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The Umar Akmal ban: Pakistan’s fixing factory

Lack of international cricket on home soil has left room for temptation and corruption in Pakistan, say cricket experts.

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Umar Akmal
The Umar Akmal ban: Pakistan’s fixing factory

The Pakistan Cricket Board has been at the centre of controversies and wrongdoings in cricket over the last two decades. The PCB’s latest claim to infamy is for its ban on Umar Akmal for failing to report corrupt approaches made to him in two separate cases. This 29-year-old, right-handed Pakistani batsman has now been banned from playing any form of cricket for 3 years by the PCB’s anti-corruption officials. Talking to ITV Network, former Pakistan leg spinner Danish Kaneria said Umar Akmal’s entire career has been damaged by his wrongdoings. Kaneria, who was also banned over a spot-fixing scandal in English cricket, said he has been asking the PCB for help over the last 5 years. He said he has always fought for things in his career. He said he had seen several players welcomed after they accepted charges against them. He said he has accepted the charges against him and written many letters to the PCB. Kaneria said he has been denied a chance to set things right.

He said he wanted a genuine comment on why he cannot be rehabilitated. Kaneria said, “I know my cricketing days are over but I want to deliver. I have never played the religion card and I am very proud to have played for Pakistan. I’ve played 61 Test matches and still I am the 4th highest wicket-taker.” Senior sports journalist Ayaz Memon said Danish Kaneria deserves an explanation from the PCB. “If it is happening with him, it is very unfair. He should present his case again,” he said. Discussing the ban, ITV Network’s panel of cricket experts overwhelmingly said Pakistan has been at the centre of corruption in cricket, and when these cases are revealed, it humiliates the whole nation and it ends up looking like Pakistan has a whole fixing factory. The charge against Umar Akmal is that he was offered $200,000 to play two loose deliveries and not to play against India in the 2015 World Cup. Akmal is charged of not informing the PCB about the approaches made to him. Experts on the panel wondered how Pakistan has more players being charged for fixing than coming up with raw unbridled talent.

There are about 19 players who have been associated with corruption scandals in which 8 players had played international games. Ayaz Memon traced it to the lack of international cricket on Pakistani soil with the Pakistan Super League being the only avenue for its cricketers. With less opportunities, players might get frustrated but that is no reason for a big player like Umar Akmal to be caught in fixing shenanigans. “We might think cricket is clean now but the same case with the biggest cricketer of Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan, puts a question mark on all that. Maybe you have not done any wrong but, according to the laws, you are expected to report it to the authorities. Your silence could be a sign of interest in the matter,” Memon said. Umar Akmal’s behaviour has also been a talking point, either in international matches or in the PSL matches, and with coaches as well.

Akmal should have come clean early but if one goes back, one can see that Mohd. Nawaz and Mohd. Irfan has done the same thing and did not talk about the bookies to the board and they only got six months suspension. Though a talented player, Akmal lacks the discipline which is needed in the game. The ban of three years can be a good lesson for him and for the coming generation as well, said Kaneria. Rajkumar Sharma, Indian captain Virat Kohli’s first coach, said before any domestic session in India, anti-corruption officials counsel players and which is missing in Pakistan. “If you don’t tell your players on how to react to these situations, you are equally responsible to that. PCB needs to be for active and should start paying their players well,” he said. Sharma said the PCB should start educating their players. Ayaz Memon said that there are always two lobbies in Pakistan and that is the same case in India. Cricket is a rich game and there are people, who are greedy and work unfairly.

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Picked red fort to celebrate ‘E Clasico’: Jose Antonio

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LaLiga India, Managing Director, Jose Antonio Cachaza on Friday said choosing to roll out the red carpet at seven iconic locations around the world, including the Red Fort here, was done in order to build up the hype of the showpiece event ‘El Clasico’. FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid also known as ‘El Clasico’ will take place in the LaLiga 2020-21 season this Saturday, October 24. Both these sides will be clashing for the 181st time in LaLiga this weekend and the special LaLiga ‘Red Carpet’ installations symbolise the invitation to the world to watch ElClasico, with the message of LaLiga invites you to the gala premiere of the season.’ “The logistics were easier at Red Fort and also we understand the significance of Red Fort in the history of India. I always remember that Red Fort was the place where the Indian flag was hoisted for the first time after Independence. It was a clear choice, it is really a landmark and it was possible and it was doable under the condition we have,” Cachaza said in the virtual press-conference.

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Will get to assess our form only after competing: Punia

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Prior to the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown, India was performing very well in wrestling at the international level. Especially in the year 2019, when they won a total of five medals in the World Wrestling Championship. Bajrang Punia is India’s one of the premier Olympic medal hopefuls, having won a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, as well as a silver medal at the 2018 World Championship, and a bronze at the 2019 World Championship. 

