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Savita aims at starting the season with a good show in Asia Cup

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The Indian Women’s Hockey team will kick-start the new year with their travel to Muscat, Oman in January where they will defend their title at the prestigious Asia Cup which will see the top eight teams of the continent – India, China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore vie for the top honours.

The competition which will be played in a two-pool format with cross-over classification matches is a qualifying tournament for the FIH Women’s World Cup 2022 to be held in Spain and the Netherlands in July. Teams that finish in the top 4 at the Asia Cup will qualify for the prestigious quadrennial event. “In 2017, we won the Asia Cup to win direct qualification for the FIH Women’s World Cup in London. I feel that win was one of the stepping stones for us to establish steady growth in our performance in the past four years. Definitely starting the season with a good show in Asia Cup will give us the right momentum as we play back-to-back tournaments,” expressed India’s ace goalkeeper and Vice-Captain Savita.

Following the Asia Cup, the Women’s side will move to Bhubaneswar, Odisha where they will play the home matches in FIH Hockey Pro League. “I think a lot of us are looking forward to the FIH Hockey Pro League matches. This will be our first outing in this prestigious League and we are absolutely looking forward to playing some of the best teams in the world. Needless to say, we are eager to play in Odisha again and to have world’s no.1 side Netherlands travel to India for these matches is something we had never imagined,” stated an excited Savita.

India will take on the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and England in Bhubaneswar following which they will travel to Belgium and the Netherlands to play against Belgium, Argentina and USA in the month of June. “I feel the Pro League matches will provide us with the best exposure ahead of the World Cup (in July). Last time, we made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in many decades. With our recent performance in the Olympics, and the support we garnered, we need to live up to the expectations by doing well in these major competitions to keep the interest alive in Women’s hockey,” opined Savita.

The Commonwealth Games is scheduled for July following which the Indian team will vie for Gold in the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou China in order to win a berth for the Paris Olympics.

They will wrap up the season with the FIH Women’s Nations Cup in December which will be played in Valencia, Spain. “No doubt, it will be a very hectic season and we have begun our preparations for it in all earnestness. We also have a very young and promising batch of players who have come into the camp of 60 players and it will be interesting to see who will eventually make it to the final core group of 33. Having a good core group in such a hectic year will mean a lot in terms of ensuring our performance doesn’t drop whenever someone needs to fill in for another player,” concluded Savita.

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France to join Men’s FIH Hockey Pro League

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The International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Tuesday announced that France will join the third edition of the Men’s FIH Hockey Pro League.

After Canada eventually pulled out due to COVID-related issues, FIH had contacted the next best teams, according to the FIH World Rankings, to invite one of them to replace Canada.

France will also host the Paris 2024 Olympics

France have accepted the invitation and, as the highest-ranked team having done so, will join the global home-and-away league – ‘Hockey at its Best’ – for this season.

As communicated earlier, France’s participation in the FIH Hockey Pro League is planned for this third edition only. Indeed, Australia and New Zealand, who are not playing the current season due to COVID-related international travel constraints, are expected to come back for the fourth edition (2022-2023). The French team will play their first match on 8 February against India, in Potchefstroom (South Africa). The full match schedule of the third edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League is available.

France have qualified for the next FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup, which will be played in January 2023 in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela (India). The French Men’s Junior team recently claimed the bronze medal at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Junior World Cup Bhubaneswar 2021, with France captain Timothee Clement crowned Best Player of the Tournament.

France will also host the Paris 2024 Olympic events in 2 years’ time.

“It is great news that France are joining the FIH Hockey Pro League for the current season. As hosts of the next Olympic Games, being part of such a top-flight competition involving the best teams in the world can only be a positive move for the French team as well as for the growth of hockey in the country”, commented FIH CEO Thierry Weil.

The first FIH Hockey Pro League matches of the year will involve the Women’s teams of China and India. They will take place on 31 January and 1 February in Muscat, Oman, where both teams are currently playing the Women’s Asia Cup 2022.

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TEAM INDIA NEEDS WICKET-TAKING BOWLERS

Saba Karim

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It will take some time for Rahul Dravid and the coaching staff to get Team India out of the current situation. In the first ODI, we should have restricted the South African batsmen within 250. The wicket was slow and the ball remained low. After that the Indian batsmen, who was looking to score well, collapsed and we lost. That is, we failed to bat after bowling.

With this defeat it is too early to say anything about KL Rahul’s captaincy. As captain, he has captained ODIs for the first time. They should be given time. Well, he definitely needs to pay special attention to his batting. If runs are scored with his bat, then he will have confidence which will come in handy under his captaincy.

Team India needs wicket-taking bowlers at this time. South African batsmen made their job easy by playing sweep and reverse sweep against Indian spinners. Bhuvneshwar and Shardul also did not prove to be wicket-takers. Now the time has come that the bowlers who are present in the current team should be given a chance. It makes no sense to keep feeding old bowlers in the name of experience. Now is the time to find Bumrah’s partner. In spin bowling, Ashwin and Chahal were probably playing together for the first time. It will definitely make a difference after the return of Ravindra Jadeja, who gives the team a real balance. Today, the strike rate of the bowlers should be considered more than the economy. Deepak Chahar can be given further opportunity, who can also bat well.

And there needs to be stability in the middle order. For how long the team will depend on the top order. The middle order players have to understand that they also fulfill their responsibility. There should be unity in the performance. The responsibility of finishing the match will also have to be taken. The truth is that the team had not yet recovered from the loss of two Tests that many problems emerged with the team in ODIs as well. I hope team India players will soon see the spirit of unity and victory.

