ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Sri Lanka Cricket throw weight behind national side
MMNN:18 April 2017
Preparations are in full swing for the hotly contested and coveted 2017 ICC Champions Trophy taking place in England and Wales in 2017, with the Sri Lankan national team undertaking a six-day high intensity endurance and performance program to better prepare for the matches ahead. National Captain Angelo Mathews commenting on the preparations was appreciative of the technical and resource support from Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC).
"The ICC Champions Trophy will be an important event for Sri Lanka as we are going through a transition and the young but extremely talented cricketers are learning to adapt to the challenges and demands of top-level cricket. I am sure this training program will provide them the experience and opportunity of acclimatization which we will find invaluable in our Champions Trophy campaign."
National Head Coach Graham Ford was confident that this young side has the talent and capacity to beat any team in the Champions Trophy and commented that all it needs is for the team to gel into a winning outfit. Ford was also appreciative of the SLC administration stating that "we lack for nothing in terms of resources. It is just about getting the mind set right now."
Meanwhile Manager Cricket and selector, Asanka Gurusinha said that the climatic conditions in Kandy and Diyatalawa where the team will spend time in altitude training will simulate the conditions the players will play under when they are in England. This is in addition to the best of facilities which are on offer in Kandy.
"The team will also leave eight days early to England where they will play two warm-up matches against the Scotland National Cricket Team which the management of Sri Lanka Cricket has secured at its own cost. This initiative from SLC will go a long way in ensuring that the national team has a better feel of the pitch and conditions in the UK." The two matches against Scotland are in addition to the other practice matches that the ICC has organized for all participating teams ahead of the Champions Trophy.
India U-17 World Cup team loses against Portugal's Vitoria de Setubal
MMNN:18 April 2017
India U-17 World Cup team lost 1 -2 to Portugal's Vitoria de Setubal U-17 in their first practice match of the exposure trip at the Jose Mourinho Training Center in Troia, Lisbon on Tuesday.
In a closely-fought match, the Indian colts matched their opponents, but the chances created were seldom converted into goals.
Though the Indian team dominated possession in the opening minutes of the match, Setubal U-17 created the first goal scoring chance of the match in the 16th minute when they rattled the Indian crossbar.
However, they could take the lead only in the 38th minute after Bruno Ventura scored from a penalty kick that was awarded for a reckless Indian tackle inside the box.
The half-time scoreline read 1-0 in favour of Setubal U- 17.
After the break, the Indian colts upped the ante and pressed for the equaliser.
But Aniket Jadhav's shot in the 47th minute went inches over the bar and a minute later his shot again flew whiskers wide of the goal.
The Indians finally managed to equalise in the 67th minute with Aniket successfully scoring from the penalty spot this time around.
India tried to take the lead but could not find the net, even as Setubal U-17 struck in the 85th minute to seal off the match in their favour.
India U-17 will next face Belenenses on April 25 in Jamor, Portugal.
IPL 2017: Royal Challengers Bangalore need to be more proactive, feels Daniel Vettori
MMNN:17 April 2017
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) coach Daniel Vettori has admitted that his side need to me more proactive in the remaining games of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
RCB slumped to the bottom of the points table after their after 27-run loss against Rising Pune Supergiant on Sunday at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
"It's tough for everyone in T20 cricket. A lot of domestic players have had to step in and perform after missing a few games or not being in their best form. We know Chris Gayle is a very good performer and we know if he can get on a roll than we can utilise Chris in a positive manner. At this stage we are just trying to find the right balance," he added.
During the run-chase, RCB did not hit a single four and struck only one six between the fourth and 15th overs, which according to Vettori, added to the pressure.
"We are probably creating pressure on ourselves through dot balls, striking at below 100," he said.
"Trying to catch that up in the back end on a slow wicket is incredibly difficult. I think in a lot of ways we need to be more proactive," he added.
The New Zealander also admitted that his team cannot only depend on the likes of Kohli and AB de Villiers to perform and win matches.
"We saw what the likes of KL (Rahul), Sachin Baby, all those roles players from last year performed," he said. "The expectation is on AB and Virat to excel, but we need the likes of Mandeep (Singh), Kedhar (Jadhav), Shane (Watson) and Stuart Binny to complement their performances," he said.
"We haven't made it easy on Mandeep by chopping and changing the line-up. We are trying to find the right combination. Once we find the right combination we can get on a roll," he added.
The head coach also said that no drastic changes are required to change the fortunes in the remaining games.
"I won't say drastic changes are required. We back the quality of our performance on our day and we know that we haven't had enough of those when we need consistent performances across the board," he said.
"We need more of those performances, we can't rely on one or two people and that's why we did so well last year. We need more performances from more people," he added.
B Sai Praneeth shows goodwill gesture after maiden Singapore Open Superseries victory
MMNN:17 April 2017
After securing his maiden superseries win, B Sai Praneeth was over the moon. However, that did not stop the 24 year-old from showing his sportsmanship. In a moment of rare goodwill gesture the Indian shuttler got hold of two Indian flags after his win and handed one to his opponent Kidambi Srikanth. He was also seen consoling Srikanth .
Meanwhile, after suffering a loss at the Singapore Open Superseries, Kidambi Srikanth also took to social media to congratulate his opponent and state that it wasn't the result that he was hoping for. "Not the result I wanted but Sai played well to finish off the game. I had a good lead in the 2nd set after winning 1st but couldn't capitalize on it. Many positives to take from this tournament and will definitely come back strong. Thank you everyone for all your support and wishes.", Srikanth wrote on instagram.
In the historic all India superseries final it is B Sai Praneeth who came up trumps against Kidambi Srikanth. In the beginning it seemed that Srikanth was once more having the edge over his opponent. However, after going down 1-6 in the second game, Praneeth made a sensational comeback to win the second game 21-17. From thereon, Praneeth was all over his opponent. He won the third set 21-12 and thus clinched his maiden superseries title.
IPL 2017: Virat Kohli Drops Hints That He May Play Vs Mumbai Indians On April 14
MMNN:11 April 2017
Virat Kohli does not take being sidelined too well, especially when his side is not performing as per his desires. The Royal Challenger Bangalore captain, who has been out of IPL 10 so far due to the shoulder injury he picked up during the Test series against Australia, is champing on the bits to get back and lead his side out of the predicament they find themselves in now. He dropped heavy hints in an Instagram post that he may return to action against Mumbai Indians on April 14.
Kohli posted a video of his gym session on his Instagram account where he is seen lifting weights.
"Can't wait to get back onto the field. Almost there now. 14th April," he says in his post.
RCB are not doing too well in the absence of the charismatic captain. They have gone down to losses to both Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab and have beaten Delhi Daredevils.
RCB were without AB de Villiers too in the first two matches, as he also down with a back strain. He returned against KXIP on Monday but the rest of the batting collapsed, leading to a loss.
Stand-in captain Shane Watson has not been to successful so far.
Kohli had earlier said that he would not return to action till he was 120 per cent fit.
His injury and not playing the last Test versus Australia at Dharamsala had led to Gujarat Lions' Australian coach Brad Hodge to suggest that he was saving himself for the IPL, a comment he later apologized for.
AB de Villiers is 'scariest player on the planet', remarks Allan Donald
MMNN:11 April 2017
Former South African pacer Allan Donald has dubbed AB de Villiers as the 'most scariest player on the planet' after the latter's splendid batting display during Royal Challengers Bangalore's (RCB) eight-wicket defeat against Kings XI Punjab in their Indian Premier League (IPL) clash on Monday.
De Villiers, who recently recovered from a back injury, came in as a replacement for Chris Gayle in his first match of IPL 2017 played at Indore's Holkar Stadium.
Although Royal Challengers Bangalore slumped to an eight wicket defeat, de Villiers smashed three boundaries and nine sixes in his 89-run knock off 46 balls to take RCB to 148 in their stipulated 20 overs.
However, the 33-year-old's knock went in vain as the Kings XI Punjab chased down the score with more than five overs to spare, thanks to Hashim Amla's 58*.
RCB will next lock horns with Mumbai Indians at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 14.
Mahesh Bhuptahi's report to AITA will be "strong indictment" of Leander Paes' behaviour
MMNN:10 April 2017
Mahesh Bhupathi will submit his report to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) this week and it is expected to be a strong indictment of Leander Paes' behaviour.
After India's Davis Cup win against Uzbekistan, Bhupathi appeared on India Today and made public his WhatsApp chat with Paes on 5 March.
In their chat, Bhupathi is seen categorically telling Paes that he was still undecided about the combination but logically Rohan Bopanna would suit the conditions in Bengaluru.
Bhupathi is livid that Paes has accused him of bias and using his position to exclude him from the playing squad.
Speaking exclusively to India Today, Bhupathi had said he had never communicated to Paes that his place was assured in the David Cup team before going on to reveal the contents of the WhatsApp conversation.
"At no point did I ever communicate to Leander that he was in the scheme of things to play. I even have a WhatsApp conversation to show to you where I had specifically told him that he was in the reserves and only if he wanted to come should he come knowing that he wasn't in my scheme for the final four. This was as early as March 5. He, to his credit, suggested that he would definitely come and contribute to try and take India back to the world group even if he was in the reserves," Bhupathi told India Today.
"To hear that Leander has suggested I did not inform him and it could have been handled better is not true. I have followed the most transparent method of dealing with every player in the squad. And look it is not about Leander. Nor is it personal. As captain I will never allow it to be. It is about discipline, about respect and about attitude. To suggest a day before the tie that the selection process wasn't handled best and it lacked transparency was disrespecting your country. It was like disrespecting the team and an act that is not warranted. Second, if you are to report on a particular day, you do that as a player. Whoever you are. To turn up a day before isn't going to be good enough for me. Each player who is training from the date assigned could have played a tournament and turned up a day before hoping to play. That's not what they have done. Leander should know it and show respect towards his fellow players," he said.
Paes, after the revelation on India Today, hit back at Bhupathi and argued that the main criteria of form was not taken into consideration before the David Cup selection.
"The main criteria for selection was form. That's clearly mentioned in the exchange. This was not followed when it came to final selection," Paes said in his statement. "I was never categorically told that I would not be playing. But it was apparent that the decision was made before I arrived in Bengaluru. This is what I found unnecessary and disrespectful."
Paes said it was unbecoming of India's Davis Cup captain to reveal the contents of a private WhatsApp exchange.
"That a private exchange has been made public just points to the kind of conduct that I find unbecoming of a Davis Cup Captain."
KXIP v RCB, IPL 2017: Will the sleeping giant finally wake up for Royal Challengers Bangalore?
MMNN:10 April 2017
Despite a depleted team at their disposal currently, the Royal Challengers Bangalore will be pleased with the way they eked out a thrilling 15-run win over the Delhi Daredevils on Saturday night while defending a low score.
However, even as they keep their fingers crossed on the much-anticipated return of their big guns Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, RCB have reason to party very shortly. As they take on Kings XI Punjab at the MPCA Stadium here on Monday night, all eyes would to be on a certain gentleman called Christopher Henry Gayle. Having slammed 9,975 runs in 288 Twenty20 games, the 'Universe boss' is just 25 runs short of becoming the first batsman in world cricket to cross 10,000 runs in the shortest form of the game - a truly incredible feat.
In this edition, the big left-hander has managed only scores of 32 and 6, but would love to gallop past the '10k' mark with a typically scorching innings.
Even as they hope for this 'sleeping giant' to wake up and blow all the bowlers away, RCB would no doubt be buoyed with the way they successfully defended 157 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in their last game. The rejuvenated Bangalore side are now up against Kings XI, who too would feel confident after upsetting Rising Pune Supergiant by six wickets in their own den in an earlier game on the same day. When RCB lost their first game to the Sunrisers Hyderabad by 35 runs in the tournament opener, everyone thought that the team would struggle in the absence (due to injury) of their talismanic players.
In a fast-paced tournament like the IPL, though, all it takes is one game to put things back on track. Suddenly, most things looked like falling in place for RCB. Continuing the splendid form which saw him sizzle against England in the ODI series against England, Kedar Jadhav blasted some huge sixes en route to scoring a match-winning 37-ball 69.
IPL 2017: Match 1: Probable Sunrisers Hyderabad XI against Royal Challengers Bangalore
MMNN:5 April 2017
Hyderabad has one of the most formidable batsmen in IPL in its skipper David Warner, who led from the front last season, and the team hopes he leads them from the front. Warner opens batting in the company of India cricketer Shikhar Dhawan.
Seasoned campaigner Yuvraj Singh also adds to the batting strength of SRH, but the much-talked about middle-order needs to raise the bar, especially in the event of Warner and Dhawan falling short of expectations. Moises Henriques, Kane Williamson, Naman Ojha, Deepak Hooda, and Vijay Shankar are no pushovers and make for a solid line-up. The SRH bowling is one of the best in IPL.
Hyderabad has one of the most formidable batsmen in IPL in its skipper David Warner, who led from the front last season, and the team hopes he leads them from the front. Warner opens batting in the company of India cricketer Shikhar Dhawan.
Seasoned campaigner Yuvraj Singh also adds to the batting strength of SRH, but the much-talked about middle-order needs to raise the bar, especially in the event of Warner and Dhawan falling short of expectations. Moises Henriques, Kane Williamson, Naman Ojha, Deepak Hooda, and Vijay Shankar are no pushovers and make for a solid line-up. The SRH bowling is one of the best in IPL.
Malaysia Open 2017: PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal carry India's hopes as usual as bench flops yet again
MMNN:5 April 2017
India has, in recent years, been making waves at the international level in both the women's and men's singles badminton categories of the prestigious Super Series and Super Series Premier tournaments.
Players like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth have won Super Series titles in China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia in the face of competition from the world's best, while their lower-ranked compatriots like Ajay Jayaram, Parupalli Kashyap, HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma, Sourabh Verma and B Sai Praneeth have bagged titles in the lesser Grand Prix Gold competitions.
Almost all these players now have sufficient ranking points to make it to the main draws of most Super Series events. However, India's inadequate bench strength in the singles events and lack of international-standard expertise in the doubles could be seen from the fact that a fairly large Indian contingent that had to compete in the qualifying rounds of the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open in Sarawak failed to secure even a single berth in the main draws.
In the opening round of the women's singles qualifiers at the Stadium Perpaduan, PC Thulasi, who had played the third singles for India in their last Uber Cup campaign in 2015, had few problems against Indonesia's Purwaningtyas Elyzabeth, who appeared to enter the match with a leg injury, since she could barely move around the court. At 1-18 down, she finally appeared to realise that it was futile to continue, and dragged herself to the net to shake hands with her rival as a sign of retirement.
But the joy of moving into the final qualifying round proved short-lived, as Thulasi found another Indonesian, the fourth-seeded Susanto Yulia Yosephin, standing in her way like the proverbial Rock of Gibraltar. The antagonists engaged each other in lengthy rallies, particularly in the second game, but Yosephin proved the steadier and slightly quicker of the two, and ensured her spot in the main draw with a workman-like 21-11, 21-16 victory.
B Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa were put on their mettle in the first game of their opening mixed doubles encounter against Indonesians Afiat Yuris Wirawan and Nadya Melati, but simply ran away with the second game against the inexperienced Indonesians, for a 23-21, 21-5 win in two minutes under the half-hour mark.
But the high-flying Indian duo were rudely brought down to earth in their second and final qualifying match by the English combination of Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith, despite making a promising start, to lose 21-19, 17-21, 17-21 in a gruelling 56-minute duel of wits.
The powerfully built 16-year-old Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy, who had impressed during the Premier Badminton League (PBL) in January this year as a doubles player with a future, had mixed luck on Tuesday, winning one match but losing two. In the mixed doubles, which is his preferred event, K Maneesha and he had to eat humble pie at the hands of the Malaysian combination of Pang Ron Hoo and Yen Wei Peck, losing 19-21, 21-19, 14-21 in a closely contested 49-minute clash.
Later in the day, Satwik Sairaj was required to be on court for one minute less in the first qualifying round of the men's doubles, in which he and Chirag Shetty downed the Indonesian pairing of Lukhi Apri Nugroho and Tedi Supriadi 21-10, 18-21, 21-13.
The Indians were decidedly the superior pair, and would not have been flattered if they had won this contest in straight games. But they made crucial errors in the closing stages of the second game, to have to stay on court for the decider, the match taking up 48 minutes.
But Chirag and Satwik Sairaj stumbled in their final qualifying match, bowing out to the Chinese Taipei combination of Liao Kuan Hao and Lu Chia Pin, who had been given the third seeding in the qualifers, and were strongly expected to make the cut. The Taiwanese duo won 21-18, 21-16, and progressed into the tournament proper, which is to be played from Wednesday onwards.
Another young Indian pair, Shlok Ramchandran and MR Arjun, who had won the Iran Fajr International title a few weeks ago, was shown the door by Malaysia's Nur Mohammad Azriyn Ayub and Jagdish Singh, losing 19-21, 15-21.
Three Indian women's doubles pairs were seen in action on Tuesday; and all of them failed to remain in the tournament. Mahima Aggarwal and K Maneesha did not unduly trouble Malaysians Joyce Choong and Jing Yi Tee, and bowed out on the back of a 13-21, 14-21 defeat.
In the post-noon session, Aparna Balan and rebel Prajakta Sawant did not need to raise a sweat while handing out a 21-8, 21-5 thrashing to Indonesians Rofahadah Supriadi Putri and Ganis Nur Rahmadani. But they were subsequently put in their place by the strong Chinese pair of Bao Yixin and Yu Xiaohan by a 13-21, 17-21 scoreline.
In the opening round of the main draw of the women's doubles, which was played in the evening session, Ponnappa and left-hander N Sikki Reddy, currently the strongest pair in India following the virtual retirement of Jwala Gutta, were unlucky to have been drawn to play the strongest pair in the world, Japan's top-seeded Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo.
The Indians, it must be said, fared better than they had been expected to do, and gave the crack Japanese combination a tough time in the opening game before capitulating 19-21, 15-21 after a 34-minute joust.
Wednesday will see all the big guns of world badminton in action. Every player worth his or her salt has entered this competition; and the seedings list, in both the singles and paired events, looks like a veritable Who's Who of the shuttle sport.
IPL 2017: Team Profile, Royal Challengers Bangalore
MMNN:4 April 2017
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have one of the most devastating teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Season 10, with the likes of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav and the captain himself -- Virat Kohli. The list would have also included the new sensation in Indian cricket -- KL Rahul -- had he not been sidelined due to the persisting shoulder injury which recurred during the Border-Gavaskar series. RCB's injury worries seems to have no end, as Virat Kohli will be out of action for at least two weeks, and even his replacement as captain, South African AB de Villiers, is now out with a back injury picked up during his domestic season.
Young Sarfaraz Khan, who was brought in as a possible replacement for Kohli, too injured his leg in practice and is likely to miss the tournament altogether.
This leaves Shane Watson, now named captain, with a list of problems that could be telling.
The team has specialist bowlers for Twenty20 cricket who, on their day, are capable to take the game away from the opposition single-handedly.
Samuel Badree, Yuzvendra Chahal and Sreenath Aravind are certain to feature in the playing XI. The franchise spent big on getting Tymal Mills, the left-arm fast bowler from England.
In 2016, RCB fancied their chances of winning the tournament but suffered the heartbreak of losing their third final, to Sunrisers Hyderabad.
RCB began the tournament very poorly, winning just two of their first seven matches, before making a stunning comeback. They won seven out of their next eight games and qualified for the final.
Complete squad: Virat Kohli, Shane Watson (capt), Sreenath Aravind, Avesh Khan, Samuel Badree, Stuart Binny, Yuzvendra Chahal, Aniket Choudhary, AB de Villiers, Praveen Dubey, , Chris Gayle, Travis Head, Iqbal Abdulla, Kedar Jadhav, Mandeep Singh, Tymal Mills, Adam Milne, Pawan Negi, Harshal Patel, Sachin Baby, Tabraiz Shamsi, Billy Stanlake.
'The Undertaker' calls it a day at WrestleMania
MMNN:4 April 2017
World Wrestling Entertainment legend 'The Undertaker' appears to have retired after losing to Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 33 here, ending a 27-year long career.
'The Undertaker', whose real name is Mark William Calaway, dropped his trademark hat, gloves and leather coat after his loss in a no-holds-barred match, setting the social media abuzz with a barrage of retirement wishes. His dramatic departure from the ring was trending on Twitter with #ThankYouTaker.
His legions of fans, current and former WWE stars were quick to pay tribute to the multiple-time world heavyweight champion and Royal Rumble winner.
"If there's a dry eye at #Wrestlemania ur a bigger man then me. #ThankYouTaker," tweeted WWE star 'The Miz'. Some of the other big names who paid their respect were Mick Folley and Rick Flair.
His was the last fight of the eventful night with a record 75,000-plus crowd at the Camping World Stadium, seeing his momentous walk back to the WWE ramp for one final time.
Fireworks and musical performances added to the spectacular show as Orlando successfully hosted WrestleMania for the second time ever, the first being in 2008.
The night will also be remembered for John Cena finally bending one knee and proposing to Nikki Bella. The proposal followed their victory against over 'The Miz' and Maryse in a mixed tag team match and the crowd went wild when Bella said "yes".
"I want to thank my always expressive 'family' the @WWEUniverse for allowing me to have a #WrestleMania moment that I will NEVER forget!" wrote Cena to his 9.4 million followers on Twitter.
All 13 matches at WrestleMania 33 had the fans on the edge of their seats. The battle for both WWE Championship and WWE Universal Championship saw challengers getting the better of the defending champions.
Randy Orton defeated Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship while Brock Lesnar beat Goldberg for the Universal Championship.
The longest of the night was the unsanctioned match between Triple H and Seth Rollins, who triumphed over 'The Game' in battle lasting little over 25 minutes.
Mojo Rawly won the 33-man battle royal for Andre The Giant Memorial Trophy by eliminating Canada's Jinder Mahal in the end.
I-League: Mohun Bagan aim to revive title campaign
MMNN:31 March 2017
Still smarting from their AFC Cup defeat, Mohun Bagan will look to return to winning ways and revive their I-League campaign when they face defending champions Bengaluru FC in Kolkata on Saturday.
Mohun Bagan squandered their lead to lose to Bengaluru FC 1-2 with second-half strikes from Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan in their AFC Cup group match on March 14.
The two heavyweights clash again tomorrow when the I-League resumes after a break.
Bengaluru need a miracle to retain the title as they are placed fifth in the table with 18 points from 13 outings, while third-placed Mohun Bagan have 23 points with a match in hand.
But Bengaluru coach Albert Roca said they would like to carry the winning momentum forward.
"We all know the importance of the match and how big a team Mohun Bagan is as everybody respects the club. So it's a big motivation," he said.
Mohun Bagan's defence will be tested once again by the forward duo of Chhetri and Daniel Lalhlimpuia.
"We will play our full squad and go for a win. No doubt it will be a tough match. It will be a test of character for us," coach Sanjoy Sen said.
"I have discussed with the boys, we have our strategies. We have a fair idea about their style of play, having played against them recently. We have to play according to our plan and try and snatch full points," he said.
Meanwhile, it is turning out to a three-way title race for the top spot in the standings led by Aizawl FC (30 from 14), followed by East Bengal (27 from 14).
