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Xavi can be Barca’s Alex Ferguson: Victor Font

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With Barcelona’s glory days rapidly becoming a fading memory, presidential hopeful Victor Font believes luring former midfield great Xavi Hernandez back to the club would spark another golden age for the Catalans.

Xavi, one of the architects of Barca’s decade-long rule of world football, is the coach of Qatari side Al Sadd but has agreed to play a leading role back with Barca if Font wins the club’s election on Jan. 24.

While Font expects to see Xavi, 40, in the Barca dugout at some point, he is equally enthusiastic about the long term role he can play.

“We decided some years ago the best person to help us build our organisation is Xavi,” Font told Reuters in an interview.

“Ideally we can have Xavi as a general manager for many years like Alex Ferguson was at Manchester United. But if he needs to play a different role, he can be flexible. Few people have the leadership qualities he has.”

Ferguson is the most successful manager in British soccer, having won 49 trophies during his 39-year managerial career, including 38 with Manchester United.

Font is also determined that Xavi stays at Barca for many years and does not export his expertise to rival European clubs.

“I have told Xavi we cannot afford to have another case like Pep Guardiola,” Font said.

“Pep coached the first team very successfully for a few years then he moved on and went to the competition (Bayern Munich and then Manchester City). We need to have Xavi in the club for the next 10 years.”

Font’s plan for Xavi to oversee the club’s progress does not mean his arrival would be an imminent threat to current coach Ronald Koeman.

“That’s a decision the sporting directors will have to make, but we’re thankful to Ronald for taking on this challenge at a difficult time. We’re happy to see him making bold decisions and empowering the young players who have potential,” he said.

“Xavi has a very long term perspective. He’s only 40, he was telling me the other day his professional career as a coach has many years ahead of him. So there will be no tension or conflict.”

Xavi, who made a record 767 appearances for Barca between 1998 and 2015, came through the club’s La Masia youth academy. During his time at the club, Barcelona won a number of major competitions, including eight La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys, four Champions League trophies and two Club World Cups.

Ansu Fati and Sergi Roberto are the only first team regulars to break through from the academy since 2015, while the likes of Hector Bellerin, Thiago Alcantara and Eric Garcia all left fearing a lack of opportunities.

Meanwhile, the club has misspent plenty of money on players who thrived at top European clubs but failed to deliver at Barca, such as Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.

Font draws a direct correlation between the decline of the academy and the first team, whose decay was laid bare in last season’s humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

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JOFRA ARCHER RULED OUT OF TEST SERIES

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LONDON: England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have confirmed that pacer Jofra Archer has been ruled out of the upcoming two-match Test series against New Zealand.

Archer, who had returned to action for Sussex in the County Championship against Kent this week at Hove, only bowled five overs in Kent’s second innings. He was suffering from pain in his right elbow when bowling and as a result, he was unable to bowl in the final two days of the match.

“The England and Sussex medical teams will now seek guidance, and Archer will see a medical consultant later this week to determine the next course of action on the management of his elbow,” the ECB said in an official statement.

Earlier this year, Archer had suffered a cut to his hand while cleaning at his home in January shortly before flying to India to prepare for the Test series.

The ECB’s medical team managed the injury throughout the tour, and it did not impact his availability. A fragment of glass was removed during the operation to his middle finger on his right hand in March.

Archer had played two Tests and all the five T20Is against India, and then he was ruled out from the ODI series and the first half of the IPL.

The England pacer then made a return to competitive cricket as he played in the ongoing County match against Sussex. He also bowled five overs and picked up a wicket against Kent.

England and New Zealand are slated to lock horns in a two-match Test series, which gets underway on June 2.

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ENGLAND TESTS NOT WARM-UPS FOR WTC FINAL, SAYS WAGNER

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New Zealand pacer Neil Wagner on Monday said that the upcoming two Test matches against England would not be a warm-up for the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India.

England and New Zealand are set to lock horns in two Tests, beginning June 2. The majority of the Kiwi Test contingent touched down in London on Sunday afternoon (UK time) after flying from Auckland via Singapore. Tim Southee, BJ Watling, Ross Taylor, and Wagner departed from Auckland on Monday afternoon (NZ time) to join the squad in Southampton. The Maldives-based IPL contingent of captain Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner, team physio Tommy Simsek and trainer Chris Donaldson will arrive on Monday (UK time).

“We’re not going to treat these two Test matches against England just as warm-ups for the WTC final. I know for a fact we’re going to get out there and pride ourselves the way we’ve been playing Test cricket and we want to win Test matches for New Zealand,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Wagner as saying.

“It’s been quite nice, it’s obviously got different characteristics to the Kookaburra. The way we’ve been training for the last while is something we didn’t always have in the past, having the facilities and having a marquee up and getting a number of trainings in before going to England. On tours in the past you rock up there and you’ve only got a couple of trainings and maybe one head out with the Dukes ball before the first Test and with that you can find yourself a little bit behind,” he added.

