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The questions raised by India’s cancelled Test

Written by Thursday, 28 September 2017 09:12

While no one should ever have to justify a fear, it seems odd that a case of Covid prompted such different reactions in the India team, just a few days apart, during their tour of England.

Test cricket remains the preeminent format of the game, the format to truly aspire to for all players, Virat Kohli has said time and again.

Except, perhaps, when the alternative is the hypertrophied financial muscle of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

And so there were Kohli and his men, pulling out of the fifth and final Test of what had until then been a breathtaking sequence of Tests, with the promise of India winning a second straight overseas series to truly hammer home their dominance.

The official reason given was that the players were scared after an outbreak of Covid-19 among the coaching staff. With the caveat that fear is by nature irrational and no one who is scared of something need justify it, the Indian team’s argument raises several questions.

The first person to Test positive was coach Ravi Shastri, who began to show symptoms on the Day 3 of the fourth Test, before isolating. The only people who were identified as his close contacts were others on the coaching staff — bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and chief physiotherapist Nitin Patel, each of whom tested positive a day later and also went into isolation.

In the days leading up to the fourth Test and on Days 1, 2 and 3 of the match itself, the players had of course been in close contact with all these people, in the dressing room, at the nets, at strategy meetings and workouts. But they underwent a couple of rounds of testing, came back negative, and continued playing. They won that Test in brilliant fashion and moved on to Manchester for the fifth Test.

Here, the team’s second physiotherapist, Yogesh Parmar, tested positive. This is when the players decided that they couldn’t take the field. They spoke of how every person on the team had been treated by Parmar and they were all now afraid of contracting the virus.

But here was a situation no different from the one they played through in the fourth Test. Why was close contact with Parmar any different from close contact with Patel?

As in the earlier round, the players were all tested and all tested negative. They were cleared to take the field. Parmar was in isolation.

The players spoke of how they feared for their families, who were travelling with them. The logical protocol then would be for the players to isolate from their families. Instead the players and their families flew together, immediately after the Test was cancelled. They did not return home. They went to the UAE, where the IPL is scheduled to begin today.

“Back home” tweeted Rohit Sharma, with a photo of himself standing with his wife and child. Except it was not Mumbai, but Abu Dhabi. He and his family moved into a hotel in the IPL bubble, together, much as they were in Manchester.

If the players were concerned about not being in a bubble in England, where Covid protocols have been all but non-existent since the middle of July, they didn’t show it during their time there. They attended Champions League and Wimbledon matches. They visited friends and family and attended social gatherings, including the much-talked-about book launch after which Shastri tested positive.

Cricket, as Harsha Bhogle pointed out recently, “has so many stress points. 3 formats for a start, world events where the ICC is a stakeholder, bilateral events where 2 teams have a stake & franchised leagues where one country will protect its finances. Then, Covid!”

This is undeniable. The scheduling is ridiculous. The Indian team had been in England since early June, playing the World Test Championship final and then the five-Test series; there was the IPL immediately after, followed by the World T20 (starting just two days after the IPL final).

Between the bilaterals, major ICC events, multiple formats and franchise leagues, how a cricketer keeps it all together is a mystery. Yet the fifth Test was a commitment just as binding as the IPL is. Source : ht

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The 17-year-old Rohtak-born Shafali, scored a total of 159 (96 and 63) runs on her Test debut against England earlier this year and was the 'Player-of-the-match'. She is now part of the Test team for Australia.

Former India all-rounder Hemlata Kala believes that the role of aggressive opener Shafali Verma would be crucial in the upcoming one-off Pink Ball test against Australia Women as she plays "unique cricket" and there won't be any challenge for the teenager.

The 17-year-old Rohtak-born Shafali, scored a total of 159 (96 and 63) runs on her Test debut against England earlier this year and was the 'Player-of-the-match'. She is now part of the Test team for Australia.

"Shafali has an important role (to play) and I think she will be successful as she has been in red-ball (cricket), because her game is like that. She has a power-hitting game, so I feel that she will be successful," Kala, who has played seven Tests, said at a virtual con-call with select journalists.

According to Kala, who also served as the chairperson of selectors, along with Shafali, others batters need to also chip in.

"But along with it, I would like to say that for us along with Shafali, it is important that all batters click in this Test match, because everyone has a different technique. I feel Shafali’s role is crucial and she will play a very important role in this Pink Ball Test," added the 46-year-old.

