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Our batting in World Cup finished at three: Gavaskar

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Sunil Gavaskar

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) In my mind’s eye there are many Sunil Gavaskar fanboy moments. Lashing out against Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding, hooking and cutting in a ferocious counter punching exhibition at the Kotla in Delhi, playing an epic 221 at the Oval in a run chase, fighting virtually single-handedly on a minefield against Pakistan spin twins — Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed in Bangalore, epochal moment of winning the World Championship of Cricket in Oz, battling 13 men, including a full strength Pakistan pace attack in Karachi scoring hundreds in each innings and smashing three hundreds against Jeff Thomson in Australia.

Every moment is embedded in the memory recesses like they happened yesterday and one could go on describing them. Sunil Manohar Gavaskar was a short man but he strode the cricketing world like a colossus. By his own admission “shorter men make better batsmen because they have a lower centre of gravity which allows them to play equally well against the quicks and quality spinners both on the back and front foot”.

Earlier this month, the iconic opening batsman celebrated his 70th birthday but this was somewhat marred by India losing the World Cup semi-final to New Zealand. In this exhaustive interview, the supremely fit former Indian captain busts many urban legends and myths about himself and his fellow travellers.

Q: Do you still play baddy at Bombay Gym whenever you get the time and is it still doubles? Is that the secret of your youth and 34 waistline which has never seen any compromise? Or does fitness go beyond baddy?

Gavaskar: No I don’t play badminton at the Bombay Gymkhana anymore. I stopped in 2011 when the Indian cricket schedule and my TV commitments took me out of Mumbai so often that it was impossible for my group to wait up for me.

Q: Ravi keeps saying that this is the best Indian team of all time and you have contested that…I would agree that this is a very good fast bowling unit, but beyond that…

Gavaskar: Everybody has a right to their view so that’s ok.

Q: Is it true that Imran at the end of the fabulous Bangalore Test when you batted on a bunsen against Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed told you that the time is now to retire and not when people ask you to? It was one of your exceptional innings and you almost won the game for us…

Gavaskar: That’s a totally made up story like so many others about me. Fact is during the India tour of England in 1986, Imran and I had lunch where I told him that I was planning to retire at the end of that tour. He said to me that I shouldn’t do it as Pakistan was due to tour India the following February. He said his ambition was to beat India in India and it wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t in the Indian team then. I told him then that if the Pakistan tour was not announced by the time the England tour ended I would retire at the end of the tour. It was announced within a fortnight so I postponed the retirement.

Q: You still played the World Cup after that and scored runs including your only hundred in ODI, was there gas left in the tank?

Gavaskar: Oh yes, there was gas left in the tank but I wasn’t enjoying driving the car so it was better to get out then.

Q: What happened to Bombay cricket, why did it fall off the cliff? Young callow Maharashtrian boys played for izzat and shaurat, where has that ethos disappeared?

Gavaskar: It’s not that Mumbai cricket has gone down, it’s just that other states have raised the level of their game which is why Indian cricket is in such a healthy state with its talent pool.

Q: Do you think M S Dhoni signalled the true democratisation in Indian cricket as people from obscure towns and smaller cities made the big leap in Indian cricket?

Gavaskar: Have you forgotten India’s greatest match winner, Kapil Dev? He was the one who showed that you don’t have to come from a metro to be a successful cricketer. Before that there were great players from non-metros too, like Col C.K. Nayudu, Vijay Hazare, Mushtaq Ali to name just three and the regularity of non-metro players started after Kapil showed them how.

Q: So much that commentators wrote about your rocky relationship with Kapil, but now both of you praise each other profusely…

Gavaskar: Sadly, Indian cricket is full of stories where it’s suited people to try drive a wedge between players. From Col C.K. Nayudu’s time it is been the practice. Thanks to the PR guys of current cricketers, any such move is nipped in the bud today. For the record for whatever it is worth Kapil and I have always had a mutually respectful relationship. We were always aware that Indian cricket came before anything else.

Q: Tactically were we short of a good batsmen in the middle order in this World Cup and the off day exposed not just that but our tail?

Gavaskar: Our batting this World Cup finished at number 3. If these batsmen didn’t get runs as was seen in the semis then we were always going to be in trouble.

Q: How is that we ended up playing four wicket keepers if we include Rahul while a whole phalanx of talent sat twiddling its thumbs in India?

Gavaskar: That is a question that only the team management can answer.

Q: You once told me about the perfume ball which you could smell even as the leather passed by, these days everyone seems to be bowling at 145-150 clicks, but there is no fear factor? Who was the most dangerous fast bowler you faced? Is it the length that was different or were the wickets livelier…

Gawaskar: The protective equipment today is so good that the batsmen are hardly in physical danger. This is a terrific development as nobody wants to see any serious injury on the field. The best fast bowler I faced was Andy Roberts who had the knack of bowling the unplayable ball even in the 60th over. There was no restrictions on the bouncers then, so the length was generally where you were playing off the back foot most of the time. The pitches especially in England, Australia and New Zealand had a fair amount of grass on them.

(To be Concluded)

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Sania scripts dream return, clinches doubles title in Hobart

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Hobart: Indian tennis star Sania Mirza along with Nadiia Kichenok came out with yet another brilliant performance as they defeated the China’s Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai in straight sets to win the women’s doubles title at Hobart International on Saturday.

Former doubles No.1 Mirza and Kichenok defeated the second-seeded Chinese duo 6-4, 6-4 in a rather one-sided contest which lasted one hour and 21 minutes.

