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Tuesday,07-February-2023
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When camaraderie, bonding were the key ingredients in India’s Thomas Cup triumph

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India’s maiden Thomas Cup title on Sunday came on the back of some solid camaraderie shown by the players on and off the court. However, HS Prannoy has revealed that ‘bonding’ is something which is not common in a sport like badminton, where shuttlers play individually in tournaments.

The 29-year-old said following India’s gold medal-winning performance against the most successful team in the tournament’s history — Indonesia — that the players made a “conscious effort” to gel and ensure there were slip-ups this time around.

Not getting overawed by Indonesia’s reputatioin — they have 14 titles to their name in the tournament — India defeated the favourites 3-0 on Sunday after previously reaching the Thomas Cup semis in 1952, 1955, and 1979.

Prannoy, whose selection in the side for the tournament had raised questions, said, “The way everyone bonded this week, I think I should give credit to all the players out there and I think we made a conscious effort to do this because we knew this is not something which is very common amongst us… because we play individual events the entire year.

“And, to come to a team event and all of a sudden to gel is slightly tough. But I think we all made this conscious effort,” said Prannoy, who had won the decisive singles game against Rasmus Gemke of Denmark in the semifinal to earn India its maiden entry in the final.

He said that from the day the team left Hyderabad for the tournament in Bangkok, the focus and discussion centred around team bonding, which he felt is the essence of a team sport.

“The day we left Hyderabad, we had a team discussion saying that this is the time where we can win this… we have a team which can actually challenge for the title. But the only thing, which we will have to consciously do is to help and support each other because that’s what is going to change the results in the entire tournament,” opined Prannoy, who played the semifinal with an ankle injury and still managed to guide the team into the final.

Badminton stalwart, Kidambi Srikanth, termed it as one of the biggest achievements in his personal career.

“Individual events are always different from team events and we hardly get to play any team events. Thomas and Uber Cups are one of the biggest team events that we have. So, when you actually end up winning such a big tournament, it really is a very big win. It will actually take a while before you actually know what has happened.

“I would rate this as one of my biggest wins, that’s for sure. Everyone did extremely well. I don’t think there is any one individual to be singled out. Everyone in the team has done extremely well. Having said that, it was one of my best performances also,” said Srikant, who clinched the deciding singles in the final beating world No. 9 Jonatan Christie comfortably to guide India to the historic win.

He said that despite being the oldest member of the contingent in a team comprising of youngsters, he didn’t have to give any motivational speeches.

“Well, I might have played more number of events than anyone else, but I didn’t have to give any big, long-long speeches. It was just about letting them know that they are doing well and it is just that you get just one hour to play… and you really get that one hour to do well every day. I am very happy that all the youngsters really stepped up and played really well when it mattered. Frankly, I didn’t have to tell them anything,” said the 29-year-old Srikanth.

“They were really pumped up, very excited… when we came here we said whatever it takes to win this medal we will do. And, these youngsters handled the pressure well.”

National

National Rally Championship: Aishwarya Pissay to go for her 6th straight title

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Nashik: Aishwarya Pissay, the only FIM World Cupper from India, is all set for the final round of the FMSCI National Rally Championship (INRC-2w) 2022 and will be chasing her sixth straight national title when action resumes after a gap of over two months with the Rally of Nashik.

The Bengaluru racing star is the favourite in the sixth and final round of GodSpeed Racing’s MRF MoGrip FMSCI National Racing Championship – 2W 2022 here on Sunday.

Aishwarya is the 2019 FIM Bajas World Cup champion in the Ladies’ class, and after her brief stint in the ‘Big Boss Kannada’ back in November, returns to the circuit to do what she loves the most – biking.

The Petronas TVS Racing factory rider had won the fifth round in Pune to set up a grand finale.

Later, the final round here was put off.

The multiple-National title holder, Aishwarya Pissay is leading the championship table in her class, despite missing a round earlier, and is raring to defend her title once again. She has put in over a month’s training on her reliable TVS TR 200R, including on-tarmac sessions, and is ready for the final hurrah.

Supported by Petronas TVS Racing, Aishwarya, won the first round in Chikkamagaluru by a mile after which the 27-year-old missed the second round. Pissay then came back strongly to reclaim the title lead with splendid victories in the next three rounds in Coimbatore, Bengaluru, and Pune respectively.

“I am eagerly waiting to get back into competitive racing. The terrain will be broken tarmac and very technical. I have trained hard during this long break on my much-accomplished TVS TR 200R which is based on the TVS Apache RTR 200. I thoroughly enjoyed riding the motorcycle, all thanks to which I am going strong into the last race of the season. I will be giving my 100 per cent to win one more National title,” the talented Bengaluru rider was quoted as saying in a release on Saturday.

The MRF Rally of Nashik will have a 17.5 km Special Stage (SS) run thrice from Nandgaon Kolikharwal, all in the forward direction, for a combined competitive distance of over 52.5 km, mostly broken tarmac. Along with a transport section of about 70 km, the total rally distance will be 122.5 km. The ceremonial flag-off from Amboli Holiday Home, Opp Amboli Dam, Tal Trimbakeshwar will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday while the Special stages will be held on Sunday.

