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IND v SA, 1st T20I: Ishan Kishan leads the way for India’s future batting template



Very rarely, one gets to pick positives from a loss in cricket. Despite India being handed a seven-wicket defeat by South Africa at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Thursday, they had a big positive to pick — racking up 211/4 in their 20 overs, thanks to a super-aggressive approach with the bat, led by Ishan Kishan’s 76.

India’s approach with the bat was like an action sequence from a Hollywood flick — runs coming thick and fast, first coming through edges and then through scintillating stroke play.

None of the batters tried to play anchor; everyone yearned to be the aggressor and get the big hits, seen from the strike-rates of Kishan (158.33), Gaikwad (153.33), Pant (181.25) and Pandya (258.33), with Iyer’s strike-rate of 133 looking pale.

All five batters got their first boundary within the first 10 balls of the innings, clearly not in a mood to waste time at the crease.

It was in complete contrast to their outdated approach with the bat; one would anchor the innings and rest would play around him, a chief factor in their early exit from the Men’s T20 World Cup last year.

But, in New Delhi, Kishan, captain Rishabh Pant and vice-captain Hardik Pandya later on, showed how going from the word go, devoid of any fear or tension, can bring some phenomenal batting returns despite having a streaky start.

Kishan’s first boundary came when he was beaten in flight by Keshav Maharaj in the opening over, but the outer edge ran past short third man. Luck continued to be on India’s side as a neck-high bouncer from Anrich Nortje saw Ruturaj Gaikwad hook over fine-leg, with the top-edge coming into play.

Kishan and Gaikwad rode their incredibly good fortune through the rest of power-play, amassing 51 runs but never letting go of the aggressive approach despite being tested by some sharp seam movement from the pacers.

After Gaikwad fell to Wayne Parnell, Kishan struggled for fluency till the ninth over when Dwaine Pretorius arrived.

The first ball of the over, width on offer and Kishan played the late cut to get the boundary past fielder at point. When Pretorius tried to correct his length on the final ball, Kishan hammered it through cover to collect another boundary. It was just the over Kishan needed to break free and find his boundary-hitting groove, which reached its high point when Maharaj was re-introduced in the middle overs.

After reaching his fifty in 37 balls by slog-sweeping the left-arm spinner, Kishan unleashed carnage on Maharaj in the 13th over — two more sixes were dispatched to mid-wicket fence and were followed by two boundaries down the ground.

“Initially we knew that we cannot get going on this wicket. My plan was to target the loose balls. In T20Is, powerplay is very important. We need to respect good bowlers as Nortje and Rabada have done really well for their country. My plan was to keep playing my shots and make them change their line and length,” said Kishan about his knock of 76 in the press conference.

Though he holed out to long-on on the last ball of the over in trying to hit another six, Kishan had done his job of setting the base for Pant and Pandya to carry forward the big-hitting spree. He had support from the other end when Shreyas Iyer danced down the pitch thrice to dispatch Tabraiz Shamsi for three sixes towards the leg-side before slowing down and eventually being castled by Pretorius.

“When the left-arm spinner came onto bowl, I told Shreyas that I will take my chances and told him that he can attack when Shamsi was bowling, because you got to be smart at this level. We just planned and it went our way,” were Kishan’s words in the innings break on him and Iyer acing the match-up game against South Africa’s spinners.

Pant and Pandya, made captain and deputy respectively on the eve of the series opener, hit seven boundaries between themselves from overs 17 to 19 with some audacious shots to take India past 210-mark. The duo had spent their match eve effortlessly clearing the ‘V’ in a range-hitting practice and hence, it was no surprise to see them take Pretorius, Parnell and Rabada to the cleaners.

Only time will tell if what India did with the bat at New Delhi will kick-start a change in their approach to batting in the first innings, especially after the rested/injured stalwarts return. But, if one goes by the visuals of Thursday’s innings, they did make gains with the batting formula despite the result not being on their side.


Australian Open: Sania Mirza bids adieu to Grand Slam career as runner-up in Melbourne




 India tennis star Sania Mirza on Friday wrapped up her legendary Grand slam career as Australian Open mixed doubles runner-up. The Indian ace and partner Rohan Bopanna lost to the all-Brazilian pair Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos in the mixed doubles final here at Melbourne Park.

Sania and Bopanna were beaten 7-6(2), 6-2 by Brazilians Stefani and Matos, who were playing in their first-ever Grand Slam final.

In her final major, the 36-year-old Sania admitted her emotions almost boiled over after the Indians stunned third seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski in the semifinals. There was no holding them back after her final match at Melbourne Park, 22 years after she first teamed with Bopanna.

Interestingly, Sania claimed her first major in 2009 at Melbourne Park, when she paired up with Mahesh Bhupathi. And she ended her illustrious Grand Slam career here.

Melbourne Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Indian star. After his maiden triumph in 2009. Seven years later, in 2016, she paired up with Swiss star Martina Hingis and claimed the women’s doubles title as the top seed.

Outside Australia, she earned four other Grand Slam titles: 2015 Wimbledon and 2015 US Open women’s doubles with Hingis, 2012 Roland Garros mixed doubles with Bhupathi and 2014 US Open mixed doubles with Bruno Soares.

“The journey of my professional career started in Melbourne� in 2005 when I played Serena Williams in the third round as an 18-year-old,” an emotional Sania said.

