was complete, but the process was visible in those brief moments. Pandya had transformed physically, mentally and emotionally to emerge fitter and stronger than ever before. Hardik Pandya II is now born and set to lead.

WHAT NEXT FOR HARDIK?

Ironically, Pandya shares the comeback story with another charismatic player, who had an equally emphatic run in IPL 2022 – Sanju Samson. Samson’s captaincy and calm demeanour in the middle of pressure situations has won him accolades. Ironically, two of the least celebrated players for Team India in recent times have become the best captains of IPL 2022.

HOW DOES THIS IMPACT INDIA’S T20 WORLD CUP PREPARATIONS?

The Indian selection thinktank was guilty of making some poor selections for last year’s World Cup in the UAE. The selectors had bungled by dropping players like Dhawan, Chahal and Harshal Patel, who were clearly masters of their craft and could trouble any team at any level. Those decisions haunted India as the team lost to Pakistan for the first time ever in a World Cup event of any format. One more loss at the hands of New Zealand cut short India’s miserable campaign. The selectors should learn lessons from that bungle and reset India’s squad for this year’s T20 World Cup down under. After all, IPL is the biggest T20 format in the world and is also considered fiercely competitive. Good performances in the IPL can translate into good performances for the national team too.

TIME TO LOOK PAST VK AND RG?

With four months to go for the T20 World Cup, the Indian selectors need to bite the bullet. The big decision first up should be whether we send a young team or continue to depend on the veterans? Without discounting the factor of experience, the message should be loud and clear. No place for non-performers. Even if it means the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan and Rishabh Pant are not performing consistently at the desired levels, the axe should be out. We compromised during the 2021 World Cup by sending a jaded squad and should not repeat the mistake.

SHOULD INDIA SEND A TEAM OF YOUNG GUNS?

The Gujarat-Rajasthan show in IPL 2022 has clearly shown we can invest in a good captain-vice captain duo, and we have the wherewithal to send a dynamic young team who could just upstage the favourites in Australia. Great results require tough decisions and if India are to challenge for the T20 world title for the first time in 15 years, this is the moment to take calculated risks. My vote would be to go for something dramatic and do the unthinkable. Pandya for captaincy and Samson for vice captaincy. If ‘Kapil’s devils’ could do it with the underdog status in 1983, ‘Pandya’s dynamites’ could well emulate the feat in 2022 with a similar tag before the tournament. For that tag, key decisions are needed, and it remains to be seen whether the selectors have the gut for gut-wrenching calls. I have made mine though.

MY TEAM OF 18 FOR THE T20 WORLD CUP BASED ON IPL 2022

Shikhar Dhawan

Yashasvi Jaiswal

Ruturaj Gaikwad

KL Rahul

Shubman Gill

Suryakumar Yadav

Sanju Samson (Vice Captain)

Hardik Pandya (Captain)

Tilak Varma

Dinesh Karthik

Ravichandran Ashwin

Harshal Patel

Prasidh Krishna

Yash Dayal

Umran Malik

Yuzvendra Chahal

Jasprit Bumrah

Md. Shami

The author is a sports commentator 

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YOGA DOESN’T MEAN JUST CARDIO, IT’S A WHOLESOME EXERCISE: SHARATH KAMAL

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On the International Yoga Day on 21 June, we had with us Sharath Kamal who is a serious promoter of yoga and the first Indian table tennis player ever to become a nine-time senior national champion, breaking the record of eight times national champion Kamlesh Mehta, In 2019 he was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award.

Q. So, like taking you back to the memory lane Tokyo Olympics 2021, how will you describe India’s table tennis campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, and how would you sum up India’s performance there?

A. I think all of us did extremely well and personally for me it was my best performance at the Olympic games. I lost in the round of 32, well I have played the round of 32 before this but you know even then putting a fight against the defending champion, who had won the Olympic games also so I had gotten a game off for him and it was we’re going into tie-breaker into the third set. And I think personally for me it was the best performance so a lot of people when they ask me which was your best match and stuff, I think quality-wise in the level of play or what I would have played on that particular day I would rate that match as the best I’ve plate in my career. So, I’ve had great memories from the Tokyo Olympic games and I’m really happy and proud to be part of the Indian contingent there it was my fourth Olympic game and I hope I’ll be in the next one at the periscope.

Q. My next question is based on the match only we always talk about the feeling ‘morning after’ what was yours after that long match which won a lot of hearts and after coming back home?

