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Tuesday,21-September-2021

International

Olympics: Gold dream ends, India men’s hockey team to play for bronze

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India’s dream of winning a gold medal in the Olympic Games men’s hockey competition after a gap of 41 years was crushed when they went down 2-5 against world champions Belgium in the semifinals here on Tuesday.

The Indians, who had won their eighth gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, fought well, went 2-1 up in the first quarter but slack defending and conceding too many penalty corners did them in as Belgium fought back to not only level scores but also scored thrice in the fourth quarter to seal a place in their second successive final. Belgium had lost 4-2 to Argentina in the Rio Olympics final five years ago.

Alexander Hendrickx, one of the most feared drag-flickers in the world, scored a hat-trick to seal Belgium’s victory. Hendrickx, who leads the scoring with 14 goals now, scored two off penalty corners in the 19th and 49th minute and one off a penalty stroke (53rd min) to put the match beyond India’s reach. Loick Fanny Luypaert (2nd min) and John John Dohmen (60th min) scored a goal apiece for Belgium, while Harmanpreet Singh (7th min) and Mandeep Singh (11th) were the Indian goal scorers in the match that started at a fast pace.

Belgium will play the winner of the second semifinal between Australia and Germany. India will take on the team losing the second semifinal for the bronze medal.

Though the Indians lost the match, they were not disgraced as they matched the Belgians, who lost to Argentina in the Rio Olympics, for three of the four quarters.

The Indian attacks worked well in the first two quarters but the defence looked stretched from the start of the match — committing mistakes both in ideation and execution as the Belgians came back from behind and sealed a good victory.

The defence that did so well against Great Britain in the quarterfinals, committed basic errors in their eagerness to thwart the Belgians. Instead of tackling them outside the shooting circle, they tried to stop them inside. The Belgians played smart and, instead of going for field goals, created penalty corners to give their drag-flickers the opportunity to break India’s resistance.

India, who were on a brilliant run of four successive wins, got off to a slow start and conceded a goal early in the second minute when they earned the first penalty corner.

Loick Luypaert, Belgium’s second-choice drag-flicker lined up for an attempt as their top scorer Hendrickx — who has scored 11 goals before the semifinal — gave his team the lead as he flicked a brilliant shot into the left corner just inches away from the outstretched leg of Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.

But the Indians got into their rhythm and started enjoying more possession, moving the ball up into the attacking third, earning their first penalty corner in the 7th minute. Harmanpreet made it 1-1 with a superb drag-flick.

The Indians continued to press forward and took the lead in the 11th minute when forward Mandeep trapped cleanly in the circle a superb cross from Amit Rohidas, made a swift turn, and planted a powerful reverse hit into the goal.

India could not sustain the pressure and Belgium started the second quarter on a positive note, earning four penalty corners in succession. They made it 2-2 when Hendrickx outthought Sreejesh with a deft last-second change of direction to flick the ball into the goal.

Though the Indians enjoyed possession in the second and third quarters, Belgium slowly took control in the fourth as they looked for penalty corners off every opportunity they got.

Hendrickx struck early in the fourth quarter after another series of penalty corners — most of them blocked either by Sreejesh or rusher Amit Rohidas. That got the Belgians going and they sealed a memorable victory.

In all India conceded 14 penalty corners of which Belgium converted three.

International

Coach Shastri hints that he might step down after T20 World Cup

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Ravi-Shastri

 Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri has given a big hint that he is likely to step down from the hot seat after the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman when he said that “I believe one thing — never overstay your welcome.”

Shastri, who was squarely criticised for launching his new book in London and spreading the Covid-19 virus among the support staff two days before the fourth Test at The Oval, said on Saturday, “I believe so because I’ve achieved all I wanted,” when asked whether the ICC T20 World Cup would be his last outing with Team India as chief coach.

“Five years as No 1 (in Test cricket), to win in Australia twice, to win in England. I spoke to Michael Atherton earlier this summer and said: ‘For me, this is the ultimate — to beat Australia in Australia and win in England in Covid times.’ We lead England 2-1 and the way we played at Lord’s and the Oval was special,” Shastri told The Guardian.

“We’ve also beaten every country in the world in their own backyard in white-ball cricket. If we win the (T20) World Cup that will be the icing on the cake. There is nothing more. I believe one thing –never overstay your welcome. And I would say that, in terms of what I wanted to get out of the side, I’ve over-achieved. To beat Australia away and to lead the series in England in a Covid year? It is the most satisfying moment of my four decades in cricket,” said Shastri.

Within days of the book-launch function, where no masks were worn, Shastri had tested Covid-positive and went into isolation along with four members of his support staff. And when assistant physio Yogesh Parmar too tested positive, the players became anxious and finally the fifth and final Test in Manchester had to be called off.

“It was funny because in my 10 days I didn’t have a single symptom barring a little sore throat. I never had any temperature and my oxygen level was 99% all the time. I didn’t take any medication through 10 days of my isolation, not a single paracetamol. I tell the guys: ‘Once you’re double jabbed, it’s a bloody 10-day flu. That’s it,'” said Shastri.

On whether he discussed the emerging situation with players, Shastri replied, “No. I didn’t know who had got it (Covid-19). I didn’t know (the physio) got it suddenly and tested positive. He physically treated five or six players. I think that’s where the issue started. We were aware that the incubation period meant that someone might get it in the middle (of the Test). A lot of players had their families there. So it became a situation where you don’t know what that player is thinking. He’s got a young kid, you know, he’s got to think of them. It was a little, I would say, touchy.”