The six-round MRF MoGrip FMSCI National Rally Championship for two-wheelers (INRC-2w) 2022 is one of the 12 Nationals conducted in various motorsports disciplines by FMSCI.

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Ravi Bishnoi will become someone like Rashid Khan, says Suresh Raina

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Former India cricketer Suresh Raina thinks that young leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, who is with Lucknow Super Giants in the Indian Premier League (IPL), has the potential to become like prolific Afghanistan leggie Rashid Khan in future.

“If you see all the big bowlers who have earned their stripes in Test cricket, I think Bishnoi with his character and way of delivering the ball, will become someone like Rashid Khan,” he said on a new episode of ‘Legends Lounge’ available on JioCinema.

Former India left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha thinks left-handed batter Tilak Varma, who had a breakout IPL 2022 with Mumbai Indians, is a special talent.

“He’s from Hyderabad. I have seen his development since he was a kid. I am talking about him in U-15 and U-16 cricket and how hard he works. His schedule involves going to the ground at 6 AM and coming home at 6 PM. He only takes a 30-45-minute lunch break. He is thoroughly dedicated.”

Ex-India left-arm pacer R.P. Singh picked left-handed opening batter Yashasvi Jaiswal, who plays for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, as a potential gen-next batsman.

“If you look at his batting in the domestic circuit, you can tell there is something different about him. His game-reading sense, his batting technique, or his know-how of how to end a match. The good thing about him is that even if he makes 50, he is looking ahead at his 100.”

Former India wicketkeeper-batter Parthiv Patel wanted to name Varma for his choice of batter as well considering he has seen him bloom in the IPL for Mumbai Indians, but decided to talk about Delhi Capitals’ batter Prithvi Shaw and Gujarat Titans’ bowler Yash Dayal.

“The way (Shaw) has been batting in domestic games, we can see he plays well.”

“Questions have been raised about his fitness and if he overcomes all these doubts, I think he has an incredible future ahead of him. My choice for bowler is Yash Dayal. Good bowler. If there was a standout bowler last year, I think everyone could see it was Yash Dayal.”

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International

Australian Open: Sania Mirza bids adieu to Grand Slam career as runner-up in Melbourne

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 India tennis star Sania Mirza on Friday wrapped up her legendary Grand slam career as Australian Open mixed doubles runner-up. The Indian ace and partner Rohan Bopanna lost to the all-Brazilian pair Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos in the mixed doubles final here at Melbourne Park.

Sania and Bopanna were beaten 7-6(2), 6-2 by Brazilians Stefani and Matos, who were playing in their first-ever Grand Slam final.

In her final major, the 36-year-old Sania admitted her emotions almost boiled over after the Indians stunned third seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski in the semifinals. There was no holding them back after her final match at Melbourne Park, 22 years after she first teamed with Bopanna.

Interestingly, Sania claimed her first major in 2009 at Melbourne Park, when she paired up with Mahesh Bhupathi. And she ended her illustrious Grand Slam career here.

Melbourne Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Indian star. After his maiden triumph in 2009. Seven years later, in 2016, she paired up with Swiss star Martina Hingis and claimed the women’s doubles title as the top seed.

Outside Australia, she earned four other Grand Slam titles: 2015 Wimbledon and 2015 US Open women’s doubles with Hingis, 2012 Roland Garros mixed doubles with Bhupathi and 2014 US Open mixed doubles with Bruno Soares.

“The journey of my professional career started in Melbourne� in 2005 when I played Serena Williams in the third round as an 18-year-old,” an emotional Sania said.

“That was scarily enough 18 years ago and I’ve had the privilege to come back here again and again and win some titles here. Rod Laver Arena has really been special in my life� To play the final, obviously, we couldn’t get over the line, but there’s no better place and no better person to finish my Grand Slam career with.”

“I never thought I’d be able to play in front of my child in a Grand Slam final, so it’s truly special for me to have my four-year-old here and my parents here, Rohan’s wife here,” she added.

Bopanna was looking to add a second Grand Slam mixed doubles title after his 2017 Roland Garros victory. Despite coming up short, he paid tribute to his compatriot and friend.

“It’s truly special for me to play with Sania,” he said. “Our first mixed doubles together was when she was 14 years old and we happened to win the title.

“Today we get to play the last match here on Rod Laver Arena. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the title, but thank you so much for your time, for Indian tennis, for inspiring each and everyone.”

Stefani and Matos are the first all-Brazilian team to win a major after ending Sania and Rohan Bopanna’s farewell appearance together in the Australian Open mixed doubles final.

“Rohan and Sania� I know how many people you’ve inspired,” Stefani said. “Like Brazil, like India, this means so much to our countries. It inspires the kids, it inspires the next generations.”

The six-time Grand Slam champion, Sania, earlier this month announced that she will retire from professional tennis after the Dubai Tennis Championships, a WTA 1000 event, which begins on February 19.

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