Talking about the preparation of his side before the UK tour, Wagner said: “But having had those little bit of trainings leading into it has been quite beneficial, just because it’s a little bit different, and obviously adapting to it. It’s been really good preparation and everybody is excited bowling with it.”

“Sometimes you have to control all that because there’s a high expectation of the ball doing a lot and moving around but sometimes you can get there and it can be quite flat and slow as well. The nice thing about it is we’ve got a wealth of experience and the guys have been there before so we can feed off each other and bounce ideas off each other as well,” he added.

The first Test between England and New Zealand will be played at Lord’s. Talking about playing at the Mecca of Cricket, Wagner said: “The nice thing is that the nerves and the unknowns are away, I’ve played at Lord’s couple of times now. I’ve played one Test there in 2013 and a couple of county games too, so it’s nice to get there when things feel familiar.”

“Sometimes you can get there and get a little but starstruck with the whole experience and everything because you grow up as a kid wanting to be there and all those sort of things. Having been there and played on those grounds, we’ve been around those conditions so it’s nice to go there and hit the ground running, knowing what to expect,” he added.

Kiwi players and support staff were transferred from London Heathrow airport to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton where they will be based for the first two weeks of the tour.

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AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT RETURNS HOME FROM MALDIVES

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Thirty-eight members of the Australian contingent stranded in the Maldives made their way on home soil on Monday.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 season was postponed on May 4 due to a rising number of Covid-19 cases and the entire Australian contingent had travelled to the Maldives due to a travel ban from India. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) batting coach Michael Hussey who had tested positive for Covid-19 in India is also expected to reach Australia on Monday via a separate flight, reported cricket.con.au.

Hussey had not travelled to the Maldives and he was there in Chennai to recover from Covid-19.

The 38-member Australian contingent stranded in Maldives which includes the likes of Pat Cummins, David Warner, Steve Smith and Michael Slater, travelled to Australia on a BCCI charter flight and now they will undergo hotel quarantine.

Australian government’s pause on the return of Australians from India concluded on May 15.

Earlier, Cricket Australia’s Interim CEO Nick Hockley had praised the BCCI and the Indian board’s effort to get the Australian players back to their homes.

“I would say the BCCI have been absolutely fantastic. So they’re committed to not only the first movement to either the Maldives or Sri Lanka but they’re also then committed to putting on a charter to bring them back to Australia,” he had said.

Asked if Cricket Australia regrets letting the players go for this year’s IPL, Hockley said: “No, I don’t think so. I mean, our hearts go out to everyone in India. Clearly, I mean, I think the IPL, you know, put so much work, so much effort into putting on the tournament. They obviously did that on the best available information at the time and they’ve come to the decision over the last 24 hours that it’s in everyone’s — well, in the interests of the health and safety of everyone to suspend the tournament indefinitely.”

“At the moment — I was on the phone to my counterpart less than an hour ago and I can’t speak more highly for how the BCCI but also all of the franchises have worked to look after our players and put in plans to make sure that they get home safely and as quickly as possible.”

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WI vs Australia: Jason Behrendorff, Tanveer Sangha named in 23-member preliminary squad

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MELBOURNE: Jason Behrendorff and Tanveer Sangha on Monday were named in Australia’s 23-member preliminary squad for the upcoming limited-overs tour of West Indies.

Australia and West Indies are set to lock horns in five T20Is and three ODIs in July this year. Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, David Warner, Moises Henriques, Alex Carey, and Pat Cummins return to the squad after missing the recent white-ball tour of New Zealand. Hard-hitting batsman Matthew Wade, Marcus Stoinis, and Mitchell Marsh join D’Arcy Short in the mix for the final batting places. They all add the flexibility of being able to play in the top or middle-order.

Highly rated bat Josh Phillipe adds another top-order option with captain Aaron Finch and David Warner and as an additional backup wicketkeeper/batsman to Alex Carey and Matthew Wade.

Experienced all-rounders Stoinis, Moises Henriques, and Marsh are joined by the in-form Maxwell in the preliminary squad. Daniel Sams advised the NSP he was unavailable for selection for the tour of the West Indies on health and wellbeing grounds. CA supports Sams’s decision.

Pacemen Kane Richardson, Jhye Richardson, and Andrew Tye join Cummins, Hazlewood, and Starc as the primary pace strike weapons. They are joined by gun speedster Riley Meredith and left-armer Jason Behrendorff.

National selector Trevor Hohns said: “This preliminary list gives selectors a solid base from which to choose a final touring party in the coming weeks while allowing players to prepare.”

“The Australian men’s T20 squad has the ability to match it with any team in the world and the competition for places will be fierce, which is exactly what we are looking for. The West Indies men’s team has won two of the six ICC T20 World Cups played, including the most recent tournament in India and 2016, and this series will provide us with excellent preparation ahead of the 2021 edition in October and November,” he added.

Ben Oliver, CA’s EGM of National Teams said: “It was great to see our Olympians receiving their vaccination shots ahead of the Tokyo Games and we are working through logistics for the Australian men’s team with the relevant agencies. We will comply with all government directives in relation to vaccinations and international travel.”