Asked about their defeat in the AFC Cup, Sen said: "I am not looking back at the AFC Cup match. Any team can lose on a given day. It's all part of the game. This is a different match."
Mohun Bagan's ace Haitian forward Sony Norde has joined the team this morning.
"He (Norde) is tired after a long flight. The good thing is he's match-fit and would be in my 18-member squad," Sen said.
IPL 2017: AB de Villiers tipped to lead RCB in place of Virat Kohli; KL Rahul ruled out due to injury
MMNN:31 March 2017
AB de Villiers is likely to lead Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the initial phase of Indian Premier League (IPL) 10 in case Virat Kohli fails to recover from a shoulder injury.
Another bad news for RCB is KL Rahul's unavailability, also due to a shoulder injury. Team sources said the India opener will soon be travelling to London to undergo surgery, with the batsman himself confirming his exit from the tournament, according to a report on News18.
"Yes I have been ruled out of the IPL, don't want to get into the details at this point. You will get an official word from the Royal Challengers Bangalore," Rahul was quoted as saying in the report.
The 24-year old had hurt his left shoulder five weeks ago, in the first Test against Australia, but continued to play through pain for the rest of the series.
Regarding Kohli, RCB coach Daniel Vettori said, "Right now, we don't have a clear picture on his availability. We will know in the next few days. The likely scenario is that AB de Villiers will take over the duties, but we will answer that once we find out if Virat is out."
The Indian captain will join the team on 2 April, but his availability will depend on the health assessment of BCCI doctors and physios, Vettori said.
"He will come in on 2 April. Between now and then, BCCI doctors and physio will speak to us and our medical staff will get a clearer picture," he said.
Kohli hurt his right shoulder during the third Test of the series against Australia in Ranchi.
Owing to these injuries, Sarfaraz Khan could get an opportunity early on in the tournament, for he has been really good this domestic season, Vettori said.
"Sarfaraz has been really good. At the back end of the domestic season he started to put some runs on the board. Everyone knows how talented he is. With possible injuries, he could get an opportunity early on in the tournament," he said.
Vettori also said the side has enough bench strength to manage in Kohli's absence as its boasts of some exceptional batsmen including Sarfaraz and Mandeep Singh, who haven't had many chances coming their way.
"Fortunately, we have a number of exceptional batsmen who haven't got many playing chances, like Sarfaraz Khan and Mandeep Singh. It is a huge asset for us that someone else can fill in those gaps," he said.
Vettori said Kohli and Rahul are accustomed to the rigours of international schedule.
"They are accustomed to this. Virat has played for the country for so long, so he is familiar with the rigours of international schedule and the IPL. Yet, he still performs well like we saw last year," he said.
"KL too was part of the Test squad in the past. Most important thing is that they are fit and prepared for this. If we give small mental breaks for them now and then (it will be enough). Physically, I think they will be fine. We will just try to keep it as relaxed and calm as possible," he said.
Vettori said it is important that players get rest because they have to play about 15 matches and managing them becomes that much important," he said.
"It is going to be an incredibly busy April because we have to play around 15 games. Managing players is important. Possibly more than anything is giving the rest that players need. We won't overdo it. For now, we'll build up to a great game on the fifth," he said.
On Mitchell Starc's absence, Vettori said Tymal Mills will have to fill in the shoes of the Australian pacer, and he would fit into the scheme of things.
"I hope so. We don't want to put that sort of pressure on him. Starc is a top-class bowler and Mills is only finding his way into international and franchise cricket now. We want him to do well, but he will go about it in a different way than what Mitchell did," he said.
"It wasn't just us bidding for him. A lot of teams had scouted him and understood that he was a good player, how he could be effective for a team. It is always nice to be popular, isn't it? I have known him from Brisbane Heat, got a really good feel for him as a person and a player. He will fit in really well with our group," Vettori added.
Replying to a query, Vettori said having a lot of overseas bowling options is not a headache, but gives the team an opportunity to manage their fast bowlers.
"Having a lot of overseas options, is not a headache. It just gives us an opportunity to manage our fast bowlers, going by how tough our schedule is.
"We have got Billy Stanlake, Tymal, Adam Milne and Samuel Badree ... all proven performers. I am sure they will all get an opportunity," he said.
Rahul, de Kock make significant gains in Test batting rankings
MMNN:30 March 2017
KL Rahul, the Indian opener, and Quinton de Kock, South Africa's wicketkeeper-batsman, made significant gains in the ICC Test Rankings for batsmen, announced on Thursday (March 30).
De Kock, who compiled a vital innings of 90 in the third Test against New Zealand in Hamilton, moved four places to No. 6 in the rankings. The dashing wicketkeeper-batsman is now the highest-ranked South African batsman in Tests. De Kock is also ranked sixth and 23rd in One-Day International and Twenty20 International rankings for batsmen.
Meanwhile, Rahul's twin fifties in the fourth Test in Dharamsala against Australia helped him to climb 11 places to slot in at the 11th position. Cheteshwar Pujara, Rahul's teammate, slipped two places and is now ranked fourth, while Virat Kohli occupies the fifth slot.
Jeet Raval the Auckland opener, also made impressive gains after compiling a well-measured 88 in the Hamilton Test. He jumped 10 places to slot in at 32nd position in the rankings.
Steve Smith continues to be perched at the top of the rankings for batsmen with 941 points. The redoubtable Australian captain aggregated 499 runs in the just concluded four-match Test series against India. Kane Williamson, who composed a brilliant 176 in the final Test against South Africa, is ranked second, with Joe Root occupying the third slot.
Among the bowlers, the spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin retained the top two bowling positions. Umesh Yadav, who bagged five wickets in the fourth Test against Australia, jumped to the 21st position in the rankings.
In the all-rounders' list, Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh is ranked No. 1 with Jadeja and Ashwin slotting in at second and third place, respectively.
Miami Open: Rafael Nadal On Track For Roger Federer Showdown
MMNN:30 March 2017
Rafael Nadal took a step closer to a possible final against long-time rival Roger Federer in the Miami Open after a straight sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday at Key Biscayne. Nadal's 6-2, 6-3 win over the 13th-seeded Sock sets up a semi-final meeting with unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini who upset second ranked Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day. The Spaniard's forehand was ominous as he neutralised Sock in one hour and 22 minutes. Nadal was able to save six of seven break points earned by Sock as he kept control of the contest.
He broke Sock in the American's first service game and swiftly established a 3-0 advantage and a second break at 5-2 wrapped up the opening set.
The American showed his spirit though as he broke Nadal at the start of the second but was unable to take advantage of a double break that could have put him 3-0 up.
Instead, Nadal pulled back to 2-2 and with Sock failing to make the most of a chance of further break points it was comfortable in the end.
The 30-year-old Spaniard has never won in Miami despite being a four-time finalist and he expects plenty of work to get past Fognini and make it a fifth appearance.
"We know each other very well. He has beaten me a couple of times and so it will be a good test. I am happy to be the semi-finals but it will be a tough one and I will need to play my best," said Nadal.
Fognini has three wins from ten meetings with the Spaniard, the most recent coming on clay in Rio de Janiero in 2015.
The 29-year-old world number 40 showed plenty of confidence as he took the game to his Japanese opponent from the outset.
It was the Italian's first victory in three attempts over Nishikori and his first Masters series quarter-final win since 2013, when he reached the last four in Monte-Carlo.
Nishikori earlier said he had not felt fully in top shape for the contest.
"I wasn't 100 per cent, physically, I mean, it was tough conditions for me," he said, referring to the heat on the mid-afternoon Key Biscayne centre court.
"But it was also same for him, too. He was playing a lot of the long matches, but I think he still played good enough to beat me today," he added.
Fognini, who was cheered on by his friend, former Italy footballer Christian Vieri, said he had come through a demanding test.
"It wasn't easy and I was just focused on my game. I am very happy, I'm in the semifinal, I'm playing well and I feel good again on the court," he said.
On Thursday, Federer takes on Czech tenth-seed Tomas Berdych while the last quarter-final pits Germany's Alexander Zverev against Australia's Nick Kyrgios.
India-Pakistan bilateral series in Dubai on cards after BCCI writes to govt seeking permission
MMNN:29 March 2017
The frosty relations between India and Pakistan notwithstanding, there may be hope of the two arch-rivals facing each other in a bilateral series after all, if reports are to be believed.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is said to have approached the Home Ministry, seeking the latter's permission to engage in a bilateral series with their arch-rivals.
According to a report on cricketnext, BCCI chief CK Khanna confirmed that the Board had sent a mail to the Home Ministry seeking clearance for the same, and added that the issue will be further discussed in the Special General Meeting (SGM), to be held on 9 April in New Delhi.
The BCCI apparently intends to honour its commitment of six bilateral series made to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), having signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the same back in 2014, which was meant to be part of the Future Tours Programme (FTP).
A report on Geo News stated that the BCCI has proposed a series consisting of three Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is between the months of September and November this year, with the article further stating that the PCB has suggested Dubai as a neutral venue.
While the latest developments would make the die-hard cricket fans in both nations happy, there are contradictory reports of the PCB chief Shahryar Khan stating that there hasn't been any such communication to this effect from his Indian counterpart so far.
"I got to know about this development through Indian media. The BCCI is probably afraid of the International Cricket Board (ICC) and therefore wants to play the series now," Khan was quoted as saying according to Dawn.
With the rising tensions between the two countries, especially since the terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station in 2016 as well as the Uri Attacks that took place later that year, at least two of the proposed six series haven't taken place as per schedule. Anurag Thakur, who had taken over as the BCCI chief after Shashank Manohar's resignation, had made his stand against playing cricket with Pakistan very clear. Thakur, who is a MP in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had said that "there was no question of playing cricket with Pakistan."
While India and Pakistan continue to produce high-octane clashes in ICC events as well as in the Asia Cup, the two sides have not played a bilateral series since Pakistan toured India for two T20Is and three ODIs in the 2012-13 season. The last time the two sides played a Test series was back in 2007, which hosts India won 1-0.
Brazil Book 2018 FIFA World Cup Berth, Argentina Tumble
MMNN:29 March 2017
Brazil became the first team to qualify for the World Cup on Tuesday after beating Paraguay to clinch an eighth consecutive victory as Argentina's campaign stumbled after the shock suspension of Lionel Messi. Five-time champions Brazil had been left waiting in suspense after goals from Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Marcelo handed them a 3-0 win over the Paraguayans at Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians. But Uruguay's upset 2-1 defeat to Peru in `the day's final South American qualifier combined with other results meant Brazil are mathematically guaranteed a place at next year's finals in Russia.
The qualification completes an astonishing turnaround for Brazil, who less than a year ago were in crisis after taking only nine points from six games.
That run of results had left the Brazilians outside the qualifying places in sixth place.
The further embarrassment of a first round exit at last year's Copa America Centenario only deepened the sense of despondency.
However the sacking of former coach Dunga and the appointment of former Corinthians coach Tite was the catalyst for a Brazilian resurgence.
That revival saw Brazil take maximum points from their next eight qualifying games, leaving them nine points clear on Tuesday with four games left.
"When I look at my family -- the players -- and when we talk to the fans and see how happy they are, that's when you think 'I'm part of something very special,'" Tite said after Brazil's qualification was confirmed.
Against Paraguay, Brazil were already in party mode, with Coutinho opening the scoring on 34 minutes following a deft one-two with China-based midfielder Paulinho.
Neymar had a chance to make it 2-0 in the 53rd minute from the penalty spot only to see his kick saved by Anthony Silva.
On 64 minutes Neymar doubled Brazil's tally, collecting the ball deep inside his own half and setting off on a surging run down the left flank.
Neymar's dribble ended with him curling in a shot which took a slight deflection on its way into the Paraguayan goal. Real Madrid defender Marcelo added a late third to seal Brazil's win.
Stan Wawrinka Believes Roger Federer On Course To Be World Number One
MMNN:22 March 2017
Roger Federer's comeback from injury has been so successful that his compatriot Stan Wawrinka believes he can become the oldest world number one in history at the age of 35.
Federer beat Wawrinka in the final of Indian Wells on Sunday for his second win of the year following his triumph in the Australian Open - his 18th grand slam title and his first in four and a half years.
Those wins have propelled the Swiss master to sixth in the world as he makes excellent progress aftera six-month layoff caused by a knee injury.
Compatriot Wawrinka believes that not only is Federer back in form but he is playing in a noticeably different manner that gives him a chance to return to the pinnacle of the rankings.
"He's playing really well, what is different maybe is he is playing closer from the baseline, preferring, using less his slice, he is using more top spin, putting more pressure all the time, returning better that's the difference I seem," Wawrinka said Tuesday at the Miami Open.
"For sure he has a shot for number one, he has just won the first Masters final. For sure he has a big shot," he told reporters.
Andre Agassi holds the record for being the oldest player to hold the men's No.1 ranking, at the age of 33.
"It is going to be interesting to see. Rafa (Nadal) is playing well also and we will see when Novak (Djokovic) and Andy (Murray) are back from injury, it is going to be really interesting for tennis fans," Wawrinka said.
'Nothing is a surprise'
Wawrinka said it wasn't a shock to see Federer, who now has 90 career titles, back to such form but that he was particularly impressed by his movement.
"From him nothing is a surprise, but for sure to see him moving that well at that age it is something amazing. It is good for me to see that you can be at the top (at that age). It is amazing to see how he is playing after a six-month injury."
Federer said he was well ahead of his target of reaching the top eight before Wimbledon and said he was enjoying the very different feeling of success late in his career.
"At 25 I was winning 95% of my matches and eventually you are just on this train where you just keep rolling and you just expect yourself to win a lot, you play many more tournaments and you are just racing from one to the next, it was an incredible experience to be able to keep that high level for so long and be beating so many other guys and win so many finals in a row, I had some unbelievable records," he said.
"It is definitely very different, this year is very different to any other year that I have had, last year was also very different with the injury.
But with the age, the comeback, I think this is very very special for me and I definitely see things differently to how I ever have (in the past), it is normal when you realise that you are not going to have another 15 years to play on tour," he said.
Federer could face a strong challenge from old rival Rafa Nadal who is seeking his first ever win in Miami after losing in four finals at the Key Biscayne venue.
The Swiss, a winner in 2005 and 2006, is the only former winner in the field and is looking for a third sweep of Indian Wells and Miami titles.
India Have Been Overconfident Vs Australia: Mitchell Johnson
MMNN:22 March 2017
Former Australia pacer Mitchell Johnson has said that India have been overconfident in the ongoing four-match Test series against Australia and the scoreline shows that. He added that the hosts will be nervous in the Dharamsala Test which is due to begin on March 25. After playing three Tests in Pune, Bengaluru and Ranchi, the series is currently locked at 1-1 with the fourth and final match to be played in the hill station of Dharamsala, another new Test venue.
Johnson, who played international cricket for Australia from 2005 to 2015, feels that India will be nervous considering the pacer-friendly conditions of Dharamsala.
"Dharamsala is an amazing ground and the only times I have seen it are with grass on (the pitch). So I think that's why the Australians will probably be confident and India will be a little bit nervous. I think they've been overconfident in this series and I think the scoreline shows that," Johnson told Fox Sports.
The Australian pace great feels that Pune Test hero Steve O'Keefe may have to make way for Jackson Bird in seamer-friendly conditions when the fourth Test gets underway from Saturday.
"I think we're going to lose a spinner out of this Test match," he said.
"The spinners have been great throughout the series. There's been a lot of pressure on the spinners to go out there and perform and I think they've had some good patches and some bad patches. But that's the game. It's a tough one because they have both had their moments in this series, but I think you have got to go with experience.
"I think Nathan Lyon will get a lot more bounce and he has been turning the ball quite nicely. But then again, you've got to look at left- and right-hand combinations," Johnson said.
Johnson feels that Bird will be more suitable for Dharamsala track.
"If it's more of an Australian kind of wicket, I think you'll see Nathan Lyon bowl and Bird come in as the third quick.
Johnson, a veteran of 73 Tests is happy that Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh saved the game for Australia providing them with psychological advantage.
"(The result in Ranchi) gives Australia a huge advantage I think. For them (India) to know that it's not about Steve Smith and David Warner, other guys in the team can perform and can play out for a draw. They dug in and played exceptional cricket."
"They (Australia) will be pumped after that. Even though it was only a draw, to them it will feel very good and very positive. Because they have collapsed a lot in the past. That's why I'm confident Australia will win."
Elena Vesnina defeats Svetlana Kuznetsova to win biggest title of her singles' career
MMNN:20 March 2017
Elena Vesnina capped a stellar Indian Wells campaign with a hard-fought 6-7 (6/8), 7-5, 6-4 triumph over fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday.
Playing in her first final at the elite Premier Mandatory level, world number 15 Vesnina battled through a tense three hours and one minute to subdue eighth-ranked Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion.
The triumph comes a year after Vesnina, 30, fell in the first round of qualifying at Indian Wells and capped a tournament that saw her down both Germany's soon-to-be number one Angelique Kerber and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.
For Kuznetsova, it was a third disappointment in as many finals at Indian Wells, this one coming a decade after she fell in back to back finals in 2007 and 2008.
A third set that, like the first two, featured multiple service breaks saw Kuznetsova take a 4-2 lead before Vesnina broke for 4-3 then won a marathon ninth game in which Kuznetsova saved four break points before Vesnina converted her fifth with a stinging service winner to find herself serving for the match.
After knocking a forehand wide on her first match point, she secured the victory when Kuznetsova's service return went long.
"She was up set and 4-1, then 4-2 in the third," Vesnina said. "She had so many break points on my serve. She was 30-Love up couple of times on her serves. And I always keep coming back. I stick there, you know.
"I was just not giving anything at that moment. I didn't think about the end of the match.
"And when I broke her at 4-All and went to serve for the match, I had this in my mind: I'm not going to give it. I went to serve and I was, like, I'm never going to lose this game."
For a time it seemed Kuznetsova's steadier play would win the day, but in the end it was Vesnina's aggression that paid off, even though her 49 unforced errors out-stripped her 46 winners.
"I felt like when I was playing, I didn't feel good today, because she was very aggressive, and I was a little bit out of my game," Kuznetsova said. "I was too far from the court, and I was running all the way, way behind, so the only thing I could do was defend.
"I was too passive," Kuznetsova said. "I think that's why I lost."
The victory continues Vesnina's rise of the last year. She reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2016 and is no stranger to the big stage in doubles, in which she captured Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.
In a first set featuring four breaks of serve, Kuznetsova gave Vesnina a set point with a double fault in the 10th game, but Vesnina sent a forehand wide and Kuznetsova escaped to hold serve.
She double-faulted herself on her first set point in the tiebreaker before Vesnina saved another set point with a service winner.
Roger Federer Beats Stan Wawrinka For 5th Indian Wells Title
MMNN:20 March 2017
Roger Federer added another in his hat on Sunday by winning the ATP Indian Wells Masters title. Federer claimed a record-equalling fifth title at Indian Wells, continuing his career resurgence with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Stan Wawrinka. Federer, sidelined some six months after knee surgery last year, returned to win his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January. With Sunday's triumph in the all-Swiss final, Federer joined Novak Djokovic as the only men to win five Indian Wells titles, adding to those he won in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012.
At 35, Federer is the oldest ATP player to win one of the elite Masters titles, supplanting Andre Agassi who was 34 when he won in Cincinnati in 2004.
"It's been just a fairytale week once again," said Federer, who missed Indian Wells last year because of injury.
"I'm not as surprised as I was in Australia, but still this comes as a big, big surprise to me, nevertheless, to win here again and beating the players that I did and the way I did.
"I couldn't be more happy. It's an absolute, huge start to the year for me. Last year I didn't win any titles. I don't think I was in any finals except maybe Brisbane last year. The change is dramatic, and it feels great."
The speedy progress means 10th-ranked Federer will have to reassess his 2017 goals. Prior to the Australian Open his aim was to get his ranking to as high as eighth by the time Wimbledon was over.
"The goals are clearly changing after this dream start," Federer said.
While Federer had won 19 of 22 prior meetings with Wawrinka -- including a semi-final win in Melbourne -- he noted that his compatriot would be no easy mark as he played his first tournament in America since winning the US Open in September.
But Federer claimed a tightly contested first set with a break in the 10th game, pushing Wawrinka into a forehand error to end a tense rally for a set point, on which Wawrinka sent another forehand long.
Wawrinka responded immediately with a break to open the first set -- after Federer had held all 42 of his service games in the tournament to that point.
He had saved the lone break point he faced -- in his straight-sets thumping of Rafael Nadal in the fourth round -- but sent a backhand long on break point to give Wawrinka the advantage in the set.
Wawrinka then withstood two break points to hold for a 2-0 lead, which proved short-lived as Federer won the next three games to take a 3-2 lead.
India Vs Australia: No Sign Of Virat Kohli In Morning Session After Joining Team For Warm-Up
MMNN:17 March 2017
Recovering from a shoulder injury, India skipper Virat Kohli did not take to the field at the start of day two of the Ranchi Test as vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane led the team against Australia.
Kohli joined his teammates for the warm-up session before the start of play and held a long discussion with coach Anil Kumble and selector Devang Gandhi.
With Australia 132/3 in 39.1 overs, a grimacing Kohli had departed the field clutching his right shoulder yesterday after he landed awkwardly near the mid-on boundary rope in his dive to save a Peter Handscomb boundary.
A scan later in the evening revealed a "strain" but a BCCI statement said there was "no serious concern" and "he will continue to receive treatment, which will assist him to participate in the rest of the match".
His absence from the field, however, would not affect his number four batting position as this was an external injury. According to the ICC's playing conditions, if a player is absent from the field for longer than eight minutes, the player, "shall not be permitted to bat unless or until, in the aggregate, he has returned to the field and/or his side's innings has been in progress for at least that length of playing time for which he has been absent or, if earlier, when his side has lost five wickets."
However, the clause does not apply if the player has suffered "an external blow (as opposed to an internal injury such as a pulled muscle) whilst participating earlier in the match and consequently been forced to leave the field.
Nor shall it apply if the player has been absent for very exceptional and wholly acceptable reasons (other than injury or illness)."
Elena Vesnina ousts Venus Williams to reach semi-finals at Indian Wells
MMNN:17 March 2017
Elena Vesnina denied Venus Williams another comeback win, while Kristina Mladenovic roared back from a set and a break down to beat Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells.
Williams, who this week survived match points against Jelena Jankovic and was down a break in the third against Peng Shuai, fought off three match points in the eighth game and had six chances to bring it back on serve in the next before the 14th-seeded Russian finally held to finish a gutsy 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win.
The 30-year-old Vesnina, a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year, ripped a forehand putaway off a backhand from 12th seed Williams that clipped the netcord to end the two hour 11 minute battle in the California desert.
"At the end of the match, I don't know how I won that game from 0-40," Vesnina, who had ousted second seed Angelique Kerber to reach the quarters, said in an on-court interview.
"In the first set she was a little bit slow, missed some easy balls. But then in the second set, Venus was back and I was in trouble."
Mladenovic, the 28th seed, continued an impressive run of form beating 13th seed and 2011 winner Wozniacki 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 to reach her first Premier Mandatory semi-final and guarantee her debut in the Top 20 in next week's WTA rankings.
