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Sarfaraz removed as Pak skipper; Azhar & Babar take over

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Sarfaraz Ahmed

Lahore, Oct 18 : Sarfaraz Ahmed has been sacked as Pakistan captain in Test and T20I format of the game. While Azhar Ali has been appointed Test captain, Babar Azam will lead Pakistan in T20Is until next year’s World T20.

Sarfaraz, who has been facing criticism following Pakistan’s dismal performance in the 50-overs World Cup in UK, has also been dropped for the upcoming tour of Australia, where the Men in Green will play three T20Is and kick-start their World Test Championship campaign with two Tests.

Under Sarfaraz’s captaincy, Pakistan won the Champions Trophy in 2017 and rose to the top of the T20I rankings. However, his axing was on the cards after the team’s home series defeat to a severely-depleted Sri Lanka in T20Is.

Reacting to his axing, Sarfaraz said: “It has been an honour to lead Pakistan at the highest level. I want to thank all my colleagues, coaches and selectors who have helped me in this journey. My good wishes are with Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and the Pakistan cricket team, and I hope they will continue to grow stronger and stronger.”

Meanwhile, Azhar said that Sarfaraz has done an excellent job in transforming raw talent into experienced players and he will now look forward to inspiring those players to collectively achieve their World Test Championship objectives and beyond.

“I am not only targeting wins, but also aim to provide opportunities to players to grow in stature and express themselves so that Pakistan cricket can resume its journey to the top. I have always played my cricket the hard way but in a fair manner, and will ensure I continue to uphold the spirit of cricket and enhance the image of the team and the country,” said Azhar as per a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) media release.

Meanwhile, Babar said: “To be named captain of the No.1 ranked side in the world is the biggest thing that has happened to my career to date. I am ready for this challenge and also willing to learn more in the process.”

“Sarfaraz Ahmed has led the side in the shortest format by example and it is my responsibility to take forward his accomplishments so that we remain a consistent, attractive and powerful side,” he added.

PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said it was a difficult decision to drop Sarfaraz. But, his loss of form and confidence is visible and, in the best interest of the team, it has been decided to leave him out and provide him the opportunity to reflect and regroup himself and try to reclaim his form away from international cricket.”

Pakistan are also scheduled to play three T20Is each against Australia (November 3, 5 and 8) and Bangladesh.

Seventh-ranked Pakistan will play fifth-ranked Australia in two Tests in Brisbane (November 21-25) and Adelaide (November 29-December 3(d/n)) before hosting Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for two Tests apiece.

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Special programmes to be broadcast ahead of D/N Test

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Day Night Pink Ball Test Match

Kolkata, Nov 20 : The excitement around the historic Pink Ball Test to be played at one of crickets most iconic venues, the Eden Gardens, has reached fever pitch. Star Sports Network will begin broadcasts as a run up to the #PinkBallTest as early as on November 21. Cricket fans and viewers alike can tune in across the Star Sports Network to enjoy engaging and innovative content.

Fan favourite programmes like ‘Follow the Blues’, ‘Game Plan’ and the flagship pre and post show ‘Nerolac Cricket Live’ will feature the Star Sports panel of experts who will deliver deep insights to create excitement amongst the fans in the build-up to the start of the test match. As part of the content line up, Ajinkya Rahane who is expected to play the historic test, will speak about playing the pink ball. Star Sports has curated segments on the making of the pink ball including an interesting documentary – “17 times to get the colour right”.

One of the most watched pre-game shows, ‘Game Plan’ will feature VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Sanjay Bangar and Aakash Chopra who will talk about the challenges of playing the pink ball especially under lights. A key point that will be discussed at length will be what to expect out of the pink ball and how different it will be for the players playing in the first ever day and night test in India. Viewers will be able to watch how the players go through their preparations and make the necessary adjustments to account for the movement of the pink ball and the weather during the all-important net practice LIVE.

In addition, Star Sports 1 Bangla will be providing Kolkata fans a unique cricketing experience by hosting a cultural extravaganza for the first ever ‘Pink Ball’ match. Cricket fans across the country will witness a cultural utsab LIVE on Star Sports 1 Bangla only for the India vs Bangladesh test match in Kolkata. As fans will witness the first ever Day and Night Test Match, Star Sports 1 Bangla will ensure that the content remains engaging and keeps fans glued to the Test Match over the course of all five days or till the match comes to a close. Special segments as part of the pre-show of Nerolac Cricket Live will include a series of iconic spots in Kolkata that celebrate the bond between India and Bangladesh will also be shown to bring a cultural flavour to the programme.