Kala, who made her Test debut in 1999 and played her last Test in 2008, also said that the girls should think about performing better than what they did in England.

"I feel that the experience of playing a pink-ball test will help them in the future. We should perform better than what we did in the England Test and we should think on those lines," she said.

"I said that the Australia Test is important for us, because we are playing after a long (time) and also a new format. Every format is important for us. The 50-over World Cup is coming, so to check the skills, it is good that we play the test match, as temperament is seen in all things.

"We did well in England (and) I feel we will do better with pink-ball. We have good medium pacers – Jhulan Goswami, Pooja Vastrakar and Shikha Pandey, and a leg-spinner, I think leg-spinner will be beneficial with pink-ball, I feel as far performance is concerned, it will be improved," she added.

The India Women’s tour of Australia will be aired on ‘Sony Six’ channels from September 21 from 5.35 AM. Source : ht

 

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Kumble was the coach of the Indian team for a year between 2016-17 when the Cricket Advisory Committee headed by Sachin Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly had appointed him, replacing Shastri.

Life may come to a full circle for Anil Kumble as the Sourav Ganguly-led BCCI might ask him to apply for the post of head coach of the Indian team along with VVS Laxman once Ravi Shastri finishes his term after the T20 World Cup.

Kumble was the coach of the Indian team for a year between 2016-17 when the Cricket Advisory Committee headed by Sachin Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly had appointed him, replacing Shastri.

However a bitter fall-out with captain Virat Kohli led to Kumble tendering his resignation after the Champions Trophy final defeat against Pakistan.

Along with Kumble, the board may also approach Laxman, who has been a mentor of the IPL side Sunrisers Hyderabad for some years now.

However Kumble will be favourite even as Laxman will also remain in contention.

"Anil Kumble's exit needs course correction. The manner in which the CoA succumbed to the pressure of Kohli and removed him, wasn't the best example set. However it also depends on whether Kumble or Laxman are ready to apply for the job," a senior BCCI source privy to development told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

Kohli has already announced that he will quit as T20 captain after the World Cup.

For the BCCI brass, a reputed Indian coach is always the first choice and both Kumble and Laxman with their stature in Indian cricket with 100 plus Test matches along with coaching experience fit the bill perfectly. A foreign coach is the second option.

"The criteria for BCCI's coach's job will be such that only a select few with very good record as player as well as experience of coaching/mentorship can apply for the top job," the source said.

Asked if Vikram Rathour is in contention, the official said, "He can apply if he wishes to but he doesn't have the stature to become a head coach of the Indian cricket team."

"He is at best an assistant coach. However when we select the new coach, he will have a team all by himself. So let's wait and watch," the source concluded. Source : ht

 

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Reacting to New Zealand's withdrawal from the Pakistan limited-overs tour, former England captain Michael Vaughan said it was a ‘shame for Pakistan cricket.’

New Zealand's decision to abandon the limited-overs tour in Pakistan hours before the first ODI in Rawalpindi due to security concerns drew mixed reactions from the cricketing fraternity. While most of the former and current cricketers expressed solidarity with the Pakistan fans for missing out on what could have been a fascinating series, a few stood by New Zealand's call to safeguard their players first. Reacting to New Zealand's ‘late call’, former England captain Michael Vaughan said it was a ‘shame for Pakistan cricket.’

Vaughan hoped security concerns gets resolved quickly and cricket returns to Pakistan like old days.

"Such a shame for Pakistan Cricket .. These late call offs will damage the game hugely financially .. Hopefully security issues can be resolved to allow cricket to be played again in Pakistan .. !!" wrote former England captain Michael Vaughan on his twitter handle.

New Zealand Cricket declined to reveal the nature of the security alert from its own government that prompted the sudden decision to cancel the tour moments before the scheduled start of the one-day international series in Rawalpindi. Both teams had stayed at their hotel.

According to Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan the cricketers could be attacked outside the stadium.

Ardern said she received a phone call from Pakistan's prime minister in which she explained she agreed with NZC that player safety is paramount.

“When I spoke with the prime minister of Pakistan I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand cricket team," Ardern said. "I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount.”

The security concern has the Pakistan hosts mystified.

The Pakistan Cricket Board said together with the Pakistan government they "made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured the New Zealand Cricket of the same.”

PCB chairman Ramiz Raja hinted they will protest to the International Cricket Council against NZC’s unilateral decision.

“Crazy day it has been! Feel so sorry for the fans and our players,” Raja tweeted. “Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in??NZ will hear us at ICC.”