The 23-year-old Frenchwoman improved to 16-5 on the season, a run which includes her first career title in St. Petersburg, and an appearance in the final earlier this month in Acapulco.
"She's on fire. So am I," said Vesnina. "One of us can be in the final. We will see tomorrow."
Mladenovic wasted a slew of opportunities, squandering nine break points as she fell behind 1-5 in the opening set.
"I was very frustrated with the beginning of the match. I was hitting a lot of unforced errors," she said.
Mladenovic recovered from an early break in the second to move ahead 5-3 before ultimately leveling the match 7-4 in the tiebreak.
Painting the lines in the third set, Mladenovic broke twice and served out the two hour 33 minute win.
Third seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic will meet eighth-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the other women's semi-final.
Nick Kyrgios Stuns Novak Djokovic Again, Roger Federer Eases Past Rafael Nadal
MMNN:16 March 2017
Nick Kyrgios overpowered Novak Djokovic for the second time in as many weeks on Wednesday to book an Indian Wells quarter-final berth against Roger Federer, who brutally swept aside old foe Rafael Nadal.
Kyrgios put on another stellar serving display in a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) triumph that ended three-time defending champion Djokovic's 19-match winning streak in the first Masters tournament of the year.
Federer, who added another chapter to a storied rivalry with Nadal with an epic Australian Open triumph in January, dismantled the Spaniard 6-2, 6-3 to advance.
It was the first time since their first meeting in 2004 that Federer and Nadal had met before the quarter-finals of a tournament, and oddity of the rankings that had them and Djokovic -- with 44 Grand Slam titles among the three of them -- all grouped in the same quarter of the draw.
Djokovic was the first to fall, in the face of relentless aggression from world number 16 Kyrgios.
"The run was amazing," said Djokovic, who also won in Indian Wells in 2008 and 2011 before going on his roll from 2014-2016. "I am very proud of it.
It had to end at some stage. Unfortunately, it was today."
Kyrgios, 21, couldn't match the 25 aces he rained on Djokovic in a shock win in Acapulco this month. But 14 aces were plenty as he kept Djokovic off-balance with a welter of 100mph-plus serves.
"He obviously comes out playing his style, very aggressive, and just going for every serve, whether it's first or second," Djokovic said. "It's very hard to play like that."
A break in the first game of the match was enough to give Kyrgios the opening set.
Djokovic saved to break points late in the second set as they battled to the tiebreaker which Kyrgios dominated, sealing the win, fittingly, with a final monster serve.
"On his first serves, to try to anticipate and read his serve, where he's going to go 140 miles per hour down the T and also pretty good angle wide, it's hard to position yourself well... It is a gamble," Djokovic said. "His second serve, if you think you're going to have a look at it, you don't, because he goes for it as well."
Kyrgios, already the youngest player to record victories over Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, now gets another crack at Federer, who needed just 68 minutes to dispatch Nadal.
Federer broke Nadal to open the match, and seized a second break and 4-1 with a blistering backhand service return winner.
A forehand volley sealed the set, and another forehand winner put Federer up a break at 2-1 in the second.
Federer was firmly in control as Nadal served to save the match at 5-3. An unlucky netcord bounce, when Nadal's forehand clipped the net and rolled back, gave Federer a double match point, and with a backhand return down the line the 36th meeting between the two was his.
The win marks the first time in the rivalry that Federer has strung together three wins over Nadal.
India vs Australia, 3rd Test: Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell century stand deflates hosts on Day 1
MMNN:16 March 2017
Steve Smith continued to be India's nemesis by scoring a superb century as Australia recovered from early setbacks to reach a comfortable 299 for 4 on the first day of the third cricket Test here on Thursday.
In the eye of a storm for his 'DRS Brain Fade' during the second Test, Smith (117 batting) showed steely resolve en route his 19th Test hundred. None among the Indian bowling quartet could trouble him during the 244 balls that he faced.
Comeback-man Glenn Maxwell (82 batting) also played his role to perfection with a solid effort, adding 159 runs in 47.4 overs for the fifth wicket.
Maxwell's proficiency against spin also helped Smith to play his own game. Incidentally, this was Maxwell's first 50 plus score in Test cricket.
If it wasn't enough that bowlers had a hard day, Indian captain Virat Kohli suffered a shoulder injury while fielding and was out of action for more than one session. In Kohli's absence, stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane's leadership lacked imagination.
Australia would certainly be looking at a total in excess of 500 with an aim to bat India out of the match during the first innings itself.
This was after Australia were precariously placed at 140 for 4 with Umesh Yadav (2/63 in 19 overs) providing a fantastic exhibition of reverse swing bowling.
The day belonged to Smith, who has now scored six Test hundreds against India in the last seven appearances. The pitch was low and slow to begin with and there wasn't much turn on offer for the Indian spin twins today.
With no help from the track, Ravichandran Ashwin (1/78 in 23 overs) and Ravindra Jadeja (1/80 in 30 overs) had nothing special in their armoury to trouble the Australian skipper, who hit 13 boundaries in his innings.
For the record, the Australian captain also completed his 5000 runs in Test cricket.
Smith came in at a time when Umesh was bowling quite well. He saw off that spell and then played all the Indian bowlers with ease.
He didn't show any hurried approach yet got the runs at a fair pace. With Maxwell hitting his share of sixes -- two off Jadeja apart from five fours --, Smith found it easier to disturb Jadeja's length.
With no rough created on either side of the wicket, Jadeja's deliveries lacked any bite whatsoever.
Ashwin got a few past the bat but the slowness of the wicket helped the batsmen adjust their footwork.
Smith reached to the second century of the series in 227 balls when he drove Murali Vijay through long-on boundary.
In the process, Smith also became third fastest batsman in 53 Tests to get to 5000 runs after Sir Don Bradman had reached the milestone in his 36th Test and Sunil Gavaskar took 52 matches to reach the landmark.
Known for his big hits in the Indian Premier League, Maxwell looked a different batsman in his measured and calculated innings.
Maxwell also curbed his trademark reverse sweep shot that had fetched him so many runs as and took 52 balls for his first boundary, a swing of the bat against a Jadeja's full length delivery.
The only time he looked beaten was on 37 when he seemed to take an edge off Jadeja but Saha dropped it behind the stumps, something that did not have an edge.
Maxwell pulled Jadeja over midwicket to bring up his maiden Test 50 with a six.
There was some comic relief when Saha chased the ball right out of Smith's legs as in the wrestle both fell down.
On 97, Smith tried to jab the ball into the vacant leg side, took an outside edge as it got stuck between his legs.
A determined Saha however tried to grab it from between his legs and in the process the duo provided a hilarious moment. Even umpire Ian Gould could not resist a hearty laugh.
India took the new ball in the 86th over but a breakthrough still eluded them.
Earlier, the Indian skipper Kohli hurt his shoulder while trying to save a boundary off Peter Handscomb at deep midwicket.
Kohli landed heavily on the fast and hard outfield of the JSCA International Stadium Complex.
Such was the impact that he had difficulty in standing up and was seen grimacing in pain, clutching his right shoulder to be rushed out of the field immediately.
Ajinkya Rahane took over the captaincy as Kohli was being treated with ice packs back in the dressing room as the Indian skipper missed the remainder of second session.
Having brokered peace with Kohli after ICC intervention following the DRS controversy in Bengaluru, Smith looked fluent in his knock on a pitch that behaved way better than he had expected.
A day after he termed it a surface with "mud rolled together" something he had "never seen before", Smith found the ball nicely coming into the bat with the odd ball staying low.
Umesh looked the most impressive bowler and the pacer gave the only breakthrough of the session when he trapped Handscomb (19) leg before with a brilliant inswinging yorker.
After Handscomb's departure, Smith found a fine ally in Glenn Maxwell for their third halfcentury-plus partnership of the innings.
Earlier, Smith won a fine toss as their openers Matt Renshaw and David Warner played with a positive intent and cruised to 50 for no loss in 9.3 overs.
But after spin was introduced at both ends in the 10th over, Ravindra Jadeja (1/49) struck in his first over with David Warner (19) offering a simple return catch to the left-arm spinner.
Renshaw's first 24 runs came only in boundaries as once he cleared a fielder the ball would race past the rope.
Seventh over and Aswhin came in with his bunny' Warner at the opposite end but without any immediate effect.
At the other end, Warner took his time and hit his first boundary after 22 balls with an elegant cover drive off Yadav.
With Warner looking to break free, Kohli employed spin attack at both ends and Jadeja was welcomed by the Aussie vice-captain with another crunching drive.
The next ball, a juicy full-toss and Warner offered Jadeja a return catch for the first breakthrough for India.
In the middle of a fine run, 20-year-old Renshaw looked to complete a third half-century in as many Tests, before falling six runs short.
Yadav produced the breakthrough before lunch in his second spell when Renshaw guided to Kohli at first slip for a soft dismissal.
Ashwin too opened his account after India brilliantly used the DRS to dismiss Shaun Marsh (2) as India struck twice in 2.4 overs before lunch.
When Was The First Test Match Played? Google Doodle's Tribute To Cricket
MMNN:15 March 2017
The first official cricket Test match in history began on this day in 1877 between an established English team and a newly-formed Australian squad at the Melbourne Cricket ground. It finished in a 45-run win for Australia.
Search giant Google on Wednesday dedicated a Doodle to celebrate the 140th anniversary of official Test cricket, remembering the first match in whites played between England and Australia in 1877. The first official cricket Test match in history began on this day in 1877 between an established English team and a newly-formed Australian squad at the Melbourne Cricket ground. It finished in a 45-run win for Australia.
The hosts batted first and the first ball was bowled by Alfred Shaw to Charles Bannerman, who went on to become the first centurion in Test by scoring 165 when he retired hurt with a right hand index finger injury.
England, however, squared the two-Test series by winning the next game at the same venue by four wickets.
"Today's Doodle hits the deck with a light-hearted rendering that captures the spirit of sportsmanship and the inaugural Test match," Google said.
"Mustachioed and muscle-bound, the batsmen, bowlers and opposition fielders spring into action, never losing sight of the red ball," it said.
India vs Australia, 3rd Test: Virat Kohli and Steve Smith hold contrarian views on Ranchi pitch
MMNN:15 March 2017
Virat Kohli refused to attach any importance to the track but Steve Smith cannot keep his mind off it as the rival captains took a contrarian view on the role the pitch would play in the third Test starting on Thursday.
Kohli felt that the external conditions would determine how the pitch would behave.
"A lot of things like weather go behind how the pitch would behave. In hot and humid conditions, we get reverse swing. It's not just the wicket but external conditions play a role," Kohli said on the eve of the third Test.
"I've not seen a cricketer who can predict the outcome after seeing a pitch. I think it's hard to assess how much it will turn or seam. That's why it's said cricket is a complicated sport. You have to be always prepared," the Indian captain added.
Asked about their batting collapse so far in the series, Kohli said: "I won't say so much on the pitch. Even on a flat wicket, if you are under pressure, you tend to have collapses. I think most of the batting collapses are more mental than skill.
"Test is more mental, looking at the external factors. Teams who are mentally strong on that sort of wicket, it takes special effort to provide the difference in the game."
However, Kohli's Australian counterpart Smith was firm in his belief that another rank-turner was on offer and the Ranchi track would be no different from what they got in Pune and Bengaluru. He thinks it would start "breaking up" from the second day.
"This wicket is no different. I think the first day, it will hold together reasonably well and then start to break up from there. So again, it's about adapting to what we're dealt with out in the middle and ensuring that we can be in the contest for a long time," Smith said.
Expecting slow and low bounce, Smith said they would look to hit the stumps and stick to the basics.
"I think you have to be hitting the stumps majority of the times. You have to keep things as simple as you can, try and build pressure and perhaps take wickets in different ways. We've got plans in these kinds of wickets, where there isn't much bounce," he said.
"You obviously have to adapt to whatever the wicket is doing. So I don't think forgetting the wicket is probably the right way around it. You need to know what you're likely to expect and play according to what the wicket is."
The ICC Match Referee Chris Broad has rated Pune wicket as 'poor', while Bengaluru was termed 'below average'. Now all eyes are on the Ranchi track, which appears dry and devoid of any grass with the groundsmen busy in watering the pitch.
"It appears a little bit drier than it was yesterday. The groundsmen were pretty keen on getting the covers on pretty quickly so it didn't see much sun.
"Only a quick look but I think it'll play reasonably well on the first day. I don't think there will be a great deal of bounce, I think it'll shoot quite low and then from there I think it'll break up as the game wears on. You know, 22 yards and both teams have to play on it. Hopefully, we can just do a little bit better," said Smith.
All England Championships: Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu exit in contrasting style to put paid to Indian hopes
MMNN:11 March 2017
India's high-flying flag-bearers at the 2017 All England Super Series Premier Badminton Championships were brought rudely down to earth on Friday, albeit in contrasting fashion; and, with the defeats of Saina Nehwal and Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, the Indian challenge in Birmingham stuttered to an end.
While eighth-seeded Saina staged a gallant fight all the way to the finishing line, going down to South Korea's No 3 seed, Sung Ji Hyun, by 20-22, 20-22 in a ding-dong quarter-final battle lasting 54 minutes, her sixth-seeded compatriot Sindhu was given a humbling 35-minute badminton lesson by the world's No 1 player and top seed, Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, with a one-sided 21-14, 21-10 verdict.
The somewhat earthy Hindi saying "nazakat se hajamat" (being given a haircut with neatness, politeness and elegance) could ideally have been applied to the eagerly-awaited Tai-Sindhu encounter, in which the Taiwanese star used artistry and deception to pummel Sindhu into submission, and extend her head-to-head record over the Indian to a healthy 6-3.
So complete was Tai's dominance that Sindhu was in the match only for the first half of the opening game, when she went into the lemon break with a small 11-9 advantage. The Taiwanese player literally executed balletic dance moves on the court as she repeatedly reached the shuttle early and used her trademark disguised drop shots liberally, to have her rangy rival abjectly guessing her next move.
It was also a joy for the connoisseur of the game to witness the manner in which Tai worked out the way of adjusting to the diabolical drift in the stadium. While playing with the breeze in the first game, she invariably held back her tosses a bit, striking them with controlled power, and being willing to trust her defence if they travelled only up to mid-court and gave her rival the chance of using the smash.
In top-level badminton, control over the net is a pre-requisite, for it is from the net that a player gains ascendancy in a rally. Tight dribble, wristy crosscourt drop, late flick clear - any of these strokes can be employed when the player reaches the net early, but paradoxically, executes the stroke late. Tai controlled the net throughout the match, and the split-second delay with which she executed her shots had the Indian lunging late or stumbling in an ungainly manner.
One wonders at the reason for the heavy strapping on Sindhu's right knee, but it certainly did not appear to hamper her court movements in the initial reaches of the match as she traded long rallies with Tai without showing signs of discomfort. Yet, she also appeared far more subdued than her normal fiery self, and the shrieks of self-encouragement that normally accompany her rally-winning shots were conspicuous by their absence.
The No 6 seed ended up mostly rooted to the centre of the court as she found it hard to work out whether her antagonist was going to employ the smash or the drop; and, if the drop, to which net corner. In addition, because she kept reaching the shuttle late, she was always chasing the bird, and was never in a position to execute her deadly overhead smashes.
The real problems for the Indian cropped up after the mid-game interval in the opening stanza, when the top seed slipped into rhythm and unfurled all her exquisite strokes from the backcourt, particularly the deft drops that died in the corners on Sindhu's side of the court.
In a trice, Tai captured eight of the next nine points, zooming from 9-11 to 17-12, and then 18-13, before wrapping up the 17-minute first game at 21-14 with a successful challenge for a stroke that landed on Sindhu's baseline, but had been called out by the linesperson.
The 22-year-old Taipei girl's overwhelming dominance of the rallies continued into the second game when she played against the drift, and could now give full rein to her arsenal of wristy strokes. In deference to coach Pullela Gopichand's suggestion, Sindhu tried going on an all-out offensive, but buried several hurriedly executed smashes into the net.
A 5-2 advantage for Tai swiftly became 8-3, and the Taiwanese girl went into the interval with a 11-5 lead. Sindhu tried switching to Plan B - prolonging the rallies in an effort to induce a false stroke from her opponent, but she lacked Tai's shuttle control with the drift, and several of her tosses sailed long.
There was an all-too-brief rally from Sindhu as she slashed a 6-14 deficit to 9-14, but Tai recovered swiftly, and stretched the lead over her downcast rival to 16-9. The Taiwanese star was now coasting majestically towards the finishing line, and wrapped up the 18-minute game for the loss of a solitary further point.
There were hopes that Saina, if not Sindhu, would come through the quarter-final challenge, and at least emulate her feat of being runner-up at the 2015 edition of this prestigious tournament. Saina had shown in her earlier two matches that she was playing at close to her best, particularly in the manner in which she had downed defending champion, Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, in her opening encounter.
Team India coach Anil Kumble likely to be promoted to the post of 'Team Director'
MMNN:11 March 2017
Its a news of promotion for the current Team India coach as Anil Kumble is likely to assume the post of 'Team Director'. The decision came soon after the court appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) sought to change the coaching hierachy on the lines similar to that of England and Wales Cricket Board.
"We need to move ahead with the times and that is why these structural changes are looked at. If it happens, Indian cricket will benefit, as one person will handle all the teams and there will be better coordination between all concerned. The plan is already in place and there is a strong possibility that when new contracts are given out, these changes will be made," board sources told Express.
Though, it is quite different from the roadmap put forth by Kumble and Rahul Dravid, it is comprehensible that COA is keen on this change. However, Kumble has been given time to give this decision a thought as it would require more time than that he spends with the senior national team.
If Jumbo takes up the post then Rahul Dravid is the likely candidate to replace him as senior team coach. It has been earlier reported that Dravid was indeed given this offer which he had denied.
"It actually quite early to speak about this situation. Being both the coach and team director is indeed a hectic job and needs immense dedication. And with the schedule we have he is likely to get exhausted. Thus we need a back-up option, particularly with the Champions Trophy being round the corner," the source further added.
India vs Australia: Virat Kohli-Steve Smith clash triggers verbal war between BCCI and CA
MMNN:8 March 2017
The Virat Kohli-Steve Smith clash on the controversial DRS call on Wednesday triggered a full blown verbal war between the Cricket Boards of India and Australia with both aggressively backing their respective players.
A day after Indian captain Kohli lambasted the Australian team and just about stopped short of calling Smith a cheat, the two Boards waded into the controversy by coming out with statements backing their teams.
"BCCI has requested the ICC to take cognizance of the fact that the Australian skipper Mr. Steve Smith in his press conference admitted to a 'brain fade' at that moment. BCCI sincerely hopes that the rest of the matches are played in the true spirit of cricket," the BCCI said in a statement.
The drama was triggered by Smith getting caught by umpires while glancing at the dressing room before taking a DRS call during the second Test, which ended in India's favour yesterday.
Smith tried to play down the controversy by calling it a "brain fade" but that did not stop the barrage of criticism that came his way for his on-field actions.
However, he got the backing of his Board with Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland rejecting allegations questioning Smith's integrity.
"I find the allegations questioning the integrity of Steve Smith, the Australian Team and the dressing room, outrageous," Sutherland was quoted in a statement.
"Steve is an outstanding cricketer and person, and role model to many aspiring cricketers and we have every faith that there was no ill-intent in his actions.
"We reject any commentary that suggests our integrity was brought into disrepute or that systemic unfair tactics are used, and stand by Steve and the Australian Cricketers who are proudly representing our country," he added.
Amid the drama, batsman Peter Handscomb sought to take the blame for the contentious call on himself, claiming that it was he who asked Smith to seek a clue from dressing room after being adjudged leg-before off Umesh Yadav.
"I referred smudga to look at the box... my fault and was unaware of the rule. Shouldn't take anything away from what was an amazing game!," Handscomb wrote on his official twitter page.
Smith also got the backing of coach Darren Lehmann, who echoed the sentiment expressed by CA. Lehmann said Kohli's allegation of repeated dressing room referrals by Australian players was merely his personal opinion.
"Never, ever, ever. Very surprised to hear that, but it's their opinion," said Lehmann.
"He (Kohli) has his opinion and we have ours, but at the end of the day we play the game the right way. We've changed the way we want to play, we've obviously changed the side and we're a younger side so I'm pretty pleased with the way we do things now.
"We've never done any of that, so we'll just get on with the next game," said the coach further.
In a fiery post-match press conference yesterday, Kohli had stated that he had twice seen Australians seeking help from the dressing room for DRS referrals.
Lehmann praised his team for not responding aggressively to Kohli's charge.
"Gone are the days when we used to be probably the other way, and I was part of that as an Australian side. The young guys, the way they want to portray themselves and encourage people to play the game and enjoy the game has been exceptional," he said.
"So I'm really proud of the way they went about it this game, even though we lost."
Former Australian captain Steve Waugh, who successfully led an aggressive bunch of players not shy of playing mind games, also commented on the controversy today.
Waugh said Smith's explanation should be taken on face value but admitted that he would not exactly be proud of his actions.
"It was a fantastic Test match. It's a shame we are focussing on one incident. I would go with what Steve has said. I would take him on face value. The best part was umpires stepped in and stopped at then and there. Looking back Smith will be embarrassed and must have learnt a lesson," Waugh told mediapersons at a promotional event today.
However, Waugh too wanted the ICC to intervene and bring a closure to the issue.
"Someone from ICC needs to look into the matter and bring it to a finality. Look we need to move on. Probably he would be cautioned. It was a high intensity game," said Waugh.
Former BCCI President Anurag Thakur was not to be left behind either and he backed Kohli's tough stance on the matter.
Napoli president stokes Italy's north-south rivalry after Champions League match
MMNN:8 March 2017
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis sparked another controversy after his team's Champions League exit against Real Madrid on Tuesday, saying journalists from the north of the country hated him and his club.
De Laurentiis, a prominent Italian film producer, had no complaints about his side after they lost 3-1 at home in the second leg of their last 16 tie to go out 6-2 on aggregate.
But his praise for the team's performance quickly turned into a tirade against alleged northern prejudice as he was interviewed by the Mediaset Premium channel.
"The journalists of the north hate me… they hate Napoli, because they are at the service of the north," he said, adding that the daily Gazzetta dello Sport is "notoriously the newspaper of Inter (Milan), Juventus and AC Milan."
Praising his coach Maurizio Sarri, he added that a reported rift between the pair was also the work of northern newspapers.
"There has never been any friction with Sarri," he said. "I have always spoken of Sarri as a football connoisseur and an excellent coach."
Gazzetta described his words as dangerous and said it was "at the service of everyone."
Last week Napoli complained bitterly after losing 3-1 to Juventus in their Italian Cup semi-final first leg in Turin during which two penalties were awarded against them.
Luigi De Magistris, the mayor of Naples, was among the critics, saying in an official city government statement that "everything is more difficult for us Neapolitans."
India Vs Australia: Virat Kohli Describes Win As Best Of His Captaincy Career
MMNN:7 March 2017
Indian skipper Virat Kohli on Tuesday termed the second Test win over Australia as the best of his captaincy career, comparing his side to a snake that can sting from any direction.
"Yes, this is the best one. I don't want to say too much as the game panned out as it did. It was quite an emotional game for us," Kohli said after the 75-run win on Day 4 in Bengaluru.
