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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MADRID: Barcelona defender Gerard Pique will spend another stint on the sidelines as he sustained “a sprain in the internal lateral ligament of his right knee”.

World Cup winner suffered the blow in the team’s 3-0 win over Sevilla in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. Pique scored a goal in the second-half stoppage time before Martin Braithwaite netted the final goal of the match to hand comprehensive victory.

Barca said in a statement on their official website: “The medical assessment and tests performed this morning have shown that first-team player Gerard Pique has a sprain in the internal lateral ligament of his right knee. He is therefore unavailable and the evolution of the injury will determine when he returns.”

“The Barca centre-back was a starter and played the 120 minutes in the superb win against Sevilla, as well as being one of the great protagonists of the night, leading the heroic comeback with a goal in added time that allowed Barca to force extra-time. As for this season, Pique has played a total of 15 games in which he has scored two goals,” it added.

Injury struggles have become familiar for the 34-year-old this season, with knee complaints plaguing his 2020-21 campaign.

Pique was forced onto the sidelines in November 2020 with a knee problem and missed the best part of three months. He sat out 24 games as Ronald Koeman’s side struggled to find the consistency required to compete for major honours.

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MUMBAI: The Indian women’s hockey team chief coach Sjoerd Marjine feels the side is getting closer to operating at the same level as the top teams in the world.

The World No. 9 Indian team battled well against the World No. 3 Germany team, but went down 0-5, 0-1, 0-2 and 1-2 in the four matches of the tour, which was held from February 27 to March 4 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Marijne and his team will now head to SAI Centre, Bengaluru for a month-long National Coaching camp. The Indian women’s hockey team returned to action against Argentina earlier this year, where they were praised for their resilience on the tour. Marijne was happy with how his side competed against Germany as well.

“We have played against two different styles of teams and who are among the top three teams in the world. The tours helped us to understand their tactics and also to see what the benchmark needs to be to beat these teams,” said Marijne in a Hockey India release.

“Although the results were not in our favour, we are getting closer to them. Germany is a very well-organised team with a very good structure and it’s not easy to create chances against them. We were able to create enough possibilities to score in every match, but we didn’t finish well. This is something we need to work on in the next following months. We did test them in parts and have some homework to do,” he added.

Despite going down 0-5 in the first match of the tour, Rani and her side picked themselves up in the next three games. There were occasions where Germany struggled to break the Indian defence down, which impressed Marijne.

“We played that match (first match of the tour) pretty well, but every opportunity was converted into a goal by Germany. That match was a benchmark for the next following matches. I think we did well on the tour, but you have to keep looking at the bigger picture and not only focus on the results of this tour,” said the coach.

Marijne has asked his team not to be disheartened by the results in Germany as he feels fortunes can change during the Tokyo Olympics.

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Tim Southee

WELLINGTON: New Zealand fast bowler Tim Southee has been reprimanded for breaching Level 1 of the ICC Code of Conduct during the third T20I against Australia in Wellington.

Southee was found to have breached Article 2.8 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Player and Player Support Personnel, which relates to “showing dissent at an Umpire’s decision during an International Match.” In addition to this, one demerit point has been added to the disciplinary record of Southee, for whom it was the first offence in a 24-month period.

The incident occurred in the first over of the match on Wednesday, when Southee shouted at the umpire in a disrespectful manner after a leg-before review taken against Australia opener Aaron Finch was declared an umpire’s call and given not out.

Southee admitted the offence and accepted the sanction proposed by Jeff Crowe of the Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees.

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WELLINGTON: Skipper Aaron Finch smashed 79 off 55 balls before the bowlers put on an all-round show to help Australia seal a comfortable 50-run win over New Zealand in the fourth T20I on Friday.

It was a clinical performance from Australia in a must-win match as they bowled out New Zealand for 106 to set up a series decider on Sunday. While Finch led from the front and took Australia to a competitive 156/6 almost single-handedly, it was an all-round performance from the visitors’ bowlers as Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Glenn Maxwell all picked wickets.

Chasing a decent 157, New Zealand suffered an early jolt as Agar removed the in-form Martin Guptill in the fifth over with just 21 runs on board.

Wickets kept falling at regular intervals as New Zealand struggled to get a partnership going. Tim Seifert, skipper Kane Williamson, and Glenn Phillips all went cheaply as hosts scored just 41 runs in the first 10 overs.

It seemed like New Zealand was never really interested in the chase as they lost James Neesham and Mitchell Santner in the next two overs. With seven down for 64 runs, the chase was almost over as New Zealand required more than 90 runs in the last six.

Brief Scores: Australia 156/6 (Aaron Finch 79*; Ish Sodhi 3-32); New Zealand 106 (Kyle Jamieson 30; Kane Richardson 3-19)

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Kiran More



While India’s ace batsmen Kohli, Pujara and Rahane were crumbling before the English bowling attack, Rishabh Pant came out and scored a flamboyant hundred, which not only gave hosts the confidence, but also snatched reins from the visitors.

Initially avoiding playing attacking shots, Rishabh Pant understood the importance of his wicket very well and bided his time and once he started scoring runs, he did not look back. This inning was a brilliant spectacle of aggression and patience.

The England captain took a new ball after 80 overs but energized Pant kept toppling the opposition with class— a reverse sweep against legendary Anderson is an apt example where Pant triumphed with wit and ease. When Anderson made his debut in international cricket, Pant was only five years old.

Rishabh Pant, whose timely ton helped the hosts to cross the 200 run mark, has scored more than 500 runs in this calendar year. Pant today proved that a player who believes in his own shots, showing aggression with his bat when needed, can do wonders for the team. Pant showed the way for Team India, and they are on the road to win the series 3–1. Even the 50-runs lead would have been sufficient on this pitch, but I think India can take this lead to around 125.

Washington Sundar also batted well. If England wants to come back, one of their batsmen has to make at least a century and the rest of the batsmen will also have to bat well. If this does not happen, Team India might win the match by the evening of the third day.

Nevertheless, the decisions of the England team management have been strange. In this match, not including one fast bowler has proved costly on the visitors. On this wicket, Virat Kohli is losing his wicket on rising ball and Rohit on a moving ball, and it is beyond understanding why England did not to play a fast bowler in the team. If the fast bowler had been included, England could likely have been in a good position in this match.

The author has played 49 Tests & 94 ODIs as a wicketkeeper-batsman for Team India.

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AHMEDABAD: India looked in a tough situation after losing early wickets on day two of the fourth Test against England, but wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant put the hosts back in the driver’s seat with this brilliant century.

Praising Pant for his “unbelievable” knock, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Sourav Ganguly said that the player will be an “all-time great in all formats” in the years to come. “How good is he? Unbelievable..what a knock under pressure…not the first time and won’t be the last time..will be an all time great in all formats in the years to come.keep batting in this aggressive manner .thats why will be match winner and special..@bcci @RishabhPant17,” Ganguly tweeted.

Reverse sweeping James Anderson to pick a boundary on the second day of a Test match perfectly summed up Pant’s belligerent knock at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Friday.

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