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Thursday,22-October-2020

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Kohli’s RCB look favourites for IPL title: Dilip Vengsarkar

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Dilip-Vengsarkar

For legendary batsman Dilip Vengsarkar, this IPL season Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) could break the jinx of not winning the title in 12 attempts, and the former India captain rates them among the hot favourites, citing their well-rounded team as one of the factors.

The RCB, at times referred to as the perennial underperformers, have come closest to winning the IPL crown thrice — in 2009, 2011, and 2016 — when they reached the final but on each occasion, disappointment came their way.

“In this T20 format, it is very difficult to say who the front runners will be. But I would say Bangalore are winning it this time, because they haven’t won it so far. Kohli, AB de Villiers and Yuzvendra Chahal will come good. They have a lot of good players in the squad. Pacer Navdeep Saini bowled extremely well in their first game (against SunRisers Hyderabad). So, I will be interested to see their progress in the tournament,” Vengsarkar, 64, told IANS in an exclusive interview.

Vengsarkar, however, underlined that nothing could be said with certainty in the fast fluctuating fortunes of 20-over-per-side matches.

“Well, the RCB could be the favourites — one of the favourites — but I can’t stick out my neck and say that X, Y or Z will (surely) win. But they could be one of the favourites,” he said.

Kohli, too, feels that since 2016, “this is the most balanced I have felt about the squad”. He was referring to a batting line-up that includes Aaron Finch, new sensation Devdutt Padikkal, besides himself and de Villiers; pacers like Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn and Chris Morris; and spinners Chahal, Washington Sundar and Adam Zampa.

This is the second time the IPL is being staged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier, the first half of the IPL was played in the UAE in 2014 due to the general elections in India.

There are a lot of players in the eight teams who haven’t played in the UAE before. They are new to the conditions and the pitches are different from India.

“Basically, the conditions are humid in the UAE. But then that is bound to happen because in these months, it’s quite warm and humid there. And, of course, IPL in India is played in 10-12 centres and in the UAE you are playing only at three centres, so there will be wear and tear of the pitches as you go along. It will be interesting,” said Vengsarkar.

“The spinners can come into play later on with the help of pitches. And the weather will definitely improve because October and November are relatively cooler, especially in the evenings, in the UAE. I say this because I used to play in Sharjah etc., so I know a bit about the weather,” he averred.

The IPL final is slated for November 10.

Then, there is the dew factor due to which many captains have opted to bowl after winnings the toss.

“The dew factor is very important because if there is dew, it becomes tough to grip the ball, especially for the spinners. That’s bound to happen. So, you take chances when you win the toss and have to decide what you want to do. But you don’t get the dew every day; only on some days,” said the articulate former Mumbai captain.

When Vengsarkar says spinners would come into play later on in the IPL, does he take into account the dew factor? “It depends… everyday there might not be dew. But, as I said, spinners might come into prominence as the tournament progresses,” he said.

All the teams, match officials, and broadcasting crews etc. have been secured in bio bubble because of the pandemic. Vengsarkar appreciates the move and says it is the need of hour.

“It is tough on the players — that you cannot go out (of hotels) etc. But if you see the entire pandemic situation, there’s no option. You cannot expose yourself to the outside world. If you are playing a team game and if you get infected – and if you are asymptomatic – that could pose a threat to the team,” he reasoned.

Did he get any impression that players hadn’t given their 100 per cent due to the bio bubble restrictions? “It is too early to say. You can say about this only in the second half of the tournament. It is not fair for me to comment on that at this stage,” he said.

Due to the pandemic, spectators are not allowed in the stadia, and large billboards and LED screens have been put in the stands at all three venues — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah — besides simulated sound system.

“I don’t know if it (empty stadiums) reduces the performances, but if it is a full house, the atmosphere is fine. What happens is a full house inspires you. So, that part might be missing in this tournament, and it is all because of the pandemic. You can’t really help. But, of course, any player would like to play in front of a full house,” said Vengsarkar.

