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In bowler-friendly IPL auction, focus on batsman Steve Smith




The Indian Premier League (IPL) mini-auction on Thursday could see a huge demand for bowlers even as Australian batsmen Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, and Glenn Maxwell, England’s Dawid Malan, all-rounders Chris Morris of South Africa and Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan could be the hottest properties.

Smith, the Australian batting mainstay was released by Rajasthan Royals recently after he failed to put up big scores for them. He may, however, find interest from Punjab Kings (PK), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), or Chennai Super Kings (CSK), who all are looking to strengthen their batting.

Labuschagne could also evince interest from the three franchises, especially from KKR or CSK.

PK have a heavy purse left with Rs.53.2 crore and they could go in for Smith (base price: Rs 2 crore) or Labuschagne (Rs.1 crore) or both.

At the moment, they have a settled top three but with uncertainty over Chris Gayle’s availability for all matches, they could be looking to include Smith whose price could challenge both KKR (remaining purse: Rs 10.75 crore) and even CSL (remaining purse: Rs 19.9 crore).

Maxwell (Rs 2 crore), who cost Punjab a whopping Rs.10.75 crore the last time but was released, could also be in line to picked again by Punjab at a much lower price. This could be true of Chris Morris (Rs 50 lakh) also, who was bought for Rs.10 crore by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) but was released ahead of this auction.

“If the player is overpriced then franchises can let go off a top player and buy him back at a lower price,” an official in the know of things told IANS.

Both Maxwell and Morris could also find some interest from either CSK or KKR. Both franchises are looking for a finisher. KKR’s Andre Russell failed with the bat last time and was exposed against short deliveries.

Rajasthan Royals, whose batting is already settled, will look to shore up their fast bowling and find support for Jofra Archer, who is with them. They have Rs.37.85 crore available.

Among pace bowlers that could be up for grabs would be Kyle Jamieson of New Zealand, who has performed well over the last year, and England’s Mark Wood who is also a handy batsman. Umesh Yadav, who was released by RCB this season, is expected to be a hot property.

“Most of the teams’ spin line-up is settled. Hence it will be pace bowlers who will be up for grabs. Also, since the IPL will likely be held in India and Mumbai looks the best bet for IPL bio-bubble due to the infrastructure, fast bowlers would be needed to play a bigger role,” said the official.

While both Mumbai Indians (MI) and Delhi Capitals (DC), the finalists this year, seem to have a settled unit, they have less money left and that rules out the possibility of them going for too many big names. MI, who have Rs.15.35 crore left, have four slots for foreigners left (out of seven) after they released James Pattinson, Mitchell McClenaghan, Lasith Malinga, and Nathan Coulter-Nile, all pace bowlers. They also released Sherfane Rutherford.

DC have three (out of eight) slots for foreigners left.

Shakib Al Hasan, who did not play the IPL last season as he was serving International Cricket Council (ICC) ban, for failing to report a bookie approach, could also be in demand due to him being a top ranked all-rounder in ICC rankings. KKR may look to buy the player who has played for them before.

The franchises could also show keen interest in Indian uncapped players who showed their ability to hit hard in the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy — Shahrukh Khan (Tamil Nadu), Vishnu Solanki (Baroda), and Mohammed Azharuddeen (Kerala).

Another player who would be followed keenly at the auction would be Sachin Tendulkar’s son, Arjun. He is a left-arm seamer who has played just two T20s for Mumbai. RCB, who have released Shivam Dube, could go for him.

Former India opener and two-time IPL winning captain Gautam Gambhir said that RCB would be interesting to follow at the auction.

“There are not many fast bowlers going around in the Indian circuit at the moment. So, probably, [RCB] releasing Umesh Yadav was the big surprise. Probably, they will look at someone like Glenn Maxwell because they need to get take a lot of pressure out of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers,” he said on Star Sports.


