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Olympians launch Olympian health study

World Olympians Association has launched the largest ever global study that will analyse the long-term health issues of Olympians. The study is supported by the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission, the IOC Athletes’ Commission and the IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commission. Joining WOA President Joël Bouzou at SportAccord 2018 in Bangkok to announce the launch today were International Ski Federation (FIS) Secretary General Sarah Lewis and World Rowing (FISA) President Jean-Christophe Rolland, the first two Olympians to complete the health study. More than 10,000 Olympians, who no longer compete at an Olympic level, are being targeted to take part in the study. The study is being promoted to all International Federations at the GAISF General Assembly tomorrow. As part of WOA’s strategic priority to support Olympians through life transition, the health study will generate new knowledge on the long-term musculoskeletal and overall general health of Olympians and identify the risk factors associated with elite-level sport in this area. Dr Debbie Palmer, an associate professor and researcher in sports injury and illness prevention at Edinburgh Napier University, is leading the study. Dr Palmer competed in short track speed skating for Great Britain at three Olympic Winter Games and has previously carried out research for the International Olympic Committee as part of the IOC’s Scientific and Medical Research group. The study is an international collaboration between Edinburgh Napier University; the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre; University of Nottingham; Arthritis Research UK, Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis; University of Calgary, University of Alberta; the IOC Medical and Scientific Department; and the Institute for Sport, Exercise and Health, London. WOA President, Joël Bouzou, said: “We are proud to launch WOA’s Olympian health study, which will greatly enhance the limited existing knowledge of the long-term health impact on Olympians. Our aim is to use this analysis to inform evidence-based recommendations and best-practice guidelines to benefit Olympians and other elite athletes. I would like to thank Dr Debbie Palmer for leading this vital piece of research and IF leaders Sarah Lewis and Jean-Christophe Rolland for helping to share the important message of this study to Olympians worldwide.” Olympic Champion and World Rowing President, Jean-Christophe Rolland, said: “Much is made of the need to push Olympians to their limit in the pursuit of glory, but as they transition from elite competition to their post-athletic careers their physical health has to be of the utmost importance. Olympians push their bodies to extremes and little is known about the long-term effects, but through this study we will be able to gather ground-breaking data that will help to model Olympians’ health and help them as they transition into later life. I am so proud to be backing this initiative – it is truly incredibly important work that the World Olympians Association is doing.” Three-time Olympian, Dr Debbie Palmer, who is leading the research project, added: “Elite athletes are known to be exposed to high impact training and competition loads, leading to increased physiological demands that can be associated with a heightened risk of injury. This study seeks to better understand what those risks are and how they can be mitigated. By encouraging as many Olympians as possible to participate we will build a better picture of post-retirement life for those who have competed at the highest levels of sport and hopefully greatly increase the body of knowledge in this area.”

-WOA Press Release


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Super Cup: Need to be positive against Bengaluru FC, says Khalid Jamil

Bhubaneswar: “We need to be positive and go ahead,” Kingfisher East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil made no secret of his strategy ahead of his team’s grand finale against JSW Bengaluru FC in the Hero Super Cup final slated to be held at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday (April 20, 2018). “Bengaluru FC are a good team. We need to be positive all throughout,” Jamil added. “There is always a temptation to try to think differently for a final. But we need to go ahead with normal preparations which we do for every match,” he stated. “We need to think about ourselves and stay positive. We need to play our game.” Jamil also lavished praise on Technical Director Subash Bhowmick for “helping the team.” “He has been helping us improve in every area,” Jamil informed. Central Defender Eduardo Ferreira felt the red and golds cannot afford any lapse in concentration. “We need to stay switched on all throughout. BFC are one of the best teams in the country. We will give our best but it’s more important to stay alert. Even for a moment, we get a bit complacent, we will be hit hard,” he maintained. Jamil, meanwhile, refused to read much into the trio of Udanta Singh, Nicolas Fedor (Miku) and Sunil Chhetri who have been doing the trick for BFC upfront. “Everyone is speaking about the trio. But in the midfield, Lenny Rodrigues has been in sublime form too. There’s quality in every department in their department and not just about their strikers. Their bench strength is very strong,” Jamil echoed. Jamil also opined that he hopes striker Dudu Omegbemi will get the match-fitness before the final. The match is scheduled at 4 PM and it'll be telecast on Star Sports 2/2 HD/1 Tamil/Suvarna Plus/Jalsha Movies/Asianet Movies and streamed live on Hotstar and Jio TV.

-AIFF Press Release


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Super Cup: 50% favorites against East Bengal in the Finals, says Alberto Roca

Bhubaneswar: JSW Bengaluru FC coach Alberto Roca said that his team are 50 percent favorites as they gear up for the Hero Super Cup final against Kingfisher East Bengal slated to be held at the Kalinga Stadium tomorrow (April 20, 2018). Speaking at the official pre-match press conference Roca said, “Yes, we are the favorites, but only 50%. That’s my mentality prior to every match as I feel every game is a 50-50 one. But this is a final and we need to show the mentality to win it.” Making no secret of his ambitions he added, “We are ambitious and aim to win tomorrow to complete an outstanding season. My players are excited to play the final.” “We have to forget our defeat in the Indian Super League final. This is a new competition. We have enough potential to win the Hero Super Cup. But at the same time we respect East Bengal as a team as they are also keen on achieving the same result,” he added. Reflecting on East Bengal’s strength, Roca said: “Katsumi is in a very good shape. The last edition while playing for Aizawl FC, Al Amna had displayed to all that he is one of the best foreign players to have played in India. So we need to manage the situation and defend well.” Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, nicknamed the Burj Khalifa, admitted that his previous tenure with East Bengal has played a major role in him emerging the player he is today. “It’s been a long journey from East Bengal to JSW Bengaluru FC. As a player, I have developed a lot. It wouldn’t have been possible to be what I am today without my stint in East Bengal,” he smiled. “But right now, I am not thinking about playing my old team. This is a new match and it’s a final. I am only concentrated on how I can contribute to my team in the final,” Gurpreet, the first-ever Indian player to have played in the UEFA Europa League maintained. The match is scheduled at 4 PM and it'll be telecast on Star Sports 2/2 HD/1 Tamil/Suvarna Plus/Jalsha Movies/Asianet Movies and streamed live on Hotstar and Jio TV.

-AIFF Press Release


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IWF implements anti-doping reforms; Member Federations to face sanctions in case of Repeated Failures

In a change to their existing Anti Doping Policy, IWF made the Member Federations more responsible in case of doping violations at their jurisdictions. The new policy came into force on Sunday 15 April. The policy has been developed based on the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code and the expert recommendations of the IWF Clean Sport Commission, to ensure the IWF demonstrates international best practice. Among the key amendments to the anti-doping policy is a greater responsibility placed on Member Federations to ensure clean sport within their countries. Under the policy, Member Federations must ensure athletes and Athlete Support Personnel agree to be bound by the IWF’s Anti-Doping Rules. Repeated failure of athletes or their support staff to comply with the IWF’s anti-doping rules could lead to sanctions being imposed on the Member Federation, in addition to sanctions on the athletes and staff themselves. Member Federations must also provide the IWF with notifications and decisions related to all Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) committed at national level. Member Federations are obligated to provide the IWF with a full list of the Athlete Support Personnel affiliated to athletes within their National Team. In addition, they must provide a signed statement from each of these support personnel and ensure none of them are serving a period of ineligibility or subject criminal/disciplinary proceedings. IWF President Tamas Ajan said: “The new IWF Anti-Doping Policy is a critical step forward in our commitment to ensuring weightlifting is a clean sport now and in the future. It will govern how we implement our anti-doping measures at international and national level, and ensure that we are aligned with the very latest industry best practice. “The new policy makes it clear what we expect of our Member Federations. Clean sport must start at national level and the IWF will work closely with all our Member Federations to make sure they fulfill their responsibility to protect and promote clean lifters.” To monitor how the Member Federations fare in case of these incidents and to take the process forward, an  Independent Member Federations Sanctions Panel (IMFSP)is appointed by the IWF Executive Board. The Panel will have the sole direction to impose sanctions on Member Federations, in line with Anti-Doping Policy.


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The Valley Run 2018 set to roar

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! It is time for the fastest automobiles to go head to head at the 2018 edition of the Valley Run Drag Race that sets pace at Amby Valley near Lonavala, from Friday.

The 2018 Valley Run will play host to a variety of supercars and superbikes that will race against each other on a quarter-mile (400metres) distance alongside cars and motorcycles from other classes and categories.

High-revving engines and the need to speed is what the Valley Run is all about and this year the bar is raised with the Best of the Best gathering of some of the most exotic automobiles present in the country today.

The three-day event, stretched over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 13-14-15th April, 2018, will witness drag racing enthusiasts coming from various parts of the country to prove their mettle against some of the finest competition in the country.

Spread over fifteen different classes, The Valley Run weekend is set to thrill the adrenaline junkies and automobile enthusiasts with high-octane action.

And don’t worry about the heat getting you because this time there will be a supercar owners lounge where all the gorgeous four-wheeled beauties will be parked in for visual delights of the onlookers.

It is only befitting that Pirelli has walked in as an official partner for the event while the exotic Mercedes Benz AMG has been appointed as the official Pace Car for the event along with Motul the Official Lubricant Partner.

For bikers, there will be the litre-class monsters racing across the finish line trying to post the best time. Followed by the spectacular Fastest Wheelie class, that will see riders riding their super-fast motorcycles only on the rear wheel to cross the finish line at maximum speed possible and then the winner will be announced. Now that sounds like a lot of fun!

Topping all the motorcycle action will be the participation from the iconic brand, Norton Motorcycles from UK, who will have its stunning motorcycles on display for all to see.

This is one annual gathering for all Speed freaks and auto enthusiasts that cannot be missed. See you all there!


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CWG 2018: Heena Sidhu shoots 11th Gold for India in 25M Pistol event

Bettering from her Silver medal in 10M Air Pistol, Heena Sidhu, a 2014 World No.1 as per ISSF Rankings, won gold in 25M Pistol event at Gold Coast, Australia in the ongoing Commonwealth Games. With this, Sidhu made amend to her forgettable appearance at the event four years back. Earlier, in 50m Prone event, India's Gagan Narang, who has eight Gold medals to his name from Commonwealth Games and Chain Singh couldn't add medals to Indian tally through their performance, as the two finished at no. 7 and no. 4 respectively in the finals. All eyes were at other medal event in Shooting, the Women's 25M pistol, where Arjuna Awardee Heena Sidhu & Annu Raj Singh were shouldering India's hopes. Annu Raj couldn't add anything to her kitty from the event, while Heena Sidhu became the first Double medalist for India from the mega event. This is India's 20th medal from the event and 11th Gold medal for India at Gold Coast. In lead to the Gold medal finish, Sidhu broke the Commonwealth Games record as she scored 38 points.  Elena Galiabovitch of Australia won Silver with 35 points, while Malaysia’s Alia Sazana Azahari won Bronze with 26 points. Annu Raj Singh of India finished at 6th in the final. India would do well to keep their third position on the medal table, as New Zealand at number 4 have 8 Gold Medals and 25 overall medals, Number 5 South Africa have 8 Gold medals and overall 18, while No. 6 Canada have 7 Gold medals and overall 37 medals. Above India on the medal table are England with 23 Gold medals and overall 70 medals and table topper Australia with 41 Gold medals and overall 109 medals so far.


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CWG 2018: Harmanpreet's brace gets India past Malaysia in Men's Hockey

Taking their Commonwealth Games medal campaign further, the Indian Men’s Hockey Team defeated Malaysia 2-1 in their third Pool B encounter at Gold Coast, Australia. Star of the day was Harmanpreet Singh, who scored twice to win the match for India. Starting the match with a positive, India got their first penalty corner in the second minute of the game, to be well embraced by Star Drag Flicker Harmanpreet Singh who scored improvising on the injection and keeping the ball low to his right to find the gap in Malaysian defense. Malaysia tried to make amend to the scoreline as they also won a penalty corner in the fifth minute, but Rahim's drag flick was off target. Teams went to break with a 1-0 score in India's favor. Coming off the break, Faizal Saari scored a brilliant field goal to equalize for Malaysia in the first minute into the quarter. India, too, upped their game and went on attack but their shots were off target most of the time, even they couldn't capitalise on a penalty corner they got in the second quarter. Teams went for a half time break with 1-1 scoreline. Coming off the break, India kept their pace and aggression intact, eventually after five attempts at PC this quarter between Indian drag-flickers Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh, the team got a match winning lead of 2-1 in the 44th minute when Harmanpreet converted a penalty corner into goal. India will have to work hard on converting the chances they get at goals given they have a Hockey World Cup also following up the mega event this year. These were the only three goals, as no other attempts from either side got to the back of the goalpost. With this win, India kept their Semifinals hopes alive. Good part of the match was that India won their second successive match in Pool B keeping the momentum got in the second match intact. Speaking about the match and performance of the team, Indian Chief Coach, Sjoerd Marijne said, “We are happy to be on the winning side. I think the team has improved since our first match against Pakistan. Though there are still certain areas we must get better with, this win will give the team a good momentum for the next match.” With wins in match no. 2 & 3, against Wales (4-3) and Malaysia (2-1) and a 2-2 draw against Pakistan, India are lying atop the pool table. Speaking about the upcoming encounter against England on Wednesday, Marijne expected a better display of skills  and said, “Again, it’s not about the opponents but our own game. I am yet to see this team come up with a 7/10 performance in this tournament. If each of them manage to play their role to perfection, I am confident of a good show against England.” India will play England on April 11 at 15.00 hours (Indian Time).


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CWG 2018: Rankireddy-Ponnappa, Srikanth & Saina win Gold in Mixed Team Event

Coach Pullela Gopichand would be a happy man today as India won a historic Gold in Badminton mixed team event today at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. India defeated Malaysia 3-1 to clinch the brightest medal at offer with tremendous performance from Mixed Doubles team of Satwik Rankireddy & Ashwini Ponnappa, followed by a dominating performance from Kidambi Srikanth against Lee Chong Wei before India lost their Men's Doubles match to allow Saina show her mettle. India's Day five had already started well with Jitu Rai & Omprakash Mitharwal winning the top two medals in 10m Air Pistol followed by weightlifter Pardeep Singh who won Silver, and Mehuli Ghosh & Apurvi Chandela who won Silver and Bronze respectively in 10M Air Rifle event. Taking the momentum forward India won the Men's Team Gold in Table Tennis and all eyes were fixated on the Indian Mixed Team Badminton event, and how the team performs there. The Team rejuvenated the nation with a historic moment as India won their first ever Commonwealth Games Badminton Mixed team Gold medal today. India defeated Malaysia 3-1 amidst strong shuttle play from Ashwini Ponnappa, Satwik Rankireddy, Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal. Starting the match day with Mixed Doubles event, Indian pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa beat Malaysian pair of Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh 21-14, 15-21, 21-15. Match number two had World No. 2 Kidambi Srikanth pitted against three-time Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei which the Indian won 21-17, 21-14 . This is the first time Srikanth has won against the Champion Shuttler in five clashes, and it was so dominating that Srikanth was 5-6 points ahead most of the times during the two set match, leaving the Malaysian to comeback before Srikanth went for the final kill. It would be one of the rare encounters where Chong's judgements visavis instant reviews were also poor. With score reading 2-0, Indian Men's Doubles pair of Rankireddy & Chirag Shetty took court to finish the match but they were defeated 15-21, 20-22 by Malaysian pair of V Shem Goh & Wee Kiong Tan. Up came the match and in came the champion Shuttler on the badminton court who's kept the Indian Badminton alive for years. The London Olympics Bronze medalist ended the match and won the Brightest medal for India, though she didn't look her true self in the second set which she lost 19-21. Finally she beat Malaysian Shuttler Soniia Cheah 21-11, 19-21, 21-9 to take India to their 10th Gold Medal and 19th Medal overall. India is still at number three with 2 gold medals' advantage over number fourth Canada.


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CWG 2018: Sharath Kamal, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran & Harmeet Desai win Men's Double Gold in Table Tennis

Following the momentum got from the Women's team, the Indian Men's Table Tennis team did what wasn't done for twelve years in Commonwealth Games- Yes, the team comprising Sharath Kamal Achanta, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Harmeet Desai won the brightest medal defeating Nigerian team 3-0 in the finals. With this the Indian Table Tennis has essayed history with golden colors, a history to recall for years, a legacy to inspire from for the upcoming table tennis players. Matching the footsteps of their women's team, Sharath Kamal Achanta, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Harmeet Desai displayed a dominating performance against a heroic Nigerian team in the final, claiming victory 3-0. India had previously won a Gold Medal in 2006 at the Commonwealth Games hosted at the same country, though at Melbourne. Sharath Kamal set the scene for India, defeating Abiodun Bode 4-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-9, followed by Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, who put India up 2-0 by beating Segun Toriola 10-12, 11-3, 11-3, 11-4 in the singles, before teaming up with Harmeet Desai in the men's doubles to finish the job in the doubles 11-8, 11-5, 11-3. Speaking post the win, Sharath said, “I really was surprised in the first game how well Bode played, I made mistakes receiving his service and he had no problems with my service. From the second game onwards I changed my services, I served more to his backhand, not middle forehand and made sure I was the first to attack. At 10-7 in the fourth game I saw the winning post, I was rushing so at 10-9 I took the "Time Out". I think we were lucky, it good we didn't play Nigeria in the morning and of course we were fortunate Quadri Aruna did not play." Adding more words to his compatriot Sathiyan Gnanasekaran concluded, "In the first game I was ahead 10-6, I thought I'd won the game, I lost focus, I made easy mistakes, but I felt confident, I felt I was playing well. After losing the first game I said to myself start again from love-all. My legs were fast and I was quick to attack. He needed time to play his strokes, so I tried to give him no time. The doubles was perfect with Harmeet, we were strong from the very first point and we were able to win this amazing gold medal, which was our goal coming into these games."   The individual events in Table Tennis begin tomorrow.


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CWG 2018: Jitu Rai wins Gold while Mitharwal wins Bronze in 10M Air Pistol

Day 5 brought more joy to the Indian Contingent and millions of Indian fans back home when Jitu Rai won gold in men’s 10m air pistol in Shooting competition at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games; Om Mitharval won bronze of the event. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Recipient, Jitu Rai, won gold setting up a new Commonwealth Games record as he shot a total of 235.1 after qualifying for the final in the fifth position, while compatriot Om Mitharval won Bronze after he shot a total of 214.3 at the Belmont Shooting Centre. Australia’s Kerry Bell won silver (233.5). Rai, a former World No 1 and Commonwealth Games gold medalist in 50m air pistol event four years ago, led India to a medal tally of 15 wherein five medals are from Shooting and nine medals are from Weightlifting while Table Tennis contributed the other medal. India still are at the third place in the medal table with 8 Golds, 3 Silvers and 4 Bronze. Speaking about the win, the honorable President of India, Mr. Ramnath Kovind wrote on microblogging site, twitter, "BANG ON TARGET 🎯...another double strike by our shooters at #GC2018!! @JituRai bags GOLD 🥇and Om Prakash Mitharval wins BRONZE 🥉in Men's 10m Air Pistol..we are proud of you #PresidentKovind."

Pardeep Singh wins Silver in Weightlifting

Pardeep Singh took forward the Indian juggernaut in Weightlifting as he clinched the silver medal in the men's 105kg event at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Pardeep, Commonwealth Championships Gold-medalist, lifted a total of 352kg in Snatch, and Clean and Jerk (152+200) to finish behind Sanele Mao of Samoa who lifted a combined weight of 360kg. Owen Boxall of England won Bronze medal of the event. Speaking about his achievement, Cricketer Virender Sehwag wrote on twitter, "Congratulations to 23 year old Pradeep Singh for winning the silver in 105 kg weightlifting. Pradeep came so close to a gold but after a close contest had to settle for silver. But well done Pradeep!"

Mehuli Ghosh wins Silver in 10 M Air Rifle

Just when this report was under edit, in the 10M Air Rifle Women, defending Champion Apurvi Chandela and Child Prodigy Mehuli Ghosh took stage with the aim to increase the medal tally of India. While Apurvi Chandela lost her title in the event as she settled for a Bronze, Mehuli Ghosh took Silver on debut Commonwealth Games. Martina Lindsay Veloso of Singapore clinched Gold of the event. It was a thrilling final with Mehuli and Veloso tied up at 247.2 at the end of final two shots, meaning a shoot-off between the two where Veloso hit a 10.3 against Mehuli's 9.9 grabbing the brightest medal at display. Mehuli won bronze at the ISSF World Cup this year after she rocked the national shooting championships with a record eight-wicket haul. With these two medals India are now at 17 overall medals with 8 Golds, 4 Silvers, 5 Bronze at the ongoing Commonwealth Games with the iconic Women Boxer Mary Kom already assured herself of a medal.  


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CWG 2018: Manika Batra, Madhurika Patkar & Mouma Das win historic gold in Women's Team Table Tennis

India went from strong to stronger on day 4 of the event as Indian women's table tennis team comprising Manika Batra, Madhurika Patkar & Mouma Das won historic Gold at Gold Coast. With the win the the Women's team event, India became the first team to beat Singapore at a Commonwealth Games Finals. India, today, broke Singapore’s supremacy for 16 years, a winning precedence set in 2002 Commonwealth Games, and continuing further as Singapore women’s team pocketed every women’s team gold medal on offer. Underdogs into the match, the Indian team did what is called an image make over and what a way! They put together a performance that will put them in Indian sporting history books for life and has won them hearts of a cheering 2 billions fans back home. Superstar of the night was 22-year-old, world number 58, Manika Batra, who shocked world number four Feng Tianwei 11-8, 8-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7 in a gripping match to set the tone of the entire match. Feng Tianwei had never lost a Commonwealth Games singles match before this one. After 1-0 lead in the event, Yu Mengyu managed to put Singapore back on track defeating Madhurika Patkar 13-11, 11-2, 11-6. The team scoreline 1-1 needed then Patkar with Mouma Das as women's doubles pair to beat Zhou Yihan and Yu Mengyu 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 11-7 to take a 2-1 lead for India. Glory is what the Indian Table Tennis team was chasing and legacy was what they could create today. And Batra took it as her moment of pride, she did just that, blowing Zhou Yihan off the court 11-7, 11-4, 11-7 to clinch India’s first ever women’s Commonwealth Games medal! In the post event ceremony, a satisfied Manika Batra said, “I was just thinking at 7-all that I had to win, I had to win the medal for India, I wanted to stand on the top step of the podium and have the Indian national anthem played. I’ve practised a great deal with my coach to attack more from my backhand, the pimpled rubber but I think today the big improvement was my forehand, I think that really surprised Singapore. It’s the first time I’d ever played Feng Tianwei but previously when I played Zhou Yihan I lost.” In other match of Women's Table Tennis, England beat Australia 3-1 to win the bronze medal. Indian Men will be playing Singapore in the Semifinal tomorrow while England will play Nigeria followed by Medal matches.


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Self-belief helped us turn things around in South Africa: Virat Kohli

Kolkata: Indian skipper Virat Kohli on Saturday credited the positive mindset and self-belief of the team that helped them get back to winning ways in South Africa after they had suffered heartbreaking losses against the hosts in the opening two Tests. "It was hard after the first two Test matches but the mindset was that we need to win at any cost. So even after two tough Test matches it is the belief that got us back when no one believed in us," said Kohli at a book launch ceremony on Saturday. "The coach, the management... we believed in ourselves and we were able to turn the things around. We did not worry about anything. We focused on only one thing that we are good enough and we can win, and that's all that was required," he further added. Kohli's decision to bat first in the final Test against South Africa in Johannesburg earlier this year had raised a few eyebrows but the captain said that his team was confident of winning as they did everything right in the match. "Obviously it was difficult because we thought the wicket is going to play very differently and it's gonna be difficult from early on. But I felt played that Test match doing all the right things and our intention was right throughout. We were not dishonest to the game, we were not scared any stage and played the right way and we knew that the game cannot do injustice to us," he said. "As a team we kept looking at things from the other perspective. There were opposition from all over regarding our decision to bat first but the team believed that it was the right decision for us," he further added. India not only went on to win the Test match by 63 runs but also won the ODI and T20I series thereafter. The 29-year-old also stated that to be able to think out of the box is what would bring success in difficult overseas conditions. "The mindset matters when you are going to face something difficult. At that point the team was in transition and they ended up becoming a great team overseas as well, was purely because all the payers in the team wanted to achieve the the same goal...The most important thing is you when you go to conditions that are not your own, you need to have their ability to look at things in a very different way. "In cricket there is no one way of doing something. There is always your way and if you believe in your way then you can make things happen," he stated further.


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CWG 2018: Manu Bhaker wins Gold, Heena pockets Silver while Ravi wins Bronze in Shooting

Taking the baton from weightlifting, Indian shooters won three medals on the fourth day of the ongoing Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast. Manu Bhaker of India won Gold, while Heena Sidhu won silver in 10 M Air pistol (women) event at Australia. Ravi Kumar won Bronze in 10 M Air Rifle (men) event. Manu Bhaker, the prodigious shooter, took up the sport just two years ago and now, two ISSF World Cup Gold medals and a Commonwealth Gold Medal is already under her kitty. At her debut Commonwealth Games, Bhaker fired a total of 240.9, a Commonwealth Games record. The 28-year-old Heena Sidhu claimed silver with a total effort of 234. Australia’s Elene Galiabovitch took bronze with a score of 214.9. In the finals, Bhaker’s perseverance led her to 10, 10.3, 10.6 and 10.9 to put herself well ahead of Sidhu and  Galiabovitch. Bhaker’s final shot earned a 10.4, which confirmed her Gold. Heena, on the other hand, hit 10.3 and 10.2 as the competition was eliminated one by one and then 10.1, 10.1, 9.1 and 9.7 to earn Silver medal. Bhaker in her way to the Commonwealth Games final, set a qualifying CWG record score of 388/400, while Heena scored 379/400. She had earlier won nine gold medals at the National Shooting Championships and a month later, she set two other junior national records at the Khelo India School games. Heena had earlier won a gold in the team 10m air pistol event and silver in the individual 10m air pistol at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Ravi Kumar wins Bronze in 10 M Air Rifle Men:

Extending the medal tally of India from 9 medals to double figures, Shooter Ravi Kumar won bronze in the final of the men’s 10m air rifle at Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Australia. Ravi, with a score of 626.8, entered the final after finishing second to Deepak Kumar who hit a record qualifying score of 627.2 in qualifying. Deepak Kumar couldn't do anything further as it was the competition between Ravi,  Australia’s Dane Samson and Abdullah Hel Baki of Bangladesh. The 29 year old Indian Shooter finished with shots of 10.4, 10.1, 9.3 and 10.2 with a total of 224.1. He had also won Bronze at the ISSF World Cup this year.


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CWG 2018: Punam Yadav wins Gold in 69 kg Weightlifting

India started their Day four with a medal in Weightlifting as Punam Yadav earned them their fifth gold medal in the women’s 69kg event at the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Australia. Yadav won Bronze medal at Glasgow 2014 in the women's 63 kg. Punam won Gold with a combined effort of 222 (100 in snatch and 122 in clean and jerk) to take India’s overall medal tally at the Gold Coast Games to seven with 5 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze.  At the Carrara Sports Club in Gold Coast, the 22-year-old Punam lifted 95, 98 and 100 in the snatch, and then 118 and 122 in the clean & jerk to finish on 122. Sarah Davies of England took Silver with a total lift of 217 (95 in snatch, 122 in clean & jerk) while bronze went to Apolonia Vaivai of Fiji who finished with 216 (100 in snatch, 116 in clean & jerk). Writing about her accomplishment, Indian Sports Minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore wrote on microblogging site twitter, "Fabulous Five🥇 Bravo Punam Yadav! From a🥉at #CWG in 2014 to a🥇at #CWG2018, you have indeed come a long way! Perfect start to the morning. Our weight lifters continue to make Indian flag 🇮🇳 fly high. #IndiaatCWG." Cricketer Ishant Sharma wrote on his twitter handle, "Congrats #PunamYadav on winning GOLD for #India in women's weightlifting in 69kg ctgy #CWG2018. Great Performance👍" This was India's 7th medal, with four gold medals; all the medalists came from same sport, i.e. weightlifting. India are lying at the third spot of the medal table with Australia and England above them on the table.


