October 3, 2000, was a special day for Indian cricket. It marked the debut of a player who would go on to be one of India’s most skilled fast bowlers ever. Yes, I am talking about Zaheer Khan. His performances in the ICC Knockout tournament at Nairobi took India by storm. While India had a few fast bowlers at the time there was something different about Zak. His smooth run up to the wicket, his searing in-swinging Yorkers and the long jump that he used to have in those days was incredible to watch. Zak’s playing career can be divided into three phases – pre-2006, 2006 to 2011 and 2011 to 2014. In his career till 2006, he was known for his long run up, and jump at the crease. While he had the pace, his bowling lacked variations because of which, at times he could become predictable. He would face recurrent injury problems and loss of form and in 2005, he was dropped from the side. Wondering what he could do differently, he went to Worcestershire in England to play county cricket.
There he shortened his run up, learnt reverse swing and became one of the most intelligent thinkers of the game. When he returned, we saw a refined and fitter version of Zak, someone who was setting elaborate plans to outwit batsmen. Some of Zak’s best performances came from 2006 to 2011, like the Tour of England in 2007. But how can we talk about Zak without mentioning the 2011 World Cup? Before the World Cup, he was facing injury problems and some were doubting whether he could physically last the duration of the World Cup. But Zak being Zak, managed his work load intelligently and picked up 21 wickets in the series and propelled India to a World Cup win. During the period 2011 to 2014 while still a wily and intelligent bowler, Zak’s physical skills seemed to be on the decline. He seemed to struggle towards the latter part of the day or towards the end of a long Test series. His once potent reverse swing also wasn’t as effective as before.
Even though Zak retired from international cricket on 15th October 2015, I believe that he still has a lot to offer to Indian cricket. Promising bowlers like Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, Khaleel Ahmed and Avesh Khan among others will form the backbone of the Indian bowling attack in the coming years and they need a good mentor, and who better to guide them than Zak! I truly believe that he will be an amazing Bowling Coach for India. While his views in the studios as an analyst and commentator are insightful, his true place is in the Indian Dressing Room. Zak got an Arjuna Award in 2011 and a Padma Shri in 2020. If he is selected as Bowling Coach of India, I predict that in a few years he will get a Dronacharya Award.
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KKR SKIPPER EOIN MORGAN EXITS INDIA, HEADS TO MALDIVES WITH HUSSEY, CUMMINS AND CUTTING
Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Eoin Morgan has headed to Maldives as the foreign players who were part of the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) have started exiting India after the tournament was postponed on Tuesday.
Taking to Twitter, KKR wrote: “#KKR Overseas Players & Support Staff Travel Update: Goodbye to the Skipper, Mentor, Carnage Cummins and our ace all-rounder as they safely exit the Indian border into Maldives. Wishing you legends safe transit home & see you soon! @DavidHussey29 #IPL2021 #StaySafe.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Danny Reuben — head of team communication for England cricket team – had confirmed that 8 players were back in the UK and the remaining three players were set to leave India in the next 48 hours.
“I can confirm that 8 of the 11 England players in India managed to get on a flight to Heathrow last night and have landed this morning. They will now quarantine in government-approved hotels. The remaining three — Jordan, Malan, Morgan — should leave India within the next 48 hours,” he had told India.
Jonny Bairstow (SunRisers Hyderabad), Jos Buttler (Rajasthan Royals), Sam Curran (Chennai Super Kings), Tom Curran (Delhi Capitals), Sam Billings (Delhi Capitals), Chris Woakes (Delhi Capitals), Moeen Ali (Chennai Super Kings) and Jason Roy (SunRisers Hyderabad) were the eight players who arrived in the UK on Wednesday, reported Sky Sports.
The Australian contingent is also currently in the Maldives as they look to follow the protocols of the Australian government to get a clearance to return home.
While postponing the league on Tuesday, BCCI Secretary Jay Shah said the Indian board didn’t wish to compromise on the safety of those involved in the league. “The BCCI and the IPL GC have unanimously decided to postpone the 2021 season till further notice. We don’t wish to compromise the safety of the players, the people involved, the employees, the groundsmen, the match officials, every single person involved,” Jay Shah had said.
SUMIT MALIK BECOMES 7TH WRESTLER TO QUALIFY FOR TOKYO OLYMPICS
Seven Indian wrestlers participated in the last Olympic Games at Rio. Two participated in free-style, two in Greco-Roman and three in the women’s category. With Sumit Malik qualifying in the 125 kg FS category yesterday, this number has succeeded in matching the number of seven wrestlers participating in Rio.
The Greco-Roman-style wrestlers are yet to be tested in the last World Olympic Qualifying Championship which is going on at Sofia, Bulgaria and this number may increase further.
