‘We are hoping that the cinemas come alive by end-June’ - The Daily Guardian
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‘We are hoping that the cinemas come alive by end-June’

Going to the movies is like a mini-vacation. The Daily Guardian chats with Sanjeev Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR Cinemas, to discuss the road ahead for multiplexes, especially in the post-Covid era.

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The big screen cinematic experience is a real thrill. The treat of lying back on a plush, padded recliner, enjoying a Japanese Bento Box, served up by an attentive steward is irreplaceable. Gone are the days of crawling into a nondescript, dark and dank smelling theatre, wolfing down a greasy alu tikki burger with onion and tomato along with pumpkin ketchup! Only to watch Mithun doing his greasy swagger and running around trees with a buxom Ranjeeta. Instead, now when you walk in to watch a thriller like Andhadhun at PVR Luxe, you are assured a few hours of pulsating excitement.

The credits roll in and the movie begins. The film script has very dark and grey undercurrents, with hints of the paranormal. The audience is on edge, watching Tabu smashing the glass table in an underground basement, ready to kill her prey, Ayushmann Khurrana. Only the whirring sound of the air conditioning can be heard, and an earth-shattering scream rips across the theatre. Hackles rise, as Tabu whips out a knife. The high voltage, acutely-engineered sound system accentuates the smell of danger.

An exciting two hours later, you leave the theatre relieved and happy. Now forced into the world of streaming OTT cinema, people are missing this high that PVR is known for. With impressive tableaux of 800 screens, across 170 locations, PVR sets the tone of modern-day cinema viewing. Are we going to be denied this pleasure and for how long? Sanjeev Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR Cinemas, talks to The Daily Guardian about his journey so far and what got the brothers—Ajay and Sanjeev—to build the brand PVR. Excerpts:

Q. Tell us how you began the journey with PVR.

A. It all began in the 1990s with Priya Cinema that was a family asset portfolio. Scenario then was of single-screen cinemas, old, dilapidated, infested by rats, with movies like Ganga Jamuna Saraswati playing! I had just finished my undergrad at Manchester where I first experienced watching films at a multiplex theatre and saw an opportunity there.

My elder brother Ajay Bijli and I decided to get into a joint venture with The Village Road Show, an entertainment company based in Australia. I moved to Tasmania for three months where I got trained in the entire gamut of multiple screen cinema management, the scheduling of the films, the decor, the staff management, branding. I even learnt to work the popcorn machine.

Q. Was it tough to convert the Indian audience from the antiquated cinema hall experience to this slick multiplex thrill?

A. Not really. The ancient theatres were dying institutions. Seats were uncomfortable, canteens were badly run, the theatres themselves were ramshackle. Whereas the multiplex promised to bring in a new avatar of cinema, well run, slick. Our first screens were at Anupam that opened in 1997. The first day itself we were overwhelmed with the response. God was kind.

It’s not as if the multiplex cinemas had not already launched in the UK and the US. In a matter of time, they would have come to India as well. We just happen to be the first one to bring it to India. As luck would have it, even the movies started getting better. There was a revival of Hindi cinema. We as youngsters looked down upon Hindi films. Suddenly it became fashionable to watch Shah Rukh Khan do his jig on the silver screen with A.R. Rahman rendering music for films.

Q. How did you judge which film to invest in and which not?

A. We run all films on revenue share and have a complete programming team sit out of Mumbai and work closely with the producers to decide how many shows to select, how many screens. And that is how programming and scheduling of movies works. We follow a few principles. For instance, a movie like Padmaavat will herald 3,000 shows while a smaller movie much lesser. We know the pulse of the people and try and give the viewers enough choice to watch a movie that is bound to be a hit. It’s like carpet warming.

Q. Many impatient filmmakers are releasing their movies on NetFlix and Amazon Prime Video. What is your take on that?

A. This period is unprecedented. We are living in historic times. Even Partition was not that bad because the enemy is invisible. There is so much talk of business and the economy collapsing. My take on that is the world has lost 300,000. What can be worse? If producers have sold their film to an OTT platform, they must have had a massive compulsion.