NZC said on its website: “Following an escalation in the New Zealand government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisers on the ground, it has been decided the Black Caps will not continue with the tour. Arrangements are now being made for the team’s departure.”

New Zealand's first visit to Pakistan in 18 years was to feature three ODIs in Rawalpindi and five Twenty20s in Lahore. Both cities and the security arrangements were cleared by NZC’s security team last month.

NZC chief executive David White said the advice he received made the tour impossible to continue, and he was supported by the New Zealand Cricket Players Association.

“I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option,” White said.

The PCB said it tried its best to convince the Kiwis, but “cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last minute withdrawal (of New Zealand).”

Pakistan captain Babar Azam expressed his disappointment at the cancellation.

"Extremely disappointed on the abrupt postponement of the series, which could have brought the smiles back for millions of Pakistan Cricket Fans. I've full trust in the capabilities and credibility of our security agencies. They are our pride and always will be!" Babar Azam tweeted. Source : ht

 

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Paris Awarded 2024 Olympics, Los Angeles Gets 2028 Games

Written by Thursday, 14 September 2017 06:21

The International Olympic Committee named Paris and Los Angeles as hosts for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics on Wednesday, crowning two cities at the same time in a historic first for the embattled sports body. Loud applause rang out at the Lima Convention Centre shortly after the IOC membership voted to approve a deal hashed out in July which arranged for Paris to be given 2024 and Los Angeles 2028. Paris and Los Angeles bid leaders joined International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on stage as the award was confirmed, embracing after an outcome hailed as a "win-win-win" by the IOC. Both Paris and Los Angeles made final presentations to IOC delegates before the formality of the rubber-stamp vote was taken.

"You can't imagine what this means to us, incredible, so strong," Paris 2024 co-chairman Tony Estanguet told delegates shortly before the vote.

It marked the final act of a campaign that had been stripped of the usual intrigue ever since Paris and Los Angeles agreed to carve up 2024 and 2028 in July following encouragement from the IOC.

Paris 2024 officials hugged and cheered following the vote, basking in victory after three previous failed bids to land the 1992, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The 2024 Games will mark the third time Paris has staged the Olympics, coming exactly 100 years after they last hosted the Games.

Los Angeles 2028 officials also celebrated the return of the Olympics to US soil.

The 2028 Olympics will be the first held in the United States since the chaotic 1996 Games in Atlanta.

It will also mark the third time that Los Angeles has hosted the Olympics following successful editions in 1932 and 1984.

"Los Angeles reflects the face of America's future and the heart of American values of inclusiveness, generosity and unity," Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said during his final pitch to IOC members.

- 'Too many losers' -

Paris and Los Angeles emerged from the initial bidding race for the 2024 Games after a number of cities withdrew citing waning public support and concerns over budget.

Hamburg, Rome, Budapest and Boston all fell by the wayside during the competition, reflecting the political difficulties in persuading voters that staging the Olympics is worth the multi-billion-dollar price tag.

IOC chief Bach first signalled publicly that the double-award of an Olympics could be on the agenda in December last year, lamenting that the bidding process produced "too many losers".

As the tussle for 2024 unfolded, and as the field thinned to leave just Los Angeles and Paris, the IOC's determination to secure two high-quality bids for the next two summer games became apparent.

In July, the IOC announced it would award the staging rights for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics at the same meeting in Lima, laying the way for a swift agreement between the two over the running order.

The drama-free conclusion to the race also eliminates the risk of the vote being tainted by the sort of scandal that has embroiled the ballot for the 2016 Olympics.

The IOC was left tackling a fresh wave of graft allegations last week when investigators in Brazil swooped on the country's Olympics chief Carlos Nuzman.

Nuzman stands accused of plotting to bribe IOC members into awarding Rio de Janeiro the 2016 Games at a 2009 vote in Copenhagen.

The allegations swirling around Rio's bid revived memories of the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, which led to 20 IOC members being either kicked out of the Olympics' ruling body or pleading guilty to accepting bribes for votes.

French investigators meanwhile have already announced they are investigating the 2013 vote in Buenos Aires which awarded the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, following reports of secret payments into a Singapore-based bank account linked to the son of disgraced former world athletics chief Lamine Diack.

 

 

 

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Sachin Tendulkar Reveals The Lowest Phase In His India Career

Written by Wednesday, 13 September 2017 06:53

Legendary Sachin Tendulkar on Tuesday said the phase around the 2007 World Cup was the lowest ebb for Indian cricket.