“That was scarily enough 18 years ago and I’ve had the privilege to come back here again and again and win some titles here. Rod Laver Arena has really been special in my life� To play the final, obviously, we couldn’t get over the line, but there’s no better place and no better person to finish my Grand Slam career with.”

“I never thought I’d be able to play in front of my child in a Grand Slam final, so it’s truly special for me to have my four-year-old here and my parents here, Rohan’s wife here,” she added.

Bopanna was looking to add a second Grand Slam mixed doubles title after his 2017 Roland Garros victory. Despite coming up short, he paid tribute to his compatriot and friend.

“It’s truly special for me to play with Sania,” he said. “Our first mixed doubles together was when she was 14 years old and we happened to win the title.

“Today we get to play the last match here on Rod Laver Arena. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the title, but thank you so much for your time, for Indian tennis, for inspiring each and everyone.”

Stefani and Matos are the first all-Brazilian team to win a major after ending Sania and Rohan Bopanna’s farewell appearance together in the Australian Open mixed doubles final.

“Rohan and Sania� I know how many people you’ve inspired,” Stefani said. “Like Brazil, like India, this means so much to our countries. It inspires the kids, it inspires the next generations.”

The six-time Grand Slam champion, Sania, earlier this month announced that she will retire from professional tennis after the Dubai Tennis Championships, a WTA 1000 event, which begins on February 19.

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AAP moves SC seeking time-bound mayoral polls in Delhi, barring aldermen from voting




The Aam Aadmi Party has moved the Supreme Court over the repeated adjournments of mayoral polls in Delhi.

In its suit, the AAP has demanded time-bound urgent mayoral elections and has also sought the prohibition on voting by aldermen as per law.

“People of Delhi gave majority to the Aam Aadmi Party in the MCD but BJP is not allowing us to form a government in the MCD. Aam Aadmi Party has moved the Supreme Court through its Leader of the House and Mayor candidate (Shelly Oberoi). We have placed two major demands in the Supreme Court, the first is to elect the Mayor in a time-bound manner and form the government in the MCD. Second, as aldermen do not have the right to vote under Article 243R of the Constitution and Section 3 of the DMC Act, they should be prohibited from casting votes,” said AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj.

Noting that the BJP’s MCD tenure ended in March 2022 itself, he said that “they have no moral right to capture and illegally control the MCD for so long”.

The MCD was put under the Central government on the pretext of unification and delimitation works, he said.

“Now the people of Delhi have given a majority to the Aam Aadmi Party in the MCD and elected 134 councillors of the AAP. Despite that, the BJP is not allowing the Aam Aadmi Party government to be formed in the MCD due to its conspiracy and dirty politics. Despite many efforts, they are not allowing the election of the Mayor and the formation of the government to take place,” he said.

“The court should complete this process as soon as possible. Because the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Central Government will not allow to complete this process. The Aldermen, in principle and in law, are unelected nominees and do not have the right to vote under Article 243R of the Constitution and Section 3 of the DMC Act. But the BJP wants to get them to vote by committing hooliganism. The Supreme Court should also give strict orders in this matter to the Central Government and the administration of MCD in this regard.”

The Mayoral election was first scheduled for January 6, but the House was adjourned following scuffle between the councillors of the BJP and the AAP. Then a session was convened on January 24 to elect the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and members of the Standing Committee.

However, after all the 250 newly-elected MCD councillors and 10 nominated members (aldermen) took their oath, the House was again adjourned until the next date after a ruckus created by the councillors of AAP and BJP.

The results of the MCD elections were declared on December 7, wherein out of the 250 seats, the AAP got majority by winning 134 seats, followed by BJP (104), Congress (nine) and Independents (three).

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BCCI, PCB likely to clash over calendar at ACC board meeting




 The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and its counterpart Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are likely to have a fiery exchange during the Asian Cricket Council’s emergency board meeting on February 4, a report said on Monday.

According to the report, the point of contention for the two parties is BCCI secretary Jay Shah’s announcement on the ACC’s calendar for 2023, which the PCB alleges was made “unilaterally” without consulting them. Jay Shah is also president of ACC.

The PCB has sought an emergency ACC Board meeting, which PCB chairman Najam Sethi announced will take place next month, ESPNCricinfo said in a report on Monday.

“For some time there hasn’t been any ACC Board meeting and there were a lot of decisions being made and one of them we have challenged,” Sethi said in a press conference. “Now the good news is that we managed to convince them to have their Board meeting and I will be attending it.”

The point of contention between the two boards is the Asia Cup 2023 which is scheduled to be held in Pakistan in September. The event was thrown into uncertainty after Shah announced that the tournament should be moved to a neutral venue as India could not travel to Pakistan to participate.

Ramiz Raja, who was the PCB chief at that time, objected to it and said Pakistan will not travel to India for the ODI World Cup later this year.

With Sethi returning to the helm of PCB last month, he has taken up the issue and sought a meeting of the ACC Board to discuss the matter.

“We have to look at what we can do but we can’t [fight] another case, but I can say that that case wasn’t handled properly and I think we didn’t give a good fight. But eventually, even judges said that if you look through the microscope this case is in favour of Pakistan but if you see this case with a telescope this is going in India’s favour. So in nutshell, with all the nitty-gritty it’s Pakistan’s case, but then their stance was that it’s the [Indian] government which isn’t allowing us [to tour Pakistan],” Sethi was quoted as saying in the report.

The two sides are expected to discuss the matter in the February 4 meeting.

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