The Indo-Ukrainian pair were the first to break in each set, but ultimately needed to wrap up the match by delivering the deciding breaks late. The unseeded duo won the last three games of the opener, and eight of the last 10 points to seal victory, having nearly seen a double-break advantage slip away.

Though the duo won six straight games from 3-4 in the opener to lead 6-4, 3-0, the 33-year-old Indian was the one who saw her serve broken twice as the Chinese eventually restored parity at 4-4.

Nonetheless, Mirza and Kichenok finished the match off in style with their fifth break of the match, before the Ukrainian served out the match and the victory for the team.

It is Mirza’s first WTA title in just over two years and 42nd of her storied doubles career, while Kichenok won her fifth, and first since partnering her twin sister, Lyudmyla, to win the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai in 2018.

The Indian star last won a trophy alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands at the Brisbane International in the first week of the 2017 season, one of three doubles finals she reached that year before announcing her pregnancy in April of 2018.

Three-time doubles Grand Slam winner Mirza was making a return to competition after a two-year hiatus away from tennis, initially due to injuries and then welcoming a son in October 2018.

The former world No.1 won the Australian Open doubles title in 2016 following a successful 2015 season in which she claimed the Wimbledon and US Open doubles titles, all paired with Martina Hingis.

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Rajkot ODI: India level series with 36-run win

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Rajkot, Jan 17 : India beat South Africa by 36 runs in the second ODI at the SCA stadium in Rajkot to level the three-match series between the two sides 1-1. Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli helped India post a total of 341 to chase. In response, Australia were all out for 304 despite Steve Smith scoring 98.

Openers David Warner and Aaron Finch, who posted a record 258-run stand to help Australia stroll to a win in the first ODI, could not do a repeat of their heroics with the former being dismissed in the fourth over. Smith came in at number three and put up 62 with Finch before the Australian captain fell to Ravindra Jadeja on account of a close stumping call in the 16th over.

Finch had attempted to hit Jadeja over extra cover but missed the delivery due to the turn. Finch dragged his backfoot marginally outside the crease and wicketkeeper Rahul whipped the bails off immediately. Replays made it a tough call for the umpire to make but the decision went India’s way in the end.

However, Marnus Labuschagne, playing his first ODI innings, stuck on with Smith and the pair gave Australia the upper hand in the middle overs. They put up 96 for the third wicket before Labuschagne holed out at mid-off off Jadeja on 46. Smith however looked settled and was cruising to his ninth ODI ton when a loose shot cost him his wicket.

Kuldeep Yadav, who was wicketless in the first eight overs, bowled the 38th over and got Carey when the latter sent the ball straight to Kohli at extra cover. It was Kuldeep’s 100th ODI wicket and two balls later, Smith played on and had to walk back two runs shy of his hundred.

Ashton Turner and Pat Cummins were dismissed off consecutive deliveries by Mohammed Shami in the 44th over. Both players were done in by pinpoint yorkers directed at the middle stump. Shami sent in a leg stump yorker for his hat-trick ball and hit Mitchell Starc on his pads but the umpire didn’t raise his finger with the ball clearly going down the leg side.

Navdeep Saini then got India closer in the 47th with the wickets of Ashton Agar and Starc off the first and third balls of the over. Kane Richardson then delayed the inevitable by smashing Mohammed Shami for three fours and a six in the penultimate over. Jasprit Bumrah ended the match by dismissing Adam Zampa off the first ball of the last over.

Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan scored his third straight fifty with a sublime 96 from 90 balls, his innings laced with 13 fours and a six as skipper Kohli smashed a 76-ball 78 (6×4). But it was Rahul, batting at No.5 who gave India the much-needed push in the last ten overs with his aggressive batting and range of shots. Rahul was run out in the final over for 80 off just 52 balls, his quickfire knock studded with six fours and three sixes.

For the Aussies, leg-spinner Adam Zampa was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/50.

The decisive third ODI will be played on Sunday at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru.

Brief scores: India: 340/6 in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 96, KL Rahul 80, Virat Kohli 78; Adam Zampa 3/50) vs Australia 304 (Steve Smith 98, Marnus Labuschagne 46; Mohammed Shami 3/77)

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Anand gets past Xiong for first win in Tata Steel Masters

It was a French Defence Winawer variation where none of the players castled throughout the game.

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Viswanathan Anand

Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Jan 17 : Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand beat Jeffery Xiong of the United States to notch up his first victory in the Tata Steel Masters chess tournament here on Friday.

Anand was struggling for form but roared back to notch a win after one loss and three draws.

The Indian was very good in the round four match, playing some brilliant chess.

It was a French Defence Winawer variation where none of the players castled throughout the game.

Anand fired a king side attack early with his white pieces and enjoyed spatial advantage in the middle game.

Xiong tried to keep him at bay but in the end Anand found a crucial central breakthrough after which the resulting rook and pawns endgame was a walk in the park.

Anand moved to joint sixth spot with 2.5 points on a day.

Firouzja Alireza also scored a victory over Anish Giri of Holland.

Anish Giri dropped to 11th spot along with Nikita Vituigov of Russia on two points, Yu Yangyi of China is in 13th spot on 1.5 points and Kovalev stands last with just one point in his bag. Eight rounds still remain in the marathon event among 14 players.

Magnus Carlsen’s form was not too good even though he played his 112th game without a defeat.

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