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CWG 2018: India defeat Olympic Champions England in Women's Hockey

Gold Coast: Coach Harendra Singh should be a proud man today as his team upset the balance of the Commonwealth Games turning it their way by defeating the Olympic Champions England 2-1 in their Pool A encounter today. With this win, India kept their chances of qualifying for semifinals intact at the ongoing Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia. It was an inspiring performance from the Indian eves who were down by a goal to change the table their side in the match through their comeback. It was England who started the scoreboard rolling with a goal from their skipper Alexandra Danson in the 1st minute of the match. This happened to be the only goal for the first two quarters as Navneet Kaur (42') and Gurjit Kaur (48') scored in third & fourth quarters to help India secure the victory which puts them in a strong position to qualify for the next round with a tally of six points and a pool match to play against South Africa on April 10, 2018. England, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Silver Medalists, initially caused India a few problems, but Indian Goalie Savita was ever agile and made sure that Danson's second shot in the 4th minute was saved. India up their rhythm of the game as Namita Toppo and Lalremsiami both attempted shots at the English goal, both went futile. They even failed to utilize a Penalty Corner which they were awarded in the 8th minute. Second quarter saw England putting pressure on Team India with an early Penalty Corner, however the drag-flick went wide. Another attempt at the Indian goal post was thwarted by Indian goalkeeper Savita in the 19th minute while Elena Rayer went wide in the 21st minute. India showed an unpenetrable in the second quarter under constant attempt at the goal through field goal attempts and penalty corners. Chief Coach Harendra Singh's perhaps inspired the team to go offensive post the half-time break as India looked rejuvenated and on attacking mode. India even got a chance in 38th minute but the English Keeper was intact. Soon thereafter the English team also got a penalty corner, only to be thwarted by the Indian Goalie. India kept on trying to keep the ball under their possession and it was rewarded in the 42nd minute when Vandana Katariya's pass to Navneet Kaur opened the scoring for India. Teams went for the final break with a 1-1 scoreline. Coming off the break, India kept the momentum intact only to be rewarded again in the 48th minute when India earned a penalty stroke when Rani's shot from inside the circle was impeded by an English defender. 22-year-old Gurjit Kaur then struck past Hinch's left side to score get the lead for India. This happened to be the final scoreline as with only 12 minutes to the end of play, India thwarted all four hits to the Indian defense line while a last minute goal attempt by Monika was saved by the English side. Speaking post the match, a satisfied Chief Coach Harendra Singh said, "It was a tough match today against a very strong side, but the girls produced a strong performance. This victory is special as we won against players who have won the Gold medal at the Olympics. I am sure it will give our team more confidence going into the next match as we have won two consecutive matches now after having faced a set-back against Wales in the opening match." Further speaking about his team's performance in the first three matches of the CWG 2018, Singh said, "We had a tough start to our campaign against Wales but we have to give the credit to the girls that they have come out strongly to win two matches on the bounce. It takes character and a good mindset to be able to make a comeback from such a situation, and this is something we are trying to build within the team." Speaking about their next match against South Africa on 10 April, 2018, he added, "We have improved in every match as a team which is great to see as a Coach. But now we will be taking our next match against South Africa as a Quarter-Final as whichever team wins, will go through to the Semi-Final. However, we need to keep our focus and perform like we did today, to make sure we can go past a good South African side." India will take on South Africa in their fourth Pool A match on 10 April, 2018 at 1500hrs IST.

New Zealand held at 0-0 Draw by Canada:

In the second match of the Women's Hockey event, today, Black Sticks Women were held to a scoreless draw by a 21- ranked Canadian Team. The New Zealand team could not find a way through against a stubborn Canadian team. The two team found it tough under the midday sun in a nail-biting encounter, but provided plenty of end to end action for thousands of fans who had come along to cheer them on. The Black Sticks started the match on offensive, creating plenty of scoring opportunities only to last as futile attempts at the Canadian Goal. Canadians, on the other hand, fought strongly for ball possession and impressed with their defense. New Zealand's had a minor hiccup with the refereeing in the second quarter when they were given a penalty corner by an on-field umpire only to be revoked by the TV umpire as the hit had just missed the backboard. Black Sticks will be disappointed not to build on their previous two wins, Canada, ranked 21, will take many positives from their performance against fourth ranked New Zealand.   Speaking in the post match ceremony, Canada’s Katherine Wright said, “We gave them a real run for their money. We're pretty proud of that performance. To keep New Zealand, who's a top five team in the world, down to 0-0 is pretty special for us."


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Bengal players need to perform to get back in the reckoning: Arun Lal

Kolkata: Such has been the plight of Bengal in Indian cricket that despite having top names, most of its players often find themselves distanced away from the action in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Moving away from days when many players from the state would make it to the playing XI of most IPL franchises, the number has greatly declined to a staggering six in 2018. Wriddhiman Saha and Sreevats Goswami (SRH), Mohammad Shami and Sayan Ghosh (DD), Manoj Tiwary (KXIP) and Kanishk Seth (CSK) remain the only Bengal players who would be representing a team when the IPL kicks off on April 7. The rest have lost their way, most of them going unsold and former Bengal cricketer Arun Lal, member of the last Ranji Trophy winning Bengal team (1989-90) feels the state's players need to start performing and be doing that constantly, if they are to get back in the reckoning once again. "....They have to start performing. People earlier would complain that the country discriminates against Bengal, that it was poor selection. But things have changed. Now the market is open for you to perform. A good cricketer will always find teams to play for," said Lal on the sidelines of the IPL trophy unveiling, here on Thursday. But what has been Bengal's loss has been someone else's gain and as the right-hander said, "you don't take your chances, someone else will," teams like Vidarbha and Punjab have spurred up the chance. Take Kolkata Knight Riders for instance. Of the 26 players the two-time champions had in 2008, eight were from Bengal. But the number now stands at nil and instead Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka have four and two players in the current squad respectively. Moreover despite Bengal performing in the Ranji Trophy, the shambolic innings and 26 run defeat to Delhi in the semis and their poor outing in the Vijay Hazare trophy remained a major concern for Lal. "They have to perform regularly and every time they get an opportunity. No can give them an IPL contract until they perform. Their is huge competition but with it are big rewards too," added the former Indian international. Smith and Warner should never again captain a team Given how the sandpapergate incident has traumatized world cricket and Australia in particular, it would be better if both Steve Smith and David Warner are never chosen as captain of any team ever again in their careers said fomer Indian cricketer Arun Lal. "When you are a captain you are the ambassador of the entire nation, your represent the people and both Smith and Warner have brought Australia into disrepute. These two must never again captain any team, never in their life-time," said the former Indian cricketer. "It is reprehensible and unpardonable. Yes, they cannot be punished for their entire life but such steps to win a game should never be taken again," he added.


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CWG 2018: Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu wins Gold in 53 kg Weightlifting

India furthered their medal tally with the brightest medal, today, when Indian Weightlifter and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold medalist in 48 kg, Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu won her second Commonwealth Games gold medal, albeit in 53 kg weight category. Her win got the social media rolling with congratulatory messages from people from different aspects of life. Writing about the gold medal winner, former cricketer Mr. Virender Sehwag tweeted, "Bhartiya Naari Sab par Bhaari. One more Gold. Congratulations #SanjitaChanu for winning our second gold in #GC2018Weightlifting in the women's 53kg category. #CWG2018 Her second CWG gold after the 48kg one in Glasgow. Proud of you champion." Olympic Silver Medalist Shooter & Indian Sports Minister, Mr. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore tweeted, "Twice is always a charm! What a great start to this morning. Congratulations Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu on keeping up your excellent track record of being a🥇winner at #CWG! After a Gold in Glasgow in 2014, a Gold in weightlifting at #CWG2018 as well! Very proud! #SanjitaChanu" Earlier, Sanjita Chanu won the second gold medal for India as she lifted 192 kg in total, 84 kg in Snatch and 108 kg in Clean and Jerk in the 53 kg weight category of Weightlifting (women) at Gold Coast. Loa Dika Toua of Papua New Guinea won Silver with 182 kg while New Zealand's Rachel Leblanc-Bazinet took bronze with 181 kg. With this, India is lying on the third pedal of the Medal table with England leading with 6 Gold medals, 3 Silver Medals & 3 Bronze Medals. On the second pedal is Australia with 5 Golds, 4 Silver & 6 Bronze. India have 2 golds and one Silver so far, followed by Malaysia with 2 Golds at the 4th pedal. Sanjita Chanu's medal was India's third medal overall at the ongoing Commonwealth games in Australia. Before that, Mirabai Chanu & P Gururaja won  gold & silver, respectively on the opening day of the event.


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CWG 2018: India’s Mirabai Chanu wins Gold in 48kg weightlifting

In what could be a perfect day to start with for the Indian Athletes at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, India won their second medal and their first gold medal within hours from the start of this mega event. This time it was Mirabai Chanu in 48 kg Weightlifting who bettered from the medal color of fellow weightlifter P Gururaja. Saikhom Mirabai Chanu of India won gold medal of the 48kg event with the total lift of 196 kg (86 kg in snatch, 110 kg in clean & jerk), which, incidentally, is also new Commonwealth Games record, national record and her personal best.  Silver Medal from the event went to Mauritius' Marie Hanitra Roilya Ranaivosoa with a total lift of 170 kg and Bronze medal was grabbed by Sri Lanka's Dinusha Gomes who lifted 155 kg.  She had a dominating presence at the event as she swept the snatch variant by a healthy 10 kg.   Mirabai had also won gold medal of the Commonwealth Senior Weightlifting Championships (Gold Coast, Australia) in 2017. She couldn't do much at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, but this win will give her some satisfaction as a sportsperson. India in other events: Indian Cycling Team cpmprising Amritha, Monorama Devi and Deborah finished 7th with timing 5:05.668 in Women's 4000m Team Pursuit Qualification. India lost to Wales 2-3 in Women's Hockey. Indian Table Tennis team beat Sri Lanka in the opening encounter of group stage by 3-0. Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee won their respective singles matches followed by a doubles win for Sutirtha & Pooja Sahshrabudhe. Indian Badminton team won 5-0 against Sri Lanka in opening encounter. Pranaav Jerry Chopra & Ruthvika Gadde won 21-15, 19-21, 22-20 in mixed doubles. Kidambi Srikanth won against Niluka Karunaratne by 21-16, 21-10. Satwik Rankireddy & Chiraag Shetty beat Dinuka Karunaratne & Buwaneka Goonethilekka 21-17 21-14 in Men's doubles. Saina Nehwal beat Madushika Dilrukshi Beruwelage 21-8 21-4 in Women's Singles. And Ashwini Ponnappa & Sikki Reddy won against Hendahewa & Sirimannage in Women's Doubles. Indian Lawn Bowls team hadn't had a great outing as New Zealand's Jo Edwards got better of Pinki 20-16 in Women's Singles Sectional Play - Section D while Team Wales outplayed Team India 23-9 in Men's Triples Sectional Play - Section A.


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CWG 2018: India's P Gururaja wins Silver in 56kg weightlifting

India started their medal campaign at the ongoing Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia with a Silver Medal in Men's 56kg weightlifting. This was the very first event India have participated in at the ongoing edition of the Commonwealth Games. Earlier, P Gururaja won silver in the Men’s 56kg weightlifting event as he lifted 138kg in his third attempt in the clean and jerk to end with a total lift of 249kg. The 28 year old had lifted 111kg in the snatch. In way to the silver medal, he also achieved his personal best at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and earned India their first medal on the opening day of the current edition.   Gold medal of this event went to Malaysia’s Muhammad Izhar Ahmad (total lift of 261kg - A Commonwealth Games record) and Bronze went to Sri Lanka’s Chaturanga Lakmal (248kg). Prior to his medal appearance at the Commonwealth Games, today, Gururaja has won a Commonwealth Championships bronze in Australia (2017), and a Commonwealth senior weightlifting championship gold with a personal best of 249kg (108+141) in Penang (2016) and a South Asian Games gold in India. India have sent a very strong contingent comprising 200-plus athletes across all sports India is appearing at. The Indian Contingent at Gold Coast includes a strong 16 member Weightlifting team to Gold Coast. The team composition is below: Men: P Gururaja, Muthupandi Raja, Deepak Lather, Sathish Sivalingam, Ragala Venkat Rahul, Vikas Thakur, Pardeep Singh, Gurdeep Singh Women: Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, Kumukcham Sanjita Chanu, Saraswati Rout, Vandna Gupta, Punam Yadav, Seema,  Lalchhanhimi & Purnima Pandey.  


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Emeka Ezeugo comes to the aid of Rohingya refugees

Kolkata: It is not coincidence that a player who began his career in India, before representing his country in the FIFA World Cup, once again looked back into the land of billions to start the second chapter of his life. Nigerian Emeka Ezeugo, a veteran footballer in Maidan now plans to run 1500km from Kolkata to Chittagong, Cox Bazaar and Dhaka and back, to aid the plight of Rohingya refugees. "It distresses me and I am moved to see the condition they live in. When humanity is in distress, it diminishes me greatly and it drives me crazy to go where no one has been before," he said at a press conference he presided in, at the Calcutta Sports Journalist Club on Tuesday. Ezeugo, who as a 19-year-old stepped into the field in East Bengal colours beginning a career that would take him miles into distant lands, also competed in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1994 World Cup for Nigeria. In India he also played for Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan SC and is held in high esteem at Maidan for his performance for the latter at the Nehru Centenary Cup. He almost single-handedly led the Black Panthers to the title in 1990 and for all the love he received for that gallant show it didn't spring a surprise that the once 6ft defender who was transformed into a deadly striker chose the Mecca of Indian football for his life's second chapter. "It is a dream that I had, that spiritually moved me and one that got me from New York to here." He has decided of a fund raising project to help the Rohingya refugees, by running a 1500km distance. "It will take me a month and a half. I aim to do 30-40km every day," he said talking of the run which he will start on April 21. Not everything of the project is finalised but Ezeugo believes he has his mind unmoved and that helping the displaced, remains his only occupation now. "It will not be easy and finding sponsors and partners would be a hard task but I am sure the entire football family will join hands with me for a humanitarian cause." "Please, run with me in solidarity to the aid of Rohingya refugees by also donating 1000 rupees/ 1000 Taka to a designated bank account. Let's make history, where the talking point is our story," added the former Churchill Brothers player and coach. He also plans to help the people in distress by organising an 'All Legends' match in India where the 1994 World Cup teams of both Nigeria and Italy will play against an all Indian and Bangladeshi XI. "It will certainly happen after the Russia World Cup and I will also put up the jerseys used during the match, on auctions to help the people's plight," said the Nigerian. Fan clubs for Kolkata giants "To say that East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan SC have the biggest fan base would be an understatement, they have the best fans in the world," said Emeka Ezeugo who has plied his trade with all the big three Kolkata clubs. "But the total number of fans are not on record. Hence people think that Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool have the biggest set to fans. Hence I would also use this opportunity to establish on record that these clubs from Bengal are the world's biggest clubs with the largest support base. "Every supporter of those clubs must pay Rs 1000 to be counted as a registered supporter of the clubs and the total collective contributions still be equally disembarsed among the clubs as yearly dues. This can be done every year and will not just help the world take notice of the fans but also help the financial conditions of the clubs," he added.


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Maharashtra Chess: Nivaan, new kid on the block!

Pune: The number of young talents in Maharashtran chess seems to keep growing with each passing day. Names like Kush Bhagat and Suhaani Lohia have already shown that success can be achieved at a very young age. Now, add young Nivaan Khandadia to that list. A senior KG student from the Vibgyor Magarpatta School in Pune, six-year-old Nivaan has already fulfilled his rating norms in the recently concluded Udaipur International Open Rating Chess Tournament. The wonderkid is all set to make an entry into an elite list of the world's youngest rated chess players with the release of his international ratings next month. A trainee at the South Mumbai Chess Academy in Koregaon Park, Nivaan plays under the watchful eyes of coach Vishwanath Sandilya. The latter, impressed by his ward's performances has professed that the child would rewrite all major records and would end up as a big name in the sport. Well, Sandilya has reasons to be proud of his student. Nivaan, who idolises Norgwegian Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen has already pocketed 17 trophies and nine medals at the district and state level so far. He also has finished third at the district level, seventh at the state school level and 13th at the national school level in the U-7 age category competitions. He has a couple of feathers to his illustrious cap, having a gold medal to his name in running and winning a first prize in story-telling. He also loves to swim. Nivaan's introduction to the sport came from his father Rathin, when he was just four-and-half. He showed glimpses of excellence at that age itself when he learnt the sport in just two days and astonishingly outplayed his father on the third. Not only this, but the kid can name all the world champions in correct sequence. Unsurprisingly, he desires to be a Grandmaster one day and his passion for the sport might make him go the distance someday.


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Emotional Smith rues his actions; Lehmann steps down

Sydney: Steve Smith broke down in tears while addressing the media after his arrival on Sydney and said he would regret his actions for the rest of his life. Smith was handed a 12-month ban from the sport by Cricket Australia following the ball tampering incident during the Cape Town Test match against South Africa. "I don't blame anyone. I'm the captain of the Australian team. It's on my watch and I take responsibility for what happened last Saturday. "Cricket is the greatest sport in the world. It's been my life and I hope it can be again. I'm sorry and I'm absolutely devastated," said a teary-eyed Smith while addressing the media on Thursday. He also said, "If any good can come of this, if there can be a lesson to others then I hope I can be a force for change. I know I'll regret this for the rest of my life. I'm absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness." "It hurts ... I'm deeply sorry. I love the game of cricket. I love entertaining young kids ... I just want to say sorry for the pain I've brought to Australia, to the fans and the public,” the 28-year-old further added. Earlier, Cameron Bancroft, who was handed a nine-month ban apologized for his mistake after he returned to Australia. The opening batsman also said that he has let everyone down in Australia. "I want to say that I'm very sorry ... I'm very disappointed and I regret my actions ... It is something I will regret for the rest of my life," said the 25-year-old who was caught on camera using sandpaper to alter the ball's condition. He also admitted that he lied to the umpires about he sandpaper. "I lied. I lied about the sandpaper. I panicked in that situation and I'm very sorry ... I feel like I've let everyone down in Australia," he said. Warner, who too was involved in the ball tampering controversy apologised to the fans. "Mistakes have been made which have damaged cricket," he wrote on Instagram, opening up for th first time on the incident which hit Australian cricket hard, last weekend. Lehmann steps down as head coach Following the ball tampering controversy, Australia's head coach Darren Lehmann announced on Thursday that he would step down from his role after Australia's fourth Test match against South Africa in Johannesburg, which begins on Friday. "As many who sit in this room will know, life on the road means a lot of time away from loved ones and after speaking to my family, it is the right time to step away," Lehmann said in a pre-match conference. "Speaking to the players and saying goodbye is the toughest thing I have had to do. It's been happening for a few days and you think you can keep going but the amount of abuse just takes it toll. They made a mistake. "This was entirely my decision. I have been speaking to the hierarchy in the last couple of days. Speaking to my family, they've had enough of travelling 300 days," he added.


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Sunrisers name Kane Williamson as new skipper

New Delhi: Sunrisers Hyderabad have appointed New Zealand's Kane Williamson as their captain for the upcoming edition of the IPL. This development comes a day after David Warner stepped down from the helm of affairs following his involvement in the ball tampering controversy.

"We are happy to announce Kane Williamson as the captain on Sunrisers Hyderabad for IPL 2018, - K Shanmugam, CEO, Sunrisers Hyderabad," tweeted the franchise on Thursday.

The right-hander was bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad back in 2015 and he has scored 411 runs for the team across three seasons. After Warner stepped down, speculations about Shikhar Dhawan getting the role grew, but Williamson was eventually handed the responsibility, given his success as a captain for New Zealand.

He said, "I've accepted the role to stand in as captain for this season. It's an exciting opportunity with a talented group of players. I look forward to the challenges ahead."

The Kiwi skipper earlier had said that he had kept in touch with Warner through text messages.

"He's not a bad person by any means...Through what's eventuated in recent times, there's been a lot of emotion and energy pointed at certain players which has gone to extreme lengths. It will blow over in time, but it's grown and grown and, like I say, he's not a bad guy. He's made a mistake and certainly admitted that and they are disappointed with that action," Williamson said.


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We all have a lot to learn from Sandpaper Gate, an Open Letter to James Sutherland

Dear Mr. Sutherland, Firstly, I would like to clarify that I’m writing this letter to you as a cricket lover, fan, follower and a great admirer of Australia as a sporting nation. I know that the past few days have tough for you, the board and the Australian cricket loving public, in general, to digest this incident that has shook the cricketing world. It has already been labelled as one of the darkest and saddest days in Australian Cricket history. On the offset, please allow me to applaud the zero tolerance approach and seriousness with which you have handled the entire #SandPaperGate saga. This definitely sends a strong message across to the team, players, the nation and also the cricketing world that you do not tolerate any form of cheating, corruption or behavior that brings the game into disrepute. I daresay that any other cricket board/association or country would not have imposed such heavy sanctions on players for an offense that is still illegal in the laws of the game but not that grave in context and comparison to some of the other stuff that past players and teams have done. The closest comparison that I can draw to this incident is the match fixing saga in the new millennium that shook the cricketing world and BCCI and PCB having to ban some of its biggest cricketing stars for life. People had lost trust and belief in their stars and had started questioning the integrity of the sport which had to be re-built from scratch. However, having said this, there is absolutely no comparison between match fixing and ball tampering. It was a totally shambolic incident and was of a different level altogether which naturally deserved the most severe punishment. Gauging from the reactions and comments from former players, fans, followers and even the country’s prime minister over social media and on television, it would be fair to say that majority of them feel that they have been let down by their heroes by virtue of this act. The sanctions raised on them surely shows how seriously Cricket Australia looks upon these issues and how passionate and proud Australia is as a sporting and cricketing nation. I have been to your beautiful country several times in the past few years and have seen the passion and pride that people have in sports from close quarters. In each of my trips, I was always amazed by the way sport is ingrained in the DNA of the Australian people and how much importance is given to kids for participating in sports. I remembered a joke from one of my friends living there that in Australia, the parents wouldn’t care to ask their kids if they did their school homework, instead they would be more worried about if their kids went out for a jog or not. Seeing Steve Smith break down in that press conference was heartbreaking and a very emotional moment for all the people who watched it. One can only imagine what he and his family must be going through during these testing times where literally every tom, dick or harry might be wanting a chance to have a go at them and put them to shame. Perhaps the biggest and only positive to have emerged out of this saga is the fact that Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft owned up to their misdoings in front of the world to accept their mistake. While people might argue that everything was black and white and was caught on camera, even after all that, doing what they did was commendable and the right thing to do. Facing the humiliation and taunts in front of camera and a huge audience is not easy when the whole world is watching and baying for your blood. It takes a lot of courage and strength to face the world and gives out a clear message that they are sorry for what they did and want to put the past behind and are ready to pay for their mistakes. Putting emotions and sympathies aside for the players involved, I would like to take the liberty to express my views and probably the views of the cricketing fraternity in large. This episode has acted as a catalyst for the entire cricketing fraternity to take pot shots at Australia, their cricketers, coach and administration in general. There was a strong undercurrent to this entire episode with a toxic team culture prevailing for a long time and it was more like a time bomb waiting to explode anytime. The way the Australian cricket team has been behaving and playing their cricket over the past few years and specially last few months has been reprehensible and surely against the spirit of the game. There’s a reason why cricket is called a gentleman’s game and Australia’s cricketers have been poor ambassadors and not been even close to gentlemanly in their demeanor. All this garb of “play hard but play fair” or “win at all costs” mentality has probably ruined the DNA of how cricket or any sport in general needs to be played. The free hand given to players to express themselves however they wanted has actually led to these kind of incidents without any fear of being confronted by higher officials. There are many examples to quote but the first one that comes to mind which was as unlawful and blatant as this one was the famous ‘brain fade’ moment in Bengaluru in the 2017 test series. Had a stern warning been dished out to the team then and there itself by Cricket Australia, the story might have been different in Cape Town. Somehow the current generation of Australian cricketers have been brought up to look mentally strong by talking and doing rubbish things on the field and that would be acceptable as long as it helps them win. This is a practice which has been prevalent for a long time and somewhere had a long lasting impact on what happened in Cape Town. What happened in Cape Town wasn’t a one off bad incident that has ruined the image of Australian cricket. In fact this incident presented a perfect opportunity for the entire cricketing world to derive ‘sadistic pleasure’ and assume poetic justice to most of the wrong doings that many a player have been subjected to by Australian cricketers in the past. Had Cricket Australia intervened earlier and corrected this trend and behavioral tendencies of players in the past, the collective outrage and mass hysteria surrounding this incident would surely have not blown out of proportions like in this case. As one former player and commentator mentioned in his comments, this Australian team looked completely out of control and lacked class or the worthiness of being called the national cricket team of the nation. Honestly, they were behaving like a bunch of college drop outs who suddenly won a lottery and were given the freedom to travel the world and do whatever they wanted to. This team surely lacked leadership both from the captain and coach to mellow them down or check their behavior in general. The so called ‘leadership group’ that was referred to time and again was just on paper and not seen in action. David Warner, being a serial offender and usual suspect in all controversies started believing that he is bigger than the game. The hypocrisy part of this entire episode came to light when Darren Lehmann reportedly complained about crowd behavior in South Africa. He is the same man who urged Australian crowd to harass and taunt Stuart Broad in the Ashes series down under a few seasons ago. This very statement of Lehmann was serious enough to be reprimanded and put on a tight leash by Cricket Australia. I don’t know how the Australian public views or sees sledging, but in my eyes and certainly most of the cricketing world’s eyes, it’s a disgraceful act of weakness and cowardice than strength. It’s basically telling the opposition that when I’m not good enough to beat you with my talent or game, so I would bad mouth you and try to taunt you to lower your standards of the game under stress and constant attempts to break your concentration. With all due respect and my admiration aside for Steve Waugh, this is not ‘mental disintegration’ but ‘crass and unethical adulteration’ of sport. Ultimately, sport is played to show your skills, endurance and ability to handle pressure than how well you abused or gave a mouthful to an opponent player. It’s definitely not good for the game, especially for younger players and followers who want to emulate their role models. We all love a bit of aggression and banter on the pitch, but only when it’s done within the defined boundaries. With Australians, such boundaries or the famous ‘thin line’ doesn’t exist when it comes to them sledging or abusing the opposition. Apparently, when they get back what they dish out, it becomes a talking point and things suddenly go out of control for them. The famous West Indian fast bowlers of yesteryear like Walsh, Ambrose, Marshall, Holding etc. never uttered a word to the batsman. They had the famous fast bowler’s stare that would tell a story or two. The very fact that cricket is not a contact sport says a lot about how players should conduct themselves on the field. There are ways and means to get under the skin of the opposition. Use your creative skills, set annoying fields as captain, bowl an uncomfortable line or length to a batsman, play the reverse sweep or the switch-hit and irritate the bowler. If these skills are exhibited on the cricket field, there can be no better value for money for a spectator or the fan. Finally, amidst all the drama, I feel that this incident was probably a blessing in disguise for an intervention by Cricket Australia before things could get worse. Probably if this incident wasn’t found out or captured on television cameras, who knows what the players would have indulged in further. I think you should thank your stars that the buck stopped here and did not enter dangerous territories like match fixing which is a bigger menace. Many people on social media are also comparing this incident with match fixing, however that’s a bit of an over-reaction and match fixing is a much bigger crime than this. We all have a lot to learn from this incident, it shows that cricket is a great-leveler and no player or team is bigger than the game. Steve Smith, with a ‘bradmanesque’ spree of form over the past 2 years and a batting average to die for, suddenly finds himself in the sidelines as a torn and tattered superstar who would be away from what he loves for the next 12 months in isolation from the entire world. We as cricket fans hope that he and the others involved come out of this as better individuals and better players after serving their bans and the pride and passion is restored within cricket fans in Australia. Yours Sincerely A Cricket fan, follower, critic and admirer!