IND v NZ, 2nd Test: India reach 111/3 at tea on Day 1




 India were 111/3 at tea on a truncated opening day of the second Test against New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium here on Friday.

Opener Mayank Agarwal was batting on 52 while Shreyas Iyer was not out on 7 as the hosts lost their way after a good start.

Ajaz Patel claimed all three wickets in the space of 15 balls as India slumped from 80/1 in the 28th over to 80/3 at the end of the 30th over.

Brief scores: India 111/3 in 37 overs (Mayank Agarwal batting 52, Shubman Gill 44; Ajaz Patel 3/30) vsNew Zealand.

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ATP backs WTA, asks China to come clean on tennis player Peng Shuai’s wellbeing




The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) has thrown its weight behind the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), expressing concern over the well-being of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who disappeared from public view for three weeks after accusing a top Chinese government official of sexual assault.

WTA chief Steve Simon recently said that he has “serious doubts” that Peng was “free, safe and not subject to intimidation”. He also announced suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, with immediate effect till the country investigates in a full, fair and transparent manner the allegation of sexual assault made against a former senior politician by the 35-year-old doubles player.

Late on Thursday, the ATP, the body which governs men’s international tennis, said, “the situation involving Peng Shuai continues to raise serious”.

ATP chairman, Andrea Gaudenzi, issued a statement, saying, “The situation involving Peng Shuai continues to raise serious concerns within and beyond our sport. The response to those concerns has so far fallen short. We again urge for a line of open direct communication between the player and the WTA in order to establish a clearer picture of her situation.

“We know that sport can have a positive influence on society and generally believe that having a global presence gives us the best chance of creating opportunity and making an impact,” said Gaudenzi.

“We will continue to consult with our members and monitor any developments as this issue evolves.”

WTA administration and players have been in total support of Peng Shuai ever since screenshots of her social media post were shared on Twitter and the WTA has regularly demanded verifiable proof from Chinese government that Peng Shuai is “free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation”.

Chinese authorities have released videos of her at a restaurant and also arranged for a video call with senior officials of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but WTA is not convinced, thus resulting in the suspension of all its tournaments in China.

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Finally, Test cricket returns to Wankhede and Mumbai is loving it




Office-goers walking through the ‘D Lane’ in Churchgate area of Mumbai on Friday morning were surprised when a group of people started blowing conch shells, waving India flags and chanting ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ as a bus convoy entered the lane on way to the Wankhede Stadium.

They would have been expecting some activity considering that a Test match was scheduled at the Wankhede, but the reception accorded to the convoy must have come as a surprise to many.

While such enthusiasm was a little unexpected but it was not completely out of place as Mumbai is hosting a Test match after nearly five years, and the small crowd that had gathered since early morning, could not control its emotions as the buses ferrying the Indian team made it to the stadium.

The India versus England game in 2016 was the last time a Test match was played at the Wankhede, and with other cricketing activity not possible because of the suspension of sports activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it meant there was a little more enthusiasm among the faithful.

A small group waited patiently for the gates to open so that they could get into the stadium. Hosts Mumbai Cricket Association is allowed to sell only 8000 tickets as the government has authorised only 25 per cent stadium capacity to be filled. With Mumbai police making elaborate arrangements for the Test, Covid protocols are being followed strictly with officials ensuring that people follow the rules.

Though the sparse crowd’s enthusiasm was dampened a bit as the start of the match was delayed due to wet patches on the ground because of the rains, it waited patiently, waving the Indian flags as the players came out for warm-up and light practice.

The crowd erupted in a loud cheer as the New Zealand players, followed by the Indian openers, walked into the field. And the cheers grew louder as Shubman Gill struck two consecutive boundaries off Kyle Jamieson in the second over, with the typical Mumbai chant of “Sachin, Sachin” reaching a crescendo.

More people are expected to come in the next few days as things get interesting.

The last Test played at Wankhede was against England in which skipper Kohli had scored a majestic 235, while Jayant Yadav has smashed a century.

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