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Titans’ Rashid Khan making it a habit of proving his critics wrong

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Gujarat Titans bowler Rashid Khan has made it a habit of proving his critics wrong by giving sterling performance, time and again. The 23-year-old Afghanistan cricketer was at the receiving end in IPL 2022 when he went wicket-less in just a couple of games, with experts saying that he had lost his winning touch, though he contributed handsomely with the bat on those occasions.

Against Mumabi Indians, the spinner came into his own, hitting back at his critics by taking two wickets for 24 runs in his four overs — the best bowling figures for Gujarat Titans in the game against the five-time champions at the Brabourne Stadium on May 6.

On Tuesday, against Lucknow Super Giants, Rashid was at his devastating best, snaring four wickets for just 24 runs as Gujarat Titans secured a playoffs berth with two games to spare.

“I think those couple of games which didn’t go well, it was all about my line and length,” said Rashid after the magical spell against LSG. “That was something I was missing in those games. The kind of pace I bowl and action I have, I cannot afford to lose my line and length and that was something I missed in two or three games. It was all about focusing on hitting the right area.”

With a bit of assistance from the wicket, and the bounce he got on Tuesday, Rashid turned the game on its head as the Titans managed to defend an easily gettable score of 144, restricting their opponents to just 82 runs for a 62-run win.

“The wicket was helping and there was bounce and turn but overall it was just about my length. I have to bowl the right area, right length, and I will be able to pick wickets and make the run rate go higher,” said Rashid.

Rashid’s utility for Gujarat Titans has never been in question. He can bowl amazing spells and can whack the ball at strike rates of 200 or beyond. Gujarat might have lost their way on a couple of occasions — like the game against Mumbai Indians — but the fact that he has helped pull off amazing chases earlier makes him one of the best all-rounders in IPL 2022.

While people thought Rashid had suddenly become ineffective, one look at his economy rate showed that he was busy choking rival batters and stemming the flow of runs, if not taking wickets. On Tuesday night, he took advantage of the platform provided by the pacers in the powerplay overs to completely demolish the opposition later on.

They (pacers) have given us a platform (in the powerplay). (Mohd) Shami the way he bowled, Yash (Dayal), Hardik (Pandya) and (Alzarri) Joseph, I think the way they bowled in the powerplay, they gave us a kind of platform where we can come and put the pressure up and up,” said Rashid.

He conceded that defending 144 was always going to be tough but with the seamers making early breakthroughs, the task to restrict the opponents was made easy.

“In a score like 140-145, you always need to have a good Powerplay and that was something the seamers gave us today. This is a very crucial part of the competition. The mistakes that we made in the games, whether we lost or won, it’s all about the process. We have to keep the same process. We keep getting better day by day and match by match. It’s not just about the result.

“If we keep learning and doing good things more and more, we have now qualified but the focus is on playing good cricket and enjoying the cricket. That is something we as a team will do and take it one day at a time. (Which wicket he enjoyed most) The wicket I got Jason Holder, that was a very crucial wicket at that time. We knew he’s someone who can take the game away. So his wicket is something, I had planned to bowl that leggie from middle stump and I was expecting it to go to slip but leg before was something. That wicket I enjoyed a lot,” he added.

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Chennaiyin FC sign Ghanaian footballer Kwame Karikari for upcoming ISL season

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 Indian Super League (ISL) side Chennaiyin FC have bolstered their attack by signing forward Kwame Karikari ahead of the upcoming season.

The Ghanaian footballer will be joining the club following an impressive outing in the Thai League for Nakhonratchasima Mazda. He scored 13 goals in 29 league matches for the Thai club last season.

Karikari was also the joint second-highest goal scorer for Mazda in the Thai FA cup with four strikes in six games.

Karikari brings in valuable experience to Chennaiyin’s attack, having played 261 games in his 11-year long professional career with 84 goals and 13 assists to his name.

The striker has plied his trade for 12 clubs in eight top-tier leagues across the world.

He also has two Europa League goals to his name, which came against CSKA Moscow and PSV Eindhoven in 2012.

Talking about the club’s third foreign signing this summer, Chennaiyin FC co-owner Vita Dani said, “I would like to welcome Kwame Karikari to the Chennaiyin family. I think he’s got the technical ability and the physicality to succeed in India. We have had many great forwards at this club and I believe Kwame should be able to match those standards.”

Karikari has spent most of his time in the Swedish league, featuring for AIK Solna, with whom he made his professional debut at 19 in 2011. He played 58 matches, including seven Europa League games, for them and scored 10 goals across competitions in five seasons.

Halmstads and Degerfors were the other Swedish clubs Karikari turned out for.

“I am very happy to join Chennaiyin FC. I cannot wait to get started with the new team and I am really looking forward to this new and exciting challenge,” said Karikari, who also represented Ghana at the U-20 Africa Cup.

It was in 2015 when Karikari made a permanent move out of Sweden and joined Turkish side, Balikesirspor. He played 40 matches for them in two seasons, registering 12 goals and five assists. Later he turned out for clubs in countries like Norway, Qatar, Georgia and Uzbekistan.

He was part of Dinamo Tabilisi’s title-winning campaign in the 2018-19 Georgian league.

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Nadal says he is optimistic about competing at Wimbledon

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Spanish tennis stalwart Rafael Nadal has raised hopes that he will compete at this year’s Wimbledon, saying his left-foot injury is showing signs of improvement, and that he will head to the United Kingdom soon.

“I’m happy. I haven’t limped for a week and the evolution of training is progressing,” said the winner of 22 Grand Slams here.