(Venugopal Rajgopalan is a passionate cricket enthusiast, a decent club-level cricketer, a keen observer and an analyst. He has worked with international and domestic teams in tournaments like IPL and MPL (Maharashtra Premier League) as a performance analyst and had the good fortune to look at the game from closer quarters and understand its intricacies.)


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Ball tampering row: Tendulkar, Warne differ in opinion

New Delhi: The legendary Sachin Tendulkar backed Cricket Australia's decision to ban Steve Smith and David Warner for a year, terming it as the right decision after the infamous ball tampering saga in Cape Town few days ago.

The young 25-year-old Cameron Bancroft was also handed a nine-month suspension and both Smith and Warner were also banned from competing in this year's IPL.

Taking to Twitter, Tendulkar wrote, "Cricket has been known as a gentleman's game. It's a game that I believe should be played in the purest form. Whatever has happened is unfortunate but the right decision has been taken to uphold the integrity of the game. Winning is important but the way you win is more important."

But Australian spin legend and Tendulkar's on-field adversary Shane Warne felt that the one-year ban was too harsh.

Wrote Warne in his column, "Let's take the emotion out of it. We are all feeling angry and embarrassed. But you need a level head and you shouldn't destroy someone unless they deserve to be destroyed. Their actions were indefendable, and they need to be severely punished. But I don't think a one-year ban is the answer."

Tendulkar too was accused of ball tampering way back in 2001 during the series against South Africa by match referee Mike Denness who felt that the right-hander was trying to alter the seam of the ball during the second Test match in Port Elizabeth.

In his defence, Tendulkar insisted that he was trying to clean the ball as dust had accumulated on the seam. He also received the backing of the BCCI led by the then president Jagmohan Dalmiya and India had even threatened to call off the series. The third Test was eventually declared, "unofficial" as Denness was sent back home.


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Ball tampering fiasco: ICC's double standards to the fore

Cricket Australia’s flag remains half mast. The Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft episode has brought dark clouds of corruption over Australian cricket, which has produced legends in the past.

Their outright defeat in the third test by a 322-run margin to South Africa epitomizes their sorry state of affairs. In fact it is a sad state of recent bankruptcy of Australian cricket.  It is difficult to believe that this country has produced players from the great Donald Bradman to Steven Waugh.

Yes, Bancroft tried to change the condition of the ball to get an undue advantage in the match. And he was backed by captain Smith and vice captain  David Warner and may be some more members of the side.

The astonishing part of this full episode is the ease at which Smith and Bancroft confessed their heinous crime and the delay in their stern punishment from their country as well as the ICC.

And when the Australian cricket Board suspended Smith and Warner for one year and Bancroft for nine months, some eyebrows were raised. The ICC’s punishment of forfeiture of match fee and one-match suspension of Smith and Bancroft remains a debatable issue  as ever throughout the cricketing world!

Not only did Smith and Warner have one-year bans but their future hopes of being at the helm of affairs in the team too received a jolt. Smith on his part wouldn't be considered for captaincy for atleast the next two years while Warner would never be considered as a potential skipper of the national side.

But this episode is a blessing in disguise. A pandora’s box has been opened- several cricketers have come forward to disclose several unethical activites in cricket in recent times. Much like the, “Me too” trend, which took social media by storm some time ago.

Let's take a look at the Port Elizabeth Test episode between India and South Africa, way back in November 2001. Six players of Indian team were punished  by ICC for different reasons. And the punishment came from match referee Mike Denness, a former England captain and virtuous cricketer of his era. The shocking allegation, in this case was raised against the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. The allegation was of a blatant effort of ball tampering.

And what did Sachin say to match referee? "I am playing highest level of cricket for the last 12 years. I know very well, what is right and what is wrong”.

India was backed by the then BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya. All eyes were on Denness. He ultimately ended up becoming the villain of the episode. But an interesting part of the story was - not any true investigating team was activated to dig up the truth. Yes, the ICC took a jibe at the matter and in the end revoked the decision of one match suspension on Tendulkar. But to be honest, an impartial investigating agency wasn't employed by the BCCI to know the truth. Still it remains a mystery to many.

It was a matter of conjecture that the ICC and Cricket Australia took to book these  perpetrator of fraudulent activities. The double standards of the global governing body of cricket has now come to the forefront.

The IPL, in this regard might be a bit worried with the bans as sponsorships are involved. So what is the need for ICC or the BCCI to make rules for stern action against deplorable activities inside the field when cricket is all about sponsorship and to earn dollars and dollars? Why so much talk about cricketing ethics then?

From 1981, instances of Trevor Chappell's underarm bowling to Faf Du Plessis' ball tampering in 2016-all are now a part of history. But has there been any efforts by the ICC to book those players who have brought shame to the gentleman's game? These efforts are pretty less in number as today, cricket has turned into an institution for making money.

Those who are quick to draw several debatable or biased conclusions while playing in Australia should also know that media mogul Kerry Packer, who introduced this improved electronic media system in cricket through Channel 9, was none other than an Australian. In fact he introduced this system to bring more attraction to the game of cricket, which later turned into a way to make the sport more clean.

Yes, Australia has to bear the burden of  this disgraceful incident for a long long time to come. They might not be able to achieve the desired results against India at home later this year, because of the absence of two of their key players in Smith and Warner.

The only positive to come out of this is Cricket Australia's bold decision making as they didn't think twice before suspending a top-class cricketer in Smith.

But can there be any assurance that ball tampering doesn't happen again? Maybe as long as victories would fetch a lot of wealth to a team, it would, sadly remain a part of the sport.


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Ball tampering row: Smith, Warner handed 12 month bans

New Delhi: Following the ball tampering saga, Australia captain Steve Smith along with deputy David Warner were handed a 12-month ban from the sport, as announced by Cricket Australia on Wednesday.

Cameron Bancroft, who was also involved in the incident however has been banned for nine months. He and Smith would also not be able to captain Australia for at least the next two years.

The Australian cricket board also said that Warner would not be considered for, "any team leadership positions in the future."

Cricket Australia's Chief Executive James Sutherland said, "As the Chairman has noted, the sanctions we have announced are significant for the individuals involved. That is why the process has had to be thorough to ensure that all relevant issues have been examined."

Sutherland had also asked Smith and Warner to relinquish their roles as captain and vice-captain of the Australian team, following the shameful incident.

"I am satisfied that the sanctions in this case properly reflect a balance between the need to protect the integrity and reputation of the game and the need to maintain the possibility of redemption for the individuals involved, all of whom have learned difficult lessons through these events.

"As indicated, Cricket Australia will provide more details of an independent review into the conduct and culture of our Australian men's team in due course," he added.

Smith was earlier fined and handed a one-match ban for breaching ICC's code of conduct. The 25-year-old Bancroft, who was caught on camera tampering the ball was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and three demerit points.

Cricket Australia's chairman David Peever said, "As I indicated yesterday, the CA Board understands and shares the anger of fans and the broader Australian community about these events.

"They go to the integrity and reputation of Australian Cricket and Australian sport and the penalties must reflect that.

"These are significant penalties for professional players and the Board does not impose them lightly. It is hoped that following a period of suspension, the players will be able to return to playing the game they love and eventually rebuild their careers," Peever added.

Warner had earlier stepped down as captain of his IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad before the ban on Wednesday and Smith had also relinquished his captaincy of the Rajasthan Royals, who are returning to the IPL after a two-year suspension.

Confirming their absence from the IPL, chairman Rajeev Shukla said, "The players that they [Cricket Australia] have banned, we are also barring those two players from this season.

"The franchises will get replacements for the players."


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Santosh Trophy: Bengal succumb to first defeat

Kolkata: Defending champions Bengal succumbed to their first defeat, going down 0-1 to Kerala in the ongoing 72nd Santosh Trophy at the Mohun Bagan ground here on Tuesday. Despite the defeat Bengal had already qualified for the semi-finals with nine points after four games, while Kerala topped group A having won all of their four matches. With both the teams having already made it to the penultimate stage of the competition prior to the match, the only thing important for this encounter was, who among the two will top the group and former Indian Arrows player Rahul Kannoly ensured Kerala did so with a well taken goal in the final minute of play. Rahul scored in the 90th minute from Jithin MS cross, who on the day created havoc in the right wing. But it was Bengal who dominated proceedings initially and enjoyed better possession. The hosts could have well gone ahead in the sixth minute but Sandip Bhattacharjee's attempted volley went just inches above the bar. It was one of the many chances they squandered and the under-21 duo of Rahul and Jithin ensured Kerala made full advantage of those missed chances. Maharashtra defeat Manipur In the other inconsequential match of the day at the Howrah Sailen Manna Stadium, Maharashtra hammered seven past Manipur, who scored two consolation goals, in their final group B encounter. Ranjit Singh scored a hat-trick, scoring in the 59th, 77th and 90th minutes, while Sahil Bhokare (28th), Nikhil Prabhu (75th), Kiran Pandhare (86th) and Naiqur Ansari (90+3rd) scored the other goals. Chanso Horam (17th) and Dhananjay Singh (40th) netted for Manipur.


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Entire team's involvement in the ball tampering is unheard of: Kapil Dev

New Delhi: Former Indian captain Kapil Dev opened up on the ball-tampering incident that has hit Australian cricket hard and said that the entire team's involvement in the issue is something, "unheard of."

"I can understand if a player is caught tampering the ball and he get sanctions from the world governing body. But if the whole team is behind tampering the ball, it's a dangerous precedent. Something unheard of," Kapil said to the Times of India.

The 1983 World Cup winning skipper also said that Steve Smith didn't set a good example as a leader through this incident and also added that it was needless for Australia to take up such a way despite winning the first Test convincingly.

Smith along with teammate Cameron Bancroft had acted contrary to the spirit of the game and a punishment for them is on the cards by Cricket Australia. But Kapil refused to comment on what punishment should they receive.

"It's not my job to decide the punishment. There are authorities to decide that and if I am not mistaken, they have already given a one-match ban for Smith. But as a former player I would love to see cricket played in the right spirit," he said.

The former Indian all-rounder also said that he never tampered the ball and added, "We didn't know how to tamper the ball during our time. It was the Pakistani fast bowlers who did ball tampering to get reverse swing by carrying bottle caps and all. Those days there wasn't any rule to define ball tampering as well. But coming back to the ball tampering issue today, it's never easy to understand the reason behind the entire team being involved in ball tampering in this incident. It's intriguing."

Smith, Bancroft and Warner to leave South Africa

Following the shameful ball tampering incident, Smith along with teammates Warner and Bancroft are all set to depart from South Africa and wouldn't have any further role to play in the ongoing tour of the Proteas. Australia thus trailing 1-2 in the series would walk into the final Test match led by stand-in skipper Tim Paine.

Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell have been named as the replacements and would join the team on Wednesday.


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We will be able to deal with David Warner's potential absence from the IPL: Wriddhiman Saha

Kolkata: While there seems to be an uncertainty looming over David Warner's participation in the IPL, Indian Test wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha feels that although they'll feel the Australian's absence, there's plenty of depth in the squad to make up for it.

"To the best of my knowledge there hasn’t been a decision on this yet but if he isn’t playing, we can replace him,” said Saha at a press conference organised by the Calcutta Sports Journalists' Club on Tuesday.

"And yes, it would be a setback initially if the captain is not around because a team is built with certain plans around the skipper but I think, we will be able to get around it,” further added Saha, who was roped in by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs. 5 crore in the auctions in January.

The ball tampering issue in the Test series between South Africa and Australia has grabbed all headlines in recent times and Saha felt that such a thing would not have happened had there been no backing from the entire team.

"It is difficult to believe that this was done by one or two people without the rest knowing about it,” he said.

In this regard, he also felt that the punishment too, should be even. “I think it is unfair that someone would be punished more than others,” he added.

While talking of the upcoming edition of the IPL, Saha highlighted that a strong bowling attack was one of the strengths of his franchise.

“As a team we would back ourselves to defend a low score. Our bowlers can win matches and that gives batsmen a lot of confidence,” he opined.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who led the bowling charts last season with 26 scalps would once again spearhead the attack. Their bowling also boasts of a prodigious spin bowling talent in the form of Afghanistan's Rashid Khan, who had picked 17 wickets in 14 games last year. Saha, who is one of the best stumpers in Test cricket today said that a week's training would enable him to keep to the leg-spinner. He would leave for Hyderabad on March 30.

The wicket-keeper batsman from Bengal recently made the news for slamming a 20-ball hundred (102*) with six fours and 14 sixes, for Mohun Bagan. He said that he can't help if he is labelled as a Test specialist but he tries to give his best in whichever format he plays.

Saha had earlier hit a scintillating hundred (115*) in the final of the IPL in 2014, which is the first in the history of the competition.

"It is not really my fault that I have played nine One-day Internationals in over eight years. I try to do my best and then let the selectors decide," he said.


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Santosh Trophy: Punjab beat Karnataka to keep semi-final hopes alive; Goa win big

Kolkata: Punjab rallied from a goal behind to beat Karnataka 2-1 and keep their semi-final hopes alive, while Goa hammered Odisha 6-1 in the group B fixtures of the 72nd Santosh Trophy here on Monday. Coming into the match on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Mizoram, Punjab fell behind once again in the seventh minute when Rajesh S' scored from the spot after a foul on Leon Augustine in the Karnataka box. But Punjab bounced back attacking with more intent and levelled soon in the 18th minute. Jitender slotted home from close range after receiving a square-pass from Gurtej Singh. Punjab then doubled the scoreline with another goal in the 26th minute. It was Baltej Singh who scored after Parmjit Singh got the ball near the edge of the box and after getting past a couple of defenders, played the ball to an unmarked Baltej for an easy tap in. Courtesy the win, both Punjab and Karnataka are now tied on six points, opening up group B and at the same time keeping their chances of making it into the semi-finals open. Elsewhere, Goa battered Odisha in a lop-sided contest meaning now three of the remaining (Mizoram has already qualified) four members of group B now can make it to the semis. It was a hat-trick from captain Victorino Fernandes that sealed the favour for Goa, handing them a rather comfortable victory over Odisha. But it was a different story when the proceeding began. Goa had taken the lead when Fernandes scored from a Mackroy Peixeto corner in the 15th minute. But Odisha bounced back with an equaliser in the very next minute through Sunil Sardar, who leaped into a Arbin Lakra cross to head home. But just when the match seemed to enter into a riveting contest, Fernandes scored a second. There was no stopping them from there as Fernandes competed his hat-trick, while Machroy Peixito (59th minute), Jonas Perriera (71st) and Marcus Mascarenhas (85th) added to the scoreline to bring up the victory. Meanwhile, Odisha have already been knocked out of the Santosh Trophy after failing to win a single match.


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Kuldeep will have, "added pressure" in this IPL: Piyush Chawla

Kolkata: Veteran leg-spinner Piyush Chawla feels that his Kolkata Knight Riders teammate Kuldeep Yadav would enter this year's IPL with an, "added pressure" despite having performed brilliantly for India in the last year.

Kuldeep, along with Yuzvendra Chahal has formed a deadly wrist-spin combination and the duo has had a lot of success in recent times. Kuldeep, for the record ended the ODI series against South Africa earlier this year with 14 wickets-the most by an overseas spinner in the, 'Rainbow Nation'.

"The way he's been bowling for India, it's been really good. He's been doing well both in domestic and international cricket. This season there will be added pressure on him," said Chawla on the sidelines of an event- 'Gameplan in your city' on Saturday.

Chawla also felt that the chinaman bowler would do well, given his ability to soak pressure which he has shown while playing for India.

"When he came into the scene for the first time, he was quite raw and there were not much of expectations from him. But this season, when he enters the field there will be a lot of expectations. He will definitely do well with the kind of bowler he is," he added.

Mystery spinner Sunil Narine, who has been an integral part of the Kolkata franchise was reported for suspect action in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) but Chawla backed the West Indian to put up a good show for the Knight Riders in the IPL.

"The best thing is the way he comes back after that (reported for suspect action). The effectiveness is the same. It's just that the team has started playing him a bit on the safer side. When they play you on the safer side, it becomes a bit tough for the bowlers to pick up wickets," said Chawla.

"But at the same time, it is an opportunity for us to take wickets as batsmen take chances against us. So me or Kuldeep, we get chance to pick up wickets. My role will always stay the same-- to take wickets. When I joined KKR, Sunil was taking wickets and our combination worked really well."

He also said that the team was looking forward to playing under their new captain Dinesh Karthik.

"I have not that played much under him. He is one of the experienced campaigners and who has done really well. The way he's playing right now, the confidence will definitely help him to lead the side well," he said.

KKR have also entrusted a lot of faith on youngsters like the U-19 World Cup winning cricketers-Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti and the trio would aim to make this IPL a memorable one for them as well as the franchise.

Chawla heaped praise on the trio, lauding Gill's confidence when he walks out to bat.

"We all have seen their performances while winning the U-19 World Cup. All of them are top level cricketers. Shubman Gill is one amazing talent, and one to look out for. He looks different, the confidence when he walks in is different," Chawla said.


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Shami cleared by BCCI to play in the IPL

Mumbai: Mohammed Shami finally has something to cheer about after he was cleared by the BCCI of match-fixing charges alleged against him by wife Hasin Jahan. Jahan had earlier accused the Indian pacer of taking an undisclosed amount of money from a Pakistani woman.

He would now be offered a Grade B contract by the Indian board and would now also be able to participate in the upcoming edition of the IPL.

"The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India appointed Committee of Administrators(CoA) had requested Mr Neeraj Kumar, former Police Commissioner of Delhi and Head of BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit, to investigate the allegations against Mohd. Shami in so far as they pertain to the provisions of the BCCI Anti-Corruption Code," said the BCCI, in a media release.

It also stated, "Mr Neeraj Kumar has submitted his confidential report to the CoA. Based on the conclusions in the said report, the CoA is of the view that no further actions/proceedings under the BCCI anti-corruption code are warranted in the matter.

"For this reason, the BCCI shall proceed with offering a Grade 'B' annual retainership contract to Mohd. Shami."

The BCCI, earlier had decided to withhold Shami's contract after he was hit by allegations of domestic violence and match-fixing by wife Jahan, who had also filed a complaint against him. The 28-year-old Shami however, maintained that he was innocent all throughout.

The top officials in the BCCI had made it clear that it wouldn't intervene in any matter pertaining to Shami's personal life. Instead these issues were investigated into by the Kolkata police.

BCCI's acting president CK Khanna felt that the corruption charges levelled against Shami by his wife were too 'far-fetched.'

"This is a very good news for Shami and for Indian cricket. The charges of corruption against him looked too far-fetched. He has been a committed player for India. The BCCI is happy that he has come clean after a thorough investigation by its Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU). It is only fair that he can now earn his livelihood as a professional cricketer and should be back in the field for the upcoming IPL," he said.

Delhi Daredevils CEO Hemant Dua was also pleased with this decision of the BCCI, given the fact that the right-arm pacer is an important part of their bowling setup for the tournament.

"I have just received the confirmation from the BCCI that Shami has been absolved of all charges related to corruption allegations. It's a welcome news for the franchise and we are happy to have him back. We expect him to join the camp from the very first day," he said.

Dua further added, "When it came to corruption charges, we never had an iota of doubt that Shami is innocent. He is an honest cricketer and would have never done any such thing. We even spoke to Shami during this period. But we also have to follow the instructions of BCCI. It was only fair that the matter was investigated and he has come out clean."


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Kidambi Srikanth, Somdev Devvarman win Padma Shri awards

New Delhi: Ace shuttler Kidambi Srikanth and tennis star Somdev Devvarman, who is also an Asian Games gold medallist, were conferred the Padma Shri award-the country's fourth-highest civilian honour by the President of India Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Murlikant Petkar, who is India's first gold medallist also was bestowed with the honour.

Earlier this year, former Indian skipper MS Dhoni along with multiple time world champion Pankaj Advani were awarded the Padma Bhushan-India's third-highest civilian honour. Also Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, who is also the 2017 Weightlifting Champion in the 48kg category was conferred the Padma Shri. But the trio was not present at the ceremony.

Srikanth had a memorable last year where he ended up winning as many as six titles, which included four Super Series victories. The 24-year-old dictated proceedings in world badminton where he won the French Open, Denmark Open, Australian Open, Indonesian Open, Indian Open and China Open.

Petkar was an individual gold medal winner in the 1972 Summer Paralympics in Heidelberg, Germany. He won the 50m freestyle swimming event at a record time of 37.33 seconds. In the same tournament, he took part in slalom, javelin and precision javelin throw where he reached the finals in all these three events.

Dhoni, who had earlier won the ICC Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009, had won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2007. He had also won the Padma Shri, in 2009.

Advani, just like Dhoni has had an illustrious career where he won the gold at the Asian Games in 2006 and 2010 in Doha and Guangzhou, respectively.

Mirabai, who hails from Manipur had won the silver medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in the 48 kg weight category. But she grabbed the headlines when she lifted the world record of 194 kg in total (85 kg snatch and 109 kg clean and jerk) which helped her win the gold medal at the World Weightlifting Championships last year in Anaheim, United States.


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Chhetri announced Hero of ISL; Subrata wins Golden Glove

Bengaluru: So close, yet so far was the story for Sunil Chhetri at the Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday, as he sat their crunched in his knees and with Chennaiyin players celebraring around. He had led his team to the final --- one many expected them to win and Chhetri ensured them the best possible start with a goal early into the game. But contrastingly, the trophy landed in the opposition's hands who had scored three, powered by Mailson Alves' double header. Yet Chhetri would not go home empty handed. The ISL title may have eluded but he was announced 'Hero' of the League. The stadium broke into raptures and he stepped up to take the title. He had led Bengaluru FC by example and with leadership. The BFC skipper was not only instrumental in taking Bengaluru FC to the final scoring a hat-trick in the semifinals against FC Pune City but also his partnership with Venezuelan co-striker Nicolás Ladislao Fedor or Miku made his team a force to reckon. He led from the front setting examples for others to follow. His impact was visible throughout the league including the final where he scored with a flying header to give BFC an early lead. He is the highest Indian scorer with 14 goals and third in the overall list behind Golden Boot winner Ferran Corominas (18) of FC Goa and his teammate Miku (15). ISL-4 also belonged to a number of emerging Indian talents with players like Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan, Sarthak Golui, Hitesh Sharma, Jitender Negi, Pranjal Bhumij, Baoringdao Bodo all making a mark with their stand-out performances. But Kerala Blasters FC’s 23-year-old Mizo defender Lalruatthara walked away with the ISL Emerging Player of the Season Award. The ex-Aizwal FC player, Lalruatthara was a regular in the KBFC line-up playing in 17 out of their 18 games, testifying the confidence that the coach and captain had in him. BFC’s 21-year-old Manipur forward Udanta Singh walked away with the DHL Winning Pass of the League Award. Both BFC’s goal in the final against CFC on Saturday came from Udanta’s assist. First it was Chhetri who scored the opening goal from a cross from Udanta and then Miku pulled one back in the dying minutes from an assist from the 21-year-old. FC Goa star striker Ferran Corominas won the Maruti Suzuki Swift Golden Boot for his consistency in finding the back of the net. If FC Goa has made it to the semis, Coro definitely has played a very big role in it. His swiftness, accuracy and a goal conversation rate of over 38% made him one of the most feared strikers this season. The Golden Glove Award went to debutant Jamshedpur FC’s wall, Subrata Paul, for having made 44 saves, which included an envious seven clean sheets in 18 matches. If Jamshedpur FC possessed one of the most robust defensive unit in the league, a lot can be attributed to the 31-year-old custodian under the bar.


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Increase my salary, if you want me to stay: Miku tells Bengaluru FC

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Bengaluru: With offers from various Chinese clubs impending, former Venezuelan national Nicolás Fedor Flore, better known as Miku has urged Bengaluru FC to put forward a new contract --- one that promises a lot more money than what he currently earns at the 2017 Indian Super League runners-up. "I have an offer from a China club. If they (BFC) need to keep me, they need to do something to increase my budget," said the former Getafe player after a thrilling final, where his side finished second-best. Riding on defender Mailson Alves' double header, Chennaiyin lifted the ISL title for a joint-record second time defeating Bengaluru 3-2 at the latter's fortress here on Saturday. Miku did score on the night with a brilliant header adding to the 14+ goals he has netted this season leading 'The Blues' to their first ISL final in only their debut season in the league. One of Roca's most trusted players, the former Valencia product has been pivotal to Bengaluru's stellar campaign this term but with lucrative offers from China knocking his table, Miku thinks it's hard to refuse despite not wanting to go. "Clubs in China pay six or seven times more than in India." "The club (BFC) don't want to sell me. Two times, two different clubs from China (have approached me). I understand they want me here but I need to think of my family, of my future," he added. It's never easy for a 32 year-old to live away from home and venture his time in a country that is yet to make a mark on world football. But for Miku it's loneliness more than the conditions around that has hit him hard. "My family is in Spain. For me that's the worst thing here because I'm alone. I don't want to be alone more so we need to change a lot of things to continue here," said thr striker who also has a Scottish double to his name having won them during his loan spell at at Celtic.


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Nidahas Trophy 2018: : Karthik blitz guides India to tri-series glory against Bangladesh

Colombo: Dinesh Karthik proved that he still has it in him to succeed at the highest level after his blitzkrieg innings of 29 runs of just eight balls, helped India overcome Bangladesh by four wickets in the final of the Nidahas trophy at the R Premadasa Stadium on Sunday. A lot of eyebrows were raised when Kolkata Knight Riders shelled out 7.4 crores for the Tamil Nadu cricketer in the IPL auctions and later, appointed him captain for the tournament in April. But a lot of those doubts might be put to rest after Sunday when he, almost single-handedly won India a match, which looked to be slipping out from their grip after the 18th over. Mustafizur Rahman, who had earlier bowled magical spells for his country came up with one again, as he conceded just one run and took a wicket in the 18th over of the match, leaving India to get 35 runs from the remaining 12 balls to win. It was Karthik who rose to the occasion and played an innings, which would go down as one of the most memorable ones in recent times, given the contest of the match. Needing five runs to win off the final ball, Karthik lofted one over the cover for a flat six, which sent the Indian crowd in the audience into a frenzy. Bangladesh, coming on the back of a stunning yet, sour win over Sri Lanka batted first in the final where they ended up with a total of 166/8. Sabbir Rahman, smacked 77 runs, hitting seven fours and four sixes in the 50-ball knock. Mahmudullah, who had won the match for his side in the last game was the second best scorer with 21 runs. Yuzvendra Chahal was India's best bowler as he finished with three wickets, conceding 18 runs in his four overs. In response, India got off to a good start, scoring 32 runs in 2.4 overs before they were dealt with a double blow with Shikhar Dhawan (10) and Suresh Raina (0) falling in the space of five balls. But it was skipper Rohit Sharma, who stood strong at the other end as he scored a timely 56 from 42 before his dismissal in the 14th over brought Bangladesh back into the match. India had their hopes pinned on Manish Pandey (28) and the young Vijay Shankar (17) and the duo added 35 runs before the former was dismissed by Mustafizur in an exceptional over, which turned the game completely in Bangladesh's favour. But little did one know that the match would witness one more turn as Karthik, with his unbelievable finishing sealed a victory for the Indian team. Rubel Hossain, before that game-changing over to Dinesh Karthik, had conceded just 13 runs off his three overs. But in the 19th over, he ended up leaking 22 runs, all of which came from Karthik's bat as India romped back right into the game. A moment of calmness and composure from the 32-year-old in the last ball of the innings took India over the line and most importantly, helped them win the Nidahas trophy in style. Brief scores- India 168/6 (Rohit Sharma 56, Dinesh Karthik 29*; Rubel Hossain 2/35) beat Bangladesh 166/8 (Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah Riyad 21; Yuzvendra Chahal 3/18) by 4 wickets.


