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Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson set to renew captaincy rivalry in WTC final

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When India captain Virat Kohli and New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson take field for the World Test Championship (WTC) final on June 18, they will renew a captaincy rivalry that goes back 13 years, to the 2008 under-19 World Cup semi-final.

Kohli came out winner in that duel, and India eventually won the World Cup by beating South Africa in the final.

Since then, however, Williamson has grown in experience and earned accolades for his leadership whereas Kohli has earned honours as well as brickbats at the helm.

The last time the two had faced off in an ICC tournament was in the 50-over 2019 World Cup semi-final. Williamson trumped his India rival as he used his bowlers well to defend a 239-run total.

Former Australia speedster Brett Lee has said in an interview with the International Cricket Council (ICC) that the WTC final would be a clash of two styles of captaincy. He said that while Williamson is calm, Kohli is all aggression.

On Monday, former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin echoed Lee’s views.

“I don’t like to compare captains or players. Both Kohli and Williamson are different and have been successful. Both have done well for their countries,” Azharuddin told IANS on Monday.

“Williamson has done well for himself and his team with whatever resources he has had. He has got a lot of class. He is magnanimous. Even when he loses the game, he is always generous like we saw in the 2019 World Cup final loss to England. Any other captain would have lost cool and lashed out but he stayed calm and accepted the defeat,” he said.

New Zealand lost to England in a thriller during the World Cup final. With even the Super Over ending as a tie, England won the final and trophy on boundary count.

England had taken the game to Super Over, thanks to a piece of luck when a throw from Martin Guptill in the last over hit Ben Stokes and was deflected to the boundary for four.

Williamson, however, stayed calm and did not lash out in anger after the final.

“He is not aggressive like Kohli but he gets the job done,” said Azhar.

Azhar said that while both have used their resources well, Kohli is different in his style and has the advantage of a very good side.

“Kohli is different. He has got the team he knows. He has got good bowlers. Both have done well for their countries,” said Azhar further.

The 32-year-old current skipper is already India’s most successful captain having led the country to 36 wins in 60 Tests. That is a winning percentage of 60, a shade better than Williamson’s 58.33 as captain.

Despite the record, critics have questioned Kohli’s selections in playing XI especially in overseas Tests. His penchant for changing the playing XI regularly has been blamed for often letting India down.

In South Africa in 2018 and in England 2018, some of the selections are believed to have led to crucial defeats for India.

Conversely, his backing of some of the youngsters has fired up players to perform. He had led India to their first-ever Test series win in Australia 2018-19 and although Ajinkya Rahane repeated the feat earlier this year, coach Ravi Shastri said Kohli had played a key role in instilling self-belief.

Williamson, on the other hand, has led his country in 36 Tests and won 21 of those. The Kiwis have lost eight Tests under him. Except for one, all the losses under him have come overseas.

Although the 21 Tests he has won for New Zealand are second to 28 under Stephen Fleming, his winning percentage of 58.33 is by far the best for any Kiwi captain. Fleming’s win percentage was just 35.

Kohli though has a better record as batsman in England. He has scored 727 across 20 innings at 36.35 while Williamson has 261 runs in 10 innings at an average of 26.1 in England. In fact, in the first Test against England that ended on Sunday, Williamson got 14 across two innings.

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CSK take on Mumbai Indians in a likely match of academic interest

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Four-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings will take on five-time winners Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium on Thursday hoping to salvage some pride in an otherwise dismal season, which has seen the two giants of the league dish out their worst performance in the tournament’s 15 years of existence.

While the Rohit Sharma-led Mumbai Indians are out of contention, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led CSK only have a mathematical possibility of making the last-four as they languish in ninth place with just eight points from 11 outings.

The Super Kings will enter the match after beating the Delhi Capitals by 91 runs in their previous encounter.

Their charismatic batter from New Zealand Devon Conway has been in good form and has scored three consecutive half-centuries. Dwayne Bravo leads the charts with the ball and has scalped 16 wickets thus far.

When these two sides met each other last time, a Dhoni special helped the Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians by three wickets. Dhoni scored 16 runs off the final four deliveries to help his side past the finish line.