Punia is very happy to be back at the national camp for training again. “It is very good that we are back at training, it’s not that we were out of rhythm because we were training at our homes during the lockdown. Nevertheless, that cannot be compared to what one can do at the camp, especially when there is an opponent on the mats. The arrangements that have been made at SAI Sonepat are very good and safe, proper zoning of the campus has been done and no outsider can come in contact. All wrestlers feel very safe here,” said the 26-year-old wrestler Bajrang Punia. The Indian Men’s Wrestling camp for Freestyle and Greco-Roman is in progress at Sonepat since September 1.

 India has so far won four Olympic quotas, and three are in men’s freestyle wrestling. Bajrang is one of them, wrestlers Deepak Punia and Ravi Dahiya being the other two winners. India has the opportunity to win the remaining Olympic quotas in men’s wrestling (6 in Greco-Roman, and 3 in Freestyle) at the Asian and World Qualification tournaments scheduled for next year. Freestyle men’s Chief Coach, Jagmander Singh is also happy to see the progress of the wrestlers since the camp resumed, but he reiterated that competition will give a better idea of their level. He said, “From the time training restarted to now, the wrestlers have improved considerably. We started slow but now our training is in full momentum but eventually, we need to tune our training as per the competitions ahead. The true test of where the wrestlers stand will only be when they participate in competitions.” 

The World Wrestling Championship is scheduled for December this year and both Bajrang Punia and Jagmander Singh are hopeful that the tournament goes ahead as well as other wrestling events being able to resume. Bajrang said, “We were in good rhythm before the lockdown was announced. Even now our training is going well but we will only know our level and where we stand when we compete. A player needs to play otherwise they will never know where they stand.”

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Sturdy Delhi to face KKR in a thrilling fixture

Kings XI Punjab, in another match, will lock horns with arch-rivals SunRisers Hyderabad in Dubai.

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Table-toppers Delhi Capitals (DC) will aim to return on the winning path when they face fourth-placed Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the 42nd match of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium here on Saturday. After a five-wicket defeat against King XI Punjab (KXIP) in their last match, Delhi will expect their batters to raise the bar as barring Shikhar Dhawan, all others have faltered.

 It was Dhawan’s second consecutive ton which had single-handedly propelled DC to a fighting total against KXIP before their bowlers failed to defend the target. Young Prithvi Shah’s last four outings include two ducks while captain Shreyas Iyer has struggled to regain his form with the bat he showed in much of the first half of the league stage since sustaining a sidestrain. Rishabh Pant had made a comeback from injury in the previous game but the dashing stumper is yet to regain his momentum with the bat.

 In the bowling department, in-form pacer Kagiso Rabada will once again try to put the KKR batsmen in trouble along with his South African compatriot Anrich Nortze, who missed the last match against KXIP but is likely to make a return against KKR. Axar Patel and ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will once again look to use the conditions effectively to get the breakthroughs in the middle overs. 

On the other hand, despite sitting at the fourth spot, KKR’s advancement to the playoffs is uncertain and the Eoin Morgan-led side now needs to forget the heart-breaking loss against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Wednesday. KKR had an embarrassing outing against RCB, being restricted to a paltry 84 despite batting for 20 overs. While Shubman Gill and Rahul Tripathi will have to provide an ideal start, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik and Morgan need to convert the starts they have got in recent games. In another mouth-watering fixture, KXIP are facing Sunrisers. After three consecutive wins, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have managed to remain afloat in the Indian Premier League (IPL). 

The KL Rahul-led side will now face a stern test when they take on fifth-placed SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the 43rd contest of the season here on Saturday. Both Punjab and Hyderabad are on eight po ints but the David Warner-led team is a spot ahead in the points-table, thanks to their better net run rate. The two teams now need to win all their remaining games in order to remain in contention for the next round. KXIP captain KL Rahul and his opening partner Mayank Agarwal have been in sublime form and the arrival of Chris Gayle has further bolstered their top-order. However, Glenn Maxwell’s consistency remains doubtful as, barring the last game against Delhi Capitals (DC), the Aussie has not been up to the mark. 

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Kishan, pacers help Mumbai decimate CSK to regain top spot

Ishan Kishan smashes his fifth IPL half-century while Quinton de Kock slams 46 runs of 37 balls to hand
Mumbai Indians an easy 10-wicket victory after bowlers restrict M.S. Dhoni and his team to a paltry 114 runs.

