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Thursday,29-July-2021

National

Covid pricks IPL bubble: 2 KKR players test positive, game deferred

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A big question mark on continuation of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was raised on Monday after two Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) players tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the KKR-Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) match to be postponed, even as similar news emerged from the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) camp.

A couple of CSK franchise members and three members of the ground staff at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, venue of IPL matches on May 4 and 5, have tested positive. However, the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) officials insisted that at least Tuesday match between SunRisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians was on. Delhi is also scheduled to host a Rajasthan Royals-CSK match on Wednesday.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday confirmed the positive results of KKR’s Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier, and that the match was being rescheduled. It, however, did not specify when and where the rescheduled game would be played.

“Unless there is something major, a player or a team member tests positive, the match will take place. We have no information about its postponement or cancellation,” said an official of one of the teams playing on Tuesday in Delhi.

Incidentally, the 60-match IPL reached its halfway mark on Monday, with the 30th match scheduled, between KKR and RCB, being postponed.

Delhi and Ahmedabad, among the IPL venues, are in tight grip of the raging pandemic, with hundreds of people dying of the virus and thousands struggling in and outside hospitals for oxygen and medical aid. But the BCCI has so far insisted that the IPL would go on.

The KKR players were locked up in their rooms in Ahmedabad and didn’t go for practice on Monday, following the reports of positive tests from their camp. If their tests till Thursday (May 6) return negative results, they will be allowed to train on May 6 and 7. They will then be available for the May 8 match, provided that game takes place at all.

The BCCI said that the medical team is also “determining the close and casual contacts of the two positive cases during the 48 hours prior to collection of the sample that returned the positive test results”.

At Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium, everybody seemed on tenterhooks on Monday, the day the Delhi government sought Indian Army help to meet the Covid situation that is virtually got out of its hands.

DDCA officials said Tuesday’s match was on, so far they were concerned.

“Three members of the ground staff in Delhi have tested positive. Also a couple of members of CSK, which is to play its matches at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, are said to have tested positive,” a source told IANS.

While there was official confirmation on KKR players testing positive and postponement of Monday night’s match, there was none on the Delhi cases.

The DDCA has witnessed a few cases in recent times. Two of its staff members died due to Covid recently. A couple of its officials/members have also been admitted to hospital undergoing treatment for Covid-19.

“The situation is grave, no doubt,” said DDCA official.

The limit on the number of guests has been reduced. A franchise is allowed to bring in only 20 guests in this phase of the IPL, said another official. “When the matches were being played in Chennai, the franchises were allowed to bring many more guests than 20,” he said.

A DDCA official, however, denied that there have been any fresh positive cases among ground staff.

“The tests were conducted after 2 pm on Monday. The report is yet to come. There are no reports of any positive cases among the ground staff to our knowledge. However, we have heard that the CSK CEO Kashi Viswanathan and bowling coach L. Balaji have tested positive,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, the BCCI admitted that the KKR camp has reported positive tests.

“Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier were found to be positive in the third round of testing in the last four days. All other team members have tested negative for COVID-19,” it said.

Both players have isolated themselves from the rest of the squad. The venue — the Narendra Modi Stadium — is set to host two more group stage matches on Thursday and Saturday before hosting the playoffs and final from May 25 to 30 respectively.

“The medical team is in continuous touch with the duo and are monitoring their health. Meanwhile, the Kolkata Knight Riders have now moved towards a daily testing routine to identify any other possible cases and treat them at the earliest,” said the BCCI.

KKR chief executive officer Venky Mysore said: “I think everyone has been very proactive. We found out approximately 24 hours ago about Varun testing positive, so the immediate steps we took was to isolate him, and then later on in the night when we got test results which also involved Sandeep, we put them on a different floor with a different air-conditioning ducts system to make sure others are appropriately protected.”

Mysore said that everybody in the bubble (players, support staff, management, hotel staff and service staff) has been asked to quarantine. “So, they are isolated in their rooms. The food delivery is on a knock and drop basis, which everyone has gotten used to by now.”

This is the first instance of players testing positive within the IPL bio-bubble this season.

The CSK, though, haven’t confirmed the positive tests until now.

If it turns out to be true then it will be the second time the CSK will have to deal with the outbreak in their team bio-bubble.

At IPL 2020, in the UAE, Viswanathan’s wife were among the several members — including players Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad — who tested positive ahead of the tournament.

Before the 2021 IPL, some members of the ground staff at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, which hosted some of the matches of the first phase, had also tested positive.

