By Vishesh Roy
New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): When the four-match series between India and England started, cricket fans were expecting to be enthralled by the quality of cricket on display. While the contests have been entertaining, the pitches on offer have also hogged quite a bit of limelight.
If comments were made by critics during the second Test in Chennai, things have taken an altogether different turn after the third Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad ended in two days.
The Virat Kohli-led side defeated England comprehensively — by ten wickets — in the third Test which was played with the pink ball. However, many cricket pundits have questioned the quality of pitch on the show. Former India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh went on to say that if these types of wickets were created when Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were playing, they would have finished with 1000 and 800 wickets respectively.
But one cannot forget the spell from Australia batsman Michael Clarke when he picked six wickets while giving away just nine runs at the Mumbai Test in 2004. Murali Kartik and Harbhajan returned the favour as they picked 8 wickets to see Australia bundle out for 93. So are these type of wickets really new?
Most of the former English cricketers like Alistair Cook, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss have questioned India’s need to produce such rank turners. But again the question remains if rank turners really reduce the contest between bat and ball or is it the batsmen who are losing their ability to play the turning ball and making spinning tracks look unplayable?
If green tops require a certain skill set, then the rank-turners also require the same. Which ball turns and which one goes straight is a simple question in cricketing books and all the batters prepare for it from the very start when they go to coaching schools or academies. But it is about putting those hours of training into play at the crease.
When playing on turning tracks, batters are required to be confident about their footwork. But looking at all the dismissals in the third Test, most of them saw batters in two minds on whether they should stay on the frontfoot or go back to the balls which mostly skidded through after pitching.
This is a fact that even Sunil Gavaskar spoke about during his commentary stint. Most of the English batsmen were caught pressing forward and as a result, they were either bowled or caught plumb in front of the wicket.
When one looks at the third Test once again, they will notice that only a handful of the deliveries were turning sharply and there was nothing that kicked up at an alarming rate. The pitch also did not offer invariable bounce and the batters were able to leave the ball on length.
If anything, the pink-ball has extra lacquer on it, and that may have made the ball skid on more. And this is a point which was highlighted by Rohit Sharma and Joe Root after the third Test came to an end.
These types of challenging wickets do require batters to think on their feet and as former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin suggested, the batsmen can look to play with rubber soles on dry-turning wickets rather than wearing spikes.
One needs to ask why does it seem like the world comes to an end when there is a little bit of assistance for the spinners from day one of a Test match? Nothing in the rule book restricts the degree of turn that a pitch is allowed to take. But no sooner does a sub-continent wicket take a bit of turn, eyebrows are raised — mostly unnecessary.
England skipper Joe Root did not openly criticise the pitch, but he did say: “If I am getting a fifer, it pretty much sums up the pitch.”
One doesn’t need to be a genius to read between the lines and understand what Root truly opines about the pitch. But credit to the current England management that none have come out openly to use the pitch as an excuse for the loss.
Kohli suggested that the batting from both sides was not up to the mark in the third Test and he went on to give a clean chit to the 22 yards on offer. It is safe to say that Kohli is not entirely wrong.
Even, Rohit Sharma suggested that the pitch was good to bat on and there were no demons. The right-handed opener hit 66 runs in the first innings and he did not look in any sort of trouble in the second as he smashed boundaries at will to take India home in style while chasing 49.
In fact, England opening batsman Zak Crawley also scored a fifty in the first innings and he looked quite comfortable at the crease. Man of the Match Axar Patel has made it clear that he wouldn’t mind the same wicket for the fourth Test.
