ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Sri Lanka Cricket throw weight behind national side
New Delhi: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: Virat Kohli Drops Hints That He May Play Vs Mumbai Indians On April 14
New Delhi: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.



IPL 2017: Team Profile, Royal Challengers Bangalore
New Delhi: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.



India Vs Australia: Virat Kohli Describes Win As Best Of His Captaincy Career
New Delhi: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.”



Pooja Ghatkar Captures 10m Air Rifle Bronze In ISSF World Cup
New Delhi: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
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.



Abhinav Bindra says goodbye in bad year for seniors, youngsters shine
New Delhi:MMNN:20 Dec. 2016
Perfectionist Abhinav Bindra walked into the sunset after a glorious career but, in an unfortunate coincidence, dark clouds hovered over a house in disorder after the Indian shooting team returned with only luggage to boast for following a barren Olympic campaign.
Bindra was not far away from a fairytale ending.
India’s lone individual Olympic gold medallist till date, he quit the sport he loved dearly and practised with single-minded devotion over the last two decades, after winning plenty of laurels across the world.
Bindra officially announced his retirement from shooting in September, saying, “It is time to move on and hand over the baton to the younger generation”. With the profile of the sport taking a beating of sorts post Rio, youngsters would do well take a leaf out of Bindra’s book of training.
The World Championship gold-medallist missed out on a second Olympic podium finish by a whisker in his last Games after losing in a tense shoot-off, but still he was by far the best Indian shooter on view in Rio.
It was appropriate that the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), governing body for the sport in the country, commemorated the glittering career of Bindra at a gala ceremony.
While the sport made noises outside, by the standards Indian shooters have set over the years, it was quiet inside the ranges. Performing regularly gave way to winning a rare medal or two intermittently.
The debacle in Rio was the first time since 2004 that India finished without a medal at an Olympic Games, prompting the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to formulate a review committee headed by Bindra immediately after the multi-sport extravaganza to examine and identify in a cold and ruthless manner the reasons behind the failure.
Besides the shooters, the panel was equally scathing on coaches and the national federation in its damning 36-page report, and minced no words as it chastised the Rio flop show while recommending a systematic overhaul.
From Gagan Narang, Heena Sidhu to Ayonika Paul, none of the shooters were spared for the disastrous outing, with the panel talking to each shooter individually. Among the juniors though, talented shooters have emerged with quite a few shining on the world stage regularly, indicating a bright future.
The rise of junior shooters augers well for the sport, but the seniors have left a lot to be desired with their dismal showing, especially in the mother of all sporting events, where India has brought home four medals since the Athens Games, including a historic gold by Bindra at the 2008 Beijing edition.
Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang continued the trend at London 2012, winning a silver and a bronze each, and the shooters kept the good work going by returning with a decent haul from the Incheon Asian Games and Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Jitu Rai, who emerged as the brightest medal prospect in that period by regularly winning on the world stage, would prove to be the biggest disappointment as he failed to finish on the podium in both his pistol events at Rio.
The likes of Heena, Manavjeet Singh Sandhu, Narang, Apurvi Chandela and Jitu, among others, left the country thoroughly disappointed after they were unable to put on an impressive show.
The committee concluded that the consistent trickle of shooting medals since the 2004 Athens Games ended up making everyone involved in the sport complacent.
“Everyone took it for granted that there would be progress automatically, and forgot to ensure a systematic healthy process,” the report had stated.
“The committee was unanimous in its view that Indian shooting needs to change, change its attitude, its policies and practices, so that the booming talent gets a fair chance to flourish in a healthy atmosphere, and win all the medals that it can in the World Championships and the Olympics.”
It is an irony that the shooters let India down despite being provided all help while preparing for the mega sporting event.
Jitu revived his season by winning the Champion of Champions pistol award in the World Cup Final towards the end.
Meanwhile, India’s rich haul of 15 medals in the Asian Shooting Championship for rifle and pistol in Tehran saw a lot of positives. It saw some new stars emerge with Shahzar Rizvi and Ruchita Vinerkar being the most notable faces.
There were a few others such as Shubhankar Pramanik, Anmol Jain, Swapnil Kusale, Manavaditya Rathore, son of the India’s first Olympic medallist in shooting, and Anant Jeet Singh Naruka who did very well, continuing the work in progress.
In the junior category, there was lot to cheer about as India finished second overall with a total of nine gold, five silver and 10 bronze medals at the year’s second and final Junior World Cup in September in Azerbaijan.
They finished second in the tournament, an improvement of two places after being placed fourth in the year’s first World Cup.
Meanwhile, the ISSF (International Shooting Sport federation) has rung in some changes to international events that will rob a number of existing male shooters of their favoured events.
Bindra is heading the panel that has recommended the changes. Prepared to face brickbats, Bindra tried to reason with those who criticised the idea.
The ISSF announced that the double trap event will be replaced by trap mixed gender team event, while 10m air rifle mixed gender team event will replace the 50m rifle prone event.
The 50m pistol men event will be taken over by 10m air pistol mixed gender team event. All this is being done in an effort to correct the gender imbalance in medal events at the Olympics.


Australia vs Pakistan: Hilton Cartwright, Zimbabwe-born all-rounder, joins hosts' squad
Brisbane: MMNN:20 Dec. 2016
Australia called up uncapped, Zimbabwe-born all-rounder Hilton Cartwright on Tuesday as cover for their fast bowlers after the gruelling first Test win over Pakistan.
Cartwright, 24, joins the squad for next week's second Test in Melbourne as Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird recover from their exertions in the Brisbane heat.
"We wanted to give ourselves the option of including an all-rounder in Melbourne to ease that workload somewhat," said interim national selector Trevor Hohns.
"To do that we wanted a batting all-rounder, someone to bowl seam-up and capable of batting in the top six as well, and after considering several names we came to the conclusion that Hilton fits that bill."
Cartwright, part of Australia's one-day squad for last month's three ODIs against New Zealand, gets the nod ahead of the more established Mitchell Marsh and Moises Henriques.
Steve Smith's team were taken to the wire by Pakistan before squeezing out a tense 39-run victory on Monday, with the bowlers getting through an exhausting 145 overs between them.
Coach Darren Lehmann said the recovery of Starc, Hazlewood and Bird, who bowled 56, 56 and 45 overs respectively in Pakistan's second innings, was being monitored closely.
Lehmann also threw his backing behind struggling lower-order batsman Nic Maddinson and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade ahead of the Boxing Day Test.
Maddinson scored one and four at the Gabba, following his 12-ball duck on debut in last month's third Test against South Africa in Adelaide, another day-night match.
"We've had two pink-ball Test matches, so red-ball Test coming up and we know Nic's a fine player. He's just got to believe at this level," Lehmann said.
Wade, who displaced Peter Nevill, has scores of four, seven and one not out, along with a mis-stumping and dropped catches.
"Even though he hasn't got any runs at the moment, he's been working pretty hard with that," Lehmann said of the wicketkeeper.
"His keeping in this (Gabba) game -- he'd like to keep better obviously, but I thought he's improved his keeping out of sight in the last 12-18 months.
"Matthew's got the chance to nail down the spot and we'll see how he goes in Melbourne."
Lehmann said the revamped Australia team, chasing their third Test win after mass changes following their run of five straight Test defeats against Sri Lanka and South Africa, was coming together well.
"They're young, they're learning the game," he said. "I think one of the things we learnt from this game (at the Gabba), especially, is that you can't relax or think you're just going to get the wickets.
"It's a good result for a young group, but we've got to play well in Melbourne to try to clinch this series."
Selectors had named an unchanged 12-man squad for Melbourne before Cartwright's call-up.



Junior Hockey World Cup 2016: India Defeat Spain To Enter Semi-Finals
Bengaluru:MMNN:16 Dec. 2016
India came from a goal down to defeat Spain and enter the semi-finals of the Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow on Thursday. The hosts will face Australia in the semi-final. India have won the Junior Hockey World Cup 2016 only once in 2001.
Spain took the lead in the 22nd minute as Marc Serrahima struck from the a penalty corner.
India responded in style in the 57th minute as Simranjeet Singh tapped home a rebound from close range.
Then, Harmanpreet Singh scored the winner for India in the 66th minute with a vicious Penalty Corner strike.
It was a far from impressive performance by the Indians, who are touted as title contenders as they fumbled in almost all departments of the game.
A packed Major Dhyan Chand Stadium stadium heaved a sigh of relief when Simranjeet Singh (57th) equalised for India after Marc Serrahima gave Spain the lead in the 22nd minute.
The Indians earned as many as nine penalty corners but could utilise just two with Harmanpreet converting the hosts' eighth set piece in the 66th minute to clinch a last four berth.
By virtue of this win, the Indian colts not only continued their domination over Spain but also managed to avenge their loss against the same opponents in the bronze medal match of the 2005 edition of the World Cup in Rotterdam.
Even though they enjoyed their share of ball possession, Indians looked completely off-colour in the opening half.
There was a distinct lack of co-ordination. There were sloppy mistakes while trapping and releasing the ball during the first half.
The Indian colts though created more openings but Spain utilised the lone opportunity thet got in the first half.
Spain came out with a tight defensive structure and relied on man marking to stop the attacking Indians.
India though had the two opportunities to take the lead when they secured two penalty corners early on in the opening half but wasted both as one first occasion skipper Harjeet Singh failed to stop the push and then Spanish goalkeeper Albert Perez came up with a fine save to deny Varun Kumar.
Spain then took the lead in the 22nd minute through Serrahima's penalty corner conversion much to the stunned silence of the partisan crowd.
Three minutes later Mandeep Singh's deflection from Santa Singh's cross found the back of the Spanish net but it was disallowed by the umpire because of raising ball to go into the breather trailing by a goal.
After the change of ends, the Indians went all out attacking in search of goals but fauiled to make any headway, courtesy miss-passing and miss-trapping.
Four minutes into second half, Spain almost extended their lead but custodian Vikas Dahiya came to his side's rescue to deny Serrahima.
The Indians continued to attack but goals eluded them as Spanish goalkeeper Perez came up with a double save to deny Armaa Qureshi first and then Manpreet (Jr) from the rebound.
It was story of missed chances as India wasted two more penalty corners soon.
Nilkanta Sharma then came close in the 53rd minute but his deflection from Harmanpreet's defence splitting pass went just wide of the goal.
India finally tasted success in the 57th minute from their fifth penalty corner. This time too, the hosts failed to stop the push but Sumit did enough to get a shot at the goal which was saved by the Spanish goalkeeper and from the rebound Simranjeet scored to the delight of the home fans.
In the last 10 minutes, India got four more penalty corners and the penultimate one was eventually converted by Harmanpreet to take the lead for the first time in the match.
It was a tense last couple of minutes for the hosts as they were reduced to 10 men after Armaan was shown yellow card for an unnecessary tackle.
Earlier in the day, Belgium defeated Argentina in a shoot-out to set up a semi-final clash against six-time champions and title holders Germany.
Belgium eked out a 4-1 win over Argentina in the shoot-out after both the teams were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time in the first quarterfinal of the day.
Maico Casella (44th minute) scored for Argentina in the regulation time but Victor Wegnez drew level (69th) for Belgium just a minute from the final hooter to take the match into shoot-out.
In the shoot-out, Nicolas Poncelet, Arthur de Sloover, Victor Wegnez and Henri Raes converted their chances while Tomas Domene was the lone lucky player for Argentina. Germany had a relatively easy outing against England as they recorded a comfortable 4-2 win to seal their place in the last-four round.
The Germans raced to a two goal lead in the first half through Jan Schiffer (22nd) and Lukas Windfeder (31st) before Florian Scholten (52nd) and Tim Herzbruch (70th) found the net after change of ends for the defending champions.
England's goals came from the sticks of Edward Horler (65th, 66th minutes) in a span of two minutes.
Later in the day, Kiran Arunasalam drew the first blood for Australia with a fine field goal in the 18th minute before Jip Janssen (47th) equalised for Netherlands from a penalty corner.
Jack Welch then scored the winner for Australia in the 58th minute to take his side to the semi-finals.


