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Pitch debate: Rank turner the issue or inability of modern batsmen to play on spinning tracks

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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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INDIA OPEN 2021 POSTPONED DUE TO SURGE IN COVID CASES

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Badminton Association of India (BAI) General Secretary Ajay Singhania on Monday announced that the upcoming India Open 2021 has been postponed due to the upsurge in coronavirus cases here in the national capital.

“After consulting BWF we have decided to postpone the India Open 2021 due to the rise in Covid-19 cases in Delhi and a new week-long lockdown which will be in effect from 10 pm today. The situation is not suitable to organise the tournament. It is sad that this tournament is getting cancelled for the second time. We are sure that we will host this tournament whenever the situation gets better,” Singhania said at the virtual press conference.

“Considering the current challenges, BAI is left with no option but to announce the postponement of the tournament for the time being. We had an entry of 228 players and close to 300 people gathering including coaches, support staff and officials and the circumstances are such that the 2021 edition of the Yonex-Sunrise India Open seems, for now, a very risky affair,” he said.

“Several rounds of discussions were held with BWF as well as the Delhi Government and other stakeholders and accessing the safety of players and officials, BAI needed to take this decision,” he added.

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Roger Federer confirms his participation in French Open

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Swiss tennis maestro Roger Federer has confirmed that he would be participating in this year’s French Open.

Taking to Twitter, Federer wrote: “Hi everyone! Happy to let you know that I will play Geneva and Paris. Until then I will use the time to train. Can’t wait to play in Switzerland again.” Earlier this month, the French Open organisers had informed that in agreement with the French public authorities and the governing bodies of international tennis, the French Tennis Federation made the responsible decision to postpone the 2021 Roland-Garros tournament by one week, which will now be held from May 24 to June 13.

In his latest speech on March 31, the French President announced that a schedule to progressively get cultural and sporting events back up and running would be set up from mid-May onwards, subject to the improvement of the health situation.

“Using this as their starting point, the FFT worked in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the relevant government services on potential scenarios for organising Roland-Garros, while taking the international sporting calendar into account,” read a statement from organisers. ANI INPUTS

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RESURGENT MUMBAI GEARING UP TO TAKE ON IN-FORM DELHI

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Defending champion Mumbai Indians (MI) are all set for the big battle as they take on in-form Delhi Capitals (DC) at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday.

MI will need to address their middle-order woes if they are to go for a third consecutive win. Delhi, fresh after beating Punjab Kings by six wickets at the Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, have recorded back-to-back victories by defending low totals.

MI skipper Rohit Sharma has got starts and he would be keen to convert it into a big one and so would be Quinton de Kock. The team has a stellar lineup with the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya and his brother Krunal—each of them can decimate the opponents on their day. Sadly, for MI, they are yet to fire on all cylinders. No wonder, after the last game, Rohit had conceded that his team “can bat a little better in the middle overs”.

The MI bowlers, led by pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, have been splendid in the last two games when they successfully defended low scores of 150 and 152 respectively. Strike bowlers Bumrah (3 wickets) and New Zealander Trent Boult (6 wickets) have been exceptional at the death. As for leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, he has grabbed seven wickets in last two games.

Meanwhile, for Delhi Capitals, the biggest positive has been the form of Shikhar Dhawan, who is the leading scorer so far in the tournament with 186 runs. Dhawan and young Prithvi Shaw form a strong opening combination, but the Mumbaikar needs to convert his starts into big scores.

Delhi opted for Australian Steve Smith on Sunday but, as they are next playing on the slow Chepauk track, they might go back to Ajinkya Rahane, who is looking better suited for such tracks.

Skipper Rishabh Pant has the ability to take any attack to the cleaners. The Delhi team also possesses a quality all-rounder in Marcus Stoinis. Their pace attack is led by South African Kagiso Rabada and Chris Woakes—the two have been impressive so far. They also have strong spin options, from R. Ashwin to Amit Mishra.

Delhi Capitals opener Shikha Dhawan feels that his team will face a mental challenge when the two teams lock horns at the Chidambaram Stadium on Tuesday.TEAM ANALYSIS

DELHI CAPITALS 

STRENGTHS

• Shikhar Dhawan & Prithvi Shaw in good touch

• Stoinis & Lalit Yadav good in a cameo role

• In Iast match R. Ashwin was economical

• Avesh Khan is a new sensation

WEAKNESSES

• Main strike bowler Kagiso Rabada is expensive

• Chris Woakes and Lukman Meriwala were expensive in the last match

MUMBAI INDIANS

STRENGTHS

• Trent Boult & Jasprit Bumrah are effective

• Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, a good wicket taking bowler

WEAKNESSES

• Third seamer not performing well

• Overall batting is not performing up to their potential

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Premier League’s top six clubs confirm launch of European Super League

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A group of 12 European clubs on Monday confirmed their plans to launch a new European Super League. Among these 12, six belong to Premier League—Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.