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After pacers, Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah dismantled Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Ishan Kishan guided Mumbai Indians to an easy victory with a powerful 68 of 37 balls here at Sharjah Cricket Ground on Friday. With this win, Mumbai Indians regained the top spot in the points table with 14 points from 10 games. Kishan smashed his fifth IPL half-century while Quinton de Kock slammed 46 runs of 37 balls to hand Mumbai Indians an easy 10-wicket victory. This was the first-time CSK ever lost an IPL match by 10 wickets. 

Chasing a paltry target of 115 runs, Mumbai Indians got off to a flyer with the openers scoring 52 runs in the powerplay. Quinton de Kock and Ishan Kishan showed no mercy and bludgeoned the CSK bowling attack as Mumbai Indians maintained their dominance in the game. Kishan smashed his fifty in just 29 balls and gave CSK no chance in the game. In the end, Mumbai Indians chased down the target with 7.4 overs to spare courtesy of a 100 run opening partnership.

 Earlier after being asked to bat first, CSK were stunned by fierce bowling performance by Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah, and Rahul Chahar. The MS Dhoni-led side was only able to score 114 runs in their allotted 20 overs courtesy of a gutsy knock by Sam Curran. CSK batsmen failed to pick Boult and Bumrah in the initial overs and kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Ruturaj Gaikwad (0), Ambati Rayudu (2), Narayan Jagadeesan (0), Faf du Plessis (1) failed to impress with the bat and were sent back to the pavilion. Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja tried to build the innings and added 18-run for the fifth wicket. In the last over of the powerplay, Boult scalped another wicket and dismissed Jadeja (7). 

For Mumbai Indians, Boult picked four wickets while Rahul Chahar and Jasprit Bumrah clinched two scalps each. Curran held the one end strong and played a knock of 52 runs including two sixes. He along with Imran Tahir guided the team to the 100- run mark thanks to a 43-run partnership. Tahir scored an unbeaten 13. 

Brief scores: Mumbai Indians 116/0 [Ishan Kishan 68(37) Quinton de Kock 46(37), Imran Tahir 0-22, Deepak Chahar 4-34] defeat CSK 114/9 (Sam Curran 52, MS Dhoni 16, Trent Boult 4-18, Jasprit Bumrah 2-25, Rahul Chahar 2-22).

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World hockey approves gender equality policy

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The International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) Executive Board on Thursday approved its reviewed Gender Equality Policy. The policy, among other things, aims to bring a 50-50 male and female representation in the Executive Board of international governing body.

 “Meeting today via online conference under the chairmanship of FIH President Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, the Executive Board (EB) of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) ratified the reviewed FIH Gender Equality Policy,” said the FIH in a statement.

 The review had been conducted by the FIH Women in Sports Committee, formed in May 2019 and chaired by FIH EB Member and European Hockey Federation president Marijke Fleuren. The FIH said that the reviewed policy “stresses the need to implement gender balance across all hockey institutions (FIH, Continental Federations and National Associations).” “FIH will be holding a number of webinars to promote gender equality, with the first one planned in November,” it said.

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Injury to van Dijk has left Pickford really sad, says Ancelotti

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Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has said the injury suffered by Liverpool’s defender Virgil van Dijk has left goalkeeper Jordon Pickford really sad. Van Dijk had suffered an injury during Liverpool’s Premier League clash against Everton last week. Liverpool on Sunday had said Van Dijk will be undergoing knee surgery as he sustained an injury during Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Everton. 

The centre-back had damaged knee ligaments following an incident involving Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford after six minutes at Goodison Park on Saturday. Van Dijk was required to be substituted and further assessment of the injury revealed that an operation will be needed. “To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury of Virgil van Dijk. Every one of us hopes he can recover soon and well. 

There was this contact with Jordan Pickford: it was mistimed contact. But the fact the Premier League is so fast, it is not so difficult to arrive a little bit later,” the official website of Everton quoted Ancelotti as saying. “Jordan arrived a little bit later but his intention was to try to reach the ball. It was not to hurt Virgil van Dijk. To say it was premeditated, and this and that, in my opinion, is too much. Virgil van Dijk knows this. Jordan is really sad, really disappointed [that he is injured].

 It was a strong contact, maybe mistimed, but sometimes in football, it can happen,” he added. Van Dijk had taken to Twitter on Sunday, saying: “This afternoon I met with a leading consultant to start the process of planning the finer details of my rehabilitation following the incident yesterday. I’m now fully focused on my recovery and will do everything I can to be back as quickly as possible.

 Despite the obvious disappointment, I’m a firm believer that within difficulty lies opportunity and with God’s help I’m going to make sure I return better, fitter, and stronger than ever before.” “In football, as in life, I believe everything happens for a reason and it’s important to try and keep level-headed whether going through the highs or the lows. With the support of my wife, kids, family, and everyone at Liverpool, I’m ready for the challenge ahead,” he added.

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