Sun dents Sindhu's chances at BWF World Super Series Finals
HYDERABAD: MMNN:16 Dec. 2016
Sun Yu trounced PV Sindhu 2115, 21-17 to virtually assure herself of a spot in the semi-finals of the BWF Super Series Finals at the Hamdan Complex in Dubai on Thursday.
The tall Chinese youngster avenged her last month's China Open final loss to Sindhu with a dominant victory. Though Sindhu looked good in patches it was Sun who controlled the 49-minute contest.
Starting from the same side of the court where she lost the first game on Wednesday, Sindhu struggled to judge the flight of bird. At least, half-a-dozen times she erred on line calls and conceded easy points to Sun. But for a brief moment towards the end of the first game it was Sun who dominated the Indian in the first game.
Playing with effortless ease and forcing the Indian to play catchup, Sun powered ahead to 20-9. It was here Sindhu started getting her rhythm. The Indian displayed appreciable grit to save six game points. Sun clearly looked rattled, but a net chord saved her from further embarrassment.
Having dominated the late part of the first game, Sindhu started the second on a confident note. Both players used their height to good effect and treated the crowd with a volley of cross court jump smashes and some powerful drives from acute angles.
At the half-way stage Sindhu was cruising ahead and was leading 13-9. But Sun soon closed the gap as Sindhu showed unnecessary urgency to increase the lead. From 17-17, Sun reeled off four points to shut the Indian out of contest.



Pankaj Advani beats Peter Gilchrist in final to win his 11th World Billiards Championship
Bengaluru:MMNN:13 Dec. 2016
Ace Indian cueist Pankaj Advani Monday won his 11th World Billiards (150-Up format) Championships title by beating Peter Gilchrist of Singapore in the summit clash in Bengaluru.
Advani beat multiple world champion Gilchrist by six games to three in a gripping final contest to wrap up his 16th world title overall.
Coming into the finals with right frame of mind after defeating Myanmar's Aung Htay in the semifinals in the morning, Advani scripted a convincing victory over his Singapore-based British opponent.
The Indian champion beat Gilchrist 151 (98)-33, 150 (97)-95, 124-150, 101 (98)-150 (89), 150 (87)-50, 152-37, 86 (86)-150, 151 (110)-104, 150 (88)-15.
In contrast to his semifinal match, where he posted century break points in all the games, Advani was satisfied with going for short break points to put pressure on his rival.
Advani posted his only century break of 110 in the eighth game of the match, which almost dashed the hopes of Gilchrist to win the title as he trailed 3-5 against the Indian cueist.
Advani began on a strong note by pocketing the first two games, 150 points against 33 and 150 against 95.
However, Gilchrist bounced back in the next two games by winning 150 points against 124 and 150 against 101, after he engineered 112 and 89 break points in third and fourth games.
The 79-break point in the sixth game helped Advani to take a 4-2 lead over his opponent, but could not sustain it as he lost the seventh game after Gilchrist broke twice with 86 and 53 break points.
Eighth and ninth games belonged to Advani, especially the final one, as he shattered the hopes of Gilchrist by posting a thumping 150 against 15 points, and laid claim to his eleventh world billiards championship.
Earlier, Advani had beaten Htay 5-0 in the morning to storm into the finals while Gilchrist defeated India's Dhvaj Haria 5-1 in another semi-final.


Cristiano Ronaldo voted best in the world, wins fourth Ballon d’Or award
Madrid :MMNN:13 Dec. 2016
After giving a European Championship title to Portugal and another Champions League trophy to Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo ends 2016 with something just for himself his fourth world player of the year award.
Ronaldo on Monday won his third Ballon d’Or award, which this year is being handed out by France Football magazine separately from FIFA. Ronaldo also took home the Ballon d’Or prize in 2013 and 2014, and the FIFA award in 2008 while still playing for Manchester United.
The Portugal forward is also in contention for FIFA’s prize this year, along with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, who finished second and third to Ronaldo on Monday, respectively.
“This was likely the best year of my career, individually and collectively,” Ronaldo said in a pre-recorded video. “It was unforgettable.”
Only Ronaldo and Messi have been voted the best in the world since 2007, when Kaka won the prize. Messi won a record fifth award last year.
“For me it’s a great honor to receive my fourth golden ball,” Ronaldo said. “I never thought in my mind to win (it) four times, so I’m so pleased, I’m so happy. I have to thank all my teammates, the national team, Real Madrid, all the people, all the players who helped me win this individual award.”
Messi was runner-up for the fifth time in his career, while Griezmann finished third after a remarkable year with France and Atletico Madrid. Luis Suarez was fourth and Barcelona teammate Neymar fifth in the results announced by the Paris-based magazine.
Ronaldo teammate Gareth Bale, who led Wales to the semifinals at Euro 2016, was sixth. Leicester had Riyad Mahrez finishing seventh and Jamie Vardy eighth. Madrid defender Pepe and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon tied for ninth.
The 31-year-old Ronaldo was picked from a list of 30 players by a group of international journalists selected by France Football, which for the previous six years awarded the coveted prize in partnership with FIFA. Football governing body, which relies on the votes of coaches, team captains, journalists and for the first time an online poll of fans, will be handing out its own award in January.
“I’m happy because I worked very hard to win this,” Ronaldo said. “It’s not easy to stay at a high level year after year. You can count on one hand the players who can do it, there are very few who can, and I do it year after year. That makes me very proud.”
Ronaldo is receiving the Ballon d’Or award a month after his contract with Madrid was extended until 2021, keeping him in Spain until he is 36 years old.
It has been an up-and-down season for him so far, but he couldn’t have finished the previous one more strongly.
Ronaldo converted the decisive penalty kick in a shootout against rival Atletico Madrid in the final of the Champions League, helping the Spanish powerhouse win the tournament for the second time in three seasons. Ronaldo also won the Champions League title with Manchester United in 2008.
Ronaldo scored a record 11 goals in the group stage of the European competition last season and finished with a total of 16, one short of the record he himself set in 2014. He is the tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 95 goals, and is two away from becoming the first player to score 100 goals in European club competitions.
It was with Portugal that Ronaldo achieved one of his greatest feats, helping the nation win its maiden European title after several close calls, including a runner-up finish at home in 2004 when it lost to Greece.
“To win a title for the first time with Portugal was something that was missing from my resume,” Ronaldo said. “It was one of the most important moments of my life.”
Ronaldo scored one of the goals for Portugal in the 2-0 win over Wales in the semifinals at Euro 2016, then watched from the bench as his teammates defeated France 1-0 in extra time. Ronaldo played only 25 minutes of the final at Stade de France in July before being substituted because of a left-knee injury.
Ronaldo also won the European Super Cup with Madrid, as well as UEFA’s award as the best player in Europe last season, a prize he also won in 2014.
Ronaldo is with Real Madrid in Japan to play in FIFA’s Club World Cup.



Junior Hockey World Cup: India Look To Carry On Winning Momentum Vs England
Lucknow:MMNN:9 Dec. 2016
Their campaign off to a rampaging start, India colts would look to carry forward the momentum when they face England in their second pool match of the men's Junior Hockey World Cup, here on Saturday.
Dubbed as one of the strong contenders for the title, the home team recorded a resounding 4-0 win over Canada in their opening at the Major Dhyan Chand Astroturf stadium on Thursday. Stakes are high for India in the tournament as they look to end their 15-year-old title drought as they last won the event in 2001 in Hobart and the colts would leave no stone unturned to reclaim the glory.
The Indians would also be eyeing an all-win record in the preliminary stages of the tournament which will enable them to top their pool and avoid six-time champions and title holders Germany in the quarterfinals.
But all said and done, the Harendra Singh-coached Indian side is on a dream run this year, having defended the Asia Cup and beaten Germany in a four-nation tournament in Valencia to lift the title.
A win will virtually seal their place in the quarterfinals and the Indians would be eager to raise the level of game a notch high against unpredictable Englishmen, who are be desperate to win their maiden title after having finished fourth twice in the past (1197, 2001).
In the tournament opener yesterday, the Indians outclassed Canada in all departments of the game, a fact which has been asserted by head coach Harendra.
"Look at the margin, possession of ball, circle penetrations, shots on goal, penalty corners, we were by far the superior side. We also did not concede a single penalty corner which that shows we were superior structure wise," he had said after Canada match.
But the Indians will have to keep in mind that with every match every team will grow stronger and from here on improvement will be the key factor. "There is always need for improvement and we need to keep on improving as the tournament progresses," Harendra conceded. Harmanpreet Singh was impressive yesterday with his defence splitting balls from the backline. Parvinder Singh and Mandeep Singh too had a good match as they threatened the opposition goal on numerous occasion.
Dragflicker duo of Harmanpreet and Varun Kumar is a real threat for any side and they have made their intentions clear by registering names in the scoresheet.
While Harmanpreet scored from a penalty stroke, Varun was bang on target from one of the six penalty corners.
But it will not be that easy against England as they are known for playing hard and physical hockey. They started their campaign on a positive note, beating South Africa 4-2. England coach Jon Bleby has already warned India.
"We are keenly looking forward to the match against India. We know that India are a tough side. They are in fine form and playing at home. So it is going to be a tough game but we are prepared and will try to go for a win," Bleby said.
Both the teams will also be keenly observing the weather conditions as heavy fog forced the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to rejig the timings of the final match of every day.
India and England will play at 6pm in the evening, the final match of the day, after extreme cold conditions and dense fog compelled the organisers to reschedule the timings. Meanwhile in other matches of the day, Korea will face Austria (Pool A), South Africa will take on Canada (Pool D) and Argentina will square off against Australia (Pool A).


