Pujara hits the nets but Kohli’s absence may hit India’s chances - The Daily Guardian
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Pujara hits the nets but Kohli’s absence may hit India’s chances

‘I don’t think they’ll be clear in their own mind, even now, what their batting order will look like for the first Test. Who’s going to open, who’ll bat at four when Kohli goes,’ asks Ricky Ponting.



A lot hinges on batting mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara, who was the star of Indias historic Test series triumph in 2018-19, during the forthcoming Test series in Australia.

The right-handed No.3 batsman, who amassed 521 runs with three centuries and earned the Man-of-the-Series award in 2018-19, got down to batting at the nets for a long session on Thursday to prepare for the Border-Gavaskar series that India are seeking to defend.

Pujara faced net bowlers, who are travelling with the Indian team, as well as regular India bowlers like R Ashwin.

A video posted by the BCCI showed him using the backfoot to good effect as also leaving the deliveries outside the off-stump which had been his forte in the previous series Down Under.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes India’s best side for the first Test of the upcoming four-match series is far from settled and skipper Virat Kohli’s departure during the series will add further uncertainty around the make-up of their side.

India, who are the current holders of Border-Gavaskar Trophy, will be without Kohli for the final three Tests as he will return to India to be with his wife Anushka Sharma who is expecting their first child.

Ponting says that with the return of Steve Smith and David Warner, who were not part of the 2018-19 series, the hosts will be a tougher nut to crack this time around for the Indian team.

“The one thing we haven’t spoken enough about is yes India were really good here last time, but with those guys (Smith and Warner) missing at the top of the order, that leaves a big gap in any team,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.

“India will feel that without Kohli there (for three Tests), for his batting and leadership, that will put all sorts of pressure on different players. You’d think (Ajinkya) Rahane will take over the captaincy, which will put extra pressure on him, and they’ve got to find someone to bat at that really important No.4 spot,” he added.

Meanwhile, he believes the Australian team management should stick with Joe Burns as David Warner’s opener for the Adelaide Test.

There have been many calls for the inclusion of 22-year-old batsman Pucovski for the pink-ball Test, including that from former captain Mark Taylor.

Pucovski, who is among the five uncapped players named in the 17-man squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, has made a strong case for selection in the playing XI with back-to-back double centuries for Victoria in the Sheffield Shield. Right-handed Queensland batsman Burns, however, has had a highest of just 29 in his five innings this season.

“Burns hasn’t done much wrong. If you go back to last summer, he played really well in the first Test in Brisbane and I remember saying then to lock him in and give him a good go at it for a while,” Ponting said.

“We read a lot into what’s happened in the first few rounds of Shield cricket, and because they haven’t played a Test match for so long, a lot people are forgetting what happened last summer,” he added.

Ponting has also warned against making changes to a Test side that’s riding a five-match winning streak and is currently placed at the number one spot, despite not having played since early January.

“The boys have been on a roll with their performances in Test cricket and I always say you don’t want to be making too many changes if you don’t need to,” said the 45-year-old.

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ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi on Thursday issued a statement regarding the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai situation and urged for a line of open direct communication between the player and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

“The situation involving Peng Shuai continues to raise serious concerns within and beyond our sport. The response to those concerns has so far fallen short. We again urge for a line of open direct communication between the player and the WTA in order to establish a clearer picture of her situation,” stated Andrea Gaudenzi as per an official release. “We know that sport can have a positive influence on society and generally believe that having a global presence gives us the best chance of creating opportunity and making an impact. We will continue to consult with our members and monitor any developments as this issue evolves,” he stated further. Earlier, WTA had announced that it would suspend all tournaments in China as the body is concerned about the safety of Peng Shuai.

Over the course of the last few weeks, WTA has been involved in a tussle with Beijing regarding Shuai’s well-being.