National

Focus on Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav’s departure to England

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Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav’s departure from Sri Lanka to join the Indian Test squad in England may be delayed after they were sent into isolation for being in close contact with Krunal Pandya, who has tested positive for Covid-19 in the island nation.

The two were expected to leave immediately after the culmination of the white ball series in Sri Lanka. The series ends after Thursday night’s third T20I.

“They will travel to England when the formalities are completed,” an official told IANS.

The Indian Test squad in England has already seen three of the players being ruled out. While opener Subman Gill withdrew due to leg injury and has since returned home, off-spin bowling all-rounder Washington Sundar has hurt his finger, and pace bowler Avesh Khan, who was among the standby players, has suffered fracture his left thumb.

As a result, the selectors have pushed Abhimanyu Easwaran into the main squad and have also called up Shaw and Yadav.

The Test series begins on August 4 in Nottingham.

The second Test will be played on August 12-16 at Lord’s, London, the third Test on August 25-29 in Leeds, the fourth Test between September 2 and 6 at the Oval, London, and the fifth and final Test in Manchester from September 10 to 14.

The Indian team had lost the World Test Championship final to New Zealand last month.

After a three-week break, the Indian players moved to Durham for a warm-up match and training.

The team will travel to Nottingham on August 1.

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PV Sindhu makes it to knockout round with win over Hong Kong’s Cheung

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Rio Olympics silver-medallist in badminton, India’s PV Sindhu entered the women’s singles Round of 16 at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Wednesday, overcoming world No. 34 Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong 21-9, 21-16 in her final Group J tie.

Sindhu’s better court coverage and her use of the angles was the key to her victory against the 28-year old Cheung, who lost her sixth consecutive career match to the tall Indian shuttler.

The sixth-seeded Sindhu raced to an 11-5 lead as Cheung fruitlessly tried to push the 26-year old Indian deep into the corners of the forehand backcourt, ending up pushing the shuttles long.

Sindhu, giving almost nothing in the forecourt with superb net play, soon wrapped up the first game 21-9.

Cheung fought back in the second game, moving Sindhu to the far backhand corner and taking to a 7-6 lead. But as the rallies grew longer, Sindhu’s power came to her rescue on several times.

But Cheung’s relentless onslaught kept her neck-and-neck with the Sindhu, who sent a few shuttles wide in trying to end long rallies.

Cheung’s deception continued to keep her in the match, but Sindhu played an superb down-the-line smash from almost the edge of the backhand corner to make it 15-14.

That charged up the Indian to move decisively ahead as she raised the intensity of her game to quickly set up six match points. Sindhu converted on the third, stepping into the net to smash her way to the top of her group and into the knockouts.

Sindhu had defeated Ksenia Polikarpova of Israel 21-7, 21-10 in her opening group match on July 25.

India’s B Sai Praneeth will take on Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands in his final Group D men’s singles match later today. Praneeth is out of contention for the knockouts, having lost to Israel’s Misha Zilberman in straight games in his first group match.

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Nandu Natekar, India’s first overseas badminton champion passes away

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Indian badminton icon Nandu Natekar passed away in Pune on Wednesday. Natekar, who was the first Indian badminton player to win an international event back in 1956, was 88.

The six-time national singles champion made his India debut at the age of 20 and successfully shouldered the responsibility of leading India’s challenge in the Thomas Cup men’s team championship for more than a decade from 1951-1963.

Born in Sangli, Maharashtra, in 1933, Natekar dabbled with playing tennis and even reached the junior nationals final against the legendary Ramanathan Krishnan before deciding to focus on his badminton career.

Recipient of the first Arjuna Award in 1961, Natekar was a touch artist who would mesmerise his opponents with his deceptive skills and stroke perfection. He created history for Indian badminton when he clinched the Selangor International crown in Kuala Lumpur in 1956. He and Meena Shah had bagged the mixed doubles crown at Kings Cup International in Bangkok in 1962 and a year later he also won the singles title against all odds at the same event.

The legendary shuttler also won multiple men’s doubles and mixed-doubles national titles during his career spanning 15 years and reached the quarterfinals in his only All England appearance in 1954.

“One of the towering icons of Indian badminton, Nandu Natekar leaves behind a rich legacy that we shall cherish forever. Six-time national champion and first Indian to win an international title in 1956, he shall be remembered fondly for his drives, drops and smashes,” Badminton Association of India (BAI) president Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

“It’s very sad to hear about the demise of Nandu Natekar. He gave Indians a belief that we also can win titles overseas with his win in Kuala Lumpur. Indian badminton will always be grateful for his contribution. The entire badminton community is with his family in this hour of grief and loss,” BAI general secretary Ajay Singhania said.

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