Mumbai Test: Ravichandran Ashwin equals Kapil Dev's record of 23 five-wicket hauls
New Delhi :MMNN:9 Dec. 2016
Spin wizard Ravichandran Ashwin on Friday equaled Kapil Dev's record of 23 five-wicket hauls in Test cricket.
Ashwin, 30, didn't wait too long as he got the wicket of Ben Stokes in the third over of the second day's play of the fourth Test between India-England, being played at Wankhede Stadium.
The offspinner from Chennai has been in sublime form these last couple of years. Kapil took 131 matches to reach the figures, while Ashwin just took 43.
Ashwin, however, is still behind Anil Kumble (35 in 132 matches) and Harbhajan Singh (25/103).
The record for most five-wicket hauls in Test cricket belongs to Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan (67/133), followed by his great rival Aussie Shane Warne (37/145). New Zealand great Richard Hadlee (36/86) just beat the current India coach to the third spot by a single count.
Another Aussie great Glenn McGrath makes up the top five with (29).
Ashwin, at this rate, is likely to overtake most of them.



David Warner joins elite club with century against New Zealand
MMNN:6 Dec. 2016
David Warner’s knock of 119 from 115 balls put Australia well on the course for a big total in the second ODI match at Canberra on Tuesday. (SCORECARD)
A superb catch by Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson at cover was needed to dismiss the Aussie opener; a fitting dismissal for an excellent innings. Warner left the crease having helped his country post 213 on the scoreboard in 36.1 overs.
Warner’s 119 was not just phenomenal in helping Australia post a massive score against NZ, but it also cemented his name in the nation’s all-time scoring charts.
For starters, it was his 10th career century in one-day internationals which took him level with Matthew Hayden at fourth place in Australia’s all-time ODI century makers list.
Warner managed his record in 85 innings while Hayden played 154 innings over his career. He now sits behind Ricky Ponting (29 centuries), Mark Waugh (18 centuries) and Adam Gilchrist (16 centuries) in the Aussie chart of highest career ODI centuries.
The ton against New Zealand was also a reflection of his excellent form in 2016. He has now scored three centuries in his last five innings, including his 173 off 136 balls against South Africa in October.
It was also his sixth century in 2016, more than he had ever scored in a single calendar year since making his ODI debut in January 2009.
He has now broken the Australian record for most ODI centuries in a calendar year which was previously shared by Ponting and Hayden. The Aussie greats had scored five centuries each in 2007 while Ponting had done so previously in 2003 as well.
Warner also increased his stake in the game’s all-time record charts, rising to joint-third place for most calendar tons. He sits behind first-placed Sachin Tendulkar (nine centuries from 34 matches in 1998) and second-placed Sourav Ganguly (seven centuries from 32 matches in 2000). Astonishingly, Warner reached his six in just his 22nd match of the year.
While he did set the Australian record, he came very close to challenging Tendulkar for the overall record too. Twice this year, Warner was dismissed while batting in his 90s — he scored 93 against India in January and 98 against New Zealand in February.


India vs England: Parthiv Patel set to play 4th Test, injured Wriddhiman Saha rested
New Delhi :MMNN:6 Dec. 2016
With India wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha still recovering from a strain in his left thigh, comeback-man Parthiv Patel is set to play the fourth Test against England starting in Mumbai on October 8.
Patel, who impressed with scores of 42 and 67 in the two innings at Mohali on his comeback into the side after eight years, got another chance to impress the team management.
“Parthiv Patel will continue to be part of the Indian Test team for the 4th Test of the five-match Paytm Test Series to be held in Mumbai from December 8, 2016,” BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke said in a release.
Saha, who had suffered the niggle during the second Test at Visakhapatnam, has been rested for the upcoming Test. “The BCCI medical team has confirmed that wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha is still recuperating from the strain in his left thigh, which he sustained during the second Test match at Vizag,” the release said.
“As a precautionary measure, Saha has been advised rest. The BCCI medical team is monitoring the wicketkeeper batsman’s progress.”
Meanwhile, Delhi seamer Ishant Sharma, who has been part of the squad for the first three Tests, has been released for his wedding.
India leads the five-Test series against England 2-0 after winning the second and third Test by 246 runs and eight wickets respectively.



Saina Nehwal Crashes Out Of Macau Open With Shock Defeat To Zhang Yiman
MMNN:2 Dec. 2016
Saina Nehwal was stunned in straight games, 21-12, 21-17, by China's Zhang Yiman in the quarterfinals of the Macau Open on Friday, as the Indian shuttler made a premature exit from the tournament.
Saina, who has struggled to get going since her return from a serious knee injury last month, looked a pale shadow of her usual self in the last-eight clash against Yiman.
A poor start by Saina saw Yiman race into an 18-11 lead, before the Chinese world no. 226 closed out the game at 21-12.
The second game was a tighter affair, but Yiman prevailed 21-17 to draw the curtains on Saina's campaign at this year's edition of the Macau Open.
Gruelling three-game matches
Saina, who improved a place on Thursday in the world rankings to be at number 10, seemed to have been affected by the gruelling three-game matches that she played in the last two rounds here.
The 19-year-old Zhang, who is ranked at World No. 226, took an early 4-2 lead and then held a slender 9-8 lead at one stage. The young Chinese soon reeled off five straight points to jump to a 14-8 lead and kept marching ahead as Saina lost the opening game.
Saina, who had bounced back after losing the opening game in the last two matches, seemed to have changed gears as she zoomed to a 6-0 healthy lead in the second game. But Zhang came back to level the score 7-7 and surpassed her fancied rival, reaching 11-9 at the break.
Saina erased the deficit after the interval with two points but the Chinese managed to grab a 14-12 advantage and then jumped to 19-12 lead. The Indian picked up four points to narrow the gap but Zhang soon surged to seal the game and the match in her favour.


India Women demolish Nepal to maintain unbeaten streak
MMNN:2 Dec. 2016
India maintained their unbeaten streak in the 2016 ACC Women's Asia Cup T20 with a comfortable 99-run win over Nepal in their final league encounter at the AIT Cricket Ground, on the outskirts of Bangkok, on Friday (December 3).
Assured of a place in the final already, the defending champions decided to rest four of their key players. Experienced campaigners Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, wicketkeeeper Sushma Verma and spinner Preeti Bose were given a break ahead of the title clash as India used the opportunity against the weaker opponents to test their bench strength. The move paid off as most all-rounders, who normally bat down the order, were given a chance to get spend some time in the middle with India deciding to go with a rejigged batting order.
Put in to bat first, after the morning drizzle delayed the toss by 15 minutes, India posted a competitive 120 for 5 on the board despite slowing down considerably in the middle overs. All-rounder Shikha Pandey starred with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 39 off 32 deliveries and was supported by cameos from Vanitha VR and Anuja Patil.
Vanitha, who got her first game in the competition, walked out to open with Meghana Sabbineni and hammered a 14-ball 21, including three boundaries, before becoming Rubina Chhetry's second victim, on the first ball of the fifth over, in the powerplay.
Patil, often promoted as a pinch-hitter in the briefest format, walked in at one-down ahead of in-form Veda Krishnamurthy and struck a crucial 32-run stand with wicketkeeper-bat Nuzhat Parween. The duo took India past the 50-run mark in the ninth over but the Nepal spinners managed to put the brakes on in the middle overs.
Mansi Joshi, otherwise another option in the opener's slot, couldn't make the most of the opportunity but Pandey got some useful runs under her belt. The Goa all-rounder played the aggressor in her 51-run unbeaten partnership with captain Harmanpreet Kaur who stayed unbeaten on 14. Even as a heavy outfield meant India were denied a bunch of boundaries, Pandey switched gears in the final six overs as India amassed 49 in the final six overs to post 120 on the board from their quota of overs.
That Nepal were going to collapse sooner than later against India's experienced bowling attack was never in doubt. They were starved for runs throughout as the pacers first left them reeling at 10 for 4 in eight overs before the in-form spinners came into the picture to bowl them out inside 17 overs.
Shikha got the breakthrough in the third over and soon after, Joshi put in a forward dive to catch wicketkeeper-bat Jyoti Pandey off her own bowling. That a part-time medium pacer Meghana too produced a couple of wickets speaks volumes about the struggles Nepal faced with the bat. The Andhra Pradesh opener, who made her Twenty20 International debut in the recently-concluded series against West Indies at home, joined the party with her twin strikes. Her match figures of 3-1-3-2 were the most economical of the three fast bowling options India used.
Patil and in-form Ekta Bisht hit the final final nail in the coffin, sharing three wickets between them without giving away any runs. Poonam Yadav (3-9) helped clean up the tail to bowl out the opposition for a new tournament low of 21 runs.
Brief scores: India 120/5 in 20 overs (Shikha Pandey 39*, Meghana Sabbineni 21; Rubina Chhetry 2-21) beat Nepal 21 in 16.3 overs (Poonam Yadav 3-9, Meghana Sabbineni 2-3, Anuja Patil 2-0) by 99 runs.