Arjuna awardee Sumit performed brilliantly in the super heavyweight category. In the first qualifying bout, he defeated Aiaai Lazarev of Kyrgyzstan and took his revenge of defeat at the 2015 World Championship at Las Vegas. For the last 25 seconds, he was lagging behind in this bout. In the next bout, he defeated Alexandr Romanov of Moldova and then Rustam Iskandari of Tajikistan, 10-5, in the quarter-finals. In this bout too, he was trailing 2-4 at one time. In the semi-finals, he defeated Venezuelan Jose Daniel Diaz Robertti 5–0 to not only make it to the final of the World Olympic Qualifying competition but also confirmed his ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. The last time Rajiv Tomar competed in the Super Heavyweight category was at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
At the same time, it is India’s misfortune that no Indian could qualify this time in the 74 kg weight category for which Sushil and Narsingh Yadav won acclaim in Rio. Amit Dhankad lost in this weight while Satyavrat Kadian could win just one match in the heavyweight category.
High hopes in the women are set on the 50kg frontier, who beat Anastasiya Yanotava of Belarus in their first bout in an 8-0 unilateral match, while in the quarter-finals the clash with Youth Olympic gold medalist Emma Jonna Denise Malmgren of Switzerland showed their good preparations as she was defeated by a unilateral margin of 10-2.
The Swiss player won the bronze medal last year at the Klippan Lady Open and got bronze in the France Grand Prix this year but Seema did not look back once she gained momentum. She now competes in the semi-finals with 33-year-old Anna Lukasiak of Poland who is the bronze medalist for the European Championship, while Seema is the bronze medalist at Asian Championship.
Ana also reached the medal round of the European Games two years ago. If Seema wins this bout, she will also qualify for the Olympics. Apart from this, Nisha competed in 68 kg and Pooja in 76 kg, but both of these weight categories are very difficult from the Indian point of view. Nisha won a single bout while Pooja lost her very first bout and was eliminated from this competition.
Prithvi Shaw, Hardik and Bhuvi miss out as India name squad for WTC final and England Tests
Opening batsman Prithvi Shaw missed the bus as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Friday named a 20-member squad (two subject to fitness clearance) for the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand slated to be played in June and the five-match Test series against England that follows.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya also was not picked as it seems he is still some time away from bowling full throttle. A notably miss also is pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar. While he did play the Indian Premier League, he hasn’t found a place in the Test team. “The All-India Senior Selection Committee has picked the Indian squad for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final and the five-match Test series against England,” the BCCI said in an official statement.
Team India’s first stop will be in Southampton where they play New Zealand to decide the first champion of the Test format. Following their 3-1 win against England at home, India finished as the No. 1 side with 72.2 percentage points and booked their place in the final.
Coming back to the team, while many thought a good show with the bat in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Indian Premier League (IPL) would see Shaw make a return for the Test matches, but the selectors clearly went with the format and the change in seam and swing when it comes to the red ball as compared to the white ball.
The selection committee has picked 20 players (two subject to fitness clearance) and four standby players as both the WTC final and five-match Test series against England will be played in a bio-secure environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Test Championship final gets underway on June 18 and will continue till June 22 with June 23 kept as a reserve day. While it was initially set to be played at the Lord’s, the ICC decided to move it to Southampton with an eye on the COVID-19 situation across the globe.
India’s Squad: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (Captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Md. Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul (subject to fitness clearance), Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper; subject to fitness clearance).
Standby players: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Arzan Nagwaswalla.
PFIZER, BIONTECH TO SUPPLY VACCINES FOR ATHLETES
As part of the plans to ensure safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE to donate doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to Games participants from National Olympic and Paralympic Committees around the world.
National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will work with their local governments to coordinate local distribution in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and consistent with local regulations. The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) are working with the NOCs and National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) to encourage and assist their athletes, officials and Games stakeholders residing in their territories to get vaccinated in their home countries in line with national immunisation guidelines, before they go to Japan.
According to the organisers, based on the feedback from the NOCs and NPCs, it is expected that a significant proportion of Games participants will have been vaccinated before arriving in Japan. The new MoU adds to these efforts.
Additional doses delivered by Pfizer and BioNTech will not be taken out of existing programmes, but will be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world.
“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in an official statement.
“We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible. By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities. We would like to thank Pfizer and BioNTech for this very generous donation to support the vaccination of athletes and Games participants ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020,” he added.
Prof. Ugur Erdener, Chair of the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, said: “We see the importance of vaccination all around the world. We encourage the athletes and Games participants to take the vaccine whenever possible. Vaccination is an important tool to protect not only themselves, but also their communities.”
During a conversation between Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer, and Suga Yoshihide, Prime Minister of Japan, which is the host country of Tokyo 2020, Bourla made an offer to donate the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for athletes and their delegations participating in Tokyo 2020. Following this conversation, the Japanese government had a meeting with the IOC and now the donation plan has been realised.
“With hundreds of millions of vaccines already administered, and hundreds of millions more to go, Pfizer is committed, together with BioNTech, to doing all we can to help end this pandemic and help return the world to a sense of normalcy,” Bourla said.