This European Super League has been met with severe backlash ever since reports started doing rounds in the media. Despite this, the 12 clubs have now confirmed the formation and format for the new competition.

A joint statement released by the 12 clubs said: “Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its founding clubs. AC Milan, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as founding clubs. It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.”

“Going forward, the founding clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole. The formation of the Super League comes at a time when the global pandemic has accelerated the instability in the existing European football economic model. Further, for a number of years, the founding clubs have had the objective of improving the quality and intensity of existing European competitions throughout each season, and of creating a format for top clubs and players to compete on a regular basis.”

In a statement, all these 12 clubs also confirmed the format for this new league. “20 participating clubs with 15 founding clubs and a qualifying mechanism for a further five teams to qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season. Midweek fixtures with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game,” the 12 clubs said in an official statement.

“An August start with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue,” it added.

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Moeen and Jadeja spin a web around Royals

Spirited batting and bowling performances lead Chennai Super Kings to a 45-run victory over Rajasthan Royals at Wankhede Stadium.Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja shared five wickets between them to dismantle Rajasthan Royals as Chennai Super Kings registered a 45-run victory here at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday.

A spirited batting performance by Chennai guided them to a total of 188/9 in their allotted 20 overs. In reply, Rajasthan only managed to post 143/9 despite getting a decent start. Chasing 189, openers Manan Vohra and Buttler provided a 30-run stand for the first wicket before pacer Sam Curran picked the former in the fourth over. Vohra departed after scoring 14 runs.

Skipper Sanju Samson (1) failed to leave his mark on the scoreboard and lost his wicket cheaply in the final over of the powerplay. It was again Curran who took the wicket of Samson and brought Rajasthan under pressure. Shivam Dube joined Buttler in middle and the duo stitched a 42-run partnership for third wicket. In the 12th over, Ravindra Jadeja sent both the batsmen back to the pavilion.

First, he picked well-set Buttler, who played a knock of 49 off 35 balls including two sixes and five fours, and then on the last ball of the over he grabbed Dube (17). Dube was caught in front of the wickets. However, the all-rounder reviewed the decision but the on-field umpire›s decision stayed firm. The trouble did not end for Rajasthan after losing two wickets in quick succession as Moeen Ali bagged new batsman David Miller (2) in the next over.

Fiery Moeen was again brought into the attack. In the 15th over, England all-rounder dismissed Riyan Parag (3) and last-match hero Chris Morris on a duck. CSK totally took control of the game as they dragged Rajasthan from 87/3 to 95/7 in no time.

Rahul Tewatia kept the fighting spirit alive but failed to put his side over the line. He played a knock of 20 runs. Jaydev Unadkat too contributed with the bat and scored 24 runs. For CSK, Moeen returned with the figures of 3-7 from his three overs while Jadeja and Curran bagged two scalps each.

Earlier, Faf du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu scored at a firing rate before Dwayne Bravo›s 20 runs off 8 balls came handy in the death overs as CSK posted 188/9 in their allotted 20 overs.

Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, CSK was right on track for a big score before Chetan Sakariya dismissed both Suresh Raina and Rayudu in his third over.

Sakariya in the 14th over broke CSK’s momentum and came back to dismiss skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Most CSK batsmen got a move on but weren’t able to convert it in a big score. In the final four overs, CSK scored 55 runs despite losing four wickets.

Put in to bat first, CSK got off to a decent start before it was undone by Mustafizur Rahman, who dismissed opening batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad in the fourth over.

But Faf du Plessis continued his onslaught as he pulled off two back-to-back scoops for boundaries. The South Africa batsman then sliced a six over long-off before smashing another four as he took on Jaydev Unadkat in the fifth over.

Chris Morris ended Du Plessis› stint before completion of the powerplay to reduce CSK to 45/2. Moeen Ali continued from he left the other night as he whacked the ball right from the word go. However, Rahul Tewatia dismissed the England all-rounder in the 10th over against run of play as CSK lost the third wicket at the score of 78. In the 11th and 12th over, CSK got a move on as Suresh Raina and Ambati Ambati Rayudu clubbed 30 off 12 balls. However, Rajasthan Royals again made a comeback as Chetan Sakariya dismissed both the batsmen in the same over to reduce CSK to 125/5.

The next few overs saw CSK scoring at sluggish rate.Dhoni tried to free his arms by smashing two boundaries but wasn’t able to middle the next ball. In the end, Sam Curran and Dwayne Bravo’s contribution helped CSK get over the 180-run mark.