PV Sindhu Surpasses Saina Nehwal In Badminton Rankings, May Face Her At Hong Kong Open
MMNN:25 Nov. 2016
PV Sindhu has surpassed Saina Nehwal in the world badminton rankings. In the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) charts, released on Thursday, Sindhu is No. 9 in the world while Saina is No. 11.
Sindhu, first Indian badminton player to win a silver medal at Olympics, gained two places after her recent China Open win. Saina, on the other hand, lost five places to be placed outside top-10 for the first time in eight years.
Saina had lost in the first round of 2016 China Open to Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand and that led to loss of points, as she had entered the final in the 2015 edition of the event.

Sindhu in semi-finals

The two Indian badminton stars, however, could play each other in the semi-final of the Hong Kong Open on Saturday.
PV Sindhu defeated Singapore's Xiaoyu Liang 21-17, 21-23, 21-18 in the last eight clash. Later in the day, Saina faces Hong Kong's Cheung Ngan Yi.
Earlier, Saina Nehwal overcame Japan's Sayaka Sato 21-18, 9-21, 21-16, while PV Sindhu trounced Chinese Taipei's Hsu Ya Ching 21-10 21-14, to make it to the quarter-finals.


Australia vs South Africa: Fearless Faf du Plessis leaves stamp on memorable Test series
MMNN:25 Nov. 2016
Not often do you hear an Australian Test side, in the middle of a home summer, admitting to being “annoyed” by the opposition’s tactics. Even rarer is the sight of a their press clutching at straws, without the season-defining performances that have come to characterise so many Novembers and Decembers over the years.
“Matt Finish” was plastered all over The Adelaide Advertiser’s sports section, as a nod to Matt Renshaw’s gritty 8* to take Australia to stumps without any damage. Renshaw is a promising young batsman, with a lot of steel for someone his age, but is this what it has come to? A 12-over stonewall making front page headlines, in the absence of much else to write home about?
In a week where mints, lollies and confectionery of all sorts have filled reams of newsprint and hours of TV coverage, with assorted stock footage of Faf du Plessis, this was the surest indicator the South African captain had done something for the local press to finally move on.
On unrelenting boos and a sheer lack of grace, the Adelaide crowd reflected the behavior of the host broadcaster and their press pack in the week leading up to the Test. Du Plessis admitted to being “motivated” more than ever before at the start of the first day, and the boos only added on to it. Walking in to this innings with a series highest of 37 so far, du Plessis gave up on being defensive and brought out his free-scoring game he is known for in the shorter formats.
Where was he, again? Adelaide, home to one of his Test career’s defining moments so far. It is the site of his 2012 debut, where he combined with JP Duminy to script one of those rare fifth day draws on Australian soil. Psychologically, that set up South Africa’s series win, their second consecutive one down under. Things have changed markedly in these four years. He is now South Africa’s captain, in the middle of ball-tampering allegations the Aussie media have only been too happy to lap up in the aftermath of two disastrous defeats.
Du Plessis and his team mates have repeatedly insisted on their “mission” to whitewash Australia for the first time in a three-match series, and if as a batsman he refused to be cowed down and did not put a foot wrong on Day 1, he took it a few notches up as a captain. After a counterattack that saw him get to his sixth Test hundred with wickets falling around him, du Plessis indulged in some of his own gamesmanship by forcing a quick declaration at 259 for 9, with 12 overs to bowl to Australia’s top-order under lights.
Overhearing umpires talking to David Warner about his ineligibility to open the batting, having stayed off the field for a while, and almost instantly declaring the innings, is about as Australian as it gets. Twelve overs under the lights despite not enough runs to feel safe? We’ll take it. We can’t put a foot wrong. A few overs of safe batting to stumps, then come back tomorrow? Nah, we’re instinctive and aggressive beyond your collective understanding.
Such is the swagger and confidence among this South African lot, under an inspirational leadership, that nothing seems to sway them. The next few days might turn out to be the beginning of an Australian renaissance, but Faf du Plessis has left an indelible mark on one of his country’s most memorable Test series.



Virat Kohli as captain across formats will ensure India owns this era: Will the selectors be bold?
MMNN:22 Nov. 2016
Virat Kohli likes to make a statement. In his batting, in his celebrations, in his press briefings, he likes to go out and assert himself. As captain of the Test team, he was no different.
The Indian team left for Australia in November 2014 without their regular captain MS Dhoni. It was trying times Down Under with the whole nation mourning the sad death of the promising young cricketer Phil Hughes. Kohli, as stand-in captain, had to be a statesman in the lead up to the series before making any cricketing decisions, something he did meticulously.
On the field, as the Test captain for the first time at his favourite venue Adelaide, Kohli picked Karn Sharma ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, a move that didn't pay off, with the Australians making merry against the rookie leg-spinner. Tactically, Kohli was a bit rusty. Adelaide can be a hard ground to defend and with a bowling attack that lacked any bite, Kohli struggled to keep control.
While the team was losing control of the game in the field, Kohli was taking his batting to another level. After scoring a hundred in the first innings, Kohli egged himself and his team in the second innings to chase down whatever target the Australians set. While many experts wanted India to play out a draw, Kohli made 141 runs at a strike rate of 81, getting out eventually while trying to hit a long hop from Nathan Lyon out of the ground. Kohli had lost, but like the legendary American singer Frank Sinatra, Kohli asserted, "I did it my way".
Fast forward to Vizag. Kohli has captained India in 19 Tests and has lost only one more match since that Adelaide heartbreak. While many have argued that his team hasn't been tested against tough oppositions away from home yet, Kohli has made the most of a friendly schedule by taking his team to the top of the Test ranking while continuing to do things his way.
Kohli has made changes to his team in almost every game, sometimes to our bemusement, but always while backing the plan in his head. He played five bowlers most of the time in a bid to go for more outright victories, something his predecessors weren't sure of doing even against weaker oppositions at home.
We expected series wins at home, but now we are confident of whitewashing any opposition at home. Kohli's own batting has also flourished during his captaincy. He averages close to 60 as captain, which is much higher than his career average of 48. Having lead India right from the U-19 level, captaincy sits easy on his head and gives him that extra push to do even better as a player. His four centuries as captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is testimony to his drive as a captain.
With his team on the top of the world in Tests and his batting form and consistency miles ahead of anyone else in the world, there can't be a better time to hand him the captaincy in limited overs format also. This isn't a reflection of MS Dhoni's ability as a captain, it's a move that is required to take this team forward. Teams thrive under leadership that is consistent, something Dhoni is losing as he sits out during the Test season.
Split captaincy has been tried by different teams at different times with varying success. Adam Hollioake took charge of an English ODI team that hadn't won a trophy in close to 10 years and led them to a win in Sharjah beating Asian giants India and Pakistan in 1997. Steve Waugh became captain of the ODI side much before taking charge of the Australian Test team. In both the cases, they had to choose a different captain in ODIs because the Test captains of the time didn't warrant a place in the respective ODI sides, just like Pakistan's Misbah-ul-Haq and England's Alastair Cook in the present day. Kohli, on the other hand, is the team's most valuable player in ODIs and T20s.
Dhoni is a great captain and an important member of the limited overs team but he would be the first one to admit that his trophy and his souvenir stumps cabinet doesn't stack up as frequently as it used to. India has a strong limited overs team and it will continue to win matches, even when leadership isn't ideal. This isn't a team in turmoil due to captaincy issues, but one that has the potential to be the best across all formats with better leadership.
Kohli has often paid tribute to Dhoni's captaincy and how he has learned from him. Having Dhoni's counsel on the field while captaining the team can turn Kohli into an even better captain. Captaining his side in the IPL has already taught him how to handle superstars. When Chris Gayle didn't play a game and Kohli was asked whether the big West Indian was rested, Kohli was blunt in his response, "No, he was dropped." You didn't expect a Delhi mohalla brat to be soft, did you?
Effective captaincy of a sports team begins in the dressing room. While many experts believe Michael Clarke was more superior as a tactician than his predecessor Ricky Ponting, the latter enjoyed immense respect from his team. Yes, he did have a great team but his authority in the dressing room was essential in his team achieving great results.
For the current generation of Indians, Kohli is the role model they look up to. They copy his methods, his work ethics, and his style. He is the natural leader for any youngster coming into the team. In his autobiography, the former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist talks about the muddled dressing room situation he walked into when the captaincy was split between Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. A youngster coming into any team enjoys having a single point of authority to defer to. KL Rahul has often paid tribute to Kohli's mentorship both in the IPL and the national team for his rise as an international cricketer.
Of course, there is a chance that the limited overs team will miss Dhoni's leadership and fail to achieve anything under Kohli, but that's a risk this team has to take if it wants to be remembered as one that dominated this era. Sometimes you have to risk going too far to know how far you can go.


Ravichandran Ashwin shares cup of coffee with Navy officers post 2nd Test win
Vishakapatnam:MMNN:22 Nov. 2016
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin shared a cup of coffee with Indian Naval sailors and officers after his side clinched a massive 246-run victory over England in the second Test at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium on Monday. Interacting with the Men-in-white, the Indian ace spinner expressed his gratitude and appreciation to all the brave soldiers of the Armed Forces who are guarding the Nation.
Earlier, he had even shared a thoughtful video message on the social media as part of the Sandesh2Soldiers initiative. During the interaction, Ashwin presented an autographed cricket bat to Eastern Naval Command and Rear Admiral Dasgupta, who presented the ENC Crest to the 30-year-old spinner.
Rear Admiral B. Dasgupta, YSM, VSM, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet hosted Ashwin on board at INS Jalashwa, one of the frontline warships of the navy. India went 1-0 up in the five-match series with win over England in the second Test at Vishakhapatnam.
India had won the toss and elected to bat first. India scored 455 in their first innings, Virat Kohli top-scoring with 167. Cheteshwar Pujara scored 119, his third ton in as many matches, while Ashwin chipping in with 58 and Jayant playing a useful hand.
With 3 wickets apiece, Anderson and Moeen were the pick of the bowlers for England. England were bowled out for 255, which gave India a 200-run lead despite Kohli’s 81 and Jayant’s second crucial innings of the match. England did extremely well to ensure that India do not run away with the game.
Broad and Rashid picked up 4 wickets each to ensure that India were bundled out for just 204, with Kohli top-scoring once again with 81.
Kohli was named Man of the Match for his superlative effort. England will be without Broad at Mohali, which will probably give Chris Woakes another chance.