"Everyone got along well. Talking about the head of the snake, the head did pretty well. It is not just about one individual here. This snake can sting from any direction. Some people need to keep that in mind," he added, taking a veiled dig at Nathan Lyon's comment about Kohli being the prized wicket.
Kohli heaped praise on the team's bowlers for ensuring that Australia's first innings lead was not too big.
"Yes, our bowlers gave only 47 runs in the first session on day two. They (Australia) could have taken the game away from us because they were 40 without loss. Probably, the momentum changed at that stage. Then we picked up six wickets conceding less than 100 runs I think we picked up from here," he said.
Kohli said Ravindra Jadeja, who took seven wickets in the match, was "outstanding".
"Umesh and Ishant supported very well. These are the things you need as a team to change when the tide is going against you. But one thing is we never stop trying. We did not give in and we did not let the opposition roll over us and get a big first innings total," he said.
"To chase even 120 in the fourth innings will be difficult here. 150 can be a good total to defend. We surprised ourselves by winning 75 runs eventually at the close of the match," he added.
Kohli said the victory has also made it clear that India does not rely merely on him to do the scoring.
"Our opponents used to think that once I get out, the team will be under pressure. I told the team that everyone has to perform," he said.
"If my performance is good and the team wins I am always happy. So, our plan was that the focus should be on the team's performance and let opponents focus on me. This is what exactly happened in this Test match."
Kevin Pietersen joins Surrey for T20 Blast
MMNN:7 March 2017
Cape Town - Kevin Pietersen has signed for English county Surrey to play in the 2017 T20 Blast.
Surrey announced the news on their official website on Tuesday.
His first game of the season will be Surrey's big game against the Essex Eagles at The Oval on Wednesday, July 19 and he will then stay with the squad for the entire competition.
Pietersen, 36, is one of the most iconic players of his generation. He broke out onto the world stage at The Oval in England's historic Ashes victory in 2005 and first signed for Surrey in 2010.
Since then, he has played some of the most destructive and memorable innings of recent years in a Surrey shirt.
His 355 not out against Leicestershire at the Oval in 2015 came just two runs short of breaking Bobby Abel's hundred-year-old record for the highest ever individual score for Surrey whilst his 234 not out against Lancashire at the 2012 Guildford Festival will live long in the mind of the packed crowd at Woodbridge Road.
Pietersen has most recently been in action in the Australian Big Bash League and Pakistan Super League, putting in match winning performances for both the Melbourne Stars and the Quetta Gladiators.
He will available for Surrey's big Friday night fixtures against Middlesex (July 21) and Glamorgan (August 4) as well as the club's first ever domestic T20 double header when Surrey take on Sussex on Sunday, August 13 and the final home game of the campaign against Gloucestershire on Thursday, August 17.
If Surrey are successful in reaching the knock out stages of the T20 Blast, Pietersen will also be available for selection in these games.
Speaking on Tuesday, Pietersen said: "I'm absolutely over the moon to be joining Surrey again. I've missed playing here at home and it's going to be a special feeling walking out at The Oval again.
"We've got some seriously talented guys in our team and I'm very confident we can achieve something really special this season.
"I've had some great times at this club and ground over the years; it's a special place with top people, and I'm looking forward to once again being part of it."
Surrey CCC Director of Cricket, Alec Stewart, said: "Re-signing KP is a massive boost to the club and the NatWest T20 Blast competition.
"To have a player of his undoubted calibre available to us will add strength and experience to our squad and I'm sure all our fans will enjoy seeing him back playing in England again.
"His work ethic and appetite for success are infectious and our squad have always enjoyed having him around the dressing room and performing out in the middle."
India v Australia, 2nd Test, Day 3 talking points: DRS continues to haunt Kohli
MMNN:6 March 2017
Here's a look at the major talking points from the third day's play of the second Test between India and Australia in Bangalore.
Jadeja polishes off the tail
It only took Ravindra Jadeja five overs on day three to wrap up Australia's first innings and he went on to finish with six for 63 to restrict the visitors' lead to 87 and bring India back in to the game. Even though he polished off the tail, the performance begs the question on why he was so under used on day two. While Ravichandran Ashwin sent down 49 overs in Australia's first innings, Jadeja was bowled for only 21.4 overs. Shaun Marsh and Matthew Wade, who were instrumental in handing their team the crucial lead, played only 22 and 12 deliveries, respectively from Jadeja in comparison to 56 and 25, respectively, from Ashwin. This is not to say Ashwin bowled badly, in fact, he was best of the Indian lot and his figures of two for 84 at the end of the innings don't indicate the way he bowled. But maybe, Virat Kohli's over reliance on Ashwin might not have been a good thing for once.
Hazlewood joins the party
In his second essay, KL Rahul looked better prepared to counter the Bangalore track and the Australian bowlers and with a watchful 51 he led India's charge. He combined with Pujara for a 45-run stand for the second wicket to steady India. He departed owing to a marvellous catch at first slip by Steve Smith. But Pujara looked set and India could have very well build on it but Josh Hazlewood had other plans in mind. A probing spell from the fast bowler led to the downfall of Abhinav Mukund, Kohli and Jadeja. He got the ball to jag back in and one such delivery, that also kept low, had Kohli trapped in front. Kohli departed for 15 and three overs later, Hazlewood knocked over Jadeja for 2. At tea, India were 122 for four with a lead of 35.
Kohli's DRS woes
Kohli was given out leg before wicket by the on-field umpire Nigel Llong and at first look, it seems the Indian skipper has nicked the ball before it crashed on to the front pad. Hazelwood, the bowler and his team-mates looked pretty convinced and so did Kohli who looked quite confident when signalling for the DRS. But, as it turned out it was much more complicated. The ball was pitched outside off and hit Kohli in front but it was unclear whether the ball thudded onto the pads before or after taking an edge from the bat. From one angle it looked as if both the events had occurred simultaneously. However, the Hawkeye projection showed the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps. With no clear evidence suggesting whether or not there was a nick involved before the impact, the third umpire told Llong to stick with his decision. Kohli, expectedly, wasn't impressed and his body language while walking back to the dressing room cleared what he thought of the decision.
India were effectively 35 for four going in to the final session and for them to have any glimmer of hope in the Test match, they needed to win the battle of attrition and who better than Rahane and Pujara to consume time and frustrate Australia? The intensity of the bowlers was right up there in the first two sessions but it waned in the final and both Indian batsmen took advantage of that. Nathan Lyon continued to find turn and bounce from a good length area but this time around Rahane and Pujara were better prepared and luck also went their way. Lot of balls that turned sharply and bounce in excess could very well have been bat-padded to the close in fielders, but that did not happen. A lot of deliveries from pacers Starc, Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh kept dangerously low but both Rahane and Pujara managed an edge. As the session progressed both looked confident and trusted the pitch better and runs came. Pujara racked up his 14th Test fifty off 125 deliveries with a flick towards square leg. A lead of over 200 would be set up the contest beautifully and with six wickets in hand India could have a good shot at winning this one with two more days to go on the crumbling Bangalore track. They rescued the hosts with a valiant 93-run unbeaten stand for the fifth wicket - the best partnership in the series for either team - helping India (213/4) to a lead of 126 runs on day three.
Pakistan In Talks With Sri Lanka, Bangladesh To Replace India
MMNN:6 March 2017
Uncertain about India honouring the MoU signed between cricket boards of the two nations, Pakistan have already started working on a contingency plan for winter this year and are in talks with Pakistan and Sri Lanka for a bilateral home series. As per the MOU signed between the BCCI and PCB, India and Pakistan are scheduled to play a full Test series in December this year. But with India refusing to play Pakistan in a full bilateral Test series since 2007, the PCB is confident it can host Bangladesh or Sri Lanka in the slot reserved for the series against Virat Kohli and his men.
"Hopefully we will see either Bangladesh or Sri Lanka in Pakistan this winter," Najam Sethi, who heads the executive board of the PCB said today.
"We have opened up discussions with them and are confident now after the successful hosting of the Pakistan Super League final in Lahore," he said.
An official source in the PCB confirmed to PTI that Pakistan didn't harbour any hopes of India fulfilling its commitment of playing the series.
"We don't see the situation changing this year and we are also planning to move ahead with our legal recourse against them to get compensation for the number of times they have not fulfilled their commitments of giving us home series," the source said.
The PCB claims it has lost nearly $200 million in revenues due to India's refusal to allow Pakistan to host two series.
Sethi said that the PSL final was a beginning and now things would move forward.
"We are now going to build on this final because we have shown everyone we are capable of providing the best security possible for international teams and players in Pakistan," he said.
He said steps will also be taken to hold more matches of the PSL third edition in Pakistan at other venues.
Pakistan has already requested the Bangladesh cricket Board (BCB) to send its security experts to Pakistan for frequent reconnaissance trips so that they can decide to make the tour later in the year.
Sethi said that Sri Lankan cricket authorities were also being convinced to send teams to Pakistan.
"It will be a start and than we can see where we go with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. But we are keen to host a international series this winter," he said.
Saina Nehwal to represent Olympic Committee in Badminton World Federation
MMNN:27 Feb. 2017
Adding another feather in her cap, star shuttler Saina Nehwal, who was appointed a member of the International Olympic Committee's Athletes' Commission (AC) last year, would be representing the panel in the Badminton World Federation (BWF). She would join the BWF Athletes' Commission as a representative of the IOC AC, IOC said in a communication to Nehwal.
Nehwal has received an official communication in this regard. The Chair of BWF AC has informed others on the panel about Saina's joining the BWF AC as a representative of the IOC AC. In a rare honour for an Indian sportsperson, Saina was appointed as a member of the IOC Athletes' Commission soon after the Rio Olympics last year.
Saina, who has since recovered from a career threatening knee injury suffered during Rio Olympics, won the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament last month. Currently, ranked world number 10 in BWF rankings, Saina is now aiming to win the prestigious All England Championship next month.
India vs Australlia: Jason Gillespie suggests dropping Mitchell Marsh in 2nd Test
MMNN:27 Feb. 2017
Jason Gillespie, former Australian cricket team fast bowler, has suggested Glenn Maxwell may deserve a spot in Australia's line-up at the expense of Mitchell Marsh should the baggy greens consider restructuring their winning formula.
Australia beat India in the first match of a four-Test series which began in Pune's Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium. It was the first time Australia had won an away Test against India since their celebrated series win in 2004.
The Aussies had been written off before the series began with several former Indian cricketers, most notably Harbhajan Singh, expecting a whitewash.
However, the visitors overcame the odds to stun the Indian team.
While Gillespie said it wouldn't be prudent to alter a winning side, he saw the withdrawal of Marsh for the inclusion of Maxwell as the most logical replacement.
While he said that Marsh had done well enough with the bat in the first Test despite not being needed to put in a big shift with his bowling abilities, Maxwell's ability to play spin would hep balance the side perfectly.
"I think it'd be unlikely [they'd make any changes]. I think the only guy under pressure to keep his spot will be Mitchell Marsh, who didn't bowl in the Test and is the back-up for the seamers," Gillespie told EON Sports radio.
"I think Mitch will stay in; he made 31 in the second innings in a low-scoring game so he's probably done enough, just, to hang on.
"But if they feel they can get away with two seamers, I'd be tempted to potentially play someone like Maxwell. He's a fine player of spin [and] I think he's an underrated long-form player.
"The reason I say that is he judges length very quickly and that's the key to batting. And I think on these surfaces he could be quite fearless and take the attack to the Indian spinners. And I think he could do a decent job."
Steve O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon did remarkably well in the first Test in Pune as the dry pitch played in favour of the visiting spinners.
Gillespie predicted that the second Test in Bangalore would not have a pitch as crumbly as in the first match which would bring Australia's pacers further into play; meaning Marsh might be needed after all.
"I'd envisage in Bangalore, they'd need the back-up seam option. The wicket won't be as bad as it was in Pune so I think Mitch's bowling will be the real key," Gillespie said.
BIGGEST TEST WIN
Gillespie was a key part of the last Australia squad to win a Test match in India in 2004.
The side built on the pace attack of Gillespie, Glenn McGrath and Michael Kasprowicz helped deliver a 2-1 series victory for the visiting Aussies.
The last Test series win for Australia in India had come in 1969 and the victory 13 years ago was considered a big achievement.
However, Gillespie believes Steve Smith and his teammates have surpassed that feat especially since the current squad were easily written off and not comparable in personal achievement as the legendary players that visited India in 2004.
"I think it's one of, if not the best performance by an Australian side overseas pretty much ever," he said.
"With everything that was going against them, I think it's right up there."
SERIES WIN ON CARDS
The former quick also said the Pune Test win had put the ball was in Australia's court and that Smith's team could push on for a series win.
India had not lost a home Test match since 2012 but the underdog Australian side managed to upset the odds which were against them.
"I really do [think they can win the series]. I don't see why not," he said.
"India have to make the play here and take some risks and be ultra-positive. Australia just need to play, take the games deep, absorb pressure [and] put pressure on the bowlers at times. And with the ball, it's just a patience game.
"The simpler the Australian boys keep it, the longer the games go, the Indians will start to panic a little bit. They'll start to create things when they're not there and that's when they mistakes will come in."
De Villiers' Record Sets Up Thumping Win Over New Zealand
MMNN:25 Feb. 2017
A record-setting innings by AB de Villiers set South Africa up for a resounding 159-run win in the third one-day international against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday to go 2-1 up in the series.It was an emphatic response by the world's top-ranked ODI side after losing to New Zealand in the second match on Wednesday. De Villiers' innings of 85, during which he became the fastest player to 9,000 ODI runs, lifted his side to 271 for eight and outstanding bowling effort by Dwaine Pretorious and Andile Phehulkwayo ensured New Zealand never threatened.
Pretorious took three for five off 32 deliveries and Phehulkwayo finished with two for 12 off 30 balls.
South Africa were keen to bat first when they won the toss and while they too had their jitters de Villiers had support from Quinton de Kock (68) to give their innings some respectability.
New Zealand's reply started disastrously with both openers gone inside three overs with the out-of-form Tom Latham out for a duck and Dean Brownlie gone for two.
Kane Williamson, on four, should have joined them when he spooned a Wayne Parnell delivery directly to first slip where Hashim Amla failed to grasp a regulation chance.
But it was a short-lived reprieve as Williamson struggled to 23 when he was bowled by Phehulkwayo and Ross Taylor (18) went lbw to Pretorious in the following over to have New Zealand 48 for four in the 16th over.
By the 20th over they were 58 for six and South Africa knew they had the game in the bag.
Colin de Grandhomme, who had the best bowling figures for New Zealand, also top scored with the bat.
He was unbeaten on 34 when the innings folded in the 33rd over, while Kane Williamson was the only other batsman to get above 20.
AB de Villiers milestone
On a wicket that looked full of runs, South African opener Amla was unable to settle and went early for seven.
But de Kock had no problems as he posted his fifth successive half-century following innings of 55 and 109 against Sri Lanka and then 69 and 57 in the first two matches of this five-game series.
His 68 in Wellington came off 70 deliveries and included two sixes and six fours.
Faf du Plessis offered some support with 36 but otherwise there was little resistance until de Villiers set up the big finish supported by Wayne Parnell who added 35 at the tail.
When de Villiers clouted Lockie Ferguson to the boundary off the fifth ball he faced he became the fastest batsman to total 9,000 ODI runs reaching the milestone in his 205th innings.
The previous record was 228 held by India's Sourav Ganguly.
Of the 18 batsmen in the 9,000-plus club, de Villiers also has the best average of 54.04 and best strike rate of 100.00.
De Grandhomme, who delivered his 10 overs in one spell, rocked the South African innings with the wickets of de Kock and du Plessis in the space of four balls to finish with two for 40.
Dubai Tennis Championships: Angelique Kerber, beset by troublesome knee, loses to Elina Svitolina
Dubai:MMNN:25 Feb. 2017
Angelique Kerber said she needed to nurse her injured knee after a semi-final defeat at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Friday ended her chances of reclaiming the World No 1 ranking.
The German went down 6-3, 7-6 (7/3) to Elina Svitolina, but later revealed she had been struggling with the troublesome knee during the match.
Had Kerber won the tournament, she would have retaken the World No 1 spot she held for four months after winning the US Open in September, until Serena Williams wrestled it back in claiming Australian Open glory last month.
But she said she has more pressing fitness concerns ahead of the Indian Wells event starting in less than a fortnight in California.
"I'm not thinking about this. I know how it feels to be number one, I reached it once, and for sure I will try to get back there," said the 29-year-old.
"For me it's really important to be healthy, and if I play consistently the next weeks or months, then we will see what happens then. I'm not looking at the number before my name, actually."
Kerber, winner of two Grand Slams in 2016, lost for the third time in a row to Svitolina, the Ukrainian World No 13.
"This was for sure not the best day for me, but at the end I will try to forget the match as soon as possible and try to take positive things from this tournament," Kerber said.
The top seed produced eight double-faults and left the court for medical treatment when a set and a break down.
"I'll go home for a few days. We will see what's going on with my knee, and then the next one is Indian Wells," she added.
Her return produced moments of inspiring tennis, although two bouts of light rain added to the complications.
It finally took a winning second-set tiebreaker from the 22-year-old Svitolina to end the drama, sending the challenger into a Saturday title showdown against Caroline Wozniacki, who reached her second final in as many weeks, beating Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-4.
Denmark's former world number one Wozniacki, currently 15th, took just 90 minutes to win her semi-final.
"It's been a pretty good couple of weeks for me, I'm very happy with how I have been playing. Very happy how I have managed to get through these two weeks," said Wozniacki, who lost to Czech Karolina Pliskova in the Doha final last weekend.
"It's been very tiring mentally. The fact that I have just been staying in there and keep grinding, I'm kind of proud of that.
"She definitely was a tricky opponent. I knew going into it that she was going to be difficult. She mixes the pace up. She really tries to break your rhythm. I was really pleased with how I was playing. I tried to stay aggressive and tried to mix it up, as well."
Pooja Ghatkar Captures 10m Air Rifle Bronze In ISSF World Cup
MMNN:24 Feb. 2017
Indian shooter Pooja Ghatkar claimed a bronze in the 10-metre Air Rifle event of the ISSF Shooting World Cup in New Delhi. Pune girl Pooja aggregated 228.8 points, to be third behind the Chinese duo of after China's Mengyao Shi, who won the gold medal with 252.1 points and Dong Lijie, who finished second with 248.9. This is the best performance by the 28-year old at this level. She has not finished better than 4th in any World Cup before this.
China's Mengyao Shi won the gold medal with a score of 252.1, setting a new world record in the event. Mengyao's compatriot Dong Lijie bagged the silver with a score of 248.9 on day one of the competitions.
Ghatkar, who had missed out on a Rio Olympic Games quota place by a whisker last year, said she was looking ahead having buried that chapter.
Ghatkar, who started the final with a 10.4, was consistent with her scores barring a couple of blips and was placed second with 104.6 at the end of first competition stage.
Even as the Indian kept producing good high scores, Lijie proved to be a tough competitor, while Mengayo extended her lead at the top.
Mentored by Olympic bronze-medallist Gagan Narang, Ghatkar managed a fine 10.8 and 10.7 in her 19th and 21st shots to assure herself of a medal.
In the course of her campaign, Ghatkar faced an obstacle as the blinder of her gun fell and she had to shoot her final few shots with an eye closed, a remarkable achievement.
Helping her overcome the obstacle were the tips from Narang on the eve of the event.
In the qualification, Ghatkar finished in second position with 418.0 behind eventual champion Mengayo (418.6) and ahead of the Lijie (417.7).
R Ashwin breaks Kapil Dev's record for most Test wickets in home season
Pune:MMNN:24 Feb. 2017
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin added yet another feather to his cap by becoming the highest wicket-taker in a home Test season.
Ashwin achieved the feat when he snared Mitchell Starc to bundle out Australia for 260 in their first innings on the second day of the ongoing first Test in Pune.
The lanky Tamil Nadu bowler, who now has 64 wickets from 10 Tests - the most in a home season, surpassed legendary allrounder and former India captain Kapil Dev, who had 63 wickets from 13 matches in the 1979-80 season.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan holds the No.3 and No.4 spots with 54 wickets in 2001-02 and 2003-04 seasons, respectively.
With one more wicket, Ashwin will break Indian record of most wickets in a season (home + away Tests). He is currently at level with Kumble, who had also taken 64 wickets in 2004-05 season. The Test record is held by South Africa's Dale Steyn, who ended with 78 wickets in 12 matches in 2007-08 season. With a possible seven more innings to bowl in, Ashwin has a good chance to surpass Steyn's tally by the end of the season.
Ashwin, who is the reigning world no.1 Test bowler and allrounder, has been the cornerstone of India's Test success on home soil.
Ashwin recently became the fastest to 250 Test wickets, going past Dennis Lillee's recrod of 48 Tests by three matches. He is the sixth Indian bowler after Anil Kumble (619), Kapil Dev (434), Harbhajan Singh (417), Zaheer Khan (311), Bishan Singh Bedi (266) to reach to 250 Test wickets.
Ashwin already has 24 five-wicket hauls and seven man-of-the-series awards in his bag. He has also scored 1850 runs, including four hundreds.
Pune Test: Ashwin, Jadeja hurt Australia with quick strikes
MMNN:23 Feb. 2017
Playing delivery on the merit was the mantra for the better part of the second session for Australia. However, late in the session, India made important breakthroughs in another hard-fought period of play to wrest back the initiative from Australia who went into tea break at 153/4.
The early scare the pitch created seemed to have settled down as Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith resumed the innings. Two fours off Umesh Yadav - the first a flowing square drive - from Marsh's bat set the ball rolling. A desperate attempt for a wicket saw India waste their second review while going for DRS against Smith for an lbw decision. But luck soon turned in their favour when Shaun Marsh was caught by Virat Kohli off Jayant Yadav. Batting on 16, he mistimed a sweep with the ball first hitting the pad and then bat to settle into the hands of the leg slip fielder.
Peter Handscomb had done well for his 22 when a Jadeja special did him in. Pushed on the back foot to an arm ball from the left- armer, the 25-year-old was caught plumb lbw. His departure brought Matt Renshaw back to the middle after he had retired hurt owing to an upset stomach at the stroke of lunch. Smith's hardwork saw him consume 94 balls for 27 runs but it amounted to nothing when he chipped a simple catch to Kohli at midwicket in the next over, bowled by Ashwin. Next came Mitch Marsh who was given out caught behind a delivery later but successfully reversed the decision using DRS.
It was always on the cards. Trial by spin. All the talks of how the ball will fly on Pune's Test debut were put to rest when Australia opted to bat after winning the toss with the pitch already resembling a fifth day surface against India. If there was any doubt left, it was cleared when spinner Ashwin shared the new ball with seamer Ishant Sharma. And by the eighth over, Ishant was taken out of the attack in favour of another spinner in Jayant. The ball was turning square, the bounce uneven and roughs were aplenty as far as the first morning of a Test is concerned. Australia, though, put up a good fight before losing David Warner (38) and Matt Renshaw (36; retd hurt) late in the session but still took lunch at a credible 84/1.
