Sunil Chhetri and his boys will look to forget the disappointments of the last season and make a fresh start when the Indian Super League (ISL) club Bengaluru FC takes on Nepalese side Tribhuvan Army FC in the AFC Cup Preliminary Round 2 clash in Bambolim, Goa on Wednesday.
Bengaluru FC, who won the ISL in 2018-19, finished seventh in the previous season — their worst showing since becoming a part of the ISL in 2017-18. Under new German coach Marco Pezzaiuoli, the side would want to script a new chapter in the prestigious continental competition.
On his team’s chances, Bengaluru FC skipper Chhetri said that despite being very ambitious and positive about the upcoming outings, the team would take “one game at a time and not take the opposition lightly”.
“We are taking it one game at a time. Generally, when I say this, we are the dominant side and it is meant to make us stay humble. But this time, I’m saying it and I mean it. We watched Tribhuvan in their last game, and they play quite well. You could see their unity in training. They must have stayed together for a long time,” Chhetri, who is now fully recovered from a bout of Covid-19, said on Monday.
The striker, who missed India’s two international friendlies, against Oman and UAE late last month due to Covid-19, added, “We are not thinking about the group stages or who we are going to play next. It’s about one game. And right now, it’s more about what the coach wants from us than about what the other team is doing.”
Regarding the preparations against the Nepalese side, which is made up of only domestic players, the India team striker said, “Ideally, we would have liked more time. We had to stop training after ISL 2020-21 and start again. Then stop and travel to Goa and quarantine and train again. But it’s exciting to have the fresh ideas the coach (Marco Pezzaiuoli) has brought in.”
Chhetri, who emerged as the highest-scoring Indian in the recently concluded ISL season with eight goals, said the side could benefit immensely from the ideas of the German coach.
“It is a very positive change at the club. The youngsters are enjoying it. You can see all the nervousness and the jitters go and a stable confident outlook coming about. A new manager has no prejudice. There is no previous baggage of what one can do and one cannot.”
Eighth season of Pro Kabaddi League to begin from December 22 in Bengaluru
The organisers of the Pro Kabaddi League announced on Wednesday that the eighth edition of the league will be held here from December 22. It also said that the entire season will be conducted without the presence of spectators for the matches.
Mashal Sports, the organisers of the league, have scheduled triple headers on the first four days. The season will kick-start with U Mumba facing Bengaluru Bulls. The second match will be the league’s ‘Southern Derby’ as Telugu Titans lock horns with Tamil Thalaivas while UP Yoddha will be squaring off against the defending champions Bengal Warriors in the last match of the opening day.
The triple-headers will be only-Saturday affairs throughout the whole duration of the league, starting at 7:30pm, 8:30pm and 9:30pm respectively. The schedule of the first half of season 8 has come while the organisers say that the second half of the league’s schedule will come in mid-January next year.
Keeping the health and safety of players in mind amid COVID times, the organisers have converted the entire venue at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Centre into an integrated and secure bio-bubble.
All 12 teams will be staying and playing at the same venue in order to follow and adhering to the safety protocols set by the authorities.
Laxman finally agrees to head NCA: Sources
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has managed to convince former cricketer VVS Laxman to head the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, sources said.
After Rahul Dravid took over the post of Indian team’s head coach, there were reports that Laxman might be appointed as a new head of NCA.
However, later it was said that the former batter “is uninterested”. But now he is ready to take the charge after the BCCI officials held a meeting with him in Dubai.
“There were some issues and it has been sorted out. The board wanted him to take the reponsibility and he is the right man to come in place of Dravid,” sources said.
It is also learnt that Laxman has also agreed to leave the lucrative commentary career for the NCA.
“Laxman is currently mentor of IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad, apart from being a commentator and cricket analyst. And he will leave it all for NCA now.”
Everyone had written us off; we are here to rectify that: Finch
Australian captain Aaron Finch has conceded that not winning the ICC T20 World Cup title so far has been a sore point with the Kangaroos and the final against New Zealand later on Sunday is the “best opportunity to rectify that”.
The closest Australia came to winning the T20 World Cup was during the 2010 edition held in the West Indies, where they lost to England by seven wickets.
“It’s one that’s eluded us in the past, and the fact that we are here in the final gives us the best opportunity to rectify that. Yeah, I think it will be a great game against New Zealand. They are a great side and they have been in all the finals over the last six years. Looking forward to it,” said Finch ahead of the title clash.
Finch added that despite critics writing his team off, the way the players had gone about their business was heartening.
“Everyone had written us off but we had a lot of confidence within. We’re really confident the way that we were preparing, the way that our strategy was coming together. Yeah, I think it hasn’t defied expectation. I think we came here with a really clear plan to win the tournament, and we still feel as though we’ve got the squad to do that.
“Well, I think the spirit among the team… and that’s been really impressive the way we’ve gone about our business. Everyone has prepared really well. Everyone has had a really defining match or match-defining performance at some point. The guys are really up and about for the final,” said Finch.
Finch added that batting stalwart Steve Smith’s form wasn’t a concern despite the fact that the former skipper has been unimpressive so far in the tournament, and the team management has drawn flak for persisting with him.
“No, not concerned one bit about his (Smith) form. He’s a world-class player and he’s someone in big games has showed how valuable he is. He’s been hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen for a long time, so no, no concerns there whatsoever.”
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