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Virat Kohli & boys await BCCI nod before starting outdoor training

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The government might have relaxed lockdown rules and athletes have slowly started individual ‘outdoor training, but the contracted Indian cricketers are waiting for the go-ahead from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) before they hit the ground running.

Speaking to IANS, a contracted player said that while the cricketers are looking forward to start their outdoor training, they will do the same only after getting the go-ahead. For now, the players have been following the customised fitness routine given to them by trainer Nick Webb and physio Nitin Patel.

“We are being extremely careful. We trust our team’s support staff and we are working out as per their guidance. When it is the right time for us to change the process, they will let us know and we will follow the new protocols strictly. The key is to be patient in these times when the factors that have forced this change upon us are not in our control,” the player pointed.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen cricket events being cancelled and even on Thursday the Sri Lanka board announced that the limited-overs series they were keen to host against India in June had to be called off with an eye on the pandemic.

In fact, Indian players have through the lockdown told IANS that they will need at least a couple of weeks of outdoor training before they can get back into the zone.

Batsman Shreyas Iyer had said: “Yes, we will need a few net sessions for sure to get the timing back (as a batsman) and also to get the muscle memory working. We will be holding the bat after a while also to have players standing around as you face bowlers bowling at 140kph, it will not be easy to come back into that zone and it will need a few training sessions as also the mental memory to settle down completely.

“It is not going to be easy, but at the same time we are professionals and we have played for so many years to reach this stage, so it will not take us very long. It will be a good challenge for us to overcome and get started with cricket,” he had explained.

Echoing similar sentiments, Deepak Chahar said: “Will take around 10-odd days. You haven’t played for a while, so the body takes time to get used to that side. It is just about following a process to make a return so that the body doesn’t feel shocked. Obviously as professionals we know how to bowl and all of that, but fine-tuning the mind and getting it ready is the challenge here. You need a bit of training and some warm-up games.”

Spinner Kuldeep Yadav had also spoken about the need to slowly get back into the groove. “For sure we will need time to get back to the routine. It’s like if you take a break for 4-5 months and then jump into it again it becomes complicated. It will be difficult for batsmen, spinners, fast bowlers — basically for everyone,” he had pointed.

While a few cricketers (mostly the non-contracted ones) have been seen training outdoors over the last week, there has been no official go-ahead for the same from the BCCI. The board is in fact in the process of developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which would be put in place for all state associations and players to follow once cricketing activities resume.

International

IND vs NZ, 2nd Test: India tighten noose around Kiwis, lead by 332 runs

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Despite New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel’s historic 10-wicket haul, Team India bounced back in style to take a stranglehold on the second and final Test here at the Wankhede stadium, gaining a mammoth 332-run lead with no loss, on Saturday.

The Virat Kohli-led side wrested the initiative by bundling New Zealand for 62 in 28.1 overs in their first innings with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin claiming 4-8 and Mohammed Siraj 3-19.

At the end of Day 2, the hosts were 69 for no loss in their second innings. Mayank Agarwal was batting on 38 with Cheteshwar Pujara, who opened the innings as Shubman Gill had suffered a blow to his right elbow while fielding, was batting on 29.

India may have tightened the noose around the Black Caps but the talk of the town was Ajaz Patel. The New Zealand spinner scripted history by scalping all ten wickets in an innings. He bowled beautifully by giving the ball a lot of revs, giving it enough air and getting a nice loop going.

With his figures of 10-119, Ajaz joined the likes of legends Jim Laker of England (1956) and India’s Anil Kumble (1999) to dismiss the entire opposing team single-handedly.

Laker claimed 10-53 against Australia at Old Trafford, while Kumble bagged 10-74 against Pakistan at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi. Incidentally, Ajaz plays for Yorkshire just like Laker, the first man to claim all-10 in an innings.

The Kiwis spinner, who had taken only 29 wickets in his previous 10 Tests, claimed four wickets on Friday, added two more to his tally in the morning session on the second day and then claimed four more wickets in the post-lunch session.

The 30-year-old Ajaz, who migrated from Mumbai to New Zealand when he was eight and made his Test debut against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2018, claimed his first four wickets for 73 runs and the next six for just 46 runs. He was on a hat-trick in his first over of the second day when he claimed Wriddhiman Saha and Ashwin off successive balls.

India, starting on overnight 221/4, were then bowled out for 325.