India vs England, 2016: KL Rahul added to India squad for second Test
MMNN:15 Nov. 2016
KL Rahul has come back into the India squad for the on-going five match Test series against England with the opening batsman included in the second Test to commence from November 17 in Visakhapatnam. Both teams have already reached the largest city in Andhra Pradesh after the first Test had ended in a nervous draw for India.
Rahul returns to the mix after missing the last six weeks, during which the national team played three Test matches, due to injury. He returned to the middle in the Ranji Trophy contest for Karnataka against Rajasthan and scored 76 from 85 balls in the first innings followed by an unbeaten 32 in the second innings.
His stay in the middle was watched by chairman of selectors MSK Prasad and selector Sarandeep Singh. With a perfect return to action, KL Rahul made the noise at the right mark. To aid his recovery process, Rahul had the BCCI physio look at his movement and rehabilitation process.
The inclusion leaves two options for the Indian selectors and Virat Kohli going into the Visakhapatnam Test. It could either mean axing of Gautam Gambhir who had a disappointing stay at the crease in Rajkot. But with the initial squad announced for two Test matches, dropping the axe on the Delhi player would be a harsh decision and somewhat hasty.
The other option would be to play six batsmen after the second innings collapse in the Rajkot Test which nearly brought about an England win until Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja calmed things down in the final session.


7 reasons why the last year was great for Sania Mirza
MMNN:15 Nov. 2016
As Sania Mirza celebrates her 30th birthday today, we look back at the last 12 months and just why they were great for this ferocious talent.
1. Sania was the numero uno player all through 2016, the first time in her career since taking the top spot in April 2015. Her entire run is now a staggering 84 consecutive weeks at the top. She is 4th on the list of most consecutive weeks spent at the top.
2. Sania managed to retain her year-end World number one ranking for the second year in a row. As they say, getting to number one is easier than retaining it. The Indian seems to be doing a great job at that.
3. Despite breaking up her most successful doubles partnership with Swiss Martina Hingis, and indeed one of the most dominant partnerships women's doubles has seen recently, Sania bounced back almost immediately with Barbora Strycova, winning 3 out of the 6 tournaments played (one win with Monica Niculescu) and was a finalist in another event. This has been incredibly satisfying for her knowing with the right partner she can keep her golden streak going.
4. Mirza won eight titles overall with three different partners in 2016, including her 3rd Women's doubles Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open with Hingis.
5. 2016 will also be remembered as the year which saw part of Sania-Martina unbeaten streak of 41 matches. The streak started in September 2016 at the US open, from where the duo went on to win 9 straight titles. There's was the 3rd longest such streak in women's doubles history.
6. Sania released her autobiography in July titled 'Ace Against Odds', co-written by her father Imran Mirza and sports journalist Shivani Gupta. This was her first attempt at not just sharing her struggle through the early years before the success and fame, but also setting a few controversies straight.
7. Sania was also listed in the Time 100, Time magazine's list of 100 most influential people in the world.



Brazil’s Neymar takes honours, Lionel Messi returns for Argentina
MMNN:11 Nov. 2016
Just the prospect of Lionel Messi’s return gave Argentina so much confidence that one player openly said it would intimidate the Brazilians ahead of their South American World Cup qualifying match. Having the five-time player of the year back from injury didn’t translate into success, though, as Messi’s friend Neymar led Brazil to a convincing 3-0 victory at the Mineirao stadium on Thursday.
Neymar showed class in the lead up to Philippe Coutinho’s opening goal from the edge of the box. Then the Barcelona star scored his 50th goal for Brazil at the end of the first half with an elegant touch in front of the Argentine goalkeeper. Neymar also hit the post, lobbed midfielder Lucas Biglia, easily worked his way through the opposition defense and was fouled nine times as he pushed Brazil forward.
“Look at this guy. If Neymar had played here in that game against Germany in the 2014 World Cup, we wouldn’t have lost 7-1,” said Eric Angelo, a Brazilian fan who watched Thursday’s match and was also at his team’s humiliating defeat here two years ago. “We would have more confidence and maybe given the Germans a challenge.” Neymar was injured when Brazil experienced their worst defeat ever.
Messi began with a lot of style at Mineirao stadium and caused trouble for his marker, Fernandinho. In only five minutes the Manchester City midfielder was lobbied by Messi and picked a yellow card after a hard foul on the Argentine forward. But as Paulinho and Renato Augusto helped out with defending against the Argentine playmaker, the only opportunities Messi had were from free kicks near the penalty box.
Brazil coach Tite explained the strategy designed to make Messi feel so uncomfortable in his return after three games.
“We forced our way into the Argentina half more to the left so Messi wouldn’t be immediately near the ball, since he was on the right,” Tite said. “When he was forced to move it became better for us because that other side was already crowded.”
Assessing Brazil’s strengths, Tite said Neymar was great because he was playing box to box with the same quality.
“One of the biggest lies in football is that if you mark you will not have the energy to do well upfront,” Tite said. “That is not the case.”
Messi was disappointed with Argentina’s performance, and said vast improvement was needed to get the team into one of the four automatic qualifying positions for the World Cup.
“We can’t repeat what we have been doing because that won’t work,” he said. “We have to change a lot.”
Brazil and Argentina have been in contrasting form. Brazil has won its first five games under the coaching of Tite, while Edgardo Bauza’s Argentina team had draws against Venezuela and Peru and a 1-0 loss to Paraguay leading up to the loss on Thursday.
Brazil leads the South American qualifiers with 24 points from 11 matches and Argentina is sixth with 16. The top four teams qualify automatically for the World Cup in Russia in 2018. The fifth-place team advances to an intercontinental playoff. Next Tuesday Brazil visits eighth-place Peru and Argentina hosts third-place Colombia.
Back in September, Messi scored in a 1-0 victory over Uruguay in the only previous match under Bauza in this campaign.
Under former coaches Dunga and Argentina’s Gerardo Martino, Brazil and Argentina drew 1-1 in Buenos Aires in their first 2018 qualifier, with Messi also absent and Neymar having a less impressive performance.


Hit On The Helmet Thrice, Cheteshwar Pujara Stands Like A Wall Against England
MMNN:11 Nov. 2016
Being hit on the helmet is nasty. Ask any batsman who goes out there at the wicket and receives a fast bouncer and he'll admit that whenever you get hit on the head it jolts the batsman's concentration.
Today morning India's number three batsman Cheteshwar Pujara got hit on the head, not once, not twice but three times. That too in space of 14 balls. Playing at home, his family, wife and father were watching from the stands at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium and were visibly worried.
Yet, he didn't allow his concentration to waver and kept England at bay. Pujara was Dravidesque in his rearguard action.
After Gautam Gambhir couldn't add much to his overnight score and departed for 29, Pujara walked out to bat for the first time at his home venue of Rajkot.
Having scored tons of runs in domestic cricket on this otherwise sleepy wicket, Pujara had never come across as incisive a paceman as Chris Woakes, someone who was regularly hitting the above 140 kmph mark and steaming in.
But facing fast bowling was never a problem for Pujara. The right-hander, who was the leading run-getter in the New Zealand series, had already hit five fours and raced to 24 off 29 balls when Woakes came into the attack with a sole mindset to break Pujara's tight technique.
In doing so, once each in the 33rd, 35th and 37th over, Pujara was hit on the head.
But now, he's well past that and continued to bat on. At lunch, Pujara was on 62, his partner Murali Vijay on 57 and India solid at 162 for the loss of one wicket with a trail of 375 runs.



Australia play down sledging problem after Phillip Hughes inquest
Perth:MMNN:4 Nov. 2016
Former Australia captain Mark Taylor and other senior figures today insisted verbal abuse is not a big problem after a coroner examining Phillip Hughes’s death called it cricket’s “ugly underside”. Hughes, who played 26 Tests, died from bleeding on the brain in November 2014 after being hit on the neck by a rising ball while batting in a domestic match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
During his inquest, concerns were raised by Hughes’ family about on-field sledging, or abuse, which they felt may have unsettled him.
On Friday, New South Wales coroner Michael Barnes said even if there had been attempts to intimidate players, Hughes did not appear to be affected and it “could not be implicated in his death”.
But Barnes called sledging an “unsavoury aspect” of cricket, adding: “An outsider is left to wonder why such a beautiful game would need such an ugly underside.”
The hearing heard claims that one bowler told him, “I am going to kill you”, although players on the field said they did not recall any such comment.
Taylor said he didn’t think sledging was a major problem in cricket, but he urged umpires to crack down if they thought players were going too far.
“I don’t think we have,” he said in Perth, where Australia are playing South Africa, when asked if cricket had a sledging problem.
“The game needs a competitive edge to it, but it doesn’t need a lot or rubbish talk either. If something positive does come out of this, it will be a reduction in the idle chat.
“Sledging is something that has always been talked about regularly, but the umpires should step in if they think it is over the top.”
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland agreed it was down to the umpires to stamp out backchat if it was becoming too much.
“If it has become a problem, then I would say the umpires are not doing their job,” he said, adding that he did not see it as a problem.
“I come back to the fundamentals — the game should still be played in the right spirit and for the sake of clarity, there’s codes of behaviour that are in place that deal with inappropriate behaviour.
“When that line is crossed, people should pay the price for crossing that line and I can only encourage the umpires and relevant officials to take action when it is appropriate.”
Former Australian Test opener Chris Rogers said he believed there was less sledging in the modern game, particularly in England where he feels umpires are less tolerant.
“Things are changing but I don’t see how it can be completely policed,” he said.


