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India outclassed 0-4 by Australia in Azlan Shah Cup final

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Ipoh (Malaysia), April 16 : India’s hockey team suffered a 0-4 drubbing in the final against reigning world champions Australia who captured their ninth Sultan Azlan Shah Cup title here on Saturday.

Thomas Craig (25th and 35th minutes) scored twice before Matt Gohdes, playing in his 150th match, scored in the 43rd and 57th minutes as Australia produced a stirring high-pressing game.

It was Australia’s fourth Azlan Shah Cup title in six years, while five-time champions India claimed their second runners-up finish in the annual tournament. India had finished runners-up in the 2008 edition, to Argentina.

“We went up against the best team in the world, playing their best game and came up short. It is a creditable finish for us, since we had a team that was a mix of young inexperienced players and veterans working together for the first time,” India head coach Roelant Oltmans said in a release.

“This is a good warm-up for us, leading to the Olympics,” the Dutchman added, highlighting his side’s four wins in the tournament.

Earlier in the bronze medal match, New Zealand defeated Malaysia 5-4 via penalty shoot-out. New Zealand scored twice in the final quarter to equalise 3-3 as the match headed to the shoot-out.

In the final between last year’s silver medallists Australia and 2015 bronze medallists India, the former started strongly, executing their high-pressing game to good effect. They even had their centre-back and captain Mark Knowles going all over the Indian goal to attack.

However, Indian defenders did well to close down the space and didn’t allow any genuine field goal chances in the first quarter.

Australia got their first chance in the ninth minute when Craig’s hit kissed the leg of S.K. Uthappa and they were awarded a penalty corner. Andy Hayward’s drag-flick went inches away, much to the relief of the Indian camp.

Australia continued to attack and Craig ended the deadlock in the 25th minute. After receiving a cross from the left, Craig resisted Jasjit Kular and Danish Mujtaba before moving away to create space and shoot the ball home. It was Craig’s third goal of the tournament.

Till this time, the Indians had hardly threatened the Australian goal and when they mobilised their troops ahead, Australia caught them off-guard, sneaking in in a flash to earn a penalty corner.

However, Blake Govers’ flick was dismissed by the Indian defence and in the counter, they got their first chance. But Mandeep Singh’s deflection off a long square pass was wayward.

Trailing by a goal, India pressed high for the equaliser and managed to earn a penalty corner, executed by Harmanpreet Singh which was blocked by Andrew Charter.

India’s positive mobilisation turned awry when Craig added his second goal in a counter-attack. Australia brilliantly used the wings to create space and Simon Orchard’s pass at the far post was met by a diving Craig, who managed to beat Indian goalkeeper Akash Chitke.

India, on the turn, launched a fierce counter-attack that saw the ball almost being cleared on the goal-line by Chris Ciriello. It earned India a penalty corner but Rupinder Pal Singh’s drag-flick was dismissed by Charter and his army of defence.

India conceded their third goal in the 43rd minute when midfielder Matthew Swann was involved with Chitke and as the Indian goalkeeper and the Australian both fell down, Eddie Ockenden snatched the ball and passed it to Gohdes, who employed a reverse-hand strike to make it 3-0.

Gohdes made it 4-0, thanks to an error from India’s changed goalkeeper Harjot Singh. Gohdes received a diagonal pass on the left to execute another left-hand strike that was half-heartedly defended by Harjot, leading to the fourth goal.

With this goal, Australia began to celebrate the title triumph in front of a nearly packed Azlan Shah stadium.

In the presentation ceremony, Australia’s Blake, who scored four goals, was declared the player of the tournament. Pakistan’s Arslan Muhammad Qadir scored six goals — maximum in the tournament and walked away with the young player of the event award.

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Two HI employees diagnosed with COVID-19, office to remain shut

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Hockey India’s office will remain shut for two weeks after two of its staff tested positive for the coronavirus. 29 out of 31 employees were tested and apart from the two that tested positive, two more tested inconclusive and will be tested again.

“The two inconclusive are being retested again on Sunday (May) 31st at 11am,” International Hockey Federation (FIH) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Narinder Batra said in a statement.

While one of the employees is from the accounts department, the other is a junior field officer, Batra further informed. Amongst the two inconclusive tests, one is a joint director and the other is a dispatch clerk.

“All 25 found negative have gone into home quarantine for 14 days to work from home,” said Batra. “The two found positive are also in strict home quarantine under medical monitoring. The two inconclusive are also in home quarantine under medical monitoring.”

Batra said that Hockey India President Mushtaq Ahmad informed him of the offices remaining shut for 14 days.

Batra further urged all National Sports Federations and State Olympic Associations to get their employees tested for the deadly virus “without any further delay.”

“This will help in giving confidence to us and all our stakeholders including our athletes,” he said.

More than 1.7 lakh confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported so far in India while close to 5000 people have lost their lives.

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Virat Kohli only Indian in Forbes top 100 highest-paid athletes

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Virat Kohli, captain of the Indian cricket team, remained the only Indian and sole cricketer to feature in the top 100 of highest-paid athletes of 2020 put forward by Forbes magazine.

With an estimated total earning of $26 million ($24m from endorsements and $2m from salary/winnings), Kohli has made a jump of more than 30 places from 2019 and is at the 66th spot in the list. In 2019 too, the ace batsman was the only Indian to feature in top 100 (at 100th place) with estimated earnings of $25 million.

Meanwhile, Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer became the first from the sport to top Forbes’ list of highest paid athletes. With an estimated $106.3 million earned over the past 12 months, the Swiss maestro edged out Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo from the top spot.

The three athletes immediately below Federer are all football players with Ronaldo on second with estimated earnings of $105 million. Ronaldo’s arch rival Lionel Messi is third with an estimated $104 million while Brazil’s Neymar comes fourth with $95.5 million.

NBA stars came next in the list with Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James earning $88.2 million, Golden State Warriors all-star Stephen Curry with $74.4 million, Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant with an estimated $63.9 million.

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka is the highest paid female athlete with $37.4 million. She however comes only 29th in the overall rankings. US tennis great Serena Williams comes 33rd with $36 million.

The factors that went into Forbes’ calculation were athletes’ revenue, including prize money, salaries, contract bonuses, endorsements, royalties, and appearance fees from June 1, 2019, until June 1, 2020.

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Australia suspends Olympic bid amid COVID-19 recovery

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Sydney, May 25 (IANS) Australia’s Queensland has suspended its bid to host the 2032 Olympics recently as the state government focuses on economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the bid process had been paused, reports Xinhua news agency.

“It’s just on hold. I wouldn’t read too much into that,” Palaszczuk told reporters last weekend.

“We’re focused absolutely on the economic recovery at the moment.”

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it fully supported the Queensland government’s position in placing the Brisbane 2032 candidature on hold.

AOC President John Coates said in a recent statement that meetings of the Olympic Candidature Leadership Group (OCLG) scheduled earlier this year were deferred, allowing governments to focus on dealing with COVID-19.

Coates said he’d proposed to OCLG members that the meetings would not proceed while all three levels of governments dealt with the pandemic.

He also told the AOC Annual General Meeting on May 9 that discussions with the IOC on the candidature would resume when appropriate.

“We all understand there are pressing issues of public health and community wellbeing for governments to address,” Coates said.

“The candidature will have its role to play in terms of jobs and growth in the Queensland economy once we have seen our way through the current crisis.”

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