The pitch was doing the tricks but to the frustration of the hosts spinners, the wickets column still read zero until Umesh Yadav cleaned up Warner off his third delivery of the morning. And then Renshaw immediately retired hurt before Smith could make his way to the the pitch meaning Australia had two new batsmen in captain Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh - their two best bets against the spinners - in the middle.
It was an eventful morning. Ishant bowled a tight spell lasting four overs. Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant kept the batsmen on their toes. A lot of deliveries turned and missed the outside edge. One such from Ashwin prompted India to opt for the DRS against Renshaw for a caught behind decision but the on-field umpire's not out call was upheld. In between, the trio also managed to bowl poor deliveries allowing much needed release for the Australian duo. When Ashwin strayed off the line, Warner tickled the ball to fine leg for a four. A low full toss and a short delivery from Jayant were meted out the same treatments. Soon, Warner and Renshaw had laid a solid platform with an 82-run stand.
To counter the spin, Warner was standing slightly outside the off stump that exposed a hint of his leg stump. Jayant spotted that and landed one on the middle that bowled the lefty around his legs. But the celebrations were cut short as Jayant had overstepped.
The cat and mouse chase continued and Australia seemed to winning it. With growing confidence, Renshaw gave Jadeja the charge, hitting him over long on boundary for a six. The session nearing its end, Kohli reintroduced pace in Umesh in the 28th over and he struck immediately with the scalp of Warner as the ball crashed on the stumps after a thick inside edge.
Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world: Shane Warne
Pune:MMNN:23 Feb. 2017
Spin legend and former Australian cricketer Shane Warne has rated Indian skipper Virat Kohli as the best batsman in the world. The former leg-spinner said that the batsman is a mix of greats like Vivian Richards, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Warne also hailed Kohli's aggressive style of captaincy.
"Virat Kohli is the number one batsman in the world. It is uncanny how he has scored so many international hundreds and so quickly. He has the swag of Viv Richards, he is like Tendulkar or Lara. I am a big fan of his and love watching him. He is a bit of a mongrel as a captain and aggressive too and I love that about him. He is different," Warne said during a discussion at SporTale.
Warne declared India as the favourites to win the four-match Test against Australia, but maintained that series will be closer than what people think.
"India are huge favourites in the upcoming series. They have had a remarkable run and are always difficult to beat at home. We won against them in 2004 but after that we have failed to repeat the same. Australia nowadays rely on too few which is a bit of a problem. There is too much reliance on Steve Smith and David Warner and this series will be an opportunity for the others to step up," said Warne.
"The series is going to be very close than what people think. Australia have to go in with an attacking mindset. This will be the sort of series where you need to attack. There is a risk of being bowled and losing but the best chance is to attack."
Warne scalped 708 wickets in 145 Test matches for Australia.
Four reasons why Australia could spin a surprise
MMNN:22 Feb. 2017
For an entire generation of Australian cricket fans, the palpable sense of inevitable dejection is unfamiliar. On the eve of a daunting four-Test series in India, no one - not even myopic diehards - believes Australia can win a Test, let alone the series. You probably have to go back to the dark old days of the 1980s against the mighty West Indies for the last time an Australian team was so overwhelmingly disregarded.
Even four years ago, before Australia copped a humiliating series whitewash in India, there was still some hope a competitive series could eventuate. India were fresh off a shock series defeat to England - the last time they lost a Test series at home - while Australia was buoyed by a strong summer. Inevitably, with the passing of time, revisionist history ensues which has happened with the Mickey Arthur era because of the farcical nature of his last few months in the role as Australian coach.
However, before the calamity of India, Australia were building much goodwill and came to the subcontinent confident after a series whitewash over Sri Lanka and a highly competitive tussle with South Africa, who were at their absolute zenith during Graeme Smith's reign as captain.
Of course, Australia plummeted to an embarrassing 4-0 defeat in India and much the same is predicted this time around. India have been impregnable at home catapulting them to the world's number one Test team. They have an imposing batting lineup headed by captain Virat Kohli, who should stride to the wicket in a cape befitting his superpowers. India's menacing spin duo of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have strangled and tangled virtually every batsman in their path in recent times.
It all means Australia's chances amount to naught and we might as well etch a 4-0 drubbing right now. But, for interest's sake, here are four left-field reasons why Australia could surprise.
The Marsh Brothers
Was it a coincidence that Australia went on a four-Test winning streak once the Marsh brothers - forever maligned - were out of the team? Well, the bad news for those who treat the Marshes like a punching bag is that the Western Australian pair are likely to play in the First Test.
Shaun Marsh, the temperamental batsman, is a confirmed starter while Mitch Marsh - the allrounder who has shown almost no batting prowess in Test cricket - is set to be selected ahead of Glenn Maxwell, another tortured cricket talent.
Flipping the script, what happens if the Marsh brothers actually play to their abilities? Shaun has a good record in the subcontinent albeit over a limited sample consigned to playing in Sri Lanka but he is undoubtedly one of Australia's best players against spin. Because of the hodgepodge of matches played ever since, it is easy to forget that Shaun hasn't been sighted in the Test arena since early November because of a finger injury; contrary to hazy memories, he wasn't dropped.
Shaun has been a tease for more than 15 years and it's hard for jaded Australian fans to invest any faith in him. However, now aged 33 and a family man, Shaun has seemingly matured manifesting in a more steely approach in his batting before the aforementioned injury. If his talents can memorably mesh in this series, then Australia will have much-needed batting depth behind superstars Steve Smith and David Warner.
Meanwhile, Mitch hasn't played first-class cricket since breaking down with injury against South Africa in the second Test last November, so he's a major gamble despite performing well in Australia's tour match against India A. Mitch has been more of a bowling all-rounder in his Test career thus far and his reliable seamers were undeniably missed against Pakistan, even though Australia won the series relatively comfortably. If his explosive batting comes off - admittedly, big if - Mitch has the potential to change the course of a match in a session.
Australia's spin tandem
Stephen O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon worked well in tandem during Australia's last Test against Pakistan in Sydney. Of course, India's wealth of batting talent present a far more formidable challenge than the temperamental Pakistanis but signs were good between Australia's two frontline spinners.
With his accuracy and an ability to hold up an end, O'Keefe works well in tandem and allows off-spinner Lyon to have more of a licence to be bold and toss the ball up. Undoubtedly, the Indian batsmen have little regard for Australia's spinners but that contempt could backfire if O'Keefe and Lyon - both experienced bowlers - survive the onslaught.
Australia desperately needs Lyon and O'Keefe to be firing if they are to have a flicker of hope.
New Zealand prevail in thriller to level series
MMNN:22 Feb. 2017
It was a full house at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Wednesday (February 22), on the anniversary of the deadly earthquake that struck the city in 2011. In what marked the resilience of the city and its citizens to have emerged out of the incident, the New Zealand side conformed in accordance, prevailing in a thriller to pick up a six-run win levelling the five-match series 1-1. The South African juggernaut, that had won a record 12 ODIs in a row, was finally halted, owing to an unbeaten century from Ross Taylor and Trent Boult's three-wicket haul.
After being asked to bat by South Africa in the second One-Day International, New Zealand ended up with a sizeable 289 for 4 on the board in their 50 overs. It turned out just enough to pick up a win for the hosts in the end, despite a brilliant cameo from Dwaine Pretorius who almost snatched a win from the jaws of defeat with a half-century that came in just 27 balls, en route a 61-run stand for the ninth wicket. Pretorius was cleaned up by Boult in the penultimate over which tipped the scales at the end.
Tim Southee saw glimpses of swing in the first over that he bowled. However, that only bore fruit in the fifth over when he got in some late swing that saw the delivery straighten very late, trapping Hashim Amla leg before for 10. De Kock went about business in the only way that he's familiar with and attacked the bowling with Faf du Plessis for company. In the bid for a wicket, captain Kane Williamson called on Colin de Grandhomme - a move which paid off instantly as du Plessis was beaten by a full delivery to have his stumps rattled.
JP Duminy came in at No.4 instead of AB de Villiers and brought some semblance of calm to the South African innings adding 57 runs with de Kock. As is a feature of Duminy's game, the batsman kept busy while in the middle with effective running between the wickets. Mitchell Santner, however, had him stumped when on 34 as one wicket brought another for the hosts with de Kock departing two overs later for 57.
De Villiers (45) and David Miller (28) kept South Africa in the hunt with a 67-run stand, but once again, a double strike pegged South Africa back as the pair departed in the span of three overs. The visitors suddenly found themselves reeling at 214 for 8 in the 42nd over, at which point a New Zealand win seemed straightforward.
Pretorius, though, had other ideas. After finishing the bowling as the best bowler of the day for South Africa, conceding only four an over with two wickets, while the others all were taken for in excess of five, nearing six, he pulled out a cameo that brought back South Africa right into the game with 52 needed off the last five overs. His knock of 50 off 27 balls comprised of two sixes and four boundaries in a stand with Andile Phehlukwayo (29) who had proven his skills with the bat even in the first match. The equation came down to requiring 20 off two overs. Boult's experience, however, came to the fore as he bundled Pretorius out on the final ball of his spell, and ended South Africa's hopes of pulling off the win.
Pushing South Africa to the brink in the first one-dayer, only to be pipped by four wickets eventually, New Zealand came in with an unchanged side, while their counterparts had more than a handful of changes. Miller, Wayne Parnell and Pretorius returned to the side, while Kagiso Rabada missed out due to a niggle in his knee, accompanied by Farhaan Behardien and Tabraiz Shamsi, who missed out too.
Parnell struck in the fourth over to give South Africa the perfect start as Tom Latham departed for another low score (2) after flicking one straight to square leg. In this calendar year in one-dayers, Latham has scored just 9 runs in 34 balls across four innings, averaging 2.25 with a strike-rate of 26.5 - a reflection of his current form, which would be a concern for New Zealand. Williamson found himself in the centre sooner than he would have anticipated or desired. Nevertheless, together with Dean Brownlie at the other end, the pair began a resurrection act and added 40 runs together before the opener threw away another good start. A 44-ball 34 which included six boundaries was brought to an end when Pretorius trapped the right-hander leg before. Replays suggested that the ball that nipped back would have missed leg stump by a fair distance, but Brownlie did not opt for a review.
Ross Taylor combined his experience with that of Williamson to steady the innings as has been seen one too many times in the past, as they shared their 13th century stand. The tad slower pitch didn't seem to bother the pair as they nurdled away effectively, keeping the scoreboard ticking and rotating the strike. Williamson brought up his 29th half-century in 59 balls, but Imran Tahir accounted for the skipper who miscued a sweep for 69. Neil Broom's departure two overs later, reduced the hosts to 166 for 4.
Thereafter, however, James Neesham and Taylor went after South Africa's bowlers once settled, to add 123 runs together for the fifth wicket, that came at a pace of 7.09 runs an over. Neesham's unbeaten 57-ball 71 had just six boundaries, while Taylor's unbeaten 110-ball 102 had eight, which threw light on the importance of their running between the wickets that held them in good stead.
While Neesham scored his third half-century, Taylor had his 17th ton, scoring it off the last ball that he slapped to the ropes for a boundary, after being dropped on 96. With that ton, a delighted Taylor went past Nathan Astle's 16 one-day centuries. That said, South Africa's bowlers pulled things back well, despite conceding over seven in that partnership, not letting the pair let loose after the foundation that they had laid.
Brief scores: New Zealand 289/4 in 50 overs (Kane Williamson 69, Ross Taylor 102*, James Neesham 71*; Dwaine Pretorius 2-40) beat South Africa 283/9 in 50 overs (Quinton de Kock 57, AB de Villiers 45, Dwaine Pretorius 50; Trent Boult 3-63) by six runs.
IPL Auction: Ben Stokes Becomes Most Expensive Foreign Player Ever, No Takers For Ishant, Irfan
New Delhi:MMNN:21 Feb. 2017
Ben Stokes became the most expensive foreign player in IPL history when he was bagged by Rising Pune Supergiants for a whopping figure of Rs. 14.5 crore at the IPL players' auction in Bengaluru on Monday. Quite a few unheralded Indian domestic players also made their mark at the auction, while a few big names like Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan and Imran Tahir found no takers during the auction. Tymal Mills, on the other hand, was bagged by Royal Challengers Bangalore for a figure of Rs. 12 crore.
A total of Rs 91.15 crore was collectively spent by the eight franchises to buy 66 players from a pool of 350 plus that went under the hammer. The ascent was clearly on Indian players with as many as 39 of them bagging contracts while 27 overseas players came into the franchises' roster.
Also making a splash was young Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan Arman, who stunned one and all by getting a Rs 4 crore (USD 600,000) bid from Sunrisers Hyderabad, and spin-bowling all-rounder Mohammed Nabi, also going to SRH. The duo will be the first set of Afghan players to take part in the lucrative league.
The uncapped Indian players had a field day too with little-known Tamil Nadu left-arm seamer T Natarajan going for Rs 3 crore (USD 448,000) to Kings XI Punjab, a 30-fold hike over his base price of Rs 10 lakh.
Hyderabad pacer Mohammed Siraj got a deal of Rs 2.6 crore from his local franchise -- the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Rajasthan's left-arm pacer Aniket Chaudhary, who has been a net bowler with the Indian Test squad for some time, also bagged a cool Rs 2 crore (USD 298,000) deal from RCB.
Karnataka's young off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham got a Rs 2 crore (USD 298,000) winning bid from Mumbai Indians.
India discards Varun Aaron fetched Rs 2.8 crore (USD 418,000) from Kings XI Punjab while leg-spinner Karn Sharma was bought for Rs 3.2 crore (USD 477,000) from Mumbai Indians.
For left-arm spinner Pawan Negi, it was another hefty pay day as he bagged a Rs one crore deal from RCB starting at a base price of Rs 30 lakh.
It was definitely much less than last year when Negi's Rs 8.5 crore deal with Delhi Daredevils had surprised one and all. But being an Indian player proved to be his advantage.
Big names find no takers
For senior Test players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, it turned out to be an embarrassment as both went unsold at their base prices of Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2 crore respectively. Irfan Pathan also went unsold at his Rs 50 lakh base price.
Among the prominent international players, who failed to find takers, was South African spinner Imran Tahir, currently ranked No.1 in the ICC list for ODI and T20 bowlers.
The day certainly turned out to be a good one for the England players with Stokes hogging the limelight but Mills wasn't far behind either.
Both Stokes and Mills entered the million-dollar bracket with the former fetching USD 2.16 million and the latter going for USD 1.8 million.
Even Chris Woakes, with Rs 4.2 crore (USD 627,000) deal from KKR, had a good day. Hard-hitting Jason Roy, after going unsold in the first round of bidding, was picked up during the second round by Gujarat Lions at a base price of Rs 1 crore.
Pune owner Sanjeev Goenka made it clear that they knew Stokes would go for a big price and they are also prepared for the fact that he will not be available to play the full tournament.
"We knew he was going to be expensive. We do believe he is going to be there for the first 14 games and right now we are focussing on first 14, and we are very happy with this. We pretty much knew, we are not going to get him below this price," Goenka told reporters here.
Goenka's Pune Supergiants, who yesterday removed Mahendra Singh Dhoni from captaincy, entered late into the bidding at Rs 13 crore and clinched the deal at Rs 14.50 crore defeating bids from Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Interestingly, Stokes' limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan was taken at a base price of Rs 2 crore (USD 298,000) by Kings XI Punjab.
With capable seam bowling all-rounders coming at a premium, Stokes was in the wish-list of five franchises, who engaged in tough bidding for the player, who is now revered as the world's top all-rounder.
The 25-year-old, who hasn't played franchise cricket till date, has a career strike rate of 134 plus while batting and a moderate bowling economy rate of 8.60 in 77 matches.
Mills, on the other hand, has played 55 Twenty20 matches, fetching 63 wickets with a reasonably good economy rate of 7.47.
'Smith, Flemming were part of decision'
Asked whether Pune skipper Steven Smith was consulted in bidding for Stokes, Goenka said everyone including Stephen Fleming have been a part of the decision.
"Steven Smith and Stephen Fleming, everyone has been a part of this decision. This is a very collective and collaborative decision. We actually didn't go for individuals. We looked at the spots and gaps to fill and we did exactly that.
"We needed this kind of an all-rounder in our team. We are reinforcing our core, our playing XI and you would see the rest of the strategy as the day unfolds," Goenka explained.
The first round of bidding for Stokes saw Mumbai, Delhi and RCB match each other till it reached Rs 10.50 crore after which the Reliance-owned franchise pulled out.
Delhi and Bangalore continued to bid before Sunrisers entered the fray. But just when it looked that Stokes would go for around Rs 12.5 crore, Pune entered the fray and clinched the deal.
For left-armer Mills, who bowls at 90 mph, what got RCB going was the search for a replacement for Mitchell Starc, who pulled out of the IPL yesterday.
"Bangalore has a very small ground. It favours batsmen --the average first innings score was 199, and second innings was 190 and therefore, we really needed bowlers, especially with Mitchell Starc's unavailability this edition, and therefore Tymal Mills was a great buy. He suits the playing conditions in Bangalore," RCB chairman Amrit Thomas told reporters.
Mumbai Indians owner Nita Ambani said that her team was not disappointed despite going deep into the bidding battle for both Stokes and Mills.
"When you enter an auction, you leave disappointment outside the room as there isn't a straight forward strategy. We always have back up strategies. We are not disappointed. We are very happy with the players we have," she said.
On buying India discard Karn Sharma for Rs 3.2 crore, Ambani said: "We needed a leg-spinner."
Among notable international players, New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson and Sri Lankan Test captain Angelo Mathews were picked up by Delhi Daredevils at their base price of Rs 1 Crore (USD 150,000)and Rs 2 crore (USD 300,000) respectively.
Daredevils also bought South African paceman Kagiso Rabada for Rs 5 crore after some bidding.
New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult was picked by KKR at Rs 5 crore (USD 750,000).
Roger Federer wants Rafael Nadal as his doubles partner at inaugural Laver Cup
Prague:MMNN:21 Feb. 2017
Roger Federer revealed on Monday he wants to join forces in doubles with arch rival Rafael Nadal at the inaugural Laver Cup this year.
The Swiss tennis great made the confession at the unveiling of the new tournament scheduled for Prague in September which will pit a Bjorn Borg-captained European team against John McEnroe's rest of the world.
Federer, who beat Nadal in an epic five-set Australian Open final last month, admitted on Monday: "I've always wanted to play with Rafa... just because our rivalry has been so special.
"I've seen his wicked forehand go past me too often!"
The new addition to the tennis calendar is named after Rod Laver, the last man to achieve the calendar Grand Slam in 1969.
"Rod Laver wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and play our best and win for our teammates. We will play to our best possibilities," Federer, 35, told the media launch in Prague.
Federer, the world number nine, is due to figure with sixth-ranked Nadal at the September 22-24 event.
The Laver Cup will be held every year except in an Olympic season, with four matches each day -- three in singles, one in doubles.
Each team comprises six players -- four based on the ATP singles rankings after Wimbledon and two picks by the captains, Borg and McEnroe.
Federer refused to see Team Europe as a clear winner, although it currently has 17 players in the top 20 of the ATP rankings.
"I think Team Europe are going to be big favourites but because of the setup of the Laver Cup I think the margins are always going to be very slim," said Federer.
Before talking to journalists, the Swiss star played the Czech Republic's number one Tomas Berdych on a boat on the Vltava river in Prague's historic centre on a chilly Monday morning.
Berdych, ranked 14th in the world, said their game under the picturesque Charles Bridge was "a very nice opportunity to show Roger a little bit of the town."
"We were joking we should do this every day," said Federer.
"I thought it was very particular, very unique -- it was definitely a privilege," he beamed before confessing: "It was a bit windy though."
IPL auction 2017 live: Ben Stokes sold for Rs14.50 crore to Pune Supergiants
New Delhi:MMNN:20 Feb. 2017
English all-rounder Ben Stokes was sold to Sanjiv Goenka's Rising Pune Supergiants on Monday at the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction for Rs14.50 crore.
Stokes' base price stood at Rs2 crore. He is now the highest paid international player after Australian all-rounder Shane Watson who had attracted a bid for Rs9.5 crore for the Vijay Mallya-owned Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in last year's auction. Goenka said, "This is a conscious strategy, we wanted a we wanted an all rounder on the team."
Here are live updates from the ongoing IPL Auction 2017:
- West Indies wicket keeper Nicholas Pooran sold to Mumbai Indians for Rs30 lakh.
- Bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile, who played for the Delhi Daredevils last year, remains unsold.
- Bowler Kagiso Rabada sold to Delhi Daredevils for Rs5 crore after a competitive bidding war with Kings XI Punjab.
- Bowler Trent Boult sold to Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs5 crore.
- Tymal Mills sold to Royal Challengers Bangalore at Rs12 crore in the second highest bid for the day.
- Bowler Pat Cummins sold to Delhi Daredevils for Rs4.5 crore.
- Mitchell Johnson sold to Mumbai Indians for Rs2 crore.
- Indian bowler Ishant Sharma remains unsold.
- Australia's Brad Hogg remains unsold.
- India's Prithvi Shaw, at base price Rs10 lakh, remains unsold.
- India's Ankeet Bawane sold to Delhi Daredevils for Rs10 lakh.
- India's Unmukt Chand remains unsold.
- India's Tanmay Agarwal sold to Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs10 lakh.
- All-rounder Mohd Nabi sold to Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs30 lakh. The first Afghan player to play in IPL.
- Gowtham K. sold to Mumbai Indians for Rs2 crore after an intense bidding war with Sun Risers Hyderabad. His base price was Rs10 lakh.
- Rahul Tewatia sold to Kings XI Punjab for Rs25 lakh.
- Wicket-keeper batsman Aditya Tare sold to Delhi Daredevils for Rs25 lakh.
- Eklavya Dwivedi sold to Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs75 lakh.
- Aniket Choudhary sold to Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs2 crore against a competitive bid by the Gujarat Lions . His base price was at Rs10 lakh.
- T. Natarajan sold to Kings XI Punjab for Rs3 crore. His base price was Rs10 lakh.
- Nathu Singh sold to Gujarat Lions for Rs50 lakh.
- Bowler Umar Nazir remains unsold.
- Basil Thampy sold to Gujarat Lions at Rs85 lakh after Rising Pune Supergiants leave the bid. His base price was at Rs10 lakh.
- M. Ashwin, sold to the Delhi Daredevils for Rs1 crore. His base price Rs10 lakh.
- T.S. Barokha sold to Gujarat Lions for his base price at Rs10 lakh.
- Rashid Khan Arman sold to Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs4 crore. His base price was Rs 50 lakh.
- Pravin Tambe sold to Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs 10 lakh.
- All-rounder Chris Woakes from England sold to Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs4.2 crore. His base price was Rs2 crore.
- India's Karn Sharma sold to Mumbai Indians for Rs 3.2 crore. He played for Sun Risers Hyderabad last season.
- Another all-rounder from India, Rishi Dhawan sold to Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs55 lakh.
- Matt Henry, a bowler from New Zealand, sold to Kings XI Punjab for Rs 50 lakh, his base price.
- Bowler Jaydev Unadkat sold to Rising Pune Supergiants for Rs 30 lakh. He played for Kolkata Knight riders last year.
- Fast bowler Varun Aaron sold to Kings XI Punjab for Rs 2.8 crore after a bidding war with Gujarat Lions. His base price was Rs 30 lakh.