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INDIA’S TESTS AGAINST ENGLAND, AUSTRALIA WERE NOT FIXED: ICC

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The ICC dismissed claims made by a news channel that India’s Test matches against England (2016) and Australia (2017) were fixed, saying the passages of play identified as fixed were entirely predictable, and therefore “implausible as a fix”.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) also cleared five people — filmed by the channel — of any wrongdoing, saying even as they behaved in a questionable manner but no credible evidence was available to charge them.

During the programme, an alleged bookie Aneel Munnawar was seen making claims about his dubious connections and history of fixing matches including two Tests involving Virat Kohli’s Indian team. The ICC had launched an investigation into the claims.

“The programme alleged that two matches were fixed: India v England in Chennai in 2016 and India v Australia in Ranchi in 2017. To assess whether the passages of play highlighted in the programme were unusual in any way, the ICC engaged four independent betting and cricketing specialists to analyse the claims,” the ICC said in a release after it concluded its investigation.

All four concluded that the passages of play identified in the programme as being allegedly fixed were entirely predictable, and therefore implausible as a fix,’ the release added.

The ICC did not name the people exonerated but sources said former Pakistan cricketer Hasan Raza, Sri Lanka’s Tharanga Indika and Tharindu Mendis were among them. They had joined the investigation, carried out of the world governing body.

While small-time Mumbai first-class cricketer Robin Morris was also filmed, he didn’t join the investigations.

‘No charges will be brought under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code against any of the five Participants to the Code who featured in the programme due to insufficient credible and reliable evidence,’ the ICC said.

The comprehensive ICC investigation focused on three main areas: the claims made by the programme, the suspects who were part of it and how the programme gathered evidence.

‘In the case of the claims aired in this programme, there are fundamental weaknesses in each of the areas we have investigated that make the claims unlikely and lacking in credibility, a viewpoint that has been corroborated by four independent experts,’ GM (Integrity Unit) Alex Marshall was quoted as saying in the release.

‘On the basis of the programme, the Participants to the Code who were filmed appear to have behaved in a questionable manner, however, we have been unable to assess the full context of the conversations that took place beyond what was seen on screen versus what the Participants claim actually happened.

‘This combined with the absence of any other credible evidence means there are insufficient grounds to bring charges under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code,’ Marshall said.

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Eight Olympics-bound wrestlers all set to be trained in Poland

Top wrestling federation sources say that the visa process is currently underway.

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Eight Indian wrestlers, who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, will be trained in Poland. According to sources from the Wrestling Federation of India, the visa process is currently underway in this direction. Until the visa is ready, these players will continue to train as per their schedule.

This time four freestyle and same number of women wrestlers have qualified for the Olympics, in which Ravi Dahiya will compete in 57 kg, Bajrang Punia 65 kg, Deepak Poonia 86 kg and Sumit Malik in 125 kg freestyle category while the women Seema will compete in 50 kg, Vinesh in 53 kg, Anshu Malik in 57 kg and Sonam Malik in 62 kg category. Currently, Bajrang Poonia is under coaching from his Georgian coach Shako at Bellary (Karnataka). Jugalbandi of these two has been effective in the last two years.

Both of them are currently seeking two foreign players as sparring partners. Each wrestler from Cuba and Georgia will come to practice with Bajrang after the visa formalities are completed. JSW in Bellary sponsors Bajrang.

At the same time, preparation of Vinesh Phogat, who was injured during the Rio Olympics, is quite good this time. She is currently training in Hungary with a Hungarian coach Wollar Akos for a long time. Her sister Priyanka Phogat, a silver medalist in Asian Championship, is working as her sparring partner in Hungary. A team is also preparing Vinesh for the Olympics in Hungary.

57 kg woman wrestler Anshu Malik is practising hard in Nidhani (Jind district of Haryana) while Sonam Malik is recovering from her injury in 62 kg. She has been asked to do light exercises. Ravi, Deepak Poonia and Sumit are also waiting for the Poland visa to be ready.

Ravi, Deepak Poonia, Bajrang and Vinesh secured a Tokyo ticket from World Championships in Astana (Kazakhstan) in 2019, and rest of the four wrestlers qualified from Olympic qualifying events. In the last Olympics, Sakshi Malik had won the medal, but this time she was defeated by Sonam Malik many times in trials. Sonam and Anshu, who came from junior to senior, have high expectations this time.

Vinesh has won gold medals at the International Ukrainian Tournament, Matteo Pellicone Tournament, Poland Open, Grand Prix of Spain and Asian Championship besides winning medals at the World Championships, while Bajrang Punia has won two golds at Matteo Pellicone besides Kartozia & V Balavadze Price and also won a gold in Ali Aliyev Tournament while he reached the finals of both previous Asian Championships. Now is the time to prepare for the examinations in the last phase and all the wrestlers will join the practice at Poland’s wrestling center as soon as they get a visa.

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