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Moeen Ali and Ravindra Jadeja shared five wickets between them to dismantle Rajasthan Royals as Chennai Super Kings registered a 45-run victory here at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday.

A spirited batting performance by Chennai guided them to a total of 188/9 in their allotted 20 overs. In reply, Rajasthan only managed to post 143/9 despite getting a decent start. Chasing 189, openers Manan Vohra and Buttler provided a 30-run stand for the first wicket before pacer Sam Curran picked the former in the fourth over. Vohra departed after scoring 14 runs.

Skipper Sanju Samson (1) failed to leave his mark on the scoreboard and lost his wicket cheaply in the final over of the powerplay. It was again Curran who took the wicket of Samson and brought Rajasthan under pressure. Shivam Dube joined Buttler in middle and the duo stitched a 42-run partnership for third wicket. In the 12th over, Ravindra Jadeja sent both the batsmen back to the pavilion.

First, he picked well-set Buttler, who played a knock of 49 off 35 balls including two sixes and five fours, and then on the last ball of the over he grabbed Dube (17). Dube was caught in front of the wickets. However, the all-rounder reviewed the decision but the on-field umpire›s decision stayed firm. The trouble did not end for Rajasthan after losing two wickets in quick succession as Moeen Ali bagged new batsman David Miller (2) in the next over.

Fiery Moeen was again brought into the attack. In the 15th over, England all-rounder dismissed Riyan Parag (3) and last-match hero Chris Morris on a duck. CSK totally took control of the game as they dragged Rajasthan from 87/3 to 95/7 in no time.

Rahul Tewatia kept the fighting spirit alive but failed to put his side over the line. He played a knock of 20 runs. Jaydev Unadkat too contributed with the bat and scored 24 runs. For CSK, Moeen returned with the figures of 3-7 from his three overs while Jadeja and Curran bagged two scalps each.

Earlier, Faf du Plessis and Ambati Rayudu scored at a firing rate before Dwayne Bravo›s 20 runs off 8 balls came handy in the death overs as CSK posted 188/9 in their allotted 20 overs.

Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, CSK was right on track for a big score before Chetan Sakariya dismissed both Suresh Raina and Rayudu in his third over.

Sakariya in the 14th over broke CSK’s momentum and came back to dismiss skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Most CSK batsmen got a move on but weren’t able to convert it in a big score. In the final four overs, CSK scored 55 runs despite losing four wickets.

Put in to bat first, CSK got off to a decent start before it was undone by Mustafizur Rahman, who dismissed opening batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad in the fourth over.

But Faf du Plessis continued his onslaught as he pulled off two back-to-back scoops for boundaries. The South Africa batsman then sliced a six over long-off before smashing another four as he took on Jaydev Unadkat in the fifth over.

Chris Morris ended Du Plessis› stint before completion of the powerplay to reduce CSK to 45/2. Moeen Ali continued from he left the other night as he whacked the ball right from the word go. However, Rahul Tewatia dismissed the England all-rounder in the 10th over against run of play as CSK lost the third wicket at the score of 78. In the 11th and 12th over, CSK got a move on as Suresh Raina and Ambati Ambati Rayudu clubbed 30 off 12 balls. However, Rajasthan Royals again made a comeback as Chetan Sakariya dismissed both the batsmen in the same over to reduce CSK to 125/5.

The next few overs saw CSK scoring at sluggish rate.Dhoni tried to free his arms by smashing two boundaries but wasn’t able to middle the next ball. In the end, Sam Curran and Dwayne Bravo’s contribution helped CSK get over the 180-run mark.

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Happy with performance at Asian Championships: Mirabai Chanu

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Mirabai Chanu said she is happy with her performance in the Asian Weighlifting Championships after she set a new world record in Clean and Jerk as she lifted 119 kg in the competition to cross the old mark of 118 kg.

She also created a new national record as she lifted a total of 205 kg (86 kg snatch + 119 kg Clean and Jerk) which also won her the bronze medal at the showpiece event.

The wrestler said in a tweet, “I am happy with my performance at the Asian Championship 2021. Thank you everyone for your love and support. I will continue to work hard and improve myself.”

Earlier in the day, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju congratulated her for the achievement. “In her first international competition in more than a year, @mirabai_chanu makes a new national record of 205 kgs at the Asian Championships and won bronze medal. Her perfect clean and jerk lift of 119 kg is a new world record! Target Olympic Podium Mirabai!” he tweeted.

The weightlifter replied to the minister and thanked him for providing the best facilities and support. “Thank you so much @KirenRijiju for providing us best facilities and all kind of support,” Mirabai replied on Rijiju’s tweet.

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