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All England Open: Sindhu in semis; Prannoy bows out

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Birmingham: Ace shuttler PV Sindhu outclassed Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in a tight contest to progress to the singles semi-final of the All England Open Badminton Championship, here on Friday.

Despite being a game down, the Hyderabad shuttler rallied back to win the contest 20-22, 21-18 and 21-18, that lasted for an hour and 24 minutes. This was Sindhu's third straight three-game match and with this win, the Rio Olympics silver medalist has now levelled the head-to-head record 5-5 against Okuhara.

Sindhu would now go up against another Japanese in the form of second seeded Akane Yamaguchi, who defeated Spain's Carolina Marin 21-15, 21-18 in the quarter-finals.

In the men's quarter-finals, HS Prannoy lost to world no 22 Huang Yuxiang 22-20, 16-21 and 21-23. This was the best finish for the world no 16 and the unseeded Prannoy in the tournament. Prannoy had earlier been knocked out in the second round in 2015 and 2017, while he was ousted, after losing the opening match in 2016.

The women's singles quarter-final was pretty much evenly balanced as both Sindhu and Okuhara gave their best efforts to secure a win. Locked a 3-3 in the beginning of the first set, Sindhu went on to lead at 6-4 and 8-6 before the Japanese bounced back, gaining a slight lead (11-10) heading into the break. It was a neck-to-neck contest between the two as the lead changed hands regularly before Sindhu got a game point at 20-19. But she failed to seal the win as Okuhara got some momentum going and won the first game 22-20.

Sindhu, who now needed to win the second game to keep herself alive in the contest got off to a good start, taking a 3-1 lead before Okuhara once again bounced back to level the proceedings. But the Indian didn't let go of this easily as a couple of big smashes once again saw her grab the lead at 8-6 and she even went into the break with a narrow lead at 11-19. Her victory in the 24-shot rally showed that she wasn't in the mood to give up easily.

She was also helped by a few unforced errors from Okuhara's end as Sindhu led the contest at 16-13. But the Japanese didn't let this slip away as she won five consecutive points to take the lead at 18-16. Sindhu, nonetheless displayed her class as she held on, winning five points to clinch the win.

The third game however saw Okuhara take an early 4-1 lead but Sindhu, much like the first game, headed into the break having a slender lead at 11-10. But Okuhara came out roaring after the break as she quickly raced to a lead at 16-12. Sindhu came back to level things up at 16-16 and when things were tied at 17-17, she was handed a yellow card by the umpire for delaying the game.

This however brought the best out of the Indian and with the scoreline at 18-18, she went on to win the match and book a berth in the semis.


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Have evidence to prove my innocence: Mohammad Shami

New Delhi: Under fire Indian pacer Mohammad Shami, who has been charged with allegations of adultery and spot-fixing by wife Hasin Jahan, has now retorted back saying that he has evidence justifying his innocence. He also added that he is ready to take the legal way out and isn't interested in out-of-court settlements. "I have evidence to prove my innocence. There is no chance of mending things with my wife, and I am not willing to have an out-of-court settlement, will take legal route," Shami said to a news channel. Things turned more sour for the Bengal pacer when Jahan further accused him of forcing her into having physical relations with his brother. Also, she had claimed that Shami had taken money from a Pakistani woman named Alishbha after receiving instructions from a UK-based businessman Mohammad Bhai. This has made the CoA ask the ACU (Anti-Corruption Unit) to investigate into this matter. Apart from his contract being withheld by the BCCI, Shami's participation in the upcoming IPL, where he represents the Delhi Daredevils, is doubtful. "Look, Daredevils management can't take any unilateral decision in this matter. All players who play in the IPL have a tripartite contract involving the franchise, BCCI and the player. Yes, we are well aware about the sensitive situation and we are having discussions with top BCCI officials. There is a clause about any player bringing disrepute but it is for the lawyers to interpret it," a senior official of the club had told last Friday. Shami to be back in BCCI contracts if cleared by ACU Shami is likely to be back amongst the BCCI contracts if he is cleared by BCCI's Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) with respect to the board's code of ethics. "The brief is pretty clear. The BCCI's handbook has an 'Ethics Code' for cricketers with a specific clause regarding financial transactions. The ACU is only investigating Shami's dealings with Mohammed Bhai and Alishba and the alleged monetary exchange his wife is talking about. If Kumar's report absolves Shami of any wrongdoing, he will be immediately handed back his Central Contract," said a senior BCCI official to PTI, on Friday. The BCCI also stated that they have nothing to do with allegations of domestic violence against the pacer by wife Jahan, saying that it falls under the jurisdiction of the police. "Yes, there are specific allegations levelled against him by his wife. But the Kolkata Police is doing its job and it's completely their domain. In BCCI, we can't sit back on judgement on personal life and take away his livelihood. Also board doesn't have the powers to do so," the official added further.


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Super Cup: ATK qualify with convincing 4-1 win over Chennai City

Bhubaneswar: Twelve nights from its last victory, two-time ISL champions ATK extended its winning streak to another match, with a 4-1 win against Chennai City at the Kalinga Stadium on Friday. It sailed them into the Super Cup finals which will hit running from March 31 and pit them against FC Goa, one among five other sides they have failed to beat this season. In his successive match as player-cum-manager, Keane scored again and was joined by Hitesh Sharma (43rd minute), Zequinha (58th minute) and Ashutosh Mehta (76th) on the night. Frenchman Jean Micheal Joachim scored the lone goal for Chennai. Sharma scored the first with a left-footed stunner after Zequinha's corner had reboundedP off a head. It was the 19 year-old's first goal and sort of sparked life into the game, for until then both teams had sleeeped-walked and it was only after one of the Stadium's floodlights went dead that both teams woke up. But then the usual suspects came up and as it has been all season, ATK conceded minutes after scoring their first. Jean Joachim Micheal met the end of a very inviting cross from Edwin Vanaspaul after bearing the offside real to level terms for the Southern club. Keane's words at the break though seems to have worked well for ATK, whose players looked ultra-confident as the second-half got running. "I spoke to the players and asked them to regroup. To be fair, later we controlled the game," said Keane at the post-match conference. Soon Zequinha got into the contest, scoring from close range after Mbatha found him from a through ball. The Portugese returning from a hamstring injury never really looked out of touch and was by far ATK's best player in the field. Mehta then scored from another tap-in, when Zequinha found Robin Singh with another delicate ball and the latter put it up for the defender. Squeezed between those two goals was Singh's one-to-one chance with only the goalkeeper Kabir to beat but he failed and so did Chennai who had a double opportunity to pull two goals back. But Joachim squandered both, failing to score from two free-kicks from outside the box. Keane then settled the issue with a calm finish in the 84th minute after Zequinha had found him with another through ball behind the Chennai defence.


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All England Badminton Open: Sindhu, Prannoy advance; Srikanth falters

PV Sindhu World Championship Final

London: Ace shuttlers PV Sindhu and HS Prannoy survived a scare to eventually advance to the quarter-finals but it was curtains for world no 2 Kidambi Srikanth, who went down 21-11, 15-21, 22-20 to Chinese Huang Yuxiang in the second round of the All England Open Badminton tournament on Thursday.

World no 3 Sindhu recovered from a mid-slump to seal the quarter-final berth with a 21-13, 13-21, 21-18 victory over Nitchaon Jindapol in a game that lasted for an hour and seven minutes.

Coming into the match Sindhu who had a 2-1 head-to-head record against the Thai Shuttler started well, jumping to a 7-3 lead in the opening set. There was no stopping her from there as the Indian piled more misery on the world no 11 who kept on finding the net at regular basis.

Jindapol however anticipated better in the second game and attacked with more intent forcing Sindhu on the back-foot and quickly surged ahead to a 7-3 lead.

Their game seemed to have reversed in the second set as Sindhu continuously hit wide, while the Thai dominated moving from 11-3 to 17-10 at one point.

Sindhu though bounced back and soon decreased the defecit to 13-17 with some precise returns. But failure to keep the streak meant the game went into the decider, as Jindapol clinched the set 21-13.

But the Rio Olympics silver-medallist was back to her best in the decider and soon took a 3-0 lead at the start. The game though slinger equally on both sides and at one point had both the shuttlers standings at 18-18. But front here Jindapol but the bet thrice and Singh obliged to claim the victory and advance into the quarters.

Srikanth lose

The highest seeded Indian at the competition and world no 2 Srikanth however failed to live up to his billing losing to world no 42 Huang Yuxiang to knock himself out of the competition.

HS Prannoy meanwhile beat Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia  21-10, 21-19 in straight sets to enter the  quarters.


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India enter the top 100 yet again in latest FIFA rankings

New Delhi: The Indian football team continued with its uprising, breaking into the top 100 rankings for a second time within a space of 10 months and are now placed 99th at the latest FIFA rankings released this Thursday.

May 4, 2017 was the first time in 21 years that India broke into the top 100 rankings reaching as high as 96 --- which is the second best ranking after the 94th place that India attained in 1996. They crossed the 100 barrier thrice last year but ended up finishing 105 in December.

But the improvement in the rankings came as a little surprising given Indian didn't play a single match during the recent ranking period. It now has 339 points and are placed jointly at the 99th position with Libya.

Iran, ranked 33rd currently leads the Asian charge in the rankings followed by Australia (37th) and Japan (55th). India are ranked 13th among the Asian countries above the likes of Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain and North Korea.

World Champions Germany with 1609 points continue to hold on to the top spot and is followed by Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, France and Chile.

Shockingly, Heavy-weights Italy, England, Netherlands and Uruguay finds themselves outside the top 10. While Italy with 1062 points are ranked 14, England are two spots behind at 16th. Netherlands who like Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 Russia World Cup are on 21st followed by Uruyguay on 22nd.

Meanwhile India next play Kyrgyz Republic in the AFC Asian Cup qualifier match at Bishkek on March 27. The 'Men in Blue' has already qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and are unbeaten in their last 13 competitive games.


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2018 Hockey Champions Trophy: India to face Pakistan in tournament opener

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New Delhi: The 2018 hockey Champions Trophy for men would kick off with a bang with arch-rivals India and Pakistan battling each other in the competition which would be held from July 23-July 1 in Breda, in the Netherlands.

The tournament will see the top six teams in men's hockey participate. The opening day of the Champions Trophy would see three blockbuster matches- hosts Netherlands would take on 2016 Olympic champions Argentina; defending champions Australia would face Rio Olympics silver medalists Belgium while India would lock horns against three time champions Pakistan.

Australia, Argentina and hosts Netherlands had earlier qualified for the Champions Trophy while India, Pakistan and Belgium were handed invitations from the FIH Executive Board.

This competition is one of the last opportunities for these teams to go up against each other before the hockey men's World Cup scheduled to be held from November 28 to December 16 this year.

Here is the schedule of the Champions Trophy:

June 23: India vs Pakistan; Netherlands vs Argentina; Australia vs Belgium

June 24: India vs Argentina; Netherlands vs Belgium; Australia vs Pakistan

June 26: Argentina vs Belgium; Netherlands vs Pakistan

June 27: India vs Australia

June 28: Argentina vs Pakistan; India vs Belgium; Netherlands vs Australia

June 29: Belgium vs Pakistan

June 30: Argentina vs Australia; Netherlands vs India

July 1: 5th/6th place; 3rd/4th place; Final


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All England Open: Sindhu, Srikanth advance; Saina, Praneeth bow out

London: Ace shuttlers PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth battled their way into the second round with hard fought wins, but it was curtains for former finalist Saina Nehwal, who went down 14-21, 18-21 to defending champion Tai Tzu Ying, to crush out.

While Sindhu defeated Pornpawee Chochuwong  of Thailand 20-22, 21-17, 21-9 to advance, Srikanth braved his way into the next round after defeating Brice Leverdez of France 7-21, 21-14, 22-20.

In a game she was expected to cakewalk through, Sindhu unexpectedly started with a loss in the opening set but bounced back in the other two to clinch the game.

Saina though had no such comfort and despite the resilient that she put up against world no 1 Ying, she fell behind early and never managed to fight her way back in the opening set eventually going down 14-21.

Saina however looked more confident in the second set and took a lead at one point before Ying surged ahead from there to seal the game 18-21 and the match.

Srikanth meanwhile had a similar match as Sindhu, losing the opening set before bouncing back in the next two.

B Sai Praneeth also joined Saina on the plane back home, losing 13-21, 21-15, 21-11 to fifth seed Korean Son Wan Ho, to now out of the competition.

HS Prannoy however continued his spree of defeating opponents higher ranked than him, overcoming the eigth seeded Tien Chen Chou 9-21, 21-18, 21-18 to progress into the next round.


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2nd division I-League: Mohammedan Sporting begin campaign with 2-1 win over Jamshedpur Reserves

Kolkata: Mohammedan Sporting began their 2nd division I-League campaign with a 2-1 victory over Jamshedpur reserves at the Barasat Stadium here on Wednesday. Fielding an all Indian team, the Black Panthers got off to a flying start crowding the opposition defence with innumerable attacks, keeping Jamshedpur custodian Harpreet Singh busy at the post. They were eventually rewarded in the 36th minute when Debasish Pradhan receiving the ball 25 yards away from the goal, rifled one that sailed past Singh to give the hosts a deserved lead. 1-0 up, Md Sporting kept up the tempo even as Jamshedpur found it hard to move the ball into the other half. But when it looked like the visitors have gained some momentum after the Strom around them calmed, Mohammedan Sporting struck again. Skipper Jitendra Murmu leaped above all to head in a Tirthankar Sarkar corner and give the home side a two goal cushion going into the break. The attacking spree continued as play resumed with Md Sporting looking the favourites to add a third. They did build up a no of chances but failed to convert. It didn't matter much in the end though as Jamshedpur bowed down in defeat. The visitors looked more content in nor conceding a third goal. Jamshedpur played on the counter, resorting to absorbing the attacked that Md Sporting piled up on their half. They did eventually score a consolation goal in the 85th minute, through Vijay Kumar who buried a long throw past the Mohammedan Sporting goalie. After failing to reach the final of the 2nd division league last season which also hindered their entry into the I-League, coach Biswajit Bhattacharya will certainly be happy with the three points coming from the very first game. The Black Panthers next host Chennaiyin FC reserves in their next match on Saturday, March 17.


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Nidahas Trophy 2018: Rohit, Washington give India 17-run win over Bangladesh

Colombo: Rohit Sharma's batting woes finally came to an end as India outplayed Bangladesh by 17 runs in the Nidahas T20I tri-series at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Wednesday.

Courtesy this win, India have now won all the seven T20Is they have played against Bangladesh and have also qualified for the final, to be played on Sunday.

India didn't have much luck with the toss as they were put to bat by Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah Riyad but Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma got India off to a sedate start, scoring 49 runs in the first six overs. The duo went on to add 21 more before Rubel Hossain came into the act, sending back the in-form Dhawan for just 35 runs.

But a huge 102-run stand between Sharma and Suresh Raina ensured that India controlled the proceedings in the match.  The duo took the steam out of the Bangladesh bowling and set their sights on posting a big total. Eventually they ended up on 176/3 courtesy an excellent final over bowled by Rubel, where both these batsmen perished in an attempt to end on a high.

Sharma also leapfrogged Yuvraj Singh to hit the most sixes for India in T20Is (75), en route to his 89 of 61 balls.

In reply, Bangladesh lost Liton Das as early as in the second over after Washington Sundar beat him in the flight, bowling a tossed-up delivery outside off-stump and Dinesh Karthik making no mistake behind the stumps.

Sundar once again came into the act as this time, his straight delivery crashed into the leg-stump after Soumya Sarkar offered to play a slog sweep and missed the ball completely. The youngster from Tamil Nadu also sent back the dangerous Tamim Iqbal for just 27 of 19 balls to hand India a firm grip on the match.

But it was a 65-run stand between Mushfiqur Rahim and Sabbir Rahman-Bangladesh's best ever stand for the fifth wicket, that revived the men in green and brought them back into the game after Sundar's magical spell had dented their chase.

Mushfiqur went on to score a valiant 72 of 55 balls-which is the first 50+ score by a Bangladeshi batsman against India in T20Is, but couldn't take his team over the line as they fell short by 17 runs in the end.

Mohammad Siraj, who was included in the playing XI ahead of Jaydev Unadkat had a forgettable day as he was carted for 50 runs in his four overs which puts him in the second spot on a list of bowlers who have conceded the most number of runs after three T20Is (131).

Brief scores-

India 176/3 (Rohit Sharma 89, Suresh Raina 47; Rubel Hossain 2/27) beat Bangladesh 159/6 (Mushfiqur Rahim 72, Tamim Iqbal 27; Washington Sundar 3/22) by 17 runs.


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Rani Rampal to lead Indian women's hockey team in Commonwealth Games 2018

Lucknow: The 18-member squad of the Indian women's hockey team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, was named by Hockey India on Wednesday. Rani Rampal would lead the side while she would have the experienced goalkeeper Savita, as her deputy. Savita earlier was rested for India's successful tour of South Korea. India has been grouped in Pool A alongside Malasyia, Wales, England and South Africa and they would begin their campaign against Wales on April 5. Rajani Etimarpu would accompany Savita in the goal as the defensive unit includes Deepika, Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, and Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam. Monika, Namita Toppo and Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal and Lilima Minz would constitute India's midfield. The attacking unit would comprise of skipper Rani, Vandana Katariya, Navneet Kaur, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur and Poonam Rani. India, who are currently ranked 10th, would face tougher challenges from heavyweight sides like world no 2 England, world no 4 New Zealand and world no 5 Australia. But coach Harendra Singh is confident of the Indian team doing well after they put on an impressive performance in South Korea. "We have played with the same set of players for a long period so the players have formed a great understanding between themselves which was evident during our 2017 Asia Cup triumph,” Harendra said. He further added, "The team also performed well in South Korea to beat a higher-ranked side and we will be looking to cause a few upsets and aim for the podium as the morale is high going into the prestigious Gold Coast event." Savita's inclusion in the squad, was also welcomed by Harendra. The 27-year-old goalkeeper is currently undergoing a goalkeeping coach in Oman. "Savita is an integral part of the team and brings a lot of experience in goal for us. She has played over 200 matches for her country and has performed in crucial matches of big tournaments. Therefore, it is good to have her back in the team as she helps the defensive and offensive players as well by imparting her expertise,” he said. India's first gold medal came at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in England which was followed by a silver in Australia, four years later where they lost to the hosts in the final. But they have only managed the fifth position in the 2010 and 2014 edition of the Commonwealth Games. Skipper Rani however is confident of her team could emulating their success from 2002 and 2004. "We go into the tournament in good form after winning the series in South Korea and while we have only finished fifth in the two previous occasions, this time we will look to finish on the podium as we have a great set of players with a mixture of experience and youth,” she said, before adding, "The team’s hunger to win will certainly be a key factor in us performing well at the Games.” Squad: Savita (vice-captain), Rajani Etimarpu, Deepika, Sunita Lakra, Deep Grace Ekka, Gurjit Kaur, Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam, Monika, Namita Toppo, Nikki Pradhan, Neha Goyal, Lilima Minz, Rani (captain), Vandana Katariya, Lalremsiami, Navjot Kaur, Navneet Kaur and Poonam Rani.


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ISL 4: Lobera made Goa fall in love with football again

Mumbai: Two teams, both playing the Spanish way and attacking with flair would have been a sight to behold for many Indian fans. But Goa won't face Bengaluru on Saturday in the ISL final.

Still the brand of football Sergio Lobera's boys have presented this season have enthralled many across the country. But what's been more exciting is how football have once again taken over the once 'Brazil of India.'

There is no doubting the fact that football is an important part in a Goan’s life and it was no wonder to see FC Goa get dedicated support ever since ISL hit Indian football running.

But despite the mixed fortunes the 'Gaurs' have had so far in the league, making two semi-final appearances and a final, the overwhelming support they have been receiving is phenomenal.

Having reached the semifinals in the inaugural season in 2014, they went a step further in 2015 as Brazilian legend Zico almost masterminded a title triumph. Chennaiyin FC, inspired by Stiven Mendoza, though had the last laugh and dealt the Goans a heartbreak on home soil in the final.

Not able to overcome the defeat many unsaw the season before, Goa hit the table-spoon. Moreover, Zico, who was almost revered in the entire state, parted ways with the club after a poor campaign.

Given how things had unfurled for them in the previous years, ISL four was one to breakthrough and undergoing a transition from the much more fancied Samba style to Spanish possession based football made this season all the more crucial for Goa and despite not winning the title, Lobera made Goans fall in love with football again.

"When I first got here, I communicated that I wanted to play an offensive and attacking style of football and I think with us scoring goals, it shows that things are working," said Lobera.

Lobera’s team ended up as the highest scoring team, at least in the league stage with a whopping 42 goals in 18 matches. Spanish duo of Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote combined to score an amazing 30 goals.

FC Goa have always been an attacking team, with Zico’s teams topping the goal-scoring chart in the league phase in the 2015 season with 29 goals in 14 games. In 2014, Goa were the second-best attacking outfit (21 goals). Even during the forgettable 2016 campaign, they had the fifth-best attacking record despite finishing bottom.

In fact, Zico had once remarked that his attacking brand of football represents Goa. This year, Lobera took it to a different level as evident from the packed house for most matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa.


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All England Open, 2018: Srikanth, Sindhu get easy draws; Saina to face world no 1

PV Sindhu World Championship Final

London: Top Indian Shuttlers PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth will have it easy but Saina Nehwal finds herself in a tough battle against world no 1 and defending champion Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in the opening round of the All England Open stating today. Saina 27, has a 9-5 overall record against Ying and have last in the last seven outings, with the most recent being the Indonesia Masters, early this year. Sindhu on the other will open her outing against the relatively unknown Thai Shuttler Pornpawee Chochuwong but may well be facing her India Open final rival Beiwen Zhang in the very next round. World no 3 Srikanth meanwhile will begin against Frenchman Brice Leverdez. Srikanth who had earlier crashed out of the opening round in the previous year would hope for a change in further after the incredible run he had late in 2017, becoming the first ever Indian shuttler to win four Super Series in a single year. "The All England is one most prestigious events because it has history of 100 years attached to it. Prakash sir and Gopichand sir have done extremely well at the All England. They will always be a source of inspiration for us. I would say winning these tournaments, will definitely give the player legendary status,” he said. But despite the golden run Indian baddminton has been going through in recent times, it would require good performance on a consistent basis for five days if they are to keep up to the expectations. Given the tricky nature of the draw at the USD 1000,000 event, which boasts of a star-studded field, it will not be a cakewalk for the golden trio of Indian badminton. Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth and world no 12 H S Prannoy among others will also participate in the competiton. Praneeth will take on former world number on Son Wan Ho of Korea, an opponent he has not beaten yet, in the opening round. Prannoy, who recovered from a foot infection a few weeks back, would take on eighth seeded Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei. Meanwhile in the doubles category, Indonesia Open semi-finalists Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy will face Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan. While Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will share against Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge in the first roun. The women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will face second seeds Japanese combo of Misaki Matsumo and Ayaka Takahashi. While the Mixed doubles combo of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki will square off against German pair of Marvin Emil Seidel and Linda Efler. Schedule: Singles - Saina Nehwal vs Tai Tzu Ying (1) - 3:50 pm (Estimated Match timings in IST) Kidambi Srikanth (3) vs Brice Leverdez - 5:10 pm PV Sindhu (4) vs Pornpawee Chochuwong - 7:30 pm Sai Praneeth vs Son Wan Ho (5) - 7:30 pm HS Prannoy vs Chou Tien Chen (8) - 11:30 pm Doubles - Ashwini Ponappa/Sikki Reddy vs Misaki Matsutomo (2)/Ayaka Takahashi - 4:30 pm Manu Attri/Sumeeth Reddy vs Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge - 7:10 pm Meghana JakkapudiI/Poorvisha Ram vs Shiho Tanaka (5)/Koharu Yonemoto - 4:30 pm Pranaav Chopra/Sikki Reddy vs Marvin Emil Seidel/Linda Efler - 8:10 pm


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Virat Kohli acknowledges the need to manage his workload

Mumbai: Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who has set new standards of fitness in modern-day cricket admitted that he needs to manage his workload, going forward into his career. The stylish right-hander has been rested for the ongoing Nidahas T20I tri-series. "Physically I had a few niggles, I am just getting over those. The workload has started to disagree (taking a toll) with me a little bit. I have to be very careful about how I go forward with my body, my mind, my cricket," said Kohli, on the sidelines of a promotional event on Tuesday. Kohli further added that the break would help him recuperate and gear up for the fresh challenges that lies ahead, beginning with the IPL. "Times like these are very-very important going ahead. I am totally enjoying it. I do not even have an inch of me missing out on anything because my body really needed this. Although I am keeping a track of the games, I do not watch matches right now and feel like I want to be on the field because I have started to listen to my body. "And when I am done with this period, obviously in the IPL I will be coming out fresh. I will be mentally in a better place on the field. I have been on the road for a long, long time. I have hardly missed any games. You need to pay respect to your body as well at times and this phase is very important to me. "I can sit and not move for hours. As much as energy I show on the field but when I get time at home, I can be a total vegetable. I can be very annoying because I do not move at all," elaborated Kohli. The 29-year-old is one of the five cricketers to have been given an A+ contract by the BCCI, given the fact he is certain to feature in all three formats. Kohli also had words of praise for tennis legend Roger Federer as he said, "Roger Federer is my ultimate favourite. When he plays it's so beautiful. He has a family now, priorities set, he takes time out of the game without worrying about opinions and criticism of people and then he comes in and wins Grand Slams at 36, he is defying all the logics and that's something I totally love. I hate following the norm and he is someone who is breaking barriers on a daily basis and I have huge respect for him."