“Everybody takes pride in his performance and in contributing to his team’s cause, whether there are crowds or not. That is the top priority. And if there is a crowd, it adds to it; you are charged up,” he emphasised.

National

IPL: RCB moves to 2nd spot; KL, Rabada hold on to their Caps

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Royal-Challengers-Bangalore

Royal Challengers Bangalore have moved to the second spot in the points table following their one-sided victory against Kolkata Knight Riders in the 39th match of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).

On Wednesday evening, RCB first restricted KKR to mere 84/8 in their allotted 20 overs and then chased down the target with ease, losing just two wickets and more than six overs to spare.

The Virat Kohli-led side now have 14 points from 10 games, same as that of table toppers Delhi Capitals, but because of the lower net run-rate, RCB are placed second. With 12 points from nine games, Mumbai Indians currently occupy the third spot.

Meanwhile, Kings XI Punjab skipper KL Rahul and Kagiso Rabada of Delhi Capitals have held on to their respective Orange and Purple Caps.

Rahul is leading the batting charts with 540 runs from 10 games. He is followed by Shikhar Dhawan, who after scoring back to back hundreds, has amassed 465 runs in 10 innings. Mayank Agarwal, who has collected 398 runs in 10 innings, is third in the list.

In the bowling list, Rabada continues to remain at the top spot, having scalped 21 wickets in 10 matches so far. He is followed by Mohammad Shami who has 16 wickets to his name in same number of matches. Jasprit Bumrah of Mumbai Indians completes the podium with 15 wickets in nine matches.

These running caps are presented to the leading run scorer and wicket-taker and keep changing hands throughout the duration of the tournament.

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Ritu Phogat: Dream of World Championship title in MMA not too far

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Ritu-Phogat

India’s star athlete and ONE Championship fighter Ritu Phogat is set to win the belt at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX against Nou Srey Pov when she takes on the Cambodian MMA sensation on October 30 in Singapore.

The 25-year-old, who put forth a gutsy showing against experienced opponent Wu Chiao Chen of China, registering her second Championship win last February, recently shared insights on the build-up for her bout against Srey Pov.

Q: How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your life? How have you managed training and keeping a positive mental attitude?

A: Yes, my training has obviously been impacted, especially because for me, MMA is a new sport. So it has been a challenging transition. I am also living in a new country, Singapore, all by myself. So it has definitely been hard because the game is new and the country is new. Also, I don’t have my sisters around or my father to take advice from.

However, during the lockdown when training was halted because wrestling and grappling are contact sports, the coaches helped me by making training videos. But everything has slowly become better now because the lockdown has eased considerably in Singapore and now I am working out and training at the gym. I have been working on improving my striking technique as I want to show the world that we Indians are ‘all rounders’. On field or off field!

But yes, it is quite unfortunate that the pandemic has caused problems for everyone around the world.

Q: How are you keeping your morale up during such tough times?

A: My motivation has always been my father and his words, he has always said to me – You have to sacrifice to win something. My prime goal is to make my family and my country proud. I am here all by myself and I’ve left my country behind, my sisters behind, hence, my sole focus is on doing the best and that is my motivation.

Q: What will be your participation in wrestling on behalf of India, will you be participating in wrestling matches now?

A: I have moved away from wrestling now and am now training in MMA.

Q: How challenging will it be to fight in an empty arena? How will this experience be? Also, what kind of a diet have you been following and who is your inspiration?

A: My sisters have always been my inspiration. I have always watched them wrestle and I have tried to emulate them, and now I want to make my country proud in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) space.

Yes, no audience in the stadium will definitely feel different as crowds can provide motivation and cheer. But when I step into the ring, my sole focus is my opponent. Besides, an empty stadium means that you can hear nothing but your coach, guiding you through the match.

Q: What do you think India’s position will be in the upcoming Olympics?