Now, it would be interesting to see what type of pitch is on offer in the fourth Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium. The ICC rule book clearly states that a pitch can be deemed ‘poor’ if the match referee decides that the pitch is offering excessive turn from day one of a Test and the contest between bat and ball is not fair. But as Virat Kohli pointed out, 21 of the 30 wickets fell to straight deliveries in the day-night Test. (ANI)
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LACK OF PLANNING IN TEAM INDIA VISIBLE
The way England dwarfed the mammoth target of 378 runs in the Edgbaston Test due to the excellent batting of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, it is clear that the team had excellent planning in this match, which made this task easy. I feel if there would have been 100 runs more in this target, even then England would have easily achieved the target because the performance level of the Indian team was quite mild, especially in the second innings, and our team got exposed in every department of the game. England team took full advantage of all the weaknesses of Indian team and beat our team in every department in the end.
Till the third day, Team India was ahead of the England team, and I felt that this match would go in India’s favour since till the fourth day, England team was nowhere in this match. If Team India had played in full form, then this match could have ended in favour of Team India on the fourth day itself. But the way England’s opening pair started in the second innings, it was clear that their intentions were different, but after that, what happened on the fourth day was quite the opposite of what was expected and England defeated Indian team in every aspect.
If I analyse the fourth day, the intentions of the England team were very clear, and from the very first ball, the England batsman were very positive. The way England batted, Indian bowlers should have thought about how to bowl in a planned manner. Also, the team should have had prepared Plan B. This is what we do in the Ranji Trophy also. When the pitch is good and the batsmen are building partnerships, you start restricting the pace of runs and you suggest your bowlers to avoid the boundaries. This clearly means that if you play keeping the basics in mind, you can make the match difficult for the opponent. The way Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root have played on the last day, this target became dwarf. England got the remaining runs on this day in 18 overs or say that these two batsmen trampled our bowlers. Not playing Ravichandran Ashwin in this match was according to me the biggest mistake.
The greats like Rahul Dravid, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Virat Kohli, etc. should sit together and it is important to think over this defeat. They will have to carry out an introspection and understand those facts closely that why India lost this test. Where did the mistake happen and how can these mistakes be rectified?
The writer has played for Team India.
I hope we will be able to streamline the system for betterment of badminton in India, says Gopichand
Chief national coach of Indian badminton team, Gopichand gives his perspective on the historic win in the Thomas Cup and steps to be taken for betterment of badminton in India. Excerpts:
Q: Do you think that the Thomas Cup win has now set a base for a long lasting, successful ecosystem to be put in place?
A: I think in the last few years there’s been sustained effort from the government, especially to ensure that a systematic program project model for sport is developed in the country and badminton is also striving to be that. I think as an ecosystem, we are diverse we at large as a country before have grown tremendously in the sport, and it makes it very tough for us also to make a system with which all the stakeholders are coming on board.
So, we are in that process and I do hope that with the support of Badminton Association of India president Himanta Biswa Sarma, the government and the ministry under the leadership of Mr Anurag Thakur and our honourable Prime Minister we will be able to streamline and bring the process, which actually makes this win more sustainable and more consistent in the future.
Q: Do you believe that this could be the game changer in uber cup prospects?
A: I think in some sense, the Uber cup with Sindhu and Saina there, I’m sure it would probably have been a much quicker place to be reaching. But I think when you work together as a team and when you have some strength in your women’s doubles, I think even that is possible. And I’m hoping that that’s something that will happen sooner than later.
Q: Did you manage to speak to Prakash sir and recall the efforts both of you have taken after Thomas Cup triumph?
A: Yes, I did speak to him and it was really nice. Because, I think for us, I and the seniors who played sport, this could have been in some sense the pinnacle of a team win or a connection of badminton in some sense. Because I remember even in pre-casters time they qualified once to the finals, in my time they qualified for the finals. And when you talk about the finals we are trying to be one of the 16 team in the world that itself is an achievement and today. The boys actually going out there to bring out the best results and be the number one in the world was something which we never imagined could happen and I think for that to happen today with this young team players.
Q: How has the presence of Matthias changed the double scenario in the country, he has been phenomenal and has turned Indian double team of Chirag and Satwik. What according to you has he done differently than others?
A: I think it’s been great. He was there for a week before this event. So, it was not that, there was anything suddenly he was doing, but also the fact that he’s worked with the players prior to the Olympics. So, he was with them all earlier as well.