Otherwise actors, directors, producers do want to see their movies on the silver screen. We cannot stop them; it’s their livelihood and we are all in a pickle. Besides, as Ajay says, you can’t compare a retired player to an active one. We will be back in the reckoning. So many people are living in cramped, living spaces. They want to get out. I am sick of my couch. That is the first thing I will change once the lockdown ends!

Q. Even the Oscars are considering awarding online originals? Do you think this will affect movie theatres?

A. That is nothing new. Last year three online films were nominated. In Hollywood there is a very strong opposition by directors like Steven Spielberg and Cristopher Nolan. India is divided. I see it as yet another platform to watch films. Cinemas have survived many technological invasions. We will continue to coexist. Movies like Avengers can only be seen on the large screen.

Q. Will the audience return to a centrally air-conditioned cinema hall?

A. I think we all have to be smart enough to differentiate facts from myths. This fear-mongering, paranoia does not help the economy. It is the worst pandemic. Who will you believe: The scientists or a WhatsApp from your neighbour? By now we all know the rules: Wear an N95mask, wash your hands often, maintain social distancing, look after your elders, shower once you get home and you will be safe from the virus.

Globally, so many surveys have proved that cinema is one of the few places where you are safer with a mask on, looking straight in front at the screen. The transmission is not as much as when you are face to face in close quarters to someone at a beach or at a party drinking, smoking without your mask on.

Q. What are the measures you will take to keep your audience Covid-safe?

A. We are hoping that the cinemas come alive by end-June. Lockdown 4.0 is almost over. Only malls, hotels and restaurants remain closed. We are members of Global Cinema Federation and we are hoping to relaunch by end-June and gear up for the release of Tenet by 17 July. We have submitted all the safety and precaution protocols to the Ministry of Home Affairs and await its instructions.

Q. How will you ensure the audience is safe from Covid-19?

A. There is a whole protocol in place. We are looking at cashless transactions. The masses must download the PVR app to book their ticket and meals-beverages online. They should download the Aarogya Setu app for their own safety. Thermal temperature screening will be undertaken at the entry point. Cleaning-sanitising of the halls will be ramped up to three times more.

We have brought in a new UV Laser technology that kills bacteria and virus. Doctor-driven physical check-ups of our employees will be done weekly. Sneeze shields will be worn by all the staff. Hand sanitisers that are pedal-based will be deployed everywhere. There will be two set of hygiene protocol maintained at the cinemas: one at the entrance and one before you enter the auditorium.

Q. Your one message to movie buffs.

A. Take care, don’t believe in myths, believe in facts, be safe. We are ready to bounce back and have taken the safest and best steps to welcome you back to the world of experiences, PVR. Let the good times roll. Caption: Sanjeev Bijli, Joint Managing Director of PVR Cinemas.

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“Health is wealth”: Holistic wellness Week 2.0- Nutrition & Wellness

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NewsX conducted a special series, Holistic Wellness Week 2.0- Food & Nutrition, association with US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and Poultry Dhaba. The discussion revolved around some very important and relevant topic such as holistic health and importance of nutrition in daily life in light of the existing health crisis. A Group of special people joined the session to lend valuable insights on the topic.

The panel of speakers included chief dietician at max hospital Dr Ritika Samaddar, therapeutic nutritionist Saket Tahira Kochhar, and health and transformation coach Yash Vardhan Swami, actor Hasleen Kaur. The session tried to understand the importance of holistic health, healthy eating and role of good nutrition in health maintenance. It shed light on how much protein needs to be incorporated in diet, various protein sources like poultry, egg, fish, etc. and different approaches and ways of incorporating protein in diet.

Ritika commenced the session by explaining the importance of holistic health in current pandemic situation. She said, “When we talk about holistic health there are a lot of other things which are equally important apart from diet. Like reduce stress, active lifestyle, exercise and the type of exercise one is doing, amount of junk intake and process food one is having. All have impact on immunity. To have good immunity it is important to concentrate on holistic health.”