Shuai had sent shockwaves when she accused Zhang Gaoli, a senior Chinese government official, of sexual abuse. The highest-profile case in China’s #MeToo movement was kept under tight wraps with the reputation of the officials involved safeguarded at all costs.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week said in a statement that its president, Thomas Bach, had a 30-minute video call with three-time Olympian Peng Shuai, joined by a Chinese sports official and an IOC official. The statement said that, during the call, Peng appeared to be “doing fine” and “relaxed,” and said she “would like to have her privacy respected”. The IOC did not explain how the video call with Peng had been organized, given the difficulties other concerned parties have had reaching her.

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Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) franchise UP Yoddha have roped in their first-ever player of African origin, picking up Kenyan raider James Namaba Kamweti, ahead of season eight.

Kamweti had been adjudged the best raider at the Bangabandhu Cup 2021 international tournament in March earlier this year and is sure to bolster the attack of the Yoddhas. “It is such a huge step for me to be a part of the U.P.Yoddha team in the PKL. There are very few such top-quality leagues in Kabbadi and to be a part of this great league will surely help me improve further as well as showcase my talent to a newer audience. I look forward to an exciting and entertaining PKL season with U.P.Yoddha,” said Kamweti in a statement.

Jasveer Singh, the head coach of U.P Yoddha, was extremely welcoming and appreciative of his new ward and said of the inclusion.

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India A bowling once again put on an impressive show with the ball before bad light cut short the play on Day 3 of the second four-day game in Bloemfontein on Thursday.

While Ishan Porel scalped two wickets, Saurabh Kumar and Baba Aparajith picked a wicket each as India A reduced South Africa A to 116/5, extending the lead to 137. After securing a 21-run lead in the first innings, South Africa A were off to a solid start as Sarel Erwee and captain Pieter Malan put on a 69-run stand before Saurabh Kumar dismissed the former for 41.

Although Malan and Raynard van Tonder added 29 runs together, India A derailed the South Africa A innings, scalping four wickets in space of 17 runs. While Malan was run-out, Zubayr Hamza was dismissed by Baba Aparajith.

Porel then struck twice in quick succession, getting van Tonder and Sinethemba Qeshile out before bad light stopped play.

Earlier, India A, who resumed the proceedings on Day 3 at 198/5, added 78 runs to their overnight score before being all-out for 276.

Hanuma Vihari, who was unbeaten on 45 on Day 2, brought up a fine half-century. But the right-hander departed soon after as Marco Jansen struck.

Sarfaraz Khan, meanwhile, put on a fine show with the bat and went on to add a brisk 41-run stand with Saurabh Kumar to push India A past 250.

While Saurabh got out for 23, Sarfaraz, who scored an unbeaten 71 with the help of 8 fours and 2 sixes to be a top scorer for the team, took India A to 276.

Brief Scores: South Africa A 297 all out and 116/5 (Sarel Erwee 41, Raynard van Tonder 33; Ishan Porel 2/17); India A 276.

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Michael Carrick on Friday brought down the curtain on a decade-and-a-half career at Manchester United, finishing on a high with a victory over Arsenal.

The former Red Devils midfielder decided to step down as first-team coach and leave the club following the conclusion of his spell as caretaker Manager. Thursday’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford was the last act of Michael Carrick’s Manchester United career.

Michael Carrick in a statement said: “My time at this great club will always rank as the best years of my career. When I first signed over 15 years ago, I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined winning so many trophies and I will certainly never forget the fantastic memories both as a player and as a member of the coaching team.

“However, after a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided that now is the right time for me to leave the club. I want to place on record my thanks to all of the players and a special mention goes to the backroom staff, working long hours with such a great group of people has been a real pleasure and I have made some long-lasting friendships.

“I am, and will always be, a Manchester United fan and will come to as many matches as possible. I would like to wish Ralf, the staff, the players and the fans all the best for the future and I look forward to being in the stands and supporting the boys as a fan.”

Michael played 464 games for Manchester United between 2006 and 2018, winning five Premier League titles, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, and the FIFA Club World Cup.

