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Ravi Shastri: Indian cricket’s go-to guy

During his playing days, Ravi Shastri was a player with limited talent. But what he lacked in talent, he made up with determination and hard work.

Arjun Hemmady

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21 February 1981 marks the debut of a man who went on to become Indian cricket’s go-to guy. Yes, I’m talking about the inimitable Ravi Shastri. Whether it be opening the batting against the terrific Pakistani and West Indian fast bowlers in the 1980s or being appointed Team Director in 2014 in the aftermath of a disastrous Test Series versus England, Ravi Shastri has shown the willingness and ability to take on monumental challenges.

During his playing days, Shastri was a player with limited talent. But what he lacked in talent, he made up with determination and hard work. A slow left orthodox spinner and a doughty right-handed batsman, Shastri was a product of Mumbai’s maidans which were famous for producing khadoos (hard-nosed) cricketers.

And that khadoos attitude was ingrained in Shastri who when batting, would get under the skin of the bowlers with his stubborn refusal to get out. While doing so there would be occasions when his scoring rate would dip, resulting in the crowd losing patience and heckling him at times. Ravi Shastri retired from international cricket in 1992 after an eventful career spanning 11 years.

He played one more season of domestic cricket when he led a Mumbai team comprised of rising stars to victory in the Ranji Trophy. An astute reader of the game, I believe that Shastri would have become an amazing captain for Team India. However, his tendency to lose form at critical junctures and his alleged off field exploits meant that he led India in only one Test match in 1988.

Shastri was first appointed as the Interim Manager in 2007 for the Tour of Bangladesh. Team morale was at its lowest as they had just returned home early after being knocked out in the First Round of the recently concluded World Cup. But Shastri guided the team admirably and India won a hard-fought Test and ODI series. The second time when Shastri entered the Dressing Room was in 2014 as Team Director.

The Indian team was floundering under Duncan Fletcher’s lackadaisical tenure as Head Coach and Shastri brought a new spark of life into the side and a sense of accountability which seemed to be lacking during that phase. Shastri was officially appointed as Head Coach in 2017 after Anil Kumble stepped down after the loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy Final. Both the Captain Virat and Coach Shastri are self-confident and fearless personalities and this is evident in the performances of Team India since the last 3 years.

However, despite all the positives, there are some areas which need improvement. For example, the lack of a stable Number 4 batsman cost India dearly in the 2019 World Cup and losses to South Africa (1-2) in 2018 and England (1- 4) away from home have caused some to criticise the duo. Shastri’s tenure as Head Coach ends in 2021 after the T20 World Cup in India. I hope India wins that tournament and gives the man once called the “Champions of Champions” a fitting farewell. Here’s wishing you a happy 58th Shaz! Cheers!

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Olympics: Deepika Kumari bows out after losing to top-seed An San

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Star Indian archer Deepika Kumari bowed out of the ongoing Tokyo Olympics after losing to South Korea’s An San in the women’s individual quarter-finals here at Yumenoshima Park on Friday.

Top seed San defeated world number one Deepika in an absolutely dominating fashion 6-0 to march into the semi-finals of the individual event. 20-year-old San is aiming for her third gold medal at Tokyo after finishing top of the podium in the mixed team event and the women’s recurve team event. Korean An San had a brilliant start to the first round as she aimed at three 10s while Deepika shot 7-10-10. San carried that momentum in the second round and clinically shot 9-10-7 to which Indian responded with 10-7-7.

The dominance of the South Korean continued in the third set as she gathered 26 as opposed to 24 of Deepika. Match ended in less than six minutes. With this San will either face USA’s Mackenzie Brown or Mexico’s Alejandra Valencia in the last four.

Earlier in the day, Deepika defeated Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) Ksenia Perova to progress into the quarter-finals (6-5) in the 1/8 Eliminations round in the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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YUZVENDRA CHAHAL AND GOWTHAM TEST POSITIVE IN SRI LANKA

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Three days after Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19, it has come to light that spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and K. Gowtham have also tested positive for the virus in Sri Lanka.

Sources in the know of developments confirmed that the duo have tested positive for COVID-19. “Unfortunately, they have tested positive. They were close contacts of Krunal and were already away from the rest of the squad in the team hotel,” the source said. Krunal Pandya tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and eight Indian players — Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Deepak Chahar, Manish Pandey, Ishan Kishan, and K Gowtham were identified as close contacts.