A. When I lost that match immediately, I came to the bench when I came, I was very disappointed, I felt like “oh how many times have I lost this kind of matches” where I get the opponent to a corner. And then you know I let him go I didn’t feel so great about what he did but then the Coach just patted my shoulder and he said great show fantastic way, to have played this match and I’m proud of you. So that had happened and then when I came back to the room and when I saw the social media messages where I had inspired so many top players so many youngsters to you know to show them that yes, we can put a fight against Chinese and probably sooner or later we’ll be able to beat them, also I think the attitude that I portrayed in that match was something which everybody talks about and that is why that match is remembered. I guess it will be remembered for a long time of course without a doubt.

Q. So, how has yoga changed your life?

A. I think I’ve been doing yoga since my school days in school it was compulsory. So, we’ve been doing it and after that when I started professional table tennis, we were continuing to do it at the age of 21 and 22. But I went into Europe and somehow lost my touch with yoga then when I came back and the covet break happened, I felt I could do something which can bring me flexibility and stability so started back with a little bit of yoga during the cold break. Then I felt like a lot of improvement was seen personally for me with regards to the fitness part also, so yoga just doesn’t mean cardio or strengthening it’s a wholesome exercise where you feel completely positive after you finish that session. So that way I was able to be aware you know of my body and my mind and that helped me improve on my physical fitness part and also on the mental fitness.

Q. How has your training regime changed over the years?

A. The body is changing, reflexes are getting slower so I need to keep up with the younger generation. so physical fitness is a very important aspect of table tennis because you know the game is very fast and my reflexes need to be very sharp when I play with the younger players or anybody at the door in the top-level international matches. My fitness Pro-regime has scaled up over the years, Now and then I spend a lot of time taking care of my body let it be stretching.

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Olympic champ Sydney McLaughlin breaks own world 400m hurdles record

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Reigning Olympic champion Sydney McLaughlin ended day three of the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships sensationally as she broke her own 400m hurdles world record on Saturday.McLaughlin does not race often, but she produces memorable performances whenever she does step on the track. Running a sizzling world record of 51.41 in the women’s 400m hurdles on a hot afternoon at the US Championships, McLaughlin has now set world records in three of her past four 400m hurdles finals.Clearing the hurdles effortlessly and with no one pressing her, McLaughlin broke her own record of 51.46 from the Tokyo Olympics, where she captured the gold medal.McLaughlin set her first world record of 51.90 on this same track, Hayward Field in Eugene, during last summer’s US Olympic Trials and will return here next month for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.“I knew it was going to be fast,” McLaughlin said after the race. “I looked at the time and I was really happy with it – being able to slowly progress towards lower and lower times – and I think there’s still things I could work on. I think there’s a little bit more in the tank there, so hopefully when it’s time we can just empty it completely.”Before the three rounds of the US Championships, McLaughlin had run only twice this season: one 100m hurdles race and one 400m hurdles race, in which she clocked a world-leading 51.61 with one of the hurdles placed in the wrong position.She then withdrew from the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in New York two weeks ago to focus on the National Championships.McLaughlin had a lead of about six metres entering the home straight and that margin had grown significantly by the time she reached the finish. NCAA champion Britton Wilson ran a PB of 53.08 for second and Shamier Little, the 2015 world silver medallist who missed the US Olympic team last year by one spot, was third with a season’s best of 53.92.McLaughlin was the world silver medallist in 2019 behind former world record-holder Dalilah Muhammad, who has a wildcard entry to the World Championships as defending champion and did not compete at the US Championships. They will likely face off next month.Later, Michael Norman posted a world-leading time of 43.56 to win the men’s 400m, besting his own 43.60 from the Prefontaine Classic in May on the same track. He now owns the three fastest times at Hayward Field, having also run 43.61 in 2018. (ANI)

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INDIA EYE CLEAN SWEEP, LANKA AIM FOR CONSOLATION WIN

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When the Indian team will take the field for the third and final T20I against Sri Lanka at Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium in Dambulla, achieving a clean sweep will be on their mind, while Lankans will be looking forward to saving face and leave the series with a consolation win.

India defeated Sri Lanka in the second T20I by five wickets, gaining an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. For India to achieve the clean sweep, their batting will have to be at its best. Openers Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma will have to provide with a good, positive start in the powerplay with their hitting abilities. The duo has failed to provide a stable start during the powerplay.

While Mandhana found her touch in the previous match, it will be important for Verma to find hers as she has not looked at her best in both the matches. Batters like Sabbhineni Meghana, Jemimah Rodrigues and wicketkeeper-batter Yastika Bhatia will have to make sure that they keep things steady and all the pressure does not fall on the well-experienced captain Harmanpreet Kaur.