Tendulkar said the Indian cricket team witnessed a lot of changes after the first round exit from the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies and the move eventually reaped huge dividends.

"I think 2006-07 we were possibly our lowest (phase). We didn't qualify for the Super 8 stage of the 2007 World Cup. But we got back from there and started fresh thinking, we started moving in a new direction," the right-handed batsman said.

"We had to make a lot of changes. And once we had planned what we had to achieve as a team, we were committed to it and the results followed," he added.

In the 2007 Cricket World Cup, the Rahul Dravid-led India lost to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in group stages to crash out in the opening round.

"We had to change a lot of things. Whether they were right or wrong we didn't know. The change did not happen overnight. We had to wait for results. In fact it took me 21 years of my career to lift that beautiful World Cup trophy," said Tendulkar.

Tendulkar was part of the Indian squad which lifted the 2011 World Cup under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

 

 

 

 

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Perhaps we should have known Rafael Nadal would win the 2017 US Open as soon as he ended his 2016 season early to recover from a wrist injury. For as much fanfare as Roger Federer has received this year for his two Slam victories following an injury shortened 2016, it’s been largely forgotten that 2017 is the third season that Nadal has come back from injury to win at least two majors.

Sunday’s match was in practice as much of a foregone conclusion as it appeared to be on paper. That isn’t to say that Kevin Anderson didn’t acquit himself well in his first ever Slam final. But, Nadal’s unique brand of looping shots, quick movement and relentless pressure was always going to be a bad matchup for the 31-year-old South African. Anderson’s best chance at winning was to hope that he could have a banner serving day while his Mallorcan opponent arrived a bit off. But, neither was to come to pass.

Nadal began the match by putting Anderson under an immense amount of pressure. In the first game of the match, Anderson immediately was pushed by Nadal’s all-court game, and had to save a break point before getting on the scoreboard. After a quick hold from Nadal, Anderson once again found himself under pressure — barely surviving multiple break points to win a nearly 12-minute service game and even the match at 2-2. Offered only a brief respite as Nadal again held service relatively easily, Anderson finally succumbed to the onslaught and lost his serve at 2-3. After that point, Nadal never gave up the lead again. Each of the subsequent sets were easier going for Nadal, as he went up a break early and never gave Anderson enough breathing room to make a comeback, as Nadal took the match, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

What is even more impressive is that Nadal didn’t have to alter his game plan to ride roughshod over his opponent. In some ways, Nadal couldn’t have picked a better opponent for the title match than Anderson. While Anderson has an impressive serve and clean ground strokes, the 6’ 8” South African had difficulty moving up to Nadal’s angled looping shots. Then, when Anderson tried to move into the net, his awkwardness in the front part of the court became evident, as Nadal drew volley errors and passed Anderson repeatedly. Even where Anderson was able to hit impressive serves and booming groundstrokes, more often than not, Nadal was quick enough to get in place to hit an even more impressive shot past his opponent.

With his win, Nadal captured his third US Open title and his 16th Grand Slam title overall, leaving him within three titles of Roger Federer’s record of 19, as he was at the beginning of the year. Interestingly, each of Nadal’s US Open titles have come in seasons following a season in which he has been forced to take time away from tennis to recuperate from injury. In 2010, Nadal won his first US Open title, thereby completing his career Grand Slam and a three Slam season after his first major absence from the tour in 2009, where he was forced to skip the grass court season due to knee tendinitis. In 2013, Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic for the second time in a US Open final, after missing the London Olympics due to a recurrence of his knee problems. And this year's title follows a 2016 season cut short due to a wrist injury.

The Rafael Nadal who won on Sunday is a different man than the one who captured the 2010 and 2013 titles. In 2010, Nadal was at the end of what was his best season, winning the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, and already making a case for himself as one of the game’s greats. Yet, when confronted with the possibility of his nephew joining the likes of Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver in the top echelon of tennis, his uncle and coach, Toni Nadal was skeptical, “They're the best. Rafael is very far away from those guys. Rafael is a good player. I think he's a very good player." Even Nadal himself was inclined to defer to Federer, saying before the 2010 French Open, "If somebody says I am better than Roger, I think this person doesn't know anything about tennis.”

