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Have already started preparing for Australia tour, says Kuldeep Yadav




India’s left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav has revealed that he has already started preparing for the Australia tour, scheduled to take place towards the end of the year.

India are currently slated to play three T20Is against Australia in October. Then in December-January, both teams will contest in the four-Test series where India will look to defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. After that, both teams will take on each other in three-match ODI series.

“Sometimes taking a break helps refresh the mind. We’ve had three-four months off now, so when we start again, it will be a fresh start, like a new innings. I feel this is the time to push myself because a lot of people are not able to practice,” Kuldeep said while speaking to Deep Dasgupta in the third episode of ESPNcricinfo Cricketbaazi.

“That can give me an edge. A break is very important. You learn from whatever happened in the last year about planning your bowling. You need to spend time and come up with a plan every time. I have already started preparing for the Australia tour (later this year), so that I go there and play a confident cricket,” he added.

2019 was not a great year for Kuldeep as he struggled with his form.

“It was mentally very tough for me. When you are looked at as a wicket-taking bowler but you are not able to pick wickets, you start doubting your skills. I spoke to Bharat Arun (India’s bowling coach) who showed confidence in me which boosted my morale.”

“I prepared really well before leaving for the World Cup 2019 because I wanted to overcome my failure in IPL that year. Even though I didn’t pick up many wickets, I think I bowled well at the World Cup. After that I have been in and out of the team.

If you are playing regularly, your confidence is high. If not, you are always under pressure to perform in the chances you get and your mind stays cluttered. I probably was at fault with my skills as well,” he added.

The 25-year-old also believes that he is an emotional person and overthinks about the game. He reacted emotionally after Moeen Ali smashed for 27 runs him in IPL 2019.

“I get angry when my heart and mind don’t think alike. Shane Warne once advised me to not think about my game too much because it is not possible to perform well in every game.

“In one of the gams at the IPL 2019, my heart was telling me to bowl over the wicket but my mind was pushing me to bowl around the wicket. I listened to my heart and was punished. Finally, on the fifth ball I bowled around the wicket and dismissed the batsman. But the initial 20-25 runs cost my team the match,” Kuldeep said.

Commenting on whether the lack of pace and fizz in his bowling have made it easier for batsmen to play him, Kuldeep said, “The pitches in India are generally on the slower side, so you have to bowl slightly quicker. If you play overseas and do the same thing, like in Australia or South Africa, the ball releases better.”

“I have started practicing for this as well. The best way to do this is to bowl on mud pitches, because the ball generally comes slower off the surface. If you bowl with the same pace on a turf wicket, it is bound to trouble the batsman.”

“Today we play around five matches in three to four months against a particular opposition. If I continue bowling the same way, it will become easy for the batsman to play me. If I change something and create doubt in the mind of the batsman, I will continue to stay effective. I realised this after playing international cricket for couple of years. I need to make subtle changes and use the angles differently.”

Talking about the toughest batsman to bowl, Kuldeep said it’s Steven Smith of Australia in Test Cricket and former South Africa skipper AB de Villiers in ODIs.

“Smith plays me mostly off the back foot. He plays the ball very late as well, so it becomes challenging to bowl to him. In ODIs, AB de Villiers is a good player. He has a unique style. Now that he’s retired, it’s a good thing! But other than him, I haven’t found any other batsman who I am sacred will hit me for a lot of runs.”

Talking about the partnership and bond with Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep said: “He has always taken care of me, like an elder brother. Even now, after playing so many matches together, even off the field, he gives me advice on cricket as well as off cricket.”

“He supports me, and this bond is visible on the field as well. We’ve never had competition between us, irrespective of which of us gets picked to play. In the last year or so, only one of us has gotten to play at a time. I feel happy when he plays and performs well.

“He always used to say that we have to pick up three or four wickets in the middle overs. This has always been our plan and it used to be easy when MS Dhoni was behind the stumps.”

Kuldeep also revealed that he misses Dhoni. “When I started my career, I wasn’t good at reading the pitch. I learnt about this aspect after I started playing with MS Dhoni. He would often tell me when I needed to spin the ball or where I needed to pitch it.”

“Dhoni was very good at setting the field as well. That’s why I never paid attention to field placement when I bowled with Dhoni keeping the wicket. He would understand where the batsman could try to hit me and set the field accordingly. It helped me bowl with more confidence.

“This is something I learnt from him and since the time he has not played ODI cricket, this has gone missing as well.”

“Today, when I come to bowl, I set my own field. Sometimes you go wrong if the captain is saying one thing and you have something else in mind. But you learn from these things. I appreciate Virat Kohli for this. He has always backed me. He believes in all the youngsters gives them full freedom. That’s one of the reasons why Chahal and I have had a successful partnership.