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International

Coach Shastri hints that he might step down after T20 World Cup

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Indian cricket team coach Ravi Shastri has given a big hint that he is likely to step down from the hot seat after the ICC T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman when he said that “I believe one thing — never overstay your welcome.”

Shastri, who was squarely criticised for launching his new book in London and spreading the Covid-19 virus among the support staff two days before the fourth Test at The Oval, said on Saturday, “I believe so because I’ve achieved all I wanted,” when asked whether the ICC T20 World Cup would be his last outing with Team India as chief coach.

“Five years as No 1 (in Test cricket), to win in Australia twice, to win in England. I spoke to Michael Atherton earlier this summer and said: ‘For me, this is the ultimate — to beat Australia in Australia and win in England in Covid times.’ We lead England 2-1 and the way we played at Lord’s and the Oval was special,” Shastri told The Guardian.

“We’ve also beaten every country in the world in their own backyard in white-ball cricket. If we win the (T20) World Cup that will be the icing on the cake. There is nothing more. I believe one thing –never overstay your welcome. And I would say that, in terms of what I wanted to get out of the side, I’ve over-achieved. To beat Australia away and to lead the series in England in a Covid year? It is the most satisfying moment of my four decades in cricket,” said Shastri.

Within days of the book-launch function, where no masks were worn, Shastri had tested Covid-positive and went into isolation along with four members of his support staff. And when assistant physio Yogesh Parmar too tested positive, the players became anxious and finally the fifth and final Test in Manchester had to be called off.

“It was funny because in my 10 days I didn’t have a single symptom barring a little sore throat. I never had any temperature and my oxygen level was 99% all the time. I didn’t take any medication through 10 days of my isolation, not a single paracetamol. I tell the guys: ‘Once you’re double jabbed, it’s a bloody 10-day flu. That’s it,'” said Shastri.

On whether he discussed the emerging situation with players, Shastri replied, “No. I didn’t know who had got it (Covid-19). I didn’t know (the physio) got it suddenly and tested positive. He physically treated five or six players. I think that’s where the issue started. We were aware that the incubation period meant that someone might get it in the middle (of the Test). A lot of players had their families there. So it became a situation where you don’t know what that player is thinking. He’s got a young kid, you know, he’s got to think of them. It was a little, I would say, touchy.”

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Heather Knight shines as England Women win opening ODI vs New Zealand

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 Veteran England star and captain Heather Knight slammed a 107-ball 89 and Katherine Brunt scored a quick 43 as the hosts powered to a 30-run victory in the opening One-day International against New Zealand Women at the County Ground here.

Sent in to bat on Thursday evening, England were bowled out for 241 in the 50th over, with captain Knight (89) leading the way alongside Tammy Beaumont (44) and Brunt (43).

That proved 30 runs too many for New Zealand, as Brunt (1/22) and the England attack squeezed them out of the game, eventually bowling them out for 211 in the 47th over.

England were put in to bat first by New Zealand and got off to a good start. Openers Lauren Winfield-Hill and Beaumont capitalised on the bad balls and kept the scoreboard ticking. They were going strong at 44 in the ninth over when Hannah Rowe (1/47) struck, removing Winfield-Hill on 21 via a faint nick through to the keeper.

Her wicket did little to slow down the scoring as captain Knight joined Beaumont at the crease. The duo forged a strong partnership and soon took England past the 100-run mark in the 22nd over.

Just as it looked like England were going to reach top gear, Sophie Devine (2/57) provided New Zealand with the second breakthrough, ending the half-century stand. Beaumont fell just six runs short of a fifty, struck in front of the middle stump.

Two overs later, Natalie Sciver (2) fell to the returning Lea Tahuhu (2/32). She also picked up the wicket of Amy Jones (2) in the 30th over and Jess Kerr (3/42) got Sophia Dunkley (5) in the 32nd over to reduce England to 140/5.

Despite the regular fall of wickets, Knight continued to take on the New Zealand bowlers. She paired with Brunt to push England past 220. The 88-run stand was broken by Leigh Kasperek (1/48) in the 47th over when she caught and bowled Knight for 89.

The remaining four England wickets fell for 13 runs as the hosts were bowled out for 241.

New Zealand were in trouble early in the chase as Sciver (2/10) accounted for Suzie Bates (1) and Lauren Down (5) inside the opening 10 overs.

The pressure continued to mount as Kate Cross (2/37) had Maddy Green (19) caught at slip in the 13th over to reduce New Zealand to 31/3. The duo of Amy Satterthwaite (79*) and captain Sophie Devine (34) rebuilt the innings in a 78-run stand but just as they were getting back into the game, Cross struck again, removing the Kiwi skipper for 34 in the 29th over.

Wickets fell at regular intervals from there as New Zealand slipped to 143/8, with Sophie Ecclestone (2/39) on a hat-trick at one point after removing Katey Martin (9) and Brooke Halliday (0).

Brief scores: England Women 241 in 49.3 overs (T Beaumont 44, H Knight 89, K Brunt 43; J Kerr 3/42, S Devine 2/57) beat New Zealand Women 211 in 46.3 overs (A Satterthwaite 79 not out, S Devine 34; N Sciver 2/10, K Cross 2/37, S Ecclestone 2/39) by 30 runs.

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