India’s bowling has been fantastic in both matches. While they were consistently great in the first match, the bowling bounced back in the second half of SL’s innings in the next match, where the latter lost six wickets within 33 runs.

Bowlers like Deepti Sharma, Simran Bahadur, Pooja Vastrakar and Radha Yadav will be extremely vital for India’s chances to gain a clean sweep.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka has a lot to work on. Their batting has been a huge concern in both the matches of the series. While it failed completely during the first T20I, the batting line-up fumbled on a solid 87-run opening stand in the next match and lost six wickets in quick succession in pursuit of runs. It will be important for Lankans to combine intent and utmost care in their batting.

For this, openers Vishmi Gunaratne and captain Chamari Athapaththu will have to provide a great start and the middle order consisting of Harshitha Madavi, Kavisha Dilhari, Nilakshi de Silva etc will have to carry on the momentum carefully.

SL will also have to improve their bowling and work harder to restrict their opponents to more smaller totals and defend their modest totals.

Spinner Inoka Ranaweera and medium-pacer Oshadi Ranasinghe will have to be on their best for Sri Lanka and continue their good show in the series. Spinner Sugandika Kumari will also have to put in more work out in the pitch with her spin.

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MADHYA PRADESH CREATE HISTORY, CAPTURE MAIDEN TITLE BY DEFEATING MUMBAI

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Madhya Pradesh created history and captured their maiden Ranji Trophy title, defeating favourites Mumbai in the finals by six wickets at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday.

This win is a historic one for Madhya Pradesh, as they captured their maiden Ranji title. The victory becomes even more significant because they defeated 41-time champions Mumbai, who were heading into the finals as favourites. Mumbai started off the final day at 113/2, with Armaan Jaffer 30 *(34) and Suved Parkar 9* (14). The duo went on to have a 56-run stand which ended with Jaffer’s dismissal by pacer Gaurav Yadav for 37.

Parkar was joined by the man-in-form Sarfaraz Khan. The duo went on to add another 53-runs before Parkar was dismissed for 51 by the spinner Kumar Kartikeya. Yashasvi Jaiswal fell cheap for just 1 to Kartikeya.

Then Khan and Shams Mulani stitched a 34-run stand after this mini-collapse. Mulani was dismissed for 17 after being run out by Saransh Jain, ending the duo’s resistance to MP bowling. Sarfaraz Khan fell shortly for 45, being dismissed by spinner Parth Sahani with assistance from the safe hands of Anubhav Agarwal. At this point, Mumbai was 236/7.

The rest of the Mumbai batting line up could not put up much of a fight, with the side being bundled out for 269. Mumbai gained a slender lead of 107, setting a target of 108 for MP to take home their maiden title.

Kumar Kartikeya with his 4/98 was the start for Mumbai with the ball. Gaurav Yadav and Parth Sahani took two wickets each.

Chasing 108, Madhya Pradesh were off to a tricky start as they lost their opener Yash Dubey for just 1 after veteran Mumbai pacer Dhawal Kulkarni dislodged his stumps.

Then Shubham S Sharma and opener/wicketkeeper-batter Himanshu Mantri added 52-runs for the second wicket. The stand ended after spinner Mulani clean bowled Mantri for 37.

This brought Parth Sahani to the crease, who fell shortly for just five to Mulani.

Then arrived the MP’s best batter this season, Rajat Patidar. He joined Shubham on the mission to take his team to the target.

The duo did not have to toil for runs that hard. But Shubam Sharma was back to the pavilion for 30 when the team needed seven runs. He was caught by Armaan Jaffer who took a great diving catch off a Shams Mulani delivery.

Captain Aditya Shrivastava joined Patidar. The duo easily took their side to their maiden Ranji title, finishing at 108/4, with Shrivastava (1*) and Patidar (30*). Patidar hit the winning runs for MP, sending his team into ecstasy.

Earlier batting first, Mumbai put up 374/10 on the board. Sarfaraz Khan (134), Yashasvi Jaiswal (78) and Prithvi Shaw (47) played crucial knocks for Mumbai. Pacer Gaurav Yadav was the star for MP with the ball, taking 4/106 while his pace partner Anubhav Agarwal took 3/81.

In the second innings of the match, Madhya Pradesh were absolutely dominant with the bat, putting on a massive 536/10 on the board and gaining a 162-run lead. Yash Dubey (133), Shubham Sharma (116) and Rajat Patidar (122) were the key stars for MP with their centuries.

Shams Mulani was the key bowler for Mumbai, taking 5/173 while medium-pacer Tushar Deshpande took 3/116.