And luckily when he came on join again, I think it was almost like, a gap has been filled and it was great to have him straight away flowing. And have the ease and jumped into the team. And, also the support staff has been amazing. And it’s great because Satwik and Chirag have a great relationship.
And also, they believe in Matthias’s ability to contribute. And it’s also great because Matthias also has a great belief in the players that they want to contribute. So, it’s a very mutual thing, which actually helps us to actually produce better results. So not only is it good for the two players Satwik and Chirag, but also his presence I’m sure will create motivation, not only for the men’s doubles, but also for the other doubles events as well.
Q: Where do you see India badminton in terms of depth in coaches and what do you think that needs to be done to bring more bring more Gopi Chand to the fourth who can take Indian badminton to even greater heights.
A: As far as coaches are concerned, I think we should be able to give them the kind of respect and the recognition which is needed and also need to give them the financial stability or the motivation, which is needed. I think, there are a lot of good players who actually retired or who will be retiring in the next few years.
And I think if you’re able to convert some of them into coaches, I think the first step would be to ensure that the coaching fraternity or the coaches are respected and we give them an opportunity to work independently. Of course, I’m all for accountability, but, it’s important that we are able to motivate them and also give them the right atmosphere to keep working so that they’re able to produce themselves.
Q: How difficult is it to manage the egos of the players and strike the right balance within the national camp.
A: Well, its overtime been, when we started off, there were hardly any superstars in the team, but today you have a lot more of that happening. We have people managing them, people sponsoring them. We have people who certainly have a particular interest in players. So, there’s a lot of things which have actually changed in the sport for also the society in some sense. So, I think, there’s not, it’s not going to be easy. But this men’s team actually has shown that, top players can come together in front of you together as a team, they can keep competing, but also their competition amongst themselves, and need not be to pull each other down, but to actually make each other better as well.
So, I think this Thomas cup team is like that you can still have people competing against each other, but also, they can come together and compete together and excel together and bring results together. So, I think this has been a revelation in some sense, but yes, there are challenges which we find with multiple people getting involved and its basic system which works in the world is a coach led athlete centric system. Sometimes if you don’t really follow that and become either athlete led where he is deciding what he wants rather than what he needs, I think becomes a problem. So, we also have many issues relating to this because their resources are a lot more for top peoples today than they’ve ever been. But I think these are issues which are there so we can brush them off, but I think we need to address them in the right manner.
Q: What does Gopi Chand have that makes him such a wonderful coach as well as a talent spotter?
A: I think to, to have spent every day of my life, at least for the last 35 years, thinking about badminton makes it easier for me. Because, I am actually looking at that on that, but also the fact, is that there’s been a lot of God’s grace and support from many, which is actually in this journey, which is actually you get this.
Q: Even though there is no dearth of talent in India, we somehow are not that consistent. What do you think needs to be done differently to make India more consistent?
A: I think at the moment our struggle is because there are multiple people involved in sport, there is government, there is state associations their schools that is universities that sponsors academies individually. So, everybody is pulling the player in some different direction. The ideal way, explain show that the player by sports science, this is the glare is quoted by somebody who has the knowledge of sport. And that is what should be at the moment. There are too many people in the sport who are involved in influencing the athlete, and that becomes a challenge.
So, I think one of the biggest things which is needed is to streamline the system where various stakeholders in the support actually have been taken care off from the sport science perspective.
Indian bowlers fail to make inroads in England’s second inning
If you play like this, how will you win, one has to admit that Team India gave up in a way in the fifth and final Test played against England at Edgbaston. It did not seem that Team India was maintaining a 2-1 lead at one time. While we conquered Lord’s and the Oval, England beat Team India by an innings at Leeds and now their champion style was visible in their seven-wicket victory. The work that Team India did in the first innings, but everything turned upside down in the second. During this, the Indian bowling was shattered and in the second inning the Indian batsmen also laid down their weapons.