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ISL 4: Jeje brace sets up Chennaiyin against Bengaluru in final

Chennai: Goa's dreams for a final berth continued to remain one for the future after Chennaiyin dismantled them 3-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai, on Tuesday. The tie seemed evenly poised after the first leg ended 1-1 but a brace from Jeje Lalpekhlua (26 and 90 minutes) and another from Dhanpal Ganesh (29 minutes) sailed Chennaiyin to their second final in three years. They will now clash with Bengaluru FC at Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru, on Saturday. Jeje could have easily had a hat-trick but missed a handful of chances. However, stood up when it mattered putting the ball behind the net as Chennaiyin turned a stunning first half on its head by scoring two goals in quick succession completely against the run of play. For the first 21 minutes, it was all FC Goa. The visitors were domitable in attack and produced a flurry of chances. Mandar Rao Dessai and Narayan Das combined well flying crosses across the face of goal which Jerry Lalrinzuala almost turned into his own net. Chennaiyin goalkeeper Karanjit Singh was the busiest man on the pitch in this period where Goa sent waves towards goal. Hugo Boumous played in Mandar soon after and his shot went in off the inside of Karanjit's thigh and eventually out of play. Karanjit was at it again when he made a stunning save to deny Manuel Lanzarote from a powerfully driven freekick. Goa's attacker in chief started creating more problems when he sent in a cross from the right to find Chinglensena Singh’s head, but the impending attempt on goal soared over the bar. Chennaiyin finally produced something of meaning when Gregory Nelson's super pass was met by Jeje's header, but it was wayward. Just minutes later, he would score though - it was Nelson's ball again, and Chennaiyin's striker didn't make any mistake from point-blank range with his head. The home side doubled their lead even before Goa could breathe. Nelson sent in a lovely cross again and it was met by Dhanpal Ganesh, whose glancing header was enough to beat Naveen Kumar. Raphael Augusto started turning on the heat with some magical skills and almost scored after ghosting past two Goa defenders only to shoot straight at the keeper. The last chance of the half fell to Goa, when Mandar dummied past Ganesh, only to see his shot saved by the fingertips of Karanjit. Augusto, who ran the show with his graceful play, fired a warning shot seconds into the second half when he shot over from distance. Chennaiyin were pretty much in control in the latter half of the match, maintaining intensity in attack but keeping spaces tight at the back. Jeje could've put serious daylight between the two sides in the 65th minute but his lob over the keeper didn't go in after a finely timed run. Goa couldn't fancy any chances as the match petered out, but it was Jeje again who could've sealed the match but his scissor-snapshot was loose and high as he attempted the half-volley. Minutes later, he capitalised on a defensive error and produced a fine finish to end Goa's chances.


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Gold Coast 2018: India announce Men's Hockey team for the Commonwealth Games

With the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 less than a month away, India, today, named their 18-member  Team for the Men's Hockey Competition. Indian is pitted with Pakistan, Malaysia, Wales, England in Pool B of the competition format and will start their campaign on April 7 against arch-rivals Pakistan. Speaking about the team, expressing the confidence in the players, Chief Coach Sjoerd Marijne said,“This team has been picked keeping in mind the team’s performance in the previous tournaments since the Asia Cup 2017. We have tried out different combinations in the past events and we believe this will be the most effective combination for the Gold Coast 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games.” Further adding that the team has a winning mindset and will aim for the best at Gold Coast, he said, “This team has been improving with every match and while we could not produce a podium finish at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018, it will have no influence on how we are going to play in Australia and we will be going there with a mindset to win." The Indian Team will be led by Manpreet Singh while Chinglensana Singh Kangujam will take the responsibilities of a Vice-Captain. Manpreet led India to the Asia Cup 2017 title followed by a Bronze Medal feat at the Odisha Men’s Hockey World League Final Bhubaneswar 2017. Speaking about the challenge at the event, Skipper Manpreet Singh, confident of turning the tables this time, said, “Our first aim is to do well in the group stage because we have some strong teams in our Pool. It’s extremely crucial to top our table and make the Semis but if we do meet Australia in the knockouts, I believe we will be up for a strong challenge.” Penalty-corner expert Rupinder Pal Singh, along with Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh, Gurinder Singh and Amit Rohidas will form the core of India’s defense, with an ever agile PR Sreejesh up at the goalpost. As a back up for the senior pro, 22-year-old goalie, Suraj Karkera, is added in the team. Suraj played a crucial role in Bhubaneswar last year in his senior counterpart’s absence. Midfield will see skipper Manpreet Singh in-charge role, to be supported by Chinglensana Singh, Sumit and Vivek Sagar Prasad. The team features a mix of youth & experience in attacking role with SV Sunil, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh all in the team. Young turks Dilpreet Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad who made their international debut during the New Zealand tour have been rewarded with this opportunity for a good show where the duo scored in important games. Ramandeep Singh, SK Uthappa, former skipper Sardar Singh, Birendra Lakra & Surinder Kumar are among the drop-list of the event.   India have a relatively good outing at the Commonwealth Games of late as they have finished second behind Australia in the previous two editions.


Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran, Suraj Karkera (Both Goalies); Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Varun Kumar, Kothajit Singh Kadangbam, Gurinder Singh, Amit Rohidas (all Defenders); Manpreet Singh(C), Chinglensana Singh Kangujam (VC), Sumit, Vivek Sagar Prasad (all midfielders); Akashdeep Singh, Sunil Sowmarpet Vitalacharya, Gurjant Singh, Mandeep Singh, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Dilpreet Singh (all Forwards)


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Subhash Bhowmick named East Bengal Technical Director; Debashish Dutta, Srinjoy Bose step down

Kolkata: Two things East Bengal could have done to arrest their disappointing campaign this term --- one in which they finished fourth --- was to undergo a complete overhaul or appointment someone who could bring spring back to the tent in Maidan. They chose the latter and have roped in former club legend Subash Bhowmick. Bhowmick though unfortunately does not hold the 'A' license necessary to become a ISL/I-League coach. But will become the team's technical director --- a role wherein he led Churchill Brothers to their second league title in 2012-13. "We are keeping faith in Khalid as coach until the end of the season. But Bhowmick will be associated with the team as joint coach," said Kalyan Majumdar, secretary at the club . Former East Bengal player, Bhowmick also remains the 97 year-old club's most successful coach having led them to successive National Football League (predecessor of I-League) titles in 2002-03 and 2003-04. But despite leaving the team midway during the 2009-10 season following a string of poor results and he being accused of bribery, Bhombal daa (as he is called in Maidan) has still manger to be in a good relation with the club and have accepted the offer. "I plan have a brainstorming session with coach Khalid, manager Manoranjan Bhattacharya and a few senior players to decide on the best way froward for the team," said Bhowmick as quoted by TOI talking of his first step. Whether Jamil and Bhattacharya still remain after such a horrendous season still reimsbto be seen. "We will inform the rearrangement in our coaching set-up to both coaches," said Majumdar after the club's executive committee meeting. "But Jamil can only continue if he acceptes the re-arrengement in our coaching set-up," he added. As for Bhattacharya, he after submitting the seasonal report on the team's performance refused to continue in the same capacity during the Super Cup. Mohun Bagan's top officials step-down Just days after Bagan finished third in the I-League 2017-18, top officials Debashish Dutta and Srinjoy Bose stepped down from their posts at the club alleging of non-cooperation from secretary Anjan Mitra. "This is not an overnight decision. We have been thinking about it for about four years now. We have not found a solution and the situation has worsened. No one is indispensable," Bose told reporters sitting at the Calcutta Sports Journalists club on Monday. Things certainly don't look be well among the officials at the centre old club. And while both Bose and Dutta alleged of non-cooperation from Mitra, the secretary himself refused to comment on the issue. "I will only react after discussing with the executive committee members," said Mitra.


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Nidahas Trophy 2018: Manish, Shardul help India beat Sri Lanka by six wickets

Colombo: All-round India registered their second consecutive win in the Nidahas T20I tri-series on Monday with their six-wicket victory over hosts Sri Lanka here, at the R. Premadasa stadium.

Rain had already made an impact on the game as it was reduced to 19-overs a side.

Winning the toss and opting to bowl first didn't prove to be too fruitful a decision for Rohit Sharma as Sri Lanka began with a bang-much like they had done against the same opponents in the first match.

It was Kusal Mendis this time, whose big-hitting skills took centre-stage as he and Danushka Gunathilaka smashed 24 runs off the first two overs. But a Suresh Raina blinder at mid-wicket sent back Gunathilaka (17), giving India the much-needed breakthrough of Shardul Thakur's bowling.

The dangerous Kusal Perera was the next to fall, as Washington Sundar after he attempted a reverse sweep and the ball ended up disturbing the woodwork behind him. But a 62-run stand between Mendis and Upul Tharanga revived the Sri Lankan innings before Vijay Shankar got into the act, dismissing Tharanga (22) who didn't look settled at the crease.

All-rounder Thisara Perera, who was leading the side in place of Dinesh Chandimal walked in a played a cameo of 15 runs of six balls, with two sixes. But it Mendis, on whom rested the entire Sri Lankan innings. The right-hander powered his way to a magnificent 55 of just 38 balls with three fours and as many sixes, keeping his team in the hunt for a good total.

It was Yuzvendra Chahal, who ended the Mendis carnage as he had him caught by skipper Sharma at cover, which gave India the upper hand in the match. Mendis' dismissal was a huge blow to the hosts as they could only muster 152/9 in the first innings. Shardul Thakur was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets for 27 runs.

In reply, Rohit Sharma (11) once again failed to score big as he was dismissed in the second over, mistiming a flick off Akila Dananjaya's bowling to leave India at 17/1.

The wily right-armer was into the act again as he sent back opener Shikhar Dhawan (8) who has been in good form so far. Suresh Raina hit some lusty blows to score a quickfire 27 of 15 balls before he found Perera of a mistimed flat-batted slap.

KL Rahul (18) who was batting well till then was the next to fall, in the most bizarre way possible, becoming the first Indian batsman to be dismissed hit-wicket in T20Is. In an attempt to nudge the ball on to the leg side, the Karnataka batsman accidentally went to far into the crease which caused his backfoot to hit the stumps.

But a 68-run stand between Manish Pandey and Dinesh Karthik ensured that India got home safe with 1.3 overs left and six wickets in hand. Pandey scored a stylish 42 of 31 balls with three fours and one six while Karthik, helped himself to 39 runs of 25 balls with five hits to the fence.

Brief scores-

Sri Lanka 152/9 (Kusal Mendis 55, Upul Tharanga 22; Shardul Thakur 4/27) lost to India 153/4 in 17.3 overs (Manish Pandey 42*, Dinesh Karthik 39; Akila Dananjaya 2/16) by 6 wickets.


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Asian Champion Navjot Kaur Jumps to 2nd in United World Wrestling rankings

New Delhi:  Wrestler Navjot Kaur who clinched a gold medal in the recently concluded Asian Wrestling Championships in Bishkek, jumped to second spot in the latest women's 65kg category rankings released by United World Wrestling.

Kaur who became the first Indian women to win the much coveted yellow metal, joined the list of another four Indian players in the UWW rankings.

Finland's Petra Oly, the 2016 European Champion  leads the 65kg category in the rankings.

Vinesh and Sangeeta Phogat, Bajrang Punia and  Sakshi Malik were among the other Indians in the UWW rankings.

Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Vinesh bagged the second position in his 50kg weight category. Sangeeta Pohgat on the other stood fifth in the 57kg weight category.

Bajrang Punia, under 65kg weight category, along with Sakshi Malik, under 62kg weight category, secured fourth place in their respective weight categories.

Meanwhile, United States' world champion Adeline Gray ranked second in the 75kg weight category. While, Mongolia's Mandakhran Ganzorig topped the rankings in the 74kg weight category.


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Competition amongst wicket-keepers is good for Indian cricket: Parthiv Patel

Pune: Veteran wicket-keeper batsman Parthiv Patel, who last played for India in the Test series against South Africa, feels that it is a good time for "keepers in the country." Patel was came in as Wriddhiman Saha's replacement after the first Test and played the second and third Test matches against the Proteas in January. "On the contrary, I feel this is a great phase for wicketkeepers. There was a time when wicketkeepers were dropped and changed every now and then, but now we have two-three players who are in contention for the job. It is good to have competition for Indian cricket," he said, at a promotional event organised by the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday. Former Indian wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani on Saturday, had said that Patel wasn't groomed well after he had made his debut at 17 years of age. But the Gujarat-born cricketer chose not to comment on it. "At this point of my career, I don't think I should be reacting to anything said about me. I have a lot of respect for Kirmani sir and have learnt a lot of skills from him. Like others, he is entitled to an opinion, but I don't want to react to anything, be it good or bad, at this point of time. May be after some years when I hang my boots, I will only react to things said about me, but not now," Patel said. The diminutive wicket-keeper batsman, who would take the field for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the upcoming edition of the IPL said that settling down in a new franchise isn't too difficult for him. "I am probably the most travelled player in terms of changing teams in the IPL. I have been to new teams and have been through the settling-down phases earlier too. I have played for RCB for one year and it is a great team to be a part of and with a captain like Virat, I think we will have a good season ahead," said Parthiv.


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Bindra is mighty impressed with Indian shooters in ISSF World Cup

New Delhi: Shooting legend Abhinav Bindra expressed his satisfaction at seeing the youngsters perform well at the ISSF World Cup (Rifle/Pistol/Shotgun) in Mexico and predicted a bright future for Indian shooting.

The Indian shooters bagged a total of nine medals so far across 10 days, including four gold-which propelled them to the top of the medals tally.

Bindra took to Twitter to express his thoughts, where he tweeted, "The Indian Shooting Teams performance at Mexico starts a new era in Indian shooting."

He also put his faith on this group of shooters to bring success to the country in the Olympics.

"The future [of shooting] is in extremely safe hands & am confident that the young athletes have the ingredients to take them to the very top of the Olympic podium. Congratulations to all," he added.

The Punjab-born shooter continues to be Indians only individual gold medal winner after he achieved the feat in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning the 10m Air Rifle event.

Bindra, who has won the Khel Ratna and the Arjuna award has a total of four CWG gold medals and one at the ISSF World Cup in 2006.

Bindra also lauded the mentors and junior coaches, who helped these shooters prepare for the future by laying a strong foundation. In his tweet, he tagged former Asian games and CWG gold medalist, Jaspal Rana, who is also the chief junior national coach for pistol. He also tagged former Olympian Joydeep Karmakar, who is developing stars like Mehuli Ghosh in his academy.

"Also a special mention for all the Junior Team Coaches and support staff who hve worked tirelessly away from the spotlight and bright lights to lay a strong foundation which has resulted in all the medalsThey must be empowered to further their work. @jaspalrana2806 @Joydeep709," he tweeted.

Akhil Sheron, on Saturday won the gold medal in the men's 50m Rifle-3 Position. On the first day of the tournament, debutants Shahzar Rizvi and Mehuli Ghosh won gold and bronze in the 10m pistol and women's 10m air rifle event. Jitu Rai also won the bronxe medal in the 10m air pistol event. Mehuli won another bronze when she partnered Deepak Kumar in the 10m air rifle mixed team event.

Manu Bhaker won two gold medals for India (women's 10m air pistol individual event and in the mixed team event, where she teamed up with Om Prakash Mitharval). The lone silver medal winner for India was Anjum Moudgil who won it in the 50m rifle 3-position. Ravi Kumar fetched a bronze for India in the 10m air rifle men's event.


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I-League: Officials have to take blame for East Bengal's failure

  The I-League still remains a distant dream for East Bengal club’s fans and members. Even after a gap of 14 years, millions of supporters of the Red and Gold brigade couldn't see their team win the elusive title, after they ended their last match in a 1-1 draw against NEROCA, few days ago. The National League started its journey as I-league from 2007-08 with a new name and East Bengal failed to cross the line till date. Yes, they reached the second spot more than once and almost regularly got the third position as well but never did become the champions, that their fans wanted to see for so long. This time also, their dream turned into a nightmare on the last day of the tournament. The result may have been evident on the last day of the I-league tournament, but throughout the season their failure was written large in their performances. The way East Bengal recruited players for their team, appeared to be totally a haphazard one. ‎Look at the goal keepers. Four goal-keepers were in the team- Ubaid Ck, Luis Barreto, Dibendyu Pal and Mirshad K . Nobody was able to give confidence to the team. In fact, Pal was not in the team for a single match. Goalkeeping coach Siddique remains a conundrum to all the club fans and media personnel. Look at the stoppers of the East Bengal club. No doubt they were good players but they are past their prime long time ago. Arnab Mondal, Gurwinder Singh and Eduardo played well in patches. On the other hand, a young talent in Salam Ranjan Singh hardly gets a chance to prove his mettle. And for this reason, East Bengal conceded 19 goals in18 matches-which is the highest so far, in their I-League history. Of the wing backs, well, the less said the better it is. Lalramchullova played to some extent up to the mark. But his short stature was not so helpful for an intense competition as the I-League. Mehtab Singh,Yami and Prokash Sorkar played in the team as U-22 players.But they were simply over-awed by the situation. East Bengal has got a tradition of having best midfield in the club-level football, since the 1960s. This time their midfield was not up to the mark. Syrian Mahmoud Al-Amna is a player with a delectable touch but age is not in his side. Katsumi Yusa played heart out for the club. For few matches, Bazie Armand was brought in, but he was a total failure. Introduction of Cavin Lobo was a real positive step. But his recurring injury in the last few years made him basically a player of 55 minutes. Regarding strikers, it was really a sorry state of affairs. The team started with Trinidadian striker Willis Plaza, who showed his scheming ability more than scoring goals. Other names in this place were Jobby Justin, Surabbuddin ,and later, Omagbemi Dudu. When Dudu was brought in, East Bengal had already lost some very costly points. And considering his age, it was a blunder of a decision to bring him just before, the all-important derby match. Still Dudu gave some service to the team scoring eight goals in as many matches. But in fact it was a little too late. It still remains a hotly disputed point that why East Bengal officials failed to bring the sixth effective foreigner for the side. And coach Khalid Jamil was a real misfit in Kolkata football’s high-octane drama. It was proved that Aizawl FC’s I- league victory under his stewardship was an exception. Neither was he capable of dealing with the media, nor he was capable of dealing with charismatic players. His selection of players in the first eleven and also changing of players during the match raised a lot of eyebrows. During the era of coaches like P.K Banerjee, Amal Dutta or Naimuddin ,we have seen how they moulded the players according to the requirement of the team and it wasn't the clubs which were benefitted from this innovative thinking of the coaches, but sometimes Indian soccer got richer with these talents. Just look at the performances of Late Sudip Chatterjee, how the late Amol Dutta turned a right back into finest central midfielder of the country-it remained as a cherished dream for any Indian coach. Look at the coaching tenure(2010-2013) of Trevor James Morgan-the last most successful coach of East Bengal club, under whom they never ended fourth. His only fault was not to toe the line of some club officials. As the I-league progressed, it was coolly and calmly evident that for East Bengal it is the same story as it has been in last 14 years. Fans and supporters of the club have become more vociferous in expressing their discontent about the officials. Three names were prominent in their utterances-former player Alvito De Cunha(now in the role of main recruiter), Debabrata Sarkar ( known as Nituda in the Maidan circuit) and club secretary Kalyan Majumder. For a long time, they were related with the day-to-day activity of the club. They know very well that this is nothing new in Kolkata football. Rather new football secretary Raja Guha has got constant touch with the disgruntle supporters. No doubt ,they have to bear the burden of choosing poor foreign players for the side. Why was Willis Plaza, Bazie Armand and last but not the least Ansumana Kromah recruited for the club? Why was this year I-league’s star performer, Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen not recruited by East Bengal even after his reported initial approach to the club officials? Yes East Bengal officials' excuse for not achieving the zenith of I-league landed on poor referring in their crucial matches and on the other hand, all sorts official advantages tendered to Minerva FC-which has got some valid points. Just look at the match between East Bengal and Minerva in Barasat stadium where the hosts were deprived of a genuine penalty. The same happened in Minerva's home ground in Panchkula, where again East Bengal suffered due to the wrong decision of the referee. In fact this year’s refereeing in I-League was abysmally low. But all said and done, East Bengal officials have to take responsibility for poor performances of the team, for their poor approach towards every aspect of the football team. They have to keep it in mind that the accolades and credit they got when they won a record number of CFL titles this season, from the fans and members of the club.


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ISL 4: Chhetri shines as Bengaluru beat Pune City en route to maiden ISL final

Bengaluru: Sunil Chhetri stood up when it mattered most, taking Bengaluru FC to the final in it's debut season with a wonderful hat-trick at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru, on Sunday.

After a goalless first leg, both teams lined up aiming for the decisive result --- one that will carry them to their maiden ISL final in four years. Pune though had the upper hand having earlier held 'The Blues' to a draw at their own backyard. But on Sunday, they found themselves behind just 15 minutes into the game, eventually losing 3-1 to a Chhetri master-class. Substitute Jonathan Lucca scored the visitors' only goal in the 82nd minute.

Chhetri's first came from a goalkeeping blunder and he was fortunate to score, but his second was a result of his class and confidence. It came from a penalty in the 65th minute which he had himself won, and it was the manner in which he scored that showed his class. A confident Chhetri simply chipped the ball over goalkeeper Vishal Kaith and scored with a style first made famous by Czech player Antonin Panenka during the Euros in 1976.

Pune City made things interesting when substitute Jonatan Lucca scored from a free-kick in the 82nd minute but Chhetri’s class was on show again as he completed his hat-trick with a minute of regulation time left to be played.

Bengaluru FC will now meet the winners of the second semi-final between FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC for the final showdown on Saturday.

Coming into this game, Pune needed only a goal to make things complicated for the hosts. They didn’t seem far off as they took the game to the opposition but lacked the final touch that would have given them a precious away goal. Uruguayan striker Emiliano Alfaro came closest to finding their opening goal. On three occasions, he missed heading the ball by a whisker with only goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh to beat. The BFC goalkeeper didn’t have to do much throughout the game apart from a good reflex save early in the game.

But the hosts replied with a goal and it was the captain who started it all, combining perfectly with Udanta Singh. From a counter, Chhetri did well to hold play and spray it to Udanta on the right. The winger got near the box and crossed at the far post where Chhetri’s header towards goal saw Vishal and defender Gurtej Singh collide, allowing the ball to roll into the net.

His third was from another counter and came after Pune had squandered two glorious scoring chances. The first fell at Marcelinho's feet whose shot was straight at Sandhu while the second was a game Issac cross and led to the third and final goal of the match. Initiating the counter, the 33 year-old continued his run aching on a Dimas Delgado lob to fire the ball past Kaith.

In between Rahul Bheke could have well scored against his former club but struck the upright from 25 yards out.


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AFI names 31-member team for Commonwealth Games

New Delhi: A 31-member squad was named by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Saturday for the upcoming Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Coast, Australia.

Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who recently won the gold medal in the Federation Cup would make his debut in the Commonwealth Games. India was offered a quota of 37 athletes but the AFI, which met after the Federation Cup National Championship in Patiala from March 5-8 decided to name only 31.

A total of 32 track and field athletes represented India in the last Commonwealth Games in 2014 where the country clinched a total of three medals (one gold, one silver and one bronze).

High jumper Tejaswin Shankar, triple jumper Arpinder Singh, veteran discus thrower Seema Punia and new national record holder in the 400m hurdles race Dharun Ayyaswamy have also been named in the squad. Punia, who had fetched India a silver in the last CWG, would be a part of the competition for the fourth time. Arpinder had clinched the bronze medal for India in the last edition while India's lone gold medal winner from the Glasgow CWG-discus thrower Vikas Gowda wouldn't be participating this time.

Four 20m race walkers-two men and two women have been named from separate races held in New Delhi last month. Also both the men's and women's 4×400 m relay teams are part of the squad. The men's team has only six members while the women's team has five.

Chairman of the selection committee GS Randhawa told PTI, "The selection of the team was a smooth affair and all the decisions were unanimous among the members. We have chosen all those who have crossed the AFI’s qualifying standards and some more who got close to the mark."

He further added, "We decided that we need not fill up all the quota of 37 because we cannot send the athletes who were much below the qualifying standards. There is no point sending an athlete who have a remote chance of a medal."

Discus thrower Navneet Kaur Dhillon and javelin thrower Vipin Kasana were selected for their performances in the Indian Grand Prix.

At the Indian Grand Prix, Dhillon crossed the 59m mark with a best throw of 59.18m. Her performance was below par at the Federation Cup where her best effort was 57.75m, which fetched her a silver behind Seema Punia.

"The Federation Cup served as a selection trial for the CWG but we have always maintained that the performance of the athletes at the Grand Prix will also be considered for selection,” AFI secretary CK Valson said.

Kasana was included in the CWG team as he cleared 80.04m at the Indian Grand Prix, which was near to the qualification mark of 80.18m. Interestingly, he didn't take part in the Federation Cup.

When asked as to how Kasana made it despite skipping the Federation Cup, Randhawa said, "The selection committee members were told that Kasana’s coach and the team doctor advised him rest. That was why he did not take part in the Fed Cup. Since he crossed 80m at the IGP, we considered that he can be at the top bracket in the competition.”

Triple jumper Rakesh Babu Aryan was the third athlete to be picked on the basis of his performance in the Indian Grand Prix. Aryan finished fourth in the Federation Cup with an effort of 16.31m, which was below the qualifying mark of 16.60m. Nonetheless, he had won the Indian Grand Prix with a jump of 16.59m.

Valson further added that Mohd. Anas and MR Poovamma have been included in the men's and women's 4×400m relay teams as they had agreed to join the national camp.

They were training outside the national camp, earlier.

He said, "Poovamma and Mohd. Anas have agreed to join the national camp and do training for the relays. Vijayakumari did not agree to it and so she was not selected. That was why we have selected just a five member relay team (including Hima Das who will run individual 400m race)."

The CWG athletics team-

Men: Jinson Johnson (men’s 1500m), Dharun Ayyasamy (400m, 4x400m relay), Tejaswin Shankar (high jump), Siddharth Yadav (high jump), Sreeshankar (long jump), Arpinder Singh (triple jump), Rakesh Babu (triple jump), Tajinderpal Singh Toor (shot put), Neeraj Chopra (javelin throw), Vipin Kasana (javelin throw), Irfan Kolothum Thodi (20km race walk), Manish Singh Rawat (20km race walk), Muhammed Anas Yahiya (4x400m relay), Jeevan Karekoppa Suresh (4x400m relay), Amoj Jacob (4x400m relay), Kunhu Mohammed (4x400m relay), Jithu Baby (4x400m relay), Arokiya Rajiv (4x400m relay).

Women: Hima Das (200m & 400m, 4x400m relay), Suriya Longanathan (10000m), Nayana James (long jump), Neena Pinto (long jump), Seema Punia (discus throw), Navjeet Kaur Dhillon (discus throw), Purnima Hembram (heptahalon), Soumya Baby (20km race walk), Khushbir Kaur (20km race walk), M R Poovamma (4x400m relay), Sonia Baishya (4x400m relay), Saritaben Laxmanbhai Gayakwad (4x400m relay), Juana Murmu (4x400m relay).


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PyeongChang 2018: Germany move into joint first place after their second win

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Gangneung: In the Paralympic Winter Games at PyeongChang, Germany joined Canada and hosts Korea at the top of the rankings after defeating United States 6-4 on Sunday (11 March) morning’s third session of round-robin play. Speaking about the win, Heike Melchior; lead, Germany (after 6-4 win over USA), said: "We are lucky about this game. It was a little bit difficult, but we won, so it's okay. I think our draws were better. I'm very happy about that we started with two wins, it's great." Earlier, there were only two games in this session. In the first game, Germany came back strongly in their game against US to record their second win of the competition by a score of 6-4. In the second game of the session, Switzerland beat Great Britain 7-4. Starting the first match with positive mindset, United States blanked the first end of their game, then opened the scoring with three points in the second end. Germany, trailing after two ends, responded with a score of two points in the third end after two excellent draws by their skip, Christiane Putzich. Further, they went on with this gained momentum to steeal two points in the fourth end after American skip, Kirk Black, rolled out after a takeout with his final stone giving Germany a 4-3 lead at the break. Coming off the break, Germany then stole single points in the fifth and sixth ends to extend their lead. US could only score a single point in the seventh end before being run out of stones in the eighth end. With this, Germany remain undefeated at the top of the rankings, while United States sit at the bottom searching for their first win. In the second game, Switzerland defeated Great Britain 7-4 to claim their first win of the competition. Speaking about the game, Claudia Huettenmoser; third, Switzerland (after 7-4 win over Great Britain), said: "We had to win this game, because yesterday we never started in the game. We had some time during the night to remember what's wrong, what's good, and I think we’ve found our way now. Today in the first two ends we were a little bit nervous, but it's okay. Next we have Slovakia, and I think we’ll make the same preparations like this morning and will play this game this evening." Coming into this game after suffering a heavy defeat in their opening session, Switzerland bounced back with a win in a tight game. Great Britain opened the scoring with a single point in the first end and followed that with a steal of one point in the second end. Switzerland scored their first points of the competition in the third end when Swiss skip Felix Wagner got an open draw for three points. Teams traded single points in the next two ends before Switzerland stole two points in the sixth end. Great Britain scored a single point in the seventh end to trail Switzerland by two points. In the eighth end, Britain were sitting two shot stones when Wagner played a hit and stay with his final stone to score one point and give Switzerland a 7-4 win. Results: United States 4-6 Germany; Switzerland 7-4 Great Britain.

