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Friday,30-July-2021

National

Exciting finish expected but bundling out Kiwis difficult: Sunil Gavaskar

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Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar expects an exciting finish to the World Test Championship (WTC) final between India and New Zealand on the reserve day on Wednesday but is sceptical about the bowlers being able to bundle out the opposition with just one full day of play remaining.

Persistent rain and bad light have forced the match into the reserve day with India going to stumps on Day 5 at 64/2 on Tuesday with a lead of 32 runs.

Openers Shubman Gill (8) and Rohit Sharma (30) were both dismissed by New Zealand pace bowler Tim Southee. Skipper Virat Kohli (8) and Cheteshwar Pujara (12) were unbeaten at the draw of stumps.

The weather department has predicted a bright and sunny day, which might be conducive for batting.

“India will be looking to score freely and put some runs on the board and maybe try to bowl New Zealand out in the fourth innings. An exciting finish for the first-ever WTC final,” Gavaskar told India Today.

“They (India) have earned the opportunity (an outside chance to go for win) but now the pitch seems to be playing a lot better because of the weather that is different, there is a little bit of sun out now. It has dried up the surface,” said Gavaskar.

The cricketer-turned-commentator felt that even with a bit of grass on the pitch, batting would be much easier on the reserve day compared to when the Test had started.

“Even if there is a little bit of grass on the pitch, it won’t have that much carry that was there in the earlier days. So that means batting has become a lot easier. India will probably not be able to bowl New Zealand out in the second innings. They have to bowl exceptionally well to get New Zealand out,” Gavaskar said.

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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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