On the fourth day it seemed that the Indian bowling attack was dependent only on Bumrah. On the fifth and final day, in front of Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root’s impeccable style, it seemed that the Indian bowling had forgotten to bowl. He was not able to bowl according to where the field was set. Shardul Thakur who is known for swing and late movement was completely off colour. Root made Siraj a complete child. His outside off-stump deliveries were going too much outside. Had he been getting swung, we could have defended him by saying that he is unable to control the ball. But how can he defend short balls on his leg-stump? Shami bowled a few good deliveries but in the second innings he also proved to be ineffective most of the occasions. The question is where is his seam movement?
Team India put such a field in this match that in a way we gave them continuous freedom to take singles. Especially Joe Root took full advantage of this. Most of the bowlers not putting leg slips for middle and leg balls and hitting two midwickets shows that there was a mistake in our planning itself. Ravindra Jadeja is wreaking havoc with the bat but in the bowling, he did not get the turn even around Jack Leach. He was asked to take advantage of the rough patch on the leg side, in which he failed completely.
In such a situation, it is natural to ask whether Ravichandran Ashwin would have been a better option in place of Shardul Thakur. Shardul is in the team today because he can bat usefully in the lower order but Ashwin can also bat a little bit. He may have thought that Team India would have been transformed.
Indian fielding did the right thing. Dropped two catches of Ben Stokes in the first innings did not prove to be costly because he could be dismissed early, but the catch of Jonny Bairstow missed by Hanuma Vihari in the second innings, paid heavily. The question arises whether the bouncers of English bowlers were effective and bouncer of Indian bowlers was ineffective, while it is also a fact that the speed of the Indian fast bowlers was faster than the English bowlers but the English fast bowlers are more effective.
India should understand that there are two innings in a match. First innings lead is not everything. At the same time, Jonny Bairstow made his sixth century of this year and second of this match. Virat Kohli seems to have screwed Bairstow up and he gave a befitting reply to Virat by playing a brilliant innings. Virat used to do the same thing once, but then he was at the height of his career. Joe Root showed that his form last year is still intact and he managed to score a fourth century in this series.
At the same time, neither Hanuma Vihari’s technique was seen nor that old sustainable phase of Pujara was seen. Shreyas Iyer and Shardul Thakur proved to be a burden on Team India in a way. The recipe to get Shreyas out on the short ball has been taken out by the foreign teams. If nothing else, Shreyas should watch the videos of Steve Waugh’s early days of his career or look at the innings of Mohinder Amarnath, Mohammad Azharuddin, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina where once they used to uncomfortable against short balls but later, such balls became their strength. Imran Khan had even called Mohinder the best batsman in terms of facing short balls. If team India does not get rid of these weaknesses, then the series against Bangladesh can also cost India.
It was one of my dreams to be number one player in India: Ankita Raina
Ranked the number one player women tennis player in India, Ankita Raina is an Arjuna award winner in 2021 on her recognition for the achievements in tennis. She also holds a bronze medal in women’s singles 18th Asian games at Jakarta 2018. Excerpts from an interview.
Q. Ankita recently represented team India with BJK 2022, that is Billie Jean King Cup. Ankita congratulations on being ranked number one women tennis prayer in India. How did this achievement make you feel each time when you hear it?
A. It’s been a few years now and I really feel proud it’s been a dream to firstly play for India. While growing up it was one of my dream to be number one player in the country and it has all only been possible due to the support of my family and of course all my sponsors and team that have been with me in this journey.
Q. Does ranking affect your game at emotional or mental level?
A. As a player you always have goals. Every year or every few months that you want to be here in terms of ranking but over the years I’ve learned to deal with it or how to take it in a positive way. Because after all you have to be in the process and ranking and results is something out of your control all you can do is give your best in every practice session. And then definitely in the match it’s going to be how you have been practicing and worked hard over the years. Initially it would bother sometimes, but over the years I would say that I have learned how to manage it.