Standings after session three (win-loss): Canada 2-0 Germany 2-0 Korea 2-0 China 1-0 Slovakia 1-0 Great Britain 1-1 Switzerland 1-1 Finland 0-1 Sweden 0-1 Norway 0-2 Neutral Paralympic Athletes 0-2 United States 0-2


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ISL 4: Chennaiyin hold FC Goa to 1-1 draw in 1st leg of semis

Margao: Chennaiyin FC walked home smiling after holding hosts Goa to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the semi-final in the Indian Super League here on Saturday. Manuel Lanzarote gave the home side the lead in the 64th minute of the game but his strike was cancelled out by Anirudh Thapa just seven minutes later to give Chennaiyin FC the important away goal which could prove vital when they both squarred-off again next Tuesday. As expected, both teams rallied off to a great start and while the home side started the game on the front foot with some early crosses into the box, it didn't take Chennaiyin FC too long to grow into this all-important clash. Mandar Rao Desai, who had an excellent first half for Goa created some good opportunities for his team in the first half. But the only thing missing was a goal. At the other end, Chennaiyin FC had a few opening of their own. In the 20th minute, Jerry Lalrinzuala put in a tantalising ball in for his forwards to attack but lacked urgency. The deadlock on the night was finally broken in the second half by FC Goa and Mandar was again heavily involved in the move. In the 64th minutes after making a darting run down the flank, he squared the ball for Coro to have a strike on goal. The Spaniard's effort was stopped by Chennaiyin FC goalkeeper Karanjit Singh, however, the ball fell straight to Lanzarote and he put the ball into the net to hand his side the lead. Goa were still celebrating the goal when seven minutes later substitute Anirudh Thapa's low driven shot brought Chennaiyin FC back in the game. Gregory Nelson started the move with a ball for Thapa through the centre. The substitute took a touch and before firing in a low shot between the legs of FC Goa goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani. The hosts tried to crave another opportunity as the final whistle approached by patiently moving the ball around the field but Chennaiyin FC defended well to take home a precious away goal.


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In dramatic turnaround, AIFF withdraws interim suspension of Pune City coach Ranko Popovic

New Delhi: The All India Football Federation Disciplinary Committee on Saturday provisionally withdrew the suspension imposed on FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic.

Popovic's suspension which was announced just a day ago was surprisingly withdrawn within the  next 24 hours, with a reasoning that it was done to promote fair-play.

Ushanath Banerjee, Chairman, Disciplinary Committee in a revised interim decision said, “…in the interest of fair play and in particular forthcoming semi-final match of FC Pune City, the interim suspension imposed upon Mr. Popovic is provisionally withdrawn subject to FC Pune City providing in writing an undertaking that there would be not an iota of indiscipline on the part of Mr. Popovic nor there would be any scope of complain against him till final adjudication of the subject issue following hearing on 16/3/2018.”

The decision meant that the Pune City coach now will can stand on the technical line for the second leg of their semi-final match against Bengaluru FC on 11th March 2018 at Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru.

Just a day ago the same disciplinary committee had taken a stern decision against g Serbian for repeatedly speaking and making comments on the referees and match officials.

Popovic had earlier faced the axe after taking a dig at the referee following his team's 2-0 win over FC Goa on December 23, 2017.

Most recently, the Serb had asked the referees to show him some respect. ""I have an experience of 40 years in football. I played my first professional game when I was just eleven years old. I don’t know if referees are even 40 years old," he had said.


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India men falter in Sultan Azlan Shah; women shine in South Korea

New Delhi: The Indian men's hockey team continued its disappointing run in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup with another 2-3 loss to Ireland, even as the women humbled hosts South Korea 3-1 in their tour on Friday. Confident after routing Malaysia 5-1 in their previous encounter, Indian men needed a another big victory to make it to the final but fumbled despite taking the lead twice in their last round-robin match against Ireland. Ramandeep Singh (10’) and Amit Rohidas (26’) scored for India while Shane O’Donoghue (24’), Sean Murray (36’) and Lee Cole (42’) scored the winner for Ireland. Playing with an attacking intent, India scored as early as the 10th minute when Ramandeep Singh directed his flick into the net with a tap after he had injected the ball perfectly for the dragflicker. Minutes later India won another Penalty Corner, but Varun Kumar’s flick was far wide. Down by a goal, Ireland attacked hard making it tough for India to contain them. They were also denied a PC when a video referral was ruled in India's favour. But soon scored through Shane O’Donoghue. It was a goal that came from good team work between Kirk Shimmins, Sean Murray and O’Donoghue, in the 24th minute. Two minutes later Amit Rohidas gave India the lead again with a splendid PC. But Ireland strucked twice in the third quarter to snatch a win. Contrastingly, the Indian women however continued their good run and now have take a 3-1 lead over South Korea, with a match in hand. Two goals in the first quarter by Gurjit Kaur (2') and Deepika (14') put India in a commanding position while Poonam Rani's field goal in the 47th minute secured the victory for the visitors as Mi Hyun Park (57') scored a consolation goal for South Korea. Beginning the match it took just two minutes for the 10th ranked nation to fire one past Heabin Jung from a PC. Gurjit Kaur scored that goal and 12 minutes later Deepika added cherry to butter with another goal from a second PC. In between South Korea won two Penalty Corners in the fourth and 10th minutes but squandered both. While the first was shot wide, the Second was well saved by Indian goalie Swati. Korea never really looked like a team that could bounce back with two goals and although they managed one three minutes before the final hooter, India had already made it 3-0, in the 47th minute. Following a good team move Vandana Katariya's clever in-field pass was slotted into the back of the net by Poonam Rani which put India in the commanding position. 10 minutes later Mi Hyun Park scored South Korea's only goal.


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ISL 4: Pune City coach Ranko Popovic suspended for 'referee comments'

Pune: The All India Football Federation's Disciplinary Committee on Friday suspended Pune City head coach Ranko Popovic with immediate effect pending further inquiry for his comments of referees.

Disciplinary Committee chairman Ushanath Banerjee, while reviewing the latest public comments made by coach Ranko Popovic against the referee and match officials, issued the sanction order.

In a communication to the club, Banerjee stated, “Having considered the utterances against the decisions of the Referee and the Match Officials, it prima facie appears that Mr. Ranko Popovic has breached the Disciplinary Code and the Law of Game with impunity amounting to gross misconduct."

"On earlier occasion, Mr. Popovic was held guilty of abusing and insulting Match Officials and was imposed with sanctions. Even thereafter, he continued with his obdurate acts resulting warning. The instant subject matters are thus 3rd instance of breach."

Despite Pune City's stellar run this season, Popovic have not been in the good books of the tournament heads. Having already been suspended twice before for the same reason -- of speaking against and ill about referees and match officials -- the Serb has once again stepped into hot waters that too before Pune's most-important semi-final fixture against Bengaluru.

Banerjee further added, "Accordingly, issue Show Cause Notice for repeat breaches and he is to reply within 9/3/2018 and appear for hearing before the Committee on 16th March 2018 at Football House, Delhi. In the meanwhile pending final decision of the Committee, Mr Ranko Popovic to remain suspended under Article 21 and 22 of the Code.”

Popovic, prior to the Pune vs Bengaluru match on on Wednesday had asked the match referees and officials to show him some respect.

"I have an experience of 40 years in football. I played my first professional game when I was just eleven years old. I don’t know if referees are even 40 years old," he had said.

" I just want some respect. They don’t feel football the same way we do it. The referee cannot lose his job because of my mistake but I can lose mine because of his mistake. So who deserves more respect?" The Serb had explained taking a dig at the referees.

Pune City next play Bengaluru FC at the latter's home on Sunday. The first leg had ended in a goalless draw.


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Was removed because I backed Virat in 2008: Dilip Vengsarkar

New Delhi: Former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar alluded to the fact that his tenure as the chief selector of BCCI's selection committee came to an end because he backed Virat Kohli over Tamil Nadu's Subramanium Badrinath, which didn't go well with the then treasurer of the board, N Srinivasan.

Speaking to journalists at an event on Monday, the former right-handed batsman said that he insisted that Kohli, who had won the U-19 World Cup that year, be selected for the tour of Sri Lanka that year, ahead of Badrinath. He further revealed that the then captain and coach MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten weren't convinced with this idea.

"I felt this was an ideal situation to include Kohli in the squad. Although the other four selectors agreed with my decision, Gary Kirsten and MS Dhoni were reluctant as they had not seen much of Kohli. I told them that I have seen him and we have to include him in the team,” he said.

"I knew that they were keen on keeping S Badrinath in the team because he was a Chennai Super Kings player. If Kohli would have come in, Badrinath would have been dropped. N Srinivasan was the BCCI treasurer at that time. He was upset that Badrinath was dropped because he was their player.” added Vengsarkar.

A veteran of 116 Tests and 129 ODIs, the former Mumbai batsman took over as the chief selector in 2006 from Kiran More and he was succeeded by former teammate Kris Srikkanth in less than two years time.

Vengsarkar further hinted at the fact that it was because of Srinivasan s influence that he lost his job. Badrinath made his ODI debut in the second ODI and played three games with scores of 27*, 6 and 6. Kohli made his debut in the first match and played all the five matches with scores of 12, 37, 25, 54 and 31.

Vengsarkar also said, "He [Srinivasan] asked me on what basis Badrinath was axed, and I explained that I had been on the Emerging Players tour to Australia where I saw Virat, who is an exceptional player and that is why he is in the team. He argued that Badrinath has scored over 800 runs for Tamil Nadu. I told him that he will get his chance. He then asked, 'When will he get his chance? He is already 29 now'. I told him he will get his chance but I can't tell you when. The very next day, he (Srinivasan) took (Kris) Srikkanth, who later succeeded Vengasarkar as chief selector, to Sharad Pawar, who was the (BCCI) president then and that was the end of my selection tenure."


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Federation Cup: Ayyasamy sets National Record, Arpinder qualifies for CWG in triple jump

Patiala: Dharun Ayyasamy of Tamil Nadu qualified for the Commonwealth Games shattering records on his way on the final day of the Run Adam Federation Cup here on Thursday.

Ayyasamy, who was part of the Indian 4x400m relay team at the Rio Olympics, recorded 49.45 seconds breaking the 11 year-old record of 49.51 seconds set by Joseph Abraham in Osaka in 2007.

His qualifications also meant that as many as nine track and field Athletes have now qualified  for the CWG Gild Coast starting April 4.

It was a good comeback for an athlete who after laying low with a virus in February could barely walk before the Federation Cup.

“I am really happy with the result,” Ayyasamy said after the win according to a press release. “I was suffering from typhoid till ten days before of IGP. But i have worked hard with my coach to recover and train. It is a very good feeling to break national record and qualify for CWG." He finished ahead of statemates T Santosh Kumar (50.14seconds) and M Ramachandran (51.61 seconds).

Arpinder Singh qualifies

Singh, earned the right to improve on the bronze medal he won in the triple jump at the Glasgow Games in 2014 by clearing 16.61m to finish 1 cm above the qualifying guidelines of 16.60m set by the AFI.

Hima Das of Assam, who had already qualified in the women’s 400m race earlier, blitzed the field in the 200m event winning in a credible time of 23.37seconds which was just.07 seconds shy of the meet record of 23.30 set by PT Usha in 1998. She however missed the CWG qualifying guidelines of 22.60 seconds, it was a credible performance by the 18 year old who finished more than a second clear of second place PJ Sneha (24.47 seconds).

Jinson Johnson of Kerala was another such standout, who despite a good performance failed to qualify for the CWG. Johnson clocked 3.39:69 seconds which was just 9 seconds shy of the AFI qualifying guidelines of 3:39:50 seconds.

His timing was however a new record breaking the old mark of 3:41:12 seconds set 11 years ago by Chatholi Hamza. Johnson finished ahead of Manjit Singh and Bir Singh who clocked 3:42:24 seconds and 3:42:28 seconds respectively.


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Nidahas Trophy 2018: Dhawan, bowlers help India beat Bangladesh by six wickets

Colombo: India shook off the cobwebs in style as they returned back to winning ways with a six-wicket victory over Bangladesh at the R Premadasa Stadium on Thursday.

Rohit Sharma and co needed to win this contest to stay alive in the tri-series after they were shockingly humbled by hosts Sri Lanka few days ago. He won the toss and chose to bowl first.

His decision paid dividends as left-arm speedster Jaydev Unadkat struck in the very third over-removing Soumya Sarkar for just 14. That set the tone for the rest of the innings as the wickets continued to tumble as Bangladesh clearly lacked a strong partnership. Tamim Iqbal, who survived a lbw against Shardul Thakur failed to time a bouncer as the ball flew to short leg where Unadkat took an easy catch.

Tamil Nadu all-rounder Vijay Shankar, playing his second match got into the act as well by dismissing wicket-keeper batsman Mushfiqur Rahim (18) and skipper Mahmudullah Riyad (1) in quick succession to leave Bangladesh reeling at 72/4 after 10.5 overs.

But it was Liton Das' 34 and Sabbir Rahman's 30 that helped their team put up atleast something on the board. But his dismissal at the wrong time made things worse. Reaching out for a flighted delivery, Liton tried to give himself some room and hit it on the off-side, only to mistime it and getting caught by Suresh Raina at long-off.

Sabbir's 30-run cameo of 26 balls ended Bangladesh's last effort in coming up with a decent total as Unadkat, after claiming Mehdi Hasan earlier, got the better of the right-hander who tried to squeeze out a yorker length delivery only to edge to wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik.

Having to chase down 140 for a win, Sharma (17) and Shikhar Dhawan took India off to a steady start before the captain was bowled by left-arm sensation Mustafizur Rahman.

The young Rishabh Pant was the next in line to fall as despite being promoted to the number three spot, he failed to make any impact as he, much like his captain, chopped on a delivery on to his stumps.

But Dhawan, who has been in wonderful form of late, made further use of it as she slammed another half-century (55) to guide the chase and ensure that a batting collapse doesn't happen.

His 43-ball innings was laced with five fours and two sixes. Raina scored 28 runs of 27 balls while Manish Pandey finished it off, scoring 27 quick runs from only 17 deliveries.

Brief scores-

India 140/4 (Shikhar Dhawan 55, Suresh Raina 28; Rubel Hossain 2/24) beat Bangladesh 139/8 (Liton Das 34, Sabbir Rahman 30; Jaydev Unadkat 3/38) by 6 wickets.


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I-League: Mohun Bagan held by spirited Gokulam Kerala

Kozhikode: A spirited Gokulam Kerala side held Mohun Bagan to a 1-1 draw at the EMS Corporation Stadium on Thursday. First-half goals from Dipanda Dicka and Henry Kisseka ensured a draw, of a match that had everything in it to be an intense clash. Of both the sides, Mohun Bagan were dominant in the initial stages of the game, especially with the thought of clinching another I-League title if all the other results went their way. While Minerva Punjab eventually won the league, Mohun Bagan finished third in the table with 31 points from 18 matches, just above arch-rivals East Bengal, who too have the same number of points but are below them, courtesy their head-to-head record. Both sides made one change coming into the match. While Sankarlal Chakraborty preferred Rana Gharami over Kinshuk Debnath, Gokulam Kerala coach Bino George picked Nikhil Bernand over Bilal Khan, after a poor performance by the latter against Aizawl. The visitors easily dictated the proceedings early on with easy passing from Cameron Watson and Yuta Kinowaki in the attacking third. The Mariners showed intent to take the lead and they nearly got one through a Nikhil Kadam cross in the ninth minute but it missed Akhram Moghrabi's head by just a few inches. Playing in the right wing position, he threatened to take a lead once again through a shot from the edge of the box, which kissed the bar before going out. Mohun Bagan's continued efforts of breaking the deadlock bore fruit in the 26th minute when a shot from Cameron Watson hit the underside of the crossbar before falling in Dicka's path, who slotted it into the net. Gokulam, trailing by a goal needed to equalise in order to jeopardize Mohun Bagan's chances of going all the way in the competition. They did so too, through a long ball from Irshad which was easily converted into the much-needed equaliser by Kisseka. The hosts then almost took the lead when Arjun Jayaraj after the 60-minute mark, attempted a shot that deflected and fell on Rashid's way inside the box. With the Mohun Bagan defenders blocking him, he attempted a backheel pass to Jayaraj, who was eventually denied a goal by Shilton Paul. Many more chances came the way of the men in Green and Maroon as the game slowly headed towards the dying stages. A long ball from Kadam was flicked by Moghrabi but Dicka failed to make any connection. He once missed another opportunity after failing to control his header from an Arijit Bagui's cross from the right.


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I-League continues to elude East Bengal as they finish fourth

Kolkata: Fourteen years of patience but not a league title in sight, East Bengal once again cut off the same story --- of falling agonizingly short despite coming close- that tells about how in all these years of dominance and legendary status in Indian football, one space that still remain empty in their otherwise full trophy cabinet is the elusive I-League title.

Only that in all these years, this season was the closest they came to winning but ironically finished fourth. Only two matches ago Minerva Punjab's shock 0-1 loss to Gokulam had opened doors for the 'Red and Golds' who had it simple --- win both the remaining two games and clinch the title. But woeful finishing meant they instead ended up drawing both the games to finish below the top three.

They finished on 31 points, the same as Mohun Bagan but are behind on head-to-head record.

Neroca hold East Bengal

Coming into the match both teams needed a victory as well as favours from the other teams, if they were to lift the title. But the contest seemed well over even before it had began rolling when Minerva Punjab struck 15th minute into their game against Churchill Brothers.

East Bengal only played for a miracle from there and when Bagan struck in the 26th minute, East Bengal's fight looked like one in vain. But they resorted to trying as their best option and came closer to scoring a number of tims in the opening few minutes.

That East Bengal will play on the up was crystal clear one hour prior to kick-off, when Jamil made as many as six changes in the playing 11 after speaking of just one or two in the pre-match conference. Atleast four among those six were attacking options.

It worked well for the 'Red and Golds' who created chances in plenty but were as has been all season, wayward and lacked the cutting edge. Their first chance came as early as the seventh minute when Dudu Omagbemi failed to lay his head into a Mohammad Rafique long ball.

Then Minerva Punjab'e goal somewhere 1716 km away brought some urgency into their game and both teams attacked and tackled with equal pace. East Bengal should have well gone ahead twice by the 38th minute.

But standing at goal-melee and with no one at sight, Jobby Justin fired into the stands after Mahmoud Al-Amnah found him with a cross. Then Amnah fed by Dudu hit straight at Neroca custodian Lalit Thapa. In between those two chances Dudu had come close two times but both the times shot wide.

Their failures however unperturbed Neroca who after absorbing the initial storm broke loose and scored from a counter. Felix Chidi struck in the 42nd minute after the visitors for the first time in the match were allowed to stitch together a series of passes. Nicholas Ward first found Ashok   Moirangmayum with a long ball and then found Chidi next after receiving the ball back. As the Frenchmen moved forward, East Bengal captain Arnab Mondal first played into the offside trap ridiculously but failing tried an audacious tackle landing nowhere.

It gave Chidi just enough space to wrong foot East Bengal goalkeeper Ubaid and fire home for the opening goal.

Injured and with the title swimming away from their grip, the hosts threw the kitchen sink as play resumed in the second-half but Neroca who had conceded just 13 goals -- the lowest among 10 teams --- once again showed why they were the best when it came to defending.

The duo of Govin Singh and Varney Kallon defended their lives and  not until the 73rd minute did East Bengal breach their line. The goal came through Dudu and was after he headed home Lalramchullova's long cross from the left. Till then the hosts had squandered a dozen of missed chances.

East Bengal though would complain that they missed two penties which if given could have perhaps given them a life-line. both Kallon and Saran Singh were guilty of handling the ball inside their own penalty box but the referee overlooked.

It though didn't matter in the end as Minerva secured a vcitory --- their 11th this season --- taking the I-League to north for the first time in 21 years. East Bengal and Neroca next play in the Super Cup staring March 31.


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I-League: Minerva Punjab crowned champions after 1-0 victory over Churchill Brothers

Panchkula: William Opoku Aseidu scored the lone goal as Minerva Punjab clinched their maiden I-League title defeating Churchill Brothers 1-0 at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium here on Thursday. Courtesy the loss Churchill Brothers have now been relegated. They finished on ninth with 17 points from 16 games, but since bottom placed Indian Arrows are a development team and are immune to relegation, Churchill faced the heat. Minerva finished with 35 points, three clear of second placed Neroca who were held to 1-1 draw against East Bengal - who stand on fourth. It came as a no surprise that a team playing their only second year in the top-division were crowned as the I-League champions after Aizawl had accomplished such a feat. But what made Minerva's journey more special was how they unearthed their own style of play, something that have troubled most teams throughout the season. In a season where four teams were still in the contention going into the final day, Minerva unlike the three other teams had their fate on their own hands and endured no hiccups with a comfortable win over the 'Red Machines'. Churchill defended deep forcing Minerva into delivering long balls that their defenders Monday Osagie and Hussain Eldor had no qualms in defending. But it gave the hosts plenty of width in the wings, something they used to the fullest. It took just 16 minutes for Minerva to score and was after their pursuit of catching Churchill off the blocks with long balls went begging. Finding no opening through the middle Chencho Gyeltshen went right and it was his low cross that led to the opening goal. It was one that should have been a regular save for Churchill custodian Ricardo Cardozo but he in pressure from Sangwan spilled it and Opoku made no mistake to tap-in from a goal-melee. But such was Churchill's defending that Minerva could well won by a bigger margin and Opoku could have ended with a hat-trick. The first came into the 38th minute and was after Cardozo spilled the ball a second time within a gap of 15 minutes while the second was from a long ranger, alike one that he scored against the Arrows. Minerva's continued miss however could have given Churchill some hope, had they managed to find the net from the limited chances that they found. Britto came close for them twice in the second-half and should have buried both. A Ceesay corner headed down by Plaza, reached Britto whose cheeky back-heel instead of a regular shot had no power and Minerva goalkeeper Kiran Limbu had no problems. Minutes later in the 65th, the winger had another go after being set clear by Plaza's audacious ball. His shot was however parried away by Limbu and it kind of showed the kind of days Churchill have had his season.


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I-League awaits a thrilling end; all six teams have stakes

Kolkata: That four teams will be still involved in the title race going into the last day of a season is a phenomena never occurred in two decades of Indian football and Thursday may well be the first time this has happened.

But standing on the brink of history, if there is one thing that separates the I-League from any other leagues of the world is its unpredictability. Thrice in the last four seasons have teams gone into the final day unaware who might walk away with the title and this comes as aa surprise given the work of the officials to forcibly downstep the league and in its place transcend the ISL.

Often subdued and left in ignorance, the I-League would end on a thrilling note when six teams step into the field one final time --- each fighting its own battle.

Minerva Punjab, Neroca, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal among those four are vying for the title, while Churchill Brothers fight is to survive. Gokulam are immune to relegation but surprisingly coach Bino George has called it a must-win match for them inorder to directly qualify for the Super Cup.

Minerva Punjab's chances

As things stand Minerva lead the table with 32 points after 17 games and are in the best position to clinch the title. They require just a victory over Churchill Brothers in their final encounter. But given how things have unravelled for them this season, the Warriors should have by now already walked away with the title but five defeats --- that came in crunch situations --- means they are still fighting for it. But unlike other teams Minerva have their fate on their own hands.

Anything less than a win means they have to depend on other results going their way. in case they lose or draw the 'Red Machines', East Bengal's match against Neroca have to end in a draw and Bagan have to lose against Gokulam.  With there also stands a tricky situation where if Minerva draw and Bagan wins, still then Minerva may well walk out with the title because of their better head-to-head record against the Mariners.

Neroca FC

In their debut season, not many expected Neroca FC to trade the path they have trodden. They are second in the table on 31 points from 17 matches and need not only a victory against the Red and Golds but also hope that Minerva fail to beat Churchill. Anything less a win for them will kick Neroca out of the title race.

Mohun Bagan

After the manner in which Bagan started their I-League campaign this term --- four draw, one defeat and just two wins in first even games --- that they are still in the contention for the title comes as a surprise. But the faltering of other teams coupled with Bagan's undefeated run on the road meant not just Bagan remain on the hunt but are also among the favourites to win.

On 30 points after 17 matches, they require a victory and hope that both Minerva and Neroca fail to win their respective matches. Other than a victory nothing less than a Minerva loss can bring the title to their grip.

East Bengal

Going into the last two matches, East Bengal had a simple equation. Win both the matches and secure their first I-League win in 16 years time. But the 2-2 draw against Shillong Lajong in their penultimate game means from being the favourites, they stand with the least chance to clinch the title.

Not just a win, the Red and Golds will also have to hope that both Minerva Punjab and Mohun Bagan lose. In case all three end up in 33 points, Bagan still will win the title because of their better record across the three teams.

Churchill Brothers' battle

Unlike the top four Churchill are not chasing the title, but are battling for survival in the league. Quite surprising for that the two time champions are in such a situation while the others still chase their maiden. The 'Red Machines'are currently ninth with 17 points from 17 games and require a victory anyhow over Minerva Punjab.

That both Indian Arrows and Gokulam Kerala have been removed from relegation have induced most pressure on Chennai and Churchill. The former are a notch above on 17 points making it a do-or-die encounter for the 'Red Machines'.

Gokulam Kerala

Their season should already been over by now, given they are immune to relegation. But coach Bino George sees the Bagan encounter as a privilege to break into the top six and earn a direct entry into the Super Cup finals. Gokulam are currently seventh with 20 points after 17 games and a victory will take then to sixth.

East Bengal vs Neroca FC - Live from salt Lake Stadium at 3:00 p.m Minerva Punjab vs Churchill Brothers - Live from Tau Devi Lal Stadium at 3:00 pm. Mohun Bagan vs Gokulam Kerala FC - Live from EMS Corporation Stadium at 3:00 p.m Telecast -- East Bengal vs Neroca FC - Star Sports 1 / HD 1 Minerva Punjab vs Churchill Brothers - Star Sports 2 / HD 2 Gokulam Kerala vs Mohun Bagan - Hotstar All the three matches can be watched on Hotstar as well as Jio TV


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Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: India trounce Malaysia 5-1

Ipoh: Goals from Shilanand Lakra (10’), Gurjant Singh (42’, 57’), Sumit Kumar (48’) and Ramandeep Singh (51') helped India romp to a 5-1 win over Malaysia in the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Wednesday. This win thus enabled the Indians to stay in the hunt for a place in the finals. Faisal Saari scored the only goal for the home team. India, who are placed fifth with four points would now have to win their remaining game against Ireland by a big margin and depend on other results to have a chance of making it to the final. Malaysia, however succumbed to their second loss but remained third with six points. The equation is now simple- India would have to beat Ireland by a big margin and expect Australia to beat Argentina. Also, they would require Malayasia to draw against England. After going down 2-4 to Australia, a different looking Indian side took the field against Malasyia and they did well to score three goals in the last quarter to thrash the hosts 5-1. India, had earlier list their first match to Argentina before drawing their second against England. Lakra have India the lead in the 10th minute through a Gurjant Singh pass as he slotted the ball into the net past the Malaysian goalkeeper. India went into the break with the lead despite an effort from Malaysia's Saari in the dying stages of the second quarter. His continuos efforts in levelling the score finally bore fruit in the second half as he converted the first penalty corner to make it 1-1 in the 33rd minute. But Gurjant Singh once again gave India the lead just before the third quarter. Although the Malaysian goalkeeper made good saves in India's second penalty corner in the 42nd minute, Gurjant made no mistake when the ball flew to him with an open goal in front. Sumit extended India's lead in the match through a simple tap-in, in the 48th minute when Ramandeep Singh crossed a ball from captain Sardar Singh in the middle of the circle away from the goalie. But Sumit failed to score another as his shot was wide of the point blank range but Ramandeep's deflection made it 4-1 in India's favour in the 54th minute. The final nail in the coffin for Malaysia was Gurjant's second goal in India's fifth penalty corner in the 57th minute. India would face Ireland on March 9.


