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India-Pakistan Champions Trophy final should be a cracker



India Vs Pakistan

By Veturi Srivatsa 

The shock defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka notwithstanding, India are still favourites to win the Champions Trophy whereas Pakistan, despite beating South Africa, Sri Lanka and England, do not seem to inspire the bookies.

After outplaying England in the first semi-final, some saw the possibility of Pakistan playing Bangladesh, once part of their country, in Sunday’s final.

Bangladesh may have entertained hopes of playing the final after knocking out New Zealand at the pool stage to enter the semi-finals. They might have gone into the India match happily remembering their 2-1 series win in their last bilateral series exactly two years ago.

A vastly settled side now, Bangladesh looked well on their way to stretch India a fair distance. Their skipper Mashrafe Mortaza had reason to believe his side could have posted 330-340 seeing the way Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim went about farming the bowling. But even he did not sound confident of defending such a massive score.

The way Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have batted in the championship, any total would have been within India’s reach. If they could get 265 runs so easily losing only one wicket, another 60-70 would not have put them under any pressure.

India’s on-field think-tank, Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, is hitting off very well, getting most of their moves right. Importantly, captain Kohli is making it a point to publicly acknowledge how valuable his predecessor’s advice has been.

After Thursday’s game, Kohli said it was Dhoni’s idea to try out Kedar Jadhav. Soon the back-up off-spinner turned the match upside down by removing both Tamim and Mushfiqur to leave the Bangladesh batting in disarray.

Jadhav took six wickets before the match and all of them to break crucial partnerships. Dhoni seems to have great faith in the cricketing acumen of Jadhav and it is working for Kohli.

Coming to the all important final on Sunday, if reigning champions India are riding on the confidence of having outclassed Pakistan in their opening match, the neighbours can gain comfort from the one hiccup their opponents had against Sri Lanka.

After the first match, which they lost by a whopping 124 runs, Pakistan came back strongly to the surprise of their own supporters back home. One need not certainly go by the outlandish opinions of some of their former cricketers who never seem to miss an opportunity to heckle or speak disparagingly of their captains and star players when their performance does not measure up to their unnatural expectations.

Sunday’s is a new match and both teams would like to be at their full strength. Pakistan would be hoping the leader of their attack Mohammad Amir would recover from his back spasms for the big game.

Likewise, India would like their in-form opener Rohit Sharma to feel good without any body soreness when he gets up on the morning of the match. He and Shikhar Dhawan are in great form and there are fewer worries with all the top-order batsmen having at least one good knock.

India would like their two experienced spinners Ashwin Ravichandran and Ajay Jadeja to exercise greater sway over the middle overs just as Bhuvneshvar Kumar and Jaspreet Bumrah kept a tight leash on the batsmen, both with the new ball and in the death overs.

For Pakistan, if Amir is back, promising Rumman Raees, who had such a good game against England, will have to sit out. They seem to have planned their attack better in the last three matches, yet they must be wondering how to distribute the crucial 20 overs between the two spinners, attacking leg-spinner Shadab Khan and left-arm Imad Wasim.

The Pakistanis have tightened their attack after their first match against India and are confident that Hassan Ali, the leading wicket-taker in the tournament with 10 wickets, can control the game after the first power play with Amir and Zunaid Khan going flat out in the first 10 overs.

Shockingly, former captain Aamer Sohail undermined the performance of the team and targeted in particular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, saying some “extraneous” forces played a role in taking them to the final. Many berated him for his tasteless remarks pointing to some sort of match-fixing.

Seeing many in the social media attacking him for his bizarre statement, the former opener tried to clarify what he actually meant, but has only tied himself in knots, saying Pakistan owe their victories to the prayers of the fans and God. He even tried to connect his comment to Sarfraz’s refusal to dedicate the victory over Sri Lanka to Javed Miandad on the ground that the former Pakistan captain was too critical of the team.

Leaving the former Pakistani cricketers’ proclivity for triggering controversies aside, ther team can still make it a cracker of a final.


(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])


Bad diet was the reason I used to vomit on pitch: Messi




Barcelona, March 20: A change in his diet has helped Argentine FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi not throw up on the pitch during games, the celebrated forward revealed .

“I ate badly for many years: chocolates, fizzy drinks, and everything,” Messi told La Cornisa TV.

“That is what made me throw up during games. Now I look after myself better. I eat fish, meat, salads. Everything is organised and taken care of,” Messi added.

There were concerns over Messi’s state of health and many thought the five-time Ballon d’Or might have an illness, or was suffering from stress.

“I’ve learned to live the way I do, to be myself because at the end of the day it’s easier to do it that way,” the 30-year-old conceded.

“I don’t think too much about how I have to act because of constantly being watched. I’m aware that whenever I speak there are many people that listen, that there are repercussions. I always try to think about what I say in order not to generate controversies.”

Messi also talked about his sons. He welcomed Ciro, his third, earlier this month, but the occasion did not make him emotional.

“The last time I cried for joy was when my son Mateo was born (2015),” Messi said.

“By the time the third one came, I was already used to it!”

Messi added that the birth in 2012 of his first son, Thiago, influenced his life and he could take on-field defeats in a better way.

“The arrival of my first son (Thiago) made me open my mind, not to focus solely on my profession, on football,” he said.

“Of course I don’t like to draw or lose but I take it differently. There are many important things other than a result.

“In the end it’s a game and everyone wants to win, be a champion and be the best. But at times it’s not possible. You can’t always win and not always the best one wins. I learned that when it’s over, there are other things… being with my children, my wife, my family, the rest is secondary.”