He joined the First Team coaching staff when he retired in 2018 and served under Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

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Indian opener Mayank Agarwal on Friday explained how he acted on the advice of former skipper Sunil Gavaskar to improve his side-on stance during the second Test against New Zealand.

Mayank scored his fourth Test ton as India ended day one of the second and final Test at 221/4 on Friday. The opening batter scored an unbeaten 120 while Wriddhiman Saha hit 25 before the close of play. “Sunny sir (Gavaskar ) told me that I should keep my bat a bit low initially in my innings. I couldn’t make that adjustment in this short period of time but definitely, when he was saying that, I looked at his shoulder position and basically picked up that I need to be more side-on,” said Mayank during the press conference after the end of the day’s play.

Mayank also revealed that head coach Rahul Dravid had asked the batter to give his best on the field.

“When I was picked here, Rahul bhai came and spoke to me. He asked me to control what is in my hands and said, ‘go out there and give it your best and that’s all we ask from you’. ‘When you get set, make it big’. I am happy to have capitalised on the start but that was very clear from Rahul bhai,” said Mayank.

Resuming from 111/3 after tea, Mayank and Shreyas Iyer steadily carried on from where they had left after the fall of three quick wickets. Ajaz Patel once again put break as he dismissed the middle order batter in the 48th over.

Despite losing partners at the other end Mayank looked solid and kept the scoreboard moving and capitalized on the poor deliveries that came his way as India scored 221/4 on day one of the second Test

Mayank said India’s focus will be on batting well in the first session on Saturday to pile further misery on New Zealand in the second Test.

“It’s gonna be very important how we start tomorrow morning, the first session will be crucial. And the focus is on batting well in the first session and then we can pile as many runs as we want. The wicket is going to get harder and harder to bat on,” said Mayank while replying to a query from ANI.

The opening batter said he work hard when he was ruled out of the Test series against England.

“It was unfortunate for me to not have played in England, I got hit and there’s nothing much I could do about that. I accepted it and continued to work hard and work on my process and my game,” Mayank signed off.

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Mayank Agarwal scored his 4th Test ton as India ended day-1 of the 2nd and final Test at 221/4. Agarwal scored an unbeaten 120 while Wriddhiman Saha was not out on 25.

Resuming at 111/3 after tea opener Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer steadily carried on from where they had left after the fall of three quick wickets. Ajaz Patel once again jolted India dismissing Kanpur Test centurion Shreyas for just 18 breaking the 80-run partnership between him and Agarwal.

Despite losing partners at the other end Mayank Agarwal looked solid and kept the scoreboard moving and capitalized on the poor deliveries that came his way. Making a comeback in Kanpur Mayank Agarwal failed to deliver with the bat but in the second Test he ensured that one more opportunity does not go begging. Wicket-keeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha joined him at the other end and the duo struck a fifty partnership to take India’s total beyond the 200-run mark.

Earlier in the day, Ajaz Patel wreaked havoc with the ball as Virat Kohli opted to bat first after the delayed start due to wet outfield, the openers justified the captain’s decision as Shubman Gill continued with his decent run of form with the bat scoring 44 of 71 balls. . Gill once again failed to capitalize after getting a good start as Ajaz Patel got him caught in the first slip to Ross Taylor. The opening pair put on 80-runs and in the same score 3 wickets fell in quick succession, leaving India reeling at 80/3.

Cheteshwar Pujara’s poor run of form continued as the Saurashtra lad struggled with the bat falling victim to Patel who cleaned him up for a 5-ball duck. Virat Kohli too was dismissed by Ajaz Patel without troubling the scorers. Kohli was out leg before, a decision which could have gone the other way. The Skipper survived just 4 balls and even took DRS but the third umpire Virender Sharma still ruled him out. Undoubtedly Ajaz Patel was New Zealand’s star performer with the ball picking up all the wickets that fell on the day. Brief Scores: India 221/4 (Mayank Agarwal 120* Shubman Gill 44; Ajaz Patel 4-73) vs New Zealand.

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