In 2013, Nadal was also inclined to defer to his Swiss colleague in the greatest of all time, or GOAT, debate, saying “the question about who is the greatest is not about me or Roger, it is more about Rod Laver or Roger.” That was at a time when Nadal was closing in on Federer’s then-record 17 major titles, and Federer was coming off his worst season in a decade. Certainly, most observers had already begun to assert that Nadal had a reasonable claim on the title of GOAT, with his winning record against Federer. Yet Nadal, whether because he was more comfortable as an underdog, or due to the humility inculcated in him by his Uncle Toni, was unwilling to join the growing chorus of people asserting his candidacy for GOAT.

Yet, when asked to wax rhapsodic about his friendly rival this week in New York, Nadal demurred and offered a sarcastic joke instead:

"I don't want to look like I gonna be his boyfriend, no?"

That isn’t to say that the two rivals aren’t still close. And, the fact that the two have combined to win all of the Slams in a year for the fourth time might be the best advertisement ever for Federer’s new Laver Cup competition, where Nadal is next scheduled to play after his win in New York.

But this year’s Nadal is a much more assured player and man than we have ever seen. He was forced to substantially reassess his game after disappointing seasons and a crisis of confidence in 2015 and 2016, and added the scouting based approach of Carlos Moya to his coaching team, just as his longtime coach, his uncle, prepares to move on at the end of the 2017 season. It’s not that Moya has made significant changes in Nadal’s game — those weren’t necessary — but rather he assisted Nadal in finding the small refinements to his serve, backhand and all court game that enabled Nadal to return to the top of the game. But, perhaps the fact that Nadal now is surrounded by a team that sees him as one of the greats of the game first — as opposed to a nephew who needed to be trained — has imparted an additional degree of self-assurance in one of the most assiduously humble champions in all of sports.

In a marked contrast to Sloane Stephens’ gleeful trophy ceremony on Saturday, Nadal accepted his trophy and check with quiet pride. Even when he was given the opportunity to address the crowd in Spanish, he stopped first to give encouragement to those who are suffering due to the hurricanes ravaging the southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean before thanking his fans for their support. A younger Nadal would have felt the same sentiment, but may not have had the confidence to speak up on such issues.

But, as he bit into a Grand Slam trophy for the 16th time, a bit of the teenage wonder peeked out at the crowd. As difficult as it was to imagine Nadal reaching this stage a year ago, it’s is equally difficult to imagine him anywhere else a year from now. After a career that has demanded as much resilience as it has talent, Nadal has returned to the spotlight a more confident, assured man than ever before.

It will be a tall task for anyone to catch him now.

 

 

 

 

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Ravi Shastri raises player burnout issue with BCCI

Written by Saturday, 09 September 2017 11:27

Team India head coach Ravi Shastri has urged the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to provide the national team players adequate break between series in future to avoid player burnout.

Shastri, who joined the Committee of Administrators (CoA) meet on Friday via video link, shared his thoughts after his first tour since succeeding Anil Kumble as coach of the Indian team.

Shastri was unhappy with the limited gap between home series against Sri Lanka and the South Africa tour which starts in January next year. There will only be a one week gap between the two series.

India will play a series of five ODIs and three T20Is against Australia from September 17 to October 13. Four days later the team will play a series against New Zealand which will go on till November 7.

A week later Sri Lanka will play a full series against India from November 15 to December 24. Then, the team will be off to South Africa on December 28 where they will play three T20s, three ODIs followed by four Test matches.

He spoke about how England and Australia schedule tours where cricketers can take a Christmas break even on away tours and come back. India will be starting their home series against New Zealand during the Diwali period.

The BCCI expressed inability to have a longer gap for now between tours given the tight scheduling. There has been one practice game scheduled in South Africa before the first Test that likely to start from January 5, 2018, while team management wanted two practice games.

The team will depart for South Africa on December 28. The home series against Sri Lanka will finish less than one week before the team's departure. One option that may be exercised is to send the Test players early to South Africa for acclimatisation.

Shastri though, was satisfied with the England tour schedule which will also take place next year. He has requested the BCCI to take the captain and coach's suggestions in future while scheduling tours to avoid player burnout.

 

 

 

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Former Australian pacer Jason Gillespie is in talks to become Delhi Daredevils head coach for the next season of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The 42-year-old ended his association with Yorkshire in 2016 and is currently part of Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League.

The Daredevils are presently without a coach in their ranks with Rahul Dravidhaving opted to continue as coach of the India under-19 team. This after the BCCI’s new rules regarding conflict of interest had left coaches and support staff personnel in the country to pick between working for IPL and national teams.