Q. How was the experience in Turkey, how was the weather?
A. Turkey was beautiful, it is the one of my favourite countries and I was happy to be back there. I was there last in 2019. And I love the culture there, love the food love the people and also the conditions.
Q. Do you miss Indian food when on tours?
A. I definitely miss Indian food. We just manage, sometimes if you’re lucky you get Indian restaurant around. And they’re such lovely people across the world. Indians, sometimes they get you some Indian food or they cook you home food, so I would say I’ve been lucky.
Q. Ankita you know though Sania didn’t play in BJK 2022 this time. What kind of relationship do you have with Sania Mirza?
A. Growing up I always looked up to her because she was the Indian player representing everyone. And she had such a great performance on the WTA tour at various games, the list keeps going on. So while growing up I always looked up to her because she was the number one player and then when I had the chance first time in 2010 to be a part of the team with her so it like a dream come true. Because you get a chance to play with one of your idols and also like at Olympics when I had the chance to represent India and play at the Olympics with her. So definitely her experience and all that she has done now for the country and so many women are inspired with her. I can keep talking about her and her achievements.
Q. Ankita what is something that you still hope to learn from her?
A. I would say fearlessness and humour.
Q. Is there any memorable incident when you guys went ROFL, at the fun created by her?
A. I mean it has been many times because when we are traveling for the Indian team or at the game so it’s always like we will be laughing, because when she’s around the atmosphere is very light and positive. So there have been many incidents I can’t remember one right now.
Q. Wearing these dangles you know and a half tied hair. I’ve never seen you this way, do you always wear these dangles while playing also?
Q. You just tie a tight pony on your head every time so you’re looking a little different.
A. Yes because, I mean everyone even you have mostly seen me on the tennis court or my pictures from the tennis court. So this is a different look I would say.
Q. So you are an Arjuna award winner. I have seen that pic wearing that red saree with red blazer, totally traditional Ankita so do you find comfortable wearing saree, did you wear it yourself that day?
A. My mom helped me out, but I love wearing sarees and I would really like to learn how to wear one probably in future.
Q. Other than saree what all traditional dresses you love wearing?
A. I think ghaghra. Since I’m born and brought up in Ahmedabad. So we used to have Navratri there and it’s celebrated in a large scale.
Q. Ankita do you follow any other sports personality you know that you think he or she inspires you enough. If yes then why?
A. I mostly follow only tennis and also like while growing up. Like I mentioned Sania and apart from her in tennis it’s Serena Williams another player who while growing up I used to really get excited watching her matches. If when she was playing Wimbledon against her sister and all the other matches.
Q. What motivates you the most what drives you to train or practice?
A. I think it’s just how better and how good I can be at this sport. When I look back when I started I had no clue that I would be a professional tennis player one day. Because it was it’s just that it happened my older brother used to play the sport, because my mom was a sports enthusiast and then I just followed his footsteps. So I just want to see how far I can get.
Q. Your comment on the kind of tournament like BJK 2022 which happened. So what do you feel about these kind of tournament are they putting their best foot forward to take tennis to the next level globally?
A. BJK is like world cup of tennis, you can say that in a way. We are playing the Asia Oceania group and there’s another group which is the European African group and then whoever qualifies goes to the world group playoffs. And then they go to the world group where they have the finals. So it is like world cup of tennis and it is on a huge scale because while we are playing in the Asian group so we are playing the best countries of Asia and then as we go ahead hopefully.
Q. What is your favourite memory of playing tennis you know any favourite moment as a professional tennis player?
A. It is definitely when I was playing Olympics last year. That would be one and the other one was when I was at the podium in Jakarta in Palembang at the Asian games getting the medals.
Q. What role does family play in the life of an athlete how important is family support all together?
A. Family support is the I think plays a very big part to me being here and being able to have this type of journey was only possible because I had the support from my family, from my mother, brother father all of them. As you know like education is one of the things and then financial background is another thing. I’ve played a lot during board exams. So I had this in that my last paper had a week gap and then there was an international event in Aurangabad, so I went there and played and then I came back and gave the last exam. So all this has been possible only because of my parents you know they were running around they are the pillars and backbone.