Ajaz’s brilliant effort overshadowed the fantastic 150-run knock by Indian opener Mayank Agarwal. In a 311-ball inning, he smashed 17 fours and four sixes. Agarwal, who was 120 overnight, added 30 runs to his total on Saturday but more importantly raised 67 runs for the seventh wicket with Axar Patel (52).

Chasing the total, the Kiwis’ meek surrender raised several eyebrows. The entire team got out for just 62 runs. This is the lowest-ever total by any team against India, the previous lowest being 79 by South Africa at Nagpur in 2015.

Siraj started the carnage for India as he claimed the first three wickets, the only pacer in this Test to get wickets. He bowled a beautiful line, kept the ball in the channel and disguised a straight one quite brilliantly to castle a batsman of the caliber of Ross Taylor.

Ashwin then took over as he bagged four wickets for eight runs. The entire New Zealand innings lasted just 128 minutes as only two batters — stand-in skipper Tom Latham (10) and bowler Kyle Jamieson (17) — could reach double figures. Three batsmen got out for zero.

India did not enforce the follow-on and scored 69 for no loss in their second innings with Mayank Agarwal batting on 38 and Cheteshwar Pujara on 29 at stumps.

Brief scores:
India 325 all out in 109.5 overs (Mayank Agarwal 150, Axar Patel 52, Shubman Gill 44, Ajaz Patel 10-119) & 69/0 in 21 overs (Agarwal batting 38, Pujara batting 29) v New Zealand 62 all out in 28.1 overs (Tom Lathan 10, Kyle Jamieson 17; R Ashwin 4-8, Mohd Siraj 3-19, Axar Patel 2-14).

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International

Viktor Axelsen, Tai Tzu Ying named badminton players of the year by BWF

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Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Tai Tzu Ying were named the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) Male and Female Player of the Year respectively in recognition of their stellar runs this season.

Denmark’s Axelson was rewarded for his extraordinary run starting from the Barcelona Spain Masters in Feburary 2020, and made 10 finals in 11 individual tournaments, winning seven of those, including gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the world governing body of badminton announced during its awards ceremony on Friday.

Tai won the All England 2020 and then struck a rich vein of form at the three-tournament Asian Leg in January 2021, making all three finals, and clinching the BWF World Tour Finals 2020, Xinhua reports. The Chinese Taipei player then made the final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, being defeated in a thrilling match by Chinese shuttler Chen Yufei.

Due to the disruptions caused to the sport’s tournaments by COVID-19 over the last two years, the period of consideration for the BWF Player of the Year awards was from November 2019 until 31 October 2021.

Olympic champions Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei were named the Most Improved Player of the Year, while Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu were named the Pair of the Year.

Chinese shuttler Qu Zimo was named Male Para Badminton Player of the Year, and Leani Ratri Oktila of Indonesia won the Female Para Badminton Player of the Year. France’s Lucas Mazur/Faustine Noel were honored with the Para Badminton Pair of the Year award.

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Junior World Cup hockey: India to meet France in bronze-medal contest

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 India will go head-to-head against France once again at the FIH Men’s Junior World Cup 2021 on Sunday as both teams battle it out for a third-place finish. The two teams had opened their campaign against each other in the tournament on November 24 in a hard-fought match that France won 5-4.

India chief coach Graham Reid expressed confidence on Saturday that the team will overturn the result and clinch bronze.

“We will be taking as many positives as we can from our performances in the tournament so far, and we will be ready for Sunday. I am very confident the team will be back to the level we need to be up against France,” said Reid.

After the loss against France, India went on to pick up three straight wins, defeating Canada 13-1, Poland 8-2, and Belgium 1-0, but lost in the semifinal to Germany 2-4, missing out on the chance to play Argentina in the final.

Speaking on the defeat, Reid said, “I am disappointed that we did not put our best foot forward in the first and second quarter. The basics let us down a bit. Germany attacked well, defended well, and had intensity about them. They did what we were trying to do.”

Reid elaborated, “But we hope to learn from this experience about what we should be doing at this level if we want to win. One of the great things to come out of the game was that none of the players gave up the fight, and we played better in the second half. As a coach, you have to admire that.”

France also had a tremendous tournament, as they won all their Group B games, defeating India 5-4, Poland 7-1 and Canada 11-1. In the quarterfinal, the Frenchmen beat a defensively strong Malaysia 4-0. But their hopes to win the trophy ended after they lost in the semifinal to Argentina 1-3 (0-0) via shoot-outs.

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