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IPL 2022: Ashish Nehra, the mind behind Gujarat Titans’ success, scripts history and breaks stereotypes

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The ‘millennials’ might have not faith in his coaching, but the veterans of cricketing community always had the belief in Ashish Nehra’s game reading ability and tactical acumen and the former India fast bowler just proved it by playing a crucial role in Gujarat Titans’ IPL 2022 title win.

The Hardik-Pandya led Gujarat Titans (GT) got their hands on the coveted Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy in their very first season after they beat Rajasthan Royals (RR) by seven wickets in the final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

If Hardik was Gujarat’s hero on the field, off the field it was the support staff led by Nehra that played a vital role in GT winning the IPL title.

With the victory, Nehra etched his name on the history books of the cash-rich league. The former left-arm pacer became the first Indian head coach to win the IPL. Notably, in all the previous 14 editions of the IPL, the title-winning side had a foreign head coach but Nehra broke the pattern with GT this year.

The 43-year-old Nehra also became only the third cricketer to have won the IPL both as a head coach and as a player after Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne. Nehra played for Sunrisers Hyderabad when they won IPL in 2016 under David Warner’s captaincy. Ponting was a part of the Mumbai Indians squad when they won their maiden IPL title in 2013 and he was MI’s head coach when they won their second title in 2015. The legendary Shane Warne was both the coach and captain of the Rajasthan Royals when they won the inaugural edition in 2008.

Entering a highly-competitive league like the IPL as a new team and clinching the title in the very first season is a dream stuffy but it wasn’t easy. Watching the final Gujarat squad after the mega auction, most cricket pundits, analysts and even the fans didn’t give Gujarat much of a chance to finish in the top-four. Most experts felt that Gujarat, while assembling a good group, were a bit thin in their batting.

There were also apprehensions about Pandya’s bowling fitness as well as his captaincy skills, given that he had led only once in senior cricket previously. And remember, Nehra worked as the bowling coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore along with Gary Kirsten, who served as their head coach but both were sacked after the 2019 season.

Nehra even had become a ‘meme’ content for many social media users, who perhaps didn’t see him play and deliver for India at crucial junctures’ and just saw him as a cricket analyst.

But, the deadly captain and head coach duo of Hardik and Nehra along with Vikram Solan (Director of Cricket), Gary Kirsten (Batting coach and mentor) and other support staff of GT cracked the winning formula, put an end to all the doubts and won the trophy with sheer domination. In the whole tournament, Gujarat lost just four matches, out of the 16 games which they played, which shows their domination and class.

“It’s a great feeling. More than winning the trophy, the most important thing was the way we played and it was very heartening to see. Under your leadership, the boys gelled very well,” Nehra told skipper Pandya in a fun interview after winning the trophy.

Meanwhile, mentor Gary Kirsten said he enjoyed working with Nehra, rating him as one of the finest tacticians going around.

“I’ve loved working with Ashish, he’s really strong tactically – trying to put a game plan together on the fly is not easy. There are so many variables in each game, but what I’ve enjoyed has been the responsibility players have taken to win games for us,” Kirsten said.

Nehra’s success as the coach also broke many stereotypes, which were there in the IPL for a long long time.

In the history of IPL, it has been observed that franchises are obsessed with having a foreign head coach and they don’t trust the ability of an Indian guy in the main. There were only three Indians — Sanjay Bangar (RCB), Anil Kumble (PBKS) and Ashish Nehra (GT) — who served as the head coach of their respective franchises in IPL 2022. However, with the former Indian fast bowler getting success as a head coach with GT, the number could go up in the upcoming seasons.

Also, throughout the tournament, Nehra looked relaxed and was often spotted without a laptop or technology, reminding everyone that keeping things simple could also win team matches without “over-analysing” things.

In the modern cricketing era, coaches and captains have often been seen relying too much on data analytics, match-ups, especially in T20 cricket. There is no denying that technology helps in enhancing a few facets of the game, but too much reliance on the data can also complicate things. The basic cricketing instincts and reading the game situation well at the crucial junctures of the game still rule the cricket.

Overall, Nehra can become a role model for many coaches in terms of keeping things simple, believing in their abilities, taking tactical decisions and building a good environment in the dressing room.

International

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

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 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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National

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

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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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National

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

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 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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