“Kohli believes that we can win matches for India. When your captain shows faith in you, your frame of mind improves and it makes everything easy. To Kohli, it doesn’t matter if I concede 65-70 runs in my ten overs but pick up three wickets. He is happy,” said the left-arm spinner.


Fitness & mental clarity will be key in this year’s IPL, feels Suresh Raina




Veteran India and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) batsman Suresh Raina feels fitness and clarity of thought will be the key when players take the field to participate in the 13th edition of of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which will be played in the UAE.

The BCCI will be organising the league at three venues — Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah — from September 19 to November 10 after it was postponed from March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This IPL, it would be very interesting to see how players are thinking, you are playing in different circumstances, you have a lot of protocols from ICC and at the same time, you are going through tests every two-three weeks, so I would say coming out from all those tests, you need to be clear with your head on what you are going to do on the field because at the end of the day when you are playing a sport, you need to enjoy your game,” Raina said on Wednesday during a webinar interaction on the sidelines of the launch of WTF fantasy gaming app.

“Then you can come out of the ground as a happy soul. So I believe, all tests will be done before the IPL and we will be in a good frame of mind because we all are sitting at home from last five months. I’m looking forward to this,” added the 33-year old who along with India women’s team T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur are the brand ambassadors for WTF fantasy gaming app.

Raina, the second highest run-getter in IPL history, also opined the wickets in Dubai would be like the ones in Chennai.

“There (wickets in Dubai) could be Chennai wickets. In this pandemic, a lot of challenges have happened (for the players) and fitness is the key,” he said.

“Luckily, we are going early in the UAE, so I think, right now there is humidity in Dubai, the weather is 40 degrees Celsius, sandstorm is there, but the best thing in Dubai is that you don’t have logistical problems, it is 45 minutes from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, you go from there to Sharjah, it’s 40 minutes,” said Raina who was part of the 2011 World Cup-winning team.

The left-handed batsman also said during this long break due to the pandemic, he got time to reflect on the time he spent on the field and analyse his performances over the years.

“We have not had such a long break. You look back at your old innings. You reflect on what you were thinking at that time and try to analyse. So when I hit the greens now, I feel we will enjoy a lot this time,” Raina said.

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Banking on mental strength & fitness to do well, says Harmanpreet Kaur




A long break can create doubts in your mind, but India’s T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur is banking on her mental strength and physical activity during the lockdown period to fire in the Women’s T20 Challenger games which will take place during the playoffs of the IPL in the UAE. The team has not played since the T20 World Cup final in March.

“When there is a long break and after that however good touch you are in, you start doubting yourself,” Harmanpreet said on Wednesday during a webinar interaction on the sidelines of the launch of WTF fantasy gaming app. Harmanpreet and veteran India batsman Suresh Raina are the brand ambassadors.

“Mental strength helps here and if you are mentally strong, it’s a long break. But I am not going to give up. Initially, I might have fear of injury but we have the advantage of working on our strength while at home. Those things are going to help us on the field. But physically we have tried to keep ourselves fit during this lockdown,” said the 31-year old.

Harmanpreet added that she is excited to play in the UAE for the first time.

“Yes definitely, I’m excited because this is our first tour to Dubai and we haven’t played there before. I had questions like how would the wickets be there, as a batter we need to think about these things. We need to play on our strength because if you don’t play to your strengths, then your natural game doesn’t come out.

“It is a very good idea to see the ball and play. Everybody has to remain clean on this idea and I hope that we grab the opportunity that we get. I hope we play good cricket in the four games that we will get and entertain everybody,” she said.

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Phased restart of training at SAI NCOEs from Oct 1, says kiren Rijiju




Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Wednesday said that the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) National Centres of Excellence (NCOE) across the country will be opened in a “phased manner” starting on October 1.

In a review meeting held by the ministry and SAI, Rijiju also said that the re-opening of the NCOEs will be done only in accordance to the COVID-19 situation in the respective state.

Athletes who will be initially allowed for training apart from the elite athletes who are in the mix for the Tokyo Olympics would be juniors who have been shortlisted in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) Junior scheme.

Additionally, it has also been decided that the funds extended to all SAI NCOEs will be enhanced.

“Funds will be provided to upgrade existing infrastructure and equipment or procure new ones, as per the need of athletes. We are ready to provide all support needed to ensure that athletes in India have the best facilities at par with the world,” said Rijiju.

It has also been decided to increase awareness workshops held at the NCOEs including workshops on sexual harassment act with aim to make athletes aware of sexual harassment issues and about the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and motivate them to speak up against any form of harassment.

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