West Indies drop Samuels, include Dowrich for tri-series in Zimbabwe
MMNN:4 Nov. 2016
Shane Dowrich, the West Indies wicketkeeper-batsman, received a maiden call-up to the One-Day International (ODI) team for the tri-series in Zimbabwe, also including Sri Lanka, later this month, after his heroics with the bat in the just-concluded third and final Test where he helped his team to a rare away win in Sharjah.
Fast bowler Miguel Cummins has also been drafted into the 15-member squad while the experienced batsman Marlon Samuels and teenage fast bowler Alzarri Joseph were left out. Samuels's luck ran out after a mediocre outing against Pakistan in the Tests. The experienced batsman scored just one half-century, in the first Test, but his second best score on tour was just 30.
Dowrich, who had played eight Tests, wasn't at his best behind the stumps but chipped in with knocks of 47 and unbeaten 60 in the two innings after a top-order collapse on both occasions as West Indies earned a five-wicket consolation win in their last game on the UAE tour.
Senior players Denesh Ramdin and Kieron Pollard too were overlooked for the tri-series which also features Sri Lanka and kicks off on November 14 in Harare.
West Indies squad:
Jason Holder (Captain), Carlos Brathwaite, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich, Darren Bravo, Jonathan Carter, Johsnon Charles, Shanon Gabriel, Evin Lewis, Sunil Narine, Ashley Nurse, Sulieman Benn, Miguel Cummins, Shai Hope, Rovman Powell.



Sania-Hingis pair enters semis of WTA Finals
SINGAPORE:MMNN:28 Oct. 2016
Indian ace Sania Mirza and Switzerland's Martina Hingis entered the semi-finals of the WTA Finals after beating Taiwanese combination of Hao-Ching Chan and Yung Jan Chan 7-6 (12-10) 7-5, on Friday.
The Indo-Swiss pair will be pitted against the winner of the match between top seeds Caroline Garcia-Kristina Mladenovic and Bethanie Mattek-Sands- Lucie Safarova.
It was a hard-fought two sets where both the teams held their service game till they reached 5 games all. It was in the 11th game of the first set that Sania and Hingis were broken. But the joy of their opponents was shortlived as they broke back in the very next game to take the first set into a tie-breaker.
The tie-breaker was a hard fought one as the Indo-Swiss pair saved three set points. They dropped a couple of set points before converting the third to clinch the set within an hour.
The second set was also fought on an even keel till the 10th game after which Sania-Hingis secured a crucial break and then held their serve to book a place in the last four.
This is the pair's first competition since they had split following an early exit at Montreal in July.


India v New Zealand, 5th ODI, Vizag: Under-fire Dhoni faces tricky Kiwis test in series-decider
VISAKHAPATNAM:MMNN:28 Oct. 2016
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's leadership as well as finishing skills will be put through a stern test when an inconsistent India take on a rejuvenated New Zealand in the series-deciding fifth and final cricket ODI, here on Saturday.
With the series locked at 2-2, Dhoni and his men will be eager to clinch the issue while history beckons Kane Williamson's men as they have a glorious opportunity to taste their maiden success in a bilateral ODI rubber.
The only thing that can play spoilsport is the cyclone threat which can lead to complete washout.
While Dhoni's captaincy may not be under immediate threat but a series loss against New Zealand will certainly raise questions about 'Captain Cool's' ability to marshall his resources after his much publicised admission of being unable to rotate strike lower down the order.
Under Dhoni, India lost three ODI series - 1-2 against Bangladesh in Bangladesh, 1-4 against Australia Down Under and 2-3 at home against South Africa. The only ODI series victory in the last 18 months has been against a lowly Zimbabwe.
Away from home for four months spanning two continents, New Zealand's only success was a 2-0 win against a lowly Zimbabwe, following which they drew South Africa 1-1 before being whitewashed 0-3 by India in the Tests.
Their ODI campaign started off on a sour note in Dharamasala but some strong batting performances by skipper Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill in Delhi and Ranchi respectively have managed to catch India off guard and level the five-match series 2-2.
That they have never won against India in four bilateral contests since 1988 will be a big motivation for the Black Caps to buck the trend and return home with an act of redemption.
Weather permitting, a tantalising finish is on the cards as India would be equally hungry for success at the Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, a venue where they boast of a 4-1 record.
Their last win has been against Sri Lanka, a 5-0 whitewash way back in November-2014 and an under-fire Dhoni would not want another series loss at the fag end of his career.
The world No.4 India have just three more ODIs, against England, ahead of the coveted Champions Trophy in June next year and it would be an opportunity for Dhoni to give them a boost against a team which is ranked a notch higher.
The over-reliance on Virat Kohli has also been evident during the series as Indian Test captain was the prime performer in both victories during the first four matches so far. With their opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane yet to provide a much-needed solid start, India's batting is centred around their no 1 batsman Kohli.
Consider this, India's both the wins of the series had Kohli anchor the chase be it the 85 not out in a low-scoring chase in Dharamsala, or his majestic unbeaten 154 that hunted down New Zealand's challenging 285 in Mohali.
Chasing a modest 261 in the fourth ODI in Ranchi, Rahane returned to form with a half-century while Kohli looked in full flow on a slow wicket but both failed to convert their starts, and it was a familiar story for the inexperienced middle-order.
Failure or not, Indian fabled opener Sharma has been a permanent member of the line-up with Dhoni seeming to be in no mood to give youngsters the chance and Mandeep Singh is seen warming the bench.
Sharma's last big knock came in Australia, and it's been more than nine months he's yet to score a century in either longer or shorter format. His scores in the ongoing series read 14, 15, 13 and 11, something that is hurting India's cause more than anything else.
It's high time that the world record holder for ODI individual score of 264 return to form in the most-important match of the series, and at his mother's home town he would hope to make it special.
It's the same venue where Dhoni had got instant stardom with his fiery 123-ball 148 to take India to a huge 356/9 in their 58-run win over Pakistan in the first match of the venue.
The Dhoni special had come batting at no 3. The Indian skipper may not be like the old 'Dhoni' but having promoted to no 4 in Mohali where he scored a 91-ball 80 his intentions are right, if not his reflexes.
Following up with his brilliant half-century, Dhoni disappointed his home crowd with a 31-ball 11 before being cleaned up by James Neesham, and missing the line completely.
In his heyday, he would have dispatched it for six but Dhoni is struggling to get back to his old rhythm.
He has also made a stunning revelation of 'losing ability' to freely rotate in the middle as to expect a Dhoni special would be like expecting a youngster to finish a chase.
As for bowling, India have done reasonably well, especially the spin trio of Amit Mishra, Axar Patel and part-timer Kedar Jadhav who have ensured that they have not missed the regulars, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
On pace front, India would hope that Jasprit Bumrah who was indisposed and was replaced by a lacklustre Dhawal Kulkarni returns to full fitness.
Opener Martin Guptill's return to form in Ranchi to go with the consistency of Tom Latham who has five half-centuries from seven matches, combined Tests and ODIs, on the tour will give New Zealand a massive advantage up front.
Skipper Williamson at number 3 too has been consistent but it's their middle order who has often frittered away good starts, be it in Ranchi where they were on course for 300 or in the previous ODIs.
Left-arm spinner Anton Devcich who was included as a third spinner in Ranchi looked ordinary as Williamson may not mind bringing back either Corey Anderson or Matt Henry.
With conditions overcast, the last thing India would want is a wash-out. Despite weakening, cyclone Kyant and has gone further down south, there's forecast of localised downpours as both the teams will keep their fingers crossed.
The venue is slated to host its maiden Test in less than a month's time, when India take on England from November 17.
As a matter of fact, around the same time Visakhapatnam was ravaged by cyclone Hudhud and the scheduled last ODI here between India and West Indies was cancelled without a ball bowled on October 14, 2014.
It remains to be seen whether India give themselves a Diwali gift or New Zealand return home with their heads held high.



Yogeshwar Dutt's 2012 Olympics bronze won't be upgraded to silver
Mumbai:MMNN:25 Oct. 2016
Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt’s chances to get his medal upgraded to silver evaporated on Monday after the International Olympic Committee decided to drop the investigation against the deceased wrestler Russian wrestler Besik Kudukov.
Kudukov, who won the silver medal in the men’s freestyle 60kg category at the 2012 Olympics was tested positive for a banned steroid. The wrestler died in a car crash in 2013.
In a statement, released by the Russian Wrestling Federation, the organisation said Kudukhov’s sample from the 2012 Games was retested this year and found to be positive for the steroid turinabol.
The case was passed to a three-member IOC disciplinary commission, comprising Denis Oswald of Switzerland, Sweden’s Gunilla Lindberg and Ugur Erdener from Turkey.
According to the statement, on October 19, the committee decided to terminate the investigation against Kudukhov.
“The International Olympic Committee will not deprive wrestler Besik Kudukhov of his silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London,” first deputy president of the Russian Wrestling Federation Georgy Bryusov, also a vice president of the United World Wrestling, said in the statement.
According to reports that emerged in August, Dutt’s bronze medal would have been upgraded to silver as the Russian wrestler tested positive.
Dutt acknowledged the same on Twitter, however, he refused to accept the silver medal.


FIFA U17 World Cup from October 6 next year; Kolkata gets ratified as sixth venue
Kolkata:MMNN:25 Oct. 2016
India will stage the Under-17 football World Cup from October 6 to 28 next year, the sport’s world governing body FIFA announced while ratifying Kolkata as the sixth venue for the mega-event after an inspection.
The draw for the mega-event, to be held across six venues in India, will take place on July 7. “We first came here two years ago to see the stadium. The work that has done has been staggering. I am confident that the stadium will look 30 years younger. I grew up here watched football here, it gives me immense pleasure to say Kolkata has been ratified as one of the venue for World Cup matches,” Joy Bhattacharya, Project director — FIFA U-17 World Cup, said.
“Massive amount of work has gone into the stadium, impressive improvements since our last inspection in February. Lot of work has been done hence the ratification. The stadium has the potential to be one of the best in the country and can also compete internationally,” Competitions Department Lead, FIFA Delegation Marion Mayer-Vorfelder said.
State sports minister Aroop Biswas said 75 to 80 per cent work has been done and the stadium will be complete by January 31.
When asked about the chances of Kolkata holding the final, Tournament director, Javier Ceppi said, “This question keeps coming back and same thing I keep telling you. Before we can announce about final, we have to complete the work fully. We are extremely satisfied. Monsoon has been severe here so has been summer. We understand the weather constraint after January, we will have an assessment, then we will see whether a final or a key match can be played here,” he added.
When asked whether they are happy with the security arrangements, Ceppi said, “I have come to West Bengal 30 times. I have always felt very welcome and never felt threatened. We are working with the state government. We will try to deliver a friendly and a very good tournament.”
Ceppi later said ratification doesn’t means a blank cheque as the progress of the work that is being done will be assessed periodically.
Kochi, Mumbai, Guwahati, Delhi and Margao have already been ratified as venues following inspections by the FIFA delegation.