Talking on the role of good nutrition in maintaining one’s health, Tahira said, “It has the most important rule. Like you have heard you are what you eat. So I think tapping into every food group in right quantity. Not segregating one from the other. You could be eating right taking all your supplements and medicines. But if you are not sleeping well, sticking to the right timing, stressing, etc. So you can’t segregate one from the other now.”

On being asked if people are concentrating more on one’s health amenity and lifestyle balance due to the pandemic Hasleen responded, “Yes! This is the need of the hour. We need to consider our lifestyle choices. We need to see what we are feeding ourselves. You should have a  complete plate with micros and macros. Macros are your protein, carbs and fibres. The portion sizes in side of plate to be divided into three. You have to very conscious about what you are feeding your body because if the body is well feed it will be able to find anything and everything. We will see it by skin hair and nails. The way body is reacting to diseases. Everything goes back to food it is best medicine we have. We shouldn’t be popping pills but we should be popping more food inside us.”

Commenting on need to create more awareness about staying healthy in these situations Yash said, “Holistic is necessary for everyone but now is the time we are actually talking about this. We could not go out so we focused going inside. We are taking care of stress, sleep, nutrition and also finding out ways and being creative to workout inside trying to burn calories. Nutrition is everything and Tahira said “you are what you eat “but also you are what you digest, excrete and don’t eat.”

Yash added on the importance of protein in one’s every day is life and its ideal intake, he said, “Protein is a nutrient. There are certain amino acids which our body does not create we need them from that. It’s not for only building muscles but also for your immunity, optimal organ function but even your neurotransmitters action which dictate your brain health. So protein is very necessary and if we don’t have enough protein in our diet it may mess our immunity and protein are also full of micronutrients. Example is zinc.”

Speaking on the natural ways to get protein into our system through chicken, egg, soya instead of quick fix like shakes and supplements Hasleen said, “There is no replacement for actual food. What comes from food cannot be provided by powder and pills. You need to include chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products and if you are vegetarian you should load upon dairy products. I am vegetarian I eat egg sometimes but I load upon the dairy products. I have been brought up by taking milk, curd, cottage cheese that’s full of protein. Our body needs about 0.8 gram of protein as per everybody weight. According to my weight I need 48 g of protein every day. I have to eat egg white every morning to kick-start every cell in my body.”

Explaining why people in India tends to protein deficient Tahira said, “There is a myth if you too much of protein you will bulk up that is the myth need to burst up. Protein is essential for organ function. When anyone gets into the plan should get blood levels done. Intake of supplements and these things are so much done that if people don’t require lot of people are overdosing themselves which itself has adverse effect. Wherever you are lacking you need to take those supplements. But there is nothing like natural supplementation. It’s different for everyone like male-female kid-adult. So for a sedentary man it’s it be like 55 g but for a sedentary woman it would be like 45 g. But it differ a lot on activity level.”

Ritika told about ill effect of deficiency of protein, she said, “Each and every cell of our body has protein like nail, hair, skin. This is one of the macronutrient which is needed in good amount. 90% of the people don’t even aware of the requirement of protein. 70% to 75% do not meet their daily protein requirement. Main deficiency would be like losing a small amount of hair feeling little tired etc. But protein deficiency could actually lead to liver diseases like fatty liver. In post-pandemic recovery phase protein is most important. Even after recovery for 4 to 6 weeks your diet is very important. One of the most important nutrients there is the protein. For the general population it’s 8 to 1 g per body weight. But for the critical I’ll or people in the post recovery phase we actually go up to 1 to 1.2g which is a good amount of protein. And that is where we differentiate between A class protein and B class protein and difference between non-veg, egg, chicken and lentils come into the play.” Tahira added that protein is there in every food like doctor like lentil, those are the dense sources for sure, according to her.

Breaking the myth that going heavy on proteins one looks like bodybuilder Hasleen said, “This is one question which I ask my trainer when I started it in my life. That I don’t want to look like bodybuilder I need to look lean for my profession. He laughed and said you are completely crazy. This is what Indian mind-set is. If you load up on protein you will look like bodybuilder. But when I started taking protein my body get immune. So when you take protein you skin look better your nails look better your hairs look better. You can see it on external side of the body. So you can think what it would be doing inside the body. It appears it heals it do much more than just adding bulk.”

