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Saturday,06-March-2021

National

Rishabh Pant wasn’t even aware Smith removed his guard: Vikram Rathour

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Vikram-Rathour

India wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant wasn’t even aware that Steve Smith was removing his guard from the batting crease on the final day of the drawn third Test against Australia in Sydney, said India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour on Thursday.

Rathour said that the Indian team didn’t know about the incident and got to know about it only after it was picked up by the media.

“We didn’t even know about the incident. It was only after the game and after the media picked it up that we noticed it. As a batsman, Rishabh wasn’t even aware of it. I wouldn’t like to comment on it because it hardly mattered. He was not even aware of it,” said Rathour ahead of the fourth and final Test against Australia beginning Friday at The Gabba.

The former India opening batsman said that Smith’s form has not ruffled the Indians, who are sticking to the plan they have prepared against them.

“We all know that he is a good player. Our bowlers have been working on specific plans against him and against all the other batters of the Australian team. They have worked so far. But in the last game, he scored some runs. But we still back our plans whatever the bowlers have been discussing among themselves. They still back the plans to get him out,” he added.

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Sunil Gavaskar felicitated on 50th anniversary of his Test debut

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Sunil-Gavaskar

Legendary former India opening batsman and captain Sunil Gavaskar was felicitated on the 50th anniversary of his Test debut, here on Saturday.

The Gujarat Cricket Association was presented him with a specially crafted India cap while a banner was unfurled at the newly-constructed Narendra Modi Stadium here in Motera.

The event happened during the lunch break in front of a sparse crowd that gave Gavaskar a loud cheer on the third day of the fourth and final Test between India and England.

Gavaskar made his debut 50 years ago, on March 6, against West Indies in Port-of-Spain and scored 65 in the first innings and 67 not out in the second as India won the Test by seven wickets. In fact, he had bowled before he could bat on his debut as he sent down one over.

Gavaskar also became the first player to get to 10,000 Test runs, and he attained that feat here in Ahmedabad 34 years ago. That happened on March 7, which falls on Sunday.

He finished with 10,122 runs and retired from Test cricket 16 years after his debut.

Interestingly, while the debate in the ongoing series has been on pitches and batsmen’s inability to play spin bowling, Gavaskar’s last Test back in 1987 against Pakistan was a masterclass against spin bowling on a wicket that had broken and was supporting spin bowling in a big way. He scored a brilliant 96.

Gavaskar has been doing media work since his retirement, including TV and radio commentary.

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Sports ministry awaits decision on Covid vax for athletes

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Kiren-Rijiju

The sports ministry is expecting a decision on Covid-19 vaccination for Olympic Games-bound athletes shortly from the health ministry, Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Saturday.

“It’s sensitive issue, and we are in the process of working out a plan. The health of the elite athletes training in the national camp for Olympics is our priority, but we have to follow protocol of the health department,” said Rijiju.

The sports minister, who was chief guest at an event at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on the eve of the National Marathon, said health workers and frontline staff are the main focus of the government. “But at the same time we don’t want any Olympic-bound athlete to get this contagious virus and spoil his or her preparation,” he said.

There has been uncertainty over the two doses of the vaccine for the athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

Earlier in February, Rajiv Mehta, secretary general of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), had written to the health ministry considering the need for Covid-19 vaccines for top athletes.

“All the coaching staff and athletes who have achieved Olympic qualification might be a small number, but it all depends on the health ministry to give its nod,” said the sports minister.

In the 2019 Olympic qualification round, the Indian men and women’s hockey team along with nine boxers and four wrestlers made it to the Tokyo Olympics. Fifteen shooters and seven individual track and field athletes too have made the cut for the Olympics.

The sports minister hoped more athletes would qualify for the Olympics, starting on July 23. Due to the pandemic, several Olympic qualification events like the gymnastics World Cup have either been cancelled or postponed.

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ICC to identify Delhi-based fixing kingpin

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The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) anti-corruption unit (ACU) is hoping to publicly identify a corruption mastermind in New Delhi soon, based on pieces of evidence gathered from players and officials.

The ACU believes that most cricket corruption cases around the world can be linked back to 10 or 12 individuals working as bookies in India, according to The Telegraph report.

Once the unit identifies the fixer, the ICC will use article 2.4.9 of the code of conduct under which known corruptors will have their names and mugshots along with their aliases uploaded on the ICC’s website. It will then become a punishable offence for any player or official covered by the ICC’s code to associate with that individual.

“Most of these jobs will be started by 10 or 12 corruptors we know very well. Even though at the start of an investigation those people will not feature, and there will be a new person acting as an intermediary making approach to a player, when we dig into it we will find it is one of that group of corruptors using a different name or new phone,” ACU general manager Alex Marshall told The Telegraph report.

“We will look to have that person named as an excluded person and then anyone in cricket who has had fair warning and associates with him will be in trouble. That is not the purpose of it but if we have a number of allegations identifying one person we will start the process of excluding them. We are doing the first one or two right now,” he further said.

Fixers are now thinking imaginatively amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced corruptors to think imaginatively, notably faking a tournament, the Uva T20 League, in Sri Lanka which was actually being held in Sawara Village in Mohali.

“They said it was in Sri Lanka but it was in India and they tried to run an entire cricket tournament that did not actually exist by publishing pictures of a ground the dressed up as if it was in Sri Lanka with advertising and everything, but was in India and was raided by the police,” Marshall said. He said that players who are from poorer countries and whose wages have been affected by the pandemic are the chief targets.

“If you are offering a Zimbabwe player $10,000-30,000 — and by the way almost always the young poor black Zimbabwe players report immediately to us — that is the equivalent of buying a house,” said Marshall.

Marshall said that he is delighted with the number of players coming forward with evidence. The ACU is currently investigating 42 live cases around the world.

“We are the only global sport to go after the corruptors outside our code. We will pursue all the corruptors we come across and we are interviewing people not covered by our code. When we come to publicising details of excluded people we will have to decide what we make public. I will be asking for mugshots, a good clear recent picture, full name and all their aliases but I will have to put that through the lawyers about how much information can go out,” said Marshall.

“The first ones going through the system now are the most persistent corruptors we have been dealing with over the past few years. The purpose is to out these people and make their lives very difficult because they will get lots of publicity about being a cricket corruptor and hopefully that will stop them,” he said.

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