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Rajasthan Royals unveil team anthem ‘Phir Halla Bol’




Jaipur, March 19: Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team Rajasthan Royals on Sunday released this year’s team anthem “Phir Halla Bol” with a renewed spirit and exuberance.

“Our anthem has been unique in the sense that it is soaked in the flavour and colour of Rajasthan. ‘Phir Halla Bol’ is a tribute to our fans who have awaited with anticipation to see us back in the IPL,” Rajasthan Royals co-owner Manoj Badale said.

The anthem, sung by popular Rajasthani folk singer Ila Arun, was launched at Game Plan event organised by Star Sports in Jaipur.

The video of the anthem vividly portrays the emotions and the love for cricket in the region.

Last year, several IPL franchises welcomed Rajasthan Royals after it returned to the cash-rich cricket tournament after serving a two-year ban.


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Dinesh Karthik stars as India beat Bangladesh by 4 wickets in Nidahas Trophy final




Colombo, March 18: Wicketkeeper batsman Dinesh Karthik (29 runs off eight balls) played a brilliant cameo towards the end as India beat Bangladesh by four wickets in the final of the Nidahas Trophy T20 tri-series at the R.Premadasa Stadium here on Sunday.

Coming in the second last over with scoreboard reading 133/5, Karthik announced his arrival at the crease through two sixes and a four in first three balls which narrowed the gap between remaining balls and required runs.


The drama unfolded in the last over when India needed five runs in the last ball. Kathik slammed a flat six over extra cover to clinch the issue.

Chasing 167, skipper Rohit Sharma (56) once again led from the front with his classy knock but failed to finish off the proceedings. Middle-order batsman Manish Pandey (28) played sensible innings but was dismissed when needed the most. Then came Karthik who took India to victory.

India started off on a steady note as openers Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan (10) scored 32 runs in three overs but then Dhawan was dismissed by Shakib Al Hasan.

Suresh Raina (0), who also played a crucial role along with Rohit in the last match could not disturb his score this time as the Uttar Pradesh batsman was dismissed in the very next over by Rubel Hossain.

But incoming batsman Lokesh Rahul (24) and Rohit forged a crucial 51-run partnership before Rahul was sent packing by Hossain in the 10th over.

Just when things seemed good in the middle, Rohit departed with Nazmul Islam picking up the crucial wicket in the 14th over. His 42-balls innings was laced with four boundaries and three sixes.

Needing 69 runs in 40 balls, it was all on new two new batsmen Pandey and Vijay Shankar (17). Pandey displayed some superb shots while Shankar also supported handsomely at the other end.

But with 37 needed in last three overs, Shankar played four dot balls which mounted the pressure and as a result, Pandey, while trying for a big one, was caught by Sabbir Rahman off Mustafizur Rahman. Pandey played 27 balls and slammed three boundaries.

Experienced batsman Karthik then joined Shankar and guided India to victory.

For Bangladesh, Hossain picked up two wickets.

Earlier, top-order batsman Sabbir Rahman dragged Bangladesh out of a hole with a well paced 50-ball 77 to help his team post a fighting 166/8.

After spinners Yuzvendra Chahal (3/18) and Washington Sundar (1/20) took four wickets between them to leave their rivals reeling at 68/4 at one stage, Sabbir mixed caution with aggression to hit seven fours and four sixes before Jaydev Unadkat (2/33) took his wicket.

In the last over, Mehidy Hasan (19 not out) took 18 runs off Shardul Thakur (0/45) who had a forgettable outing.

Openers Tamim Iqbal (15) and Liton Das (11) got off to a steady start but just when they looked to step on the gas, in-form Sundar put a spanner in their works, stretching his purple patch with the ball.

Sundar bowled a slower one just outside off stump, forcing Das into a slog sweep which went straight up in the air to Raina who completed an easy catch near short fine leg.

In the next over, the dangerous Iqbal followed suit thanks to an acrobatic catch by Thakur on the very edge of the long-on boundary off Chahal’s bowling.

Chahal removed Soumya Sarkar (1) in the same over, the batsman sweeping straigh to Dhawan at square leg, as Bangladesh looked in disarray inside the Powerplay tottering at 40/3 in six overs.

At the halfway stage, Bangladesh were 68/3 with Rahman and Mushfiqur Rahim (9) trying to stem the rot.

In the very first ball of the 11th over, Chahal grabbed his third wicket as Rahim miscued a widish googly, skying the ball over backward point where Shankar took a fine diving catch running to his right. The pair added 35 runs for the fourth wicket.

Mahmudullah (21), who hit the winning six in the last do-or-die game against hosts Sri Lanka, took time to get going and along with Sabbir looked to build a partnership.

Bangladesh struggled to find the boundary with Mahmudullah breaking a four-over drought with a sublime shot between backward point and short third man off Unadkat in the 13th over.

Mahmudullah’s run out brought an end to their patient association of 36 runs for the fifth wicket but Sabbir lived up to his reputation of a promising young player by smacking Shankar for two sixes in the 17th over and Sundar for one in the previous over.

In the 18th over, Rahman showed deft skills to and place the ball behind the wicket with exploit both third man and fine leg inside the ring for consecutive boundaries.

Trying to go for one too many, Rahman’s brilliant innings came to end with Unadkat ruffling his wickets to get his first wicket.

In the same over, Unadkat castled Hossain (0) and gave away just three runs to underline his potential as a death bowler.

Brief scores: Bangladesh 166/8 in 20 overs (Sabbir Rahman 77, Yuzvendra Chahal 3/18, Jaydev Unadkat 2/33) against India: 168/6 ( Rohit Sharma 52, Dinesh Karthik 29, Rubel Hossain 2/35)


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