Additionally Yash clarified, “First thing bodybuilder have more protein is not the reason they look bodybuilder. From hormones when we talk about female physiology they don’t have enough androgen in the body so they cannot gain lot of muscle. Getting bird up is not only about protein but also about carbs fats total amount of calories in surplus. If someone is fat and want to lose weight protein will not affect it. If someone has low calories so I would like him to have more protein for recovery purpose.”

Speaking on the importance of balanced diet and ways to maintain with good nutrition Ritika said, “Dairy, chicken, egg Earth the complete protein. They have all the essential amino acids. It also depends upon quality of protein. So we talked about egg and chicken its 100% absorbed in a body. If protein comes from food so it’s a complete food. Which we don’t get from supplements. For example hold essential amino acids and its rich in tryptophan. Zinc choline b12 they are required in small quantity but are very essential for our body. A balance diet should give us all kind of nutrients which make our plate complete. Half of plate should be fruit and vegetable one fourth has to be protein limit your carbohydrates. Show the plate has micro as well as macro nutrients. This kind of food is called balanced diet.” Speaking on same lines of incorporating all the ideal nutrients Tahira said “This is important not to eliminate any food group. There is also protein sparing effect. When you are having very less or no other food group. The protein is doing the purpose of other food groups so purpose is defeated if you not put other food groups together. It’s important to have everything in right quantity for a balanced diet.”

Addressing a pertinent question of how to stay immune to avoid the virus these days Yash responded, “First open body composition too much fat can cause low grade inflammation which is not good for our body health. Exercise regularly. Take care of nutrients b vitamins zinc magnesium and selenium. Enough amount of sunlight. Last but not the least gets enough amount of sleep.” Hasleen requested not follow fad diets, “Please eat what you have always eaten what your ancestors were eating because your body is habitual to digest that kind of food. So please do not eliminate complete food group from your food. Everything matters sleep, food and fitness.” Tahira added “You can’t segregate one thing from another now. Not eliminating any food group from your food. Now I realise health is wealth.” Ritika concluded the conversation by giving five points of diet, exercise, good sleep, reduce stress and vaccination. “In our diet gut health is very important because we know 70% of our immune cells are in gut. So a healthy gut means stronger immunity.”

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Holistic wellness Week 2.0- Food & Nutrition: Incorporating healthy eating and nutrition in daily life

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NewsX recenty held a special telecast on Holistic Wellness Week 2.0- Food & Nutrition, in association with US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and poultry protein. The discussion revolved around some very important and relevant topics such as healthy protein rich diet and importance of nutrition in daily life, in the light of the existing health crisis. A Group of special people joined the session to lend valuable insights into what should be eaten and what should be avoided in the pandemic times.

The panel of speakers included Chef Aditi Madan, Chef Ajay Chopra, wellness expert Mitushi Ajmera, food influencer Yashvi Agarwal and actor Himani Shivpuri. The session was aimed at understanding the importance of poultry protein, healthy eating and nutrition in daily life. It shed light on how much protein needs to be incorporated in diet, various protein sources like poultry, egg, fish, etc. and different approaches and ways of incorporating protein in diet.

Chef Ajay commenced by talking about importance of nutrition in these times of pandemic, “Food has always been considered as a source of wellness. In our busy life, we have started taking food just as a value to fill our stomach. We give little attention to nutrition but pandemic time has pushed us to think more about the wholeness, wellness and nutrition which comes along the kind of food we intake. It is important to understand that whatever we intake should help our body and not just satisfy our taste buds.”

Commenting on how pandemic has changed the way people see health now and have become more health conscious, Aditi said, “Covid is affecting the immunity hence immunity building food has become a trend setter and latest healthy diet approach. Now people are more aware about healthy foods and corporate marketing has also been on similar lines.”

Himani speaking on immunity as buzz word in the pandemic said, “I think immunity building is the factor of the food. The only way to survive in this pandemic is to build our immunity by exercising and in taking healthy food. Protein has to be part of diet.”

