The dust is going to settle on this pandemic and the curtains will rise again. The wait will be over for a legion of fans who have been anticipating with baited breath for their favourite sport to resume. The silver coin will flip atop the hats of the captains as they squint towards the sunshine in slow motion and neither of them will shake hands but walk away with their fates hanging in balance and a bottle of sanitizer in their pockets. Sports and games as we know it will change forever now. Not specifically cricket but all sports. Contact or not.
Change has always been a part of the evolution of a sport and it is more often than not a welcome gesture and a prelude to the changing times at hand. But this time things have changed and no one knows for how long and for to what extent.
It is a confirmed projection that the footfall in stadiums will thin out. The fear of the pandemic and the likelihood of contracting it will demotivate even the most ardent fan from coming and watching his or her favourite game. Then the question is what will an athlete play for? Sports is a performance spectacle just like Broadway. Can the Phantom of the Opera hold any meaning without an audience? Can it be telecast live on Zoom? Unlikely.
Athletes will have to brace themselves for a game without an audience. The main source of observing a sport will be the television. Games like golf and shooting may still find their mojo without any eyeballs around but a sport like cricket will have to bite the bullet. How are you going to imagine the IPL without any audience? It is like imagining the Terminator franchise without Arnold Schwarzenegger. This might sound like an innocuous analogy but its ripple effects are deeply concerning and detrimental to any sport.
There has been a lot of talk about not using saliva by bowlers during cricket matches. There has also been talk of maintaining social distancing during a game and ensuring proper care is taken while playing the game. But think about it for a second. Won’t the travails of maintaining Covid-19 precautions impact a player’s or athlete’s performance and ability to deliver his/her best? Can a Tyson Fury unload that upper cut while being pre-occupied with thoughts of contracting a virus? It’s hard to fathom this ambivalence in any sport. This pandemic has deep rooted concerns and resumption of sports has to be undertaken as a scientific challenge and not as a competitive one.
The Tokyo Olympics when canceled gave out a clear-cut signal that unless and until the safety and security in a sport is not renewed the pre-covid frenzy is not a tenable option. But what’s sad here is the situation of the athlete or player who will have to deal with an unimaginable dip in form, lack of practice, zilch motivation from the audience in the stadium and most of all the hopelessness that has come with this pandemic. No one knows how long this nuisance will prevail and no one knows how soon their favourite sport will get to enjoy the same glory it did once.
As time passes the stress has to be put on innovation and invention so that the rhythm of a sport does not die. It will be painful to watch the form and spirit of your favourite sports star fade during this phase. Some sports can be salvaged but some will need more than divine intervention to be resurrected from this abysmal oblivion.
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Indian athletics’ high performance director resigns
Volker Hermann on Sunday announced his resignation from the position of India’s athletics High Performance director. Hermann said in a statement that he put on his Facebook page that he had resigned from the position “three weeks ago” after he was convinced that he could no longer “meet the self-imposed expectations” that came from being the Athletics Federation of India’s (AFI) high performance director.
“After one and a half fruitful and inspiring years in India, the day has come when I could not any longer meet the self-imposed expectations coming along with the role of AFI’s high performance director, which is why I resigned from my position three weeks ago,” said Hermann in his statement, adding: “I believe that athletics in India has a great future ahead of it. It also needs players with a strong, confident, and independent mindset to succeed at world stage.”
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
Tendulkar’s 98 against Pakistan in 2003 WC one of his best: Inzamam
Former Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq believes Sachin Tendulkar’s 98-run knock against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup was one of the “best innings” played by the former Indian batsman during his stellar career.
In the group-stage match played on March 1, 2003 at Centurion in South Africa, the Pakistan team failed to defend a target of 274. India rode on Tendulkar’s 98 to chase down the target with more than four overs to spare.
“I have seen Sachin play a lot but the way he batted in that match; I have never seen him play like that before. The way he played against our fast bowlers in those conditions was superb. I think he scored 98 before getting out to Shoaib Akhtar,” Inzamam told India off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on his YouTube show ‘DRS with Ash’.
“I feel that innings of Sachin was one of his best. He broke all the pressure that existed. He played a top-quality innings against genuine quality fast bowlers like ours. The way he hit those boundaries, the pressure got released on the batsmen who came after him. If someone were to ask Sachin, he too would absolutely love that innings of his,” he added.