Shahid Afridi quits: Cricket's Peter Pan lays his bat down
MMNN:20 Feb. 2017
Shahid 'Boom Boom' Afridi was never about elegance, always about adrenaline; and pure unadulterated hormone-inducing, blood-pressure-raising, heart-stopping entertainment.
As it happens, I stumble upon a re-run of one of the India vs Pakistan encounters at Sharjah from 1999, while flipping channels on television this Sunday morning. 18-year-old Shahid Afridi is bowling to a young Sourav Ganguly with captain Mohammad Azharuddin at non-striker's end. Wasim Akram has just finished an over from the other end. Imran Khan is in the commentary box. I am left shaking my head in awe at the longevity in the sport of the man who never aged. As an Indian fan, I grew up with the Indo-Pak rivalry in cricket at the forefront of the imagination of the youth of both countries.
The 1978-79 tour of Pakistan when Kapil Dev made his debut, and the charisma and exploits of Imran Khan captured the hearts of Indian women, was a watershed moment. It was the start of a rivalry that was to make the Ashes pale in comparison (at least in the subcontinent), and forever redefine what was important in the minds of sport-lovers in both countries. It did not matter how India did in a tournament or against any other team in the world as long as the team beat Pakistan. And across the border, the sentiment was reciprocated.
And yet, just like for The Ashes, and indeed in any great rivalry, there was huge respect for the individuals in the other team involved in the game. Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Abdul Qadir, Majid Khan, were all to become household names in India. A few years later, when despite Krishnamachari Srikkanth's magnificent century in an ODI at Calcutta, Saleem Malik and Ijaz Ahmed were to bludgeon their way to victory in front of a disbelieving crowd that included a younger yours truly, there was stunned admiration for the feat from an appreciative crowd rather than the hostility that can sometimes be on view in recent times.
The rivalry intensified with the regular ODI matches being played at Sharjah in front of subcontinental crowds and telecast live in both countries. While Pakistan had the better of India for much of this period, amid weary jokes in India about the futility of even playing in Sharjah on Fridays when clearly Allah was on Pakistan's side, India too had her moments. March 1985 springs to mind.
Imran scythes through the Indian batting line up taking 6 for 14 in his 10 overs in one of the most hostile bowling spells in ODI history. The Indian team famously (and literally) goes to sleep during the long lunch, mentally exhausted. Kapil wakes them up, gives them an inspiring speech, and leads India to victory by dismissing Pakistan for 87 in a remarkable match for the ages.
But at the time, the hero of our story, Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi is only 5 years old and holding a kid's bat for the very first time. It will be 1996 when we first get to see Afridi in action. And what a beginning that is. He will not be needed to bat against Kenya in his first match, but in his first innings as a batsman, batting at No. 3 in Pakistan's second match of the tournament against Sri Lanka at Nairobi, he will score a century in 37-balls to announce his arrival to the world.
He will in the process break Sanath Jayasuriya's 6-month old record in 11 fewer balls, and for good measure, he will score 41 of those 100 runs off 11 balls from the very same Jayasuriya. Now that is a debut innings to remember! Unbelievably, he will continue being the one permanent fixture of Pakistan cricket through all its ups and downs over the next 21 years. A period when between match fixing scandals, jail terms for its cricketers, public and media spats between player and player, between players and the Board, and the loss of home advantage because of terror and safety related issues, the only permanence in Pakistan cricket, other than Afridi, would be the pendulum swings in performance between sheer brilliance and utter rubbish.
And 11,185 runs and 540 wickets from 523 international matches later, Afridi will announce his retirement in style as only Afridi can, just after scoring a brilliant 28-ball 54 in the Pakistan Super League T20 tournament. Let us stop and think about those numbers for a moment. Other than Jacques Kallis, who is clearly the outstanding all-rounder in modern Cricket, and one of the best ever, Afridi is the only player to have made more than 10,000 runs and taken more than 500 wickets in his international career.
It is a fact that Kallis made more than 25,000 runs and took 577 wickets and is in a class of his own. Kapil Dev came the closest to this exclusive group, with over 9,000 runs and almost 700 wickets from only 356 matches. But then, Kapil retired well before the advent of T20 cricket. Notwithstanding this, Shahid Afridi's achievement is truly extraordinary.
Throw into this mix the fact that he represented Pakistan. No other country among the major cricket-playing nations has gone through quite the upheaval that Pakistan has in the past decade, and more. And yet, through all this Afridi has kept his head down and continued representing his country with pride and success.
Shahid 'Boom Boom' Afridi was never about elegance, always about adrenaline; and pure unadulterated hormone-inducing, blood-pressure-raising, heart-stopping entertainment. What made it even more special was that it was not boring and predictable. Even when you saw Afridi on the ground, he had not necessarily come to play.
He could as nonchalantly throw away his wicket with a nothing shot at the start (or indeed at any point) of his innings, as he could hit a century at record-breaking speed, demoralising the opposition. India bears witness to a number of these assaults. None more memorable than Kanpur 2005, when with the series tied 2-2 and chasing 250 for a win, Afridi came in and won the match virtually single-handed, scoring a century in 45 balls to hold the record for both the fastest and second-fastest centuries in ODI at the same time.
He could spend 5 overs bowling absolute rubbish and get carted around the park for 60 runs. And he could then come back and pick up 7 for 12 in an unplayable spell of leg-break and googly bowling on a pitch that gives no assistance, as he did in Guyana against the West Indies. You could never say that Afridi did not provide you entertainment, even when he was on the field but did not show up for the game. He would be there, in your face, with his (sometimes) mindless aggression, which invariably made him lose his head.
And on the days that he did? Well, if you were lucky enough to be at the ground, or in front of the television, you would remember the occasion for a very long time, as we all do. Cricket will miss one of its greatest entertainers. Thankfully, we will still have the memories.
BWF Rankings: PV Sindhu becomes second Indian to break into top 5
New Delhi:MMNN:18 Feb. 2017
Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu continued to reach new heights as she became the second Indian woman to break into the top 5 in the latest BWF World Rankings.
Sindhu, who clinched the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold title last month, achieved a career-best ranking of World No. 5 and is currently the best-placed Indian in the chart.
The 21-year-old from Hyderabad has 69399 points in her kitty, while London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal is the only other Indian woman in the top 10 at ninth position.
Sindhu had the best year of her career last season when she clinched the silver medal at the Rio Olympics.
She also grabbed her maiden Super Series title by winning the China Open and then reached the finals at Hong Kong Super Series to qualify for the prestigious BWF World Super Series Final in Dubai.
In men's singles, Ajay Jayaram is the best-placed Indian at World No. 18, while K Srikanth and H S Prannoy are at the 21st and 23rd spots respectively.
Men's doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy is ranked at the 24th place, while the duo of N Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra is at the 14th spot.
Sindhu, on her part, expressed her delight on breaking into top five in women's singles badminton rankings.
"I am very happy to reach world number 5. When I started the season last year I was expecting that I will improve my rankings. Now I am working hard to reach world number 3 by the end of this year," Sindhu said.
IPL 2017 Auction: 5 Players To Watch Out For
MMNN:18 Feb. 2017
The much-awaited IPL 2017 player auction is around the corner with some big names from the world of cricket set to go under the hammer. There are many established stars as well as some new faces that will be garnering interest from various IPL teams. Many English stars are available in the auction and surely will be hot property following their performance in the recently-concluded limited overs series against India. Also, in a historic first, the BCCI has included five Afghanistan cricketers including hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad.
We take a look at five players who could start a bidding war for their signatures between the IPL teams:
Ben Stokes (England) - Base price Rs. 2 Crore
As mentioned earlier, many English stars will be up for sale in the IPL 2017 player auction and arguably the biggest of them goes by the name of Ben Stokes. The all-rounder showcased his hitting prowess as well as his bowling skills in the ODI and T20I series against India.
Stokes was the eighth highest run-getter in the ODI series, scoring 120 runs at an average of 60. But the standout stat is that the Englishman's strike rate of 146.34 was the highest among the top 10. Stokes was also the fourth highest wicket-taker in the series with five scalps to his name in the three matches -- more wickets than the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Stokes didn't have such a good time in the T20I series, scoring 46 runs in the three matches at a strike rate of 117.94. However, the likes of Virat Kohli too failed in the T20 series so Stokes can be forgiven for not setting the series alight.
At a base price of Rs. 2 crore, the Englishman doesn't come cheap but his skills both with the bat and ball could prove to be invaluable to the team that buys him.
But Stokes, along with all English and South African players come with some baggage. The South African players are likely to leave IPL 2017 after May 7 while the England players are scheduled to depart the tournament in two batches - a few after May 1 and the rest after May 14 to prepare for South Africa's tour of England and the Champions Trophy in June.
Ishant Sharma (India) - Base price Rs. 2 Crore
Ishant Sharma is the only Indian cricketer who has been put in the base price bracket of Rs. 2 crore. The lanky pacer was bought by MS Dhoni-led Rising Pune Supergiants for Rs 3.8 crore but was released along with 10 other players.
However, if his sensational spell of bowling in the one-off Test against Bangladesh is anything to go by then Ishant could be a potent weapon in the IPL 2017. Having played for the Kolkata Knight Riders, Deccan Chargers, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rising Pune Supergiants in the previous editions, Ishant brings with him bags of experience in the IPL that could be crucial to his cause.
Ishant has played 14 T20Is for India, taking eight wickets at an economy rate of 8.63. Ishant had a poor outing with the Supergiants last season, playing just four matches and picking three wickets at an economy rate of 9.86. His overall IPL stats make for a much better reading. He has played 70 IPL matches and has taken 59 wickets with a best of 5 for 12.
Tymal Mills (England) - Base price Rs 50 Lakh
Tymal Mills came in as the X-factor to the England side in the recent T20I series in India and didn't disappoint. He met not have set the stage alight but his skills at the death certainly caught the eye.
Mills has the ability to bowl at 90 plus mph and beat batsmen for pace upfront but his real weapon is the slower delivery. The left-armer bamboozled many Indian batsmen with his back-of-the-hand slower balls in the death which were hard to pick and even harder to hit.
The English pacer might have taken just three wickets in the T20 series against India but an economy rate of 7.83, while bowling mostly at the death, is invaluable to any team.
The left-armer has an overall economy of 7.28 in the death overs -- second in the world of cricket only to Bangladesh sensation Mustafizur Rahman.
He is available at Rs 50 lakh, and would be a steal for any team. Surely, there will be a bidding war between the teams to get his services.
Eoin Morgan (England) - Base Price Rs. 2 Crore
If anyone was ever in any doubt about the batting skills of England's limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan, they just need to take a replay of the second ODI between India and England. The English might have lost that match but Morgan's century blitz didn't go unnoticed. Such clean, crisp hitting was seen by a visiting batsman after a long time.
He ended the ODI series as the fifth highest run-getter, only 12 runs behind India's run machine Virat Kohli but a better strike rate than that of the Indian skipper.
Morgan was the second highest run-getter in the T20 series with 108 runs in three matches at a strike rate of 131.70.
The English captain is in the Rs. 2 crore bracket but some IPL teams could do with his hitting skills in their middle order.
Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan) - Base Price Rs 50 Lakh
Yes, you read right. Mohammad Shahzad, Afghanistan's star wicket-keeper batsman, will go under the hammer. It can be safely assumed that at least Shahzad with a base price of Rs 50 lakh would not have been kept in the final auction pool without the consent of the eight franchises and BCCI's wish. And why shouldn't he be in the auction pool after grabbing eyeballs with his pyrotechnics during the last edition of World T20 in India.
Shahzad is the most popular among Afghanistan cricketers with a strike-rate of 136 plus in 55 T20 Internationals in which he hit a hundred and 11 half-centuries. Shahzad has played 55 T20Is and has a high score of 118 not out and an average of 31.84.
Who wouldn't want to have a player who can hit the MS Dhoni's helicopter shot and that also for just Rs. 50 lakh!
Ravichandran Ashwin eyes Anil Kumble's 619 wicket record
Chennai:MMNN:17 Feb. 2017
"Even if I was born a beggar, I would have been the best beggar in the city." "I don't want to be a pre-existing clause; I always want to be the contractual clause." These are not some light-hearted quotes from R. Ashwin in his interaction with this newspaper on Thursday.
The world's No.1 all-rounder, who has been breaking Test records at will, says the statements show his insatiable appetite for excellence that has made the cricketer he is today.
"I have played a significant part in every single Indian victory ever since I started playing for the country. I am not saying it in a tone of arrogance or cockiness. That's what
I have strived hard to achieve. I want to be the decisive factor wherever I go. Once I become the best beggar in the city, I would want to be the best in the country and so forth. I am happy the way I am."
How would you like to end the last leg of India's long home season that culminates with the four-match Test series against Australia?
I'm going to look at the series as a 20-day programme. I will try to get through the 20 days. My injury concerns have been a bit of an issue. It was on the back of my mind in the last two series. Against New Zealand and England I could perform only 60-70 per cent of my potential. I'm trying to get better and put more strength on my body. Sports Hernia is something that can't be managed easily. It's been a big challenge for me. It takes a lot of time to warm up these days. For me, trying to phase out the 20 days is very important.
I will get there in the most effective manner.
Australian opener David Warner has made it clear that he has a game plan for you...
Honestly, I don't have any plans for him. Aussies are all fine players. Steve Smith is going to be the most important player for them. Test cricket is not like T20 or one-day where you come up with a single plan and succeed in executing it. You have to try and restore balance and intensity over a five-day period. Warner is a massive player and he can change games around in a session. But, he can't come and play on the fourth day like he does on the first. I think we have got enough resolve to stop him. Test cricket is not just delivering one decisive blow on that particular day. It's going to be a long-haul challenge and how well one starts is going to dictate the series.
Steve Waugh once called Mutthiah Muralitharan the Don Bradman of bowling and now he has given that title to you. Do you see yourself emulating Murali?
In reality, that's not something I am looking at. It's a massive achievement to go anywhere near Murali's tally of 800 wickets. If I get there, it would be like surpassing my human limit. I started playing Tests a bit late and I have always fought against the odds. And, I don't think I would want to extend one wicket more than what Anil Kumble (619) achieved. That's a matter of honour.
Be it a player from an India camp (Cheteshwar Pujara) or from the opposition (David Warner), they all feel that the strength of Ashwin, the off-spinner, is the ability to think like a batsman...
The fact that I was a batsman in my junior days has been a major help. I understand the batsmen's psyche. I love the game so much, I watch it all the time and even coach some boys at my academy. I go to games that make no sense and I still watch them. All these give me different perspectives on the game. But sometimes, it's counterproductive as batsmen are wary of me and they think twice before taking a chance. As a result, probably, they take fewer risks against me than someone else. And that's when I go one step ahead and give a loose ball away. Over the last two years, I have been doing a lot of this and that's why I look boring.
There seems to be a pattern in the way you take wickets. It takes some time for you to get the first and the rest comes in clutches...
It has something to do with the spell you are going through. Sometimes, I find myself coming a little late in the spell when the batsmen are already set. It takes time to break them down. I don't get to bowl those 10 to 12-over spells anymore. I'm bowling shorter spells because we play five bowlers. Virat also likes to use me that way. It can also be said that I'm taking a bit of time to get into a rhythm. Make no mistake, wickets are extremely slow in India these days. You have to get your pace right, not just through the air but also through the action.
When you talk about rhythm and the ball coming out of your hand like a "dream", what exactly does it mean?
It's the drop. When I'm on top of my game, I make the batsman defend on the front foot, force him to make mistakes and the ball hits the sticker of the bat. When he goes back, more often than not, it's for the fuller ball. I dictate every single phase of his game; the defence, the drive and the chip. When I'm doing that I believe I'm in my best place.
Between the second innings of the Chennai Test against England and the Hyderabad match against Bangladesh, there was a dry spell of 50-odd overs before you finally ended the drought with Shakib al Hasan's wicket...
There have been spells where I bowled well without success. But I try and turn things around. That particular day at Chepauk, it nicked off, catches were dropped, some didn't carry and lbws didn't go my way. It happens. It was a bitter pill for me to swallow. If I hadn't bowled that well, I wouldn't have worried.
Europa League: Jose Mourinho hits out at Manchester United's 'lack of concentration' despite win
Manchester:MMNN:17 Feb. 2017
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho accused his players of not showing an appropriate level of mental preparation during their 3-0 Europa League victory over Saint-Etienne.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's hat-trick earned United a handsome win in Thursday's last 32 first-leg match at Old Trafford, but the scoreline did not tell the full story.
Saint-Etienne finished the first half strongly and substitute Nolan Roux spurned a glorious chance to level two minutes before Ibrahimovic netted United's second goal in the 75th minute.
Mourinho said United's first half had been "so bad" and when asked why, he said it had been down to a "lack of concentration".
"I had the feeling immediately in the dressing room: too noisy, too funny, too relaxed," he told reporters.
"Then my assistants had the feeling in the warm-up, with some of the guys not really focused on getting the right adrenaline in their bodies.
"The game started and the first thing we did was a back-pass (by Eric Bailly) to the striker to be face-to-face with Sergio (Romero, the United goalkeeper).
"Lack of concentration. When you don't have it, it's difficult to recover it. In the first half it was hard.
"Even myself on the touchline, it was difficult, the communication. I needed half-time. We were lucky to be winning 1-0. After that, different story, different result."
Mourinho has made no secret of the fact he would rather be playing in the Champions League than its sister competition, but he said that was no excuse for United's lack of focus.
"I know the Champions League is the competition everyone wants to play, everyone wants to win," he said.
"But we don't play the Champions League, we play the Europa League. We had the group phase a little bit like this. When we needed to win, we did it.
"When the focus is there, we answered. Tonight in the first half, it was too relaxed."
Ibrahimovic, 35, took his tally of goals against Saint-Etienne to 17 in 14 games, but the 17th hat-trick of his career was also probably the most scruffy.
He opened the scoring with a 15th-minute free-kick that was awarded for a seemingly non-existent foul on him by Jordan Veretout and his shot trickled past Stephane Ruffier via a deflection off Vincent Pajot.
His second goal was a tap-in created by substitute Marcus Rashford and his third, with two minutes to play, came from the spot after he crumpled following a challenge by Kevin Theophile-Catherine.
Ibrahimovic has scored more goals against Saint-Etienne than any other club and despite United's healthy advantage, he hopes to feature in Wednesday's return leg.
"Every time I've played against Saint-Etienne, with hard work there has been a couple of goals," said the former Paris Saint-Germain striker.
"I've scored a couple of goals tonight and hopefully I can do the same next week."
Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier was unable to disguise his disappointment with Czech referee Pavel Kralovec.
"The scoreline is very harsh," he said.
"I'm disappointed by the appreciation of the game and the errors by the officials, in particular the first free-kick and the penalty.
"So I'm angry and disappointed for my players. They put so much into this game and they deserved to have more to play for in the second leg.
"It will be very, very complicated to turn this tie around. But we have to respect the competition and the people who will come to the stadium."
Saint-Etienne captain Loic Perrin was allowed to play on despite appearing to be left dazed following a clash of heads with his United counterpart Chris Smalling early in the second half.
But Galtier said he was satisfied with how his medical staff had handled the issue.
"There was a big clash of heads. But he didn't lose consciousness," Galtier said.
"If he had, the doctor would have taken precautions. The doctor said we could keep him on."
India vs Australia: Glenn Maxwell's make-or-break chance in Test cricket
New Delhi:MMNN:16 Feb. 2017
Glenn Maxwell is a curious case. Not many rate him as a Test cricketer. Neither did he do anything special to be rated one. In limited-overs he bears the tag of 'invincibility' but yet manages to get dropped. He is a crowd-puller. He has a massive fan-following as well as has a set of detractors. It, however, does not stop his popularity transcend boundaries. In India a section christened him Glendeep Singh Maxwell for his association with Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). He is an enigma, who cannot be written off. But, there are doubts in place at the same time if he will be one of Australia's key players in their tour of India.
Maxwell's last Test assignment came against Pakistan in UAE, in 2014. Lehmann had then said the all-rounder had been chosen because of his "x-factor". Nonetheless, Brydon Coverdale, in his ESPNCricinfo article, explains the theory with great wit that sums up the situation: "and perhaps it is no coincidence that in mathematics "x" is used to represent the unknown."
Topsy-turvy turn in 2016-17
Maxwell returned to the Australian side with a bang in the T20I series in Sri Lanka. Opening the innings, he slammed a 65-ball 145 first and followed it with a 29-ball 66. Australia won 2-0.
A month later, Maxwell was a surprise omission for the ODI series in South Africa. Travis Head got the nod ahead as the versatile explosive batter who bowls off-spin. As fate would have it, Australia went on to lose 0-5.
Ironies continued further. At the start of the Australian summer, Maxwell could not find a slot in the Victorian side. There were divided opinions. Australian selector and a great of the game Mark Waugh put his weight behind Maxwell. "He should have been playing. From an Australian point of view, he's quite capable of playing Test match cricket. You need to be asking the Victorian selectors why they left him out.
That's not all. Cricket legend Allan Border seconded Waugh and mentioned that Maxwell should look for a new First-Class side. His teammate Peter Handscomb, who made it big for Australia this season, backed Maxwell and raised an eyebrow over the notion of his bad patch with the red ball, "Obviously the last red ball game he played was last year so what form can you go on? Do you go on that one or do you go on the most recent way you've seen him?"
Maxwell had scored 392 runs at 56, with a strike rate of over 85 in the Sheffield Shield 2015-16. He did not bowl enough and clinched just 3 wickets. His exploits in Sri Lanka were still fresh in minds.
When Australia were revamping the side after the beating against South Africa in Hobart that led to the series loss, there was a buzz about Maxwell being a part of the sweeping changes. The likes of Matt Renshaw, Handscomb and Nic Maddinson got a call-up.
Australia's coach Darren Lehmann was blunt while putting the Maxwell buzz to rest: "Are you going to pick a bloke that hasn't made a [First-Class] hundred for two years?"
By the time Maxwell made a return to the Victorian side, he found himself batting below his captain Matthew Wade, a wicketkeeper-batsman. Maxwell's theory of a 'wicketkeeper should be batting below a regular batsman' did not go well.
He was then picked for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy against New Zealand in Australia. He dug the axe to his foot when he ended up expressing his disappointment for batting below Wade in the press conference ahead of the first ODI.
He went on to be penalised by the team.
Captain Steven Smith had then said: "Everyone was disappointed in his comments and I've expressed that to him myself and spoke to the team. One of our values is respect and having respect for your teammates, your opposition, your fans, your media and I thought what he said was very disrespectful to a teammate and his Victorian captain. The leadership group got together and we decided to fine Glenn. We thought that was sufficient punishment. I was disappointed with the comments he made."
Maxwell remained out in all the three ODIs, watching Head make strides towards sealing a regular position. A section then kept backing Maxwell for a berth in the flight to India.
However, former Australian leg-spinner Kerry O'Keeffe rubbished Maxwell's batting technique in the longer format. In a YouTube video, he said, "That off-spin is not even handy.
It's dross (rubbish). It is perhaps the worst action for a spinner in First-Class cricket in Australia. Maxi's action has fallen apart, because of that drive to bowl dot balls in Twenty20 cricket."