In the 15 matches that have taken place in this stadium, the team chasing has emerged triumphant on eight occasions, with the average first innings score at this venue this season being 173.

Squads:

Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni (capt and WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Robin Uthappa, Moeen Ali, Ambati Rayudu, Chris Jordan, Subhranshu Senapati, Dwaine Pretorius, Mukesh Choudhary, Tushar Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Dwayne Bravo, Devon Conway, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Mitchell Santner, Hari Nishaanth, N Jagadeesan, Prashant Solanki, KM Asif, Simarjeet Singh, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Maheesh Theekshana, Bhagath Varma, Matheesha Pathirana.

Mumbai Indians: Rohit Sharma (C), Ishan Kishan (Wk), Kieron Pollard, Jasprit Bumrah, Tim David, Jaydev Unadkat, Riley Meredith, Daniel Sams, Fabian Allen, Mayank Markande, Murugan Ashwin, Basil Thampi, Anmolpreet Singh, Dewald Brevis, Tilak Varma, Aryan Juyal (Wk), Arjun Tendulkar, Ramandeep Singh, Rahul Buddhi, Hrithik Shokeen, Sanjay Yadav, Arshad Khan, Tristan Stubbs.

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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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Against all odds, a labourer’s daughter dreams of winning an Olympic medal

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Coming from a small village in Uttar Pradesh and setting a record in long jump for Delhi, the story of Shivani Soam has drama, emotion and the determination to overcome all odds, including the barriers erected by the male chauvinistic society.

Hailing from a village in Moradabad district, choosing sports was not easy for Shivani. From getting flak for wearing shorts to practicing with boys, life wasn’t easy for Shivani in her village.

But her dedication and determination to do something in sports saw Shivani go ahead despite the taunts. The society, which used to berate her and her family, is today lauding her achievements. The mind-set of the people has changed after Shivani won silver in the 30th North Zone Junior Athletics championship, organised by the Haryana Athletics Association at Rohtak in October 2018.

“All this was not easy for me. My parents used to work in Delhi as daily-wage labourers. At the time of the first Covid-19 wave, the financial situation went from bad to worse for us. We had to return to our village from Delhi. There, when I used to go for practice in the morning, I was the target of taunts. Still, I continued my training,” Shivani told IANS.

Taunts were not the only problem Shivani faced. During the lockdown, when her parents had no work, a situation arose when she even though of leaving the sport. However, she continued her passion against all odds.

Shivani concedes that the pandemic period in 2020 was like an ‘earthquake’ situation in her life.

“The lockdown affected us badly. We had to return to our village… we faced a different problem here. There are many problems for girls, but I did not give up and continued my practice. After a few months, when things became normal, we came back to Delhi, where Deepika ma’am (a sports management company head) contacted me. Since then I have not faced any problem. Now I am focusing on my game,” said the 20-year-old, who wants to breach the Asian Games qualifying mark.

Shivani won gold in the Delhi State Athletic Championship in August, 2019, with a record jump of 5.31 metre. The record is still in Shivani’s name. She says that she is putting in a lot of effort to breach the Asian Games qualifying mark of 6.45 metre.

“I made this record (Delhi State) in 2019. Since then, my performance has improved a lot, now I can easily cross 6.50 in training. It is not difficult for me to qualify for the Asian Games.”

Shivani has a dream of winning an Olympic medal. While the athlete is aware that the task is not easy, she is confident that one day she will be good to compete at the international level.

“For a player, the biggest dream is an Olympic medal. I have a dream of winning a medal at the Olympics. But before that, there will be an attempt to win a medal at the Asian Games. My jump is good now, and with a little improvement, I will qualify for the Asian Games. After that I will plan for the future,” Shivani told IANS.

Shivani thanked the sports management company ENGN and its head Deepika Das Pereira, and said that they have helped her a lot by paying for training.

“Shivani is a very talented girl. ENGN focuses exclusively on female athletes and helps them realise their potential and reach their goals. In its endeavour to encourage all women to make health and fitness a part of their life, it has also launched a product line of high quality performance wear at affordable prices. Part of the revenue is cycled back towards supporting the needs of their talent,” Pereira, head of talent and sports, ENGN, said.

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