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Tuesday,15-June-2021

National

Lesser tournaments have hurt my chances of going to Olympics: Harmeet Desai

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Lack of tournaments due to Covid-19 has hurt the chances of Indian male table tennis players apart from Sharath Kamal and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran to make it to the Tokyo Olympics, according to national champion Harmeet Desai. Desai, 27, was in great form as he finished in the last four at the Oman Open just before the coronavirus outbreak.

“We have a strong team, so it will be very difficult for me to get ahead of the top two. Sharath and Sathiyan are really strong players,” said Desai while talking on Indian paddler Mudit Dani’s online live chat show ‘In The Sportlight’. “It would have been much better for me if I could have got a chance to play more international tournaments in this period because I didn’t have the pressure of defending any of the points, I only had the chance to gain points after my performance at the Oman Open. It’s sad that the chance is gone and I am in all likelihood missing the bus this time.”

India missed out a chance to secure an Olympics berth via the team event at the last world qualifiers. As per existing Olympic qualification norms, only two Indian male paddlers can qualify for the Tokyo Games in the singles category. Sharath and Sathiyan are placed 31 and 32 respectively while Desai is currently ranked 72 in the world. “Even though it will be difficult for me to qualify, I still hope to make it. And if not this time, I will work harder for 2024,” Desai, who was part of the team that won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, added.

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Batsmen’s concentration needs to be upto the mark in England: Cheteshwar Pujara

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Batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has said handling different conditions on one particular day will be the biggest challenge for India batsmen in England where they play the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand from June 18 and a five-Test series against Joe Roots men in August-September.

“Playing in different conditions on one particular day is the most challenging thing for a batsman because if it rains then you go off the field and then when suddenly it stops raining, you start again. There are breaks in between. This is what you have to understand, and accept the challenge,” said Pujara, who bats at No. 3 for India in Test line-up, in a video posted on bcci.tv.

“You have to be mentally strong, your concentration needs to be up to the mark. Having those breaks and getting used to it is really important,” added the 33-year-old who was one of the stars for India in the Test series win in Australia this year.

Pujara added that New Zealand will have an advantage going into the WTC final against India that begins on Friday. The Kiwis have played two Test matches against England, at Lord’s and Edgbaston, over the past two weeks and won the series.

“They will have an advantage having played two Test matches [against England] before the final but when it comes to the final, we will give our best and we know that our team has the potential to do well and win the championship,” the 33-year-old Pujara said.

He also said that the 10-12 day break between arrival and the WTC final provided India time to get acclimatised especially the three-day intra-squad warm-up match that ended on Sunday.

The WTC final is especially significant for the likes of Pujara and Ishant Sharma, who play only Test match cricket.

“Personally it (the WTC final) means a lot to [guys like] me, because we are playing this one format, which is the most challenging. So it means a lot. We have worked really hard and I am sure all the guys are looking forward to it. Winning the final means a lot to us but even reaching the final means the team has worked really hard,” said Pujara further.

“Having played cricket during this pandemic has been challenging and the way these guys have managed things, we have come close enough and have spent time together in team room. Whenever we have been in quarantine, we are still inside the bubble,” added Pujara who has 6244 runs from 85 Tests.

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Pacer Chetan Sakariya prepares for SL with energy development programme

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Left-arm pace bowler Chetan Sakariya, who has been picked in India’s squad for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka, has said he is currently working in Chennai on ‘energy system development’ which helps in sustaining energy over a long period of time through dedicated training routines.

“I feel my movements are swifter, my core is stronger, and I believe I am bowling a tad quicker as well. This side of training is not something I knew a lot of growing up, but I have felt a lot of change in the way I feel about myself. It has been a busy routine in Chennai, but one I am happy and satisfied with. I am looking forward to learning a lot more with the Indian team,” said the 23-year-old Saurashtra bowler who was picked by Rajasthan Royals for Rs.1.2 crore at this year’s IPL mini-auction. He picked seven wickets in seven matches.

“The franchise was very supportive of that (training in Chennai) and arranged everything — like my accommodation and travel — so that I could become a better version of myself. For the last 15 days, I have had two intense training sessions every day, with a short break for lunch and rest,” Sakariya was quoted as saying by espncricinfo.com.

Sakariya, who hails from a village just 10 kilometres from Bhavnagar in Gujarat, said he would have been satisfied even if he were picked as a net bowler for the tour of Sri Lanka.

“I would have been happy just going to Sri Lanka as a net bowler, so this is a massive surprise. At the IPL, I thought I exceeded my own expectations. Initially, I thought I may have to wait for my turn at the Royals, but once I got into the camp, the kind of confidence and faith everyone showed in me, I got the vibes that I will start. So while it is a surprise to be picked for India, I am very much ready and confident with the way I have prepared.”

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Ruturaj Gaikwad wants to pick Rahul Dravid’s brain in Sri Lanka

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Opening batsman Ruturaj Gaikwad, who was a surprise selection in the 20-member India squad for the tour of Sri Lanka, has been forced to follow ‘early to bed-early to rise’ routine due to lockdown in Pune, his hometown, over the last month.

“In Pune, there has been a lockdown since May, and things have been open only from 7-11 am. So I wanted to ensure I did not spend that time sleeping,” Gaikwad said.

“I wanted to utilise more of that time for my fitness work and gym work. I did not want myself to be caught off-guard and be in a situation where I was picked but was not conditioned enough,” the right-handed batsman told espncricinco.com.

Gaikwad said he was not aware of the news of his selection initially as he was not following it. He was in his bed and had switched off mobile data to ensure repeated alerts do not disturb him.

However, once he started receiving repeated calls, he picked up the phone and learned the news of his selection.

“When I go to sleep, I generally switch off mobile data. I know if it is an emergency, someone will generally call twice. When my phones started ringing continuously, I was not first sure what it was. Then two journalists informed me of my selection,” said Gaikwad.

“I had to wake my parents up to tell them. They were quite deep in sleep, and were not fully able to process what I was telling them at first. But this morning they woke up really happy and made some pedas (sweets) at home, and I was happy to make an exception and have them to celebrate the happy news.”

Gaikwad, who endured an ordinary run in Vijay Hazare One-dayers and Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s but racked up five half-centuries in 13 matches across Indian Premier League’s 2020 and 2021 editions, says he is not sure if he will get a chance to play in Sri Lanka. But he said he wants to use this opportunity to learn.

“I was not thinking much about my selection. Even now, I am not thinking on the lines of ‘will I play’. I am looking forward to learning the knack of adaptability, something that will be very important going forward.

“Dhawan and a few of the other seniors have played a lot of international cricket, so I would like to learn from them by chatting to them about how they assess conditions, how they have adapted, how they have used their experience and learnt from their failures.

“I am also really excited to train and spend a month under Rahul Dravid, who was our India A coach when I was part of the team two years ago. He was with us on three tours, and we started to get familiar with each other. So when he was appointed the National Cricket Academy chief, I was personally disappointed at not being able to pick his brains anymore. But now, getting a chance to do that will be very useful for me,” added Gaikwad.

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