The football wrap: India move up 11 spots to 137th in FIFA rankings
MMNN:21 Oct. 2016
The Indian men's football team jumped 11 places in the Fifa world rankings to move up to 137th spot, according to a release from the All India Football Federation on Thursday.
“It’s been a total team effort," said coach Stephen Constantine.
"Unless Mr Patel [AIFF President Praful Patel) and Mr Das [AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das] allowed me to do the things and the manner I wanted it to be done, this won’t have been possible ever.”
However, Constantine stressed that this was the beginning of a long-term plan and the team is capable of achieving much more.
Recently in September, India defeated a much-higher ranked Puerto Rico 4-1 in a friendly in Mumbai. Their previous best ranking in the last six years was 138th in August 2010.


MS Dhoni’s return catch was big moment in the match: Kane Williamson
New Delhi:MMNN:21 Oct. 2016
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson lauded his bowlers for drying up the runs during India’s chase in the second ODI here, terming Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s brilliant return catch by Tim Southee as a “big moment” in the match.
When asked about how the bowlers and fielders responded while defending a low total, Williamson said: “Someone like MS Dhoni, he can finish matches when he is allowed to play his shots. He is the best in the world. That catch was big for us.”
Williamson was happy with the manner his bowlers responded on a tricky surface and also gave an insight to how some adjustments led to the Indian skipper playing 37 dot balls.
“On this kind of a surface (Kotla), scrapping was important. You needed to put the ball in areas where it’s tough to get away and try and build that pressure. It was an extremely good effort considering that the ball was damp due to dew factor.”
Dhoni was cleverly stopped as the pushes for singles and doubles through the cover and extra cover region were stopped keeping a double cover in the region.
“We tried to make adjustments out there. The ball was going to cover more. So we put an extra fielder there. Sometimes thats how you adjust to the surface and adapt.
“The ball was damp and they did great job with small boundaries. We were fortunate pick (regular) wickets and play consistently which allowed us to rotate our spinners but credit to how our seamers bowled.”
With figures of 10-2-25-2, Trent Boult deservingly got a special mention from his skipper.
“I think he (Boult) was extremely clever. He tried to swing it early, made adjustment to come round the wicket gauging low bounce, trying not to give width. He was extremely accurate. 10 overs, 25 runs doesn’t happen often. It was a special performance.”
Williamson also explained the reason he went with a single specialist spinner in Mitchell Santner.
“Anton Devcich came in place of Jimmy Neesham in that all-rounder’s role. We thought looking at surface that we wanted to play our frontline seamers. There was bit of grass on the surface. We would have bowled (first) as well trying to get more out of it but at the same time it was nice to put a total on board.
“Certainly, it was a tough surface to increase the scoring rate. It had slow and low bounce. At halfway stage, we knew that we were little bit short but surface was lively. We learned from how India bowled on it. Fantastic effort by our seam bowlers led by Boult to squeeze them, the only way to do it.
“He didn’t want to dwell on his century which was a great one considering the nature of the track. For him, showing improvements is the key.
“It’s certainly nice to come out on a winning side. At the same time, best part was to show some improvement from previous one-dayer. It was extremely important for our unit.”
“We wanted to improve rather than chasing win. Signs of improvement — that’s always a focus. We are playing a very good Indian side. We need to touch on some areas and be better again.”



Saina Nehwal appointed member of International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission
New Delhi:MMNN:18 Oct. 2016
Indian suttler Saina Nehwal has been appointed as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes’ Commission.
Saina received a letter to the effect from the IOC President Thomas Bach on Monday night.
“Following your candidature for the elections of the IOC Athletes’ Commission during the Olympic Games Rio 2016, it is with great pleasure to appoint you in consultation with the Chair, as Member of the Athletes’ Commission,” the letter said.
The Athletes’ Commission is chaired by Angela Ruggiero and has nine vice-presidents and 10 other members. The members are scheduled to meet on November 6.
Nehwal’s appointment has come just when she is set to resume practice after recovering from a knee injury.
Nehwal, who sustained an intra-articular injury (inside the joint) to her right knee, had said in an interview last month that she hoped to get back on the circuit in November.
Her father Harvir Singh was happy with her latest accomplishment. “I have become very emotional. It is a matter of great privilege for us that they recognised her and to be a part of the IOC. They thought that she could be of some use.
She lost (a medal in the Olympics) because of the injury. We are proud of her,” Singh said.


Dravid’s discipline, Kohli’s aggression inspires teen star Rishabh Pant
Kolkata:MMNN:18 Oct. 2016
A Virender Sehwag tweet is the equivalent of a testimonial these days. At 19, Rishabh Pant is the youngest to get one. Pant knows the tweet’s significance. “When Viru paa has tweeted about you, you know you have done something right,” Pant told HT from Delhi, a day before he was to leave for Kolkata for their Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka.
Pant made his Ranji debut against Bengal exactly a year ago. In 12 months, he has logged numbers that indicate there is something special about him.
In 11 one-dayers played in the under-19 level, Pant’s scores were 51, 26, 4, 71, 35, 6, 57, 78, 111, 14 and 1. The day he got his maiden century , against Namibia in the World Cup, Pant was picked for a hefty Rs 1.9 crore by the Delhi Daredevils at the IPL auctions. None of his U-19 mates selected in the IPL got past the base mark of Rs 10 lakhs.
In the four Ranji Trophy matches he has played so far, Pant has already scored a fifty (57 against Bengal), a big hundred (146 against Assam) and now, a triple century (308) that almost brought Delhi close to Maharashtra’s mammoth first innings of 635.
Something about these records suggest this wicket-keeper batsman is close to exploding on to the scene any day. But unlike some of us in the media on the hunt for the next big thing, Pant doesn’t think too far ahead. Ask him a question that’s a little longer perhaps and Pant shoots back saying ‘bhaiya woh last line samajh nahi aayi’ (I didn’t understand that last line). After meandering his way through Roorkee and Rajasthan before finally settling in Delhi, Pant likes to keep his life clean and simple, with a crystal-clear attitude towards batting --- if it’s in my zone, I will hit it.
“I don’t think much but I do set targets for myself. My job is to score runs and I will try to do that only,” said Pant. “I always wanted to score a double hundred in Ranji Trophy because I had never done that.” But isn’t this only your second Ranji Trophy, one asked. “I know. But I had never scored a 200 in my junior career as well. So it was always top of my bucket list,” he said.
Asked what his next target is, Pant refuses to divulge it. “I will only tell it once I have done it. That target is only known to me,” he said. Ask him how he planned his latest innings and even Pant doesn’t know how he got to a triple hundred. “The pitch was good, the ball was coming on to the bat. So I batted. I reached 100, then 150, then 200. I just batted on,” he said.
If it sounds too good to be true, Pant’s confession about being more alert in the 90s is confirmation that he isn’t one of those batsmen who ‘don’t think about closing in on a landmark’. “Of course I become a little aware of the situation. I tend to concentrate more when I am near a hundred,” said Pant.
Keeping wickets makes concentrating for long periods easy for Pant. But he isn’t willing to defend too long for no reason. “You have to decide when to defend and when to attack. I won’t defend against a loose ball. It’s about the process, not the result. That is what sir (the famed Tarak Sinha of Sonnet Club) told me,” he said.
Pant has been lucky with his coaches too. Not only did he get Sinha in his formative years, Pant also got Rahul Dravid as his U-19 coach and then as mentor when he was with Delhi Daredevils this year. “You can’t ignore Rahul sir’s significance. But I try to imbibe different things from different people. With Rahul sir, it’s his discipline. With Viru paa, it’s his aggression,” said Pant.
When it comes to aggression, though, Pant seems most smitten by Virat Kohli. “Virat bhai’s aggression is something I admire. I like his energy level. The way bhaiya pushes himself is amazing. We tell ourselves that if he can score consistently at that level, why can’t we do the same in domestic cricket? That’s a different motivation altogether,” he said.



On Gautam Gambhir’s birthday relive his two World Cup winning knocks
New Delhi:MMNN:14 Oct. 2016
Gautam Gambhir might have made a comeback to the Indian side after a long gap of two years, but there was a time when the left-hander was a regular feature in the Indian team in all three formats.
Gambhir celebrates his 35th birthday today and to mark the occasion we present to you the Delhi batsman's two World cup winning knocks
97 - 2011 World Cup vs Sri Lanka
What do you remember about the 2011 World Cup final? Probably each and every ball, but the one everlasting moment was when MS Dhoni striking a pose after hitting the winning six towards long-off off Nuwan Kulasekara. He remained unbeaten on 91 and walked away with the Man of the Match award. The rest as they say is history.
But to relegate Gambhir's 122-ball 97-run knock in your list World Cup memories will be a cardinal sin. Gambhir walked in to bat in the very first over in chase of 275 after India lost their opener Virender Sehwag for 0. Sachin Tendulkar (18) departed in the seventh over, but the left-hander showed tremendous composure under extreme pressure to forge a once in a lifetime innings.
Partnerships with Kohli (83) and MS Dhoni (109) laid the foundation for India historic win. But an ill-advised slog dancing down the track robbed Gambhir of an ultimate glory - a matching-winning century in a World Cup final. But despite getting out for 97, the knock will always find a high place in a list of greatest knocks by an Indian.
75 - 2007 WorldT20 final vs Pakistan
And to think that Gambhir had already made a telling impact in a final of a World Cup before 2011,is just amazing. And the stage could not have been better.
An India vs Pakistan World Cup final, but similar to the 2011 WC triumph, Gambhir crucial knock of 75 off 54 balls at the top became a mere footnote amidst India's unbelievable victorious campaign on the back of their disastrous 2007 50-over World cup outing, Dhoni gamble of giving the ball to Joginder Sharma in the last over.
Despite being the top-scorer, Gambhir lost out on the Man of the Match award to Irfan Pathan who logged in an impressive match-winning spell of 4-0-16-3. But Gambhir contribution at the top, blunting a potent attack consisting Mohammad Asif, Sohail Tanvir, Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul was pivotal in India posting a defendable total of 157 for five.