“From day to day the pain has been different and that’s progress. I have to wait a little. My intention is to try and play Wimbledon and this week has told me there is a chance,” added the 36-year-old, who clinched his 14th title at Roland Garros recently.

Nadal plans to travel to London on Monday to prepare for the third Grand Slam of the year.

“I’ve had two treatment sessions, as was planned. At the moment the progress, as I see it, is satisfactory,” Nadal was quoted as saying by atptour.com

Nadal had spoken about the foot troubles after winning the French Open, saying he had to periodically take injections to soothe the nerves of his injured foot.

Nadal has been nursing a foot injury for a long time, which flares up occasionally and has caused him to miss several tournaments in the last couple of years.

Speaking about the condition of his foot post the French Open title triumph, Nadal had said, “I was able to play during these two weeks with extreme conditions. I have been playing with injections on the nerves to sleep the foot, and that’s why I was able to play during these two weeks. Because I have no feelings on my foot, because my doctor was able to put anaesthetic injections on the nerves. That takes out the feeling on my foot. But at the same time, it’s a big risk in terms of less feelings, a little bit bigger risk of turning your ankle.”

Soon there was speculation the Nadal might not compete at Wimbledon, but he expressed cautious optimism on Friday eveing, saying, “I’m prudent because I know that things change. At the moment, I’ve been able to train over these five days. That’s progress and it allows me to return to Wimbledon after three years. I’m excited about it. It’s a question of taking it day by day, but giving myself a chance to compete.”

The Spaniard has not graced the lawns of Wimbledon since 2019, when he reached the semifinals losing to Roger Federer. “I haven’t played on grass for three years, you have to be patient with the progress. Every day I’ve improved and there is one week left of training in London before starting the tournament. I hope I can use it to get competitive.

“It’s true that playing well at Roland Garros gives you confidence, but grass is a very difficult surface. Any round is complicated. The start of the tournament will be vital for me because, if you manage to progress, later the opponents are more difficult, but then you have more confidence because you’ve found your rhythm on grass,” he added.

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IPL 2022: Umran Malik is a great find, can bowl even quicker with some technical improvements, believes Brett Lee

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Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee on Monday heaped huge praise on Umran Malik, saying that the youngster is a great find and can bowl even more quicker if he works on the few technical areas of his bowling in the future.

Many young Indian bowlers impressed the experts and fans with their sheer pace in the recently concluded IPL 2022 but Malik was the standout performer. The Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer had a breakout season as he picked 22 wickets in 14 matches and often clocked speeds in excess of 150 kmph. For his impressive performance in IPL 2022, Malik got the Emerging Player award.

“There have been many, who have been bowling some decent balls but I have been really impressed with Umran Mailk. I think he is a great find, a youngster hitting over 150 kph, so he has been very very impressive. And, I still believe he can go quicker, which is exciting not only for people like me but for many former cricketers who want to watch guys bowl fast, certainly for Indian cricket,” Lee told IANS at the sidelines of the Phoenix Business Advisory event in the national capital.

The Jammu and Kashmir pacer is still very young, raw and can improve a lot going further. The 45-year old Lee suggested a few key areas, where Malik can improve to become faster.

“There is something in his run-up that he can improve on, action, pulling down harder different parts of the wrist positions. But, the great thing is that one’s actions will never be perfect. My action was never perfect but I always tried to be the best version of me so up until the last ball I bowled before being retired, I was working on my action. So, one can keep improving every single day,” he said.

The Australian feels batters have taken their game to different levels in the last one decade or so and the bowlers are lagging behind. However, he is pleased to see guys hitting the 150 kmph mark in the IPL 2022.

“Over the last sort of fifteen years, I have noticed that batsmen are getting and hitting bigger shots, hitting bigger sixes more often and different kinds of shots have been developed and we have also seen pace being dropped and now we think that 140 kmph is fast. Now, what we have seen through this IPL, a few guys have hit the 150 kmph barrier, which is exciting and so I am up for it,” said Lee.

Asked about the advice for budding fast bowlers, the Australian said, “What makes a good fast bowler is a good sprinter. So, my advice to any young bowler, who wants to bowl on his bowling and become faster to become a good sprinter.”

Lee, who was recognised as one of the fastest bowlers in the world, also praised Hardik Pandya’s captaincy in the IPL, saying that the all-rounder led from the front. Skipper Hardik registered an impressive bowling figure of 3/17 with the ball and also played a crucial knock of 34 runs to guide Gujarat Titans to the IPL trophy in their debut season.

“I think he (Hardik) has been outstanding. His level of commitment to the team, I think with both bat and ball, has been brilliant and to see him take a couple of wickets last night to lead from the front was great,” the former Australian cricketer said.

“You know what you want from a great captain is leadership of course, respect, that someone that stands up and actually delivers, scores runs, takes wickets that’s what you want and Hardik has done. So, congratulations to him,” he added.

Lee, who is also the brand ambassador of Phoenix Business Advisory — a business visa immigration consultancy, also spoke about the company’s role in helping Indians increase their businesses in Australia.

“Phoenix Business Advisory is creating opportunities for high-net-worth individuals based here in India, to come out to Australia to further their business. I’ve been really lucky that every time I come to beautiful shows in India, I have been welcomed with open arms and we’re saying now, the opportunity to trade is open and a free trade agreement has been passed in Australia,” he said.

“There is a massive opportunity to invest and Phoenix just makes things so easy. It’s seamless, right from the time that you apply for that one visa to the end,” he concluded.

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