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Shankar, Yadav, Suriya make it to the Commonwealth Games

Patiala: Nineteen-year-old Tejaswin Shankar set a new national record, bettering a benchmark set by him earlier, by jumping 2.28m in the men's high jump category at the Run Adam Federation Cup in Patiala on Wednesday. He had earlier held the national record (2.26m) in the Junior National Championship held in 2016.

Earlier, Shankar had achieved the same mark at a collegiate event in the USA but this was a first in a competition organised by the Athletics Federation of India (AFI). En route to setting the new national record, the youngster also cleared the guideline of 2.26m set by the AFI for making the cut for the Commonwealth Games.

He began his jump at 2.10m and then gradually improved to reach 2.14m, 2.18m, 2.25m and then 2.28m in his very first attempt.

“I had jumped this height in the USA but it feels good to clear this height at a competition in India,” said Shankar, who is a first-year student of Kansas State University.

"I need to get more consistent. I hope I will clear the 2.31m at the Commonwealth Games," he added further.

Siddharth Yadav, another athlete also delivered the best performance of his career as he cleared 2.25m to end with a silver. "It is the best jump of my career. My previous best was 2.23m,” he said.

Shankar also had words of praise for the 25-year-old Yadav. "It is great to see two Indians going to the Commonwealth Games. More than going to the Commonwealth Games, it is a better feeling to know that two of us are going. I never thought I would see two Indians clearing 2.25m. It always boosts you to be competing against another good jumper,” he said.

However, it wasn't only Shankar and Yadav who made the cut for the Commonwealth Games. L Suriya, also made it to the Commonwealth Games squad after she clocked 32:23:96 seconds in the women's 10000 metres. She crossed the qualification guideline of 32:30:00 set by the AFI.

Having won the 5000m race at the Federation Cup earlier this year, Suriya had never pushed herself hard too often.

"We had focused all her efforts for the 10000m because we felt that she had a better chance in the 10000m,” she said.

Pole vaulter P Surekha, of all the other athletes in the competition was the closest to cross the cutoff mark set by the AFI. Surekha, the meet record holder of 4.05m and a national record holder of 4.15m, crossed the 3.90m mark, falling just 10cm short of the Commonwealth Games qualification guideline of 4.00m. Nonetheless, she finished above Khyati Vakaria (3.80m) and Krishna Rachan (3.70m).


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I'm fitter than many U-19 guys playing here: Dudu Omagbemi

Kolkata: Age has never been a problem when quality is present in abundance. When Dudu Omagbemi returned to the Red and Golds midway into the season, many had questioned his form because of his long lay-off from the game. But he has answered all his critics in style, with stellar performances which saw him net a total of seven spectacular goals in his last four outings. The 32-year-old, who has put an end to East Bengal's goal-scoring problems felt that he is fitter than many young footballers in the country. "Who said I'm old? I'm just 32. In fact I'm fitter than the U-19 guys playing here," he said, in an exclusive chat with SportsCrunch after the team's training session on Wednesday. He further added, "They are good. But I look more fitter because I train more. They are good quality players, all U-19 players. All they need is experience. I'm happy to play with them." When asked about that header that fetched his team a point in their 2-2 draw against Shillong Lajong on Monday, he said, "I have no idea about the goal. I haven't seen it myself." Stressing that his focus is on the match against NEROCA at home, the Nigerian said, "We are confident and we will be going all out tomorrow. Let's hope for the best." Also one of East Bengal's key players, Syrian recruit Mahmoud Al-Amna felt that they still have a, "half-chance" in the race to the title when they take on NEROCA FC at home on Thursday. "It is our last match tomorrow and we still have half-chance. This is football and anything can happen. We have fought till here and are focused on our match," he said, in his interaction with the reporters after the training session on Wednesday. Reflecting upon their 2-2 draw at Shillong despite leading at the half-time mark, Amna once again highlighted the unpredictability of the game saying that they still stand a chance, which might not be as good as other teams. "Look, we had things in our control in Shillong. But this is football. We had a tough game there. Still we have a half-chance, not like the other teams but there is a chance. We would fight till the last minute in this league." He also stressed that they wouldn't have the other matches (which would be held simultaneously) in mind. "Look, we are thinking about this game because if we think about other matches and then lose here, then we get nothing. We are thinking about a good result and looking to end season on a high."


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I-League: Unperturbed by 'fixing' allegations, East Bengal aim for maiden title

Kolkata: Title-favourites Minerva Punjab and East Bengal would walk into their respective matches on March 8, with nothing but a win, in mind. Just before the big day, when every match in the I-League is going to be important in determining who gets the title, Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj launched an attack on East Bengal, claiming that the latter had manipulated certain results in the league so far, through bribing. In a complaint to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) Integrity Officer Javed Siraj, Bajaj alleged that the Kolkata giants bribed the coach and some players from Chennai City before their match against Minerva Punjab. He also added that East Bengal's goalkeeping coach Siddiqui had called up Punjab gaffer Khogen Singh multiple times, offering him bribe so that his team concedes a win to Churchill Brothers on Thursday. But the Red and Golds, unperturbed by all such allegations, have asked for pure evidences to prove such allegations. Instead, they were more focused on the immediate work at hand-to beat NEROCA FC at the Salt Lake stadium on Thursday, in order to have any chance of claiming that elusive I-League trophy. Placed fourth in the 10-team table, East Bengal squandered one of their best chances in the competition so far when they were held to a 2-2 draw at Shillong, despite leading the game 1-0 at half-time. Nothing less than a win, coupled with other favourable results would propel the Red and Golds to their maiden I-League title. Whereas, a win for either Mohun Bagan or Minerva would dampen East Bengal's hopes of claiming national supremacy. "This is our last match of the season, we are playing at home so we have to be positive. I am not doing any calculation; this is the last game so we have to get three points. Let’s see what happens next. I am only thinking what is under my control. Minerva are at the top of the table, they have the maximum points so they are favourites definitely,” said East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil, at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday. He also added that NEROCA's is a strong defensive unit and it would need some good finishing from them if they have to pull off a win. "There is no pressure on us. We have to do well in our last match. I am not thinking about pressure. NEROCA are a good team they are also fighting for the championship. They are playing well and are defensively very strong. Our finishing must improve. Lets us see what happens," added Jamil. The I-League winning coach also conceded that a few changes might be seen in the playing XI on Thursday. However both the teams would favour Churchill Brothers defeating Minerva Punjab and Gokulam getting the better of Mohun Bagan which makes this clash a title-deciding one. We aren't panicking: Gift Raikhan For a team which is playing its first I-League, it might not be easy to be at their best on the final day when everything is on the line. But NEROCA FC coach Gift Raikhan made it clear that they weren't panicking ahead of their match against East Bengal. "We are not panicking. There is no pressure. We will enjoy the game and look to win. We definitely have ambitions as we are still in with a chance of winning the Hero I-League. But there is no pressure and we have nothing to lose,” he said. He further added, “They are a good team and everybody knows that. But Kingfisher East Bengal will be under pressure. They failed to win the last match and for a team of their stature, it adds extra pressure. That can act to our advantage."


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ISL 4: Pune, Bengaluru play goalless stalemate in 1st semi-final

Pune: The first semi-final of the fourth Indian Super League (ISL) edition ended in a stalemate as both Pune City and Bengaluru FC played out a goalless draw at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium, Pune, on Wednesday. Gigen their recent form of 12 unbeaten run of games, Bengaluru were always the favourites but Pune measured up to the challenge till the final whistle, denying the visitors the crucial away goal, a rule that has been introduced in this edition of ISL for the first time. While Pune had a glorious chance to win the game late on in the second half, Bengaluru played their best football in the first 45 minutes. After letting the home team dominate possession in the first quarter, 'The Blues' slowly made their way back, with captain Sunil Chettri testing Pune City goalkeeper Vishal Kaith's agility from a free kick after Gurtej Singh brought down Miku just outside the box. From the resulting corner kick, Miku came close to opening the scoring but his header from close range flew over the bar. Other than a cheeky backheel attempt from Marcelinho from an Ashique Kuruniyan cross in the 36th minute, FC Pune City's efforts on goal in the first half came mostly from outside the box which didn't really threaten Bengaluru goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh. Both teams went into the break knowing they hadn't really put enough pressure on the opposition. After the restart, Pune took the initiative. First, Kuruniyan took a shot from distance at goal which was well blocked by the Bengaluru denfese. A minute later, it was Emiliano Alfaro's turn to have a crack at goal but his shot was also blocked by the defenders. The pattern of play continued to develop in the same fashion as the second half progressed. Pune City wanted to make most of the home conditions and looked eager to get a goal. Bengaluru, on the other hand, seemed to have settled for a draw in their mind already. Then came the big moment for Pune. With just 15 minutes left on the clock Marcelinho, who worked the channels all night, found himself in space to square a ball for Isaac Vanmalsawma for an easy tap-in. But the striker got his effort horribly wrong and the ball went wide of the goal.


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'Infidel' Shami's contract withheld; Dhoni, Ashwin in Grade A

New Delhi: Indian pace bowler Mohammad Shami's name was absent from the list of 26 centrally contracted players by the BCCI for the 2017-2018 season after his wife alleged that he had relationships with other women. Also, MS Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin were not included in the top-paid bracket Grade A+ contract. Instead they were handed a Grade A contract.

The 27-year-old Shami is one of the most crucial members of India's Test setup and was slated to be handed a Grade B contract before such allegations surfaced on the internet.

Shami's wife, Hasin Jahan took to Facebook to reveal screenshots of the chats between the bowler and other women on WhatsApp and Messenger. She alleged that her husband had extra-marital affairs with many women and that his mother and brother has even tortured her in the past.

"Whatever I have posted is just the tip of the iceberg. Shami’s acts are far more heinous. He has relationships with multiple women,” she said, as quoted by ABP News.

She added, "Everyone in their family used to torture me. His mother and brother used to abuse me. The tortures continued till 2-3 am in the morning. They even wanted to kill me."

Jahan, who got married to Shami back in 2014 also alleged that the bowler had physically assaulted her after returning from the tour of South Africa.

"Shami abused me and started beating me even after returning from South Africa. He has been doing this for quite some time now and now I have had enough. I tried to convince myself for the sake of my family and daughter but he kept on harassing me and when I found those obscene chats with multiple women, all hell broke.

She, however has decided to take up legal action against him.

"I cannot tolerate this anymore and I have decided to take legal actions with all the available evidence. Instead of accepting his own mistakes, he used to vent his anger on me and even threaten me, asking to keep mum for my own goodwill,” Jahan said.

"I've done everything he wanted me to do. He has tortured me and hasn't treated me like his wife. He's a big flirt. I'm not going to divorce him till my last breath. I've all the evidences and will soon drag him to the court,” she said to ANI in Kolkata.

Shami, who is Dharamsala for the Deodhar Trophy retorted back to these allegations of adultery saying that all these were false and it was a conspiracy theory to defame him and cause distractions in his game.

He tweeted,"Hi. I'm Mohammad Shami. Ye jitna bhi news hamara personal life ke bare may chal raha hai, ye sab sarasar jhut hai, ye koi bahut bada humare khilap sajish hai or ye mujhe Badnam karne or mera game kharab karne ka kosis ki ja rahi hai. (All the news about my personal life is false. This is a conspiracy against me to defame me and spoil my game.)"


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I-League: Minerva Punjab closest to maiden title win

Panchkula: Had Minerva Punjab carried on the wonderful run that they were in when the league kick-started in late November, this season's I-League title would have for the first time in it's 11 year journey travelled northwards. It would have also killed the many hopes of Neroca, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal all of who still remain with a chance to clinch the title. Twice in the space of 12 games were Minerva in an undefeated run of five, but that they faltered at crucial junctures of the league meant their last match against Churchill Brothers which would have by now become inconsequential, starkly is their most vital match across the entire season. A lot will be at stake when both Minerva And Churchill clash-off in a league deciding battle at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium here on Thursday. But unlike the other three teams, all of who have no control over their chances, Minerva's fate lies in its own hands. A win against the Red Machines will directly lead the 'Warriors' to their maiden league title in only two years of top-division football. That they have transformed so deep and far in only two years time should come as a no surprise given how the team overturned defences with their quick counter-attacks and a new brand of football. That they don't have to depend on other teams to decide their own fate is perhaps their biggest advantage felt Minerva coach Khogen Singh. “We don’t need to think about others, we have to just concentrate on our game. We have to win our game. Our aim, our objective, our motto is to win the match. If we win this match, we will end up as the winners. We think about our game,” he said according to a press release. Minerva currently lead the pack with 32 points after 17 games just three above East Bengal, their furthest title-rival going into the final day. A win should be enough for them but even if they fail to do so, they might still become the champions given other results go their way. Khogen however was not ready to think of anything other than a victory. But defeating Churchill Brothers who fight their own battle on Thursday -- a battle to survive --- won't be easy. The 'Red Machines' are currently ninth, on 17 points from as many games and require nothing less than a win to keep themselves alive. “It’s a very important match for the team. For Minerva it’s a do or die match for them to win the I-League and for us also it’s a do or die match for survival in the I-League. It’s a tough match and whoever will take their chances, will come out as winners," said Churchill head coach Alfred Fernandes. Despite the threat, he was however full of praise for both Minerva and Neroca for successfully breaking the jinx of not being able to keep pace with bigger teams. "Earlier, the legacy clubs were walking away with the honours. Now it’s good for the Indian football that smaller clubs are fighting neck-to-neck with the clubs. Only Indian football will benefit from this”, he added.


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I-League: Bagan lock horns with Gokulam in pursuit of second title

Kozhikode: A couple of days ago Mohun Bagan would have already played their last match and returned home after the direction-less run they have had this term. But a hat-trick of wins and the undefeated streak on the road also helped by the faltering of other title favourites meant the Mariners are once again back into the reckoning but must-win against Gokulam Kerala in their final encounter at the EMS Corporation Stadium here on Thursday. Although a victory is must, it however does not guarantee Bagan the title and they will have to depend on favours from others to decide their fate. After 17 games --- six of which were draws ( three at home) and three defeats --- the Mariners stand on 30 points currently trailing Neroca and Minerva Punjab by one and two points respectively. The equation is a little tricky for them. If Mohun Bagan end on same points (33) with East Bengal, they'll edge the Red & Golds courtesy their superior head-to-head record. Meanwhile, if Minerva Punjab FC and both the Kolkata outfits end their campaign with same points (33), still the Mariners would make merry, thanks to their better head-to-head records taking all three teams into consideration. But despite the title at stake, coach Sankarlal Chakraborty played down expectations and asked his boys to focus on the match. "I always tell the players to focus on the match and not on the title. We prefer to go match by match and it'll be same tomorrow. The aim is to win maximum points. Then, God knows what is the situation," said the former Bagan assistant who was elevated at the helm after previous coach Sanjoy Sen stepped down following a shock 1-2 defeat to Chennai City at home. Gokulam though won't be an easy task. Despite their most recent 1-3 defeat to Aizawl, the Malabarians remain the only I-League team to have defeated three of the four title contenders this term --- they defeated Bagan, Minerva and East Bengal in consecutive matches. "A win is a must for us tomorrow to play super cup. It is a super climax in I-League. Relegation battle for Churchill, super six battle for Gokulam and four other teams playing for the title," said Bino George, the head coach of Gokulam Kerala according to a press release. Having already defeated the Mariners 2-1 when they both squarred-off at the former's home, Gokulam is confident of causing one more shock. "Mohun Bagan is a big team but for us, we play with our heart especially tomorrow’s game. We are very well prepared," added George. Gokulam are currently seventh in the table with 20 points from 17 matches and are immune to relegation.


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BFI names squad for Commonwealth Games

New Delhi: MC Mary Kom and Manoj Kumar would lead the country's charge in the Commonwealth Games as the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) named it's squad for the competition, scheduled to be held in Gold Coast, Australia later this year.

Pinki Rani would lead India's charge in the 51kg category after she put up a dominating display en route to her gold medal at the Indian Open. Laisharam Devi (60kg) and Lovlina Boroghain (69kg) are the other female pugilists, who would hope to make the country proud in the competition.

Manish Kaushik's powerful performances against Shiva Thapa in the past enabled him to make the cut for the Commonwealth Games in the men's 60kg category. Vikas Krishnan and Manoj Kumar would be leading India's challenge in the men's department.

Amit Bhangal, who had showcased a heroic effort in the Strandja Memorial Tournament has also made it to the squad. Hussain Mohammed too has made the cut in the 56kg category.

Gaurav Solanki (52kg) and World Youth Bronze medalist Naman Tanwar (91kg) were  the late inclusions to the team after they won their trials at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium on Sunday.

Here is the squad:

Women's team-

45-48kg: MC Mary Kom, 51kg: Pinki Rani, 60kg: Laisharam Devi, 69kg: Lovlina Boroghain

Men's team-

46-49kg: Amit Phangal, 52kg: Gaurav Solanki, 56kg: Hussam Mohammed, 60kg: Manish Kaushik, 69kg: Manoj Kumar, 75kg: Vikas Krishnan, 91kg: Naman Tanwar, +91kg: Satish Kumar


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Pandurang Salgaonkar handed six-month suspension by ICC

Mumbai: Pandurang Salgaonkar, the pitch curator of Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) was handed a six-month suspension by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after investigations of alleged corruption charges made by India Today in October 2017.

No charges were laid against him as there wasn't any stromg evidence of him engaging in corruption-related activities. He was but, charged with a failure to report an approach.

ICC General Manager, Anti-Corruption Alex Marshall said, "We have carried out an extensive investigation based on the allegations made by India Today and the material they shared with us.

"I am satisfied that Salgaonkar has no case to answer on the broad allegations of corruption made by India Today. However, as he is bound by the ICC Anti-Corruption Code as a participant of the sport, he has been charged with breaching section 2.4.4 of the Code for his failure to report an approach to engage in corrupt conduct," he added.

Marshall further stated that Salgaonkar has accepted his offense and would resume his duties from April 24, 2018, his suspension dating back to October 25, 2017.

"Salgaonkar has accepted that he has committed the offence and has received a six-month suspension, which has been backdated to 25 October 2017, being the date he was internally suspended by MCA, and he will therefore be free to resume his duties on 24 April 2018."


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Nidahas Trophy 2018: Kusal Perera hands Sri Lanka five-wicket win in tri-series opener

Colombo: Kusal Perera's quickfire 66 overshadowed Shikhar Dhawan's valiant effort as Sri Lanka defeated India by five wickets in the T20I tri-series opener at the RP stadium on Tuesday.

A 175-run target set by India ended up being easily chased by the home side as the bowlers were taken to the cleaners by Perera, whose 37-ball knock had six fours and four sixes. Sri Lanka eventually chased down the total with nine balls to spare.

Perera's onslaught helped the hosts rack up 75 runs in the powerplay which, completely took the game away from India, despite them having got an early breakthrough. It was that 27-run over bowled by Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur which set the tone for the carnage to follow as both Perera and Sri Lanka never really looked back from there. Fittingly, it was Thakur who conceded a boundary in the 19th over as the hosts registered their highest ever run chase against India.

Once he was dismissed, India found some space to breathe and claw their way back into the contest but this time, it was Thisara Perera, whose 22 runs of just 10 balls sealed the game in favour of the hosts.

The young Washington Sundar was India's best bowler on the night as the latter not only dismissed Perera, giving his side an opening but also ended up being the most economical of them all, conceding just seven runs per over. Chahal too bowled well, sending back the two experienced batsmen- Upul Tharanga (17) and Dinesh Chandimal (14). But the damage had already been done by then.

Opting to bowl first, Sri Lanka got off to a flying start as Rohit Sharma's woeful run continued in T20Is. The Mumbai batsman was dismissed for his fifth duck in the format in the very first over of the game, which pushed India on the backfoot. Suresh Raina's dismissal for just one run too didn't help India's cause as they were reduced to 9/2 at the end of the second over.

But Shikhar Dhawan carried on at the other end and even as the batsmen at the other end failed, the southpaw exhibited one of the powerful T20I performances as he whacked six fours and the same number of sixes en route to his 49-ball 90.

A 95-run partnership between him and Manish Pandey (37) resurrected the Indian innings but the left-hander 's untimely dismissal at the end of the 18th once again brought back Sri Lanka into the game. Rishabh Pant (23) and Dinesh Karthik (13*) too played brief knocks as India could only muster 174/5 in their 20 overs.

Brief scores-

Sri Lanka 175/5 in 18.3 overs (Kusal Perera 66, Thisara Perera 22*; Washington Sundar 2/28) beat India 174/5 (Shikhar Dhawan 90, Manish Pandey 37; Dusmantha Chameera 2/33) by 5 wickets.


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Neeraj Chopra creates Indian record; Hima, Tajinder qualify for Commonwealth Games

Patiala: Asian champion Neeraj Chopra continued his hot streak of form with another gold at the Run Adam Federation Cup Senior National Athletics Championships 2018.

Chopra who narrowly missed out on a final berth at the World Athletics Championships last year in London, once again emphasised on why he is the best Javelin thrower in the country, breaking old records and creating new ones.

In his final throw of the competition, Chopra threw the spear 85.94m, bettering the old record of 85.64m he set in 2016. He had already qualified for the upcoming Commonwealth Games after breaching AFI’s qualifying guidelines of 81.80 at the Indian Grand Prix last month.

“Although I had already qualified for the CWG, I wanted to make a mark at the Federation Cup. That is why I was trying so hard. I will look to improve on this at the Commonwealth Games,” said Chopra after creating a new Indian record.

Hima makes most of opportunity

After a fine Asia Games test event, where she clinched gold in the 200m race, Hima Das looked India's best bet at the Commonwealth Games. But it meant she had to walk uncovered trajectory and participate in the 400m race. Up and until now she had raced in the 100m and 200m and was good at it.

But she stunned all in what was her debut competition in the quarter mile. Das clocked 51.97m to finish inside the CWG qualifying guidelines of 52 seconds set by the Athletics Federation of India.

“I was expecting to do around 52 seconds. So when I saw that I was able to go inside 52 seconds I was very happy. I was not sure how I would run the 400m but I was able to run without any difficulty,” Das said after finishing more than a second ahead of second place GK Vijaykumari who clocked 53.03 seconds.

Tajinder qualifies

Shot putter Tejinder Pal Toor was the other athlete who qualified for the CWG. For someone who won a silver-medal at the Asian Indoor games in January, Noor needed just one throw to pass AFI's qualifying mark. He clocked 20.24m but was not satisfied.

“My goal was to throw over 21 meters. I could not do it here but I will try to do it in the Commonwealth Games,” be said later.

It was however heart-breaking for 18 year-old M Sreeshankar, who leaped into the junior record books with a jump of 7.99m. but still fell short of the AFI qualifying standard mark of 8.00m set for his event.


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ISL 4: Roca's change in fortunes with Bengaluru FC

New Delhi: Bengaluru FC’s remarkable debut in the Indian Super League has been masterminded by coach Albert Roca. But had not things not gone in his favour towards the end of last season, he wouldn’t have been occupying that seat in the first place.

Roca was roped in by Bengaluru in July 2016 and his immediate task was to ensure the side advanced to the knockout stages of the AFC Cup. They did secure a famous win over Malaysia’s reigning champions Johor Darul Ta’zim but then faltered at the final juncture against Al Quwa Al Jawiya.

I-League was next. As expected, they started strongly with three wins, but it was followed by a seven-match winless run which deterred their fight for silverware. This included being trounced 3-1 by East Bengal in the comforts of their home soil.

The club did pick up form late in the season which saw them win their final four matches to finish fourth on the table. This was certainly an underachievement for a club of Bengaluru’s stature which had, on paper, the highest budget.

Soon there were whispers that Roca would be shown the door at the end of the season. The Federation Cup was supposed to be his last assignment.

In the Federation Cup group stages, Bengaluru only scraped past before eventually going on to win the title in extra time against Mohun Bagan. The title assured them of a berth in the AFC Cup play-offs and worked in the favour of Roca as the club did a u-turn by offering him an extension for another year.

And what a year it has been for Roca so far. Bengaluru FC have been utterly dominant in the ISL, garnering a record 40 points. They have defeated every club in the group stages and have looked comfortable in most of their matches. Their winning percentage of 72.2 per cent is the best ever in the 22-year-old history of Indian football’s top tier. All this is certainly down to Roca, who handpicked his team.

In the last four seasons, Bengaluru never had a foreign top scorer. Roca identified the club’s weakness and their over-reliance on Sunil Chhetri. Hence, he decided to go all out for Miku and made him the highest-paid foreigner in the league. The Venezuelan has also repaid the faith shown by Roca by scoring 14 goals.

It must be noted that last year, Roca didn’t have a plan B. They started with a four-man defence before moving to three at the back. Their ‘pass-and-move’ brand of football was considered slow and not effective against teams who would sit back.

However, this season in the ISL, there have been matches where they have been second best in terms of possession, like against NorthEast United at home. But Roca relied on his team’s quick counterattack to sting the opposition after soaking up the pressure. From starting with one foreigner at the back to opting to field Juanan and John Johnson in defence, the team has been versatile in their choice of tactics.

In February, the club played seven matches in all competitions and were victorious on six occasions. In fact going into the play-offs, they are unbeaten in their last 12 games. It isn’t that Roca hasn’t chopped and changed his players during the frantic schedule, but what’s worth highlighting is that the performance levels haven’t dipped for which Roca deserves all the plaudits.


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Manu Bhaker wins her second gold medal in the ISSF World Cup

Guadalajara: Sixteen year-old Manu Bhaker clinched her second gold medal for India in the ongoing ISSF World Cup partnering Om Prakash Mitharval to bag the yellow metal in the 10m Air Pistol event on Tuesday.

Courtesy these promising performances by the shooters in the competition, India lead the medal tally in what has been a spectacular World Cup so far.

The youngster from Haryana continued to shine on her World Cup debut as a day ago, she had won an individual gold in the women's 10m Air Rifle event, shooting 237.5, which outclassed favourite Alejandra Zavala Vasquez's 237.1. Celine Goberville of France ended with the bronze with a score of 217.0.

Yashaswini Singh Deswal stood fourth in this category with 196.1 points, in what was her maiden final appearance.

The team of Mehuli Ghosh and Deepak Kumar fetched the country a bronze (which is India's sixth) in the 10m Air Rifle mixed event.

The duo scored 435.1 in the final, thus ending behind the team of Alin Moldoveanu and Laura-Georgeta Coman, who shot 498.4 to settle for the silver medal. The top honours in this category went to the Chinese duo of Chen Keduo and Xu Hong, who shot a world record score of 502 for the gold.

Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar scored 348.9 to finish fourth in this category.

Never thought I would win two gold medals: Bhaker

After clinching her second gold medal helping India consolidate the top position in the medals tally, shooting sensation Manu Bhaker said that she had never thought she would put up such an impressive show.

"This is unbelievable, I never thought that I would end up winning two gold medals in a senior World Cup," Bhaker told PTI, after partnering Om Prakash Mitharval for a gold in the 10m Air Pistol mixed event.

The prodigious shooter took up the sport just two years ago and now, she has already made an impact in her debut World Cup. She won the gold, shooting 10.6 in her final shot.

"I was a little nervous in the individual event. I shot 8.4 in the 17th shot yesterday and an 8.1 in the 19th, so I was not very comfortable but then managed to recover well," said the Haryana girl.


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I-League: Gokulam Kerala vs Mohun Bagan clash postponed to 8th March

New Delhi: The title race this season has been swinging like a pendulum and to ensure that the top four teams, all of whom still remain the contention for league title play with freedom and also to keep the league's unpredictability intact the All India Football Federation (AIFF) have now shifted Mohun Bagan's match against Gokulam Kerala to March 8. It means as many as three matches will be played on the said date, all of which will be title deciding battles (Minerva Punjab vs Churchill Brothers, East Bengal vs Neroca FC and Bagan vs Gokulam). The match will kick off at 3:00 p.m. and will be held at Kozhikode, simultaneously with the other two matches all scheduled on the same day. "We needed to ensure that all teams who are in the fray for the coveted Hero I-League title get a fair chance to have a go at the title,” I-League said CEO Mr. Sunando Dhar. “We try and see that no team gets an undue advantage and hence, we felt best to postpone the match for the final day.” Despite just three games remainung into the season, a virtual winner is yet to decided and though Minerva Punjab are currently in the driver's seat --- a win should be enough for them --- Neroca, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan all still stand a chance to clinch the title. Just as interesting is the battle in the bottom half as it is in the top end and both Churchill Brothers and Chennai City are fighting relegation, although the latter have finished their campaign. Also that both Gokulam and Indian Arrows are exempted from facing the heat have put more pressure on the other two to survive. "It’s now a common trend for the Hero I-League to go down the wire with the title being decided on the final day. It speaks volume about the competitiveness in the League,” added Dhar. The last covered have all seen the I-League ho into the final day to decide an eventually decider. However, with the match having been to be rescheduled at the last moment, the host broadcaster may not be able to telecast the match (between GKFC and Mohun Bagan) live. However, efforts are on to live stream the same.


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ISL 4: Ranko Popovic plots Pune City's record run

Pune: Going into the fourth season of Indian Super League (ISL), FC Pune City had the dubious distinction of being one of two teams (other being NorthEast United) to have never qualified for the semifinals. Pune City is one of the first club in ISL which invested early in the academy, marketing and established connect with fans. However, despite being strong on paper, they never got the results they deserved. Almost four months into the current season, the team has overcome the jinx to make maiden debut in play-offs and much of that credit goes to their Serbian coach Ranko Popovic. Indeed Pune City were smart to recruit some proven names from ISL 3. Golden Boot winner Marcelinho and Marcos Tebar, two key performers behind Delhi Dynamos’ semi-final run in 2016, and Emiliano Alfaro (NorthEast United FC), found their way at Pune. But it is Popovic who has made the biggest impact, despite not being involved in the any of the recruitment before the season. The Stallions had planned for the season with Antonio Habas, who was continuing from last year, in mind. Habas was involved in the player recruitment, right from identifying foreign players to formulating the strategy for the domestic player draft in July 2017. Any coach would want to have a say in the squad composition before going into a season, a luxury which was not afforded to Popovic, who joined the club after they abruptly parted ways with Habas. Many would arguably write off a club which runs into trouble with coach even before season kick off. Even the start was not to anyone’s liking. They were down 0-3 in their opening clash against Delhi Dynamos before pulling two goals back. In the next game, however, Popovic orchestrated a response by upsetting defending champions ATK 4-1 away. Popovic’s tactical nous and selection of personnel has come to the fore many a time during the season. Against Bengaluru FC, for example, Popovic managed to stifle the rampaging Blues at home, something teams found tough this season, until Baljit Sahni’s red card turned the tide around. His decision to field Adil Khan as a midfielder also paid off with the former Mohun Bagan defender putting in excellent displays in the centre of the park alongside Tebar, which lent the side some stability and steel, allowing the talented frontline of Alfaro, Marcelinho and Diego Carlos some freedom. In fact, Popovic used versatile players extensively during the season with Baljit Sahni, Rohit Kumar, Adil Khan and Sarthak Golui popping up in different positions according to the needs of the team in different matches. Another key factor to Pune’s success has been Popovic’s faith in young players. While many coaches tend to be circumspect when it comes to handing out chances to youngsters, Popovic has been the exact opposite. And his trust in them has paid dividends. Vishal Kaith (21), Golui (20), Isaac Vanmalsawma (21), Ashique Kuruniyan (20), Rohit (21) and Sahil Panwar (18) all played key roles during the season. "We want to make most players possible for Indian national team and make the league stronger,” said Popovic. The Serbian coach has made the most of the players handed out to him and made further improvements in the winter transfer window by bringing in Marko Stankovic and Lolo. Having picked up just two point from their last three matches, Pune City will be eager to make amends in the semi-finals against Bengaluru FC. Everyone has made Bengaluru FC the favourite to go all the way but with Popovic busy strategizing, he might just have an ace up his sleeve.


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East Bengal's on-field fumble results in off-field scuffle

Shillong: All is definitely not well, both in and around the East Bengal camp. The equation just got tougher for them in the I-League table after Monday's unexpected 2-2 draw at Shillong. Things further took a wrong turn as there was more embarrassment in store for the club officials. Sources in Shillong reveal that a group of East Bengal fans were reportedly involved in an altercation with an unnamed club official in front of the team hotel at around 10:30 pm. "Around 20-25 people went in front of the East Bengal team hotel at 10:30 pm. They had gathered there to talk to the officials when one of them was manhandled," a source privy to the incident revealed in an exclusive chat with SportsCrunch. Although things were brought under control soon, the discontentment and uneasiness within the fans was strongly communicated. Things aren't ‎headed in the right direction for the Red and Golds, right at the business end of the I-League. Walking into their penultimate match as one of the strong contenders for the title, East Bengal got off to a flying start with veteran striker Dudu Omagbemi giving the Kolkata giants the lead, which they maintained till the breather. But repeated fightback from the home team coupled with a horrendous tackle from Mehtab Singh resulted in a penalty, which saw the visitors trail 1-2 in no time, staring at a shocking defeat. But it was Dudu once again, who came to the rescue, heading home a goal in the dying moments of the game to fetch his team one crucial point, which atleast kept them alive in the hunt for their maiden I-League title. Although East Bengal dominated for most part of the match, shoddy defending along with some poor efforts in the midfield cost them two crucial points-which would have possibly propelled them to the second spot. Now, it all boils down to the March 8- a day which would decide who among the top four- Minerva Punjab, Neroca FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal walks away with the coveted league title. While Neroca battle East Bengal at the iconic Salt Lake stadium, Mohun Bagan and Minerva Punjab take on Gokulam Kerala and Churchill Brothers respectively. While each team among the top four require a win at any cost to have a chance of getting their hands on the title, there would indeed be a lot at stake for the Goa-based Churchill Brothers, who would have a last chance to save themselves from getting relegated.


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I-League: Lajong hold East Bengal to 2-2 draw, open up title race

Shillong: Dudu Omagbemi continued his scoring streak but East Bengal spilled their chance of keeping things in control, letting themselves be held to 2-2 draw against Shillong Lajong at the JLN Stadium here on Monday.

Omagbemi scored twice in the match but Samuel Lalmuanpuia's brilliance --- he assisted one and scored the other --- overshadowed the 32 year-old, giving spirited a Lajong the prize of finishing their season with a vital contribution in deciding the league.

The draw meant the Red and Golds remain fourth on 30 points after 17 games the same as Mohun Bagan, who are third in the table.

But coming into the game sitting on the driver's seat and favourites to win the I-League title this year, East Bengal had a simple equation --- win both the remaining two games ---- and Dudu ensured they continued to do so scoring in the 20th minute.

That Lajong started the match with a 5-3-2 formation meant it was clear they will play on the counter and East Bengal were left to try the long ball behind the congested defence to catch the hosts off-balance.

After repetitive failures, Lalramchullova's long ball managed to sneak in and Dudu ensured they scored from that. It was the Nigerian's seventh this season from the same number of games and in the second consecutive match.

That goal seemed to have taken the gas out of Lajong and they went into the break trailing by a goal but bounced back as soon as play resumed. It was in the 49th minute and after Lalmuanpuia himself had earned a foul.

His free-kick was as accurate as ever and found Aibhanbha Dohling's header who made no mistake in levelling terms for 'The Reds'.

But more than a goal it was like a bullet pierced through the Red and Golds's heart. Their positioning and marking suddenly looked disappeared as emotions broiled over. That fans shed tears seeing their dreams shattered into pieces stood a testimony about what the title meant to them.

Lajong struck again and Lalmuanpuia was again at the centre of things. Evading all defenders Koffi Mechac found Lalumpuia free inside the box and Mehtab --- who was marking the winger --- couldn't help but tackle him more out of desperation than of necessity.

Lalumpuia stood up and scored with power and precision in the 68th minute after Mehtab was substituted for Brandon Fernandes.

The goal seemed enough for a major shocker as Lajong steered home 2-1 on the scoreline. But two minutes from the final whistle Dudu scored again from another cross. Fernandes put in a cross that was brought low by Jobby Justin for Ansumana Kromah, whose shot was slotted home by the Dudu.

It helped East Bengal come home for the final match undefeated but snatched the league baton away from the their hands. Meaning even a victory against Neroca in their final match may not be enough for them to lift the title --- one that has eluded them for the last 16 years.


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Kings XI Punjab appoint Venkatesh Prasad as bowling coach for IPL 11

New Delhi: Former Indian pacer Venkatesh Prasad has been roped in by the Kings XI Punjab as their bowling coach for the upcoming edition of the IPL. This appointment comes just a couple of days after he had stepped down as the chief of the junior selection committee.

With the 11th edition of the IPL beginning in April, the Punjab based franchise have already announced their support staff. "Venkatesh Prasad, former right-arm medium-fast bowler and ex-chairman of the junior national selection committee (BCCI) comes on board as the team's bowling coach," said Kings XI Punjab in a statement.

Prasad's resignation from the job comes less than after the Indian U-19 team led by Prithvi Shaw won the World Cup in New Zealand.

Former Australian batsman Brad Hodge has been named head of the coach of the team for the next three seasons. A veteran in the shortest format, Hodge has scored over 7000 runs and would take the team ahead with Virender Sehwag as the mentor.

"The team we've managed to get together is absolutely phenomenal. Each member of our coaching staff brings bundles of experience and insight that will help us reach the perfection we strive for here at Kings XI. It's a truly exciting prospect," Hodge said.

Delhi player Mithun Manhas has arrived on board as the assistant coach of the side while Nishant Thakur, Shyamal Vallabhjee and Nishanta Bordoloi fill in the shoes of the team's strength and conditioning coach, technical coach and fielding coach, respectively.

Said Sehwag, "We are glad to have a foreign coach join the team this year along with Venkatesh. I hope the team benefits hugely from their collective experiences."


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ISL 4: ATK complete the double over NorthEast United

Kolkata: Robbie Keane's managerial debut sweetly coincided with ATK's first win in nine matches and ensured they avoided the wooden spoon with a timely 1-0 victory against NorthEast United at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium here on Sunday.

Keane scored on the night, taking his tally to six goals in nine matches and in third successive game ensuring his debut as a player-manager ended as planned and on the safer side.

It also meant that in a season ATK, who started as the defending champions, finished ninth in 16 points after 18 games, seven of which came from Keane's vital goals in victories over NorthEast United and Delhi Dynamos and a 1-1 draw against FC Goa.

Desperate for a win after a hat-trick of losses and eight in the last nine, Keane struck 11 minutes into the game with the outside of his boot after reading Connor Thomas's accurate long ball from his own half.

The long balls behind the visitors' defence looked like a plan devised to catch them off guard and nearly earned ATK a second goal, when Anwar Ali found Sibongakonke Mbatha's run but the latter failed to slot the ball home.

This was in the first-half and NorthEast soon began controlling things as ATK moved into a shell. That allowed the Visitors more space in the wings and they used it to the fullest often breaking in with crosses. But John Mosquera's off day ---- he missed three golden opportunities --- meant NorthEast United remained winless in their last eight fixtures.

The only time Mosquera scored he was ruled offside and when he wasn't he fluffed all chances. The first had come after he went clear on goal from a Holicharan Narzary ball but hit straight at ATK custodian Sonam Poirei. The next was in the 53rd minute and after Rowlin Borges bossed over Shankar Sampingiraj and found the the Colombian.

Poirei was well at the task throughout the game putting up regular saves to give ATK their first clean-sheet in over nine games.

The clean-sheet also came about as a big achievement especially after conceding nine in the last two. Incidently ATK's last win had also come against NorthEast United by one margin of goals and the double victory was their fourth overall win this season.

NorthEast on the other finished last on 11 points after 18 matches and along with ATK next play the Super Cup qualifiers in between March March 12 to March 31.


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ISL 4: FC Goa clinch play-offs berth with comfortable 2-0 win

Jamshedpur: Ferran Corominas' wonderful brace cruised FC Goa into the Indian Super League semi-finals with a convincing 3-0 win over Jamshedpur FC at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, here on Sunday. Goa needed at least a draw to seal their spot in the final four, but a win takes them to third in the table, one place above FC Pune City. Jamshedpur fought valiantly but are now out of the reckoning and will look forward to the Super Cup after finishing fifth. It took just seven minutes for the first major event of the match. Jamshedpur had started with a lot of attacking intent, but were left deflated when Subrata Paul handled the ball outside the area and got himself sent off. With a man down, the home side were staring at an ominous result. Steve Coppell sacrificed Bikash Jairu to send in goalkeeper Sanjiban Ghosh and he conceded at the half an hour mark. It was a typical free-flowing move from Goa. Hugo Boumous slipped Seriton Fernandes through, and his cross was missed by Tiri, leaving Corominas to score from the far post with ease. Souvik Chakrabarti and Izu Azuka combined a few times to threaten Goa's goal, but while they put pressure on the defence, they failed to break Goa down convincingly. Jamshedpur had no option but to chase the match and that left big gaps at the back. Lanzarote's aerial through ball found Corominas on the run, and he slammed it past the goalkeeper after excellent technique to control the ball. With a two-goal cushion, the visitors started attacking with all their force to finish the match off. Ahmed Jahouh took a rasping effort from distance which struck the woodwork, but Goa soon found the third goal. This time it was Corominas' pass that was cleverly left by Edu Bedia to run onto Lanzarote. The attacker measured his finish and neatly tucked it into the back of the net. Things got interesting when Goa lost their goalkeeper Naveen Kumar for exactly the same reason Jamshedpur did - but this comedy of errors came too late for Jamshedpur to make the most of it. Goa had already scampered away to a healthy lead and stormed into the semi-finals where they will face Chennaiyin FC.


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Italy international and Fiorentina captain Davide Astori dies at 31

Udine: Italy international and Fiorentina captain Davide Astori was found dead on Sunday morning in his hotel room. He was 31.

The news of this untimely demise was confirmed by the Serie A club in a statement which read, "Fiorentina are profoundly shaken and forced to announce that their captain Davide Astori has died.

“For this terrible and delicate situation, and above all out of respect for his family, we appeal to the sensitivity of the media.”

Fiorentina were scheduled to take on Udinese on Sunday and as a mark of respect, not only that game but also all the seven Serie A matches were postponed.

The lanky centre-back had won 14 international caps for the Italian national team and had spells with Cagliari, Roma and Fiorentina before joining the latter permanently two years ago. He represented his country in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil where he scored his only international goal, in a third-place play-off match against Uruguay which Italy won on penalties.

Astori was involved in eight clean sheets for Fiorentina this season and his last goal for the club came in a 5-0 win over Hellas Verona in September. He is survived by longtime girlfriend model Francesca Fiorentina and their two-year-old daughter Vittoria.

Radja Nainggolan who was Astori's former teammate at Cagliari tweeted, "A great player, but even more than that, a great person. How many battles we were in together at Cagliari, then found each other again at Roma I still can’t believe it. My thoughts are with his family and those close to him. RIP.”

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, under whom Astori played for the national team said in an international with Sky Sports before their Premier League clash against Manchester City said, "He was a fantastic guy."

"He was a great player, but especially a fantastic guy," he added.


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India, England play 1-1 draw in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

Ipoh: Having wasted a plethora of chances, India settled for a 1-1 draw against England in their second match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2018 here on Sunday.

Shilanand Lakra's first international goal in the 14th minute put India ahead as they managed to hold onto the slender lead until Mark Gleghorne’s 53rd minute penalty stroke levelled terms for the the English team.

Despite failing to win it was however India's first point in the tournament after a 2-3 defeat against Olympic champions Argentina in the opener.

With many key players rested, India have fielded a young and an inexperienced team in the competition and led by Sardar Singh nearly pulled out a win. But in the end will have only themselves to blame after squandering as many as nine penalty corners besides a few other goal-scoring opportunities.

It was a positive start for both the teams as they looked to threaten each other in the final third through some precise build-up play. England though had the better chances initially. Whereas, India played on the counter, managing just two shots in the first quarter. The second of which turned out to be the opening goal of the match.

England lost possession of the ball in their own half and Ramandeep Singh’s pass to the striking circle was hit first-time by Talwinder Singh, but England’s goalkeeper Harry Gibson could only parry it straight to Lakra, who made the most of the opportunity by deflecting the ball into the back of the net to give his team a 1-0 lead.

The goal seemed to have instilled a new confidence as India started the second quarter on top earning as many as eight penalty corners but fluffed all, hitting most of them straight at English goalie George Pinner.

England on the other secured their first penalty corner in the third quarter but wasted it, meaning India went into the final quarter 1-0 up.

Their lead though didn't last long and seven minutes from the final hooter England equalised. It was in the 53rd minute when Mark Gleghorne netted home from a penalty corner.

The draw also meant last year's bronze medallist India remain fourth in the six team competition and next play Australia on Tuesday.


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ISL 4: Robbie Keane led ATK fights to avoid last place finish

Kolkata: Not until Friday night did Robbie Keane realise that the numbered days of his playing career will itself be the stepping stone to his managerial debut and will pit him against his once coach Avram Grant in a football frenzy city as Kolkata.

His first match as a manger deems victory with importance equal to the one teams search for in a tournament final. Only a win can save ATK avoid a last rung finish --- They stand on ninth with 13 points after 17 games ---- But that will have to happen if they are able to beat Keane's long time foe Grant.

But just as the new added responsibility on his shoulders did not surprise Keane ---  "I was the national captain for many years. So I have almost always had that responsibility" --- his appointment as a player-cum-manager for ATK was not astonishing for Grant either.

"Nothing surprises me in football anymore," said the youngst manager to lead the Israel national team. 'Robbie is a fantastic player," he added having witnessed the Irish legend during his time in the Premier League.

The NorthEast United manager recalled how Keane playing for Tottenham Hotspur scored against his Chelsea side in the League Cup Final in 2008 and how the now ATK manager injured himself in Grant's first game at West Ham.

But apart form Keane and Grant standing on the opposite sides of the pitch, what makes the match more interesting is their respective team's battle to avoid a last place finish.

Not just the burden of leading, Keane has also been tasked with the burden of scoring as the franchise's first-choice striker. Although injuries have hampered his time in India, he has still managed to score one third of ATK's 15 goals.

"I am not trying to dress this up or offer any excuses but there have been so many injuries and so many changes. I have had three different injuries which is really a first time in 20 years of football but it has been an experience I have learnt a lot from," said Keane 37, here on Saturday.

But in a season that have gone from a calm sea-wind to a ravaged storm for ATK --- they started as champions but now are just one loss away from finishing last --- Keane will hope to bring some stability in his one-off game as a player-cum-manager.

"Two days time is a too little for me to implement something new. But we have practised hard. Such ups and downs are part of football and I am not willing to mourn. I am focussing on tomorrow's game and then we can hopefully we can go to win the Super Cup," concluded Keane.


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Rizvi, Mehuli shoot India to glory in maiden appearance at the ISSF World Cup Series

Guadalajara: The Indians shot their way to glory at the 2018 ISSF World Cup Series in Guadalajara, Mexico by setting a new record in the 10m Air Rifle men's event as well as winning three medals-one gold and two bronze. Shahzar Rizvi and Mehuli Ghosh, who made their maiden World Cup appearances won the gold and bronze medal respectively on the first day which saw a total of six Indians participate. Rizvi's consistency was the highlight of his performance in the 10m Air Rifle men's event where he attained the lead after the 14th shot and held on to it until the very end. He not only ended up with the top prize-the gold medal but also created a world record as he ended with 242.3 points. The 23-year-old Rizvi had earlier participated in the 2014 ISSF World Championship. Mehuli Ghosh, meanwhile continued escalating greater heights when she won the bronze medal in the women's 10m Air Rifle event, ending with a total of 228.4 points. The 17-year-old's victory comes after a year she won the junior continental title in the Asian Championship. The other bronze medal winner for India was Jitu Rai, who scored 219.0 points. Om Prakash Mitharval, who was India's third finalist of the day failed to secure a podium finish as she ended fourth scoring 198.4 points in her maiden World Cup appearance. Anjum Moudgil also finished fourth on the first day with 208.6 points while Apurvi Chandela ended with 144.1 points, finishing seventh in the 10m Women's Air Rifle final. The Indian shooting contingent to Mexico comprises of 33 shooters who would participate in 15 events.


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ISL 4: Jamshedpur, Goa clash in play-off decider

Jamshedpur: FC Goa and Jamshedpur FC clash in an all-important match which will decide the final playoff spot in the Indian Super League (ISL). A draw will be enough for Goa since they're already a point ahead of the hosts. If they lose, then Steve Coppell's side will seal a remarkable achievement in their first season at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur, on Sunday. "In a strange sort of way, I am happy that we have to win to go through because that way there is no doubt in our mind. If we would have been able to qualify with a draw, all of a sudden human nature means you try and protect what you have and I don't think that really suits us. The results in midweek mean that we have only one goal in mind and we have only one way we can play. We simply have to win to qualify," said Jamshedpur head coach Steve Coppell. The Englishman left no doubts that his team will go for the victory. The previous fixture between the two sides ended 2-1 in favour of Goa at the Nehru Stadium in Goa. "Do we need to get better in front of goal? Obviously, that has been the case all season. More potential and more fire-power in front of goal. It's not the strikers' fault, but the team's responsibility to create chances and score goals and we have to correct that for tomorrow," he said. Goa meanwhile are back to their best. They've scored nine goals in the last two matches, trouncing impressive FC Pune City 4-0 away before beating defending champions ATK 5-1 at home. Goa had not defeated ATK since the league’s inception in 2014. "I know a draw is enough for us but once we try and play for a draw, we end up losing the game. So we do our best to try and win the match," Goa head coach Sergio Lobera said. If Goa win, they can finish second due to their record against Pune City. Goa have a few niggles but Lobera wouldn't elaborate on which players were doubtful for the crunch match. "They're a defensively well-structured team and comfortable with their style of play. They deserve to be in a situation where they can fight for the semifinals," Lobera said about Jamshedpur.


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Dinesh Karthik named new KKR captain

New Delhi: Veteran wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik has been appointed as the new captain of two-time IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders ahead of the 11th edition of the tournament, as announced by the club on Sunday.

Fellow wicket-keeper batsman Robin Uthappa, who has been an integral part of the side has been named as the vice-captain.

Knight Riders shelled out Rs 7.4 crore for the Karthik in the IPL auctions. The Tamil Nadu cricketer was one of the front-runners for the role after the Kolkata franchise chose not to buy back/retain Gambhir for this year's IPL.

"It is an honour to represent Kolkata Knight Riders, one of the most successful franchises in the IPL and I look forward to this new challenge. I am excited about the squad that has been assembled, which has a great combination of experience and youth. I will do my best to represent brand KKR and the millions of KKR fans," said Karthik, on his appointment.

Uthappa, Karthik's deputy said that his association with the Tamil Nadu cricketer goes back to the U-17 days.

"DK and I know each other from our U-17 playing days; I'm really excited to work with him," he said.

KKR assistant coach Simon Katich added, "I think the thing that stood out is that Karthik is at the age now in his career where he's got the best years of his career in front of him.

"He's been involved in the IPL for 10 years. He's got a fantastic domestic record captaining Tamil Nadu in the T20 tournament there. I think he's got a 72% win-rate which is outstanding as a T20 skipper. And obviously, the other thing about him is that he's got a lot of respect from the players given what he's achieved on the field and what he's achieved as a captain domestically. He knows the conditions extremely well. He knows all the overseas players inside out having played so well over the last 10 years and this is a great time to give that opportunity to him and see what he can do."

Karthik has an experience of captaining Tamil Nadu in domestic cricket. He captained the India Red team that won the Duleep Trophy last year and also has tasted success in the Vijay Hazare trophy when he led his state to the title in the 2009-2010 season. He has had decent success in the T20 format as he led TUTI Patriots to the Tamil Nadu Premier League title in 2016.

He has a 72% win record as a captain for Tamil Nadu in the shortest version of the game.

Earlier, Karthik has played for Gujarat Lions in the IPL in 2017 where he scored 361 runs, averaging 36.1. His best performance in the tournament came in it's sixth edition for the eventual champions Mumbai Indians when he scored 510 runs and effected 14 dismissals. He has played a total of 152 matches in the IPL where he has also had stints with Kings XI Punjab, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils.

He has a total of 2903 runs in the tournament at a strike rate of 125.94 with 114 dismissals in his kitty. Barring his 14 T20Is for India, he has played a total of 228 matches in the shortest version of the game where he has scored 4441 runs with 186 dismissals.

Kolkata Knight Riders, who have won the title twice in 2012 and 2014 will begin their campaign against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Eden Gardens on April 8.


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Asian Wrestling Championships: Punia, Vinod win bronze

Bishkek: India added to their tally courtesy Bajrang Punia and Vinod Omprakash, who won bronze medals in their respective matches at the Asian Wrestling Championship in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday. India now have a total of eight medals in the competition which includes one gold, one silver and six bronze. Punia got the better of Iran's Yones Aliakbar Emamichogaei in the 65kg freestyle event while Vinod defeated local boy Elaman Dogdurbek Uulu in the 70kg freestyle category. The scoreline 10-4 which ended in Punia's favour didn't exactly define the contest between the Indian and Iranian opponent as the former trailed in four of the six-minute match. Emamichoghaei attained an early 2-0 lead within 30 seconds after which Punia fought back to level up things before the break. But the Iranian started the second half in the same fashion as he did in the first when he once again took a two-point lead but with less than two-minutes remaining, Punia staged a comeback with some smart moves and tied the proceedings after which he scored three two-pointers to win the match. Punia had earlier defeated Tajikistan's Abdulqosim Fayziev to make his way into the bronze medal match. The clash between Vinod and Uulu was although a low-scoring contest, but a tight one in every sense of the word. The local scored the first point of the match just before the break. Vinod came back strongly to level the points right in the second half. Uulu once again took the lead with just 40 seconds left in the match but Vinod in the 10 remaining seconds clawed his way back into the match, this time with a two-pointer to end the match 3-3. The Indian was adjudged the bronze medal winner courtesy the fact that he had won the last points.


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