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Lethal trio of Shami, Ishant and Umesh ready for pink Test

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Shami Umesh Yadav Ishant Sharma

Kolkata, Nov 20 : The Indian team seems to be leaving no stone unturned in order to prepare for their first ever D/N Test and it looks like the stakeholders too are putting in similar efforts to promote the affair. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been tweeting images of a decked up Eden Gardens and of the mascots for the Tests for the past few days and the latest image shows India’s pace trio posing with the ball.

Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav posed with the pink ball in the air as they flicked it up. The pacers are expected to play a big role in the upcoming Test against Bangladesh, as they normally do when the pink ball is new.

Earlier, Virat Kohli batted throughout the twilight period and faced a lot of deliveries from Shami at the iconic stadium. All the talk has been around getting used to the “twilight zone” which cricketers who have played with the pink ball, have acknowledged to be challenging.

Many players who have played the Duleep Trophy, including Cheteshwar Pujara, have said that sighting the pink ball at twilight is a challenge as the crimson hue of the sky and the pink colour of the ball makes it look more like orange. The second Test starts on February 22.

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Anand an inspiration, consistency defies logic: Wesley So

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Wesley So vs Viswanathan Anand

Kolkata, Nov 17 : Filipino-American Grandmaster Wesley So on Sunday hailed Viswanathan Anand as his inspiration, saying that he had no clue how the Indian chess legend was still going strong and was among the best in the world.

“He is an inspiration. I don’t think I could play at this level 20 years from now. It’s incredible what he is doing,” Wesley said on the sidelines of the Tata Steel Chess India event where the recently-crowned World Fischer Random Chess champion met budding chess players.

Wesley, one of the top players in the world, will be seen in action in the penultimate round of this year’s Grand Chess Tour (GCT) in Kolkata from November 22.

The 26-year-old was asked whether he thought former world champion Anand, who will turn 50 next month, could continue further.

“It’s very difficult. Fifty is quite pushing it, but we will see,” said Wesley, who recently crushed world champion Magnus Carlsen 2.5-13.5 in the first ever World Fischer Random Chess Championship final held at Carlsen’s home city Oslo.

“It still amazes me how he does it,” he said of Anand, who became the first Grandmaster from India in 1988.

“Chess players’ prime is mid 20s to mid or early 30s. So it’s clear that he is past his prime, but he is still one of the best players in the world and is in the top 10. I don’t know how he does it. He is fit and a hardworker. He is a big inspiration,” Wesley said.

He added that Anand was so intelligent that he could have been something great even if he did not become a chess player.

“He is a magnificent person and a gentleman. My family likes Vishy a lot. I have been competing with him regularly for the last five years. If he wasn’t a chess player, he would be great in something else.

“He is very intelligent. I can only imagine how good he was 20 years ago when they said he was the fastest player on the planet,” said Wesley, who lost to Anand in the fifth round of the Altibox Norway chess tournament earlier this year.

On his shock win over Carlsen, the former world number two said that it was unexpected.

“Winning the championship was unexpected. Magnus was there and I was seeded No. 4. It was a big success for me this year,” he said.

He also said that Carlsen would be itching to take revenge and it could very well be at the Tata Steel Chess India meet.

“He would want to beat me. He doesn’t like losing tournaments,” said a smiling Wesley.

Asked if World Fischer Random Chess, which is a new format, is the way forward, Wesley said, “I think every player who has played it, likes it. I haven’t heard much criticism so far.”

He also praised India for producing young Grandmasters of late.

“India has a lot of rising talent. I am very happy to be here. I met a lot of kids and it makes me happy,” Wesley said.

The world’s top 10 players will match wits during the rapid and blitz meet between November 22 and 26 in the penultimate leg of the GCT.

The iconic National Library will stage the mega event where Anand will be facing Norwegian Carlsen for the first time in India since his 2013 World Championship defeat in Chennai.

Anand battled to a creditable third place after an unbeaten nine-round blitz streak on the final day of the GCT Superbet rapid and blitz championship in Hungary.

Anand is now placed sixth with 32 points and his fate on whether he can make the GCT Finals, which carries a prize purse of $350,000 and will be held in London from November 30 to December 10, will be decided here. The top four will make the finals.

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