“The return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games represents a monumental moment of world unity and peace after a gruelling year of isolation and devastation. We are proud to play a role in providing vaccines to athletes and their national Olympic delegations where possible.”
“Providing vaccines to Games participants is one of the critical ways to help ensure the Games are as safe and successful as possible. With more than 430 million doses already delivered, our vaccine continues to help protect lives around the world and bring us back to our normal lives,” said Ugur Sahin, MD, CEO and Co-Founder of BioNTech.
“This year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games are an historic moment representing the global community and how we stand together. We are honoured to be able to contribute the vaccine to support the safety of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The announcement follows the release of the second edition of the Playbooks, which give detailed information and guidelines to the various stakeholder groups participating in the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
INDIAN FOOTBALL STARS LEAP INTO ACTION BY OFFERING SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLE TO AMPLIFY COVID RELIEF
Indian football stars have leapt into action by offering their respective social media handles in order to amplify distress calls. India International C.K. Vineeth, who is no stranger to helping people in need, has come forward once again, banking on his social media presence to help the needy.
“As a human being, I believe it must be in our nature to help others who are in need. Right now, I feel it’s important to step in and do whatever I can,” Vineeth, popularly referred to as CK, opined.
“Over the years we have managed to build a community of football players, management staff, and supporters on social media, especially Twitter that has grown exceptionally strong despite all the club rivalry. I felt I needed to join in and help — in whatever small way possible,” the Kerala-based striker said.
Apart from the oxygen requirements, blood banks have also appealed to citizens to donate before they get vaccinated. And the nimble-footed winger has urged everyone to come forward and assist in this drive.
“I think it’s increasingly important that those who can donate blood should do so before they get vaccinated. Amidst the second wave, there’s no doubt that there will be a shortage of blood and plasma in the blood banks in the coming months, as more and more people in younger age groups are all set to get vaccinated,” CK averred.
“The period after which a vaccinated person can donate blood is too long, and people need to understand that they can save lives by doing something as simple as visiting a blood bank,” he maintained.
The forward from Kannur had made headlines last year when he was seen working as a volunteer at a Covid-19 helpline centre back home in 2020 during the nationwide lockdown.
“I don’t consider it as ‘social work’,” CK smiled. “I consider it my duty as a citizen to give back to our community that has given me so much over the years. Throughout my career I have realised that I don’t want people to see me as just a footballer, but also as someone who wants to make a difference and aims to affect a change in the mind-set of the community.”
He also urged his fans to come and support each other in every way possible to help them fight the deadly virus.
“What is happening on Twitter is visible. But it’s also equally important that we take care of people who may not have access to social media. Whether it is by calling up one another just to check in on them, looking out for our elderly neighbours who may need help but are scared to venture out, or taking care of animals on the streets during the lockdown — there are so many different ways by which we can make a difference,” he expressed.
“I think it says a lot about the football community that players like Chhetri-bhai, Darren, Sahal, Rino, Robin, Nirmal-bhai and others have come out and have led by example,” he stated.
Aussie contingent departs for Maldives, Hussey in care of CSK in Chennai
Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association on Thursday confirmed that the Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators have been safely transported from India and are en route to the Maldives.
The Australians will remain in the Maldives until the conclusion of the travel pause pertaining to flights from India to Australia. As previously stated, CA and the ACA are not seeking an exemption from the Australian Government.
“CA and the ACA extend their sincere thanks to the Board of Control for Cricket in India for their responsiveness in moving the Australians from India to the Maldives less than two days after the decision to indefinitely postpone the Indian Premier League,” CA said in an official statement.
Mike Hussey remains in India having tested positive for COVID-19. Mike is experiencing mild symptoms and is in the care of his IPL franchise, the Chennai Super Kings. CA and the ACA will work closely with the BCCI to ensure Mike’s safe return to Australia when it is safe to do so.
The safety of every individual involved in the IPL was one of the major reasons for the BCCI and the IPL Governing Council to unanimously decide on the postponement of the league on Tuesday.
“The BCCI and the IPL GC have unanimously decided to postpone the 2021 season till further notice. We don’t wish to compromise the safety of the players, the people involved, the employees, the groundsmen, the match officials, every single person involved,” Jay Shah told ANI.
On Tuesday, SunRisers Hyderabad wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha tested positive after there were COVID-19 cases in two franchises on Monday. While two of the members of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) contingent tested positive, two Kolkata Knight Riders players tested positive — Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier — forcing the BCCI to postpone the KKR-RCB game in Ahmedabad.
With Saha testing positive, the game on Tuesday evening between SRH and defending champions Mumbai Indians also needed to be postponed. This made matters worse as the game between RCB and KKR had already been postponed and the game between CSK and Rajasthan Royals was also set to be called off as the Chennai unit was in strict quarantine. This finally saw the BCCI postpone the IPL.
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