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Saturday,17-April-2021

International

Decision on lone Pakistani shooter for Delhi WC likely today

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A decision on granting visa to the lone Pakistani skeet shooter, Usman Chand, desiring to compete in this month’s New Delhi World Cup may come by the end of Friday.

National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP) secretary general Razi Ahmed Khan said on Friday that the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) had sent a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the NRAP on Wednesday and that the same was submitted to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad on Thursday.

“We are expecting to get the visa on Friday. We had submitted the visa application form with the Indian High Commission last month so that there was no last-minute rush,” Khan told IANS from Pakistan on Friday.

The New Delhi World Cup, to be held from March 18 to 29 at the Karni Singh Shooting Ranges here, offers valuable ranking points for rifle and pistol events, but not for shotgun competition.

The issue of the Pakistani shooter competing at the World Cup could be a tricky one, considering what happened exactly two years ago.

For the 2019 shooting World Cup in New Delhi, India had not granted visas to two Pakistani shooters who wanted to compete in the men’s 25m rapid fire event. After Pakistan complained to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the IOC withdrew qualification status for the 2020 Olympic Games from the World Cup in that event. The Olympics was later postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This happened in the interest of the other 500 athletes from 61 countries participating in the other events who are already in India for their competition,” the IOC had said in a statement at the time, after a decision to this effect was taken at its executive board meeting in Lausanne.

Around 300 competitors from 42 countries have expressed their desire to compete at this month’s New Delhi World Cup. The process of issuing the visa to Chand, a 36-year-old shotgun exponent, is underway, said an NRAI official.

“The visa process is on. We hope he would get necessary documents to travel to India for the World Cup,” the official told IANS.

Chand, who has a personal-best score of 122 out of 150, is the lone shooter entered by the NRAP for the World Cup. His current world ranking is 108 as per International Shooting Sport Federation. Chand, who finished fifth at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games, has been active on the global circuit since 2013.

The Pakistani skeet shooter expressed his desire to compete in India, as he missed out on the Egypt shotgun World Cup, held from February 22 to March 5. Despite the Cairo World Cup carrying global ranking points, the Pakistan shooter’s name was missing from the field.

When asked why Chand didn’t compete in the Cairo World Cup, Khan said: “He has a good chance to earn valuable points to improve his world ranking. He is a contender for individual quota. So, he wants to compete in New Delhi World Cup.”

The NRAI will have to safeguard shooters and officials’ health in times of the pandemic during the 10-day World Cup.

“All the shooters will have to follow strict bio-bubble guidelines during the World Cup,” said the NRAI official.

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International

Barcelona president ‘convinced’ Lionel Messi will remain at Camp Nou

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta is “convinced” Lionel Messi will sign a new contract to stay with the La Liga giants.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and the 33-year-old’s future with Barca is far from certain amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City, DPA reported.

Laporta remains determined to re-sign Messi, who has spent his entire senior career at Camp Nou.

As Barca prepare for the weekend’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, Laporta was asked about the record six-time Ballon d’Or winner. “Everything is progressing adequately,” Laporta said.

“I will do everything within the club’s capabilities to get him to stay. That’s what we’re doing. Messi is motivated. He is an extraordinary person and I am convinced that he will want to continue at Barca.”

Messi has scored a league-high 23 goals and supplied eight assists in 28 La Liga appearances for Barca this season.

In total, Messi has netted 29 goals across all competitions in 2020-21.

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Had I adapted a bit earlier, things would have been different: Ankita Raina

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India’s top-ranked singles tennis player Ankita Raina conceded after her loss to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in the Billie Jean King Cup World Group play-off match that had she adapted to the Latvian world No. 52’s game a bit earlier, “things would probably have been a bit different”.

At the end of the day on Friday, India were 0-2 down in the five-match rubber with both Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi losing their singles matches to higher-ranked Latvian opponents, Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova, respectively.

“As the first set went through, I understood what she (Ostapenko) was doing and what I needed to change in my game. It was good that I could adapt to her game, but it probably would have been a bit different had I done that (adapted) a bit earlier,” said the world’s 174th-ranked singles player after losing 2-6, 7-5, 5-7 to the Latvian.

“When you play for your country, you fight for each point and that was seen in the match. I felt that I could have done a bit better in the first set and I did catch up (to win the second set), but Ostapenko has also played such matches before and played at the best level,” the Indian, who will take on Anastasija Sevastova in the reverse singles, said at the post-match press conference.

Ostapenko is the winner of the 2017 French Open title.

Raina, whose game had improved several notches this year, added, “I’ve said I belong to this level and my game has improved. I was very confident going into the match and I did feel that anything could happen. So, I was not thinking too much about the result. But it’s natural that when you are representing your country, you do have some nerves.”

On the reverse singles match, the Indian said, “It’s a new day, a new match. I will be ready and more than prepared and do my recovery that is needed to be ready for the match (against Sevastova).”

For Karman Kaur Thandi, who lost to Sevastova 4-6, 0-6, it was a “huge learning experience playing against a top-50 player for the first time”.

“Now, I need to work on my physical aspect going forward. Playing at this level after a couple of years, and also having not played against a top-50 player, the experience was pretty good, especially the intensity was there in the first set but I got broken twice which made the difference,” said Thandi.

“If you just look at the first set, I was pretty much there, and it could have gone either side. In the second set, the intensity dropped a little bit from my side, and she (Sevastova) also started playing a little bit more solid.”

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I know I am paid to slog: Chris Morris

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A few days after he was denied strike on the last ball of the match against Punjab Kings as his captain Sanju Samson thought he won’t be able to clear the boundary, Rajasthan Royals (RR) all-rounder Chris Morris proved he is no muck with the bat as he led RR to a fascinating three-wicket win over Delhi Capitals.

Morris, who hit an unbeaten 18-ball 36 laden with four sixes, however said he had no regrets on being denied strike although his reaction in Monday’s match after being sent back by Samson was one of bemusement and a sarcastic smile.

“I was going to run back no matter what to sacrifice because Sanju was hitting it so sweetly. Sanju was hitting it like a dream, I wouldn’t have been too upset if he had hit the last ball for a six,” said Morris about the incident in Monday’s game.

Morris, who was bought for Rs 16.25 crore at the IPL mini-auction, said that he knows he is being paid to hit big.

“There are guys who get paid to bat and there are guys who get paid to slog, I know what I am. I am a slogger that swings everything I can, I play so much golf,” he added.

RR had earlier restricted DC to 147/8 in 20 overs and the right-handed batsman and right-arm bowler from South Africa said that he would have taken that target before the start of the match.

“If we had to chase 140-odd when we got here, we would have taken it, so happy to get over the line…it’s quite nice to know that we can win a game from anywhere after being down in the dumps. That’s T20 cricket,” he added.

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