The writer is a former wicket-keeper batsman and a selector of Team India

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DON’T KNOW WHAT COMMUNICATION HAPPENED BETWEEN KOHLI, GANGULY: SHASTRI

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Former Team India head coach Ravi Shastri said that one’s captaincy should not be judged by the number of ICC titles won, rather it should be on how the cricketer played and whether it was with integrity.

Shastri’s comments come two weeks after Virat Kohli stepped down as India’s Test skipper. Last year, Kohli stepped down as the T20I captain and then he was removed as ODI captain as the selectors wanted just one white-ball captain. “Many players have not won the World Cup, Sourav Ganguly has not won it, Rahul Dravid has not won it, Anil Kumble has not won it, Laxman has not won it. Even Rohit Sharma has not won it but it does not mean they are bad players. You go and play, there are just World Cup-winning captains — MS Dhoni and Kapil Dev. Sachin Tendulkar took six World Cups to lift his first title,” Shastri told ANI in an exclusive interview.

“It is not a question that you are judged by the World Cup, at the end of the day, you are judged on how you play, whether you play the game with integrity. That is how you judge the players at the end of the day,” he added. BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and Kohli gave different versions on how the ODI captaincy was taken away from Kohli. Ganguly had also said that he had asked Kohli to not leave the T20I captaincy, but the 33-year-old said that nothing like that was conveyed to him. “I do not know what communication happened between both parties (Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli). I have not spoken to them, when I get the chance to talk to them, then I can speak to give my viewpoint. When you have half-knowledge, then you should be quiet. When you have full knowledge, then you should be speak,” said Shastri. When asked whether Rohit Sharma is fit enough to be the next Test captain, Shastri said: “I have not watched cricket for three months, when I see the cricket then I can give my judgment. If I have not seen then I will not give my verdict.” In his note while announcing his decision to step down as Test captain, Virat had thanked Ravi Shastri and MS Dhoni for their continuous support.

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AUSTRALIAN SELECTORS ‘WELL DOWN THE TRACK’ TO FINALIZE TEST SQUAD

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No Australia player has indicated they want to opt-out of touring Pakistan with selectors “well down the track” to finalizing a Test squad, despite uncertainty about the resumption of the Sheffield Shield season.

National selector George Bailey said on Tuesday that he believed security plans were “very, very robust and very, very thorough” after multiple briefings for what would be the first Australian tour of the country since Mark Taylor’s men visited in 1998.

“I believe the boards are still working through some of the minor details around that tour, so once that gets the formal tick of approval then we’ll announce the squad post that, but we’re reasonably well down the track,” Bailey told reporters, as per cricket.com.au.

The Test squad will largely pick itself following the successful 4-0 drubbing of England in this summer’s Ashes series, with the emergence of Scott Boland as a reliable workhorse allowing selectors to rest Jhye Richardson.

The historic Test series is scheduled to begin on March 3 in Karachi.

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Neeraj Chopra gets Padma Shri, also Param Vashistha Seva Medal

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Another feather in Neeraj Chopra’s illustrious career as the Tokyo Olympics gold medalist will be awarded with the Param Vashistha Seva Medal by the 4 Rajputana Rifles on Republic Day.

Neeraj Chopra is a Subedar in the Indian Army. He had enrolled in 4 Rajputana Rifles as a direct entry Naib Subedar in 2016. He was chosen for training at the Mission Olympics Wing and Army Sports Institute in Pune. Haryana will also showcase the life-size replica of Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra in the form of a tableau during the 2022 Republic Day parade. According to the Directorate of Information, Public Relations and Languages Department, Haryana, a total of ten Olympians will be a part of the tableau. He was also given the Padma Shri on Tuesday.

Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal for India in Javelin Throw event at the Tokyo Olympics. The Haryana lad is only the second Indian individual after Abhinav Bindra to win an Olympic gold. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra not only created history when he clinched a gold medal during the Tokyo Olympics but also fulfilled legendary athlete Milkha Singh’s wish to see India bringing the biggest laurel back at the mega event in track and field event.

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN: TSITSIPAS BEATS FRITZ IN FOURTH ROUND TO SET UP QF CLASH WITH SINNER

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Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece beats Taylor Fritz of USA 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the men’s singles match of the fourth round that lasted for three hours and 23 minutes here at the Rod Laver Arena on Monday. Tsitsipas has set a quarter-final clash against Jannik Sinner of Italy.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

In the opening set the 20th seed American Taylor Fritz broke fourth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas in the seventh game to nose ahead and went on to win the opening set 6-4. Despite being a set down Tsitsipas made a brilliant comeback in the second set as he broke him in the tenth game to win the second set 6-4 and make it one set apiece.

In the third set Taylor Fritz broke the Greek in the seventh game to take a lead and went on to win it 6-4 taking two sets to one lead.

Once again being down by a set the fourth seed Tsitsipas made a comeback breaking Taylor in the eighth game to take an important 5-3 lead and ultimately went on to win the set comfortably 6-3.

The fifth set was a neck-to-neck battle till 4-4 but in the ninth game Tsitsipas broke the American and held on to his next one to win it 6-4 and ultimately won the fourth round match to enter the quarter-final. Stefanos Tsitsipas went on to hit 19 aces and 53 winners enroute to his victory against Taylor Fritz to set up a quarter-final clash with Italy’s Jannik Sinner who defeated Australia’s Alex de Minaur in straight sets.

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