Protein, poultry and eggs are building blocks of not only muscles but whole body. But many are unaware about this. Mitushi talking on how to bring about awareness on this expressed, “Talking more about it and telling that protein is required for every cell building in body. Every person contacted with Covid experiences a great muscle loss, which tells us how important muscles are and sadly they can be built only by proteins. I recommend poultry more than vegetarian protein is because of its higher biological value. Biological value means how much of protein you have taken is absorbed by your body for biological protein functions.”

When asked about how do we incorporate poultry into our regular diet system Yashvi said, “From all my readings, I got to know that around protein grams that should same as your weight in kilograms to be incorporated in diet for faster covid recovery. 1/4th of our meal should be protein. Chicken, tofu and sprouts are good sources of protein.”

Chef Ajay added that it is proven that children, athletes and people who are fed more proteins have both dense muscles and bones, thus protein rich diet is a more holistic approach. Aditi shared some tips on how to incorporate more poultry into children’s diet.”Parents should first identify and choose protein rich diet. I would suggest children to eat more fish, lentils, cheese, etc.” Himani told her favorite poultry dish to audience “I love chicken biryani and fry chicken.”

Vidushi spoke more on fitness goals in kitchen, she said “We need to see individual protein requirements. I would say exercising is must but certainly what you eat makes a difference. It is a combination of both proper diet and regular exercise that makes a person fit.” Last reaction was taken from Yashvi on consuming trends about poultry and protein. She said “I have personally increased my protein intake. Being active on Social media, I have observed that over last few months people have started posting more of easy recipes to prepare protein rich hummus.”

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Delhi moving towards ‘unlock’; infection rate less than 5%

Pulkit Nagar

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With rapidly decreasing cases of Covid-19 cases, Delhi is slowly moving towards the ‘unlock’ process, sources told The Sunday Guardian.

In the last 24 hours, 3,009 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Delhi, the lowest number of fresh cases since 1 April this year when the number of single-day cases was recorded at 2,790. During this time, 252 people have also died. At the same time, Delhi’s infection rate has also come down to 4.76 percent.

With dip in numbers, Delhi has reached the graph as it was one and a half month ago, when the outbreak of the second wave of Covid had not reached the city. In Delhi, on 1 April, there were 2,790 new cases reported in 24 hours and there are 3,009 on 21 May. In Delhi, the infection rate was 4.64 percent on 4 April and 4.76 percent on 21

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India misjudged the pandemic: Dr Fauci tells US Senators

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America’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci told the US senators that India made the “incorrect assumption” that it was finished with the Covid-19 pandemic and opened up prematurely that in turn has left the country in such “dire straits”

India has been severely affected by the overwhelming second wave of the pandemic and hospitals in numerous states are fraught with the shortage of health workers, vaccines, oxygen, and myriad other medical amenities.

“The reason that India is in such dire straits now is that they had an original surge and made the incorrect assumption that they were finished with it, and what happened, they opened up prematurely and wind up having a surge right now that we’re all very well aware of is extremely devastating,” Fauci told the US Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pensions Committee during a hearing on Tuesday on the Covid-19 Response.

Senator Patty Murray, chairing the hearing, said that the surge of Covid-19 that is testing India is a painful reminder really that the US couldn’t end the pandemic here until it ends it everywhere.

“I’m glad the Biden administration is leading that global fight by rejoining the World Health Organization and funding global vaccine efforts and committing to donate 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines to other countries by July 4,” she said.

“India’s outbreak underscores the need for a robust public health infrastructure in the US to respond appropriately to this pandemic and future outbreaks, as well,” Murray said as she asked Dr. Fauci what the US can learn from India’s outbreak.

“One of the important things is don’t ever underestimate the situation,” Fauci said as he referred to India’s incorrect assumption and premature opening up.

“The second thing is preparedness with regard to public health, preparedness, which we, as a lesson learned for future pandemics, have to realise that we need to continue to build up our local public health infrastructure.” he added.

