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1st Test: Virat Kohli returns to lead India against buoyant England




Virat Kohli will return to lead India against England in the first Test of the four-match series beginning Friday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium after his deputy Ajinkya Rahane proved his leadership credentials by captaining the side to a memorable 2-1 series win in Australia last month.

Kohli, who returned home after India’s defeat in the first Test in Adelaide to attend the birth of his child, saw from the comforts of his home Rahane leading the Indian team to a fighting win in two of the last three Tests against Australia despite injury issues to Indian team members.

Although Rahane said Kohli is the original captain and his own job is to take a backseat, the series will witness scrutiny on Kohli’s captaincy skills as his deputy has emerged as a viable option.

The new father has, however, got support from his deputy.

“See, my job is to take a back-seat and help Virat. There are too many things on a captain’s mind, so as a vice-captain you have to visualise a situation, think about what can happen in the game, and then if captain asks you for suggestions then you should be ready,” said Rahane on returning to vice-captaincy’s role.

India though will start favourites on a Chennai wicket that is expected to help the spinners sooner or later.

Smarter from the 4-0 series defeat last time, England will start this series on a confident note having beaten Sri Lanka 2-0 in the preceding Test series.

Both batting coach Graham Thorpe and consultant Jonathan Trott had earlier said that England’s plan would be to score big in the first innings and take control of the game.

India, missing the services of ace all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and speedsters Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav — all of whom are match-winners at home — will rely on pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to lead the bowling attack.

This will also be the first time in over a year that Kohli and Rohit Sharma will be playing together.

The series will also see the return of Hardik Pandya to the Test fold. Pandya had played the ODIs in Australia as a batsman but could not bowl as he wasn’t fit enough to do that.

Kohli had earlier said that Pandya can make the Test team only as an all-rounder. Thus, the forthcoming series will be a test of his all-round skills.

India need to beat England in the Test series by one of the following margins: 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 or 4-0 to enter the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final, slated to be played in June at the Lord’s, London.

For England, any of the following margins will guarantee them a place in the final against New Zealand: 3-0, 3-1, 4-0.


India: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Ravichandran Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav

England: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Ollie Pope


‘There must be a formula to pick WTC final winner in case of a draw’




Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar is clearly not happy with the way things are panning out in the World Test Championship (WTC) final between India and New Zealand here after two days were lost to rain.

The cricketer-turned-commentator wants the International Cricket Council (ICC) to come up with a formula to determine the winner if the final ends in a draw.

The first and fourth days of the Test here were a washout. In reply to India’s first-innings total of 217, New Zealand are 101/2 in 49 overs.

The ICC, while announcing the playing conditions of the WTC final, had said that in the event of a draw or a tie, the trophy would be shared.

“There must be a formula to pick a winner in case of a drawn World Test Championship final. ICC’s cricket committee should think and then take a decision,” Gavaskar told a news channel.

A total of 141.1 overs have been possible in the WTC final so far and with just two days remaining, including the reserved day, it would be impossible to bowl the remaining 308.5 overs.

“It seems that the WTC final will end up as a draw and the trophy will be shared. This will be the first time that the trophy will be shared in a final. To complete three innings in two days would be really difficult. Yes, if both teams bat really badly, the three innings could be completed,” Gavaskar added.

He asked ICC to look at other sport, such as football or tennis, to find a way to decide the winner.

“In football, they have a penalty shootout or they have some other method to decide a winner. In tennis, there are five sets and there is a tie-breaker,” he said.

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Noida shooting range to be named after ‘Shooter Dadi’




The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has decided to name the shooting range in Noida after the international shooter Chandro Tomar, popularly known as ‘Shooter Dadi’.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath gave instructions in this regard on Tuesday.

Chandro Tomar died at the age of 89 in April due to Covid.

Shooter Dadi had started professional shooting at the age of 60 and went on to win many national competitions. She is considered the oldest shooter in the world. Her sister-in-law, Prakashi Tomar, is also a shooter.

In 2019, a film based on her life, ‘Saand Ki Aankh’ was released.

Chandro Tomar lived with her family in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh.

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VVS Laxman advises Ajinkya Rahane to curb his instinct to play pull shot




Former India cricketer VVS Laxman is not impressed with Ajinkya Rahane’s obsession with the pull shot that led to the vice-captain being dismissed one short of a half-century on Day 3 of the World Test Championship final against New Zealand here.

Just when Rahane had started to look threatening, he was dismissed for 49 by Neil Wagner. He didn’t commit fully to the pull and ended up playing a short-arm jab, and spooned the catch to Tom Latham at square-leg, leaving India tottering on 182/6.

“I thought that Ajinkya Rahane was getting his eye in. He was batting much better. He looked more assured on the crease as compared to yesterday [Saturday]. But this is something that has become a pattern with Rahane’s batting. It was the same game plan that New Zealand used against him in Christchurch. This is something he requires to understand,” said Laxman.

“You talked about the planning between Neil Wagner and Kane Williamson. There was no fielder there on the fifth delivery, the one before he got out. And then a fielder was placed there and also near the backward short-leg. It forced Rahane to play the half-hearted pull short. There was no conviction in that pull short and this would be something Rahane will be disappointed with,” Laxman told STAR Sports.

Praising the “perfect execution” of the field by captain Williamson for Rahane, Laxman added that, sooner or later, the opposition understands the batsman’s favourite shot and works to negate it.

“[It’s] because if the opposition comes to know that you are a compulsive pull shot or hook shot player, they will bowl a barrage of bouncers at you and have the field set to make you play that shot. And it is always going to be a low percentage shot,” he added.

Laxman advised Rahane to be cautious when the ball is pitched in the “corridor of uncertainty”.

“Number one is you know where your off stump is, you know how to play the ball when it is pitched in the corridor of uncertainty. And you also should know how to leave or defend the bouncers.”

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