Inzamam also said Pakistan were confident about winning that game after scoring 273 as they had a very good bowling line-up consisting of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Akhtar.
“Our bowling line-up consisted of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar and the conditions were favouring the fast bowlers. The match was being played at Centurion in South Africa. So, we felt that we had put up a pretty good score,” said Inzamam.
Earlier, Akhtar had said that the 2003 World Cup loss against India was the “most disappointing match” of his entire career. “The most disappointing match for me in my entire career was the 2003 World Cup match against India at Centurion. We had failed to defend a target of 274 despite having a very good bowling line-up,” Akhtar had said.
Medvedev to face Thiem for the title of ATP Finals
Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev will be facing Austrian third seed Dominic Thiem in the summit clash of the ATP Finals on Sunday evening.
On Saturday, Medvedev came from one set down to beat world number two Rafael Nadal 3-6, 7-6(7-4), 6-3, reaching the final at the ATP Finals for the first time.
Nadal looked to be cruising after the first set, but was quickly down 0-3 in the second set. The 34-year-old showed great determination to come from behind to lead 5-4, but the Russian refused to give up with powerful serves and strong forehands.
In the deciding set, the Spaniard couldn’t find a way to hold his soaring opponent, ending his season still await for a trophy of the season finale.
Medvedev can become the fourth player to triumph at the year-end championships at the O2 Arena following a winless debut.
Earlier, in the other semi-final, Thiem had edged world number one Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(12-10), 7-6(7-5) to reach the final of the year-ending tournament for the second consecutive year.
Thiem broke serve at 5-5 in the first set and sealed it with an ace. Djokovic, however, grinded his way to victory in the second set, denying Thiem the win despite the Austrian getting four chances to seal the game.
The third game was also pushed to a tiebreaker, which was started by Thiem but he went on to lose the next three points. He, however, roared back to win the next six points and while Djokovic saved a fifth match point, Thiem got the job done at the next opportunity.
Knew Gilchrist was vulnerable on the ball pitched up, recalls Praveen Kumar
Former India fast bowler Praveen Kumar, who helped India clinch the second Tri-series final in 2008 at Brisbane with an early three-wicket burst, says he used to catch the batsmen by watching their feet and body language.
India, having won the first of the best-of-three finals, had needed to win the second to seal the Tri-series for the first time in history.
They had set a target of 258, thanks to Sachin Tendulkar’s 91, and with the batting line-up that Australia had, it could have been insufficient.
But Praveen lopped off Australia’s cream – Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke to leave Aussies tottering at 32/3. They could never recover from there and India won the match by nine runs.
“Let me tell you, I could catch a batsman by watching his feet and body language. That moment (Brisbane, 2008) I was just putting on display the art that I have,” Praveen Kumar told IANS about his four for 46 haul that earned him the man of the match award and India a historic win that got them the Tri-series in Australia for the first time in history.
“You see most things about bowling are simple. I was not thinking about anything. My bowling style dictated the areas I have to pitch and I was watching the wicket and bowling,” he added.
Praveen says he had done his homework with the help of the support staff, having studied the batsmen.
“’Gilchrist paidal tha upar waali ball par’ (Gilchrist was vulnerable to the ball that used to be pitched up),” he explains the thought behind plotting the former Australian wicket-keeper who was playing his last and 287th ODI. Gilchrist poked at a delivery that moved away. Aussies were one down for two.
“Ponting, they used to say, he pulls the ball well. So I said, ‘isko pull par hi nikaalna hai’ (let us catch him on the pull),” he says before explaining the simple logic.
“Whatever is the strength of someone, can also be his weakness. I bowled short, he pulled and was caught at short mid-on (by Yuvraj). I have got Ponting out thrice, once in Nagpur – there before he could realise the ball had hit the pad and he was out. It is about catching the batsman, a person. You catch a batsman by how he is playing. You need brains for that. In Ponting’s case, I thought let me try a short one.”
Praveen was, however, a tad lucky with the third one ï¿½ of Clarke.