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MAKERS OF ‘SARDAR KA GRANDSON’ DROP ITS FIRST SONG ‘JEE NI KARDA’

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Rakul Preet Singh

NEW DELHI: After piquing the interest of fans with the intriguing trailer of Arjun Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh starrer ‘Sardar ka Grandson’, the makers of the upcoming movie dropped the first song ‘Jee Ni Karda’ on Sunday. Rakul took to her Instagram handle and shared the song along with the caption, “If you want to go balle balle, this is the chance! #JeeNiKarda Song out now!”

The song opens with rhythmic beats of a ‘dhol’ and the scene then changes to visuals where the lead pair is captured grooving on to the Punjabi party number at a marriage. While Rakul looked ravishing in a red and golden Anarkali suit, Arjun too looked dashing as always in a red and golden Indo-western. The song is a recreation of the 2012 track ‘Dhoor’ by Manak-E. Music composer Tanishk Bagchi has kept the soul of the song intact. He has seemingly added just a little more ‘dhol’ to it to make it suitable for the setting of a perfect Punjabi wedding. The new version has been sung by Jass Manak, Manak-E and Nikhita Gandhi.

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Batting depth, Hardik’s bowling give India an advantage in decider

Suryakumar Yadav, who was brought back into the playing XI after being dropped in the third T20I, played a match-winning knock to plot India’s comeback before Hardik Pandya, Rahul Chahar and Shardul Thakur pulverised English batsmen.

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Down 2-1, Team India made a remarkable comeback in the T20I series against England as the hosts registered a thrilling eight-run win in the fourth T20I on Thursday. And with the series level 2-2, the hosts will look to hit top gear when they take the field in the decider on Saturday.

Suryakumar Yadav, who was brought back into the playing XI after being dropped in the third T20I, played a match-winning knock to plot India’s comeback before Hardik Pandya, Rahul Chahar and Shardul Thakur decimated the English batsmen. But England skipper Eoin Morgan welcomed the loss against India and termed the fourth T20I as an ideal match for preparation for the upcoming T20 World Cup.

“We really want to play in must-win games like this. They’re the closest thing that we get to playing in a World Cup or a Champions Trophy and against a fantastic side like India, it should bode to be a great game,” Morgan told the host broadcaster after the match.

The issue of ‘soft signal’ came under the scanner during the fourth T20I between India and England. During hosts’ innings, two umpiring calls were debatable and it could have gone either way. First, Suryakumar was sent back to the pavilion by Sam Curran. The right-handed batsman tried to play a ramp shot but Dawid Malan ended up taking the catch.

Replays indicated that the ball might have hit the ground when Malan was taking the catch, however, as the soft signal was out, the third umpire stayed with the on-field call citing “lack of conclusive evidence”. Later in the match, all-rounder Washington Sundar was caught at the boundary by Adil Rashid and it seemed that the England spinner might have touched the rope while taking the catch but the on-field call stayed.

India skipper Virat Kohli said he fails to understand why the on-field umpire has to give a soft signal as “out” when the player is himself unsure regarding whether he has taken a catch or not. He went on to demand an “I don’t know” call for the umpires as the debate on soft signal erupted during the fourth T20I.

“I don’t know why there can’t an “I don’t know” call for the umpires. You want these things ironed out to keep the game linear. But we want clarity on the field,” Kohli told host broadcaster Star Sports at the post-match presentation.

AHMEDABAD: International Cricket Council (ICC) on Friday announced that England have been fined 20 per cent of their match fees for maintaining a slow over-rate against India in the fourth T20I in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

Javagal Srinath of the ICC Elite Panel of Match Referees imposed the sanction after Eoin Morgan’s side was ruled to be one over short of the target after time allowances were taken into consideration. In accordance with Article 2.22 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to minimum over-rate offences, players are fined 20 per cent of their match fees for every over their side fails to bowl in the allotted time.

Morgan pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the proposed sanction, so there was no need for a formal hearing.

On-field umpires KN Ananthapadmanabhan, Nitin Menon, and third umpire Virendar Sharma levelled the charges.

Team India made a remarkable comeback in the T20I series against England as the hosts registered a thrilling eight-run win in the fourth T20I on Thursday.

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