A: I strongly believe that Indians are really raising the benchmark with every match/game we play. Today, we are tough competitors to some of the greatest athletes across the world. Our athletes are working hard and I feel that we will surely do well at the Olympics.

Q: What will your strategy be while playing against your opponent Nou Srey Pov?

A: She is an experienced MMA champion and it will be a tough and interesting fight between the both of us. I am ready and have worked extremely hard for this. I am ready to give it my best! And as far as strategies are concerned, I would want each one of you to tune in and watch some of the strategies I deploy against the opponent.

Q: You wanted to be the first Indian to win an MMA world title. How close are you to that dream? Also what sets you apart from other Indian fighters? What are the weaknesses of your opponent that you have studied?

A: I am not far from my dream of bagging the world championship title in MMA because I have been working hard for a long time now. One Championship has also announced a Grand Prix tournament next year which will feature eight champions.

My target is to get selected for that tournament although my first focus is my upcoming match. My opponent is a good fighter and I have studied her strengths and weaknesses, you will see it in my match!

Q: What are you doing to promote MMA in India?

A: My goal is to win and make MMA popular in India firstly. India is not short on talent. I just want to be an inspiration so that others approach MMA more seriously. I want to induce conversations around the sport in the country to give it the recognition it deserves.

Q: Your previous bouts have been similar wins, what will you do differently this time. What are your expectations from this bout?

A: Yes, I have worked on a different strategy to win this time. I want to win this match a little differently. My goal this time will be to knockout my opponent.

Q: How do you want to win this fight, do you want to do something differently.

A: Yes, I definitely want to break out of my wrestling mould and do something different. I want people and my opponents to know that I am not just a wrestler and I know how to strike.

Q: You are called ‘the female Khabib Nurmagomedov’ by Indian fans since you’re both a world class wrestler and are undefeated. Have you seen him fight?

A: Yes, I have been very motivated by him and I watch a lot of his videos. I like his fighting style a lot and I am inspired by him. I aspire to be like him some day.

Q: Have you drawn any particular lessons from Nurmagomedov?

A: Yes, his control on the ground is immense. I keep watching his videos to learn more.

Q: How has staying away from your family been and how much support does your family provide?

A: Of course, staying away from my family has been very difficult. At home, I could solely focus on my training, here, since I am on my own, I have to manage my strict diet and training and everything else at home, I have to be self reliant.

Q: Apart from your sisters, which other sports personalities are your icons?

A: Virat Kohli is really inspiring, I like watching his training videos. Also, like I said, Khabib is very inspirational for me.

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Wanted to deliver a magical performance for RCB: Mohammad Siraj

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Mohammad-Siraj

Right-arm fast bowler Mohammad Siraj, who led Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to a comfortable win over Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), has stated that he wanted to deliver a “magical performance” for the team.

On Wednesday, Siraj became the first bowler in IPL history to bowl two maidens in a single game. He picked up three wickets before he had given up a single run. He finished with the most economical figures this season – 3/8 as RCB defeated KKR by eight wickets to move to the second spot in the points table.

“Everyone in the RCB supports me a lot, even the fans. So, I wanted to deliver a magical performance for the team and it was a magical performance,” Siraj said during the post-match press conference.

Before the game, Siraj had an economy rate of 9.29 – the worst among 92 bowlers with at least 100 overs to their name.

However, in Abu Dhabi, skipper Virat Kohli gave him the new ball. “I have been practising a lot with the new ball,” Siraj said at the presentation. “We hadn’t planned that I will open but when we went out, Virat bhai said Miyan, ready ho jao. (Sir, get ready.).”

“Virat (Kohli) bhai’s plan was for me to bowl a bouncer,” Siraj said during a chat with teammate Navdeep Saini for iplt20.com later. “But when I was at the start of my run-up, I thought ‘no let me pitch it up’. I pitched it up, and it came out well and I got a wicket,” he added.

Siraj has so far taken six wickets in four matches this season and RCB would be hoping he continues to bowl in the same way in the upcoming matches like he did against KKR.

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