Maxwell returned for the ODIs against Pakistan and the Chappell Hadlee Trophy in New Zealand, striking at 32.33 at a strike rate of 121.25 and surprisingly, he did not bowl a single over.
The season has been a topsy-turvy ride for Maxwell, who eventually made it to the flight to India despite averaging just over 25 in this First-Class season.From not being a good enough, longer-format player for his domestic side to being in one of the toughest lands to play Tests, Maxwell's Test fortunes turned in a span of less than three months.
Selectors had their reasons, though.
Chairing the selection panel, Trevor Hohns reasoned, "Glenn is very experienced in Indian conditions. He is generally regarded as a good player of spin bowling. He is a good fielder, and his off-spin could be handy. If conditions prevail, we have the option of playing him as the all-rounder and having the extra spinning option available to us."
The race of all-rounders
Australia's experiments with Callum Ferguson, Maddinson and Hilton Cartwright at No.6 flopped this season. Usually No. 6 is an all-rounder's position, but dearth of quality all-rounders has been a feature in Australian cricket.
Yes, there were the Monty Nobels, Keith Millers and Allan Davidsons or even a Richie Benaud, but they, historically, have relied on a specialist batsman at No. 6. Ricky Ponting for long had that position; there was Damien Martyn or Michael Clarke as well for a while before moving up. There were steely characters such as Steve Waugh, Border and Doug Walters as well, among the men who have successfully batted at that position.
Indian Premier League player auctions likely to be hit by economic dip
MMNN:16 Feb. 2017
After scoring a quick 50 in the second innings of the Hyderabad test against Bangladesh, Cheteshwar Pujara said the innings was important to change the perception about his batting in the shorter format. Seen in the context of the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) player auctions, this remark highlights Pujara's plight. He is the only front-line Indian cricketer without an IPL contract, and clearly this rejection hurts.
It is unlikely that Pujara's T20 career will get rebooted at the IPL?auctions in Bengaluru. Nine years since its glitzy start, the market-driven IPL bazaar is in correction mode. Central to this process is downsizing and cost-cutting. The axe is set to fall on unrealistic player buys.
IMPACT OF ECONOMICS
Not just Pujara,there could be depressing news for other Indian cricket stars. Sweeping changes that recently rocked the Indian economy have triggered tremors that also impact the IPL. And in this situation, it is likely big stars take a hit in cricket's version of demonetisation.
Just as 1000 rupee notes ceased to be legal tender, established stars who commanded top rupee in the past could find their stock drastically devalued. Gone are the days of crazy bids when teams paid Rs. 16 crore for Yuvraj and Rs. 8.5 for Pawan Negi. Franchise owners have realised that trophy buys that consume a large slice of the Rs. 66 crore player purse make no cricket or economic sense. The distilled experience of 9 IPL seasons suggests nobody, just nobody, deserves that kind of a pay cheque.
STARS NOT EVERYTHING
Earlier, owners green-lighted splashy purchases in the belief that stars would excite sponsors, drive ticket sales and sell merchandise. But such hopes were consistently belied; only Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have genuine economic 'pull'.
Gate revenue is practically unrelated to star presence because fans are attracted by the IPL spectacle and not excessively fussed about teams. And merchandise sales have turned out to be a bad joke because brand loyalty is weak and this revenue stream is in a perpetual state of drought.
Like T20 itself, player auctions are known to be batsmen-friendly with the hammer favouring Indian talent. Compared to Karun Nair (Rs. 4cr) and Manan Vohra (Rs. 3.5 cr), bowlers merit lesser amounts and it will be interesting to see the financial fate of released players who are on offer again. Will Ishant Sharma (R3.5 cr), Karn Sharma (Rs. 3.75cr), Nathu Singh (Rs. 3.2cr), Rishi Dhawan (Rs. 3cr), Varun Aaron (Rs. 2cr), Irfan Pathan (Rs. 1cr), Parvez Rasool (Rs. 95 lakh) match their earlier numbers?
This is difficult to call considering auctions are more notoriously uncertain than the filmi box office. But one consolation for those who don't luck out is that the original hammer price of Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jayant Yadav was Rs 10 lakh, which is IPL's minimum wage!
BCCI cancels Yusuf Pathan's NOC for Hong Kong T20 event
New Delhi:MMNN:15 Feb. 2017
Earlier, the BCCI had broken their protocol and allowed Yusuf Pathan to join in the Hongkong franchise. Pathan, who represents Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, was supposed to join Shahid Afridi and Tymal Mills in the Cantons' lineup.
But now after the BCCI's sudden change of mind, Pathan will not be able to compete in the money-spinning tournament. But, this news has also come as a setback for former India wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik, who wanted to play in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). The Indian Express reported that Karthik has confirmed his application was spiked.
It has also been reported that Pathan had initially received the NOC from the BCCI office. However, it is understood the BCCI overturned their decision when they were overwhelmed by a host of other players who expressed their interest in playing in other T20 leagues and wanted NOCs.
Incidentally, Pathan is no longer a BCCI centrally contracted player. So when the news of his joining emerged, it was believed that the BCCI had softened its stance on releasing India players for other T20 leagues.
One of the officials was quoted by the Indian Express saying, "Indian players have a brand name. Indian players playing in the league will attract Indian viewers. It would also mean that our sponsors too want to invest in other leagues. That is why we will be not allowing any Indian players to be part of any leagues."
India vs Australia: Matt Renshaw's ability to handle spin will be key to visitors' chances in Test series
MMNN:15 Feb. 2017
Indian cricket fans of certain age would all claim that they watched the epic Test series of 2001; that they were all either at the Eden Gardens or at the Chepauk Stadium, or glued to the television. It was a comeback for the ages by India against the all-conquering Australians under the tough-as-nails Steve Waugh. Amongst those Aussies was a burly left-handed opening batsman with a weathered visage from Queensland that swept his way back in to the side.
There will be another burly left-handed Queenslander opening the batting for Australia in 2017 but with a cherubic face. Will his sweeping skills match those of Matthew Hayden? We'll have to wait and see. Matt Renshaw, all of 20 years and 17 First-Class (FC) games, will accompany David Warner at the top of the order as the series kicks off in Pune.
After South African bowlers skewered the Aussies at Perth and at Hobart late last year, Australia needed a new infusion of youth. The Yorkshire-born Renshaw with his old-fashioned batting geared towards the longest format - he is yet to play a T20 match domestically or otherwise - was seen as a complementary partner to the pint-sized dynamite Warner. Their contrasting styles were evident at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 3 January. As Warner raced to a hundred before lunch on opening day, Renshaw calmly nudged his way to a placid 25 off 84 balls. He would eventually open up a bit more to show a different side to his batsmanship, striking 20 boundaries on his way to a maiden Test century (184 off 293 balls).
Renshaw and Warner are similar in that they both debuted for Australia having played only a handful of FC games. Warner's reputation was already known through limited overs matches but he had only appeared in 11 FC matches before he wore the baggy green at Hobart vs New Zealand in 2011. Renshaw just had 12 FC matches experience before he was brought in to replace another Queenslander, Joe Burns. Those 12 games included a marathon 170-runs innings (off 395 deliveries) and a successful Shield season in 2015-16, where he was Queensland's top scorer.
But playing South African and Pakistani bowlers on the true-bounce-no-sideways-movement pitches of Australia and facing up to the wily duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on Indian tracks is very different; almost as different as the batting philosophies of Warner and Renshaw.
In preparation for the trial by turn, Australian squad had assembled in Dubai for a training camp before heading into the cauldron of India, to work on their strategies and skills to combat Ashwin and Jadeja. In addition, even before that camp, Renshaw spent time at the nets in the National Cricket Academy in Brisbane with Steve O'Keefe and Monty Panesar trying to get used to batting on turning pitches.
While an off-spinner presents considerable threat to a left-hander than a slow left-armer, Renshaw would be wise to have paid attention to Alastair Cook's dismissals in the recently concluded India-England series. Cook, in Aussie terms, was Jadeja's "bunny" having been dismissed by the Saurashtra spinner six times in ten innings, and Ashwin accounting for the former England captain just thrice.
During Australia's previous Test sojourn to India, a sedate left-handed opener partnered Warner as well. Ed Cowan averaged only 33 in those four Tests but routinely provided a solid base for the Aussie middle order. Darren Lehmann and Steve Smith would hope for something similar from Renshaw as well. More than the runs he makes, it would be the amount of time he spends at the crease and the number of deliveries he consumes to take the sting out of the Indian attack to pave way for Smith and the middle order that would be the stick used to measure Renshaw's success on this tour.
Australia have Shaun Marsh in the squad as a backup opener as well, who has prior experience and success in playing in India and on spinning wickets. But considering Renshaw has opened in Australia's four most recent Test matches, all signs point to the young man facing up to India.
Like Hayden, Renshaw's height would also allow him the reach to comfortably play the sweep shots and that could be his primary method to tackle Ashwin and Jadeja. Renshaw reportedly had phone conversations with Hayden before leaving for Dubai, to get an understanding of handling India the country and its spinners.
Hayden had the benefit of having played few seasons of county cricket on the turning tracks of Northamptonshire and absorbing the knowledge of handling spin during a clinic at the MRF Academy in Chennai, years before his career changing series in 2000-01. But if Renshaw scores even half as much as Hayden's aggregate in that series, he would have gone a long way in not only establishing himself in the Australian side, but set Australia on its way to success in the challenging series.
President congratulates Indian cricket team for Blind World Cup win
New Delhi:MMNN:14 Feb. 2017
President Pranab Mukherjee has congratulated the Indian cricket team for winning the T20 Blind World Cup as he called their victory a special source of inspiration for all differently abled people.
Mukherjee wrote a letter to the team Captain Ajay Kumar Reddy and said: "I write to convey my hearty congratulations to you and your team for the spectacular victory in the T20 World Cup Cricket for the Blind-2017. I also convey my compliments to your coach, Patrick Rajkumar.
"Your success is a matter of great pride for the nation. This victory is the result of grit and determination displayed by the team."
The President said their win "will be a source of inspiration to both sportspersons as well as all differently abled people who aspire for success in sports."
"Please convey my felicitations to all members of your team. I wish your coach, you and every member of your team continued success in the future," he said.
Steve Smith Asks Australia Teammates To 'Go For' Sledging Vs India
MMNN:14 Feb. 2017
Australia captain Steve Smith raised the temperature on Tuesday after giving his teammates the go ahead for sledging in the upcoming four-Test series against India, starting February 23. Smith called upon his players to "go for it" with the verbal volleys and on-field aggression. India vs Australia series are notoriously feisty affairs -- the 2008 contest Down Under was almost called off following the infamous "Monkeygate" incident as animosity between the old foes threatened to boil over.
There was then further bad blood during India's Test and one-day series in Australia prior to the 2015 World Cup when heated on-field exchanges led to several players being penalised.
But ace batsman Smith urged his players to do whatever it takes to win the four-Test series which starts in Pune.
"Each of our individuals play the way they play and if they want to get into a battle verbally then, if that gets the best out of them, go for it," he told reporters in Mumbai.
"It's all about us making sure that as individuals we're in the right mindset to go out and succeed and if guys want to get in those kind of battles then go for it. But in the end it's about us playing on skill and making sure that our skills are in the best place for us to succeed in these conditions," added the 27-year-old.
Relations between the old foes neared breaking point nine years ago when Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh was suspended for three matches for allegedly calling Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds a "monkey" during the New Year's Test in Sydney. The ban was overturned when India threatened to quit the tour, claiming Singh had been wrongly accused.
The hostility between the sides extended into India's 2014-15 tour of Australia which saw India's Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, and the hosts' Mitchell Starc, charged with breaching the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Code of Conduct.
Australia opener David Warner, who had heated on-filed exchanges with India batsman Rohit Sharma with the Australian telling him to "speak English" was reported in both the Test and one-day series.
After Pune, Australia go to Bengaluru, Ranchi and Dharamsala for the other three Tests in March.
Smith urged his players to go out and achieve a career-defining victory.
"All of the guys are really excited about what's to come in the next six weeks. It's a great challenge to play here in India. We know that if we can pull something off and win a series here we'll look back in 10-20 years and it will be some of the best time of our lives," he said.
India Vs Bangladesh, DAY 5: Hosts Win By 208 Runs
HYDERABAD:MMNN:13 Feb. 2017
Riding on Ishant Sharma's superb spell and the magic of both the spinners, India outclassed Bangladesh to register a comprehensive victory by 208 runs in the one-off Test in Hyderabad. With the victory, India also extended their unbeaten streak to 19 matches in Tests and 20 at home.
Riding on Ishant Sharma's superb spell and the magic of both the spinners, India outclassed Bangladesh to register a comprehensive victory by 208 runs in the one-off Test in Hyderabad. With the victory, India also extended their unbeaten streak to 19 matches in Tests and 20 at home. From Bangladesh, Mahmudullah kept his team afloat with his aggressive yet persevered innnings in the morning session after experienced batsmen, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, disappointed with their poor and rash shots on Day 5. India will now play Australia in the four-match series beginning from February 23 at Pune.
It was a good wicket to bat on, a good toss to win. Putting up a good score in the first innings is always good. the opposition batted well. The bowlers got back into their groove before an important series and all in all a good performance.
The guys stuck it out, worked really hard for the wickets, did not get overexcited which was really good to see. Ishant's spell with the new and the old ball, swinging it either way was heartening to watch. Bhuvi bowled beautifully with the old ball which is positive for us.
Last year was something that I did not quite expect, but it is very important not to get ahead of myself. I am very happy with where my game is at the moment. I thought England was the biggest team of this season but after we won 4-0, there is a lot of pressure on us. Most of the boys have already switched mentally into the next series. I have said it earlier as well, the crowd has always been coming in to watch us play and I hope they enjoyed our brand of cricket.
This was a very good surface to bat on, we had to literally bowl 200+ overs to secure 20 wickets, to bowl more than 120 overs in first innings and then come back and bowl another 100 overs, it was brilliant.
I expected this track to break up a bit more on the fourth and fifth day, but nothing like that happened, it held on - great effort from our bowlers. When we have a long home season, we need to look after the bowlers. It's a luxury to have 5 bowlers, but the batsmen have been very good right throughout the nine Tests. I was pleased for (Wriddhiman) Saha to get a hundred here. Even Jayant (Yadav) showed good skills with the bat against England.
We were not worried about the surface in any of the Tests over the ongoing home season, just wanted to get the job done. It was a very satisfying win, Bangladesh have come along really well in recent times, it was a good victory in the end. We are now looking forward to face Australia, it will be a tough 4-Test series, really pleased with all the things we are doing, the top-order, middle and lower order- everyone has chipped in, it augurs well for our future.
Difficult to stop fixing menace unless right example is set: Afridi
MMNN:13 Feb. 2017
All-rounder Shahid Afridi believes Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) needs to set the right example in order to curb the menace of match fixing in the game. Unless, that is done, Afridi believes, corruption in Pakistan cricket will continue to prosper.
While corruption allegations are running thick and fast in the ongoing Pakistan Super League, with Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif getting suspended, and few others being questioned, the veteran all-rounder feels it is because of PCB's weak stand in the past against fixing which has resulted into the current scenario.
"What can I say? I have been saying in the past also that until the PCB sets or makes an example of such players it will be difficult to stop this menace," Afridi told Geo Super channel on Monday (February 13). "To me it is the same situation because you are allowing tainted players back into cricket."
Afridi was referring to the way the board dealt with Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif after they were found guilty of spot-fixing in England in 2010. The trio was banned for a minimum of five years, but they all returned to play competitive cricket after serving their punishment. While the PCB pushed the International Cricket Council to allow Amir to return to cricket in 2015, they also allowed Asif and Butt also to feature in their domestic competitions.
"What is the use if after five years the same players are coming back? I don't think this can be stopped until the right example is set," he added.
Afridi isn't the only one to be critical of the way PCB dealt with the situation. Several former cricketers had also voiced their disapproval. Rameez Raja, while speaking to a news channel on whether Sharjeel and Latif should be allowed to return to cricket, remarked by saying, "over my dead body".
Former Test opener Mohsin Khan too joined the bandwagon by saying, "You can't show leniency in such cases. Once a player is found guilty of soiling the game and his country he should be told to leave cricket forever. But unfortunately in Pakistan cricket set-up, we still have some players who have been accused of fixing in the past."
India v Bangladesh Test: Bangladesh will get better after playing more Tests, says Kohli
HYDERABAD:MMNN:8 Feb. 2017
Never the one to underestimate opposition, Indian captain Virat Kohli said Bangladesh have it in them to become a force in the Test arena provided they play the five-day format more often.
Kohli made the observation in the pre-match press conference of the one-off Test against the neighbours starting on Thursday.
"I think they have the skill they just don't play that many Test matches to gain confidence as a squad. It's very basic. They have become a very good one-day side because of the fact that they play so many ODIs and they have their set combinations. If you don't play Test cricket very often, you will never understand the mindset. That's where it comes from," Kohli said on Wednesday.
"They have beaten all the sides in one-day cricket, because they know how to play the format. You can practice as much as you want but game time is important. Ability is going to be there. It's the mindset that changes from format to format," he added.
"I am sure that if they play more Test cricket they will become solid Test players and a solid Test team as well. I think it should be pushed. They certainly have the ability to compete at the Test level."
Kohli also backed the idea of Bangladesh touring India more often for bilateral series terming the one-off match as a historic moment.
"They haven't come to India much is what I have recently found out. We've gone to Bangladesh quite a bit but they have never been to India for a bilateral before this. So yes, it is a historic moment for both teams and the countries as well. I hope this can happen much more. We have gone there too many times, they should come here more often.
"It will be great for them to come and play here in India. India is a great place to play cricket. They will enjoy it. I think it should happen more often. It is a special occasion. I just happen to be the captain at this time. But it will be a special day."
Kohli praised Bangladesh's batting and said that it will be a battle of equals especially after their batting performance in New Zealand.
"It's an equal battle. You can't discount Bangladesh batting as well. They were outstanding in New Zealand. It was an outstanding effort to score more than 350 runs in one day, it's phenomenal going at 4.5 runs an over throughout the day, something very special. So we can't take any aspect of their team lightly. They have quality cricketers.
"The only way you can win Test matches is by persistence and application and discipline. I think we are going to focus on those things and not as skill battles in particular. We want a complete team application," he stated.
Delhi's Mohit Ahlawat Rips Apart Record Books, Smashes 300 In T20 Match
MMNN:8 Feb. 2017
Delhi cricketer Mohit Ahlawat ripped apart the record books on Tuesday when he smashed an incredible 300 not out off just 72 balls, hitting an unbelievable 39 sixes, in a Twenty20 match at Lalita Park in New Delhi. The 21-year-old, who has played three first-class games for Delhi, was playing for Maavi XI against Friends XI in the Friends Premier League. In those three first-class matches, all of which he played in October 2015, the youngster only managed five runs with the highest score of four.
A wicketkeeper-batsman, Ahlawat also punished the rival bowlers with 14 fours as his side put 416 for two in 20 overs on the board and won the match by 216 runs.
The size of the ground and quality of bowlers however are unknown factors.
With the mind-boggling innings Ahlawat has created history by becoming the first batsman to score a triple-century in a Twenty20 match at any level.
He was batting on 250 at the end of 18 overs and went to score his last 50 runs in the remaining two overs of the match, including 34 off the last one. He hit five consecutive sixes off the last five balls of the innings.
Apart from Ahlawat his teammate Gaurav went on score 86 runs for Maavi XI.
While Ahlawat debuted in first class cricket against Rajasthan, he also went on to play two more games against Vidarbha and Haryana.
"I was feeling good out there in the middle. I was middling the ball. I knew I could get to the 300-run mark if I batted for 20 overs. After the 17th over I felt I had a realistic chance of getting to the figure. I thought if I could get at least 12 balls from final 18, I could get there. Fortunately, things went my way," Mohit told Cricket Country.
The highest score of Twenty20 cricket, not including club cricket, belongs to West Indies great Chris Gayle who had hit 175 not out in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2013. In Twenty20 Internationals, Australia's Aaron Finch holds the record most runs in an innings when he scored 156 against England in 2013.
Ricky Ponting doesn't think Sachin Tendulkar is India's best ODI batsman
MMNN:7 Feb. 2017
SO the rumour famously goes, when John Lennon was asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world, he replied: "He's not even the best drummer in the Beatles".
Sachin Tendulkar put up a strong case to be classified the world's best batsman after Sir Donald Bradman over an international career that spanned more than 25 years, but when it comes to one-day internationals, Ricky Ponting doesn't even think he's the best batsman to come out of India.
Instead, the former Australian skipper has reserved that mantle for current Indian captain Virat Kohli. He believes the 28-year-old's record in the coloured clothing is enough to crown him the best ODI batsman ever - especially considering he's got plenty of runs still left in him.
"Is he (Kohli) the best batsman in the world? Yeah, he probably is," Ponting told Gulf News. "I thought he was six or seven months ago and he's probably taken it to another level since then.
"Is it too premature to call him the best ever? You can probably say that right now as far as his one-day cricket is concerned.
"His one-day record is outstanding and probably better than anybody that's ever played the game given how many hundreds he's made.
"He'll continue to improve, especially now that he's the captain as well and his team's winning."
It's almost blasphemy to snub Tendulkar - who holds a God-like status in his homeland. His 18,426 ODI runs scored at an average of 44.83 are the most in history - 4000 more than the next best Kumar Sangakkara on 14,234. He also scored 49 centuries in the 50-over format, the next best being Ponting, who reached triple figures 30 times.
Those are some unbelievable numbers racked up across a 463-game career.
But when it comes to current stars, Kohli is in a stratosphere of his own. He's scored the fourth-most hundreds ever (27) while plundering 7755 runs at an average of 53.11 and a strike rate of over 90 in 179 games.
Most impressive is the reputation Kohli has carved out for himself as being a run-chase specialist in ODIs. His most recent act of wizardry came in the first limited overs match of a series against England when the Poms belted 350 first up.
Coming in at 1/13, Kohli hit a splendid 122 off 105 balls which, in partnership with Kedar Jadhav (120 off 76), saw the hosts reach their target with 11 balls to spare.
That ton was his 17th in the second innings of a one-dayer, and of those, 15 have come in successful run chases. Tendulkar previously held the record number of centuries in a successful second innings with 14.
That knock also saw Kohli become the fastest man to reach 27 ODI hundreds, needing just 169 innings to achieve the feat - way ahead of Tendulkar who needed 254 innings.
His form in the royal blue of India is unparalleled, but Ponting believes the feisty right-hander still has a way to go before he's considered a great of Test cricket. He's scored a tick over 4000 runs in 53 games wearing the whites with 15 centuries at an average of 50.1, but whether he can maintain his impressive run-scoring for the rest of his career will determine where he ends up on the spectrum of Test legends.
"Let's give him a few years yet in the Test series side of things," Ponting said. "It's too early yet to be taking about him being one of the greats.
"I think the great players we always talk about, the Tendulkars, the (Brian) Laras, the (Jacques) Kallises, those guys played 120, 130-200 Test matches. Virat's not even halfway along that path."
Ponting said one area Tendulkar had everyone covered was his longevity. He played a record 200 Test matches - 32 more than Ponting and Steve Waugh, who are next on the list with 168 appearances.