The Indian Express has learnt that Gillespie himself has shown interest in being part of an IPL team a few months ago. Gillespie has been part of the IPL in the past, after having been roped in as the bowling coach for Kings XI Punjab in 2011. Sources at the Delhi franchise, meanwhile, confirmed that talks are indeed on, but nothing has been finalised yet.

“He brings a lot to the table. He has vast experience behind him. He has shown keenness to be a part of Delhi team and talks are still on,” a Delhi Daredevils official said.

Impressive CV

Gillespie played 71 Tests and 97 ODIs in a career spanning a decade for the Australians during their indomitable reign as the foremost cricket team in the world, forming a deadly new-ball pairing with Glenn McGrath. He then made a very successful switch to coaching, especially at Yorkshire, where he lifted the struggling county from the second division in his first season before helping them win back-to-back County Championship titles in 2014 and 2015.

He was also attributed with playing a significant role in the development of Yorkshire cricketers who then went on to become England mainstays like Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and David Willey. There were even talks of him taking over the England job following the sacking of Peter Moores last year but it didn’t work out. Since ending his time with Yorkshire and returning to his hometown of Adelaide last year, he’s continued to be in high demand as coach.

In addition to being touted to become Australia’s bowling coach at some point, Gillespie’s already worked this year in an interim capacity with both Kent — as bowling coach — and the Papua New Guinea national team — as head coach. He was also named as bowling coach of the Australia A team to tour South Africa, which unfortunately got scrapped owing to the pay dispute crisis Down Under.

Recently, during an interaction with the media in Bengaluru at the National Cricket Academy Gillespie insisted that he is still committed to the Adelaide Strikers. “I do a little bit of work for Cricket Australia. I’ll be looking to see what other opportunities are out there in T20 leagues around the world,” Gillespie said. The pacer was in the city with other five Australian coaches to conduct a re-certification programme for Level 3 Indian coaches. In other Delhi Daredevils related news, India’s former pace spearhead, Zaheer Khan, has confirmed that he’s keen on playing in next year’s IPL.

 

 

 

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Former world champion Viswanathan Anand suffered a disappointing final round loss against Sergey Karjakin of Russia to finish joint eighth in the St Louis Rapid Chess tournament here today.

After raising visions of a good finish, luck did not favour Grandmaster Anand much on the final day as he was first held to a draw by Le Quang Leim of Vietnam in the seventh round and then shared points with Fabiano Caruana of United States in the penultimate round.

The Indian ace ended on seven points, coming through one win, five draws and two losses in the event that gave two points for a win and one for a draw.

Levon Aronian of Armenia topped the rapid section with 12 points in all. On the final day, Aronian scored two good wins and a solitary draw.

The American duo of Hikaru Nakamura and Caruana were right behind Aronian on 11 points each and Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi was fourth on 10 points. Lenier Dominguez of Cuba was right behind on nine points.

Le Quang Leim and Sergey Karjakin shared the sixth spot on eight points each while Anand, Garry Kasparov and Navara David of Czech Republic shares the eighth position.

The event is still only half way through as the players will change gears again and play the blitz that will have eighteen games in all and the winner in the USD 150000 prize money tournament will be decided by the cumulative score.

For Anand, the road ahead looks difficult but things can still turn around if he can start off with a few wins in the blitz. A five-point margin is huge and the turnaround can only happen with some massive scoring by Anand.

Garry Kasparov was again the big news of the day simply with his presence. However, Kasparov, once the best player on the planet, could not keep pace with clock or pressure and lost two games besides getting lucky and winning one against Leim.

It was a heartbreak for the yesteryear champion as he simply lost from a won endgame through a super-trick from David Navara in the first game of the day. Le Quang Leim dropped a rook in the next game from a playable position to give Kasparov his only victory in the event thus far while Caruana proved stronger in what was a tricky endgame in the final round.

Standings after Rapid: 1. Levon Aronian (Arm, 12); 2-3: Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura (both USA) 11 each; 4. Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus, 8); 5. Lenier Dominguez (Cub, 9); 6-7.

Sergey Karjakin (Rus), Le Qunag Leim (Vie) 8 each; 8-10: Garry Kasparov (Rus), V Anand (Ind), David Navara (Cze) 7 each.

 

 

 

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AIHRA is one of the renowned media group in print and web media. It has earned appreciation from various eminent media personalities and readers. ‘AIHRA’ is founded by Mr. M U Dua.