For years, MS Dhoni donned three roles — of a player, captain and a finisher with the bat. Additionally, he was a guide to the spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav over the last few years, even chiding them for straying away from the line and plan.
Now, KL Rahul is most likely to step into his shoes in the ODI series that begins on Friday at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Rahul played as a wicketkeeper-batsman in India’s last ODI series in New Zealand and excelled with the bat scoring big in two of the those three ODIs.
“Nobody can fill the place of MS Dhoni. He has obviously shown us the way or the wicketkeeper-batsman’s role — how it should be done and obviously we have learnt a lot from MS Dhoni,” said Rahul in a media interaction while replying to a question from IANS on how he hopes to fill Dhoni’s shoes with regard to dealing with spinners.
“Me with Yuzi (Yuzvendra Chahal), Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) and Kuldeep (Yadav) and other spinners in the team we have a decent friendship and understanding in the middle. Yeah I think, I will probably go and give them feedback as to what can be a better pace or length to bowl at or if something is going wrong or you can change the field setting,” he said.
In his last ODI series for India, in New Zealand in February this year, Rahul played all the three games as a wicketkeeper-batsman. He took a catch and effected a stumping in those games.
“I think anybody doing that role of a wicketkeeper will have that responsibility (to tell bowlers including spinners to do) and like I said I have done this in one series in New Zealand. I enjoyed that and I can get with reading the games and give the bowlers the captain, some good feedback from behind the stumps,” he added.
Saina going through toughest phase of her career: U Vimal Kumar
Former world No.1 Saina Nehwal is going through the toughest phase of her career and needs to take care of herself so as to avoid any more defeats, says former national champion and coach U. Vimal Kumar.
Saina, currently ranked 20th in the world, was knocked out of the first round of the ongoing second Thailand Open. She had earlier fallen in the second round of the first Thailand Open, which was also her first tournament since the All England Championships in March 2020.
Kumar said that Saina looked “out of shape” in Thailand. “It is not going to be easy for her to bounce back. I have always said that if she has no pain, she will play well. More than the pain though she didn’t look very fit to me. Maybe after the Covid issue and all she is still recovering from it,” Kumar told IANS.
A two-time national champion, Kumar felt Saina is going through the toughest phase of her career.
“I think so. Things have not been going well for her for the past couple of years. She needs confidence to get going and the last she had a good result was in 2019 at the Indonesia Masters,” said the man who won the national title in 1988 and 1989.
“The workouts, physical training and other things have to be really specific. She has to plan all this a lot better and that is the only way she can come out of this. Losing more matches like this will affect her confidence. It is not only just physical, there is a lot of mental aspects [at play] as well. She is a strong girl but these results can affect her,” he said.
Saina had worked with Kumar in her formative years and later between 2014 and 2017 when she became the first Indian badminton player to achieve a No.1 ranking and won silver at the badminton World Championships.
The Hyderabad-based Saina’s best finishes in 2020 came when she reached the quarter-finals in the Malaysia Masters in January and the Barcelona Masters in February. The last time she won a title was the 2019 Indonesia Masters held in January.
Saina is currently 15th in the rankings for the Tokyo Olympics. With Sindhu already ranked seventh, Saina needs to break into the top eight to qualify for the Games. The tournaments in Thailand are not part of the Olympic qualifying period, which is scheduled to start with the Swiss Open on March 2.
“The next one or one-and-a-half months will determine her chances. The next five-six weeks will be key and give us an idea,” said Kumar.
Kumar, however, also said that the fact remains that while Saina and most of the Indian players are playing their first tournaments since March, when the national lockdown began, many of their opponents have had prior match practice with domestic championships being held in many countries.
“They are all awfully short of match practice. All of them are playing after more than 10 months which is not good. [PV] Sindhu also needs more matches; it’s the only way she can get back. We have to see how things go in March when things open up,” said Kumar.
Teams undergo Covid-19 tests, ready for Mushtaq Ali T20 knockouts
The eight teams that will play the quarter-finals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy here at the Motera from January 26 have undergone their Covid-19 tests and ended their brief quarantine period. They will begin practice from Sunday i.e. January 24.
The eight teams that have qualified for the knockouts are Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Baroda, Bihar and Rajasthan.
While Baroda and Himachal Pradesh, who played their league games in Vadodara were the first to arrive, the other teams arrived soon after.
The players underwent Covid-19 tests on arrival and have cleared them. “They will begin full practice sessions from Sunday as they have ended their brief quarantine period,” an official told IANS.
Karnataka will face Punjab in the first quarter-final while Tamil Nadu will play Himachal Pradesh in the second quarter-final, on January 26.
On January 27, Haryana will play Baroda in the third quarter-final. Their match will be followed by the fourth quarter-final between Bihar and Rajasthan.
The Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 knockouts will be the first competitive matches to be played at the revamped Motera Stadium which now has a seating capacity of 1,10,000.
Team India’s win over Australia highly inspirational for youth: Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday again lauded the stellar performance of the Indian cricket team which registered a remarkable Test series win over Australia Down Under, saying the victory is highly inspirational for the youth of the country.
Addressing the 18th Convocation of Tezpur University, Assam via video conferencing, the Prime Minister said the team, despite facing a number of challenges, overpowered the Australia team with their talent and temperament.
“Indian team faced a lot of challenges in the recent tour of Australia. They suffered crushing defeat yet recovered equally fast and won the next match. The players showed determination despite injuries. They took the challenge head on and looked for fresh solutions instead of getting frustrated by difficult conditions,” Modi said.
“There were inexperienced players but their morale was high and they grabbed the opportunity given to them. They overpowered a better team with their talent and temperament,” he added.
The Indian team, after facing an embarrassing loss in the first Test in Adelaide where they were bowled out for their lowest Test score of 36, came back strongly in the next three matches to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy in an emphatic manner. The series saw Indian team register their first win at the Gabba in Brisbane – a venue where Australia last suffered a defeat in 1988.
The prime minister stressed that the stellar performance of our players is important not just from the point of view of the sports field.
First, we should have faith and confidence in our ability; second, a positive mindset begets positive results. Third and most important lesson, said Modi, is – if one is facing two options, one safe and the other is an option of a difficult victory, one must surely explore the option of victory.
“There is no harm in occasional failure and one should not refrain from taking the risks. We need to be proactive and fearless,” he said.
“If we overcome the fear of failure and unnecessary pressure, we will emerge fearless. This new India, confident and dedicated to goals, is evident not only in the cricket field, all of you are part of this picture,” Modi added.
Earlier, after the three-wicket win in the last Test on Tuesday, Modi had congratulated the Ajinkya Rahane-led side and tweeted: “We are all overjoyed at the success of the Indian cricket team in Australia. Their remarkable energy and passion was visible throughout. So was their stellar intent, remarkable grit and determination. Congratulations to the team! Best wishes for your future endeavours.”
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