Yuvraj Singh Brings Rohtak To Life, Smashes 177 In Ranji Trophy Match
MMNN:14 Oct. 2016
Yuvraj Singh made a rip-roaring return to form on the cricket field after smashing a 177-run knock in Punjab's Ranji Trophy encounter against Madhya Pradesh. The sleepy village of Lahli, in the outskirts of the Rohtak city in Haryana, was brought to life yesterday with Yuvraj showing glimpses of what he is capable of.
Out of the national reckoning from a long time in the longer formats of the game, Yuvraj has been in woeful form in domestic cricket this season. In fact, his 177 against Madhya Pradesh was his first fifty-plus score in 14 first-class innings.
The 34-year-old hit a total of 24 fours and faced 295 balls in his knock. He had remained unbeaten on 164 at the end of first day's play on Thursday but could only add 13 runs today. Once Yuvraj got out, many spectators at the Chaudhary Bansi Lal Stadium left the ground as they had come to see their hero bat.
Yuvraj shared a 156-run stand with Gurkeerat Singh Mann (103), a partnership that came in just 179 balls. All MP bowlers, barring Ishwar Pandey who took 8 wickets, had to bear the brunt of the two Punjab batsmen. Yuvraj last played in whites for India in 2012. He last played an ODI game in December 2013 and earlier this year, featured in India's World T20 campaign at home.
With consistent showing by India fringe players on the A-team tours, Yuvraj is no longer a fancied option for the selectors to break into the Test and ODI teams. However, if the southpaw can come up with more knocks like these in the coming weeks, his chances will definitely improve and his fans will stay happy!



This tweet by Mohammad Kaif on Indian soldiers has a lesson for all of us
New Delhi:MMNN:7 Oct. 2016
From Virender Sehwag to Virat Kohli, several Indian cricketers took to Twitter to condemn the terror attack in Uri.
However, most of this admiration has been limited to words and hasn’t really translated into a change of heart for many of us. For instance, how many of us travelling in a Metro or a city bus would get up to offer our seat to someone who is in need. How many of us avoid rushing to a seat reserved for senior citizens, ladies and the physically challenged and feeling a sense of joy at having accomplished it?
The response can be mixed but a tweet by cricketer Mohammad Kaif has a lesson for all of us who think and act the way we shouldn’t.
Mohammad Kaif, former Indian batsmen recently took to Twitter to share a message for Indians that not only displays his thoughts for the nation but also shows a way to extend support for the armed forces.
Kaif requested people to help the Indian soldiers by offering them seats while travelling.
“Leaves of all Jawans have been cancelled. If in train or bus, you see a Jawan without a seat, do offer them a seat,” he tweeted.
Kaif did not attempt to preach, but only sent out a request that appears so easy to be followed. He does not exude the hyped feelings of nationalism, but does touch upon a raw nerve when it comes to making small sacrifices to help those in greater need.
Soldiers who guard our borders have pledged to readily make the ultimate sacrifice if need be. Time is that we reciprocate in small ways that we can.
When on field, former Indian batsmen was one of the defensive and aggressive players against Pakistan.


India ODI squad: Suresh Raina, Amit Mishra back for New Zealand series
MMNN:7 Oct. 2016
Suresh Raina and Amit Mishra have been included in India's MS Dhoni-led ODI squad for the first three ODIs of the five-match series against New Zealand starting October 16. Both cricketers last featured in ODIs in October 2015, during the South Africa series at home. They were not selected for the Australia or Zimbabwe tours this year, but now have a chance to push for further selection.
With Shikhar Dhawan sidelined for at least another two weeks with a broken thumb and KL Rahul not recovered from his hamstring pull, the newly formed senior selection committee chose Mandeep Singh as opening partner to Rohit Sharma. Hardik Pandya, the Baroda allrounder, was also recalled.
R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami have been rested keeping an eye on home Test series against England, Bangladesh and Australia in the next five months. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar ruled out of the Indore Test against New Zealand starting this weekend, the selectors have opted for Dhawal Kulkarni as the third fast bowler in the 15-man squad.
From India's previous ODI series - a tour of Zimbabwe in June, featuring five uncapped players - seven players have been dropped: Ambati Rayudu, Faiz Fazal, Rishi Dhawan, Barinder Sran, Jaydev Unadkat, Yuzvendra Chahal and Karun Nair. From that squad, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni and Jasprit Bumrah have been retained.
In his first public appearance as chairman of selectors, former India and Andhra wicketkeeper MSK Prasad stressed on Mandeep's performance for India A in Australia recently, and how Raina's experience and bowling gave him an edge in what he termed a squad "with several youngsters".
"Mandeep has played well in his brief chances with India in Zimbabwe and did exceptionally well as opener for India A in Australia, where I was present. He did well against players with international experience such as Kane Richardson and Marcus Stoinis," said Prasad, who played 17 ODIs and six Tests between May 1998 and January 2000. "Suresh Raina has been picked because he offers a good bowling option and with several youngster in the team he offers experience. I was also very impressed by Hardik Pandya, who did excellently in all formats in Australia."
This is Mandeep's second call-up to an Indian squad. Earlier this year, he went to Zimbabwe and played in three T20Is, with a personal best of 52*. He now looks primed for an ODI debut, having scored 198 runs in six games for India A in the quadrangular series they won in Australia, with a best of 95 coming in the final to fetch him the Man-of-the-Match award. In 75 List A matches, the 24-year-old averages 38.29 with three hundreds and 18 fifties.
Mandeep's India A captain on that tour, Pandey, has kept his place in the ODI squad having traveled to Australia and Zimbabwe in 2016. The 27-year-old Karnataka batsman was the highest run-getter (359 in seven games, with two hundreds) in the India A quadrangular series.
The bowling is a mix of experience and promise. The spin quotient is headed by Mishra and Axar, with the uncapped Haryana allrounder Jayant Yadav in the mix. With Bhuvneshwar injured, Ishant Sharma still not 100% after a bout of chikungunya and Shami rested, the new selection committee opted for Umesh Yadav, Bumrah and Kulkarni, was India A's most successful bowler in the one-dayers in Australia with nine.
With ten home Tests left to be played this season, this is a welcome break for Ashwin. He played the first two Tests versus New Zealand with a sore bowling finger - during which he became the fastest Indian bowler to 200 wickets - and has been given the chance to recuperate before the five-Test series against England begins in early November.
There were murmurs of Yuvraj Singh being recalled following his passing of a fitness test at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore last week, but he was been overlooked.
Similarly, Gautam Gambhir did not find a place despite being seen as a possible contender having been recently added to India's Test squad as Rahul's replacement.
The New Zealand series will be India's first ODI outing since the tour of Zimbabwe in June, when Dhoni led a majorly revamped squad of fringe and lesser experienced players. The first ODI is in Dharamsala on October 16, followed by fixtures in Delhi (October 20), Mohali (October 23), Ranchi (October 26) and Visakhapatnam (October 29). Dhoni's team is ranked fourth in the ICC ODI Championship, three points behind New Zealand at third. The last time New Zealand played ODIs in India, they were whitewashed 5-0 in 2010.
ODI squad: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Mandeep Singh, Pandey, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Jayant Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Amit Mishra.



Kabaddi World Cup: Yuvraj Singh to Saina Nehwal, sports stars cheer for Team India
New Delhi:MMNN:4 Oct. 2016
As defending champions India gearing up for the upcoming 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, starting October 7, 2016 in Ahmedabad, several Indian sporting stars have started cheering up for the home team.
Indian cricket stars Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, London Olympic medallists Saina Nehwal, MC Mary Kom, and present and former India Hockey captain PR Sreejesh and Sardar Singh along with otheers are sending their best wishes to the Indian squad for the biggest Kabaddi extravaganza.
2016 Paralympics silver medallist Deepa Malik, two times Asian Games gold medallist Pankaj Advani and champion boxer Vijender Singh have also sent their best wishes to the Indian team.
The Indian Kabaddi Team has appealed everyone to come together as #OneBigBlue to support them and help them lift the cup! India are the top contenders for the tournament, in which teams from 12 countries are going to participate.
Besides hosts India, other participating nations in the tournament are USA, England, Australia, Iran, Poland, Thailand, Bangladesh, South Korea, Japan, Argentina and Kenya.


FIFA chief Gianni Infantino suggests 48-team World Cup
Geneva :MMNN:4 Oct. 2016
World Cup expansion plans got even bigger Monday, and the 2026 tournament could have 48 teams playing instead of 32. FIFA President Gianni Infantino outlined the idea that would see 16 teams go home after playing just one game in a new opening playoff round.
The 16 playoff winners would join 16 seeded teams to begin a 32-team group stage that follows the current World Cup format.
Expanding to 48 means “more countries and regions all over the world would be happy,” Infantino said in a speech in Bogota, Colombia.
Infantino’s suggested format would create a tournament of 80 matches instead of the current 64 – driving up the price broadcasters would pay for rights to the world’s most-watched sports event.
FIFA earned around $5 billion from the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
The 2026 World Cup format and bidding process will begin to be discussed next week when Infantino chairs a FIFA Council meeting in Zurich.
The United States, Canada and Mexico are potential bidders for a tournament that the North American soccer body CONCACAF believes it is overdue to host for the first time since the U.S. staged the World Cup in 1994.
The FIFA ruling council’s decision on the 2026 format is expected within months and is set to be a defining issue of Infantino’s presidency before he is due for re-election in 2019.
Infantino wooed FIFA voters by promising a 40-team World Cup before winning election in February. He is completing the mandate of Sepp Blatter, who supported a 32-team World Cup.
Now Infantino believes that “with 40 teams, the math doesn’t work.”
“You could have a tournament in which the 16 best teams advance to a group stage and the other 16 will came out of a `playoff’ ahead of the group stage, and the World Cup could end up with 48 teams,” Infantino said at a university in the Colombian capital.
How to define the “best” teams could ignite debate if seeding is decided on the merit of recent results, or a national team’s historical record at past World Cups.
On current FIFA rankings, the 16 best teams all come from Europe and South America, except for 15th-ranked Mexico.
Infantino’s previous employer, UEFA, provoked anger in recent weeks by changing future Champions League seeding and prize money distribution rules that favor traditional powers over emerging teams.
Staging a World Cup of 48 teams would also add stress on host nations with extra demands for stadiums and training bases.
That could favor candidates like the U.S. with existing infrastructure in place, or increase support for Infantino’s election campaign idea of regional hosting across multiple countries.