“’Maine ball dabaai aur wo baith gayee’ (I pushed the ball on the pitch and it didn’t rise and went on at a very low trajectory). I got a bit lucky there. The pitch helped me on that one. But I am proud of the way I got Gilchrist. When a bowler uses his hands (art) and brain, he can bowl even if he has just gotten up from sleep. You will naturally catch the good length if you have it in you. By God’s grace, I had practiced so much that even if I could get up from my sleep, I could step out and bowl.”
That night at the Gabba, Praveen helped create history for India with his art and skills.
‘India without Kohli will be like Aussies without Smith, Warner’
While former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson says that ‘Indian cricketers will be expecting the unexpected’, ex-skipper Ian Chappell explains how Virat Kohli’s absence will create a big hole in Indian batting order.
India without captain Virat Kohli in Tests will be akin to Australia without Steve Smith and David Warner, said former Australia fast bowler Geoff Lawson on the prospects of Team India Down Under.
Kohli will be returning to India after the first Test against Australia—a day-night fixture currently slated to be played at the Adelaide Oval from 17 December—to be with his wife Anushka Sharma for the delivery of their first child. However, he will be part of the limited-overs leg of the tour—three ODIs and three T20Is—beginning 27 November.
“India without Virat Kohli will be like Australia without Smith and Warner. It’s not just the runs he makes, but the way he lifts the psyche of the whole group,” Lawson wrote in his column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell too believes Kohli’s absence for the final three Test of the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy will “create a big hole” in the Indian batting order.
“India also face a selection dilemma when skipper Virat Kohli departs for home for the birth of his first child following the opening Test. This creates both a big hole in the Indian batting order and an opportunity for one of their talented young players to make a name for himself,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Chappell as saying.
“What was already shaping up as an exciting tussle now has the added stimulus of crucial selection decisions. The result could well come down to who is the bravest set of selectors,” he added.
Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, however, believes missing the last three Tests will not take motivation away from Kohli.
“Don’t worry about Virat. He is up for every single game he is playing. Maybe, there will be extra motivation. I am sure he will be ready to go. As I said he is getting home for the birth of his child which is the right decision, so I am sure he will be extra motivated,” Stoinis said on Saturday.
With 7,240 runs at an average of 53.62, Kohli is the highest run scorer in the Indian squad for the Tests and is ranked in the ICC rankings for the longest format of the game behind Steve Smith.
As for Geoff Lawson’s statement, it gains relevance because India had won the previous Test series they played in Australia with the hosts missing Smith and Warner and still reeling from the aftermath of the 2018 ball tampering scandal. Since the duo came back, however, Australia have experienced a reversal in fortune culminating in them pipping India at the top of the ICC Test Championship earlier this month.
Lawson also added that Australia’s biggest strength now compared to what they had before the 2018-19 Test series against India is that they have options. “Australia have risen on the back of drawing away with England and then beating a well-below-strength New Zealand and thumping a classic Pakistan at home last summer. And as the international season looms, No.1 Test nation Australia finds itself in an unusual situation: There are options for batting spots,” said Lawson.
“Indian cricketers will be expecting the unexpected. They will be a handful, given they are defending the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, won on Australian soil for the first time two years ago, and their fast bowling group continues to grow in stature,” he said.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
Nadal defeats Tsitsipas to reach semis, to meet Medvedev
World number two Rafael Nadal has entered the semi- finals of the ongoing ATP Fi- nals after defeating defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.
On Thursday, Nadal defeated Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in two hours and five minutes to make it to his sixth semi-final appearance at the event and continued his pursuit of a maiden title at the year-end championships. The Spaniard tallied a 2-1 record to claim second place in Group London 2020 behind Dominic Thiem.
He will next play Daniil Medvedev in a rematch of the 2019 US Open final.
“(To) be in the semi-finals here, in the last tournament of the year, is an important thing,” Nadal said in his on-court interview as per the official ATP Tour website. “(I am) happy for that and I am looking forward to the semi-finals against Daniil (Medvedev).”
Last year, Nadal had defeated Tsitsipas in the final round- robin match, but the lefty was still ousted from the tourna- ment. This time, he only needed a win to move on, and despite a slip at the end of the second set, he emerged victorious to extend his head to head lead against the Greek to 6-1.
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