Being close contacts of Krunal, they were staying away from the rest of the team and didn’t participate in the last two T20Is after Krunal’s test came positive.

Meanwhile, Wanindu Hasaranga’s four-wicket haul and Dhananjaya de Silva’s unbeaten 23-run knock helped Sri Lanka defeat India by seven wickets in the third and final T20I. With this win, Sri Lanka won the series 2-1.Sri Lanka won the T20I series while India had earlier won the ODI series.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS: NUMBER ONE SEED DJOKOVIC BOWS OUT, LOSES TO ZVEREV

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Number one seed Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic on Friday was knocked out of the men’s singles event in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics after losing the semi-final clash. Germany’s Alexander Zverev defeated Djokovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the men’s singles event.

As a result of this loss, Djokovic would not be able to achieve the Golden Slam (all four Grand Slams and Olympic gold) in the same year. Djokovic had brought out his A-game to the court in the first set, and he ended up winning it 6-1. However, disappointment followed for the Serbian as he lost two back-to-back sets and as a result, he bowed out of the tournament.

Djokovic had won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year and now he would look to win the US Open, beginning August this year. Earlier, top seeds Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka were also knocked out of the Olympics.

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INDIA WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM BEAT IRELAND 1-0, KEEP QF HOPES ALIVE

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The Indian women’s hockey team defeated Ireland 1-0 here at the Oi Hockey Stadium North Pitch on Friday. As a result, India’s hopes of making it to the quarter-finals of the women’s hockey event remain intact.

Earlier, the Rani Rampal-led side had suffered defeats in its first three group-stage games. The first quarter between India and Ireland saw no goals and after the end of the first 15 minutes, the scoreline remained 0-0.

A similar story was on the offer in the second quarter and at the halftime mark, the scoreline remained the same and it was Rani Rampal’s side that was feeling the pressure going into the third quarter. The third quarter also saw no goals, however, Navneet Kaur finally broke the deadlock in the fourth quarter and she gave India a lead with three minutes left to play. In the end, India managed to hang on to the advantage to score a 1-0 victory.

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INDIA MEN’S HOCKEY TEAM FIRE ALL CYLINDERS, DEFEAT JAPAN 5-3

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A resilient Indian hockey team came firing on all cylinders to thrash Japan 5-3 in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics on Friday. This was India’s fourth win of the ongoing quadrennial event. The Men In Blue will next be in action in the quarter-finals of the mega event. Japan might have scored three goals but the Indian boys made sure the Men in Blue were in the lead throughout the game and dominated proceedings.

Just two minutes before the end of the third quarter, India earned their second Penalty Corner only to miss the net. But the Indians were in the lead (3-2) with one quarter to go. Both teams got off to a cautious start but the Manpreet Singh-led side broke the shackles and netted the first goal in the 13th minute.

Gurjant Singh then scored early in the second quarter as India doubled the lead over Japan. However, Japan came back with a goal as Tanaka opened the team’s account.

In the third quarter, Kota Watanabe scored an equaliser but Shamsher Singh again put India on top as he scored a goal in the 34th minute. At the end of the third essay, India led 3-2 with a thrilling final quarter on cards. In the final quarter, Nilakanta Sharma doubled India’s lead after a desperate attempt from both sides to find the net.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS: SINDHU DEFEATS YAMAGUCHI, GETS INTO SEMIS

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India shuttler P.V. Sindhu stormed into the semi-finals of the women’s singles event after defeating Japan’s number four seed Akane Yamaguchi in the quarterfinals here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 1 on Friday. Sindhu defeated Yamaguchi 21-13, 22-20. The quarterfinal clash between Sindhu and Yamaguchi lasted for 56 minutes.

The first game was more close than the scoreline suggested and Sindhu had to bring out the best in her to win it 21-13. The scoreline in the first game might not indicate how closely it was fought, but Yamaguchi made her fight for every point. The star Indian shuttler was just one more game away from progressing to the semi-finals.

Yamaguchi made Sindhu toil hard in the second game, and for every point, the Indian shuttler had to be at her best. In the end, the number six seed Sindhu ended up winning the match in straight games.

In the second game of the quarter-final, there was a 54-shot rally between Sindhu and Yamaguchi and it lasted for one minute and two seconds. On Thursday, Sindhu had defeated Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in the Round of 16 match of women’s individual event in the Tokyo Olympics here at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 3. Sindhu defeated Blichfeldt 21-15, 21-13 in just 41 minutes to cruise into the quarter-finals.

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