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Growing Bayern unrest: Lewandowski leaving, Salihamidzic under fire

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There might have been better days to do the job as sporting director of Bayern Munich. Not only is the unsolved future of Robert Lewandowski causing ongoing turmoil for the Bavarian side’s man in charge, but Hasan Salihamidzic’s mood is said to be near an all-time low.

While the club’s national and international competitors are happily announcing noteworthy transfers for the next season, the reigning German champions seem stuck in a fatal state of uncertainty.

Media reports say the 33-year-old Lewandowski has rejected an offer to extend his 2023 expiring contract. The spearhead is said to have informed the 2020 treble winner’s leader board about his decision.

Barcelona is said to have placed an offer coming along with a three-year contract this summer and is willing to pay up to 30 to 35 million euros, Xinhua reports. Bayern only offered a one-year extension.

The Pole’s actions are said to meanwhile affect the future of Salihamidzic.

Things are going out of hand for the 45-year-old, as critic say the former striker has failed to set up a convincing transfer plan.

After the departure of German international Niklas Sule caused growing unrest among the Bavarians squad, German media is speaking of failed attempts to sign Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid), Freiburg central Nico Schlotterbeck (Dortmund), and striker star Erling Haaland (Manchester City).

The Bayern sporting director not only needs to find a replacement for Lewandowski but has to deal with the future of Serge Gnabry.

Reports speak of several players and their agents have lost confidence in Salihamidzic.

The 2001 Champions League winner has come under fire and is in danger to losing his job, reports say.

While rumours of possible Lewandowski successors turn up in the headlines, former Moenchengladbach sporting director Max Eberl is mentioned as the one possibly replacing Salihamidzic.

Media is also talking about Patrik Schick (Leverkusen), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Christopher Nkunku (Leipzig), Darwin Nunez (Benfica) and Sebastian Haller (Ajax) as possible Bayern targets.

German media is flooded with news about Lewandowski being annoyed by Bayern’s reluctance aside from a visible bad mood. The Pole only spent an hour at the clubs’ national title celebrations and left early accompanied by his buddies.

Insiders speak of Lewandowski heading to new shores as he fancies a new challenge after eight years with Bayern.

Having to restructure its squad, Lewandowski has become a suitable target for Barca aside from the attacker having scored four goals in five games against the Spanish side.

Next to the contract extension of club icon Thomas Muller, Bayern only announced the signing of Ajax defender Noussair Mazraoui. While chairman Oliver Kahn recently said Lewandowski won’t be allowed to leave before 2023, the strikers’ decision might change things significantly. Finding a convincing replacement and a possible transfer fee of 35 million euros could change the German record champions’ mind.

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Thomas Cup: We knew we had the ability to get a medal, says HS Prannoy

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H.S Prannoy played a major role in India’s maiden triumph in the Thomas Cup world badminton team championship by winning two crucial fifth rubbers in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

India and Malaysia were tied 2-2 in the quarterfinal clash and everything depended on Prannoy’s match against Jun Hao Leong. The Indian shuttler defeated the Malaysian opponent 21-13, and 21-8. Prannoy encountered the same situation in the semis clash with Denmark and the 29-year-old from Kerala to prevailed over Rasmus Gemke in three games, coming back after losing the first game to win 12-21, 21-9, 21-12.

Prannoy, who has won a bronze medal in boys’ singles at the 2010 World Junior Championships, and a silver medallist at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, has had big best results in team competitions winning the gold medal in team competitions at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia, bronze medals in Asian Team Championships in 2016 and 2020 besides the Thomas Cup gold last week.

He interacted with IANS over the phone, talking about the Thomas Cup triumph, its role in his career, and its impact on Indian badminton. Excerpts:

Q: Where will you place this title in the list of your achievements and for a team?

A: This is the biggest victory in my life. And no achievements of mine will come close to this. We knew we had the ability to get a medal, the team had the ability for sure. But never thought we can win this, not even in my dream I ever thought we can become world champions. Winning a tournament of this level is always very tough and to make that happen is incredible. I am very glad that we could make it happen.

Q: How do you think this will impact Indian badminton?

A: This victory is huge for India. This win is just not for us but for the next generation. The upcoming generation of players needs to believe that it’s possible to win and that is why for me and all of us here it was “kutch karke jana hain.” And we are very happy that we could do something that no one has done and these 10 days will be the most unforgettable moments of our lives.

Q: What do you think was the difference between this team and the previous ones that reached the quarterfinals but could not go beyond?

A: We always knew we had individual brilliance but playing a team championships and winning a Thomas Cup was never in our dreams. We had huge team bonding and we believed we could do something special. And after the quarterfinal win, we promised ourselves we will not let this opportunity go.

Q: The lack of depth in China’s current teams is one of the reasons for the field being so open this time? What are your thoughts on this aspect of Thomas Cup 2022?

A: Thomas Cup is a competition that not only tests the skills of individual players but also the depth of a country’s talent and one of the reasons why before this edition, only five nations had managed to win the Thomas Cup trophy. So it is one of the most prestigious team events and the most difficult ones too. You can not underestimate any team in such an event. We defeated two of the powerhouses, Malaysia, who are 5 times champions, and Indonesia who are 14 times title winners in the final in just three games – that speaks volumes for our players.