Q. How do you deal with the pressure at you know international forums when you go to play like you’re right now facing the same?
A. I feel that, pressure is something you always get because in tennis or even in life generally, different situations and it is new every single time it’s just that you learn from that and you move forward. So I think for me I feel being in process just doing my work and doing my routine has helped me to cope up with that.
Q. What is the most important piece of advice you would offer those who aspire to be like you, to be in your position?
A. I just want to say that follow your dreams. Like I said be fearless that’s one of the things I’ve learned from Sania. And be in the process you will have various challenges and there will be many people around sometimes, even from your family they will keep keep saying maybe you can’t do this but if your heart says, and if you’re ready to put in the work then just go for it.
Q. What is your favourite Indian cuisine?
A. That’s a tough question. I really like Gujarati thali and also you know me being Kashmiri, I really enjoy eating authentic Kashmiri food, home-cooked food.
BOXER KALAIVANI MARCHES INTO FINAL OF ELORDA CUP
Indian boxer Kalaivani Srinivasan punched her way into the finals of the Nur-Sultan Cup with a scintillating performance in Kazakhstan late on Saturday. The Tamil Nadu boxer was at her dominating best and came up with a flawless outing to pick up a unanimous victory over Uzbekistan’s Farzona Fozilova in the women’s 48kg weight classification. In the men’s 48kg competition, Kuldeep Kumar up against local favourite Kairat Yernur showed great resiliency and calculated approach to pick up a narrow 3-2 victory to cruise into the semifinals.
However, it was curtains for Yashpal & Savita in the tournament. Taking on Kazakhstan’s Aslanbek Shymbergenov in the 71kg event, Yashpal fell by the wayside and lost 0-5 in quarterfinals, while Savita was handed a 0-5 drubbing by Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Japan’s Namiki Tsukimi in the 50kg category.
Elsewhere, Neema & Jyoti also exited the prestigious tournament after losing their respective semifinal bout 0-5 to Kazakhstan’s Anar Tursynbek & Uzbekistan’s Feruza Kazakova. Babita Bisht’s journey also came to an end as she conceded to China’s Zheng Lu by ‘Referee Stopping the Contest’ verdict .Jyoti (52kg), Neema (63kg) & Babita (81kg), however will be entitled to receive the bronze medal as they lost out in the semifinal.
NADAL DISPATCHES SONEGO; KYRGIOS WINS TENSE CLASH AGAINST TSITSIPAS
Rafael Nadal wasted little time in securing his place in the Wimbledon 2022 fourth round on Saturday evening, defeating Italian Lorenzo Sonego in the third round.
The Spaniard was at his absolute best as he thrashed Italian 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in straight sets. In his best performance of the week, the Spaniard lit up Centre Court with his fierce striking and all-court game. The 36-year-old fired the ball past Sonego from all angles, while showing elegant touches at the net to move after two hours and four minutes.
The second seed took the ball early off both wings to take time away from Sonego, shooting 14 winners across the first two sets to gain full control.
There were a few anxious moments in the game. In the third set, when Nadal was leading 4-2, Sonego persuaded officials to close the roof so that the floodlights could be turned on, and the Spaniard did not seem pleased with the decision.
However, all this did was fire up Nadal, with the second seed increasing his depth on return to break back immediately before he held to advance to the fourth round at The All England Lawn Tennis Club for the 10th time.
Nick Kyrgios knocked out fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rough and ill-tempered clash in the Wimbledon third round. Kyrgios won the match by 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 after three hours and 16 minutes. Tsitsipas was the more solid player in the first-set tie-break, as Kyrgios let his lack of concentration affect his play. But through it all, despite playing very quickly and relying on his booming serve, the World No. 40 managed to remain in touch with the fourth seed on the scoreboard.
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