Following Mumbai’s 269/10 in the third innings, MP were given a target of 108 to win their maiden title.

Brief Scores: Mumbai 374 and 269 (Suved Parkar 51, Sarfaraz Khan 45, Kumar Kartikeya 4/98) lost to Madhya Pradesh 536 and 108/4 (Himanshu Mantri 37, Rajat Patidar 30*, Shams Mulani 3/41) by six wickets.

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Winners and Losers from the 2022 NBA Draft

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Everybody knew who the top three players selected in the 2022 NBA Draft would be, but the Vegas Odds were clearly unsure on the exact order of how it would shake out. Jabari Smith was the huge favorite on the odds to be taken #1 in the weeks and even days leading up to the draft, but the Magic pulled a slight shocker by taking Duke’s Paolo Banchero in the top spot.

7-footer Chet Holmgren went #2 to Oklahoma City while Smith slipped all the way down to #3. That trio will forever be linked in their NBA journey in much the same way Greg Oden / Kevin Durant and Marvin Bagley III / Luka Doncic are so we will see how that plays out. Let’s take a look at some of the other way-too-early winners and losers from the 2022 NBA Draft.

Winners: Houston Rockets

Houston found themselves in a lot of 139-132 style defeats last season meaning they can score – but also couldn’t stop anybody. That defense should improve immediately with the lengthy 6’10” Smith coming to them at #3 but Rafael Stone wasn’t done there adding LSU forward Tari Eason at #17 following his breakout season.

Houston already has a budding superstar in last year’s #2 pick Jalen Green, and Kevin Porter, Jr. has shown some upside in the backcourt as well. Houston moved from #26 to #29 on draft night (picking up two future second-round picks in the process) and was still able to grab TyTy Washington out of Kentucky.

Losers: Sacramento Kings

Most people conceded that the 2022 draft really didn’t start until Sacramento’s #4 pick. There were rumors all month that the Kings could possibly trade the pick for an established veteran like John Collins, Julius Randle, or Malcolm Brogdon, Jr. – or they could just sit still and take the next best prospect, Jaden Ivey.

In true Kings fashion, they did none of the above, instead of going with Keegan Murray out of Iowa. The Kings may have felt they take guards too often, and Ivey publicly stated he wasn’t a  fan of heading to Sacramento but either way this pick will be scrutinized for years to come.

Winners: Detroit Pistons

Sacramento’s loss is Detroit’s gain as they were able to pick up Ivey with the #5 selection. The former Purdue guard is no sure thing, but he has drawn some light comparisons to Ja Morant. Plus a backcourt of last year’s #1 pick Cade Cunningham and Ivey should draw fans to Little Caesars Arena. Detroit was also able to add former #1 rated high school prospect, Jalen Duren, at #13.

Losers (This Year) : New York Knicks

The Knicks didn’t do anything to get better this year despite having the #11 pick, essentially trading out of that spot by selecting Ousmane Dieng for the Thunder. In return, though they got three first-rounddraft picks for next season, were also able to get rid of Kemba Walker’s contract in another three-team deal, and picked up Travis Keels out of Duke at #42. Fans aren’t going to be happy now but will be a year from now (after another likely down year, however).

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Attacking attitude of bowlers required to win the fifth test

Saba Karim

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The last test match played in Birmingham is very important for Team India or let’s say it will be a big challenge as Indian players are playing test match in England after a long time. By the way, this is only the remaining Test of the last series where Team India was successful in taking a 2-1 lead. Team India’s top order needs to get the good practice before this Test match to be held from July 1. If these batsmen play to their full potential, then I am sure that Team India’s playing XI will also be very strong.

By the way, Team India does not have much time. The ongoing practice match against Leicestershire can also play a big role. The sooner the team decides on its eleven players, the better it will be for it because, if we talk about England, this team is currently playing a three-match Test series against New Zealand. In such a situation, they are well prepared before the match against India, so it is expected from Team India that by practising as much as possible, they get rid of their basic shortcomings because in the first match on the tour of England, usually Asian teams have to face lot of problems. These problems with hard practise can be solved.

It is quite possible that Team India will field five bowlers in the playing XI for this match. These five bowlers should be attacking bowlers who can take wickets on the first day or in the first innings itself. In this sense, as a spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin could be a good option for India before Ravindra Jadeja, as he has variation and good grip along with being a finger spinner. He played against New Zealand in India.

In the last series he played, he bowled well. The team will have to take a very smart decision in the selection of spin bowlers. This move could prove to be decisive for the team.

The writer has been a national selector apart from being a former player of Team India.

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