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Saturday,17-April-2021

International

Snubbed Hanuma Vihari flies to England for County cricket

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Even as the entire India cricket team players, including Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara, gear up for this season’s Indian Premier League, middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari flew to England on Sunday to join County team Warwickshire.

A source confirmed that the batsman will play at least three games for the County before joining the Indian team for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand that will be played from June 18-22.

The Hyderabad batsman, who was ignored at this year’s IPL auction has been upset after none of the franchises picked him for the base price of Rs 1 crore even though he has been a regular part of the Test team.

Vihari helped India draw the third Test against Australia in Sydney after a gritty show that saw him score unbeaten 23 off 161 balls in close to four hours on the fifth and final day.

Vihari, like Pujara in the past, has been given the cold shoulder by franchises and not picked by them since he is considered a Test specialist. Pujara too would fly to England in the past to play County cricket in the absence of IPL contract in the past. This year though, the India Test No. 3 got a contract for Rs 50 lakh with Chennai Super Kings and has decided to stay back and not fly to England.

Vihari has played IPL for the Hyderabad and Delhi franchises in the past. The last time he featured in IPL was in 2019, when he played just two matches.

The right-handed batsman who missed the fourth and final Test against Australia due to torn hamstring returned home and underwent treatment.

He represented Andhra as captain in the Vijay Hazare one-dayers and endured a string a disappointing performances.

He scored 65 in the first match but followed it with scores of 2, 2, 1, 4 and 0.

International

Barcelona president ‘convinced’ Lionel Messi will remain at Camp Nou

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta is “convinced” Lionel Messi will sign a new contract to stay with the La Liga giants.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and the 33-year-old’s future with Barca is far from certain amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City, DPA reported.

Laporta remains determined to re-sign Messi, who has spent his entire senior career at Camp Nou.

As Barca prepare for the weekend’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, Laporta was asked about the record six-time Ballon d’Or winner. “Everything is progressing adequately,” Laporta said.

“I will do everything within the club’s capabilities to get him to stay. That’s what we’re doing. Messi is motivated. He is an extraordinary person and I am convinced that he will want to continue at Barca.”

Messi has scored a league-high 23 goals and supplied eight assists in 28 La Liga appearances for Barca this season.

In total, Messi has netted 29 goals across all competitions in 2020-21.

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International

Had I adapted a bit earlier, things would have been different: Ankita Raina

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India’s top-ranked singles tennis player Ankita Raina conceded after her loss to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in the Billie Jean King Cup World Group play-off match that had she adapted to the Latvian world No. 52’s game a bit earlier, “things would probably have been a bit different”.

At the end of the day on Friday, India were 0-2 down in the five-match rubber with both Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi losing their singles matches to higher-ranked Latvian opponents, Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova, respectively.

“As the first set went through, I understood what she (Ostapenko) was doing and what I needed to change in my game. It was good that I could adapt to her game, but it probably would have been a bit different had I done that (adapted) a bit earlier,” said the world’s 174th-ranked singles player after losing 2-6, 7-5, 5-7 to the Latvian.

“When you play for your country, you fight for each point and that was seen in the match. I felt that I could have done a bit better in the first set and I did catch up (to win the second set), but Ostapenko has also played such matches before and played at the best level,” the Indian, who will take on Anastasija Sevastova in the reverse singles, said at the post-match press conference.

Ostapenko is the winner of the 2017 French Open title.

Raina, whose game had improved several notches this year, added, “I’ve said I belong to this level and my game has improved. I was very confident going into the match and I did feel that anything could happen. So, I was not thinking too much about the result. But it’s natural that when you are representing your country, you do have some nerves.”

On the reverse singles match, the Indian said, “It’s a new day, a new match. I will be ready and more than prepared and do my recovery that is needed to be ready for the match (against Sevastova).”

For Karman Kaur Thandi, who lost to Sevastova 4-6, 0-6, it was a “huge learning experience playing against a top-50 player for the first time”.

“Now, I need to work on my physical aspect going forward. Playing at this level after a couple of years, and also having not played against a top-50 player, the experience was pretty good, especially the intensity was there in the first set but I got broken twice which made the difference,” said Thandi.

“If you just look at the first set, I was pretty much there, and it could have gone either side. In the second set, the intensity dropped a little bit from my side, and she (Sevastova) also started playing a little bit more solid.”

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I know I am paid to slog: Chris Morris

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A few days after he was denied strike on the last ball of the match against Punjab Kings as his captain Sanju Samson thought he won’t be able to clear the boundary, Rajasthan Royals (RR) all-rounder Chris Morris proved he is no muck with the bat as he led RR to a fascinating three-wicket win over Delhi Capitals.

Morris, who hit an unbeaten 18-ball 36 laden with four sixes, however said he had no regrets on being denied strike although his reaction in Monday’s match after being sent back by Samson was one of bemusement and a sarcastic smile.

“I was going to run back no matter what to sacrifice because Sanju was hitting it so sweetly. Sanju was hitting it like a dream, I wouldn’t have been too upset if he had hit the last ball for a six,” said Morris about the incident in Monday’s game.

Morris, who was bought for Rs 16.25 crore at the IPL mini-auction, said that he knows he is being paid to hit big.

“There are guys who get paid to bat and there are guys who get paid to slog, I know what I am. I am a slogger that swings everything I can, I play so much golf,” he added.

RR had earlier restricted DC to 147/8 in 20 overs and the right-handed batsman and right-arm bowler from South Africa said that he would have taken that target before the start of the match.

“If we had to chase 140-odd when we got here, we would have taken it, so happy to get over the line…it’s quite nice to know that we can win a game from anywhere after being down in the dumps. That’s T20 cricket,” he added.

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