"The great thing about Sachin was his longevity in the game," Ponting said. "To think about someone playing 200 Test matches is quite remarkable and to still maintain the standards over such a long period of time.
"I think that's the difference between the really, really great players and the great players is the longevity and how long they can perform at a certain level for."
"(Kohli) is not the complete, all-round package yet."
India Vs Bangladesh: Virat Kohli Backs Ajinkya Rahane Ahead Of Triple-Centurion Karun Nair In Playing XI
MMNN:7 Feb. 2017
The distinction of being only the second Indian to score a Test triple-century will not be enough for Karun Nair to cement his place in the Indian Test-playing XI, as he will have to pave the way for Ajinkya Rahane to come back for the one-off Test against Bangladesh starting from Thursday. Indian captain Virat Kohli made it clear in the pre-match press conference that Rahane, at whose expense Nair was picked to play the final Test against England, is their preferred choice.
While the top four batsmen - KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and the captain himself are automatic selections, the tricky part starts post the number four slot. Rahane was out of the side for the last two Tests after he injured his finger during the third Test in Mohali and missed out on the remaining two matches.
Thereafter, Nair made a name for himself, scoring only the third triple-century for India, the other two having gone to Virender Sehwag.
Asked about the team combination, Kohli said, "Ajinkya Rahane has done enough in 2-3 years to walk into XI when fit. Probably our best batsman in this format."
Kohli also said that the team management's focus is to back players making a comeback from injury. "The big challenge is to ensure that we back players making a comeback and keep the youngsters in the squad and groom them.
"We are lucky that we have bench strength. We have a pool of 20-30 players from which we can choose," he added.
Rahane had missed the last two England Tests due to a finger injury and is now fit to take the field. Before injury, he scored 63 runs in the three matches of the series against England with the highest score of 26 and an average of 12.60.
Alastair Cook steps down as England captain
MMNN:6 Feb. 2017
Alastair Cook has decided to step down as captain of the England Test setup. According the England & Wales Cricket Board website, Cook had first discussed his decision with the Board Chairman Colin Graves and later conveyed to Direct of England Cricket Andrew Strauss his continuing commitment to playing Test cricket for the country.
"It's been a huge honour to be England captain and to lead the Test team over the past five years," Cook is quoted as saying by the ECB, "Stepping down has been an incredibly hard decision but I know this is the correct decision for me and at the right time for the team. I've had time to reflect after the India series and this weekend I spoke to Colin Graves, the Chairman, to explain and offer my resignation."
He also said that it was a "sad day personally in many ways." "But I want to thank everyone I've captained, all the coaches and support staff and, of course, the England supporters and the Barmy Army who follow us home and away and have given us unwavering support. Playing for England really is a privilege and I hope to carry on as a Test player, making a full contribution and helping the next England captain and the team however I can."
On Saturday, Cook was awarded the honorary post of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). Having led England in 59 Tests, he is the country's most capped captain in the longest format of the game. He is also regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific batsmen ever to play for England. Cook also led England to their first Test victory in India since 1984-85. He also has two Ashes victories under his belt as captain.
Cook's captaincy came under the scanner following England's poor performance at Bangladesh and their disastrous five match Test series against India. Cook managed to score a century in the first Test but England went on to be routed 4-0 in the series by a rampant Indian side.
Australia confident Matthew Wade will be fit for Test series vs India
MMNN:6 Feb. 2017
Australia are confident wicketkeeper Matthew Wade will be fit for the upcoming Test tour of India and have no plans to call up another gloveman as a precaution, according to coach Darren Lehmann.
Wade, who took over as first choice wicketkeeper from Peter Nevill last November, missed two one-day internationals against New Zealand last week because of back spasms despite being initially named as stand-in captain for Steve Smith.
Lehmann, though, said Wade had already departed for the pre-series training camp in the United Arab Emirates.
"He'll be fine. He's got on the plane," he told reporters in Hamilton.
"If there was any doubt, he wasn't going to get on the plane. So that's a good thing."
The 29-year-old Wade was replaced behind the stumps for the defeats in Auckland and Hamilton by middle order batsman Peter Handscomb, who also stood in when the wicketkeeper was taken sick during the third Test against Pakistan in January.
Lehmann said Handscomb's performances were convincing enough not to warrant a call-up for Nevill, who has been in fine form with the bat in domestic cricket.
"He was a bit rusty when he only got 10 minutes notice at Eden Park," Lehmann added. "(But) he kept well (in Hamilton)."
Wade will be assessed after his flight and his match fitness tested in warm up matches in the UAE and Mumbai.
"Unless something flares up during the Dubai leg or tour game, we'll stay status quo. The bonus with the squad is you've got someone who can keep pretty well. That's handy, having that just in case something happens."
Wade was required as stand-in captain in New Zealand because Smith suffered an ankle injury but Lehmann said the Australia skipper was already in Dubai and batting.
Australia, who last won a Test in India in 2004, start the series on February 23 with the first Test in Pune, which will be followed by matches in Bangalore, Ranchi and Dharamsala.
76 players up for grabs at IPL auction on February 20
MMNN:4 Feb. 2017
As many as 76 players including 28 from overseas will go under the hammer at the 2017 IPL auction to be held in Bengaluru on February 20.
The BCCI today announced the IPL auction date on what was the last day of the player registration.
The auction was originally proposed for February 4 but was delayed in the wake of the Supreme Court order that led to an administrative crisis in the BCCI with its president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke being removed for not implementing the Lodha panel recommendations.
The Committee of BCCI Administrators is now in place and one of their immediate tasks is to fast track the preparations for the IPL beginning April 5.
In a release, the BCCI said 750 players have registered for the auction.
"The IPL franchises will go into the player auction with a maximum of INR 143.33 crore purse for 2017 season," the statement read.
"The teams can have a maximum of 27 players including 9 overseas players. A maximum of 76 players, including 28 overseas, can be bought at the auction," it read further.
The team that goes into the auction with the biggest purse is Kings XI Punjab, having Rs 23.35 crore at its disposal.
Delhi Daredevils are second in the list with a balance purse of Rs 23.1 crore.
Mumbai Indians will have the least amount of money to be spent as they are only left with 11.555 crore, a little more than Royal Challengers Bangalore (12.825 crore). The latest IPL entrants, Pune Super Giants and Gujarat Lions, are left with Rs 17.5 crore and 14.35 crore respectively.
With squad limit being 27, Kolkata Knight Riders are expected to do a lot of buying at the auction, having got only 14 players in their roster so far.
The auction will be followed by a day long IPL Franchise Workshop on February 21.
In December, the big names that were released from their respective squads were India pacer Ishant Sharma, South African speedster Dale Steyn and former England batting star Kevin Pietersen, who has now ruled himself out of the upcoming edition.
As many as 140 cricketers, including 44 overseas players, were retained, while 63 were let go by the eight franchises.
Manchester United Manager Jose Mourinho wants misfiring stars to deliver against Leicester
England:MMNN:4 Feb. 2017
Jose Mourinho wants Manchester United`s misfiring stars to put a smile back on his face by blitzing troubled Leicester on Sunday.
Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks as his side delivered one punchless display after another.
His anger boiled over following Wednesday`s goalless draw with lowly Hull when he stormed out of a television interview, criticised the referee and claiming the authorities punish him more severely than his managerial rivals.
United are unbeaten in 14 league games, but seven of those have ended in draws, including the last three.
Their 33-goal haul in the league is 12 less than any other top six side and Swedish veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only one of United`s forwards posing any threat to opposing defences.
With United trailing four points behind the top four, Mourinho knows it is essential for his sixth placed team to find a significantly sharper cutting edge if they are to qualify for the Champions League.
"I have to agree with you that we don`t score enough goals and some of our players from these attacking, creative positions they could, they should, score more goals," he said.
"We attack so much and with so many players, and so many players have the freedom in our dynamic to reach scoring positions.
"But when you see the number of goals we score, there is not a true relation between our attacking production and the number of players we put always in attacking positions and the number of goals we score."
Given United`s recent problems and Leicester`s current predicament, this weekend`s clash at the King Power Stadium offers an opportunity for one team to get back on track while plunging the loser into deep despair.
Spluttering champions Leicester have made an even worse job of defending the title than Chelsea`s pitiful effort under Mourinho`s management last season.
Just 10 months after their fairytale triumph, Claudio Ranieri`s side are languishing two points above the relegation zone after losing their last three matches and winning just one of their previous eight.
Mourinho didn`t expect Leicester to be involved in the title race this term, but he has no intention of underestimating them on Sunday.
"It was amazing what they did, but they were working one complete season with one match per week, competing against other teams domestically that were playing in the Champions League and not them," Mourinho said.
"That is a big, big, big difference for them. So, nobody would expect them, I think not even them, to be fighting for the title again, but the manager is there, the players are there, and they are a very good team.
"It is a very difficult match for us and also a very difficult match for them, but I have total respect for what they did."
As if Leicester, beaten by a controversial late goal at Burnley in midweek, hadn`t suffered enough bad luck lately, they discovered striker Islam Slimani will miss the United clash after suffering a groin injury.
Leicester are yet to score a league goal in 2017 and will face a tense struggle to avoid relegation in the final weeks of the season unless their results improve quickly.
Ranieri is pinning his hopes on Leicester rediscovering the incredible work rate that carried them to the title and he saw encouraging signs against Burnley.
"The pressure is split to everybody. All my players want to win. Then the pressure is on the manager, always, but it`s not my first year as a manager," he said.
"The players have to fight for Leicester. Everybody is fighting, we lost in the 87th minute and you know how we lost but we fight until the end."
IPL 2017: Player auction likely to shift from Bengaluru to Mumbai
MMNN:3 Feb. 2017
Bengaluru might have been the favoured destination for hosting the auctions for the Indian Premier League (IPL), with the Karnataka capital hosting it for the last three editions, but that could change this year with the powers-that-be mooting the idea of shifting it to Mumbai this year.
A report on CricketNext carried the statement of a a senior official of an IPL franchise, who said on Friday that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is considering the move, as it could prove more convenient both logistically as well as financially for the organisers.
"Earlier, the IMG team in the last few years would head off to Bengaluru well in advance to start the back-end work. And then you had all the IPL governing council members heading to the city a few days prior to the auction. Having it in Mumbai also helps in keeping the cost under check," the official was quoted as saying according to the report.
Mumbai had earlier hosted the auction for the inaugural edition of the cash-rich Twenty20 league back in 2008, before getting a second shot at it two years later. The only other times Bengaluru did not host the event was in 2009 and 2013, which took place in Goa and Chennai respectively.
The franchises though, did not take exception to the postponement of the auction date, which is now likely to take place between 20 to 25 February instead of the original date of 4 February, with the BCCI yet to finalise a date for the event.
"Yes, we were earlier told that the auction would take place in the first week of February, but then it had to be delayed for obvious reasons. But that is okay because we all realise that the BCCI has had other priorities and there is a legitimate reason behind the postponement," the official was quoted as saying in the report.
The BCCI's Committee of Administrators (COA) however, finalised the dates for the tournament on Wednesday, with the 10th edition of the league now set to take place between 5 April to 21 May.
From an Australian point of view, Virat Kohli is public enemy number one: Mike Hussey
Sydney:MMNN:3 Feb. 2017
Australia need a clear strategy to keep Virat Kohli in check and refrain from getting into verbal confrontations with the India captain during the four-Test series starting this month, former batsman Mike Hussey has said.
Under leading batsman Kohli, India are unbeaten in their last 18 Tests, registering series wins in Sri Lanka and West Indies, while thumping South Africa, New Zealand and England at home.
The captain's form has been key to India's rise to number one in the Test rankings, with the 28-year-old scoring three double hundreds and averaging almost 76 in Tests in 2016.
Kohli, who is often very demonstrative on the field, has said in the past that he does not mind on-field skirmishes and Hussey believes it is that fire in his belly that inspires the Indian skipper to perform better.
"I wouldn't try and fire him up," Hussey told the Cricket Australia website (cricket.com.au) ahead of Australia's tour, which starts in Pune on February 23. "I think he thrives on that and he's a real competitor.
"He loves being in the fight and loves the contest out in the middle. There's no need to get involved in that sort of verbal barrage because I think that fires him up even more."
Kohli has polarised opinion over his regular run-ins with the opposition and fans, and was fined half of his match fee in 2012 for responding to barracking from the crowd by gesturing at them with his middle finger during a Sydney Test.
Hussey, one of the former Australia batsmen who has tasted considerable success on the spinning tracks in South Asia, does not feel there is much need for verbal duels.
"I'd make sure we have some very clear plans and we try and stick to them as best as we possibly can," the 41-year-old Hussey added.
"You don't want to get carried away with too much talk and lose your concentration of what's important, which is executing your skills.
"The team that wins will be the one that can execute their skills at the highest quality and for the longest period of time. It's not going to be the team that's the most verbal or the most aggressive."
Australia were beaten 4-0 the last time they toured India in 2012 and were also whitewashed 3-0 in Sri Lanka last year.
Hussey thinks the touring side will need to keep Kohli quiet with the bat if they are to enjoy any success.
"From an Australian point of view, Kohli is public enemy number one and we have to get him out cheaply," Hussey said. "If he gets in, he'll go big and score big runs.
"He's very confident at the moment, he knows the conditions so well and generally if he plays well, India win."
New Zealand vs Australia: Second ODI called off due to unsafe outfield
Napier (new Zealand):MMNN:2 Feb. 2017
An unsafe outfield forced the abandonment of the second one-day international between New Zealand and Australia without a ball being bowled on Thursday.
Rain during the morning had left the McLean Park outfield sodden and play was delayed by almost five hours before the game was officially called off at 1845 (0445 GMT).
The decision was met with resigned frustration from the large crowd, who had sat patiently for hours hoping to see some action, particularly since the rain had actually stopped about 15 minutes before the scheduled start of play at 1400.
Ground staff had removed the covers from the square about an hour later and begun preparing the surface while the players started warming up with a 37-over game scheduled to begin at 1645.
However, the warm-ups caused water to seep to the surface, with Australia captain Aaron Finch unearthing a large divot with minimal effort, forcing umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Chris Brown to deem conditions still unsuitable for play.
"I thought when we turned up, it was obviously a bit soggy and a bit wet, but I thought we'd get a game in at some point," Finch told reporters.
"It felt like it improved... but once we started warming up it was pretty clear that there was quite a few soggy and damp patches that were a bit unsafe, and unfortunately over the next about three hours they just didn't improve at all."
Match officials made two further inspections throughout the afternoon and the large crowd became increasingly restless and broke into an ironic slow handclap with cries of "hurry up".
A final inspection was made at 1830 and the decision to abandon the contest was confirmed 15 minutes later.
"The umpires are the sole judges of whether the ground is fit for play. But both players and management were fully supportive of the decision," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said.
"We were given a start time which was a bit on the keen side because there was still casual water around the outfield.
"(But) annoyed, frustrated yeah that probably sums it up."
The third and final match of the series is at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Sunday. New Zealand hold a 1-0 lead after winning the first game in Auckland on Monday by six runs.
IPL preparations get COA green signal
MUMBAI:MMNN:2 Feb. 2017
After being left in the cold storage for more than four months, the BCCI has been given the green signal begin preparations for the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL). The newly-appointed four-member committee of administrators (COA) - led by ex-CAG Vinod Rai - gave the go ahead to the Board. The tournament will commence on April 5. A statement issued by the BCCI on Wednesday evening read: "The COA met the concerned (BCCI) officials today to take stock of the urgent and important matters mainly concerning the successful conduct of IPL 2017."
With a lot of time having been wasted already, Board representatives, in absence of CEO Rahul Johri, convinced the panel to continue with the prevailing procedures for organising the cash-rich event. The statement further read: "The COA has issued directions that the existing processes for availing the services and the appointment of the vendors for IPL will continue for this season."
The 2017 edition has a lot at stake for the BCCI because following this year's tournament, the media rights auction - that was earlier scheduled for October 25, 2016 but had to be cancelled - will be held. This edition (2017) will also give the BCCI to repair its image and win the hearts of potential investors once again. On its part, the COA has further assured IPL franchisees and all other stakeholders that all preparations will be promptly dealt under the supervision and directions of the COA by the BCCIIPL management team.
February 3 is the last date for registration of players for the auction, following which a date for the auction will be announced at the earliest. Considering the high stakes that IPL carries with it year after year, the BCCI had been sweating the last two months as all their operations had come to a complete standstill in the backdrop of the Supreme Court hearings and the Lodha Committee's stand on implementing reforms.
With the new COA in place, there were once again concerns if interim administrators like historian Ramchandra Guha - who has clearly never been a fan of the IPL nor cricket's shortest format - would acknowledge that the 2017 edition needs a sprint to be ready in time.
While time will tell if Guha changes his mind on the format and the tournament, he will certainly have a say as IPL operations gain pace.
The following are some of the things that the BCCI will have to work on in the shortest time possible to conduct the 2017 edition of the tournament:
Broadcast production strategies; Digital New Media strategies; hospitality service; ticketing arrangement with franchises; logistics; marketing & commercial; merchandise; operations; matchday entertainment; opening ceremony; playoffs ticketing; insurance; fan parks.
Three members to represent BCCI at ICC meeting
MMNN:1 Feb. 2017
The Supreme Court, on Wednesday (February 1), refused to modify its earlier order and reiterated that the three-member panel of Amitabh Choudhary, Anirudh Chowdhury and Vikram Limaye will represent Board of Control for Cricket in India at the ICC meeting on Thursday.
Kapil Sibal, the senior lawyer who was appearing for Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), told the apex court that only Limaye has been asked to attend the meeting, which goes against the order passed by the court. The Apex Court then ordered BCCI to inform the ICC that all three members enjoy the same status and should be allowed to attend the meeting.
Earlier, Rahul Johri, the BCCI CEO, had told the Supreme Court that only one person is allowed at the meeting in Dubai. Johri then changed his stance and confirmed that he had written to the ICC to make arrangements for three people, to which the governing body has agreed.
"ICC has no objection to India's Supreme Court-nominated BCCI representatives for the ICC meetings. It [the ongoing court case regarding the reforms in the BCCI] is a domestic issue of India. The ICC has nothing to do with it," an ICC spokesperson was quoted as saying by Outlook. "People who attend the ICC Executive Board and ICC CEOs' Committee are nominated by respective [national] Boards. Like other Boards, the BCCI will do the same, i.e. nominate the two representatives.
"Supreme Court nominating BCCI's representatives will not fall under 'government's interference' rule of the ICC. It is the Supreme Court; it is not the government of India. The government interference could be if, suppose, the sports minister or the foreign minister of a country takes over the national board of that country.
"Those kinds of takeovers are different while the Supreme Court of any country is supreme; there's no bigger court than that in a country. The Supreme Court's agenda is not of taking over of a Board. They might step in to initiate things like reforms in a Board or whatever the issues might be."
The Lodha committee refused to intervene in the matter stating that the conflict is between the BCCI and the ICC and they don't want to interfere.
The ICC meeting will take place in Dubai from February 2-5.
India vs England, 3rd T20I at Bengaluru: Virat Kohli seeks series win amidst his very own RCB crowd
MMNN:1 Feb. 2017
A Test series win against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, West Indies in West Indies, and South Africa, New Zealand, and England at home: Virat Kohli, as a Test captain, has a had a phenomenal time. In his first series as full-time ODI captain, India drubbed England 2-1 in a series that saw 6 300-plus totals. He has not had a setback when at helm. However, if Eoin Morgan's England put a final nail in the coffin in the third ODI at Bengaluru's Chinnaswamy Stadium, Kohli will experience his first defeat as captain across formats, at his home away from home, in a city that has Kohli as their captain of the IPL team, RCB.
Famous Bengaluru crowd
Chinnaswamy Stadium is nothing less than a Bermuda Triangle for the bowlers. A belter of a track, fast outfield, and shorter boundaries, it is undoubtedly a paradise for the batters. This, however, will affect Indian bowlers lesser than their English counterparts, because they the Indians will have the boisterous crowd behind them to support them tirelessly. In addition, England bowlers will have to appeal on the top of their voices to be heard by the umpires.
Had MS Dhoni not hit two boundaries in the last over of first T20I and KL Rahul not scored almost 50 per cent of team's total in the second one, India would not have scored past 140. Kohli has looked patchy, getting out in 20s. Suresh Raina has looked out of sorts against Adil Rashid in Nagpur. Yuvraj Singh could manage 16 off 25 in both matches. Not once did the Indian batting unit performed as a cohesive unit the way they did in the Tests and ODIs.
England faced no trouble in the series opener. Jason Roy and Sam Billings made sure of that at the top of the order. Captain Eoin Morgan has a penchant for scoring briskly at crucial junctures. If not anyone, Joe Root chips in with vital runs without anyone noticing. However, they could churn out only 35 off 30 when they had 7 wickets in hand at Nagpur. Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler all fell prey to Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah's staggering death bowling, failing to take the team over the line.
Be it Chris Jordan or the Nehra-Bumrah pair, death bowling has been spectacular in this series. In an era that sees very little margin for error for the bowlers, this series produced some top-drawer bowling in the end. From back-of-hand slower deliveries to the toe-crushing yorkers, the bowlers gave all their might against all odds to contain the onslaught when the batsmen are in the last gear.
This is Bengaluru, though: one mistake, and the bowler will be smashed to pulp.
Kohli has not won an IPL title for RCB yet. In the previous edition, he blasted nearly 1,000 runs, scored as many as 4 hundreds, and yet failed to lift the title for Bengaluru. This is a big moment for him, to clinch a series in a city that considers him its very own.
Rahul, RCB's latest batting sensation, scored a resounding 71 off 47 balls in the last match. When he will come to open with Kohli, the crowd is likely to go berserk.
Jordan and Morgan may not play for RCB anymore, but the Englishmen know what it is to play for and against the home team.
And then there is leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, second-highest wicket-taker of IPL 2016. All the same, he will be itching to send the English openers packing like he did in the Kanpur T20I.
Imagine a hypothetical scenario: Kohli c Morgan b Jordan, or Morgan c Kohli b Chahal.
Bengaluru has hosted 4 T20Is. The team fielding first won 3 of them. And given Kohli's luck with the toss, his batting arsenal has to trigger more runs if they are put to bat first for the third consecutive time this series.
The only time India batted first at this venue was against Bangladesh, in the 2016 World T20. The last over from the match remains etched in our memory, not because Hardik Pandya bowled well but the Bangladesh batters snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. But again, India were on the brink of losing the match. Toss will therefore be a crucial factor.
If not these facts, there is one more that pushes India in a spot of bother: in the two matches they have played here they have failed to surpass 150, just like they did in the first contests of this series.
For that matter, the highest international total at this ground is 157, despite it being a featherbed for the batsmen. Nonetheless, the highest total at the venue, in IPL, is 263.
Amit Mishra dismissed the in-form Morgan as well as knocked over Stokes in the same over but overstepped only to gift the southpaw a free hit. Otherwise, his figures read 4-0-25-1.
The 19-year-old Rishabh Pant will have to continue warming the bench, for India are likely to play the same playing XI.
England, on the other, would face a conundrum as to whether to replace spinner Liam Dawson his namesake fast bowler Plunkett. Let us not forget the length of boundary line, which will put England in further enigma.