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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.


Mitchell Starc takes three as Australia clinch ODI series vs West Indies



Australia’s bowling attack proved too strong for West Indies in the decisive third and final One-day International, as the visitors won by six wickets to clinch the series 2-1 at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday (IST).

Australia bowled out the home side for 152 off 45.1 overs and then comfortably reached the target at 153/4 off 30.3 overs.

Australia had won the first match by 133 runs, while West Indies bounced back to win the second by four wickets.

The Australian new-ball attack was lethal with Mitchell Starc again the stand-out performer. The left-arm speedster took 3/43 off 9.1 overs, while his new-ball partner Josh Hazlewood took 2/18 off eight overs.

Left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, brought into the team for the first match, took 10-1-31-2 and controlled the middle overs of the West Indies innings. He later returned to make a quick-fire 19 not out off 33 balls to earn the Player-of-the-Match award. Left-hander Matthew Wade scored 51 not out off 52 balls, with five fours and two sixes and shared a fourth-wicket stand of 34 with captain Alex Carey (35).

Earlier, Evin Lewis returned to the crease after being forced to retire hurt. He was struck on the face in the early stages of the innings but came back to end 55 not out off 66 balls with five boundaries and three sixes. He was the only West Indian batsman to reach a half century.

The West Indies will remain in Barbados for the opening match of the Osaka T20 Cup against Pakistan at Kensington Oval on Wednesday.

Brief scores: West Indies 152 in 45.1 overs (E Lewis 55; M Starc 3/43, J Hazlewood 2/18, A Agar 2/31, A Zampa 2/29) lost to Australia 153/4 in in 30.3 overs (M Wade 51 not out, A Carey 35) by six wickets.

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Olympics: After Australia disaster, India overcome Spain 3-0




An inspired team change by coach Graham Reid and some solid work by the defenders helped India redeem themselves from a 1-7 thrashing at the hands of world No. 1 Australia to hand Spain a convincing 3-0 defeat in a Group A match that put their Tokyo Olympic Games men’s hockey tournament campaign back on track.

It was a test of character for the Indian team after the disastrous outing against the Kookaburras — they not only had to win their match against Spain but also show the world that they had the ability to come back and fight for the spot in the quarterfinal. They also had to improve their goal difference, which was down to -5.

And coach Reid too responded by bringing in the more experienced Simranjeet Singh into the 16-member team sheet in place of Gurjant Singh.

The Indians managed to do both — win the match and improve their goal difference by keeping a clean sheet (Goal difference -2 now) as Simranjeet Singh repaid the confidence shown in him by scoring the first goal in the 14th minute, while veteran drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh scored a brace (15th, 51st minutes) — the first off a penalty stroke awarded to India when his drag flick off India’s third penalty corner slammed into the body of the Spanish defender on the goal-line.

The Indians defended well in the second and third quarter as Spain went in search of a goal and did not allow the Europeans to capitalise on the many chances they created.

It was not a perfect display by the Indians as they failed to maintain the tempo in the second quarter, soon after taking a 2-0 lead by scoring within 90 seconds in the final minutes of the first quarter. They allowed Spain a lot of space to launch attacks. Spain played very aggressively during this period but could not score a goal.

Coach Reid was satisfied with the performance of his wards, though he was not happy with the number of penalty corners that India conceded to Spain.

“Better result today, but a lot of things to work on from an improvement perspective. The fact that we gave too many corners, that’s always a concern when that happens,” he was quoted as saying by the Hockey India in a release. India conceded seven penalty corners.

“But the team did really well in terms of defending the PC. The first quarter was played very well, we could move the ball really well and it was exactly what we planned to do. I think 2-0 is the worse score in hockey because after that we were relaxed and we struggled a bit in the second and third quarter to get back in the game. We managed to do that in the fourth quarter and tried to play simple hockey and that’s what we ended up doing,” Reid said.

The Indians allowed Spain to make 17 attacking penetrations into their circle, take 16 shots at the goal, attempt nine field goals, and conceded seven penalty corners.

Indeed, the Indians trailed Spain on all statistical parameters except the all-important one — goals scored, and in the end that’s what mattered.

India started the game aggressively and it was Simranjeet Singh who got the first look at the goal for them in the eight-minute but missed. Spain went on the attack for the next few minutes and four good chances, including penalty corners but the Indian defence, which looked so porous against Australia on Sunday, stood solid like a wall and saved all the attempts.

Simranjeet goal came against the run of play when Amit Rohidas sent a long ball into the shooting circle from the sidelines on the right flank. Simranjeet, who was lurking nearby, deflected the shot into the net to make it 1-0 for India.

It was 2-0 in favour of India within a few seconds as India earned a series of penalty corners and off the third, they were awarded a penalty stroke as Rupinderpal’s drag-flick went straight into the body of the Spanish defender on the line.

Leading 2-0, the Indians were expected to continue with the momentum and score more goals. However, they went off the boil on restart in the second quarter and allowed Spain a lot of possession.

Spain earned three penalty corners in this period and attempted a few bold attacks but they could not capitalise on any of them. The trend continued in the third quarter as India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh effected a couple of good saves, while the defence was well-shielded by the midfield.

Spain was also reduced to 10 men during this period as their skipper Andres Miguel de Delas was shown a yellow card for having more than 11 players on the field. However, the Indians failed to capitalise on this advantage.

The fourth quarter was more evenly contested and it was in this quarter that Rupinderpal found the back of the net again — converting India’s fourth penalty corner with a superb drag flick.

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Olympics: Achanta Sharath Kamal goes down fighting to world No. 1 Ma Long




India’s Achanta Sharath Kamal put up a superb fight against world No. 1, China’s Ma Long — the reigning Olympic and world champion — but went out with his head held high as he lost 1-4 in a men’s singles third-round match of the Tokyo Olympics table tennis competition.

Kamal took a game off Ma Long and fought a neck-and-neck battle in another as he went down 7-11, 11-8, 11-13, 4-11, 4-11 in the 49-minute encounter.

The 39-year-old Kamal, ranked 32nd in the world and playing his fourth Olympics, put up a great fight against the man considered one of the greatest table tennis players the world has seen. He played aggressively, went for low-percentage shots, and succeeded in executing them perfectly.

For some time in the match, Kamal had the Chinese superstar shaking his head in frustration as things weren’t going in his favour.

Kamal, who was representing the country in his fourth Olympics, had reached the third round at the Games for the first time.

Ma Long won the first game easily at 11-7 but Kamal countered his tactics well. The Indian went for his shots, attacked the Chinese on his backhand, and earned an early lead. He maintained that advantage throughout the game though Ma Long cut down the gap. Kamal kept his nerves and won the second game 11-8.

The third game was very close and could have gone either way as the players went neck-and-neck from 6-6 onwards. Kamal caught his Chinese rival at 11-11 but Ma Long won the next two points to win the game.

Errors crept into Kamal’s play in the fourth and fifth games as he tried some high-risk shots that did not come off properly. This was enough for a player of the calibre of Ma Long to take control of the match and win the next two games with identical scores of 4-11.

That ended India’s table tennis campaign at the Tokyo Olympics as Manika Batra and Sutirtha Mukherjee had lost in the women’s singles on Monday, while G Sathiyan had crashed out in the second round after a bye in the first.

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