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Moeen reveals the struggles in his cricket journey, says it gives him goosebumps even today

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Chennai Super Kings all-rounder Moeen Ali has revealed the struggles he had to go through in his cricketing journey, saying that the mere thought of the tough road he traversed gives him “goosebumps” today.

Following an extremely successful IPL 2021 season with CSK, where he played a key role in the Chennai franchise clinching its fourth title in the UAE, the England player, who quit Test cricket to prolong his white-ball career, has had a patchy IPL 2022.

As the IPL 2022 season ended prematurely for the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side, Moeen reflected on the struggles he faced in his formative years and how determination and passion for the sport helped him overcome the hurdles.

He revealed that his family didn’t even have one Pound on some days to make ends meet, forcing them to survive on sandwiches or cucumber.

“My dad had a huge passion for the game… him and as well as the twin brothers. Between the families, there were five of us, so my cousins played, I played my younger brother played. I just remember I was eight years old (when) I started playing with my brothers in the park, and I could feel that they were also getting better. So, then I took a trial when I was 19, and it was the first time that I ever played with a hard ball and stuff,” the 34-year-old all-rounder said on CSK TV.

“That was the start and I was soon playing county cricket at a young age, doing well and loving the game. It was football, cricket, football, cricket. Cricket was my dad’s passion and we just carried on,” added Moeen.

Moeen said that his father had to juggle between his work as a psychiatric nurse and taking the children for county games, adding that sometimes he could not afford petrol, and occasionally food.

“At first, we were not very well off… we did not have a lot of money. My dad worked as a psychiatric nurse, which means you have to see people struggle mentally and stuff in the hospital. But at the same time, he had to take me and my brothers for county games, trials and training. He could not afford petrol; he could not afford sometimes, food. It was very difficult. Sometimes all three of us had a game the same day, a county game which was really unfortunate. We had one car, a terrible car between two families and so once the petrol and everything is done, we had just one pound left for the whole day. We had to get bread, sometimes cucumber and sandwich.

“That is the struggle… and it wasn’t just my dad and uncle. It was my mum and aunt, them getting the clothes ready, making sure everything was on time. It was always a rush. Very, very difficult times, but the best times,” added Moeen.

“That was one of the many, many stories where financially we really struggled. My uncle and dad turned up selling chickens just to provide for the next game. I didn’t even have my own pads at one point of time… I had to use my dad’s friend’s son’s pads for trials. So, very difficult but amazing days. I became professional very early and things got better and better.”

On the cricket field, Moeen rose quickly, first starting as a seam-bowling all-rounder before taking to off-spin on the insistence of a coach. Back issues while bowling seam played a part in the decision.

“For me it was just the normal thing to play every day. I didn’t know what it was to be a professional. I just thought this is life, I am playing every day, and my dad said, from 13 to 15, give me two years of your life. After school, we train, and we go outside in the park. Do whatever it takes. And after that, you do whatever you want. And that was the mindset that got me training everyday.

“Our area where we were living, it was a very rough area, fighting and all. But I just wanted to play cricket. We were adamant we were going to make it and that is something that came from my dad, just try better than everybody. Not in an arrogant way, but just work harder than everybody else. Just thinking about it now makes me get goosebumps because you think where you come from and it is a great reminder for myself about my own humble background,” added Moeen.

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Harshal Patel one of the best death-over bowlers in the country: Sachin Tendulkar

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Harshal Patel disguising his variations beautifully is the reason why the 31-year-old Royal Challengers Bangalore pace bowler has been performing so well in the last couple of Indian Premier League (IPL) seasons, according to India’s cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar.

Patel bagged the Purple Cap in IPL 2021 taking 32 wickets in 15 games, with his best figures being 5/27 for the then Virat Kohli-led side. Ahead of the new season, he was bought back by the Bengaluru franchise for a whopping Rs 10.75 crore in the mega auction. And, the right-arm medium pacer hasn’t disappointed his side, taking 18 wickets in 12 games.

Overall in his IPL career, dating back to 2012, Patel has taken 96 wickets and would be eyeing a century of IPL wickets this season.

RCB are currently on 14 points from 13 games and have a chance of making the last-four if they win their last league game against Gujarat Titans by a huge margin. And, they would be banking on Patel to do the needful.

Tendulkar believes that Patel can be an absolute gem to Indian cricket.

Speaking on his Youtube channel, the legend labelled Patel as one of the most potent bowlers in the death overs.

“Punjab was able to put on 209 on the board and that is only because of Harshal Patel. His bowling has improved with every match as he is able to disguise his variation beautifully. Well bowled, Harshal and I think that he is one of the leading bowlers in the country when it comes to bowling in the death overs,” said the cricketing great.

The way Punjab Kings were going in that game at the Brabourne Stadium on May 13 with Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone smashing Australian pacer Josh Hazlewood and Mohammed Siraj at will, it was Patel who brought sanity to the game, restricting the opposition to 209 when 240-250 looked a possibility.

Patel returned figures of 4-0-34-4, bowling at an economy rate of 8.50, where Hazlewood conceded 64 in his four overs and Siraj went for 36 in his two overs.

Harshal will have to play a key role as RCB take on Gujarat Titans in the team’s final game of the group stages.

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